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this community, when they come to understand the subject, will wonder that President Quincy could have used such language, or come to such a conclusion, respecting it. For who, I will ask again, was this Governor Dudley? What was his character, in the estimation of his cotemporaries, and of those that have come after him ? Only a year before the letter of Dr. Mather was written, a memorial was presented to “ the queen's most excellent majesty," and signed by twenty of the more distinguished friends of New England, some in this country, and some in London, accusing him of nothing less than treason—the supplying of the open enemies of his country with provisions and ammunition.*
Gov. Hutchinson says of Dudley : “ Ambition was his ruling passion; and perhaps, like Cæsar, he had rather be the first man in New England, than the second in Old.”+ Mr. Bradford represents him as “one covetous both of power and wealth, and as probably seeking for the former, as the best means of obtaining the latter.” “He could flatter those in authority, of any description or party, for the promotion of his own ambitious designs.”| Mr. Bancroft says: “The character of Dudley was that of profound selfishness.” He“ loved neither freedom, nor his native land.” He “is left without one to palliate his selfishness.”'S And President Quincy himself says, that Dudley was " vindictive, craving, ambitious.” Vol. I. p. 100.
I deem it no disgrace to the Mathers that they lost the favor of such a man, and that, before quite abandoning him, they were disposed to deal with him in a plain and faithful manner. They evidently intended their letters for his good, and if he did not profit by them, the fault, I think, was chiefly his own.
It is further objected to Dr. Mather, that he was, to a great and even ridiculous extent, the dupe of his own impressions ;impressions which were generally received in prayer, and which he deemed of an almost supernatural character. The impression of this kind which has been chiefly dwelt upon, and in the issue of which he was disappointed, was one which he cherished, from about the year 1693, to the end of the century, in reference to an anticipated return to England. It was often impressed on him, during this period, and in like manner upon
* See Hutchinson's History, Vol. II. p. 145, + Hist. of Mass., Vol. II. p. 194. # Ibid., p. 94. ş Hist, of U. States, Vol. III. p. 100. his son, that God would return him to England, and there give him an opportunity, in some way, greatly to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ. He seems to have desired such an event; and in several instances, the way was almost opened for the accomplishment of his wishes. But from various causes, he was disappointed. President Quincy regards these impressions of Dr. Mather and his son as so utterly unreasonable and enthusiastical, that he makes them matter of ridicule and reproach. He talks about their “ genuflexions and prostrations, and supernatural spiritual elevations,” and “ glorious, heart-melting persuasions,” in a manner which we deem offensive both to piety and taste; and resolves the whole, so far as Increase Mather was concerned, into “ the natural wishes of his own heart," “the natural cravings of an ambitious spirit.” Vol. I. pp. 81–109.
In reference to the subject here suggested, I remark, in the first place, that the current opinions and language of our fathers, in respect to various matters, natural and spiritual, were so different from ours, that if we are disposed to take them out of their own age, and from among their cotemporaries, and judge of them by our standards, it is not difficult to make them appear ridiculous. For example, if all that the apostolic Elliot said and wrote, with regard to the abomination of wearing wigs and long hair, were collected together, how easy it would be to turn him into ridicule. Or if Gov. Winthrop's account of the terrible judgment which befel Mrs. Dyer, in consequence of her having adopted the errors of Mrs. Hutchinson, (recorded in Vol. I. p. 261 of his Journal,) were copied out and held prominently up to the gaze and disgust of modern eyes, not only the excellent governor, but many of his cotemporaries, might be made to appear ridiculous enough. But it may be questioned whether such a procedure would be fair or generous. And I have the same scruples as to the propriety of ransacking the diaries of the Mathers (as it is their diaries alone which have furnished the grounds of the objection now before us) in search of materials for ridicule and reproach,—and especially for turning into ridicule their more secret and solemn acts of devotion.
The occasion requires, perhaps, that a few words be offered, with regard to the general subject of impressions in prayer. While I dissent entirely from much that has been written in our own times, in reference to what has been called “the prayer of faith, as being not only unscriptural, but of danger
ous tendency, I still believe that there is such a thing as communion with God in prayer;-intimate communion, yes, heartmelting, heart-dissolving communion ;-such as the venerable Mather sometimes enjoyed, when he prostrated himself in secret before God, and wet his study floor with tears. I believe, too, that Christians, who abound in prayer, have sometimes such sensible assistance in their supplications for particular events, that they can hardly resist the conclusion, when they rise from the duty, that the things prayed for will be bestowed. For they reason thus : God would not have afforded me such special assistance, in praying for this or that event, if he had not intended to hear the prayer, and grant the request.' I see nothing enthusiastical or unreasonable in a conclusion such as this; though, to be sure, we are not infallible in judgments of this nature, more than in others, and they should be formed and followed with wisdom and caution.
