Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

powers in future life. He was seasonably placed SECT. IV. at school under Mr. Strange, of Bunningford.

1663. At the age of fourteen, he was sent to Peterhouse, where he stayed, until he had taken his first degree. Here a missionary of the roman church, carefully observing his talents and behaviour, used every means to draw him into the support of the catholick faith without success. He left the university for an ushership at the school, and a curacy in the church of Stortford. He here devoted himself to the writing of sermons, and became excellent in the practice. His learning and abilities rendered him an object of atten. tion with the dignitaries of the church ; but his conscience would not suffer him to conform to episcopal ceremonies, which he deemed unscrip tural. A fellowship in Katherine-hall, Cambridge, he was also solicited to take by Dr. Sibs ; but his aversion from episcopacy prevented his acceptance. He contented himself with being private chaplain to Sir William Marham, in TwoKnights-house. He was also associated with a number of pious ministers, equally firm with himself in dissenting from the established church, in the maintenance of a stated lecture in his native town, from which, he always thought, he derived professional and personal improvement.

Mr. Edward Winslow, afterwards governour of Plymouth, sailing for England, in 1633, was em. ployed by the people of Old Colony to procure them a minister. In the execution of this design

SECT. IV. he met with Norton, and persuaded him to come 1663.

over.

In the year 1634, Mr. Norton married, and embarked with his wife for Newengland ; but, being driven back by a violent storm, he did not arrive in America, until the following year.

He resided in Plymouth, one winter only, complaining, that his accommodations were not such, as he expected, and preferring the situation of Massachusetts, and the temper of the inhabitants. Having awhile associated with the ministers and people of Boston and the vicinity, he planted himself in Ipswich, where a company of worthy christians contributed as much to his comfort, as he to their edification.

On his removal to this church, he wrote the life of his predecessor in a style of eloquence exceed. ing any thing, which this country had witnessed in any of his contemporaries. At the age of thirty, his reputation for scholarship was high in the parent country. Here, with the exception of president Chauncy, he was without a rival. In 1644, Gulielmus Apollonius of Zealand, a dutch divine, sent hither a number of questions on ecclesiastical government. It was unanimously agreed among the clergy, that Mr. Norton should assume the task of answering the work. He despatched it, the following year, in the first latin book ever written in this country. It is prefaced by a short address to the reader signed, Tho. Goodwin, Phil. Nye, Sidr. Simpson, dated Lond. Feb. 16, 1647; and by an elaborate epistle of some length

to the author, signed Johannes Cotton in Ecclesia SECT. IV.. Bostoniensi Presbyter docens. The performance 1663. was celebrated in both hemispheres for the learning, discernment, candour, and elegance, which it displayed.

In the synod, which met at Cambridge in 1646, and protracted its sessions, until 1648, Mr. Norton acted a conspicuous part, revealed an unusual acquaintance with school divinity, and left the traces of his pen in the lines of the platform.

His tenets were in the highest degree rigid, surpassing in terrour even those of the celebrated Calvin. He maintained, that there is one God subsisting in three persons; that the will of God is the cause of all causes, and second causes the effects of the first cause ; that the will of man is an instrument disposed and determined to its action according to the decree of God, being equally subordinate to it, as is the axe to the hand of the hewer ; that man, even in violating God's command, fulfils God's decree ; that the infallible ordering of the existence of sin for a better end, and the forbidding of sin are not at all inconsistent, but fall under the compass of the same one volition of God, which cannot be resisted or defeated ; that God is not the author of sin, and yet that he does not merely permit it, since he has decreed it; that the reprobates freely commit such a measure of sin, as fits them for the intended measure of wrath ; that man is a free agent, having a real efficiency, though subordinate to the first cause, which determines the second in its

SECT. IV. operation ; that all mankind participated in Ad. 1663.

-am's sin, and also have it imputed to them ; that

original sin is the hereditary and habitual contra-
riety and enmity of the nature of man against the
whole will of God ; that God has elected, whom
in his wisdom and mercy he pleased, to eternal
life ; that the conversion of these is the effect of
God's spirit ; that good works are necessary, as
the way to salvation, but not as the cause ; that
the only meritorious cause of salvation is the
active and passive obedience of Jesus Christ,
which is imputed to believers, and received by
faith alone ; that only the elect believe in the Re.
deemer ; that their faith is the effect of absolute,
special, irresistible grace ; and that the will is
passive, not having the nature of a free agent, in
the first reception of grace.

The severity of his religious system led Mr. Norton to favour a principle of intolerance. He had charity enough to walk with those, between whom and himself there was a difference of senti. ment on subjects of minor importance ; but, when he thought the fundamental doctrines of christianity were denied, he justified the magistrate in unsheathing the sword; not recollecting, that what he deemed a fundamental doctrine might be considered an unessential tenet by a fellow-christian ; and that, since they both had renounced the authority of any earthly infallible judge, the only way to live quietly was to allow to each other the right of inquiring and deciding for himself.

as

In his publick performances Mr. Norton prov- SECT.IV. ed himself master of a copious eloquence, equally not captivating to the scholar and the unlettered christian. Those, who had enjoyed his pastoral instructions in Ipswich, frequently travelled to Boston, after his removal, for the benefit of his lectures ; and such was the influence of his prayers on the young divines of that day, that they made him their model, as to the matter and manner of their pulpit devotions.

In private life Mr. Norton was blameless and exemplary, though he had to contend with a cholerick temper, and a natural inclination to gaiety.

To his other good qualities Mr. Norton joined an ardent' and steady attachment to his adopted country. His patriotism led him to earnest and successful efforts to prevent hostilities between the people of this colony and their Dutch neighbours, and afterward to embark for England in company with Simon Bradstreet, esq. with an address to Charles II. on his restoration to the throne. This embassy however, in its issue, was fatal to the popularity and peace of Mr. Norton. Having faithfully served the interests of the country, the agents returned with this assurance from the king, that he would ratify to the colony its charter. But along with this promise was a requisition, that justice should be administered in his name, and that all persons of sober conversation should be permitted to enjoy the crdinance of the supper themselves, and that of bar

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »