The Reformed Presbyterian Catechism

William Louis Roberts (1798-1864) was a Reformed Presbyterian minister, who studied under James Renwick Willson (1780-1853) at Coldenham, New York, and who is, like his mentor, regarded as one of the great ministers of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America in the 19th century. 

In Roberts' The Reformed Presbyterian Catechism (1853), we have set before us the distinctive principles of the RPCNA, as officially held to at that time. In the introduction, he sets forth the focus of this ecclesiastical catechism: 

"Question. How many are the peculiar and more prominent principles of the Reformed Presbyterian church?

Answer. TWELVE.

Q. What are these?

A. The doctrines of

1. Christ’s Mediatorial Dominion in general.
2. his Exclusive Headship over the Church.
3. The supremacy and ultimate authority of the word God in the church.
4. Civil government a moral ordinance of God.
5. Christ’s headship over the nations.
6. The subjection of the nations to God and to Christ.
7. The word of God the supreme rule in the state.
8. The duty of nations to acknowledge and support the true Christian religion.
9. The spiritual independence of the Church of Christ.
10. The right and duty of dissent from an immoral constitution of civil government.
11. The duty of social covenanting, and the permanent obligation of religious covenants.
12. The application of these doctrines in the form of a practical testimony, to the civil governments where Reformed Presbyterians reside.

Q. What is meant by 'peculiar' principles?

A. Those which distinguish Reformed Presbyterians from other Christian denominations.

Q. What is meant by 'prominent' principles?

A. Those which, though held by some other denominations, are not made practically a part of their testimony."

All of these doctrines are expounded upon with Scripture references, and they demonstrate the Biblical grounds for the RPCNA's emphasis on, in particular: 1) Christ's mediatorial kingship over all nations; 2) political dissent from immoral civil government; and 3) the duty of social covenanting. 

If you are interested to read an ecclesiastical catechism that teaches what American Reformed Presbyterians in 19th century believed in distinction to other groups of American Presbyterians, this is the book for you. 

Westminster Shorter Catechism for Today's Youth

When the Westminster Shorter Catechism was written in 1646-1648, it was designed, according to the Church of Scotland which adopted it, "to be a directory for catechising such as are of weaker capacity," in contrast the the Westminster Larger Catechism, which was, according to the same, designed to be a "a directory for those who have made some proficiency in the knowledge of the grounds of religion." 

Yet, in the 19th century -- not to mention the 21st -- some catechizers found it useful to revise the Shorter Catechism for the benefit of young persons. First, is Joseph Patterson Engles (1793-1861), a ruling elder at the Scots Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, and publishing agent for the Presbyterian Board of Publication. He designed a version of the Shorter Catechism titled Catechism for Young Children: Being an Introduction to the Shorter Catechism (1840). This work has been widely republished in modern times (and a very helpful study guide was produced about it by Jeff Kingswood, From the Lips of Little Ones: A Study in the in the Catechism for Very Little People, 2008), but it is believed that the PDF which appears on Log College Press (courtesy of Wayne Sparkman at the PCA Historical Center) is the only such scanned copy of the original work available on the internet today. The introduction is a precious word of encouragement to parents and teachers: "Emulate the spirit of the pious mother who, when asked by a witness of her patience and successful perseverance in the instruction of one of her children, 'How could you repeat that sentence to the child twenty times?' answered, 'If I had repeated it only nineteen times I should have lost my labor.'" The beginning of Engles' Catechism is also beloved by many: 

Q. 1. Who made you?
A. God.
Q. 2. What else did God make?
A. God made all things.
Q. 3. Why did God make you and all things?
A. For his own glory.
Q. 4. How can you glorify God?
A. By loving him and doing what he commands.

Second, James Robert Boyd (1804-1890), a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary, pastor, educator, author of text-books, and other works, including an exposition of the Westminster Shorter Catechism. He also wrote The Child's Book on the Westminster Shorter Catechism (1855, since republished as A Child's Guide to the Westminster Shorter Catechism, 2015). Boyd designed this work for children 12 and under, and recommends that study and memorization of this version of the catechism be undertaken for an half hour each Sabbath afternoon. 

For parents who might feel that their young ones are not quite ready for the Westminster Shorter Catechism, these 19th century Presbyterian abbreviated versions may provide a suitable alternative, and while they are available in modern reprints, the introductions particularly to both works are not always included, and they are worth downloading for thoughtful consideration.