Cotton Mather.

Essays to do good; addressed to all Christians, whether in public or private capacities online

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J 111!







To do good, and to communicate forget not Heb xiii. IC.


From the latest Boston and London Editions.



3old by Whiting & Tiffany. New- Haven Con. ; D Whitlflg, Tro^i
and B B Hopkins, Paf'n'dJfiitict.







The Editor's Preface, with a sketch of the Author's 1


Much occasion for doing good

The excellence of well-doing

The reward of well-doin^

The dil gence of wtcked men in doing evil

The true nature of good worlds

On seeking opportunities to do good

On nternal p ety and self-exam 'nation

On good to our relations, children, 8tc.

to our servants

• to our ne'ghlours

Private oaeetings forr.lig'on

Proposals to the Min sters of the Gospel

Directions for pastoral vistts

The duties of school-masters

Proposals to churches for doing good


— physicians

•^ rich men


Miscellaneous proposals to gentlemen
♦ Proposals to churcli, C'Vil, and military ofTicer


J|_^ Societies for the reformation of manners

A catalogue of uesirable things .
jmrn^ Conclusion . , • .

. ^^ Oh fulfilling engagements for paying debts





J. HE following Essays were first published by Dr. Cotton
Mather, at Boston in New-England, in the year 1710. The
design of the author is thus expressed in his title page»
" BoNiFAcius : An Essay upon the Good that is to be de-
vised and designed by those wUo desire to answer the great
end of life, and to Do Good while they live. A book offered,
first, in general, unto all Christians, in a personal capacity, or
in a relative. Then more particularly unto magistrates,
ministers, plsysicians, lawyers, schoolmasters, gentlemen, offi-
cer?, churches, and unto all societies of a religious character
and intention : with humble proposals of unexceptionable me-
thods to do gmd in the world."

In the present edition, this title is abridged, and the nmmn.','
iUle, used by the author in tfie original woik, is substituted,
Essays to do good, which the reader may understand to
signify, " attempts to do good ;" which was probably the
author's intention in the use of that phrase; or, he may con-
sider tiiis little volume as composed of a set of Essays, on the
noble subject of doing good in this present evil world.

The various methods of doing good, here proposed to the
public, derive no small recommendation from the example of
the excellent author, whose Avhole life was a practical com-
ment on the subject, and who might have said to tlie readers
of his own days, " be ye followers of me." To tho=e who niay
not have had an opportuoity to peruse his life, the following
slight sketch of it may be acceptable.

Dr. Cotton Mather, who was born February 12, 1663, at
Boston, in New-England, was honourably descended from
families whose eminent piety, and sufferings for righteousness*
sake, rendered them " the excellent of the earth." Dr. In-
crease Mather, his lather, was pastor of the North Church, iu
A 2


Bo'^ton, and President of Harvard College ; his mother was the
daUf^liler of the renowned Mr. John Cotton, a minister of ex-
alted religion and uncommon learning.

At twelve years of age, our author had attained a conside-
rable knowledge of Latin, Greek, and Hebrew ; he was admit-
ted into the college at sixteen : at eighteen, took his first
degree ; and before he was nineteen, proceeded Master of

From his earliest years, he discovered a love to religion ;
lie prayed much in private, and constantly read fifteen chap-
ters of the Bible in a day. At fourteen, he kept days of private
fastidg and prayer ; devoted a tenth of his little income to
pious uses; and at sixteen, became a member of the church.

At this early period of life, he adopted it as a maxim, " that
a power and an opportunity to do good, not only gives a right
to tiie doing of it, but makes the doing of it a duty" On this
maxim he determined to act, and continued to do so through-
out his whole Mfe.

In the execution of this noble design, he began in his fath< -'i
family, to do all the good in his power to his brothers, his
("istt^-rs, and th? servants. He imposed on himself a rule, never
to enter any company, where it was proper for him to speak,
without endeavouring to be useful in it : and in doing this, he
found that promise fulfilled, '' tohina that hath shall be given ;"
for on the faithful Improvement of his talents, his opportunities
of usefulness were gradually increased, till he became a blessing
to whoie churches, towns, and countries.

In the management of his very numerous affairs, he was a
man of uncommon dispatch and activity ; but he was obliged
to improve every moment of his time ; and that he might not
suff. r by impertiucnt and tedious visitors, he wrote over his
study door in large letters, BE SHORT.

