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[54] New England village world. The struggle for ecclesiastical democracy was a forerunner of the struggle for political democracy, which was to be the business of the next century; and in justifying his ecclesiasticism by political principles, John Wise was an early witness to the new order of thought.

Judged by the severest standards, the Puritan ministers were a notable group of men; the English race has never bred their superiors in self-discipline and exalted ideals, and rarely their equals in consecration to duty. Their interests might be narrow and their sympathies harsh and illiberal; nevertheless men who studied ten to sixteen hours a day were neither boors nor intellectual weaklings. A petty nature would not have uttered the lament of Increase Mather:

not many years ago, I lost (and that's an afflictive loss indeed!) several moneths from study by sickness. Let every God-fearing reader joyn with me in prayer, that I may be enabled to redeem the time, and (in all wayes wherein I am capable), to serve my generation. Preface to Remarkable Providences.

From the long hours of reading they acquired a huge mass of learning; out of the many books they read they made still other books of like nature and purpose. The way of printer's ink was the path of celebrity and authority, and the minister who had not a goodly number of volumes to his credit was an unprofitable servant, lacking ambition to glorify his Lord. Though they denied themselves in other things, they did not stint their library. In 1686 John Dunton numbered eight book-shops in the village of Boston; and in 1702 Cotton Mather described his study, “the hangings whereof, are Boxes with between two and three thousand Books in them.”

According to present taste it was an uninviting library; works of pure literature were as lacking as books of history and political philosophy and science. Nevertheless, though their reading was narrow, the ministers in many respects were in advance of their times. For all his grotesque lack of scientific method, Cotton Mather was more nearly a scientist than any other man of his day in Boston,--a weakness which laid him open to criticism. Under date of 23 December, 1714, Sewall noted in his diary:

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