Cotton Mather.

Corderius Americanus : a discourse on the good education of children, &c. &c. delivered at the funeral of Ezekiel Cheever, principal of the Latin school in Boston, who died, August, 1708, in the ninty-fourth year of his age ; with an elegy and an epitaph online

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Online LibraryCotton MatherCorderius Americanus : a discourse on the good education of children, &c. &c. delivered at the funeral of Ezekiel Cheever, principal of the Latin school in Boston, who died, August, 1708, in the ninty-fourth year of his age ; with an elegy and an epitaph → online text (page 1 of 3)
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somewhat abridged, is now presented to the Public, to perpetuate
the memory of EZEKIEL CHEEVER. Several paragraphs of the
Historical Introduction" encumbered with Latin Phrases, to
gether with portions of the Sermon objectionable for the same
reason, or not necessary to the design of the present publication,
and also, a considerable part of the Doctor s " Essay," it was
thought proper to omit.

The portions selected by the Editor of this Abridgment have
been principally copied verbatim, except, when it was neces
sary, in omitting repetitions, to embrace the substance of
several sentences in a single sentence. The amendments
attempted are, nevertheless, not numerous ; more might, per
haps, have been made in various places, in which the Original

has been retained out of deference to the Author. If the same

attentiveness of writing which appears in some of his larger and

more elaborate publications, had been as manifest in the work
before us, the hand of Criticism would have met with but little
employment: An abridgment of it, however, in the circum
stances which now seem to justify its republication, he believes,
might still be allowable.

Its having been proposed to republish Corderius America- -
nus, was the first inducement to a more particular examination

of the work, which was done, under a conviction, that, as it is
now out of print, in bringing it again into public notice, " if
abridged with a tolerable degree of care, and somewhat amended
in reference to style, it might be rendered, to the generality
of readers, even more acceptable, and more useful than the orig
inal. Under this impression, the work was transcribed and care
fully revised. That a better abridgment might not have been
made, he is by no means presumptuous enough to imagine. He
has, however, bestowed a considerable degree of labour upon the
work, and he hopes that what he has done, will not very seriously
disappoint any reasonable expectation on the part of the reader."
The fac simile of the Manuscript of the venerable CHEEVER
bearing date 1631, together with Poems of the same manu
script, and penned no doubt, in his native city, (London,) as
may be seen by the close of his EMUCM ad CAROLUM REGEM ;
he hopes will be gratifying to the community, and obtain for
the ensuing pages, with other publications, its proportion of their


Goshen, Sept. 1828-


A due care about a Funeral for the dead among the Jews had
his phrase for it, A bestowment of mercy. But the Sermon I
have preached at the Funeral of my master must be called, a do
ing of justice : And I am very much misinformed if this were
not the general voice of all the auditory.

Perfection in this life is not to be expected ; nor have any a
right to pretend to it.

We must not wonder then if the best of our teachers be thought
attended with their imperfections. Whatever mine might have,
they are buried. And we generally concur in acknowledging,
that New England has never known a better. I am sure I have
as much reason to appear for him as ever Crito for his master So

The short history of his long usefulness is to be comprised in
the ensuing articles :

He was born in London, Jan. 25, 1614.

He arrived in this country in June, 1637, with the rest of those
good men who sought a peaceable secession in an American wil
derness, for the pure, evangelical, and instituted worship of
our great Redeemer ; to which he kept a strict adherence all
his days.

He then sojourned first, part of a year, at Boston ; so that at
Boston he both commenced and concluded his American race,
His holy life was a married life.

He began the laborious work of a school-master at New-Haven ,
where he continued for twelve years.

From New-Haven he removed to Ipswich in December, 1650,
where he laboured eleven years.

From Ipswich he removed to Charlestown, in November, 1661,
where he laboured nine years.

From Charlestown he came over to Boston, Jan. 6, 1670, where
his labours were continued for eight and thirty years.

