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FIRST I give you thanks for your kindness to me at my being with you both first and last, as also for your kind letter, whereby I am sometimes restrained from unseasonable reproofs, as after I conceive they would have been.
Now (being the more bold upon the consideration of your former love) I desire to be troublesome to you for the resolution of these questions : first, whether it be convenient that I should pray for my good lady in the publick assembly; being then the mouth of the people to God, such a petition seems to be heterogeneal, and like a string out of tune; if convenient, whether when she is present, and in what words.
Another question is concerning their toys they use at the time, which they say they celebrate in remembrance of Christ's birth (though they never less-remember him) viz. carding, dancing, &c. I know not what my duty is, that I may discharge a good conscience. I have oft upon occasion spoken against mixt dancing after-feasts, little thinking there had been any such suffered and practised here.
A third is this: on Valentine's day they have a custom to write names in papers and put them together in an hat, and then every one draws a Valentine (so they term it.) I would know whether it be lawful.
Our two young ladies came to me being sick on an ague to draw one, which since hath not troubled me, and therefore the rather I desire your judgment in this, case, that if it be a sin, I may humble myself for my negligence, and may upon occasion speak against it.
Remember, I pray you, my best love to Mrs. Cotton, Mr. Holden, and Mr. Vicars. So I commend you and yours to the peace of God, desiring the continuance of your prayers for us.
Yours in all Christian affection, Ashby, March 3, 1625.
A reply, in Cotton?s hand, is written on the same pa.
per, as follows:
Good Mr. Levett,
I AM glad to hear of your recovery and of the constancy of my lady's good affection and respect to you. The Lord go on still to establish both unto you, that you may have the more opportunity to do God and that family faithful service, according to your desire.
To pray in particular for friends by name, even in publick, is not unlawful. Paul desired it for himself, as well of the whole church of Ephesus as of the private members, Eph. vi. 19. Neither is it inexpedient so to pray for kings, or any other, in authority or in any eminency either for place or distress. And though themselves be present, yet there will be no suspicion of flattery or other inconvenience, if we do not so much praise them to God for their stiles and virtues, as pray for his 'mercy, the blessing to them and theirs. If I were to pray in any great man's family, I would usually crave some or other mercy and blessing from God upon his servant the governour of this family, and in the publick congregation, in praying for the nobility or gentry, I would also mention his servant or servants then assembled, with some title of their reference to the congregation.
Carding I take to be unlawful, and containing in it a lottery, at least in the shuffling and cutting and dealing. And a lottery also it is to choose Valentines in that sort you mention. Where man and his action is only causa per accidens of an event (as in carding and in choice of Valentines) God is the only and immediate causa per se. Now to appeal to him and his immediate providence for dispensing these ludicra, seemeth to me à taking of God's name in vain.
Dancing (yea though mixt) I would not simply condemn. For I see two sorts of mixt dancings in use with God's people in the Old Testament, the one religious, Exod. xv. 20, 21, the other civil, tending to the praise of conquerors, as the former of God, 1 Sam. xviii. 6, 7.
Only lascivious dancing to wanton ditties, and in amorous gestures and wanton dalliances, especially after great feasts, I would bear witness against, as a great flabella libidinis.
Your witness bearing against such things, is (I take it) in opening some scripture, and from thence instructing in the truth and dissuading the contrary.
