Thomas Goodwin’s influence in the 17th century was larger than his immediate name recognition might suggest. His works provide the same kind of practical advice—both profound and readable—that you would expect to find with his more recognized contemporary Richard Baxter.
Goodwin entered Christ’s College, Cambridge in 1613—at the age of twelve—and received his B.A. in 1616. In 1619 he was transferred to Catherine Hall and, while working on his M.A. degree, was made a lecturer in the Hall. After the death of John Preston in 1628, he became a lecturer at Trinity Church sharing his influence with both Cambridge scholars and the surrounding town. Within four years Goodwin was presented to the vicarage by King Charles I.
The Church of England attempts to purge Puritanism
William Laud, the Bishop of London and close adviser to Charles I, was made Archbishop of Canterbury in 1633. Laud was greatly worried that the growing Puritan movement was a schismatic threat to orthodoxy in the Church of England. He quickly began enforcing laws against ministers who strayed from Book of Common Prayer. He also introduced new church ceremonies and forced ministers to conduct them or face exile, loss of goods, loss of livelihood, and even death. (For great insight into this period check out The History of the Puritans (5 vols.))
Goodwin resigned his position at Trinity Church and left Cambridge in 1634, aligning himself with the Congregationalists. He married in 1638 and was then was forced to flee persecution in Holland.
Goodwin’s return to England
With the inception of the Long Parliament by Charles I, all exiles due to nonconformity were invited to return to their homes. Goodwin returned home to London and ministered for many years at Paved Alley Church, Lime Street, in the parish of St Dunstans-in-the-East.
His distinction and influence continued to rise drawing the attention Oliver Cromwell, to whom he became chaplain, in 1656. As Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Cromwell was responsible for Presbyterianism in Scotland and preserving Protestantism in England. Goodwin remained one of Cromwell’s intimate advisers—even attending to Cromwell at his deathbed.
Goodwin’s final years
For the last twenty years of his life Goodwin devoted himself to theological study while pastoring the Fetter Lane Independent Church. In a memoir to his son before his death Goodwin said,
“I am going to the three Persons with whom I have had communion: They have taken me, I did not take Them. I shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye; all my lusts and corruptions I shall be rid of, which I could not be here; those croaking toads will fall off in a moment.”
Goodwin’s works available on Pre-Pub
The Works of Thomas Goodwin (12 vols.) is currently featured on Pre-Pub from Logos Bible Software. You can pick up this collection of writings from this great man of depth and conviction—a hearty 6,228 pages—for 70% off the retail price! These kinds of collections not only provide edifying instruction, they offer insight and context into a tumultuous and important time for Christian freedom and expression.
For more great Puritan resources be sure to see: