George Beckwith [1703-1794], author of the present work, was the founding minister of the Third Parish church in Lyme, CT. He was involved with one of the most important legal cases of the era, which also has bearing on the provenance of the current volume.
Beckwith himself was a slave owner. In 1756, a slave under Beckwith's "care," named Bristo, was accused of sexually assaulting a white woman in a "bye and secret place." In other words, he was accused of abducting the young woman from a local home and raping here in a nearby wooded area. The court in New London found him guilty on the woman's accusation and sentenced Bristo to immediately "suffer the pains of death."
When the young woman, apparently not present at the trial, heard of the sentence, she was apparently conscience, stricken, approached the court and confessed she had concocted the entire story. Bristo had never so much as laid a finger on her. The court released Bristo back to Rev. Beckwith after two months in prison.
The name of the young woman who accused Bristo was Hannah Beebe, relative of the first signatory of the present volume, Abijah Beebe.
Abijah Beebe [1729-1813] lived on the property adjoining that of Beckwith family property in Lyme. In fact, he seems to have been quite friendly with the neighbors, marrying Love Beckwith, who we believe was George's niece.
Samuel Mather [1706-1785] was the son of Cotton Mather and had the distinction of being the "last of the Mather dynasty in the Boston pulpits." After his graduation from Harvard College in 1723, Mather preached at Castle William in Boston Harbor until his appointment as minister of the Second Church in Boston in 1732. He was dismissed from that post for improper conduct in 1741. The nature of the case is not clear, though it appears he was unsupportive of George Whitefield and it is perhaps based on this rift that he was removed. He founded a church not far from there with a significant number from the original church.
He was a very much respected scholar, minister, and owner of a great library of books and manuscripts, the majority of which are now in the possession of the American Antiquarian Society. His library included large portions of the libraries of his father and grandfather and has often been recognized as "once the largest private Library in America."
How did it get from the Beebe family to Samuel Mather?
Fascinatingly, there was also a Mather family property adjoining the Beckwith property and the Beebe property in Lyme. We suspect the Beebe family were likely given the work by George Beckwith through the family connection with Love Beebe [née Beckwith]. And then, perhaps upon the death of one of the Beebe family members [Love did die quite young], Mather heard of the books through a family member and acquired some of their volumes. Additionally, there are manuscript accounts on the final leaf as shown, likely between Abijah Beebe and other local citizens of Lyme, New London, Connecticut from the time. These seem to indicate the primary Beebe ownership.
Regardless, it is much more likely from a personality standpoint that it went from the Beebe family to Mather than the other way around. Mather was a gatherer, not a dispenser of bound volumes. As mentioned, his collection was one of the largestand most significant of the era.
The volume itself:
Beckwith, George, &c. Second Letter on the Subject of Lay-Ordination, Occasioned by Exceptions Taken on My First Letter on that Subject, in a Pamphlet, Entitled, A Word in Zion's Behalf, or, Two Mites Cast into the Church's Treasury, &c. Written by Israel Holly, who Stiles Himself Pastor of a Congregational Church, in Suffield. New London. T. Green. 1766. 93pp.
It is a fascinating controversial pamphlet engaging in one of the most important questions of the era; the manner of ordination. In a way, the ongoing challenges of church structure mirrored the political situation and various churches understanding of how "power" and "structure" should work in the emerging United States.
There were many existing Anglican churches in the colonies. They tended to affirm only apostolic succession as valid and were often Tories politically. There is a through-line between their ecclesiology and their governmental perspective. Then there were Presbyterian and a selection of Congregational churches who affirmed some combination of Ordination by Synod and local affirmation. These often saw the emerging America as a new Scotland / Israel that should engage in a National Covenant and envisioned the government playing a significant role in administration of the Kingdom, or perhaps more accurately, vice versa. Again, a through-line. And then there were Independent Congregationalists, Baptists, etc., who saw local autonomy at the Congregational level as critical, and these were often also people who were loathe to see outside agencies involved with control of the pulpit and also favored small government and local government.
The Baptists, Independents, Congregationalists, and Presbyterians all agreed England had to go. Once they were gone though, they had their own sorting to do when it came to governance of religion. This tension and rift echoed the Presbyterian and Independent and Baptist tensions of 1643 almost precisely.
Interestingly, Hollis who is here answered and reproved, was one of the Independent Congregationalists and was also a relative of the famed Baptist, Isaac Backus. The two of them engaged publicly on the subject of baptism, etc,. but both were in agreement that the nature of the Kingdom was local, spiritual, and should not be wed to larger power structures.
Beckwith here argues that lay ordination leads to a lack of quality control, educational rigor [a charge Backus often faced among the Baptists], spiritual accountability, and is not consistent with apostolic succession and therefore administration of the sacraments becomes invalid.
Very scarce on the market.
Good as shown, from a sammelband, some staining, losses at title as shown, some stains, stitching very weak.
Very desirable provenance and autograph; a similar item sold at Skinner sometime back for a good bit in excess of our asking price.