[SRB note: I found a most excellent article by Cotton Mather a couple years ago and review it personally at the start of each year. I’ve edited it a little and will be sharing it in pieces here on TFR over the next week or so for your encouragement & stimulation.]
Introduction: What’s a Godly Father to Do for His Children?
On Father’s Day we tend to focus on simple gifts to Dads—a tie, a silly or sentimental card—and on back-yard barbecues. All good things, to be sure. And modern fathers tend to focus their parental energy on teaching their kids how to play sports, get good grades, or lead a “balanced life.” Again, all good, but have we lost our focus on a father’s spiritual role? Perhaps comparing a father’s focus in Puritan America will help us to answer that question. Cotton Mather’s “A Puritan Father’s Lesson Plan” provides just such a look.
Cotton Mather (1663 – 1728) was a socially and politically influential Puritan minister, prolific author, and pamphleteer. He was the son of influential minister Increase Mather. Mather was named after his grandfather, John Cotton. He attended Boston Latin School, and graduated from Harvard in 1678, at only 15.
Cotton Mather’s Preamble
Parents, Oh how much ought you to be continually devising for the good of your children! Often devise how to make them “wise children”; how to give them a desirable education, an education that may render them desirable; how to render them lovely and polite, and serviceable in their generation. Often devise how to enrich their minds with valuable knowledge; how to instill generous, gracious, and heavenly principles into their minds; how to restrain and rescue them from the paths of the destroyer, and fortify them against their peculiar temptations. There is a world of good that you have to do for them. You are without the natural feelings of humanity if you are not in a continual agony to do for them all the good that ever you can. It was no mistake of an ancient writer to say, “Nature teaches us to love our children as ourselves.”
[to be continued]