He Went About Doing Good
by Rev. David T. Myers
Thomas Gouge is not a household name to countless American Presbyterians today, but maybe he should be, considering his ministering of good to all. Born on September 19, 1605 (though some say September 29, 1609) in England, he was the oldest son of celebrated William Gouge, member of the Westminster Assembly which produced our Confession and Catechisms.
Educated in the finest institutions of his day (Cambridge), Thomas graduated in 1626. After a time of three years, and marrying the daughter of a prominent family of that day, Thomas was called to the St. Sepulchre’s Church in London, England, where for the next twenty-four years he preached and pastored the membership and surrounding area. Not only did he minister to their spiritual needs, but also to their material needs.
Catechizing the people every morning of the week, Thomas Gouge would distribute gifts among the aged poor on varying days of the week so as to encourage regular attendance upon his catechism studies. These monies came out of his own pocket. To those abled-bodied among the poverty-stricken members, he distributed flax and hemp for them to spin, paying them for their yarn to be worked into cloth. Often in selling them later, he took the financial loss himself.
All of these benevolent work, including his proclamation of the Word of God, came to an end when the Great Ejection of 1662 took place. Hundreds of Presbyterian clergy were ejected from their Anglican pulpits, including Thomas Gouge. Unlike many others, he simply entered another ministry instead of continuing on to minister in secret to his pastor-less flock. With two or three other ministers, he raised a considerable annual sum of money, to make provision for the ejected ministers then in desperate need. Even when the Great Fire of 1666 devastated London and brought a considerable loss to his income, he still continued to live on less and distribute to those in real need. He believed full the promise of the Psalmist when the latter wrote in Psalm 37:26, “He is ever merciful and lendeth; and his seed is blessed.” (KJV)
Looking to minister in ever widening circles, he had a heart for Wales. Traveling there, he went from town to town to find out whether there would be interest in teaching willing children to read and write in the English language, and—oh yes—be catechized, no doubt using the Shorter Catechism of the Westminster Assembly. Great droves of children came under the influence of the Scriptures, along with their families. Rev. Gouge began to preach regularly to the families, until the prelates of the Anglican church forbid him to preach the Word. So in addition to the catechism classes, he arranged for the Word of God to be translated and printed into Welsh to be given freely to Welsh families. Added to the Scriptures were Christian books in Welsh which he freely handed out.
He entered heaven on October 29, 1681, remembered widely for his character and conduct in times of persecution.
Words to Live By:
“And let us not be weary in well doing, for in due season, we shall reap if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good to all men, especially unto those who are of the household of faith.” Galatians 6;9, 10 (KJV)