Monday, September 05, 2011

John Cosin

“The Church of England which I honour and reverence above all the other Churches of the world, for she bears upon her, more signally than any other that I know does, the marks of Christ which, when all is done, will be our greatest glory.”1

Such was the definite testimony which one of the most outstanding churchmen of the seventeenth century made in 1656 when he was in exile for his faith in his Mother Church. Its author—John Cosin—was the eldest son of a wealthy tradesman of Norwich, where he was born on November 30th, 1595. Both his parents were devout church people and they educated him at the local Grammar School. From there, at the early age of fourteen, he went up to Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, where he showed such diligence and ability in his studies that he was elected a Fellow of his College. Such a promising student attracted the notice of Bishops Overall and Andrewes, and although only twenty he was appointed by Overall both as Secretary and Librarian at Lichfield. He was a diligent reader and collector of books and by his great industry he soon won the esteem and full confidence of his Patron, Overall, who as Professor of Divinity at Cambridge had done much to counteract the strong Calvinistic teaching which prevailed there, and who exercised a profound influence over young Cosin, who always affectionately referred to him as his “lord and master.” But Overall died in 1619, and in 1624 Cosin became Domestic Chaplain to Richard Neile, Bishop of Durham. From this time his promotion was rapid. The same year he received a prebendal stall at Durham and in 1625, before he was thirty, he was appointed Rector of Brancepeth and Archdeacon of East Riding. The next year he married Frances Blakiston, daughter of a brother prebendary, who died in 1643. He secured his D.D. in 1628.

He was very active in his Archidiaconal Visitations in enforcing discipline on the clergy, and he soon discovered great laxity in the Church services and life. He found many clergy who were ministering without episcopal ordination. Others had anticipated the very prevalent modern custom (or “irregularity”) of omitting nearly all the opening Exhortation, and also chose what psalms and lessons they desired. Fully aware of Puritan prejudices, Cosin made special inquiry about the use of the Sign of the Cross in Baptism and also whether the surplice was always worn for weddings, funerals and Holy Communion—an incidental evidence of Cosin’s practical interpretation of the requirements of Elizabeth’s 1559 “Ornaments Rubric” regarding Eucharistic vestments! To read more, click here.

1 comment:

Robert Ian Williams said...

Read the Stuart High Church divines and you see their basic Protestantism. Some Anglo- catholics have attempted to prove continuity with them, but in vain.