The conversation at Parent Traditio this month centered on twenty-one resolutions penned by the early American Congregational minister Cotton Mather entitled "A Father's Resolutions." Each resolution contains practical guidance for Christian parents who aspire to - with God's grace - raise their children in the paideia or nurture and admonition of the Lord.
Parents, O! how much you ought to be continually planning for the good of your children!
Ponder daily how to make them wise children. Think about how to give them a desirable education, an education with the aim that they would be godly and virtuous, polite and serviceable to their generation.
Often devise how to enrich their minds with valuable knowledge. How are you going to instill generous, gracious, and heavenly principles into their minds? How will you restrain and rescue them from the paths of the destroyer, and fortify them against their particular temptations?
There is a world of good that you have to do for them. You are without the natural feelings of humanity if you, as a parent, are not in continual agony to do for them all the good that you can.
It was no mistake of an ancient writer to say, "Nature teaches us to love our children as ourselves."
1. TO DO ALL I CAN THAT MY CHILDREN MAY BE THE LORD’S.
At the birth of my children, I will resolve to do all I can that they may be the Lord's.
I will now actually give them up, by faith, to God. I pray that each child may be
a child of God the Father,
a subject of God the Son,
a temple of God the Spirit.
I pray that they would be rescued from the condition of a child of wrath, and be indwelt and used by the Lord as an everlasting instrument of His glory.
2. TO ADMONISH THEM OFTEN OF THE REALITY OF THE GOSPEL.
As soon as my children are capable of minding my instruction, I will often - often! - admonish them, saying,
"Child, God has sent His son to die, to save sinners from death and hell. You must not sin against Him. You must every day cry to God that He would be your Father, and your Savior, and your Leader. You must renounce the service of Satan, you must not follow the vanities of this world, you must lead a life of serious religion.”
3. TO PRAY DAILY FOR MY CHILDREN, BY NAME, WITH CONSTANCY, FERVENCY, AND AGONY.
Let me daily pray for my children with constancy. With fervency. With agony. Yea, by name let me mention each one of them every day before the Lord!
I will insistently beg for every blessing to be lavished on them:
that God would give them grace, and give them glory, and withhold no good thing from them;
that God would smile on their education, and give His good angels the charge over them, and keep them from evil, that it may not grieve them;
that when their father and mother shall forsake them, the Lord may take them up.
With insistence I will plead this promise on their behalf: "The Heavenly Father will give the Holy Spirit unto them that ask Him."
Oh! happy children, if by asking I may obtain the Holy Spirit for them!
4. TO ENTERTAIN WITH AND TEACH FROM THE BIBLE.
I will entertain the children with delightful stories from the Bible, as early as they can receive them.
In the talk of the table, I will go through the Bible, when these little plants about my table are capable of being so watered.
But I will always conclude the stories with some lessons of piety to be inferred from them.
5. TO TEACH THEM IMPORTANT, RELEVANT SCRIPTURE VERSES.
I will single out some Scripture verses of the greatest importance, and also some that have special antidotes against the common sins and temptations of children.
I will explain and have them memorize these verses by heart, and reward them with cash, treats, or privileges, or some good thing when they do it.
Verses such as:
Psalm 111:10 - The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
Matthew 16:26 - For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?
1 Timothy 1:15 - The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.
Matthew 6:6 - But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret.
Ephesians 4:25 - Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor.
Romans 12:17, 19 - Repay no one evil for evil… Beloved, never avenge yourselves.
6. TO TEACH THEM THE LAW.
Jewish literature tells us the tradition that when a child began to speak, the father was bound to teach him Deuteronomy 33:4, "Moses commanded us a law, even the inheritance of the congregation of Jacob."
Oh! let me early make my children acquainted with the Law which our blessed Jesus has commanded us! This is the best inheritance I can give them.
7. TO CATECHISE MY CHILDREN.
I will cause my children to learn the Catechism. In catechizing them, I will break the answers into many simpler and easier questions, observe how they learn the answers, and help them to understand.
I will relate every truth to some duty and practice, and expect them to confess it, consent unto it, and resolve upon it.
As we go on in our catechizing, they shall, when they are able, turn to the Scripture references and read them, and say to me what they prove and how.
Then, I will take my time to put deeper and harder questions to them; and improve the times of conversation with my family (which every man ordinarily has) so that our talk is of Christ and his Word.
8. TO BE RESTLESS UNTIL I CAN HONESTLY SAY OF MY CHILDREN, “BEHOLD, THEY PRAY!”
I will therefore teach them to pray. But after they have learned a form of prayer, such as the Lord’s Prayer, I will press them to proceed to pray on points that are not in their form.
I will charge them with all possible clarity to pray on their own, in secret; and often call upon them, "Child, I hope you don't forget my charge to you about secret prayer: your crime is very great if you do!"
