The Mathers: Three Generations of Puritan Intellectuals, 1596-1728 (Galaxy Books)

The Mathers: Three Generations of Puritan Intellectuals, 1596-1728 (Galaxy Books)

Language: English

Pages: 452

ISBN: 0195021150

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

The Mathers: Three Generations of Puritan Intellectuals, 1596-1728 (Galaxy Books)

Language: English

Pages: 452

ISBN: 0195021150

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


In this classic work of American religious history, Robert Middlekauff traces the evolution of Puritan thought and theology in America from its origins in New England through the early eighteenth century. He focuses on three generations of intellectual ministers—Richard, Increase, and Cotton Mather—in order to challenge the traditional telling of the secularization of Puritanism, a story of faith transformed by reason, science, and business. Delving into the Mathers' private papers and unpublished writings as well as their sermons and published works, Middlekauff describes a Puritan theory of religious experience that is more creative, complex, and uncompromising than traditional accounts have allowed. At the same time, he portrays changing ideas and patterns of behavior that reveal much about the first hundred years of American life.

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Thing” which animates a vital piety and calls the saints into righteous lives.41 They must continue to act—to do good—whatever the consequences, or the lack of results in a polluted world. Mather did not regard this injunction as an admission of defeat, nor did he ever suggest that the pious should give up their attempts to reform the world. They must never stop. The concealed implication in what Mather was propounding was that the doing was as important as the good achieved. Be up and be doing,

the universe than the creation’s ordinary workings. Cotton’s father, Increase, found special providences fascinating and collected tales of them assiduously; and in the face of the new astronomy, he maintained that cometary motion had always been irregular and would continue to be so. Increase, like many of his generation, also tended to think of nature as an “art” which expressed the divine mind. Hence, it was comfortable for him to ascribe an emblematic character to the special providences in

131–33. 23. Ibid. 9–10. CHAPTER 11 1. Cotton Mather, The Minister (Boston, 1722), 14. 2. Cotton Mather, Meat Out Of The Eater (Boston, 1703), 16. 3. I have discussed all these matters in later chapters with the exception of the revolt of 1689. The statement against Andros is The Declaration Of The Gentlemen, . . . April 18th 1689 (Boston, 1689). 4. For Mather’s working day his Diary, passim is revealing, and it gives many reports of his fasts and other methods of worship. Samuel Mather, The

land and on some occasions, at both. Death, he might tell his listeners, should remind them of their mortality; and when they considered their own impending deaths they should seize the chance to repent and reform and to believe on Christ. If the public concern was uppermost in his mind, he might use the occasion to suggest that God sometimes took some of the living from the people as a kind of chastisement; their recourse in such times was a general reformation.3 Benjamin Colman followed this

then causing them when repentance was not forthcoming, they seemed also to predict apocalyptical events. Thus the second woe, the crushing blow upon the Turks, was announced by a comet; and assaults by the sixteenth-century reformers on the Antichrist in Europe were forecast. At times God chose to make their awful messages even clearer by giving comets extraordinary shapes; one in 1627, for example, assumed the form of a man’s arm holding a sword about ready to descend in a crushing swipe.9 The

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