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fully discovered, which through mercy did drive him to a stand, as plainly seeing himself to have no true grace, all his false hopes and grounds now failing him: and so he lay a long time in an uncomfortable despairing way; and of all things, this was his heaviest burthen, that he had wittingly withstood the meanes and offers of grace and mercy which he found had been tendred to him; till it pleased God to let in some word of faith into his heart, to cause him to look unto Christ for healing, which word (if memory faileth not) was dispensed unto him by doctor Sibbs; which begat in him a singular and constant love of doctor Sibbs, of whom he was also answerably beloved.
That which first made him famous in Cambridge, was his funeral oration for doctor Some, master of Peter-house; so accurately performed, in respect of invention, elegancy, purity of style, ornaments of rhetorick, elocution, and oratorious beauty of the whole, as that he was thenceforth looked at as another Xenophon, or Musa Attica throughout the University. Some space of time intervening, he was called to preach at St. Maries, where he preached an University-Sermon, with high applause of academical wits, so that the fame of his learning grew greater and greater. Afterwards being called to preach in the same place, as one oration of Pericles left the hearer with an appetite of another; so the memory of his former accurate exercises, filled the colledges, especially the young students, with a fresh expectation of such elegancies of learning, that the curious and Corinthian wits, who prefer the Muses before Moses, who taste Plato more then Paul, and relish the orator of Athens far above the preacher of the cross, (like Quintilians numerous auditory, sufficient to tempt the abilities of the speaker) flock to the sermon with an Athenian itch after some new thing, as to the ornaments of rhetorick and abstruser notions of philosophy. But his spirit now savoring of the cross of Christ more then of humane literature, and being taught of God to distinguish between the word of wisdom, and the wisdom of words; his speech and preaching was not with the enticing words of mans wisdom, but in the demonstration of the spirit and of power. The disappointed expectation of the auditory soon appeared in their countenances; and the discouragement of their non-acceptance returned him unto his chamber not without some sadder thoughts of heart. Where he had not been long alone, but lo, doctor Preston (then master Preston) knocks at his door, and coming in, acquaints him with his spiritual condition, and how it had pleased God
to speak effectually unto his heart by that sermon: after which, doctor Preston ever highly prized him, and both fully and strongly closed with him. Which real seal of God unto his ministry comforted his soul, far above what the present less-acceptance of the auditory had dejected him, or their former acceptance encouraged him. This brings to mind that celebrated story of the conversion of the Heathen Philosopher at Nice, which God wrought by the means of an ancient and pious confessor, plainly declaring unto him the doctrine of faith, after that many Christian Philosophers had by philosophical disputations laboured in vain. Christ evidently held forth, is divine eloquence, the eloquence of eloquence. God will not have it said of Christ, as Àlexander said of Achilles, that he was beholden to the pen of him that published his acts. "Tis Christ that is preached, not the tongue of the preacher, to whom is due all praise. Such instances conclude, that Paul is more learned then Plato. We must distinguish between ineptness of speech, carnal rhetorick, and eloquent gospel-simplicity; between ignorance, ostentation, and learning. The preacher sought to find out acceptable words, and words of truth.
His Concio ad Clerum, when he proceeded bachelor of divinity (after he had been at Boston about half a year) was very much admired and commended. His text was Mat. 5. 13. Vos estis sal terræ: quod si sal infatuatus fuerit, quo salietur? Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost its savour, wherewith shall it be salted? In handling of which, both the weight of the matter, elegancie of phrase, rhetorical streins, grave, sweet, and spiritual pronuntiation, rendred him yet more famous. The like did his answering of the DivinityAct in the schools, having a very acute opponent, Mr. William Chappell, to dispute with him. So that in Cambridge the name of Mr. Cotton was much set by.
Unto this earthen vessel thus filled with heavenly treasure, Boston in Lincolnshire made their address, saying, Come and help us! And in that candlestick the Father of spirits placeth this burning and shining light. To whom he removed from Cambridge about the 28th year of his age. At the first he met with some obstructions from the diocesan, then bishop Barloe, who told him that he was a young man, and unfit to be set over such a divided people. Mr. Cotton being ingenuous, and undervaluing himself, thought so too, and purposed to return to the college again: but some of his Boston friends understanding that one Simon Biby was to be spoken with, who was neer to the bishop, they presently charmed
him, and so the business proceeded without further trouble, and Mr. Cotton was admitted into the place after their manner in those days.
