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The Great Gain of Godliness (Puritan Paperbacks) Paperback – October 1, 2006
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About the Author
Thomas Watson (1620 1686) was an English, Nonconformist, Puritan preacher and author. He 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.
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Top Customer Reviews
C.H. Spurgeon's library lacked this book (at least up until the time of the publication of his Commenting and Commentaries) to his regret. About this book, he wrote, "This would be a great find if we could only come at it, for Watson is one of the clearest and liveliest of Puritan authors. We fear we shall never see this commentary, for we have tried to obtain it, and tried in vain."
What Watson has in store for you in this little book is an exposition of Malachi 3:1-18 written for both laymen and churchmen alike. In true Puritan style, Watson gives to us an extended, theological, and thoroughly experimental commentary with the dual purpose of encouraging "solid piety" and confuting "the atheists of the world, who imagine there is no gain in godliness" (p. vii). Working with this admission, the BOT editor chose the current title for this book.
Watson organizes the study of this text of Scripture under two main heads. First, he deals with "The Character of the Godly." Second, he displays "The Good Effects of Their Piety."
The simplicity of this organization and the addition of an outline in chapter one aid the reader tremendously. Also, it is noteworthy that the publisher has done well in breaking up the material into manageable and coherent segments. However, although it is understood that creating indices is a time-consuming task, these Puritan Paperbacks would be much improved if, at the least, a Scripture index were added.
The first major point regarding the character of the godly is essentially a biblical theology of the fear of God. Watson defines what this fear is not and then what it is. Divine fear "is the reverencing and adoring of God's holiness, and the setting of ourselves always under his sacred inspection.... Such as approach God's presence with light feathery hearts, and worship him in a rude, careless manner, have none of this fear" (p. 13). From this foundation, Watson delineates six uses of the proposition that Christians must be fearers of God. These uses include refutation, instruction, lamentation, reproof, exhortation, and self-examination.
Not only do the godly fear God, but they also speak of God. Chapter seven, "The Godly Should Speak of God," is a heart-probing biblical theology of the tongue. From reproof of those who are silent and of those who speak wrongfully, Watson moves on to exhort Christians to speak of God. He writes,
He who has been in a perfumer's shop does not only himself partake of those sweet smells, but some of the perfume sticks to his clothes, so that those who come near him partake of those perfumes: so having ourselves perceived the sweet savour of Christ's ointments, we should let others partake with us, and by our heavenly discourse, diffuse the perfume of religion to them (p. 68).
Finally, in chapter eight, Watson finishes out Part 1 with a biblical theology of meditating on the name of God. Our thoughts are with us everywhere we go, so we must guard them and direct them in a godly way. Of the many sharp statement to be found in this section here, are a few that should ring in all of our ears for a long time:
If only men carefully considered God's holiness and justice, would they dare sin at the rate they do? (p. 86)
The higher the lark flies, the sweeter it sings; the higher a soul ascends in the thoughts of God, the sweeter joy it has (p. 88).
The mind seasoned with good thoughts in the morning will keep the heart in a better state all the day after (p. 92).
Part 2 takes us from the character of the godly to the good effect of godliness. From the saint's thoughts of God, the passage turns to God's regard for the saints--"and the LORD hearkened and heard." Watson shows from Scripture how God regards the piety of His people.
Oh, the love of God, that he should have respect to our offerings that are interlaced with sin! Our best duties are sweet wine coming out of a sour cask (p. 100).
Chapter 10, "God Records the Piety of His People," was, for me, the highlight of this book. In similar fashion as with the aforementioned subjects, Watson draws out a thorough and pastoral theology of God's record keeping. So what does God remember? What does He write in His book? He writes down the names, good speeches, tears, thoughts, desires, prayers, alms, and sufferings of his saints.
Oh, the heavenly indulgence and kindness of God to his people! He remembers everything but their sins. He writes down their good thoughts and speeches in a merciful book of remembrance; but their sins are as if they had never been; they are carried into the land of oblivion (p. 108).
Once again, Watson returns to the thoughts of the saints. "A Christian should keep two books always beside him," Watson exhorts, "one to write his sins in, that he may be humble; the other to write his mercies in, that he may be thankful" (p. 108).
Without giving everything away, I will note that Watson concludes the book with four chapters that search out the ways in which God rewards His people. A final chapter on verse 18 is about the means of discerning between the righteous and the wicked.
Chapter 16 is an appended sermon on Psalm 119:65--"A Consolation in Affliction." This is an excellent example of Puritan, experimental preaching.
Thomas Watson's The Great Gain of Godliness is a work that speaks as effectively today as it did during the close of the 17th century. "Godliness" is to be the watchword of all saints. Unfortunately, along with "holiness" and "piety," these are terms many want to render outdated. If there is anything our churches desperately need, it is a resolve to "keep up the vigour of our zeal in degenerate times" (p. 7). As Watson wrote at the outset of this exposition,
Let us be as lilies and roses among the briars. Sin is never the better because it is in fashion, nor will this plea hold at the last day, that we did as the most. God will say, Seeing you sinned with the multitude, you shall go to hell with the multitude. Oh, let us keep pure among the dregs; let us be like fish that retain their freshness in salt waters; and as the lamp which shone in the smoking furnace (Gen. 15:17) (p. 7).
Many of the statements I have shared above, and more, have been on my mind over the past few weeks as I have been reading this book and writing this review. Many Christians have ignored the Puritans out of ignorance and/or fear to their own loss. Some have only come in contact with those Puritans who are more difficult to read and have become discouraged about reading any more of them. I would urge you to pick up and read this book. Watson's style is clear, crisp, and illustrious. He was not only a student of the Word but also well-versed in classical literature and history. These abilities, along with the Holy Spirit as his Helper, have made him an able minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and of the doctrines of grace. I heartily recommend this book to all. You will be brought to your knees.
I think this book is the for the mature Christian who has been walking with God and wants to seek more of Christ and his holiness and godliness. The reason is this: many things a person will not understand until he has gone a certain road and through much tribulation of hardships.
This book is extremely salty so after reading it, you will be thirsting for godliness. He has great arguments and refutes many objections from ungodly men. It goes extremely deep talking about the right kind of fear we should have for God and how we should do so and why. I think a whole third of this book is dedicated to that since it's so very important. A must read for a christian who wants to bear God's holy name and as a representative of him. Overall, this book is worth every cent.