The New England Primer,
first published between 1688 and 1690, was the first reading primer designed for the American colonies and became the most successful educational textbook published in the early days of U.S. history. The following reflects the primer’s blend of alphabetical and biblical instruction.
In ADAM’S Fall, we sinned all.
Heaven to find, the BIBLE mind.
CHRIST crucify’d for sinners dy’d.
The DELUGE drown’d the Earth around.
ELIJAH hid by Ravens fed.
The judgment made FELIX afraid.
As runs the GLASS, our Life doth pass.
My Book and HEART must never part.
JOB feels the Rod, yet blesses God
Proud KORAH’S troop was swallowed up
LOT fled to Zoar, saw fiery shower on Sodom pour
MOSES was he who Israel’s Host led thro’ the sea
NOAH did view the world old and new
Young OBADIAS, David, Josias all were pious
PETER deny’d His Lord and cry’d
QUEEN Esther sues and saves the Jews
Young pious RUTH left all for Truth
Young SAM’L dear the Lord did fear
Young TIMOTHY learnt sin to flee
VASHTI for pride was set aside
WHALES in the sea God’s Voice did obey
XERXES did die and so must I
While YOUTH do chear death may be near
ZACCHEUS he did climb the tree our Lord to see
The language looks quaint to our twenty-first century eyes, but the idea is sound. If you were going to create a Bible-based alphabet for today, what would it look like? Would you keep “whales” or opt for “wind” or “whisper” or something else beginning with “w”? Can you think of another “z” word or would you stick with Zaccheus?
Think about it and let us know! (Unlike the colonial version, feel free to include the letter “I” in your alphabet.) This could be a fun ‘car game’ to play on your Labor Day Weekend road trip.
New England Primer information and alphabet from The American Patriot’s Bible. Copyright © 2009 by Thomas Nelson, articles copyright © 2009 by Richard G. Lee. Published by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.