Page:Dictionary of National Biography. Sup. Vol II (1901).djvu/81

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Cotton
Cotton
69

1780) [q.v.] rightly describes him as 'more instrumental, in the settlement of their civil as well as ecclesiastical polity, than any other person.' His 'Abstract of the Laws of New England,' a code which made one type of religious observance compulsory, and ordained the death penalty for heretical propagandists, was printed in London, 1635, edited by William Aspinwell.

His authority was not without set-backs. The arrival at Boston, in September 1634, of Anne Hutchinson [q. v.] hampered him with a devoted follower who proved a troublesome enthusiast, and threw the colony into a ferment by her prophesyings and 'antinomian' heresies [see Winthrop, John (1588-1649)]. The first New England synod met at Newtown (now Cambridge) on 30 Aug. 1637, and sat for three weeks; Cotton, who had at first made reservations in his judgment of Mrs. Hutchinson, was brought at length to a complete condemnation of her opinions. His ideal of church government, as set out in his 'Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven,' 1644, was put in practice by the New England congregationalists. But when, in 1648, the synod had directed Cotton, Richard Mather [q. v.], and Ralph Partridge to prepare alternative schemes for reducing this ideal to legislative shape, it was not Cotton's but Mather's 'platform of church discipline' which was adopted by the synod at Cambridge (October 1648), and hence known as the 'Cambridge platform.'

In 1642 a letter, signed by four peers, over thirty members of the lower house, and some divines, had been addressed to Cotton, Hooker, and Davenport, begging them to return to England, with a view to their taking part in the Westminster assembly of divines. Cotton would have obeyed the call had the others been willing to accompany him, but Hooker would not move. A movement in favour of presbyterian government, attempted by fresh immigrants in 1643, was promptly suppressed by the general court.

The nobility of purpose which inspired 'the New England theocracy' cannot fail to be deeply impressive, but it involved an exclusiveness which easily passed into intolerance. Something may be said for the expediency of the expulsion (1635) of Roger Williams (1604 ?-1683) [q. v.], defended by Cotton in his 'Letter' of 1643. The infant colony doubtless felt that there were cases in which toleration would, to use Baxter's phrase, be 'self-murder.' But in his famous 'Bloudy Tenent' tract against persecution (1644) Williams rose high above the confused ideas of his age, and cleared the way for the full recognition of the principle of religious liberty, while Cotton in his 'Bloudy Tenent Washed' (1647) fell back upon the very principles whose application to his own case had driven him from England. How little he understood the claims of conscience may be seen in a letter written in the last year of his life, amazing for its tone of calm conviction, setting aside the remonstrances of Richard Saltonstall (1586-1658) [q.v.], and approving the treatment of Obadiah Holmes, an Oxford scholar, who in August 1651 had been publicly 'well whipped' for rebaptising an adult person at Lynn, near Boston (cf. Clarke, I11 News from New England, 1651). His consistency he bases on the futile distinction, 'we fled from men's inventions,' 'we compel' men to 'God's institutions.' Yet his own temper was placid and gentle; W r illiams, his antagonist, speaks of him with esteem. He did not live to see the terrible application of his principles, in the case of the quakers, from 1656 to 1661. Cromwell wrote to him with warm sympathy (see his letter, 2 Oct. 1652, Sloane MSS, 4156, printed in Brook).

After a brief illness, described as a complication of asthma and scurvy, he died on 23 Dec. 1652, and was buried on 29 Dec. in the graveyard of King's chapel, Boston. In 1855 a memorial brass, with Latin inscription by Edward Everett (1794-1865), was placed in the Cotton chapel at St. Botolph's, Boston. He was of sanguine complexion, middle height, and stout. He married, first (about 1613), Elizabeth (d. April 1631), sister of James Horrocks, a Lancashire divine, by whom he had no issue ; secondly (25 April 1632), Sarah Story, a widow, who survived him and married Richard Mather [q.v.] By her he had three sons and three daughters : (1) Seaborn (b. 12 Aug. 1633, d. 19 April 1686), was minister at Hampton, N.H., 1660-86; (2) John (b. 13 March 1640, d. 18 Sept. 1699), minister at Plymouth, Mass., and Charleston, S.C., was noted as a preacher to Indians, and revised the translation of the Bible by John Eliot (1604-1690) [q. v.]; his son Josiah 1680-1756) was a missionary to Indians under the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, and author of an Indian vocabulary ; (3) Maria, married Increase Mather [q. v.]

His very numerous publications may be thus arranged: I. Sermons. 1. 'God's Promise to His Plantation,' 1630, 4to. 2. 'The Churches Resurrection,' 1642, 4to (sermons on 1 John v.) 3. 'The Covenant of God's Free Grace,' 1642, 4to. 4. 'Christ the Fountaine of Life. . . . Sermons on part of the Fifth Chapter of ... First . . . John,'