Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

IX

THE DYNASTY OF THE MATHERS

DUNTON's letters abound, as we have seen, in references to the Mathers, Increase and Cotton; and the same thing is true of all the literature of the period. Brooks Adams has cuttingly observed in his remarkable volume, “ The Emancipation of Massachusetts,” that one weak point in the otherwise strong position of the early Massachusetts clergy was that the spirit of their age did not permit them to make their order hereditary. With the Mathers, however, the priesthood was hereditary, and they constituted a veritable dynasty in the government of Boston. The story of their lives offers a remarkable illustration of power

theological and otherwise transmitted through at least four generations.

When“ the shining light " was extinguished by death, late in 1652, he left a widow who became, before long, the second wife of the Rev. erend Richard Mather, minister of Dorchester. This Mather had already a theologically minded son named Increase, who had been born in Dorchester in June, 1639, and who, after preaching his first sermon on his birthday, in 1657, sailed for England and pursued postgraduate studies in Trinity College there. Then he preached for one winter in Devonshire and, in 1659, became chaplain to the garrison of Guernsey. But the Restoration was now at hand and, finding that he must “ either conform to the Revived Superstitions in the Church of England or leave the Island,” he gave up his charge and, in June, 1661, sailed for home. The following winter he passed preaching alternately for his father and “to the New Church in the North-part of Boston." In the course of that year the charms of Mrs. Mather's daughter, Maria Cotton, impressed themselves upon him and,

On March 6, 1662, he came into the Married State; Espousing the only Daughter, of the celebrated Mr. John Cotton; in honor of whom he did . . . call his First-born son by the Name of COTTON."

Two years after his marriage Increase Mather was ordained pastor of the North Church in Boston and for some twenty years he appears to have performed with notable suc

[ocr errors]
[graphic][merged small]

THE NEVI PUBLIC LIBRARY

ASTOR, LENO TILDEN FOUTL

cess the duties of this important parish. At the same time, he exercised — beneficently on the whole — his great power in the temporal affairs of the colony. For he had good sense and nund judgment, — exactly the qualities, it may be remarked, which his more brilliant son conspicuously lacked.

One of the most attractive traits in the younger Mather's character is his appreciation of his father. Barrett Wendell, who has written a highly readable Life of Cotton Mather, observes dryly that the persecutor of the witches“ never observed any other law of God quite so faithfully as the Fifth Commandment." And there seems to have been excellent reason for this. Increase Mather devotedly loved his precocious young son and upon him he lavished a passionate affection which the lad repaid in reverence which was almost worship. The motto of Cotton Mather's life seems indeed to have been, My Father can do no Wrong.

The schoolmaster whose privilege it became to plant the seeds of learning in the mind of this hope of the Mathers was Ezekiel Cheever, whose life Sewall has written for us in the following concise paragraph:

" He was born January 25, 1614. Came over

« AnteriorContinuar »