Thomas Watson and Divine Providence – Part 1

Thomas Watson and Divine Providence – Part 1


Meet Thomas Watson
The date and place of Thomas Watson’s birth are unknown. However, it is believed that he was likely born in Yorkshire, England. Watson earned both a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1639 and a Master of Arts degree in 1642 at Emmanuel College, Cambridge. After this, Watson was a lecturer for about ten years and served as pastor at St. Stephen’s in Walbrook, London. In his early years at St. Stephen’s, he married Abigail Beadle. In 1662, as a result of the Act of Uniformity, Watson, along with two thousand other ministers, was ejected from his ministry. However, he continued to preach in private settings whenever the opportunity was available. 

Works on Divine Providence
Out of all of Thomas Watson’s written works, two of them pay a considerable amount of attention to the subject of Divine providence. These works are called, A Body of Divinity and All Things for Good.

A Body of Divinity is considered his most famous and influential work. It has been said “this book, first published after Watson’s death in 1692, was his magnum opus and became his most famous work.”[1] A Body of Divinity is a collection of 176 sermons preached by Thomas Watson using the Westminster Shorter Catechism as an outline. This is not just a systematic theology of sorts, but it serves as a theological textbook that leads to practical divinity as will be noted later on.

His other work titled All Things for Good by the Banner of Truth Trust is an excellent work that covers the doctrine of Divine Providence in a practical and pastoral manner. The book came as a result of a series of sermons that were preached from the text, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). Consider this helpful summary of the work, “In this study of Romans 8:28, formerly titled A Divine Cordial (first printed in 1663, one year after two thousand ministers were ejected from the Church of England), Watson encourages God’s people to rejoice. He explains how the best and the worst experiences work for good.”[2] Both of these works were not theological treatises rather they were originally sermons. Therefore, the content of them pertaining to the doctrine of providence was intended for the spiritual benefit of Watson’s flock. This provides the modern reader with an insight into the importance this doctrine played in one’s practical divinity.

In my next post, I would like to consider Watson’s seven propositions concerning Divine providence. These propositions are very practical and give us great insight in how we should understand this important doctrine.

[1] J. R. Beeke & R. J. Pederson. Meet the Puritans, (Reformation Heritage Books, 2006), 608

[2] Beeke & Pederson, 2006, Meet the Puritans, 606


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