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Trent and Wells, eds. Colonial Prose and Poetry. 1901.

Vol. III. The Growth of the National Spirit: 1710–1775

The New England Primer

ALTHOUGH the New England Primer has been called the Little Bible of New England, and was, next to the Scriptures, the book most read and studied there for more than a century, yet so ironical is the fate of books that it is not exactly known when it first appeared. Furthermore, of some two million copies that may well have been printed and sold during the eighteenth century, less than fifty copies are known to exist; these, significantly enough, represent no less than forty editions. The Primer was first printed by Benjamin Harris, and was adapted from that compiler’s Protestant Tutor, a book issued in England before he took refuge in America. It must have been issued between 1687 and 1690, and have achieved immediate success. A second edition was called for in 1691. By the beginning of the next century we have evidence, from an advertisement, that John Cotton’s Shorter Catechism, The Milk for Babes, was added to it, but the first edition of the Primer known to collectors, that of 1727, does not contain it. Indeed, there are such constant changes, greater and smaller, in the make-up of the book, that its bibliography is exceedingly difficult. At first somewhat secular, it reached its stage of most unrelenting piety between 1740 and 1760, as may be seen by a comparison between the rhymed alphabets in our extracts. Politics, too, influence the changes, as may be observed under the letter K. The Exhortation unto his Children of John Rogers appears to have been written in 1555 by Robert Smith, a martyr of that year. Some printer attributed the authorship to Matthew Rogers, probably to secure a better sale, Matthew (for John) being a name he had assumed as translator for Tyndale. The introductory statement regarding him does not accord with facts. John Cotton’s Milk for Babes was probably written in 1641 and printed before 1645. It was already popular before the earliest issue of the Primer. The Primer was gradually displaced by Webster’s Blue Back Speller and Third Part Reader, but it continued to find sale in great numbers during the first forty years of the nineteenth century. Our citations from the early editions are taken by permission from Paul Leicester Ford’s admirable monograph, The New England Primer. The Spiritual Milk and the Dialogue between Christ, Youth, and the Devil are from the edition of 1762. The poem itself, however, is by the original compiler “the neat and poetical Ben Harris.” A facsimile of a post-Revolutionary edition of the Primer was issued by Ginn and Company in 1901. Curious information regarding the book may be found in No. 2 of Volume 8 of Columbia University Contributions to Philosophy, Psychology, and Education, an Essay by Dr. Reeder on the Historical Development of School Readers and Method in Teaching Reading (1900).



For the more easy attaining
the true Reading of English
To which is added
The Assembly of Divines

Boston: Printed by S. Kneeland & T. Green, Sold by the Booksellers. 1727.

  • 1727.
  • In Adam’s Fall
    We sinned all.In Adam’s Fall
    We sinned all.
  • Thy Life to mend
    This Book attend.Heaven to find,
    The Bible mind.
  • The Cat doth play,
    And after slay.Christ crucy’d
    For sinners dy’d.
  • A Dog will bite,
    The Thief at Night.The Deluged drown’d
    The Earth around.
  • An Eagle’s flight,
    Is out of sight.Elijah hid
    By ravens fed.
  • The idle Fool,
    Is whipt at School.The judgement made
    Felix afraid.
  • As runs the Glass
    Man’s Life doth pass.As runs the Glass,
    Our Life doth pass.
  • My Book and Heart
    Shall never part.My Book and Heart
    Must never part.
  • Job feels the rod
    Yet blesses God.Job feels the Rod
    Yet blesses God.
  • Our King the good
    No man of blood.Proud Korah’s troop
    Was swallowed up.
  • The Lion bold,
    The Lamb doth hold.Lot fled to Zoar.
    Saw fiery shower,
    On Sodom pour.
  • The Moon gives Light
    In time of night.Moses was he
    Who Israel’s Host
    Led thro’ the Sea.
  • Nightingales sing,
    In time of Spring.Noah did view
    The old world & new.
  • The Royal Oak,
    it was the Tree,
    That sav’d his
    Royal Majesty.Young Obadius,
    David, Josias,
    All were Pious.
  • Peter denies
    His Lord and cries.Peter deny’d
    His Lord and cry’d.
  • Queen Esther comes
    In Royal state
    To save the Jews
    From dismal fate.Queen Esther sues,
    And saves the Jews.
  • Rachel doth mourn
    For her first born.Young pious Ruth
    Left all for Truth.
  • Samuel anoints
    Whom God appoints.Young Sam’l dear
    The Lord did fear.
  • Time cuts down all,
    Both great and small.Young Timothy
    Learnt Sin to fly.
  • Uriah’s beauteous Wife,
    Made David seek his life.Vashti for Pride,
    Was set aside.
  • Whales in the Sea
    God’s Voice obey.Whales in the Sea,
    God’s Voice obey.
  • Xerxes the great did die
    And so must you & I.Xerxes did die,
    And so must I.
  • Youth forward slips
    Death soonest nips.While Youth do chear
    Death may be near.
  • Zacheus he
    Did climb the Tree
    His Lord to see.Zaccheus he
    Did climb the Tree,
    Our Lord to see.
  • Now the Child being entred in his Letters and Spelling, let him learn these and such like Sentences by Heart, whereby he will be both instructed in his Duty, and encouraged in his Learning.

  • The Dutiful Child’s Promises.
  • I will fear GOD, and honour the KING.
  • I will honour my Father & Mother.
  • I will obey my Superiours.
  • I will submit to my Elders
  • I will Love my Friends
  • I will hate no Man
  • I will forgive my Enemies, and pray to God for them.
  • I will as much as in me lies keep all God’s Holy Commandments
  • I will learn my Catechism
  • I will keep the Lord’s Day Holy.
  • I will reverence God’s sanctuary.
  • For our GOD is a consuming Fire.
  • Choice Sentences.
  • 1. Praying will make thee leave sinning, or sinning will make thee leave praying.
  • 2. Our Weakness and Inabilities break not the bond of our Duties.
  • 3. What we are afraid to speak before Men, we should be afraid to think before God.
  • Verses.
  • I in the Burying Place may see
  • Graves Shorter there than I;
  • From Death’s Arrest no Age is free,
  • Young Children too may die;
  • My God, may such an awful Sight,
  • Awakening be to me!
  • Oh! that by early Grace I might
  • For Death prepared be.
  • Good Children Must
  • Fear God all DayLove Christ alway
  • Parents obeyIn Secret Pray
  • No False thing SayMind little Play
  • By no Sin StrayMake no delay
  • In doing Good
  • Awake, arise, behold thou hast
  • Thy Life a Leaf, thy Breath a Blast;
  • At Night lye down prepar’d to have
  • Thy sleep, thy death, thy bed, thy grave.
  • Learn These Four Lines by Heart.
  • Have communion with few.
  • Be intimate with ONE.
  • Deal justly with all.
  • Speak Evil of none.
  • Mr. John Rogers, Minister of the Gospel in London, was the first Martyr in Queen Mary’s Reign, and was burnt at Smithfield, February the Fourteenth, 1554. His Wife, with nine small Children & one at her Breast, following Him to the Stake, with which sorrowful Sight he was not in the least daunted, but with wonderful Patience died courageously for the Gospel of JESUS CHRIST.

  • Some few Days before his Death he writ the following exhortation to his Children.
  • Give Ear my Children to my Words
  • whom God hath dearly bought,
  • Lay up his Laws within your Heart,
  • and print them in your thought.
  • I leave you here a little book,
  • for you to look upon.
  • That you may see your father’s face,
  • when he is dead and gone.
  • Who for the hope of heavenly things
  • while he did here remain,
  • Gave over all his golden years
  • to prison and to pain.
  • Where I among my iron bands
  • enclosed in the dark,
  • Not many days before my death,
  • I did compose this work.
  • And for example to your youth,
  • to whom I wish all good,
  • I send you here GOD’s perfect truth,
  • and seal it with my blood.
  • To you my heirs of earthly things,
  • which I do leave behind,
  • That you may read and understand,
  • and keep it in your mind.
  • That as you have been heirs of that
  • which once shall wear away,
  • You also may possess that part
  • which never shall decay.
  • Keep always God before your eyes,
  • with all your whole intent,
  • Commit no sin in any wise,
  • keep his commandements.
  • Abhor that arrant whore of Rome
  • And all her blasphemies
  • And drink not of her cursed cup
  • Obey not her decrees.
  • Give honour to your mother dear,
  • remember well her pain,
  • And recompence her in her age,
  • with the like love again.
  • Be always ready for her help
  • and let her not decay,
  • Remember well your father all,
  • That should have been your stay.