9. TO ENCOURAGE A TEMPER OF KINDNESS IN MY CHILDREN, BOTH TOWARD ONE ANOTHER AND TOWARD ALL OTHERS.
I will instruct them to be ready to share with others a part of what they have; and shall praise and affirm them as they show a loving, courteous, helpful disposition.
I will give them now and then a piece of money, so that with their own little hands they may dispense unto the poor.
If anyone has hurt them or angered them, I will not only forbid them all revenge but also oblige them to do kindness as soon as possible to the person causing frustration. I will discourage all coarse language and crude behavior.
10. TO CONCERN MYSELF WITH TEACHING MY CHILDREN TO READ AND WRITE WELL.
I will be solicitous to have my children expert, not only at reading handsomely but also at writing a fair hand.
I will then assign them such books to read as I may judge most agreeable and profitable; obliging them to give me some account of what they read while keeping a strict eye upon them so that they don't stumble on the devil's library, and poison themselves with foolish romances, novels, plays, songs, or jests that are not profitable.
I will set them also, to write out such things as may be of the greatest benefit unto them; and they shall have their blank books, neatly kept for this purpose, to enter such passages as I advise them to.
I will particularly require them now and then to write a prayer of their own composition, and bring it to me so I may discern what sense they have of their own everlasting interests.
11. TO TEACH MY CHILDREN WITH DISCIPLINE, HIGH STANDARDS, JOY, LOVE, AND GRACE.
I shall endeavor to carry on my children’s education very much upon these principles.
Therefore, first, I will wholly avoid that harsh, fierce, crabbed usage of the children that would make them tremble and abhor coming into my presence.
I will treat them so that they shall fear to offend me, and yet mightily love to see me, and be glad of my coming home if I have been abroad at any time.
I will raise in them a high opinion of their father's love for them, and of his being better able to judge what is good for them than they are for themselves. I will bring them to believe it is best for them to be and do as I will have them.
Therefore I will continually magnify the matter to them, what a brave thing it is to know the things that are excellent; and braver to do the things that are virtuous.
I will have them propose it as a reward for their well-doing at any time, ‘I will now go to my father, and he will teach me something that I was never taught before.’
I will have them afraid of doing any base thing, from a horror of the baseness in it. My first response to finding a lesser fault in them shall be a surprise, a wonder, strongly expressed before them, that ever they should be guilty of doing so foolishly; a vehement belief that they will never do the like again; and aim for a weeping resolution in them, that they will not.
I will never dispense a blow, except it be for an atrocious crime or for a lesser fault obstinately persisted in; either for an enormity or for an obstinacy.
I will always proportion the discipline to the offense; neither smiting bitterly for a very small piece of childishness nor frowning only a little for some real wickedness.
Nor shall discipline ever be dispensed in a passion and a fury, but I will first show them the command of God, and how it is transgressing God’s command that displeases me.
The angry, raving, violent way of discipline is too commonly used. I look upon that type of discipline as evidence of the wrath and curse of God upon a miserable world.
12. TO TEACH MY CHILDREN HIGHER PRINCIPLES AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.
I will often tell the children what cause they have to love a glorious Christ, who has died for them.
I will teach them how much He will be well-pleased with their well-doing, and what a noble thing it is to follow His example; which example I will describe to them.
I will often tell them that the eye of God is upon them; the great God knows all they do and hears all they speak.
I will often tell them that there will be a time when they must appear before the Judgment-Seat of the holy Lord; they must do nothing now that may be a grief and shame to them at that time.
I will set before them the delights of Heaven that are prepared for pious children and the torments of Hell that are prepared for naughty ones.
I will cry to God, that He will make them feel the power of these principles.
13. TO TALK TO MY CHILDREN ALONE ABOUT THE STATE OF THEIR SOULS, TO PRAY FOR THEM AND WITH THEM.
When the children are of a fit age for it, I will sometimes have them with me alone, to talk with them about the state of their souls, along with their experiences, proficiencies, and temptations
I will seek their declared consent unto every jot and tittle of the gospel, and then pray with them, and weep unto the Lord for His grace to be bestowed upon them, and make them witnesses of the agony with which I am travailing to see the image of Christ formed in them.
Certainly, they'll never forget such actions!
14. TO BE VERY WATCHFUL AND CAUTIOUS ABOUT THE COMPANIONS OF MY CHILDREN.
I will be very inquisitive about what company they keep; if they are in danger of being ensnared by any wicked company, I will earnestly pull them out of it, as brands out of the burning.
I will find out, and procure, praiseworthy friends and companions for them.
15. TO HELP MY CHILDREN UNDERSTAND THE SERMON AND THE CATECHISM WITH AGE-APPROPRIATE QUESTIONS.
When catechizing the children, or reviewing Lord’s Day sermons, I will use this method:
I will put every truth into a question to be answered with Yes or No. By this method, I hope to awaken their attention as well as enlighten their understanding.
