The New England Primer 97
he advised mothers to "continually drop something of the Catechism on their children, as Honey from the Rock."
This Catechism was the work of the great Westminster Assembly called together by parliament in 1643 —an Assembly composed of one hundred and twenty-one clergymen, thirty of the laity, and five special commissioners from Scotland. It held 1163 sessions and lasted six years. The 107 questions and answers printed in the primer were entitled The Shorter Catechism, but the children who were expected to memorize all the ponderous answers could discern no sign of condensation or abbreviation, and they sometimes wondered what a longer one could be like. They were drilled in the Catechism constantly, both in the church and at school. Ministers preached about it, and it was much in every one's mind. Its importance in the thought of the time is suggested by the fact that the largest book printed in New England previous to the nineteenth century was Samuel Willard's Complete Body of Divinity in Two Hundred and Fifty Expository Lectures on the Assembly's Shorter Catechism; and this enormous volume of nearly a thousand pages had marked popularity.
Many primers contained a second catechism — Spiritual Milk for American Babes, it was called— which in general was of the same type as the Westminster Assembly's, only it had not much more than half as many questions and the answers were shorter.
Public interest in the primer was kept up in