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6. Samuel Sewall (1652-1730) served at one time as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Massachusetts. He was one of the judges who condemned the victims of the Salem witchcraft delusion. For this act he afterward repented and did penance by an annual fast. From 1673 to 1729 he kept a diary which may be compared with that of Pepys on account of its piquant style and its unconscious humor. An extract follows.
THE COURTING OF MADAM WINTHROP
(From The Sewall Papers, volume III) Octob! 31. At night I visited Madam Winthrop about 6 p. m. They told me she was gon to Madam Mico's. I went thither and found she was gon; so return'd to her house, read the Epistles to the Galatians, Ephesians in Mr. Eyre's Latin Bible . . . left the Gazett in the Bible, which told Sarah of, bid her present my Service to Mrs. Winthrop, and tell her I had been to wait on her if she had been at home.
Nov! 4th Friday, Went again, about 7. a-clock; found there Mr. John Walley and his wife: sat discoursing pleasantly. Madam W. serv'd Comfeits to us. After a-while a Table was spread, and Supper was set. I urg'd Mr. Walley to Crave a Blessing; but he put it upon me. About 9. they went away. I ask'd Madam what fashioned Neck-lace I should present her with, She said, None at all. I ask'd her Whereabout we left off last time; mention'd what I had offer'd to give her; Ask'd her what she would give me; She said she could not Change her Condition: She had said so from the beginning; could not be so far from her Children. ... Quoted the Apostle Paul affirming that a single Life was better than a Married. I answer'd That was for the present Distress. Said she
had not pleasure in things of that nature as formerly: I said, you are the fitter to make me a Wife. If she held in that mind, I must go home and bewail my Rashness in making more haste than good Speed. However, considering the Supper, I desired her to be within next Monday night, if we liv'd so long. Assented. . . . About 10. I said I would not disturb the good orders of her House, and came away. She not seeming pleas'd with my Coming away.
Monday, Nov! 7th ... I went to Mad. Winthrop; found her rocking her little Katee in the Cradle. I excus'd my coming so late (near Eight). She set me an arm'd Chair and Cusheon; and so the Cradle was between her arm'd chair and mine. Gave her the remnant of my Almonds; She did not eat of them as before; but laid them away; I said I came to enquire whether she had alter'd her mind since Friday, or remained of the same mind still. She said, Thereabouts. I told her I loved her, and was so fond as to think that she loved me: she said had a great respect
I told her, I had made her an offer, without asking any advice; she had so many to advise with, that 'twas an hindrance. The Fire was come to one short Brand besides the Block, which Brand was set up in end; at last it fell to pieces, and no Recruit was made: She gave me a Glass of Wine. I think I repeated again that I would go home and bewail my Rashness in making more haste than good Speed. I would endeavour to contain myself, and not go on to sollicit her to do that which she could not Consent to. Took leave of her. As came down the steps she bid me have a Care. Treated me Courteously. Told her she had enter'd the 4th year of her Widowhood. I had given her the News-Letter before; I did not bid her draw off her Glove as sometime I had done. Her Dress was not so clean as sometime it had been. Jehovah jireh !
The Mathers, a remarkable New England family, produced three of the leading thinkers of colonial days. They were all ministers, and each attained greater fame than his predecessor. Richard Mather (1596-1669) came to Boston
in 1635. His name is associated with the Bay Psalm Book for which he wrote the preface. His son, Increase Mather (16391723), was for fifty-nine years pastor of the old North Church in Boston; for sixteen years he was president of Harvard College. But Cotton Mather (1663–1728) was the greatest representative of his family in literary and theological colonial New England. An old epitaph to this effect runs thus:
“Under this stone lies Richard Mather
He has been styled “the literary behemoth of New England,” and his learning was indeed prodigious. It was said that he spent ten hours a day in his study. During his lifetime he published four hundred books. His greatest work is Magnalia Christi Americana or The Great Acts of Christ in America. The first sentence quoted below sounds the note of the whole.
