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Quotes by Thomas Watson


The doctrine of redemption by Jesus Christ is a glorious doctrine; it is the marrow and quintessence of the gospel, in which all a Christian’s comfort lies. Great was the work of creation, but greater the work of redemption; it cost more to redeem us than to make us; in the one there was but the speaking of a word, in the other the shedding of blood. The creation was but the work of God’s fingers (Psalm 8:3). Redemption is the work of His arm (Luke 1:51).


To sin because mercy abounds, is the devil’s logic.


Till sin be bitter, Christ will not be sweet.


The wicked in hell shall be always dying but never dead. The smoke of the furnace ascends forever and ever. Oh, who can endure thus to be ever upon the rack? The word “ever” breaks the heart.


Satan tempts to sin under a pretence of religion. He is most to be feared when he transforms himself into an angel of light. He came to Christ with Scripture in his mouth: “It is written.” The devil baits his hook with religion.


Satan doth not tempt God’s children because they have sin in them, but because they have grace in them. Had they no grace, the devil would not disturb them… Though to be tempted is a trouble, yet to think why you are tempted is a comfort.


There is a great deal of difference between falling into a temptation, and running into a temptation. The falling into a temptation shall work for good, not the running into it. He that falls into a river is capable of help and pity, but he that desperately turns into it is guilty of his own death.


Do not incorporate into the society of the wicked, or be too much familiar with them. The wicked are God haters; and “shouldest thou join with them that hate the Lord?” (2 Chronicles 19:2). A Christian is bound, by virtue of his oath of allegiance to God in baptism, not to have intimate converse with such as are God’s sworn enemies…The bad will sooner corrupt the good, than the good will convert the bad.  Pharaoh taught Joseph to swear, but Joseph did not teach Pharaoh to pray.


There are no sins God’s people are more subject to than unbelief and impatience. They are ready either to faint through unbelief, or to fret through impatience.


The Scripture is the library of the Holy Ghost; it is a pandect of divine knowledge, an exact model and platform of religion.  The Scripture contains in it the credenda, “the things which we are to believe,” and the agenda, “the things which we are to practice.”


Without meditation the truths which we know will never affect our hearts… As a hammer drives a nail to the head, so mediation drives a truth to the heart… Read before you meditate.  “Give attendance to readings” (1 Tim. 4:13). Then it follows, “meditate upon these things” (vs. 15). Reading doth furnish with matter; it is the oil that feeds the lamp of meditation. Be sure your mediations are founded upon Scripture. Reading without meditation is unfruitful; meditation without reading is dangerous.


The reason we come away so cold from reading the word is, because we do not warm ourselves at the fire of meditation.


I will conclude with that excellent saying of Bernard:  “Lord, I will never come away from Thee without Thee.” Let this be a Christian’s resolution, not to leave off his meditations of God till he find something of God in him.


Meditate on what you read (Psm. 199:15). 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.


Think not the better of sin because it is in fashion. Think not the better of impiety and ungodliness, because many walk in those crooked ways. Multitude is a foolish argument; multitude does not argue the goodness of a thing. The devil’s name is Legion… The plea of a multitude will not hold out at God’s bar when God shall ask you, “Why did you break your oath?” To say then, “Lord, because most men did so,” will be but a poor plea: God will say to you, “Then seeing you have sinned with the multitude, you shall now go to hell with the multitude.


Soon the battle will be over. It will not be long now before the day will come when Satan will no longer trouble us. There will be no more domination, temptation, accusation, or confrontation. Our warfare will be over and our commander, Jesus Christ, will call us away from the battlefield to receive the victor’s crown.


And let me tell you, the more labour you have put forth for the Kingdom of heaven, the more degrees of glory you shall have. As there are degrees of torment in hell, so of glory in heaven (Matthew 23:14). As one star differeth from another in glory, so shall one saint (1 Corinthians 15:41). Though every vessel of mercy shall be full, yet one may hold more than another.


None ever complained of serving God: it was their comfort and their crown on their death-bed.


He sheds tears for those that shed His blood.


Associate with sanctified persons. They may by their counsel, prayers, and holy example, be a means to make you holy.


Murmuring is the rising up of oneself against God. It sets oneself against God as if I am wiser than He.


Be not only attentive in hearing, but retentive after hearing.


Take heed of drowsiness in hearing; drowsiness shows much irreverence. How lively are many when they are about the world, but in the worship of God how drowsy?… In the preaching of the Word, is not the bread of life broken to you; and will a man fall asleep at his food? Which is worse, to stay from a sermon, or sleep at sermon? 


A humble sinner is in a better condition than a proud angel.


The right manner of growth is to grow less in one’s own eyes.


