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Thomas Goodwin

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
June 19, 2024 12:01 am

Thomas Goodwin

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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June 19, 2024 12:01 am

Thomas Goodwin made it his life's mission to take Christians' minds off themselves by filling their gaze with the glory of Christ. Today, Michael Reeves describes the Christ-centered preaching of this eminent Puritan.

Get Michael Reeves' Teaching Series 'The English Reformation and the Puritans' on DVD and the Digital Study Guide for Your Gift of Any Amount:

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Michael Reeves is president and professor of theology at Union School of Theology in the United Kingdom. He is the featured teacher for the Ligonier teaching series The English Reformation and the Puritans. He is author of many books, including The Unquenchable Flame, Delighting in the Trinity, and Rejoice and Tremble.

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Nathan W. Bingham is vice president of ministry engagement for Ligonier Ministries, executive producer and host of Renewing Your Mind, host of the Ask Ligonier podcast, and a graduate of Presbyterian Theological College in Melbourne, Australia. Nathan joined Ligonier in 2012 and lives in Central Florida with his wife and four children.

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Goodwin's adamant. He's adamant that we should not think that here is a beautifully compassionate Christ appeasing a heartless Father.

No, no, says Goodwin. Christ adds not one drop of love to the Father's heart. All the love of Christ is the streaming of the Father's love. The Spirit fills him with the very love of the Father which he's showing us. And so the heart of Christ in heaven is the express image of the heart of the Father.

Our feelings change, don't they? And if we listen to our feelings, the level of our assurance of salvation can change week to week, day to day. But Christ is unchanging.

His Word and the promises of God's Word are unchanging. And Thomas Goodwin, who you'll meet today, went from looking inside himself to looking out to our unchanging Christ, and it changed his preaching ministry. You're listening to the Wednesday edition of Renewing Your Mind.

I'm your host, Nathan W. Bingham. Just a reminder that if you'd like to own this complete series from Dr. Reeves, the English Reformation and the Puritans, it can be yours with your donation of any amount at Well, zooming back in, here's Michael Reeves to introduce us to Thomas Goodwin. From the big picture, we're going to have the camera zoom in again on one person, this time Thomas Goodwin. Now, I wouldn't be surprised if Thomas Goodwin is a name that means nothing to you. And if that's the case, don't be embarrassed at all, because Thomas Goodwin really is a very forgotten great one. It's remarkable, though, that he is so forgotten. He was once ranked as a theologian to stand alongside Augustine and Athanasius. He was once called the greatest pulpit exegete of Paul that has ever lived. He should be a household name, but his writings aren't easy, and that's probably why he's not well remembered. And yet they always pay back the reader, for in Goodwin, a simply awesome theological intellect is wielded by the very tender heart of a pastor.

But Goodwin needs a little reintroduction. He was born in 1600, right at the end of Elizabeth's reign, in the small village of Rolesby in Norfolk. And his parents were God-fearing, and this time, this is in an area called the Norfolk Broads.

It's quite a flat, shallow land, full of estuaries, very pretty. And it was well-soaked in Puritanism at the time. This whole area to the east of England was Puritan stronghold territory. And so, unsurprisingly, he grew up rather religious. That wore off, though, when he became a student, as it often does. And when he went up to Cambridge, he divided his time between making merry and setting out to become a celebrity preacher. For, he said, he wanted to be known as one of the great wits of the pulpit. That doesn't mean he wanted to be known as a comedian at the pulpit. It means he wants to be known as one of the great minds in the pulpit. For, he said, my master lust was the love of applause.

Then in 1620, he's 20 years old, he's appointed a fellow of Catherine Hall, which is where Sibbes would be master soon. And he heard there a funeral sermon that deeply affected him. And that started seven gloomy years of morbid introspection. As he was deeply concerned for his spiritual state. And he had these years grubbing around inside himself to see if there were any signs of grace in there. And after seven years of staring at himself, an old pastor from Norfolk met up with him and told him, don't trust to feelings inside.

Don't trust to internal performance. Look out and rest on Christ. And with that, he said, I was free. I trusted, he said, too much to these signs.

I've come to this past now. These signs of grace in me are no sure good. No, I tell you, Christ is worth all. Now, up to this point, he had actually been a preacher and he devoted himself, he said, to a ministry of battering consciences. But at this moment, his ministry changed. And he took over from Richard Sibbes his preaching at Holy Trinity Church in Cambridge. And that was an appropriate transition because while in his navel gazing days, his preaching had been this quite domineering, heckling, hectoring sort. He now became a Christ-centered preacher of grace like Sibbes. From that, it was to Thomas Goodwin that Richard Sibbes said, young man, if ever you would do good, you must preach the gospel and the free grace of God in Christ Jesus.

And that's what Goodwin now did. And like Sibbes, he became an affable preacher. Now he wouldn't use his considerable intellectual abilities to patronize people.

He'd use his abilities to help people. And you can still feel that in his sermons. If you read them, reading his sermons, it's a bit like he takes you by the shoulder and walks with you as a brother.

He understands your problems and he's walking with you. All this time, Archbishop Lord was pressing his high church policies. And by 1634, Goodwin had had enough. He resigned his post. He left Cambridge to become a separatist preacher. And by the end of the 1630s, he was in Holland in exile.

Then in 1641, Parliament recalled all such Englishmen to return. And soon Goodwin was joining the Westminster Assembly. Now the Westminster Assembly was a meeting of Puritan theologians to discuss how the church in England could be fully reformed.

Now the opportunity was ripe. Most of them were Presbyterian, but there were a small group that Goodwin really led who were Congregationalist. They believed that individual churches should be, local churches should be independent.

Now to call him dissenting or separatist could make Goodwin sound rather quarrelsome, prickly. Actually, while Goodwin was very definite in his views on the church, he was an extraordinarily charitable man. Especially to those he disagreed with. And he managed to command a widespread respect across the theological spectrum of the church. And in an age of often very bitter theological dispute, nobody seems to have spoken ill of Goodwin.

A remarkable feat. If there was a contemporary Goodwin overlapped with more than any, it was John Owen. And in the Puritan heyday of the 1650s, we're here, John Owen would be Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University. And at that same time, Goodwin was President of Magdalen College, one of the colleges that makes up Oxford University. And for years, Goodwin and Owen, they shared a Sunday afternoon pulpit.

Not at the same time. They were taken in turns. Both would be chaplains to Oliver Cromwell. And they both had their own sartorial whimsies. So Owen, he rather liked his dandy day wear, his snake bands, his Spanish leather boots. And Goodwin, it was giggled, had such a fondness for night caps. If you ever see a picture of him, it's usually with him wearing a night cap. Such a fondness that apparently he would wear whole collections on his head at once.

Now, it's good to see they're human, isn't it, with their own little eccentricities. First and foremost, Goodwin was a pastor at heart. And so students at Magdalen College, Oxford, would find that if they bumped into Goodwin or his night caps, they would find themselves asked by him, when were you converted?

How's your walk with the Lord? It became a real spiritual nursery. And when Charles II returned in 1660, Goodwin was immediately deprived of his post. What did he choose to do? He chose to go and pastor a church in London. And the last 20 years of his life, he spent pastoring, writing treatises, and studying in London. And there was one little moment that makes me, as a fellow theologian, makes my heart go out to him.

In 1666, the Great Fire of London swept through and burned more than half of his voluminous library. My heart goes out to him in that. But at 80 years old, he was gripped by a fatal fever. And here are his dying words.

They capture what had always been his chief concerns. On his deathbed, he said, I'm now going to the three persons with whom I've had communion. My bow abides in strength. Is Christ divided?

No. I have the whole of his righteousness. I'm found in him, not having my own righteousness, which is of the law. I have the righteousness which is of God, which is by faith in Jesus Christ, who loved me and gave himself for me. Christ cannot love me better than he does.

I think I can't love Christ better than I do. I'm swallowed up in God, and now I shall evermore be with the Lord. Now Goodwin, he wrote a number of short pieces that are quite easy to pick up, and I want to introduce just one of those to you to give you a sample, a flavor of Goodwin's theology and his pastoring. The work I want to introduce you to, the full title is The Heart of Christ in Heaven Towards Sinners on Earth. The Heart of Christ in Heaven Towards Sinners on Earth.

