The First American Evangelical
A Short Life of Cotton Mather
Cotton Mather (1663-1728) was America’s most famous pastor and scholar at the beginning of the 18th century. People today generally associate him with the infamous Salem witch trials, but in this new biography Rick Kennedy tells a bigger story: Mather, he says, was the very first American evangelical.
Here’s a fresh retelling of Cotton Mather’s life. This biography corrects misconceptions and focuses on how Mather sought to promote, socially and intellectually, a biblical lifestyle. As older Puritan hopes in New England were giving way to a broader and shallower Protestantism, Mather led a populist, Bible-oriented movement that embraced the new century — the beginning of a dynamic evangelical tradition that eventually became a major force in American culture.
Kennedy includes the latest scholarly research on New England Puritanism, but still writes for a popular audience in The First American Evangelical and thus brings Cotton Mather and his world to life in a way that helps readers understand both the Puritanism in which he grew up and the evangelicalism he pioneered.
“Cotton Mather is widely seen as a moralistic hypocrite, a one-dimensional bad guy we moderns love to hate. But in this lively new biography, he takes on flesh and blood and, more importantly, a heart. This courageous little book offers readers a better feel for Mather’s vibrant, quirky, learned, evangelical spirituality than anything before.” – – Douglas A. Sweeney, author of The American Evangelical Story: A History of the Movement
“Few historical figures have been as misunderstood as Cotton Mather, roundly dismissed in our own time as the ultimate Puritan killjoy. Rick Kennedy’s richly textured account reminds us why Mather still matters — why we should care about, maybe even embrace, this complex man who made such an indelible impact on our religious world today.” — Margaret Bendroth, author of The Spiritual Practice of Remembering
“Mather’s life is one of the most fascinating in all of American history. Rick Kennedy has done a fine job in providing a sympathetic, engaging, and yet brief account of such a many-sided and influential personality.” — George M. Marsden, author of A Short Life of Jonathan Edwards
- The Last Decades of Puritan Boston (1663-1674)
- Cambridge: City of Books in the Republic of Letters (1674-1681)
- Listening for a Call (1681-1688)
- Entanglements of Church and State (1688-1698)
- The Birth of the American Evangelical Tradition (1698-1707)
- A Biblical Enlightenment (1707-1713)
- The Practice at the Top of Christianity (1713-1728)
The Cotton Mather Trail: A Walking Tour in Boston next to the Freedom Trail