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
Concerning the characteristic signs aforementioned, I
shall lay down two conclusions:
1. These characteristics are a Christian's box of
For as an impenitent sinner has the signs of reprobation
on him, by which, as by so many spots and tokens, he may know he shall die,
so whoever can show these happy signs of a godly man, may see the evidences
of salvation in his soul, and may know he has "passed from death unto life"
(John 5:24). He is as sure to go to heaven as if he were in heaven already.
Such a person is undoubtedly a member of Christ—and if he should perish,
then a member of Christ might perish.
These blessed characteristics may comfort a Christian
under all worldly dejection and diabolical suggestions. Satan tempts a child
of God with this—that he is a hypocrite and has no title to the land of
promise. A Christian may pull out these evidences and challenge the devil to
prove that any wicked man or hypocrite ever had such a good certificate to
show for heaven. Satan may sooner prove himself a liar, than the saint a
2. Whoever has one of these characteristics in truth, has
everything in embryo
Whoever has one link of a chain has the whole chain.
Objection: But may a child of God say, "Either I do
not have all these characteristics or else they are so faintly stamped in me
that I cannot discern them"?
Answer: To satisfy this scruple you must diligently
observe the distinctions which the Scripture makes between Christians. It
puts them into several classes and orders. Some are little children
who have only recently begun breast-feeding on the gospel; others are
young men who have grown up to more maturity of grace; others are
fathers who are ready to take their degree of glory (1 John 2:12-14).
Now, you who are only in the first rank or class may still have the
vitals of godliness, as well as those who have arrived at a higher
stature in Christ.
The Scripture speaks of the cedar and the
bruised reed; the latter of which is as true a plant of the heavenly
paradise, as the other. So the weakest ought not to be discouraged. Not all
have these characteristics of godliness written in capital letters. If they
are only faintly stamped on their souls, God can read the work of his Spirit
there. Though the seal is only faintly set on the wax, it ratifies the will
and gives a real conveyance of an estate. If there is found just some good
thing towards the Lord (as it was said of Abijah), God will accept it (1
An Exhortation to Godliness
Those who are still in their natural condition, who have
never yet relished any sweetness in the things of God—let me beseech them,
for the love of Christ, to strive to get these characteristics of the godly
engraved on their hearts. Though godliness is the object of the world's
scorn and hatred (as in Tertullian's days, the name of a Christian was a
crime)—yet do not be ashamed to espouse godliness. Know that persecuted
godliness is better than prosperous wickedness! What will all the
world avail a man without godliness? To be learned and ungodly—is
like a devil transformed into an angel of light; to be beautiful and
ungodly—is like a lovely picture hung in an infected room; to be
honorable in the world and ungodly—is like an ape in purple, or like
that image which had a head of gold on feet of clay (Dan. 2:32,33). It is
godliness which ennobles and consecrates the heart, making God and angels
fall in love with it.
Strive for the reality of godliness. Do not rest in the
common workings of God's Spirit. Do not think that it is enough to be
intelligent and discursive. A man may discourse of piety to the admiration
of others—yet not feel the sweetness of those things in his own soul. The
lute gives a melodious sound to others—but does not at all feel the sound
itself. Judas could make an elegant discourse about Christ—but did not feel
virtue from him.
Do not rest in having your affections a little stirred. A
hypocrite may have affections of sorrow like Ahab, or affections of
desire like Balaam. These are slight and flashy, and do not amount to
real godliness. Oh, strive to be like the king's daughter, "all glorious
within!" (Psalm 45:13)
In order that I may persuade men to become godly, I shall
lay down some forcible motives and arguments, and may the Lord make them
like nails fastened by his Spirit.
A. Let men seriously weigh their misery while they remain
in a state of ungodliness
It may make them run out of this Sodom.
The misery of ungodly men appears in nine
1. They are in a state of spiritual death
"Dead in trespasses" (Eph. 2:1). Dead they must
surely be, who are cut off from Christ, the principle of life. For as the
body without the soul is dead, so is the soul without Christ. This spiritual
death is visible in the effect. It bereaves men of their senses. Sinners
have no sense of God in them: "Having lost all sensitivity" (Eph. 4:19). All
their moral endowments, are only flowers strewn on a dead corpse, and what
is hell but a sepulcher to bury the spiritually dead in?
