John Stoughton (priest)

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John Stoughton (1593?–1639) was an English clergyman, of influential millennial views.[1]

Origin and religious background[edit]

John Stoughton, baptized at Naughton, Suffolk in 1593, was one of the three sons of the clergyman Thomas Stoughton (c.1557–c.1622),[2] and his wife, Katherine.[3] Thomas Stoughton, the father, was born in Sandwich, Kent and studied at the University of Cambridge, matriculating in 1573 and graduating B.A. in 1576/7 and M.A. 1580 from Queen's College.[4] Following his ordination in the chapel of the Bishop of Lincoln in his palace[5] at Buckden, Huntingdonshire in 1582,[6] he became Rector of Naughton from 1586 to 1594. During this time his first children, including John and Thomas, were born. Involved with the Conference of reformed ministers at Dedham, Essex,[7] he served as assistant minister at Great Burstead, Essex before being presented by Baron Rich to the Vicarage of Coggeshall, Essex in 1600. By 1603, when his wife Katherine died, she had borne him twelve children, of whom a further son Israel[8] and four daughters reached adulthood.[9] As one not conforming to the Anglican formulae he was deprived by High Commission of his living in 1606: Ralph Cudworth, of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, was instituted Perpetual Vicar in his place at the presentation of Baron Rich,[10] and held it for two years. After some time at Great Totham Stoughton returned to Kent and died there in 1622.[11]


John Stoughton reached university age while his father was still in East Anglia, and entered Emmanuel College, Cambridge in 1607, where he was tutored by William Sancroft.[12] Graduating B.A. in 1611 and M.A. in 1614, he was elected a Fellow of the college in 1616. His ordination as priest is probably that recorded in December 1617, performed by Samuel Harsnett:[13] he attained B.D. in 1621.[14] In 1624 the College living of Aller,[15] in Somerset, became vacant by the death of Dr. Ralph Cudworth, who had resigned his own fellowship to marry and settle in the Rectory there in 1610. John Stoughton succeeded him as Rector in 1624 and married his widow Mary (née Machell), as stepfather taking in hand the education of her young sons and daughters.[16]

He was considered a preacher of unusual eloquence. Two notable sermons given by him in 1624, reflecting political circumstances of the time, concern the theme of marriage. Early in 1623/24 he preached at Paul's Cross in London The Love-Sick Spouse, on a text of lament from the Canticles interpreted to signify the separation of Christ from His true Church. The Song of Solomon was a rich source for contemporary theological exegesis directed against the threat to protestantism posed by royal marital alliance with Roman Catholic Spain or France. Stoughton quoted many classical and patristic sources in his exposition. About ten months later, in The Happinesse of Peace preached during a royal visitation to Cambridge, he spoke to like point before a courtly audience which cannot have missed his meaning.[17] He became Doctor of Divinity in 1626.

In 1630 Stoughton's two brothers Thomas (by then married and with a family) and Israel Stoughton were among the emigrants in the sailing of the Mary and John of London to New England, arranged by John White of Dorchester, Dorset[18] to found the town of Dorchester, Boston, in Massachusetts Bay Colony.[19] Under Dr Stoughton's instruction his stepchildren flourished, and he thought Ralph Cudworth (junr.)[20] 'as wel grounded in Schol-Learning as any Boy of his Age that went to the University', when commencing his studies at Emmanuel College in 1632.[21] In that year Dr. Stoughton left Aller and was appointed curate and preacher in the City of London church of St Mary Aldermanbury, a strong focus of Puritanism, in the place of Thomas Taylor.[22] The diarist Samuel Rogers was stirred by his preaching.[23] In October 1632 John Winthrop and John Wilson, hearing of his favour for spreading the Gospel in New England, wrote from Boston inviting him to take up his ministry there.[24]

