William Bradford Institute
for Study of the
Early Settlement of America

"A General Introduction" from Magnalia Christi Americana

by Cotton Mather


(greek) Dicam hoc propter utilitatem eorum qui Lecturi sunt hoc opus. -

1. 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 Providenee hath irradiated an
Indian Wilderness.

I relate the Considerable Matters, that produced and attended the First
Settlement of COLONIES, which have been renowned for the degree of REFORMATION, professed and attained by Evangelical Churches, erected in those ends of the earth; and a Field being thus prepared, I proceed unto a relation of the
Considerable Matters which have been acted thereupon.

I first introduce the Actors, that have in a more exemplary manner served those
Colonies; and give Remarkable Occurrences, in the exemplary LIVES of many
Magistrates, and of more Ministers, who so lived as to leave unto Posterity
examples worthy of everlasting remembrance.

I add hereunto, the Notables of the only Protestant University that ever shon in
that hemisphere of the New World; with particular instances of Criolians, in our
Biography, provoking the whole world with vertuous objects of emulation.
I introduce then, the Actions of a more eminent importance, that have signalized
those Colonies: whether the Establishments, directed by their Synods; with a
rich variety of Synodical and Ecclesiastical Determinations; or, the
Disturbances, with which they have been from all sorts of temptation and enemies
tempestuated; and the Methods by which they have still weathered out each
horrible tempest.

And into the midst of these Actions, I interpose an entire Book, wherein there
is, with all possible veracity, a Collection made of Memorable Occurrences, and
amazing Judgments and Mercies befalling many particular persons among the people
of New- England.

Let my readers expect all that I have promised them, in this Bill of Fare; and
it may be they will find themselves entertained with yet many other passages,
above and beyond their expectation, deserving likewise a room in History: in all
which, there will be nothing but the Author's too mean way of preparing so great
entertainments, to reproach the Invitation.

The reader will doubtless desire to know, what it was that

tot Volvere casus Insignes Pietate Viros, tot adire Labores, Impulerit.2

And our History shall, on many fit occasions which will be therein offered,
endeavour, with all historical fidelity and simplicity, and with as little
offence as may be, to satisfy him. The sum of the matter is, that from the very
beginning of the REFORMATION in tho English Nation, there hath always been a
generation of Godly Men, desirous to pursue the Reformation of Religion,
according to the Word of God, and the Example of the best Reformed Churches; and
answering the character of Good Men, given by Josephus, in his Paraphrase on the
words of Samuel to Saul,(greek) (They think they do nothing right in the service
of God, but what they do according to the command of God.) And there hath been
another generation of men, who have still employed the power which they have
generally still had in their hands, not only to stop the progress of the desired
Reformation, but also, with innumerable vexations, to persecute those that most
heartily wished well unto it. There were many of the Reformers, who joyned with
the Reverend JOHN FOX, in the complaints which he then entred in his
Martyrology, about the "baits of Popery" yet left in the Church; and in his
wishes,"God take them away,or ease us from them,for God knows they be the cause
of much blindness and strife amongst men!" They zealously decreed the policy of
complying always with the ignorance and vanity of the People; and cried out
earnestly for purer Administrations in the house of God; and more conformity to
the Law of Christ and primitive Christianity: while others would not hear of
going any further than the first Essay of Reformation. 'Tis very certain, that
the first Reformers never intended that what they did should be the absolute
boundary of Reformation, so that it should be a sin to proceed any further; as,
by their own going beyond Wicklift; and changing and growing in their own Models
also, and the confessions of Cranmer, with the Scripta Anglicana of Bucer, and a
thousand other things, was abundantly demonstrated. But after a fruitless
expectation, wherein the truest friends of the Reformation long waited for to
have that which Heylin himself owns to have been the design of the first
Reformers, followed as it ahould have been, a party very unjustly arrogating to
themselves the venerable name of The Church of England, by numberless
oppressions, grievously smote those their Fellow-Servants. Then 'twas that, as
our great OWEN hath expressed it, "Multitudes of pious, peaceable Protestants,
were driven, by their severities, to leave their native country, and seek a
refuge for their lives and liberties, with freedom for the worship of God, in a
wilderness, in the ends of the earth."

