Precious Promises

thomas watson*The promises are notes of God’s hand; is it not good to have security? The promises are the milk of the gospel; and is not the milk for the good of the infant? They are called “precious promises” (2 Pet. i. 4). They are as cordials to a soul that is ready to faint. The promises are full of virtue.

Are we under the guilt of sin? There is a promise, “The Lord merciful and gracious” (Exod. xxiv. 6), where God as it were puts on His glorious embroidery, and holds out the golden sceptre, to encourage poor trembling sinners to come to Him. “The Lord, merciful.” God is more willing to pardon than to punish. Mercy does more multiply in Him than sin in us. Mercy is His nature. The bee naturally gives honey; it stings only when it is provoked. “But,” says the guilty sinner, “I cannot deserve mercy.” Yet He is gracious; He shows mercy, not because we deserve mercy, but because He delights in mercy. But what is that to me? Perhaps my name is not in the pardon. “He keeps mercy for thousands”; the exchequer of mercy is not exhausted. God has treasures lying by, and why should you not come in for a child’s part?

Are we under the defilement of sin? There is a promise working for good. “I will heal their backslidings” (Hos. xiv. 4). God will not only bestow mercy, but grace. And He has made a promise of sending His Spirit (Isa. xliv. 3), which for its sanctifying nature, is in Scripture compared sometimes to water, which cleanses the vessel; sometimes to the fan, which winnows corn, and purifies the air; sometimes to fire, which refines metals. Thus the Spirit of God shall cleanse and consecrate the soul, making it partake of the divine nature.

Are we in great trouble? There is a promise works for our good, “I will be with him in trouble” (Psalm xci. 15). God does not bring His people into troubles, and leave them there. He will stand by them; He will hold their heads and hearts when they are fainting. And there is another promise, “He is their strength in the time of trouble” (Psalm xxxvii. 39). “Oh,” says the soul, “I shall faint in the day of trial.” But God will be the strength of our hearts; He will join His forces with us. Either He will make His hand lighter, or our faith stronger.

Do we fear outward wants? There is a promise. “They that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing” (Psalm xxxiv. 10). If it is good for us, we shall have it; if it is not good for us, then the withholding of it is good. “I will bless thy bread and thy water” (Exod. xxiii. 25). This blessing falls as the honey-dew upon the leaf; it sweetens that little we possess. Let me want the venison, so I may have the blessing. But I fear I shall not get a livelihood? Peruse that Scripture. “I have been young, and now am old, yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread” (Psalm xxxvii. 25). How must we understand this? David speaks it as his own observation; he never beheld such an eclipse, he never saw a godly man brought so low that he had not a bit of bread to put in his mouth. David never saw the righteous and their seed lacking. Though the Lord might try godly parents a while by want, yet not their seed too; the seed of the godly shall be provided for. David never saw the righteous begging bread, and forsaken. Though he might be reduced to great straits, yet not forsaken; still he is an heir of heaven, and God loves him.

Question. How do the promises work for good?

Answer. They are food for faith; and that which strengthens faith works for good. The promises are the milk of faith; faith sucks nourishment from them, as the child from the breast. “Jacob feared exceedingly” (Gen. xxxii. 7). His spirits were ready to faint; now he goes to the promise, “Lord, thou hast said thou wilt do me good” (Gen. xxxii. 12). This promise was his food. He got so much strength from this promise, that he was able to wrestle with the Lord all night in prayer, and would not let Him go till He had blessed him.

The promises also are springs of joy. There is more in the promises to comfort than in the world to perplex. Ursinus* was comforted by that promise: “No man shall pluck them out of my Father?s hands” (John x. 29). The promises are cordials in a fainting-fit. “Unless thy word had been my delight, I had perished in my affliction” (Psalm cxix. 92). The promises are as cork to the net, to bear up the heart from sinking in the deep waters of distress.


*This is an excerpt from the book A Divine Cordial, a collection of sermons by the Puritan pastor Thomas Watson (c.1620 – 1686). The full book can be found online at

*Zacharias Ursinus was a 16th century German theologian.


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