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old charter, which had been wrested from them; and it contained some restrictions on what were conceived to be popular rights, which, by the former charter, were secured. The dissatisfaction was the greater, because Mr. Mather's colleagues in the agency, Cook and Oakes, were not in favor of accepting the charter, but would have preferred rather to return to their country without any. It admits not of a doubt, however, at the present day, that Mr. Mather acted wisely in this most important business. The restoration of the former charter could not be obtained. And if it could, without important modifications, it would not have been adapted to the altered and enlarged state of the colony. And had the agents returned without any charter, the way had been left open for some second Andros to come, and crush, and revolutionize the country.
Mr. Mather assumed, indeed, a high responsibility, in consenting to act in so important a matter, without the concurrence of his colleagues; but the more credit is due to him on this account, and it belongs to posterity to award him this credit. It is impossible to conceive what New England might have been called to suffer,—what had been the fate of its churches, its schools, and its free institutions,—had not the venerable Mather, with a far-sighted wisdom, and an unblenching firmness, seized the favorable opportunity, and accepted the charter which King William offered him. By this act of his life, he lost somewhat of his former popularity, and exposed himself to no little reproach, especially from such men as Elisha Cook, who loved to harangue about popular rights; but he met the decided approbation of the wise and good, among his cotemporaries, both in this country and in England ;* while historians of later date,
* The following extract of a letter, signed by twelve of the dissenting ministers of London, among whom were William Bates, John Howe, Samuel Annesly, and Isaac Chauncy, and sent by Mr. Mather, on his return, “ to the much honored General Court, at Boston, New England,” will be read with interest in this connection. “Much honored gentlemen: The restoring of your charter, upon which the security and public good of your colony depends, we congratulate with as joyful affections, as with tender resentments we condoled the depri. vation of it. When your and our state was in appearance des. olate, beyond human power and counsel to redress, then de. liverance came from above; and in our deep darkness the
SECOND SERIES, VOL. VII. NO. I.
even those, as we shall see, who are not disposed to mete out to him any thing more than even justice, have decidedly approved of his conduct in this matter. Says President Quincy, in the work before us :
day-spring from on high visited us.” “Some of you may wonder there has been so long delay, before your charter was finished; but if you consider the torrent of affairs in court, after the late revolution, it will lessen the wonder. The truth is, your affairs were so difficult and thorny, that the rare union of the wisdom of the serpent and the innocence of the dove was requisite, in the commissioners managing of it. A peremptory refusal of any charter, but of an uniform tenor with the first, had been like too strong a medicine, that exasperates the disease, instead of curing it. In affairs of great importance, it is wisdom maturely to deliberate, and consider conditional events; and by the foresight of inconveniences that will otherwise follow, to accept of such things as are best, with respect to their circumstances. We must, therefore, give this true testimony of our much esteemed and beloved brother, Mr. Increase Mather, that with inviolate integrity, excellent prudence, and unfainting diligence, he hath managed the great business committed to his trust. As he is instructed in the school of heaven, to minister in the affairs of the soul, so he is furnished with a talent to transact affairs of state. His proceedings have been with a caution and circumspection correspondent to the weight of his commission. With courage and constancy, he has pursued the noble scope of his employment; and under. standing the true moment of things, has preferred the public good, to the vain conceit of some, that more might have been obtained, if peremptorily insisted on. Considering the open opposition and secret arts that have been used to frustrate the best endeavors for the interest of New England, the happy issue of these things is superior to our expectations. Your present charter secures liberty and property; and what is incomparably more, it secures the enjoyment of the blessed gospel, in its purity and freedom. Although there is a restraint of your power, in some things that were granted in the former charter, there are more ample privileges in other things, that may be of perpetual advantage to the colony. We doubt not but your faithful agent will receive a gracious reward above; and we hope his successful service will be welcomed with your entire approbation and grateful acceptance.”-Remarkables, etc., p. 157.
" As Mr. Mather, in his negotiations in Europe, had conducted with exemplary fidelity, so, on his return, all his measures, to meet the exigency of the occasion, were wise and prudent.” “He, who had taken so great a responsibility in favor of a new form of government, had surely a right to provide, that its first movements should be in the hands of his friends, and not be placed, by any false delicacy, at the mercy of its enemies. His policy was eminently successful. Whatever opinions we may be compelled to entertain concerning his measures and motives on other occasions, his conduct in this great crisis of his country entitles him to unqualified approbation. It is scarcely possible for a public agent to be placed in circumstances more trying or critical ; nor could any one have exhibited more sagacity, and devotedness to the true interests of his constituents. By his wisdom and firmness, in acceding to the new charter, and thus assuming a reponsibility of the weightiest kind, in opposition to his colleagues in the agency, he saved his country, apparently, from a rebellion or revolution, or from having a constitution imposed by the will of the transatlantic sovereign, possibly at the point of the bayonet. The event, though prosperous for his country, was to him an abundant source of calumny and animosity, and ended in his loss of political influence, and his severance from all subsequent public employment.” Vol. I. pp. 123, 124.