2. Their offerings are polluted
Not only the ploughing of the wicked is sin, but
the praying of the wicked is sin! "The sacrifice of the wicked is an
abomination to the Lord" (Proverbs 15:8; 21:4). If the water is foul in the
well—it cannot be clean in the bucket. If the heart is
full of sin—the duties cannot be pure. What straits every ungodly
person is in, if he does not come to the ordinance. If he does not come—he
despises it; if he does come—he defiles it.
3. Those who live and die ungodly, have no right to the
covenant of grace
"At that time you were without Christ, strangers from the
covenants of promise" (Eph. 2:12). And to be outside covenant, is to be like
anyone in the old world outside the ark. The covenant is the gospel charter,
which is enriched with many glorious privileges. But who may plead the
benefit of this covenant? Surely only those whose hearts are inlaid with
grace. Read the charter: "A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit
will I put within you . . . I will be your God" (Ezek. 36:26,28). A person
dying in his ungodliness has no more to do with the new covenant, than a
ploughman has to do with the privileges of a city corporation.
God's writing always comes before his seal. "You are
declared to be the epistle of Christ, written not with ink—but with the
Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone—but in fleshy tables of the
heart" (2 Cor. 3:3). Here is a golden epistle: the writing is the work of
faith; the tablet it is written on, is the heart; the finger that writes it
is the Spirit. Now, after the Spirit's writing, comes the Spirit's sealing:
"after you believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit" (Eph. 1:13). That
is, you were sealed with an assurance of glory. What have ungodly men—those
who have no writing—to do with the seal of the covenant?
4. The ungodly are spiritual fools
If a parent had a child who was very beautiful—but a
fool, he would take little joy in him. The Scripture has dressed the sinner
in a fool's coat and let me tell you—better be a fool void of reason, than a
fool void of grace. This is the devil's fool, "Fools make a mock at sin"
(Proverbs 14:9). Is not that man a fool who refuses a rich share? God offers
Christ and salvation—but the sinner refuses this share: "Israel would not
submit to me" (Psalm 81:11). Is not that man a fool who prefers a shiny
penny before an inheritance? Is not that man a fool who tends his mortal
part and neglects his angelic part, as if a man should paint the
wall of his house and let the timber rot? Is not that man a fool who will
feed the devil with his soul—like that emperor who fed his lion with
pheasant? Is not that man a fool who lays a snare for himself (Proverbs
1:18); who consults his own shame (Hab. 2:10); who loves death (Proverbs
5. The ungodly are vile people
"I will make your grave; for you are vile" (Nah. 1:14).
Sin makes men base; it blots their name; it taints their blood. "They are
all together become filthy" (Psalm 14:3). In the Hebrew it is "they have
become stinking." If you call wicked men ever so bad, you cannot call them
worse than their name deserves: they are swine (Matt. 7:6); vipers (Matt.
3:7); devils (John 6:70). The wicked are dross and refuse (Psalm 119:119),
and heaven is too pure to have any dross mingled with it.
6. Their temporal mercies are continued in judgment
The wicked may have health and estate, yes, more than
heart can wish (Psalm 73:7)—but "their table is a snare" (Psalm 69:22).
Sinners have their mercies with God's permission, but not with his
love. The people of Israel would have been better without their quail,
than to have had such sour sauce. The ungodly are usurpers; they lack a
spiritual title to what they possess. Their good things are like cloth
picked up at the draper's which is not paid for. Death will bring a sad
reckoning at last.
7. Their temporal judgments are not removed in mercy
Pharaoh had ten arrows shot at him (ten plagues) and all
those plagues were removed; but as his heart remained hard, those plagues
were not removed in mercy. It was not a preservation—but a reservation. God
reserved him as a signal monument of his justice, when he was drowned in the
depths of the sea. God may reprieve men's lives, when he does not
remit their sins. The wicked may have sparing mercy, but not
8. The ungodly, while they live, are exposed to the wrath
"He who believes not, the wrath of God abides on him"
(John 3:36). Whoever lacks grace is like someone who lacks a pardon; every
hour he is in fear of execution. How can a wicked man rejoice? Over his head
hangs the sword of God's justice; and under him hell-fire burns.
