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aware of what Providence had in storefor New England; yet this letter of his, written amidst the darkness which covers the ways of the unseen, will always be full of interest to Americans and Englishmen, as a link of connexion between the Puritan spirits of the age, who were actually weaving destinies for nations in two hemispheres, such as no prophets could foresee.
Cotton did not live long, after receiving the letter; he died in 1652 ; and a little while before he expired, taking leave of his beloved library, he said in words which will touch the heart of a student, “I shall go into that room no more."
Stories are told of his meekness. Somebody once rudely said to him, his teaching had become dark or flat. “Both, brother,” he rejoined, “it may be both ; let me have your prayers, that it may be otherwise.” Another called him an old fool. “I confess I am so," he replied ; " the Lord make thee and me wiser than we are, even wise unto salvation.” Whilst such anecdotes illustrate the good man's humility in his last days, they betray the fact of his being unpopular with a party among the Boston people—which no one can wonder at who knows the high-handed way in which Cotton carried on matters both in Church and State.
Richard Mather, born at Lowton, Lancashire, in 1596, and educated at Brasenose, Oxford, was a popular Puritan clergyman at Toxteth Park, Liverpool. Like John Cotton, he adopted Congregational principles, and because he did so, he also, like Cotton, subjected himself to ecclesiastical penalties. For fifteen years he preached without a surplice. “What,' asked one of his judges, 'preach fifteen years, and never wear a surplice ! It had been better for him if he had gotten seven bastards.' ” One would hope, there is some exaggeration here :--yet, at all events, men in those days were treated as though ceremonial irregularities were worse than moral vices and crimes. He followed the example of Cotton and turned towards Ner England, saying that “ he would move from a corrupt church to one that was pure ;—from a place where truth was persecuted to one of peace ;—from a place where God's ordinances were forbidden, to one where they could be enjoyed ;—from a place without discipline, to one where it could be maintained ; from a place where ministers were prevented from exercising their functions, to one where they might freely exercise them ;—from a place overshadowed by signs of desolation, to one under the protection of God.” The key to the interpretation of these manifold reasons for leaving his own country and seeking a home across the Atlantic, is to be found in Mather's strong Nonconformist convictions. He was also encouraged by letters received from those already in Massachusetts ; and in 1635, he arrived at Boston, after having been exposed to imminent peril by a tremendous hurricane.
He accepted an invitation from the Congregational Church at Dorchester, where he spent the remainder of his days.
His life appears to have been uneventful ; but the record of his death contains pious sayings, such as good men of the Puritan class were wont to utter. His will also breathes a spirit of strong Christian devotion, and to sum up all, his grandson says :—“He was
of most exemplary piety ; an excellent scholar ; and a plain, judicious, and energetic preacher, shooting the arrow of Divine truth into the hearts of his hearers." He died in 1669. Richard Mather had four sons, all ministers of the Gospel. Samuel, who accompanied his father to New England, was educated in Harvard College, and afterwards removed to Ireland, where he was a Senior Fellow of Trinity College, Dublin, and incumbent of St. Nicholas. He lost his preferment at the Restoration, and afterwards lived in privacy. Nathaniel, who likewise studied at Harvard, also laboured as a minister in Dublin till after the Restoration, when he took charge of a little Nonconformist flock, which his brother had quietly folded and fed. Eleazer, too was astudent at Harvard, and then became pastor of a church at Northampton, New England, where he died; and Increase, who chiefly sustained the honour of the family name, made a mark on New England history and the annals of the city of Boston. With a pastorate in Boston, he associated the presidency of Harvard College ; and in the midst of troubles consequent on a withdrawal of the Charter, and the establishment of a Provisional Government, he, on account of his position and character, and the confidence reposed in him by his fellow citizens, was chosen as an agent to visit England to see what could be done for the colony in its depressed condition. He was, however, ere he could start, accused of having written a letter containing reflections on the King's ministers, which turned out to be a forged document, and he had to manage an escape out of the hands of his enemies and get over to England as well as he could. He obtained an audience with James II., and was not unfavourably received by his Majesty. He made friends at Court, and was treated with civility by William Penn. After all, as to the monarch, the emissary from New England said within himself, “I will see thy face again no more,” for he had heard good words enough, and saw that they were all he was likely to get. The well-meant embassy seemed as if it would end in smoke ; but at length in 1692, Increase Mather
; returned home, not as he came, by stealth, but openly and in honour with a new Charter in his hand, granted by King William and Queen Mary. That new Charter put things on a footing different from that on which they had rested before—for the appointment of the Governor became vested in the King-and instead of the office being limited to a year, it was to be held during the royal pleasure. There were to be no more annually elected magistrates, but judges chosen by the Governor, with consent of Council. A veto was claimed by the Crown over the legislation of the colony. These restrictions, however, were accompanied by a concession of liberty of worship to all denominations except Roman Catholics. Mather lived out his days a strict Puritan ; but we are assured he did not, like many of his Boston contemporaries, believe in necromancy and witches.
