Mather Family. Papers

Collection History

This collection comprises papers of the Mather family, beginning with the family patriarch, Rev. Richard Mather (1596-1669), the first to emigrate from England to North America. Materials include both records created by members of the family, as well as associated materials formerly in their keeping.

Rev. Richard Mather was born in Lowton, Lancashire, England in 1596. He attended the University of Oxford briefly, before being called as minister to the Toxteth Park Puritan congregation. He was ordained in 1620, but was suspended from preaching in 1634. He married Catherine Holt ( -1656) in 1624 and the couple had six sons, four of whom became ministers. He later married Sarah Story ( -1676), widow of the Rev. John Cotton (1585-1652). He emigrated to Massachusetts in 1635, and was called by the church in Dorchester, Mass., where he remained until his death in 1669.

Rev. Mather was an active preacher and writer and a leader of Massachusetts Congregationalism. His Church Government and Church Covenant Discussed was the first defense of the New England theory of religion. He collaborated with the Rev. John Eliot (1604-1690) and the Rev. Thomas Welde (1595-1600/01) in adapting the Psalms for singing in a work called the Whole Booke of Psalms (1640), better known as the Bay Psalm Book. Rev. Mather also authored a draft of the "Cambridge Platform", the principal doctrinal statement of New England Congregationalism, and was an advocate of the Half-Way Covenant at the Synod of 1662.

The digital materials below are part of a larger collection of Mather Family papers held by the American Antiquarian Society. They include an early draft of the "Cambridge Platform" and a defense of the platform's tenants entitled “An Answere of the Elders to certayne doubts” (circa 1651), both authored by the Rev. Richard Mather. There are also writings by his contemporaries, including Ralph Partridge's (1579-1658) "Modell of Church Discipline" and an essay by John Wilson (1588-1667).

For additional information please see the AAS finding aid.


Digital Materials

"A Platform of Church Discipline", 1648

Written by Rev. Richard Mather in 1648, the full title of this manuscript is "A Platforme of Church discipline...of the churches, assembled in the Synod at Cambridge in New England...1648". It represents a draft copy of the document better known as the "Cambridge Platform", which explained and defended congregational polity as practiced in New England. The manuscript consists of 29 leaves, including an eleven-page preface entitled "The Platform", and an index. It was later published as "A Platform of Church Discipline" in 1649.

“Modell of Church Discipline”, circa 1648

"Modell of Church Discipline” is another early draft of the Cambridge Platform as composed by the Rev. Ralph Partridge, Puritan minister of Duxbury, who co-wrote the document along with Rev. Richard Mather and Rev. John Cotton.

“Of the Church and the Government of it”, circa 1648

This document was composed by Rev. John Wilson (c.1588–1667), a Puritan clergyman in Boston and minister of the First Church of Boston from 1630 until his death in 1667. The manuscript contains a number of headings relating to church governance and Rev. Wilson's interpretations of these.

"An Answere of the Elders to certayne doubts", circa 1651

This manuscript, the full title of which is "An Answere of the Elders to certayne doubts in the Platforme of Discipline”, was composed by the Rev. Richard Mather around 1651. It contains arguments defending "certain passages" of the Cambrige Platform against various criticisms.


Related Materials

Mather, Cotton. Diary and personal documents, 1616-1619

A Servant of the Lord, Not Ashamed of His Lord : A Short Essay to Fortify the Minds of All Persons, Especially of Young Persons, Against the Discouragements of Piety, Offered in the Derisions of the Impious [PDF] (1704) by Cotton Mather

Pedigree of the Family Mather [PDF] from A Brief History of the War with the Indians in New-England… (1676) by Increase Mather
  Genealogical chart showing nine generations