Almost immediately, it was Goodwin's most popular work, and it's exemplary of his overall Christ-centeredness. And he wrote it for he said that many were like how he had been in those struggling years. He said many are too carried away with the rudiments, the effects of Christ in their heart. They're not carried away after Christ himself. Indeed, he wrote, the minds of many are so wholly taken up with their own hearts that Christ is scarce in all their thoughts. Goodwin wanted us, he said, first to look out from ourselves, look to Christ. And he believed the reason we don't is we haven't grasped well the glory, the love, the concern of Christ. And not knowing how kind, compassionate he is, we don't dare to look to him.

Instead, we imprison ourselves in our guilt and don't dare go to a savior. And so Goodwin made it his life's mission to set forth Christ that hearts might be one to him. Now, through the Heart of Christ in Heaven Towards Sinners on Earth, he wanted to present the heart of the bridegroom to his bride, the church. And through presenting the heart of the bridegroom, he wanted to woo the church, the people of God to the great bridegroom. And his concern particularly was this.

It's a really unique piece. Not many people have written on this theme. His concern was this. He knew that now that Jesus has ascended to heaven, gone up in glory, we can feel that he's simply too exalted, too aloof for us now. That once we feel Christ was the friend of tax collectors and sinners. Once we could have related to him. But now he's in glory. He's simply too exalted.

We feel we can have nothing to do with him. And his aim was to show through the scriptures Christ is not now aloof from his people, even though he's now in glory. He has, if anything, even stronger affections and compassion for his people. And knowing this, he said, this may hearten and encourage believers to come more boldly to the throne of grace and to such a savior, such a high priest, when they know how sweetly, how tenderly his heart, though he's now in glory, is inclined towards them. So what Goodwin does is he starts by looking at Christ on earth and his assurances. He starts in John 13, where Jesus washes his disciples feet. And what Goodwin notices is this. That Jesus does this, particularly we're told, knowing he was about to return to God.

That's the context. And so he's showing as he washes his disciples feet. This is how I am towards you. This is how I will be even when I return to be with my father. I live to so stoop and wash you.

Goodwin keeps noticing how extraordinary this is. Jesus does all this for those he knows are going to betray him. At the end of John 13, verse 38, Jesus doesn't say, if you don't betray me, if you're loyal to me, then I'll pray for you.

No. Knowing they're going to betray him, still he reassures them. He comforts them. He prays for them. And Goodwin says, just so does he pray for us now, even though we are daily unkind to him. He remains ever kind towards us.

Over the next chapters, Jesus tells his disciples of how, like a loving bridegroom, he is going to prepare a place for his bride. Goodwin says, it is as if Jesus had said, the truth is, my beloved, I cannot live without you. I shall never be quiet till I have you where I am so we may never part again.

That's the reason of it. Heaven shall not hold me, nor even my father's company, if I have not you with me. My heart is so set upon you. And if I have any glory, you shall have part of it. Oh, poor sinners who are full of the thoughts of their own sins. They know not how they shall be able to look to Christ in the face when they first meet with him at the latter day.

Isn't that true? But they may relieve their spirits against their care and fear by Christ's behaviour now towards his disciples, who had so sinned against him. Be not afraid, says Goodwin. Your sins will he remember no more. Does he talk thus lovingly of us?

Whose heart would not this overcome? What's on Goodwin's mind here is he looks at how, having reassured his disciples, having prayed for them, they then betray him. And when they've betrayed him, what's his first reaction? What are the first words he uses to his disciples, to those traitors? First thing he says is he calls them my brothers and says to them, peace be with you. And the very last thing they see of him, the last sight they have of Jesus as he's ascending before the cloud takes him from their sight, what's the last thing they see? He's blessing them.

The last sight of him. He's blessing them. It's moving stuff and strong stuff Goodwin gives us. And I find reading Goodwin, I'm often thinking, is Christ really this good? So glorious in his kindness and compassion. And one thing Goodwin does is he looks through all the resurrection appearances of Jesus and notices something extraordinary.

Goes through every single appearance and notices this. He says, no sin of theirs troubled him, but their unbelief. For having dealt with all their sins, he doesn't chide them for anything but their unbelief.

