The Godly Man's Picture,
Drawn with a
Scripture Pencil, or, Some Characteristic
Marks of a Man who is Going to Heaven
By Thomas Watson
The soul being so precious, and salvation so glorious—it is the highest
point of prudence to make preparations for the eternal world. It is beyond
all dispute, that there is an inheritance in light; and it is most
strenuously asserted in Holy Scripture that there must be a fitness and
suitability for it (Col. 1:12). If anyone asks, "Who shall ascend into the
hill of the Lord?" the answer is, "He who has clean hands, and a pure heart"
(Psalm 24:4). To describe such a person is the work of this ensuing
treatise. Here you have the godly man's portrait, and see him
portrayed in his full lineaments.
What a rare thing godliness is! It is not airy and puffed
up—but solid, and such as will take up the heart and spirits. Godliness
consists in an exact harmony between holy principles and practices.
Oh, that all into whose hands this book shall providentially come, may be so
enamored with piety as to embrace it heartily. So sublime is godliness that
it cannot be delineated in its perfect radiance and luster, though an angel
should take the pencil. Godliness is our wisdom. "The fear of the Lord, that
is wisdom" (Job 28:28). Morality without piety is profound madness.
Godliness is a spiritual queen, and whoever marries her, is sure of a large
dowry with her. Godliness has the promise of the present life and of that
which is to come (1 Tim. 4:8). Godliness gives assurance, yes, holy triumph
in God; and how sweet is that! (Isaiah 32:17).
It was old Latimer who said, "When sometimes I sit alone,
and have a settled assurance of the state of my soul, and know that God is
my God—I can laugh at all troubles, and nothing can daunt me." Godliness
puts a man in heaven before his time. Christian, aspire after piety; it is a
lawful ambition. Look at the saints' characteristics here, and never leave
off until you have got them stamped upon your own soul. This is the grand
business which should swallow up your time and thoughts. Other speculations
and quaint notions are nothing, compared to the priceless soul. They are
like wafers which have fine words printed upon them, and are curious
to the eye—but are thin, and yield little nourishment. But I will not keep
you longer in the porch. Should I have enlarged upon any one
characteristic of the godly man, it would have required a volume—but
designing to go over many, I have contracted my sails, and given you only a
brief summary of things. If this piece conduces to the good of souls, I
shall have my desire. That the God of grace will effectually accomplish this
shall be the prayer of him who is
Yours in all Christian affection,
"For this cause shall everyone who is godly pray unto
you." (Psalm 32:6)
Holy David at the beginning of this psalm, shows us
wherein true happiness consists; not in beauty, honor, riches (the world's
trinity)—but in the forgiveness of sin. "Blessed is he whose transgression
is forgiven" (v. 1). The Hebrew word "to forgive" signifies "to carry out of
sight", which agrees well with the words of Jeremiah: "In those days, says
the Lord, the sins of Judah shall be sought for, and they shall not be
found" (Jer. 50:20). This is an incomprehensible blessing, and such as lays
a foundation for all other mercies. I shall just glance at it, and lay down
these five assertions about it:
1. Forgiveness of sin is an act of God's free grace.
The Greek word for "forgive" (charizomai) makes
clear the source of pardon. Pardon does not arise from anything inherent in
us—but is the pure result of free grace (charis). "I, even I, am he
who blots out your transgressions for my own sake" (Isaiah 43:25). When a
creditor forgives a debtor, he does it freely. Pardon of sin is a royal
thread, spun out of the heart of free grace. Paul cries out, "I obtained
mercy" (1 Tim. 1:13)—"I was be-mercied". He who is pardoned, is all bestrewn
with mercy. When the Lord pardons a sinner, he does not only pay a debt—but
gives an inheritance!
2. God, in forgiving sin, remits the guilt and penalty.
Guilt cries for justice. No sooner had Adam
eaten the apple, than he saw the "flaming sword" and heard the curse. But in
forgiveness of sin, God indulges the sinner. He seems to say to him, "Though
you have fallen into the hands of my justice and deserve to die—yet I will
absolve you, and whatever is charged against you shall be discharged."
