Monday, April 04, 2011

A Month of Puritans--Thomas Watson

The ministers of Christ should wait for all opportunities of soul service, because the preaching of the Word meets so many adverse forces that hinder the progress and success of it. Never did a pilot meet with so many Euroclydons and cross winds in a voyage, as the spiritual pilots of God’s Church do when they are transporting souls to heaven. Some hearers have bad memories (James 1:25). Their memories are like leaking vessels. All the precious wine of the holy doctrine that is poured in runs out immediately. Ministers cannot by study find a truth as fast as others can lose it. If the meat does not stay in the stomach it can never breed good blood.

If a truth delivered does not stay in the memory, we can never be, as the apostle says, ‘nourished up the words of the faith’ (1 Timothy 4:6). How often does the devil, that fowl of the air, pick up the good seed that is sown! If people suffer at the hands of thieves, they tell everyone and make their complaint they have been robbed, but there is a worse thief they are not aware of! How many sermons has the devil stolen from them! How many truths have they been robbed of, which might have been so many death-bed cordials! Now if the Word preached slides so fast out of the memory, ministers had need the oftener go up to the preaching mount, that at last some truth may abide and he has a ‘nail fastened by the masters of the assemblies’ (Thomas Watson).


The quote above was my introduction to Thomas Watson. I was browsing around in a bookstore and happened to run across a copy of “Expository Preaching with Word Pictures” by Jack Hughes. The subtitle was “With Illustrations from the Sermons of Thomas Watson.” This was sometime back in 2002 or 2003 when I really begin to benefit from the wellsprings of the Puritans. Through this book, Jack Hughes does a masterful job of pulling much from the sermons of Watson and piquing the curiosity of the soul. Hughes nudged me in a direction to read after Watson. I have to also not about Hughes book in that it has many pages that are dog-eared and there are scores of notes that I have written in the margins. It has been a valuable tool in my personal library and one that I would commend to you also.

Watson lived from 1620 to 1686. He pastored a couple of churches during his life time. The first one he was thrown out of by the government because he was a non-conformist, as were the majority of the Puritans. From that time until the great fire in London in 1666, he was confined to preaching in barns, lodging houses, homes of individuals, and occasionally from a haystack in the various fields in the country-side of Yorkshire. He had to contend with much persecution from various detractors but despite all of this, he maintained a constant discipline with preaching. So remarkable was his grasp of Scripture that he did not just have much of the Bible committed to memory, he was also very adept at cross-referencing.

His writings can be downloaded from Google books (free!). His works are listed as follow:

All Things for Good

The Art of Divine Contentment—This is a very good book for our times. American consumerism works at making the vast majority of us very discontent with what we have. I would go as far to say that the gnawing discontentment that fills the lives of many is a sinful practice. Discontentment leads to other sins such as complaining, envy, jealousy, and bitterness. Yet because we often do not perceive sin in this arena, we have been spiritually eviscerated. This little book makes for an excellent series of mid-week Bible studies or even a Sunday morning series.

The Beatitudes—This book is a very convicting book also. In the treatment of meekness, Watson states that those who are meek will bear injuries, forgive injuries and return good for evil. In bearing injuries, meekness opposes a hasty spirit, malice, revenge, and speaking evil of others. In forgiving injuries, meekness forgives truly, fully, and often. When he writes of returning good for evil, he notes, “To render evil for evil is brutish; to render evil for good is devilish; to render good for evil is Christian.” As you can see, this is not your typical ‘your dreams are going to come true and all is going to be happy in your life’ swill that many books today are trending toward.

A Body of Divinity—The collection of the doctrinal views of Watson that have been compiled from his sermons.

The Duty of Self-Denial—This is a collection of 18 sermons. The first eight are from Luke 9:23 about denying yourself and taking up a cross. Another very provoking book that flies in the face of much of the feel-good atmosphere we encounter today in American religion.

The Fight of Faith Crowned—This is a collection of six sermons of Watson. “The Crown of Righteousness” from 2 Timothy 4:8. “The Righteous Man’s Weal (wound) and the Wicked Man’s Woe” from Isaiah 3:10-11. “Time’s Shortness” is based on 1 Corinthians 7:29 and actually was a funeral sermon for another Puritan preacher. “The Fight of Faith Crowned” is another funeral sermon based on 2 Timothy 4:7-8. “A Plea for Alms” is taken from Psalm 112:9 and “The One Thing Necessary” is from Philippians 2:12. This last sermon strips away every excuse for not seeking God and pleads that we bow to the demands of the Gospel.

The Godly Man’s Picture—Notes twenty-four marks of a godly man. I will have more to say on this book in a post later this week.

The Mischief of Sin—This book is my favorite of the Watson material. It is also one of his shorter books and I will have a post on it also later this week.

His other books are: Heaven Taken by Storm, The Lord’s Prayer, A Plea for the Godly and Other Sermons, and the Ten Commandments.

I am going to leave you with a few quotes from Thomas Watson that I believe will arrest your attention.

St. Paul’s preaching was not with the enticing words of wisdom but the demonstration of the Spirit and power (1 Cor. 2:4). Plainness is ever best in beating down sin. When a wound festers, it is fitter to lance it than to embroider it with silk or lay vermillion upon it.

Zeal in a minister is as proper as fire on the altar. Some are afraid to reprove, like the swordfish which has a sword in his head but is without a heart. So they carry the Sword of the Spirit about them but have no heart to draw it out in reproof against sin. How many have sown pillows under their people (Ezek. 13:18), making them sleep so securely that they never woke till they were in hell!

There is a great deal of difference between a stake in the hedge and a tree in the garden. A stake rots and molders, but a tree having life in it, abides and flourishes. When godliness has taken root in the soul, it abides to eternity (1 John 3:9). Godliness being engraved in the heart by the Holy Ghost, as with the point of a diamond, can never be erased.


Last week there was a series on Jeremiah Burroughs. They are linked below:

Jeremiah Burroughs--Part 1

Jeremiah Burroughs--Part 2--Earthly Minded-ness

Jeremiah Burroughs--Part 3--The Evil of Evils

More tomorrow. . . .

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