Plymouth’s New Minister 1669–1674
A period of nearly five years separates Cotton’s last letter to John Winthrop Jr. and the beginning of this second cycle of correspondence. This gap, the longest in this volume, is particularly unfortunate, for it comprises nearly three years that Cotton spent on Martha’s Vineyard, ministering to the English there and developing his new role as a missionary to the island Natives. There again, Cotton fell afoul of authority, quarreling with island proprietor Thomas Mayhew and forcing the Commissioners of the United Colonies of New England to arbitrate the matter. As had happened in Connecticut, the authorities found Cotton to be most at fault; or at least, it was his removal to Plymouth in late 1667 that afforded the easiest remedy to the clash of personalities.67
In Plymouth, Cotton found a church much in need of a shepherd’s guiding hand, and the letters that follow give some idea of the range of tasks facing a young minister who takes over the direction of a somewhat dilapidated church. With characteristic energy, Cotton launched himself into his work, reenergizing church members and their families with frequent visits and home catechising and restoring church discipline. His sincerity and charisma, coupled with the fact that Plymouth had lacked a minister and the sacraments for some years, attracted dozens of new members to the church. Some of his correspondence at this time clearly concerned church “housecleaning,” such as tracking down former members who had drifted away from the town without formally terminating their church affiliation. Formal dismissals or transfers to new churches usually followed these transactions. A necessary part of Cotton’s job involved building relationships with his colleagues who were ministering to the other churches of Plymouth Colony, most notably Thomas Whalley of Barnstable and Noah Newman of Taunton. Those letters in which the ministers exchange advice on thorny matters of doctrine and discipline make clear just how important these relationships were. It is interesting to note how Cotton’s lineage, and the relative prestige of being pastor of the “parent” church of Plymouth Colony, seems to have commanded deference for the young pastor from colleagues more than twice his age. Cotton weighs in on the problem of orthodoxy in the religiously diverse western parts of the colony and even resumes his father’s old feud with Rhode Island’s Roger Williams.
Second Meeting House, Plymouth, 1683–1714. Courtesy of the Pilgrim Society and the Pilgrim Hall Museum, Plymouth, Massachusetts.
In these letters, Cotton also announces the resumption of his Native missionary work, this time to the nearby mainland Wampanoag. The General Court of the colony turned to Cotton to facilitate days of humiliation and prayer in times of trouble and to help with a fund drive for Harvard College in Cambridge, Massachusetts Bay (although we can be sure of Cotton’s support for the latter enterprise, Plymouth’s contribution was embarrassingly small). Even as Cotton became accustomed to his duties and at last found broad community acceptance, his letters to and from family members left behind evince the hardship of separation from loved ones in times of stress, especially during an age in which transportation was difficult and unreliable. Even maintaining contact by letter was problematic, as Cotton reveals through his frequent references to the challenges of securing reliable delivery.
24 September 1669
Cotton’s father-in-law had a controversial career in the sometimes rough-and-tumble politics of Connecticut. In this letter, however, he reveals an uncharacteristic frailty and near-despondency as he describes the devastating effects of an epidemic.
Dear & Lo. Son & Daughter-
My hand trembles & Pen is unsteady in the very thoughts of Writing unto you, Great is the Ld & greatly to be feared, None is so sovereign as He, It becomes poor tabernacled Man to Sit Silent, be dumb, & not to open his Mouth at the Lords Doings tho he should break in Pieces by the Blow of his hand, & consume our Beauty like a Moth, Surely Every Man is vanity;69 When Jobs Friends heard of his sore Afflictions, they came to Mourn with him & to Comfort him, but when they saw the Greatness of his Misery & sore Afflictions, & that his Grief was so very Great, it was Amazing so that they wept & rent their mantles & sprinkled Dust on their heads & sat down silent seven Days;70 There is no other Hope nor Refuge but in the Ld. that hears Prayer, gives Ear to Cries, & holds not his peace at Tears, therefore I will say unto ye Ld. as David, I also am a stranger with thee & a sojourner as all my Fathers were, oh spare Me that I may Recover Strength before I also go hence, & am seen no more71—Must I now step forth with sad Tidings as the Messenger of Job, One tiding after Another (as it is said a 3 fold Cord is not easily broken) so trebled sad & sorrowfull Tidings Cont: break in Pieces. I must say with the Prophet I will weep bitterly, Labour not to Comfort me,72 tho. with some Check I would fain say with Job in Patience of Spirit & silent submission to his Will that is God only Wise; Naked came I into ye World and Naked shall I return out of the World. The Ld gives & the Ld takes & blessed be his Name. We have had a sore visitation again by Sickness & Mortality here in Guilford this summer as the last, Our Graves are Multiplied & fresh Earth Heaps increased, Coffins again & again have been carried out of my Doors, I have taken up a Lot amongst ye Tombs in ye midst of them; yr Sister Sarah73 died august 10th Her Mother74 was overborn with Grief that for 10 Days she refused to eat what was necessary to Sustain nature, & spent that time in Sighing & bitter Mourning to ye Decay of strength and ye Distemper Seized on her & she died Augst: 29th. Then the 2d Day of the Week following ye young Daughter Sarah75 Sickened, & the 4th Day Convulsion ffits followed her & she died Septr 8th—The Same Day Joasias76 came home from Kellingsworth very Sick under ye Sentence of Death in himself & lay very dangerously hazardous for many days but is newly Recovered, that is a mercy. Yet I must Return to sighs & sorrows saying as Naomi did, Call me Marah, Call me Marah,77 I was full but now am empty, I will weep bitterly—the good Lord Support your Hearts when these Sad Tidings come to You—Sarah Rosseter pofrest [profest] long before taken Sick that she should dy this summer, Exprest so much to Several; When Death Seized her, her mother desired her to give some testimony by Sign of her good hope if she could not speak, She fixed her Eyes up to Heaven & Smiled, so died, & when dead lay with a Smiling Countenance—to the admiration of ye Neighbours that were present, that is comforting—yr Mother had clear & full assurances of Gods Love Days before her Death & held it to the last, & spent much time in Prayer for her Children, strongly pleading ye Covenant & was strongly pswaded & believing that God had Eternal Mercy in store for them all. She was willing nay desirous to dy, & could look Death in the face with constant Resolution, until she had obtained the Conquest through his dear Redeemer that had conquered Death & the Grave. These are rich & comforting Mercies, but the greater my Loss, I can Rejoice in her & their Gain but Mourn over my Loss, the Loss of a Sweet companion yt had been so long a comforting companion in all my Tribulation, I will weep bitterly—I might have enlarged in many things—But I can hold it no longer—Pray Pray Pray for us, so rests yr Lo. ffather
Guilford Septr. 24th 1669
27 & 29 December 1670
Cotton’s mother was Sarah (Hawkridge) Story, the widow of William Story, who married John Cotton Sr. in 1632. The elder Cotton died in 1652; she then married the Reverend Richard Mather (1596–1669) “shortly after” he was widowed in 1655.78 John Jr. wrote this awkward consolation to his mother, who had lost her third husband only the year before.
Plymouth December: 27: 1670:
Deare and much Honoured Mother
The last weeke I received your letter with all the things you sent, for your love & care in which wee heartily thank you & our cousen: I was very sorry when I heard you were left alone this winter season, but, Deare Mother, you know very well that it is many yeares God hath bin weaning you from Creature comforts & teaching you, to be above them, to place your heart & your hopes upon a higher & more steady object; how many times, alas how many times, have you found the streames to be dryed up, but <yet> you never yet found the fountaine to faile you, when your flesh & your heart hath failed you, the father of mercies & God of all comfort hath still bin your portion, your rock both for protection from evill & for supply of all needfull good: And you know he hath said, I am Jehovah I change not,79 all creatures are changelings, there is noe trusting in them, but God is the same for ever, he alwayes abideth faithfull & cannot deny himselfe. & therefore although you are alone, yet you may have most of the best company, even of him who delights to be most neere to his poore children when they are most destitute of Creature comforts & supports; The truth is, I am soe sensible of your lonesome Condition, that I would come downe on purpose to visit you, but that I feare the weather that is soe uncertaine & hazardous in the winter season: you have a rich treasury of Gospel promises to resort unto, & I beleve God will helpe you more & more to remember, that a Christian whilest in this world must live by faith & not by sight.