3. It is the History of these PROTESTANTS that is here attetmpted: PROTESTANTS
that highly honoured and affected the CHURCH of ENGLAND, and humbly petition to
be a part of it: but by the mistake of a few powerful brethren, driven to seek a
plaCe for the exercise of the Protestant Religion, acoording to the light of
their consciences, in the deserts of America. And in this attempt I have
proposed, not only to preserve and secure the interest of Religion in the
Churches of that little country NEW-ENGLAND, so far as the Lord Jesus Christ may
please to bless it for that end, but also to offer unto the Churches of the
Reformation, abroad in the world, some small Memorials, that may be serviceable
unto the designs of Reformation, whereto, I believe, they are quickly to be
awakened. I am far from any such boast,concerning these Churches, that they have
need of nothing; I wish their works were more perfect before God. Indeed, that
which Austin called " the perfection of Christians," is like to be, until the
term for the anti-christian apostasie be expired, "the perfeetion of Churehes"
too; ut agnoscant se nunquam esse perfectas.3 Nevertheless, I perswade myself,
that so far as they have attained, they have given great examples of the methods
and measures wherein an Evangelical Reformation is to be prosecuted, and of the
qualifications requisite in the instruments that are to prosecute it, and of the
difficulties which may be most likely to obstruct it, and the most likely
Directions and Remedies for those obstructions. It may be, 'tis not possible for
me to do a greater service unto the Churches on the best Island of the universe,
than to give a distinct relation of those great examples which have been
occurring among Churohes of exiles, that were driven out of that Island, into an
horrible wilderness, meerly for their being well-willers unto the Reformation.
When that blessed Martyr Constantine was carried, with other Martyrs, in a
dung-cart, unto the plane of execution, he pleasantly said, "Well, yet we are a
precious odour to God in Christ." Though, the Reformed Churches in the American
Regions have, by very injurious representations of their brethren, (all which
they desire to forget and forgive!) been many times thrown into a dung-cart;
yet, as they have been a "precious odour to God in Christ," so, I hope, they
will be a precious odour unto His people; and not only precious, but useful
also, when the History of them shall come to be considered. A Reformation of the
Church is coming on, and I cannot but thereupon say, with the dying Cyrus to his
children in Xenophon, (greek) (Learn from the things that have been done
already, for this is the best way of learning.) The reader hath here an account
of the "things that have been done already." Bernard, upon that clause in the
Canticles, ["O thou fairest among women!"] has this ingenious gloss: Pulchram,
non omnimode quidem, sed pulchram inter mulieres eam docet; videlicet cum
distinctione, quatenus ex hoc amplius erprimatur, et sciat quid desit sibi.4
Thus, I do not say, that the Churches of New England are the most regular that
can be; yet I do say, and am sure, that they are very like unto those that were
in the first ages of Christianity. And if I assert that, in the Reformation of
the Chureh, the state of it in those first Ages is to be not a little
considered, the great Peter Ramus, among others, has emboldened me. For when the
Cardinal of Lorrain, the Maecenas of that great man, was offended at him, for
turning Protestant, he replied: Inter Opes illas, quibus me ditsti, has etiam
in ternum recordabor, quod Beneficio P ssiacae Responsionis tuae didici, de
quindecim a Christo saeculis, primum vere esse aureum; Reliqua, quo longius
abscederent, esse nequiora, atque deteriora: tum igitur cum fieret optio, Aureum
saeculum delegi.5 In short, the first Age was the golden Age: to return unto
that, will make a man a Protestant, and, I may add, a Puritan. 'Tis possible
that our Lord Jesus Christ carried some thousands of Reformers into the
retirements of an American desert, on purpose that, with an opportunity granted
unto many of his faithful servants, to enjoy the precious liberty of their
Ministry, though in the midst of many temptations all their days, He might
there, to them first, and then by them, give a specimen of many good things,
which He would have His Churches elsewhere aspire and arise unto; and this being
done, he knows not whether there be not all done, that New England was planted
for; and whether the Plantation may not, soon after this, come to nothing. Upon
that expression in the sacred Seripture, "Cast the unprofitable servant into
outer darkness," it hath been imagined by some, that the Regiones exterae6 of
America, are the Tenebrae exteriores7 which the unprofitable are there condemned
unto. No doubt, the authors of those Ecclesiastical impositions and severities,
which drove the English Christians into the Dark regions of America esteemed
those Christians to be a very unprofitable sort of creatures. But behold, ye
European Churches, there are golden Candlesticks [more than twice seven times
seven!] in the midst of this "outer darkness:" unto the upright children of
Abraham, here hath arisen light in darkness. And, let us humbly speak it, it
shall be profitable for you to consider the light which, from the midst of this
"outer darkness," is now to be darted over unto the other side of the Atlantick
Ocean. But we must therewithal ask your Prayers that these "golden Candlesticks"
may not quickly be "removed out of their place!"

4. But whether New England may live any where else or no, it must live in our
History! HISTORY, in general, hath had so many and mighty commendations from the
pens of those numberless authors, who, from Herodotus to Howel, have been the
professed writers of it,that a tenth part of them transcribed, would be a
furniture for a Polyanthea in folio.8 We, that have neither liberty, nor
occasion, to quote these commendations of History, will content ourselves with
the opinion of one who was not much of a professed historian, expressed in that
passage, whereto all mankind subscribe, Historia est Testis temporum, Nuntia
vetustatis, Lux veritatis, vita memoriae, magistra vitae.9 But of all History it
must be confessed, that the palm is to be given unto Church History; wherein the
dignity, the suavity, and the utility of the subject is transcendent. I observe,
that for the description of the whole world in the Book of Genesis, that
first-born of all historians, the great Moses, implies but one or two chapters,
whereas he implies, it may be seven times as many chapters, in describing that
one little Pavilion, the Tabernacle. And when I am thinking what may be the
reason of this difference, methinks it intimates unto us, that the Chureh
wherein the service of God is performed, is much more precious than the world,
which was indeed created for the sake and use of the Church. 'Tis very certain,
that the greatest entertainments must needs occur in the History of the people
whom the Son of God hath redeemed and purified unto himself, as a peculiar
people, and whom the Spirit of God, by supernatural operations upon their minds,
does cause to live like strangers in this world, conforming themselves unto the
Truths and Rules of his Holy Word, in expectation of a Kingdom, whereto they
shall be in another and a better World advanced. Such a people our Lord Jesus
Christ hath procured and preserved in all ages visible; and the dispensations of
his wondrous Providenee towards this People, (for,"0 Lord, thou dost lift them
up and cast them down!") their calamities, their deliverances, the dispositions
which they have still discovered, and the considerable persons and actions found
among them, cannot but afford matters of admiration and admonition, above what
any other story can pretend unto: 'tis nothing but Atheism in the hearts of men,
that can perswade them otherwise. Let any person of good sense peruse the
History of Herodotus, which, like a river taking rise where the Sacred Records
of the Old Testament leave off, runs along smoothly and sweetly, with relations
that sometimes perhaps want an apology, down until the Grecians drive the
Persians before them. Let him then peruse Thucydides, who, from acting, betook
himself to writing, and carries the ancient state of the Grecians down to the
twenty first year of the Peloponnesian wars, in a manner which Casaubon judges
to be Mirandum potius quam imitandum.10 Let him next revolve Xenophon, that "Bee
of Athens," who continues a narrative of the Greek affairs from the
Peloponnesian wars to the battle of Mantinea, and gives us a Cyrus into the
bargain, at such a rate, that Lipsius reckons the character of a Suavis, Fidus
et Circumspectus Scriptor,11 to belong unto him. Let him from hence proceed unto
Diodorus Siculus, who, besides a rich treasure of Egyptian, Assyrian, Lybian and
Grecian, and other Antiquities, in a phrase which, according to Photius's
judgment, is (greek) [of all most becoming an historian,] carries on the thread
begun by his predecessors, until the end of the hundred and nineteenth Olympiad;
and where he is defective, let it be supplied from Arrianus, from Justin, and
from Curtius, who, in ti,te relish of Colerus, is Quovis melle dulcior.12 Let
him hereupon consult Polybius, and acquaint himself with the birth and growth of
the Roman Empire, as far as 'tis described in five of the forty books composed
by an author who, with a learned Professor of History, is Prudens Scriptor, si
quis alius.13 Let him now run over the table of the Roman affairs, compendiously
given by Lucius Florus, and then let him consider the transections of above
three hundred years reported by Dionysius Halicarnassaeus, who, if the censure
of Bodin may be taken, Graecos omnes et Latinos superasse videatur.14 Let him
from hence pass to Livy, of whom the famous critick says, Hoc solum ingenium(de
Historicis Loquor) populus Romanus par Imperio suo habuit,15 and supply those of
his Decads that are lost, from the best fragments of antiquity, in others (and
especially Dion and Sallust) that lead us on still further in our way. Let him
then proceed unto the writers of the Cesaerean times, and first revolve
Suetonius, then Tacitus, then Herodian, then a whole army more of historians
which now crowd our into our Library; and unto all the rest, let him not fail of
adding the incomparable Plutarch, whose books, they say, Theodore Gaza preferred
before any in the world, next unto the inspired oracles of the Bible: but if the
number be still too little to satisfie an historical appetite, let him add
Polyhistor unto the number, and all the Chronicles of the following ages. After
all, he must sensibly acknowledge that the two short books of Ecclesiastical
History, written by the evangelist Luke, hath given us more glorious
entetainments than all these voluminous historians if they were put all
together. The atchievements of one Paul particularly, which that evangelist hath
emblazoned, have more true glory in them, than all the acts of those execrable
plunderers and murderers, and irresistible banditti of world, which have been
dignified by the name of "conquerors." Tacitus counted Ingentia bella,
expugnationes urbium, fusos captosque reges,16 the rages of war, and the
glorious violences, whereof great warriors make a wretched ostentation, to be
the noblest matter for an historian. But there is a nobler, I humbly conceive,
in the planting and forming of Evangelical Churches, and the temptations, the
corruptions, the afflictions, which assault them, and their salvations from
those assaults, and the exemplary lives of those that Heaven employs to be
patterns of holiness and usefulness upon earth: and unto such it is, that I now
invite my readers; things, in comparison whereof, the subjects of many other
Histoies are of as little weight as the questions about Z, the last letter of
our Alphabet, and whether H is to be pronounced with an aspiration, where about
whole volumes have been written, and of no more account than the composure of
Didymus. But for the manner of my treating this matter, I must now give some
account unto him.