3. Forgiveness of sin is through the blood of Christ.
Free grace is the impulsive cause; Christ's blood is the
meritorious cause. "Without shedding of blood is no remission of sin" (Heb.
9:22). Justice would be revenged either on the sinner, or on the
surety. Every pardon is the price of Christ's blood.
4. Before sin is forgiven, it must be repented of.
Therefore repentance and remission are linked together:
"that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in
his name" (Luke 24:47). Not that repentance in a popish sense merits
forgiveness. Christ's blood must wash our tears away—but repentance is a
qualification, though not a cause of forgiveness. He who is humbled for sin,
will value pardoning mercy the more. When there is nothing in the soul but
clouds of sorrow, and now God brings a pardon—which is a setting up of a
rainbow in the cloud, to tell the sinner that the flood of wrath shall not
overflow him—oh, what joy there is at the sight of this rainbow! The soul
that before was steeped in tears, now melts in love to God (Luke 7:38, 47).
5. God having forgiven sin, he will no longer call it to
remembrance. (Jer. 31:34)
The Lord will not upbraid us with former unkindness. "He
will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea" (Mic. 7:19). Sin shall
not be cast in like cork which rises up again—but like lead
which sinks to the bottom. How we should all labor for this covenant
(i) How sad it is to lack pardon! It
must of necessity go badly with the malefactor, who lacks his pardon. All
the curses of God stand in full force against the unpardoned sinner; his
very blessings are cursed (Mal. 2:2). Caesar wondered at one of his
soldiers, who was so merry when he was in debt. Can that sinner be merry who
is heir to all God's curses—and does not know how soon he may take up his
lodgings among the damned!
(ii) How sweet it is to have pardon!
(a) The pardoned soul is out of the gunshot of hell
(Romans 8:33). Satan may accuse—but Christ will show a discharge!
(b) The pardoned soul may go to God with boldness in
prayer. Guilt clips the wings of prayer, so that it cannot fly to the throne
of grace—but forgiveness breeds confidence. He who has his pardon, may look
his prince in the face with comfort.
This great mercy of pardon David had obtained, as appears
in verse 5: "You forgave me". And because he had found God "a God of
pardons" (Neh. 9:17), he therefore encouraged others to seek God in the
words of the text: "For this cause shall everyone who is godly pray unto
The Nature of Godliness
It will first be enquired, "What is godliness?" I answer
in general, "Godliness is the sacred impression and workmanship of God in a
man, whereby from being carnal he is made spiritual." When godliness is
wrought in a person, he does not receive a new soul—but he has "another
spirit" (Numb. 14:24). The faculties are not new—but the qualities are; the
strings are the same—but the tune is corrected. Concerning godliness, I
shall lay down these seven maxims or propositions:
1. Godliness is a REAL thing
It is not a fantasy, but a fact. Godliness is not the
feverish fantasy of a sick brain; a Christian is no enthusiast, one whose
religion is all made up of theory. Godliness has truth for its foundation;
it is called "the way of truth" (Psalm 119:30). Godliness is a ray and beam
that shines from God. If God is true, then godliness is true.
2. Godliness is an INTRINSIC thing
It lies chiefly in the heart: "circumcision is that of
the heart" (Romans 2:29). The dew lies on the leaf, the sap is
hidden in the root. The moralist's religion is all in the leaf; it
consists only in externals—but godliness is a holy sap which is rooted in
the soul: "Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom
in the inmost place" (Psalm 51:6).
3. Godliness is a SUPERNATURAL thing
By nature we inherit nothing but evil. "When we were in
the flesh, the motions of sins did work in our members" (Romans 7:5). We
sucked in sin as naturally as our mother's milk; but godliness is the
"wisdom from above" (Jas. 3:17). It is breathed in from heaven. God must
light up the lamp of grace in the heart. Weeds grow by themselves;
flowers are planted. Godliness is a celestial plant which comes from the
New Jerusalem. Therefore it is called a "fruit of the Spirit" (Gal. 5:22). A
man has no more power to make himself godly, than to create himself.
