1840 Sermon Linking the Four Parishes

William and Grace Davey’s daughter Fanny became the second wife of the Rev. Francis Drocus Lempriere, the rector of Newton St Petrock, in 1867 following the death of his first wife whose alter tomb is found on the north side of the parish church.

In 1840, from Woodford Bridge, Francis had published The Catechism of the Church: A Sermon, preached in the Parish Church of Newton St Petrock, Devon at the First Quarterly Examination of the Children of the United National School. They believed in long titles in those days. The United National School served the four parishes of Milton Damerel, Newton St Petrock, Bulkworthy and Abbots Bickington.

The Sermon was published by J. and W. Robins, Tooley Street, London.  The idea was to raise money through subscription to support the school.  The publication was dedicated, wisely, to several men who were in a position to provide the needed funds.  These were the Right Honourable Lord Rolle; the Venerable Archdeacon Moore Stevens; Lewis.W.Buck, Esq., M.P.; the Reverend J. G. Copplestone; and William Callon, Esq. among other unnamed  benefactors.

In the preface Francis explains that he is publishing the sermon for two reasons.  The first goal was to increase the funds of the school. The second was to promote the adoption of a plan for a union school in a rural area to include Milton Damerel with a population of 800, “Newton” with 240, Bulkworthy with 190 and Abbots Bickington with 90. Francis points out that not one of these parishes could, alone, support a parochial school.

He then notes that the Rev. J.G. Copplestone presented a spot of land nearly at the centre of the district such that if a circle be drawn from that point with a radius of 3 miles it would include the whole of the population of the four parishes.

Francis takes for his first text the fourth verse of the first chapter of Luke’s gospel: that thou mightest know the certainty of those things wherever thou hast been instructed. He points out that the verb here translated instructed is that from which the word catechism is derived, so that the latter part of the verse may, with great propriety, be rendered wherein thou hast been catechised. Francis says that  it appears probable therefore, from this passage, and from others of a similar nature which he named, that, even in the days of the Apostles, there existed a formulary of instruction which embraced the fundamental doctrines of Christianity, with which converts were required to be acquainted before they were admitted to a participation of the sacrament of baptism. And that such was the case appears still more probable from the existence, in the very earliest ages of the Church, of a body of men called catechists whose duty it was to instruct proselytes in such a knowledge of the doctrines of the Gospel, as was requisite to prepare them for the washing of regeneration as described in Titus iii:5.  The ancient catechisms, however, being mere compilations, and not partaking of the character of inspired writings, have perished in the lapse of time: and during the dark ages, and amidst the usurpations of the Church of Rome, the custom of catechising was either much neglected, or else employed to spread the traditions and commandments of men, instead of the doctrines of the word of truth. At the Reformation, the primitive usage was wisely restored; the duty of catechising was strictly enjoined upon the clergy, and they were supplied with a form of sound words, in order to enable them to discharge it with efficiency.

Francis goes on to explain that the catechism points are Faith (the creed teaches what one must believe), Duty (what I must do in order to prove the sincerity of that belief, i.e. the moral law that was given from Mount Sinai; our four duties to God, our six to our neighbours.), Prayer (the Lord’s Prayer) and the Sacrements (Baptism and the sacrement of the Lord’s Supper.)


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