Michael Haykin and Steve Weaver, both great lovers of church history and of Baptist history in particular, have done a great service in resurrecting this 17th century catechism from English Baptist pastor Hercules Collins.
Hercules Collins, something of a mega-church pastor among the Calvinistic Baptists of his day, produced this catechism for the usual purposes of instruction in the essentials of Christian doctrine and as a polemic against false teaching. But this catechism was devised to serve a further purpose also. Being a Baptist takeover of the famously recognized Heidelberg Catechism it was designed to demonstrate Baptist unity with the broader Reformed world in an era when religious toleration could not be taken for granted. The Heidelberg Catechism is well known for its warm, rich, and personalized expression of biblical teaching, of course, and it served well in every way as the basis for Collins’ Baptist version.
Though not very well known today (a problem Haykin and Weaver hope to rectify) Collins’ Orthodox Catechism was an important work in its day, and it deserves new exposure and acquaintance.
Beyond the value of the catechism itself is the insightful historical introduction by editors Haykin and Weaver, providing a helpful overview of Collins’ life and ministry and of the political and ecclesiastical climate in which he labored. They also provide brief analysis of Collins’ use of the Heidelberg Catechism, examining the changes he made and his reasons for leaving certain questions unchanged. These 144 small pages of historical and theological reflection are by themselves worth the price of the book.
Fred G. Zaspel is Pastor of Reformed Baptist Church in Franconia, PA, professor of theology at Calvary Baptist Seminary, and executive editor here at Books At a Glance.
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An Orthodox Catechism: Being The Sum Of Christian Religion Contained In The Law And Gospel