God being a Father, if He hide His face from His child, it is in love.  Desertion is sad in itself, a short hell (Job 6:9).  When the light is withdrawn, dew falls.  Yet we may see a rainbow in the cloud, the love of a Father in all this.


He who has knowledge of God’s will, but does not do it, where does he excel the devil “who transforms himself into an angel of light”?


Eternity to the godly is a day that has no sunset; eternity to the wicked is a night that has no sunrise.


It argues more grace to grieve for the sins of others than for our own. We may grieve for our own sins out of fear of hell, but to grieve for the sins of others is from a principle of love to God.


God has given us two ears, but one tongue, to show that we should be swift to hear, but slow to speak. God has set a double fence before the tongue, the teeth and the lips, to teach us to be wary that we offend not with our tongue.


I do not say that sin works for good to an impenitent person. No, it works for his damnation, but it works for good to them that love God… I know you will not draw a wrong conclusion from this, either to make light of sin, or to make bold with sin… If any of God’s people should be tampering with sin, because God can turn it to good; though the Lord does not damn them, He may send them to hell in this life. He may put them into such bitter agonies and soul-convulsions, as may fill them full of horror, and make them draw nigh to despair. Let this be a flaming sword to keep them from coming near the forbidden tree.


There is but one God, and they that serve Him should be one. There is nothing that would render the true religion more lovely, or make more proselytes to it, than to see the professors of it tied together with the heart-strings of love.


Wicked men seem to bear great reverence to the saints departed; they canonize dead saints, but persecute living.


More are hurt by lawful things than unlawful, as more are killed with wine than poison. Gross sins affright, but how many take a surfeit and die, in using lawful things inordinately. Recreation is lawful, eating and drinking are lawful, but many offend by excess, and their table is a snare. Relations are lawful, but how often does Satan tempt to overlove! How often is the wife and child laid in God’s room! Excess makes things lawful become sinful.


Faith is full of good works. It believes as if it did not work, and it works as if it did not believe.


God would have us part with nothing for Him, but that which will damn us if we keep it. He has no design upon us, but to make us happy.


Praising God is one of the highest and purest acts of religion. In prayer we act like men; in praise we act like angels.


Make up your spiritual accounts daily; see how matters stand between God and your souls (Psalm 77:6). Often reckonings keep God and conscience friends. Do with your hearts as you do with your watches, wind them up every morning by prayer, and at night examine whether your hearts have gone true all that day, whether the wheels of your affections have moved swiftly toward heaven.


Faith is seated in the understanding, as well as the will. It has an eye to see Christ, as well as a wing to fly to Christ.


It is absurd to imagine that God should justify a people and not sanctify them, He should justify a people whom He could not glorify.


Knowledge without repentance will be but a torch to light men to hell.


People are usually better in adversity, than prosperity.  A prosperous condition is not always so safe.  True, it is more pleasing to the flesh – but it is not always best.  In a prosperous state, there is more burden.  Many look at the shining and glittering of prosperity – but not at the burdens of prosperity.


When sin is your burden, Christ will be your delight.


Prayer is the soul’s breathing itself into the bosom of its heavenly Father.


The best time to converse with God is before worldly occasion stands knocking at the door to be let in: the morning is, as it were, the cream of the day; let the cream be taken off, and let God have it. Wind up thy heart towards heaven in the beginning of the day, and it will go the better all the day after. He that loseth his heart in the morning in the world, will hardly find it again all the day.


The devil would have Christ prove Himself to be God, by turning stones into bread; but the Holy Ghost shows His Godhead by turning stones into flesh (Eze. 36:26).


Whenever God pardons sin, He subdues it. Micah 7:19. Then is the condemning power of sin taken away, when the commanding power of it is taken away. If a malefactor be in prison, how shall he know that his prince hath pardoned him? If a jailer come and knock off his chains and fetters, and lets him out of prison, then he may know he is pardoned; so, how shall we know God hath pardoned us? If the fetters of sin be broken off, and we walk at liberty in the ways of God, this is a blessed sign we are pardoned.


They that deny Christ to be God, must greatly wrest, or else deny the Scripture to be the Word of God.


By delay of repentance, sin strengthens, and the heart hardens. The longer ice freezeth, the harder it is to be broken.


How does it seem to comport with God’s justice – to punish a sin committed in a moment – with eternal torment?

1. Because there is an eternity of sin in man’s nature. They will continue to sin in hell. “Men gnawed their tongues in agony and cursed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, but they refused to repent of what they had done” (Rev. 16:10-11).

2. Because sin is “committed against an infinite majesty,” and therefore the sin itself is infinite, and proportionally the punishment must be infinite.

