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- The Emancipation of Massachusetts - 50/65 -


that retribution should be meted out to him for his crimes, at least he did not escape unscathed, for Calef and the Brattles, who had long been on his father's track and his, now seized him by the throat. He knew well they had been with him in the chamber of Margaret Rule, that they had gathered all the evidence; and so when Calef sent him a challenge to stand forth and defend himself, he shuffled and equivocated.

At length a rumor spread abroad that a volume was to be published exposing the whole black history, and then the priest began to cower. His Diary is full of his prayers and lamentations. "The book is printed, and the impression is this week arrived here.... I set myself to humble myself before the Lord under these humbling and wondrous dispensations, and obtain the pardon of my sins, that have rendered me worthy of such dispensations....

"28d. 10m. Saturday.--The Lord has permitted Satan to raise an extraordinary storm upon my father and myself. All the rage of Satan against the holy churches of the Lord falls upon us. First Calf's book, and then Coleman's, do set the people in a mighty ferment. All the adversaries of the churches lay their heads together, as if, by blasting of us, they hoped utterly to blow up all. The Lord fills my soul with consolations, inexpressible consolations, when I think on my conformity to my Lord Jesus Christ in the injuries and reproaches that are cast upon me....

"5d. 2m. Saturday [1701].--I find the enemies of the churches are set with an implacable enmity against myself; and one vile fool, namely, R. Calf, is employed by them to go on with more of his filthy scribbles to hurt my precious opportunities of glorifying my Lord Jesus Christ. I had need be much in prayer unto my glorious Lord that he would preserve his poor servant from the malice of this evil generation, and of that vile man particularly." [Footnote: _Mass. Hist. Soc. Proc._ 1855-58, pp. 290-293.]

"More Wonders of the Invisible World" appeared in 1700, and such was the terror the clergy still inspired it is said it had to be sent to London to be printed, and when it was published no bookseller in Boston dared to offer it in his shop. [Footnote: _Some Few Remarks_, p. 9.] Yet though it was burnt in the college yard by the order of Increase Mather, it was widely read, and dealt the deathblow to the witchcraft superstition of New England. It did more than this: it may be said to mark an era in the intellectual development of Massachusetts, for it shook to its centre that moral despotism which the pastors still kept almost unimpaired over the minds of their congregations, by demonstrating to the people the necessity of thinking for themselves. But what the fate of its authors would have been had the priests still ruled may be guessed by the onslaught made on them by those who sat at the Mathers' feet. "Spit on, Calf; thou shalt be but like the viper on Pauls hand, easily shaken off, and without any damage to the servant of the Lord." [Footnote: _Idem_, p. 22.]

CHAPTER VIII.

BRATTLE CHURCH.

If the working of the human mind is mechanical, the quality of its action must largely depend upon the training it receives. Viewed as civilizing agents, therefore, systems of education might be tested by their tendency to accelerate or retard the intellectual development of the race. The proposition is capable of being presented with almost mathematical precision; the receptive faculty begins to fail at a comparatively early age; thereafter new opinions are assimilated with increasing difficulty until the power is lost. This progressive period of life, which is at best brief, may, however, be indefinitely shortened by the interposition of artificial obstacles, which have to be overcome by a waste of time and energy, before the reason can act with freedom; and when these obstacles are sufficiently formidable, the whole time is consumed and men are stationary. The most effectual impediments are those prejudices which are so easily implanted in youth, and which acquire tremendous power when based on superstitious terrors. Herein, then, lies the radical divergence between theological and scientific training: the one, by inculcating that tradition is sacred, that accurate investigation is sacrilege, certain to be visited with terrific punishment, and that the highest moral virtue is submission to authority, seeks to paralyze exact thought, and to produce a condition in which dogmatic statements of fact, and despotic rules of conduct, will be received with abject resignation; the other, by stimulating the curiosity, endeavors to provoke inquiry, and, by encouraging a scrutiny of what is obscure, tries to put the mind in an impartial and questioning attitude toward all the phenomena of the universe.

The two methods are irreconcilable, and spring from the great primary instincts which are called conservatism and liberality. Necessarily the movement of any community must correspond exactly with the preponderance of liberalism. Where the theological incubus is unresisted it takes the form of a sacred caste, as among the Hindoos; appreciable advance then ceases, except from some external pressure, such as conquest. The same tendencies in a mitigated form are seen in Spain, whereas Germany is scientific.

Such being the ceaseless conflict between these natural forces, the vantage-points for which the opposing parties have always struggled in western Europe are the pulpits and the universities. Through women the church can reach children at their most impressionable age, while at the universities the teachers are taught. Obviously, if a priesthood can control both positions their influence must be immense. At the beginning of any movement the conservatives are almost necessarily in possession, and their worst reverses have come from defection from within; for unless their organization is so perfect as not only to be animated by a single purpose, but capable of being controlled by a single will, liberals will penetrate within the fold, and if they can maintain their footing and preach with the authority of the ancient tradition it leads to revolution. It was thus the Reformation was accomplished.

