Trent and Wells, eds. Colonial Prose and Poetry. 1901.
Vol. I. The Transplanting of Culture: 16071650
JOHN COTTON, one of the most distinguished of the early New England clergy, was born in Derby, England in 1585, and died in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1652. Like most of the Puritan divines he enjoyed a university education at Cambridge, where he attained promotion and distinction, being especially noted for his oratorical and rhetorical abilities. He was ordained priest, and became vicar at Boston in Lincolnshire about 1612, a position which he kept for more than twenty years, though not without episcopal intervention. His troubles under Lauds régime culminated in his flight to London and in his escape to the New England Boston in 1633. Within a fortnight he was appointed teacher in the First Church, and was connected with that congregation till his death. Though he was the ripest scholar in New England, well versed in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew and grounded in the Calvinistic theology, despite his coquetting with Mrs. Hutchinsons anti-nomianism, his style is so lacking in attractive qualities as to make the compliments showered on him by contemporaries almost incomprehensible. To them he was an Attic Muse, a silver trumpet, Solon, St. Paul and Polycarp all in one. Certainly with his nearly fifty books he was an indefatigable writer, a stimulus to provincial scholars, but he was also a stimulus to controversial intolerance. In his greatest controversy, that with Roger Williams, which produced perhaps his most important book The Bloody Tenent Washed and Made White in the Blood of the Lamb, the world has pronounced its verdict: He was a great man, the foil to a greater.
Advice to Colonists. [From Gods Promise to His Plantation, London, 1630. A Sermon preached as a Farewell to Winthrops Company.]
Use 1. TO exhort all that are planted at home, or intend to plant abroad, to look well to your plantation, as you desire that the sons of wickedness may not afflict you at home, nor enemies abroad, look that you be right planted, and then you need not to fear, you are safe enough: God hath spoken it, I will plant them, and they shall not be moved, neither shall the sons of wickedness afflict them any more.
Answ. Have special care that you ever have the Ordinances planted amongst you, or else never look for security. As soon as Gods Ordinances cease, your security ceaseth likewise; but if God plant his Ordinances among you, fear not, he will maintain them. Isay 4. 5, 6. Upon all their glory there shall be a defence; that is, upon all Gods Ordinances: for so was the Ark called the Glory of Israel, 1 Sam. 4. 22.
Secondly, have a care to be implanted into the Ordinances, that the word may be ingrafted into you, and you into it: If you take rooting in the Ordinances, grow up thereby, bring forth much fruit, continue and abide therein, then you are vineyard of red wine, and the Lord will keep you, Isay 27. 2, 3. that no sons of violence shall destroy you. Look into all the stories whether divine or human, and you shall never find that God ever rooted out a people that had the Ordinances planted amongst them, and themselves planted into the Ordinances: never did God suffer such plants to be plucked up; on all their glory shall be a defence.
Thirdly, be not unmindful of our Jerusalem at home, whether you leave us, or stay at home with us. Oh pray for the peace of Jerusalem, they shall prosper that love her. Psal. 122. 6. They shall all be confounded and turned back that hate Sion, Psal. 129. 5. As God continueth his presence with us, (blessed be his name) so be ye present in spirit with us, though absent in body: Forget not the womb that bare you and the breast that gave you suck. Even ducklings hatched under an hen, though they take the water, yet will still have recourse to the wing that hatched them: how much more should chickens of the same feather, and yolk? In the amity and unity of brethren, the Lord hath not only promised, but commanded a blessing, even life forevermore: Psal. 133. 1, 2.
Fourthly, go forth, every man that goeth, with a public spirit, looking not on your own things only, but also on the things of others: Phil.2. 4. This care of universal helpfulness was the prosperity of the first plantation of the Primitive Church, Acts4. 32.
Fifthly, have a tender care that you look well to the plants that spring from you, that is, to your children, that they do not degenerate as the Israelites did; after which they were vexed with afflictions on every hand. How came this to pass? Jer.2. 21. I planted them a noble vine, holy, a right seed how then art thou degenerate into a strange vine before me? Your ancestors were of a noble divine spirit, but if they suffer their children to degenerate, to take loose courses, then God will surely pluck you up: Otherwise if men have a care to propagate the Ordinances and Religion to their children after them, God will plant them and not root them up. For want of this, the seed of the repenting Ninivites was rooted out.
Sixthly, and lastly, offend not the poor natives, but as you partake in their land, so make them partakers of your precious faith: as you reap their temporals, so feed them with your spirituals: win them to the love of Christ, for whom Christ died. They never yet refused the Gospel, and therefore more hope they will now receive it. Who knoweth whether God have reared this whole Plantation for such an end:
Use 2. Secondly, for consolation to them that are planted by God in any place, that find rooting and establishing from God, this is a cause of much encouragement unto you, that what he hath planted he will maintain, every plantation his right hand hath not planted shall be rooted up, but his own plantation shall prosper, and flourish. When he promiseth peace and safety, what enemies shall be able to make the promise of God of none effect? Neglect not walls, and bulwalks, and fortifications for your own defence; but ever let the name of the Lord be your strong tower; and the word of his promise the rock of your refuge. His word that made heaven and earth will not fail, till heaven and earth be no more. Amen.
[From a Letter written from Boston, Mass., Dec. 3, 1634, to Some English Clergyman giving Reasons for the Emigration of Puritan Clergymen.]
OUR Saviours warrant is clear and strong (as we conceive) in our case, that when we are distressed in our course in one country (ne quid dicam gravius,) we should flee to another. To chose rather to bear witness to the truth by imprisonment than by banishment, is indeed sometimes Gods way; but not in case men have ability of body and opportunity to remove, and no necessary engagement for to stay. Whilst Peter was young, he might gird himself and go whither he would; but when he was old and unfit for travel, then indeed God called him rather to suffer himself to be girt of others, and led along to prison and to death. Nevertheless, in this point I conferred with the chief of our people, and offered them to bear witness to the truth I had preached and practised amongst them, even unto bonds, if they conceived it might be any confirmation to their faith and patience. But they dissuaded me that course, as thinking it better for themselves, and for me, and for the church of God, to withdraw myself from the present storm, and to minister in this country to such of their town as they had sent before hither, and such others as were willing to go along with me, or to follow after me; the most of the (obliterated) choosing rather to dwell in the (a line and a half obliterated) there. What service myself or brother Hooker might do to our people or other brethren in prison, (especially in close prison, which was feared,) I suppose we both of us, by Gods help, do the same, and much more, and with more freedom from hence, as occasion is offered; besides all our other service to the people here, which yet is enough, and more than enough, to fill both our hands, yea and the hands of many brethren more, such as yourself, should God be pleased to make way for your comfortable passage to us. To have tarried in England for the end you mention, to appear in defence you mention, to appear in defence of that cause for which we were questioned, had been, as we conceive it in our case, to limit witness-bearing to the cause (which may be done more ways than one,) to one only way, and that such a way as we did not see God calling us unto. Did not Paul bear witness against the Levitical ceremonies, and yet choose rather to depart quickly out of Hierusalem, because the most of the Jews would not receive his testimony concerning Christ in that question, than to stay at Hierusalem to bear witness to that cause unto prison and death? Not that we came hither to strive against ceremonies, or to fight against shadows; there is no need of further labor in that course. Our people here desire to worship God in spirit and in truth; and our people left in England know as well the grounds and reasons of our suffering against these things, as our sufferings themselves; which we beseech the Lord to accept and bless in our blessed Saviour. How far our testimony there hath prevailed with any others to search more seriously into the cause, we do rather observe in thankfulness and silence, than speak of to the prejudice of our brethren.
Again, we acknowledge that none is to be punished for his conscience, though misinformed, as hath been said, unless his error be fundamental, or seditiously and turbulently promoted, and that after due conviction of his conscience, that it may appear he is not punished for his conscience, but for sinning against his conscience.
Furthermore, we acknowledge none is to be constrained to believe or profess the true religion till he be convinced in judgment of the truth of it: but yet restrained he may (be) from blaspheming the truth, and from seducing any unto pernicious errors.
Again, princes many times tolerate offenders out of very necessity, when the offenders are either too many, or too mighty for them to punish, in which respect David tolerated Joab and his murthers, but against his will.
3. We answer further, that for those three princes named by you, who tolerated religion, we can name you more and greater who have not tolerated Heretics and Schismatics, notwithstanding their pretence of conscience, and arrogating the crown of martyrdom to their sufferings.
