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Richard Mather

Richard Mather.—This excellent divine was born at Lowton in Lancashire, in the year 1596, and educated first at Winwick school in that county, then at Brazen-nose college, Oxford. Afterwards he was chosen minister and schoolmaster at Toxteth-park, near Liverpool. His first sermon was preached November 13, 1618j to a crowded assembly, and with great acceptance. He was ordained by Bishop Morton of Chester, who, at the close of the service, selected him from the rest who had been ordained, intimating that he wished to speak to him alone. Mr. Mather was afraid of some information on account of his puritanism; yet, when the bishop had called him from the rest of the company, he said, "I have an earnest request to make of you, sir, and you must not deny me. I know the

frayers of men who fear God wiil avail much; and you believe to be such a one. I therefore request that jou would pray for me."

Mr. Mather entered upon his sacred charge with great zeal and fidelity. He preached twice every Lord's day at Toxteth, and delivered a lecture regularly at Prescot. This he did without interruption for fifteen years, until the month of August, 1633; when complaints were brought against him, and he was suspended for nonconformity. His suspension did not, however, continue very long; for in November following, by the kind intercession of several worthy friends, he was again restored. This awakened him to a close examination of the controversy about ecclesiastical matters, the result of which was, that he became more than ever dissatisfied with the established church, and fully persuaded that the principles and government of congregational churches was the model laid down in the New Testament.

This worthy divine did not, indeed, long enjoy his liberty. For, the next summer, Archbishop Neile of York,* sending his visitors into Lancashire, he was again brought under the ecclesiastical censure. During his examination before his unmerciful judges, they would not suffer him to speak for himself; but proceeded to suspend him, without hearing what he had to say in his own defence. While his persecutors treated him with so much rashness and severity, be was enabled to exercise much wisdom, prudence, and submission to the will of God. This appears from his own private memorial following:—" I have this to bless God for," says he, " that the terror of their threatenings, their pursuivants, and the rest of their pomp, did not terrify my mind: but I stood before them without being in the least daunted; and answered for myself, when permitted to speak, with that truth and soberness which the Lord put into my mouth, not fearing their faces. This supporting presence of the Lord I count not a much less mercy than if I had been altogether preserved out of their hands." When the pious ecclesiastics inquired how long he had been a minister, and being told fifteen years; they asked how long he had wore the surplice, and being informed that he had never wore it, " What," said one of them, with an oath, " preach fifteen years and never wear "a surplice! It had been better for him if he had gotten "seven bastards!!!"•

* It is observed that Archbishop Neile taught the people to pray for hit predecessor after he was dead, on which account the king very seasonably admonished him for his inclinations to popery.—Mather's Hist of Nik Eng. b. iii. p. 1?5.—Clark's hives annexed U his Martyrolog i'., p. 130

Mr. Mather being again deprived of his liberty, and all means of obtaining his restoration proving ineffectual; and having no prospect of deliverance from the tyrannical sentence in future, he resolved to remove with his family to New England. He accordingly drew up his reasons, and presented them to his friends, who justified his conduct; and even his friends at Toxteth, who dearly loved and valued him, could not oppose the design. By transporting himself to the new continent, he said, " He should remove from a corrupt to a purer church :—from a place where the truth, and the professors of it, are persecuted, to a place of greater quiet and safety:—From a place where all the ordinances of God cannot be enjoyed, to a place where they may be enjoyed:—From a place where the discipline of the Lord Jesus Christ is wanting, to a place where it may be practised:—From a place where the ministers of God are unjustly prohibited from the exercise of their functions, to a place where they may freely execute the same:—And from a place where there are fearful signs of desolation, to a place where one may have a well-grounded hope of God's protection."t

He was further encouraged in the undertaking by letters which he received from Mr. Hooker and others, already settled in the new colony. In one of these letters, Mr. Hooker gave him the most flattering account, saying, "If I speak my own thoughts freely and fully, though there

• Cluk'i Lives, p. 130.—-Mather'* Hist. b. iii. p. 122—125. + Ibid.

arc many places where men may expect and obtain greater worldly advantage; yet, I do believe, there is not a place on the face of the earth where a person of a judicious bead and a gracious heart may receive greater spiritual good to himself, and do more temporal and spiritual good to others." Therefore, after taking leave of his numerous friends, he travelled to Bristol in disguise, to escape the hungry pursuivants, who sought to apprehend him; and mailed from thence May 23, 1635, and arrived at Boston the 17lh of August followiug. Thus he was delivered from liie persecution with which he was exercised while in his native country.

