A WORD FROM WATSON

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 seventh extraction from Richard Watson to be published in this magazine. This is a summary of Richard Watson's sermon, "Inward Religion," found in Sermons and Sketches of Sermons (1834; Rpt. New York: Carlton & Porter, 1851)Sermon #108, 2:379-81.

There are some persons, I know, who deny that feeling forms any essential part of religion. They might as well say, either that man has no feelings, or that there is one faculty of the mind which religion does not control. I have no hesitation is saying, in opposition to such sentiments, that wherever Christianity is, it must produce deep and strong, and consistent emotion. We do not say that these deep emotions are always visibly expressed. We have no higher opinion of those persons who are always giving expression to their religious feelings, than of those who would restrain and hide them in their hearts.

Wheresoever there is true piety, there will be strong feelings. We are naturally capable of such feelings and the design of religion is not to destroy what is properly natural, but to sanctify it, by giving it a new direction and object. One object of the religion of Christ is to destroy the enmity to God which is deeply rooted in the affections of our nature and to cleanse away the impurity that cleaves to them, but religion cannot do this if it takes away from us the power of feeling when the great truths of religion are revealed to our understandings. The religion that strangely hardened the heart and destroyed all feeling in the soul would be worse than worthless, it would be positively injurious.

Look at man as God has made him and then decide if the great things of eternity could be set before him without producing lively and constant emotion. It is very easy for strangers to emotions of this kind to give them the name of fanaticism. But the real danger will not be found in emotion itself, but in the opinions and principles which influence our emotions. Men may believe that they may cherish hatred without sin, and thus fall into fanaticism, but let not this be charged on true religion. But when men are properly taught, their emotions will chiefly be awakened by the views they take of God. Feelings which arise from right principles and opinions will seldom be wrong.

Men find it easier to study Christianity as a science, than to bring their feelings to it. If they could repent without sorrow, if they could desire and love God without emotion kindled in their hearts, how easy all would be! But this implies contradictions in the very terms that are employed. Repentance implies feeling. The desire of forgiveness implies feeling. Love to God implies feeling. Joy in the Holy Ghost implies feeling. All attempts to banish these feelings from religion prove that religion itself is not understood.

We have no scruple in saying that if we are Christians inwardly, we shall be the subjects of very powerful emotions. If we have ever truly repented and have believed in Christ, then do we love him and love him with all the warm affection of a grateful and adoring heart. If we are rightly influenced by religion, it has produced in us deep solemnity and sacred fear. We behold the perfections of the divine character with awe. There is veneration as well as love. And there is the holy fear lest at any time we grieve his Spirit; lest we should even seem to come short of the rest which he has promised. And these powerful feelings exist in the heart, instead of those unholy and worldly ones which once dwelt there.


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