(30 November 1594 – 15 January 1672)
He was born at Norwich, and was educated at Norwich grammar school and at Caius College, Cambridge, where he was scholar and afterwards fellow. On taking orders he was appointed secretary to Bishop Overall of Lichfield, and then domestic chaplain to Richard Neile, Bishop of Durham. In December 1624 he was made a prebendary of Durham, and in the following year archdeacon of the East Riding of Yorkshire.
In 1628 he took his degree of D.D. 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 (December 1660) – he therefore resigned from the Mastership of Peterhouse on 18 October 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.
Propers for John Cosin - Bishop and Divine
O Almighty God, who hast compassed us about with so great a cloud of witnesses: Grant that we, encouraged by the good example of thy servant John Cosin , may persevere in running the race that is set before us, until at length, through thy mercy, we may with him attain to thine eternal joy; through Jesus Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
The Lesson - Micah 6:6-8.
The Gospel - St. Matthew 25:31-40.
Reference and Resources: