Mitchel, Jonathan (DNB00)

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MITCHEL, JONATHAN (1624?–1668), New England divine, born in Halifax, Yorkshire, about 1624, was son of Matthew Mitchel (Savage, Genealog. Dict. iii. 220). He accompanied his parents to America in 1635, graduated at Harvard in 1647, and on 24 June 1649 preached at Hartford, Connecticut, with such acceptance that he was invited to succeed Thomas Hooker (1586-1647) [q. v.] This offer he declined. In May 1650 he was elected fellow of Harvard, and appears to have acted as tutor. He did much towards promoting the prosperity of the college. After being ordained at Cambridge, Massachusetts, on 21 Aug. 1650, he succeeded Thomas Shepard as pastor of that town. When his old preceptor, Henry Dunster [q. v.], president of Harvard, openly announced his conversion to the doctrines of the baptists, Mitchel opposed him, although retaining his friendship. Dunster died in 1659, and Mitchel wrote some wretched lines in his memory, printed in Cotton Mather's ‘Ecclesiastes’ (p. 70), and in the same author's ‘Magnalia’ (bk. iv. sect. 175). Mitchel hospitably entertained the regicides Whalley and Goffe when they sought refuge in Cambridge in July 1660. In June 1661 he was one of the committee appointed to defend the privileges of the colony, then menaced by the English government. In 1662 he was a member of the synod that met at Boston to discuss questions of church membership and discipline. Its report was chiefly written by him, and he was mainly responsible for the adoption of the so-called ‘half-way covenant.’ On 8 Oct. 1662 he and Captain Daniel Gookin [q. v.] were appointed the first licensers of the press in Massachusetts. With Francis Willoughby and Major-general John Leverett, Mitchel was entrusted with the task of drawing up a petition to Charles II respecting the colony's charter on 3 Aug. 1664, and he wrote it entirely himself. In ecclesiastical councils, to which he was frequently called, and in weighty cases in which the general court often consulted the clergy, ‘the sense and hand of no man was relied more upon than his for the exact result of all.’ Overwork at length told on him, and he died of fever at Cambridge on 9 July 1668.

His union with Sarah, daughter of the Rev. John Cotton (d. 1652) [q. v.], having been prevented by her death in January 1650, he married on 19 Nov. following Margaret Boradale, widow of his predecessor, Thomas Shepard, by whom he left issue (Savage, iv. 76).

Mitchel wrote several sermons and treatises, among which were:

  1. ‘Letter to his brother’ David ‘concerning your spiritual condition,’ dated 19 May 1649; many editions.
  2. Propositions concerning the subject of Baptism and Consociation of Churches, collected and confirmed out of the Word of God by a Synod of Elders … assembled at Boston in 1662,’ 4to, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1662; chiefly written by Mitchel.
  3. . ‘A Defence of the Answer and Arguments of the Synod met at Boston in 1662 … against the reply made thereto by the Rev. Mr. John Davenport. … By some of the Elders,’ 4to, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1664. Of this work the first 46 pages, designated ‘Answer’ on the title-page were by Mitchel.
  4. ‘A Discourse of the Glory to which God hath called Believers by Jesus Christ delivered in some sermons … together with an annexed letter’ [to his brother], edited by J. Collins, 8vo, London, 1677; 2nd edition, with a preface by Increase Mather, 12mo, Boston, Massachusetts, 1721.
  5. ‘A Letter concerning the subject of Baptism,’ dated 26 Dec. 1667; printed in ‘Postscript’ of Increase Mather's ‘First Principles of New-England,’ 4to, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1675.
  6. ‘The Great End and Interest of New England stated by the memorable Mr. J. Mitchel, extracted from an instrument of his which bears date 31 Dec. 1662.’ This tract constitutes pp. 1-5 of Increase Mather's ‘Elijah's Mantle,’ 8vo, Boston, Massachusetts, 1722.

Mitchel also edited Thomas Shepard's ‘Parable of the Ten Virgins,’ fol. 1660.

[Sibley's Biog. Sketches of Graduates of Harvard University, i. 141-57; Cotton Mather's Ecclesiastes: the Life of J. Mitchel, 1697; Cotton Mather's Magnalia Christi Americana, bk. iv. sects. 158, 166; Walker's Hist. of the First Church in Hartford.]

G. G.