Any child that can read this little book knows better. The plainest reader cannot fail to see that it is intended as a help to understand the Bible. Its purpose clearly is to awaken and develop in the reader or learner a more intelligent appreciation and love for the Bible. It contains nothing but Bible truths. Its design is simply this: To summarize and systematize the most important truths and doctrines of the divine Word. To so arrange and group them that even a child may learn what the Bible teaches as to creation, sin, salvation, and the means whereby it may be attained.
We have the assurance, also—and we believe that history and observation will bear out the statement—that those who appreciate and have studied a sound scriptural Catechism most thoroughly, appreciate, understand, love and live their Bibles most.
Of the contents, arrangement and intrinsic value of Luther’s Small Catechism, we will speak in the next chapter.
AND EXCELLENCE OF
LUTHER’S SMALL CATECHISM.
We have spoken of Luther’s Small Catechism as a help with which to lay hold of and understand the most important truths of the Bible. These fundamental truths are taken from the Scriptures, and are so grouped, arranged and explained that the learner can easily grasp and understand them. That some of the truths contained in the Bible are of greater importance than others will scarcely be denied.
It is certainly more important that the child should know and understand the Ten Commandments, than that it should be familiar with all the details of the ceremonial law. Certainly better to be familiar with the Apostles’ Creed, than to know all about the building of the Temple. Better be able to repeat and understand the Lord’s Prayer, than to have a clear knowledge of the elaborate ritual of the Temple service. Better understand the meaning of Christ’s two Sacraments than to be able to tell all about the great feasts of the Jews.
If any one can know all these other matters also, so much the better. The Catechism will certainly be a help instead of a hindrance to this end. But if all cannot be learned—at least not at once—let the most important be taught first. And for this we have a Catechism.
Look at its contents. It is divided into five parts. Each division treats of a separate subject. The first contains the Ten Commandments, with a brief yet full explanation of each Commandment. The second part has the three articles of the Apostles’ Creed, with a clear and most beautiful explanation of each one. The third is the Lord’s Prayer, its introduction, the seven petitions, and the conclusion; with a terse, though comprehensive explanation of each sentence. The fourth and fifth parts treat similarly of the two sacraments, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
Here then we have, in a brief space, the most important teachings of the whole Bible systematically arranged and clearly explained. Of these contents and their arrangement, Luther himself says: