Thomas Goodwin the Famous Nonconfomist

This is the day that … Thomas Goodwin was born in Norfolk, England, in 1600.

Converted at the age of 20, when God spoke to his heart through a sermon based on Ezekiel 16:6, Thomas Goodwin went on to become a Church of England clergyman, until he clashed with the bishop!

He was told not to preach upon controversial subjects!

And a few years later – in 1633 – when he met non-conformist leader John Cotton, the die was cast.  Thomas Goodwin resigned from the Church of England and became a Congregationalist.

He pastored a London chapel, married Elizabeth Prescott, spent a year in ministry in Holland, then back to London.

During the Civil War he was a Chaplain to Oliver Cromwell (and later was at Cromwell’s deathbed);  he was the non-conformists’ leader at the Westminster assembly where he spoke 357 times during the five and a half years it was in session.  On 15 October, 1644, he was even called to order for speaking too long!

And he kept minutes of the meetings – 14 massive volumes.

His published writings cover 12 volumes (Banner of Truth) – for example, there are 36 sermons just on the first chapter of Ephesians.

During his lectures at Oxford his students called him “Dr Ninecaps”, possibly because of the “two double skull caps” he often wore (Puritan Profiles, by W. Barker, page 75).

Alexander Whyte speaks of him as “the greatest pulpit master of Pauline exegesis that has ever lived” (Thirteen Appreciations, page 158).

But some fellow Puritans – like John Owen – criticised Goodwin’s distinctive teachings on assurance.

Thomas Goodwin died on 23 February, 1680, and was buried in Bunhill Fields unconsecrated ground (since he was not allowed burial in the regular cemetery due to his non-conformist beliefs).

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History, which I previously considered to be a little stuffy and of little practical value. I find in the process of updating Don’s Christian Diary that I am being constantly refreshed, illuminated or challenged by the lives of those who have gone before. 

Lord Shaftesbury Stands Up for the Abused

This is the day that …Anthony Ashley-Cooper died in 1885 at the age of 84.

Better known as Lord Shaftesbury, he has been described as “the outstanding Christian layman of the 19th century.”

He was born on 28 April 1801 at 24 Grosvenor Square, London, the oldest son of the sixth earl of Shaftesbury. With strong family connections and good academics at Oxford he was well set for a political career. He became Lord of the Admiralty in 1834, but he chose not to run for prominence in any party, in order to more effectively help people in need.

A committed Christian he was active in support of organizations which took the gospel and the Bible to ordinary people, such as the British and Foreign Bible Society, the Church Missionary Society, YMCA and the London City Mission.

His first social cause was the plight of lunatics who were treated most inhumanely. He stuck with that cause and changed the relevant legislation through his life.

His next cause was to limit the working day in mills to 10 hours per day. This was vehemently opposed but he eventually won out. He was a man of action and he strengthened his case on many issues by first-hand investigation of the conditions. He visited hospitals and met many who were maimed and deformed through their working conditions.

He then campaigned against women and children being used in mines. Children as young as four spent 12 hours a day on all fours, pulling carts in the dark. He freed women and any child under 13 years from working in mines.

Then he took on the cause of boys apprenticed to chimney sweeps. Then came education of the neglected poor, leading to the setting up of “ragged schools” through which 10,000 children were assisted in his lifetime.

Then he turned his attention to providing quality housing for underprivileged, creating model villages and establishing thousands of well-equipped homes that were affordable to the working class.

Always the aristocrat he was keen to promote evangelical endeavour where he found it. However he objected to the Salvation Army due to its equal treatment of women in leadership, to which he disagreed. He labelled William Booth as the “antichrist”.

It was he who led the fight against child labour … five year-olds ankle deep in water working pumps in rat-infested mines … children forced to climb and clean chimneys by unscrupulous masters … and the cruelty often inflicted upon small children who worked 12 or 14 hours a day in the mills.

He was chairman of the Ragged Schools Union for 39 years … he supported the newly formed British and Foreign Bible Society … and the Protestant Alliance … and the Church Missionary Society … and the Young Men’s Christian Association (which was Christian in those days!) And more!

On his deathbed he asked for Psalm 23 to be read to him each morning, and “frequently those present heard him murmur his favourite prayer, ‘Even so, come, Lord Jesus’.”

Don Prout recommends: If you can get hold of a copy of John Pollock’s biography of this great man called Shaftesbury, the Poor Man’s Earl, read it! Or Grace Irwin’s The Seventh Earl is equally fascinating. Or, I Stand Alone by Jenny Robertson.

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History, which I previously considered to be a little stuffy and of little practical value. I find in the process of updating Don’s Christian Diary that I am being constantly refreshed, illuminated or challenged by the lives of those who have gone before.

William Holmes McGuffey Teaches Morals to a Nation

This is the day that …William Holmes McGuffey was born in Pennsylvania, USA, in 1800.

Much of his early schooling came from his mother – he “irregularly attended rural schools” – but eventually he was to become president of Ohio University (1839-1843). His mother prayed that he would become a preacher, which he most certainly did, although the fact pales against his greater claim to fame.