Constantine the Great at the request of the general Council of Nice, banished Arius with some of his fellows. Sozom. lib. i. Eccles. Hist. cap. 19. 20. The same Constantine made a severe law against the Donatists. And the like proceedings against them were used by Valentinian, Gratian, and Theodosius, as Augustine reporteth in Epist. 166. Only Julian the Apostate granted liberty to Heretics as well as to Pagans, that he might by tolerating all weeds to grow, choke the vitals of Christianity, which was also the practice and sin of Valens the Arian.
Queen Elizabeth, as famous for her government as any of the former, it is well known what laws she made and executed against Papists. Yea and King James (one of your own witnesses) though he was slow in proceeding against Papists (as you say) for conscience sake, yet you are not ignorant how sharply and severely he punished those whom the malignant world calleth Puritans, men of more conscience and better faith than he tolerated.
You begin with Hilary, whose testimony we might admit without any prejudice to the truth: for it is true, the Christian Church did not persecute, but is persecuted. But to excommunicate an Heretic, is not to persecute; that is, it is not to punish an innocent, but a culpable and damnable person, and that not for conscience, but for persisting in error against light of conscience, whereof it hath been convinced.
It is true also what he saith, that neither the Apostles did, nor may we propagate (the) Christian Religion by the sword: but if Pagans cannot be won by the word, they are not to be compelled by the sword. Nevertheless, this hindreth not, but if they or any others should blaspheme the true God, and his true religion, they ought to be severely punished: and no less do they deserve, if they seduce from the truth to damnable heresies or idolatry.
Specimens of Scriptural Exposition. [From A Brief Exposition of the Whole Book of Canticles, or Song of Solomon. London, 1642.] [From Chapter II.]
Verse5. Stay me with flagons and comfort me with apples, for I am sick of love.] I, the Church is here faint and sick, and ready to swoon, for desire of further fellowship with Christ, and for her own help desireth,
Secondly, Apples to comfort her; as indeed apples do comfort the heart and stomach, prevents swooning, and restrains poison:1 Thus Daniel, through abundance of Revelations was faint and sick, and desirous of more clear knowledge of his visions, and of the Churchs deliverance, and round the2 Angel ready to refresh and strengthen him: and the other members of the Church feeling such sweet taste of Christs presence amongst them in the captivity, were (doubtless) earnestly desirous of more full enjoying him perfectly,
His head is as the most fine gold.] Christ comes now to be described in his members more particularly: This head of gold Christ shewed on the earth in the person of Frederick, the second Emperor of Rome, a Prince of much purity and worth, as an head of the Church of fine gold: He contended with many Popes about the headship of the Church, advanced the headship of Christ and of himself, his Vice-gerents, above the counterfeit head of the Popes Supremacy. He wrastled for Christ against them with much difficulty, yet prevailed; so that even in the popish schools his election of God was agreed and condescended unto by sundry.
His locks are bushy, or curled, and black as a raven.] Curled black hair is a sign of heat and courage, and wit in him that it groweth upon: such was the Emperor himself, and such were the common Christians of that age that did depend upon their Emperor; they stuck close to him; learned men with wit, more than former ages had yielded, and soldiers with courage maintained his person and cause.
Who Should Bear the Keys. [From THE KEYES Of the Kingdom of HEAVEN, AND Power thereof, according to the VVord of God. By That learned and Judicious Divine, Mr. IOHN COTTON, Teacher of the Church at Boston, in New England, Tending to reconcile some present differences about DISCIPLINE, etc. London, 1644.] [Chap. VII.]
Obj. 2. The body of the Church is the Spouse of Christ, the Lambs wife, and ought not the wife to rule the servants and stewards in the house, rather than they her? Is it not meet the Keys of Authority should hang at her girdle rather than at theirs?
Answ. There is a difference to be put between Queens, Princesses, Ladies of great Honor (such as the Church is to Christ, Psal.45. 9), and country huswives, poor mens wives. Queens and great persons have several offices and officers for every business and service about the house, as Chamberlains, Stewards, Treasurers, Comptrollers, Ushers, Bailiffs, Grooms, and Porters, who have all the authority of ordering the affairs of their lords house on their hands. There is not a key left in the Queens hand of any office, but only of power and liberty to call for what she wanteth according to the Kings royal allowance; which if she exceed, the officers have power to restrain her by order from the King. But country huswives, and poor mens wives, whose husbands have no Officers, Bailiffs, or Stewards, to oversee and order their estates, they may carry the keys of any office at their own girdles, which the husband keepeth not in his own hand, not because poor huswives have greater authority in the house than queens; but because of their poverty and mean estate, they are fain to be instead of many servants to their husbands.
