The Preacher rightly said, "Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh." And right here at the launching of a new school year there are those who after a few weeks will empathize with this inspired text even if they will not bow the knee to it. But better to bow than to sneer.
It is this text upon which Thomas Watson builds his raison d'être for writing the wonderful little book, Religion Our True Interest. It was out of publication for three centuries, but is now thankfully in our hands! The modern reader will be apprised that the term "religion" in the Puritan era meant what we mean by Christianity and not just a mere external observance of rites or ceremonies.
While there is much to write from this book, it is simply Watson's "To The Reader" that interests me today. In a sort of apology for writing yet another book, of which there is seemingly "no end", Watson stirs up our interest with his inimitable flair.
The main design of this excellent scripture [Eccl. 12:12 above], is to encourage solid piety [holiness] and confute the atheists of the world, who imagine there is no gain in godliness. It was the speech of King Saul to his servants, "Will the son Jesse give every one of you fields and vineyards?" (1 Sam. 22:7). Will the world of men's lusts give them such noble recompences of reward, as God bestows upon his followers? Surely, it is holiness carries away the garland. As for this treatise, it comes abroad in a plain dress: Truth, like a diamond, shines brightest in its native lustre; Saint Paul came not to the Corinthians with the excellency of speech (2 Cor. 1:1), or the pride of oratory. His study [intent] was not to court [entice], but convert. It is an unhappiness that in these luxuriant times, religion should for the most part run either to notion [informal imagination] or ceremony [formal liturgy]. The spirits of religion are evaporated. When knowledge is turned into taste, and digested into practice; then it is saving. [emphases mine]
What a wonderfully concise closing statement is his last! Read it again. I include this quotation for two reasons, 1) as an example of Watson's deeply biblical style, but more 2) for an enticement to witness his heart, which if exemplified will lead us into higher and more noble path to our Lord Jesus. Perhaps this is not enough to whet your appetite for Watson. Perhaps it is. I hope it's the later.
Perhaps more later on this man.