Thomas Goodwin(3 posts)
Illumination for InterpretationThursday··2009·10·08
While Rome had held the clergy above the common people, declaring that only they could interpret the Scriptures, the Puritans followed the Reformers in insisting that the Holy Spirit illumines the mind of any Christian as he or she reads the Bible. ‚ÄúEvery godly man hath in him a spiritual light,‚Äù declared John White, ‚Äúby which he is directed in the understanding of God‚Äôs mind revealed in His word.‚Äù Thomas Goodwin said with equal confidence that The same Spirit that guided the holy apostles and prophets to write it must guide the people of God to know the meaning of it; and as he first delivered it, so must he help men to understand it. What are we to make of this confidence that the Holy Spirit guides us in understanding the Bible? We must realize that Catholic allegorizing of the Bible had obscured Scripture, in effect making ‚Äúthe Pope the doorkeeper of Scripture, not the Holy Spirit.‚Äù Set in the context of ingenious Catholic allegorizing in which the Bible‚Äôs message was decipherable only by the clergy, the Puritan belief in the illumination of the Holy Spirit put the Bible back within the grasp of every reader. Thus John Ball could write: We are not necessarily tied to the exposition of Fathers or Councils for the finding out of the sense of Scripture. Who is the faithful interpreter of Scripture? The Holy Ghost speaking in the Scripture is the only faithful interpreter of the Scripture. ‚ÄîLeland Ryken, Worldly Saints: The Puritans as They Really Were (Academie Books, 1986), 146‚Äì147.
At the age of thirteen, future Westminster Divine Thomas Goodwin (1600‚Äì1679) was enrolled at Christ‚Äôs College, Cambridge, where he pursued studies for the ministry. During this time, he was strongly influenced by Richard Sibbes, who preached regularly at Trinity Church. at age fourteen, Goodwin hoped to receive the Lord‚Äôs Supper on Easter Sunday. His tutor, however, ‚Äúlovingly restrained the boy from receiving Communion because of his age and spiritual immaturity.‚Äù In reaction, Goodwin turned away from Puritan teaching and ‚Äúset his heart on becoming a popular preacher,‚Äù following the example of preachers who ‚Äúcared more for style than substance.‚Äù (I imagine he might have fit right in with the Warrens and Osteens of our day.) Just after his twentieth birthday, he and some friends attended a funeral at which Thomas Bainbridge preached on Luke 19:41‚Äì42. Goodwin was convicted of his ‚Äúdesperate condition, which left him exposed to the wrath of God.‚Äù Later that same day, he received deliverance as God spoke to him from Ezekiel 16: ‚ÄòLive, yea, I said unto you, Live‚Äô‚Äîso God was pleased on the sudden, and as it were in an instant, to alter the whole of his dispensation toward me, and said of and to my soul, ‚ÄòYea, live; yea, live,‚Äô I say, said God: and as he created the world and the matter of all things by a word, so he created and put a new life and spirit into my soul, and so great an alteration was strange to me . . . God [then] took me aside, and as it were privately said unto me, ‚Äòdo you now turn to me, and I will pardon all your sins though never so many, as I forgave and pardoned my servant Paul, and convert you unto me‚Äô (Works, 2:lxi-lxii). ‚ÄîMeet the Puritans (Reformation Heritage Books, 2006), 267‚Äì268.
Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints. ‚ÄîPsalm 116:15 Thomas Goodwin went home in 1679. Of his final moments, his son wrote: In all the violence of [his fever], he discoursed with that strength and assurance of Christ‚Äôs love, with that holy admiration of free grace, with that joy in believing, and such thanksgivings and praises, as he extremely moved and affected all that heard him. . . . He rejoiced in the thoughts that he was dying, and going to have a full and uninterrupted communion with God. ‚ÄúI am going,‚Äù said he, ‚Äúto the three Persons, with whom I have had communion: they have taken me; I did not take them. . . . I could not have imagined I should ever have had such a measure of faith in this hour. . . . Christ cannot love me better than he doth; I think I cannot love him better than I do; I am swallowed up in God. . . .‚Äù With this assurance of faith, and fullness of joy, his soul left this world. (Works, 2:lxxiv‚Äìlxxv). ‚ÄîMeet the Puritans (Reformation Heritage Books, 2006), 273.