  • Give of your portion to the poor,
  • as riches do arise,
  • And from the needy naked soul
  • turn not away your eyes.
  • For he that doth not hear the cry
  • of those that stand in need,
  • Shall cry himself and not be heard,
  • when he does hope to speed.
  • If God hath given you increase,
  • and blessed well your store.
  • Remember you are put in trust,
  • and should relieve the poor.
  • Beware of foul and filthy lusts,
  • let such things have no place,
  • Keep clean your vessels in the LORD,
  • that he may you embrace.
  • Ye are the temples of the LORD,
  • for you are dearly bought,
  • And they that do defile the same,
  • shall surely come to nought.
  • Be never proud by any means,
  • build not thy house too high,
  • But always have before your eyes,
  • that you were born to die.
  • Defraud not him that hired is,
  • your labour to sustain,
  • And pay him still without delay,
  • his wages for his pain.
  • And as you would another man
  • against you should proceed,
  • Do you the same to them again,
  • if they do stand in need.
  • Impart your portion to the poor,
  • in money and in meat,
  • And send the feeble fainting soul,
  • of that which you do eat.
  • Ask council always of the wise,
  • give ear unto the end,
  • And ne’er refuse the sweet rebuke
  • of him that is thy friend.
  • Be always thankful to the LORD,
  • with prayer and with praise,
  • Begging of him to bless your work,
  • and to direct your ways.
  • Seek first I say the living GOD
  • and always him adore,
  • And then be sure that he will bless
  • your basket and your store.
  • And I beseech Almighty GOD
  • replenish you with grace,
  • That I may meet you in the Heav’ns,
  • and see you face to face.
  • And though the fire my body burns,
  • contrary to my kind,
  • That I cannot enjoy your love,
  • according to my mind.
  • Yet I do hope that when the Heav’ns
  • shall vanish like a scrowl,
  • I shall see you in perfect shape,
  • in body and in soul.
  • And that I may enjoy your love
  • and you enjoy the land,
  • I do beseech the living LORD,
  • to hold you in his hand.
  • Though here my body be adjudg’d
  • in flaming fire to fry,
  • My soul I trust will straight ascend,
  • to live with GOD on high.
  • What though this carcase smart a while,
  • what though this life decay,
  • My soul I trust will be with GOD,
  • and live with him for aye.
  • I know I am a sinner born,
  • from the original,
  • And that I do deserve to die
  • by my fore father’s fall
  • But by our Saviour, precious blood,
  • which on the cross was spilt,
  • Who freely offer’d up his life,
  • to save our souls from guilt.
  • I hope redemption I shall have,
  • and all that in him trust.
  • When I shall see him face to face,
  • and live among the just.
  • Why then should I fear Death’s grim look,
  • since CHRIST for me did die?
  • For King and Cesar, rich and poor,
  • the force of death must try.
  • When I am chained to the stake,
  • and faggots gird me round,
  • Then pray the LORD my soul in Heav’n
  • may be with glory crown’d.
  • Come welcome death, the end of fears,
  • I am prepar’d to die,
  • Those earthly flames will send my soul
  • up to the LORD on high.
  • Farewell my children, to the world,
  • where you must yet remain,
  • The LORD of hosts be your defence,
  • till we do meet again.
  • Farewell my true and loving wife,
  • my children and my friends,
  • I hope in Heaven to see you all,
  • when all things have their ends.
  • If you go on to serve the LORD,
  • as you have now begun,
  • You shall walk safely all your days,
  • until your life be done.
  • GOD grant you so to end your days,
  • as he shall think it best,
  • That I may meet you in the Heav’ns
  • where I do hope to rest.
  • The Infants Grace Before and After Meat.
  • Bless me, O Lord, and let my food strengthen me to serve thee, for Jesus Christ’s sake.Amen.
  • I desire to thank God who gives me food to eat every day of my life.Amen.
  • A Child’s Prayer.
  • I pray God to bless my Father and Mother, Brother and Sisters, and all my dear Friends.AMEN.
  • (In various editions after 1690.)
  • Spiritual Milk for American Babes,
  • Drawn out of the Breast of both Testaments, for their Souls Nourishment.
  • Quest.What hath God done for you?
  • Ans.God hath made me, he keepeth me, and he can save me.
  • Q.What is GOD?
  • A.God is a Spirit of himself and for himself.
  • Q.How many Gods be there?
  • A.There be but One GOD in three Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.
  • Q.How did God make you?