9. The ungodly at death, must undergo God's fury and
"The wicked shall be turned into hell" (Psalm 9:17). I
have read of a lodestone in Ethiopia which has two corners. With one it
attracts iron and with the other it repels it. So God has two hands: one of
mercy and one of justice. With the one, he will draw the godly to heaven;
with the other, he will thrust the sinner to hell.
And oh, how dreadful is that place! It is called a fiery
lake (Rev. 20:15). That is, a lake to denote the many torments in
hell; and a fiery lake to show the fierceness of the punishment. Strabo in
his "Geography" mentions a lake in Galilee of such a pestiferous nature that
it scalds off the skin of whatever is thrown into it. But alas, that lake is
cool, compared with this fiery lake into which the damned are thrown. To
demonstrate that this fire is terrible, there are two most pernicious
qualities in it:
(1) It is sulphurous; it is mixed with brimstone (Rev.
21:8), which is unsavory and suffocating.
(2) It is inextinguishable: the wicked shall be choked in
the flames, though not consumed: "And the devil was cast into the lake of
fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be
tormented day and night forever and ever" (Rev. 20:10). See the deplorable
condition of all ungodly people! In the eternal world, they shall have a
life which always dies, and a death which always lives. May this not
frighten men off their sins and make them become godly, unless they are
resolved to feel how hot hell-fire is?
B. What rare people the godly are
"The righteous is more excellent than his neighbor"
(Proverbs 12:26). Like the flower of the sun, like the wine of Lebanon, like
the sparkling on Aaron's breastplate, such is the oriental splendor of a
person embellished with godliness. The excellence of the godly appears in
1. The godly are PRECIOUS
Therefore they are set apart for God: "know that the Lord
has set apart him who is godly for himself" (Psalm 4:3). We set apart things
that are precious. The godly are set apart as God's peculiar treasure (Psalm
135:4); as his garden of delight (Song 4:12); as his royal diadem (Isaiah
62:3). The godly are the excellent of the earth (Psalm 16:3), comparable to
fine gold (Lam. 4:2); doubly refined (Zech. 13:9); they are the glory of
creation (Isaiah 46:13.) Origen compares the saints to sapphires and
crystal. God calls them his jewels (Mal. 3:17). They are jewels:
(1) For their value. Diamonds (says Pliny)
were not known for a long time except among princes, and were hung on their
diadems. God so values his people that he will give kingdoms for their
ransom (Isaiah 43:3); He put his best Jewel (Christ) in pawn for them (John
(2) For their luster. If one pearl of grace
shines so brightly that it delights Christ's heart—"You have ravished my
heart with one of your eyes" (Song 4:9), that is, one of your graces—then
how illustrious are all the graces together in a constellation!
2. The godly are HONORABLE
"You have been honorable" (Isaiah 43:4). The godly are "a
crown of glory in the hand of the Lord" (Isaiah 62:3). They are "plants of
renown" (Ezek. 16:14). They are not only vessels of mercy but vessels of
honor (2 Tim. 2:21). Aristotle calls honor the chief good thing. The godly
are near akin to the blessed Trinity: they have the tutelage and
guardianship of angels; they have "God's name written upon them" (Rev. 3:12)
and "the Holy Spirit dwelling in them" (2 Tim. 1:14).
The godly are a sacred priesthood. The priesthood under
the law was honorable. The king's daughter was wife to Jehoiada the priest
(2 Chron. 22:11). It was a custom among the Egyptians to have their kings
chosen from their priests. The saints are a divine priesthood to offer up
spiritual sacrifices (1 Pet 2:9). They are co-heirs with Christ (Romans
8:17). They are kings (Rev. 1:6). Novarinus tells of an ancient king who
invited a company of poor Christians and made them a great feast. On being
asked why he showed so much respect to people of such poor birth and
extraction, he told them, "These I must honor as the children of the most
high God. They will be kings and princes with me in the eternal world."
