The start of a new year is often a time for making resolutions. Perhaps, like me, you are contemplating the best way to lose the extra ten pounds that inexplicably appeared in the mirror the last few weeks. Maybe you find yourself strategizing how to make better use of your time in the coming 365 days (e.g. wake up earlier, watch less tv, buy a planner?). Although there is nothing wrong with these typical self-improvement pursuits, perhaps we’d all do well to consider making resolutions like a modern-day puritan.
Cotton Mather (1663-1728) was a prominent New England puritan minister who came from a long line of prominent New England puritan ministers (including his father, Increase Mather, an early president of Harvard). In addition to nearly 450 books and pamphlets on various topics, Cotton also committed to writing his resolutions for his children which included this preface.
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."
Remarkably, the “good” that Pastor Mather encourages parents to devise for their children fails to mention any of the “essentials” that modern parents pursue for their children such as endless entertainment, myriad opportunities, college scholarships, and robust self-esteem. May God help us to give over such vapid pursuits in favor of resolutions that truly benefit our children. Click here to read the full text of Cotton Mather’s resolutions.