Born on Dec. 4, 1584, in Derby, England, John Cotton was a famous puritan minister and author. Perhaps his most famous sermon is God’s Promise to His Plantation, preached in 1630 at the departure of John Winthrop’s fleet for New England.
In 1633, he fled himself to the American colonies to escape persecution as a Puritan. He pastored a church in Boston, becoming one of the most respected leaders of New England.
Cotton’s written legacy includes a shorter catechism for children titled Milk for Babes (1646), considered the first children’s book by an American and was later incorporated into The New England Primer which was the mainstay of primary education in America for over 150 years! The NE Primer included this now famous prayer —
Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray thee, Lord, my soul to keep;
If I should die before I wake, I pray thee, Lord, my soul to take.
He is father-in-law to Increase Mather (who tried to bring a calm and cool perspective during the Salem Witch Trials), and grandfather of Cotton Mather.
John Cotton died on December 23, 1652, and is buried in Boston.