Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Watson, Thomas (d.1686)

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WATSON, THOMAS (d. 1686), ejected divine, was educated at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he was remarkable for hard study. After residing for some time with the family of Mary, the widow of Sir Horace Vere, baron Tilbury [q. v.], he was appointed in 1646 to preach at St. Stephen's, Walbrook. During the civil war he showed himself strongly presbyterian in his views, while discovering attachment to the king. He joined the presbyterian ministers in a remonstrance to Cromwell and the council of war against the death of Charles. In 1651 he was imprisoned, with some other ministers, for his share in Love's plot to recall Charles II [see Love, Christopher]. After some months' imprisonment Watson and his companions were released on petitioning for mercy, and on 30 June 1652 he was formally reinstated vicar of St. Stephen's, Walbrook. He obtained great fame and popularity as preacher until the Restoration, when he was ejected for nonconformity. Notwithstanding the rigour of the acts against dissenters, Watson continued to exercise his ministry privately as he found opportunity. In 1666, after the fire of London, like several other nonconformists, he fitted up a large room for public worship for any who wished to attend. Upon the declaration of indulgence in 1672 he obtained a license for the great hall in Crosby House, then belonging to Sir John Langham, a patron of evangelical nonconformity. After preaching there for several years his health gave way, and he retired to Barnston in Essex, where he was buried on 28 July 1686 in the grave of John Beadle [q. v.], formerly rector there. A portrait, engraved by James Hopwood, is in Calamy's ‘Nonconformist's Memorial,’ ed. Palmer; another, engraved by John Sturt, is prefixed to his ‘Body of Divinity,’ 1692; and a third, engraved by Frederick Henry van Hove, is prefixed to his ‘Art of Contentment,’ 1662.

Watson was a man of considerable learning, and his works preserved his fame long after his death. According to Doddridge, his ‘Christian Soldier, or Heaven taken by Storm,’ was the means of converting Colonel James Gardiner (1688–1745) [q. v.] His most famous work, the ‘Body of Practical Divinity,’ appeared after his death, in 1692 (London, fol.) It consists of 176 sermons on the catechism of the Westminster assembly of divines. Numerous subsequent editions have been printed, the last being issued in 1838 (London, 8vo) and in 1855 (New York, 8vo). His other writings were numerous. Among the most important are:

  1. ‘The Christians Charter; shewing the Priviledges of a Believer both in this Life and that which is to Come,’ London, 1652, 8vo; 6th edit. London, 1665, 8vo.
  2. ‘Autaskeia, or the Art of Divine Contentment,’ London, 1653, 8vo; 15th edit. London, 1793, 12mo; new ed. Diss, 1838, 16mo.
  3. ‘The Saints Delight. To which is annexed a Treatise of Meditation,’ London, 1657, 8vo; new edition by the Religious Tract Society, London, 1830, 12mo.
  4. ‘The Beatitudes: or a Discourse upon part of Christ's famous Sermon on the Mount’ (with other discourses), London, 1660, 4to.
  5. ‘Jerusalems Glory; or the Saints Safeties in Eying the Churches Security,’ London, 1661, 8vo.
  6. ‘Paramythion, or a Word of Comfort for the Church of God,’ London, 1662, 8vo.
  7. ‘A Divine Cordial: or the Transcendent Priviledge of those that love God,’ London, 1663, 8vo; new edit. London, 1831, 12mo.
  8. ‘The Godly Mans Picture, drawn with a Scripture Pensil,’ London, 1666, 8vo.
  9. ‘The Holy Eucharist,’ 2nd impression, London, 1668, 8vo.
  10. ‘Heaven taken by Storm: or the Holy Violence a Christian is to put forth in the pursuit after Glory,’ London, 1669, 8vo; 2nd edit., entitled ‘The Christian Soldier, or Heaven taken by Storm;’ new edit. London, 1835, 8vo; first American edit. New York, 1810, 12mo; Nos. 1 and 2 were published, together with ‘A Discourse of Meditation,’ under the title of ‘Three Treatises,’ 6th edit. London, 1660, 4to.

A collection of his ‘Sermons and select Discourses’ appeared in two volumes, Glasgow, 1798–9, 8vo; Glasgow, 1807, 8vo. In 1850 appeared ‘Puritan Gems, or Wise and Holy Sayings of Thomas Watson,’ edited by John Adey, London, 16mo. Two manuscript sermons by him are preserved in the British Museum (Harl. MS. 7517).

[Watson's Works; Wilson's Dissenting Churches, 1808, i. 331–4; Calamy's Nonconformist's Memorial, ed. Palmer, i. 188–91; Wood's Athenæ Oxon. ed. Bliss, iii. 982, 1001, 1235; Granger's Biogr. Hist. iii. 320; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1651, pp. 247, 457, 465; Hennessy's Novum Repert. Eccles. 1898, p. 386; Bromley's Cat. of Engr. Portraits, p. 184.]

E. I. C.