Tiie writer of his life, Mr. Samud Mather, his son, gives us
the following specimen of his surprising activity, in the review
of a single year ; in the coiuse of whiih. he preached seventy-
two public sermons, and tbout half that number in private. Not
a day passed, without some contrivance to do good, which he
regi -'ereJ ; be>id.^ many, probably, not noticed in his diary. Not
% day passed, without his b«iog able to say at the close of it^


that some part of his income had been distributed for pioiTS
purposes. He prepared and published, in this year, about foar»
teen books ; and kept sixty-two fasts and twenty two vigils.

T\'hen he was about nineteen, he was chosen co pastor with
his father ; from which time, till his death, he continued a
laborious, zealous, and useful minister of the glorious gospel.
He continued also a close and diligent student, acquiring a
prodigious fund of the most valua*5le koowhdge : and that his
usefulness might t^xtend beyond the limits of his own country?
he learued the French and Spanish languages, and in his forty-
fifth year took the pains to acquire a knowledge of the Indian
(Iroquois) tongue, in each of wnich he published useful treatises.

The greatest genius in the world would liave foond it im-
pose ibl'^ to ( fFect so much, without a sacred regard to method;
in this, Di . M-ither was studiously exict. That all his pursuits
miglit have their proper places, he used to propose to himself
a ct 1 taiu question in the morning of every day, in the follow-'
ing order :

Sitbbatk morning. What shall I do, as a pastor of a church,
for the good of the flock under my charge ?

M'juday. What shall I do in my family, and for the good
©f it ?

Tuesday. AVhat shall I d 3 for my relations abroad ?

Wednesday . What shall I do for the churches of the Lord,
and the more general interest of religion in the world P

Thund/iy. What good may I do iu the several societies to
which i belong I'

Friday What special subjects of affliction, and objects of
compassion may I take under my particular care, and what
shfii I do foi them.P

Saturday. What more have I to do for the interest of God,
in my own heart and life ?

By this careful observation of metliod, by the readiness of
his uivention, and his peculiar celerity in the dispatcl) of busi-
ness, ne was enabled not only to pt rlorm all the duties of the
pasfoiitl office, and to assist in the formation and support of
numrious sovieties, but also to compose an uncomniPii nuiifier
of b:;.')ks. Hi- bi'igrrtpher gives u^ a c^t.i oj/u- of ii- ;', or to mankind, he owed to a small book which
he accidentally met with, entitled, " Essays to do goody This
little book he studied with care and attention, laid up the
sentiments in his memory, and resolved, from that time, which
was in his earjy youth, that he would make doing good the
grt^at purpose and business of his life*.

• In a letter from Dr Franklin to Dr Mather .son of the author,
dated Passy, (in France,) Nov 10, 1779, we have the following

' Referring to a paper of advice to the people of the United
States, just puJished by Dr Mather, he says,

" Such writings, though they may ue lightly passed over by


Those who are acquainted with the style of Dr. Mather,
will readily allow that some alterationei were necessary to
render it agreeable to a modern reader. The Editor was
obliged to change many quaint and obsolete words and phrases,
for others more intelligible and pleasant ; the Latin eentences
were translated by a learned friend*, and the whole adapted
to more general usefulness.

The Editor only adds, that it will afford peculiar delight to
the benevolent reader to 6nd, as he peruses the following
pagps, that many of those public schemes of usefulness, which
were projected by the author a century ago, have, within these
few years, been recommended, adopted, and carried into effect
in this free and happy country ; and every year gladdens our
hearts with the establishment of some new institution ; some
new "Essay to do good." May the God of all goodness
smile on every attempt to promote his glory, by promoting
the happiness of his creatures. Much yet remains to be done ;
and should the perusal of this volume tend to raise the holy
flame of benevolent zeal in the hearts of sincere Christians,
or wisely direct its operations, it will afford a rich recompense
for the labour of


London, April 27, 1807.

many readers, j^et, if they make a deep impression on one active
mind in a hundred, the effects may be considerable "

'• Permit me to mention one litlie instance, which, though it re-
lates to myself, will not he quite uninteresting to you. When I
ivas a boy, I met with a boaw entitled '■ Essays to do good,''*
which I think was written by your father. It had been so little
Te.;arded by its former possessor, that several leaves of it were
lorn out; hut the remaiDder gave me such a turn of thinking, as
to have an influenre on my conduct throu;^h life; for 1 have
always set » greater '-alue on the character of a doer of good, than
any other kind of i-eputation ; and if I have i-een. as you seem to
think, a useful citizen, the public owes the advantage of it to that
looic." Dr. Franklin's works. Vol 3 pagtAl^

• iVofe. In the present New- York Edition, the translations are
generally inserted in the test, and the Latin preserved in the
marginal notes.


