The most notable of his theological works was ’The Doctrines of Grace' (1900). 'The Life of the Master' (1901) illustrated Watson's breadth of view.
Watson worked strenuously to arouse interest in the theological college of his denomination. As convener of the synod's college committee he took a leading part in the removal of the college from London to Cambridge. Mainly owing to his energy and eloquence a sum of 16,000l. was raised in five weeks, which enabled Westminster College, Cambridge, to be opened free of debt in October 1899. Watson in 1897 declined a call to St. John's presbyterian church, Kensington, and in April 1900 was elected moderator of synod. On the outbreak of the Boer war (Oct. 1899) he supported the British government, and alienated many nonconformists by preaching sermons justifying the war. He also encouraged the young men of Liverpool to volimteer for active service in South Africa. In 1901 ill-health led him to pass the winter in Egypt. On his return he delivered a short course of lectures at the Royal Institution, London, entitled 'The Scot of the Eighteenth Century: his Religion and his Life.' The lectures were repeated at Cambridge, and were published posthumously in 1907.
In February 1905 Watson celebrated the conclusion of twenty-five years' ministry at Sefton Park, and in October he resigned owing to ill-health and pressure of other work. A sum of 2600l. was then privately presented to him. He continued to reside in Liverpool. In January 1907 he accepted, on what proved to be the eve of his death, the presidency of the National Free Church Council, and was nominated for the principalship of Westminster College, Cambridge, in succession to Dr. Oswald Dykes.
On 30 Jan. 1907 he sailed for New York to undertake a third lecturing tour in America. His popularity showed no sign of abatement, but he suffered from fatigue and from the cold. At Haverford College, Philadelphia, he delivered a course of lectures on 'The Religious Condition of Scotland in the Eighteenth Century.' In 'God's Message to the Human Soul: the Use of the Bible in the Light of the New Knowledge' (Cole Lectures of Vanderbilt University at Nashville, 1907) he maintained that the authority of the Bible was indestructible, while he welcomed reverent biblical criticism. Towards the end of March he passed to Canada. He lectured and preached at Valley City, North Dakota, on 21 April. Two days later he arrived at Mount Pleasant, Iowa, where he fell ill and died on 6 May 1907 in the Brazelton hotel. His remains were accorded a public funeral on 27 May in Smithdown cemetery, Liverpool.
Watson, whose sense of humour was keen and patriotism intense, earnestly sought as a preacher to combine the spirit of faith with that of culture. The twofold character of his work as secular and religious writer led to some depreciating criticism of both results of his labours. But theology and literature equally appealed to him.
Besides the works cited, Watson was also the author, in his own name, of: 1. 'The Order of Service for Young People,' 1895. 2. 'The Upper Room' ('Little Books on Religion' series), 1896. 3. 'The Potter's Wheel,' 1898. 4. 'Companions of the Sorrowful Way,' 1898. 5. 'Homely Virtues,' 1903. 6. 'The Inspiration of our Faith, and Other Sermons,' 1905. 7. 'Respectable Sins,' a volume of sermons for young men, edited by his son, Frederick W. Watson, and published posthumously in 1909.
Watson married on 6 June 1878 Jane Burnie, daughter of Francis John Ferguson, of Glasgow, and a near relative of Sir Samuel Ferguson [q. v.]. She survived him with four sons. A portrait, painted by Robert Morrison of Liverpool, hangs in the Guild Room of Sefton Park church, Liverpool.
['Ian Maclaren,' Life of Rev. John Watson, D.D., by W. Robertson Nicoll, 1908; Major J. B. Pond, Eccentricities of Genius, 1901, pp. 405-51; David Christie Murray, My Contemporaries in Fiction, 1897, pp. 110-11; George Adam Smith, Life of Henry Drummond, 7th edit. 1904; Liverpool Post and Mercury, 7 May 1907; Scotsman, 7 May 1907; British Weekly, 16 May 1907; Scottish Review (weekly), 9 May 1907; private information.]
WATSON, Sir PATRICK HERON (1832–1907), surgeon, born at Edinburgh on 5 Jan. 1832, was third of four surviving sons of Charles Watson, D.D., minister of Burntisland, Fife, and Isabella Boog his wife. His three brothers all attained distinction, two (Charles and Robert Boog) in the church, and the third (David Matthew) in business.
Patrick Watson was educated at the Edinburgh Academy and at the University, where he graduated M.D. in 1853.
Admitted L.R.C.S. Edinburgh in 1853, he was elected F.R.C.S. in 1855. After a year's residence at the Royal Infirmary, Edinburgh, Watson volunteered for service