In this episode, we’re going to finish our conversation about Westminster. We started by looking at 5 things everyone needs to know about the Westminster Abbey. Then last week we looked at 5 things everyone needs to know about the Westminster Standards. This week, we’re going to look at 5 members of the Westminster Assembly. They called them “divines.”
The Westminster Assembly consisted of just over 120 people. At any given time there were sixty to eighty of them that were involved in the debates, in the work, in the writing, but we’re just going to pull out 5.
The first we’re going to look at is William Gouge. Now his name is spelled “G-o-u-g-e” but it’s pronounced “Googe.” William Gouge pastored a church in London right near Blackfriars Theatre. This theatre had quite a reputation, and there was a lady of society that was a member of Gouge’s church, and at one point she was asked why she did not attend Blackfriar’s Theatre? And she said, “Well my good sir, there is drama enough in Mr. Gouge’s sermons.” In 1647, he started the London Presbytery. He wrote many books, and one of them if you want to track it down is ” A Guide to Go to God “—on the Lord’s Prayer.
Another member of the Westminster Assembly is Jeremiah Burroughs. Jeremiah Burroughs was trained at Cambridge, and he pastored in East Anglia. And then as Archbishop William Laud and Charles I were turning the heat up on the Puritans, Jeremiah Burroughs found himself exiled to Amsterdam. He was called back in the early 1640’s by Parliament to preach the opening sermon of Parliament. A fascinating life. Burroughs was a very active member in the Westminster Assembly. He died though in 1646 just as they were starting to publish the works. He was able to write a number of those books, and one book if you’re able to track down and read, it will well repay the time, is simply called, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment. It’s a beautiful book. Quintessential Puritan, helping us think theologically about life.
Third member of the Westminster Assembly to look at is Thomas Goodwin. Thomas Goodwin is actually buried at Bunhill Fields. Not too far from John Bunyan; we talked about him and his grave in this graveyard in a previous episode. Goodwin was a scholar at Trinity College Cambridge, but again under the pressure of William Laud he was forced to leave there and he went to London and pastored a church. At one point he was quite ill. He thought he was going to die, and he said of his coming death, “I shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye. All my lusts and corruptions I shall be rid of which I could not be here.” Then he says, “These croaking toads will fall off in a moment.” What a vivid image, right, of our sin—”croaking toads” that just hold on to us and nag us. Well, Thomas Goodwin survived that. He even survived the Westminster Assembly; in fact he lived on into 1680. He lived 80 years which was a very long life in the 1600’s.
The fourth man I want to mention is Edward Calamy. Edward Calamy lived from 1600-1666, born in the same year as Thomas Goodwin. He pastored in London. He was a Presbyterian, and he founded a college called “Zion College,” and it was located right at a very famous and popular tube stop in London, “Victoria Embankment.” Well there, back in the 1600’s, stood Zion College. He was convinced that this was the issue; that training the next generation was absolutely paramount to the British Reformation. And so he funneled his energies into Zion College, and the training of the next generation.
And so we’ve saved the best for last, and the best is a Scot— George Gillespie. The legend had it that the debate was raging over how to talk about God. What should they say? How should they put it into words? Where do they begin? And the debate was going nowhere. Someone said let’s just stop and pray, and they called upon George Gillespie to pray. He stood up and he said, “O, God, though who art a spirit, infinite, eternal, unchangeable in Thy being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth,” and somebody had the bright idea to write that down as he was praying it, and it does indeed become the Westminster Confession statement on God.
So there it is; the Scots save the day.