At Aller Dr. Stoughton maintained or developed associations with Sir Thomas and Lady Margaret Wroth of Petherton Park, who were highly active in colonial enterprises in North America. Lady Margaret, cousin of Robert Rich and sister of Sir Nathaniel Rich, had witnessed the elder Dr. Cudworth's deathbed testament,[25] and was probably a near relation of Dr. Stoughton's wife.[26] Stoughton remained in London,[27] but in 1634 his eldest stepson James Cudworth[28] emigrated permanently to Scituate, Plymouth Colony. Soon after arriving he wrote at length to his stepfather thanking him for the thorough religious education received from him.[29] Mary Stoughton died at about this time, and in January 1635/36 Dr. Stoughton remarried to Jane,[30] daughter of John Browne of Frampton, Dorset,[31][32] a close associate of John White of Dorchester. Three months later Elizabeth Cudworth, sister of James and Ralph, married the Rutland clergyman Josias Beacham.[33]

His numerous correspondents included John Forbes, John Winthrop, Stephen Marshall, Samuel Ward and William Sancroft.[34] During the 1630s he came under suspicion from the authorities, and his mail was raided and confiscated.[35] A somewhat incriminating letter intercepted from Sir Thomas Wroth caused particular difficulties.[36] In 1635 he was brought before William Juxon, Bishop of London, with John Goodwin and Sidrach Simpson[37] for suspected nonconformity. He was caught up in the investigation of John White, involving also Henry Whitfield,[38] over their uses of money collected for ministry in New England.[39] With the support of Sir Robert Harley and other patrons Stoughton managed to escape serious consequences.[40]

In around 1635 Dr. Stoughton became a friend of Samuel Hartlib,[41] and some letters survive.[42] Stoughton's millennial pamphlet Felicitas ultimi saeculi was taken to Hungary in 1638 by John Tolnai, a contact of Comenius. It was intended for György Rákóczi. Two years later, after Stoughton's death, Hartlib published the pamphlet with Stoughton's covering letter.[43] Hugh Trevor-Roper comments on the language of inauguration of international Protestantism in this work, centred on Comenius, Francis Bacon and John Dury.[44] In his last months, Ralph Cudworth sought his father's guidance in the question of a possible college fellowship.[45] Dr. Stoughton died in May 1639 making his wife Jane and her father John Browne his executors, with legacies to his wife and their two daughters, and gifts of £25 each to Emmanuel College and to 'Mr Hartlipp a Dutchman'.[46]


John Stoughton married first (c.1624) Mary Machell,[47] widow of Dr Ralph Cudworth senr (Rector of Aller c. 1610-1624),[48] by whom he had no issue. He married secondly (18 Jan. 1635/36) Jane Browne (widow of Walter Newburgh, Rector of Symondsbury, Dorset 1624-31), by whom he had two daughters, Jane and Marie Stoughton.

In New England, John's brother Thomas Stoughton (1588-1661) was among the group which left Dorchester, Massachusetts to establish the town of Windsor in the Connecticut River Valley in 1635.[49] His brother Israel Stoughton (c.1603-1644) was a co-worker with John Endicott in Massachusetts Colony, and Israel's son William Stoughton (1631-1701), John Stoughton's nephew, lived to be chief magistrate at the Salem witch trials of 1692-93.

James Cudworth (1612-1682), of Scituate, Massachusetts, strongly disapproved of the religious persecutions against Quakers during the later 1650s, and stood out against their treatment.[50] He became an Assistant Governor of Massachusetts and a Commissioner of the United Colonies.

In Old England, Ralph Cudworth (1617-1688) became a leading philosopher and theologian among the Cambridge Platonists, Regius Professor of Hebrew, and Master of Christ's College, Cambridge: he was the father of Lady Damaris Cudworth Masham, the friend of John Locke.

Published works[edit]

Dr. Stoughton's sermons and other works were mostly published in the year after his death, and were edited by Anthony Burgess.[51]