His marriage with the daughter of John Cotton brought him three sous, the youngest, Samuel Mather, who had a small congregation in Witney, Oxfordshire ; the next above him in seniority, Nathaniel Mather, who died in New England at the age of 19 ; and the eldest of all, Cotton Mather, who requires more than a passing notice, as he attained an eminence superior to that of either of his grandfathers.
His life, by his son Samuel, lies before us; and it is a remarkable production, illustrative of biographical tendencies years ago, in contrast with such as prevail in our own day. Now authors of memoirs endeavour to make them as circumstantial and picturesque as possible, often throwing into the background, if they notice at all, the moral and spiritual career of their heroes. But then the fashion was to say as little as possible of outward events ; and to dilate at large on the virtues of a man's character, going deeply into the conflicts and changes of his Christian experience—a mode of treatment which indicated the absorbing interest felt at that period in the spiritual aspects of human life. Samuel Mather's sketch of his father is quite of this old-fashioned description. Provokingly reticent on points relating to his public business, it fails to give any pictorial glimpses of him in his daily domestic and social ways. Hardly a page supplies material for any graphic account of the ruler of the Boston Israel. We reserve what we gather of his story for our next paper.
Lot. Lor was a man whose religious principles were neither deep, nor elevated His moral sensibilities were inert and cold. He was unspiritual, indolent, selfish, and self-indulgent. His piety culminated in righteousness rather than in goodness. It was passive, therefore, rather than active. He would not do evil, but he did not hate it strongly, nor did he desire to do much good. He would not do an unjust act, but he could do a mean and ungenerous one. He could hear and see a great deal that was eminently evil, and yet go on witnessing it. It is inconceivable that a man whose piety was ardent, and whose principles were lofty, could have lived where and as he did. Altogether he was a weak man-weak in intellectual force ; weak in will ; weak in virtue ; weak in faith ; weak in love, and weak, therefore, in his influence over others. With the exception of the virtue of hospitality, which in the East it has always been deemed disgraceful for a man of position to be destitute of, there is nothing in his history that is commendable. It stands rather as a beacon to warn than as an example to follow. We have indeed, and are glad to have, the final verdict of St. Peter, affirming the fundamental character of Lot—" And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked : for that righteous man, dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul fronn day to day with their unlawful deeds” (2 Peter ii. 7, 8). But our estimate thereof must be regulated, first, by the consideration that in the Scriptures the just man is not the highest type of man ; then that in the roll of worthies given in Hebrews xi., who had approved themselves unto God, and become examples to all ages by noble deeds and strong faith, Lot finds no place ; and, finally, by the fact that in his actual history there is so little to commend and so much to deplore. His close relationship indeed with Abraham ; his association with the destruction of the cities of the Plaiu,
and his connection with the origin of two of the worst enemies of the Israelites,* seem the sole reasons why his name is recorded in Genesis.
That was the most signal event in the history of Abraham, and the beginning of the most important religious revolution of our race, when Abraham broke away from his father Terah and his brother Nahor because of the incipient polytheism of his family and of Chaldea, and with his wife and nephew went toward Canaan.
Courage, conscientiousness, self-denial, and faith in their highest forms could alone impel and sustain in such a course.
Whether Lot accompanied Abraham from sympathy with his religious aspirations, or because his father being dead he was under the charge of Abraham, we can only conjecture.
