Parenting “Shorter Catechism Boys”

For Lord’s Day, November 11, 2012

Dear Saints,

Are you a “Shorter Catechism Boy or Girl”?  Are your children?  The email I am forwarding you (below, and the source of the pictures in this post) ties nicely in with last Lord’s Day evening’s sermon, “Disciple Your Children”, based on Deuteronomy 6:6-7.

Notice what B.B. Warfield (renown “Old Princeton Seminary” professor) highlights about “Shorter Catechism Boys” in terms of how they handled the great earthquake in San Francisco in 1906.  Two strangers stood out to one another in passing for their mutual calmness (compared to many others who were frantic all around them).

I encourage you to take advantage of our weekly teaching with the Westminster Standards in the evening, especially with the Shorter Catechism and memory verses.  The catechisms were made to train your children over time in the main truths of Scripture to be able to handle life like the men in the story below (rather live like those criticized in James 1:6-8).

Teach yourself and teach your children well.  For Christ and His Kingdom.  To glorify God to the full.  To enjoy the Christian life abundantly standing on the Rock, no matter what disasters come your way (Matthew 7:24-27).

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

PS:  We have the complete works of B.B. Warfield in our library.  Worth looking into.

November 5: Birth of Benjamin B. Warfield
by archivist
This Day in Presbyterian History:

Birth of Benjamin Warfield — November 5, 1851.

For God-fearing parents, every birth must bring some small trepidation, along with great hope and promise. We trust the Lord, we seek to live exemplary lives and strive to diligently do our part to raise our children, that they might never know a time when they did not trust in Christ Jesus for their salvation and rely upon Him completely. Child-rearing truly is a humbling thing, casting us upon the Lord, praying for His grace and mercy.

At the same time, some children, even from a young age, show great maturity and promise.  You can see it in their face. Such a child, I think, was Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield.

All of the Warfield children were patiently led to memorize both the Shorter and Larger Catechisms, as well as the associated Scripture proof texts. In 1867, at the age of 16, he became a member of the Second Presbyterian church in Lexington, KY. It is tempting to think that the photo at the left, from that same year, might have been taken in conjunction with that event.

In 1868, he began the Sophomore year at Princeton College, graduating in 1871, with a strong interest in the sciences and a desire to pursue further studies in Scotland and Germany. But it was not until he returned home in 1872 that he announced his intention to explore a call to the ministry. That had long been his mother’s prayer for her sons, that they would become ministers of the Gospel. In 1873, he began his preparation for the ministry at the Princeton Theological Seminary.

Years later, Warfield wrote a brief article on the  value of the Shorter Catechism. I strongly suspect that the Army officer in this story was Warfield’s own brother, who was stationed in San Francisco at the time of the great earthquake there, in 1906. Warfield writes:

What is ‘the indelible mark of the Shorter Catechism’? We have the following bit of personal experience from a general officer of the United States army. He was in a great western city at a time of intense excitement and violent rioting. The streets were over-run daily by a dangerous crowd. One day he observed approaching him a man of singularly combined calmness and firmness of mien, whose very demeanor inspired confidence. So impressed was he with his bearing amid the surrounding uproar that when he had passed he turned to look back at him, only to find that the stranger had done the same. On observing his turning the stranger at once came back to him, and touching his chest with his forefinger, demanded without preface: ‘What is the chief end of man?’ On receiving the countersign, ‘Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever’ — ‘Ah!’ said he, ‘I knew you were a Shorter Catechism boy by your looks!’ ‘Why, that was just what I was thinking of you,’ was the rejoinder.

It is worth while to be a Shorter Catechism boy. They grow to be men. And better than that, they are exceedingly apt to grow to be men of God. So apt, that we cannot afford to have them miss the chance of it. ‘Train up a child in the way he should go, and even when he is old he will not depart from it.’

[B.B. Warfield, “Is the Shorter Catechism Worth While?” in The Selected Shorter Writings of Benjamin B. Warfield, Vol. 1 (Nutley, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed), 1970), pp. 381ff.]

Words to live by: God bless faithful parents! May He equip, encourage, sustain, and support those loving parents who know that they must daily rely completely upon the Lord in the raising of their children. Child-rearing is entirely a matter of trusting prayerfully in the grace of God. Patiently love them, spend sacrificial time with them, live exemplary lives in front of them. But above all, pray daily for them, that God by His grace would save them to the uttermost. You never know when a child will grow up to be greatly used in the advance of the Lord’s kingdom.

Image sources : Original photographs preserved at the PCA Historical Center. Scans prepared by the Center’s staff. Photo 1, Benjamin B. Warfield, 1864, age 13. Photo 2, B.B. Warfield, 1867, age 16.