Charles Buck's Theological Dictionary

102 Catechism


A form of instruction by means of questions and answers. There have been various catechisms published by different authors, but many of them have been but ill suited to convey instruction to juvenile minds. Catechisms for children should be so framed as not to puzzle and confound, but to let the beams of divine light into their minds by degrees. They should be accommodated as far as possible to the weakness of their understandings; for mere learning sentences by rote, without comprehending the meaning, will be but of little use. In this way they will know nothing but words: it will prove a laborious task, and not a pleasure; confirm them in a bad habit of dealing in sounds instead of ideas; and after all, perhaps create in them an aversion to religion itself. Dr Watts advises that different catechisms should be composed for different ages and capacities; the questions and answers should be short, plain, and easy; scholastic terms, and logical distinctions should be avoided; the most practical points of religion should be inserted and one or more well chosen texts of Scripture should be added to support almost every answer, and to prove the several parts of it. The doctor has admirably exemplified his own rules in the catechism he has composed for children at three or four years old; that for children at seven or eight; his assembly’s catechism, proper for youth at twelve of fourteen; his preservative from the sins and follies of childhood; his catechism of Scripture names, and his historical catechism. These are superior to any I know, and which I cannot but ardently recommend to parents and all those who have the care and instruction of children.


Instructing by asking questions and correcting the answers. Catechising is an excellent mean of informing the mind, engaging the attention, and affecting the heart, and is an important duty incumbent on all who have children under their care. Children should not be suffered to grow up without instruction, under the pretence that the choice of religion ought to be perfectly free, and not biased by the influence and authority of parents, or the power of education. As they have capacities, and are more capable of knowledge by instruction than by the exercise of their own reasoning powers, they should certainly be taught. This agrees both with the voice of nature and the dictates of revelation, Deut. 6:7. Prov. 22:6. Eph. 6:4. The propriety of this being granted, it may next be observed, that, in order to facilitate their knowledge, short summaries of religion extracted from the Bible, in the way of question and answer, may be of considerable use. 1. Hereby, says Dr. Watts, the principles of Christianity are reduced into short sentences, and easier to be understood by children.–2. Hereby these principles are not only thrown into a just and easy method, but every part is naturally introduced by a proper question; and the rehearsal of the answer is made far easier to a child than it would be if the child were required to repeat the whole scheme of religion.–3. This way of teaching hath, something familiar and delightful in it because it looks more like conversation and dialogue.–4. The very curiosity of the young mind is awakened by the question to know what the answer will be; and the child will take pleasure in learning the answer by heart, to improve its own knowledge. See next article.


One whose charge is to instruct by questions, or to question the uninstructed concerning religion. The catechists of the ancient churches were usually ministers, and distinct of the bishops and prebyters; and had their catechumena, or auditories, apart. But they did not constitute any distinct order of the clergy, being chosen out of any order. The bishop himself sometimes performed the office; at other times, presbyters, readers, or deacons. It was his business to expose the folly of the pagan superstition, to remove prejudices, and answer objections; to discourse on behalf of the Christian docrines; and to give instruction to those who had not sufficient knowledge to qualify them for baptism.

Charles Buck (1771-1815) was an English Independent minister, best known for the publication of his “Theological Dictionary”. According to the “Dictionary of National Biography”, a Particular Baptist minister named John C. Ryland (1723-1792) assisted Buck by writing many of the articles for the aforementioned publication. One may conclude, based not only Buck’s admiration for his friend Ryland, but also on the entries in his Theological Dictionary, that he stood head and shoulders with the High-Calvinists of his day.

Charles Buck on the Biblical Covenants (Complete)
Charles Buck's Theological Dictionary