Historical Christian Teaching
The books referenced below were used in a time when parents had the primary (and sometimes only) responsibility for the education of their children.
Devine & Moral Songs for Children, by Isaac Watts. Compiled, Arranged & Edited by Carris J. Kocher. 1991.
From the books Introduction, by Elizabeth McEachern Miller
This book was first printed in 1715, during the latter days of the Reformation in England, it is the pinnacle of Puritan literature for children. It was used widely in this country with the very young, but, as our national character began to change, the Book of Divine Songs was first ridiculed and today is out of print. We are now witnessing a small but substantial effort toward reconstruction.
Various historic books mentioned throughout the Introduction
Emerging from the colonial period of children’s literature 1620-1776, I find three outstanding books:
- Fox’s Book of Martyrs
- Pilgrim’s Progress
- Divine and Moral Songs for the Use of Children
Fox’s Book of Martyrs or A History of the Lives, Sufferings and Triumphant Deaths of the Early Christian and the Protestant Martyrs, was published in England in 1563 by John Fox. In a day when few books were available, this one immediately became an international best seller. It was found in most cathedrals chained to the lectern along with the Bible. It solidified the unique character of the English nation and laid the spiritual foundation for the Puritans to carry forth the gospel in the English tradition to America. The book was transported to our shores by the first settlers and remained the second most popular book until the publication of John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress.
The Pilgrim’s Progress From This World To That Which Is To Come, by John Bunyan. It ranks with Milton’s Paradise Lost as the greatest allegory ever written. It has been translated into almost as many languages as the Bible. fabulous sums have been paid for its first American editions and the search continues for them today. It was first published here in 1682 and was immediately a best seller as it was in England.
A man of little formal schooling, all of his (Bunyan’s) learning came from the study of the Bible. He wrote Pilgrim’s Progress as a help for his small congregation, struggling against persecution in England. The books appealed to all ages and to Catholics as well as Protestants. Nothing that has been written since can be compared with it in sales, and yet today the doors are closing on this inspiring allegory. Adults think it is irrelevant and passe in this moon-shot age, and yet our youth are crying out for direction, or a path, for something to believe in…
Divine and Moral Songs for the Use of Children, by Issac Watts is exactly the type of book children need. It takes great and eternal truth and places it on the level of a child’s understanding. It will give children a positive Christian faith, and in working out its implications in their lives, responsibility and leadership will be developed more readily. It will serve as a bulwark against modern heresies and lay a sound foundation for later development. My claims for this too little known work may seem extravagant, but there is nothing in the whole field of children’s books that can remotely compare with it.
Elizabeth McEachern Miller, 1975 Chalcedon, Inc.
Various other historic books mentioned throughout the Introduction
Spiritual Milk for Boston Babes Drawn Out of the Breasts of Both Testaments for Their Souls Nourishment. Written by John Cotton in 1684.
War with the Devil or Young Man’s Conflict with the Powers of Darkness, by William Bradford.
A Token for Children, by James Janeway, 1749. It opens with this paragraph: “You may now hear (my dear lambs) what other good children have done, and remember how they wept , and prayed by themselves; how earnestly they cried out for an interest in the Lord Jesus Christ. Do you as these children did? Did you ever see your miserable state by Nature? Did you ever get by yourself and weep for sin? Benjamin Franklin published this book.
The adventures of Urad: or The Fair Wanderer, Published in 1767. “A very interesting tale in which the protection of the Almighty is proved to be the first and chief support of the Female Sex.”
The New England Primer. This school text, unlike anything we have today, was used universally in Colonial America for about 100 years. Included also is the story of John Rogers, the first martyr under the reign of Queen Mary, hymns by Isaac Watts and many exhortations not to lie, not to cheat, not to be a dunce and to love school. (Today’s texts are devoid of all exhortations with the possible exception of sharing.)
Day of Doom, by Michael Wigglesworth.