Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
×
Home

Nature, Grace and John Cotton: The Theological Dimension in the New England Antinomian Controversy

  • William K. B. Stoever (a1)

Extract

In 1636 the Puritan Commonwealth of Massachusetts Bay was confronted with a sectarian outburst which rent the religious and civil peace of Boston and temporarily threatened that of the whole colony. Certain of the Boston congregation, led by Anne Hutchinson and abetted by John Cotton, the teacher of the church, charged that the clergy of the Bay, almost entirely, were not true ministers of the gospel but in fact a company of unregenerate “legalists”, preaching a “covenant of works” instead of a “covenant of grace”, and there by hindering the work of redemption. For nearly two years the “Antinomian Controversy” darkened the radiance of the City on the Hill, and echoes of the affair returned in the next decade to plague apologists for the New England Way. Part of the apologists' difficulty was the fact that their star, the illustrious Cotton, had been on the wrong side.

Copyright

References

Hide All

1. Hosmer, James K., ed., Winthrop's Journal: “History of New England,” 1630–1649 (New York: Seribner's, 1908) 1:195196.

2. Miller, Perry, “‘Preparation for Salvation’ in Seventeenth-Century New England,” Journal of the History of Ideas 4 (06, 1943): 253286; From Colony to Province, Vol. 2 of The New England Mind (1953; rpt. Boston: Beacon Press, 1961), ch. 4.

3. Morgan, Edmund, The Puritan Dilemma: The Story of John Winthrop (Boston & Toronto: Little, Brown, 1958), ch. 10.

4. Ziff, Larzer, The Career of John Cotton: Puritanism and the American Experience (Princeton University Press, 1962), ch. 4.

5. Pettit, Norman, The Heart Prepared: Grace & Conversion in Puritan Spiritual Life (New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 1966); Hall, David D., The Antinomian Controversy, 1636–1638: A Documentary History (Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 1968), pp. 1020; Hall, , The Faithful Shepherd: A History of the New England Ministry in the Seventeenth Century (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1972), pp. 159, 163164.

6. The chief documentary sources for the controversy are here taken as the exchanges between Cotton and his colleagues, published in Hall, The Antinomian Controversy; Anne Hutchinson's testimony in the General Court and the Boston church, in Hall; Cotton's sermons, published in The New Covenant, or a Treatise unfolding the order and manner of the giving and receiving of the Convenant of Grace (London, 1654); Bulkeley's, Peter sermons in The Gospel-Covenant, or The Covenant of Grace Opened (London, 1646); Shepard's, Thomas sermons in The Parable of the Ten Virgins Opened and Applied (London, 1659); and the “catalogue of… erroneous opinions” in Winthrop's, JohnA Short Story of the Rise, Reign, and Ruine of the Antinomians (London, 1644), also in Hail.

7. Pettit's work in The Heart Prepared lends substance to the preparationist interpretation, so as to require separate eaamination. It seems preferable, here, to follow a more general line of approach.

8. A modern compendium of Reformed orthodox divinity is Heppe, Heinrich, Dogmatik der evangelischen-reformierten Kirche, hrsg. Ernst Bizer, 2. Aufl. (Neukirchen: Neukirchener Verlag, 1958) lst ed. tr. by Thomson, George T. as Reformed Dogmatics (London: Allen & Unwin, 1950). Bizer's Einleitung to the German edition is a brief though useful introduction to the principal figures of the orthodox period. Of contemporary compendia, the extensive theological sections of Johannes-Henrici Alstedii Encyclopedia (Herborn), 1630) may be mentioned, and Edward Leigh's compilation, A System or Body of Divinity (London), 1654), which endeavors to present the orthodox consensus as of ca. 1650. Ames' Medulla is available in a new translation by Eusden, John D., The Marrow of Theology (Boston & Philadelphia: Pilgrim Press, 1968); Wollebius' Compendium is translated in Beardslee, John W., ed., Reformed Dogmatics (New York: Oxford University Press, 1965).