3. Because a finite creature cannot satisfy infinite wrath, he must be eternally paying what he can never pay.


It is one heart-quieting consideration in all the afflictions that befall us, that God has a special hand in them: “The Almighty hath afflicted me.” Instruments can no more stir till God gives them a commission, than the axe can cut of itself without a hand. Job eyed God in his affliction: therefore, as Augustine observes, he does not say, “The Lord gave, and the devil took away,” but “The Lord hath taken away.”


Affliction may be lasting, but it is not everlasting. Affliction was a sting, but withal a wing: sorrow shall soon fly away.


Afflictions add to the saints’ glory. The more the diamond is cut, the more it sparkles; the heavier the saints’ cross is, the heavier will be their crown.


God will fill the hungry because He Himself has stirred up the hunger. As in the case of prayer, when God prepares the heart to pray, He prepares His ear to hear (Ps. 10:17). So in the case of spiritual hunger, when God prepares the heart to hunger, He will prepare His hand to fill.


Eternity is a sea without bottom and banks. After millions of years, there is not one minute in eternity wasted; and the damned must be ever burning, but never consuming, always dying, but never dead. The fire of hell is such, as multitudes of tears will not quench it, length of time will not finish it; the vial of God’s wrath will always be dropping upon a sinner. As long as God is eternal, He lives to be avenged upon the wicked. Oh eternity! Eternity! Who can fathom it? Mariners have their plummets to measure the depths of the sea; but what line or plummet shall we use to fathom the depth of eternity? The breath of the Lord kindles the infernal lake (Isa 30:33), and where shall we have engines or buckets to quench that fire? O eternity! If all the body of the earth and sea were turned to sand, and all the air up to the starry heaven were nothing but sand, and a little bird should come every thousand years, and fetch away in her bill but the tenth part of a grain of all that heap of sand, what numberless years would be spent before that vast heap of sand would be fetched away! Yet, if at the end of all that time, the sinner might come out of hell, there would be some hope; but that word “Forever” breaks the heart. “The smoke of their torment ascendeth up forever and ever.” What a terror is this to the wicked, enough to put them into a cold sweat, to think, as long as God is eternal, He lives forever to be avenged upon them!


If you have assurance, be careful you do not lose it; keep it, for it is your life… Keep assurance. First, by prayer, Ps. 36:10, “O continue Thy lovingkindness.” Lord, continue assurance; do not take away this privy seal from me. Secondly, keep assurance by humility. Pride estrangeth God from the soul; when you are high in assurance, be low in humility. St. Paul had assurance, and he baptizeth himself with this name, “Chief of sinners,” 1 Tim. 1:15. The jewel of assurance is best kept in the cabinet of a humble heart.


We are to find as much bitterness in weeping for sin as we ever found sweetness in committing it.


Death is the last and best physician, which cures all diseases and sins – the aching head and the unbelieving heart. Sin was the midwife which brought death into the world; and death shall be the grave to bury sin! O the privilege of a believer!


Little sins unrepented of will damn thee as well as greater. Not only great rivers fall into the sea, but little brooks; not only greater sins carry men to hell, but lesser; therefore do not think pardon easy because sin is small.


The sins of the godly are worse than others, because they bring a greater reproach upon religion. For the wicked to sin, there is no other expected from them; swine will wallow in the mire; but when sheep do so, when the godly sin, that redounds to the dishonour of the Gospel: “By this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme.”


Read the Scripture, not only as a history, but as a love-letter sent to you from God.


[Jesus Christ] is tender without being weak, strong without being coarse, lowly without being servile. He has conviction without intolerance, enthusiasm without fanaticism, holiness without Pharisaism, passion without prejudice. This man alone never made a false step, never struck a jarring note. His life alone moved on those high levels where local limitations are transcended and the absolute Law of Moral Beauty prevails. It was life at its Highest.


No creature but man willingly kills itself.


God does not justify us because we are worthy, but by justifying us make us worthy.


God is but one, yet are there three distinct persons subsisting in one Godhead. This is a sacred mystery, which the light within man could never have discovered. As the two natures in Christ, yet but one person, is a wonder; so three persons, yet but one Godhead. Here is a great deep, the Father God, the Son God, the Holy Ghost God; yet not three Gods, but one God. The three persons in the blessed Trinity are distinguished, but not divided; three substances, but one essence. This is a divine riddle, where one makes three, and three make one. Our narrow thoughts can no more comprehend the Trinity in Unity, than a nut-shell will hold all the water in the sea.


In the body of the sun, there are the substance of the sun, the beams, and the heat; the beams are begotten of the sun, the heat proceeds both from the sun and the beams; but these three, though different, are not divided; they all three make but one sun: so in the blessed Trinity, the Son is begotten of the Father, the Holy Ghost proceeds from both; yet though they are three distinct persons, they are but one God.


