In defending orthodoxy, however, the theologians changed it. They maintained the older doctrines, but the altered intellectual ethos of the era brought new ideas to the forefront. In trying to defend tradition against what they saw as rationalistic reduction, they of necessity accentuated the function of reason in theology. In trying to defend traditional notions of providence and divine sovereignty against trends toward naturalistic explanation in England, they veered toward a heightened supernaturalism. What defined the era was the combination of the two impulses: an insistence on the rationality of Christianity and a reassertion of supernatural mysteries that transcended reason.
Already by 1688 Samuel Willard was lecturing on the evidences that proved the Bible to be a unique divine revelation, and this turn toward evidentialism became increasingly pronounced as New Englanders sensed the danger of deism. In 1700 Cotton Mather's Reasonable Religion derided the deists and employed evidential arguments to validate the scriptures. Two years later, Increase Mather published A Discourse Proving that the Christian Religion is the Only True Religion, one of the earliest American treatises directed solely against thinkers like Benedict Spinoza in Holland and Charles Blount in England who would own ''no Scripture nor any Revealed Religion.'' In 1712, Cotton Mather was still occupied with the deists. When a colonist asked him for a treatise to ''Spread about the Country, before Deistical Notions grow Epidemical,'' he responded with another polemic, Reason Satisfied and Faith Established, in which he tried to validate the accounts of Christ's resurrection.30 The antideist polemic revealed the extent to which the argument against rationalism drew the theologians toward more rational forms of argumentation. They argued that the teachings of scripture were credible because they coincided with the dictates of reason. They pointed out that reason alone could demonstrate God's existence and the duty of obeying the moral law, and since the biblical revelation taught the same truths, it manifestly taught more than ''cunningly devised Fables.'' The heart of the antideist case came in arguments long employed to validate the Bible: its confirmation by miracles and prophecies, its effects on the heart, its use of eyewitness testimony, and its improbable preservation through the centuries. Anglican theologians in England argued unceasingly after about 1660 that reason could prove the authority of the Bible. The case made by the Mathers represented the first significant publications in what would become an American evidentialist tradition.31 The corollary to the case against deism was the defense of classical Christol-ogy. The catechetical tradition preserved the traditional doctrine that the second Person of the Trinity was incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth who satisfied the divine law of justice for the elect by paying a ransom through his perfect life and sacrificial death. The second-generation New Englanders defended the familiar categories of Reformed Christology. Increase Mather recalled in 1686 that throughout his ministry he had ''preached concerning Christ more than any other subject.'' When he felt himself approaching the end of his life in 1715, he repeated the same claim.32
Part of the stimulus for the renewed accent on Christology came from the Quakers, whose distinction between the external Christ and the Christ within appeared both to diminish the Jesus of the biblical narrative and to question his divine status. Willard criticized the Quakers for subverting the offices of Christ, and in 1688 he and other ministers debated the Scottish immigrant
Quaker George Keith, whose preaching of the inward Christ seemed to them to replace biblical revelation with subjective feeling. Increase Mather linked the Quakers to deists and Socinians — followers of Fausto Socinius, an Italian who in 1562 had denied the doctrine of the Trinity.33
A further stimulus to Christological interests came from the worship practices of New England congregations. An effort to promote sacramental piety, for instance, led John Eliot of Roxbury in 1678 to publish The Harmony of the Gospels, the first American attempt to harmonize the gospel accounts, which Eliot envisioned as reading in preparation for receiving the Lord's Supper. Increase Mather's Mystery of Christ Opened and Applyed (1686), Christolog-ical sermons on the covenant of redemption, originated for the same reason. Eliot and Mather both saw reflection on Christ as a fitting prelude to receiving the symbols of his body and blood.34
A third motive came from anxiety about what the New England clergy saw as a wave of English Socinianism. During the 1670s, Increase Mather lamented the unprecedented ''opposition'' to ''the person and glory of Christ,'' and he wrote some of his essays on Christ in order to counter the ''pretence of . . . Reason'' that prompted such opposition. In the early eighteenth century, the theology known as Arianism — the view that Christ was a created being — won support in England through the writings of the English divines William Whiston and Samuel Clarke. Cotton Mather preached and wrote against these Arian views for more than a decade, especially after English dissenting ministers meeting in 1719 at Salters Hall in London divided over the question of subscribing to a Trinitarian creed.35