I write this letter not knowing as yet by whom to send it, but I hope I shall meete with some body ere long, My wife intends by him that brings this letter, to send you a pound of flax; That 3 shillings I send to buy my bootes,80 I now write to my Brother Mather81 to take them to himselfe to pay for Lockyers pills:82 I would entreat you to buy for me 2 skaines of black silk 3 yds of black cotton ribband 6 yds of green galoom,83 4 yds of black strong course ribbon if you take them up at Mr Atwaters shop,84 & adde them to my account for the cloake, I will pay him for all together in the spring; my wife is very well satisfyed with her cloake; The things I write for I intreat you send by him that brings [. . .] letter, whom I will desire to call upon you for them[.] mine & my wives duty to you with Love to Coz; Simo[ ] I humbly beg your daily prayers to God for me, that he would keepe me in his holy feare, & delight to doe me good, though unworthy, that I may be a blessing in my generation; I rest,
Your Dutifull Sonne,
pray send me a peice of sealing wax:
If any letters for us at Mr Atwaters from Connecticott, pray send them
I meeting with young Kempton that lives at my Cousen Coopers, I send my letter by him, I hope it will not be long before I shall meete with some body that may call upon you to take them & bring them to me:
Mather Papers 1:43, Prince Library, Rare Books and Manuscripts, Boston Public Library. Addressed “These For his Deare and much Honoured Mother, Mris Sarah Mather, at her house, in Boston.” Letter mutilated along center fold.
10 January 1671
Beginning in the 1640s, the remote western reaches of Plymouth Colony attracted religious mustangs, particularly Baptists and, in the 1660s, Quakers. There, far from the easy reach of Plymouth but close to the dissenters’ haven of Rhode Island, those seeking religious alternatives found room for experimentation. Most Plymouth Colony towns lacked the means to attract dynamic orthodox clergymen of Cotton’s caliber, and without the firm powers of enforcement enjoyed by the magistrates of Massachusetts Bay, the General Court could only do so much to discourage pluralism. In several of the letters that follow, we see evidence that Cotton jumped into the fray, hoping to check the activities of a Baptist preacher and to neutralize what he clearly considered the odious influence of Roger Williams.
Janaury: the 10th. 70
[. . .] respects promised to yourselfe & yours. Having this opportunity [. . . .] mrs. Esthers Indian bearer whom she sends to Namasacut86 if not to Plimouth for her dismission which I told her would not bee like to Come by any other way in respect of the winterlinese of the season; I am willing to gratifye your desire, in returning you what account I can of our prsent affaires[.] You are pleased in yours to desire mee to let you know what we have done with our recanting woman, wch Question ase matters are att this instant Circumstanced wth us, hath some ambiguity in it, because there is one recanting from us & another recanting to us, the tearm recantation is more applicable to the latter, yet my thoughts have been you intend it to ye former, (viz) Elizabeth Bullocke,87 who is rebaptised, by mr. Miles.88 Now Concerning our proceedings wth her I shall give you this breife account. when there was att first some waverings in her mind about ye point of baptisme, falling in Conjuction wth some Convictions shee was then under touching her spirituall Condition, she was by the advice of some friends mooved to speke wth mee, wch shee made some attempts unto, but being providentially disapointed shee too hastily as I understand drew up this Conclusion that shee was out off her way to seeke it, & surely the voyce of God was in her being so disappointed Calling her to desist, or to that purpose as she sayd; Altho she came to the towne but twice (Living att mr Browns)89 & one of these times; she might allmost Conclude shee should not find mee att home. It being upon plimouth Election weeke;90 but by this meanes I had no speech wth her till shee was propounded to mr Miles his Church for as I understand shee did pretty soone attaine unto a ripenes of assurance touching her spirituall & eternall well being & was not long before she was stedfastly perswaded of her need of a further Baptisme then shee had yet received; Now upon what I had heard of her procedure in that way, I proposed it to the Churches Consideration, what was our duty in the Case before us, upon wch it was determined she should be sent for, to come to my house, where one or two of the brethren wth my selfe should debate wth her. at wch time I demanded of her the grounds upon wch she went in the repetition of her infant Baptisme so she Layd downe two objections, upon wch I told her there was but one that did relate to the subjects of Baptisme, the other had respect to ye manner; therefore we would goe through one first Namely who were the subjects of Baptisme & as God helped me I showed her the emptines & ungroundednes of her objection & layd before her severall arguments for the validity of her first Baptisme <what> & told her what she did not see backt wth plaine Scripture shee should reject. I beseeched her in her owne language to tell me of any impertinentcy in those answers I gave her or those scriptures I alledged, somtimes shee would plead weaknes & say shee Could not reason out the point wth mee, somtimes shee would say God had so perswaded her heart, & shee must walke according to the light shee had received—I desired she would but promise mee to ponder the things I had sayd to her, but she would not. finally shee Came to the result That she Could not owne any relation shee stood in, to this Church by her parents membership Nor any baptisme she had received amongst us, that was acc[. . . .] Neyther was she willing (as she sayd) to hear or Consider [. . . .] her from her present perswasion; & so I left her w[. . . .] her I would leave wth her, since I mooved the Church againe about [. . . .] sent too to understand the frame of her spirit, (wch seemes to be as formerly [. . . .] know that we did yet Looke after her [&] should proceed further wth her when opp[ortunity] served, wch doth not Now in respect to her remoteness it being winter season living a matter of 8 or 9 [miles?] from us If I mistake not; I am very thoughtfull what issue we ought to put to such a Case tho I perceive the C[hurch] excepting 2 or 3 are very tractable in the busynes. I therefore Crave yor: advice by the next opportunity—
Touching the other recanter (It is the wife of one Jarrat Ingram,91 who wth her husband were members of mr: Miles his Church both rebaptized, she formerly recieving baptisme in this or weymouth Church; Now it is about 2 year since she fell into heavy desertions & temptations, both wth respect to her spirituall Condition & her relation unto them; by reason of wch she hath had as I understand very hard measure from them being threatned wth falling into Judas his Case. & wth denying the Lord of Life & glory in denying the baptisme she had received amongst them, by which you have some tast of their spirits and of that weigh[t] they lay upon their administrations what ever become of ours; but in short upon her addresse to mee, after a pretty Large experience of the frame of her spirit I have proceeded to propound her to this Church; having been a Constant hearer here (by her living in the towne) this 2 year or upwards, yet nevertheles in her being Called to an account att Swancy shee is Charged wth the sin of forsaking the assemblys of the Saints; she now stands propounded since the last sabbath. & Now having given you this account of ours, give me leave to aske you what you have done or will doe wth yor: recanting woman; I mean mr. Howland’s daughter that marryed to Jonathan Bozworth,92 who is Joyned to mr: Miles his Church & rebaptized; there is another also that Came from your plc whose maidens Name was Paddocke marryed to Zech: Eidee93 that I thinke hath proceeded as far, but I know not what her relation is to your Church. Those things my thinkes rightly & duely Considered speakes an inconsistence in our Communion wth them. If my heart faile mee not I Could be willing to exercise as much Charity as any towards mr Miles or others of that opinion, yet Moses his answer to Phar: will not be out of my mind. Shall we sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians before their eyes & will they not stone us.94 so shall we see that which we professe to be an ordinance of Jesus xt95 trampled under foote in so manefest a manner, & must we be silent, nay must we give Countenance to it. &c. Touching mrs Esther’s motion I suppose you understand the successe of it by her request for her diss:, & therefore say no more but wish ye blessing of God there wth; tho’ for my own pt I have noe more aptnesse to it, then as I find it undenyable in a way of order, that is upon some Considerations, Not to Cast any aspersions upon her pson or qualifications [in?] the Case, Thus wth dearest salutations I rest wth ye hearty request of yor prayers,
Yor assured friend & Brother.
