Thomas Watson (c. 1620-1686): Let not that be our joy which made Christ a man of sorrow



“In the bloody sacrifice of Christ, see the horrid nature of sin: Sin (it is true) is odious as it banish’d Adam out of Paradise, and threw the Angels into Hell, but that which doth most of all make it appear horrid, is this, it made Christ veil his glory and lose his blood. We should look upon sin with indignation, and pursue it with an holy malice, and shed the blood of those sins [which] shed Christ’s blood. The sight of Caesar’s bloody robe incensed the Romans against them that slew him: The sight of Christ’s bleeding body should incense us against sin; let us not parley with it, let not that be our joy which made Christ a man of sorrow.”

– Thomas Watson (c. 1620-1686), A Body of Practical Divinity, p. 101

Thomas Watson (c. 1620-1686): A labour full of ease


As you rest from your labours and toils on this Lord’s Day, here is something to reflect on. This is from Thomas Watson (c. 1620-1686), A Body of Practical Divinity, p. 471:

“In the Kingdom of Heaven we shall be freed from the toylsome Labours of this Life. God enacted a Law in Paradise, In the sweat of thy Brows thou shalt eat Bread, Gen. 3:9. There is the Labour of the Hand in Manufacture, and the Labour of the Mind in Study; Eccl. 1:8. All things are full of Labour; but in the Kingdom of Heaven we shall be freed from our Labours.

There needs no Labour, when a Man hath got to the Haven he hath no more need of sailing. In Heaven there needs no Labour, because the Saints shall have that Glory which they laboured for.

There shall be no Labour, Rev. 14:13. They rest from their Labours. As God when he had finished the Work of Creation rested from his Labours, Gen. 2:2. So when the Saints have finished the Work of Sanctification, they rest from their Labours. Where should there be rest but in the Heavenly Center? Not that this sweet rest in the Kingdom of Heaven excludes all Motion, for Spirits cannot be idle; but the Saints Glorified shall rest from all wearisome Imployment; it shall be a labour full of ease, a Motion full of Delight: The Saints in Heaven shall love God, and what labour is that? Is it any Labour to love Beauty? They shall praise God, and that sure is delightful: When the Bird sings, it is not so much a Labour as a pleasure.”

Thomas Watson (c. 1620-1686): He passed by angels and thought of you



“The reason our affections are so chilled and cold in religion—is that we do not warm them with thoughts of God. Hold a magnifying glass to the sun, and the glass burns that which is near to it. So when our thoughts are lifted up to Christ, the Sun of righteousness, our affections are set on fire. No sooner had the spouse been thinking upon her Savior’s beauty—but she fell into love-sickness. (Song of Sol. 5:8).

O saints, do but let your thoughts dwell upon the love of Christ, who passed by angels and thought of you; who was wounded that, out of his wounds, the balm of Gilead might come to heal you; who leaped into the sea of his Father’s wrath, to save you from drowning in the lake of fire! Think of this unparalleled love, which sets the angels wondering—and see if it will not affect your hearts and cause tears to flow forth!”

– Thomas Watson (c. 1620-1686), The Great Gain of Godliness, p. 87

Thomas Watson (c. 1620-1686): Signs by which we may discern our adoption as God’s children


I would have wanted to keep this one shorter, but this excerpt from Thomas Watson (c. 1620-1686), A Body of Divinity, p. 236-239, is just so good that I simply had to post the whole thing. Watson here offers us signs by which we may discern whether we have truly been adopted by God as his children:

“Try whether you are adopted. All the world is divided into two ranks, the sons of God, and the heirs of hell. To them he gave power to become the sons of God.’ John 1:12. Let us put ourselves on a trial. It is no sign we are adopted sons, because we are sons of godly parents. The Jews boasted that they were of Abraham’s seed, and thought they must needs be good, because they came of such a holy line. But adoption does not come by blood. Many godly parents have wicked sons; Abraham had an Ishmael; Isaac an Esau. The corn that is sown pure brings forth grain with a husk; so from him who is holy the child springs that is unholy. So that, as Jerome says, non nascimur filii [We are not born sons]; we are not God’s sons as we are born of godly parents, but by adoption and grace. Well, then, let us try if we are the adopted sons and daughters of God.

The first sign of adoption is obedience. A son obeys his father. I set before the sons of the house of the Rechabites pots full of wine, and cups, and said unto them, Drink ye wine. But they said, We will drink no wine: for Jonadab the son of Rechab our father commanded us, saying, Ye shall drink no wine.’ Jer 35:5. So, when God says drink not in sin’s enchanted cup, an adopted child says, my heavenly Father has commanded me, and I dare not drink. A gracious soul not only believes God’s promise, but obeys his command. True child-like obedience must be regular, which implies five things:

(1.) It must be done by a right rule. Obedience must have the word for its rule. Lydius lapis [This is the touchstone]. To the law and to the testimony.’ Isa 8:20. If our obedience be not according to the word, it is offering up strange fire; it is will worship; and God will say, Who has required this at your hand? The apostle condemns worshipping of angels, which had a show of humility. Col 2:18. The Jews might say that they were loath to be so bold as to go to God in their own persons; they would be more humble, and prostrate themselves before the angels, desiring them to be their mediators to God. Here was a show of humility in their angel worship; but it was abominable, because they had no word of God to warrant it; it was not obedience, but idolatry. Child-like obedience is that which is consonant to our Father’s revealed will.

(2.) It must be done from a right principle, from the noble principle of faith. The obedience of faith.’ Rom 16:66. Quicquid decorum est ex fide proficiscitur [All acceptable works proceed from faith]. Augustine. A crab-tree may bear fruit fair to the eye, but it is sour because it does not come from a good root. A moral person may give God outward obedience, which to the eyes of others may seem glorious; but his obedience is sour because it comes not from the sweet and pleasant root of faith. A child of God gives him the obedience of faith, and that meliorates and sweetens his services, and makes them come off with a better relish. By faith Abel offered a better sacrifice than Cain.’ Heb 11:1.

(3.) It must be done to a right end. Finis specificat actionem [The end determines the value of the deed]; the end of obedience is glorifying God. That which has spoiled many glorious services, is, that the end has been wrong. When thou doest shine alms, do not sound a trumpet, as the hypocrites do, that they may have glory of men.’ Matt 6:6. Good works should shine, but not blaze. If I give my body to be burnt, and have not charity, it profits me nothing.’ I Cor 13:3. The same I must say of a sincere aim; if I obey never so much, and have not a sincere aim, it profits me nothing. True obedience looks at God in all things. That Christ may be magnified.’ Phil 1:10. Though a child of God shoots short, yet he takes a right aim.

(4.) True child-like obedience must be uniform. A child of God makes conscience of one command as well as another. Quicquid propter Deum fit aequaliter fit [All things done for God are done with equal zeal]. All God’s commands have the same stamp of divine authority upon them; and if I obey one precept because my heavenly Father commands me, by the same rule I must obey all. As the blood runs through all the veins of the body, and the sun in the firmament runs through all the signs of the zodiac; so true child-like obedience runs through the first and second table. When I have respect unto all thy commandments.’ Psalm 119:9. To obey God in some things of religion and not in others, shows an unsound heart; like Esau, who obeyed his father in bringing him venison, but not in a greater matter, as the choice of his wife. Child-like obedience moves towards every command of God, as the needle points that way which the loadstone draws. If God call to duties which are cross to flesh and blood, if we are children, we shall still obey our Father.

But who can obey God in all things?

Though an adopted heir of heaven cannot obey every precept perfectly, yet he does evangelically. He approves of every command. I consent to the law, that it is good.’ Rom 7:16. He delights in every command. O how love I thy law!’ Psalm 119:97. His desire is to obey every command. O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes!’ Psalm 119:9. Wherein he comes short, he looks up to Christ’s blood to supply his defects. This is evangelical obedience; which, though it be not to satisfaction, it is to acceptation.

(5.) True childlike obedience is constant. Blessed is he that doeth righteousness at all times.’ Psalm 106:6. Child-like obedience is not like a high colour in a fit, which is soon over; but like a right sanguine complexion, which abides; and like the fire on the altar, which was kept always burning. Lev 6:13.

The second sign of adoption is to love to be in our Father’s presence. The child who loves his father is never so well as when he is near him. Are we children? We love the presence of God in his ordinances. In prayer we speak to God, in the preaching of his word he speaks to us; and how does every child of God delight to hear his Father’s voice! My soul thirsteth for thee, to see thy glory so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary.’ Psalm 63:3, 2. Such as disregard ordinances are not God’s children, because they care not to be in God’s presence. Cain went out from the presence of the Lord.’ Gen 4:16. Not that he could go out of God’s sight, but the meaning is, Cain went out from the church and people of God, where the Lord gave visible tokens of his presence.’

The third sign of adoption is to have the guidance of God’s Spirit. As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.’ Rom 8:14. It is not enough that the child have life, but it must be led every step by the nurse; so the adopted child must not only be born of God, but have the manuduction of the Spirit to lead him in a course of holiness. I taught Ephraim also to go, taking them by their arms.’ Hos 11:1. As Israel was led by the pillar of fire, so God’s children are led by the Spirit. The adopted ones need God’s Spirit to lead them, since they are apt to go wrong. The fleshy part inclines to sin; the understanding and conscience are to guide the will, but the will is imperious and rebels; therefore, God’s children need the Spirit to check corruption and lead them in the right way. As wicked men are led by the evil spirit – the spirit of Satan led Herod to incest, Ahab to murder, Judas to treason – so the good Spirit leads God’s children into virtuous actions.

But enthusiasts pretend to be led by the Spirit, when it is an ignis fatuus, a delusion.

The Spirit’s guidance is agreeable to the Word; enthusiasts leave the Word. Thy Word is truth.’ John 17:17. The Spirit guides into all truth.’ John 16:13. The Word’s teaching and the Spirit’s leading agree together.

The fourth sign is, that if we are adopted we have an entire love to all God’s children. Love the brotherhood.’ I Pet 2:17. We bear affection to God’s children, though they have some infirmities. There are spots in God’s children; Deut 32:2; but we must love the beautiful face of holiness though it has a scar in it. If we are adopted, we love the good we see in God’s children: we admire their graces, we pass by their imprudencies. If we cannot love them because they have some failings, how do we think God can love us? Can we plead exemption? By these signs we know our adoption.”

– Thomas Watson (c. 1620-1686), A Body of Divinity, p. 236-239

Thomas Watson (c. 1620-1686): There is more sweetness in this word ‘Father’ than if we had ten thousand worlds


“Though thou hast been a prodigal, and almost spent all upon thy lusts, yet if thou wilt give a bill of divorce to thy sins, and flee to God by repentance, know that He has the bowels of a Father. He will embrace thee in the arms of His mercy, and seal thy pardon with a kiss.

What though thy sins have been heinous? The wound is not so broad as the plaister of Christ’s blood. The sea covers great rocks. The sea of God’s compassion can drown thy great sins. Therefore, be not discouraged, go to God, resolve to cast thyself upon His Fatherly compassion…

Here is comfort for such as can, upon good grounds, call God ‘Father.’ There is more sweetness in this word ‘Father’ than if we had ten thousand worlds. David thought it a great matter to be son-in-law to a king: ‘What is my father’s family, that I should be son-in-law to the king?’ (1 Sam. 18:18).

But what is it to be born of God, and have Him for our Father?”

– Thomas Watson (c. 1620-1686), The Lord’s Prayer, p. 15

Thomas Watson (c. 1620–1686): Words of comfort to an academically-burdened student in the early morning hours


I must admit, in comparison to the majority of Christians, I haven’t tasted too many afflictions in my almost five years as a Christian. Sometimes this can lead to a comfort zone where my focus is pulled away from God. Perhaps, in God’s providence, my fair share of afflictions is still to come.

Nevertheless, recently I have been going through a tougher-than-usual time (though it is nothing in comparison to what many others face daily) primarily in that having 9 subjects in a semester is really getting to me. For the past 3 or 4 weeks my classmates and I, and especially those who like me take extracurricular subjects and are also employed beyond academics in the church or other work/activities, have really been occupied full-time with tests and assignments, together with extracurricular activities. This has grown to the point where my average bedtime has shifted from its usual 12-1 o’clock (yes, I’m a night-owl) to 3-4 in the morning. And then there’s class the next morning, which allows for minimal sleep. Weekends are also non-existent at the moment because they function more as study leave than anything else, because when Monday morning arrives there is either a test or assignment that needs to be written or handed in. In saying this I am by no means oblivious to the fact that there are many students in disciplines other than theology who go through exactly the same thing, or that many working people face similar or even tougher circumstances. But when I finished another assignment just prior to posting this article on the blog (it is now 2:30am in South Africa), I thought about how one of my favourite Puritans, Thomas Watson (c. 1620–1686) wrote many solid things regarding Christians in affliction, whatever the cause of their hardships may be. This short excerpt meant a lot to me tonight, and I’m confident it would be edifying to my readers who may find themselves in difficult situations, regardless of what they may be facing (probably much more difficult situations than I find myself in):

“When God lays men upon their backs, then they look up to heaven. God’s smiting His people is like the musician’s striking upon the violin, which makes it put forth melodious sound. How much good comes to the saints by affliction! When they are pounded they send forth their sweetest smell. Affliction is a bitter root, but it bears sweet fruit.”

– Thomas Watson (c. 1620–1686), All Things for Good (A Divine Cordial), p. 56

Thomas Watson (c. 1620-1686) on holiness as the distinguishing mark of the Christian


“Holiness is the only thing that distinguishes us from the reprobate part of the world. God’s people have his seal upon them. ‘The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, the Lord knoweth them that are his. And let all that name the name of Christ depart from iniquity.’ 2 Tim 2:19. The people of God are sealed with a double seal. Election, ‘The Lord knows who are his:’ and Sanctification, ‘Let every one depart from iniquity.’ As a nobleman is distinguished from another by his silver star; as a virtuous woman is distinguished from a harlot by her chastity; so holiness distinguishes between the two seeds. All that are of God have Christ for their captain, and holiness is the white colour they wear. Heb 2:10.”

– Thomas Watson (c. 1620-1686), A Body of Divinity, p. 86

Thomas Watson (c. 1620–1686) on the sweetness of tears


Sometimes Christians forget the sweetness that can exist along with the bitterness of tears. Because we live in a culture that focuses on entertainment, instant amusement, glamour, fame, and popularity, it is easy for us to jump on the bandwagon by doing our best to avoid tears, pain, and sorrow. Everyone is searching for happiness and trying to get rid of tears. So we turn to pills, personal trainers, makeovers, religion, sex, drink, and drugs (the list goes on) in the quest to attain happiness. Of course there is a longing in every human heart for happiness because sin (in us and “out there”) has left humans a miserable bunch. What about tears? Should we avoid them at all costs? Why did Jesus say, Blessed are those who mourn and Blessed are you who weep now? Below are some points made by Thomas Watson (c. 1620–1686) in The Beatitudesas he discussed Matthew 5:4. These are slightly edited and abbreviated. You can find the full discussion in chapters 6-10.