6. Reader! I have done the part of an impartial historian, albeit not without
all occasion perhaps, for the rule which a worthy writer, in his Historica gives
to every reader, Historici legantur cum moderatione et venia, et cogitetur fieri
non posse, ut in omnibus circumstantiis sint lyncei.17 Polybius complains of
those historians, who always made either the Carthagenians brave, or the Romans
base, or e contra, in all their actions, as their affection for their own party
led them. I have endeavoured, with all good conscience, to decline this writing
meerly for a party, or doing like the dealer in History, whom Lucian derides,
for always calling the captain of his own party an Achilles, but of the adverse
party a Thersites: nor have I added unto the just provocations for the complaint
made by the Baron Maurier, that the greateat part of Histories are but so many
panegyricks composed by interested hands, which elevate iniquity to the heavens,
like Paterculus and like Machiaivel, who propose Tiberius Cesar, and Cesar
Borgia, as examples fit for imitation, whereas true History would have exhibited
them as horrid monsters--as very devils. 'Tis true, I am not of the opinion that
one cannot merit the name of an impartial hiatorian, except he write bare
matters of fact without all reflection; for I can tell where to find this given
as the definition of History, Historia est rerum gestarum, cum laude aut
vituperatione, narratio:18 and if I am not altogether a Tacitus, when vertues or
vices occur to be matters of reflection, I well as of relation, I will, for my
vindication, appeal to Tacitus himself, whom Lipsius calls one of the prudentest
(though Tertullian, long before, counts him one of the lyingest) of them who
have enriched the world with History: he says, Praecipuum munus Annalium reor,
ne virtutes sileantur, utque pravis Dictis, Factisque ex posteritate et Infamia
metus sit.19 I have not commended any person, but when I have really judged, not
only that he deserved it, but also that it would be a benefit unto posterity to
know wherein he deserved it: and my judgment of desert, hath not been biassed by
personas being of my own particular judgment, in matters of disputation, among
the Churches of God. I have been as willing to wear the name of Simplicius
Verinus, throughout my whole undertaking, as he that, before me, hath assumed
it: nor am I like Pope Zachary, impatient so much as to hear of any Antipodes.
That spirit of a Sehlusselbergius, who falls foul with fury and reproach on all
who differ from him; the spirit of an Heylin, who seems to count no obloquy too
hard for a reformer; and the spirit of those (folio-writers there are, some of
them, in the English nation!) whom a noble Historian stigmatizes, as, "Those
hotheaded, passionate bigots, from whom,'tis enough, if you be of a religion
contrary unto theirs, to be defamed, condemned and pursued with a thousand
calumnies." I thank Heaven I hate it with all my heart. But how can the lives of
the commendable be written without commending them? or, is that law of History,
given in one of the eminentest pieces of antiquity we now have in our hands,
wholly antiquated, Maxime proprium est Historiae, Laudem rerum egregie gestarum
persequi?"20 nor have I, on the other side, forbore to mention many censurable
things, even in the best of my friends, when the things, in my opinion, were not
good; or so bore away for Placentia, in the course of our story, as to pass by
Verona; but been mindful of the direction which Polybius gives to the historian:
"It becomes him that writes an History, sometimes to extol enemies in his
praises, when their praise worthy actions bespeak it, and at the same time to
reprove the best friends, when their deeds appear worthy of a reproof;
in-as-much as History is good for nothing, if truth (which is the very eye of
the animal) be not in it." Indeed, I have thought it my duty upon all accounts,
(and if it have proceeded unto the degree of a fault, there is, it may be,
something in my temper and nature that has betrayed me therein,) to be more
sparing and easie, in thus mentioning of censurable things, than in my other
liberty: a writer of Church History should, I know, be like the builder of the
temple, one of the tribe of Napthali; and for this I will also plead my Polybius
in my excuse: "It is not the work of an historian, to commomorate the vices and
villanies of men, so much as their just, their fair, their honest actions; and
the readers of History get more good by the objects of their emulation, than of
their indignation." Nor do I deny that, though I cannot approve the conduct of
Josephus; (whom Jerom not unjustly nor inaptly calls "the Greek Livy,") when he
left out of his Antiquities, the story of the golden Calf, and I don't wonder to
find Chamier, and Rivet, and others, taxing him for his partiality towards his
country-men yet I have left unmentioned some censurable occurrences in the
story of our Colonies, as things no less unuseful than improper to be raised out
of the grave, wherein Oblivion hath now buried them lest I should have
incurred the pasquil bestowed upon Pope Urban, who, employing a committee to rip
up the old errors of his predecessors, one clapped a pair of spurs upon the
heels of the statue of St. Peter; and a label from the statue of St. Paul
opposite thereunto, upon the bridge, asked him, "Whither he was bound?" St.
Peter answered, "I apprehend some danger in staying here I fear they'll call
me in question for denying my Master." And St. Paul replied, "Nay, then I had
best be gone too, for they'll question me also for persecuting the Christians
before my conversion." Briefly, my pen shall reproach none that can give a good
word unto any good man that is not of their own faction, and shall fall out with
none but those that can agree with no body else, except those of their own
schism. If I draw any sort of men with charcoal, it shall be because I remember
a notable passage of the best Queen that ever was in the world, our late Queen
Mary. Monsieur Juvien, that he might justifie the Reformation in Seotland, made
a very black representation of their old Queen Mary; for which, a certain
sycophant would have incensed our Queen Mary against that Reverend person,
saying, "Is it not a shame that this man, without any consideration for your
royal person, should dare to throw such infamous calumnies upon a Queen, from
whom your Royal Highness is descended?" But that excellent Princess replied,
"No, not at all; is it not enough that, by fulsome praises, great persons be
lulled asleep all their lives; but must flattery accompany them to their very
graves? How should they fear the judgment of posterity, if historians be not
allowed to apeak the truth after their death?" But whether I do myself commend,
or whether I give my reader an opportunity to censure, I am careful above all
things to do it with truth; and as I have considered the words of Plato, Deum
indigne et graviter ferre, cum quis ei similem, hoc est, vertute praestantem,
vituperet, aut laudet contrarium:21 so I have had the Ninth Commandment of a
greater law-giver than Plato, to preserve my care of Truth from first to last.
If any mistake have been any where committed, it will be found meerly
circumstantial, and wholly involuntary; and let it be remembered, that though no
historian ever merited better than the incomparable Thuanus, yet learned men
have said of his work, what they never shall truly say of ours, that it contains
multa falsissima et indigna.22 I find Erasmus himself mistaking one man for two,
when writing of the ancients. And even our own English writers too are often
mistaken, and in matters of a very late importance, as Baker, and Heylin, and
Fuller, (professed historians) tell us that Richard Sutton, a single man,
founded the Charter-House; whereas his name was Thomas, and he was a married
man. I think I can recite such mistakes, it may be sans number occurring in the
most credible writers; yet I hope I shall commit none such. But although I thus
challenge, as my due, the character of an impartial, I doubt I may not challenge
that of an elegant historian. I cannot say whether the style wherein this Church
History is written, will please the modern criticks; but if I seem to have used
(greek)23 a simple, submiss, humble style, 'tis the same that Eusebins affirms
to have been used by Hegesippus, who, as far as we understand, was the first
author (after Luke) that ever composed an entire body of Ecclesiastical History,
which he divided into five books, and entituled, (greek)24 Whereas others, it
may be, will reckon the style embellished with too much of ornament, by the
multiplied references to other and former concerns, closely couched, for the
observation of the attentive, in almost every paragraph; but I must confess,
that I am of his mind who said, Sicuti sal modice cibis aspersus Condit, et
gratiam saporis addit, ita si paulum antiquitatis admiscueris, Oratio fit
venustior.25 And I have seldom seen that way of writing faulted, but by those
who, for a certain odd reason, sometimes find fault that "the grapes are not
ripe." These embellishments (of which yet I only Veniam pro laude peto 26) are
not the puerile spoils of Polyanthea's;) but I should have asserted them to be
as choice flowers as most that occur in ancient or modern writings, almost
unavoidably putting themselves into the author's hand, while about his work, if
those words of Ambrose had not a little frighted me, as well as they did
Baronius, Unumquemque Fallunt sua scripta.27 I observe that learned men have
been so terrified by the reproaches of pedantry, which little matterers at
reading and learning have, by their quoting humours, brought upon themselves,
that, for to avoid all approaches towards that which those feeble creatures have
gone to imitate, the best way of writing has been most injuriously deserted. But
what shall we say? The best way of writing under heaven shall be the worst, when
Erasmus, his monosyllable tyrant, will have it so! and if I should have resigned
my self wholly to the jndgment of others, what way of writing to have taken, the
story of the two statues made by Policletus tells me what may have been the
issue: he contrived one of them according to the rules that best pleased
himself, and the other according to the fancy of every one that looked upon his
work: the former was afterwards applauded by all, and the latter derided by
those very persons who had given their directions for it. As for such
unaccuracies as the critical may discover(Opere in longo 28) appeal to the
courteous for a favourable construction of them; and certainly they will be
favourably judged of, when there is considered the variety of my other
imployments; which have kept me in continual hurries, I had almost said like
those of the ninth sphere, for the few months in which this Work has been
digesting. It was a thing well thought, by the wise designers of
Chelsey-Colledge, wherein able historians were one sort of persons to be
maintained; that the Romanists do in one point condemn the Protestants; for
among the Romanists, they don't burden their Professor with any Parochial
incumbrances; but among the Protestants, the very same individual man must
preach, catechize, administer the Sacraments, visit the afflicted, and manage
all the parts of Church- discipline; and if any books for the service of
Religion be written, persons thus extreamly incumbered must be the writers. Now,
of all the Churches under heaven, there are none that expects so much variety of
service from their Pastors as those of New-England; and of all the Chruches in
New England, there are none that require more than those in Boston, the
metropolis of the English America; whereof one is, by the Lord Jesus Christ,
committed unto the care of the unworthy hand by which this History is compiled.
Reader, give me leave humbly to mention, with him in Tully, Antequam de re,
Pauca de me!29 Constant sermons, usually more than once, and perhaps three or
four times in a week, and all the other duties of a pastoral watchfulness, a
very large flock has all this while demanded of me; wherein, if I had been
furnished with as many heads as a Typheus, as many eyes as an Argos, and as many
hands as a Briareus, I might have had work enough to have employed them all; nor
hath my station left me free from obligations to spend very much time in the
Evangelical service of others also. It would have been a great sin in me to have
omitted, or abated my just cares, to fulfill my Ministry in these things, and in
a manner give my self wholly to them. All the time I have had for my Church-
History hath been perhaps only, or chiefly, that which I might have taken else
for less profitable recreations; and it hath all been done by snatches. My
reader will not find me the person intended in his Littany, when he says, Libera
me ab homine unius negotii:30 nor have I spent thirty years in shaping this my
History, as Diodorus Siculus did for his, [and yet both Bodinus and Sigonius
complain of the (greek)31; attending it. But I wish I could have enjoyed,
entirely for this work, one quarter of the little more than two years which have
rolled away since I began it; whereas I have been forged sometimes wholly to
throw by the work whole months together, and then resume it, but by a stolen
hour or two in the day, not without some hazard of incurring the title which
Coryat put upon his History of his Travels, "Crudities hastily gobbled up in
five months." Protogenes being seven years in drawing a picture, Apelles, upon
the sight of it, said, " The grace of the work was much allayed by the length of
the time." Whatever else there may have been to take off the "grace of the work"
now in the reader's hands, (whereof the pictures of great and good men make a
considerable part,) I am sure there hath not been the "length of the time" to do
it. Our English Martyrologer counted it a sufficient aplogyfor what meanness
might be found in the first edition of our "acts and monuments," that it was "
hastily rashed up in about fourteen months:" and I may apologize for this
collection of our "acts and monuments," that I should have been glad, in the
little more than two years which have ran out since I entred upon it, if I could
have had one half of "about fourteen months" to have entirely devoted thereunto.
But besides the time, which the daily services of my own first, and then many
other Churches, have necessarily called for, I have lost abundance of precious
time through the feeble and broken state of my health, which hath unfitted me
for hard study; I can do nothing to purpose at lucubrations. And yet, in this
time also of the two or three years last past, I have not been excused from the
further diversion of publishing (though not so many as they say Mercurius
Trismegistus did, yet) more than a score of other books, upon a copious variety
of other subjects, besides the composing of several more, that are not yet
published. Nor is this neither all the task that I have in this while had lying
upon me; for (though I Am very sensible of what Jerom said, Non bene fit, quod
occupato Animo fit;M32 and of Quintilian's remark, Non simul in multa intendere
Animus totum potest; 33 when I applied my mind unto this way of serving the Lord
Jesus Christ in my generation, I set upon another and a greater, which has had,
I suppose, more of my thought, and hope than this, and wherein there hath passed
me, for the most part, Nulla dies sine linea.34 I considered, that all sort of
learning might be made gloriously subservient unto the illustration of the
sacred Scripture; and that no professed commentaries had hitherto given a
thousandth part of so much illustration to it, as might be given. I considered
that multitudes of particular texts had, especially of later years, been more
notably illustrated in the scattered books of learned men, than in any of the
ordinary commentators. And I considered that the treasures of illustration for
the Bible, dispersed in many hundred volumes, might be fetched all together by a
labour that would resolve to conquer all things ; and that all the improvements
which the later ages have made in the sciences might be also, with an
inexpressible pleasure, called in, to Christ the illustration of the holy
oracles, at a rate that hast not been attempted in the vulgar Annotations; and
that a common degree of sense would help a person, who should converse much with
these things, to attempt sometimes also an illustration of his own, which might
expect some attention. Certainly, it will not be ungrateful unto good men, to
have innumerable Antiquities, Jewish, Chaldee, Arabian, Grecian, and Roman,
brought home unto us, with a sweet light reflected from them on the word, which
is our light; or, to have all the typical men and things in our Book of
Mysteries accommodated with their Antitypes: or, to have many hundreds of
references to our dearest Lord Messiah, discovered in the writings which
testifie of Him, oftner than the most of mankind have hitherto imagined: or, to
have the histories of all ages, coming in with punctual and surprising
fulfilments of the divine Prophecies, as far as they have been hitherto
fulfilled; and not mere conjectures, but even mathematical and incontestible
demonstrations, given of expositions offered upon the Prophecies, that yet
remain to be accomplished: or, to have in one heap, thousands of those
"remarkable discoveries of the deep things of the Spirit of God," whereof one or
two, or a few, sometimes, have been, with good success, accounted materials
enough to advance a person into Authorism; or to have the delicious curiosities
of Grotius, and Bochart, and Mede, and Lightfoot, and Selden, and Spencer,
(carefully selected and corrected,) and many more giants in knowledge, all set
upon one Table.

