I come into this world ignorant, yet full of presentiments and questions. I learn my first vague lesson about myself and God. I naturally ask: For what purpose has God put me here? What does He wish me to do? The Catechism answers: To do His will, to keep His commandments. Here they are, and this is what they mean. I study them, and the more I study them, the more am I convinced that I never did and never can perfectly keep this law.
I ask again: What shall I do? My Catechism tells me I must have faith. I must believe. But what shall I believe? Answer: This summary of truth called the Apostles’ Creed. It tells me of my Creator—His work and providence, and His gift of a Redeemer. It tells me of that Redeemer and His redemption; of the gift of the Spirit, and His application of redemption. It not only tells me what to believe, but in the very telling it offers me help to believe.
But I am still weak and more or less perplexed. Whither shall I go for more strength and Grace? My Catechism furnishes the answer: Go to the great Triune God. Ask Him in prayer. Here is a model. It will teach you how to pray.
I learn what it is to pray. But again I ask: How do I know that God will hear my prayer? Is He interested in me personally? Has He any other means besides His written Word to assure me of His love and to give me, in answer to my prayers, more strength to believe Him and love Him?
My Catechism points me to my baptism. It teaches me what it means, and how that in it I have God’s own pledge that He is my Father, and that I am His child. Here then is a fountain to which I can return again and again when weak and perplexed.
Further, my Catechism teaches me concerning my Saviour’s last legacy of love before His death for me, His Holy Supper. In it He holds out to me and gives to me, personally and individually, Himself and all His heavenly Grace.
Thus does this little Catechism meet me in my perplexity, take me by the hand, and lead me through the labyrinth of the wonders of Grace. Thus does it tell me what I am, what I need, and where and how to get what I need. It takes me to the wells of salvation. It draws from them living water. It holds it to my parched lips. It gathers the precious manna of the Word, and feeds me when I am faint and weary.
Such is Luther’s Small Catechism. Is it any wonder that we love it? Is it any wonder that we count the study of it a part of the Way of Salvation in the Lutheran Church?
We have something yet to say on the manner of teaching it and the results of faithful teaching and learning.
MANNER AND OBJECT OF TEACHING LUTHER’S CATECHISM
We have spoken of the importance of catechisation. We have seen that Luther’s Small Catechism is indeed a priceless Bible manual. It sets before us, in matchless order, God’s plan of salvation. It is so full and yet so brief, so doctrinal and yet so warm and hearty. “The only Catechism,” says Dr. Loehe, “that can be prayed.” “It may be bought for sixpence,” says Dr. Jonas, “but six thousand worlds could not pay for it.”