  • A.In my first Parents holy and righteous.
  • Q.Are you then born Holy and Righteous?
  • A.No, my first Parents sinned, and I in them.
  • Q.Are you then born a Sinner?
  • A.I was conceived in Sin & born in Iniquity.
  • Q.What is your Birth Sin?
  • A.Adam’s Sin imputed to me, and a corrupt Nature dwelling in me.
  • Q.What is your corrupt Nature?
  • A.My corrupt Nature is empty of Grace, bent unto Sin, only unto Sin and that continually.
  • Q.What is Sin?
  • A.Sin is the Transgression of the Law.
  • Q.How many Commandments of the Law be there?
  • A.Ten.
  • Q.What is the first Commandment?
  • A.Thou shalt have no other Gods before me.
  • Q.What is the meaning of this Commandment?
  • A.That we should worship the only true God, and no other beside him.
  • Q.What is the second Commandment?
  • A.Thou shalt not make unto thyself any graven Image, &c.
  • Q.What is the meaning of this Commandment?
  • A.That we should worship the only true GOD with true Worship, such as he hath ordained, not such as man hath invented.
  • Q.What is the third Commandment?
  • A.Thou shalt not take the Name of the Lord thy God in vain, &c.
  • Q.What is meant by the Name of GOD?
  • A.God himself, and the good Things of God whereby he is known as a Man by his Name, and his Attributes, Worship, Word, and Works.
  • Q.What is it not to take his Name in vain?
  • A.To make use of God, and the good Things of God, to his Glory, and our own Good, not vainly, not irreverently, not unprofitably.
  • Q.What is the fourth Commandment?
  • A.Remember that thou keep holy the Sabbath day.
  • Q.What is the meaning of this Commandment?
  • A.That we should rest from Labour, and much more from play on the Lord’s Day, that we may draw nigh to God in holy Duties.
  • Q.What is the fifth Commandment?
  • A.Honour thy Father and thy Mother, &c.
  • Q.Who are here meant by Father and Mother?
  • A.All our Superiors, whether in Family, School, Church, or Common Wealth.
  • Q.What is the Honour due to them?
  • A.Reverence, Obedience, and (when I am able) Recompence.
  • Q.What is the sixth Commandment?
  • A.Thou shalt do no Murder.
  • Q.What is the meaning of this Commandment?
  • A.That we should not shorten the Life or Health of ourselves or others, but preserve both.
  • Q.What is the seventh Commandment?
  • A.Thou shalt not commit Adultery.
  • Q.What is the Sin here forbidden?
  • A.To defile ourselves or others with unclean Lusts.
  • Q.What is the Duty here Commanded?
  • A.Chastity to possess our Vessels in Holiness and Honour.
  • Q.What is the eighth Commandment?
  • A.Thou shalt not Steal.
  • Q.What is the stealth here forbidden?
  • A.To take away another man’s goods without his Leave, or to spend our own without Benefit to ourselves or others.
  • Q.What is the Duty here Commanded?
  • A.To get our Goods honestly, to keep them safely, and spend them thriftily.
  • Q.What is the ninth Commandment?
  • A.Thou shalt not bear false Witness, &c.
  • Q.What is the Sin here forbidden?
  • A.To lie falsely, to think or speak untruly of ourselves or others.
  • Q.What is the Duty here required?
  • A.Truth and Faithfulness.
  • Q.What is the Tenth Commandment?
  • A.Thou shalt not covet, &c.
  • Q.What is the coveting here forbidden?
  • A.Lust after the Things of other Men, and Want of Contentment with our own.
  • Q.Whether have you kept these Commandments?
  • A.No, I and all Men are Sinners.
  • Q.What is the wages of Sin?
  • A.Death and Damnation.
  • Q.How then do you look to be saved?
  • A.Only by Jesus Christ.
  • Q.Who is Jesus Christ?
  • A.The eternal Son of God who for our sakes became Man, that he might redeem and save us.
  • Q.How doth Christ redeem and save us?
  • A.By his righteous Life and bitter Death, and glorious Resurrection to Life again.
  • Q.How do we come to have a Part & Fellowship with Christ in his Death & Resurrection?
  • A.By the Power of his Word and Spirit, which brings us to him, and keeps us in him.
  • Q.What is the Word?
  • A.The Holy Scriptures of the Prophets and Apostles, the old and new Testament, the Law and Gospel.