God hath given me a young son Henery In the memory of his Now glorifyed grandfather98
Cotton Family Papers 6:1, Prince Library, Rare Books and Manuscripts, Boston Public Library. Addressed “To the Reverend His truly Esteemed Friend mr. John Cotton Pastor of the church in Plimouth, these.” Endorsed “from Mr Newman January, 10: 1670:” Some words, especially on the reverse, have been lost to a tear in the upper left hand corner.
20 February 1671
As Cotton contemplated his response to the threat of Rev. Miles, he was also busy locating church members who had drifted away from Plymouth and granting them formal letters of dismissal.
Reverant [and B]eloved in Christe Jesus
Some months since we Receved a leter from you100 intimatinge to us the desire of the Church wth the Care the Church hath for us in Regard of our prsent standing and the desire the Church hath of our prsent and eternall good; ffor Answere to yor Letter we have the longer defurred it because there was hope of the unitinge and Closing of these Churches but as yet we doe not see it wch Causeth us yet to Crave of the Church a littell longer time before we doe settle and pick unto wch Church we shall joyne and somethinge in Regard that neather of our husbans are yet Resovld unto wch Church to joyne, soe that we would faine Chose if possible where they joyne; Now Consideringe the intent of yor writinge that it is in love and your Care of us therein, having this opportunitie we dare not omite it any longer feeringe it may be judged a: disregardinge of the Church, but we hope the Church will not soe judge of us; for you are in our harts much Respected in the Lord Christe, desiringe yor prayers for us that God would please to settell us where he may have moste glory and we may have Comfort in our settellinge[.] thus wth or due Respects to you and our prayers to god to direct you in all yor ways we take our leave and humbly Rest & shall ever Remaine
yor Lovinge Sisters in Christe
Boston this 20th of ffebruary 1670.
Cotton Family Papers 6:2, Prince Library, Rare Books and Manuscripts, Boston Public Library. Addressed “To the Reverant Mr. John Cotton pastor of the Church of Christ in Plimouth these [are] sent.”
14 March 1671
you are not ignorant how much your desires have bin manifested by word & writing, of having & maintaining Communion with the churches of Christ in this wildernesse, & in particular with the church here; The Consideration of which, makes us greatly to marvell at the newes of any such actings of yours as doe, (at least to our present apprehensions) bespeake an utter <impossibility> improbability of our regularly Ecclesiasticall communicating with you in any way: To tell you the very truth of our hearts, when the motion of Communion with you was first stirring amonge us, such was the Largenesse of our charity to you, as that wee really desired the agitations thereabouts might issue in a gratification of your request upon that account, & wee apprehended an inclination in the bretheren also thereunto, wee being in great hopes, that by some discourse with yourselfe the grace of Christ would soe appeare in your answers to what wee had to say to you as that all obstructions of our mutuall brotherly communion would have bin removed; but the onely wise God (whose awfull dispensations of providence in this respect wee desire to adore) disappointing our intended Conference a first & a 2ond time with his owne immediate hand, wee had thereby granted us from the Lord a longer opportunity of more serious & deliberate thoughtfulnesse what conclusive answer to give to such a motion; In this Interim, while our thoughts were unsettled & undetermined, it pleased God to bring to our eares the sad tidings of your pollution of the Holy ordinance of Baptisme, by reiterating the eternall administration of it to divers of the children of the Churches hereabouts, & in particular to one of our owne; hereupon our Church meeting together, it was unanimously declared that this practice of yours is very offensive, & puts in such a barre of Communion as wee are not able for the present to remove: Sir, wee beseech you to consider, how it is possible for us to hold any Communion with you, or you with us, when your principles lead you to such practices as tend to destroy the very foundation of our Church order, (the doctrine of Baptisms being a foundation of truth, Heb: 6: 1: 2:)101 Doth not your Covenant one with another utterly exclude a very considerable part of the federall members of Christs visible Kingdome from having any interest therein? & doth not this re-washing of persons formerly baptized in true Churches of xt & by true Ministers (as you your selfe acknowledge) plainly inferre that their first Baptisme was a nullity & to be rejected if the subject thereof soe please[?] Can a chast heart, sincerely affected to the faith & order of the Gospel patiently endure to see the pretious blood of our Lord Jesus Ct (that is solemly represented in that sacred ordinance of Baptisme) to be soe lightly esteemed? Wee would not be soe void of Charity to you, as to thinke that a <spirit> prophane spirit acts you in this matter, wee rather hope your soe acting proceeds from Infirmity of minde & from want of a due consideration of the ill consequences of such a course. Wee doe therefore beg of God on your behalfe, that he would open your eyes to see the great evill of this way of yours whereby the name of God (that is called upon his Churches & ordinances[)] is dishonoured, the hearts of those in Church fellowship (who have with great comfort beheld the gratious fruits of this Initiatory seale of the Covenant to themselves & theirs) much sadened, & a wide doore opened to loosenesse & all sin in our youth, for if they are not under the bond of the holy Covenant of God sealed to them in Infancy, then the sons of God may be as bold in wayes That are vitious & prophane, as the children of men are, & who shall check or controll them? it is manifest that you Judge there is noe Eclesiasticall restraint can be laid upon them, which God forbid: wee shall not enlarge on this hand, only beare with us, if wee be zealous for our God, & for the preserving in peace & purity those holy priviledges & blessed ordinances he hath betrusted us withall, lest if wee should altogether hold our peace at such a time & upon soe sad an occasion as you have given us, the Lord should be provoked agst us to lay all our pleasant things waste; wee would entreat of you not to palliate & excuse this evill action of yours to one of ours, by saying, that you force noebody to desire baptisme of you, every one is left to their owne liberty, she desired it of you, & you are bound in conscience to answer such desires of your members, these are but fig leaves & will not be a sufficient covering, when the Lord shall call you to an account for the same; meanwhile wee cannot but lay it sadly to heart that wee see that which hath a tendency to undermine any one of the ordinances of Jesus xt so long established amongst us; & therefore that wee may doe what in us lyes to prevent your future progresse in a way soe irregular, wee declare with reference to any others, the Children of our Church residing with you, that you cannot without manifest breach of rule, & great offence to our Consciences administer your baptisme to them; wee hope, that rule, 1 Cor: 10: 32:102 will not be unminded by you, as to this matter; & wee doe hereby charge any that stand in such relation to us not to dare to renounce their Baptisme formerly received amongst us, or to desire any new administration of it from you; As for what is past, could wee see a spirit of Repentance & Humiliation in you & her for the same, wee hope wee should be ready to forgive the great wrong you have done us, till then wee are offended with you; wee shall adde noe further, but our prayers are to God to save his poore Churches from Apostacy, & from any ensnarements by such examples as may tend to alienate hearts from the thruth received, & in his Infinite mercy reduce you from errour & helpe you to walke in the way of truth, resting
yours according to truth
J: C: [&] T: C: with the Consent of the Church:
Plym: 1st m: 14 d: 1670: 71:
Cotton Family Papers 6:3, Prince Library, Rare Books and Manuscripts, Boston Public Library. Addressed at bottom of letter “These For the Reverend Mr John Myles Preacher of the word at Swanzey:” This appears to be Cotton’s edited draft copy of the letter sent to Rev. Myles.
25 March 1671104
Williams had engaged Cotton’s father in an increasingly personal pamphlet debate in the 1640s and early 1650s. We cannot be certain why Cotton chose to come to his father’s defense at this point, nearly twenty years after the debate ended. However, placing this letter in the context of Noah Newman’s letter of 10 January, printed above, and Gov. Thomas Prence’s letter cited below, it seems clear that Cotton’s missing letter to Williams, and this reply, are part of a renewed debate on religious toleration, made more immediate to Cotton by the activities of Rev. John Miles and his followers in Swansea.
Providence 25 March 1671 (So Calld)
Lo: respects premised. About 3 Weeks since I recd Yors dated in 10br [December]:105 & wonder not yt Præjudice, Interest & passion have lift up Your Feete thus to trample on me as on some Mahumetan Jew or Papist, Some Common Thiefe or Swearer, Drunckard or Adulterer, imputing to me ye Odious Crimes of Blaspheamies, Reproaches, Slanders Idolatries to be in ye Devills Kingdome, a Graceless man &c And all this with out any Scripture, Reason or Argumnt wch might inlighten my Conscience, as to any Error, or offense to God or Yor deare Father.
