GOODWIN, THOMAS (1600–1680), English Nonconformist divine, was born at Rollesby, Norfolk, on the 5th of October 1600, and was educated at Christ’s College, Cambridge, where in 1616 he graduated B.A. In 1619 he removed to Catharine Hall, where in 1620 he was elected fellow. In 1625 he was licensed a preacher of the university; and three years afterwards he became lecturer of Trinity Church, to the vicarage of which he was presented by the king in 1632. Worried by his bishop, who was a zealous adherent of Laud, he resigned all his preferments and left the university in 1634. He lived for some time in London, where in 1638 he married the daughter of an alderman; but in the following year he withdrew to Holland, and for some time was pastor of a small congregation of English merchants and refugees at Arnheim. Returning to London soon after Laud’s impeachment by the Long Parliament, he ministered for some years to the Independent congregation meeting at Paved Alley Church, Lime Street, in the parish of St Dunstan’s-in-the-East, and rapidly rose to considerable eminence as a preacher; in 1643 he was chosen a member of the Westminster Assembly, and at once identified himself with the Congregational party, generally referred to in contemporary documents as “the dissenting brethren.” He frequently preached by appointment before the Commons, and in January 1650 his talents and learning were rewarded by the House with the presidentship of Magdalen College, Oxford, a post which he held until the Restoration. He rose into high favour with the protector, and was one of his intimate advisers, attending him on his death-bed. He was also a commissioner for the inventory of the Westminster Assembly, 1650, and for the approbation of preachers, 1653, and together with John Owen (q.v.) drew up an amended Westminster Confession in 1658. From 1660 until his death on the 23rd of February 1680 he lived in London, and devoted himself exclusively to theological study and to the pastoral charge of the Fetter Lane Independent Church.
The works published by Goodwin during his lifetime consist chiefly of sermons printed by order of the House of Commons; but he was also associated with Philip Nye and others in the preparation of the Apologeticall Narration (1643). His collected writings, which include expositions of the Epistle to the Ephesians and of the Apocalypse, were published in five folio volumes between 1681 and 1704, and were reprinted in twelve 8vo volumes (Edin., 1861–1866). Characterized by abundant yet one-sided reading, remarkable at once for the depth and for the narrowness of their observation and spiritual experience, often admirably thorough in their workmanship, yet in style intolerably prolix—they fairly exemplify both the merits and the defects of the special school of religious thought to which they belong. Calamy’s estimate of Goodwin’s qualities may be quoted as both friendly and just. “He was a considerable scholar and an eminent divine, and had a very happy faculty in descanting upon Scripture so as to bring forth surprising remarks, which yet generally tended to illustration.” A memoir, derived from his own papers, by his son (Thomas Goodwin, “the younger,” 1650?–1716?, Independent minister at London and Pinner, and author of the History of the Reign of Henry V.) is prefixed to the fifth volume of his collected works; as a “patriarch and Atlas of Independency” he is also noticed by Anthony Wood in the Athenae Oxonienses. An amusing sketch, from Addison’s point of view, of the austere and somewhat fanatical president of Magdalen is preserved in No. 494 of the Spectator.