Thomas Watson was a 17th-century minister at the church of St. Stephen Walbrook in London. As a pastor, he set himself two goals. First, he wanted unbelievers to grieve over their fate and realize the necessity of God's grace. On the other hand, he wanted believers to rejoice in the assurance that they had received God's grace.

His books are simple but exciting commentaries with many practical examples and applications. He explains the paradox that both good and bad events contribute to the benefit of believers. He spends a great deal of time explaining what it means to love God and be called by His will.  In this book, Watson manages to answer one of the most plaguing theological questions of all time: Why do bad things happen to good people?

This eBook includes the following 14 volumes by Thomas Watson:

Body of Practical Divinity

The Ten Commandments

The Lord's Prayer

The Beatitudes

The Godly Man's Picture

The Art of Divine Contentment

A Treatise Concerning Meditation

The Great Gain of Godliness

The Doctrine of Repentance

The Mischief of Sin

A Divine Cordial

The Christian Soldier

The Christian's Charter

The Duty of Self-Denial


A Divine Cordial, The Ten Commandments, The Godly Man's Picture, The Lord's Prayer and other works



Brief Memoir Of Thomas Watson

Compiled by C. H. Spurgeon

Thomas Watson’s Body of Practical Divinity is one of the most precious of the peerless works of the Puritans; and those best acquainted with it prize it most. Watson was one of the most concise, racy, illustrative, and suggestive of those eminent divines who made the Puritan age the Augustan period of evangelical literature. There is a happy union of sound doctrine, heart-searching experience and practical wisdom throughout all his works, and his Body of Divinity is, beyond all the rest, useful to the student and the minister. Although Thomas Watson issued several most valuable books, comparatively little is known of him - even the dates of his birth and death are unknown. His writings are his best memorial; perhaps he needed no other, and therefore providence forbade the superfluity. We shall not attempt to discover his pedigree, and, after the manner of antiquarians, derive his family from a certain famous Wat, whose son distinguished himself in the Crusades, or in some other insane enterprise; whether blue blood was in his veins or no is of small consequence, since we know that he was the seed-royal of the redeemed of the Lord. Some men are their own ancestors, and, for ought we know, Thomas Watson’s genealogy reflected no fame upon him, but derived all its lustre from his achievements. He had the happiness to be educated at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, which in those days deserved to be called the School of Saints, the nursing mother of gigantic evangelical divines. In Kennet’s 'Register and Chronicle,' is a list of eighty-seven names of Puritan ministers, including many well-known and loved as preachers and commentators; such as Anth. Burgess, W. Jenkyn, Ralph Venning, Thomas Brooks, T. White, Samuel Slater, Thomas Watson, John Rowe, Dr. W. Bates, Stephen Charnock, Samuel Clarke, Nathaniel Vincent, Dr John Collings, William Bridge, Samuel Hildersam, Adoniram Bifield, followed by this remark, 'These are most of them mentioned in the list of sufferers for Nonconformity, and appear upon the registers to have been all of Emmanuel College, beside great numbers, no doubt of the same society, who were forward preachers up of the unhappy changes of 1641,' etc. In the margin of the book is the following observation on the foregoing: 'It may not be improper to observe how much young students, in both Universities, fell in with the prejudices of their governors and tutors. This was the reason that this single College of Emmanuel, in Cambridge, bred more of the Puritans and Nonconformists than perhaps any seven of the other Colleges or Halls in either University." Such a fact as this should attract the prayers of all believers to our seminaries for the sons of the prophets, since upon the manner in which these institutions are conducted will depend under God the future well-being of our churches. The Pastors, College, for the use of whose students this work is published, earnestly petitions for a place in the intercessions of the saints.