They just can't believe it. Well, then Goodwin takes us to the heart of his argument. Hebrews 4.15. For we do not have a high priest who's unable to sympathize with our weaknesses.

We have one who in every respect has been tempted just as we are yet without sin. And so let us with confidence draw near to the throne of grace. Let us receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. And these words, said Goodwin, they do as it were take our hands and they lay them upon Christ's breast. And they let us feel how his heart beats, how his bowels yearn towards us.

Even now he's in glory. And the scope of these words is manifestly to encourage believers against all that may discourage them by considering how Christ's heart, now he is in heaven, is towards them. Goodwin shows that in all his glorious holiness in heaven, Christ is not sour towards his people, distant, unconcerned. Now, if anything, Christ's glorified, capacious heart beats more strongly with tender compassion towards his people.

And if anything, in particular, two things, says Goodwin, two things stir Christ's compassion. First, our afflictions stir his compassion. Second, almost unbelievably, our sin stirs his compassion. Having experienced on earth the utmost load of pain, rejection and sorrow, in all points tempted as we are, Christ in heaven empathizes with our suffering. There is a man who has suffered on the throne of heaven.

He understands. But more, he looks at Hebrews 5 verse 2, where we read that is part of the qualification of the high priest to have mercy on those who are out of the way. That is sinning. And says Goodwin, your very sins move him to pity more than to anger.

Yea, his pity is increased the more towards you, even as the heart of a father is to a child that has some loathsome disease. His fatherly hatred shall all fall, but only upon the sin to free you from the sin by its ruin and destruction. But his bowels shall be more drawn out to you, and this as much when you lie under sin as under any other affliction. Therefore, fear not, what shall separate us from the love of Christ?

His point is, those who are in Christ have a new identity. They are no longer defined by their sin, they're defined by Christ. And the sin that remains in them is a sickness. And fathers, they love their children, they don't hate their children when they get sick. The sickness in their children arouses their compassion for their children.

Hatred for the sickness, compassion for the child. In glory, says Goodwin, Jesus' first reaction when you sin is pity. Where you would run from him in guilt, he would run to you in grace.

It makes all the difference when your heart feels cold and cloddish. Right then, in your very coldness, you can know it is your joylessness that stirs his compassion. And what Goodwin realized was that, as a pastor, this loving compassion will draw us back to Christ from our sin.

Maybe you sense it, that in our guilt, we'd never want to face up to some cold, pitiless God. But the tender kindness of Christ woos us. The beauty of Christ's heart in heaven woos ours. Now, it focuses upon Christ, but Goodwin's adamant, he's ardently Trinitarian. He's adamant that we should not think that here is a beautifully compassionate Christ appeasing a heartless father. No, no, says Goodwin, Christ adds not one drop of love to the Father's heart. All the love of Christ is the streaming of the Father's love. The Spirit fills him with the very love of the Father, which he's showing us. And so the heart of Christ in heaven is the express image of the heart of the Father.

We need Goodwin and his message today. If we're to be drawn from jaded, anxious thoughts of God and a love of sin, we need such a knowledge of Christ. And if more could soak up Goodwin's message to change like Goodwin, if preachers could preach like Goodwin, I think many more might say like him, Christ cannot love me better than he does. I think I cannot love Christ better than I do.

Christ adds not one drop of love to the Father's heart. What a great truth and reminder from Thomas Goodwin. You're listening to the Wednesday edition of Renewing Your Mind. And that was Michael Reeves introducing us to Goodwin from his study on the English Reformation and the Puritans. This twelve part series walks you through the English Reformation and introduces you to other figures like John Owen. It's church history, biographical, devotional, and a dramatic account of changing monarchs and a changing society. We'll send you this series on DVD when you give a donation of any amount at or by calling us at 800-435-4343. And in addition to the DVD, we'll give you lifetime digital access to the messages and the study guide to help you go deeper in your study of church history. Time is running out for this offer, so visit or click the link in the podcast show notes today. What would happen to the English Reformation if there was no king or queen on the throne?

Perhaps if the king was beheaded? Find out when you join us tomorrow here on Renewing Your Mind. .
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-06-19 03:06:51 / 2024-06-19 03:15:23 / 9

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