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 CHARACTERISTICS of a godly man
9. A godly man is a lover of the WORD
"O how love I your law!" Psalm 119:97
1. A godly man loves the WRITTEN Word
Chrysostom compares the Scripture to a garden set with
nuts and flowers. A godly man delights to walk in this garden and sweetly
solace himself. He loves every branch and part of the Word:
1. He loves the COUNSELING part of the Word, as it is a
directory and rule of life. The Word is the sole rule of
Christian duty. It contains in it things to be believed and
practiced. A godly man loves the teachings of the Word.
2. He loves the THREATENING part of the Word.
The Scripture is like the Garden of Eden: as it has a tree of life in
it, so it has a flaming sword at its gates. This is the threatening
of the Word. It flashes fire in the face of every person who goes on
obstinately in wickedness. "Surely God will crush the heads of his enemies,
the hairy crowns of those who go on in their sins." (Psalm 68:21). The Word
gives no indulgence to evil. It will not let a man halt between God
and sin. The true mother would not let the child be divided (1 Kings
3:26), and God will not have the heart divided. The Word thunders out
threatenings against the very appearance of evil. It is like that flying
roll full of curses (Zech. 5:1).
A godly man loves the imprecations of the Word. He
knows there is love in every threat. God would not have us perish; he
therefore mercifully threatens us, so that he may scare us from sin. God's
threats are like the life-buoy, which shows the rocks in the sea and
threatens death to such as come near. The threat is a curbing bit to check
us, so that we may not run in full stride to hell. There is mercy in every
3. He loves the CONSOLATORY part of the Word—the
promises. He goes feeding on these as Samson went on his way
eating the honeycomb (Judges 14:8,9). The promises are all marrow and
sweetness. They are our refreshing draught when we are fainting; they
are the conduits of the water of life. "In the multitude of my thoughts
within me your comforts delight my soul" (Psalm 94:19). The promises were
David's harp to drive away sad thoughts; they were the breast which gave him
the milk of divine consolation.
A godly man shows his love to the Written Word:
(1) By diligently READING it. The noble
Bereans "searched the Scriptures daily" (Acts 17:11). Apollos was mighty in
the Scriptures (Acts 18:24). The Word is our Magna Charta for heaven; we
should be daily reading over this charter. The Word shows what is truth, and
what is error. It is the field where the pearl of great price is hidden. How
we should dig for this pearl! A godly man's heart is the library to hold the
Word of God; it dwells richly in him (Col. 3:16). It is reported of
Melanchthon that when he was young, he always carried the Bible with him and
read it greedily. The Word has a double work: to teach us and to
judge us. Those who will not be taught by the Word, shall be judged by
the Word. Oh, let us make ourselves familiar with the Scripture! What if it
should be as in the times of Diocletian, who commanded by proclamation that
the Bible be burned? Or as in Queen Mary's days, when it spelled death to
have a Bible in English? By diligent conversing with Scripture, we may
carry a Bible in our heads!
(2) By frequently MEDITATING on it. "It is my
meditation all the day" (Psalm 119:97). A pious soul meditates on the
truth and holiness of the Word. He not only has a few
transient thoughts—but leaves his mind steeping in the Scripture. By
meditation, he sucks honey from this sweet flower, and ruminates on holy
truths in his mind.
(3) By DELIGHTING in it. It is his
recreation. "When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my
heart's delight" (Jer. 15:16). Never did a man take such delight in a dish
that he loved, as the prophet did in the Word. And indeed, how can a saint
choose but take great pleasure in the Word? All of his eternal hopes are
contained in it. Does not a son take pleasure in reading his father's will
and testament, in which he bequeaths his estate to him?
(4) By HIDING it. "Your word have I hid in my
heart" (Psalm 119:11) —as one hides a treasure so that it should not be
stolen. The Word is the jewel; the heart is the cabinet where it must be
locked up. Many hide the Word in their memory—but not in their heart. And
why would David enclose the Word in his heart? "That I might be kept from
sinning against you." As a man would carry an antidote about him when he
comes near an infected place, so a godly man carries the Word in his heart
as a spiritual antidote to preserve him from the infection of sin. Why have
so many been poisoned with error, others with moral vice—but because they
have not hidden the Word as a holy antidote in their heart?
