Thomas Brooks (1608-1680)

Excerpt from Meet the Puritans
by Dr. Joel Beeke and Randall J. Pederson

Thomas Brooks was born in 1608. He entered Emmanuel College, Cambridge, in 1625, where such New England Puritans as Thomas Hooker, John Cotton, and Thomas Shepard were also educated, but he appears to have left before graduating. Brooks was ordained as a preacher of the gospel in 1640 and became a chaplain to the parliamentary fleet, serving for some years at sea. That ministry is mentioned in some of his “sea-devotions” as well as his statement: “I have been some years at sea and through grace I can say that I would not exchange my sea experiences for England’s riches.”

After the Civil War, Brooks became minister at the church of St. Thomas the Apostle, Queen Street, London (1648-1651). He was often called to preach before Parliament. In 1652, he became rector of St. Margaret’s, New Fish Street Hill, which was the first church that burned to the ground in the Great Fire of London (1666). Like Thomas Goodwin and John Owen, Brooks preferred the Congregational view of church government. In 1662, he fell victim to the notorious Act of Uniformity.

After being ejected from his living, Brooks continued to preach in London, where he apparently suffered little persecution. He became minister of a congregation at Moorfields, near St. Margaret’s. Unlike many ministers, he stayed in London during the Great Plague of 1665, faithfully tending his flock. In 1672, he was licensed to preach according to the terms of the Declaration of Indulgence, but that license was revoked in 1676.

Brooks lost his first wife, Martha Burgess, a godly woman whom he greatly treasured, in 1676. He wrote of her, “She was always best when she was most with God in a corner. She has many a whole day been pouring out her soul before God for the nation, for Zion, and the great concerns of her own soul.” He later married a young God-fearing woman named Patience Cartwright (Alexander Grosart puts it succinctly: “she spring-young, he winter-old” [Works of Brooks, 1:xxxv]), who proved a most worthy companion.

Brooks died in 1680 and was buried in Bunhill Fields, London’s famous nonconformist cemetery. John Reeve, who preached at the funeral, said Brooks had “a sweet nature, great gravity, large charity, wonderful patience, and strong faith.”

Modern Reprints

The Works of Thomas Brooks (BTT; 6 vols., 3,000 pages; 2001). This six-volume compilation by James Nichol is a treasure. Volume 1 contains Alexander B. Grosart’s memoir of Brooks as well as “Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices,” “Apples of Gold” (a popular work for young men and women printed seventeen times from 1657 to 1693), “The Mute Christian under the Smarting Rod,” and “A String of Pearls.”

Volume 2 contains “An Ark for All of God’s Noahs,” “The Privy Key of Heaven,” and “Heaven on Earth.” Volume 3 contains “The Unsearchable Riches of Christ” and “A Cabinet of Jewels.” Volume 4 contains “The Crown and Glory of Christianity,” consisting of 58 sermons on Hebrews 12:14. Volume 5 contains “The Golden Key to Open Hidden Treasures,” “Paradise Opened,” and “A Word in Season.” The last volume contains “London’s Lamentations” (a remarkable work of corporate confession), “The Glorious Day of the Saints’ Appearance,” “God’s Delight in the Progress of the Upright,” “Hypocrites Detected,” “A Believer’s Last Day His Best Day,” “A Heavenly Cordial,” and “The Legacy of a Dying Mother.”

Of all the Puritan divines reprinted by James Nichol in the 1860s, Brooks was the most popular. Both the practical subjects he undertakes and the manner of his presentation make “his sentences as memorable as melodies.” Moreover, his spiritual insights are presented directly and fervently, and are replete with Scripture. As a fellow minister said of Brooks: “He had a body of divinity in his head and the power of it in his heart.” Peter Lewis said, “We may add, in his books too” (Genius of Puritanism, p. 29).

We recommend Thomas Brooks highly. He communicates profound truths in a simple manner and is appropriate reading for young people and adults. His writings exude spiritual life and power and are particularly comforting for true believers. If limited to the purchase of a few sets of Puritan works, be sure to buy and read Brooks.