We are not at all surprised to learn that Thomas Watson enjoyed the repute, while at Cambridge, of being a most laborious student; the great Puritanic authors must have been most industrious workers at the university, or they never would have become such pre-eminent masters in Israel. The conscientious student is the most likely man to become a successful preacher. After completing his course with honour, Watson became rector of St Stephen’s, Walbrook, where in the very heart of London he executed for nearly sixteen years the office of a faithful pastor with great diligence and assiduity. Happy were the citizens who regularly attended so instructive and spiritual a ministry. The church was constantly filled, for the fame and popularity of the preacher were deservedly great. Going in and out among his flock, fired with holy zeal for their eternal welfare, his years rolled on pleasantly enough amid the growing respect of all who knew him. Calamy, in his Nonconformist Memorial, says of him: - 'He was so well known in the city for his piety and usefulness, that though he was singled out by the Friendly Debate, he yet carried a general respect from all sober persons along with him to his grave. He was a man of considerable reaming, a popular, but judicious preacher (if one may judge from his writings), and eminent in the gift of prayer. Of this, the following anecdote is a sufficient proof. Once on a lecture day, before the Bartholomew Act took place, the learned Bishop Richardson came to hear him at St Stephen’s, who was much pleased with his sermon, but especially with his prayer after it, so that he followed him home to give him thanks, and earnestly desired a copy of his prayer. "Alas!" (said Mr Watson) "that is what I cannot give, for I do not use to pen my prayers; it was no studied thing, but uttered, pro re nata, as God enabled me, from the abundance of my heart and affections." Upon which the good Bishop went away wondering that any man could pray in that manner extempore.

But the hand which of old had oppressed the church was again stretched forth to vex certain of the saints. The most learned, holy, and zealous of the clergy of the Church of England found that the Act of Uniformity would not allow them to preserve a clean conscience and retain their livings, and therefore they submitted to the loss of all things for Christ's sake. Thomas Watson did not hesitate as to the course he should pursue. He was not a factious hater of royalty, a red republican, or fifth monarchy-man; in fact, he had in Cromwell's day been all too loyal to the house of Stuart; he had protested against the execution of the King, and had joined in Love's plot for the bringing in of Charles II; yet all this availed nothing, he was a Puritan, and therefore must not be tolerated by the bitter spirits then dominant in the Establishment. What seeds of discord were sown on that black Bartholomew history has not had space to record; yet the ultimate results have been fraught with results scarcely then imaginable. Comprehension might have hindered truth; the crown rights of King Jesus might have lacked advocates had monarchs and priests been more tolerant; as it was good men were forced into a truer position than they would otherwise have occupied, and the beginning of a real reformation was inaugurated. From that commencement in suffering what progress has been made! Every day the cause of the ejected gathers force and pushes on its adversary towards the brink of the precipice, a down which all establishments must fall.

With many tears and lamentations the congregation of St Stephen's saw their shepherd about to be removed from his flock, and with aching hearts they listened to his parting words. He himself speaking as one bereaved of his dearest delight, and yet suffering joyfully the loss of all things, bade them adieu, and went forth 'not knowing whither he went.'

In the collection of Farewell Sermons there are three by Mr Watson, viz.: two delivered August 17th, and the third on the Tuesday following. The first, preached in the forenoon, is on John 13: 34. 'A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another.' It discovers much of the spirit of the gospel, particularly in recommending love to enemies and persecutors. The second, preached in the afternoon, is on 2 Corinthians 7: 1. 'Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.' In the former part of it, he insists largely on 'the ardent affections of a right gospel minister towards his people.' This head he closes thus: 'I have now exercised my ministry among you for almost sixteen years; and I rejoice and bless God that I cannot say, the more I love you, the less I am loved: I have received many signal demonstrations of love from you. Though other parishes have exceeded you in number of houses, yet, I think, none for strength of affection. I have with much comfort observed your reverent attention to the word preached; you rejoice in this light, not for a season, but to this day. I have observed your zeal against error in a critical time, your unity and amity. This is your honour. If there should be any interruption in my ministry among you, though I should not be permitted to preach to you again, yet I shall not cease to love you, and to pray for you. But why should there be any interruption made? Where is the crime? Some, indeed, say that we are disloyal and seditious. Beloved, what my actions and sufferings for his Majesty have been is known to not a few of you. However, we must go to heaven through good report and bad report; and it is well if we can get to glory, though we press through the pikes. I shall endeavour that I may still approve the sincerity of my love to you. I will not promise that I shall still preach among you, nor will I say that I shall not. I desire to be guided by the silver thread of God’s word and providence. My heart is towards you. There is, you know, an expression in the late Act, "that we shall now shortly be as if we were naturally dead;’’ and if I must die, let me leave some legacy with you. Then follow twenty admirable directions, well worthy the fervent perusal of every Christian. He closes them thus: 'I beseech you treasure them up as so many jewels in the cabinet of your breasts. Did you carry them about you, they would be an antidote to keep you from sin, and a means to preserve the zeal of piety flaming upon the altar of your hearts. I have many things yet to say to you, but I know not whether God will give another opportunity. My strength is now almost gone. I beseech you, let these things make deep impressions on all your souls. Consider what has been said, and the Lord give you understanding in all things.’

