All Things For Good – A Review

Watson, Thomas. All Things For Good. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1986. 128 pages.

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Introduction

         Thomas Watson (c.1620-1686), one of the seventeenth-century Puritan theologians, had experienced the Civil War, Restoration, Act of Uniformity 1662, and the Declaration of Indulgence. Watson was educated in Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where was later called, “the nursing mother of gigantic evangelical divines.”[1] From 1646 to 1662, Watson was pastoring at St. Stephen’s Walbrook, filling the place of Ralph Robinson (1614-1655). During the Civil War (1642-1651), Watson had sympathy for the king Charles I, and went as a Presbyterian minister to Oliver Cromwell to protest the execution of the king, and as a result, Watson was imprisoned along with Christopher Love, William Jenkyn, and others by being accused to restore the monarchy. Later, Watson was released, and formally reinstated to his pastorate in Walbrook. In 1662, when the Act of Uniformity was passed in the parliament after the restoration of Charles II, Watson was ejected, and he continued his preaching ministry in private. After the Declaration of Indulgence (1672), Watson licensed Crosby Hall, and preached there with Stephen Charnock (1628-1680). Thomas Watson worked until his death, and he was buried in the same grave as his father-in-law, John Beadle (d.1667).

 

Summary

 

       Thomas Watson’s All Things for Good, originally titled Divine Cordial and first published in 1663, is a spiritual literature based on Romans 8:28 to response to the ejection which was caused by the Act of Uniformity, and to “make the wicked sad… to make the godly joyful” (Extract from the Preface). Watson divided his arguments into nine chapters, which can be categorized by four parts, which are: the best and worst things work for good to the godly (Ch. 1-2), the reason (Ch. 3), the love to God (Ch. 4-6), and the calling of the godly (Ch. 7-9).

         In chapter one, Watson presents eight subtitles to describe the best things from God which work for good to the godly, which are: God’s attribution, God’s promises, God’s mercies, the graces of the Spirit, the angels, saints’ communion, Christ’s intercession, and Christian’s prayers. By the end of the first chapter, Watson helps his readers to draw a conclusion that God makes all good things beneficially happen to his believers.

         In chapter two, Watson presents how worst things can work good for Christians in their daily lives, and in this chapter Watson presents four subtitles, which are: affliction, temptation, desertion, and sin. As a conclusion of the second chapter, Watson helps his readers to understand that though evil things are not good, but the worst things can help believers to understand their identity both in their Lord and in this world, and will help them to seek and have hope in their Lord, which helps their spiritual growth in Christ.

        In chapter three, Watson presents two major reasons for his argument, which are on the relations between God and Christians, and on the inferences from the proposition. When Watson discusses on the relations between God and Christians, he presents that there are relations of physician-patient, father-son, husband-wife, friends, and head-body between God and his people. Overall of the reasons Watson presents, it is because God is interested in his people, and then all Christian has to glorify God in their lives.

         Chapter four, five and six present the same topic, Christian’s love to God, which is the first qualification of the persons to whom all things work for good. In chapter four, Watson gives definitions of the nature, ground, kinds, properties and degrees of love. And in chapter five, Watson presents fourteen signs of one’s love to God, which helps his readers to examine themselves while they are reading these fourteen signs (or fruits) of love. As it is said that men are by nature haters of God, in chapter six, Watson gives exhortations to love God, in which he gives twenty motives for loving God, and later two exhortations on to preserve and to increase one’s love to God.

         Chapter seven, eight and nine are on the callings of Christians, which is the second qualification of the persons according to Romans 8:28. In this section, Christian’s calling is defined and analyzed, as both outward and inward callings. According to Watson, that God’s primary purpose of calling believers is for their salvation, and such purpose is also the assurance of one’s salvation, and due to such redemptive purpose, it is also one’s calling to adore God’s free-grace and to pity on those who have not been called, as well as honor one’s calling.

 

Critical Evaluation

         Watson, a Puritan scholar-pastor of his time, uses the Scripture as the foundation of his argument, and provides a logical presentation on how and why all things work for good to godly. This reviewer evaluates this piece of work on three perspectives: literal, exegetical and pastoral.

         Watson uses different figures of speech in this work, such as contrast, metaphor, rhetorical questions, and allusion. By using such literacy expressions, Watson helps his readers to understand the arguments and principles in this work, as well as to engage his readers to his arguments. Contrast is used by the author when he describes the differences between two entities, and this figure of speech is used by Watson on defining a specific term, such as God’s mercies, for instance, “the mercies of God makes a sinner proud, but a saint humble” (Ch. 1.3). Metaphor is a figure of speech often used by authors to make some points of comparison in order to help the reader to understand the point clearer. Watson uses metaphors in many parts of this work, such as “love to God must be above all other things, as the oil swims above the water” (Ch. 4.5). Rhetorical questions are used by Watson to engage his readers in order to reflect such biblical thought and apply it to one’s life, such as the series of questions Watson asked in chapter three (3.2.9). Allusion is used by Watson to represent biblical figures and stories as examples, such as the stories of Jonah, David, et cetera.

          From the expressions and understanding of the Scripture (Romans 8:28), one can see how Watson understood the Scripture. As a seventeenth-century Puritan, Watson agrees with the sixteenth-century Reformers, that the Scripture is all God-breathed and is the only book contains the knowledge of salvation (Sola Scriptura). Watson sees both the Old and New Testaments the same value, and apart from each other none can be called the Bible. In this work, Watson quotes from both the Old and New Testaments, and by careful interpretations, Watson makes all points out of the Scripture, and this is the reason why there is authority within the teachings of this work.

          In Meet the Puritans by Joel Beeke and Randall J. Pederson, when the authors discuss Watson’s All Thing for Good, Beeke and Pederson suggest, “if someone asks, ‘why do bad things happen to good people?’ or ‘How can I know if I am called by God?,’ offer them this book.”[2] Since Christians are living in two kingdoms, the kingdom of God and the kingdom of the World, Christians receive many oppositions and temptations from this world. Watson’s All Things for Good is a biblical cordial on encouraging Christians who are in their “valley of shadow and death”, and help Christians to know and understand that they are called by God, and God is always interest in them and be on their side, and all things work for good to them. From a pastoral perspective, this book is a helpful resource for Christian believers to assure their faith and being encouraged, and for pastors to use in their pastorate and counseling, as well as personal spiritual growth.

 

Conclusion

          As J. I. Packer said in the introduction of A Quest For Godliness, that the Puritans have taught him “to see and feel the transitoriness of this life, to think of it, with all its richness, as essentially the gymnasium and dressing-room… and to regard readiness to die as the first step in learning to die”[3], many works of the Puritans are undiscovered gems for today’s evangelicals. From the reading and evaluating of Thomas Watson’s All Thing for Good, one can learn how the Puritans understand and apply the Scriptures in their lives, and how God encourages his believers through the interpretation and teaching of the Scripture.


         [1] C. H. Spurgeon, “The Introduction to A Body of Divinity,” the Thomas Watson Reading Room, http://www.fivesolas.com/watson/wattarget.htm (accessed on May 29, 2012).

          [2] Joel Beeke, and Randall J. Pederson, “Thomas Watson (c. 1620-1686), excerpt from Meet the Puritans,” Reformation Heritage Books, http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/meetthepuritans/thomaswatson.html (accessed on May 30, 2012).

         [3] J. I. Packer, A Quest For Godliness (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1990), 13.

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