John Cosin

30 Nov 1594
15 Jan 1672
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John Cosin (30 November 1594–15 January 1672) was an English churchman.

He was born at Norwich, and was educated at Norwich School and at Caius College, Cambridge, where he was scholar and afterwards fellow. On taking orders he was appointed secretary to John Overall, Bishop of Lichfield, and then domestic chaplain to Richard Neile, Bishop of Durham.

In December 1624 he was made a prebendary of Durham, and on 9 September 1625 Archdeacon of the East Riding of Yorkshire (until 1660).

In 1630 he received his degree of Doctor of Divinity (DD). He first became known as an author in 1627, when he published his Collection of Private Devotions, a manual stated to have been prepared by command of King Charles I, for the use of Queen Henrietta Maria’s maids of honour.

This book, together with his insistence on points of ritual in his cathedral church and his friendship with William Laud, exposed Cosin to the hostility of the Puritans; and the book was criticised by William Prynne and Henry Burton. In 1628 Cosin took part in the prosecution of a brother prebendary, Peter Smart, for a sermon against high church practices; and the prebendary was deprived.

On 8 February 1635 Cosin was appointed master of Peterhouse, Cambridge; and in 1640 he became Vice-Chancellor of the University. In October of this year he was promoted to the deanery of Peterborough.

A few days before his installation the Long Parliament had met; and among the complainants who hastened to appeal to it for redress was the ex-prebendary, Smart. His petition against the new dean was considered; and early in 1641 Cosin was sequestered from his benefices.

Articles of impeachment were presented against him two months later, but he was dismissed on bail. For sending the university plate to the king, he was deprived of the mastership of Peterhouse (13 March 1643). He went to France, preached at Paris, and served as chaplain to some members of the household of the exiled royal family.

At the Restoration he returned to England, was reinstated in the mastership (3 August 1660), restored to all his benefices, and in a few months raised to the see of Durham – he therefore resigned from the Mastership of Peterhouse on 18 October 1660. He was elected to that See on 5 November, which election was confirmed on 22 November; he was duly consecrated a bishop on 2 December and enthroned on 8 December 1660.

Cosin was responsible for a style of church woodwork unique to County Durham, a sumptuous fusion of gothic and contemporary Jacobean forms. The font cover in Durham Cathedral is a splendid example of this, as are the displays in the churches at Sedgefield and elsewhere. The Cosin woodwork at Brancepeth has sadly been destroyed by fire.

At the convocation in 1661 Cosin played a prominent part in the revision of the prayer-book, and endeavoured with some success to bring both prayers and rubrics into better agreement with ancient liturgies. He administered his diocese successfully for eleven years; and used a large share of his revenues to promote the interests of the Church, of schools and of charitable institutions.

He died in London in 1672. He had married Frances (d. 25 March 1642), the daughter of Marmaduke Blakiston[7] on 15 August 1626 at St Margaret’s, Durham.

Though a classical high churchman and a rigorous enforcer of outward conformity, Cosin was uncompromisingly hostile to Roman Catholicism, and most of his writings illustrate this antagonism.

In France he was on friendly terms with Huguenots, justifying himself on the ground that their non-episcopal ordination had not been of their own seeking, and at the Savoy conference in 1661 he tried hard to effect a reconciliation with the Presbyterians.

He differed from the majority of his colleagues in his strict attitude towards Sunday observance and in favouring, in the case of adultery, both divorce and the remarriage of the innocent party.

Among his writings (most of which were published posthumously) are a Historia Transubstantiationis Papalis (1675), Notes and Collections on the Book of Common Prayer (1710) and A Scholastical History of the Canon of Holy Scripture (1657).

A collected edition of his works, forming 5 vols of the Oxford Library of Anglo-Catholic Theology, was published between 1843 and 1855; and his Correspondence (2 vols) was edited by Canon Ornsby for the Surtees Society (1868–1870).

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