The Colonial Image: Origins of American Culture

By John C. Miller | Go to book overview

An Exemplary Christian

Cotton Mather

Cotton Mather specialized in depicting the idealized, transcendently virtuous Puritans of the first generation, the Founding Fathers of Massachusetts Bay. With these worthies, Mather felt far more at home than with his own contemporaries, most of whom, he lamented, were sadly deficient in the fervor and righteousness that had made Puritanism a driving force in the world. His sketch of Theophilus Eaton is a eulogy of humility, piety and godliness; edification rather than strict historical truth is the guiding principle. The method worked even when applied to the most unlikely characters: Mather succeeded in fitting a rough, virile old salt like William Phips, the governor of Massachusetts during the witchcraft trials, into the Puritan pattern.


THE CHARACTER OF THEOPHILUS EATON

So exemplary was he for a Christian that one who had been a servant unto him could many years after say, "Whatever difficulty in my daily walk I now meet withal, still something that I either saw or heard in my blessed master Eaton's conversation helps me through it all; I have reason to bless God that ever I knew him!" It was his custom when he first rose in a morning to repair unto his study, a study well perfumed with the meditations and supplications of an holy soul. After this, calling his family together, he would then read a portion of the Scripture among them; and after some devout and useful reflections upon it, he would make a prayer --not long, but extraordinary pertinent and reverent; and in the evening some of the same exercises were again attended. On the Saturday morning he would still take notice of the approaching Sabbath in his prayer and ask the grace to be remembering of it and preparing for it; and when the evening arrived, he, besides this, not only repeated a sermon but also instructed his people with putting of questions referring to the points of religion, which would oblige them to study for an answer; and if their answer were at any time insufficient, he would wisely and gently enlighten their understandings--all which he concluded with singing of a

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Selections from Cotton Mather. Edited by Kenneth B. Murdock.

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The Colonial Image: Origins of American Culture
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Preface 5
  • Contents 9
  • Introduction 15
  • Part I - Arrivals 41
  • The Plymouth Plantation 43
  • A Description of New England 66
  • The New English Canaan 76
  • Letters 77
  • The Crossing to Pennsylvania! 83
  • Part II - Daily Life 99
  • Pirates in Plymouth 101
  • Thomas Morton of Merrymount 103
  • The Merrymount Colony 108
  • Edifying Incidents 113
  • An Exemplary Christian 115
  • Inoculation for Smallpox 118
  • Courtship 132
  • Marriage 141
  • On Taking a Mistress 154
  • The Speech of Polly Baker 156
  • Riding through Virginia 159
  • Part III - God and the Devil 167
  • Religious Tolerance 169
  • In Defence of Intolerance 175
  • Witchcraft in Salem 179
  • Witchcraft in Salem 185
  • Witchcraft in Salem 190
  • The Devil in the Shape of a Woman 193
  • Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God 207
  • Personal Narrative 212
  • Part IV - The Indians 221
  • The Indians in Virginia 223
  • Pocahontas 231
  • The Pequot War 239
  • The Pequot War 244
  • Indian Customs and Manners 248
  • Captured by Indians 257
  • Part V - The South 291
  • Virginia 293
  • History of the Dividing Line 310
  • Part VI - Literature 351
  • Anne Bradstreet 353
  • Michael Wigglesworth 357
  • Edward Taylor 367
  • Bacon's Epitaph 370
  • Ebenezer Cook 372
  • Benjamin Franklin 377
  • Part VII - Four Colonial Views 387
  • Itinerarium Dr. Alexander Hamilton 389
  • Autobiography 419
  • Journal 437
  • Letters from an American Farmer 479
  • Bibliography 499
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