A DEFENCE OF THE ANSWER AND ARGUMENTS OF THE SYNOD MET AT BOSTON IN THE YEAR 1662. CONCERNING THE SUBJECT OF BAPTISM AND CONSOCIATION OF CHURCHES....TOGETHER WITH AN ANSWER TO THE APOLOGETICAL PREFACE SET BEFORE THE ESSAY
by Mather, Richard, and Jonathan Mitchel
Cambridge [Ma.]: Printed by S. Green and M. Johnson for Hezekiah Usher of Boston, 1664. ,46,102pp. plus the final blank. Small quarto. Modern calf, gilt leather label. Light marginal dampstaining to latter half of text. A few leaves trimmed close, affecting marginal notes in some places. Minor toning and foxing. Very good. A very important early American imprint, the first prose book of over one hundred pages produced in the British North American colonies. It is the longest and probably one of the only obtainable works from the first quarter century of printing in America. This work is of the greatest importance as a document of New England church history. The Synod of 1662 was largely concerned with the question of baptism and the church membership of children. Holmes notes: "...afterwards, church bodies were strained between Synodists and anti-Synodists for half a century or more...Like a red thread in a tapestry, the question of baptism runs through the whole history of the Protestant movement in Europe, in England, and in America. Puritans with strict views, like those held by the Rev. John Davenport of New Haven, administered baptism only to the 'infant seed' of church members of regenerated life who were in full Communion; that is, only to children of persons who had experienced conversion and could give an account of spiritual transformation...." This system of belief worked very well in the first generation of New England settlement, but by the 1650s increasing numbers of the second generation and new immigrants could not qualify themselves to partake of Communion. Thus, these parents were unable to confer church membership on their children. Moderating forces suggested a relaxation of the rules of church membership, a position Richard Mather took as early as 1645. The subject was hotly debated until the synod of 1662, when Jonathan Mitchel and Richard Mather led the way to what is known as the Half-Way Covenant. This opened the way for church membership for the children of professing Christians in good standing in the community. This liberalization of the rules for church membership was abhorrent to the more conservative elements in New England. John Davenport, a leader of the conservatives, was joined by Increase Mather - the son of Richard and a student of Mitchel - in attacking the decision of the Synod. Davenport and Mather called for a return to the stricter rules for admission to church membership in a pamphlet attacking the Half-Way Covenant. The present work is the reply of Richard Mather and Jonathan Mitchel. In it, they restate the arguments they had presented two years before, and elaborate upon them. But Holmes says, "If strict logic were the only thing to be considered, the unbending Davenport and his young disciple were correct. But the altered state of the church needed compromise. It seemed to the synodists the lesser evil to admit unregenerate persons to a modified half-way membership, than yield to the pressing alternative of admitting them later to full membership and to the Communion. Mather, after the death of his father, saw this and he reversed his position." This work, a dispute between Richard Mather and his son, Increase, ties together two views of New England theology from its most famous family. It is of futher interest for its printers, the Green family, the third printers in British America, and for its publisher, Hezekiah Usher. To find a 17th-century American imprint of this early date and importance is extremely difficult today. No copies appear in auction records for the past thirty-five years. EVANS 89. CHURCH 588. HOLMES, MINOR MATHERS 39. HOLMES, INCREASE MATHER 90. DEXTER 1949. WING M1271. ESTC W19818.
(Inventory #: WRCAM51797)
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