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William Gouge

William Gouge, D.D.—This very learned and celebrated divine was born at Bow, near Stratford, Middlesex, November 1, 137-5, and educated first at Eton school, then in King's college, Cambridge. He was endowed with great powers of mind, was a great lover of learning, and perhaps exceeded by none in close application to study. His progress in the various departments of useful literature corresponded with his application. During his first three years at the university, he was so assiduous in his academical pursuits, that he slept only one night out of the college. Here he spent nine years, and during the whole of that period he was never absent from the college prayers at half past five o'clock in the morning, unless he was from home. He usually rose so long before the hour of prayer, as to have time for private devotion and reading his usual portion of scripture. He invariably read Jijteen chapters in the Bible every day; five in the morning, before he entered upon his regular studies, five after dinner, and five at night before he went to rest. When he was chosen reader of logic and philosophy in the college, he was so remarkably exact in those exercises, and performed them with such admirable propriety, that, while he gained the high applause of his auditors, he incurred the hatred of those who were less attentive to their duty. Indeed, he was so exact and conscientious in all his ways, that he was reproachfully denominated an arch-puritan.

In the year 1608, he was unanimously chosen minister of Blackfriars, London; where he appears to have been assistant to the excellent Mr. Stephen Egehon, and, at his death, succeeded him in the pastoral office. His labours were peculiarly acceptable to the people; the congregation greatly increased; and the church was greatly enlarged. Though considerable preferments were frequently offered him, he refused them all. His only object was to be useful to souls. He used to say, " It is my highest ambition to go from Blackfriars to heaven." He was highly esteemed by the people of his charge, and by all who knew his worth. Multitudes statedly resorted to his ministry, and many strangers attended his Wednesday morning lecture. Tlus lecture he

• Prince't Chron. Hiit. vol. i. Pref. p. 8.

kept up about thirty-five years. Indeed, so great was his fame, that when religious persons from distant parts of the country went to London, they did not think thtir business finished, unless they had attended Blackfnais lectine. '! he success of his ministry was also very great. It is said, that thousands were converted and built up under his ministry.* He was long employed in the work, and eminently faithful and laborious as long as he could get into the pulpit, His

{ireaching was always distinct, his method easy, and his anguage adapted to persons of the meanest capacities. Dr. Gouge, while he preached the gospel to otheis, enjoyed its consolations in his own mind. He found so much true comfort in his work, as, he believed, could not be found in any other employment. He often professed, that his greatest pleasure in this world was in preaching the gospel. His heart and his happiness were so much in his work, that he often said to Lord Coventry, then keeper of the great seal, that he envied not his situation. His whole life was particularly exemplary. The doctrine which he delivered to others had its proper influence and effect upon himself. Although his conduct was unblamable and irreprovable in the sight of all men, he was not without his enemies. He was as excellent and peaceable a subject as any in the nation; yet, through the instigation of Bishop Neile, he was cast into prison only for republishing Finch's book on "The Calling of the Jews." Having remained in prison nine weeks, he was released. In the year 1626, he was chosen one of the feoffees for purchasing impropriations; for which he was ordered to be prosecuted in the star-chamber: but the prosecution being so manifestly invidious, was afterwards dropped.t During the intolerance of Bishop Laud, he was prosecuted in the high commission, for opposing arminianism and the new ceremonies.*

This celebrated divine was deeply concerned for the Redeemer's cause in foreign countries, as well as at home. He exercised particular compassion towards the foreign protectants, under all their afflictions and persecutions. He rejoiced in their prosperity, but was afflicted in their adversity. Therefore, when public collections for the poor and distressed ministers of the Palatinate utterly failed, he united with his brethren in promoting a private contribution for their relief: but, marvellous as it may appear, for tins singular act of generosity and humanity, he was convened before the high commission as a notorious delinquent.*

• Clark's Lives annexed to bis Martyrologie, p. 8S4—239.

t Ibid. p. 839—841. % Prynne'i Cant. Doome, p. 368.

In the year 1643, Dr. Gouge was nominated one of the assembly of divines. He assiduously attended during the whole session; and was held in so high reputation, that he often filled the moderator's chair in his abseuce. September 25th, in the same year, when the house of commons, the Scots commissioners, and the assembly of divines met in St. Margaret's church, Westminster, to subscribe the covenant, Dr. Gouge concluded the solemnity with prayer. He was one of the select committee for the examination of ministers who petitioned for sequestered livings. In 1644, he was upon the committee appointed for the examination and ordination of ministers. In 1647, at the first session of the provincial assembly, he was chosen prolocutor, and opened the session with a sermon at Blackfriars. In the same year he was upon the committee appointed to draw up the confession of faith. And in the year 1648, he was on the committee appointed to draw up the assembly's annotations. His portion was from the first book of Kings to the book of Esther, inclusive.t In the same year he united with his brethren, in London and its vicinity, in declaring against the . king's death 4

Dr. Gouge was a strict observer of the sabbath; and when the Book of Sports came out, he absolutely refused to read it. He was determined to surfer, rather than sin by encouraging profane sports on the Lord's day. He was exact in observing the public exercises of the house of God, in promoting religion in his family, and in the devotions of the closet; and, to the great honour of his character, he would never allow his servant to be absent from public worship on the Lord's day to cook provision, whatever company he expected. He possessed an excellent talent for solving cases of conscience; and so great was the blessing of God upon his judicious counsels, that multitudes were restored to joy and peace in believing. Ministers, in difficult cases, often consulted him; on which account, he was denominated the father of the London divines, and the very oracle of his time. He was said to be the very picture of Moses for a meek and quiet spirit. As he was not easily provoked, so he was never inclined to provoke others. When he received any injury, he always prayed for his enemies, and said, " that revilers and evil doers always hurt themselves most." He was remarkably kind to persons in distress, especially the poor of Christ's flock. According to the ability which God gave him, he employed his substance to useful purposes. He afforded much support to the poor scholars at the university. It was his very meat and drink to do his heavenly Father's will. His humility, indeed, outshone all his other amiable endowments. He was never lifted up by multitudes Hocking to hear him, nor by the applause he received from them; but used to say, " I know more to abase me, than others do to exalt me."

* Huntley's Prelates' Usurpations, p. 164.

+ Nenl's Hist, of Puritans, Toi. iii. p. 53, 70, 140, 850, 355, 452.

X Calamy's Continuation, vol. ii. p. 743.

He was, through the whole of his life, remarkably exact and conscientious in the improvement of his time. He rose early, both winter and summer. If at any time he heard other persons at their work before he was in his study, he would complain, saying, "I am much troubled that any persons should be at their calling before I am at mine." He was an excellent scholar, being familiarly conversant with the original languages, and every department of useful literature. When the persecuting prelates would allow of no other fasts besides those appointed by authority, Dr. Gouge and his pious friends kept their private fasts regularly every month. On these occasions he greatly excelled. He was remarkably concerned for the welfare of the foreign protestant churches. Hearing that it was well with them, he rejoiced and praised God; but when he received evil tidings, " he sat down and wept, and mourned, and fasted, and prayed unto the God of heaven."

In the decline of life, he was much afflicted with an asthma and the stone. Under these painful maladies he often groaned, but never murmured. Labouring under these afflictions, he frequently said, "Soul, be silent; soul, be patient. It is thy God and Father who thus orderelh thy estate: thou art his clay; he may tread and trample on thee as he pleaseth: thou hast deserved much more. It is enough that thou art kept out of hell. '1 hough thy pain be grievous, it is tolerable. Thy God affonis some intermissions. He will turn it to thy good, and then put^an end to all. None of these things can be expected hereafter." Under his greatest pains he used the woids of Job: "Shall we receive good at the hands of God, and shall we not receive evil?" At such times, he committed his soul to Christ, saying, " I am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto hiin against that day." When his friends endeavoured to comfort him, by reminding him of his gifts and usefulness, he replied, " I dare not think of any such thiug for comfort. Jesus Christ, and what he hath done and suffered, is the only ground of comfort. I, being a great sinner, comfort myself in a great Saviour. When i look upon myself, I see nothing but weakness and emptiness; but when 1 look upon Christ, I see nothing but sufficiency and fulness."

A few days before he died, having continued for three days in a state of drowsiness, he inquired what day it was, and exclaimed, "Alas, I have lost three days!" Afterwards, reviving a little, he said, " Now 1 have not long to live. The time of my departure is at hand. I am going to my desired haven. I am most willing to die. I have, blessed be God, nothing else to do but to die. Death is my best friend, next to Jesus Christ. I am sure I shall be with Christ when I die."* As the hour of his departure approached, he spoke much in admiration of the rich grace and mercy of God in Christ Jesus; and died full of unspeakable comfort, December 12, 1653, in the seventy-ninth year of his age, having been minister of Blackfriars nearly forty-six years.t Dr. Calamy observes, " that he was a person of as eminent a reputation for ministerial abilities, strict piety, and indefatigable labours for the good of souls, as most ministers that ever were in the city.* Granger says, " he was offered the provostship of King's college, Cambridge, but declined to accept it; and that he was laborious, exemplary, and so much beloved that none ever thought or spoke ill of him, excepting those who were inclined to think or speak ill of religion itself.">j He is classed among the learned writers and distinguished worthies of this college.|| Wood styles him "a pious and learned divine," and says, "he is often honourably mentioned by Voetius, Streso, and other learned and foreign divines."f Mr. William Jenkin was assistant to Dr. Gouge about twelve years, preached his funeral sermon, and succeeded him in the pastoral office. Mr. Thomas Gouge, on whose death Dr. Watts wrote an excellent elegiac poem, was the doctor's son, and Mr. Richard Roberts married his eldest daughter. These three excellent divines were ejected by, the Act of Uniformity, in 1662.**

His Works.—1. Eight Treatises on Domestic Duties.—2. Tlis Whole Armour of God.—3. A Treatise on the Siu against the Holy Ghost.—4. Two Catechisms.—6. A Guide to go to God—0. God's three Arrows, the Plague, Famine, and Sword.—7. The Extent of Divine Providence.—8. The Dignity of Chivalry.—9. 'I lie Saints Sacrifice.—10. Two Treatises, 1. On the Sabbath, 2. On Apostacy.— It. The Saints Support, a Sermon before the House of Commons.— 12. Mary's Memorial.—13. The Progress of Divine Providence, a Sermon before the House of Lords.—1 '•■ A funeral Sermon for Mrs. Dock.—15. The Kight Way, a Sermon before the House of Lords.—16. A Commentary on the Lpistlu to the Hebrews, 1655 — Wood styles this a learned and useful work; and the pious Bishop TVilkins classes Dr. Oouge's sermons among those which he denominates the most excellent of his time.*

• Jenkin's Funeral Sermo i for Dr. Gouge.

t Clark's Lives, p. 942—848. + Calamy's Continuation, vol. i. p. 12.

t) Granger's Bicg. Hist. vol. ii. p. 119. |j Fuller's Hist, of Cam. p. 75.

f Wood's Athena? Oxnn. vol. i. p. 807.

•• Palmer's Koocod. Mem. vol. i. p. 109, 184. iii. p. 301.