Joel Osteen vs The Puritans
Popular prosperity preacher Joel Osteen writes in his book, Your Best Life Now, “Start calling yourself healed, happy, blessed and prosperous. Stop talking to God about how big your mountains are, and start talking to your mountains…Start declaring ‘Everything I touch prospers and succeeds’…Friend there is a miracle in your mouth.”
What a different vision of the Christian life than most Christians of the past had. Take the Puritans for example. In 1682, Thomas 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. This book is in stark contrast to Osteen’s book mentioned above. In fact, you could not have more divergent views of the Christian life than those of Osteen and Watson.
Thomas Watson (1620 – 1686) is a favorite Puritan writer of mine. Watson 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 refusing to submit to the government’s commands. 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.
Watson’s book has all the hallmarks of his 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 real hope in a hurting world. Here is robust theology that offers needed spiritual food—a sturdy Reformed doctrine for those tired of shallow preaching that characterizes so much of American evangelicalism. If you’re looking to go a level deeper in your walk with Christ, Watson’s book is the one for you!