9. Norton, John, Orthodox Evangelist (London, 1654), chs. 1, 4; Ames, William, The Marrow of Sacred Divinity (London, 1642). 1, 16; Perkins, William, A Golden Chain. or the Description of Theology, in The Works of … Mr. William Perkins (London, 1625), 1: chs. 1–6; Wollebius, 1.1.

10. For example, Guiliel. Amesii Medulla Theologica, 3rd ed. (Amsterdam, 1628), 1.6.18; Usher, James, A Body of Divinity, 3rd ed. (London, 1648), pp. 4748.

11. Norton, pp. 14–15, 19, 51, 101, 139; see Ames, Marrow, 1.6.16–20; 1.7.1–54; Thomas Shepard, Theses Sabbaticae, or the Doctrine of the Sabbath, in Albro, John, ed., The Works of Thomas Shepard (1853; rpt. New York: The AMS Press, 1967), 3, pt. 1, theses 18, 28.

12. Ames, Marrow, 1.18.4; 1.25.4, 16, 32; Perkins, Golden Chain. pp. 16–17, 24: Alsted, Encyclopedia, “Theologia III: Didactica,” pp. 1586, 1588; Norton, pp. 5657.

13. Zacharia Ursinus, Explicationes Catecheseos … sive Corpus Theologiae, in Renter, Quirinius, ed., D. Zachariac Ursini … opera theologica (Heidelberg 1612), col. 10SA; Catechesis: Summa Theologiae, in Reuter, col. 29A; Norton, pp. 114, 137, 211, 271; see Richard Sibbes, The Soul's Conflict with itself, in Grosart, Alexander B., ed., The Complete Works of Richard Sibbes (Edinburgh: J. Nicol, 1862), 1:205; Ursinus, , Summa Theol,, col 26A–B; Perkins, , Golden Chain, pp. 1516.

14. Norton, pp. 105–106, 110; see 108–109, 113–114; see Perkins, Golden Chain, pp. 112–113; Leigh, p. 493.

15. Norton, p. 110.

16. Sibbes, , Soul's Conflict, pp. 205206.

17. Sibbes, , The Excellency of the Gospel above the Law, in Works (1862), 4:248; Norton, p. 114; Perkins, , A Treatise of God's Free Grace and Man's Free Will, in Works (1626), 1:739.

18. Preston, John, The Breastplate of Faith and Love (London, 1630), 1:5559; Perkins, , Golden Chain, pp. 7071; Leigh, pp. 501–502; see Usher, p. 199; Sibbes, , Excellency of the Gospel, pp. 251, 258, 298; Bulkeley, , Gospel Covenant, pp. 119, 302310; Shepard, , Parable of the Ten Virgins, in Works, 2:313316; The Sound Believer, in Works, 1:226–227.

19. Ursinus, Summa Theol., col 29C; see col. 14C and Explic. Catech., cols. 106E-107C; Ames, , Marrow, 1.3; Perkins, , Golden Chain, p. 79; Wollebius, 1.29; Preston, 1:55–59, 18–19, 21–22; Sibbes, , Excellency of the Gospel, pp. 258259; see Shepard, , Parable, 1.10.5; Believer, p. 127; Thes. Sabb., pp. 109–110, 127; Leigh, p. 502.

20. Norton, pp. 211, 271.

21. Bulkeley p. 286; see Sibbes, quoted in Grosart, Alexander, “Memoir of Richard Sibbel, D.D.,” in Works (1862), 1:civ; Norton, p. 93.

22. Norton, p. 89.

23. Bulkeley, pp. 231, 233, 288–291, 326–327, 335–338; Shepard, , Parable, 1.15; Believer, p. 261; Certain Select Cases Resolved, in Works, 1: 320–323; see Bulkeley to [John Cotton], ca. August, 1637, Cotton Papers, pt. 2. no. 7. Prince Collection, Boston Public Library; see Perkins, , Golden Chain, pp. 100, 112113.