(5) By DEFENDING it. A wise man will not let
his land be taken from him; but will defend his title. David looked upon the
Word as his land of inheritance: "Your testimonies have I taken as a
heritage forever" (Psalm 119:111). And do you think he would let his
inheritance be wrested out of his hands? A godly man will not only dispute
for the Word but die for it: "I saw under the altar the souls of those who
were slain for the word of God" (Rev. 6:9).
(6) By PREFERRING it above most precious things.
(a) Above food. "I have esteemed the words of his mouth
more than my necessary food" (Job 23:12).
(b) Above riches. "The law of your mouth is better unto
me than thousands of gold and silver" (Psalm 119:72).
(c) Above worldly honor. Memorable is the story of King
Edward the Sixth. On the day of his coronation, when they presented three
swords before him, signifying to him that he was monarch of three kingdoms,
the king said, "There is still one sword missing." On being asked what that
was, he answered, "The Holy Bible, which is the "Sword of the Spirit" and is
to be preferred before these ensigns of royalty."
(7) By TALKING about it. "My tongue shall
speak of your word" (Psalm 119:172). As a covetous man talks of his rich
purchase, so a godly man speaks of the Word. What a treasure it is, how full
of beauty and sweetness! Those whose mouths the devil has gagged, who never
speak of God's Word, indicate that they never reaped any good from it.
(8) By CONFORMING to it. The Word is his
sundial, by which he sets his life, the balance in which he weighs his
actions. He copies out the Word in his daily walk: "I have kept the faith"
(2 Tim. 4:7). Paul kept the doctrine of faith, and lived the life
Question: Why is a godly man a lover of the Word?
Answer: Because of the excellence of the Word.
1. The Word is our pillar of fire to guide us.
It shows us what rocks we are to avoid; it is the map by which we sail to
the new Jerusalem.
2. The Word is a spiritual mirror through which we may
see our own hearts. The mirror of nature, which the heathen had,
revealed spots in their lives—but this mirror reveals spots in the
imagination; that mirror revealed the spots of their unrighteousness, this
reveals the spots of our righteousness. "When the commandment came, sin
revived, and I died" (Romans 7:9). When the Word came like a mirror, all my
opinion of self-righteousness died.
3. The Word of God is a sovereign comfort in distress.
While we follow this cloud, the rock follows us— "This is my
comfort in my affliction: for your word has quickened me" (Psalm 119:50).
Christ is the fountain of living water, the Word is the golden pipe through
which it runs! What can revive at the hour of death but the word of life
A godly man loves the Word, because of the efficacy it
has had upon him. This day-star has risen in his heart, and ushered
in the Sun of righteousness.
2. A godly man loves the PREACHED Word, which
is a commentary upon the Written Word. The Scriptures are the sovereign oils
and balsams; the preaching of the Word is the pouring of them out. The
Scriptures are the precious spices; the preaching of the Word is the beating
of these spices, which causes a wonderful fragrance and delight. The
Preached Word is "the rod of God's strength" (Psalm 110:2) and "the breath
of his lips" (Isaiah 11:4). What was once said of the city of Thebes, that
it was built by the sound of Amphius' harp, is much more true of soul
conversion—it is built by the sound of the gospel harp. Therefore the
preaching of the Word is called "the power of God to salvation" (1 Cor.
1:24). By this, Christ is said now to speak to us from heaven (Heb. 12:25).
This ministry of the Word is to be preferred before the ministry of angels.
A godly man loves the preached Word, partly from the good
he has found by it—he has felt the dew fall with this manna—and partly
because of God's institution. The Lord has appointed this ordinance to save
him. The king's image makes the coin current. The stamp of divine authority
on the Preached Word makes it an instrument conducive to men's salvation.
Use: Let us test by this characteristic
whether we are godly: Are we lovers of the Word?