He died on Saturday morning, August 21, 1708. in the ninety-
fourth year of his age ; after he had been a skilful, painful, faith
ful school-master for seventy years ; and had the singular favour
of Heaven, that though he had usefully spent his life among chil
dren, yet he was not become twice a child ; but held his abilities,
with his usefulness, in an unusual degree to the very last.

2 TIMOTHY, iii. 11.

From a child thou hast known the Holy Scriptures, which are able

to make thee wise unto salvation.

IT was a great case which the parents to a son of great hope
once put to a messenger of heaven, Judges xiii. 12. How shall
we order the child, and what shall we do unto him *? The edu
cation of our children is a point of inexpressible consequence.
Unworthy to be parents, most worthy to be esteemed rather
monsters, than parents, are they who are not solicitous to give
their children an agreeable education. There is no serious reli
gion in those parents who are not solicitous that their children
should have a religious education. Our children are so nume-
ous, the temptations which endanger the ruin of our children are
so innumerable, that we ought frequently and earnestly to insist
on this point, their agreeable and religious education. We will
now therefore inquire, How shall we order the children, and what
shall we do unto them 9

I will answer in one word ; let the children have such an edu
cation as Timothy had. We have before us a description of that
education, and a direction to give you this


That saving wisdom is to be fetched from the knowledge of
the holy Scriptures ; and the early knowledge of the holy Scrip
tures is the way to be betimes made wise unto salvation.

That we may more intelligibly prosecute this doctrine, we
will first a little entertain ourselves with the history of a child made
wise unto salvation, by the knowledge of the holy Scriptures.
A Timothy, and the education of a lovely Timothy, shall be first
a little set before us.

;:: r^vis : f A - : e

Paul, a prisoner at Rome, a little before his martyrdom, ad
dresses Timothy with an epistle, which Chrysostom ingeniously
calls, Our Apostle s last will and testament. In this epistle our
Apostle exhorts his excellent and beloved son Timothy to sted-
fastness in the faith and work of his LORD. And his education
is one argument with which he inculcates the exhortation.

Timothy was very happy in his education. It may be edify
ing for to us reflect a little on the occasion of this education,
and the influence of it.

Timothy had a godly mother and a godly grand-mother.
Both of them were Jews. His father was a Gentile. But he
also was converted to Christianity. And having begun betimes
to give their little son the knowledge of the holy Scriptures ; an
early tincture of scriptural piety thus took the mind of the child.
But when the parents were brought home to the blessed JESUS
they entreated Paul who had been their spiritual father to take
the tuition of him. O happy child in the hands of such a tutor !

Well ; and what was the effect of this education ? Our
Timothy did himself prove a Christian of the first rate ; yea, and
an admirable minister. His labours in the harvest of his
LORD were extraordinary. Every one wondered how any one
man could ever labour so abundantly. He was of a feeble
constitution; and of such an abstemious temperance that he was
even blamed for it ; but one of an active soul one of a flam
ing zeal. The great Paul could give this testimony of him,,
that he did not know another man in the world so ready, on all
occasions to every good work.

I can now with some enforcement again tell my hearers, that
they who would be wise to salvation must know the holy scrip-
ures, and that for children to know the holy scriptures, is early
wisdom and saving wisdom.

Your attention is invited to several propositions, with which
it were to be wished all our children were well acquainted.

I. To yield obedience to GOD in the ways and rules of his holy
religion, this is to be wise to salvation. There is a holy relig
ion with which we are to glorify God in this world. By so do
ing we answer the end of our being, and secure our title to
eternal glory in the world to come. Now there never was a
truer assertion than that, Psalm cxi. 10. The beginning of wis-

dom is thejear of the Lord. All they that give themselves to it have
a good understanding. It secures treasure in heaven where
neither moth nor rust corrupt, where no thief approaches to
break through or steal. There is therefore nothing so reasona
ble as to be religious nothing so profitable nothing so neces
sary. And as the rules of religion are prescribed by the only
wise GOD the GOD of whom we are assured, Psalm cxlv. 5.
His understanding is infinite ; they must needs be wise rules ;
and it must needs be our wisdom to adhere to them.