4. Godliness is an EXTENSIVE thing
It is a sacred leaven which spreads itself into the whole
soul: "May the God of peace sanctify you wholly" (1 Thess. 5:23). There is
light in the understanding, order in the affections, pliableness in the
will, exemplariness in the life. We do not call a black man white, because
he has white teeth. He who is good only in some part is not godly. Grace is
called "the new man" (Col. 3:10), not a new eye, or tongue—but
a new man. He who is godly is good all over; though he is regenerate
only in part—yet it is in every part.
5. Godliness is an INTENSE thing
It does not lie in a dead formality and indifference—but
is vigorous and flaming: "fervent in spirit" (Romans 12:11). We call water
hot when it is so in the third or fourth degree. He whose devotion is
inflamed is godly, and his heart boils over in holy affections.
6. Godliness is a GLORIOUS thing
As the jewel to the ring, so is piety to the soul,
bespangling it in God's eyes. Reason makes us men; godliness makes us
earthly angels; by it we "partake of the divine nature" (2 Pet. 1:4).
Godliness is near akin to glory: "glory and virtue" (2 Pet. 1:3). Godliness
is glory in the seed, and glory is godliness in the flower.
7. Godliness is a PERMANENT thing
Aristotle says, "Names are given from the habit". We do
not call the one who blushes ruddy—but the one who is of a ruddy complexion
(1 Sam. 17:42). A blush of godliness is not enough to distinguish a
Christian—but godliness must be the temper and complexion of the soul.
Godliness is a fixed thing. There is a great deal of difference between a
stake in the hedge—and a tree in the garden. A stake rots and molders—but a
tree, having life in it, abides and flourishes. When godliness has taken
root in the soul, it abides to eternity: "his seed remains in him" (1 John
3:9). Godliness being engraved in the heart by the Holy Spirit, as with the
point of a diamond, can never be erased.
A reproof to such as are only PRETENDERS to Godliness
"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you
hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the
outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything
unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous
but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness." Matthew
Here is a sharp rebuke to such as are "glittering dross"
Christians, who only make a show of godliness, like Michal, who put "an
image in the bed", and so deceived Saul's messengers (1 Sam. 19:16). These
our Savior calls "whited sepulchers" (Matt. 23:27)—their beauty is all
paint! In ancient times a third part of the inhabitants of England were
called Picts, which signifies "painted". It is to be feared that they still
retain their old name. How many are painted over with a religious
profession, whose seeming luster dazzles the eyes of beholders—but within
there is nothing but putrefaction! Hypocrites are like the swan, which has
white feathers—but a black skin; or like that flower, which has a lovely
appearance—but a bad scent. "You have a name that you live, and are dead"
(Rev. 3:1). These the apostle Jude compares to "clouds without water" (Jude
12). They claim to be full of the Spirit—but they are empty clouds; their
goodness is but a religious cheat.
Question: But why do people content themselves with a
show of godliness?
Answer: This helps to keep up their fame. Men are
ambitious of credit, and wish to gain repute in the world, therefore they
will dress themselves in the garb and mode of religion, so that others may
write them down for saints. But alas, what is one the better for having
others commend him—and his conscience condemn him? What good will it do a
man when he is in hell—that others think he has gone to heaven? Oh, beware
of this! Counterfeit piety is double iniquity.
1. To have only a show of godliness is a God-enraging sin
The man who is a pretender to saintship—but whose heart
tells him he has nothing but the name, carries Christ in his Bible but not
in his heart. Some political design spurs him on in the ways of God; he
makes religion a lackey to his carnal interest. What is this but to abuse
God to his face, and to serve the devil in Christ's livery? Hypocrisy makes
the fury rise up in God's face; therefore he calls such people "the
generation of his wrath" (Isaiah 10:6). God will send them to hell, to do
penance for their hypocrisy!
2. To make only a show of godliness is self-delusion
It is a horrible mistake to take a show of grace,
for grace. This is to cheat yourself: "deceiving your own souls" (Jas.
1:22). He who has counterfeit gold instead of true gold, wrongs himself
most. The hypocrite deceives others while he lives—but deceives himself when
3. To have only a name, and make a show of godliness, is
odious to God and man
The hypocrite is abhorred by all. Wicked men hate him
because he makes a show, and God hates him because he only makes a show. The
wicked hate him because he has so much as a mask of godliness, and God hates
him because he has no more. "You have almost persuaded me to be a Christian"
(Acts 26:28). The wicked hate the hypocrite because he is almost a
Christian, and God hates him because he is only almost one.
4. To make a show of piety is a vain thing
Hypocrites lose all they have done. Their sham tears drop
beside God's bottle; their prayers and fasts prove abortive. "When
you fasted and mourned, did you at all fast unto me, even to me?" (Zech.
7:5). As God will not recompense a slothful servant, neither will he
recompense a treacherous one. The hypocrites' full reward is in this life:
"They have their reward" (Matt. 6:5). A poor reward—the empty breath of men.
The hypocrite may make his receipt and write, "Received in full payment".
Hypocrites may have the praise of men—but though these triumphs are granted
them, they shall never have the privilege of sitting in heaven. What
acceptance can he look for from God, whose heart tells him he is no better
than a charlatan in divinity?
5. To have only a pretense of godliness will yield no
comfort at death
Will painted gold enrich a man? Will painted wine refresh
him who is thirsty? Will the paint of godliness stand you in any stead? How
were the foolish virgins better for their "blazing lamps", when they had no
oil? What is the lamp of profession without the oil of grace? He who has
only a painted holiness shall have only a painted happiness.
6. You who have nothing but a specious pretext and mask
of piety expose yourself to Satan's scorn
You shall be brought forth at the last day, as was
Samson, to make the devil sport (Judges 16:25). He will say, "What has
become of your vows, tears, confessions? Has all your religion come to this?
Did you so often defy the devil, and have you now come to dwell with me?
Could you meet with no weapon to kill you—but what was made of gospel metal?
Could you not suck poison anywhere but out of ordinances? Could you find no
way to hell—but by counterfeit godliness?" What a vexation this will be, to
have the devil thus reproach a man! What will it be to have the devil
triumph over a man at the last day!
Let us therefore take heed of this pious pageantry
or devout stage-play. That which may make us fear our hearts the more
is when we see tall cedars in the church worm-eaten with hypocrisy. Balaam a
prophet, Jehu a king, Judas an apostle—all of them stand to this day on
record as hypocrites.
It is true that there are the seeds of this sin in the
best Christian; but as it was with leprosy under the law, all who had
swellings or spots in the skin of the flesh were not reputed unclean and put
out of the camp (Lev. 13:6); so all who have the swellings of hypocrisy in
them are not to be judged hypocrites, for these may be the spots of God's
children (Deut. 32:5). But that which distinguishes a hypocrite is when
hypocrisy is predominant and is like a spreading cancer in the body.
Question: When is a man under the dominion and power
Answer: There are two signs of its predominance:
(i) When one serves God for sinister ends.
(ii) When there is some sin dear to a man, which he
cannot part with. These two are as clear signs of a hypocrite as any I know.
Oh, let us take David's candle and lantern, and search
for this leaven, and burn it before the Lord!
Christian, if you mourn for hypocrisy—yet find this sin
so potent that you cannot get the mastery of it, go to Christ. Beg of him
that he would exercise his kingly office in your soul, that he would subdue
this sin, and put it under the yoke. Beg of Christ to exercise his spiritual
surgery upon you. Desire him to lance your heart and cut out the rotten
flesh, and that he would apply the medicine of his blood to heal you of your
hypocrisy. Say that prayer of David often: "Let my heart be sound in your
statutes" (Psalm 119:80). "Lord, let me be anything rather than a
hypocrite." A double-heart will exclude from one heaven.