When the ship in which he sailed arrived on the coast of New England, they were involved in a most tremendous hurricane, and in the utmost danger of being lost. Mr. Mather, in his journal of the 15th of August, after giving a circumstantial and very affecting account of the danger, observes: "In this extremity and appearance of death, we cried unto the Lord, and he was pleased to have mercy upon us. By his overriding-providence, he guided the ship, and assuaged the violence of the sea and the wind. The Lord on that day granted us as wonderful a deliverance, I think, as ever any people enjoyed; and the seamen confessed they never knew the like. I hope we shall not forget it to our dying day. During the whole of the storm my fear was the less when I considered the clearness of my call from God. In some measure, the Lord gave us hearts to be content and willing (hat he should do with us and ours as he pleased, and as might be most for his glory: and here we rested. But when the news was brought that the danger was over, oh! how our hearts did melt within us. We burst into tears of joy and love to our gracious God, and in admiration of his marvellous deliverance."*

The year after his arrival, Mr. Mather was chosen pastor of the church newly formed at Dorchester, where he con-. linued all the rest of his days. He was a man of most exemplary piety and diligence. His excellent spirit and character may be seen from the following instrument, which, about this time, he drew up or renewed for his own private use.i '' < i

"Promises made to God, by me, Richard Mather.

1. "Touching my ministry.—That I will be more painful

♦ Clark's Lives, p. 130—Mather's Hist. b. iii. p. lsq, + Ibid. p. 127.

anil diligent in private preparation, by reading, meditation, and prayer.—That in and after preaching I will earnestly strive against inward pride and vain-glory.—That before and after preaching I will seek unto the Lord for his blessing upon his word, more carefully than in time past.

2. "Touching my family.—That 1 will be more frequent in religious discourse with those in ray house, and be more careful in catechizing ray children.

'•3- "Touching myself.—That I will strive more against worldly cares and fears, and the inordinate love of worldly things.—That I will be more frequent and regular in private prayer.—That I will practise more seriously and frequently the duty of self-examination.—That I will strive against carnal security and excessive sleeping.—That I will strive against vain jangling and the misspending of time.

4. "Touching others.—That I will be more careful and zealous to do good to their souls by,private instructions, exhortations, and reproofs.—That I will be ready to do offices of kindness and love, not for the praise of men, or to purchase commendation, but out of conscience to the com-, raand of God.

"Renewed with a profession of my own inability, and a desire that I may fetch power frOm Christ, to live upon him, and act from him in all spiritual duties. June 15, 1636.

"Richard Mather."

Such were the promises and engagements info which this pious divine entered. He was resolved, by the help of the Lord, to devote his time, his talents, ana his all, to the honour of his God and the welfare of immortal souls. Mr. Mather preached his last sermon from 2 Tim. iv. (3—8. The time of my departure is at hand. J have fought a good Jight. I have finished my course, &;c. He was presently after seized with a total obstruction of urine. Though he laboured under extreme pain, he was a pattern of patience to all beholders. He never murmured, and seldom groaned, but resigned himself to the will of God. Being asked how he did, he meekly answered, "Far from well, yet better than mine iniquities deserve." When his son reminded him of the Lord's goodness and faithfulness towards him all his days, he immediately replied, "Yes, I must acknowledge the mercy of God hath been very great towards me all my life; but I must also acknowledge, that I have had many failings, and the thoughts of them abaseth me, and worketk patience in me." Being desirous to be carried into his study, where, he observed, " his books wanted him," his frieuds endeavoured to help him: but finding himself unable to bear the fatigue, he said, " I see I am not able. I have not been in my study for several days. Is it not a lamentable thing that I should lose so much time?" His son, perceiving the symptoms of death upon him, said, "If there be any thing which you would have me to do, in case the Lord should spare me, and take you to heaven, I wish you to mention it." After pausing a little, with his eyes and hands lifted up to heaven, he said, " That which I would commend to you is, the care of the rising generation, that they may be brought under the government of Christ; and that, when grown up and qualified, they and their children be baptized. I must confess I have been defective in practice; yet 1 have publicly declared my judgment, and manifested my desires to practise that which I think ought to be attended to; but the dissenting of some in our church discouraged me. I have thought that persons might have a right to baptism, and not to the Lord's supper; and 1 see no cause to alter my judgment." His extreme pain con-. tinned to the last; and he died April 22, 1609, aged seventy-three years. According to our historian, " he was a man of most exemplary piety, an excellent scholar, and a plain, judicious, and majestic preacher, shooting the arrows - of divine truth into the hearts of his hearers.''* Wood denominates him "a pious man, and a zealous and laborious preacher;" and adds, "that he was much followed by the precise party," as he in contempt styles them; but " that ho was a severe Calvinist, and no friend to the church of England."+