The clergy of Massachusetts, with the true priestly instinct, took in the bearings of their situation from the instant they recognized that their political supremacy was passing away, and in order to keep their organization in full vigor they addressed themselves with unabated energy to enforcing the discipline which had been established; at the same time they set the ablest of their number on guard at Harvard. But the task was beyond their strength; they might as well have tried to dam the rising tide with sand.

There is a limit to the capacity of even the most gifted man, and Increase Mather committed a fatal error when he tried to be professor, clergyman, and statesman at once. He was, it is true, made president in 1685, but the next year John Leverett and William Brattle were chosen tutors and fellows, who soon developed into ardent liberals; so it happened that when the reverend rector went abroad in 1688, in his character of politician, he left the college in the complete control of his adversaries. He was absent four years, and during this interval the man was educated who was destined to overthrow the Cambridge Platform, the corner-stone of the conservative power.

Benjamin Colman was one of Leverett's favorite pupils and the intimate friend of Pemberton. As he was to be a minister, he stayed at Cambridge until he took his master's degree in 1695; he then sailed at once for England in the Swan. When she had been some weeks at sea she was attacked by a French privateer, who took her after a sharp action. During the fight Colman attracted attention by his coolness; but he declared that though he fired like the rest, "he was sensible of no courage but of a great deal of fear; and when they had received two or three broadsides he wondered when his courage would come, as he had heard others talk." [Footnote: _Life of B. Colman_, p. 6.]

After the capture the Frenchmen stripped him and put him in the hold, and had it not been for a Madame Allaire, who kept his money for him, he might very possibly have perished from the exposure of an imprisonment in France, for his lungs were delicate. Moreover, at this time of his life he was always a pauper, for he was not only naturally generous, but so innocent and confiding as to fall a victim to any clumsy sharper. Of course he reached London penniless and in great depression of spirits; but he soon became known among the dissenting clergy, and at length settled at Bath, where he preached two years. He seems to have formed singularly strong friendships while in England, one of which was with Mr. Walter Singer, at whose house he passed much time, and who wrote him at parting, "Methinks there is one place vacant in my affections, which nobody can fill beside you. But this blessing was too great for me, and God has reserved it for those that more deserved it.--I cannot but hope sometimes that Providence has yet in store so much happiness for me, that I shall yet see you." [Footnote: _Life of B. Colman_, p. 48.]

Meanwhile opinion was maturing fast at home; the passions of the witchcraft convulsion had gone deep, and in 1697 a movement began under the guidance of Leverett and the Brattles to form a liberal Congregational church. The close on which the meetinghouse was to stand was conveyed by Thomas Brattle to trustees on January 10, 1698, and from the outset there seems to have been no doubt as to whom the pastor should be. On the 10th of May, 1699, a formal invitation was dispatched to Colman by a committee, of which Thomas Brattle was chairman, and it was accompanied by letters from many prominent liberals. Leverett wrote, "I shall exceedingly rejoice at your return to your country. We want persons of your character. The affair offered to your consideration is of the greatest moment." William Brattle was even more emphatic, while Pemberton assured him that "the gentlemen who solicit your return are mostly known to you--men of repute and figure, from whom you may expect generous treatment; ... I believe your return will be pleasing to all that know you, I am sure it will be inexpressibly so to your unfeigned friend and servant." [Footnote: _Life of B. Colman_, pp. 43, 44.] It was, however, thought prudent to have him ordained in London, since there was no probability that the clergy of Massachusetts would perform the rite. When he landed in November, after an absence of four years, he was in the flush of early manhood, highly trained for theological warfare, having seen the world, and by no means in awe of his old pastor, the reverend president of Harvard.

The first step after his arrival was to declare the liberal policy, and this was done in a manifesto which was published almost at once. [Footnote: _History of Brattle St. Church_, p. 20.] The efficiency of the Congregational organization depended upon the perfection of the guard which the ministers and the congregations mutually kept over each other. On the one hand no dangerous element could creep in among the people through the laxness of the elder, since all candidates for the communion had to pass through the ordeal of a public examination; on the other the orthodoxy of the ministers was provided for, not only by restricting the elective body to the communicants, but by the power of the ordained clergy to "except against any election of a pastor who ... may be ... unfit for the common service of the gospel." [Footnote: Propositions determined by the Assembly of Ministers. _Magnalia_, bk. 5, Hist. Remarks, Section 8.]

The declaration of the Brattle Street "undertakers" cut this system at the root, for they announced their intention to dispense with the relation of experiences, thus practically throwing their communion open to all respectable persons who would confess the Westminster Creed; and more fatal still, they absolutely destroyed the homogeneousness of the ecclesiastical constituency: "We cannot confine the right of chusing a minister to the male communicants alone, but we think that every baptized


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