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John Goodwin and the Puritan Revolution

John Goodwin and the Puritan Revolution

John Coffey
Copyright Date: 2006
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 350
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  • Book Info
    John Goodwin and the Puritan Revolution
    Book Description:

    John Goodwin [1594-1665] was one of the most prolific and controversial writers of the English Revolution; his career illustrates some of the most important intellectual developments of the seventeenth century. Educated at Queens' College, Cambridge, he became vicar of a flagship Puritan parish in the City of London. During the 1640s, he wrote in defence of the civil war, the army revolt, Pride's Purge, and the regicide, only to turn against Cromwell in 1657. Finally, repudiating religious uniformity, he became one of England's leading tolerationists. This richly contextualised study, the first modern intellectual biography of Goodwin, explores the whole range of writings produced by him and his critics. Amongst much else, it shows that far from being a maverick individualist, Goodwin enjoyed a wide readership, pastored one of the London's largest Independent congregations and was well connected to various networks. Hated and admired by Anglicans, Presbyterians and Levellers, he provides us with a new perspective on contemporaries like Richard Baxter and John Milton. It will be of special interest to students of Puritanism, the English Revolution, and early modern intellectual history. JOHN COFFEY is Reader in Early Modern History at the University of Leicester.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-479-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. Illustrations
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. Preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-xii)
  6. Introduction: ‘A Man by Himself’
    (pp. 1-12)

    John Goodwin was one of the most prolific and controversial writers of the English Revolution. Between 1640 and 1663, he published around sixty books and pamphlets, and had almost as many written against him. The journalist and propagandist, Marchamont Nedham, once compared Goodwin to a neighbour’s dog, barking furiously at every passer-by. He offered a list of Goodwin’s ‘Duels’.

    The single persons he hath been in the field with in Print, as his Adversaries, and whom he used accordingly when he got them under the Presse, are these, viz. Mr Gataker, Mr Walker, Mr Roborough, Dr Williams, Bishop of Ossory,...

  7. 1 ‘A Tryar of Men’s Doctrines’, 1594–1632
    (pp. 13-43)

    Unlike many other seventeenth-century divines, John Goodwin never found a contemporary biographer. His supporters were dispersed after the Restoration, and a career of incessant controversy did not fit neatly into the genre of conventional ‘godly lives’. However, we can build up a detailed picture of his early life, and identify some of the sources of his later intellectual development. Even in his youth, Goodwin had become ‘a tryar of mens doctrines’.

    Goodwin was born in the parish of Helloughton, Norfolk in the final decade of the sixteenth century. The parish records note: ‘Johannes Goodwin filius Jo: Goodwin baptis. xiii die...

  8. 2 ‘Goodwin of Colman-Street’, 1633–39
    (pp. 44-65)

    In his own lifetime, John Goodwin’s name would become synonymous with the London parish of St Stephen’s, Coleman Street. He was vicar of the parish from 1633 to 1645, and again from 1649 to 1660, and it also became the base for his gathered church. It was here that he made his reputation as a preacher, propagandist and controversialist. Although he published nothing in the 1630s, it is during the early years of his London ministry that we can first hear his distinctive voice. He was already gaining a reputation for theological singularity, ecclesiastical nonconformity and political subversion. But at...

  9. 3 ‘The Anti-Cavalier’, 1640–43
    (pp. 66-96)

    By the close of the 1630s, Goodwin was a well-known and well-connected London minister. Firmly established as one of the City’s leading Puritan preachers, he was a respected if controversial figure. Yet despite having reached his mid-forties, he had not published a single book or pamphlet. In part this was because he was preoccupied with a busy ministry in a teeming urban parish. More importantly, it was a reflection of early Stuart controls on the press.¹ In dedicating a book of sermons to John Pym, Goodwin explained that ‘this little piece had stucke in the birth some yeares together, and...

  10. 4 ‘A Bitter Enemie to Presbyterie’, 1643–45
    (pp. 97-130)

    In his Areopagitica, published in November 1644, John Milton declared that ‘God is decreeing to begin some new and great period in his Church, even to the reforming of Reformation itself’. The Lord would reveal himself ‘first to his Englishmen’, and London would be at the heart of the new reformation. ‘This vast City’, wrote Milton, was ‘the mansion-house of liberty’, for besides its anvils and hammers fashioning instruments for a just war, there were ‘pens and heads there, sitting by their studious lamps, musing, searching, revolving new motions and ideas wherewith to present, as with their homage and their...