Among the many customs of tiie world, with which it is aU
Boost necessary to comply, this is one. That a book must not
appear without a Preface : and this little book willingly sub-
iTiits to the customary ceremony. It comes with a Preface ;
however, it shall be one like the gates of Mindiis. But there
sj; a greater difficulty in complying with another usage, that of
"■ An Epistle Dedicatory." Dedications are become such
ioolish and fulsome adulations, that they are almost useless :
frequently they answer no other purpose than to fumi'^h the
critics on " the manners of the age" with matter of ridicule.
The excellent Mr. Boyle employed but a just expression iu
Baying, " It is almost as much out of fashion in such addresses
to omit giving praise?, (I may say unjust ones) a? it is to be-
lieve the praises given on such occasions " Sometimes the au-
thors ihematlves live to see their own mistakes, and acknow-
ledge them. Austin makes the flourishes which he had once
used in a "Dedication," an article of his" Retractitions j"
and Calvin revokes a dedication, because he finds he had made
it to an unworthy person. I may add, that at other times,
every one perceives what the authors aim at, and that, iu
fact, they write for themselves while they flatter other men.
Another course must now be steered.

if a book of Essays to do Good were to be dedicated to a
jjerson of quality, it should seek a patron who is a true man of
honour, and of uncommon goodness. Thy pntron, O book of
benefits to the world, should be a general and generous bene-
factor to maiikitid ; one who never accounts himself so well ad-
vanced, as in stooping to do good, one whose highest ambition
is to abound in serviceable condescensions ; a stranger to tlie
gain of oppression, the common refuge of the oppressed and the
distressed ; one who will know nothing that is base, a lover of
all good men, in all persuasions; abie tudistinguish tbeio, and


loving them without any distiuciion. Let him also be one who
has nobly stripped hiinseh' of emolumeuls and advantages'
when they would have encumbered his opportunities to serve
his country. Yea, presume upon one who has governed
and adorned the greatest city on the face of the earth, and
so much the '' delight" of that city, as well as of the rest of
mankind, that she shall never account her honour or weif ire
better consulted, than when h'^ appears for her as a represent-
ative in the most illustrious assembly in the world.

In one word, a public spirit. Let him, therefoi'e, and on
more than all these accounts, be

For as of old the poet observed on mentioning the name of
' Plutarch," that the echo answered " Philosophy :" So now
A PUBLIC SPIRIT will iuiQitdiately be the echo in the sense of
all men, and with a repel ition more frequent than that at
Point Chareton, if the name of Sir William Ashhurst once
\)e mentioned. He it is whom the confession of all men bri ngs
into the catalogue with Abnham and Joseph, and thofe other
ancient blessings, who are thus excellently described by Gro-
tius : '' Men born to serve mankind, who reckon it their great-
est gain to have it in their power to do good*." America afar
off, also knows Iiim ; t*ie American colonies have their eye on
the efforts of his goodness for th( m. Nations of christianized
Indians likewise pray for him ?»s their govfmor. To him the
design of such a book will be acceptable, whatever may be the
defective manner of treating its noble subject. To him it
wishes that all the blessings of those who devise good, may be
for ever multiplied.

I will presume to do something that will carry a sweet har-
mony Viith one of the chief method? to be observed in prose-
cuting the design of this book ; which is, for " brethren to
dwell together in unity," and carry on every good design with
united endeavours.

They will pardon me, if I take leave to join with him, in
the testimonies of our great esteem, for an honourable dispo-

• Honihies demereo'l'ts hominibus nati, qui OBDuem beneficii ccl»
locandi occasienem poncbant in lucre.


sition to love good men, and to do good in the world, bis ex~
tellent brother in law, the well-known name of a

who lias long been valued, and shall always be remembered,
in the country where this book is published. God will be gio-
rilied for th^jiety which adorns him, and the " pure religion,"
which, in tlie midst of the world and of temptations from it,
keeps him so " unspottf-d from the world." It was the max-
im of a Pagan Asdiubal in Livy, " mtn distin.ffiiished by their
prosperity are seldom distingui.^hed for virtue*." Chr:stiv:nity
will in this gentleman give to Hie world an hap))y experi-
ment, that the maxim is capable of a confutation. B^-cTuse a
book of " Essays to do good" will doubiless be acceptable to
one of so good a minJ j and the treasurer of a corporation
formed on tiie intention to do in America that good which is
of ail the greatest, of which Sir William As-hhurst is tlie go-
vernor-, he also has a part in the humble tender of it ; and it
Dm t wish unto him " all the blessings of goodopss."