  • Q.How doth the Ministry of the Law bring you towards Christ?
  • A.By bringing me to know my Sin, and the Wrath of God against me for it.
  • Q.What are you hereby the nearer to Christ?
  • A.So I come to feel my cursed Estate and Need of a Saviour.
  • Q.How doth the Ministry of the Gospel help you in this cursed Estate?
  • A.By humbling me yet more, and the raising me out of this Estate.
  • Q.How doth the Ministry of the Gospel humble you?
  • A.By revealing the Grace of the Lord Jesus in dying to save Sinners, and yet convincing me of my Sin in not believing on him, and of my utter Insufficiency to come to him, and so I feel myself utterly lost.
  • Q.How doth the Ministry of the Gospel raise you up out of this lost Estate to come to Christ?
  • A.By teaching me the Value & Virtue of the Death of Christ, and the Riches of his Grace to lost Sinners, by revealing the Promise of Grace to such, and by ministring the Spirit of Grace to apply to Christ, and his Promise of Grace unto myself, and to keep me in him.
  • Q.How doth the Spirit of Grace apply Christ, his Promise of Grace unto you, & keep you in him?
  • A.By begetting in me Faith to receive him, Prayer to call upon him, Repentance to mourn after him and new Obedience to serve him.
  • Q.What is Faith?
  • A.Faith is a Grace of the Spirit, whereby I deny myself, and believe on Christ for Righteousness and Salvation.
  • Q.What is Prayer?
  • A.It is a calling upon God in the Name of Christ, by the Help of the Holy Ghost, according to the Will of God.
  • Q.What is Repentance?
  • A.Repentance is a Grace of the Spirit, whereby I loath my Sins, and myself for them, and confess them before the Lord, and mourn after Christ for the Pardon of them, and for Grace to serve him in Newness of Life.
  • Q.What is Newness of Life or new Obedience?
  • A.Newness of Life is a Grace of the Spirit, whereby I forsake my former Lusts & vain company, and walk before the Lord in the Light of his Word, and in the Communion of Saints.
  • Q.What is the Communion of Saints?
  • A.It is the Fellowship of the Church in the Blessings of the Covenant of Grace, and the Seals thereof.
  • Q.What is the Church?
  • A.It is a Congregation of Saints joined together in the Bond of the Covenant to worship the Lord, and to edify one another in all his holy Ordinances.
  • Q.What is the Bond of the Covenant by which the Church is joined together?
  • A.It is the Profession of that Covenant which God hath made with his faithful People, to be a God unto them, and to their Seed.
  • Q.What doth the Lord bind his People to in this Covenant?
  • A.To give up themselves and their Seed, first to the Lord, to be his People, and then to the Elders & Brethren of the Church, to set forward the Worship of God & their mutual Edification.
  • Q.How do they give up themselves and their Seed to the Lord?
  • A.By receiving thro’ Faith the Lord & his Covenant to themselves and to their Seed, and accordingly walking themselves & training up their Children in the Ways of the Covenant.
  • Q.How do they give up themselves and their Seed to the Elders and Brethren?
  • A.By Confession of their Sins, and Profession of their Faith, and of their Subjection to the Gospel of Christ; and so they and their Seed are received into the Fellowship of the Church and the Seals thereof.
  • Q.What are the Seals of the Covenant now In the Days of the Gospel?
  • A.Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
  • Q.What is done for you in Baptism?
  • A.In Baptism, the washing with Water is a Sign and Seal of my washing in the Blood and Spirit of Christ, and thereby of my ingrafting into Christ, of the Pardon and cleansing of my Sins, of my raising up out of Afflictions & also of my Resurrection from the Dead at the last Day.
  • Q.What is done for you in the Lord’s Supper?
  • A.In the Lord’s Supper the receiving of the Bread broken and the Wine poured out, is a Sign and Seal of my receiving the Communion of the Body of Christ broken for me, and of his Blood shed for me, and thereby of my Growth In Christ, and the Pardon and Healing of my Sins, of the Fellowship of the Spirit, of my strengthening and quickening in Grace, and of my sitting together with Christ on his Throne of Glory at the last Judgment.
  • Q.What was the resurrection from the dead which was sealed up to you in baptism?
  • A.When Christ shall come at his last Judgment, all that are in their Graves shall rise again, both the Just and the Unjust.
  • Q.What is the last Judgment which is sealed up to you in the Lord’s Supper?
  • A.At the last Day we shall all appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ to give an Account of our Works, and to receive our Rewards according to them.
  • Q.What is the reward that shall then be given?
  • A.The Righteous shall go into Life eternal and the Wicked shall be cast into everlasting Fire with the Devil and his Angels.
  • A Dialogue between Christ, Youth, and the Devil.
  • (In the first edition of the Primer, 1687(?), and nine subsequent ones.)
  • YOUTH.
  • THOSE days which God to me doth send,
  • In pleasure I’m resolv’d to spend;
  • Like as the birds in lovely spring,
  • Sit chirping on the boughs and sing,
  • Who straining forth those warbling notes,
  • Do make sweet music in their throats.
  • So I resolve in this my prime,
  • In sports and plays to spend my time.
  • Sorrow and grief I’ll put away,
  • Such things agree not with my day,
  • From clouds my morning shall be free,
  • And nought on Earth shall trouble me.
  • I will embrace each sweet delight,
  • This Earth affords me day and night;
  • Though parents grieve and me correct,
  • Yet I their counsel will reject.
  • Devil.
  • The resolution which you take,
  • Sweet youth, it doth me merry make,
  • If thou my counsel wilt embrace,
  • And shun the ways of truth and grace,
  • And learn to lie, to curse and swear,
  • And be as proud as any are;
  • And with thy brothers wilt fall out,
  • And sisters with vile language flout.
  • Yea, fight and scratch, and also bite,
  • Then in thee I will take delight.
  • If thou wilt but be rul’d by me,
  • An artist thou shalt quickly be,
  • In all my ways which lovely are,
  • There’s few with thee who shall compare,
  • Thy parents always disobey
  • Don’t mind at all what they do say;
  • And also pout and sullen be,
  • And thou shalt be a child for me.
  • When others read, be thou at play,
  • Think not on God, don’t sigh nor pray,
  • Nor be thou such a silly fool,
  • To mind thy book, or go to school
  • But play the truant; fear not, I
  • Will straightway help you to a lie,
  • Which will excuse you for the same,
  • From being whip’d, and from all blame.
  • Come, bow to me, uphold my crown,
  • And I’ll thee raise to high renown.
  • YOUTH.
  • These motions I will cleave unto,
  • And let all other counsels go;
  • My heart against my parents now,
  • Shall hardned be, and will not bow;
  • I won’t submit at all to them,
  • But all good counsel will contemn:
  • And what I list, that do will I,
  • And stubborn be continually.
  • Wilt thou O youth make such a choice,
  • And thus obey the Devil’s voice!
  • Curs’d sinful ways wilt thou embrace,
  • And hate the ways of truth and grace?
  • Wilt thou to me a rebel prove;
  • And from thy parents quite remove
  • Thy heart also? then shalt thou see,
  • What will e’er long become of thee.
  • Come, think on God, who did thee make,
  • And at this presence dread and quake;
  • Remember him now in thy youth,
  • And let thy soul take hold of truth;
  • The Devil and his ways defy,
  • Believe him not, he doth but lie,
  • His ways seem sweet, but youth beware,
  • He for thy soul hath laid a snare,
  • His sweet will into sower turn,
  • If in those ways thou still wilt run,
  • He will thee into pieces tear,
  • Like lions which most hungry are.
  • Grant me thy heart, thy folly leave,
  • And from this Lion I’ll thee save;
  • And thou shalt have sweet joy from me,
  • Which will last to eternity.
  • YOUTH.
  • My heart shall chear me in my youth;
  • I’ll have my frolicks in good truth;
  • Whate’er seems lovely in mine eye,
  • Myself I cannot it deny.
  • In my own ways I still will walk,
  • And take delight among young folk,
  • Who spend their days in joy and mirth,
  • Nothing like that I’m sure on earth.
  • Thy ways, O Christ! are not for me,
  • They with my age do not agree;
  • If I unto thy laws should cleave,
  • No more good days then should I have.
  • Would thou live long and good days see,
  • Refrain from all iniquity:
  • True good alone doth from me flow,
  • It can’t be had in things below.
  • Are not my ways, O youth for thee,
  • Then thou shalt never happy be;
  • Nor ever shall thy soul obtain
  • True good whilst thou dost here remain.
  • YOUTH.