The godly are in some sense higher than the angels. The
angels are Christ's friends; these are his spouse. The angels
are called morning stars (Job 38:7)—but the saints are clothed with the Sun
of righteousness (Rev. 12:1). All men, says Chrysostom, are ambitious for
honor. See, then, the honor of the godly! "Wisdom is supreme; therefore get
wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding. Esteem her, and she
will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honor you." (Proverbs 4:7,8). The
trophies of the saints' renown, will be erected in the eternal world.
3. The godly are LOVED by God
"The excellency of Jacob, whom he loved" (Psalm 47:4). A
holy heart is the garden where God plants the flower of his love. God's love
to his people is an ancient love, it dates from eternity (Eph. 1:4). He
loves them with a choice, distinguishing love; they are the "dearly beloved
of his soul" (Jer. 12:7). The men of the world have bounty dropping from
God's fingers—but the godly have love dropping from God's heart.
He gives to one, a golden cup—to the other, a golden kiss. He
loves the godly as he loves Christ (John 17:26). It is the same love in
kind, though not in degree. Here the saints merely sip God's love; in
heaven they shall drink of rivers of pleasure (Psalm 36:8). The love
of God to His people is permanent. Death may take their life away from
them—but not God's love: "I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have
drawn you with loving-kindness" (Jer. 31:3).
4. The godly are PRUDENT people
They have good insight and foresight:
(1) They have good INSIGHT. "He who is
spiritual judges all things" (1 Cor. 2:15). The godly have insight into
people and things. They have insight into people, because they have
the anointing of God, and by a spirit of discerning they can see some
differences between the precious and the vile (Jer. 15:19). God's people are
not censorious—but they are judicious. They can see a foul
heart—through a naked breast and a painted face. They can see a revengeful
spirit—through a bitter tongue. They can guess at the tree—by the
fruit (Matt. 12:33). They can see the plague tokens of sin appearing in
the wicked, which makes them leave the tents of those sinners (Numb. 16:26).
The godly have insight into things mysterious.
They can see much of the mystery of their own hearts. Take the
greatest politician who understands the mysteries of state—he still does not
understand the mystery of his own heart. You will sometimes hear him swear
that his heart is good—but a child of God sees much heart corruption (1
Kings 8:38). Though some flowers of grace grow there, he still sees how fast
the weeds of sin grow, and is therefore continually weeding his heart by
repentance and mortification.
The godly can discern the mystery of the times:
"The children of Issachar were men who had understanding of the times" (1
Chron. 12:32). The godly can see when an age runs to seed—when God's name is
dishonored, his messengers despised, his gospel eclipsed. The people of God
strive to keep their garments pure (Rev. 16:15). Their care is that the
times may not be the worse because of them; nor they the worse because of
The godly understand the mystery of living by faith: "The
just shall live by faith" (Heb. 10:38). They can trust God's heart—where
they cannot trace his hand. They can get comfort out of a promise, as
Moses got water out of the rock (Exod. 17:6). "Even though the fig trees
have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vine; even though the olive
crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die
in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the
Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation" (Hab. 3:17,18).
(2) They have good FORESIGHT. They foresee the
evil of a temptation: "we are not ignorant of his devices" (2 Cor. 2:11).
The wicked swallow temptations like pills, and when it is too late, feel
these pills afflict their conscience. But the godly foresee a temptation,
and will not come near. They see a snake under the beautiful flowers! They
know that Satan's kindness—is craftiness!
