previous next

[49] Increase Mather, son of Richard Mather, and father of Cotton, the most vigorous and capable member of a remarkable family. After graduating at Harvard, he entered Trinity College, Dublin, where he proceeded Master of Arts. He spent some years in England, preaching there to the edification of many, until the restoration of Charles sent him back to America to become the guiding spirit of the New England hierarchy. He was by nature a politician and statesman rather than a minister, the stuff of which frocked chancellors were made; and he needed only a pliant master to have become another Wolsey or Richelieu. He liked to match his wit in diplomacy with statesmen, and he served his native land faithfully and well in the matter of wheedling Dutch William into granting a new charter to Massachusetts. A natural autocrat, he was dictatorial and domineering, bearing himself arrogantly towards all underlings, unyielding in opposition to whoever crossed his will. And in consequence he gathered about his head such fierce antagonism that in the end he failed of his ambitions, and shorn of power he sat down in old age to eat the bread of bitterness.

Skill in organization was the secret of his strength. In no sense a creative thinker, wholly lacking in intellectual curiosity and therefore not given to speculation, he built up a compact hierarchical machine, and then suffered the mortification of seeing it broken to pieces by forces that lay beyond his control. If the theocratic ideal of ecclesiastical control of secular affairs were to maintain itself against the growing opposition, the ministers must fortify their position by a closer organization. They must speak as a unit in determining church policies; above all they must guard against the wolves in sheep's clothing who were slipping into the pulpits to destroy the flocks. To effect such ends Synods were necessary, and Increase Mather was an ardent advocate of Synodical organization. He prompted the calling of the “Reforming Synod” of 1679-80, served as Moderator, dominated the debates, and drafted the report; and the purpose which underlay such work was the substitution of a Presbyterian hierarchy for the older Congregationalism. The church must dominate the state; the organized ministers must dominate the church; and Increase Mather trusted that he could dominate the ministers-such

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)
hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Richard Mather (4)
Cardinal Wolsey (1)
Dutch William (1)
Richelieu (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
1680 AD (1)
1679 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: