Skip to content ↓

The Importance of Thomas Goodwin

This week the blog is sponsored by RHB Publications and written by Joel R. Beeke.

As a teenager, God used Thomas Goodwin’s writings more than anyone else’s to bring me to liberty in Christ and to grow me in Christ. I wept often as I read his “Christ the Mediator” at the richness and fullness of my Savior and Lord. Already then, I dreamt of one-day publishing Goodwin’s entire Works of 12 volumes in a beautiful hardcover edition. Half a century later, that dream finally became a reality.

After reading the article below, I believe you will see why Goodwin had such a profound effect on me! We pray by reading Goodwin, you will be drawn closer to our beautiful Redeemer.

This reprinting of The Works of Thomas Goodwin stands as a fitting climax to the past half-century of the rediscovery and republication of the writings of the Puritans. Renowned for intelligent piety at its Puritan best, Thomas Goodwin, ”the Atlas of independency,” stands on a par with John Owen, “the prince of Puritans,” as a theologian and an exegete, and often surpasses him in experimental depth. Slightly easier to read than Owen, Goodwin’s writings demand concentration for maximum benefit.

Those influenced by Goodwin’s writings include John Cotton, Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, and John Gill. Alexander Whyte confessed: “I have read no other author so much and so often. And I continue to read him to this day as if I had never read him before.” He calls Goodwin’s sermon, “Christ Dwelling in Our Hearts by Faith,” one of the ”two very greatest sermons in the English language.” Whyte aptly concludes:

Goodwin is always an interpreter, and one of a thousand …. All his work, throughout his twelve volumes, is just so much pulpit exposition and pulpit application of the Word of God …. spiritual experience-all the same, he is always so simple, so clear, so direct, so untechnical, so personal, and so pastoral.

In our generation, Puritan scholar J.I. Packer concurs: “Whyte called Goodwin ‘the greatest pulpit exegete of Paul that has ever lived,’ and perhaps justly; Goodwin’s Biblical expositions are quite unique, even among the Puritans, in the degree to which they combine theological breadth with experimental depth. John Owen saw into the mind of Paul as clearly as Goodwin-sometimes, on points of detail, more clearly-but not even Owen ever saw so deep into Paul’s heart.”

Thomas Goodwin was a prolific author and editor. During the 1630s, he coedited with John Ball the works of John Preston and Richard Sibbes. He began to publish some of his own sermons in 1636. Prior to his death, he published at least twelve devotional works, most of which were collections of sermons. The fact that they were reissued forty-seven times indicates the high demand and wide circulation of his publications.

Most of Goodwin’s major theological writings were the fruit of his riper years and were published posthumously. His unusually large corpus of treatises displays a pastoral and scholarly zeal rivaled by few Puritans.

The first collection of Goodwin’s works was published in five folio volumes in London from 1681 to 1704 under the editorship of Thankful Owen, Thomas Baron, and Thomas Goodwin, Jr. An abridged version of Goodwin’s works, condensed by J. Rabb, was printed in four volumes (London, 1847-50). The presently reprinted twelve-volume authoritative edition was printed by James Nichol (Edinburgh, 1861-66) as his first choice in what would become known as the well-edited and highly regarded Nichol’s Series of Standard Divines; not surprisingly, it is far superior to the original five folio volumes.

Goodwin’s treatment of his subjects is massive, sometimes liable to exhaust the half-hearted. The pull of his writings is not always felt immediately. His first editors (168l) explained his occasional prolixity in these terms: “He had a genius to dive into the bottom of points, to ‘study them down,’ as he used to express it, not contenting himself with superficial knowledge, without wading into the depths of things.”

One does need patience to read Goodwin at times; along with depth and prolixity, however, he combines a wonderful sense of warmth, unction, and experience. The reader’s patience will be amply rewarded.

Read Goodwin slowly, meditatively, and prayerfully, and you will reap spiritual dividends far beyond what you can imagine. You will understand as you read why Goodwin has been my favorite Puritan author for most of my life.


  • What Is the Best Thing In Life?

    What Is the Best Thing In Life?

    Any time we consider the spiritual disciplines, or means of grace, it is crucial that we remember not only the great purpose of these habits but also the great blessing they represent. We were made to know God and to be known by God. We were made in the image of God to have a…

  • A La Carte Collection cover image

    Weekend A La Carte (March 2)

    A La Carte: The only way out of our desperate hypocrisy / Are Evangelicals too hard on men? / 9 healthy ways to respond to criticism / Is God disappointed with me? / 4 snapshots of dispensationalism today / Logos and Kindle deals / and more.

  • Free Stuff Fridays (Help The Persecuted)

    This weeks giveaway is sponsored by Help The Persecuted. Help The Persecuted rescues, restores, and rebuilds the lives of persecuted believers in the Islamic World through spiritual support and tangible help. Every week, they send out an email with specific, real-time prayer requests of persecuted believers to their global Prayer Network. You can join the…

  • A La Carte Friday 2

    A La Carte (March 1)

    A La Carte: Rumblings of revival among Gen Z / Addition by subtraction / Seeing red / Burying the talents of the Great Rewarder / Inviting evaluation of your preaching / Book and Kindle deals / and more.

  • New and Notable Books

    New and Notable Christian Books for February 2024

    February is typically a solid month for book releases, and this February was no exception. As the month drew to its close, I sorted through the many (many!) books that came my way this month and arrived at this list of new and notables. In each case, I’ve provided the editorial description to give you…

  • A La Carte Thursday 1

    A La Carte (February 29)

    A La Carte: Is it ever right to lie? / When the “perfect” fit isn’t / An open letter to Christians who doubt / When a baby is a disease / The long view of preaching / and more.