Of Brownists, Etc. [From the way of Congregational Churches Clared, By Mr. John Cotton, London, 1648.] [Part I. Chap. II.]
AS there is a vast difference between the Episcopacy of England, and the Superintendency of Germany (the one ruling by Monarchical Power, the other by the consent of the Aristocratical Presbytery:) so neither is there such correspondency between the German Anabaptism, and the English Brownism, as to make Brownism a native branch of Anabaptism.
Answ. The dissolution of ice and snow into water, doth indeed argue strongly their original from water, because they are easily resolved into it without putrefaction or corruption. But so is not the Separatist resolved into a German Anabaptist, without a further degree of corruption and putrefaction. It is no argument a man is bred of worms, because he is next resolved into worms; for he is not so resolved without putrefaction. Say not, a man is resolved at last into dust from whence he was first taken; and yet the resolution is not made without putrefaction. For man is not made of dust naturally, but by a transcendent creating power above Nature. But the Dissuader maketh the Separation a native branch of Anabaptism.
Besides, I suppose, it is not an obvious thing to hear of an Anabaptist turned Separatist, though some Separatists have turned Anabaptists; which argueth there is not such a mutual frequent transition from the one to the other, as is yearly found of ice and snow into water, and of water into ice or snow again .
[Part I. Chap. III. Sec. III.] Touching the Line of the Pedigree of the Independents in New England.
That the Separatists were our fathers we have justly denied it above; seeing they neither begat us to God nor to the Church nor to their Schism. That we are (through Grace) begotten to God and to his Church, we receive (many of us) from the blessing of Christ upon the Ministry of England. That we grew weary of the burden of Episcopacy and Conformity we received from the Word of God by the help of the Nonconformists there. That we laid aside the Book of Common Prayer we received from the serious meditation of the Second Commandment and not from the writings of the Separatists, though they also had taken up the same conclusion upon other premises. The particular visible Church of a congregation to be the first subject of the power of Keys we received by the light of the Word from Mr. Parker, Mr. Baynes and Dr. Ames, from whom also (from two of them at least) we received light out of the Word for the matter of the visible Church to be visible saints; and for the form of it to be a mutual covenant, whether an explicit or implicit profession of faith, and subjection to the Gospel of Christ in the society of the Church or Presbytery thereof. And these be the chief doctrines and practices of our way so far as it differeth from other Reformed Churches, and having received these not from the Separatists but from the Lord Jesus by gracious saints and faithful witnesses of Jesus the consanguinity of our tenets with any the like found among the Separatists will not demonstrate the Separatists to be our fathers.
First, in making these churches a little sanctuary (through his grace) to many thousands of his servants who fled over hither to avoid the unsupportable pressures of their consciences by the Episcopal tyranny.
Secondly, in blessing the ministery of our preachers here with like fruits of conversion (as in our native country) of sundry elder and younger persons, who came over hither not out of respect to conscience, or spiritual ends, but out of respect to friends or outward enlargements: but have here found that grace, which they sought not for.
Thirdly, in discovering and suppressing those errors of Antinomians, and Familists, which brake forth here amongst us, and might have proceeded to the subversion of many souls, had not the blessing of Christ upon the vigilancy of Congregational discipline, either prevented or removed, or healed the same.
Fourthly, it hath been also a testimony from Heaven of Gods blessing upon our way, that many thousands in England in all the Quarters of the Kingdom, have been awakened to consider the cause of Church discipline, for which we have suffered this hazardous and voluntary banishment into this remote wilderness: and have therefore by letters conferred with us about it, and been (through mercy) so far enlightened, as to desire an utter subversion of Episcopacy, and conformity, yea and the Honorable Houses of Parliament, the Lord hath been pleased to help them so far to consider of our sufferings, and of the causes thereof, as to conclude a necessity of reformation of the ecclesiastical state (among other causes) by reason of the necessity put upon so many English subjects to depart from all our employments and enjoyments in our native country for conscience sake.