An intelligent lad, keen to be well educated, he was taught Latin by a minister and entered a life of academics. Professors were expected to preach and McGuffey prided himself in not needing notes to achieve that end. He had actually been licensed to preach by the Presbyterian Church (1829), but never accepted a pastorate.

“He took pride in the fact that he spoke extemporaneously, later declaring he had preached more than 3000 sermons without a single note…” (Dictionary of Christianity in America, page 688).

McGuffey always told his students that country preaching was the best of training. It was in the country churches that he improved extemporaneous speaking and learned to put his ideas into simple words that even the illiterate could understand.

On one occasion a committee told him they liked his preaching but they thought he was too stylish. He drove a horse and carriage, they said, and wore a silk coat. The suave professor showed them that his “silk coat” was made of cheap shiny bombazine. He further explained that he needed his horse and carriage so his wife could attend church with him. The committee retired ashamed.

At Oxford he met and married the beautiful Harriet Spining (April 3, 1827). She gave birth to two sons and two daughters, but both sons died early. When she died in 1850, McGuffy married again, to Laura Howard, who bore him one son who died at the age of four.

His fame lies in the famous “Readers” he published (from 1836-1857) “which sold an astronomical 122 million copies (!!), and helped shape the 19th century American Mind.”

These “Readers” were used in public schools and majored on “industry, honesty and loyalty; as well as warning against strong drink.” This extemporaneous preacher taught Christian morals to a whole nation through his written works.

McGuffey died at Charlottesville, May 4, 1873, and is buried there.

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.

John Marriott Gives Us Hymns

This is the day that … John Marriott was born near Lutterworth, England, in 1780.

Marriott apparently displayed both a strong academic bent and an interest in music from his youth.

He was educated at Oxford and was the second student to attain first class honours there. He was then ordained to the Anglican ministry, and became chaplain to a Scottish duke. During this time he became a close friend of Sir Walter Scott.

Scott honoured Marriott’s love of music and interest in the music of the Scottish Border region, by the following reference in his work, “Marmion”:
Marriott, thy harp, on Isis strung,
To many a Border tune has rung.

In 1808 he became minister in the parish of Warwickshire, but his wife’s illness made it necessary to move to Devon.

“He wrote a number of hymns but modesty prevented his permitting publication of them during his lifetime …” (Companion to the Baptist Hymnal, page 367).

His best known hymn is categorised as a Missionary Hymn and was written in 1813 and published 42 years after his death … (this is an updated version of the hymn)

Thou, Whose almighty word
Chaos and darkness heard,
And took their flight,
Hear us, we humbly pray,
And, where the gospel day
Sheds not its glorious ray,
Let there be light!

Savior, you came to give
Those who in darkness live
Healing and sight;
Help those who seek to find,
Heal those whose hearts are blind,
And in each humble mind
Let there be light!

Marriott originally set the hymn to the English National Anthem, God Save the King, but it was later given other tunes.

John Marriott died on 31 March, 1825.

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.

Samuel Wilberforce Reforms the Role of Bishops

This is the day that … Samuel Wilberforce was born in Clapham, England, in 1805.

His father was William Wilberforce, famous parliamentarian who fought for the abolition of the slave trade – and won.

Raised in the evangelical tradition, young Samuel was “not particularly studious” during his education at Oxford, but set his sights on “holy orders” and was ordained to the Church of England priesthood in 1829.

He also “set his sights” on Emily Sargent, a vicar’s daughter (“she was 13 and I was 15 when I saw her first. And we never changed our minds!”) They married in 1828.

One biographer tells us how he “learned the Epistle to the Ephesians by heart” (19th Century Preachers, by J. Edwards, page 142).

As his ministry continued he came under the influence of John Henry Newman and Edward Pusey, leaders in what was called the “Oxford Movement” (not to be confused with the Oxford Group movement). This High Church teaching, with its Romeward emphasis, caused a major upheaval in 19th century Anglicanism.

Wilberforce remained loyal to the Church of England, even displaying “a passionate hatred of Rome” (Dictionary of English Church History, page 634), whilst many of his friends and direct relatives, including his son-in-law, seceded to the authority of the Pope.

His wife died in March, 1841.

He became Bishop of Oxford on 30 November, 1843, and “so began the most memorable episcopate of modern times” (ibid).

Controversies raged about him but “his eloquence and ready wit excelled in reconciling men of diverse opinions, hence his nickname of ‘Soapy Sam’” (Concise Universal Biography, page 1394).

Moreover he laboured to quicken the zeal of the clergy. The whole modern concept of a bishop constantly in touch with his diocese … instead of sitting silently by sipping unending cups of tea, or spending time fox hunting … begins with Bishop Samuel Wilberforce.

Dean Burgon called him “the remodeller of the Episcopate” – one who changed the face of the role of bishop in the Church of England.

He held firmly to the ‘doctrine’ of baptismal regeneration and of apostolic succession.

On 19 July, 1873, his life was suddenly cut short due to a fall from his horse.

His sons also attained significant posts within the church, continuing the family influence in English religion and politics.

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.