Luther’s Little Instruction Book (Small Catechism) has been translated into many of the languages of the world. Williston Walker in his History of the Christian Church describes it as “one of the noblest monuments of the Reformation”. Of it, Luther writes,
The Catechism is the Bible of the laymen. In it the entire body of Christian doctrine, which every Christian must know in order to be saved, is contained…
“I, too, am a theologian who has attained a fairly good practical knowledge and experience of Holy Scriptures through various dangers. But I do not so glory in this gift as not to join my children daily in prayerfully reciting the Catechism, that is, the Ten Commandments, the Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer and meditating on them with an attentive heart. I do not merely pass over the words hurriedly, but I carefully observe what the individual word means… For God gave the Word that we should impress it on ourselves as Moses says (Deut 6.7), and practice it. Without this practice our souls become rusty, as it were, and we lose ourselves. (from Luther’s exposition of Psalm 126.)
“The deplorable condition in which I found religious affairs during a recent visitation of the congregations, has impelled me to publish this…statement of the Christian doctrine, after having prepared it in very brief and simple terms. Alas! what misery I beheld! The people, especially those who live in the villages, seem to have no knowledge whatever of Christian doctrine, and many of the pastors are ignorant and incompetent teachers. And, nevertheless, they all maintain that they are Christians, that they have been baptized, and that they have received the Lord’s Supper. Yet they cannot recite the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, or the Ten Commandments; they live as if they were irrational creatures, and now that the Gospel has come to them, they grossly abuse their Christian liberty. Ye bishops! what answer will ye give to Christ for having so shamefully neglected the people, and paid no attention to the duties of your office? … Woe unto you! — Martin Luther, from his Introduction
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