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Memoirs of the Life of the Rev. John Cotton, formerly of Boston, in New England.
We have long waited for an opportunity of commencing with a suitable article, the Bibliographical department of our Work, many valuable materials for which have been in our hands since the commencement of our undertaking, though they have hitherto given place to original communications of more immediate interest.
We flatter ourselves, however, that the following reprint of a memoir of a faithful labourer in the vineyard of the Lord, who has long since entered upon his rest, will not be unacceptable to our readers, though presented to them in the quaint, and now antiquated garb in which it first made its appearance, more than an hundred and fifty years ago. The book is extremely scarce; we, ourselves, having been indebted for, a copy of it, to the kindness of a valuable correspondent, deeply read in the literature of those interesting, but much neglected times. The title of the pamphlet is as follows:
Abel being Dead yet Speaketh; or, the Life and Death of that deservedly Famous Man of GoD, Mr. John Cotton, late Teacher of the Church of Christ,at Boston,in New-England. By John Norton, Teacher of the same Church. Heb. 13. Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God; whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation." London, Printed by Tho. Newcomb for Lodowick Lloyd, and are to be sold at his Shop next the Castle-Tavern in Cornhill. 1658.
Ir is the priviledg of the blessed who lived in heaven, whilst they lived on earth, that they may live on earth, whilst they live in heaven. And 'tis a part of the portion of the saints, that (together with the benefit of the living) they may enjoy both the life and death of those, who both lived and dyed in the faith. Life and Death are yours. By faith Abel being dead many thousand years since, yet speaketh,* and will speak whil'st time shall be no more.
That the living speak, is no wonder : but that the dead speak, is more then miraculous. This, though it be enough to draw forth attention from the sons of men; who is not affected with miracles? yet being influenced with a Divine and special benediction; for the memorial of the just is blessed : To suppress an instrument of so much good with silence, were not only unthankfulness to the dead, but an injury to the generation present, and to many an one that is to come. To preserve the memory of the blessed with the spices and sweet odors of their excellencies and weldoing, recorded to posterity, is a super-Egyptian embalming, and a service which many reasons perswade unto. This we do as men; glad to rescue and solicitous to preserve any excellency in the sons of mortality, that may outlive death; desire of continuance in being, is in itself inseparable from being. Dumb pictures of deserving men answer not ingenuous minds capable to retain the memorial of vertue, the real effigies of their spirits. Besides unhappy emulation, happily expiring with the life of the emulated: We greedily own and enjoy such worthies, when they are not, whom envy in a great degree bereaved us of, whilst they were. This we do as friends; hence the Smyrnean poet of old, he is a true friend, who continueth the memory of his deceased friend. And this is done, not only in love to them, but also in love to our selves, thereby easing in part our loss, and saving so much of our own lives. He may the better be heard, who reckoned his friend the one half of himself: when Moses intimates a friend to be as our own soul; whilst Calvin lives, Beza's life is sweet; when Calvin dyes, death is the more acceptable unto Beza. This we do as Christians: The deeds of those worthies was the subject matter of the speech of the saints; these all obtained a good report. A considerable part of the scripture is a divine testimony of what the faithful have done and suffered, recorded unto succeeding generations, not only as a memorial of them, but as so many practical demonstrations of the faithfulness of God: as so many full and glorious triumphs over the world, sin, and Satan, obtained by persons in like temptations, and subject to like passions with ourselves. A quickening motive unto such who have understanding of the times, not to pretermit those testimonies, the signal presence of God in whom, manifests
-ἐπεὶ φίλος ὅσις ἐταίρε μέμνη ται κταμένοιο καὶ ἄχνυται ἐκ ἔτ ̓ ἐόντος + Nam is demum est amicus qui etiam extincti memoriam servat, ejusque causâ dolet, licet non amplius superstes sit.
Heb. xi. 36.
them to have been fore-appointed, for the further compleating of that cloud of witnesses which elevates the beholders thereof, to lay aside every weight that doth so easily beset us, and with the same spirit to run the race that is set before us.
The mystery of God, concerning all the transactions of his eternal purpose upon the theatre of this world, throughout the whole time of time, being fully accomplished and revealed, (that of Jesus Christ himself excepted) in none of all the work which he hath gloriously done, will he be admired so much in that day, as in what he hath wrought in the lives of and deaths of beleevers, as beleevers. The same object is as admirable now as then; that it is not so much admired, is, because it is not seen now so much as it shall be then. The greatest object out of heaven is the life and death of such upon earth, who are now in heaven. You may beleeve it, what God hath done for the soul of the least saint of some few years continuance, were it digested into order, would make a volume full of temptations, signes, and wonders: A wonderful history, because a history of such experiences, each one whereof is more then a wonder. No greater acts then their obedience, both active and passive unto the death. The sufferings of the apostles may well be reckoned amongst the acts of the apostles. No greater monuments then their register to live and die in the faith of Jesus; to do things worthy to be written, and to write things worthy to be done, both is good, and doth good. 'Tis better with William Hunter, then with William the Conqueror. "Tis better to have a name in the book of Martyrs then in the book of Chronicles. Martial conquerors conquer bodies, by destroying. Confessors conquer souls, by saveing. They overcame by the blood of the Lamb, and the word of his testimony, and loved not their lives unto the death. Amongst these, as the age that now is (through grace) hath abounded with many worthies, so this eminent servant of God, the subject of our present meditation, may without wrong unto any be placed amongst the first three. Had it pleased the only wise God to have put it into his heart to have imitated Junius, in leaving behind him the history of his own life, how many would have gladly received it, as Elisha did the mantle which fell from Elijah, when he was caught up and carried from him into heaven: but, Divine Providence otherwise disposing, it remains, that they who have known his doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, long-suffering, love, patience, persecutions, and affliction, do not suffer such a light to be
hid under a bushel, but put it on a candlestick, that it may give light to them that are in the house.
His birth-place, Derby, we shall not detain the reader at, though a scituation in respect of the purity, and frequent agitation of the air, attempered (in the judgment of the orator) for the breeding of better wits. Creatures are in their kind subservient; but, tis God, (not the air) who puts wisdom into the inward parts, and giveth understanding to the heart. As the wise man and the fool die, so are they both ordinarily born in the same place. The glory of every good and perfect gift is reserved for the Father of lights. Let it be sufficient to acknowledge both the place an honor to the person, and the person an honor to the place. What Basil sometime commended in the Martyrs, the same is to be looked at in our confessor (or martyr, which you please) namely, that his praise is not to be derived from his country here below, wherein he was born; but from his relation unto that Hierusalem which is above, where he was instrumentally born again, according unto grace. The mercy of a good descent which the joint-consent of all generations, hath always voted not to be the least part of outward happiness, God blessed him with from the womb, his parents being persons of considerable quality, and of good reputation, their condition, as to the things of this life, competent; neither unable to defray the expence of his education in literature, nor so abounding as to be a temptation on the other hand unto the neglect thereof. Crates the philosopher would needs go unto the highest place of the city and cry in the audience of all the people, O men! whether go ye? why take ye so much pains to gather riches for your children, and have no care to train them up, who should enjoy them? And Plutarch was wont to say, that he would add but this one thing thereunto; that such men as these were, are very like to them who are very careful for the shooe, and take no care for the foot. But God who had predetermined this then tender plant to be a tree of life for the feeding of many thousands, to be a chosen vessel to bear his name before the nations; in way thereunto inspired his parents with an effectuall sollicitude concerning the ordering of the child in his minority. The Grecians called timous erudition, Paideia; the word itself a loud admonition to wise fathers, not to suffer the childish years of their offspring, to pass away without discipline. Though vain man would be wise, yet may he be compared to the cubb, as well as to the wild asses colt: Now we know the bear, when she bringeth forth