Thomas Goodwin

Posted on 23rd February 2021 under The Rectory Bulletin | Church History


“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him”. (James 1:12)

On this day in 1680 one Thomas Goodwin breathed his last. Known as “the Elder” he didn’t quite make it to his eightieth year, but his life did span the tumultuous events which made up the seventeenth century in England.

Born in Norfolk, Goodwin studied in Christ’s College Cambridge before being elected to the position of fellow of what is now St Catharine's College. A popular preacher, he ended up at Holy Trinity Church in Cambridge but was a target for the bishop. Fed up, in 1634 he left it all behind and became a Congregationalist minister. Five years later, still facing persecution, he could be found leading an English church in Holland.

He did return to London, and his reputation was such that he was invited to the Westminster Assembly, which had been set up by parliament to revise and expand the thirty-nine articles. As the Civil War ended, and the Commonwealth began, persecution lifted and in 1650 he was appointed as President of Magdalen College in Oxford. He had often preached before parliament, and went on to argue that Jews should be readmitted to England. Cromwell valued him, and Goodwin was one of those who was at his bedside as the Lord Protector died.

As the monarchy was restored, the tables turned once more and Goodwin looked after an independent church in London. During his final decade he was dogged by bad health, and died aged 79. Here, in the life of this one man, is a snapshot of England in the 1600s. A period of great religious turmoil, where many good and great preachers were marginalised. However, Goodwin’s works remain available today in twelve volumes, so perhaps you can’t keep a good man down!

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