One main stroke in religion is, FAITH towards our LORD JESUS
CHRIST. Faith is in the Bible often called by the name of wis
dom. It is most justly called so. It beholds, it receives, it en
joys that glorious CHRIST in whom there is the wisdom of GOD.
And the end of our faith will be the salvation of the soul.

Another main stroke in religion is REPENTANCE towards GOD.
Repentance is a rescipiscence, or growing wise again. It must
be wisdom to abhor sin, and to turn from it. To sin is to do
very foolishly. And repentance has the promise of salvation.

There is no man but will own, it is the wisdom of every
man to save his own soul. For, What is a man profited if he
gain the whole world and lose his own soul 9 Now the issue of
conformity to the rules of religion will be the salvation of the
soul. We read, Heb. v. 9. CHRIST is thecmthor of eternal salva
tion to all that obey him.

II. It is by the knowledge of the holy scriptures that we know
the rules of religion. Accordingly, If ever we come to salva
tion, it must be by conversing with the scriptures. We are so
called upon. John v. 39. Search the scriptures for in them ye
think ye have eternal life ; and they are they which testify of me. It
was very fit that the will of GOD giving us the rules of living to
him should be contained in some writings or other. Those in
spired writings which we have in our Old and New Testament,
are the only ones that can pretend to this dignity. In these
scriptures we have the rules of religion, by the observing of
which we shall be wise to salvation. Here, here is the Gospel
whereof we are told,Eph. i. I l. It is the gospel of your salvation.
If we lack the knowledge of this Gospel we shall be a people of
no understanding. Of such a people how terribly it thunders.


He that made them ivill not have mercy on them; He that formed them
will shoiv them no favour. What is all the learning in the world
without the knowledge of the scriptures. There were, they say,
two hundred thousand books in the library which Ptolemy erec
ted at Alexandria ; but it was the addition of the scriptures
which made it a truly learned library. And whatever we may
have learned from all our books, it is the knowledge of the
scriptures that will bring us to the truest and indeed the only

But what sort of knowledge is requisite ?

Be sure a doctrinal knowledge of the scriptures is requisite
that we may be wise to salvation. We read, 2 Cor. iv. 3. If
our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost. We must know
doctrinally the main things that are communicated to us in the

are the main things in the holy scriptures. If we are ignorant
of these things, our ignorance will plunge us into everlasting
darkness. Even now it lays us in chains of darkness.

But then a practical knowledge of the scriptures is also re
quisite. We know to little purpose except we do according to
what we know. We read, John xiii. 17. If ye know these things
happy are ye if ye do tfan. Knowledge must be as John Baptist
was to our Saviour a JpTecursor to goodness. We must know
the truth, and walk in the truth. We must know GOD and serve
him. We must know CHRIST, and grow in grace. We must
know and hear our duty ; and we must be doers of the word
and not hearers only. Else we are not wise to salvation. We
read, Matt. vii. 26. It is the part of a foolish man who builds
his house upon the sand, and great is the fall of it. But the sweet
conjunction of the knowledge and practice of the holy scrip
tures, will lay up for us a hope in heaven that bringeth forth

III. The inference from hence is that the early knowledge of
the holy scriptures is the way to be betimes made wise to salva

And now there is a two fold application to be made of this
observation on which we will discourse by applying it to two
sorts of persons.


It is the interest of all teachers to begin betimes in the teach
ing of children the early knowledge of the holy scriptures, that
so they may be wise to salvation. It is to you O teachers, un
to you, first, there must now come the word of the LORD. It
must come with an answer to diverse enquiries.

We will, first, enquire and declare, when should we begin to

teach our children the knowledge of the scriptures f In view

of the direction, Deut. vi. 7. to teach them diligently and Eph.

vi. 4. to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the LORD ;

need we be afraid of beginning too early ?

First, then, as soon as the children can know, ought we not to
teach them what they should know f Thus early, no doubt, they
began with Solomon; else he would not have said, Prov. iv. 3,
4. / was my father s son, a tender and only one in the sight of my
mother, then he taught me.

Again How early do the children begin to know other mat
ters ? Can we teach them what they owe to us ? Methinks we
may then teach them what they owe to the LORD, who made
both us and them. Their little souls are precious cabinets.
Why should not the best things be put into them ? We are so
called upon, Matt. vi. 32. Seek first the kingdom of GOD. Even
so with the first let them learn the things which concern the
kingdom of GOD. ^^

Once more How early do the chiloj^ begin to know and
do what may be hurtful to them ? It is very early that they
learn the things condemned in the scriptures. Why should
they not as early learn the scriptures themselves f and to know
the precepts of GOD as early as they know how to break them ?
A child no sooner begins to do any thing rational, but satan be
gins to show it how to do something that is criminal. Methinks
I see the image of it, Rev. xii. 4. The dragon stood to devour the
child as soon as it was born. Then, say I, it becomes us to stand
ready with the knowledge of the holy scriptures ; and thus, if
possible, to rescue the children from the venomous designs of
the dragon on them.

There is a plausible objection against this early essay to give
our children the knowledge of the scriptures.


Will not this be to make the children take the name of the
LORD in vain ? Would it not be more discretion to stay till the
children are themselves come to some years of descretion ? It
is easily answered. Will you never teach the children till you
see them have the grace, that will keep them from taking the
name of the LORD in vain ? Rather teach them to keep them
from it. And let our discretion teach us to manage the matter
wisely, in teaching our children with all possible gravity ; to be
grave in every thing that relates to GOD and their souls Con
sider also the capacity of the children. Teach them what shall
be good for them ; and forbear the rest till they shall be more
able to bear it.

We will, Secondly, enquire and declare, what is the knowl
edge of the holy scriptures, which we are to teach our chil
dren ?

Truly as much as ever we can help them to ; all they can
remember all they can comprehend. More particularly,

First, THE HISTORIES of the holy scriptures. Only it would
be adviseable always to clench the histories with some admoni
tions of piety which are to be gathered from them. There are
none of those histories of which it may not be said, Psalm xix. 11.
Thy servant is warned by them.

Secondly, We arejjteach our children the PRINCIPLES of the
holy scriptures WrWRhey have taught us to believe about
GOD his perfections, and his works : About the fall of man,
and the method of his recovery about the LORD JESUS CHRIST
* who he is and what he has done, and what he will do for his
chosen people. We read that the principles of the doctrine of
CHRIST are the milk for babes. That these things may be the
better taught, an orthodox catechism is to be employed. They
should say their catechism, and be rewarded when they can say
it. Pertaining to which such questions to them should be put,
as that their answers will give us to perceive whether or not
they understand what they say. We read, 2 Tim. i. 13. There
is a form of sound words which they must hear from us.

Thirdly, We are to teach our children the COMMANDMENTS of the
holy scriptures. There are the ten commandments There are
many lessons to be inculcated on them lessons by which their


manners are to be regulated GOOD LESSONS FOR CHILDREN, may
be the title for them.

But there is one very great article, which is often to be insisted
on. The children have mostly been baptized. Oh, make them
know the intent and meaning of their baptism ! Tell them, now
my child, you must be a servant of a glorious CHRIST, and be
afraid of defiling yourself with any sin, since you have been wash
ed in the name of the most holy LORD. Say to them ; 1 Chron.
xxviii. 9. My child, know thou the GOD of thy father, and serve
him with a perfect heart and a willing mind : If thou seek him he will
be found ofthee ; but if thou forsake him, he will cast thee off for ever.
You cannot imagine how much efficacy this teaching may have
upon them.

Fourthly, The children should learn, as early as possible to
read the holy scriptures. This being done see that every day
they read, and remember something of the book of life. And
out of what they read, show them how to make prayers. When
once it comes to be said, behold they pray, it is likely that it may
quickly be said, they are wise to salvation. The Bible was well
called by one of the ancients, a letter from the ALMIGHTY GOD to
his creatures. Such a letter it should be considered to our chil
dren. They should be taught accordingly to read it and re
verence it and answer it.

This it will be for the children to krfow the holy scriptures.

We will, Thirdly, enquire and declare, who it is that is to
teach the children the knowedge of the holy scriptures ?

In particular the pastors of the flock ; they must not neglect
the children of the flock. The charge of our Lord to them
is, John xxi. 15. Feed my lambs. It seems proposed as if it
were at least one third part of the pastoral charge. O men of
GOD, how many ways may you devise good, in this affair ; to
make the children of your charge wise to salvation ! Of many
such devices, I will mention one proposed by the excellent
Mr. White in his Manual for Parents : " That ministers would
" sometimes preach at the schools as well as catechise, because,
" as he says, the preaching of the world is the converting ordi-
" nance. And when sermons are brought to the schools, the
" children must needs hear with more attention and of such
" things, too, as more immediately concern them. The minis-


" ters would also condescend to such expressions, as would not
" be so fit for a larger congregation."

The master and mistresses in the school may do much in this
noble work. Truly to teach the little ones the knowledge of the
holy scriptures, and make them wise to salvation is a stately
work I had almost called it a work for angels. Yet by teach
ing them something of the holy scriptures, who knows but you
may drop some honey from that rock upon them, which, with the
blessing of GOD, will save their souls ? Every time a new child
comes to the school, may you not hope he has sent you another
object, on which you may do something to advance his kingdom
in the world ?

No ; nor will we excuse the very servants even the hand
maids of the family, as they are dressing and feeding the chil
dren, from this blessed work.

Oh ! If servants would once come to take a pleasure in
such a thing, to keep teaching the children something from
the holy scriptures ; how would they adorn the doctrine of GOD
their Saviour !

But, Lastly, and yet First of all, O parents, arise ; this
matter belongs chiefly to you ; we also will be with you. None,
I say, none are so much concerned as parents to look after it,
that their children be taught the knowledge of the scriptures.
The famous king Alfred procured a law, that every man who

(had as much as two hides of land, should bring up his children
to learning iill fifteen years of age at least, that so they might
know CHRIST and live happily ; else he said they were but beasts
and sots. I am to press it that parents give their children all
the learning they can ; especially that which will bring them to
know CHRIST and live happily.

Parents, what motive can you desire more than this ? It is
the way to make the children wise to salvation. Did you duly
teach them the knowledge of the scriptures, they would be like
ly to be children of whom it is said, 1 John ii. 13. Little children
\ ye have known the FATHER. And Oh what would be the fruit of
V^this knowledge? Truly this is life eternal. You lodge in the
little souls of your children the seeds of life eternal if God please
, to make them so. What a charming word is that, Gen. xviii. 19.


He will command his children, and they shall keep the way of the

Certainly you desire the salvation of your children. You
have had your share among the causes of it, that they are by na
ture the children of wrath. And would you not see them saved
from that wrath ? But if the knowledge of the scriptures be j
withheld from the children. If their understandings be darken- ,
ed If they know not GOD and the LORD JESUS CHRIST, their
doom from the LORD will be Depart from me,Iknow you not. We
read of a child, 2 Kings, iv. 19. He said to his father, my head, my
head I ^^

Parents, these are the cries which the souls of your children r
make in your ears. My head, my head ! My heart, my heart ! ^-~
It will be a very dungeon of wickedness, if by the knowldge of
the scriptures you do not purify it. You have the command
and the promise of GOD, Prov. xxii. 4. Train up a child in the
way lie should go, and when he is old he will not depart
from it. GOD puts these children into your hands. Here,
he says, take this child, let it be taught the knowledge
of the scriptures. I will reward all thy pains. Thy well in
structed child shall be thy comfort If it miss of salvation, yet
thou shalt have peace in thy mind ; that thou didst thy endeavor

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Online LibraryCotton MatherCorderius Americanus : a discourse on the good education of children, &c. &c. delivered at the funeral of Ezekiel Cheever, principal of the Latin school in Boston, who died, August, 1708, in the ninty-fourth year of his age ; with an elegy and an epitaph → online text (page 1 of 3)