24. Bulkeley, pp. 226–227; Shepard, , Believer, pp. 275279, 255258; Parable. 1.9.1 and pp. 213–218; see Ames, , Conscience, with the Power and Cases Thereof (London, 1643), 1.1, 2, 8; 2.1; Preston, , Life Eternal, or a Treatise of the Knowledge of the Divine Essence and Attributes, 2d. ed. (London, 1631), 2:167168; Breastplate, 2:91–92.

25. Bulkeley, pp. 235–240; see Ames, , Conscience, 2.5.

26. Bulkeley, p. 288; see 327; see Shepard, , Cases, pp. 320321; Bulkeley to [Cotton], ca. August, 1037, Cotton Papers.

27. Bulkeley, pp. 233–234; Shepard, , Parable, pp. 222. 233; see Perkins, , Golden Chain, p. 80.

28. For example, “The Elders Reply,” in Hall, Antinomian Controversy, ad. q. 9; see Perkins, , Golden Chain, pp. 8384.

29. Cotton, , New Covenant pp. 3132, 3435; “Mr. Cotton“s Rejoynder,” in Hall, pp. 101–103.

30. Cotton, , New Covenant, pp. 35, 159, 146148 “Rejoynder,” pp. 101–104, 144–145.

31. Sixteen Questions of Serious and Necessary Consequence, in Hall, p. 47; Cotton, , “Rejoynder,” p. 143; New Covenant, pp. 147, 158–159.

32. Cotton, , New Covenant, pp. 146147; Sixteen Questions. p. 51.

33. Shepard, , Believer, p. 257; Parable, 1.19.1–3; Thes. Sabb., 1, theses 94–95; see Norton, p. 50; Perkins, , Golden Chain, pp. 112113.

34. Shepard, , Parable, p. 277.

35. Cotton, , “Rejoynder,” p. 87.

36. Cotton, , New Covenant, pp. 5972; “Rejoynder,” pp. 140, 146.

37. Cotton, , “Rejoynder,” pp. 117, 119, 146148.

38. Ibid., pp. 107, 80, 140, 141, 147.

39. Ibid., pp. 141–142, 126, 149, 85.

40. “A Report of the Trial of Mrs. Anne Hutchinson before the Church in Boston,” in Hall, p. 352; Winthrop, Short Story, Errors No. 44, 45; Cotton, , “Rejoynder,” pp. 85, 9192, 9395; “Peter Bulkeley & John Cotton on Union with Christ,” in Hall, pp. 40–41.

41. Bulkeley, p. 321, ital. added.

42. “Trial of Mrs. Hutchinson,” in Hall, p. 352.

43. For example, Norton, p. 219; Shepard, , Believer, p. 252; Parable, pp. 268–272.

44. Morgan, , Puritan Dilemma, pp. 136138; see Ziff, pp. 107–115.

45. Miller, , From Colony to Province, pp. 5960; “‘Preparation for Salvation’,” pp. 277–278, 260, 264, 267–268; see Pettit, pp. 19–20.

46. Jonathan Edwards, Treatise Concerning Religious Affections, in Austin, Samuel, ed., The Works of President Edwards, 8th ed. (New York: Leavitt & Allen, 1856), 3:182183, 202203; see Bulkeley, pp. 153–155, 235–236, 376–378; Shepard, , Parable, pp. 335, 336; Believer, pp. 280–282.

47. For example, “Rejoynder,” pp. 117, 121, 129–130, 133, 145, 147.

48. Gardiner, Samuel R., ed., Reports of Cases in the Courts of Star Chamber and High Commission (London: Camden Society, 1886), pp. 184185, 316320; Eaton, John, The Honey-combe of Free Justification by Christ Alone (London, 1642), sig. b2r, p. 115; Crisp, Tobias, Christ Alone Exalted (London, 1643), pp. 210214, 301. See also Ball, John, A Treatise of Faith (London, 1631), 1passim and especially.ch. 7; and Downe, John, A Treatise of the True Nature and Definition of Justifying Faith (Oxford, 1635), passim.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Church History
  • ISSN: 0009-6407
  • EISSN: 1755-2613
  • URL: /core/journals/church-history
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Metrics

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed