A Token for Children: (the Only Complete Edition Ever Published) : in Two Parts

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Whiting & Watson, 1811 - Children - 250 pages
 

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Teach our children
Use this resource to learn how to train our children in the ways of God like the Puritans did with their own children.

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This is possibly the strangest book I've ever read. It was the most popular book for children from the 1600s to the 1800s, and every person in it dies.
The book is actually two volumes, one by
James Janeway of England, and Cotton Mather of New England, and each volume is a collection of vignettes of the lives of children (up into late teens) who were examples of extreme piety. The idea was to recommend their lives (and deaths) as models to other children for how to approach a Christian life.
Each vignette usually begins with the child's conversion experience, including an extreme awareness not only of sins in general, but of their sin nature, God's righteous wrath against them, and then moving to a real sense of assurance of forgiveness. Then there are usually examples of the child's seriousness in devotion during life, and finally it segues into how the child died full of faith.
What fascinates me the most about the book is the background assumptions of the period about what a devout Christian life looks like, how conversion works, and how to face death. At every point, their view was so much different from ours. For instance, from the number of children who made up Sunday School lessons for their family while their parents were at church, I see that it was pretty common to leave the kids at home. Sometimes I was moved to prayer. More often than not, I imagined slapping the precocious child who would say such insulting things to their parents.
As I said, my copy of this book informs me that it was the most popular book to give to children until sometime around 1850, and while the sentiment of the thing inspires me, I'm not sure I want to give a copy to my son any time soon.
 

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