October 6, 2010
Cotton Mather vs William Bradford
1. How does Mather credit the decline of Puritan New England per
each of the following: the neglect of the Gospel, the disregard of education by the multitudes, unrestrained youth grown “abominably vicious”, the Devil working in the New World.
Cotton Mather attributed the decline of Puritan society and church to that of the work of the Devil and his vile angels. He attributed many of the bad diseases, misfortunes, and possibly mental health problems with that of demon corruption and possession, “Wherefore the devil is now making one attempt more upon us; an attempt more difficult, more surprising, more snarled with unintelligible circumstances than any we have hitherto encounter…” (309). He also works into this idea the neglect of the Gospel as one of the main causes which allow the Devil the freedom he has to persecute their society, “…beyond the wonders of former ages, and it threatens no les than a sort of dissolution upon the world” (310). He further discusses in accordance with his earlier statements that, “…the wretches have proceeded so far as to concert and consult the methods of rooting out the Christian religion from this country…” (310). Which to Mather would have been heresy being that he lived in a Puritan society believing in the strict teaching of Biblical Law. He later goes into talking about the youth and how when unrestrained they follow in the bad footsteps of parental figures or role models, especially when faced with the fact that all of Martha Carrier’s children had followed her down the Devil’s path of witchcraft. The lack of religious education upon such matters being the main cause overall of the destruction that the Devil’s use of lies which could not be conquered without ample education in the scriptures gives a great argument for the Puritans in their standing on the necessity of the Salem Witch Trials.
2. To what extent can his selection be compared to Bradford’s “A Most Horrible Thing”?
This work done by Cotton Mather can be extensively compared to Bradford’s “A Most Horrible Thing” by the description of the crime committed and the result of its underlying cause, being the Devil. He works magnificently in creating an imaginary argument stating without actual evidence that the Devil used his power to possess and take over those who were involved with the crime of witchcraft. He talks about the possession, mass confessions of over a thousand people on the crime of witchcraft and remarks on his astoundment of such a broad number. Both Bradford and Mather fully believe in the theocratic society structure and view that their upholding of Christian Biblical Law as set forth by the Old Testament is a glorify tool to God and establishes their holiness in the heavens above. They set forth that it is by their works mostly, and then slightly by the grace of God that they all are saved.
3. How might Mather’s concerns relate to 2010 America?
His concerns may relate to 2010 America because of the growing revolt against the basis of the Christian faith. Many do not wish to see a supreme being rule their destiny and or actions through a series of laws set forth in an ancient text. Their belief is that their life is their own, freely given and even more freely taken. This concern is unraveled in the text of Mather by his continued expounding upon religious and social morals which led to the decline of his civilization leading to the Salem Witch Trials. It is unfortunate that such things happened, but important in that they provide a well meaning example in history for societies to be careful of religious tyranny and fear. Without the religious convictions of the Puritans the Salem Witch Trials would never have taken place, nor would the feeling of demonic persecution have been felt so deeply. It is a sad state that America has come to a wavering point much like its European counterpart in that it has strayed far from being a religious society with mostly Judeo concerns.