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who hath abridged it, hath in a special manner, and with admirable propriety, adapted his design to serve young students for the ministry, by lifting up before them such a pattern of most excellent conduct in their studious and private life, as well as in their work of preaching, and their pastoral visits, and given them a glorious example of religious care to keep their own spirits ever fit for divine and holy conversation; and I am well assured, there is no serious Christian but may be instructed and edified in piety, and be assisted to make swifter advances towards heaven, by the eminent experiences of this man of God.
May the providence of God give this abridgment as it were, a new relish among the readers, and render it a most acceptable book to New-England. And may the success which this little piece shall be favoured with by the grace of God, in both Englands, the Old and the New, make some addition to the crown, joy, and glory of that excellent and venerable man, whose life is here copied.
Newington, near London,
OF THE LATE
REV. DR. COTTON MATHER.
The Subject of this History, his Birth, Education, and early Religion.
ALTHOUGH it is but of little consequence to a man's personal character and worth to inquire into the remote antiquities of his family, yet when piety and virtue have run along with the line of descent, through several generations, it gives one a pious pleasure to observe it. It is this, beyond any thing, that truly ennobles a family, and it is the brightest lustre that ancestors can reflect down on their posterity. Thus it was an honour to Timothy, that the same unfeigned faith which was in him, had before dwelt in his mother Eunice, and his grandmother Lois. From
such a noble family sprung Dr. Cotton Mather. The same faith and piety which dwelt in him, had dwelt in his father, Dr. Increase Mather, and his grandfather, Mr. Richard Mather, both very eminent ministers in New England. And by his mother's side, he was grandson to the renowned Mr. John Cotton, a man of exalted piety, and uncommon learning, after whom he was named Cotton.
He was born at Boston, in New England, Feb. 12, 1662-3, where he was educated at school till he was 12 years old; by which time he had made such uncommon progress in the Latin and Greek languages, and had entered on the Hebrew, that it was thought proper to remove him to the university. Accordingly he was admitted into Harvard College, where the progress he made in his academical studies was no way short of what he had made at school. Here he soon set himself to draw up systems of the sciences, as he studied them; which he found to be an excellent means of perfecting himself in them. His systems of logic and physics were so far from contemptible, (though composed at an age when few lads are attempting any thing superior to themes at school) that they have been valued, and used for systems, by some
others since. Another excellent means of improvement by the books he read, which he used from the beginning of his studies, was to write remarks upon them. Multitudes of such remarks were found among his papers after his death.
He took his first degree at 16 years old; and in his 19th year he proceeded Master of Arts. Can one conceive the pleasure with which his own father, who was at that time President of the College, conferred the degree on so promising a son? The thesis he exhibited and defended on that occasion was concerning the divine authority of the Hebrew points, in which he maintained their authority, though afterwards, on further inquiry and maturer thoughts, he saw cause to change his opinion about that matter.
Thus, by the blessing of God on his unwearied diligence in his studies, in which he was also favoured with a pretty healthful constitution, as well as a great capacity for learning, he "profited above many his equals in his own nation ;" and did indeed follow Seneca's advice, viz. "To hasten and learn betimes, lest, when old, he should be obliged to it."**
* Sen. Epist. 77.
But the best and brightest part of Dr. Mather's character in younger life, is still behind; that is, his early piety; for which he was no less remarkable, than for his natural capacity, and his progress in human learning.
He seemed indeed to be " sanctified from the womb;" for as soon almost as he began to speak, he began to pray, and never left it off again as long as he lived. While he was a school boy, he laboured to promote the exercise of prayer amongst his school-fellows, not only by exhorting them to it, but composing some forms of prayer for their use; though for his own part, he needed not, nor did he use the help of any set forms in his private devotions.
His early abhorrence of sin appeared by the reproofs he would give his play-mates for any wicked words or practices.
Like another young Timothy, he "knew the holy scriptures from a child ;" usually reading 15 chapters a-day, which he divided into three exercises. And that "his heart was opened betimes to attend unto the things that were spoken" in the public preaching of the word, appeared by the notes he commonly wrote of what he remembered when he came home, before he was capable of wri