The two migrated from Ur to Haran, then into Canaan, then into Egypt, and, finally, back into the south of Canaan. This was probably the best and happiest period of Lot's life, for he was with a man wise, noble, prospervus, eminently religious, and guided by God. Had he been wise, he never would have separated from such a friend, for he needed the guidance and example of a man like Abraham. “Many an one is a loser by his wealth,” says Bishop Hall, and Lot was one of the number. The flocks and herds of the two had so increased that it was expedient they should separate, thus to find more easily pasturage for their cattle, and that the strife of the servants might not spread to the masters. The words of Abraham indeed justify the inference that already Lot's mind had been injuriously affected by the strife.† The incident forcibly reveals some of the traits of each of their characters. Abraham acted with great nobleness. Clearly the right of choice was his. He might truly have said—and would have said, had his disposition resembled Lot's, “I am the elder, and the richer, and the stronger : God has guided me to where I am, and has promised that all this fair and fertile land shall belong to my posterity : I will therefore take so much of it as I please, and leave you that which I do leave." Waiving his rights, he allowed Lot the choice, and with an eagerness which betrayed his selfishness he selected the rich and beautiful region lying toward Sodom, simply because it was pleasant as a residence and likely to favour the increase of his flocks and herds, thus selfishly, discourteously, and greedily ignoring all that was due to his uncle. As it was a mean, so was it an imprudent choice. He thought of his own aggrandisement, and that led him to think too little of the safe company he was leaving, and the corrupt society he was approaching. It was the false and fatal step in his career. Yet, though we blame Lot, how often we err in the same manner. How many persons in accepting a new situation, think only of the larger salary they will receive, or the better position they will occupy, and overlook the spiritual disadvantages and dangers associated with the change. And in marriage how many allow all considerations to give place to that of superior social status.
Lot only intended to go toward om, but we next find him in it, and rom its people he probably selected a wife. Since he had chosen to identify
• The Moabites and Ammonites.-Gen. xix. 37, 38. † Gen. xiii. 8-11.
himself with the evil locality, it was inevitable that he should share in its fortunes ; and so it was, that when Chedorlaomer, with his confederate kings, conquered and spoiled the cities of the Plain, Lot and all that belonged to him were carried away.* Solely was he delivered by the energy and might of Abraham, who nobly refused to enrich himself by the retention of any of
That was a fine opportunity for Lot to separate himself from associations alike sinful and dangerous, but apathy or domestic ties bound him there until Divine pity and anger set him free.
There are some circumstances connected with the destruction of the region and Lot's deliverance which throw light on his character.
The last petition of Abraham for the doomed cities was that they might be spared if ten righteous men were found there. This was granted. † But there were not ten, there were not even two. Lot had lived in Sodom and near it for probably more than twenty-five years ; he had during at least a portion of this time close intercourse with some of the people ; for as a man of position he “sat in the gate,” and some of his daughters had married there ; † but there is no evidence that he had wrought powerfully and beneficially on a single person !
Lot had no influence over others. The greatness of Sodom's wickedness demanded a bold protest ; and if he had been an earnest, active, holy man, hating sin as all men should, and warring against it with lip and life, he must have had influence one way or another.
Had he done his duty, Sodom would have been better than it was, or he would have been dead, or out of it-driven away by the malice his righteous protests would have evoked, or murdered, that they might sin unrebuked and unchecked, or forced away by his own feelings that he might escape the heart-break of witnessing evil he was impotent to check. Is it not strongly indicative of his lack of zeal and influence that even when he went to warn his own sons-in-law of the impending ruin " he seemed as one that mocked” to them ?
He left Sodom far too reluctantly. He never ought to have been there. It is marvellous that he should have remained so long, and that at last he partook so little in the moral indignation of his angelic visitors, that he was unwilling to leave. Why this reluctance ? It is difficult to suppose any other reasons than that indolence and apathy indisposed him to change ; or that his family and personal interests had so identified him with the people that he found it difficult to remove, and had not the energy to force
We read indeed, and are glad to read, that "he vexed his righteous soul from day to day in seeing and hearing " the wickedness of his neighbours. And this precisely exhibits what he was; a man not destitute of religious feeling, but weak, worldly, and defective, and the former not vigorous enough to correct the latter; sufliciently enlightened to know what was right, but not strong to do it, if obstacles lay in his way, and therefore neither a commendable man nor a happy one. So far it was well that “his righteous Gen. xiv. 12-16. + Gen. xviii. 32.
Gen. xix. 1, 14.