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A Few Men and A Multitude of Mís

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A Few Men and A Multitude of Mís

 

 

"A Multitude of Mís."  Does this sound like an odd subject for a history lesson?  It is.  But as names are important, being associated with many important ideas, exploits, and, possibly important in the study of America's Christian History, I think youíll be surprised by what we discover about these very active men.  Because this is a "history lesson" we will begin with the oldest of those important "Mís."1  I am sure you will be glad you are reading this!


President Increase Mather: 1639-1723.

What odd names men had in those days!  But thereís nothing odd about this man who was the president of Harvard College and became a representative of the colonistís to England.  Wm. Federer says of him: "He was a primary leader in colonial America, ....  When King Charles II demanded the return of the charter of Massachusetts, (he) prepared this response" (showing his bold Christian character and understanding of Christian principles of government thereby as well as giving us a good example of how we should view things in our day):

To submit and resign their charter would be inconsistent with the main end of their fathersí coming to New England....  [Although resistance would provoke] great sufferings, [it was] better to suffer than sin.  Let them trust in the God of their fathers, which is better than to put confidence in princes.  And if they suffer, because they dare not comply with the wills of men against the will of God, they suffer in a good cause.

This isnít the only thing that great man gave us for he was the father of another great man, the second of our "Mís.", whose name is "Cotton"!  Cotton Mather.


 

Cotton Mather: 1663-1728.

An interesting story about Cotton Mather has to do with his friend, Benjamin Franklin.  It seems Mr. Franklin was visiting Rev. Mather one day when that gentleman suggested leaving the parsonage by a different route than usual.  Franklin, being a good deal taller than the pastor and not being familiar with that part of the house, got an unexpected bump on his head as he passed under a low beam.  Like a good pastor, Mather, (who also seemed to have a good sense of humor), cautioned the younger man, "You are young and have the world before you; stoop as you go through it, and you will miss many hard bumps."

In 1702, Cotton Mather wrote Magnalia Christi Americana, (The Great Achievement of Christ in America), the most detailed history written of the first 50 years of New England.  In it he wrote: 

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 itself, report the wonderful displays of His infinite power, wisdom, goodness, and faithfulness, wherewith his Divine Providence hath irradiated an Indian wilderness ....

The sum of the matter is that from the beginning of the Reformation in the English nation, there had always been a generation of godly men, desirous to pursue the reformation of religion, according to the Word of God .... [though withstood by those with] power .... in their hands .... not only to stop the progress of the desired reformation but also, with innumerable vexation, to persecute those that heartily wish well unto it .... [The 'Puritans were] driven to seek a place for the exercise of the Protestant religion, according to the light of conscience, in the deserts of America." (Quoted from Federer)


 

Jonathan Mayhew: 1720-1766.

Dr. Mayhew was born, of an honorable family, at Martha's Vineyard, on the 8th of October, 1720.  On the 17th of June, 1747, three years after his graduation at Harvard College with great reputation, he was ordained pastor of the West Church in Boston, of which the venerable Dr. Lowell is now pastor.  The charge on the occasion came from the lips of his father, the Rev. Experience Mayhew, the distinguished missionary to the Indians.  In his sermon on the repeal of the Stamp Act, 1766, there is this passage of autobiography:

"Having been initiated in youth in the doctrines of civil liberty, as they were taught by such men as Plato, Demosthenes, Cicero, and other renowned persons, among the ancients; and such as Sydney and Milton, Locke and Hoadley, among the moderns, I liked them; they seemed rational. And having learnt from the Holy Scriptures that wise, brave, and virtuous men were always friends to liberty, - that God gave the Israelites a king in his anger, because they had not sense and virtue enough to like a free commonwealth, - and that where 'the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty', - this made me conclude that freedom was a great blessing."

And in conclusion another quote:

"The ensuing Discourse is the last of three upon the same subject, with some little alterations and additions.  It is hoped that but few will think the subject of it an improper one to be discoursed on in the pulpit, under a notion that this is preaching politics, instead of Christ.  However, to remove all prejudices of this sort, I beg it may be remembered that 'all Scripture is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.'  Why, then, should not those parts of Scripture which relate to civil government be examined and explained from the desk, as well as others?  Civil tyranny is usually small in its beginning, like 'the drop of a bucket,' till at length, like a mighty torrent, or the raging waves of the sea, it bears down all before it, and deluges whole countries and empires...."

 

This article, becoming larger than first I thought of it, here is the first "installment" so that you will not grow weary in the telling.  This covers the hundred year period from the middle sixteen hundreds to the middle of the seventeen hundreds.  Watch for more men and "Mís."


Footnotes:

1. The above excerpts are quoted from The Christian History of the Constitution, Miss Verna M. Hall, Ed. quoted from J. Wingate Thornton's "The Pulpit of the American Revolution" being: "A Discourse Concerning Unlimited Submission and Non-Resistance to the Higher Powers: The Substance of which  was delivered in a Sermon preached in the West Meeting-House in Boston the Lord's-Day after the 30th of January, 1749/50."Published at the Request of the Hearers. By Jonathan Mayhew, A. M. Pastor of the West Church in Boston.)

 


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