John Cotton (4 December 1585 – 23 December 1652) was a clergyman in England and the American colonies and considered the preeminent minister and theologian of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. He studied for five years at Trinity College, Cambridge, and another nine at Emmanuel College, Cambridge. He had already built a reputation as a scholar and outstanding preacher when he accepted the position of minister at St. Botolph's Church, Boston in Lincolnshire, in 1612. As a Puritan, he wanted to do away with the ceremony and vestments associated with the established Church of England and preach in a simpler manner. He felt that the English church needed significant reforms, but he was adamant about not separating from it; his preference was to change it from within.

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  • John Cotton (4 December 1585 – 23 December 1652) was a clergyman in England and the American colonies and considered the preeminent minister and theologian of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. He studied for five years at Trinity College, Cambridge, and another nine at Emmanuel College, Cambridge. He had already built a reputation as a scholar and outstanding preacher when he accepted the position of minister at St. Botolph's Church, Boston in Lincolnshire, in 1612. As a Puritan, he wanted to do away with the ceremony and vestments associated with the established Church of England and preach in a simpler manner. He felt that the English church needed significant reforms, but he was adamant about not separating from it; his preference was to change it from within. Many ministers were removed from their pulpits in England for their Puritan practices, but Cotton thrived at St. Botolph's for nearly 20 years because of supportive aldermen and lenient bishops, as well as his conciliatory and gentle demeanor. By 1632, however, the church authorities had greatly increased pressure on non-conforming clergy, and Cotton was forced into hiding. The following year, he and his wife boarded a ship for New England. Cotton was highly sought as a minister in Massachusetts and was quickly installed as the second pastor of the Boston church, sharing the ministry with John Wilson. He generated more religious conversions in his first six months than had been made the whole previous year. Early in his Boston tenure, he became involved in the banishment of Roger Williams, who blamed much of his trouble on Cotton. Soon after, Cotton became embroiled in the colony's Antinomian Controversy when several adherents of his "free grace" theology (most notably Anne Hutchinson) began criticizing other ministers in the colony. He tended to support his adherents through much of that controversy; near its conclusion, however, he realized that many of them held theological positions which were well outside the mainstream of Puritan orthodoxy, which he did not condone. Following the controversy, Cotton was able to mend fences with his fellow ministers, and he continued to preach in the Boston church until his death. A great part of his effort during his later career was devoted to the governance of the New England churches, and he was the one who gave the name Congregationalism to this form of church polity. A new form of polity was being decided for the Church of England in the early 1640s, as the Puritans in England gained power on the eve of the English Civil War, and Cotton wrote numerous letters and books in support of the "New England Way". Ultimately, Presbyterianism was chosen as the form of governance for the Church of England during the Westminster Assembly in 1643, though Cotton continued to engage in a polemic contest with several prominent Presbyterians on this issue. Cotton became more conservative with age. He battled the separatist attitude of Roger Williams and advocated severe punishment for those whom he deemed heretics, such as Samuel Gorton. He was a scholar, an avid letter writer, and the author of many books, and was considered the "prime mover" among New England's ministers. He died in December 1652 at age 67, following a month-long illness. His grandson Cotton Mather also became a New England minister and historian. (en)
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  • John Cotton (4 December 1585 – 23 December 1652) was a clergyman in England and the American colonies and considered the preeminent minister and theologian of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. He studied for five years at Trinity College, Cambridge, and another nine at Emmanuel College, Cambridge. He had already built a reputation as a scholar and outstanding preacher when he accepted the position of minister at St. Botolph's Church, Boston in Lincolnshire, in 1612. As a Puritan, he wanted to do away with the ceremony and vestments associated with the established Church of England and preach in a simpler manner. He felt that the English church needed significant reforms, but he was adamant about not separating from it; his preference was to change it from within. (en)
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  • John Cotton (minister) (en)
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