Travellers tell us, that at Florence there is a rich table, worth a thousand
crowns, made of preciouss stones neatly inlaid; a table that was fifteen years
in making, with no less than thirty men daily at work upon it; even such a table
could not afford so rich entertainments, as one that should have the soul
feasting thoughts of those learned men together set upon it. Only 'tis a pity,
that instead of one poor feeble American, overwhelmed with a thousand other
cares, and capable of touching this work no otherwise than in a digression,
there be not more than thirty men daily imployed about it. For, when the
excellent Mr. Pool had finished his laborious and immortal task, it was noted by
some considerable persons, "That wanting aasistance to collect for him many
miscellaneous criticisms, occasionally scattered in other authors, he left many
better things behind him than he found." And more than all this, our Essay is
levelled, if it be not anticipated with that Epitaph, Magnis tamen excidit
ausis.35 Designing accordingly, to give the Church of God such displays of his
blessed word, as may be more entertaining for the rarity and novelty of them,
than any that have hitherto been seen together in Any exposition; and yet such
as may be acceptable unto the most judicious, for the demonstrative truth of
them, and unto the most orthodox, for the regard had unto the Analogy of Faith
in all, I have now, in a few months, got ready an huge number of golden keys to
open the pandects of Heaven, and some thousands of charming and curious, and
singular notes, by the new help whereof, the word of CHRIST may run and be
glorified. If the God of my life will please to spare (my life my yet sinful,
and slothful, and thereby forfeited life!) as many years longer as the barren
fig tree had in the parable, I may make unto the Chureh of God an humble tender
of our Biblia Americana,36 a volume enriched with better things than all the
plate of the Indies; YET NOT I, BUT THE GRACE OF CHRIST WITH ME. My reader sees
why I commit the fault of a (greek)37 which appears in the mention of these
minute passages; 'tis to excuse whatever other fault of inaccuracy or
inadvertency may be discovered in an History, which hath been a sort of rhapsody
made up (like the paper whereon 'tis written!) with many little rags, torn from
an imployment multifarious enough to overwhelm one of my small capacities.

