English non-conformist Puritan preacher and author
Watson was educated at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he was noted for remarkably intense study. In 1646 he commenced a sixteen year pastorate at St. Stephen's, Walbrook. He showed strong Presbyterian views during the civil war, with, however, an attachment to the king, and in 1651 he was imprisoned briefly with some other ministers for his share in Christopher Love's plot to recall Charles II of England. He was released on June 30, 1652, and was formally reinstated as vicar of St. Stephen's Walbrook.
Watson obtained great fame and popularity as a preacher until the Restoration, when he was ejected for nonconformity. Notwithstanding the rigor of the acts against dissenters, Watson continued to exercise his ministry privately as he found opportunity. Upon the Declaration of Indulgence in 1672 he obtained a license to preach at the great hall in Crosby House. After preaching there for several years, his health gave way, and he retired to Barnston, Essex, where he died suddenly while praying in secret. He was buried on 28 July 1686.
Works by Thomas Watson
The Apostle Paul, in Phil. 4:11, says "I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances." Thomas Watson, an English Puritan preacher, wants to teach readers how to gain the same contentment as Paul. Living in the 16th century, Watson believed that discontentment was a sin, and so wrote the book The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11. Watson spends the entire book on this one verse, and in doing so, presents Christians with a comprehensive method for becoming content. Centered on the idea that "A gracious spirit is a contented spirit," Watson believes that Christians can be and should be content because of God's wonderful promises to his people. "The way for a man to be contented," Watson says, "is not by raising his estate higher, but by bringing his heart lower." In our contemporary society where discontent is the norm, disillusioned readers will benefit from The Art of Divine Contentment. Watson's content is God-centered rather than focused on material possessions as so many Christians are today, so it is sure to bring comfort to those who strive to be happy in Christ.
Thomas Watson lived during a volatile time for the English church. As a non-conformist preacher, he faced frequent shifts concerning the legality of his ministry. Here, he analyzes Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, which he considered to be “the Bible epitomized.” As Watson explains, Jesus calls all Christians to love others, have patience, and live lives free of sin. Reiterating this message, Watson reinforces it and inspires readers to take on Christ’s challenge and follow him.
This book contains a series of sermons on the Westminster Catechism, a central catechism in English-speaking Calvinist churches. Watson treats several of the questions and answers from the Catechism in detail, including “What is the chief end of man?” “Did all mankind fall in Adam's first transgression?” and “How does Christ execute the office of a priest?” In covering topics such as these, Watson touches on nearly all of the basics of orthodox Christian theology. Readers still consider the sermons clear and concise, and many consider them classics among 17th century Puritan works.
Watson’s devotional answers the many who ask, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” The author meditates on this passage from Romans 8: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” As the passage implies, Watson reminds his readers that while the godly may face harm, God uses that harm for their ultimate benefit according to his purposes. Even hardship and suffering become opportunities for Christians to strengthen their relationship with God. Later publications of A Divine Cordial bear the title All Things for Good, better representing the book’s contents to modern readers.
Thomas Watson was one of the many non-conformist preachers in 17th century England. He was barred from and then reinstated to the ministry several times, but nevertheless continued to preach. Lord's Prayer is the third volume of Watson's series explaining the tenets of Christian faith - the Ten Commandments and the Apostle's Creed are the subjects of the other two. He gives a lengthy exposition of each "petition" in the prayer, which is found in Matthew 6. Watson is heralded as one of the most readable Puritan writers - his style is simpler and less meandering than many of his contemporaries. Some reviewers suggest this book as a preface to more difficult works on prayer such as those by John Owen. It is a wonderful reference for believers who are looking to improve their prayer lives. Readers will be amazed by the vast meaning packed into these simple words, but also struck by the ease with which it can be prayed. This prayer our Lord taught us is of great importance and should be studied and treasured often.
A thorough, clear, and concise style characterized many Puritan works, and Watson’s The Ten Commandments is no exception. Watson very sensibly divides his commentary into four sections: first, he discusses themes central to the Decalogue; second, he examines each commandment one by one; third, he explores the relationship between God’s law and sin; and finally, he shows his readers the way of salvation, enabled by Christ through faith and the sacraments. Centuries later, Christians still find Watson’s devotional commentary practical and accessible. Pastors and Sunday School teachers may find this book an exceptionally helpful reference for sermons and classes.
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