The last discourse, August 19th, is on Isaiah 3: 10, 11. 'Say ye t0 the righteous, that it shall be well with him: for they shall eat the fruit of their doings. Woe unto the wicked! it shall be ill with him, for the reward of his hands shall be given him.’

After his ejectment, Watson preached occasionally whenever he could do so with safety. Fines and imprisonments were insufficient to close the mouths of the witnesses of Jesus. In barns, kitchens, outhouses, or dells and woods, the faithful few gathered to hear the message of eternal life. Those little secret assemblies were doubtless charming occasions for devout minds: the word of the Lord was precious in those days. Bread eaten in secret is proverbially sweet, and the word of God in persecution is peculiarly delightful. Little can we realise the joyful anticipation which preceded the appointed meetings, or the lingering memories which clung to them long after they were over. After the great fire in 1666, when the churches were burned, Mr Watson and several other Nonconformists fitted up large rooms for those who had an inclination to attend. Upon the Indulgence, in 1672, he licensed the great hall in Crosby House, on the east side of Bishopsgatestreet, then belonging to Sir John Langham (a Nonconformist). It was a happy circumstance that the worthy baronet favoured the cause of Nonconformity, and that so noble a chamber was at his disposal. Here Watson preached for several years. Rev Stephen Charnock, B.D.’ became joint pastor with him at Crosby Hall in 1675, and continued so till his death in 1680. What two shepherds for the flock! Men of such most extraordinary gifts and graces were seldom if ever united in one pastorate. They both attempted a Body of Divinity, and the goodly volume on the Divine Attributes was Charnock’s first stone of a colossal structure which he was not spared to complete. Our author was more modest in his attempt and the present volume shows how he succeeded.

Mr Watson at length returned to Essex, where he died suddenly, in his closet at prayer, as is supposed, about 1689 or 1690. The time either of his birth or death is nowhere mentioned.

In the life of Colonel James Gardiner, there is this remarkable account: 'In July, 1719, he had spent the evening, which was the Sabbath, in some gay company, and had an unhappy assignation with a married lady, whom he was to attend exactly at twelve. The company broke up about eleven, and he went into his chamber to kill the tedious hour. It happened that he took up a religious book, which his good mother or aunt had, without his knowledge, slipped into his portmanteau, called, "The Christian Soldier," written by Mr Watson. Guessing by the title that he should find some phrases of his own profession spiritualised in a manner which might afford him some diversion, he resolved to dip into it: while this book was in his hand, an impression was made upon his mind, which drew after it a train of the most important consequences. Suddenly he thought he saw an unusual blaze of light fall on the book while he was reading, and lifting up his eyes, he apprehended, to his extreme amazement, that there was before him, as it were suspended in the air, a visible representation of the Lord Jesus Christ upon the cross, surrounded with a glory, and was impressed as if a voice had come to him, to this effect: "O sinner, did I suffer this for thee, and are these thy returns?" He sunk down in his chair, and continued for some time insensible. He then arose in a tumult of passions, and walked to and fro in his chamber, till he was ready to drop, in unutterable astonishment and agony of heart, which continued until the October following, when his terrors were turned into unutterable joy.’