A copy of Mr. Mather's last will and testament, dated October 16, 1661,.is still preserved; the conclusion, which is an address to his children, is worthy of being transmitted to posterity.—" I think it not amiss," says he, " for the spiritual good of my children, to lay upon them the solemn charge of a dying father; that none of them, after my decease, may presume to walk in any way of sin, or in a careless neglect of God, and the things of God, and their own salvation by Christ. For if they shall do so, (which God forbid,) then, and in such case, I do hereby testify unto them, that their father who begat them, and their mother

• Mather's Hist. b. iil.'p. 127, 129.
-t Athebta Oxon. vol. ii. p. 305, 306.

who bore them, with all the prayers which they hate offered up, and tears which they have shed for thein; their example, their admonitions, and their exhortations, which they have delivered to them, together with this my last will and solemn charge; all these will rise up against them, as so many testimonies for their condemnation at the last day. But I hope better things of them; and do hereby declare unto them, that if they shall seriously repent of their ins, believe in the Lord Jesus, and by his grace walk in all the ways of God, as this will be to the honour and glory of him who made them, so it will redound to their own unspeakable comfort and benefit, both in this and another world: and their lather who now speaketh to them, with their dear mother, now with God, shall exceedingly rejoice in the day of Christ, when we shall receive our children into those everlasting habitations; and shall, not ourselves only, but those who came out of our bowels, enjoy their portion in that eternal glory. I desire and hope it may be so. I commend them all to the Lord's gracious blessing; and let the blessing of God in Jesus Christ be poured out and remain upon them all for evermore, amen."*

Mr. Mather was twice married. His first wife was the pious daughter of Edward Holt, esq. of Bury in Lancasliire, and his second wife the widow of Mr. John Cotton. He had four sons employed in the ministry, all eminent in their day. Nathaniel, Samuel, and Increase were preachers in England, and all ejected by the fatal Act of Uniformity 4 in 16G2.+ His son Eleazer was pastor of the church at Northampton in New England, where he died a few months after his father. The celebrated Dr. Cotton Mather, well known by his historical and other writings, was his grandson.

His Works.—1. A Discourse on the Church Covenant, 1643. 2. An Answer to Thirty-two Questions, 1643.—3. Answer to Mr. Charles Herlc and to Mr. Samuel Rutherford, wherein is defended the Congregational Way of Church Government, and how it differ* from the Presbyterian, 1646.—4. An Heart-melting Exhortation, together with a Cordial of Consolation, presented in a Letter from New England to his Countrymen in Lancashire, 1650. — 5. A Catechism, 1650.—6. A Treatise of Justification, 1652.—7. A Defence of the Churches of New England.—8. A Farewell Exhortation to the Church and People at Dorchester, consisting of seven Directions. —He had a principal hand in drawing tip "The Platform of Church Discipline, agreed untu by the Elders and Messengers of the Churches assembled in the Synod at Cambridge in New England, in the year 1648."

• Clark's Lives, p. 1ST.

t Palmer's Noucgo. Mem, vol. ii. p. 4,245, 355.