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A Thumbnail Sketch of the Life of Thomas Cook, Evangelist

Evangelist Thomas Cook
and His Book
New Testament Holiness

Jim Kerwin
Copyright © 2003 Jim Kerwin

A Brief Sketch of the Life of Thomas Cook

Evangelist Thomas Cook not long before his death at age 53.

Evangelist Thomas Cook at age 53.

Much to the surprise of just about everyone (except his Heavenly Father), Evangelist Thomas Cook died in 1913 at age 53, in the prime of his life and ministry. Condolences and eulogies and testimonies poured in from all corners of the British Empire; and no wonder, for his had been a remarkably Christlike life and exceedingly fruitful ministry. It is no exaggeration to state that myriads of adults were converted under Cook’s preaching, and tens of thousands testified to that experience of receiving a pure, sin-free heart by faith.

Thomas Cook1 was born in the iron-foundry city of Middlesbrough, England on August 20, 1859. His father seems to have been indifferent to spiritual things for much of his life, but his mother was a godly, praying Methodist woman. Thomas made a commitment to follow Jesus in 1875 at age sixteen. His conversion was quiet and unremarkable from outward appearances; but the reality of Christ’s saving work made such an impression on the teenager that he and a friend were soon of their own volition preaching on street corners to all who would hear about their life-giving Saviour.

Evangelist Thomas Cook at age 17, shortly after his conversion to Christ.

The new convert

Such were the changes of his life, the influence of the young man’s preaching, and the fruit of the Spirit in his life that he was made a Methodist lay circuit preacher by age eighteen. His earnest, loving, Spirit-inspired, and passionate (not to say bombastic; he was British, after all, and of the Victorian era at that!) preaching and plain speaking moved the hearts of men and women of all social strata wherever he went. His ministry was much in demand, not only in his own denomination, but also among the Primitive Methodists, the Wesleyan Reformers, and the Salvation Army. In his twenty-second year alone, over 5,000 conversions were recorded!

Cook’s ministry grew in depth and fruitfulness, and God opened up doors for him to minister—sometimes for more than a year at a time—in Norway and in spiritually hungry, far-flung corners of the Empire like South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). God always did far more through Cook than his hosts ever believed possible.

Thomas Cook, age 19, in his days as a young Methodist circuit preacher.

Circuit preacher Age 19

Cook had no post-secondary education, so it was with some surprise in his denomination that he was called upon to become the first principal of a newly-instituted evangelical school for the training of lay ministers. How would “a mere evangelist” succeed in launching and managing this new ministry of Cliff College in Calver (near Sheffield), England? Very well, thank you very much! The same Lord Whom he had passionately served in his Gospel-preaching ministry was honored by Cook’s devotion and fruitfulness in his new post. Starting in 1903, he served the school faithfully and ably until his death in 1913. (Cliff College celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2003. More information on the school can be found here. This author had the privilege to attend a summer Bible conference held on the campus of Cliff College back in 1983.)

About the Book New Testament Holiness

Evangelist Thomas Cook at age 26.

Thomas Cook Veteran Evangelist Age 26

Long before I knew anything about the life of Thomas Cook, I was introduced by Pastor Percy Gutteridge to Cook’s wonderful book, New Testament Holiness. Pastor Gutteridge recommended the book to me—indeed to our entire church—when I was seeking God to understand and come into the experience of entire sanctification. New Testament Holiness was a tremendous help, because of its simple, straightforward, logical, and practical presentation of this wonderful truth.

I see now why it carried greater weight than a “good book”—it was teaching which came out of the life of a man in whom entire sanctification and “perfect love” were a wonderful reality, lived out over thirty-four years of ministry to God’s people. Under the ministry and influence of godly Joshua Dawson (a man who would soon become his father-in-law), Thomas Cook’s heart was opened to believe that greatest of all Methodist contributions to Christian theology and experience, namely, that the New Testament held out the promise that God could and would cleanse a believer’s heart from all inbred sin, allowing the Christian to truly love the Lord his God with ALL his heart. At age nineteen, in 1878, Cook by faith claimed and received this wonderful promise. (His testimony about this experience may be read in Chapter 25 of New Testament Holiness.) All who knew him testified to the reality of this cleansed-heart love and holiness in his life. That God gave Brother Cook the grace, insight, and ability to present the teaching plainly, convincingly, and winsomely you will see for yourself as you read through New Testament Holiness.