  11. 5 ‘The Grand Heretick of England’, 1645–48
    (pp. 131-167)

    Goodwin’s sequestration was indicative of an escalating civil war among the godly. The initial panic over gathered churches was now being displaced by an even greater alarm over heresy. The Puritan clergy bewailed the rapid rise of Antinomianism, Arminianism, Anti-Scripturism, Socinianism, Familism and other pernicious errors. Heresiographers rushed into print with voluminous catalogues of contemporary sects and heresies.¹ In Fast Sermons to Parliament, the Presbyterians implored the magistrate to crush heresies and schisms, and introduced a Blasphemy Ordinance in Parliament prescribing capital punishment for anti-Trinitarians and imprisonment for Arminians and other heretics. The City Presbyterians declared open season on sects...

  12. 6 ‘Champion of the Army’, 1648–51
    (pp. 168-198)

    1648 to 1651 were the climactic years of the English Revolution. They marked the height of Goodwin’s political career, and the apotheosis of his political theology of liberation. In his mind, the English were completing their Exodus from Egypt, crossing the Red Sea and entering the Promised Land. He found himself in the vanguard of a revolutionary minority, which purged Parliament, executed the King, abolished the House of Lords, established a republic, crushed the Irish, and vanquished the Scottish Covenanters. For Goodwin these astonishing events were proof positive of the providential hand of God behind the Independent cause. At no...

  13. 7 ‘The Great Spreader of Arminianism’, 1647–53
    (pp. 199-232)

    Goodwin’s notoriety as a republican Independent was rivalled only by his reputation as a pugnacious proponent of Arminian theology. This chapter will tell the story of how and why he finally broke with Calvinism, going on to become (in the words of Milton’s biographer, John Toland) ‘the great Spreader of Arminianism’.¹

    On 1 April 1645, George Thomason collected yet another pamphlet assailing the controversial vicar of St Stephen’s, Coleman Street. It was entitled A Vindication of Free-Grace in Opposition to this Arminian Position – Naturall Men may do such things as whereunto God hath by way of Promise annexed Grace...

  14. 8 ‘A Man of Strife’, 1652–59
    (pp. 233-265)

    By 1653, Goodwin’s intellectual journey was largely complete. He had changed his mind on ecclesiology, politics and theology, but his new positions were now firmly set. His mission during the rest of the 1650s was to propagate his vision of a truly reformed Protestantism.

    To begin with, Goodwin was optimistic. The republic’s triumphs over its foes promised a new era of stability and freedom, when the godly could complete the reformation without fear of regal tyranny and clerical uniformity. But Goodwin (like so many other radical Puritans) was to be disappointed. The factionalism of the godly dogged the republic in...

  15. 9 ‘Infamous Firebrand‘, 1660 and Beyond
    (pp. 266-290)

    The Restoration marked the destruction of Goodwin’s dreams. Yet as this chapter shows, he somehow escaped with his life despite a royal proclamation against him. He continued to publish significant works and was under surveillance by the authorities. Although his followers were scattered, his books remained in circulation after his death and former disciples continued to promote his principles. And thanks to John Wesley (whose father Samuel had called Goodwin ‘that Infamous Firebrand’), our subject was to be rescued from obscurity, and hailed as the ‘Wycliffe of Methodism’.

    In February 1660, General Monck marched into London and reinstated the MPs...

  16. Conclusion: ‘A Harbinger of the Lockean Age’
    (pp. 291-297)

    We began this book by highlighting two dominant images of our subject – Goodwin ‘a man by himself’, and Goodwin ‘a harbinger of the Lockean age’. We have seen that the first image is seriously misleading. Goodwin had many enemies, but he also had numerous allies. Although he developed a distinctive intellectual profile that did not fit neatly into any of the major ideological blocs of his day, there was nothing eccentric or unintelligible about his ideas. Many contemporaries shared his congregationalism, tolerationism, Arminianism and republicanism, though few combined them all at once. Anglicans who warmed to his theology deplored...

  17. Appendix: Anonymous Works Attributed to Goodwin
    (pp. 298-307)
  18. A Goodwin Bibliography
    (pp. 308-326)
  19. Index
    (pp. 327-340)
  20. Back Matter
    (pp. 341-341)