1. Do we love the written Word? What sums
of money the martyrs gave for a few leaves of the Bible! Do we make the Word
our bosom friend? As Moses often had "the rod of God" in his hand, so we
should have "the Book of God" in our hand. When we need direction, do we
consult this sacred oracle? When we find corruptions strong, do we make use
of this "sword of the Spirit" to hew them down? When we are disconsolate, do
we go to this bottle of the water of life for comfort? Then we are lovers of
But alas, how can they who are seldom conversant with the
Scriptures say they love them? Their eyes begin to be sore when they look at
a Bible. The two testaments are hung up like rusty armor, which is seldom or
never made use of. The Lord wrote the law with his own finger—but though God
took pains to write, men will not take pains to read. They
would rather look at a pack of cards, than at a Bible!
2. Do we love the preached Word? Do we
prize it in our judgments? Do we receive it into our hearts? Do we fear the
loss of the preached Word more than the loss of peace and trade? Is it the
removal of the ark, which troubles us?
Again, do we attend to the Word with reverential
devotion? When the judge is giving his charge on the bench, all attend. When
the Word is preached, the great God is giving us his charge. Do we listen to
it as to a matter of life and death? This is a good sign that we love the
Again, do we love the holiness of the Word (Psalm
119:140)? The Word is preached to beat down sin and advance holiness. Do we
love it for its spirituality and purity? Many love the Preached Word only
for its eloquence and notion. They come to a sermon as to a music lecture
(Ezek. 33:31,32) or as to a garden to pick flowers—but not to have their
lusts subdued or their hearts bettered. These are like a foolish woman who
paints her face—but neglects her health!
Again, do we love the convictions of the Word? Do we love
the Word when it comes home to our conscience and shoots its arrows of
reproof at our sins? It is the minister's duty sometimes to reprove. He who
can speak smooth words in the pulpit—but does not know how to reprove, is
like a sword with a fine handle, but without an edge! "Rebuke them
sharply" (Titus 2:15). Dip the nail in oil—reprove in love—but strike the
nail home! Now Christian, when the Word touches on your sin and says, "You
are the man!" do you love the reproof? Can you bless God that "the sword of
the Spirit" has divided between you and your lusts? This is indeed a sign of
grace and shows that you are a lover of the Word.
A corrupt heart loves the comforts of the Word—but not
the reproofs: "You hate the one who reproves in court and despise him
who tells the truth!" (Amos 5:10). "Their eyes flash with fire!" Like
venomous creatures that at the least touch spit poison, "When they heard
these things, they were enraged in their hearts and gnashed their teeth at
him!" (Acts 7:54). When Stephen touched their sins, they were furious and
could not endure it.
Question: How shall we know that we love the reproofs
of the Word?
Answer 1: When we desire to sit under a
heart-searching ministry. Who cares for medicines that will not work? A
godly man does not choose to sit under a ministry that will not work upon
Answer 2: When we pray that the Word may meet with
our sins. If there is any traitorous lust in our heart, we would have it
found out and executed. We do not want sin covered—but cured!
We can open our breast to the sword of the Word and say, "Lord, smite this
Answer 3: When we are thankful for a reproof: "Let a
righteous man strike me--it is a kindness; let him rebuke me--it is oil on
my head. My head will not refuse it." (Psalm 141:5). David was glad for a
reproof. Suppose a man were in the mouth of a lion, and another should shoot
the lion and save the man, would he not be thankful? So, when we are in the
mouth of sin, as of a lion, and the minister by a reproof shoots this sin to
death, shall we not be thankful?
A gracious soul rejoices when the sharp lance of the Word
has pierced his abscess. He wears a reproof like a jewel on his ear: "Like
an earring of gold or an ornament of fine gold is a wise man's rebuke to a
listening ear." (Proverbs 25:12). To conclude, it is convincing preaching
which must do the soul good. A nipping reproof prepares for comfort, as a
nipping frost prepares for the sweet flowers of spring.
10. A godly man has the Spirit of God residing in him
"The Holy Spirit which dwells in us" (2 Tim. 1:14; Gal.
4:6). The Holy Spirit is in the godly, in whom he flows in measure. They
have his presence and receive his sacred influences. When the sun comes into
a room, it is not the body of the sun which is there, but the beams which
sparkle from it. Indeed, some divines have thought that the godly have more
than the indwelling of the Spirit; though to say how it is more is
ineffable—is fitter for a more seraphic pen than mine to describe. The
Spirit of God reveals himself in a gracious soul in two ways:
1. By his motions
These are some of that sweet perfume, which the Spirit
breathes upon the heart, by which it is raised into a kind of angelic frame.
