Puritan Memoirs - Mr. Christopher GoodmanPuritan Memoirs - The Life and Death of Some Reformed Ministers
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Mr. Goodman was born in the city of Chester about 1519, and had his education at Brazennose college, Oxford. After taking his degrees in arts, he was constituted one of the senior students of Christchurch, then newly founded by Henry VIII, Towards the end of the reign of king Edward, he was admitted to the reading of sentences, and chosen divinity lecturer in the university. Upon the reestablishment of popery under queen Mary, owing to the bloody persecution that ensued, Goodman retired from the storm, and took refuge at Frankfort, where he was soon involved in the troubles which the officious interference of Dr. Cox and his party occasioned amongst the English refugees in that place. Here, when it was proposed to make choice of office bearers for the church, Mr. Goodman moved, that they should first condescend upon some specific order of church regulations, and submit the same to the judgment of the congregation, whereby it might appear that they respected the opinions of their brethren, and then proceed to the election, which, he conceived, ought to be determined by a majority of the whole church; but Goodman’s motions were all overruled by Cox and his party, who declared that there should be no other regulations than the book of common prayer. In the meantime, Cox had the ministers assembled at his lodgings, to choose a bishop and other officers agreeable to the English establishment under Edward. The consequence of these jarring opinions was the breaking up of the congregation. Accordingly, Goodman set out for Geneva, accompanied by a number of his associates. Here Mr. Goodman and Mr. John Knox, the famous Scotch reformer, were chosen pastors of the English congregation, and so continued till the death of queen Mary, While at Geneva, Goodman assisted John Knox in composing the Book of Common Order, which was to be used as a directory of worship in the protestant congregations.
On receiving the news of the queen’s death, Goodman wrote, a most, affectionate and healing’ letter to their fellowexiles at Frankfort, which, together with the answer, is still preserved. During his exile, and a short time before the death of the queen, a report had reached Geneva that she was dead; upon which Mr. Goodman wrote to Mr. Bartlet Green, a lawyer, a pious professor, and his old acquaintance at Oxford, inquiring whether the report was true. His friend, in reply, said, “The queen is not yet dead.” This letter was intercepted, and the writer apprehended, committed to the tower, and after a long imprisonment, tried, condemned, and committed to the flames by the bloodthirsty Bonner.
During his residence in Geneva, Mr. Goodman took an active part in the translation and publication of the Geneva bible. Having finished the translation some short time after the accession of Elizabeth, Goodman returned from exile, but not to England in the first instance. He went into Scotland to his friend Mr. Knox, and was for several years actively employed in preaching, and otherwise prompting the reformation in that country. In 1560, having preached for some time at Ayr, the committee of parliament, who nominated the ministers for the principal towns in Scotland, appointed him for St. Andrew’s, where it was considered necessary that the officiating minister should be a man of established reputation. About this time a public disputation was held at Edinburgh between the protestant and papists, when Dr. Anderson, Dr. Leslie, Mr. Mirton, and Mr. Straehan, supported the doctrines of the popish church against Mr. Knox, Mr. Wilwick, and Mr. Goodman. The points in dispute were, the holy eucharist and the sacrifice of the altar. The papists gave out that they had so completely foiled their antagonists, that they would never again encounter them. The nobility, however, who attended the dispute, were of a different opinion. In 1560, Mr. Goodman attended the general assembly as minister of St. Andrew’s, together with David Spence and Robert Kynpont, his assistant elders. In 1562 he was appointed, together with Mr. John Row, minister of Perth, as assistants, to John Erskine of Dun, in the visitation of Aberdeen and Banflshire. And in 1563 he argued, in opposition to Mr. Secretary Lethington, that the tithes ought to be appropriated to the clergy. Lethington being hard pressed by the arguments of his antagonist, dropt some ungenerous hints, that strangers took too much upon themselves who intermeddled with the affairs of a foreign commonwealth. To which Mr. Greenwood modestly, but firmly replied, “My lord secretary though I am a stranger to your state policy, and conduct myself as such, yet in the kirk of God, the concerns of which are now under our serious consideration, I am no stranger here more than if I were in the metropolis of England.”
In 1564 he was appointed to preach at Edinburgh, during the absence of Mr. John Craig, one of the ministers of the city, what had been appointed to visit some of the southern departments of the kingdom. The assembly that met, June 25th, 1565, marked him out for numerous appointments, some of which he bad no opportunity of fulfilling, inasmuch as he had returned to England before the meeting of the assembly, on the 25th of December, the same year; which is noticed in the church register, that “Commissioners from St. Andrew’s appeared, requesting that Mr. John Knox might be transplanted to St. Andrews.
