Thursday, February 12

Cotton Mather

Forgotten in the hubbub over the 200th anniversary of the births of Lincoln and Darwin is the fact that today is also the birthday of Cotton Mather. He was born on February 12 in 1663. Amazingly, today is also the anniversary of his death--he lapsed into a coma and died exactly 65 years later in 1728.

Mather was the scion of a rich heritage that helped to shape American civilization in remarkable ways. His grandfather, Richard Mather, brought the family to the American colonies in 1635 after a distinguished career as a Puritan minister in England. There he became a vital member of the leadership of Boston—both through his articulate pulpit manner and through production of the Bay Psalm Book—the first book produced in America.

Richard’s son, Increase Mather, was likewise an influential pastor, educator, and author. He earned America's first Doctor of Divinity degree. He also served as president of Harvard and as a diplomat for the Massachusetts Bay Colony helping to renegotiate the colonial charter at the court of King Charles II following the restoration of the monarchy.

But the greatest of all the Mathers was Increase’s son, Cotton. Like his father and grandfather, he was an influential pastor, statesman, and author. Indeed, he ultimately proved to be the most prolific author in American history—nearly 450 of his works were printed in his lifetime, including books on an astonishing variety of subjects from theology and philosophy to natural science and history. (Actually, if you count the books published in multiple volumes, his total bibliography rises above 600 books).

He left his mark in virtually every arena of human endeavor. So profound was his influence, in fact, that George Washington later called him the “Father of the Founding Fathers.”


Diane said...

Yah, I don't remember hearing this on NPR when they talked about Lincoln & Darwin's birthday. Hmm.

Unknown said...

I saw somewhere that Darwin is the grandchild of Josiah Wedgewood. What a shame.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Grant:

I would like to learn more about the Mather family. The Light and the Glory by Peter Marshall and David Manuel was a good overview, but I would like to read more.

Any recommendations??

Thank You!

Richard Welch
Austin, Texas

Diane V. said...

What do you know, my awesome pastor hubby shares his birthday with another great pastor!

Dave said...

Cotton Mather gets his Christian name from grandfather John Cotton, one of the principal New England Puritan ministers.

gileskirk said...

Yes, indeed. Mather came from a long godly line on both sides of his family.

Unknown said...

I noticed two books on the Mathers:
1. The Life and Times of Cotton Mather by Kenneth Silverman (Paperback - Dec 25, 2001)Out of print and used copies very expensive.
2. The Mathers: Three Generations of Puritan Intellectuals, 1596-1728 by Robert Middlekauff (Paperback - Jun 29, 1999)Reasonably priced.

I have the second book, but have not read it.


Esther said...

Ah, George,
You otta be our friend on facebook, so you can see all the great quotes we found on your blog;)

"Seppi Family"