Magna dabit, qui magna potest; mibi parva potenti, Parvaque poscenti, parva
dedisse sat est.38

6. But shall I prognosticate thy fate, now that,

Parve (sed invideo) sine me, liber, ibis in urbem.39

Luther, who was himself owner of such an heart, advised every historian to get
the Heart of a lion; and the more I consider of the provocation, which this our
Chuceh-History must needs give to that roaring Lion who has, through all ages
hitherto, been tearing the church to pieces, the more occasion I see to wish my
self a Coeur de Lion. But had not my heart been trebly oak'd and brass'd for
such eneounters as this our history may meet withal, I would have worn the
silk-worms motto, Operitur dum operatur,40 and have chosen to have written
Anonymously; or, as Claudius Salmasius calls himself Walo Messelinus,as
Ludovicus Molinaeus calls himself Ludiomaeus Colvinus, as Carolus Scribanius
calls himself Clarus Bonarscius, (and no less men than Peter du Moulin and Dr.
Henry More, stile themselves, the one Hippolytus Fronto, the other Franciscus
Paleopolitanus.) Thus I would have tried whether I could not have Anagrammatized
my name into some concealment; or I would have referred it to be found in the
second chapter of the second Syntagm of Selden de Diis Syris. Whereas now I
freely oonfess,'tis COTTON MATHER that has written all these things;

Me, me, adsum qui scripsi; in me convertite ferrum.41

I hope 'tis a right work that I have done; but we are not yet arrived unto the
day, "wherein God will bring every work into judgment," (the day of the kingdom
that was promised unto David,) and a Son of David hath as truly as wisely told
us, that until the arrival of that happy day, this is one of the vanities
attending humane affairs: "For a right work, a man shall be envied of his
neighbour." It will not be so much a surprise unto me, if I should live to see
our Church-History vexed with anie mad-versions of calumnious writers, as it
would have been unto Virgil, to read his Bucolicks reproached by the
Anti-bucolica of a nameless scribbler, and his Aeneids travestied by the
Aeneidomastix of Carbilius: or Herennius taking pains to make a collection of
the faults, and Faustinus of the thefts, in his incomparable composures: yea,
Pliny and Seneca themselves, and our Jerom, reproaching him, as a man of no
judgment nor skill in sciences; while Poedianus affirms of him, that he was
himself, Usque adeo invidiae expers, ut si quid erudite dictum inspiceret
alterius, non minus gauderet ac si suum esset.42 How should a book no better
laboured than this of ours, escape Zoilian outrages when in all ages the moat
exquisite works have been as much vilified as Plato's by Scaliger, and
Aristotle's by Lactantius? In the time of our K. Edward VI. there was an order
to bring in all the teeth of St. Appollonia, which the people of his one kingdom
carried about them for the cure of the tooth-ach; and they were so many that
they almost filled a tun. Truly Envy hath as many teeth as Madam Apollonia would
have had, if all those pretended reliques had been really hers. And must all
these teeth be fastened on thee, O my Book? It may be so! and yet the Book, when
ground between these teeth, will prove like Ignatius in the teeth of the furious
tygers, "The whiter manchet for the Churches of God." The greatest and fiercest
rage of envy, is that which I expect from those IDUMAEANS, whose religion is all
ceremony, and whose charity is more for them who deny the most essential things
in the articles and homilies of the Church of England, than for the most
conscientious men in the world, who manifest their being so, by their dissent in
some little ceremony; or those persons whose hearts are notably expressed in
those words used by one of them ['tis Howel in his Familiar Letters, vol. 1.,
see. 6, lett. 32,] "I rather pity, than hate, Turk or Infidel, for they are of
the same metal, and bear the same stamp as I do, though the inscriptions differ;
if I hate any, 'tis those schismaticks that puzzle the sweet peace of our
Chureh; so that I could be content to see an Anabaptist go to hell on a
Brownist's back." The writer whom I last quoted, hath given us a story of a
young man in High-Holbourn, who being after his death dissected, there was a
serpent with divers tails found in the left ventricle of his heart. I make no
question, that our Church History will find some reader disposed like that
writer, with an heart as full of serpent and venom as ever it can hold: nor
indeed will they be able to hold, but the tongues and pens of those angry folks
will scourge me as with scorpions, and cause me to feel (if I will feel) as many
lashes as Cornelius Agrippa expected from their brethren, for the book in which
he exposed their vanities. A scholar of the great JUELS made once about
fourscore verses, for which the Censor of Corpus Christi Colledge, in the
beginning of Queen Maries reign, publickly and cruelly scourged him, with one
lash for every verse. Now, in those verses, the young man's prayers to the Lord
JESUS CHRIST have this for part of the answer given to them:

Respondet Dominus, spectans de sedibus altis, Ne dubites recte credere, parve
puer. Olim sum passus mortem, nunc occupo dextram Patris, nunc summi sunt mea
regna poli. Sed tu, crede miht, vires Scriptura resumet, Tolleturque suo
tempore missa nequam.43

