Cotton Mather was a Puritan minister, a scholar and an author. He was the eldest child of Increase Mather and Maria Cotton, and was born on February 12, 1663. He was named after his two grandfathers who were also known for being strong leaders of the Puritan dynasty, John Cotton and Richard Matter. Cotton was a very intelligent and serious child. When he learned to speak, he was immediately taught how to pray. He started to read at a very early age. He was reading long before he went to school.
He could read fifteen chapters of the Bible every day at the tender age of seven. He entered Harvard in 1674 at the age of twelve, and graduated from the university in 1678. He also took his M.A. in Harvard when he was just eighteen years old. And at the age of twenty-three, he was ordained in Boston Old North, his father’s church.
Challenges for a Minister
He had three wives. Mather’s first wife was Abigail Phillips whom he married in 1686, he had nine children with her. Phillips died in 1702. One year after his first wife’s death, in 1703, he married for the second time. He married Elizabeth Hubbard whom he had six children with. Hubbard then died in 1713.
In 1715, he married Lydia Lee George, his third wife. His marriage to Lydia became problematic and she left him. He also incurred financial debts at this time. Because of these debts, the creditors threatened that he should pay or they would reduce him to poverty. Mather was able to survive this financial problem with the help of his wealthy church constituents.
Sermons & Letters Published
His written works numbered four hundred or more. The books he wrote varied in subject matter and are considered as sermons, letters and tracts. He had written about natural history, church music, moral essays, polity, among other subjects. His most famous and notable work is the Magnalia Christi Americana: or the Ecclesiastical History of New England, from Its First Planting in the Year 1620 unto the Year of Our Lord, 1698.
This written work which has a total of seven books was published in London in 1702 when Cotton Matter was thirty-nine years old. It mainly discussed the settlement and the religious history of New England. His other written works include Bonifacius (1710), Wonders of the Invisible World (1693), Pillars of Salt (1699), Ornaments of the Daughters of Zion (1692), The Negro Christianized (1706), and The Biblia Americana which he did not finish before he died. The Biblia Americana which he started writing in 1693 discussed his own thoughts and self-interpretations about the Bible.
He like wise played an active role during the Salem witch trials from beginning to end. He wrote several publications for and against the trials.
Cotton Mather died on February 13, 1728, one day after he turned sixty-five. He was an intelligent man who religiously followed the tradition during his father’s time. He lived his life hoping to impress his father, that one person whom he greatly admired. He was believed to be the final great constituent of the Puritan dynasty, and he also was the most famous of them all.