Joseph Dow's History of Hampton: Rev. Seaborn Cotton

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Rev. Seaborn Cotton

Seaborn Cotton was the eldest son of Rev. John Cotton, of Boston, one of the most distinguished of the early ministers of New England. He was born on the Atlantic Ocean, August 12, 1633, while his parents were on their voyage to America, and was baptized in the First church in Boston, on the 6th of September, two days after their arrival, and from the circumstances of his birth received the name of SEABORN. He graduated at Harvard College in 1651, and his name as Latinized in the Triennial Catalogues, is written Marigena.

Enjoying the advantages of his father's instructions until he was nineteen years of age, he was well prepared to enter on a course of theological studies; but the death of his father about that time, "deprived him of those stores of learning and experience for which the former was so eminently distinguished." His father's library, however, still remained to him. With whom he completed his theological course, and when he was licensed to preach we are not informed. The only place where he is known to have been employed as a minister, before his settlement in Hampton, is Windsor, in Connecticut.

Of the ministerial life and character of Mr. Cotton, we know but little. Indeed, there is hardly anything found in contemporary writers respecting him. His nephew, Dr. Cotton Mather, incidentally mentions his name, and says he "was esteemed a thorough scholar and an able preacher," and that "none of the lately revived heresies were more abominable to him than that of his namesake, Pelagius," [The name means seaborn.] a celebrated heresiarch of the fifth century. Dr. Mather also says that he was the author of a Catechism; but we know nothing of the character of this work, nor whether any copies are still extant. In 1673 he preached the Artillery Election Sermon, but it was not printed. A sketch of one of Mr. Cotton's sermons, taken by John Hull, Esq., one of the magistrates of the colony, is still preserved in manuscript. A volume of his sermons, in manuscript, is deposited in the library of the Massachusetts Historical Society.

There is reason to believe that Mr. Cotton and the people of his charge lived in harmony through the whole time of his ministry. In one instance, indeed, he was obliged to suspend his labors a few Sabbaths. This interruption was occasioned by a message from Lieutenant-Governor Cranfield, that "when he had prepared his soul, he would come and demand the sacrament of him, as he had done at Portsmouth." Mr. Cotton, being unwilling to administer the sacrament to an unsuitable person, or according the the "liturgy of the church of England," and wishing to avoid a controversy with the governor, withdrew to Boston, and remained there a few weeks, and then returned to his won people. This was in the early part of the year 1684. For refusing a similar demand not long before, Rev. Joshua Moody of Portsmouth had been imprisoned. He was still in prison when Mr. Cotton was staying in Boston. This circumstance probably led the latter to take for his text in a sermon that he preached in Boston, these words: "Peter therefore was kept in prison; but prayer was made without ceasing unto God for him."--Acts XIII:5. This sermon gave considerable offense to Governor Cranfield and his friends, but the governor was prudent enough to leave Mr. Cotton unmolested.

A few months before Mr. Cotton's death, he sent to the Council of New Hampshire the following Petition:

"To the Honorable his Majesty's Council for the Province of New Hampshire. The Petition of Seaborne Cotton, of Hampton in the Province abovesaid,

Humbly Sheweth,

That whereas by an act of his Majesty's Council in this Province, bearing date, as I conceive, Dec. 10, 1683, the people in the several towns were left at their liberty whether they would pay their ministers, or no, after the first of January ensuing that act, unless their ministers would administer baptism and the Lord's supper to such as desired it, according to his Majesty's letter to the Massachusetts, which was never denied by me to any that orderly asked it; yet too many people have taken occasion thereby, both to withhold what was my due before that act, for the year 1683, as also for the year 1684, and are likely to do so for the year 1685, except this Honorable Council see cause to pass an act, and order the trustees of Hampton, that I may have my dues according to the town's compact upon record, and their agreement with myself many years since;--the time also drawing nigh, when for this present year I should have my rate made, doth hasten me to present this address, and to request your Honors' favor therein: if your Honors send an order to our trustees, your Honors may possibly see cause to omit the naming myself as requesting it; all which I leave to your Honors' generous acceptance, and am your Honors'

Humbly devoted,
Hampton, Sept. 5, 1685."

In answer to this petition, the council ordered that "the Petitioner be left to the law to have his remedy against the persons he contracted with for his dues."

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