Two things are here not unworthy of observation, (which he would sometimes speak of to his friends:) First, that in the beginning of his ministery, he was exercised with some. inward troubles which much dejected him. No sooner had Christ received his mission into his publick ministery, but he is led into the wilderness to be tempted of the Devil. Wise Heman suffered the horrors of God, and was laid in the lowest pit. The doctor of the Gentiles stood in need of being buffeted by Satan. The tempter is in Christs hand, and an instrumental winnower of the disciples. His fiery darts, through the influence of him who succors those that are tempted, cleanse as well as smart; and this cleansing efficacie remains when the smart is over. From the experience of this archer, are the choise shepherds in Israel. Good spirits are much better'd by their conflicts with the worst of spirits: spiritual preachers are often trained up in the school of temptation: so true is that theological maxim; meditation, prayer, and temptation make a divine.* This dispensation of the all-wise God he afterwards found not only to be beneficial to him, in preparing his heart for his work, but also that it became an effectual means of his more peaceable and comfortable settlement in that place, where the people were divided amongst themselves, by reason of a potent man in the town, who adhered to another Cambridge-man, whom he desired to bring in. But when they saw Mr. Cotton wholly taken up with his own exercises of spirit, they were free from all suspition of his being pragmatical, or addicted to siding with this or that party, and so began to close more fully with him. And secondly, Whereas there was an Arminian party in that town, some of whom were witty, and troubled others with disputes about those points, by God's blessing upon his labours in holding forth positively such truths as undermined the foundations of Arminianism, those disputes ceased, and in time Arminianism was no more pleaded for. So God disposeth of the hearts of hearers, as that generally they are all open and loving to their preachers in their first times: trials are often reserved until afterwards. Epiphanius calleth the first year of Christ's ministery, the acceptable year. The disciples in their first mission want nothing, and return all safe; but after his death they met with other en
* Tria faciunt theologum, meditatio, oratio, tentatio.
tertainment, and come short home. Young Peter girdeth himself and walks whither he will; but Old Peter is girded by another, and carried whither he would not.
For three or four years he lived and preached among them without opposition; they accounted themselves happy (as well they might) in the enjoyment of him, both the town and country thereabout being much bettered and reformed by his labours. After, not being able to bear the ceremonies imposed, his non-conformity occasioned his trouble in the court of Lincoln, from whence he was advised to appeal to a higher court: And imploying Mr. Leveret (who afterwards was one of the ruling-elders of the church of Boston in NewEngland) to deal in that business, and he being a plain man as Jacob was, yet piously subtile to get such a spiritual blessing, so far insinuated himself into one of the proctors of that high-court, that Mr. Cotton was treated by them as if he were a conformable man, and so was restored unto Boston. (Likewise by the same meanes it was, that a gentleman of Boston, called Mr. Bennet, used occasionally afterwards to bring him in again :) After this time he was blessed with a successful ministry, unto the end of twenty years. In which space he on the Lord's-day, in the afternoons, went over the whole body of divinity in a cathechistical way thrice, and gave the heads of his discourse, to those that were young schollars, and others in the town, to answer his questions in publick in that great congregation; and after their answers he opened those heads of divinity, and finally applyed all to the edification of his people, and to such strangers as came to hear him. In the morning on the Lord's-day, he preached over the first six chapters of the gospel of John; the whole book of Ecclesiastes, the prophesie of Zechariah, and many other scriptures, and when the Lord's-supper was administred (which was usually every moneth,) he preached upon 1 Cor. 11. and 2 Chron. 30. per tutum, and some other scriptures concerning that subject. On his lecture days, he preached thorough the whole first and second Epistles of John, the whole book of Solomon's Song, the parables of our Saviour set forth in Matthew's Gospel to the end of chapter 16. comparing them with Mark and Luke: He took much pains in private, and read to sundry young schollars, that were in his House, and some that come out of Germany, and had his house full of auditors. Afterwards, seeing some inconvenience in the peoples flocking to his house, besides his ordinary lecture on the 5 day of the week, he preached thrice more in publick
on the week days. On the fourth and fifth days early in the morning, and on the last day at three of the clock in the afternoon. Only these three last lectures were performed by him but some few years before he had another famous colleague. He was frequent in duties of humiliation, and thanksgiving. Sometimes five or six hours in prayer, and opening of the word, so undefatigable in the Lord's work, so willing to spend and to be spent. He answered many letters that were sent far and near, wherein were handled many difficult cases of conscience, and many doubts cleered to great satisfaction.
He was a man exceedingly loved and admired of the best, and reverenced of the worst of his hearers. He was in great favour with doctor Williams, the then bishop of Lincoln, who much esteemed him for his learning, and (according to report) when he was lord keeper of the great seal, went to king James, and speaking of Mr. Cotton's great learning and worth, the king was willing, notwithstanding his non-conformity, to give way that he should have his liberty without interruption in his ministry, which was the more notable considering how that kings spirit was carried out against such men. Also, the Earl of Dorcester being at Old-Boston, and hearing Mr. Cotton preaching concerning (if memory fail not) civil-government, he was so affected with the wisdom of his words and spirit, that he did ever after highly account of him, and put himself forth what he could in the time of Mr. Cotton's troubles to deliver him out of them, that his Boston might enjoy him as formerly; but he found spiritual wickednesses in high places too strongly opposite to his desires.
About this time he married his second wife, Mris. Sarah Story, then a widow. He was blessed above many in his marriages, both his wives being pious matrons, grave, sober, faithful, like Euodias and Syntyche, fellow-laborers with him in the gospel: by the first he had no children; the last God made a fruitful vine unto him. His first-born she brought forth far off upon the sea: he that left Europe childless, arived a joyfull father in America. God who promiseth to be with his servants when they passe through the waters, having caused him to embrace a son by the way; in memorial whereof he called his name Seaborn, to keep alive (said he) in mee, and to teach him if he live, a remembrance of sea-mercies, from the hand of a gracious God. He is yet living, and now entred into the work of the ministry. A son of many prayers, and of great expectation.