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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 In 1672, he was licensed to preach according to the terms of the Declaration of Indulgence, but that license was revoked in 1676.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.”