The godly foresee temporal dangers: "A prudent man
foresees the evil, and hides himself" (Proverbs 22:3). The people of God see
when the cloud of wrath is ready to drop on a nation, and they get into
their rooms (Isaiah 26:20)—the attributes and promises of God; and
into the clefts of the rocks—the bleeding wounds of Christ—and hide
themselves. Well therefore, may they be baptized with the name of wise
5. The godly are the bulwark of a nation
The godly are the pillars to keep a city and nation from
falling; they stave off judgment from a land. It was said of old, that so
long as Hector lived, Troy could not be demolished. God could do nothing to
Sodom—until Lot had gone out of it (Gen. 19:22). Golden Christians are
bronze walls. The Lord would soon execute judgment in the world—were it not
for the sake of a few pious people. Would God preserve the world only for
drunkards and swearers? He would soon sink the ship—but for the fact that
some of his elect are in it. Yet such is the indiscretion of men that they
injure the saints and count as burdens, those who are the chief blessings
6. The godly are of a BRAVE, heroic spirit
"My servant Caleb, because he had another spirit" (Numb.
14:24). An excellent spirit was found in Daniel (Dan. 5:12). The godly hate
that which is base and sordid. They will not enrich their purses by
enslaving their consciences. They are noble and courageous in God's cause:
"the righteous are bold as a lion" (Proverbs 28.1). The saints live in
accordance with their high birth: they yearn for God's love; they aspire to
glory; they set their feet where worldly men set their heart; they
display the banner of the gospel, lifting up Christ's name and interest in
7. The godly are HAPPY people
King Balak sent to curse the people of God—but the Lord
would not allow it. "God said unto Balaam, You shall not curse the people:
for they are blessed" (Numb. 22:12). And Moses afterwards records it as a
memorable thing that God turned the king's intended curse into a blessing:
"the Lord your God turned the curse into a blessing unto you" (Deut. 23:5).
Those who are always on the strongest side must of necessity be happy: "The
Lord is on my side" (Psalm 118:6). They are happy—who have all conditions
sanctified to them (Romans 8:28), who are crowned with peace while
they live (Psalm 119:165) and with glory when they die (Psalm 73:24).
And may this not tempt everyone to become godly? "Happy are you, O Israel: a
people saved by the Lord!" (Deut. 33:29).
C. To strive for godliness is most rational
1. It is the highest act of reason, to become a
If, while he remains in nature's soil, he is poisoned
with sin—no more actually fit for communion with God than a toad is fit to
be made an angel—then it is very consonant to reason that he should strive
for a change.
2. It is rational because this change is for the
"Now are you light in the Lord" (Eph. 5:8). Will not
anyone be willing to exchange a dark prison—for a king's palace? Will he not
exchange his brass—for gold? You who become godly change for the better: you
change your pride—for humility; you change your uncleanness—for holiness.
You change a lust that will damn you—for a Christ who will save you. If men
were not besotted, if their fall had not knocked their brains
out—they would see that it is the most rational thing in the world to become
D. The excellence of godliness
The excellence of godliness appears in several ways:
1. Godliness is our spiritual beauty
"The beauties of holiness" (Psalm 110:3). Godliness is to
the soul, what the light is to the world—to illustrate and adorn it. It is
not greatness which approves us in God's eye—but goodness.
What is the beauty of the angels—but their sanctity? Godliness is the
intricate embroidery and workmanship of the Holy Spirit. A soul furnished
with godliness is filled with beauty, it is enameled with purity. This is
the clothing of wrought gold which makes the King of heaven fall in
love with us. Were there no excellence in holiness, the hypocrite would
never try to paint it. Godliness sheds a glory and luster on the saints.
What are the graces—but the golden feathers in which Christ's dove
shines! (Psalm 68:13)
2. Godliness is our defense
Grace is called "the armor of light" (Romans 13:12). It
is light for beauty, and armor for defense. A Christian has
armor of God's making, which cannot be shot through. He has the shield of
faith, the helmet of hope, the breastplate of righteousness. This armor
defends against the assaults of temptation, and the terror of hell.
3. Godliness breeds solid peace
"Great peace have those who love your law" (Psalm
119:165). Godliness composes the heart, making it quiet and calm like the
upper region, where there are no winds and tempests. How can that heart be
unquiet—where the Prince of Peace dwells? "Christ in you" (Col.
1:27). A holy heart may be compared to the doors of Solomon's temple, which
were made of olive tree, carved with open flowers (1 Kings 6:32). The olive
of peace and the open flowers of joy are in that heart.