I have now much above 50 years humbly & Earnestly begd of God to make me as vile as a dead Dog in mine owne eye,106 So yt I might not feare what Men should falsly Say or Cruelly doe agnst me: & I have had Long Experience of his mercifull Answer to me in Mens false Charges & Cruelties agnst me to this Hower.
My great offense (you So often repeate) is My Wrong to Yor dear Father Yor glorified Father &c107 But ye truth is, ye Love & Honor wch I have alwayes shewed (in Speech & writing) to yt Excellently learned & holy Man Yor Father, have bene so great yt I have bene censured by divers for it. God knowes yt for Gods Sake I tenderly loved & honoured his pson (as I did the psons of ye Magistrates, Ministers & Members whome I knew in old England, & knew their holy Affections & upright Aimes & great Selfe deniall to enjoy more of God in this wildernes) And I have therefore desired to Wave all psonall Failings &c & rather mencion their Beauties, to prevent ye Insultings of ye Papists or Prophane Protestants who use to scoff at ye Weakenesses Yea & at ye Divisions of those they used to brand for Puritants The holy Eye of God hath seene this ye Cause why I have not said nor writ what abundantly I could have done, but have rather chose to beare all Censures, Losses & Hardships &c
This made yt honrd Father of ye Bay mr Wintrop to give me ye testimony not only of Exemplary Diligence in ye Ministry (when I was Satisfied in it,) but of Patience allso, in these Words in a Letter to me [S.r We have often tried Yor Patience, but Could never Conquer it.]108
My humble desire is still to beare not only what You say but when Power is added to Yor will, an hanging or burning from You as You plainly intimate You would long since have serv’d my Booke,109 had it bene Yor owne, as not being fit to be in ye Possession of any Christian as You write.
Alas Sr what hath this Booke merited above all ye many thouhsands full of Old Romish Idolls names &c & New Popish Idolatries wch are in Christians Libraries, & use to be alleadged in Testimonie, Argumnt & Confutation?
What is there in this Booke but presseth Holynes of Heart Holynes of Life, Holynes of Worship & Pitie to poor Sinners & Patience toward them while they breake not ye Civill peace.
Tis true, my first booke ye bloudy Tenent was burnt by ye Presbiterian Partie (then prevailing):110 But this booke, whereof We now speake (being my Reply to Yor Fathers Answere,) was recd with Applause & Thancks by ye Armie by ye Parlmt, professing yt of Necescity, Yea of Christian Equity, there Could be no Reconciliation, Pacification or Living togeather but by pmitting of Dissenting Consciences to live amongst them: In So much yt yt excellent Servant of God mr John Owen (Calld Do: Owen)111 told me before ye Generall, (who Sent for me about yt very busines) yt before I Landed, Himselfe & many others had answered mr Cottons booke allready.
The first booke, & ye Point of Permitting Dissenters his Maties Royall Father assented too,112 & how often hath ye Son our Soveraigne declared himselfe indulgent toward Dissenters notwithstanding ye Clamors & Plottings of his Selfe Seeking Bpps?113
And Sr, (as before & formrly) I add, if your Selfe or any in Publicke or Private shew me any Fayling agnst God or Yor Father in yt Booke, you shall find me diligent & faythfull, in Waighing & in confessing or Replying in Love & Meekenes.
Oh you say Wrong to a Father made a dumbe Child Speake &c Sr I Pray forget not yt Yor Father was not God but man Sinfull & failing in many things as we all doe saith ye Holy Scripture: I Presume You know ye Scheme of mr Cottons Contradictions (about Church discipline) presented to ye World by mr Dan: Cawdrey, a man of Name & Note114 allso Sr take heed You Prefer not the Earthen Pot (though Yor Excellent Father) before his most High Eternall Maker & Potter:115 Blessed yt you were borne & proceeded from him if You honor him a more for his Humilitie & Holynes, then for outward Respect wch Some (& none shall justly more then my Selfe) put upon him.
Sr You Call my 3 Proposalls &c116 abominable, false & wicked: But (as before[)] Thouhsands (High & holy too Some of them) will wonder at you: Capt: Gookins from Cambridge writes me Word117 yt he will not be my Antagonist in them being Candidly understood: Yor honrd Govr tells me there is no Foundacion for any dispute with Plymmouth about those Proposalls for You force no mens Conscience:118 But Sr You have Yor Libertie to prove them abominable false & wicked & to disprove yt wch I have presented in ye Booke Concerning ye N. E. Churches to be but Parochiall & Nationall, though Sifted with a finer Sive & Painted with finer Coulors.
You are pleased to Count me Excommunicate & therein You deale more cruelly with me then with all ye Prophane Protestants & Papists too, with whome You hold Communion in ye Parishes to wch (as You know) all are forced by ye Bps,. & yet you Count me a slave to ye Devill, because in Conscience to God & Love to God & you I have told you of it: But Sr, ye truth is (I will not say I excommunicated you but) I first withdrew Communion from Yor Selves for halting betweene Christ & Antichrist, ye Parish Churches & Christian Congregations:119 Long after when you had Consultations of killing me, but Some rather advised a Drie Pyt of Banishmnt: mr Peters120 advised an Excommunication to be Sent me (after ye manner of Popish Bulls &c[)] But the same man in London embraced me, & told me he was for Liberty of Conscience & preacht it & Complaind to me of Salem for excommunicating his distracted wife & for wronging him in his Goods wch he left behind him.
Sr, You tell me my Time is Lost &c because (as I conceave you) not in ye function of Ministrie: I Confesse the offices of Christ Jesus are ye Best Callings but (generally) they are ye worst Trades in ye World, as they are Practiced only for a Maintenance, a Place, a Living a Benefice &c God hath many Employmnts for his Servants: Moses 40 Years & ye Lord Jesus 30 Years were not idle: though litle knowne what they did as to any Ministry. And ye 2 Prophets Prophesie in Sackcloth121 & are Christ Jesus his Ministers though not owned by ye Publike Ordinations: God knowes I have much & long & Conscientiously & mournfully waighed & digd into ye Differences of ye Protestants themselvs about ye Ministry: He knows what Gains & Præfermnts I have refused in Universitie, City Countrey & Court in Old Eng, & Something in N. E. &c to keepe my Soule undefiled in this Point, & not to act with a douting Conscience &c
God was pleased to shew me much of this in Old Engl: And in New being unanimously chosen Teacher at Boston (before Yor deare Father came divers yeares) I conscientiously refused & withdrew to plymmouth, because I durst not officiate to an unseperated people, as upon Examination & Conference, I found them to be: At plymmouth I spake on ye Lords days & weeke days, & wrought hard at ye How [Hoe] for My Bread (& so afterward at Salem) untill I found them both Professing to be a Seperated people in N. E. (not admitting ye most Godly to Communion without a Covenant) & yet out Communicating with ye Parishes in Old, by their members repairing on frequent occasions thether.
Sr I heartily thanck You for Yor Conclusion wishing my Conversion & Salvation without wch Surely vain are our priviledges of being Abrahams Son Enjoying ye Covenant, holy Education, holy Worship holy Church or Temple, of being adorned with deepe understanding miraculous Faith, Angelical Parts & utterance, ye Titles of Pastors or Apostles Yea of being Sacrifices in the Fire to God.