Question 1: But how may we distinguish the motions of
the Spirit from a delusion?
Answer: The motions of the Spirit are always
consonant with the Word. The Word is the chariot in which the
Spirit of God rides; whichever way the tide of the Word runs—that way
the wind of the Spirit blows.
Question 2: How may the motions of the Spirit in the
godly be distinguished from the impulses of a natural conscience?
Answer 1: A natural conscience may sometimes provoke
to the same thing as the Spirit does—but not from the same principle.
Natural conscience is a spur to duty—but it drives a man to do his duties
for fear of hell—as the galley slave tugs at the oar for fear of being
beaten. Whereas the Spirit moves a child of God from a more noble
principle—it makes him serve God out of choice, and esteem duty his
Answer 2: The impulses of a natural conscience drive
men only to easier duties of religion, in which the heart is less
exercised, like perfunctory reading or praying. But the motions of the
Spirit in the godly go further, causing them to do the most irksome duties,
like self-reflection, self-humbling; yes, perilous duties, like confessing
Christ's name in times of danger. Divine motions in the heart are like new
wine which seeks vent. When God's Spirit possesses a man, he carries him
full sail through all difficulties!
2. By his virtues. These are various:
(1) God's Spirit has a TEACHING virtue. The
Spirit teaches convincingly (John 16:8). He so teaches as to persuade.
(2) God's Spirit has a SANCTIFYING virtue. The
heart is naturally polluted—but when the Spirit comes into it, he works sin
out and grace in. The Spirit of God was represented by the dove, an emblem
of purity. The Spirit makes the heart a temple of purity and a paradise for
pleasantness. The holy oil of consecration was nothing but a prefiguring of
the Spirit (Exod. 30:25). The Spirit sanctifies a man's mind, causing
it to mint holy meditations. He sanctifies his will, biasing it to
good, so that now it shall be as delightful to serve God as before it was to
sin against him. Sweet powders perfume the linen. So God's Spirit in a man,
perfumes him with holiness and makes his heart a picture of holiness.
(3) God's Spirit has a VIVIFYING virtue. "The
Spirit gives life" (2 Cor. 3:6). As the blowing in an flute makes it sound,
so the breathing of the Spirit causes life and motion. When the prophet
Elijah stretched himself upon the dead child, it revived (1 Kings 17:22); so
God's Spirit stretching himself upon the soul, infuses life into it.
As our life is from the Spirit's operations, so is our
liveliness: "the Spirit lifted me up" (Ezek. 3:14). When the heart is bowed
down and is listless to duty, the Spirit of God lifts it up. He puts a sharp
edge upon the affections; he makes love ardent, and hope
lively. The Spirit removes the weights of the soul and gives it wings:
"Before I was aware, my soul became like the chariots of Amminadib" (Song
6:12). The wheels of the soul were pulled off before, and it drove on
heavily—but when the Spirit of the Almighty possesses a man, now he runs
swiftly in the ways of God, and his soul is like the chariots of Amminadib.
(4) God's Spirit has a REGULATING virtue. He
rules and governs. God's Spirit sits paramount in the soul; he gives check
to the violence of corruption; he will not allow a man to be vain and loose
like others. The Spirit of God will not be put out of office; he exercises
his authority over the heart, "bringing into captivity every thought to the
obedience of Christ" (2 Cor. 10:5).
(5) The Spirit has a MOLLIFYING virtue.
Therefore he is compared to fire which softens the wax. The Spirit turns
flint into flesh: "I will give you a heart of flesh" (Ezek. 36:26). How
shall this be effected? "I will put my Spirit within you" (v.27). While the
heart is hard, it lies like a log, and is not wrought upon either by
judgments or by mercies—but when God's Spirit comes in, he makes a man's
heart as tender as his eye—and now it is made yielding to divine
(6) The Spirit of God has a FORTIFYING virtue.
He infuses strength and assistance for work; he is a Spirit of power (2 Tim.
1:7). God's Spirit carries a man above himself: "strengthened with might by
his Spirit in the inner man" (Eph. 3:16). The Spirit confirms faith and
animates courage. He lifts one end of the cross, and makes it lighter to
bear. The Spirit gives not only a sufficiency of strength—but an abundance.
