Catechism For Jewish Children
By Isaac Leeser.
RELIGION IN GENERAL
1. What is religion?
Religion is the knowledge we have of God, and the duties we owe in obedience to His will.
2. What do you mean by saying, "I believe in God?"
I believe, that every thing I see around me, the trees, the flowers, the earth, the water, also the sun and the moon, and the thousands of bright stars that shine so beautifully in the sky, were made by the great Creator, whom we call "The Almighty God."
3. What object do you think God had in creating so many varied living creatures, and especially man?
Their happiness: that is to say, God made them, not for his own sake, since He cannot be assisted by them, but in order that they might have the means and capacities to rejoice in their existence, and to become better and wiser by education and the knowledge of His will.
4. What should we then do to become happy?
We should endeavour to obtain a correct knowledge of those actions which our Creator bids us do, and to omit no opportunity to do that which we have learned to be the right, and agreeable to His will.
5. What will be the result of this conduct?
That we shall feel an inward joy, or, as it is called, a consciousness of having done right, a repose of mind, and a tranquil conscience.
6. What is meant by Conscience?
It is that sensation which tells us (if we have been correctly instructed) whether we have done right or wrong; and if our conduct has been correct, it makes us feel satisfied; but if we have done wrong, it makes us ashamed and dissatisfied with ourselves.
7. How would you term these two different states of feeling?
I would call the first a tranquil conscience, the second a disturbed conscience.
8. What should be your choice, as a reasonable and good child?
I ought to endeavour to have an easy conscience and to do nothing which can in any way disturb it, or make me ashamed of myself.
9. Can you tell me what you are to do first, in order to obtain this?
I must first of all learn to know what is right, and to distinguish between this and what is wrong.
10. Have you now any idea what is right?
Yes; if I do what God has commanded us to do, certainly must act correctly; since one so good as He is, could teach nothing which is hurtful.
11. What is wrong?
To do that which God has forbidden us to do.
12. How can you obtain a knowledge of this?
By a careful study of religion; that is, those doctrines and directions which we have received as a declaration of the will of God, which we must learn and obey in order to obtain happiness.
13. What would you call "being religious?"
Not only to know these doctrines and directions, and to believe them, but also to obey them and live accordingly.
14. What is the foundation of religion or knowledge of God? and from what source do we derive the doctrines of which you just now spoke?
The existence and power of God are taught to us by His greatness, which He has manifested in the creation and arrangement of external nature; and the doctrines of religion, which regard our faith and conduct, are derived from the revealed word of God.
15. What do you understand by the term "external nature?"
The visible world, which we perceive by our senses, as also the whole system of creation. The greatness and extreme regularity of all things of which we have knowledge, or of which we hear from others, all unite in teaching us that there must be a God, or Creator supremely great, who has made all, and fixed all as we find it.
16. How may you call this acknowledgement of God?
NATURAL RELIGION, or religious knowledge and faith derived from a study of the Creator's works.
17. What is meant by a belief in Revelation?
That the Lord God made His will known by communicating to us, in a manner perceptible to our senses, those duties which He has thought proper to give us as the direction for our conduct.
18. Where do we find these duties described?
They are contained in HOLY WRIT.
19. What is Holy Writ?
A collection of books written by divine inspiration.
20. What do you call "Inspiration?"
Inspiration is the knowledge of the truth which God imparted to men of great piety, who were particularly sincere in serving Him. He gave them this knowledge in order that they might teach to other men the duties they ought to observe, that they might thereby obtain happiness and felicity.
21. How should we regard this Holy Writ?
As the word of God, kindly sent us from heaven to teach us how to please God by our actions.
22. How do we call the doctrines contained in Holy Writ collectively?
THE REVEALED RELIGION.
23. Do Revealed and Natural Religion agree?
Yes; because both are the gift of God: both are addressed to our reason, and can therefore not contradict each other.
24. What would you call those ideas which are not taught either by Revealed or Natural Religion?
Irreligion, superstition, and false belief.
25. Do all men belong to the same religion?
No; there are different species of religion; but they all agree in acknowledging a supreme Being, to whom mankind are bound to render adoration.
26. In what do men differ?
Men are not of the same opinion concerning the word of God, and serve not the Lord in the same manner.
27. What is the cause of this difference?*
*This question might be omitted in the first reading of the book.
At first all men had the same knowledge of God's will; but by degrees superstition and false belief were intermixed by wicked men with the pure truth which they had received, and they taught their children not the correct knowledge of the Lord. In this manner different nations by degrees obtained different versions of the Holy Word of God; and these differences are called different religious systems; whereas, in point of fact, there is but one true religion, the one taught in the books of Holy Writ contained in the Bible.
28. What do you understand by "Irreligion?"
Actions contrary to the doctrines contained in Holy Writ, or a denial of the Divine Power.
29. What is "Superstition?"
Superstition is when we look upon things not commanded in the bible as of religious importance, or when we imagine certain unimportant things to have consequences which they naturally do not possess.
30. What is "False Belief?"
False belief is that awful error which men are guilty of when they imagine that any thing can be possessed of Divine power, except the great Creator alone. Likewise, to imagine that the Creator is divided into different persons, or that He is liable to change or death. Such false belief we call IDOLATRY.
31. You have mentioned the word Bible: what is it?
The collection of books of HOLY WRIT.
32. In how many parts do you divide the Bible?
Into three:--The Law, or TORAH, containing the directions and commandments of Religion; the Prophets, or NEBEEIM, containing historical records and foretellings of future events; and the Hagiographa, Holy Writings, or KETOOBIM, containing psalms, moral reflections, and historical records of a later period than the prophets.
33. What do you now understand by speaking of a particular Religion?
the belief which a nation or a people are attached to, the system which they have received, and by the doctrines of which they endeavour to act.
34. Is it right to quarrel about difference in Religion?
No; belief is a matter over which every person must be permitted to decide in his own
conscience, according to the knowledge which has been given him; it is wrong to hate or
despise any one because he has a different belief from ourselves.
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