pressions had been due to the preaching of William Perkins [q. v.], some time after whose death (1602) a sermon by Richard Sibbes [q.v.] proved a turning-point in his career. His funeral oration (10 Feb. 1609) for Robert Some [q.v.], master of Peterhouse, had gained him great repute, increased by a university sermon at St. Mary's. A second (1611 ?) university sermon drew a large audience, expecting learned nights ; a plain evangelical discourse was coldly received, but moved John Preston [q. v.] to seek his counsel and to forsake medicine for divinity.
In 1612 the parishioners of Boston, Lincolnshire, petitioned for him as their vicar and carried their point, the corporation as patrons electing him on 24 June 1612 (according to Cotton Mather, by the mayor's casting vote, twice given in error) against another candidate who had influential support, and despite the opposition of William Barlow (d. 1613) [q.v.], bishop of Lincoln, who had a nominee of his own, Simon Biby, and objected to Cotton as too young, the real objection being his puritan tendency. His concio ad clerum on taking (1613) his B.D., and his divinity act, with William Chappell [q.v.] as opponent, added to his Cambridge repute. The Boston corporation made him frequent donations, and an annual grant of 10l., the living being small. His definite repugnance to the 'ceremonies' did not begin till 1615. For his disuse of them he was cited before his diocesan, Richard Neile [q.v.], who suspended him. Thomas Leverett, his agent, took the case to the court of arches on appeal, and succeeded in removing the suspension by some 'piously subtile' influence with one of the proctors ; for Cotton did not conform, though tempted by the offer of better preferment. He is said even to have disused the common prayer book, and his opinions advanced to congregational views of church government. John Williams (1582-1650) [q.v.], lord-keeper and bishop of Lincoln, who respected him for his learning, indulged Cotton's nonconformity with the sanction of James I. Subsequently Williams complained that people came from other parishes to receive the communion from Cotton without kneeling ; in a letter of 31 Jan. 1624-5 Cotton denies that this was the case. James Ussher [q.v.] consulted him on theological points ; a letter from Cotton (31 May 1626) in Ussher's correspondence deals with predestination. His preaching in the morning was homiletic exposition of biblical books ; in the afternoon a catechetical lecture. He took theological pupils ; Preston, 'the greatest pupil-monger in England,' sent his divinity students to complete their studies with Cotton ; among them were Thomas Hill (d. 1653) [q. v.] and Samuel Winter [q. v.] ; he had others from Holland and Germany. He was assisted by a ' town preacher,' an office filled from 1629 by his cousin, Anthony Tuckney [q. v.]
In September 1630 he was attacked by ague, which disabled him for a year ; from February 1631 he was the guest of Theophilus Clinton, fourth earl of Lincoln. In 1633 one Johnson, who had been punished by the Boston magistrates for some offence, gave information against two of them in the high commission court for nonconformity. He was questioned about Cotton, who was cited before the commission. He came up to London, but, on the advice of John Dod [q.v.], 'kept himself close.' His friends found they could not protect him, and Edward Sackville, fourth earl of Dorset [q.v.], counselled flight. At a private conference several puritan divines urged him to conform ; his arguments brought them to his own position. Among them were John Davenport [q.v.], Thomas Goodwin [q.v.], Philip Nye [q.v.], and Henry Whitfield [q.v.] In a letter to Williams (7 May 1633) he intimated his resignation of his vicarage ; the date of resignation, as entered in the corporation records, is 8 July. A fine of 50l. was imposed on Cotton, but not till 3 March 1633-4, when he had left England.
About 13 July he sailed for New England in the Griffin, accompanied by Thomas Hooker [q.v.], Samuel Stone [q.v.], Edward Hutchinson [see under Hutchinson, Anne], and others. They landed at Shawmut or Trimountain on 3 or 4 Sept. 1633; their welcome was emphasised by a change of the town's name from Trimountain to Boston. Cotton was ordained (15 or 17 Oct.) as colleague to the Boston minister, John Wilson (1588-1667), grandnephew of Sir Thomas Wilson (1560 ?-1629) [q. v.] At the same time Leverett was ordained as ruling elder. The proceedings were to form a precedent for the future. Cotton's ministry in the humble New England meeting-house was on the same plan as in the splendid church of St. Botolph, including a Thursday lecture. Keeping Sunday as a sabbath, he counted the day from evening to evening, which became the usage of New England. His guidance was sought in the consolidation of the Massachusetts government ; at the direction of the general court he drew up an abstract of those parts of the Mosaic law which were considered of perpetual obligation. Thomas Hutchinson (1711-