THE EARLY New England divines, as is well known, formed what Dr. Holmes was fond of terming a Brahmin caste. They were thoroughly banded together and upheld their theocracy in every way possible, among others by paying sincere, if extravagant tributes to those of their number who had been gathered to their reward in heaven. Several of these tributes will be given in our pages. John Cotton, who has just appeared as an elegist of his friend Hooker, was especially honored by his surviving brethren, and we present three representative specimens of their hyperbolical praise. The first is from the short sketch by the Rev. Samuel Whiting (15971679) of Lynn; the second from the longer life by the Rev. John Norton (16061663), progenitor of a distinguished New England family and famous as a theologian; the third, in verse, is the production of the Rev. Benjamin Woodbridge (16221684), the first graduate of Harvard, who is not strictly an American writer since he resided in the country only a few years.
I COULD speak much more; but at this present want strength. But this I say; he may be a pattern to us all, and happy they that come nearest him in those things wherein he most followed Christ. I am not like to live to see such another in New England, though I know God is able to double the spirit of that Elias upon him that succeeds him, and upon many others in our native country and here. It is well for both the Bostons that they have had such a light, if they walk in the light, and continue in that word of Christ and light of grace and truth, that he held out to them. I end all with that of our Saviour concerning John Baptist, he was a burning and a shining light; and God grant the after words be not verified of both Englands and both Bostons. I speak my fears, but would be glad to entertain better hopes.
[From Nortons Abel being Dead yet Speaketh; or the Life and Death of Mr. John Cotton, London, 1658.]
HE was a general Scholar, studious to know all things, the want whereof might in one of his profession be denominated ignorance; and piously ignorant of those things, the nescience whereof made him more learned. One man is not born to all things. No calling (besides divine requisites) calleth for more abilities, or a larger measure of humane knowledge, than the ministry; deservedly therefore is his praise great in all the churches, that he not only gave himself thereunto, but exceeded many that had done virtuously therein. The greater part of the Encyclopaideia he excelled in. Those arts which the university requireth such a proficiency from her graduates in, he both digested and refined by his more accurate knowledge of them. He was a good Hebrician, in Greek a critick, and could with great facility both speak and write Latin in a pure and elegant Ciceronian style; a good historian, no stranger to the Fathers, Councils, or School-men; abundantly exercised in commentators of all sorts. His library was great, his reading and learning unanswerable, himself a living and better library. Though he was a constant student, yet he had all his learning out of his books. He was a man of much communion with God, and acquaintance with his own heart, observing the daily passages of his life. He had a deep sight into the mystery of Gods grace, and mans corruption, and large apprehensions of these things .
With Solon, as he grew old, so was he continually a learner; and with Quintilian he terminated his life and his reading both together. The constant work of his ministry was great, if not too great for one man. A candle may spend too fast, and the improvement of the light whilst it is yet burning admits of degrees; besides his preaching in season and out of season, he was daily pressed, if not oppressed, with the care and service of the churches, attendance to personal cases, and manifold other employments inevitably put upon him, both from abroad and at home; whence the time remaining (which is not a little to be lamented) was insufficient to attend doctrinal and especial polemical scripts, such as the cause of the truth, occurrents of Providence and his peculiar engagements called for. He was free to give his judgment when desired, but declined arbitration and umpirage in civil differences between man and man as heterogeneous both to his office and spirit. His course, like that of celestial bodies, was always in motion, but still careful to keep within his proper sphere. Calvin was not more solicitous not to be found idle; no man more vigilant to contain himself within his measure. It was religion to him both to run and to run lawfully within the white lines and boundaries of his agonistical race. He was doing, and so doing .
He began the Sabbath at evening, therefore then performed family-duty after supper, being larger than ordinary in exposition. After which he catechised his children and servants, and then returned into his study. The morning following, family-worship being ended, he retired into his study until the bell called him away. Upon his return from meeting he returned again into his study (the place of his labor and prayer), unto his private devotion; where, having a small repast carried him up for his dinner, he continued till the tolling of the bell. The public service being over, he withdrew for a space to his prementioned oratory for his sacred addresses unto God, as in the forenoon, then came down, repeated the sermon in the family, prayed, after supper sung a Psalm, and towards bed-time betaking himself again to his study, he closed the day with prayer. Thus he spent the Sabbath continually.