Why Godliness is a BIG Deal: Meet Thomas Watson
Thomas Watson (1620 – 1686) is one of my favorite Puritan writers. He is clear, concise, biblical and almost always insightful. Thomas was educated at Emmanuel College, Cambridge University. In 1646 he began a sixteen-year pastorate at St. Stephen’s Walbrook in London. In 1651 he was imprisoned briefly with other ministers for his part in a plot to recall King Charles II.
Watson was eventually released in 1652 and was formally reinstated as vicar of St. Stephen’s Walbrook. He obtained great fame and popularity as a preacher until the Restoration when he was ejected for nonconformity. In 1672 Watson obtained a license to preach at the great hall in Crosby House in London. After preaching there for several years, his health gave way and he eventually retired.
In 1682, Watson published a small book entitled The Great Gain of Godliness. It is an exposition of Malachi 3:16-18 and has become a spiritual classic. Unfortunately, it fell out of print. The great British preacher C.H. Spurgeon had a well-stocked library of around 12,000 books. However, the one rare book that could not be found amongst that valuable collection was Watson’s book. With a note of sadness, Spurgeon told to his college students, “This volume would be a great find if we could come at it, for Watson is one of the clearest and liveliest of Puritan authors. We fear we shall never see this commentary, for we have tried to obtain it, and tried in vain.”
Fortunately, a copy was discovered at the British Library and has been republished and reset in modern type by Banner of Truth Trust, an evangelical and Reformed Christian non-profit publishing house. The book has all the hallmarks of Thomas Watson’s other writings—a combination of rich spirituality, nourishing doctrine, and practical wisdom. This is Puritan devotional writing at its best. Here is a vision of the Christian life that offers a much-needed remedy to the chipper, superficial pabulum that is offered up in so many pulpits today. Here is sturdy, robust, Reformed doctrine for those tired of shallow preaching that characterizes so much of American evangelicalism. Do yourself a favor, and get a copy of this remarkable little book. You’ll not be sorry. It will feed your heart, mind and soul.