Question: How shall we know whether we are acting in
the strength of God's Spirit, or in the strength of our own abilities?
Answer 1: When we humbly cast ourselves upon God for
assistance, as David going out against Goliath cast himself upon God for
help: "I come to you in the name of the Lord" (1 Sam. 17:45).
Answer 2: When our duties are divinely qualified, and
we do them with pure aims.
Answer 3: When we have found God going along with us,
we give him the glory for everything (1 Cor. 15:10). This clearly evinces
that the duty was carried on by the strength of God's Spirit more than by
any innate abilities of our own.
(7) God's Spirit has a COMFORTING virtue. The
sky, though it is a bright and transparent body, still has interposed
clouds. Just so, sadness may arise in a gracious heart (Psalm 43:5).
This sadness is caused usually through the malice of Satan, who, if he
cannot destroy us, will disturb us. But God's Spirit within
us, sweetly cheers and revives. He is called the parakletos, "the
Comforter" (John 14:16). These comforts are real and palpable. Hence it is
called "the seal of the Spirit" (Eph. 1:13). When a deed is sealed, it is
firm and unquestionable. So when a Christian has the seal of the Spirit, his
comforts are confirmed. Every godly man has these revivings of the Spirit in
some degree; he has the seeds and beginnings of joy, though the flower is
not fully ripe and blown.
Question: How does the Spirit give comfort?
Answer 1: By showing us that we are in a state of grace.
A Christian cannot always see his riches. The work of grace may
be written in the heart, like shorthand which a Christian cannot read. The
Spirit gives him a key to open these dark characters, and spell out his
adoption, whereupon he has joy and peace. "We have received the Spirit which
is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God"
(1 Cor. 2:12).
Answer 2: The Spirit comforts by giving us some ravishing
apprehensions of God's love. "The love of God is shed abroad in
our hearts by the Holy Spirit" (Romans 5:5). God's love is a box of precious
ointment, and it is only the Spirit who can break this box open, and fill us
with its sweet perfume.
Answer 3: The Spirit comforts by taking us to the blood
of Christ. As when a man is weary and ready to faint, we take him
to the water, and he is refreshed; so when we are fainting under the burden
of sin, the Spirit takes us to the fountain of Christ's blood: "In that day
there shall be a fountain opened . . . " (Zech. 13:1). The Spirit enables us
to drink the waters of justification which run out of Christ's side.
The Spirit applies whatever Christ has purchased; he shows us that our sins
are done away in Christ, and though we are spotted and defiled in
ourselves—we are undefiled in our Head, Christ.
Answer 4: The Spirit comforts by enabling conscience to
comfort. The child must be taught, before it can speak. The
Spirit opens the mouth of conscience, and helps it to speak and witness to a
man that his state is good, whereupon he begins to receive comfort:
"conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit" (Romans 9:1).
Conscience draws up a certificate for a man, then the Holy Spirit comes and
signs the certificate.
Answer 5: The Spirit conveys the oil of joy through two
1. The ORDINANCES. As Christ in prayer had his
countenance changed (Luke 9:29) and there was a glorious luster upon his
face; so often in the use of holy ordinances the godly have such raptures of
joy and soul transfigurations, that they have been carried above the world,
and despised all things below.
2. The PROMISES. The promises are comforting:
(1) For their sureness (Romans 4:16). God in the
promises has put his truth in pawn.
(2) For their suitableness, being calculated for
the Christian's every condition. The promises are like an herb garden. There
is no disease but some herb may be found there to cure it. The promises of
themselves cannot comfort--but only as the Spirit enables us to suck
consolation from these honeycombs. The promises are like a still full
of herbs—but this still will not drop unless the fire is put under it. So
when the Spirit of God (who is compared to fire) is put to the still of the
promises, then they distill consolation into the soul. Thus we see how the
Spirit is in the godly by his virtues.
Objection: But is being filled with the Spirit
the sign of a godly man? Are not the wicked said to partake of the
Holy Spirit (Heb. 6:4)?
Answer: Wicked men may partake of the Spirit's
working—but not of his indwelling. They may have God's Spirit move
upon them; but the godly have him enter into them (Ezek. 3:24).