  • A Learned Treatise: in Three Parts, 1. The definition 2. The distribution of Divinity 3. The happinesse of man; as it was scholastically handled by John Stoughton D.D. in Immanuell Colledge Chappell in Cambridge, while he was fellow there: and now published according to the copy left under his own hand (John Bellamy, Daniel Frere and Ralph Smith, London 1640).
  • Seaven Sermons, Preached Vpon Severall Occasions.
1. The Christians Prayer for the Churches Peace. One Sermon on Psal. 122.6 (Preached at the Mercers' chapel). One Sermon on 1 Sam. 2.30
2. Baruchs Sore Gently Opened; Gods Salve Skilfully Applyed. In two Sermons on Jeremy 45.5.
3. The Araignement of Coveteousnesse. In three Sermons on Luke 12.15.
By John Stoughton, Doctor in Divinitie, sometimes fellow of Immanuel Colledge in Cambridge, late of Aldermanbury, London. (Iohn Bellamie, Henry Overton, Iohn Rothwell, Richard Serger, and Ralph Smith, London 1640).
  • XV. Choice Sermons : Preached upon Selected Occasions.
1. The Happinesse of Peace: before K. James at Trinity Colledge in Cambridge.
2. The Love-sicke Spouse: at S. Paul's Crosse.
3. The Burning Light: at a visitation in Christ's Church, London.
4. The Magistrates Commission, or, Wisdome Justified: before the judges.
5. The preachers dignity, and duty: in five sermons, on 2 Cor. 5.20. Preached in Cambridge.
6. Christ Crucified, the Tree of Life: in sixe sermons, on 1 Cor. 2.2. Preached in Cambridge.
By John Stoughton, Doctor in Divinity, sometime fellow of Immanuel Colledge in Cambridge, late preacher of Aldermanburie, London. According to the originall copie, which was left perfected by the authour before his death. (I. Bellamie, H. Overton, I. Rothwell, R. Royston, D. Frere, and R. Smith, London 1640).
  • XIII. Sermons: Preached in the Church of Aldermanbury, London.
1. The Form of Wholsome Words, or An Introduction to the Body of Divinity. In 3 sermons on 2 Tim. 1.13.
2. The Righteous Mans Plea to True Happinesse. In 10 sermons on Psal. 4.6.
By John Stoughton, Doctor in Divinity, sometimes fellow of Immanuel College in Cambridge, and late preacher of Aldermanbury, London. (J. Bellamy, H. Overton, A. Crook, J. Rothwell, R. Sergeir, J. Crook, D. Frere, and R. Smith, London 1640).
  • The Heauenly Conuersation and the Naturall Mans Condition: In two treatises.
By Iohn Stoughton, Doctor in Divinitie, sometimes fellow of Emanuel Colledge in Cambridge; and late preacher of Gods word in Aldermanbury London. (John Bellamie and Ralph Smith, at the three Golden Lyons, London, 1640).
  • Felicitas Ultimi Sæculi: epistola in qua, inter alia, calamitosus ævi præsentis status seriò deploratur, certa felicioris posthac spes ostenditur, & ad promovendum publicum Ecclesiæ & rei literariæ bonum omnes excitantur: in gratiam amici cujusdam paulo ante obitum, scripta à reverendo viro Johanne Stoughtono, SS. Theol. Doctore, Coll. Emanuel. Cantabr. olim socio, postea, eccles. Aldermanburiensis Londini, pastore dignissimo: nunc, post decessum ejus ad fidem autographi, publici juris facta à S.H. (Samuel Hartlib). (Londini : Typis Richardi Hodgkinson, impensis Danielis Frere habitantis in Parva Britannia, ad insigne Tauri rubri, Anno MDCXL). (1640)


  1. ^ P.S. Seaver, 'Stoughton, John (bap. 1593, d. 1639), Church of England clergyman', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
  2. ^ E.McL. Turner, The English Ancestry of Thomas Stoughton, 1588-1661, and his son Thomas Stoughton, 1624-84, of Windsor, Conn. (Artcraft Press, Waterloo, Wisconsin 1958), at pp. 62-73. (Hathi Trust)
  3. ^ Thomas should not be confused with his contemporary Thomas Stoughton who married Katherine Evelyn (aunt of the diarist John Evelyn), who was son of Sir Lawrence Stoughton of Stoughton in Stoke, Guildford, Surrey, see W. Bruce Bannerman, The Visitations of the County of Surrey, Harleian Society Vol. XLIII (1899), p. 87.
  4. ^ J. & J.J. Venn, Alumni Cantabrigienses (Cambridge University Press, 1927), Part I Vol. 4, p. 172.
  5. ^ 'Parishes: Buckden', in W. Page, G. Proby and S. Inskip Ladds (eds), A History of the County of Huntingdon Vol. 2, (V.C.H., London 1932), pp. 260-69. (British History Online accessed 4 June 2016)
  6. ^ Clergy of the Church of England database: CCEd Ordination Record ID: 218338.
  7. ^ P. Collinson, J. Craig and B. Usher, Conferences and Combination Lectures in the Elizabethan Church: Dedham and Bury St Edmunds 1582-1590, Church of England Records Society Vol. 10 (Boydell Press, 2003). See also J. Craig, 'Members of the Dedham Conference,' Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Themes.
  8. ^ R. Thompson, 'Stoughton, Israel (bap. 1603, d. 1644), colonist in America,' Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
  9. ^ (Thomas Stoughton), The Christian Sacrifice as set forth in Romans XII, 1,2 (1622), Postscript. British Library 4371, b.20.
  10. ^ Clergy of the Church of England database, CCEd Appointment Record ID: 193664.
  11. ^ Conferences and Combination Lectures, pp. 251-55.
  12. ^ F.J. Bremer, Congregational Communion: Clerical Friendship in the Anglo-American Puritan Community, 1610-1692, New England Studies (Northeastern University Press, Boston 1994), p. 31.
  13. ^ CCEd Ordination Record ID: 194231.
  14. ^ Alumni Cantabrigienses Part I Vol. 4, p. 171.
  15. ^ A.P. Baggs, R.J.E. Bush and M. Tomlinson, 'Parishes: Aller ', in A History of the County of Somerset Vol. 3, ed. R.W. Dunning (V.C.H., London 1974), pp. 61-71. (British History Online accessed 4 June 2016)
  16. ^ T. Birch (ed.), 'An Account of the Life and Writings of R. Cudworth, D.D.', Preface to the 1743 edition of The True Intellectual System of the Universe, New Edition, 4 Vols (Richard Priestley, London 1820), I, p. 7.
  17. ^ J. Shami, ' The Love-Sick Spouse: John Stoughton's 1624 St. Paul's Cross sermon in context,' in W.J.T. Kirby and P.G. Stanwood (eds), Paul's Cross and the Culture of Persuasion in England, 1520-1640 (Brill, Leiden & Boston 2013), pp. 389-407.
  18. ^ R.T. Cornish, 'White, John (1575–1648), clergyman and promoter of colonization', in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
  19. ^ English Ancestry of Thomas Stoughton, pp. 79-84. (Hathi Trust)
  20. ^ D.A. Pailin, 'Cudworth, Ralph (1617–1688), philosopher and theologian', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
  21. ^ J.L. von Mosheim, Radulphi Cudworthi Systema Intellectuale Huius Universi, 2 Vols (sumtu viduae Meyer, Jena 1733), I, 'Praefatio Moshemii' (34 sides, unpaginated) 19th side, note.
  22. ^ "Stoughton, John (STTN607)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge. 
  23. ^ T. Webster and K. Shipps (eds), The Diary of Samuel Rogers, 1634-1638, The Church of England Record Society XI (Boydell Press, 2004), pp. xliv-xlv, & pp. 129-32, 137-41, 150, 159-62, 169-71.
  24. ^ The Winthrop Papers Vol. III, 1631-1637 (Massachusetts Historical Society 1943), pp. 88-89.
  25. ^ Will of Dr. Ralph Cudworth of Aller, Somerset (P.C.C. 1624).
  26. ^ For this connection see D. Richardson, ed. K.J. Everingham, Magna Carta Ancestry 2nd Edn (2011), II, p. 10 items 15-16, but contrast A. Boaz, Specific Ancestral Lines of the Boaz, Paul, Welty and Fishel Families (Otter Day Books, LLC, 2014), pp. 479-81.
  27. ^ In the nine months from Michaelmas to Midsummer he preached three sermons a week, and two a week during the late summer. J.P. Malcolm, Londinium Redivivum: or, An Antient History and Modern Description of London, 2 vols (Rivington, Payne, Wilkie and White, London 1802, 1803), II, pp. 119, 122.
  28. ^ 'Gen. James Cudworth (salter),' in Samuel Deane, History of Scituate, Massachusetts, from its first settlement to 1831 (James Loring, Boston 1831), pp. 245-51.
  29. ^ 'Letter of James Cudworth of Scituate, 1634', (to Dr. Stoughton), in New England Historical and Genealogical Register 14 (1860), pp. 101-04.
  30. ^ Marriage at St Mary Aldermanbury, 18.i.1635/36.
  31. ^ J.P. Ferris, 'Browne, John II (1580-1659), of Dorchester and Frampton, Dorset', History of Parliament online, 1604-1629.
  32. ^ Michael Russell (compiler), 'John Browne J.P. (1582-1659) of Dorchester & Frampton,' Free pages at Ancestry Rootsweb.
  33. ^ Marriage at St Mary Aldermanbury, 28.iv.1636. London Marriage Allegations. Will of Josias Beacham, Rector of Seaton (Rutland) (P.C.C. 1675/76). S.H.C., 'Extracts from the Parish register of Seton, Co. Rutland, relative to the family of Sheffield', Collectanea Topographica et Genealogica I (J.B. Nichols & Son, London 1834), pp. 171-73.
  34. ^ Bremer, Congregational Communion, p. 54. and pp. 92, 99.
  35. ^ N. Tyacke, Aspects of English Protestantism, c.1530-1700 (Manchester University Press, 2001), pp. 124-25.
  36. ^ State Papers, Charles I, Domestic, SP 16/297/39, Letter dated 12 September 1635. J. Bruce (ed.), Calendar of State Papers, Domestic, Charles I: 1635 (Longman, Green, Longman, Roberts & Green 1865), pp. 104-05, 377-78.
  37. ^ Tai Liu, 'Simpson, Sidrach (c.1600–1655), Independent minister,' Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
  38. ^ F.J. Bremer, 'Whitfield [Whitfeld], Henry (1590/91–1657), minister in America,' Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
  39. ^ Calendar of State Papers, 1635, 435-36, 459, & 500. See also Calendar of State Papers, Domestic, Charles I: 1635-36 (1866), pp. 48, 109, 116, 125, 268, 470, 478, 503, 513, 651, 653.
  40. ^ M.A. Everett Greene, Diary of John Rous, Incumbent of Santon Downham, Suffolk Camden Society, Old Series Vol. LXVI (1866), pp. 79-80.
  41. ^ C. Hill, Intellectual Origins of the English Revolution (Oxford University Press 1965), p. 91 & notes 79, 80. See also T. Webster, Godly Clergy in Early Stuart England: The Caroline Puritan Movement, c.1620-1643 (Cambridge University Press, 2003), p. 260.
  42. ^ M. Greengrass, M. Leslie and M. Hannon, (2013), The Hartlib Papers. Published by HRI Online Publications, Sheffield.
  43. ^ G. Gömöri, 'Hungarian Students and Visitors in 16th-17th Century England,' Hungarian Studies 1, No. 1, Nemzetközi Magyar Filológiai Társaság, Akadémiai Kiadó (Budapest 1985), pp. 31-50, at p. 40, pdf p. 10.
  44. ^ H. Trevor-Roper, The Crisis of the Seventeenth Century: Religion, the Reformation and the Social Change, (Liberty Fund, Indianapolis 2001), p. 17.
  45. ^ T. Solly, The Will Divine and Human (Deighton Bell & Co., Cambridge/Bell & Daldy, London 1856), pp. 287-91.
  46. ^ Will of John Stoughton, Doctor in Divinity and Curate of Saint Mary Aldermanbury, City of London (P.C.C. 1639).
  47. ^ Ralph Cudworth, minister, married mistress Mary Machell, 18 June 1611. Parish register of St Mary Newington, Southwark.
  48. ^ Stoughton's marriage to Cudworth's widow, and the management of her children's inheritance portions, is mentioned in 1636 in The Diary of John Rous, pp. 79-80.
  49. ^ English Ancestry of Thomas Stoughton, pp. 83-90. (Hathi Trust)
  50. ^ Cudworth told the Scituate Court which dismissed him from office that, just as he was no Quaker, so also he would be no Persecutor. Richard P. Hallowell, The Quaker Invasion of Massachusetts (Houghton, Mifflin & Co, Boston/Riverside Press, Cambridge 1883), pp. 162-172.
  51. ^ M. Morrissey, Politics and the Paul's Cross Sermons, 1558-1642 (Oxford University Press, 2011), pp. 37-38.