Did you know that our American colonial ancestors created a textbook for their children solely for the purpose of learning to read the Bible? The New England Primer combined the ABCs with a catechism and was the primary school text for the colonies for well over 100 years. Those parents knew that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” (Proverbs 9:10)
Think for a minute about this goal: learning to read for the purpose of knowing the scriptures. The Pilgrims were the descendants of Protestant Reformers, whose goal was to have the Bible in the common tongue and in the hands of everyone. These Puritans were grateful for the scriptures and did not waste the sacrifices of the Reformers. Living by the scriptures included raising children to do the same. And it was these Puritan beginnings that set the colonies on a path to what would become the United States of America.
It’s not a coincidence.
Have you read about any other nation in history that started or succeeded quite like the USA? You haven’t, because there isn’t one. Some have imitated us, but only certain facets. But the core of what made America great was Christianity. All of our founders (the majority of whom were raised on the New England Primer) wrote about this repeatedly.
The history of the Primer
The original title was Milke for Babes, Drawn out of the Breasts of both Testaments, Chiefly for the Spiritual Nourishment of Boston Babes in Either England. It was created on the heels of Massachussett’s Old Deluder Satan Act (1647) which legislated schools for the children of the colony. The colonists wanted to ensure an educated population, specifically for the purpose of knowing and living the holy scriptures.
In the Primer, children learned the alphabet with rote lines that taught the story of God, sin, and redemption through Jesus Christ. Various versions included prayers, scriptures, and sections of the Westminster Shorter Catechism.
From 1690 through the early 1800s, American children began their education with the New England Primer. Not because it was the only school book available, but because it reflected the beliefs and intentions of the majority population of the colonies.
I cannot stress this enough: the men who started a revolution, gained freedom from an empire, and established the first truly free government in world history were the descendents of Puritans who knew that they owed the principles of freedom to the Christian religion.
“The only foundation for a useful education in a republic is to be aid in religion. Without this there can be no virtue, and without virtue there can be no liberty, and liberty is the object and life of all republican governments. Without religion, I believe that learning does real mischief to the morals and principles of mankind.” (Benjamin Rush, signer of the Declaration of Independence)
“For avoiding the extremes of despotism or anarchy . . . the only ground of hope must be on the morals of the people. I believe that religion is the only solid base of morals and that morals are the only possible support of free governments. Therefore education should teach the precepts of religion and the duties of man towards God.” (Gouverneur Morris, contributor to and signer of the United States Constitution)
They admonished us to stay the course. We haven’t, sadly.
Parents have abdicated the education of their children, and with visible, dire consequences. This once-great nation started with children learning to read from the Bible at their mother’s side. Today, the public schools of America have purposely abandoned God in the name of “separation of church and state” and religious “freedom.” How ironic.
The New England Primer is a little testament to the Christian roots of our nation’s founding. Those roots run deep, and they are not dead. You can (and should) purchase a copy for preservation in your home library, to read, and to pass on to your children. It’s also available to read online here: https://ia802608.us.archive.org/…/newenglandprimer00for…
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