Are your children prepared to die? A Gospel Catechism, by John Lafayette Girardeau

The shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, has been a sobering thing. One thing it has reminded me of again is my need to present the gospel to my children, in order to prepare them to die well – that is, to die trusting in Christ. This catechism is a simple yet rich tool that you can use to teach your children the gospel.

The author of this catechism, John Lafayette Girardeau, was a white 19th century Southern Presbyterian who, both before and after the Civil War, pastored a congregation whose membership consisted primarily of African Americans. He wrote this catechism primarily for the instruction of those African Americans who professed “a desire to become acquainted with the way of life” through Jesus Christ, and were interesting in joining the church. In the preface to the catechism, he writes, “The purpose of this preliminary Catechism, which is complete in itself, is to impart just and scriptural views in regard to the subject of conversion; and to correct many prevalent errors touching its nature, particularly the relation to each other of the New Birth, Faith and Penitence.” It is also full of gospel Scripture for memorization.

Girardeau intended this catechism to be taught one hour each week, over a ten week period. (The hour would also include one of ten additional lessons, which covered “a much wider field than the preliminary Catechism.” Hopefully one day I can transcribe those as well.) Because many of those he was teaching could not read, the answers are for the most part included in the questions. This fact makes it a very easy catechism to use with children, whether they can read or not.

I encourage you to redeem the time on Sunday afternoons, and print out a copy of this catechism for yourself and each of your children. You ask the questions, and together with your children recite the answers. There are songs interspersed, and I have recommended (hopefully) familiar tunes for each of them. One way to vary up the catechetical time (it did indeed take us about an hour this past Sunday afternoon) is to allow your reading children to take the lead in asking the questions. May God bless the truth of His word to the salvation of our covenant children.



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