Boston, this 12th of 6
To our beloved Brother, FRANCIS HUTCHINSON, at
Beloved Brother in our Lord Jesus,
YOUR letters of the 9th of the 5th were read to the church the 19th of the same, in which you “desired to be recommended to the word of God's grace, according to Acts xx. 32, and so to be dismissed from your covenant with us, because you being forced to at
, tend upon your parents there, where you live, you could not attend upon the duties of the covenant.” But though we find the church willing to gratify you in any
lawful motion, because they hear a good report of your constancy in the truth and faith of the gospel, yet in this motion
hey neither can nor dare assent unto you, as wanting warrant from scripture light. The place, which you quote, doth not suit with your case. For in Acts xx. 32, when Paul commended the elders of Ephesus to the word of God's grace, it was not a recommendation or dismission from one church to another, (much less from a church to no church, which is your case,) but they, being elders of a Christian church at Ephesus, Paul commended them to the study of the scriptures, and to the preaching of the word of grace, which was fit
, (by the blessing of Christ) to build up them and their hearers to salvation. Were you gifted of God to preach the word to his people, or if there were elders that could preach the same to you in a church estate, (as they did at Ephesus) we should readily recommend you unto them, and to the word of grace, dispensed by them. But we dare not recommend you from a church to no church. For the covenant of the church is a perpetual and everlasting covenant, Jer. 1. 5. And therefore, though we may recommend you from one church to another, and so from one covenant to another; yet we cannot recommend you to no church, nor dismiss you from our covenant, till the Lord dismiss you. Do not think the Lord dismisseth you by your parents' authority, who call you to serve them in a place so far distant, that the duties of church covenant cannot be performed between us and you. For, first,-your parents deal sinfully, and bring upon themselves the guilt of your breach of covenant, if they detain you there needlessly ; seeing the covenant, which you entered into with the church, was undertaken with their consent and desire, and therefore now it will stand in force before the Lord, both against them and you,
you do break your covenant, Numb. xxx. 4. Secondly,—distance of place, though it hinder some duties of church fellowship, yet not all. We may still be helpful one to another, in prayers and counsels and others. And when God's hand calleth to such distance, he accepteth such duties as we can perform, and exacteth not such duties as we cannot perform. We read of some proselytes and members of the church of the Jews at Hierusalem, who were scattered in a far greater distance than you are from us. For some dwelt in Parthia, some in Mesopotamia, some in Pontus and Asia, some in Phrygia and Pamphylia, and others in many other regions, Acts ii. 8 to 11. And yet they still kept covenant and communion with the church of Jews; as did also the Eunuch of Æthiopia, who came when he could (though he could come very seldom) up to Hierusalem for to worship, Act viii. 27. And Solomon's mariners, that made a three years' voyage for gold (1 Kings, x. 22) they were not dismissed from their church covenant by their far distance and long absence but still continued
as before; and we doubt not the prayers of the church were not in vain to make their voyage safe and prosperous.
But that which is the sum of your request, so far as it is lawful, we would be loath to neglect. We are desirous to recommend you to the guidance and keeping of the grace of Christ in all our solemn assemblies: 'And if God will be pleased to give your father to hearken to our counsel, to remove to any orthodox and orderly church, we shall, at your request, be willing to recommend you to them; but further to go the Lord doth not allow us.
One thing we thought good further to acquaint you with, that our teacher, being thought by some to say, that you forebore sitting at table with your mother, though others deny it, and others remember it not, nor he himself; yet to be sure that no mistake might follow of it, he publickly professed before the face of the church, that if he so spake, it was his forgetfulness, but verily thinketh it was either his own misplacing of his intentions and words, or a mistake in the hearers, who applied what he spake in general to your particular case. For, in the general, he said, indeed, that with excommunicate persons no religious communion is to be held, nor any civil familiar connexion, as sitting at table. But yet he did put a difference between other brethren in church fellowship, and such as were joined in natural or civil near relations, as parents and children, husband and wife, &c. God did allow them that liberty, which he denies others. Upon his speech, the offence that was conceived by some, was removed ; and we hopė, neither doth any offence rest upon you therefrom. To your father and self, and others of our brethren, we have written at large, to satisfy such doubts, as we understand by our messen-, gers have troubled ther. The Lord watch over you all for good, and keep you spotless and blameless, faithful and fruitful to him, to his heavenly kingdom in Christ Jesus. In whom we rest, your loving brethren.
J. COTTON, With the rest of the Elders, in the name of the Church.