I will go further, and say, in reference to this matter, that if holy, spiritual persons, while engaged in their devotions, should think that they received remarkable impressions from God, in regard to certain coming events, I would not ridicule them. I would not say that the thing was impossible. For I know that
there are more things in heaven and earth than some men have dreamed of in their philosophy. I know, too, that some of the best Christians that have ever lived have pretended to receive such impressions, and the things of which they were in this way premonished have often come to pass. Repeated instances of this kind are sufficiently attested, as having occurred in the life of Dr. Mather. At the same time, I should feel, that even the best Christians were exceedingly liable to be deceived in regard to impressions of this nature, and consequently that it became them to say little about them; and more especially, that they should not suffer their duties,—their conduct,—to be much influenced by them.
After this expression of opinion with regard to the subject in general, let us return to the case of the Mathers. I class them both together, because they were both alike concerned in this matter. In the first place, they were both of them eminently persons of prayer. They observed more private fasts and vigils, and spent more time in their secret devotions—I believe, far more-than was common with Christians in their own age,certainly, more than is common now. And not only so, there was, if we may judge from their private writings, a spirit and fervor in their devotionsma nearness and intimacy of communion with God—which has been rarely attained to in this world of sin.
These men believed, not only in the duty, but in the efficacy of prayer. They expected answers to their prayers. Not unfrequently, they seem to have had strong persuasions, amounting almost to an assurance, that their supplications for particular favors would be answered. In a few cases, they received impressions in prayer, which they regarded as in some sense supernatural, that certain events in providence were about to take place. And in several cases, certainly, these events did take place. Men may account for such dispensations as they will ; of the fact of their occurrence there can be no reasonable doubt. * Still, Dr. Mather was liable to be deceived by his impressions; and in regard to his anticipated return to England, it seems that he was deceived. Yet I see nothing in this, which should justly expose him to ridicule or reproach. This particular impression seems to have exerted little or no influence, certainly no bad influence, on his conduct. He might have returned to England, in several instances, if he had been so disposed. The corporation repeatedly desired him to go to England, on an agency for the college ; and in one instance, (as he states in his diary,) “the representatives and the governor voted a concurrence." Vol. I. p. 477. At a later period,“ the ministers of the province, by their delegates assembled at Boston, unanimously desired him to take a voyage to England, with an address from them,” on the accession of George I., and “made provision for the expenses of the voyage."' But in neither of these cases did the way in providence seem to him to be open. His duty was not plain. And until it was plain, his impression could have no influence to induce him to go. His feeling and language in reference to the whole matter was: “ Lord, if it will be more to thy glory that
* In Nov., 1676, Mr. Mather “had a strange impression on his mind” that Boston was about to be visited with a destructive fire. He preached on the subject, and warned the people of it, two Sabbaths in succession. On the night following the second Sabbath, the fire broke out; his meeting-house was laid in ashes; and “whole streets were consumed in the devouring flames.” Other events of a like nature, which will readily occur to the mind of the reader, took place during the first century after the settlement of New England.
+ Remarkables, etc., p. 194.
I should go to England, than for me to continue here in this land, then let me go; otherwise not.” “ The Lord overrule this affair to his own glory, and so as that I may see his holy hand pointing me' what I should do.” Here, surely, is an unfeigned and entire submission to the will of God,-a feeling as unlike as possible to the restless longings of a selfish mind, the “natural cravings of an ambitious spirit.”
I cannot conclude the discussion of this topic, in words more appropriate than those of Cotton Mather himself. “ Christians, reproach not a particular faith, as if there never were a gracious work of heaven in it. But yet be cautioned against laying too much stress upon it, lest ye find yourselves incautiously plunged into a hope that will make ashamed. A particular faith may be a work of God; but the counterfeits of this jewel are so very fine, that it will require a judgment almost more than human to discern them. It is best that you should be content with the ordinary satisfaction of praying and waiting for the blessings of God, in such pious resignations to his will, and annihilations of your own, as an uncertainty about issues would most properly lead you to.”*
In remarking further on President Quincy's treatment of Increase Mather, it must be observed, that he charges him, almost uniformly, with being influenced by worldly, selfish, ambitious motives. And he thinks himself fully entitled to do this, because, in consequence of having access to his diary, he knows the motives by which he was influenced. “Of the motives and master-passions of his eventful presidency, we are enabled to speak with great certainty.” “ President Mather and his son both kept diaries, in which they have themselves recorded their motives and purposes; so that, in relation to either, there can hardly be any mistake.” Vol. I. p. 56.
In reference to this sort of diary evidence, of which President Quincy has made so much use, I feel bound, in passing, to offer a few remarks. And, first: Is it quite fair and honorable to bring out, in this way, the diaries of distinguished men? These diaries were written, not for the public eye, but for their own private inspection;—to assist their memories, and aid their devotions; or at most for the inspection of some few personal, family friends. Is it right, then, to lay hold upon them, and drag them out before the public, and turn them to a use for
* Remarkables, etc., p. 195.