In this article the author reviews an old pamphlet of 1617 on the importance of catechizing and the task of parents in catechizing.

Source: Clarion, 2004. 2 pages.

Catechizing and the Home

Some time ago, I came across a modified English version of the Heidelberg Catechism printed in London in the year 1617. 1 While it is interesting to know that this Catechism was available to the English-speaking world already in the early seventeenth century, what is even more interesting and instructive is the preface supplied by the translator, identified only by the initials “E.B.” This preface is addressed “To Christian Parents, Householders, Schoolmasters, and such as have charge of youth.” The author was concerned about the neglect of catechizing by those who had care of the youth. In his preface, the author sets out his three main objectives, namely, to show the benefit of catechizing, to remove the contempt shown for it, and to prove that those addressed have a responsibility to catechize those under their care. A review of what he wrote will refresh our own understanding of catechizing in general. Hopefully, it will also stir up a renewed commitment by parents to their role in catechizing. Such commitment, after all, was E.B’s primary concern.

Benefits of Catechizing🔗

With respect to the benefits of catechizing, the author begins by stating that catechizing is beneficial with respect to the preaching as listeners become skilled in the principles of religion. He makes a link with baptism. By instruction the listeners will be able to derive comfort from their baptism. He also lays a link with the holy Supper. Catechizing will ensure that those who come to the holy Supper are properly prepared guests and will not eat and drink judgment unto themselves. Catechizing is also essential for learning to understand the Scriptures properly. Without catechizing the Scriptures will remain a closed book. Further, catechizing will preserve people from spiritual seducers and impostors. It will also instil the fear of God, which is so necessary for a peaceful society. A mental image will come to mind when he writes that catechizing is like taking a person by the hand to lead him out of the darkness into the light and sight of Christ and him crucified. We are reminded of the depravity of the human mind when he writes that the doctrine of the Gospel must be taught since the natural man cannot perceive the things of God on his own. There is an awareness of the different levels of Christian maturity when he writes about two types of Christians, babes in faith and those more mature. The many babes in faith need milk, not meat. Finally, catechizing is necessary to enable a person to achieve a firm standing in grace.

God Accomplishes His Purpose🔗

In order to remove contempt for catechizing, the author states that while catechizing may seem like foolishness, nevertheless God uses it to accomplish his purpose. It is in the same category as the preaching, which is considered foolishness by men. God’s foolishness is stronger than man’s wisdom. He points out how catechizing of those under their care was faithfully done by those already considered honourable to God, such as Abraham. We should follow their good example. In the same vein, but now taking examples from the history of the church, he points out that catechizing was practised by the church fathers in the first centuries, and all the churches that have come out of the Great Reformation urge and require catechizing. The final point, and perhaps the most compelling, is that it is an apostolic ordinance to teach the first principles of religion.

Who has the Duty🔗

In the third section, the author shows how those whom he addresses have a duty to catechize. He begins by speaking of the way every Christian is a prophet with the general duty to teach about Christ. If this is a general duty, how much more is this the case for those who have youth entrusted to their care. He then focuses especially on the head of the family. It remains ever important to stress that with the role of headship comes the duty to teach those in the family. This role of the head of the household is reinforced by the explicit commands to teach, as found in such passages as Deuteronomy 6, Psalm 78, and Ephesians 6. These passages single out the fathers. Furthermore, teaching about the LORD is a debt of love. No greater love can be shown than to help others come to know the way to eternal life. The author adds to this that believers are Abraham’s spiritual children and therefore should do the works of their father Abraham. One of his works was to teach those under their care. He follows this by stating that if you desire that those under your care come properly prepared to the Holy Supper and not eat and drink judgment unto themselves, you must teach them. He adds a practical dimension when he writes that if you wish to have obedient children, you must catechize them. He concludes by stating that the family can be seen as a little church. As catechizing is to be a basic part of church life, it should not be a stranger in home life.


The author concludes by explaining why he did not speak about the ministers and their role in catechizing. He did not see a need to spell out what was commonly understood to be a minister’s duty. The concern was to encourage catechizing beyond the setting of the church. In response to the comment that if ministers do their duties, the parents have to do no more but bring their children to the minister, he responds that if the parents do not do something in private, the benefit of the public teaching may be endangered. In response to those who say catechizing is too difficult, he points to the many helps available, including the version of the Catechism found in the subsequent pages.

The words, freely summarized, of the somewhat anonymous E.B. give us much food for thought. How much catechizing is done in the home setting? At the very least, do parents ensure that their children know their catechism well before catechism class? Is attendance at catechism class considered as important as going to church every Sunday? Is there some discussion about the things learned in catechism class? It bears repeating that if the parents do not do something in terms of catechizing in the privacy of the home, the benefit of the public teaching may be endangered.

May reading these words stir us up to renewed zeal in our prophetic task with respect to our children, and let us pay out to them our debt of love. That means, be involved in the catechizing of the children God has entrusted to your care.


  1. ^ A Catechisme or Briefe Instruction in the Principles and Grounds of the true Christian Religion. With a Short Treatise premised concerning the profit and necessity of Catechizing. London: Printed by Edward Griffin for Henry Featherstone, 1617.

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