Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Leigh's Thesis: Chapter 3 (7)


Puritan Fathers

The Puritan fathers embraced a view of family that is far more mature than today. Richard Baxter (1615-1691) wrote, “Christian families are called churches because they consist of holy persons that worship God, and learn, and love, and obey His word.”(1)

John Angell James (1785-1859) understood that we are raising children for eternity when he wrote, “It is of infinite importance that you should contemplate your children in their true character…they are immortal beings; the stamp of eternity is upon them; everlasting ages before them…creatures capable of attaining to glory, honor, immortality, and eternal life.”(2)

Ephesians 5:6 reminded the Puritans to make the most of our time for the days are evil.

In The Puritan Family by Edmund S. Morgan, the educational laws of Massachusetts of 1648 are extensively quoted. “…also that all masters of families doe once a week (at the least) catechize their children and servants in the grounds and principles of Religion…”(3)

John Cotton, Puritan father, said, “Learn them to read Scripture,”(4) because as Increase Mather declared, “Ignorance is the mother of heresy.”(5)

Thomas Cobbett explained “that the greatest love and faithfulness that parents as covenanters can show to God, and to their children, who in and with themselves are joint covenanters with God, is to educate them” so that they may educate their children and grandchildren. “The children born in our families are born unto God, and a strict account will one day be required of us…These children, God committeth unto us for education, He doth (to speak with Reverence) put them out to us, being therefore thus committed unto us, account concerning them may justly and will certainly be required of us, in the Great Day.”(6)

Famous Puritan poet Anne Bradstreet offered no delusion about the innocence of childhood when she wrote:
Stained from birth with Adams sinful fact,
Thence I began to sin as soon as act;
A perverse will, a love to what’s forbide,
A serpents sting in pleasing face lay hid;
A lying tongue as soon as it could speak,
And fifth Commandment do daily break.(7)
The Puritans saw no conflict between classical poetry and literature as they expected these inferior books to be other sources that verified what the catechism taught. “Puritan education was intelligently planned, and the relationship between parent and child which it envisaged was not one of harshness and severity but of tenderness and sympathy.”(8)

(1) Richard Baxter, A Christian Directory (Orlando, FL: Soli Deo Gloria, 1990), 422-3.
(2) John Angell James, “An Address to Christian Parents,” The Christian Father’s Present to His Children (1825), (accessed 12 January 2009).
(3) Edmund S. Morgan, The Puritan Family: Religious and Domestic Relations in 17th Century New England (New York: Harper Perennial, 1966).
(4) Morgan, The Puritan Family.
(5) Morgan.
(6) Deodat Lawson, The Duty and Property of a Religious Householder, sermon, (Boston, 1693); in Morgan, The Puritan Family, 31-2.
(7) Anne Bradstreet, “Of the Four Ages of Man: Childhood,” in The Poems of Mrs. Anne Bradstreet (1712-1762): Together With Her Prose Remains, ed. Norton and Hopkins (New York: Duodecimos, 1897), 64.
(8) Morgan, The Puritan Family, 108.

Copyright © 2009 by Leigh A. Bortins. All Rights Reserved.

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