Sr I am unworthy (though desirous to be)
Your Friend & Servant
Jeremy Belknap Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society. Addressed “To Mr John Cotton at his house in N. Plymmouth these presnt.” Endorsed “From Mr Roger Williams March 25: 1671:”
10 April 1671
Reverend & highly Honoured in the Lord,
Some of the children of our Church Living in Boston have Lately desired our consent to their Joyning with the third Church,123 many serious thoughts wee had what answer to returne to their desires, being utterly unwilling to doe any thing that might [be] grievous to yourselves whom wee greatly love & reverence, & at last concluding it would bee noe matter of offence to you because of that Candour (wee heare) you have manifested to the leaders of that society, & readynesse to give them the right hand fellowship in your private treaties with them; & also considering the necessity of a speedy answer, in regard that one of the woemen is very neere to her time of restraint, wee have therefore consented to them in this their motion, heartily pouring out our supplications to the God of Peace, that he would in his abundant mercy perfect that Reconciliation betwixt yourselves & your brethren that may comfort all our hearts & the hearts of all that truly fear God & tend soe greatly to the glory of his name in Jesus Christ,
In whom wee rest yours sincerely & respectively
J: C: [&] T: C:124 with the Consent of the Church
Apr: 10: 1671:
Cotton Family Papers 6:4, Prince Library, Rare Books and Manuscripts, Boston Public Library. Addressed at bottom of letter “To the Revd Elders of the 1st ch: of Xt in Bost: these present.” This appears to be Cotton’s edited draft copy of the letter sent to the elders.
26 June 1671
To the third gathered Church of Christ in Boston Grace, mercy & peace from God our father; & from our Lord Jesus Christ, be multiplyed.
Reverend & Dearley Beloved in the Lord
whereas by the Providence of the only wise God, in whose hand are all our times & wayes, our beloved brother & sister, viz Mr John Winslow & Mary his wife125 have their setled habitation amongst you, & wee seeing noe hopes of their returne unto us, they having also manifested unto us their desires to Joyne themselves unto you, in order to the regular participation of all the ordinances of Xt in his church, wee doe therefore by these our letters dismisse them to your holy fellowship, beseeching you to receive them in the Lord as it becometh saints into the bond of your holy Covenant, & in all Christian Love & faithfullnesse to watch over them, & administer to them those blessed ordinances of Christ, for their further ædification in faith & holinesse; our prayers to God for them are that they may be fruitfull & profitable amongst you by their exemplary walking according to the rules of the Gospel, for the glory of God & the furtherance of your & their Consolation in Christ Jesus, to whose grace & blessing wee commend them & you in all your holy administrations; beseeching God even our father to adde to you daily such as shall be saved, & that you may stand compleat in all the will of God; craving also your prayers for us, wee take leave & subscribe ourselves,
J: C: [&] T: C: with the Consent of the Church
June 26: 1671:
Such of their children also as live with you whether adult or inadult wee commend to your care & watch in the Lord & to be received by you according to their capacity desiring of the Lord to accompany the dispensation of his holy word to them for their effectuall Regeneration that in the Lords good time they may become Living stones in his holy Temple.
Cotton Family Papers 6:5, Prince Library, Rare Books and Manuscripts, Boston Public Library. Addressed at bottom of letter “For the Revd Elders of the 3d gathered ch: of Xt in Boston, these.” This appears to be Cotton’s draft copy of the letter sent to the elders.
In the spring of 1671, rumors spread that Philip (Metacomet), sachem of Pokanoket (on Plymouth Colony’s western boundary) was preparing a surprise attack on the English settlements. Although only weakly substantiated, the rumors jolted the Plymouth government into a flurry of preemptive activity. The General Court proceeded to pass ordinances demanding that Natives surrender all European weapons, and deliver “engagements of fidelity” to Plymouth authority. At its July 1 meeting, the Plymouth General Court ordered a call-up of the town militias for a military expedition to force compliance with the terms of disarmament from the Saconnet Indians (in the area of modern Little Compton, Rhode Island), “upon a supposition that they would not accept of the tearmes proposed.” A contingent from the eastern towns of the colony was to set out on August 8 and march to Assonett (modern-day Freetown, Massachusetts), there to rendezvous the next day with men from the western towns. The force was to consist of 102 men, including forty Natives. The Court ordered that the colony’s churches observe “a sollemne day of humilliation” on 9 August, “to seeke the presence and favor of God, and his blessing on us in the entended expedition.” Before that could happen, however, the Saconnet sachem Awashunks came to Plymouth and on 24 July agreed to submit to Plymouth’s terms. Although the mission against Saconnet was scrubbed, the Court insisted that the call-up go forth, in order to intimidate other recalcitrant Natives, and rescheduled the day of humiliation for 16 August. In September, the Plymouth authorities managed finally to extract humiliating concessions from Philip, including disarmament.126
To mr John Cotton Pastor and mr Thomas Cushman Elder [of the] Church of Christ att Plymouth to be Comunicated to that Congregation wth all Convenient Speed
Beloved bretheren and frinds wee prsume it is not unknowne unto you that the Ind[ians of] Saconett were and are found Coeprtenors127 in Complyance with Phillip the Cheif Sac[hem of] Poconakett in his late Conspiracye against us which appeers as otherwise; soe by being prsonally with him att mount hope128 on that accoumpt; and alsoe appeered with him, sundry [. . . .] armes att Taunton; on Consideration wherof and other prticulars Concurrent wee thought meet to Require some of the Cheif of them to give [illeg.] att Plymouth in order unto a settlement of matters between them and us Relating to [the p]rmises and to bring in all theire English Armes; both which they Refused to doe; Notwithstan[ding] wee have sent unto them letters and Messengers severall times with assurance of their [peace]able Coming and Returning; and in stead of an answare suitable to our expectations; they have [sent] us Divers Insolent Returnes manifesting therin great Refractarynes and adversnes to our termes of Complyance; on Consideration wherof our Councell of Warre Concluded to send some smale force under the <hand> Comand of Major Josias Winslow;129 to Reduce them to a more Rationall and peacable Demenior and Carriage; and wee did appoint the eight Day of this Instant August, to be observed by the severall Congregations of this Juridiction [ac]tively in fasting and prayer to seeke the presence of God and his blessing with us in soe [illeg.] an enterprise; but soe it was the good Pleasure of God to Dispose [otherwise?] Awashunckes the Cheif Sachem of Saconett; hath bine lately with us and [several words illeg.] life and peace with us; which hath given us Renewed [cause?] to [Reflect?] on our former agitations and Conclusions about the prmises; and Notwith[standing] wee saw Cause to lett her Returne in peace and safety; on such Conditions as have [been] Indented between us; yett withall wee see Reason to Retaine our former Resoluti[on] [. . .] Reference to a sending forth as aforsaid; to Reduce such a prty of the said Salvages [. . . .] make head against us. and therfore the Majestrates of this Jurisdiction do sev[ ] Comend the 16th Day of this Instant unto the severall Congregations in this Govrment [. . .] sett apart and observed as a sollemne Day of humiliation to seeke the face and favor [. . . .] that hee would please to Continew our lives and liberties without a goeing fourth or efus[ion] of blood; <or in case Nessesitie Require a> a foretast wee have by the submision of the said S[achem] but incase that be not attained; that hee would please to succeed us and prosper us in our expedition so as his name may have the Glory and wee and ours after may have Cause to Rejoyce in the mercy and salvation that hee may worke for us [. . . .] soe that providence Disposeth that there be noe Nessesitie of a goeing forth we Desire [. . . .] [12?] Day of this Instant may be observed as a Day of thanksgiving unto God for his [. . .] mercy in that behalf;
The Desire of the [. . . .] of this Jurisdic[tion] [. . . .] pr: Nathan[iel Morton]130
[. . . .] of the sixt month (71)
Cotton Family Papers 6:6, Prince Library, Rare Books and Manuscripts, Boston Public Library. Mutilated on left and right margins.
1 August 1671
To the first Chu[rch] [. . . .] Grace & Peace [. . . .] & from our Lord [. . . .] Reverend, much Honored & [. . . .] Lord Jesus,
our Beloved Sister Mris Hannah Joh[nson]131 having bin by the providence of God many yeares since removed from us unto you, in all which time of her residence amongst you she hath had the benefit of Communion with you, by virtue of her church relation here, wee thought it her duty to Joyne in Covenant with your selves, that she might be under your <speciall> Christian care and watchfullnesse for the advancing of the spirituall weall of her soule, & therefore advised her to be in the use of meanes for attaining soe choice of favour, which Counsell she hath regularly hearkned unto; and desired our letters of dismission to you; wee doe therefore by these commend & dismisse this our Sister to you beseeching you in the Lord to receive her into your holy fellowship, as saints ought to be received, & to administer to her the pretious blessings of the house of God for her spirituall growth in grace & further quickening and enlargement in walking in the wayes of God.
