THE WESTMINSTER SHORTER CATECHISM

The Westminster Assembly of 1643-1644, in addition to its confession, produced a catechism for the instruction of youth, which became known as the Westminster Shorter Catechism. It was widely used by Congregationalists and regularly published by those publishers that served Congregational Churches.

For most of the Eighteenth Century, the only state in which Congregationalists had a standing General Association and standing county Associations was Connecticut, which held to the Saybrook/Savoy version of the Westminster Confession as its doctrinal standard. But as congregationalists in other states organized, they rallied around the more familiar Westminster Shorter Catechism.

When a convention of ministers met in 1802 to discuss the possibility of a state organization of congregationalists in Massachusetts, they recommended that one be established, that would, “admit as articles of faith, the doctrines of Christianity, as they are generally expressed in the Assembly’s Shorter Catechism.” Organized in 1803, the General Association of Massachusetts presented the Shorter Catechism in its constitution, and then stated, “That the above doctrines be considered as the basis of the union of our churches.” In 1810 this line in the Constitution was amended to read:

That the above doctrines, understood by us to be distinctly those, which from the beginning have been generally embraced by the churches of New England as the doctrines of the gospel, be considered as the basis of our union.

When ministers in New Hampshire in 1808 recommended the formation of a General Association they recommended that the Westminster Shorter Catechism be adopted generally as a creed. Accordingly, when the General Association organized in 1809 they adopted the Catechism as a summary of the Christian faith.

The Vermont Convention, when it adopted a constitution in 1819, stated in Article 2:

The General Convention receive, as articles of faith, the doctrines of Christianity, as they are generally expressed in the Assembly's Shorter Catechism. These doctrines are understood by us to be those which from the beginning, have been generally embraced by the Congregational and Presbyterian Churches in New England, and especially in Vermont.

Officially endorsed by these General Associations, published and widely distributed by the Massachusetts Sabbath School Society, this instrument for instructing young people had a strong influence on the faith of Congregationalists in the Nineteenth Century.

The Catechism is sometimes published with scripture references, sometimes without. The following are external links to the Westminster Catechism:


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