Reader, I also expect nothing but scourges from that generation to whom the
mass-book is dearer than the Bible: but I have now likewise confessed another
expectation, that shall be my consolation under a ... They tell us, that on the
highest of the Capsian mountains, in Spain, there is a lake, whereinto if you
throw a stone, there presently ascends a smoke which forms a dense cloud, from
whence issues a tempest of rain, hail, and horrid thunder claps for a good
quarter of an hour. Our Church-History will be like a stone cast into that lake,
for the furious tempest which it will raise among some, whose Ecclesiastical
dignities have set them as on the top of Spanish mountains. The Catholick spirit
of communion wherewith 'tis written, and the liberty which I have taken to tax
the sehismatical impositions and persecutions of a party who have always been as
real enemies to the English nation as to the Christian and Protestant interest,
will certainly bring upon the whole composure the quick censures of that party
at the firstceast of their look upon it. In the Duke of Alva's council of twelve
judges, there was one Hessels, a Flemming, who slept always at the trial of
criminals, and when they waked him to deliver his opinion, he rubbed his eyes
and cryed, between sleeping and waking, Ad Patibulum! Ad patibulum! "to the
gallows with them." [And, by the way, this blade was himself, at the last,
condemned unto the gallows without an hearing!] As quick censures must this our
labour expect from those who will not bestow waking thoughts upon the
representations of Christianity here made unto the world; but have a sentence of
death always to pass, or at least wish, upon those generous principles without
which 'tis impossible to maintain the Reformation: and I confess I am very well
content, that this our labour takes the fate of those principles: nor do I
dissent from the words of the excellent Whitaker upon Luther, "Faelix ille, quem
Dominus eo Honorare dignatus est, ut Homines nequissimos suos haberet
inimicos."44 But if the old epigammatist when he saw guilty folks raving mad at
his lines, could say:

Hoc volo; nunc nobis carmina nostra placent:45

certainly an historian should not be displeased at it, if the enemies of truth
discover their madness at the true and free communications of his history; and
therefore the more stones they throw at this book, there will not only be the
more proofs that it is a tree which hath good fruits growing upon it, but I will
build my self a monument with them, whereon shall be inscribed that clause in
the epitaph of the martyr Stephen:

Excepit lavides, cui petra Christus erat:46

Albeit perhaps the epitaph 47, which the old monks bestowed upon Wickliff, will
be rather endeavoured for me, (if I am thought worth one!) by the men who will,
with all possible monkery, strive to stave off the approaching Reformation.
But since an undertaking of this nature must thus encounter so much envy from
those who are under the power of the spirit that works in the children of
unperswadeableness, methinks I might perswade my self, that it will find another
sort of entertainment from those good men who have a better spirit in them: for,
as the Apostle James hath noted, (so with Monsieur Claude I read it,) "The
spirit that is in us lusteth against envy;" and yet, even in us, also, there
will be the flesh, among whose works one is envy, which will be lusting against
the spirit. All good men will not be satisfied with every thing that is here set
before them. In my own country, besides a considerable number of loose and vain
inhabitants risen up, to whom the Congregational Church-discipline, which cannot
live well where the power of godliness dyes, is become distasteful for the
purity of it; there is also a number of eminently godly persons, who are for a
larger way, and unto these my Church- history will give distaste, by the things
which it may happen to utter in favour of that Church- discipline on some few
occasions; and the discoveries which I may happen to make of my apprehensions,
that scripture, and reason, and antiquity is for it; and that it is not far from
a glorious resurrection. But that, as the famous Mr. Baxter, after thirty or
forty years hard study, about the true instituted Church-discipline, at last not
only owned, but also invincibly proved, that it is the congregational; so, the
further that the unprejudiced studies of learned men proceed in this matter, the
more generally the Congregational Church-discipline will be pronounced for. On
the other side, there are some among us who very strictly profess the
Congregational Church-discipline, but at the same time they have an unhappy
narrowness of soul, by which they confine their value and kindness too much unto
their own party: and unto those my Chruch-History will be offensive, because my
regard unto our own declared principles does not hinder me from giving the right
hand of fellowship unto the valuable servants of the Lord Jesus Christ, who find
not our Church-discipline as yet agreeable unto their present understandings and
illuminations. If it be thus in my own country, it cannot be otherwise in that
whereto I send this account of my own. Briefly, as it hath been said, that if
all Episcopal men were like Archbishop Usher, and all Presbyterians like Stephen
Marshal, and all Independents like Jeremiah Burroughs, the wounds of the Church
would soon be healed; my essay to carry that spirit through this whole
Church-History will bespeak wounds for it, from those that are of another
spirit. And there will also be in every country those good men, who yet have not
had the grace of Christ so far prevailing in them, as utterly to divest them of
that piece of ill-nature which the Comedian resents, In homine imperito, quo nil
quicquam injustius, quia nisi quod ipse facit, nil recte factum putat.48
However, all these things, and an hudnred more such things which I think of, are
very small discouragements for such a service as I have here endeavoured. I
foresee a recompence which will abundantly swallow up all discouragements! It
may be Strato the Philosopher counted himself well recompenced for his labours,
when Ptolemy bestowed fourscore talents on him. It may be, Archimelus the poet
counted himself well recompenced, when Hiero sent him a thousand bushels of
wheat for one little epigram: and Saleius the poet might count himself well
recompenced, when Vespasian sent him twelve thousand and five hundred
philippicks; and Oppian the poet might count himself well recompenced, when
Caracalla sent him a piece of gold for every line that he had inscribed unto
him. As I live in a country where such recompences never were in fashion; it
hath no preferments for me, and I shall count that I am well rewarded in it, if
I can escape without being heavily reproached, censured, and condemned for what
I have done: so I thank the Lord, I should exceedingly scorn all such mean
considerations, I seek not out for benefactors, to whom these labours may be
dedicated: there is ONE to whom all is due! from him I shall have a recompence:
and what recompence? The recompence, whereof I do, with inexpressible joy,
assure my self is this, that these my poor labours will certainly serve the
Churches and interests of the Lord Jesus Christ. And I think I may say, that i
ask to live no longer than I count a service unto the Lord Jesus Christ and his
Churches, to be it self a glorious recompence for the doing of it. When David
was contriving to build the house of God, there was an order given from Heaven
concerning him, "Go tell David my servant." The adding of that more than royal
title unto the name of David was a sufficient recompence for all his contrivance
about the house of God. In our whole Church- History, we have been at work for
the house of the Lord Jesus Christ, [even that Man, who is the Lord God, and
whose form seems on that occasion represented unto his David.] And herein 'tis
recompence enough, that I have been a servand unto that heavenly Lord. The
greatest honour, and the sweetest pleasure, out of heaven, is to serve our
illustrious Lord Jesus Christ, who hath "loved us, and given himself for us:"
and unto whom it is infinitely reasonable that we should give our selves, and
all that we have and are: and it may be the Angels in Heaven, too, aspire not
after an higher felicity.

