Free eBook: Getting Through the Storms in Life

John Norton

John Norton, A. M.—-This excellent divine was born at Storford in Hertfordshire, May 6, 1606, and educated in Peter-house, Cambridge, where he became a celebrated scholar. Having finished his studies at the university, he became curate at Storford, the place of his nativity; when he formed an acquaintance with the excellent Mr. Jeremiah Dyke of lipping, by whose ministry he was first awakened to a serious concern for his soul. He now resolved to devote himself wholly to the ministerial work, and soon became a most accomplished and popular preacher. He frequently preached upon the necessity of faith, repentance, and holiness, which, by the eloquence of his language, accompanied with a spirit of most serious devotion, he set forth in a most interesting and "engaging Kght. Though his prospect of rising in the church was very flattering, he refused all preferment, on account of the ecclesiastical impositions. His aversion to arminianism and the superstitious ceremonies, hindered him from possessing a rich benefice which his uncle designed to have conferred upon him. It is also observed, that the pious Dr. Sibbs was so taken with his excellent endowments, that he earnestly solicited him to accept a fellowship at Cambridge; but he was so thoroughly dissatisfied with the terms of admission, that he could not do it with a good conscience. He was content with lesser things, and therefore became domestic chaplain to Sir William Marsham, preaching as he found opportunity. Though no minister was more highly admired and esteemed for every engaging and excellent accomplishment, he was utterly silenced for nonconformity. Having no prospect .of any further usefulness in his native country, he resolved to remove to America, where he could worship God according to the light of scripture and his own conscience, without the impositions of meiu» He accordingly sailed for New England, where he arrived in October, 1635. During the voyage, the ship, in a most dreadful storm, was in the utmost danger of being lost. The storm is said to have been so tremendous, that as it washed several of the seamen overboard on one side of the ship, it threw them on board on the other side.

* Crosby's Baptists, vol. i. p. 280, 221. + Featley's Dippers Dipt, p. 177. $ Crosby's Baptists, vol. i. p. 853, 354. i, Wood's Athrnn Ovou. vol. i. p. 162.

After Mr. Norton's arrival, he was chosen pastor of the church at Ipswich, where he laboured with great zeal, assiduity, and success about seventeen years. But upon the death of Mr. Cotton, pastor of the church at Boston, he accepted an invitation to become his successor. Upon the restoration of Charles II., Mr. Norton and Simon Bradstreet, esq. were sent to England, as agents of the colony, with an address to his majesty, soliciting the continuance of their privileges. This address contained, among other things, the following passages:—" To enjoy our liberty and to walk "according to the faith and order of the gospel, was the "cause of us transplanting ourselves, with our wives, our

• Mather's Hisl. of New Eng. b. iii. p. 32, 33.

"little ones, and our substance; choosing the pure scripture "worship, with a good conscience, in this remote wilder"ness, rather than the pleasures of England, with submission "to the impositions of the hierarchy, to which we could not "yield without an evil conscience. We are not seditious to "the interests of Caesar, nor schismatical in matters of reli"gion. We distinguish between churches and their inipu"rities. We could not live without the public worship of "God, but were not allowed to observe it without such a "yoke of superstition and conformity as we could not con"sent to without sin."*

In the month of February, 1661, they entered upon their voyage; and having obtained the king's letter, confirming the privileges of the colony, they returned in September following. Mr. Norton, however, did not long survive his return. His death was very sudden. For he expected to have preached in the afternoon of the day on which he died; but, instead of preaching, his heavenly Father received him to himself, lie departed greatly lamented, April 5, 1663, nearly fifty-seven years of age. Mr. Richard Mather preached his funeral sermon to his numerous and mournful flock. He was a man of great piety, an excellent scholar, and a good divine, but certainly of too irritable a temper. He is said to have been at the head of all the hardships which were inflicted upon the quakers in New England, for which they afterwards reproached him as dying under the just judgment of God. "John Norton," said they, "chief priest in Boston, was smitten by the immediate power of the Lord; and as he was sinking down by die fire-side, being under just judgment, he confessed the hand of the Lord was upon him, and so he died."t Though this reflection was undoubtedly unjust, it certainly would have been much better, if neither he, nor any others, had, by their unchristian severities, given them occasion to make it.

Mr. Norton was author of several learned and excellent works. His book, entitled "Responsio ad Gal. Appollonium," 1648, rendered his name famous in the controversial world. Fuller observes, "that of all the authors he had ever perused, concerning the opinions of the dissenting brethren, none gave him more information than Mr. John Norton, a man of uo less learning than modesty, in his answer to

* Massachusets Papers, p. 345—371.—Mather'i Hist. b. iii. p. 3T+ Neat's Hiir of New Eng. vol. ii. p. 340.

Apollonius."* This is supposed to have been the first Latin book that was written in America.

His Works.—1. The Sufferings of Christ, 1653.—2. The Orthodox Evangelist, 1054.—3. The Heart of New England rent at the Blasphemies of the present Generation; or, a hrief Tractate concernmg the Doctrine of the Quakers, demonstrating the destructive Nature thereof to Religion, the Churches, and the State; with Remedies against it, 1660.—4. Several Sermons.

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