The eldest son of New England's leading divine, Increase Mather, and grandson of the colony's spiritual founders Richaard Mather and John Cotton, Mather was born in Boston, educated at Harvard (B. During the witchcraft debacle (1692-93), Mather both warns the Salem judges against admitting "spectral evidence" as grounds for indictment and advocates prayer and fasting to cure the afflicted, but he also writes New England's official defense of the court's procedures on which his modern reputation largely depends: The Wonders of the Invisible World (1693).
As pastor of Boston's Second Church (Congregational), he came into the political limelight during America's version of the Glorious Revolution, when Bostonians deposed their royal governor, Sir Edmund Andros (April 1689).
Mather's mythic image still rests on his involvement in the Salem witchcraft debacle (1692-93) and on Robert Calef's libelling allegations in More Wonders of the Invisible World (1700).
Mather's most important publications on the supernatural are Memorable Providences, Relating to Witchcraft and Possessions (1689) and Wonders of the Invisible World (1693).
Even though each life follows the pattern of medieval hagiography, he does not fail to mention some of his heroes' shortcomings and how they overcame them. to Do Good represents the most comprehensive expression of his life's purpose: "Fructuosis," to be serviceable to one's fellow man.
Since its appearance, Magnalia Christi Americana has been criticized for its lack of thematic unity, bombastic style, and undigested material. His lifelong interest in the German Pietist movement of his Frederician colleague August Hermann Francke, of Halle (Saxony), convinced Mather that specific practical advice rather than pious exhortations could engender social reform.Mather's Wonders, however, does not end without a due note of caution.While exposing Satan's plot to overthrow New England's churches, Mather also recommends his father's caveat Cases of Conscience (1693), thus effectively rejecting the use of "spectral evidence" as grounds for conviction and condemning confessions extracted under torture.In all, he published more than four hundred works on all aspects of the contemporary debate: theological, historical, biographical, political, and scientific.It is therefore deplorable that Mather's reputation is still largely overshadowed by the specter of Salem witchcraft.Whereas Increase Mather never quite made the transition into the Enlightenment, his son Cotton had come full circle; he represents the best of early Enlightenment thinking in colonial America.His contributions to the literature of the New England Errand are as diverse as his publications are prolific and inexhaustible.However flawed by modern standards, each of the seven books develops a specific theme, unified by Mather's Virgilian theme of the mighty works of Christ in the Western hemisphere; Mather's Baroque style--though outdated by his standards of his time--is entirely consistent with his own stylistic principles delineated in Manuductio ad Ministerium (1726): to entertain with stylistic flourishes while instructing with pearls of wisdom. His subsequent essays (chapters) address all classes of society and their various occupations.Finally, Mather's consistent narrative voice and rhetorical intent unifies his subject matter as the grandest of jeremiads that American Puritanism has brought forth. In typical Renaissance fashion, Mather was at home in virtually every discipline of human knowledge, ancient and modern.Perfectly consistent with European standards of the time, "Curiosa" also pioneers theories of psychogenic causes of disease and of plant hybridization, the earliest known account, which became the basis for the Linnaean system of botany. Like Increase Mather's Illustrious Providences (1684), Cotton Mather's Christian Philosopher provides a rational foundation for Christianity, attempting to reconcile Scripture revelation with the New Sciences.The Royal Society of London bestowed upon Mather the prestigious title of F. But unlike his father's earlier work, Christian Philosopher moves with ease between scientific explanations and theological justifications.