  • To thee, O Christ! I’ll not adhere,
  • What thou speak’st of does not appear
  • Lovely to me; I cannot find
  • ’Tis good to set or place my mind
  • On ways whence many sorrows spring,
  • And to the flesh such crosses bring,
  • Don’t trouble me, I must fulfil
  • My fleshly mind and have my will.
  • Unto thyself then I’ll thee leave,
  • That Satan may thee wholly have:
  • Thy heart in sin shall hardned be,
  • And blinded in iniquity.
  • And then in wrath I’ll cut thee down,
  • Like to the grass and flowers mown;
  • And to thy wo thou shalt espy,
  • Childhood and youth are vanity.
  • For all such things I’ll make thee know,
  • To judgment thou shalt come also;
  • In Hell at last thy soul must burn,
  • When thou thy sinful race hast run.
  • Consider this, think on thy end,
  • Lest God do thee in pieces rend.
  • YOUTH.
  • Amazed, Lord! I now begin,
  • O help me, and I’ll leave my sin.
  • I tremble and do greatly fear,
  • To think upon what I do hear.
  • Lord! I religious now will be,
  • And I’ll from Satan turn to thee.
  • Devil.
  • Nay, foolish youth don’t change thy mind,
  • Unto such thoughts be not inclin’d;
  • Come, chear thy heart rouse up, be glad,
  • There is no Hell; why art thou sad?
  • Eat, drink, be merry with thy friends,
  • For when thou diest that’s thy last end.
  • YOUTH.
  • Such thoughts as these I can’t receive,
  • Because GOD’s word I do believe;
  • None shall in this destroy my faith,
  • Nor do I mind what Satan saith.
  • Devil.
  • That there’s a Heaven I can’t deny,
  • Yes, and a Hell of misery.
  • That Heaven is a lovely place,
  • I can’t deny; ’tis a clear case;
  • And easy ’tis for to come there,
  • Therefore take thou no further care;
  • All human laws do thou observe,
  • And from old customs never swerve;
  • Thou may’st be drunk, and swear and curse,
  • And sinners like but ne’er the worse;
  • At any time thou may’st repent,
  • ’Twill serve when all thy days are spent.
  • Take heed or else thou art undone,
  • These thoughts are from the wicked one.
  • Narrow’s the way that leads to life,
  • Who walk therein do meet with strife;
  • Few shall be saved, young man know,
  • Most do unto destruction go.
  • If the righteous ones scarce saved be,
  • What will at last become of thee!
  • Oh! don’t reject my precious call,
  • Lest suddenly to Hell thou fall;
  • Unless thou soon converted be,
  • God’s kingdom thou shalt never see.
  • YOUTH.
  • Lord, I am now at a great stand,
  • If I should yield to your command,
  • My comrades will me much deride,
  • And never more will me abide.
  • Moreover, this I also know,
  • Thou can’st at last great mercy show;
  • When I am old and pleasure’s gone,
  • Then what thou say’st I’ll think upon.
  • Nay, hold vain youth, thy time is short,
  • I have thy breath, I’ll end thy sport:
  • Thou shalt not live till thou art old,
  • Since thou in sin art grown so bold.
  • I in thy youth grim death will send,
  • And all thy sports shall have an end.
  • YOUTH.
  • I am too young, alas to die,
  • Let death some old grey head espy.
  • O spare me, and I will amend,
  • And with thy grace my soul befriend,
  • Or else I am undone alas,
  • For I am in a woful case.
  • When I did call, you would not hear,
  • But didst to me turn a deaf ear;
  • And now in thy calamity,
  • I will not mind nor hear thy cry;
  • Thy day is past, begone from me,
  • Thou who didst love iniquity,
  • Above thy soul and Saviour dear;
  • Who on the cross great pains did bear,
  • My mercy thou didst much abuse,
  • And all good counsel didst refuse,
  • Justice will therefore vengeance take,
  • And thee a sad example make.
  • YOUTH.
  • O spare me, Lord, forbear thy hand,
  • Don’t cut me off who trembling stand,
  • Begging for mercy at thy door,
  • O let me have but one year more.
  • If thou some longer time should have,
  • Thou wouldst again to folly cleave:
  • Therefore to thee I will not give,
  • One day on earth longer to live.
  • Death.
  • Youth, I am come to fetch thy breath,
  • And carry thee to the shades of death,
  • No pity on thee can I show,
  • Thou hast thy God offended so.
  • Thy soul and body I’ll divide,
  • Thy body in the grave I’ll hide,
  • And thy dear soul in hell must lie
  • With Devils to eternity.
