Apology for the Liberties of the Churches in New England


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MATHER, Samuel. An Apology for the Liberties of the Churches in New England: To which is prefix'd, A Discourse concerning Congregational Churches. Boston: T. Fleet for Daniel Henchman, 1738. Octavo, mid-20th century three-quarter green morocco gilt, raised bands, marbled endpapers.

First edition of Samuel Mather’s vigorous defense of congregational church polity, inscribed opposite the title page, “For the Honorable Mr. Dummer from his most respectful obliged Friend and obedient Servant, The Author,” handsomely bound.

Son of renowned Puritan clergyman Cotton Mather, Samuel "represents the end of the 'Mather Dynasty' and its political and theological influence in New England" (ANB). In this volume, he appeals to Scripture and patristic authorities to defend congregational churches' self-governance—including the rights to choose their officers and ordain their ministers, to set standards for receiving Communion, and to exercise private and public discipline—as the ecclesiastical polity "instituted by their great Lawgiver and King… In their conforming to that Institution with inviolable Fidelity, they shine with superior Glory to others." Ornamental woodcut head- and tailpieces; small historiated woodcut initial on page 1. Evans 4275. Sabin 46791. Old owner signature to title page. "The Honorable Mr. Dummer" of the inscription may be William Dummer, early 18th-century acting governor of Massachusetts who commanded armed forces during battles with the Wabanaki Confederacy on the Maine frontier (sometimes called "Governor Dummer's War"). "Notwithstanding his resolution of the war, Dummer's success in office depended upon currying favor in England and not in America… In 1725 Dummer approved the meeting of a synod of Congregational ministers in spite of the opposition of the local Anglican clergy. The Anglicans complained to the duke of Newcastle, who declared the meeting an infringement upon royal prerogatives and ordered the cancellation of the synod. Dummer's term as acting governor ended with the death of George I and the nomination of William Burnet to the governorship" (ANB). A man "of firm religious faith," Dummer "appears to have been on terms of cordial friendship" with Mather (Cleveland, First Century of Dummer Academy, 14). Dummer subscribed to Mather's 1729 biography of Cotton Mather.

Scattered light foxing, dampstaining. Spine and extreme edges toned to brown. An extremely good inscribed presentation copy.

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