Thomas Watson was an English Nonconformist Puritan preacher and author. He was also vicar of St Stephen Walbrook, one of a long line of controversial clerics, of which he may even have been the first.

Thomas Watson was educated at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he was noted for remarkably intense study. In 1646 he commenced a sixteen-year pastorate at St. Stephen’s, Walbrook. He showed strong Presbyterian views during the civil war, with, however, an attachment to the king, and in 1651 he was imprisoned briefly with some other ministers for his share in Christopher Love’s plot to recall Charles II of England. He was released on 30 June 1652, and was formally reinstated as vicar of St. Stephen’s Walbrook. He obtained great fame and popularity as a preacher until the Restoration, when he was ejected for Nonconformity. Notwithstanding the rigor of the acts against dissenters, Watson continued to exercise his ministry privately as he found opportunity. Upon the Declaration of Indulgence in 1672 he obtained a license to preach at the great hall in Crosby House. After preaching there for several years, his health gave way, and he retired to Barnston, Essex, where he died suddenly while praying in secret. He was buried on 28 July 1686.’ (

C.H. Spurgeon wrote that although Watson ‘issued several most valuable books, comparatively little is known of him … his writings are his best memorial; perhaps he needed no other, and therefore providence forbade the superfluity’: ‘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.’ (

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In his sermon entitled ‘How to Get the Most from Reading your Bible’ Watson recommended making sure ‘to put yourself under a true ministry of the Word, faithfully and thoroughly expounding the Word, be earnest and eager in waiting on it.’ ( At St Stephen Walbrook he found a congregation willing to do this. Spurgeon says ‘the church was constantly filled, for the fame and popularity of the preacher were deservedly great.’ Watson remarked in the second of three farewell sermons, ‘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.’

It is this that he commends in ‘A Preliminary Discourse To Catechising’ where he shares his thoughts on how we can ‘continue securely established and steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised by the gospel’ (Colossians 1. 23). Among the advice that he gives, in his sermons, on the way in which we can profit from listening to sermons and from reading the Bible are these thoughts:

  • Read with seriousness. The Christian life is to be taken seriously since it requires striving and not falling short.
  • Persevere in remembering what you read. Don’t let it be stolen from you. If it doesn’t stay in your memory it is unlikely to be much benefit to you.
  • Meditate on what you read. The Hebrew word for meditate’ means to be intense in the mind’. Meditation without reading is wrong and bound to err; reading without meditation is barren and fruitless. It means to stir the affections, to be warmed by the fire of meditation.
  • Read with a humble heart. Acknowledge that you are unworthy that God should reveal himself to you.
  • Don’t stop reading the Bible until you find your heart warmed. Let it not only inform you but also inflame you.
  • Put into practice what you read.

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