Mr Watson published a variety of books upon practical subjects, and of a useful nature, for the titles of which, see foot-note.* But his principal work was a body of divinity, in one hundred and seventy-six sermons, upon the Assembly’s Catechism, which did not appear till after his death. It was published in one volume folio, in 1692, and accompanied with a portrait of the author, by Sturt; together with a recommendatory preface by the Rev William Lorimer, and the attestation of twenty-five other ministers of principal note in that day. For many a year this volume continued to train the common people in theology, and it may still tee found very commonly in the cottages of the Scottish peasantry. Rev George Rogers, Principal of the Pastors, College, has carefully superintended the issue of this present edition, and in a note to us he writes: 'I know of no work with so much sermon matter within the same compass. In Howe, and Charnock, and Owen, we must often read much before we are tempted to close the book and think out a whole sermon, but Watson teaches us to make short work of it. The whole may be utilised. On this account it would be, I think, of great value to all our students who have pastorates. It is for their benefit, I suppose, you wished the reprint. As several select sermons, which are usually bound up with this work, will appear with his whole works, after a time, in Nichol’s series, they are not included here. This is a distinct work by itself and complete. All editions extant which we have seen, abound in errors and imperfections. These have been rectified, not entirely we fear, but in a degree as nearly approaching to accuracy as in revision of another's composition could be expected. No alteration of sentiment has been made, but every shade of the author's meaning has been scrupulously retained. The style has been modernised, so far as could be done without detracting from its own peculiar characteristics. Long sentences have been divided into two or three, where it could be done without injury to the clearness or force of the signification. Modern words have been substituted for such as had become obsolete; Latin quotations restored to their correct form, as far as their sources could be ascertained; and divisions of subjects more perspicuously arranged. The whole, in fact, has been rendered more readable, and consequently more attractive and intelligible, which in our estimation far outweighs all the supposed advantages that could arise from perpetuating the crudities and vulgarities, as they now appear to us, of former times. By popularising ancient works, their readers are multiplied and their meaning may often be more readily apprehended'.



"If you continue in the faith grounded and settled." Col. 1:13.

Intending next Lord's day to enter upon the work of catechizing, it will not be amiss to give you a preliminary discourse, to show you how needful it is for Christians to be well instructed in the grounds of true religion. "If you continue in the faith grounded and settled."

I. It is the duty of Christians to be settled in the doctrine of faith.

II. The best way for Christians to be settled is to be well grounded.


I. It is the duty of Christians to be settled in the doctrine of faith. It is the apostle's prayer, "May the God of all grace establish, strengthen, settle you." That is, that they might not be meteors in the air—but fixed stars. The apostle Jude speaks of "wandering stars". They are called wandering stars, because, as Aristotle says, "They do leap up and down, and wander into several parts of the heaven; and being but dry exhalations, not made of that pure celestial matter as the fixed stars are, they often fall to the earth." Now, such as are not settled in true religion, will, at one time or other, prove wandering stars; they will lose their former steadfastness, and wander from one opinion to another. Such as are unsettled are of the tribe of Reuben, "unstable as water," like a ship without ballast, overturned with every wind of doctrine. Beza writes of one Belfectius, who his religion changed as often as the moon. The Arians had every year a new faith. These are not pillars in the temple of God—but reeds shaken every way. The apostle calls them "damnable heresies." A man may go to hell as well for heresy as adultery!


To be unsettled in true religion, argues lack of judgment. If their heads were not giddy, men would not reel so fast from one opinion to another.

To be unsettled in true religion, argues lightness. As feathers will be blown every way, so will feathery Christians. Therefore such are compared to infants. "Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming." Ephesians 4:14. Children are fickle sometimes of one mind sometimes of another, nothing pleases them long. Just so, unsettled Christians are childish; the truths they embrace at one time, they reject at another; sometimes they like the Protestant religion, and soon after they have a good mind to turn Papists.