I have dwelt the longer on this great public act of Mr. Mather, on account of the importance of the act itself, and on account of its consequences, both to himself, and to New England. Justice to his character demands that we now turn back a little, and notice some of the earlier transactions of his religious life.
In the discussions which took place in this country, near the time of his settlement in the ministry, respecting the duty of parents, not members of the church, to own the covenant and bring their children to baptism, Mr. Mather first decided, with the venerable Davenport and President Chauncy, against the practice. But afterwards, he was induced to unite with his excellent father, his friend Mitchell of Cambridge, and many others in its favor.
Of the Reforming Synod, so called, which was convened in 1679, he seems to have been the prime mover, as he was certainly an active and leading member.
Mr. Mather was a strenuous supporter of the established faith and order of the New England churches; and when innovations were, at any time, attempted, they met from him a decided resistance. Near the close of the seventeenth century, an attempt was made to do away with the established practice of requiring of persons, admitted to the Lord's table, some satisfactory account of their religious experience. The Rev. William Brattle of Cambridge was one of the promoters of this innovation. It was followed, in a little time, by the doctrine, openly promulgated by Mr. Stoddard and others, that evidence of regeneration is not to be required of candidates for the holy supper. This Mr. Mather regarded as a very dangerous error, and opposed to it the whole weight of his influence and exertions. He wrote a preface to his son's life of Mitchell,* in which he says, that “ doctrinal knowledge and outward blamelessness are not sufficient qualifications for admission to the church; but that practical confessions, or some relation of the work of conversion, are necessary.” At a later period, he engaged in controversy with Mr. Stoddard on the same subject, showing the unscriptural character of the views he advocated, and their dangerous bearing on the churches of New England.
About the same period, another innovation was attempted, if indeed it be not part of the same, at which Mr. Mather was greatly troubled. It was the abandonment, by particular churches, of their separate, independent action in the choice of their pastors, and their consenting to vote only in connection with the congregations. In the year 1697, the church of which Mr. Mather was pastor sent ' a letter of admonition to the church in Charlestown, for betraying the liberties of the churches, by putting into the hands of the whole inhabitants, the choice of a minister.” The same year, measures were taken for founding the church in Brattle Square, Boston, expressly excluding the distinct action of the church in the choice of a minister, and disclaiming “the requisition of any public relation of experiences, or any other examination than by the pastor, as the condition of admission to the Lord's supper." The Rev. Benjamin Colman, then a young man, and in England, was invited to become the first pastor of this church; and so confident were his friends that he could not be ordained over it in this country, that they advised him to obtain ordination in England.
One of the leaders in this innovation was Thomas Brattle, Esq., of Boston, assisted by his brother, the Rev. William Brattle of Cambridge, and Hon. John Leverett, afterwards president of Harvard College. I am the more particular in mentioning names, because the transaction was one which not only inter
* It was of this Mr. Mitchell of Cambridge, that said: Baxter “If an ecumenical council could be obtained, Mr. Mitchell were worthy to be its moderator."
ested the feelings and distressed the heart of Mr. Mather at the time, but it materially affected his situation in after life.
At the request and through the mediation of neighboring ministers and others, the members of the new church consented to modify very considerably their original plan; so that Mr. Mather met with them, at the dedication of their house of worship, and even consented to preach on the occasion. Still, he was not satisfied with their proceedings; and he took occasion to express his dissatisfaction, in a treatise, published in the year 1700, entitled “ The Order of the Gospel professed by the Churches of New England justified.” This gave rise to a reply, and that to a rejoinder, in which more heat and bitterness were manifested on both sides, than consist with our modern notions of clerical decency and propriety.
Others besides the Mathers were induced to speak out on this occasion, and to utter a solemn note of warning to those who were bent upon departing from the established customs of the churches. It was at this time, that the venerable Higginson of Salem and Hubbard of Ipswich published their joint “ Testimony to the Order of the Gospel in the Churches of New England;" in which they say:
"If any who are given to change do rise up to unhinge the well established churches in this land, it will be the duty and interest of the churches to examine, whether the men of this trespass are more prayerful, more watchful, more zealous, more patient, more heavenly, more universally conscientious, and harder students, and better scholars, and more willing to be informed and advised, than those great and good men who left unto the churches what they now enjoy. If they be not so, it will be wisdom for the children to forbear pulling down with their own hands the houses of God which were built by their wiser fathers, until they have better satisfaction."*
Although this controversy so far subsided as to occasion no palpable breach of fellowship between those concerned in it, still, a degree of coldness and distance was observable, and they seem to have been the objects of mutual suspicion and jealousy, during the greater part of their lives.f This was the more unhappy for Mr. Mather, because those, whose measures
* See Preface to Cambridge Platform, p. 10.
† Dr. Elliot says, that the friendship of Dr. Colman and Cotton Mather was renewed, several years before the latter died; and then they wondered how they could so long disagree.”— Biog. Dictionary.