And thus I shall have an opportunity to ask, "Do you desire such and such a grace of God?" and the like.
Yes, I may have the opportunity to demand, and perhaps to obtain their early and frequent (and why not sincere?) consent unto the glorious gospel. The Spirit of Grace may fall upon them in this action; and they may be seized by Him, and held as His temples, through eternal ages.
16. TO USE HOLIDAYS AND WORLD EVENTS TO ENCOURAGE HUMILITY AND THANKFULNESS BEFORE GOD.
When a Day of Humiliation* arrives, I will make them know the meaning of the day.
*A publicly proclaimed day of prayer and fasting, typically in response to an event regarded as God’s judgment. This could be a local or national disaster, war, death, and so on.
And after giving them time to consider it, I will order them to tell me what special afflictions they have met with, and what good they hope to get from those afflictions.
On a Day of Thanksgiving** they shall also be made to know the intent of the Day.
**A publicly proclaimed day of worship in thanks for events that show God’s mercy and favor. This might be a good harvest, the end of a war, or some other special deliverance.
After consideration, they shall tell me what mercies of God unto them they take special notice of, and what duties to God they confess and resolve in response to such favor.
Indeed, for something of this importance, to be pursued in my conversation with the children, I will not confine myself unto the solemn days, which may occur too seldom for it.
For instance, on the birthdays of the children, I will take them aside and remind them of the age which (by God's grace) they are come unto; how thankful they should be for the mercies of God which they have lived upon up till now; how fruitful they should be in all goodness, that so they may still enjoy their mercies.
And I will inquire of them whether they have ever yet begun to mind the work for which God sent them into the world; how far they understand the work; and what good progress they have made at it; and, how they design to spend the rest of their time if God still continues them in the world.
17. TO USE ALL TROUBLES TO TEACH THEM OF THE EVIL OF SIN AND THE JOYS OF CHRIST.
When the children are in any trouble—if they are sick, or pained in any way—I will take advantage of it to set before them the evil of sin, which brings all our trouble. I will describe how fearful a thing it will be to be cast among the damned, who are in ceaseless and endless trouble.
I will set before them the benefit of an interest in Christ, in whom their trouble will be sanctified unto them, that they may be prepared for death, and for the fullness of joy in a happy eternity after death.
18. TO TEACH MY CHILDREN A SKILL OR TRADE.
Among all the points of education which I will endeavor for my children, I hope to see that each of them—the daughters as well as the sons—may gain insight into some skill that lies in the way of gain (however their own inclination may most carry them), so that they may be able to provide for themselves and get something of a career, in case the Providence of God should bring them into any want or need.
Why not they as well as Paul the Tent-Maker! The best children may have occasion to bless the parents that make such a provision for them! The Jews have a saying worth remembering: "Whoever doesn't teach his son some trade or business, teaches him to be a thief."
19. TO TEACH MY CHILDREN THE PURPOSE OF LIFE.
As soon as I can, I will make my children aware of the main end for which they are to live; so that they may truly begin to live as soon as possible, and their youth not be spent and wasted in vanity.
I will show them that their main end must be to acknowledge the great God, and His glorious Christ; bring others to acknowledge Him: and that they are never wise nor well, but when they are doing so.
I will make them able to answer the grand question of why they live; and what is the point of the actions that fill their lives.
I will teach them that their Creator and Redeemer is to be obeyed in everything, and everything is to be done in obedience to Him.
I will teach them how even their play, their entertainment, their clothing, and the tasks of their education, must all be to fit them for the further service of Him to whom I have devoted them; and how in these also, His commandments must be the rule of all they do.
I will sometimes, therefore, surprise them with an inquiry, "Child, what is this for? Give me a good reason for why you do it?" How comfortably shall I see them walking in the light, if I may bring them to answer this inquiry with wisdom.
20. TO TEACH MY CHILDREN TO CONSIDER THE END OF THEIR LIFE.
I will oblige the children to retire sometimes, and ponder on that question: "What shall I wish to have done, if I were now dying?"—and report unto me their own answer to the question; of which I will then take advantage to continually instill the lessons of godliness in them.
21. TO PRAY FOR THE PRIMACY OF THEIR UNION WITH CHRIST ABOVE ANY RELATIONSHIP.
If I live to see the children at a marriageable age, I will, before I consult with Heaven and earth for God’s will in their life regarding marriage and a spouse, pray for the espousal of their souls unto their only Savior.
I will, as plainly and as fully as I can, tell them of how the glorious Redeemer would unite them to Himself, in righteousness, judgment, and favor and mercies forever; and solicit their consent unto His proposals and overtures.
Then would I go on, to do what may be expected from a tender parent for them, in their temporal circumstances.