[1] It is the great end of the word preached, to bring us to a settlement in true religion. "And he gave some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the edifying of the body of Christ; that we henceforth be no more children." The word is called "a hammer". Every blow of the hammer is to fasten the nails of the building; so the preacher's words are to fasten you the more to Christ; they weaken themselves to strengthen and settle you. This is the grand design of preaching, not only for the enlightening—but for the establishing of souls; not only to guide them in the right way—but to keep them in it. Now, if you be not settled, you do not answer God's end in giving you the ministry.


[2] To be settled in true religion is both a Christian's excellence and honor. It is his excellence. When the milk is settled it turns to cream; now he will be zealous for the truth, and walk in close communion with God. And his honor. "The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it is found in the way of righteousness." It is one of the best sights to see an old disciple; to see silver hairs adorned with golden virtues.


[3] Such as are not settled in the faith can never suffer for it. Sceptics in religion hardly ever prove martyrs. Those who are not settled, hang in suspense; when they think of the joys of heaven they will espouse the gospel—but when they think of persecution, they desert it. Unsettled Christians do not consult what is best—but what is safest. "The apostate (says Tertullian) seems to put God and Satan in balance, and having weighed both their services, prefers the devil's service, and proclaims him to be the best master: and, in this sense, may be said to put Christ to open shame." He will never suffer for the truth—but be as a soldier that leaves his colors, and runs over to the enemy's side; he will fight on the devil's side for pay.


[4] Not to be settled in the faith is provoking to God. To espouse the truth, and then to fall away, brings an ill report upon the gospel, which will not go unpunished. "They turned back and were as faithless as their parents had been. They were as useless as a crooked bow. They made God angry by building altars to other gods; they made him jealous with their idols." Psalm 78:57-58. The apostate drops as a wind-fall into the devil's mouth!


[5] If you are not settled in true religion, you will never grow. We are commanded "to grow up into the head, even Christ." But if we are unsettled there is no growing: "the plant which is continually replanted, never thrives." He can no more grow in godliness, who is unsettled, than a bone which is out of joint can grow in a body.


[6] There is great need to be settled, because there are so many things to unsettle us. Seducers are abroad, whose work is to draw away people from the principles of true religion. "These things have I written unto you, concerning those who are trying seduce you." Seducers are the devil's agents. They are of all others, the greatest felons—who would rob you of the truth.

Seducers have silver tongues, which can pawn off bad wares; they have a sleight to deceive. "That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive." Ephesians 4:14. The Greek word there is taken from those who can throw dice, and cast them for the best advantage. So seducers are impostors, they can throw a dice; they can so dissemble and sophisticate the truth, that they can deceive others. Seducers deceive by wisdom of words. "By good words and fair speeches they deceive the hearts of the simple." They have fine elegant phrases, flattering language, whereby they work on the weaker sort.

Another sleight is a pretense of extraordinary piety, so that people may admire them, and suck in their poisonous doctrine. They seem to be men of zeal and sanctity, and to be divinely inspired, and pretend to new revelations.

A third cheat of seducers is—laboring to vilify and nullify sound orthodox teachers. They would eclipse those who bring the truth, like black vapors which darken the light of heaven; they would defame others, that they themselves may be more admired. Thus the false teachers cried down Paul, that they might be received, Gal 4:17.

The fourth cheat of seducers is—to preach the doctrine of liberty; as though men are freed from the moral law, the rule as well as the curse, and Christ has done all for them, and they need to do nothing. Thus they make the doctrine of free grace a key to open the door to all license to sin.

Another means is—to unsettle Christians by persecution. 2 Tim 3:12. The gospel is a rose which cannot be plucked without prickles. The legacy Christ has bequeathed, is the CROSS. While there is a devil and a wicked man in the world, never expect a charter of exemption from trouble! How many fall away in an hour of persecution! "There appeared a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns; and his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven." The red dragon, by his power and subtlety, drew away stars, or eminent professors, who seemed to shine as stars in the skies of the church.

To be unsettled in good, is the sin of the devils. They are called, "falling stars;" they were holy—but mutable. As the vessel is overturned with the sail, so their sails being swelled with pride, they were overturned. 1 Tim 3:3. By unsettledness, men imitate lapsed angels. The devil was the first apostate. The sons of Zion should be like mount Zion, which cannot be removed.


II. The second proposition is, that the way for Christians to be settled—is to be well grounded. "If you continue grounded and settled." The Greek word for grounded is a metaphor which alludes to a building that has the foundation well laid. So Christians should be grounded in the essential points of true religion, and have their foundation well laid.

Here let me speak to two things:


[1] That we should be grounded in the knowledge of fundamentals. The apostle speaks of "the first principles of the oracles of God." In all arts and sciences, logic, physics, mathematics, there are some rules and principles which must necessarily be known for the practice of those arts; so, in divinity, there must be the first principles laid down. The knowledge of the grounds and principles of true religion is exceedingly useful.


(1.) Else we cannot serve God aright. We can never worship God acceptably, unless we worship him regularly; and how can we do that, if we are ignorant of the rules and elements of true religion? We are to give God a "reasonable service." If we understand not the grounds of true religion, how can it be a reasonable service?


(2.) Knowledge of the grounds of true religion much enriches the mind. It is a lamp to our feet; it directs us in the whole course of Christianity, as the eye directs the body. Knowledge of fundamentals, is the golden key which opens the chief mysteries of true religion; it gives us a whole system and body of divinity, exactly drawn in all its lineaments and lively colors; it helps us to understand many of those difficult things which occur in the reading of the word; it helps to untie many Scripture knots.


(3.) It furnishes us with unshakable armor; and weapons to fight against the adversaries of the truth.


(4.) It is the holy seed of which grace is formed. It is the seed of faith. Psalm 9:10. It is the root of love. "Being rooted and grounded in love." The knowledge of the fundamental principles conduces to the making of a complete Christian.


[2] This grounding is the best way to being settled: "grounded and settled." A tree, that it may be well settled, must be well rooted; so, if you would be well settled in true religion, you must be rooted in its principles. We read in Plutarch of one who set up a dead man, and he would not stand. "Oh," said he, "there must be something within." So, that we may stand in shaking times, there must be a principle of knowledge within; first grounded, and then settled. That the ship may be kept from overturning, it must have its anchor fastened. Knowledge of principles is to the soul—as the anchor to the ship, which holds it steady in the midst of the rolling waves of error, or the violent winds of persecution. First grounded and then settled.


Use one: See the reason why so many people are unsettled, ready to embrace every novel opinion, and dress themselves in as many religions as fashions; it is because they are ungrounded. See how the apostle joins these two together, "unlearned and unstable." Such as are unlearned in the main points of divinity, are unstable. As the body cannot be strong which has the sinews shrunk; so neither can that Christian be strong in true religion, who lacks the grounds of knowledge, which are the sinews to strengthen and establish him.


Use two: See what great necessity there is of laying down the main grounds of true religion in a way of catechizing, that the weakest judgement may be instructed in the knowledge of the truth, and strengthened in the love of it. Catechizing is the best expedient for the grounding and settling of people. I fear one reason why there has been no more good done by preaching, has been because the chief heads and articles in true religion have not been explained in a catechetical way. Catechizing is laying the foundation. To preach and not to catechize, is to build without foundation. This way of catechizing is not novel, it is apostolic. The primitive church had their forms of catechism, as those phrases imply, a "form of sound doctrine," and "the first principles of the oracles of God." God has given great success to catechizing. By thus laying down the grounds of true religion catechistically, Christians have been clearly instructed and wondrously built up in the Christian faith.

It is my design, therefore (with the blessing of God); to begin this work of catechizing the next Sabbath day; and I intend every other Sabbath, in the afternoon, to make it my whole work to lay down the grounds and fundamentals of true religion in a catechetical way. If I am hindered in this work by men, or taken away by death, I hope God will raise up some other laborer in the vineyard among you, who may perfect the work which I am now beginning.