Thus Commending her unto God, whose grace alone can enable to walke worthy of soe great mercies, & <begging> desiring that you may be more & more inriched with the blessings of truth, holinesse & peace, <desiring> [c]raving also your fervent prayers for us, wee take Leave, subscribing our selves,
Your Affectionate Bretheren in the faith & fellowship of the Gospel
J: C: [&] T: C: with the Consent of the chu[rch]
6 mo: 1st d: 1671:
Cotton Family Papers 6:7, Prince Library, Rare Books and Manuscripts, Boston Public Library. Addressed at bottom of letter “To the Reverend, our truly Honoured friends & Bretheren the Elders of the first gathered church of christ in Boston, these.” Cotton’s draft copy. Substantial tear in top margin.
[1 August?] 1671
[. . . .] in Boston [. . . .]muel [. . . .] Reve[rend] [. . . .] [br]etheren in our Lod Jesus christ.[. . . .] Mary Blake,132 having bin by the [providence of Go]d many yeares since removed from us & thereby uncapable of enjoying that Christian Communion with & helpe from us, which soe solemne a relation doth oblige unto, wee therefore advised her to seeke some regular Establishment in one of the Churches of Christ in the place where now she lives, which counsell of ours she hath <regularly> orderly hearkned unto, & desired our letters of dismission unto you;
wee doe therefore by these commend and dismisse this our sister unto you, beseeching you in the Lord to receive her into your holy fellowship, as saints ought to be received, & to administer to her the pretious blessings of the house of God, with all due watchfullnesse over her in the Lord, for her spirituall growth in grace etc all the rest as on the other side. & superscription also, mutatis mutandis.
Cotton Family Papers 6:7, Prince Library, Rare Books and Manuscripts, Boston Public Library. Cotton’s draft copy, written on the reverse of the last letter. Substantial tear in top margin.
7 September, 1671
Cotton appears to have sincerely enjoyed his missionary work with the Natives of Martha’s Vineyard, but there he had the advantage of beginning with a congregation that had, in some cases, nearly two decades of instruction and study under Rev. Thomas Mayhew. As Cotton relates below, the situation on the mainland was very different.
Worshipfull & truly Honoured Gentlemen
Although by the Providence of God, in whose hand are all our times, I was called from that place where I had for a time some liberty to attend the worke of God amongst the Indians, as also considerable Encouragement from your selves to further me therein; yet I have ever since retained a firme resolution of heart to endeavour the best good of poore Indians, if it would please God soe far to smile upon me, as to open the doore for such a service where now I live; Accordingly I did endeavour by going twice or thrice to Josiah133 in his life time, but the Interest of the world was more deare to him then any thing of a better life then I could present him with; not long after this his refusall of such a motion, God tooke him from all his worldly Enjoyments: About the beginning of october last I attempted againe with some Indians that live, some 8, some 12 miles from my house, wherein it hath pleased God to give me some good successe, to whom I desire to give the praise of it; There was not one praying Indian when I began with them, but in one meeting after another, they have encouraged my heart to be constant in the worke with them, there being now Thirty praying Indians amongst them; & this I doe finde that every sermon leaves them with desires of another; there are divers more hearers, whose coming on to the wayes of God I hope for & expect continually; Thus much I thought it my duty to acquaint your worships withall, as knowing that your hearts are sincerely desirous of the prospering of this worke of God among these desolate soules: I have not further to adde, but my humble & earnest request, that I may have an Interest in your daily prayers to the God of heaven, that he would accept of me, owne & blesse me in his service; & therewith I take leave, subscribing myselfe, Gentlemen,
your worships humbly & sincerely devoted
September 7: 1671
The New England Company Original Correspondence (MS 7936), Guildhall Library, London. Addressed “These For the Right Worshipfull, the Commissioners of the United Colonies, in Boston.”
13 September 1671
As had been the case on Martha’s Vineyard, Cotton received modest renumeration for his missionary work in Plymouth Colony from the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in New England, through its agents among the Commissioners of the United Colonies.
Boston: Sept: 13th: 1671
We received yours dated the 7th: Instant By wh[ich] we are informed of the Renewall of your Labours In Endevoringe The Conversion of the Natives in That part of the Country where God in his providence hath now desposed your habitation. and shall be glad To heare of your further progresse in yt Good Worke. And for your Encoragmt: Wee have appointed mr. Hizk. Usher135 to pay you tenn pounds wh: you may have In mony or Goods wh: you like best, upon all demands. Thus desiringe ye Lord to succseed and blesse your Endevours <To> herin we rest.
Your Lovinge Freinds
Cotton Family Papers 6:8, Prince Library, Rare Books and Manuscripts, Boston Public Library. Addressed “These For our Lovinge Freind mr John Cotton, Minister at plimoth present.” Endorsed “from the Commissioners of the United Colonies: September, 13: 1671:”
5 December 1671
I R’d yr MSS. for wch I thank you. I am sory to hear of yr affliction in Rowlands138 griefs. The Lord pitty hime for his covenants sake. God hath bin gracious to my wife in restoring her to a comfortable measure of strength again. The Lord help us to walk answerably before him, according to what his willing & grt delivering dispensations have bin. Through ye wonderfully good providence of God, I enjoy my health in as good measure as at any time since my coming to N. E. pray ernestly yt God would Continue yt mercy & help me to improve it as shall be most for his glory, & my owne injoying at ye great day. The good Lord be gracious to you in my sister, & continue her a blessing & comfort to you, I rest
Yor true brother
Boston. 5. Decr. 1671.
5. Dec. 1671139
Cotton Family Papers 6:9, Prince Library, Rare Books and Manuscripts, Boston Public Library. Addressed “These For ye Revd. my dear Brother mr John Cotton Pastor of ye Church in Plymouth.” Endorsed “from my Brother Mather December, 5: 1671:”
Reverind and dearly beloved in or Lord Jesus
As for my Comming to Plimoth I feare it will be to soon for me to journey abroad but if I am well and the weather Encouraging I shall endeavor it: the business of [mr.] Miles I feare will prove troublesom I can say little [in it] I desire ye Lord may direct it he have noe regard to the peace of the churches they need not be forward to have Communion wth him as for yor questions to the first whether admonition be a church sensure. I judg it is yor honoured father in the way of the churches of N: E:141 p 91. Calls it a sensure and mr Hooker in his survey142 3 part chap: of sensures Calls it a sentence and the sensure of admonition. it is used for the same end that excommunication is if admonition nor suspension are not church sensures then there are noe church sensures <there> but only excommunication
As for suspension many things are sayd Pro & Con the pson under the sensure of <Excommuni> admonition is a knowne sinner and the people of God should not willingly ptake wth such lest they pertake of theyr sins and psons under that sensure Cannot ptake wthout giving offense the 2 Thes: 3. 14. 15143 sayth soe much for suspention that I wonder how any should think it reasonable publikly to object agst it. though there should be different apprehentions ye thing being disputable and Crcomstantiall the dispute about it should have bin privat. publik objecting is only of use when daingerouse errors are preached. this publik objecting when frequent and about lesser things in my opinion savours of greate imprudence if not of blind Zeale and prid. it puts stumbling blocks in the way of the ignorant & weak a meanes to fill Congregations with Contention and helps the divil to steale away the good seed lately sowen. and yet it is or duty to take heed of giving any just occasion to those that are forward that way. and to beare with those that through weakness Cannot take right seasons to doe Gods work. Deare Brother I scribbled these things in hast they are scarsly worth yor reading. only I would not have you discouraged in yor work neither much Contend wth those that differ from you in these lesser things I never Knew a need of suspension for psons being under admonition being advised not to offend have followed advice but this but my owne experience.
yor last papers I have now [re]ceived I thank you for them I shall bring ym or send them next weeke my hea[rty] love to yor selfe & mrs Cotten, my servis to ye Governor
praying [illeg.] in haste I rest
yrs in or Lord Jesus
Cotton Family Papers 6:10, Prince Library, Rare Books and Manuscripts, Boston Public Library. Addressed “ffor the Reverend, and my much honoured friend mr John Cotten Pastour of the Church of Christ in Plimoth these present.” Endorsed “From Mr Walley Received, March, 4: 1671:
9 March 1672
Plymouth Colony is famous today for a legendary thanksgiving, but days of humiliation and prayer, to sound out the possible causes of God’s displeasure, were just as characteristic of the reformed Protestant communities there. The first such occasion recorded had been in 1623, in response to a near-disastrous drought, and others occurred sporadically in Plymouth and other New England colonies throughout the colonial period. Usually these occasions named specific issues for consideration, as in the example here.