The book now requires tliat some account be given of it.
It Was a passage in llie speech of an envoy from his Britannic
Majesty to the duke of Brandenburg, some years ngo : '*• A ca-
pacity to do good, not only gives* a title to it, but al^o makes
the doing of it a duty." Ink were too vile a liquor to write
that passage. Letters of gold were too mean to be the pre-
servers of it. Paper of Amyanthurf would not be precious
and perennons enough to perpetuate it.

To be brief, reader, the book now in tiiy hands, is nothing
but sn illustration of that memorable sentence : As gold 13
capable of a wonderf.d dilatation, (experiment has told ns it
raAy be so dilated, tliat the hundred ihousaudtli part of a graia

* Rare s'.mul horn'nibus, bona fortuna. bonaqiie mens datiir.

t Amyanthus or A5he.?tos, a sort of native fossil stone which
may be split into thread", anJ ma.le into c'oth or paper It is
not injured hy the fire PHny says he has seen Napkins ii.aiJe of
it thrown into the fire after a feait, aud by that means I etter srour-
edthaa if they had Leea washed in -water bee Eocyclopedta



ihay be visible v/iihout a microscope) this " golden sentcTice*'
may be as much extended : "no man can say how miich. Thi3
book is but a beating upon it. And at tlie same time it is a
commentary on that inspired maxim, " As we have opportuni-
ty, let us do good unto all men." Gal. vi. 10. Every propo-
sal here made upon it hopes to be able to say,^' when I am
tried, I shall come forth as gold."

I am Avell aware that all the rules of discretion and beha-
viour are included in that one word, iriodesli) But it will be
no breach of modesty to be very positive in asserting, that the
only wisdom of man lies in conversing with th^ great God, and
his glorions Chrtst, and in engaging as many others as we
can to join with us in this our blessednejs ; thereby promoting
his kingdom among the children of men ; and in studying to do
good to all about as ; to be blessings in our several relations j
to heal the disorders, and to help the distresses of a miserable
world, as far as ever we can extend our iniJuence. It will be
no trespass upon the rules of raode.sty, with all possible assn-
rance to assert, that no man beoins to be wise till he come to
make this the main purpose and pleasure of his life: yea, that
every man will at some time or other be so wise as to own,
that every thing without this is but fol'y; though, alas!
most men come to that conclusion too late.

Millions of men, in every rank, besides those v/hose d};
in«'//io?tg'^?s are collected in " The Fair Warnings to a care-
less world," have at length declared tiieir conviction of it. }
will be no immodesty in me to say, tiiat the man who i
not satisfied of the wisdom of making it the work of his life to
do good, is always to be noticed with the pity due te an idiot.
Ko first principles are inure peremptorily to be adhered unto
Or, do but grant " A judgment to come," and my assertion i
presently victorious,

I will not be immodest, and yet I will boldly say, The xnz\
h worse than a Pagan, Avho will not come into this notion o
things. " Vir bonus est commune bonum ;* and " Vivit is qn
sjultis est usi ;" and " Utilitate homininn, nil debet ess'

• A goofl man is a coiBmoa good.


iiOikiai antiquius." " Noneljut a good man is really a living
maa ; and the more good 3|^ man dt5es, the more he really.
lives." All the rest is deatli; or belongs to it. Yea, you must
excuse me, if I say, the Mahometan, also, shall condemn the
man who conies not into the principles of this book; for I
think it occurs no less than three times in the Koran ; " God
ioves those that are inclined to do good."

Fer this way of living, if we are fallen into a genei-alion,
wherein men will cry, (Sotah !) " He is a fool," that practises
it, as the Rabbins forlel it Avill be in the generation wherei"
Ihe Messiah comes; yet there will he a wiser generation, and
" wisdom will be justified of her children." Among the Jews
there has beea an Ezra, whose head they called " The thione
of wisdom." Among the Greeks tliere has been a Democri-
tu8, who was called Sophi.4 in the abstractc The later age*
knew a Gildas, who wore the surname of Sapiens: but it is the
man whose temper aud intent it is " to do good," that is the
wise man after all^ And indeed, liad a man the hands of a
Briareus, they would all be too few to go good ; he might find
occasions to call |jpr more than all of them. The English na-
tion had once a sect of men called " Bons hommes," or " good
men." The ambition of this book is to levive and enlarge a
sect that may claim that name ; yea, to solicit that it may ex-
tend beyond the bounds of a sect, by the coming of all men
■into it.

Of all the " trees in the garden of God," wliich is thrre that
envies not the Palm tree, cut of whicli alone, as Plutarch in

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Online LibraryCotton MatherEssays to do good; addressed to all Christians, whether in public or private capacities → online text (page 1 of 13)