Heaven on Earth: A Treatise on Assurance (BTT; 320 pages; 1983). There is no higher privilege than to be a child of God and to know it, for assurance brings joy to worship and prayer, and strength and boldness to our witness. Failure and weakness in all these areas can often be traced back to a lack of assurance. Brooks spells out the wonders of assurance in this book.

Chapter 1 asserts that believers may attain assurance, and chapter 2 addresses why some believers lack assurance while others enjoy it in a particularly large measure. Chapter 3 grapples with impediments that hinder assurance and how those can be removed. Chapter 4 offers motives to encourage believers not to stop short of obtaining well-grounded assurance. Brooks’s ten advantages to assurance ought to motivate any believer—it offers heaven on earth, sweetens life’s changes, keeps the heart from desiring the world, assists communion with God, preserves from backsliding, produces holy boldness, prepares a man for death, makes mercies taste like mercies, gives vigor in Christian service, and leads to the soul’s enjoyment of Christ.

Chapter 5, the heart of the book, sets forth “ways and means of gaining a well-grounded assurance.” Brooks’s section on the “things that accompany salvation”—knowledge, faith, repentance, obedience, love, prayer, perseverance, and hope—offers more than a hundred pages of savory divinity. In itself it serves as a practical handbook on the marks of grace. Chapter 6 exposes counterfeit assurance by describing the marks of well-grounded assurance and characteristics of the Holy Spirit’s internal witness. The closing chapter shows how to strengthen assurance and regain lost assurance.

The Mute Christian under the Smarting Rod (GM; 118 pages; n.d.). This work was originally published in 1658 with the subtitle, “The Silent Soul with Sovereign Antidotes.” A second edition appeared in 1660 and thereafter was in great demand. Brooks presents many points to prove his theme that it is “the great duty and concern of gracious souls to be mute and silent under the greatest afflictions, the saddest providences, and sharpest trials they meet with in this world.” He answers every thinkable objection against exercising spiritual submission in affliction. This classic is highly recommended for anyone going through trials they cannot change.

Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices (BTT; 256 pages; 1984). This book offers sorely needed lessons on the subtleties of Satan’s devices. “The strange opposition that I met with from Satan, in the study of the following discourse, hath put an edge upon my spirit, knowing that Satan strives mightily to keep these things from seeing the light that tend eminently to shake and break his kingdom of darkness, and to lift up the kingdom and glory of the Lord Jesus Christ, in the souls and lives of the children of men,” writes Brooks in the preface of this book.

Brooks describes twelve of Satan’s devices and their remedies, then focuses on eight devices Satan uses to keep believers from using the means of grace. He provides remedies for those devices that keep saints in a sad, doubting condition. Finally, he provides remedies for the abuse of riches, for pride of learning, for divisions among the godly, and for the excuse of ignorance. An appendix considers five more devices of Satan, seven characteristics of false teachers, six propositions concerning Satan, and ten helps against his devices. The ten helps provide an adequate summary of the book: walk by the rule of God’s Word, don’t grieve the Spirit, strive for heavenly wisdom, resist Satan’s first motions, labor to be filled with the Spirit, remain humble, pursue watchfulness, retain communion with God, fight Satan by drawing strength from the Lord Jesus, and be much in prayer.

One reason for this reprint, according to George Smeaton, is that Christian authors of former times treated the seductive influence and terrible power of Satan in ways “greatly more full and suggestive than in the literature of the present day.” We greatly need the guidance Brooks provides in this book. Though Satan’s tools may change over the centuries, his devices remain constant; hence, this classic will never be outdated.

Smooth Stones Taken from Ancient Brooks (SDG; 269 pages; 2001). This book of quotes from the writings and sermons of Thomas Brooks was compiled by Charles Spurgeon, a great lover of the Puritans. In his preface to the book, Spurgeon wrote: “As a writer, Brooks scatters stars with both his hands. He has dust of gold: in his storehouse are all manner of precious stones. Genius is always marvelous, but when sanctified it is matchless.” Here is one precious stone: “There is no such way to attain to greater measures of grace than for a man to live up to that little grace he has.”

Excerpt from Meet the Puritans
by Dr. Joel Beeke and Randall J. Pederson
Posted with permission on by Reformation Heritage Books