William Bradford Institute
for Study of the
Early Settlement of America

A Father's ResolutionsA Father's Resolutions

by Cotton Mather

ARENTS, Oh! how much ought you to be continually devising for the good of
your children! Often device 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."


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;
entreating that each child may be a child of God the Father, a subject
of God the Son, a temple of God the Spiritand be rescued from the
condition of a child of wrath, and be possessed and employed by the Lord
as an everlasting instrument of His glory.

As soon as my children are capable of minding my admonitions, 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
Saviour, 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.

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 importunately beg for all suitable blessings to be bestowed
upon 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 importunity I
will plead that 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!

I will early entertain the children with delightful stories out of the
Bible. In the talk of the table, I will go through the Bible, when the
olive-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.

I will single out some Scriptural sentences of the greatest importance;
and some also that have special antidotes in them against the common
errors and vices of children. They shall quickly get those golden
sayings by heart, and be rewarded with silver or gold, or some good
thing, when they do it. Such as,

Psalm 11:10"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom."
Matthew 16:26"What is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole
world, and lose his own soul?"

1 Timothy 1:15"Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of
whom I am chief."

Matthew 6:6"When thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou
hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret."
Ephesians 4:25"Putting away lying, speak every man truth with his

Romans 12:17, 19"Recompense to no man evil for evil . . .. Dearly
beloved, avenge not yourselves."

Jewish treatise tells us that among the Jews, 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! 'Tis the best inheritance I can give

I will cause my children to learn the Catechism. In catechizing them, I
will break the answers into many lesser and proper questions; and by
their answer to them, observe and quicken their understandings. I will
bring every truth into some duty and practice, and expect them to
confess it, and consent unto it, and resolve upon it. As we go on in our
catechizing, they shall, when they are able, turn to the proofs and read
them, and say to me what they prove and how. Then, I will take my times,
to put nicer and harder questions to them; and improve the times of
conversation with my family (which every man ordinarily has or may have)
for conferences on matters of religion.

Restless will I be till I may be able to say of my children, "Behold,
they pray!" I will therefore teach them to pray. But after they have
learnt a form of prayer, I will press them to proceed unto points that
are not in their form. I will charge them with all possible cogency to
pray 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!"

I will do what I can very early to beget a temper of kindness in my
children, both toward one another and toward all other people. I will
instruct them how ready they should be to share with others a part of
what they have; and they shall see my encouragements when they discover
a loving, a courteous, an 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. Yea, if any one has hurt them, or vexed them, I
will not only forbid them all revenge, but also oblige them to do a
kindness as soon as may be to the vexatious person. All coarseness of
language or carriage in them, I will discountenance.

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; but keep a
strict eye upon them, that they don't stumble on the Devil's library,
and poison themselves with foolish romances, or novels, or plays, or
songs, or jests that are not convenient. 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 on 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 composing, and bring it unto me;
that so I may discern what sense they have of their own everlasting

I wish that my children may as soon as may be, feel the principles of
reason and honor working in themand that I may carry on their
education, very much upon those principles. Therefore, first, I will
wholly avoid that harsh, fierce, crabbed usage of the children that
would make them tremble and abhor to come 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 have it looked upon as a severe and awful punishment to be
forbidden for awhile to come into my presence. I will raise in them an
high opinion of their father's love to 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 'tis best for them to be and do as I will have
them. Hereupon I will continually magnify the matter to them, what a
brave thing 'tis to know the things that are excellent; and more brave
to do the things that are virtuous. I will have them to propose it as a
reward of 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 an horror of the baseness in
it. My first response to finding a lesser fault in them shall be a
surprise, a wonder, vehemently expressed before them, that ever they
should be guilty of doing so foolishly; a vehement belief that they will
never do the like again; 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 chastisements to the
miscarriages; neither smiting bitterly for a very small piece of
childishness nor frowning only a little for some real wickedness. Nor
shall my chastisement ever be dispensed in a passion and a fury; but I
will first show them the command of God, by transgressing whereof they
have displeased me. The slavish, raving, fighting way of discipline is
too commonly used. I look upon it as a considerable article in the wrath
and curse of God upon a miserable world.

As soon as we can, we'll get up to yet higher principles. I will often
tell the children what cause they have to love a glorious Christ, who
has died for them. And how much He will be well-pleased with their
well-doing. And what a noble thing 'tis to follow His example; which
example I will describe unto 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; and they must now do
nothing that may then be a grief and shame unto them. I will set before
them the delights of that Heaven that is prepared for pious children;
and the torments of that Hell that is prepared of old for naughty ones.
I will inform them of the good things the good angels do for little ones
that have the fear of God and are afraid of sin. And how the devils
tempt them to do ill things; how they hearken to the devils, and are
like them, when they do such things; and what mischiefs the devils may
get leave to do them in this world, and what a sad thing 'twill be, to
be among the devils in the Place of Dragons. I will cry to God, that He
will make them feel the power of these principles.

When the children are of a fit age for it, I will sometimes closet them;
have them with me alone; talk with them about the state of their souls;
their experiences, their proficiencies, their temptations; obtain their
declared consent unto every jot nd 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!

I will be very watchful and cautious about the companions of my
children. I will be very inquisitive what company they keep; if they are
in hazard of being ensnared by any vicious company, I will earnestly
pull them out of it, as brands out of the burning. I will find out, and
procure, laudable companions for them.

As in catechizing the children, so in the repetition of the public
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 or such a grace of God?"
and the like. Yea, I may have 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

When a Day of Humiliation arrives, I will make them know the meaning of
the day. And after time given them to consider of it, I will order them
to tell me what special afflictions they have met with, and what good
they hope to get by those afflictions. On a Day of Thanksgiving, they
shall also be made to know the intent of the Day. And 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
under such obligations. 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. Very
particularly, on the birthdays of the children, I will take them aside,
and mind 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 hitherto
lived upon; 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 which God sent them into the world
upon; how far they understand the work; and what good strokes they have
struck at it; and, how they design to spend the rest of their time, if
God still continue them in the world.

When the children are in any troubleif they be sick, or painedI will
take advantage therefrom, to set before them the evil of sin, which
brings all our trouble; and 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 a CHRIST, by which their
trouble will be sanctified unto them, and they will be prepared for
death, and for fullness of joy in a happy eternity after death.
Among all the points of education which I will endeavor for my children,
I hope to see that each of themthe daughters as well as the sonsmay
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
subsist themselves, and get something of a livelihood, in case the
Providence of God should bring them into necessities. Why not they as
well as Paul the Tent-Maker! The children of the best fashion, 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."

As soon as ever I can, I will make my children apprehensive of the main
end for which they are to live; that so they may as soon as may be,
begin to live; and their youth not be nothing but vanity. I will show
them, that their main end must be, to, acknowledge the great God, and
His glorious Christ; and 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 end
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
diversions, and their ornaments, 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 account of why you do it?" How
comfortably shall I see them walking in the light, if I may bring them
wisely to answer this inquiry.

I will oblige the children to retire sometimes, and ponder on that
question: "What shall I wish to have done, if I were now a-dying?"and
report unto me their own answer to the question; of which I will then
take advantage, to inculcate the lessons of godliness upon them.
If I live to see the children marriageable, I will, before I consult
with Heaven and earth for their best accommodation in the married state,
endeavor the espousal of their souls unto their only Saviour. I will as
plainly, and as fully as I can, propose unto them the terms on which the
glorious Redeemer would espouse 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."


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