Thomas Watson on common grace

“4. The fourth counterfeit оf sanctification is restraining grace, when men forbear vice, though they do not hate it. This may be the sinner’s motto, ‘Fain I would, but I dare not.’ The dog hath a mind to the bone, but is afraid of the cudgel; so men have a mind to lust, but conscience stands as the angel, with a flaming sword, and affrights: they have a mind to revenge, but the fear of hell is a curb-bit to check them. There is no change of heart; sin is curbed, but not cured. A lion may be in chains, but is a lion still.

5. The fifth counterfeit of sanctification is common grace, which is a slight, transient work of the Spirit, but does not amount to conversion. There is some light in the judgment, but it is not humbling; some checks in the conscience, but they are not awakening. This looks like sanctification, but is not. Men have convictions wrought in them, but they break loose from them again, like the deer, which, being shot, shakes out the arrow. After conviction, men go into the house of mirth, take the harp to drive away the spirit of sadness, and so all dies and comes to nothing” (Thomas Watson, A Body of Divinity (Banner of Truth, 2000), p. 244).

C.H. Spurgeon — a God-hater of popular consumption — writes the following about Thomas Watson’s “principle work” (included in the aforecited edition of A Body of Divinity):

“But his principle work was a body of divinity, in one hundred and seventy-six sermons, upon the Assembly’s Catechism, which did not appear until after his death. It was published in one volume folio, in 1692, and accompanied with a portrait of the author, by Sturt; together with a recommendatory preface by the Rev William Lorimer, and the attestation of twenty-five other ministers of principal note in that day. For many a year this volume continued to train the common people in theology, and it may still be found very commonly in the cottages of the Scottish peasantry” (Brief Memoir Of Thomas Watson: Compiled by C.H. Spurgeon, xi).

Here are two important correctives to Watson’s wicked comments concerning “common grace,” “restraining grace,” “conviction,” and “conversion” in the context of what he termed, “counterfeit sanctification”:

Common Grace? 

Holy Spirit Conviction