To Mr John Cotton [. . . .] and Mr Thomas Cushman Elder[. . . .] at Plymouth [. . . .] [co]mmunicated to that Congregation with [. . . .]
Wheras by the good [Provid]ence of God the Revolution of the yeare [. . . .] as our seed time Draweth on and [. . . .] hath pleased God in severall yeares past [. . . .] such Respect by Depriv[. . . .] all of the fruites of the earth in gr[. . . .]asting [. . . .] and that also a sperit of Prophanes Doth more actively appeer th[. . . .]ouly Generally in the land but also in this our Collonie in prticular; In speciall in Re[spect? . . . .] eanes144 which hath more than ordinarily broken out amongst us the yeare past [. . . .]lsoe in Consideration of the many sad afflictions which the people of God doe suffer in other prtes of the world the prmises Considered with severall other <thinges> prticulars that might be named, and wee hope will not be omitted this Court thinkes meet to propose to the severall Congregations within this Jurisdiction to sett apart the first fourth Day in the next month which wilbe the third Day of the month to be observed as a solleme Day of humilliation throughout this Collonie; to seek the Lord for the Continuance of his prsence with us and Removing and preventing evills from us or towards us and a supply of such blessings as wee stand in need of both sperituall and temporall soe as may be to his praise and our Comfort.
By order of the Court
Nathaniel: Morton Secretary.
Plymouth March the 9th 1671,
Cotton Family Papers 6:11, Prince Library, Rare Books and Manuscripts, Boston Public Library. Two large tears on the top margin.
[5 July] 1672
To Mr John Cotton Pastour and Mr Thomas Cushman Elder of the Church of Christ att Plymouth to be Improved as is beneath enserted;
Wee being Informed that it is upon the hartes of our Naighbours of the Massachusetts to support and Incurrage that Nursary of Learning att harverd Colledge in Cambridge in New England;145 from whome have through the blessing of God Issued many usefull prsons for publicke service in Church and Comonwealth; being alsoe Informed that divers Godly and well affected in England are Reddy to Assist therin by way of Contributeing Considerable sumes provided the Country heer are forward to promote the same; and that the severall Townes in the Massachusetts have bine very free in theire offerings, therunto wee alsoe being by letters from them <Invigh> Invited and Insighted to Joyne with them in soe good a worke; and that wee may have an Interest with others in the blessing that the Lord May please from thence to Convey unto the Countrey; this Court Doth therfore earnestly Comend it to the Minnesters and Elders in each Towne that they takeing such with them; as they shall think meete; would prticularly and earnestly move and stir up all such in theire severall townes as are able to Contribute unto this worthy worke, be it in mony or other good pay; and that they make a Returne of what they shall effect heerin unto the Court that shall sitt in October next whoe will appoint meet prsons to Receive the Contributions and faithfully Dispose of the same for the ends proposed;
By order of the Court
Nathaniel: Morton Secretry
Plymouth the 5th 1672146
Cotton Family Papers 6:14, Prince Library, Rare Books and Manuscripts, Boston Public Library.
31 July 1672
Cotton’s Boston connections were obviously regarded as an asset for a struggling church on Cape Cod.
Rewerent and well belowed in the Lord Jesus Christ147
that late experience that we have had of your redines and wilingnes to be hellpfull to us in your good advise to the well managin of the apointments of god: for the which our desier is to render you many thanks: as allso the blessing of god upone your indewars148 with the rest of oure Honored Rewerent and belowed friends, doth inwit and imbolden us farther to improve our intrust in you: being aquanted that you are sencibell of our sad Condition: being so long destitut of a minister in ofise amongst us: to goe in and out before us and break the bread of life unto us.149 which our solles doe ernestly long after: and being informed you are spedily to goe to Bostoune and Cambridg where wee question not but you will hafe opertuniti to Conwers and adwise with those that will be abell to informe you, and to inquier out a sutabell person for us: you so well knoing our Condition and state, our ernest request to you is that you wolld so far fawour us if it be posibell to enquier out som sutabell person for us:150 and by the furst opertuniti to let us here from you hou far god hath apered in your indewours: by which you shall forewer obllige us youre Loveing brethren in the faith and feloship of the gospell: in the be hallfe and with the Consent of the Church.
Eastham [July 31]:154 1672
Cotton Family Papers 6:13, Prince Library, Rare Books and Manuscripts, Boston Public Library. Addressed “To the Rewerent and well be Lowed Mr John Cotton Pastor of the Church of Christ in Pllimworth. these Present with Care.” Endorsed “From the Church of Eastham July, 31: 1672:.”
15 July 1673
Boston 15. 5M. 1673
Just now I rec’d yor tre.155 My Father hath noth. on yt Q. you propound, yt I know of. I th [think?] Mr Tillinghast hath a discourse on yt subject,156 whether it be in my study I can not certaynly tell, nor hav time to looke. In a wrd. [word?] I Conceive that ye worke of ones generation, is to attend to yt wch Peter calls the prsent Truth 2 Pet: 1:12:157 wch doth vary according to ye several ages men live in. In the primitive Times, yt great work was bearing witness to ye greatest of Truths Revealed in ye Gospel, yt Jesus of Nazareth is ye son of God & Savior of ye world, agt Jews & Heathens who all denyed it After yt ye great work was To bear witness to yt Truth concerning ye Eternal generation & God head of Christ, wch ye Arians raysed such bitter prsecutions against. After yt bearing witness agt Anticht. First in asserting ye truths concerning prophetical & Priestly office of Ct, we were oppressed by Papists that brought in Traditions, Transubstanciation, Masse &c And now the great work is to enquire into, (& bear witness accordingly) ye Truths relating to ye Kingly office of Christ, both as to yt government he hath appoynted in his church, wch hath not bin much minded nor generally known to ye world, till ye last age; & yt glorious Kingdome wch he will one day (at his 2d Coming) have over all ye world; ye glory of yes Truths, (& so of those Pphesies concerning ye utter Ruin of Antichrist, & Conversion of ye Jews, fullness of ye gentiles &c.) is broke forth of late more yn in former ages. Therefore I am pswaded yt a diligent searching into, & giving or Testimony as to all yes matters, is ye work ye Lord calls up ys generation for. And inasmuch as Times of great Light should be Times of much Holiness, therefore ye Lord expects from ys generation, Holiness to ye Lord as Zach. 14. 20.158 And inasmuch as ys are times of much division, so ye practice of ye duty of Love to brethren, is ye special work of ys Time. And inasmuch as yr is a great & unusual decay as to ye [Pwrs?] of godliness amongst Chtns every where, The last age had less light but more Zeal & devotion yn ys hath. so our work is to pick up & live up ye power of godliness, & interest of practical Holynes &c. Rts to my sister. The Lord be wth you
I am yor lov: brother
Cotton Family Papers 6:16, Prince Library, Rare Books and Manuscripts, Boston Public Library. Addressed “These For ye Revd mr John Cotton Pastur of ye Church in Plymouth.” Endorsed “From my Brother Mather July, 15: 1673:.”
