Revelation in Puritan New England

Cotton, John (1585–1652)

The Churches resurrection, or The opening of the fift and sixt verses of the 20th. chap. of the Revelation· By that learned and reverend, Iohn Cotton teacher to the Church of Boston in Nevv England, and there corrected by his own hand

London: printed by R[ichard]. O[ulton]. & G[regory]. D[exter]. for Henry Overton, and are to be sold at his shop in Popes-head-Alley, 1642


Quarto: 18.6 x 14.4 cm. A-D4 (leaf D4 blank and present). [30], [2] p.


Bound in modern quarter-vellum and boards. A nice copy with a little light foxing. Neat tape repair to short tear verso of first two lvs. Title within typographical border, woodcut initials, headpieces. Provenance: 10th c. armorial bookplate of Thomas Fairfax, 13th Lord Fairfax of Cameron (d. 1964). Rare. North American copies: American Antiquarian Society, Folger, Harvard (3), Huntington, JCB, NYPL, Newberry, UVA, UCLA, Union Theo., Yale.

“John Cotton was the most important minister of the first generation in America, an Emmanuel Cambridge scholar who from 1612 was vicar of St. Botolph's Boston in Lincolnshire. For more than a decade, Cotton had ceased to observe Church of England ceremonies and was connected with those circles of Puritans emigrating to America. In 1630 those organizing John Winthrop's fleet to New England invited him to preach a sermon at Southampton. [In his sermon] Cotton compared the Pilgrims to the first planters of the Christian church, urged them to win the natives to Christ and saw them becoming ‘trees of righteousness’ in their new land… Two years later, facing persecution by the Court of High Commission for his non­conformity, Cotton took ship to follow Winthrop's band and to preach in a new Boston. In the new geography of New England, as others, Cotton was to find in Revelation a very different prophecy and a different ecclesiology and politics…

“In 1642, John Cotton published two treatises on Revelation that bring into sharp focus the consequences of reading a familiar text in a new geography and circumstance. In ‘The Church’s Resurrection Or The Opening Of The 5th and 6th Verses Of The 20th Chapter Of The Revelation’, Cotton showed how far he had travelled -exegetically as well as geographically. Influenced by the English Presbyterian Thomas Brightman, he associated the resurrection of the church with the conversion of the Jews, a theory given further impetus by the speculation advanced and later fully outlined by James Thorowgood, that the American Indians were the lost tribes of Israel. But far from following an English apocalyptic tradition that had emphasized the leadership of a godly prince, Cotton asserted that God did not give the keys of the bottomless pit to magistrates but to spiritual governors. Nor were those spiritual governors the hierarchy of the church at home. Episcopal terrains, Cotton preached were 'plantations God hath not planted’; those who doted on bishops ‘undermine all reformation’ and served not Christ but Antichrist. It was in new not Old England that there was to be a ‘resurrection ... from resting in forms.’ There the church was ‘but a company, a body of godly persons’, demonstrating signs of saving grace and all were ‘spiritual priests and kings unto God.’ To those tempted to return to their native country, as it was rent by civil war, Cotton presented a choice between sacred and reprobate communities, Jerusalem and Babylon.”(Kevin Sharpe, Shaping the Stuart World, 1603 - 1714: The Atlantic Connection, p. 131 ff.)

“John Cotton was often at the center of controversy. Born in 1584 into the family of a wealthy attorney in Derby, England, Cotton attended Cambridge and then the Puritans' Emmanuel College and became vicar of St. Botolph's in Boston, England, in 1610. At first he gained his popularity from his elegance and ornamented preaching style, but then he fell under the influence of the reformer Richard Sibbes and henceforth emulated Sibbes's plain style. Although his nonconformity was evident early, be was protected from persecution for twenty years by family friends. He preached the farewell sermon for Winthrop’s departing company in 1630, and in 1633, when he was forced to resign bis post at St. Botolph's, be too migrated to America…

“Although Cotton was one of three New England ministers invited to participate in the Westminster Assembly in 1642 to reform the Church of England, he declined. Instead, he reacted against the developments in English Puritanism, and at the Synod of 1646 in Boston he helped to draft the Cambridge Platform, a definition of New England congregationalism based largely upon his writings. After his death in 1652, his influence on New England church polity remained strong for several decades.”(Cambridge History of American Literature, Vol. I, p. 199-200)

ESTC R27919; Sabin 17054; Wing C6419