Mather, Increase

Mather, Increase D.D., an eminent American divine, was born at Dorchester, Mass., June 21, 1639. His father, Richard Mather (q.v.), had emigrated from England to Massachusetts in 1635. In early childhood Increase exhibited signs of unusual mental endowments; he entered Harvard College at the age of twelve, and graduated with the class of 1656. Shortly after this he was converted, and determined to devote his life to the ministry. In the year following that of his graduation he went to Dublin, where his brother was preaching. There he entered Trinity College, and, after securing the degree of M.A., was chosen a fellow of the college, an honor, however, which he declined. The climate of Ireland being unfavorable to his health, he removed to England, and preached there for a while. At the time of the Restoration he was residing in the island of Guernsey, as chaplain to an English regiment; but when, as a commissioned officer, he was required to sign a paper declaring "that the times then were and would be happy," and he refused to comply, his salary was so greatly reduced that soon after this he returned to his native country, and was called and settled as pastor of the North Church in Boston. In this city he married. in 1662, a daughter of the Rev, John Cotton, and from this marriage sprang Cotton Mather, one of the most celebrated divines of his day. In the controversy as to "l who are the legitimate subjects of baptism," he opposed his father, and likewise the decision of the synod of 1662, until caused to change his views by the arguments of Mr. Mitchell, of Cambridge. Largely by his instrumentality the government was induced to call the general synod of 1679 from the whole colony, for the purpose of 'correcting the evils that had provoked God to send judgment on New England." The synod had its second session the following year, and Mr. Mather acted as moderator. At this meeting the Confession of Faith was agreed upon, and he prepared a preface to it. On the death of president Oakes of Harvard University, Mather temporarily supplied the place. By the sudden death of the appointee, president Rogers, Mather was, in 1684, again called to the head of the college. This time he accepted, and combined his presidential duties with his pastoral. In 1692 he was presented with a diploma of doctor of divinity, "the first instance in which such a degree was conferred in British America." On the accession of Charles II Massachusetts was thrown into trouble. His majesty required full submission of their charter to his pleasure, on pain, in case of refusal, of having a quo warranto issued against it. To this oppression Mather was stanch in his opposition, and before an assembly in Boston dissuaded his countrymen from yielding their liberties tamely. As a result of their resistance, judgment was entered against the charter of the Massachusetts colony. About this time Charles died, and James II, being his successor, published his specious declaration for liberty of conscience. This produced temporary relief, and Mather was delegated to convey to his majesty in England the grateful acknowledgment of the churches. and to sue for a further redress of their wrongs. James received him kindly, and promised him more than he ever granted. Mather remained, however, until the close of the revolution of 1688, which deposed James and placed William and Mary on the throne of England. After much diplomacy with the prince of Orange, a new charter was at length procured in lieu of the old one, and Mather himself was allowed the privilege of nominating the governor, lieutenant governor, and board of council. After four years thus spent among the nobility at Whitehall, Dr. Mather returned to Boston with the consciousness of having faithfully discharged his duty and rendered his country an important service. He found the Church in great excitement about witchcraft, which called forth his work entitled Cases of Conscience concerning Witchcraft. He retained his natural bodily and mental vigor until past his eightieth birthday. After this he endured great bodily and consequent mental derangements for four years, during all of which time his great burden seemed to be, not his suffering, but the painful sense of his inability to labor. At last, on Aug. 23, 1723, he died peacefully in the arms of his eldest son. His loss was deeply mourned by those for whom he had spent his long and laborious life. According to Sprague, "he was the last of more than twenty-two hundred ministers who had been ejected and silenced on the restoration of Charles II and on the Act of Uniformity." He was an industrious student, and published ninety-two separate works, most of which are now very scarce. A noted writer thus comments upon him in fhe North Amer. Rev. 1840 (July), p. 5: "Increase Mather not only stood most conspicuous among the scholars and divines of New England, as president of Harvard College and pastor of a church in Boston, but by his political influence was supposed at times to have controlled the administration of the government." He was a learned, earnest, and devoted minister, whose piety was deep, warm, and full of love. His sermons were elaborate and powerful, and many souls were converted by his labors. He studied earnestly for sixty years, and was regarded as the most learned American minister of his day. — Sherman, New England Divines, p. 57; Allibone, Dict. Brit. and Amer. Auth. s.v.; Bancroft, Hist. U. S. (see Index in vol. 3); Drake, Dict. Amer. Biogs. s.v.; Duyckinck, Cyclop. Amer. Lit. vol. 1.

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