Unto thee, therefore, O thou Son of God, and King of Heaven, and Lord of al
lthings, whom the glorious Angels of Light unspeakable love to glorifie; I
humbly offer up a poor History of Churches, which own thee alone for their Head,
and Prince, and Law-Giver; Churches which thou hast purchased with thy own
blood, and with wonderful dispensations of thy Providence hitherto protected and
preserved; and of a people which thou didst form for thy self; to shew forth thy
praises. I bless thy great Name, for thy inclining of me to, and carrying of me
through, the work of this History: I pray thee to sprinkle the book of this
History with thy blood, and make it acceptable and profitable unto thy Churches,
and serve thy Truths and Ways among thy people, by that which thou hast here
prepared; for 'tis THOU that hast prepared it for them. AMEN.
Quid sum? Nil.--Quis sum? Nullus.--Sed gratia CHRISTI, Quod sum, quod vivo,
quodque laboro, facit.49


1 "This I say for the benefit of those who may
happen to read this book."

2 "Drove forth those pious heroes to withstand
The sea's rough rage and rougher toil on
land." (Virgil's
Aeneid, i.9. (altered.)

3 To acknowledge their imperfections.

4 The sacred writer calls her fair, not in an
absolute sense, but fair among women; implying
a distinction, in order that his praise may have
due qualification, and that she may apprehend
her deficiencies.

5 Among the many favors with which your bounty
has enriched me, I shall keep one in everlasting
remembrance--I mean the lesson I have learned
through your Reply to the Poissy Conference,
that of the fifteen centuries since Christ, the
first was the truly golden era of the Church,
and that the rest have been successive periods
of degeneracy; when therefore I had the power of
choosing between them, I preferred the golden

6 Remote regions.

7. Outer darkness.

8 An anthology

9 History is Time's witness, the messenger of
Antiquity, the lamp of Truth, the embodied soul
of Memory, the guide of human Life. --Cicero,
de Oratore, ii.9. [Slightly transposed, showing
that the writer quotes from recollection.]

10 Rather to be admired than imitated.

11 An agreeable, faithful, and accurate writer.

12 Sweeter than honey.

13 A sagacious historian, if one ever existed.

14 Appears to have outdone all other Greek and
Latin authors.

15 In him alone (so far as historians are
concerned) the Roman people found a genius
worthy of their matchless empire.

16 Great wars, sacked cities, kings in flight
or chains.

17 Readers should exercise leniency towards
historians, and bear it in mind that they cannot
be infallible in everything.

18 History is the narration of great
transactions, with awards of praise or censure
to the actors.

19 I deem it to be the highest office of
History to blazon abroad the virtues of the
race, and to hold up before depravity, whether
it be in word or deed, the dread of eternal
obloquy.--Tacitus, Annals, iii.65.

20 It is History's truest prerogative, to
praise noble achievements.

21 It is offensive to Deity himself when
dishonor is cast on such as resemble Him in the
loftiness of their virtue, or when praise is
bestowed on their opposites.

22 Much that is most false and unworthy.

23 The simplest style of writing.

24 Memoirs of ecclesiastical transactions.

25 As a little salt seasons food, and increases
its relish, so a spice of antiquity heightens
the charm of style.

26 Ask pardon for this self-praise.

27 Every writer forms mistaken judgments of his
own productions.

28 In the course of a long work.

29 Before I talk of my subject, I must say a
few things about myself.

30 Deliver me from a man of one idea.

31 Mistakes.

32 Nothing is well done, which is undertaken
with a mind preoccupied.

33 No one can bestow his whole attention upon
several things at the same time.

34 Every day has added at least one line.

35 Nevertheless, he fell short of his great

36 American Scriptures.

37 Egotistical discussion.

38 Great things he gives who hath them; 'tis my
lot to own and ask for little: but the call of
Heaven is answered if I give my all.
-Ovid, Trist.i.1.1

39 Thou, little book, while I behind thee stay,
To the great world dost take thine envied way.

40 The more closely she toils, the more closely
she hides.

41 I wrote it!--I!--vent all your spite on me!
-Virgil, Aeneid, ix.427 (travestied).

42 He was so incapable of envy that, whenever
he fell in with an elegant expression from the
pen of another, he was as much delighted as if
it had been his own.

43 The Lord, beholding from his throne,
reply'd, "Doubt not, O Youth! firmly in me
confide: I dy'd long since, now sit at the
right hand of my bless'd Father, and the world
command. Believe me, Scripture shall regain her
sway, And wicked Mass in due time fade away."

44 Happy Luther! whom the Lord signalized with
the honour of having the greatest reprobates for
his worst enemies.

45 I'm pleased at last: victorious is my wit:
The galled jade winces, and my mark is hit.
--Martial, Epig. vi.614.

46 A specimen of the bad tast for playing upon
words which so much disfigures ancient
scholastic literature: He died by stoning, but
his Rock was Christ.

47 We take the effusion alluded to by our
author, with the context, from Speed's
Chronicle, [p.760, ed. 1623.]--"This famous
Doctor, dying of a palsie, hat this charitable
Euloge or Epitaph bestowed on him by a Monke:
The Divells Instrument, Churches Enemy, Peoples
Confusion, Hereticks Idoll, Hypocrites Mirrour,
Schismes Broacher, Hatreds Sower, Lyes Forger,
Flatteries Sinke; who at his death despaired
like Cain, and stricken by the horrible judgment
of God, breathed forth his wicked soule to the
darke mansion of the black divell."

48 No one is more illiberal than he whom
ignorance has bloated with conceit:--Nought is
well done but what he does himself."-Terence,
Adelphi, Act.i., Scene 2, ver. 18.

49 What am I? Nothing.--Sovereign Grace alone
lives in my life, and does what I have done.


Promoting a Greater Understanding of the Discovery of the Americas