I am currently working my way through the first volume of the writings of the Puritan Thomas Brooks. His writings have had a wonderful impact on my understanding of prayer, temptation, suffering, and trusting in God. I would like to share with you some of the character traits that made him the excellent pastor he was. Alexander Grosart writes in his memoir of Brooks that he was, “A person of a very sweet nature and temper: so affable, and courteous, and cheerful.” He was not a man who fit the caricature of the Puritans so common in English classrooms and the media. His trust in God resulted in joy before others. “He feared nothing of himself or others, knowing the promise and oath of God would stand firm.” This trust in God gave him confidence before others.
He was a humble man who ascribed all the power of his ministry to Christ instead of himself. “Pride and moroseness are bad qualities of a man of his employ, and make men afraid of the ways of God, for fear they should never enjoy a good day after.” The godly life is the blessed life because true happiness only comes through the gospel. If we are called to imitate our pastors, they should be men who are worthy of imitating and people we would want to be like. There is something infectious about a Christian who loves God and wants to share God’s love for him with others.
Brooks was a man of deep patience who could endure sickness and infirmities because he always knew God would take care of him body and soul. “Sense of pardon took away sense of sickness.” Because his future was secure, he did not mind when his body was failing. “He had a body of Divinity in his head, and the power of it upon his heart.” He knew the truth and lived it out. Christian theology was not a mere exercise for him, but his very life. And this theology impacted every aspect of his life and he wanted to show others how to apply it to theirs. He was eager in his writings to share his great knowledge of Scripture, not for his own sake, but for the good of his readers who were engaged in combat with the world, the flesh, and the devil.
Labor was “his meat and drink.” He took great delight in his work as a pastor. After college, he served as a Navy chaplain at sea and on land before entering the pastorate. He said that he would not exchange his years at sea for all the riches of England. Through his time at sea, I am certain that he grew in his dependence on God as his life was in the hands of the raging sea. Living among sailors would have enlightened him to the sinfulness and vanity of the world. Knowing the depths of the sins of others helps us to appreciate the greatness of God’s grace in saving us from our own sinfulness. Ministering to sinners teaches us how to speak to their heart and convey the gospel in language they can understand. May God raise up more men like Thomas Brooks.