Cotton Mather

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.

2 responses to “Cotton Mather”

  1. Miles says:

    He may have been a scholar of sorts,but he was not a follower of Jesus.
    Those who place any credence on his ramblings will spend eternity with him…..not with Our Saviour.

    She could only recite The Lords Prayer in Irish and Latin.

    The last woman to be hanged in Boston as a witch was Goodwife “Goody” Ann Glover, an Irish laundress. This North End resident was wildly accused in 1688 of practicing witchcraft by the infamous Reverend Coton Mather, pastor of the old North Church. Her Puritan accusers were caught up in a witch mania that was part of the rigid Puritanism of the time, attaching supernatural causes to things they couldn’t explain, especially medical conditions.

    Glover was an Irish slave, sold to the Barbados by Englishman Oliver Cromwell, during the occupation of Ireland in the 1650s
    . Persecuted for his own religious beliefs, her husband died there. By 1680 she and her daughter were settled in Boston, employed as housekeepers by John Goodwin. In the summer of 1688, four of the five Goodwin children fell ill. Their doctor concluded “nothing but a hellish Witchcraft could be the origin of these maladies.” Martha, the 13-year-old daughter, confirmed the doctor’s diagnosis by claiming she became ill right after an argument with Glover.

    Glover was arrested and tried as a witch. In the courtroom there was confusion over Glover’s testimony, since she refused to speak English, even though she knew the language. According to Mather, “the court could have no answers from her, but in the Irish, which was her native language.” The court convicted Glover of witchcraft and sentenced her to be hanged.”

    Robert Calef, a Boston merchant who knew her, says “Goody Glover was a despised, crazy, poor old woman, an Irish Catholick who was tried for afflicting the Goodwin children. Her behaviour at her trial was like that of one distracted. They did her cruel. The proof against her was wholly deficient. The jury brought her guilty. She was hung. She died a Catholick.”

    Author James B. Cullen wrote, “she was drawn in a cart, a hated and dreaded figure, chief in importance, stared at and mocked at, through the principal streets from her prison to the gallows….The people crowded to see the end, as always; and when it was over they quietly dispersed, leaving the worn-out body hanging as a terror to evil-doers.”

    During the trial Coton Mather called Glover “a scandalous old Irishwoman, very poor, a Roman Catholick and obstinate in idolatry.” A decade after Glover was hanged Mather was still preaching against “idolatrous Roman Catholicks,” trying to preserve a parochial society in a world that was quickly changing. Many other Irish immigrants came to America as bond slaves or “redemptioners” and were not as steadfast in their Faith as Goody Glover, and drifted into Protestantism.

    November 16th 1988 the Boston City Council recognized the injustice done to Ann Glover 300 years earlier, and proclaimed that day “Goody Glover Day”, condemning what had been done to her.

  2. Dr. Walter Boutwell says:

    “He may have been a scholar of sorts,but he was not a follower of Jesus.
    Those who place any credence on his ramblings will spend eternity with him…..not with Our Saviour.”
    The judgmentality of which the Puritans are so justifiably cricized has apparently not been interred with Mather’s bones.
    How any mere mortal can judge the state of grace of another creature is impossible to say. Certainly, mather embodied many Christian virtues–as well as the vices of his times. To view any life by a single or a score of events, whether considered or not, is daft. He was consistently and personally concerned with the welfare, both physically and spiritually, of his poorest parishioners.
    This argument smacks of what Lewis complained of: “Modernist” who imagine because of their self-appointed erudition that they can see at a distance what those who come before, seeing at first hand, cannot. It is as silly a conceit for a mere 300 years as it was for 3400 years previously.

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