Objection: But the unregenerate taste the
heavenly gift (Heb. 6:4).
Answer: It is with them as it is with cooks who may
have a smack and taste of the meat they are dressing—but they
are not nourished by it. Tasting there is opposed to eating.
The godly have not only a drop or taste of the Spirit—but he is in them like
a river of living water (John 7:38).
Use 1: It brands those as ungodly who do not
have God's Spirit. "If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does
not belong to Christ" (Romans 8:9). And if he does not belong to Christ—then
whose is he? To what regiment does he belong? It is the misery of a
sinner—that he does not have God's Spirit. I think it is very offensive to
hear men who never had God's Spirit say, "Take not your holy spirit from us"
(Psalm 51:11). Will those who are drunkards and swearers say they have God's
Spirit in them? Do those who are malicious and unclean have God's Spirit? It
would be blasphemy to say these have the Spirit. Will the blessed Spirit
leave his celestial palace to come and live in a foul prison? A sinner's
heart is a jail, both for darkness and obnoxiousness, and will God's free
Spirit be confined to a prison (Psalm 51:12)? A sinner's heart is the
emblem of hell. What would God's Spirit do there? Wicked hearts are not
a temple—but a pigsty, where the unclean spirit makes his abode—"the prince
of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the children of
disobedience" (Eph. 2:2).
We would be loath to live in a house haunted by evil
spirits; a sinner's heart is haunted. "After the sop Satan entered" (John
13:27). Satan abuses the godly—but enters into the wicked.
When the devils went into the herd of swine, "the whole herd rushed down the
steep bank into the sea and perished in the water" (Matt. 8:32). Why is it
that men rush so greedily to the commission of sin—but because the devil has
entered into these swine!
Secondly, this cuts off from godliness those who not
only lack the Spirit—but deride him—like those Jews who said, "These men are
full of new wine" (Acts 2:13). And indeed, so the apostles were—they were
full of the wine of the Spirit. How God's Spirit is scoffed at by the sons
of Belial! O wretches, to make those tongues which should be organs of God's
praise, into instruments to blaspheme! Have you none to throw your jests at
but the Spirit? Deriding the Spirit comes very near to despising him. How
can men be sanctified but by the Spirit? Therefore to reproach him is to
make merry with their own damnation.
Use 2: As you would be listed in the number of
the godly, strive for the blessed indwelling of the Spirit. Pray with
Melanchthon, "Lord, inflame my soul with your Holy Spirit"; and with the
spouse, "Awake, O north wind; and come, O south wind; and blow upon my
garden" (Song 4:16). As a mariner would desire a wind to drive him to sea,
so beg for the prosperous gales of the Spirit and the promise may add wings
to prayer. "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your
children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to
those who ask him?" (Luke 11:13). God's Spirit is a rich jewel. Go to God
for him: "Lord, give me your Spirit. Where is the jewel you promised me?
When shall my soul be like Gideon's fleece, wet with the dew of heaven?"
Consider how necessary the Spirit is. Without
him we can do nothing acceptable to God:
1. We cannot PRAY without him. He is a Spirit
of supplication (Zech. 12:10). He helps both the inventiveness and the
affection: "The Spirit helps us with sighs and groans" (Romans 8:26).
2. We cannot resist TEMPTATION without him.
"You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you" (Acts 1:8).
He who has the tide of corrupt nature, and the wind of temptation,
must of necessity be carried down the stream of sin—if the contrary wind of
the Spirit does not blow.
3. We cannot be FRUITFUL without the Spirit.
"The golden rain from heaven waters the thirsty hearts." Why is the Spirit
compared to dew and rain—but to show us how unable we are to bring forth a
crop of grace unless the dew of God falls upon us?
