William Bradford Institute
for Study of the
Early Settlement of America

Home
Sermons
 
Back
 
The Education of Children


by Cotton Mather

An Address
Ad Fratres in Eremo
Sirs!

A Little Book to assist, The Education of Children, is now in your Hands.
But can they be well Educated, if their Parents never send them to SCHOOL?
This is a point that seems now to call for some Inculcation.

A Good School deserves to be call'd, the very Salt of the Town, that hath
it: And the Pastors of every Town are under peculiar obligations to make
this a part of their Pastoral Care, That they may have a Good School, in
their Neighbourhood.

A woeful putrefaction threatens the Rising Generation; Barbarous
Ignorance, and the unavoidable consequence of it, Outrageous Wickedness
will make the Rising Generation Loathsome, if it have not Schools to
preserve it.

But Schools, wherein the Youth may by able Masters be Taught the Things
that are necessary to qualify them for future Serviceableness, and have
their Manners therewithal well-formed under a Laudable Discipline, and be
over and above Well-Catechised in the principles of Religion, Those would
be a Glory of our Land, and the preservatives of all other Glory.

The Minster that shall give his Neighbours No Rest, unto they have
agreeable Schools among them, and that shall himself also at some Times
inspect and Visit the Schools, will therein do much towards Fulfilling
that part of his Ministry, Feed my Lambs; and his Neighbours under his
Charge will (whatever they think of it!) have cause to Bless God, for this
Expression of his Faithfulness.

But these are not the only persons to whom this matter belongs; The Civil
Authority, and the whole Vicinity cannot be True to their own Interest, if
they do not say, We also will be with thee.

When the REFORMATION began in Europe an hundred and fourscore years ago,
to Erect Schools everywhere was one principal concern of the Glorious and
Heroic Reformers; and it was a common thing even for Little Villages of
Twenty or Thirty Families, in the midst of all their Charges, and their
Dangers, to maintain one of them.

The Colonies of New England were planted on the Design of pursuing that
Holy Reformation; and now the Devil cannot give a greater Blow to the
Reformation among us, than by causing Schools to Languish under
Discouragements.

If our General Courts decline to contrive and provide Laws for the Support
of Schools; or if particular Towns Employ their Wits, for Cheats to Elude
the wholesome Laws; little do they consider how much they expose
themselves to that Rebuke of God, Thou hast destroyed thyself, O New
England.

Would we Read, in the ancient Histories, how zealous the more discreet
Pagans were to maintain Schools among them; it might put us Christians to
the Blush, among whom 'tis common for Schools to starve and sink; and a
mind sordidly covetous, Withholds more than is meet, but it tends unto
what is Infinitely worse than poverty.

Sirs, What will be the Issue of these Things The Issue will be, That, Si
Ecclesia desideret pastorem, facilius Impostorem, inveniet quam pastorem;
Et Res publica pro Doctore Juris, Juris Tortorem; Et pro medicis, mendici,
pro praceptoribus, Deceptores sese offerent.

But least through the Want of Schools, there should in a little while be
scarce one man in a place able to construe this Description of the Fate
following upon that want, I will transcribe in plain English, the first
Article of the Prognostications upon the Future State of New England,
lately published:

"Where [Godly] Schools are not vigorously and Honourable Encouraged, whole
Colonies will sink apace; into a Degenerate and Contemptible Condition,
and at last become horribly Barbarous:

And the first Instance of their Barbarity will be, that they will be
undone for want of men, but not see and own what it was that undid them."
You will therefore pardon my Freedom with you, if I Address you, in the
words of Luther:

"If ever there be any Considerable Blow given to the Devil's Kingdom, it
must be, by Youth Excellently Educated. It is a serious Thing, a weighty
Thing, and a thing that hath much of the Interest of Christ, and of
Christianity in it, that Youth be well-trained up, and that Schools, and
School-Masters be maintained. Learning is an unwelcome guest to the Devil,
and therefore he would fain starve it out."

But we shall never long retain the Gospel, without the help of Learning.
And if we should have no Regard unto religion, even the outward prosperity
of a people, in this World would necessarily require Schools and Learned.
Alas, that none are carried with Alacrity and Seriousness to take care for
the Education of Youth and to Help the World with Eminent and Able men."
But the Freedom with which this Address is made unto you, is not so great
as the Fervour that has animated it. My Fathers and Brethren, If you have
any Love to God and Christ and Posterity; let [Godly] Schools be more
Encouraged.

If you would not betray your Posterity into the very Circumstances of
Savages, let Schools have more Encouragement. But in the Anguish, the
Despair of Success to be otherwise found by this Address, I will Turn it
from you unto the Almighty Hearer of Prayer.

And, O thou Saviour, and Shepherd of Thy New-English Israel: Be Entreated
Mercifully to look down upon they Flocks in the Wilderness. Oh, give us
not up to the Blindness and Madness of neglecting the Lambs in the Flocks.
Inspire thy People, and all Orders of men among thy People with a just
care for the Education of Posterity. Let Well-Ordered and well-instructed
and well-maintained Schools, be the Honour and the Defence of our Land.
Let Learning, and all the Helps and Means of it, be precious in our Esteem
and by Learning, let the Interests of thy Gospel so prevail, that we may
be made wise unto Salvation. Save us, O our Lord JESUS CHRIST. Save us
from the Mischiefs and Scandals of an Uncultivated Offspring; Let this be
a Land of Light, unto Thou, O Sun of Righteousness, do Thyself arise unto
the World with Healing in thy Wings. Amen.






 

Promoting a Greater Understanding of the Discovery of the Americas