The assembly refused their request, and desired them to choose a minister, in place of Mr. Christopher Goodman lately departed to England, out of their own university.”
In 1568 Mr. Goodman became chaplain to Sir Henry Sidney, in his expedition to Ireland against the rebels, where he evinced the greatest diligence and integrity in that service. In 1571 he w/as cited before archbishop Parker, and others of the high commission, at Lambeth. Mr. Goodman, while in exile, had written a book with the following title: “How superior powers ought to be obeyed by their subjects, and wherein, according to God’s word, they may be lawfully disobeyed and resisted; wherein also is declared the cause of all the present misery in England, and by what means the same may be remedied.” In this work Mr. Goodman spoke with considerable freedom against the government of women, but especially against the bloody proceedings of queen Mary. From this book, however, after the lapse of so many years, the archbishop selected certain passages, which he charged against him as dangerous and seditious, and which he required Mr. Goodman to revoke. This, for some time, he refused; but before be could procure his liberty, he was obliged to subscribe the following recantation: “Forasmuch as the extremity of the times, in which I wrote my book, overturned the true worship of God, by setting up idolatry, banishing good men, murdering the saints, and violating all promises made to the professors of the true religion. Moved by grief and indignation at such cruelty and tyrannical exertions of power, I did write many things, which may be, and are offensively taken; which, under less galling circumstances, I would not, and now wish I had not, written. But notwithstanding of these offensive sentiments contained in the book aforesaid, I hereby confess and protest, thatgood and godly women may lawfully govern whole realms and nations; and with my whole heart allow, that the government of her majesty, queen Elizabeth, is most lawful, and pray for the long continuance of the same. Neither did I ever mean to affirm that any person, or persons, by their own authority, ought, or might have lawfully punished even the cruel queen Mary with death. Nor yet that the people, by their own authority, may lawfully punish their magistrates for transgressing against the precepts’“ of God. Nor that God ordinarily puts the sword of justice into the hands of the people, even though they seek after the right execution of the, laws. Wherefore, as many of these assertions as may be fairly collected from my said book, ‘them I do utterly renounce, and revoke, as none of mine; promising never to write, teach, or preach, any such offensive doctrine; but shall, by God’s grace, endeavor to promote the true service of God, and obedience to her majesty.—CHRISTOPHER GOODMAN.”
Mr. Goodman’s recantation is conceived with considerable heart, the tenor of which is, That the eligibility of female government consists in their goodness and holiness: That the power of punishing criminal magistrates, if it does not rest with’ individuals, exists at least in parliaments or councils; and that, as a last, though no ordinary alternative, the people themselves possess this power. In the year 1584 Mr. Goodman was living in or near the city of Chester, where he seems to have been silenced; and archbishop Whitegift having, about this time, pressed the subscription of his three articles on the godly ministers in those parts, Mr. Goodman informed the earl of Leicester, how the papists in Cheshire, and other places, were exulting at the severities and cruel proceedings of the archbishop Whitegift, however, denied the fact, and charged Goodman with perverseness in refusing conformity to the established order.
We have not been able to procure any farther, account of this godly man till he was on his deathbed. At. this time Mr. James Usher, afterward the celebrated bishop of Armagh, came over to England to purchase books for the college library at Dublin, and paid him a visit; when Usher was so deeplylmpressed with the holy conversation of this venerable man, that when he himself became old, he often repeated the wise and grave speeches of his long departed friend. Mr. Goodman died in 1602, aged eighty-three years, and his remains were interred in St. Werburg’s church, in the city of Chester. Fuller designates him a leader of the fierce nonconformists. Wood says he was a most violent nonconformist, more rigid in his opinions than even his friend Calvin. Mr. Leigh calls him a learned, good, and holy divine.
Mr. Goodman published the two following articles:, 1st, How superior powers ought to be obeyed by their subjects, and wherein they may be lawfully disobeyed and resisted, 1548.— 2d, A Commentary on the Book of Amos. “Wood ascribes the first blast of the trumpet, against the monstrous regiment of women, to Mr. Goodman;” but this is wrong, he only wrote the preface to that work. It is well known that the book itself was written by John Knox.