| Richard Mather was a school teacher in his home town in his early teens; then went on to Oxford University for a short time. Based on his natural talents and his limited education, he was asked to become a minister back in his home town. Like many other ministers, he dissented from the established policies of the Church of England and had to flee from the hands of the authorities. He and his wife and children sailed to Boston where he did not gain membership in the church on his first try. He had to prove that he was one of the elect. When he understood that his belief that ministerial authority came from the bishop who ordained him was wrong, he was admitted to membership. The Boston Church believed that the authority came out of the church members.
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The Dorchester Church had lost a large number of its members who moved to Connecticut partly due to a desire for more fertile land and partly because of differences in beliefs. Yet, there were still a good many members left who didn't quite agree with the controlling Boston Church. John Cotton of the Boston Church influenced the colony to pass a regulation that would require religious groups to be approved by other local churches and by the colony?s magistrates prior to becoming an accepted church. Therefore when Dorchester asked Richard Mather to be their minister, they had to submit a new application to become a church following the break-up of the original church. They did not pass on their first try because the other ministers did not feel that the Dorchester applicants fully understood the Puritan concepts of sanctification and saving faith. Richard Mather coached the members so that on a second attempt they received permission to form a church.
Burg states that dissenters in England banded together more easily without examining each others' beliefs because the very fact of their dissent made them similar. In the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the Boston Church establishment in only a few years moved a long way from traditional beliefs. Rural communities moved more slowly both in England and the Bay Colony, and that is what seems to have happened in Dorchester.
Mather went on to become an important force in New England Puritanism.
Burg, B.R. Richard Mather of Dorchester. Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1976.
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