In the study of history as an academic discipline, a primary source (also called original source or evidence) is an artifact, a document, a recording, or other source of information that was created at the time under study. It serves as an original source of information about the topic.And I got 'em.
As part of my research towards writing the full-length version of my Ben Franklin play, I've gotten hold of a pamphlet by Cotton Mather entitled
Grace defended. A censure on the ungodliness, by which the glorious grace of God, is too commonly abused. A sermon preached on the twenty fifth day of December, 1712.It's a long screed against Christmas - the Puritans hated Christmas - which is why it was preached December 25.
Now since it was published in 1712 it was in the public domain before there was a US Copyright Office, but even so, I had to pay $12 to get a copy printed on dead trees because it was not transcribed online anywhere.
I will start to transcribe this pamphlet so that it will now be completely accessible to anybody for free. You won't even have to have a library card.
It's going to take a few installments - the copy I have is basically photocopies of the original, which means it has to be translated from all the screwy English colonialisms and vagaries of type-setting, like the way they used the letter f instead of the lower-case s quite often. Here's what the original cover looked like:
The primary reason for my interest in this is because James Franklin (brother of Ben) printed a defense of Christmas in the New England Courant on Christmas Day 1722, most likely just to tweak Mather. And this conflict is going into my play.
I am also trying to get my hands on every single existing issue of the New England Courant - for, stunningly, it seems as though for the past 300 years, give or take, nobody has considered it a worthwhile endeavor to gather all issues into a single publication or even library collection, as far as I can tell. I emailed the Franklin Institute today to see if they have any further information. I will post their response here of course.
Cotton Mather - his name makes me think of a snake, like the cottonmouth. But I digress.
And so without further ado...
By which the Glorious
GRACE OF GOD,
is too commonly Abused.
A SERMON Preached on the
Twenty fifth Day of December, 1712
Containing Some SEASONABLE
Admonitions of Piety.
And Concluded, with a brief DISSERTATION
on that CASE, Whether the Penitent Thief on
the Cross, be an Example of one Repenting as the
LAST HOUR, and on such a Repentance
received unto Mercy?
By Cotton Mather, D. D.
(unreadable text) I Cry aloud Spare not
BOSTON Printed by B Green for Samuel Gerrish
at his shop in Marlborough Street. 1712
On the Twenty-fifth of December, 1712. BOSTON-Lecture.
at his shop in Marlborough Street. 1712
JUDE 4.Ungodly Men, turning the Grace of our God into Wantonness.
What? And so Early, such Unhappy Men and Things Creep into the Churches of God! It seems Christian Churches cannot Easily be too much cautioned against Sly Adversaries, and Swift-Apostates OURS, I am sure, are Old enough to be so, In Age gone beyond those who were now immediately Written to. And it is to be done, as with a mighty Thunder from a flaming Mountain.
I take the Writer of this Epistle, to be, not that Jude the Apostle, who was in the Syriack Dialect called Thaddaeus, and from the Place to which he belong'd, Lebbaeus, but the Jude, who was one of the Four, that are called, The Brethren of our Lord: The Sons of His Mother, from whom He Suffered the Grievous Humiliation of being treated as an [can't make out this word] till probably His Resurrection from the Dead brought them into the Number of Believers of Him. He now presumes not on such a Style, as that of, A Brother, but he takes one, than which the Highest Archangel in Heaven knows none more Glorious, A Servant of JESUS CHRIST Behold him now doing a Service, very proper for, very worthy of, such an One. Behold him Warning and Arming the People of God, against the Errors which began betimes to infest the Churches of the Lord.
The Annanomians (?) made a very Early Appearance, I see, among the Depravers and Subverters of the Earth once delivered unto the Saints. There are indeed very few New Errors broached in our Later-Dayes, the most of them, which now disturb the Churches of the Faithful, are only from I scarce know what Enchantments, raising the Ghosts of such as were Dead and Damn'd many Ages ago.
The Impious, and Mischievous Men, against whom the Inspired Writer is now Engaged, have their Impiety here declared. First, The Ungodly Men stand charged with Filthiness. They were that I may use the most agreeable Term, which the French Translation Leads me to, A very Dissolute Generation I take notice by the way, that the Greek Term, here used for, Lasciviousness or Wantonness, is derived fro the Name of the Town Selga, a Place infamous for such Disssolute Practices. It makes me wish, that no Town of ours, may in our Dayes, have any Vice abounding in it, so as with a lasty Infamy to derive Name unto it. I am lothe here to Explain myself too particularly! I go on with my Remarks, and say That I would not be so unaquainted with Church-History, as to think, the Gnosticks to be the Ungodly Men peculiarly intended here, tho' a well known Interpreter, with an Oddity not unlike many more in him, with which he has most shamefully injured the Sacred Scriptures, ridiculously enough every where upon it. There were Other and Older Hereticks, which this Iniquity might be charged upon. And indeed, it is well know, and from Authority much better than Epiphanius, that the Hereticks of those Days were noted for Indulged Impurities. But then, Secondly; To our Astonishment, we find, what it was, the Ungodly men made the Encouragement of their Filthiness. Astonishing! It was the Grace of God, which they turned into Wantonness. By the Grace of God, is meant, the Revelation which is in the Gospel brought unto us; what we have, in [Act. XX 24] The Gospel of the Grace of God. A Revelation wherein Grace! Grace! the Glorious Grace of God shines in its Meridian Glory, and with an amazing Splendor on the Children of Men When it is said, They Turned it, there is a Word used, that signifies, they Wrested it, they Wronged it, they Transferred it from the right use of it, they horribly Abused it. I am stop'd a little. Whole Grace? We are told The Grace of OUR God. Sirs, if we have any Sense of an Interest in GOD, and we rejoyce in Him as OUR God, we shall have a Zeal for Holiness boiling in our Souls. If we care not whether Holiness flourish or no, we want a Good Mark, that the Holy God is OURS. Ah, Lord, if thou be OUR God, we shall be lothe to see thy Gospel abused with any Unholy Practices.
More on why Christmas is evil soon...