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one would think that, being sanctified from the birth, he had made the utmost improvement of his time in the pursuit of knowledge. But upon a further view of the social part of his life, the continual resort of visitants, with his gentle and easy entertainment of them at all hours, and how he would scarce let the meanest or youngest pass him without instruction; it seemed as if almost all his time were swallowed up with conversation. And yet, being let into a more intimate discovery of his numberless and perpetual contrivances and labors to do good in the world; one would then be ready to conclude that he could have no time left for either, but must have spent it all in action.
“ I cannot think to wish a richer blessing, than that the God of the spirits of all fesh would, in my own dear country, and every other, raise up numbers of such ministers as this,—that they may burn and shine as he, and prepare the world for the most illustrious appearance of the great God, our Saviour Jesus Christ."*
In an obituary notice of Cotton Mather, published in the Boston News Letter, he is described as
“The principal ornament of his country, and the greatest scholar that was ever bred in it
. Besides, his universal learning, his exalted piety and extensive charity, his entertaining wit and singular good. ness of temper, recommended him to all who were judges of real and distinguished merit."
Such, then, was the man, in the estimation of his cotemporaries—those among whom he lived and died who, by certain writers in the nineteenth century, is represented as possessing some of the most odious traits of intellectual and moral character—the worst features both of mind and heart;—who is de
* See Preface to Life of Cotton Mather, by Rev. Thomas Prince.
+ Elliott's Biog. Dict. p. 312. In the year 1700, Robert Ca. lef published his attack on Cotion Mather. This was replied to, not by Mather himself, but by several gentlemen of Boston, whose names are prefixed to the work. In this Reply, they say : “We cannot but bless God, that ever we knew Mr. Cotton Mather. He was born and bred in this town, where he has, for more than twenty years together, been a public preacher of the gospel. And we do verily believe there is not so much as one man, that has any knowledge of him, but what will own, that they look upon him to be a worthy, good man, a scholar, and a gentleman, who would not write a thing that is false, or do any ill thing upon any terms; and that he spends his life in studies, that he might do good to all sorts of men.” p. 33.
clared to have forfeited all consideration and influence in the community, and to have become, at last," the object of public ridicule and open insult.” Our readers must judge between the cotemporaries of Mather and his modern traducers, both of whose testimonies have here been given. Which had the opportunity to know him best? Which are to be regarded as the most competent judges of his talents, his learning, his piety, his usefulness, and his moral worth?
President Quincy admits that the cotemporaries of Mather attempted“ to draw a veil over his failures," " wherewith to cover his defects and infirmities;” but“ time,” he says, lifted that veil, and thrust aside that mantle, which the tenderness of friends and professional interest desired to spread.” Our readers will judge, however, whether the funeral and mourning above described, and the testimonies above given-spontuneously given--are not something more than an effort to draw a veil over infirmities and defects ;-whether they are not evidence, full and decisive, as to the estimation in which Cotton Mather—after a life of more than sixty years, the whole of which was spent in Boston—was held by the Bostonians of that day. It deserves consideration, too, whether it is, indeed, time that has lifted the veil, and thrust aside the mantle, of which President Quincy speaks, or whether this mantle has not been torn aside by rude and officious hands, to be replaced, in due course of time, with brighter colors, and in smoother folds.
The question has often arisen, in the progress of this discussion, Why have the Mathers received so much harder treatment, at the hands of President Quincy, than some of their cotemporaries? Why is every opportunity taken, to set off the characters of such men as Colman, and Pemberton, and Brattle, and Appleton, to the best possible advantage; while no opportunities seem to have been lost, and no epithets spared, to blacken and injure the characters of Increase and Cotton Mather? Why are the good qualities and deeds of such men as Dudley, and Stoughton, and Leverett, and the elder Sewall emblazoned, and their errors either passed over, or touched with a soft and tender hand; while the private letters and diaries of the Mathers are searched and sifted, and their very ashes raked, seemingly in eager quest for occasion of reproach ?
This remarkable difference of treatment is not to be accounted for on the ground that the Mathers were Calvinists, and the others not; or that the Mathers were stricter Calvinists than
most of the distinguished men of their times. One would naturally suppose that this was the fact, from reading the pages of President Quincy. He has much to say respecting “ the strict Calvinists,” “the rigid Calvinists," " the Calvinistic party, " etc., and almost all the disturbance in the affairs of college, and the mischiefs of the times, are laid to their account. Indeed, he states expressly, that the Brattles, and Leverett, and Pemberton, and Colman,“ were not adherents to the rigid doctrines of the early established church of New England.” p. 127. But on this point, he is certainly and greatly mistaken. There were no professed dissenters from Calvinistic doctrines among the Congregationalists in those times. And the distinction between strict and moderate Calvinists was scarcely known. The nisters and churches were all of them Calvinistic. They all received the Westminster Confession of Faith, or what was called the New England Confession, adopted in 1680, which is substantially the same thing. The Brattle-street church in Boston was as strictly Calvinistic in profession, as the North church. It is expressly stated, in the life of Colinan, that this church “approved the Westminster Confession of Faith.”* The elder Peinberton was a strict Calvinist, as may be conjectured from the fact, that he was selected by the venerable Samuel Willard to be his colleague and successor; and as may be known by all who will take the trouble to look into his sermons, Dr. Colman was not only a Calvinist, but a stickler for the peculiarities of Calvinistic doctrine. He was the early and fast friend of the celebrated George Whitefield. In 1732, he wrote a letter to the Rer. Mr. Adams, of New London, earnestly entreating him to inquire “concerning the bruit of the prevalence of Arminianism in Yale College,” and “ to vindicate the college, if possible, from the aspersion.”+ That Leverett was a Calvinist is certain from
* See Allen's Biog. Dict., p. 284. Thomas Brattle was one of the founders and original members of this church. Of course, he was either a strict Calvinist, or—a hypocrite. Dr. Holmes testifies that “Dr. Appleton, like all his predecessors in the ministry”-among whom was Rev. William Brattle—" were Calvinists." See Mass. Hist. Coll., Series 1, Vol. VII. p.
62. † A good comment this on the pretence of President Quincy, that Yale College ws got up by “the strict Calvinists,” when they could no longer control affairs at Harvard. Yet, within a little more than a dozen years, a leader of President Quinthe fact, that his election to the presidency was approved by so many of the Calvinistic ministers of the province.* Also from the fact, that such works as the Assembly's Catechism, Wollebius' Theology, and Ames's Medulla, were constantly studied and recited, as text books, under his direction, during the whole period of his presidency. p. 144.
The Rev MÌr. Prince informs us, that when he returned from Europe, in 1717, the ministers of Boston “ were Dr. Increase and Cotton Mather of the North church; Mr. Wadsworth and Mr. Foxcroft of the Old church; Mr. Colman and Mr. Cooper of the church in Brattle-street; Mr. Sewall of the South church ; and Mr. Webb of the New North ;-all most happily agreeing in the doctrines of grace, as laid down in the Catechisms and Confession of the venerable Assembly of Divines at Westminster, as well as the Confession of Faith agreed to by our New England Synods, which is almost the same as the other.”+
Speaking of the state of affairs in New England, in the first half of the last century, the Christian Examiner says: “An immense majority of the New England churches and ministers were Calvinists-strict Calvinists; and the Trinity had never been impugned in the provinces.”I
It follows from these statements, that the distinction among ministers in and around Boston, into Calvinists and others, or strict and moderate Calvinists, so much insisted on by President Quincy, in the times of which we speak, is without foundation. The discussions of that day turned scarcely at all on points of doctrine. They related rather to the proprieties of ecclesiastical order and usage. Of course, the ground of President Quincy's peculiar treatment of the Mathers cannot be, that they were more orthodox, or stricter Calvinists, than their brethren generally.
Neither can it be, that their views of church government were, on the whole, more objectionable. The Mathers were
cy's moderate party at Boston thinks it necessary to write to a trustee of Yale, beseeching him to clear the new institution of the imputation of Arminianism!! See Turell's Life of Col.
man, p. 62.
Thirty-nine of these ministers expressed their approbation in writing. See Vol. I. p. 504.
+ Christian History, Vol. II. p. 374.
old fashioned Congregationalists, clinging to the rights and the independence of particular churches, and resisting all encroachment on the provisions of the Cambridge Platform. But Dr. Colman was more of a Presbyterian than Congregationalist. He was ordained by the Presbytery in London, and says in one of his latest letters: “ I have always openly owned myself something of a Presbyterian, under our Congregational form.” He could be satisfied, however, with a consociation of churches; a thing, the bare mention of which is rank abomination in the ears of our modern Liberalists. “The consociation of churches," says Colman," is the very soul and life of the Congregational scheme, necessary to the very esse as well as bene of it; without which, we must be Independents, and with which the good of Presbyterianism is attainable."*
Nor can we account for President Quincy's hostility to the Mathers, on the ground that they were less catholic and liberal in their feelings, than their brethren generally. For they were regarded by their cotemporaries, and deservedly so (considering the age in which they lived), as very liberal men. 'Of Increase Mather it is said, he had learned" the utter nonsense and folly of attempting to convert people with penalties. He saw that the man, who is a good neighbor, and a good subject, has a right to his life and the comforts of it; and that it is not his being of this or that opinion in religion, but his doing something which directly tends to the hurt of human society, by which this right can be forfeited. He saw that, until persecution be utterly banished out of the world, and Cain's club be taken out of Abel's hand, as well as out of Cain's, it is impossible to rescue the world from endless confusions.”+ The opinions of Cotton Mather on this subject, were very similar to those of his father. “He was,” says Prince, “an utter enemy to religious tyranny and imposition. He was of very catholic and comprehensive principles.” “Although he was a defender of the doctrines of grace, as expressed in the articles of the church of England; and as to discipline, was of Congregational principles, which he looked on as most agreeable to the word of God, and the rights of the Christian church ; yet was he very extensive in his charity, being desirous to receive all, whom Christ receives to the kingdom of God.”!
* Life of Colman, p. 107. + Remarkables, etc p. 58.
# Life by his Son, p. 140.