Even as they defended traditional Christology against various forms of rationalism, however, the New Englanders continued to claim the authority of reason. Another sign of this, in addition to their evidentialism, was their interest in natural theology. Willard conceded that reason could discover only ''that God is but not what God is,'' and he reasserted the view that this rational knowledge remained insufficient because it taught neither what God required nor how God saved. Yet he mirrored the fashion of his age by drawing special attention to the design, symmetry, and harmony of the creation, from the vast ''composure'' of the cosmos to the exquisiteness of the world of insects. He found a clue to the divine purpose in ''the curious contrivances in each part'' of the natural world — a world ''in which the least Fly is full of wonders.''36
Willard's peers shared his confidence in the possibility of a rational natural theology. Convinced that right reason supported the Christian gospel, Cotton Mather could praise the powers of rationality: ''if we do not keep Reason in the Throne, we go to Dethrone the infinite God Himself. . . . The voice of Reason, is the Voice of God.'' Such trust in the rationality of faith enabled the second-generation clergy to appropriate English natural philosophy in the service of New England's Calvinist theology.37
The first generation of New England clergy had shown little interest in natural philosophy. John Cotton conceded that Christ did not "mislike" the study of nature, but he also warned against spending too much time on "the study of creatures'' because their instability left the mind restless. The students at Harvard were more enthusiastic, and by the 1650s some of them defended Copernicus's heliocentric theory of the universe, which they publicized in the New England almanacs. Zechariah Brigden announced in the almanac of 1659 that Copernicus had discovered "the true and genuine Systeme of the world'' and that the Old Testament appeared to diverge from it only because the scriptural accounts, designed for "the capacity of the rudest mechanick, as of the ablest Philosophers,'' did not intend "exactness." In matters of philosophical truth, he wrote, "the proper literal sense'' of the Bible was "subservient to the casting vote of reason.''38
Some New England ministers — including John Cotton — rejected the Coper-nican universe. Others withheld judgment in the manner of John Davenport at New Haven, who replied, upon hearing Brigden's views, that the student could "injoy his opinion'' but that he would rest in what he had learned until "more cogent arguments be produced than I have hitherto met with.'' By the second generation, however, Copernicus had clerical admirers, including the Mathers.39
Cotton Mather had a better grasp of English natural philosophy than any other New England minister. Scientific topics had attracted his interest ever since he was a twelve-year-old student at Harvard College. In 1683, when he was twenty, he and his father helped form a Boston Philosophical Society to keep the educated up-to-date on natural philosophy, and although it folded after five years, Cotton Mather's enthusiasm never waned. In 1693 he began writing his "Biblia Americana,'' a vast scriptural commentary (for which he never found a publisher) in which he struggled to harmonize the scientific and the biblical cosmology. He revealed the extent to which he granted natural philosophy an implicit authority in theology when he read Genesis as an exposition of the atomistic theory of matter and labored to provide a natural explanation of the biblical flood.40
In 1721 he published The Christian Philosopher, the premier colonial exposition of natural philosophy, as a means to expound the catechism's doctrine of creation: "The Works of the Glorious GOD in the Creation of the World,'' he wrote, "are what I now propose to exhibit.'' The book summarized dozens of English and European naturalists, especially the English physico-theologians. Although he felt "irradiated by the Discoveries of Great Sir Isaac Newton,'' he returned most often to John Ray's Wisdom of God Manifested in the Works of the Creation and William Derham's Physico-Theology. To Cotton Mather, the "wondrous workmanship'' of the eye and the purposive contrivance of a bird's wing provided irrefutable evidence of godly design while the universal force of gravity could have no other cause "but the Will and Work of the Glorious God.''41
Not even the Mathers, however, were entirely sanguine about natural philosophy, and their treatises were neither exercises in disinterested observation nor confident assertions that science inevitably supported natural theology. They wanted to ensure that scientific explanation not preclude an awareness of the supernatural, and one ironic consequence of their embrace of science was an intensified supernaturalism. After the appearance of comets in 1680 and 1682, Increase Mather immersed himself in astronomical theory. As a result he published between 1681 and 1683 three essays on "the nature, place, motion of Comets, which only such as have some skill in Astronomy can understand.'' Citing the astronomers Johannes Kepler, Tycho Brahe, and Robert Hook, he sought to prove that comets served as portents of divine judgments. In his Kometographia (1683), he argued that comets caused fires and floods and altered the weather in order to call for repentance and faith. They signaled imminent divine judgment on the world.42
A similar aim motivated the publication in 1683 of his Doctrine of Divine Providence, which he followed up the next year with his Essay for the Recording of Illustrious Providences. In these essays Mather distinguished between ordinary providences, which occurred in accord with "the Law and Course of Nature,'' and extraordinary providences "above and beyond the Constituted order of nature.'' Both were "wondrous" means by which God's governance "extended to the least and most inconsiderable things that happen in the world.'' He had long collected instances of what he called "remarkable providences," "prodigious" and unusual happenings that illustrated God's intervention in human affairs. The Essay described "preternatural events'' wrought by God, often through spirits and demons, which confuted the skeptics who wanted to attribute everything to "natural causes.''43
The same era that witnessed the clerical enchantment with science could give birth, therefore, to a flurry of intense interest in a topic like the doctrine of angels. Willard's catechetical lectures in 1690 contained a protracted discussion of invisible angelic spirits. The Mathers showed a distinct fondness for angels, and two years after an evening discussion of the topic in the Cambridge Association of Ministers, Increase published his Angelographia (1696), a biblical proof that the "Ministry of Holy Angels'' continued daily throughout the world even though "apparitions" by good angels had "in a great measure ceased.'' Cotton Mather, however, claimed that an angel appeared to him in
1693, and he continued thereafter not only to seek angelic communications but also to preach and write about the ''thousands of thousands, myriads of myriads'' of angels who dwelt in the heavens and visited the earth.44
Like the Anglican minister Joseph Glanvill in England, whom they both admired, the Mathers believed that skepticism about angels, spirits, demons, and witches cloaked a covert materialism. Increase Mather tried to confute unnamed English skeptics who thought that ''meer natural Disease'' could account for the extraordinary behavior of people claiming to be afflicted by demons and witches. The intensified supernaturalism — intensified because it now had to be consciously defended — colored the involvement of the Mathers in the witchcraft cases in New England during the 1680s and in the trials at Salem in 1691.45
The period produced, therefore, an extended discussion of the wondrous and miraculous. In England, the Platonist Henry More collected accounts of miracles, as did the Calvinist biblical exegete Matthew Poole. Willard explained the standard Reformed position: God's providence could be ordinary, manifest in secondary natural causes, or ''extraordinary,'' skipping over or inverting the order of natural causes. The extraordinary in this sense was equivalent to the miraculous, for a miracle, precisely defined, was any divine work ''above the power of Second Causes to produce.'' Men and women might, through prayer, be the moral causes of such works, but only God could produce them.46
No Christian theologian in the seventeenth century doubted the ability of God to work miracles, but the topic was sensitive among Protestants because of the Catholic claim that miracles continued within the Catholic Church as a means of confirming the truth of Catholic doctrine. The normal response in New England was the standard Protestant claim that the age of miracles had ceased at the end of the apostolic era, meaning that God no longer used miracles to confirm doctrine and no longer endowed ministers with miraculous gifts: ''God works now by men and means,'' wrote the preacher John Richardson, ''not by miracles.''47
Increase Mather, like most other New Englanders, referred therefore more to ''wonders'' than to ''miracles,'' and he explained that some wonders occurred through second causes, but Mather also displayed a greater willingness than some of his peers to affirm the continuing of miracles even in contemporary New England. He explained that some wonders were ''of a miraculous nature . . . above and beyond the Constituted Order of Nature.'' The prime example was conversion, the only ''standing miracle'' remaining in the church, but Mather also saw signs of the miraculous in several instances of divine answers to prayer for healing and deliverance from death in recent New En gland history. He drew on the accounts of ''miraculous cures'' that he found in Poole's collections.48
Cotton Mather saw miracles everywhere and with typical intensity collected miracle stories, which he published in 1696 in his Things for a Distress'd People to Think Upon, describing military victories, foiled assassinations, spiritual conversions, and physical healings that demonstrated the continuing occurrence of miraculous events. He had no reluctance to call them miracles, and he thought that they offered the best evidence against the ''Infidel Spirit, that (under the falsely assumed name of Deism) would turn all Revealed Religion, and indeed all Religion into Ridicule.''49
The heightened supernaturalism found vivid expression among theologians preoccupied with ''the world to come.'' By the end of the century, a select few in New England developed an intense interest in Christ's return and the millennial events that would surround it. For a time after the Restoration of 1660, millennial theology had a bad reputation as an excuse for the political radicalism of such groups as the English Fifth Monarchy Men. In the catechetical lectures in which Samuel Willard explained the second coming and the resurrection of the dead, he made no explicit reference to an earthly millennial kingdom, though in The Fountain Opened (1700) Willard cautiously alluded to the ''happy times predicted for the church'' at the time of the conversion of the Jews. By that time, other theologians had also seen the millennium ap-proaching.50
No one saw it more vividly than Increase and Cotton Mather, whose views of the end time were strikingly different from those of Thomas Brightman or John Cotton earlier. In 1666 Increase Mather heard that the Turkish Jew Sabbatai Zevi in Syria had proclaimed himself the Messiah. The news prompted his interest in Romans 11:26 — ''And so all Israel shall be saved'' — and he launched a series of lectures on the relation between the conversion of Israel and the millennial age. His colleagues in Boston felt uneasy, but in i669 he published the lectures as The Mystery of Israel's Salvation Opened, initiating half a century of millennial speculation in the Mather family.
He knew that some considered the notion of an earthly millennium to be heretical, so he persuaded other ministers to write prefatory recommendations, and he filled the book with references to other Reformed theologians who agreed with him. He begged his readers not to be ''offended with the seeming Novelism which is in these notions,'' and he reminded them that the Bible ''abundantly witnessed'' to the imminent Chiliad, the thousand-year reign of Christ and the saints on earth. Mather argued that New Englanders were living in the time of the pouring out of the fifth of the seven apocalyptic vials mentioned in the book of Revelation. During this period, Rome would be destroyed. The sixth vial would then begin the conversion of the "Israelitish Nation.'' After Richard Baxter in England proposed that Romans 11 merely denoted the conversions among the Jews in the days of the apostles, Mather wrote, between 1692 and 1695, A Dissertation Concerning the Future Conversion of the Jewish Nation to show that the conversion of Israel was in the imminent future, not the distant past, and that it would issue in the "first resurrection'' (Rev. 20:5-6) with which the millennial dispensation would begin.51
His millennialism was graphic and detailed. He described the first resurrection as an event in which the bodies of the departed righteous would rise to be reunited in a celestial form with their souls, which had ascended to heaven. The risen righteous and the living saints would then, in accord with 1 Thessa-lonians 4:17, be caught up in the air in a divine rapture while God destroyed the wicked through the fire in which the returning Christ appeared from heaven. Then the New Jerusalem would descend to the earth for a "dispensation'' of at least a thousand years, during which the saints in heaven would return to this lower world, the church would flourish, and pain and death would cease. Mather expressed doubt that Christ would reign personally, but he thought that the saints of the New Jerusalem would rule the world. The drama would conclude on the last day with the second resurrection (Rev. 13)— the resurrection of the wicked — and the second, or ultimate, judgment, in which the wicked would be consigned to their punishment. Then the citizens of the New Jerusalem would return to heaven, Christ would give up his mediatorial kingdom to God, and God could be "all in all.''52
Increase Mather could speak of the New Jerusalem as the "church triumphant'' in the highest heaven, the "metropolis" of the new millennial world, and the "state of the church on earth'' during the millennium. He never specified its location. He certainly never claimed that it would be established in Boston, New England, or America. He knew that the English theologian William Twisse had suggested to Joseph Mede, the dean of millennial wisdom, that America might be the place of the New Jerusalem, but all that Mather would say, in an exhortation in 1674, was that the Lord had "as it were'' caused "New Jerusalem to come down from Heaven'' by dwelling with the colonists, who could take comfort that though God would scourge them he would not destroy them. He added five years later that New England had once been "like unto the New Jerusalem,'' a "Type and emblem'' of it. But this had nothing to do with the literal descent of the New Jerusalem, which remained for Mather an event in the future.53