6 October 1673
To the ch: of ct: at T:160 Gr: M: & P: fr[om God] our f: & from our L: J: C: be mult:161 Rev: & dearly bel: in our Lord JesusBeing made acquainted with the desire of Eliz: Williams daughter of Br: Walter to injoy com: with G: in all his ord: in Ch: fel: wch you where div: prov: hath ordered the place of her abode, wee cannot but acknowledge the Lds goodnes and cov: faith: in stirring the hearts of any of his cov: seed to rememb: & to give up themselves to him. & do therefore rejoyce in this motion & desire the furtherance thereoff, & doe by these letters of dismission give her up unto you and the Lord, desiring your acceptance of her according as you finde the Lord satisfying your counc: by her profes: & Conver: that she is one whom xt hath received; wee pray you to watch over her for the best good of her soule & to administer to her the holy things of God soe as may best conduce to her sprituall edif: & eter: salv: Thus praying unto God that you may be a blessing unto her & that she may be soe blessed of God as to be a bles: amongst you, & that the L: would inrich you all more with the blessings of truth, hol: & pe: craving also your prayers for us, wee rest,
your Lov: bre: in the fa: & fel: of the Gosp:
J: C: [&] T: C: with the Cons: of the Ch:
oct: 6: 73:
Cotton Family Papers 6:17, Prince Library, Rare Books and Manuscripts, Boston Public Library. Addressed at bottom of letter “To the Revd Mr Shove Pastour of the ch: of xt at Taunton, these.” This is apparently Cotton’s copy of the letter of dismissal.
26 December 1673
not hearing any thing by Ltr prsented to our consideration from you we only ordered mr Usher to pay your sallery of 20£ as formerly and for as much as a pticuler accott. of the pgresse and successe of yr work, wth others amongst ye Indyans, is very acceptable to the Gentmen of ye Corporation for that affayre in England; it is therefore desired you would please (p the first convenient opertunity) to send to the Commissioners here what you judge meet may by them be transmitted to the sd Gentmen for theire better satisfaction therein: not elce but wth our loving respects to you prsented and prayers to God for his rich blessing on yr pious Labors in the Gospell for ye good of those poore darke natives we take leave & rest
yr affectionate ffrinds
[Bos]ton decb 26. 1673
Cotton Family Papers 6:19, Prince Library, Rare Books and Manuscripts, Boston Public Library.
14 September 1674165
Worshipfull & Honoured Sir:
Mr. Bourne166 haveing been long in the Indian Worke, and acquainted wth ye Indian language, in Several parts is most able to give you a Satisying account of the worke of god; and its progresse among the Indians of this Colony, I have not long lived here, but in this time I began to preach The word of God to a Company of Indians at a place Called Kitteaumut,167 Since wch, through the blessing of God, the number of praying Indians is forty males & females, as yett they have no Indian Teacher; but on the Sabbath dayes they usually go to heare one of mr Bournes Indians, at ye nearest place to them.
About 10 of these Can read the English bookes,168 and many more are very desirous to learne to read the word: but here is very great want of Indian Primers & Bibles, I much desire yt the Commissioners would take Some Speedy Course, to supply that defect, I sometimes preach to ye Indians upon the Cape, at Several places & at Namassekett, whether Come the praying Indians of Assawomit & ketchiquut169 of those Indians mr Bourne gives you the acount,170 When the Courts are here, theire are usually great multitud’s of Indians from all parts of the Collony, at those Seasons I preach To them, wch I mention because God hath so farre blessed it, as to make it a means to encourage Some that live very remote to affect praying to God (viz) Manmanewat Sachem of Sakonett171 & Some principall Indians of Coquitt,172 who made theire Confessions, and declared theire willingnes to Serve God, and they Do Improve all the oppurtunityes they Can gett to heare the word, they Come to heare me at Acushnett,173 when I preached theire, and do desire further means of Instruction. I desire your prayers for me & mine and rest Sir,
your worships in any Service for X,
When I lived at the vineyard the praying Townes were Chappaquidgick,174 Nashamoiess,175 Sengekontakit,176 Toikiming,177 Nashuakemmiuk, Talhanio,178 one Church there gathered long before, but no officers Since I lived here, I went over wth mr. Eliot179 thether, & Hyacomes180 was ordained pastour, John Tokinosh181 Teacher, John Nanoso182 & Joshua Mummeecheeg183 ruling elders, Since I heare they are become Two Churches, the pastour & one Ruling elder for Chappaquidgick, the teacher & the other Ruling elder for the other Church, (wch hath some members (If I mistake not) in all the other townes above mencioned, hands were Imposed in ordination, by mr Eliot, mr Mahew184 & my selfe, the church at Marshpaug,185 was Gathered & mr Bourne ordained pastour of it, hands Imposed by mr Eliot & I & one of the messengers of Natick church & one of the vineyard Major Winslow (now our Governour)186 mr Southworth, mr mr [sic] Hinkly and mr Bacon were the magistrates present, Mr Walley, mr Arnold, mr Shove, mr Thornton, mr Homes, mr Newman, wth bretheren from all our Churches. How these Churches have increased I Cannot Informe.
Att Nantucket according to my best Intelligence: there are 3 praying townes & praying Indians about 300 males & females; one Church, the Pastour is John Gibbs,187 the men in Church ffellowship are about 20, the women, 10, there Children are all baptised the English upon that Island who are about 27 families & many of them Anabaptists, did at first seeke to hinder them from administring baptisms to infants, but now they are quiet & meddle not wth them, Caleb188 is preacher to one Towne there.
Daniel Gookin, “Indians Converted or Historicall collections of the indians in New england,” Massachusetts Historical Society. Addressed “These for the Worshipll: Capt Daniel Gookin Magistrate living in Cambridge.”
8 December 1674
Tanton. Decemb: 8.74.
Reverend & Dear Sir.
This oppertunity invites me to an acknowledgement of your Constant respects towards mee, Having long waited for a Convenient bearer, I hope’t’ you had my apologie by my Brother Shove, unto wm I hardly gained time to scribble a line or two when he was upon his Journey to Plimouth, but putting it into ye hand of a Swanzy bearer my seale was uncivelly broke, & my letter being found by a freind returnd to me againe a weeke after ye delivery, Such an incivillity as I scarce ever met wth. but by that means you mist my excuse & have been put upon ye greater exercise of Charity towards me. I perceive my Broths. busynes goes forward, & hope God will follow it wth his blessing; your willingness to accompany my Brother his next Journey I take as a kindnes to my selfe, who would have waited upon him cheerfully had I not been so throng’d wth other hurrys at this time; I have a reall desire to se Barnstable & my Good freinds there, & yet I Can but assigne one Journey in my life to them, which I shall be very willing to performe If God permit, as a Testimony of my hardy accord wth ye prsent matter depending. Sir I have something upon my breast Concerning your letter to Mr. D189 & thô: I have rol’d it up in much charity it [w?] on’t digest freely but by times I feel its fretting relique, espeacily when I remember from whom it was & of whom & to whom. Dear Sir. I hartyly Congratulate mrs Cots. recovery of which I hear by my Bro. I perceive my Brother purposeth his Journy ye next weeke & expects yor. Company wth him throh to Barnsta: upon ye second day, I am now wth him at Tanton upon. a visit hearing ye last weeke of his illness, thô thrô God’s mercy he is Comfortably recovered; pray faile him not the next weeke. Thus wth Respects to yor s: & Mrs Cotton wth ye rest of yors Craving yor. mindfullness of me in yor. best desires, I rest
yor Assured freind
my Brother Shove & Newman prsent you wth their Respects
Cotton Family Papers 6:20, Prince Library, Rare Books and Manuscripts, Boston Public Library. Addressed “To the Reverend mr. John Cotton Pastor to the church of Christ in Plymouth these.” Endorsed “From Mr Newman December, 8: 1674:.”
19 December 1674
my hearty Love to yor selfe and Mrs. Cotton I hope you got home well I bless God we are in health I thank you for yor good Company with us my Daughter is now wholly and cheerfully mr shoves he may be welcome in the midst of ffebruary to finish his work I am now in hast god Allmighty bless yo and yors I am
yor truly Loving ffriend and Brother in or Deare Lord
Dec. 19: 1674
Cotton Family Papers 6:21, Prince Library, Rare Books and Manuscripts, Boston Public Library. Endorsed “From Mr Walley December, 19: 1674:.”