Fire and Ice: Puritan and Reformed Writings
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Goodwin, Thomas

(1600-1680) "Congregational divine. Born in Norfolk and educated at Cambridge, he became a fellow of St. Catherine's and vicar of Holy Trinity Church, Cambridge. On becoming a Congregationalist in 1634 he resigned and moved to London. In 1639 persecution drove him to Holland, where he was a pastor of a church at Arnheim, He returned to London when the Long Parliament began to sit and formed a gathered church in London. Nominated as a member of the Westminster Assembly, he became the leader of the Dissenting Brethren in it. In 1649 he was appointed a chaplain to the Council of State, and in 1650 president of Magdalen College, Oxford. Goodwin was a leading member of both the Board of Visitors in the university and the Cromwellian Triers. From 1656 he enjoyed the confidence of Oliver Cromwell. He was a prominent member of the Savoy Assembly of Congregational elders in 1658 and was much esteemed among the gathered churches of the nation. After the Restoration he moved from Oxford to London and was pastor of a gathered church in the City. His works were published in five folio volumes between 1682 and 1704 and have often been reprinted. They include devotional, expository, doctrinal, and ecclesiastical studies and are Calvinistic in outlook. Peter Toon (NIDCC).

Thomas Goodwin was born prematurely at Rollesby, Norfolk in England. He entered Christ's College, Cambridge at age twelve, as a junior sophister, August 25, 1613. In 1619, Thomas Goodwin transferred to Catherine Hall, and the following year he was chosen Fellow, and made lecturer in the Hall as he began studying for the M. A. degree. This year was also marked by his conversion by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. Goodwin was licensed a preacher of the University in 1625, and upon the death of John Preston in 1628, he was appointed Lecturer at Trinity Church, and he began to influence the scholars and the town as had William Perkins before him. In 1630, he was awarded the B. D. degree, and two years later was presented by the king to the vicarage of Trinity.

Goodwin was suspected of having Independent tendencies by the Laudian regime, and in 1633 he resigned his vicarage in favour of Dr. Richard Sibbes, and in 1634 resigned his lectureship at Trinity and his fellowship at Catherine Hall. Cotton Mather has recorded that Goodwin's Independent tendencies stem from a meeting in London in 1633 with John Cotton, just prior to his departure for New England. Goodwin removed to London in 1634, and there married Elizabeth Prescott in 1638, and preached to Independent congregations there. In 1639, Goodwin was forced to flee to Holland. While in Amsterdam he met with the Independents Philip Nye, Jeremiah Burroughs, William Bridge and Sidrach Simpson, who later would work with him in the Westminster Assembly as the `Five Dissenting Brethren'. He and Nye moved to Arnheim, in Guelderland, obtained permission of the magistrates to hold regular worship, and was co-pastor of a flock of some ten or twelve English families. Goodwin was the instrument for settling a disagreement in the English church at Rotterdam between William Bridge and Samuel Ward during this time.

As the English Civil War began, Parliament issued an invitation for those exiled due to nonconformity to return to their homes, and early in 1641 Goodwin returned to London. Here he became pastor of an Independent congregation in the parish of St. Dunstan's-in-the-East, near Thomas Street. He was often invited to preach before Parliament, and in 1643 he was chosen as one of the commissioners to the Westminster Assembly. Few members of the Westminster Assembly attended as many meetings as did Goodwin, and he powerfully influenced the others there, no matter what they thought of him. In May 1649, Goodwin, along with Edward Reynolds and Joseph Caryl, were appointed at Cromwell's request to be lecturers at Oxford. In January of the following year, Goodwin was made President of Magdalen College and he left his church in the capable hands of Thomas Harrison. Goodwin also remarried, having been a widower for about two years; he wed seventeen-year-old Mary Hammond who was to him a prudent and outstanding wife, and mother of all his children except one by his first wife.

On July 15, 1658, a preliminary synod of Independents was held by permission of Cromwell. There, they appointed Goodwin, John Owen, Philip Nye, William Bridge, Joseph Caryl and William Greenhill to draw up such a document. These met in the Savoy September 29, 1658 and drew up what is now known as the Savoy Declaration of the Congregational Churches. In May 1660, England called Charles Stuart from exile, and crowned him Charles II. With the restoration of the king, the Bishops returned, and reclaimed their old livings, ejecting 1,760 ministers and 150 dons and schoolmasters. This ejection included Goodwin from Oxford. Since so many who were forced to leave the University were members of his church; when he removed to London, he took his church with him. In this church, Fetter Lane Independent Church, Goodwin ministered, illegally in the eyes of the state, for the remainder of his life. He was succeeded by his friend, Thankful Owen, and in turn, by Thomas Goodwin Jr., his son.

In 1665 the great plague of London broke out in which over 68,000 died. The king and his court fled the city in June, and did not return until the following February, yet the Goodwin laboured on. The plague had not yet subsided when the Great Fire occurred in 1666. This fire started early Sunday morning, 2 September in a baker's shop near London Bridge and the city burned until late the next Wednesday under a wind, 13,200 homes being burned as well as 87 churches. Goodwin's home came under threat of the raging blaze. Concerned to save his priceless library, he had over half of his books moved to the home of a friend, safe from the spreading conflagration. But a shift in the wind spared his dwelling and the books therein, and those he had removed burned with the friend's house. Mourning at his great loss, valued at over 500, he wrote a book based upon James 1:1-5, and published as "Patience and its Perfect Work, under Sudden and Sore Trials." Goodwin died Feb. 23, 1679 and was buried in Bunhill Fields. (Gordon Crompton)

Goodwin's Works, including his most popular work, A Child of Light Walking in Darkness, are published in 12 volumes by Tanski Publications, now out of print.

See also the Goodwin Index and an essay by Alexander Whyte on Goodwin.

Visit Thomas Goodwin: The Readable Puritan Alan Newble's site with a selection of sermons and biographical information. A great place to find more Goodwin.


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