Fame is a fickle mistress who soon forgets the vast
majority of those who for a few brief moments share her smile.
This present study concerns one whose name was a household word
among the Methodists of his own day, and for two generations
following, but is now, with the passing of a century and a half,
almost completely forgotten even among his own folk. It is an
attempt to examine, understand, and state the salient factors
in the life, work, and religious thought of Richard Watson.
Watson was both an interpreter of the Christian message and a
leader in applying that message to religious and social problems.
Since the gospel of Christ is timeless as well as timely, Watson
might have something to say to a later genreration.
This study is not a biography of Watson, although it
attempts to highlight those facts of his life which enable one
to trace his mental and spiritual development and in a measure
to recapture his personality. There have been three compilations
of the simple facts of his life. The first, Memoirs of the Life
and Writing of the Rev. Richard Watson, was written the year
following his death by his friend and colleague in the ministry,
Thomas Jackson. The value of this volume to any study of Watson
is Inestimable notwithstanding the fact that the narrative is
sometimes coloured by the close personal relationship which existed
between the subject and the author. The remaining two volumes
depend for the most part on Jackson's work but are significant
for the judgements they contain, in anonymously compiled Life
of Rev. Richard Watson was published in Sow York in 1341; it
reveals the estimate cf Watson in American Methodism. 3, J.
Drailsford' s Richard Watson, Theologian and missionary Advocate
is a brief study made more than fifty years after Watson's
The part of this paper dealing with the work of Watson
is an effort to state and evaluate the contributions he made in
the five major areas of activity in which he participated. The
five areas are not given in the order of the significance of his
contributions but are presented in the natural manner in which
they evolved throughout his life. His writings are given
comparatively few pages in the second part of the study since
they form the basis of the third part.
To present even an outline of all of Watson's religious thought would have been far beyond the scope of this
study, and, indeed, it would have served little purpose. In
order to limit the field, those subjects have been chosen upon
which Watson entered into controversy at one time or another,
thereby defining more exactly his own views. The one exception
to this is chanter two which is included by virtue cf its position as the first Methodist systematic statement of the doctrines of the existence and attributes of God,
To the archivist of the Methodist Book Room, Rev. J.
H, Martin, is due a word of thanks for his kind assistance in
making available the books and manuscripts in his care. Ho less
helpful was Miss Irene Longstaff, archivist cf the Methodist
Missionary Society, who graciously'allowed the use of old records
and manuscripts pertaining to the Missionary Society. The study
is also indebted to the facilities of the British Museum for
the examination, of back issues of magazines, newspapers, and
otherwise unavailable books.