The name "Watson" is usually associated with G. D. Watson, a popular holiness author. Few people have had any exposure to Richard Watson, the first Methodist to publish a systematic theology. We think part of the problem is that the wrong Watson has been reprinted and read. This is the sixth extraction from Richard Watson to be published in this magazine. This is a summary of Richard Watson's sermon, "St. Paul's Confidence in the Gospel, " found in Sermons and Sketches of Sermons (New York: Carlton & Porter, 1851)Sermon #12, 1:175-183. The sermon is based on Romans 1:16-17.
Paul's confidence in the gospel was based upon five considerations. First was the personal transformation experienced by Paul. To relax the bigotry, to quench the fury, to suddenly turn the tide of such a mind, some great power must be supposed. Since it bound him to sacrifice fame, wealth, and friends, and to embrace reproach, poverty and suffering, it must have been supernatural. The only adequate explanation is that Paul received a vision of Christ on the Damascus road.
Paul's confidence in the gospel was also based upon the conviction that Jesus Christ is God, according to his higher and divine nature. According to the flesh he was human, but according to the spirit of holiness he was the Son of God. In his eternal sonship he is both subject to the Father and equal to the Father in majesty and perfection. Such a Messiah was promised in the writings of the holy prophets and Jesus was declared to be this Messiah by his resurrection from the dead, which authenticated all the claims he had ever made on earth.
Paul's confidence in the gospel was confirmed by the results already produced by Christianity in Rome. And here the Christian preacher may stand upon the highest ground and say, after the lapse of centuries, "I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ." While superstition, error, persecution, and bad morals have been charged upon Christianity, this is like charging the sun with causing blight and other damage done to the crops by the clouds, humidity, and storms. Yet above those storm clouds, the sun shines unclouded. Christianity, in its worst forms is superior in moral influence to the best systems of heathen wisdom or superstition. Wherever the Gospel of Christ has come, whether it has broken partially through the gloom of darkened Christendom or been as the first dawn of morning light rising upon the long night of pagan countries, the effect has been the same. When we contemplate on so large a scale and through a portion of time so vast, its beneficent operations on the bodies and the souls of men, upon their civil, social, and religious state, upon the intellect and the passions, upon the conditions of this life and the hopes of another, when we think of the manliness it has given to intellect, the power it has infused into conscience, the settledness to religious opinions, the happy families it has created, the moral progress into which it has impelled the most degraded nations, the noble examples of wisdom, purity and heroic suffering the mercy it has shed through society and the "number which no man can number" with which it has colonized heaven, we may each respond with the apostle and say, "I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ."
Paul's confidence in the gospel is also expressed as he brings the efficiency of the Gospel down to individual experience. It not only transforms nations, but everyone that believes. The power of the gospel is employed to illuminate darkened minds. The power of the gospel is the voice of God which brings life. The power of the gospel brings the comfort of a powerful and unequivocal testimony of the Spirit of God to our spirits that we are now the reconciled, accepted children of God. The power of the gospel is employed to regenerate and to sustain. The power of the gospel shall raise the body from the humbling ruins of mortality to the glory of immortality.
Finally, Paul's confidence in the gospel is based upon his understanding that the gospel contains a revelation of the terms on which God forgives sin, justifying by pardon those who are actually guilty. The gospel is a divine institution by which men are saved through the forgiveness of their sins by faith in an atonement which demonstrates the righteousness of God in this very exercise of mercy.
This same gospel demands from us a similar confidence and commitment. Are we taunted by the world? Is the doctrine of justification by faith treated by contempt by proud and unhumbled men? Is the gospel assailed by philosophers and infidels? Does rationalism endeavor to shame our simple faith? Let the cross of Christ be to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness; to us who are saved it is the power of God and the wisdom of God.