William Bradford And Cotton Mather Essay, Research Paper
William Bradford and Cotton Mather both secure their identity of a separate persecuted shelter for the people of God despite the appearance of less holy individuals within the boundaries of their community. Although the individuals are located physically within the community, Mather and Bradford alienate them based on their beliefs and their behavior. By segregating those that would defy the moral code of their colony, both writers emphasize the devout holiness of the majority rather than focusing on the wicked minority.
In the case of William Bradford, the challenge to the integrity of the holiness of his community came in the form of an indentured servant named Thomas Granger. Granger challenges their high moral standard by committing the sin of bestiality within their pious community. Bradford?s explanation was done in a manner to defend the pilgrims reputation as a self righteous community. He introduces Granger as an unworthy person who crept into Plymouth Plantation (Bradford, 199). The use of the word crept implies that he deceitfully sneaked in, thus he should not be associated with the others. Another way Bradford distances this sin from his holy town is by tracking Granger?s sin. Of course, Bradford traced it far away from Plymouth. Granger testifies that he learned bestiality from another back in England. Bradford also alludes to a Matthew 13:25, ?where the Lord begin to sow good seed, there the envious man will endeavor to sow tares (Bradford 199)?. By this Bradford is implying that the Lord?s good seeds are the Pilgrims and the envious man is Thomas Granger, sowing his tares.
Cotton Mather writes to show that the appearance of witches in his community was a direct result of the work of Satan against God?s holy people. At the time that the witch epidemic hit his community, Cotton Mather was facing the problem of expansion. His small town was getting larger and gaining more personal freedom. Mather uses the witch episode as a unifying catastrophe, something that rekindled the religious flame in his people. Mather compares what is happening to his town to what happened to the city of Ephesus. There, the people were so good, so holy, that the devil became disgusted and cast out all who were good. Once the righteous had escaped the city, God opened his mouth and it was consumed by a flood. Here Mather is saying that the devil himself has sent these witches as tools to hinder or corrupt the people of God. Mather then uses the persecution of the witches to paint a picture of the togetherness of the townspeople. Their identity as the people of God is validated through the condemnation of the witches.
Both Mather and Bradford skillfully avoid the issue that both challenges to their identity as Gods people come from within the geographic boundaries of their towns by painting them as outsiders, a group within the group. Bradford alienated one, defining the identity of his group. His segregation of the wicked only bolsters his firm belief in the purity of his community. Mather goes further by showing that the evil in his town was so foreign and so detested, that those found guilty were killed. He shows that the practice of persecution and accusation as well as that of judgement was an adhesive factor to the togetherness of the town.