  • The conclusion.
  • Thus end the days of woful youth,
  • Who won’t obey nor mind the truth;
  • Nor hearken to what preachers say,
  • But do their parents disobey.
  • They in their youth go down to hell,
  • Under eternal wrath to dwell.
  • Many don’t live out half their days,
  • For cleaving unto sinful ways.
  • (From various later editions.)
  • Alphabet Verses.
  • (1791)
  • Kings should be good
    Not men of BloodThe British King
    Lost States Thirteen
  • (1825)
  • Queens and Kings
    Are gaudy things’Tis Youths Delight
    To fly their Kite
  • The Infant’s Grace Before and After Meat.
  • Bless me, O Lord, and let my food strengthen me to serve Thee for Jesus Christ’s Sake.AMEN.
  • I desire to thank God who gives me food every day of my life.AMEN.
  • Verses for Little Children.
  • Though I am young, a little one
  • If I can speak and go alone,
  • Then I must learn to know the Lord
  • And learn to read his holy word.
  • ’Tis time to seek to God and pray
  • For what I want for ev’ry day:
  • I have a precious soul to save,
  • And I a mortal body have.
  • Tho’ I am young, yet I may die,
  • And hasten to eternity:
  • There is a dreadful fiery Hell,
  • Where wicked ones must always dwell;
  • There is a heaven full of joy,
  • Where godly ones must always stay;
  • To one of these my soul must fly,
  • As in a moment when I die:
  • When God that made me calls me home,
  • I must not stay, I must be gone.
  • He gave me life, and gives me breath,
  • And he can save my soul from death,
  • By Jesus Christ my only Lord,
  • According to his holy word.
  • He clothes my back and makes me warm;
  • He saves my flesh and bones from harm;
  • He gives me bread and milk and meat,
  • And all I have that’s good to eat.
  • When I am sick, he if he please,
  • Can make me well, and give me ease;
  • He gives me sleep and quiet rest,
  • Whereby my body is refresh’d,
  • The Lord is good and kind to me,
  • And very thankful I must be:
  • I must not sin as others do,
  • Lest I lay down in sorrow too:
  • For God is angry ev’ry day,
  • With wicked ones that go astray,
  • All sinful words I must refrain:
  • I must not take God’s name in vain.
  • I must not work, I must not play,
  • Upon Christ’s holy Sabbath-day
  • And if my parents speak the word,
  • I must obey them in the Lord,
  • Nor steal nor lie, nor spend my days,
  • In idle talk and foolish plays.
  • I must obey my Lord’s commands,
  • Do something with my little hands:
  • Remember my Creator now,
  • In youth while time will it allow.
  • Young Samuel that little child,
  • He served the Lord, liv’d undefil’d;
  • Him in his service God employ’d,
  • While Eli’s wicked children dy’d,
  • When wicked children mocking said,
  • To an old man, “Go up bald Head;”
  • God was displeas’d with them, and sent
  • Two bears which them in pieces rent.
  • I must not like those children vile,
  • Displease my God, myself defile,
  • Like young Abijah, I must see,
  • That good things may be found in me.
  • Young King Josiah, that blest youth,
  • He sought the Lord, and lov’d the truth;
  • He like a king did act his part,
  • And follow’d God with all his heart.
  • The little children they did sing,
  • Hosannah’s to their heavenly King.
  • That blessed child young Timothy,
  • Did learn God’s word most heedfully,
  • It seem’d to be his recreation,
  • Which made him wise unto salvation:
  • By faith in Christ which he had gain’d
  • With prayers & tears that faith unfeign’d.
  • These good examples were for me,
  • Like these good children I must be.
  • Give me true faith in Christ my Lord,
  • Obedience to his holy word,
  • No word is in the world like thine,
  • There’s none so pure, sweet and divine,
  • From thence let me thy will behold,
  • And love thy word above fine gold.
  • Make my heart in thy statutes sound,
  • And make my faith and love abound.
  • Lord circumcise my heart to love thee,
  • And nothing in this world above thee.
  • Let me behold thy pleasant face,
  • And make my soul to grow in grace,
  • And in the knowledge of my Lord
  • And Saviour Christ, and of his word.
  • Now I lay me down to take my sleep,
  • I pray the Lord my soul to keep
  • If I should die before I wake
  • I pray the Lord my soul to take.(1737.)