William Gouge was known by many as a compassionate minister of the gospel. Today, Stephen Nichols tells us about the ministry, writings, and legacy of this English Puritan.
Welcome back to another episode of 5 Minutes in Church History. On this episode, we are visiting with the Puritan William Gouge. Now his last name is spelled g o u g e, but it’s pronounced Gouge. He was educated at Eaton School, that famous school along the Thames over by Windsor Castle. And then he went on to study at King’s College, Cambridge, taking a BA and his master’s degree. He was, for a while, a fellow and a lecturer at King’s. He lectured on one of the Puritan’s favorite things, Ramist logic. He also lectured on Hebrew, then he moved to London, and there in London, he married Elizabeth Colton. They had 13 children together. His wife Elizabeth, died after the birth of their 13th child. One of Gouge’s books was entitled Domestical Duties. It was a rather popular Puritan text on family life and with such a big family, William Gouge had plenty of experience to draw upon to write that book.
So, what else did William Gouge do? Well, he pastored, and he was a prominent member of the Westminster Assembly. First, as Pastor: Gouge first went to the Blackfriars Church, also known as St. Anne’s Church in 1608. He served initially as an associate minister from 1608 to 1621. And then in that year, he became the pastor of Blackfriars Church, a post he held until his death in 1653. If you add it all up, he was at Blackfriars for a total of 45 years. He had a reputation for being a compassionate minister, especially to the downtrodden and to the dejected. He was known as quite a man of charity. Back in 1621 when he first became Senior Minister, he was arrested by King James I. Some of the sermons that Gouge had preached and some of the ideas he set forth did not set too well with King James. And so, to show his power, James had him thrown into prison for a few months. Gouge preached two times every Sunday, and for 35 years straight, he gave a Wednesday evening lecture. During the time of his ministry, Blackfriars had to undergo numerous expansions and building projects to accommodate all of the people that were wanting to be a part of his church and to sit under the preaching and the ministry of Gouge.
He was also a prominent member of the Westminster Assembly. Being a minister in London, it gave him ready access to the assembly, and he played quite a key role. He played a conciliatory role regarding his friend Cornelius Burges. Burges was called a fiery Puritan, and he was indeed suspended from the assembly. Well, Gouge helped him to get back into the assembly after all due apologies were made. At one time, Gouge chaired the committee on the actual confession of faith, that centerpiece document produced by the Westminster Assembly.
He was known as a man of diligence and discipline. He had routines that marked his entire life. At the end of his life, as he was passing his 75th year, he had mounting physical difficulties. He was preaching much less than he would've liked to. He spent his final year working on what was to be his magnum opus, his Commentary on Hebrews. Earlier, Gouge had preached 1000 sermons. Yes, a full millennia of sermons on the book of Hebrews. So, Gouge had plenty of manuscript material to work with to write his commentary. He didn't quite finish it. He made it about halfway through to the final chapter of Hebrews, Hebrews chapter 13. Right at verse 14, the author of Hebrews tells us, we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. Gouge was known as the father of London ministers, the earthly city where he served so faithfully, not only as congregation at Blackfriars, but through his books and through his work on the Westminster Assembly to serve Christians really through the centuries and around the globe. Well, that is the Puritan William Gouge. And I'm Steve Nichols, and thanks for joining us for 5 Minutes in Church History.