"I have spoken these things to you so that My joy may be
in you and your joy may be complete." John 15:11. Godliness does not
destroy a Christian's joy—but refines it. His rose is without prickles,
his wine without froth. He who is a favorite of heaven must of necessity be
full of joy and peace. He may truly sing a sonnet to his soul and say,
"Soul, take your ease" (Luke 12:19). King Ptolemy asked someone how he might
be at rest when he dreamed. He replied, "Let piety be the scope of all your
actions." If anyone should ask me how he should be at rest when he is awake,
I would return a similar answer: "Let his soul be inlaid with godliness."
4. Godliness is the best trade we can engage in
It brings profit. Wicked men say, "It is vain to
serve God; and what profit is it?" (Mal. 3:14). To be sure, there is no
profit in sin: "Treasures of wickedness profit nothing" (Proverbs 10:2). But
godliness is profitable (1 Tim. 4:8). It is like digging in a gold mine,
where there is gain, as well as toil. Godliness makes God himself our
portion: "The Lord is the portion of my inheritance" (Psalm 16:5). If God is
our portion—all our estate lies in jewels! Where God gives himself, he gives
everything else. Whoever has the castle, has all the royalties belonging to
it. God is a portion that can be neither spent nor lost. "God is the
strength of my heart and my portion forever!" (Psalm 73:26). Thus we see
that godliness is a thriving trade.
And as godliness brings profit with it, so it is
profitable "for all things" (1 Tim. 4:8). What else is profitable, besides
godliness? Food will not give a man wisdom; gold will not give him health;
honor will not give him beauty. But godliness is useful for all things: it
fences off all troubles; it supplies all needs; it makes soul and body
5. Godliness is an enduring substance
It knows no fall of the leaf. All worldly
delights have a death's-head set on them. They are only shadows and
they are fleeting. Earthly comforts are like Paul's friends, who took
him to the ship and left him there (Acts 20:38). So these will bring a man
to his grave and then take their farewell. But godliness is a possession we
cannot be robbed of. It runs parallel with eternity. Force cannot weaken it;
age cannot wither it. It outbraves sufferings; it outlives death (Proverbs
10:2). Death may pluck the stalk of the body—but the flower of grace
is not hurt.
6. Godliness is so excellent that the worst men would
like to have it, after they die
Though at present godliness is despised and under a
cloud—yet at death all would like to be godly. A philosopher asked a young
man whether he would like to be rich Croesus or virtuous
Socrates. He answered that he would like to live with Croesus—and die with
Socrates. So men would like to live with the wicked in pleasure—but die with
the godly: "Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be
like his!" (Numb. 23:10). If, then, godliness is so desirable at death, why
should we not pursue it now?
E. There are only a few godly people
They are like the gleanings after vintage. Most receive
the mark of the beast (Rev. 13:17). The devil keeps open house for all
comers, and he is never without guests. This may prevail with us to be
godly. If the number of the saints is so small, how we should strive to be
found among these pearls! "But a remnant shall be saved" (Romans
9:27). It is better to go to heaven with the few—than to hell in the
crowd! Christ's flock is a little one. "Don't be afraid, little
flock, because your Father delights to give you the kingdom!" Luke 12:32
F. Consider how vain and contemptible other things are,
which people void of godliness, busy themselves
Men are taken up with the things of this life, and "what
profit has he who has labored for the wind?" (Eccles. 5:16). Can the wind
fill? What is gold but dust (Amos 2:7), which will sooner choke than
satisfy? Pull off the mask of the most beautiful thing under the
sun—and look what is inside. There is care and vexation! And
the greatest care is still to come—and that is to give account to God.
Worldly joys are as fleeting as a bubble floating down the stream.
But godliness has real worth in it. If you speak of true
honor, it is to be born of God; if of true valor, it is to fight the good
fight of faith; if of true delight, it is to have joy in the Holy Spirit.
Oh, then, espouse godliness! Here reality is to be had. Of other things we
may say, "They comfort in vain!" (Zech. 10:2)