The Trinity is purely an object of faith; the plumbline of reason is too short to fathom this mystery; but where reason cannot wade, there faith may swim. There are some truths in religion that may be demonstrated by reason; as that there is a God: but the Trinity of persons in the Unity of essence is wholly supernatural, and must be believed by faith. This sacred doctrine is not against reason, but above it.


If there be one God subsisting in three persons, then let us give equal reverence to all the persons in the Trinity. There is not more or less in the Trinity; the Father is not more God than the Son and Holy Ghost. There is an order in the Godhead, but no degrees; one person has not a majority or super eminence above another, therefore we must give equal worship to all the persons.


We need not climb up into heaven to see whether our sins are forgiven: let us look into our hearts, and see if we can forgive others. If we can, we need not doubt but God as forgiven us.


Love is the only thing in which we can retaliate with God.  If God be angry with us, we must not be angry again; if He chide us, we must not chide Him again; but if God loves us, we must love Him again.  There is nothing in which we can answer God again, but love.  We must not give Him word for word, but we must give Him love for love.


All the danger is when the world gets into the heart. The water is useful for the sailing of the ship; all the danger is when the water gets into the ship; so the fear is when the world gets into the heart.


A Christian without patience is like a soldier without arms.


Let us then ascribe the whole work of grace to the pleasure of God’s Will. God did not choose us because we were worthy, but by choosing us He makes us worthy.


Christians, you who are vessels of election – were by nature as wicked as others – but God had compassion on you and plucked you as brands out of the fire! He stopped you in your course of sinning – when you were marching to hell! He turned you back to Him by sincere repentance. Oh, here is the banner of love displayed over you!


The mercies of God make a sinner proud, but a saint humble.


Take heed of abusing this mercy of God… To sin because mercy abounds, is the devil’s logic… He that sins because of God’s mercy, shall have judgment without mercy.


Mercy is not for them that sin and fear not, but for them that fear and sin not.


God is more willing to pardon than to punish. Mercy does more multiply in Him than sin in us. Mercy is His nature.


God’s center is everywhere, His circumference nowhere.


The glory of God is a silver thread which must run through all of our actions.


Prayer as it comes from the saint is weak and languid; but when the arrow of a saint’s prayer is put into the bow of Christ’s intercession it pierces the throne of grace.


Prayer delights God’s ear; it melts His heart; and opens His hand. God cannot deny a praying soul.


Behold, what manner of love is this, that Christ should be arraigned and we adorned, that the curse should be laid on His head and the crown set on ours.


Most men pray more for full purses than for pure hearts.


It must not be expected that the devil will let those rest who are laboring to destroy his kingdom.


Adoption is a greater mercy than Adam had in paradise.


A man adopts one for his son and heir that does not at all resemble him; but whosoever God adopts for His child is like Him; he not only bears His heavenly Father’s name, but His image (Col. 3:10).


Since God has a Son of his own, and such a Son, how wonderful God’s love in adopting us! We needed a Father, but He did not need sons.


Whoever brings an affliction, it is God who sends it.


We are more sure to arise out of our graves than out of our beds.


Every time you draw your breath, you suck in mercy.


Faith is to prayer what the feather is to the arrow.


Satan loves to fish in the troubled waters of a discontented heart.


The Scripture is to be its own interpreter, or rather the Spirit speaking in it; nothing can cut the diamond; nothing can interpret Scripture but Scripture.


The natural man may have excellent notions in divinity, but God must teach us to know the mysteries of the Gospel after a spiritual manner. A man may see the figures upon a dial, but he cannot tell how the day goes unless the sun shines; so we may read many truths in the Bible, but we cannot know them savingly, till God by His Spirit shines upon our soul… He not only informs our mind, but inclines our will.


The Scripture is both the breeder and feeder of grace. How is the convert born, but by “the word of truth”? (James 1:18). How doth he grow, but by “the sincere milk of the Word.”?  (I Peter 2:2).


This life is like an inn. You spend a couple of nights there, but you never forget where your home is.


A man can go to hell for not forgiving as for not believing [Mt. 6:14-15].




The angel fetched Peter out of prison, but it was prayer that fetched the angel.


Would it not be an encouragement to a subject, to hear his prince say to him, “You will honor and please me very much, if you will go to yonder mine of gold, and dig as much gold for yourself as you can carry away”? So, for God to say, “Go to the ordinances, get as much grace as you can, dig out as much salvation as you can; and the more happiness you have, the more I shall count Myself glorified!”

Recommended Books

A Body of Divinity

Thomas Watson