The distinctive doctrine that believers could receive a pure heart by faith was in serious decline in the mid-Nineteenth Century, among Christians in general and Methodists in particular. The doctrine’s recovery and fresh proclamation was the subject of earnest prayer and intercession on both sides of the Atlantic. Its defense became a key rallying cry among fervent Evangelicals: “‘Holiness unto the Lord’ is our watchword!” Pentecostals will probably be surprised to learn that this same doctrine was a key, foundational teaching used by God to prepare hearts for the celebrated outpouring at Azusa Street in Los Angeles in 1906. (For a further look at this point, read The Rejected Blessing elsewhere on the Finest of the Wheat site.)

Cover of Thomas Cook's book Available in e-book format for
Kindle Kobo

Many books were written on the subject of the holiness experience, especially from 1870 onwards, but I can think of none that even approaches the power and clarity of New Testament Holiness. And Thomas Cook’s blessed little book (which has been through various editions and reprintings by Epworth Press, Christian Literature Crusade, and Schmul Publishing in the intervening decades) is still used by God today, over one hundred years after it first rolled off the presses, to convict, convince, teach, woo, and guide sincere believers into this wonderful “second blessing” their Lord has in store for them. We commend New Testament Holiness to a new generation of readers and pray, along with the Apostle, that “the very God of peace would sanctify you wholly” (1 Thessalonians 5:23). May it be said again of Cook’s modern readership, as Peter testified of the Gentiles from Cornelius’s home, “God purified their hearts by faith” (Acts 15:9).

A Few Notes about This Online, Interactive Edition
of New Testament Holiness

  1. We have used the original 1902 version of New Testament Holiness for our text, sticking to British spellings of words found in this edition. Where American spellings have crept in, please chalk it up to the over-enthusiastic activity of the spell-checking software.
  2. I have frequently inserted Scripture references of Bible verses mentioned or alluded to by Cook, so that the reader may follow along in the text of the Bible passage to which Cook refers. The few actual Scripture-verse references Thomas Cook sprinkled into the original text may be easily differentiated from my own. Cook employs Roman numerals for chapter numbers, he often abbreviates book names, and more often than not makes use of parentheses, e.g., (Col. iii. 15); whereas I employ all Arabic numerals, always spell out book names, and segregate my insertion with brackets , e.g., [Colossians 3:15]. Both the original references and my insertions are coded so as to pop-up the actual Bible text (in context) in a separate online browser window, a standard feature here on the Finest of the Wheat Bible Teaching site.
  3. All the interactive notes (which become endnotes when printed) are my own. Given the intervention of one hundred years between Cook’s 1902 audience and his modern-day Internet readership, it is hardly surprising that many names to which he refers (and even some vocabulary words he employs) might be unfamiliar to us. The focus of these endnotes is to very briefly acquaint readers with names mentioned by Cook. My goal is to aid the reader, while endeavoring to be short and unobtrusive with these annotations, as I do not wish to detract from the power and simplicity of Thomas Cook’s—nay, the Bible’s!—message of full salvation in Jesus Christ.

On this 144th anniversary of Thomas Cook’s birth, may the Lord be pleased to bless the sending forth of this timeless book and once again bring honor to God through the life and ministry of His devoted servant by bringing many Christians into a new understanding and deeper and more wonderful experience of personal, heart-holiness! “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God!” (Matthew 5:8)

August 20, 2003

Jim Kerwin

Chaos Cottage
Virginia, USA

  1. “Our” Thomas Cook is not to be confused with the Thomas Cook who founded the world-renowned Thomas Cook travel-agency empire. So far as I can tell, they are not related—except in Christ! As it turns out, the “travel” Thomas Cook, born in 1808 in Melbourne, Derbyshire, England, came to Christ in 1826 and became an itinerating village evangelist among the Baptists. His founding of the travel industry (“industry” it is now, but a strange idea it was at the time) came as a direct result of his work in the temperance movement in the 1840s. He reasoned that it was better for the lower and middle classes to spend what little disposable income they had on travel rather than alcohol. Think about that the next time you book a flight or buy a train ticket—the travel industry was founded by a Christian.