“1) Sin must have tears.  While we carry the fire of sin about us, we must carry the water of tears to quench it (Ezek. 7.16).  We have in  our hearts the seed of the unpardonable sin.  And shall we not mourn?  He that does not mourn has surely lost the use of his reason.

2) Gospel-mourning [the weeping of repentance] is spontaneous and free (it is not forced).  It is spiritual, that is, we mourn for sin more than suffering. 

3) Gospel-mourning sends the soul to God.  Evangelical mourning is a spur to prayer.  Gospel tears must drop from the eye of faith.  Our disease must make us mourn, but when we look up to our Physician, who has made a plaister of his own blood, we must not mourn without hope.  Believing tears are precious.  When the clouds of sorrow have over-cast the soul, some sunshine of faith must break forth.  Though our tears drop to the earth, our faith must reach heaven.

4) Gospel-mourning is joined with self-loathing.  The sinner admires himself.  The penitent lathes himself (Ezek. 20:43).  Gospel-mourning must be purifying.  We must not only mourn but turn.  ‘Turn to Me with weeping’ (Joel 2.12).  We must not only abstain from sin and weep over it, we must also abhor it.

5) Tears cannot be put to a better use.  The brinish water of repenting tears will help to kil that worm of sin which should gnaw the conscience.  Gospel-mourning is an evidence of grace.  Weeping for sin is a sign of the new birth.

6) Repentant tears are precious.  Tears dropping from a mournful, penitent eye, are like water dropping from the roses, very sweet and precious to God.  That heart is most delightful to God which has a fountain of sorrow running in it.  ‘Mary stood at Christ’s feet weeping’ (Lk 7.38).  Her tears were more fragrant than her ointment.  God delights much in tears, else he would not keep a bottle and a book for them (Ps 56.8).  Tears, though they are silent, yet have a voice (Ps 6.8).  David who was the greatest mourner in Israel was the sweet swinger in Israel.  My tears were my food (Ps 42.3).  Ambrose gives this gloss: ‘No food so sweet as tears!’  Bernard says ‘The tears of the repentant are sweeter than all worldly joy.’

7) Tears line the road to the New Jerusalem.  Perhaps a man may think, ‘If I cannot mourn for sin, I will get to heaven some other way.  I will go to church, I will give alms, I will lead a civil life.’  No, but I tell you there is but one way to blessedness, and that is through the Valley of Tears.  ‘I tell you, except you repent, you shall all likewise perish’ (Lk 13.3).

8) Christian tears will eventually end.  It is only a while that we shall weep.  After a few showers fall from our eyes, we shall have perpetual sunshine. God shall wipe away all tears (Rev. 7.17).  When sin shall cease, tears shall cease.  ‘Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning’ (Ps. 30.5).”

There are other reasons why Christians weep, to be sure. I appreciate Watson’s perspective here because he gives us a good biblical way to view tears of repentance. They don’t save us nor do they wash away our sins, but they do have a place in our pilgrimage. So Christian weeping truly is bittersweetbitter because it has to do with sin and sweet because it has to do with faith in Jesus the Saviour.

A last thought from Watson:

“True holy water is not that which the pope sprinkles, but is distilled from the penitent eye.”

– Thomas Watson (c. 1620–1686), A Body of Divinity, p. 26

Thomas Watson (c. 1620–1686): Lovers of God love His people


“9. If we are lovers of God, we love what God loves….

(b) We love a saint, though he has many personal failings. There is no perfection here. In some, rash anger prevails; in some, inconstancy; in some, too much love of the world. A saint in this life is like gold in the ore, much dross of infirmity cleaves to him, yet we love him for the grace that is in him. A saint is like a fair face with a scar: we love the beautiful face of holiness, though there be a scar in it. The best emerald has its blemishes, the brightest stars their twinklings, and the best of the saints have their failings. You that cannot love another because of his infirmities, how would you have God love you?”

– Thomas Watson (c. 1620–1686), All Things for Good, ch. 5