(From the Magnalia) I write the Wonders of the Christian Religion, flying from the Depravations of Europe, to the American Strand: And, assisted by the Holy Author of that Religion, I do, with all Conscience of Truth, required therein by Him, who is the Truth it self, report the Wonderful Displays of. His Infinite Power, Wisdom, Goodness, and Faithfulness, wherewith His Divine Providence hath Irradiated an Indian Wilderness.
THE LAST DAYS OF INCREASE MATHER
(From Memoirs of Remarkables in the Life and the Death of the Ever
Memorable Dr. Increase Mather. 1724) Old age came on. But what an one! How bright! How wise! How strong! And in what an uncommon measure serviceable! He had been an old man while he was yet a young man. And now he was an old man his public performances had a vigor in them which 'tis a rare thing to see a young man have any thing equal to.
Though in the prefaces of the useful books which he now published he repeated an ungrantable request unto his friends, “no longer to pray for his life,” they only prayed the more for it. When he had finished forty-nine years of his public ministry he preached a sermon full of rare and rich thoughts upon “A Jubilee”; and he requested for a dismission from any further public labors. His flock prized them too much to hear of that; but anon, when they saw the proper time for it, that they might render his old age as easy as might be to him, they wisely and kindly voted it, “That the labors of the pulpit should be expected from him only when he should find himself able and inclined for them.”
But it is now time for me to tell that after fourscore the report of Moses did no longer want confirmation with him. He began to be more sensible of those decays which caused him several times to say to me: “Be sure, you don't pray that you may live beyond fourscore !"
And now, he that had wished for "sufferings for the Lord," must be content with sufferings from the Lord. Even these borne with the faith and patience of the saints have a sort of martyrdom in them, and will add unto the “far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”
On September 25th, he did with an excellent and pathetic prayer, in a mighty auditory, conclude a “day of prayer” kept by his church, to obtain a good success of the Gospel and the growth of real and vital piety, with plentiful effusions of the good Spirit, especially upon the “Rising Generation." Within two days after this he fell into an apoplectic sort of deliquium ... out of which he recovered in a few minutes; but it so enfeebled him, that he never went abroad any more.
However, his “wisdom yet remained with him.'
8. Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758), a New England preacher and missionary to the Indians, was one of the great philosophers of his age. He wrote a monumental work on the Freedom of the Will. He was called to be president of Princeton College shortly before his death. Holmes's poem, The Deacon's Masterpiece, written in 1857, about one hundred years after the
death of Edwards, is, says Professor Barrett Wendell, “one of the most pitiless satires in our language on Edwards and the system of thought for which he stood.” (From Thoughts on a Thunderstorm. The personal narrative found
among his MSS.) And as I was walking there, and looking upon the sky and clouds, there came into my mind so sweet a sense of the glorious majesty and grace of God, as I know not how to express. . . . God's excellency, his wisdom, his purity and love, seemed to appear in everything: in the sun, moon, and stars: in the clouds and blue sky; in the grass, flowers, trees; in the water and all nature; which used greatly to fix my
mind. I often used to sit and view the moon for a long time, and in the day spent much time in viewing the clouds and sky, to behold the sweet glory of God in these things: in the meantime, singing forth, with a low voice, my contemplations of the Creator and Redeemer. Before, I used to be uncommonly terrified with thunder; and to be struck with terror when I saw a thunder-storm rising; but now, on the contrary, it rejoiced me. I felt God . . . at the first appearance of a thunder-storm; and used to take the opportunity, at such times, to fix myself in order to view the clouds and see the lightnings play, and hear the majestic and awful voice of God's thunder....
(Read Holmes's The Deacon's Masterpiece, infra, pp. 180-183.)
9. John Woolman (1720-1772) was a New Jersey Quaker who left a Journal which is perhaps the only American book of the eighteenth century outside of Franklin's Autobiography that is still read with pleasure. It was edited by Whittier in 1871. Charles Lamb said, “ Get the writings of John Woolman by heart and love the early Quakers.” The following extract is typical.
(From On the Keeping of Slaves) If we seriously consider that liberty is the right of innocent men; that the mighty God is a refuge for the oppressed; that in reality we are indebted to them (our slaves); that they being set free are still liable to the penaltie of our