First published in 1660, Thomas Watson’s fresh, illustrative, pointed and beautiful style of communicating God’s truth emerges in opening up Matthew 5:1-12. No one follows Christ’s teaching method more closely than Watson, in employing a wide variety of illustrations from common life. Watson speaks with a simplicity and charm that always presents truth in unforgettable color.
The opening verses of the best-known of all Christ’s sermons were handled by many of the Puritans, for the Beatitudes gave full scope to the combination of sound doctrine, practical wisdom and heart-searching application which characterized their preaching. In addition to these general Puritan characteristics, Thomas Watson added certain of his own: a master of a terse, vigorous style and beauty of expression, Watson could speak not only to win men’s understanding but also to secure a place for the truth in their memories.
More than most of his generation, Watson followed the example of Christ’s teaching by employing all sorts of illustrations from common life. With simplicity and charm he spoke and wrote in ways not easy to forget. 200 years after Thomas Watson’s death, William Jay of Bath said that he could go to any one of his books and ‘find it ever fresh, pointed and instructive.’
“A book that announces itself as an exposition of Matthew 5:1-10 turns out to be a digest of all the central Puritan teaching on the Christian life. The Beatitudes are treated as mineshafts into the whole economy of grace — as indeed they are.’
— J. I. Packer, author of Knowing God and Professor of Theology at Regent College, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Table of Contents for The Beatitudes
- There is a blessedness in reversion
- The Godly are in some sense already blessed
- Blessed are the poor in spirit
- The poor in spirit are enriched with a kingdom
- Blessed are they that mourn
- Sundry sharp reproofs
- Motives to holy mourning
- The hindrances to mourning
- Some helps to mourning
- The comforts belonging to mourners
- Christian meekness
- The nature of spiritual hunger
- Spiritual hunger shall be satisfied
- A discourse of mercifulness
- A description of heart-purity
- The blessed privilege of seeing God explained
- Concerning peaceableness
- They shall be called the children of God
- Exhortations to Christians as they are children of God
- Concerning persecution
About the Author
Thomas Watson (1620-1686), the Puritan preacher and author, was probably born in Yorkshire, although the exact place and date of his birth are unknown. He studied at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he was apparently a diligent student. Certainly his intellect is apparent in his writings, which show a profound grasp of the English language, as well as a solid understanding of Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. He quotes from the early church fathers, and his familiarity with the breadth of the scriptural canon is stunning. Cross-references from the entire biblical corpus are sprinkled throughout his sermons, revealing a deep understanding of many texts obscure to most modern day Bible students. A solid understanding of history, botany, medicine, physics, the classics, logic, and various trades are revealed in his sermons.
After living for a time with the Puritan family of Lady Mary Vere, the widow of Sir Horace Vere, Baron of Tilbury, in 1646 Watson went to St. Stephen’s, Walbrook, London, where he served as lecturer for about ten years, and then as rector for another six years. In about 1647, he married Abigail Beadle, daughter of John Beadle, an Essex minister of Puritan convictions. They had at least seven children in the next thirteen years, four of whom died young.
Times of Civil Unrest
During the Civil War, Watson began expressing his strong Presbyterian views. He had sympathy for the king, however. He was one of the Presbyterian ministers who went to Oliver Cromwell to protest the execution of Charles I. Along with Christopher Love, William Jenkyn, and others, he was imprisoned in 1651 for his part in a plot to restore the monarchy. Although Love was beheaded, Watson and the others were released after petitioning for mercy.
Watson was formally reinstated to his pastorate in Walbrook in 1652. Spurgeon says of him:
“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.”
The Great Ejection
With the Act of Uniformity in 1662, Watson was ejected from his pastorate. He continued to preach in private whenever he had the opportunity. In 1666, after the Great Fire of London, Watson prepared a large room for public worship, welcoming anyone who wished to attend. After the Declaration of Indulgence took effect in 1672, Watson obtained a license for Crosby Hall, Bishopsgate, which belonged to Sir John Langham, a patron of nonconformists. Watson preached there for three years before Stephen Charnock joined him. They ministered together until Charnock’s death in 1680.
Watson kept working until his health failed. He then retired to Barnston, in Essex, where he died suddenly in 1686 while engaged in private prayer. He is buried in the same grave as his father-in-law who served as a minister at Barnston. Watson’s works are a legacy that have continued to be a blessing to those who love sound, heart-searching exposition of the Scriptures.
Besides The Beatitudes, Watson also wrote:
- All Things for Good
- The Doctrine of Repentance
- The Bible and the Closet
- A Body of Divinity
- The Ten Commandments
- The Lord’s Prayer
- Jerusalem’s Glory
- Duty of Self-Denial
- The Great Gain of Godliness