He presumably knew that Joseph Mede had convinced Twisse of his error; he certainly knew that Mede had reached the conclusion that America, far from being the New Jerusalem, would likely become the kingdom of Satan and his minions Gog and Magog, who would rise up against the New Jerusalem toward the end of Christ's reign. If Mede was right, New England did not have a bright future. Mather felt obliged, therefore, to prove, not that America would be the New Jerusalem, but that the region would not be totally excluded from the benefits that the New Jerusalem would bring.54
The merchant Samuel Sewall did try to show, in his Fhaenomena quaedam Apocalyptica (1697), that America might be ''the place of the New Jerusalem.'' Arguing against Mede's dismissal of the continent, he contended that the New World ''stands fair for becoming the seat of the Divine Metropolis.'' But he also never presumed that God would choose Boston. It was far more likely, he thought, that he would choose ''the Mexican Continent.'' ''Why may not New Spain be,'' he asked, ''the place of New Jerusalem?'' He answered the question by outlining the prophetical resemblances between Mexico and Peru and the apocalyptic verses of the book of Daniel.55
By the same token, neither Increase Mather nor any of his second-generation colleagues assumed that New England was the antitype of ancient Israel. They maintained the view of the first New England theologians: Israel's antitype was the true church, just as the antitype of Jerusalem was the New Jerusalem. And the true church was the company of the elect, who dwelled in all the earth. The New Englanders still called New England a New Israel; they still found countless analogues between themselves and the ancient Jews; but they did not think that their society fulfilled the biblical types.56
No one described the millennial kingdom more expansively than Cotton Mather, and the most he would say was that New England had reason to hope that it might ''belong'' to the future Holy City—that Mede was wrong to consign America to a hellish future—and that America might be where Christians would find shelter during the tribulation elsewhere. For much of his life, he accepted the scenario that his father had drawn, but eventually Cotton Mather became more venturesome, more willing to predict times and dates, even more detailed than his father in his descriptions. Beginning in 1691 he published more than forty sermons and essays on eschatology, and in his most minute investigations — the ''Problema Theologicum'' (1703), ''Triparadisus'' (1726), and the ''Biblia Americana'' (i728) — he described the New Heavens and New Earth in an outpouring of images that exceeded anything his father had ever attempted.57
He also decided that his father had been wrong. By 1726, he concluded that there would be no future national conversion of the Jews. He also concluded that the return of Christ — and the conflagration that would purify the earth — might happen much sooner than anyone thought. For years he speculated about possible dates, first 1697, then 1716, then 1736. Whatever the date, the return of Christ would inaugurate the millennium, resurrect the bodies of the departed saints destined to rule with him (these Mather called the Raised Saints), draw them into the air with the saints still living (these he called the Changed Saints), and destroy the earth by fire before transforming it. Then the New Jerusalem would descend as a material but ethereal city, hovering in the air above the restored earthly Jerusalem. There the Raised Saints would dwell while the Changed Saints returned to the New Earth and reigned throughout the Chiliad, guided not only by the Raised Saints, who would descend and ascend regularly from the New Jerusalem, but also by the triumphant Christ who would make an appearance whenever he thought it necessary. After the battle of Armageddon at the end of the millennial reign, the second resurrection would raise both the righteous and the unrighteous to receive their due sentence, and God would be all in all.58
The vivid millennialism of the Mathers was an expression of the heightened supernaturalism of New England theology in the late seventeenth century. What seems remarkable now is how easily it coexisted with confidence in reason, enthusiasm about natural philosophy, and an assurance that rational evidences could prove the truth of Christian revelation to any reasonable person. The supernaturalism was in part a defensive response to what theologians saw as misreadings of natural philosophy that could generate a latent threat of materialism and mechanism. Their way of countering the threat was to proclaim the mysteries of the invisible world at the same time that they drew the cosmology of the natural philosophers into their theology. Both the religious rationalism and the intense supernaturalism served conservative ends. Like the catechetical exercises in the churches, they functioned to preserve an older Calvinist vision during an era in which it was coming under increasing critical scrutiny.
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