Cotton Mather: Through Defects Come the Works of the Lord — Democratic Thinker

American Thought

Cotton Mather, a month after his eighteenth birthday, asks God for help with his speech impediment the day before he preaches a Sabbath sermon. He also writes down his daily resolutions.

The Lord knowes, how miserably defective I have been, in the performing of what I have thus resolved. But my Defects, have been the matter of my continual Reflections and Abasements before Him. And, for the main, I have made in my Study, to bee abounding in these Works of the Lord.

Diary of Cotton Mather.


12 d. 1 m.[March, 1681.] This Day was filled with the Devotions and Enjoyments of a raised Soul.

But there were especially two things, whereabouts the Salleyes of my Soul, were considerable, not only on this Day but at many other Times, in this part of my Life.

One Thing, wherein I was more fervently concerned, was, that great Thing of, a Closure with the Lord Jesus Christ. In the Prosecution of this Matter I may truly say, t’was the Spirit of God, that was my Teacher: no Man, or Book, showed mee the way of expressing this glorious Transaction; but this Day, I used such Words as these among others, before the Redeemer of my Soul.

“Oh! my Dear Lord; Thy Father hath committed my Soul, into thy Hands; there’s a Covenant of Redemption, wherein I am concerned: I know my Election, by my Vocation, and my Concernment in that Covenant, by my being made Willing to come under the Shadow of thy Wings in the Covenant of Grace; Now, in that Covenant, the Father said unto the Son, such an elect Soul there is, that I will bring into thy Fold, and thou shalt undertake for that Soul, as a Sufficient and an Eternal Saviour. Wherefore, I am now, in thy Hands, O my Lord; Thy Father hath putt mee there; and I have putt myself there; 0 save mee! 0 heal mee! O work for mee, work in mee, the good Pleasure of thy Goodness.”

And afterwards I said,

Lord, I have been leaving my Soul, this Day, with Jesus Christ, and Thou hast bid mee to beleeve that I shall be saved by Him. Lord! I do beleeve, that there never came a poor Soul to the Lord Jesus Christ in vain, and I do beleeve that I myself shall not find it in vain. Hee will do great things for mee. Hee has already done enough, to leave mee without any Cause of rep[en]ting that I have, thro’ so much Agony of [Soul] come unto Him; yea, but I beleeve that [Hee] has more still to do for mee. Having been the Author Hee will bee the Finisher, of my Faith.”

Another thing that much exercised mee was, that I might not bee left without necessary Supplies of Speech for my Ministry. God was pleased so far to lett my Infirmity remain, that altho’ by a careful Deliberation my public Services were freed from any Blemish by it, yett I was, by His Wisdome, kept in continual Prayer, and Fear, and Faith, concerning it. How many Thousands of sollicitous Thoughts I underwent concerning it, is best known to Him, who by those Thoughts drove mee and kept mee nearer to Himself.

On this Day particularly I pleaded;

“Lord! Thou art Hee that made man’s Mouth; and thou wast angry with Moses, because hee would not make that consideration, an Argument for Faith, that thou wouldest bee with his Mouth. And now, because I would not so sin, therefore I trust in thee! Thou dost send mee forth, as thou didst Moses, in Service for thy Name among thy people; and thou who didst make Mans Mouth and make my Mouth, wilt bee with my Mouth. It was also once used, as a Bottom for Faith, the Lord hath, and therefore, the Lord will. Now tis a blessed Experience which I have already had of thy Help; yea, such an Experience as hath caused mee to promise, that I would never distrust thee more. Lord, Thou saist, None of them who trust in thee shall bee desolate. But how desolate shall I bee, if I am left without Speech for thy Work! I trust in thee; and therefore it shall not bee. Thou saist, Thou wilt never forsake them that seek thee. But I have sought thee, and I will seek thee, as long as I have a Day to live. And now, O Lord, I will beleevingly wait on thee; I shall see a Token for good; Thy People too shall see Witnesse of the Token.

Butt one special Action of this Day, was to make and write the following:


Lord! Thou that workest in mee to will, help mee to resolve.

I. As to my Thoughts.

1. To endeavour, that I will keep God, and Christ, and Heaven, much in my Thoughts.

2. In a special manner, to watch and pray, against lascivious Thoughts, ambitious Thoughts, and wandring Thoughts in the Times of Devotion.

II. As to my Words.

1. To bee not of many Words, and when I do speak, to do it with Deliberation.

2. To remember my obligations to use my Tongue as the Lord’s, and not my own: and therefore, to promote savoury Discourse, if I can, wherever I come; and to discourse with such as come fairly in my way, about the Things of their everlasting Peace.

3. Never to answer any weighty Question, without lifting up my Heart unto God, in a Request, that Hee would help mee to give a right Answer.

4. To speak Ill of no Man; except, on a good Ground, and for a good End.

5. Seldome to make a Visit, without contriving, what I may do for God, in that Visit.

III. As to my daily Course of Duties.

1. To pray at least thrice, for the most part every Day.

2. To meditate once a Day; in the Meditation proceeding after some such Method as this; that there shall bee two Parts of the work, doctrinal, and applicatory. The doctrinal to bee dispatched in an Answer to a Question. The Applicatory to flow from thence into Examination, Expostulation, Resolution.

3. To make a Custome of propounding to myself, these three Questions, every Night before I sleep.

What hath been the Mercy of God unto mee, in the Day past?

What hath been my carriage before God, in the Day past. And,

If I dy this Night is my immortal Spirit safe?

4. To lead a Life of heavenly Ejaculations.

5. To bee diligent in observing and recording of illustrious Providences.

But in all, to bee continually going unto the Lord Jesus Christ, as the only Physician, and Redeemer, of my Soul.

Lord! Thou that workest in mee to do, help mee to perform.

Penned by, Cotton Mather; A feeble and worthless, yett (Lord! by thy Grace!) desirous to approve himself, a sincere and faithful Servant of Jesus Christ.

The Lord knowes, how miserably defective I have been, in the performing of what I have thus resolved. But my Defects, have been the matter of my continual Reflections and Abasements before Him. And, for the main, I have made in my Study, to bee abounding in these Works of the Lord. Yea, these Flights of my Soul, in Essayes to glorify God, have been but the lower and lesser Flights of my Youth; which I hope, will ere long proceed unto a Mounting up with the Wings of Eagles.

The Singular Assistences which the God of Heaven gave unto mee, in my public Ministrations on the following Sabbath, were such, as caused mee to draw up this conclusion; I beleeve, I shall have a glorious Presence of God with mee, thro’ my whole Ministry.

And God so strangely inclined the Hearts of the People in our Congregation; that besides their weekly Collections every Lord’s-Day, they did about this Time subscribe about Seventy Pounds, for my Encouragement, in my public Service the ensuing year.