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neglect and ingratitude.” His whole life " had been one series of theological and political controversy."* He was a partisan by profession; always harnessed, and ready, and restless for the onset; now courting the statesman; now mingling with the multitude; exciting the clergy in the synod, and the congregation in the pulpit, and the people in the halls of the popular assembly.” p. 147. Yet this is the man, whom Dr. Elliot describes as “the father of the New England clergy, whose name and character were held in veneration, not only by those who knew him, but by succeeding generations."
This is the man who (to use the language of the General Court), by“ unwearied, indefatigable labor and service, voluntarily undertaken for the good of his country, attended with much difficulty and hazard to his person,” and followed by much obloquy from fiery demagogues, saved Massachusetts
from revolution and bloodshed, and gave to her a charter of · government, under which she prospered for almost a century.
This is the man who, by his resistance to unscriptural and alarming innovations, kept back the tide of spiritual desolation from rolling over the churches of the Pilgrims for a series of years, and greatly restricted its ravages, when at length it came ;-the man to whom, I think, New England is more indebted, ecclesiastically and civilly, than to any other individual who ever lived in it; who, when he died, was “honored with a greater funeral than had ever been seen in these parts of the world,” and in consequence of whose death, “the pulpits, throughout the country,” rang with mingled eulogies and funeral lamentations.f But we must leave this venerable man to his rest. It will not be disturbed, nor will his reputation permanently suffer, by any attempts at this late day, to tarnish or reproach it. The shafts of his revilers will be more likely to recoil and fasten on themselves, than to fall injuriously on him.
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF Rev. Cotton MATHER.
As Increase Mather was one of the presidents of Harvard College, it was natural that the historian of the college should dwell
* Yet of his ninety-three or four publications, at least eighty were decidedly of a practical character. See titles of most of them at the end of Remarkables, etc., pp. 234-239. . + Remarkables, etc., p. 211.
somewhat particularly upon his life and character. But the same reason does not exist, why Cotton Mather should be made the subject of extended remark. He, to be sure, was a graduate of the college; was for some time a member of the corporation; and, during the greater part of his life, was entitled to a seat among the overseers; but beyond this, he had little direct concern with the college, and there seems no good reason why he should hold a conspicuous place in its history. Since, however, President Quincy has thought differently, it will be necessary to follow him, and to inquire into the correctness and justness of his representations. But in order that the subject may be better understood, I shall preface these inquiries with a brief sketch of the life of Cotton Mather.
He was the eldest son of Dr. Increase Mather, and grandson of the celebrated John Cotton; in consequence of which he was named Cotton Mather. He was born in Boston, Feb. 12, 1662. When a boy at school, he endeavored to persuade his youthful companions to become persons of prayer, and even wrote for them some forms of devotion. He had also the courage to “reprove his playmates for their wicked words and practices.” At the age of fourteen, he began to observe days of secret fasting and prayer; at which times, he was accustomed to read as many as fifteen chapters in the Bible daily.
He entered college, when but twelve years old, and graduated, with distinguished applause, at the age of sixteen.* At this
* It has been thought by some, that Cotton Mather possessed an undue measure of vanity. If this were so, it is scarcely to be wondered at, considering the applause which was lavished on him, and the raised expectations which he knew were entertained respecting him, in his earliest years. Take the following as a specimen, which was pronounced by President Oakes on the day when he graduated. “Another is named Cotton Mather. What a name! But, my hearers, I confess that I am wrong. I should have said, what names ! I shall say nothing of his reverend father, since I dare not praise him to his face; but should he resemble and represent his venerable grandfathers, John Cotton and Richard Mather, in piety, learning, elegance of mind, solid judgment, prudence and wisdom, he will bear away the palm. And I trust that, in this youth, Cotton and Mather will be united and flourish again.” The wonder is not, that a mere youth should be injured by such fulsome adulation, but rather that he was not utterly spoiled.
early period, he matured and disciplined his understanding, by drawing up systems of the sciences, and writing remarks upon the books which he had read. At the age of seventeen, he entered into covenant with the church, after a most careful and methodical examination of himself, and with the fullest consecration of his entire being to the Saviour. Having been engaged for some time, in the study of theology, he was ordained minister of the North Church in Boston, as colleague with his father, in 1684. In this situation he passed the remainder of his days, unwearied in his exertions to promote the glory of God, and the highest welfare of his fellow men. He was three times married, and had fifteen children, only two of whom survived him.
One of the earliest manifestations of the Christian life, in the case of Cotton Mather, was his desire to be useful. He commenced by instructing his brothers and sisters, exhorting the domestics, and doing them every service in his power. He imposed it on himself as a rule, never to go into company, where it might be proper for him to speak, without endeavoring to make himself useful. When very young, he commenced devoting a tenth of all his substance to charitable purposes ;-a practice which he continued—though the proportion of a tithe was often exceeded to the end of life.
Mr. Mather seems to have anticipated, when young, that fields of usefulness, then unimagined, would erelong be opened. “ A vast variety of new ways to do good will be lit upon; paths, which no fowl of the best flight at noble designs has yet known, and which the vulture's most piercing eye hath not seen, and where loins of the strongest resolution have never passed.” It was under the influence of impressions such as these, that he engaged in the composition of his well known work, entitled" Essays to do Good ;-a work which Dr. Franklin read in his youth, and to which he ascribes “ all the good that he ever did to his country or to mankind."*
* In a letter to Dr. Samuel Mather, son of Cotton Mather, dated “Passy (in France), Nov. 10, 1779,” Dr. Franklin says: “ Permit me to mention one little instance which, though it relates to myself, will not be quite uninteresting to you. When I was a hoy, I met with a book, entitled Essays to do Good, which I think was written by your father. It had been so little regarded by its former possessor, that several leaves of it were torn out; but the remainder gave me such a turn of thinking, To increase the power of doing good, Mr. Mather devised a plan of voluntary association, very similar to that which is now in such active operation throughout the world. His method was, to have associations formed in every neighborhood, which should keep an eye upon all growing evils, and use the most effectual means to suppress them. He would have these associations engage in sending the Bible and the gospel to other nations, and in labors for the benefit of tradesmen, soldiers and seamen.
In labors for the good of the people of his charge, he was unwearied and abundant. He kept a list of all the members of bis church, “and in his secret prayers, resolved that he would go over the catalogue, by parcels, upon his knees, and pray for the most suitable blessings he could think of to be bestowed upon each person, by name distinctly mentioned.” He devoted one or two afternoons in a week to visiting the families of his people (a practice less common in that age than it is now), in which visits he inquired particularly into the religious feelings of each member of a family, imparting such counsel and warning as individual cases seemed to require. He constantly employed himself in distributing religious books among his people. We are assured on good authority, that he sometimes gave away more than a thousand a year; and this at a period when such works were more ponderous than they are now, and when the cheap inventions of modern times were entirely unknown.
Though less engaged in public business than his father, yet he was not entirely unoccupied in this way. At the time of the Rev. olution, when Andros and his subalterns were stripped of their much abused power, he addressed a meeting of the inhabitants of Boston, dissuading them from acts of violence, and from all such excesses as would be injurious to their cause. He also prepared, at the request of some of the principal citizens, a long written declaration, having the same object in view, which was read from the gallery of the town-house.
It was this interposition of Mather, as his son informs us,
as to have an influence on my conduct through life ; for I have always set a greater value on the character of a doer of good, than any other kind of reputation ; and if I have been, as you seem to think, a useful citizen, the public o: 98 the advantage of it to that book” Wirks Vol. III. p. 478.
which “saved the fallen oppressors from a tragical fate; for had a single syllable been said, by any man of influence, in favor of avenging the public wrongs on those who had inflicted them, they would have been put to death without mercy or delay.”
There is scarcely a department of Christian philanthropy which has been thought of in modern times, in which Mr. Mather, single-handed and alone, did not attempt to do something. He wrote and published much—and widely circulated some of his publications-on the subject of intemperance.
Perceiving that the negroes, of which there were many at that time in Boston, had not those advantages of instruction which were necessary, in order to their becoming interested in religion, he established a school, in which they were taught to read. “And he himself bore the whole expense of it, paying the instructress for her services at the close of every week.” He also published an essay on the importance of Christianizing the negroes, designing “to lodge a copy in every family in New England that has a negro in it, and also to send numbers of them to the West Indies.” He moreover exerted himself for the special benefit of seamen, though it may be feared without much success.
Mr. Mather was of inestimable benefit to the inhabitants of Boston, and indeed of the whole country, by his efforts to introduce among them the practice of inoculation for the small pox. In this he was opposed, chiefly on ethical or theological grounds, by many of the clergy, and by all the physicians except one; but he persevered, until the practice was introduced, and the advantages of it were generally acknowledged.
I close what I have to say as to the usefulness of Mr. Mather, and the pleasure he felt in doing good, with an extract from his own private writings. “I am able,” says he, “ with little study, to write in seven languages. I feast myself with the sweets of all the sciences, which the more polite part of mankind ordinarily pretend to. I am entertained with all kinds of histories, ancient and modern. I am no stranger to the curiosities which, by all sorts of learning, are brought to the curious. These intellectual pleasures are far beyond any sensual ones. Nevertheless, all this affords me not so much delight, as it does to relieve the distresses of any one poor, mean, miserable neighbor ; and much more, to do any thing to advance the king