Thomas Watson

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Three Hundred Years of Application . . . and Counting
Written by Rev. David T. Myers

This author still possesses all three volumes in his personal library. Bought while a Sophomore in college in 1960, the publishing date of their reprint, Thomas Watson’s one-hundred and seventy six sermons on the Westminster Catechisms of the Westminster Assembly are timeless in their assistance to every child of God who desires to know theology and have it applied to his or her spiritual life. I can testify to that, having underlined and proclaimed many truths from their pages for the edification of all Christians during my forty years in the pastorate.

The remarkable truth about their author is that we do not know either the time of his birth or the death of it either. They are missing from the history of the church, and known only by God. However, we do know that he was buried on this day in history, July 28, 1686, and so we write this brief biography on his life. Much of the latter is taken from a brief memoir written by none else than Charles Spurgeon.

Thomas Watson attended and graduated from Emmanuel College, Cambridge with a B.A. Degree in 1639 and a Master’s degree in 1642. It was said that he was a laborious student, prompting Spurgeon to quip “the conscientious student is the most likely man to become a successful pastor.” Watson went on to be just such a preacher at a Church of England parish and church called St. Stephen’s, Walbrook in London, England. But let there be no doubt here. Watson was a Presbyterian through and through. And to his congregation, many came, or as Spurgeon put it, the church was filled constantly with worshipers.

Among his sermons during those sixteen years was, as mentioned above, a thorough proclamation of the principle themes of the Westminster Confession of Faith. This author has in his years of ministry in catechetical studies among the covenant children of the church, adult studies in the Sunday School and Bible studies, and yes, even sermons from the sacred desk, used Watson’s thorough grasp of biblical texts, clear expositions of Bible doctrine, and practical applications. It might be 300 years old, but biblical truths such as these do not ever pass away in teaching and application.

There is found in two of his three books on the title page this phrase “Ejected by the Act of Uniformity.” We have mentioned before about that terrible act which threw out the Puritan members of the Clergy in the Church of England, countless of whom were Presbyterian clergy. Yet in the next 20 years until his death and burial in 1686, Watson continued on in the proclamation of the Word of God wherever people would come to hear him. Due to a weakening in his health, he was praying in his closet when he departed from this earth.

Words to Live By:
I read on the web recently something which disheartened me. Among the characteristics of a church pulpit committee was that they were looking for a minister who had a well known name! The apostle Paul to the Corinthians would write in 1 Corinthians 2:4, 5, “my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.” The fault is ours, is it not, brothers and sisters in Christ, that we pay too much attention to the outward and external characteristics of those who minister to us the Word of God, and not enough attention to the plain and simple proclamation of the Word of God as empowered by the Spirit of God? If we want the spiritual power of the days of yesterday, we must set our hearts on men who are filled with the Spirit of God, who preach the whole counsel of God.

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STUDIES IN THE WESTMINSTER SHORTER CATECHISM
by Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn

Q. 41. — Wherein is the moral law summarily comprehended?

A. — The moral law is summarily comprehended in the ten commandments.

Scripture References: Matt. 19:17-19; Deut. 10:4; Rom. 3:8.;Deut. 4:8.

Questions:

1. What do we mean by “summarily comprehended?”

We mean that the sum and the chief heads of the law are therein contained. The moral law is more fully set forth in the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments.

2. When was the moral law first published?

The moral law was first published when God wrote it on the heart of Adam.

3. Where are the ten commandments found in Scripture?

The ten commandments are found in the twentieth chapter of Exodus and in slightly a different form in the fifth chapter of Deuteronomy. However, the differences are very minor and include nothing essential.

4. How are the commandments divided?

We divide them today as “ten commandments” as was done by the Greek Church in early days. There is also the division of the duties towards God and those duties towards our fellow-man.

5. Could we say that the ten commandments includes all of the moral law?

We could say that the ten commandments are an amazingly comprehensive summary of the moral law. They include both things required of the inward man and of the outward behavior. Within them there is an amazing teaching in that if a sin is forbidden, in the words of God there is a duty commanded.

6. How can we have a better understanding of the ten commandments?

Our Larger Catechism, in answer to Question 95 gives us certain :’;,,’::0 for a right understanding of the commandments. It would be good for all of us to memorize all eight of the rules given and the proof texts too. Too many of us are woefully ignorant of these eight rules, rules that, rightly applied, will indeed lead us to a closer walk with our God, all to His glory.

OBEDIENCE-AND LOVE

“Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto Him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy

heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment.” Thus our Lord Jesus Christ gives the first part of the summary of the law, agreeing perfectly with Deut. 6:5. And thus he ties up the matter of obedience to Him for the obeying of his commandments is the essence of obedience to Him—with the matter of our love for Him. The two are woven together throughout the Bible.

An excellent question is: How do we know we love God? Seven wonderful signs were given by Thomas Watson many years ago. He lists:
(1) Our desire will be after Him.
(2) We cannot find contentment in any thing without Him.
(3) We hate that which would separate us from God, namely sin.
(4) We have sympathy for one another.
(5) We labor to render Him lovely to others.
(6) We weep bitterly for His absence.
(7) We are willing to do and to suffer for Him.
All of these have to do with the matter of our obeying Him for unless these characteristics are part of us we will not obey Him.

The question was once asked by a student: “Why do we not obey Him as we should?” The answer that came to mind was simply. “We are not burning in holy love.” Paul’s prayer for the Christians at Ephesus was “That Christ may dwell.in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,” (Eph. 3:17), It would be well for us, if we are really serious about obeying Him, to engage in some real prayer regarding our love for Him—praying that the Holy Spirit will give us a love such as we have never had before, praying that we might show forth some real labors of love in the days ahead; heart-felt prayer that we might have a love for Him that will always be glowing; heart-felt prayer that it may never be said of us, “Thou hast left thy first love.”

A wise preacher once said that love is involved with delighting in an object. It is possible that our difficulty is in not delighting in Him enough, not delighting in his Word, in prayer, in telling others about Him! When was the last time we prayed, “Lord, I love Thee!” When was the last time we felt this? When was the last time we told Him that we love Him more than anyone or anything on this earth. If it has been some time this may well be the reason for our lack of obedience.

Published By: THE SHIELD and SWORD. {NC.
Vol. 3 No. 41 (May 1964)
Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn, Editor

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