4. Without the Spirit, no ORDINANCE is effectual to us.
Ordinances are the conduit pipes of grace—but the Spirit is the spring. Some
are content that they have a "Levite for their priest" (Judges 17:13)—but
never look any further. As if a merchant should be content that his ship has
good tackling and is well manned, though it never has a gale of wind. The
ship of ordinances will not carry us to heaven, though an angel is the
pilot, unless the wind of God's Spirit blows. The Spirit is the soul of the
Word, without which it is but a dead letter. Ministers may prescribe
medicine—but it is God's Spirit who must make it work! Our hearts are like
David's body when it grew old: "they covered him with clothes—but he got no
heat" (1 Kings 1:1). So though the ministers of God ply us with prayers and
counsel as with hot clothes—yet we are cold and chilly until God's Spirit
comes; and then we say, like the disciples, "Did not our heart burn within
us!" (Luke 24:32). Oh, therefore, what need we have of the Spirit!
Thirdly, you who have the blessed Spirit manifested
by his energy and vital operations:
1. Acknowledge God's distinguishing love. The
Spirit is an earmark of election (1 John 3:24). Christ gave the bag to Judas
but not his Spirit. The Spirit is a love token. Where God gives his Spirit
as a pawn, he gives himself as a portion. The Spirit is a comprehensive
blessing; he is put for all good things (Matt. 7:11). What would you be
without the Spirit but like so many carcasses? Without this, Christ would
not profit you. The blood of God is not enough without the breath of God. Oh
then, be thankful for the Spirit. This lodestone will never stop drawing you
until it has drawn you up to heaven.
2. If you have this Spirit, do not grieve him
(Eph. 4:30). Shall we grieve our Comforter?
Question: How do we grieve the Spirit?
Answer 1: When we unkindly repel his motions. The
Spirit sometimes whispers in our ears and calls to us as God did to Jacob,
"Arise, go up to Bethel" (Gen. 35:1). So the Spirit says, "Arise, go to
prayer, retire to meet your God." Now when we stifle these motions and
entertain temptations to vanity, this is grieving the Spirit. If we check
the motions of the Spirit, we shall lose the comforts of the
Answer 2: We grieve the Spirit when we deny the work
of the Spirit in our hearts. If someone gives another person a gift, and he
should deny it and say he never received it, this would be to abuse the love
of his friend. So, Christian, when God has given you his Spirit, witnessed
by those meltings of heart and passionate desires for heaven—yet you deny
that you ever had any renewing work of the Spirit in you, this is base
ingratitude and grieves the good Spirit. Renounce the sinful works of the
flesh—but do not deny the gracious work of the Spirit.
11. A godly man is a HUMBLE man
Augustine calls humility "the mother of the grace." But
before I show you who the humble man is, I shall lay down three
1. I distinguish between being humbled and humble
A man may be humbled and not humble. A sinner may be
humbled by affliction. His condition is low, but not his
disposition. A godly man is not only humbled, but humble. His heart is
as low as his condition.
2. I distinguish between outward and inward humility
There is a great deal of difference between humble
behavior and a humble spirit.
(1) A person may behave humbly towards others—yet be
proud. Who more humble than Absalom in his outward behavior? "When people
tried to bow before him, Absalom wouldn't let them. Instead, he took them by
the hand and embraced them." (2 Sam. 15:5). But though he acted humbly, he
aspired to the crown (v. 10). Here was pride dressed in humility's
(2) A person may behave humbly towards God—yet be proud.
"Ahab put on sackcloth and fasted and went softly" (1 Kings 21:27)—but his
heart was not humble. A man may bow his head like a bulrush—yet lift up the
ensigns of pride in his heart.
3. I distinguish between humility and policy
Many make a show of humility to achieve their own ends.
The Papists seem to be the most humble, mortified saints—but it is rather
subtlety than humility. For by this means, they get the revenues of the
earth into their possession. All this they may do, and yet have no
Question: How may a Christian know that he is humble—and
Answer 1: A humble soul is emptied of all swelling
thoughts of himself. Bernard calls humility a self-annihilation.
"You will save the humble" (Job 22:29). In the Hebrew it is "him that is of
low eyes". A humble man has lower thoughts of himself than others can have
of him. David, though a king, still looked upon himself as a worm: "I am a
worm, and no man" (Psalm 22:6). Bradford, a martyr, still subscribes himself
a sinner. "If I be righteous—yet will I not lift up my head" (Job
10:15)—like the violet which is a sweet flower—but hangs down the head.
Answer 2: A humble soul thinks better of others than of
himself. "Let each esteem others better than themselves" (Phil.
2:3). A humble man values others at a higher rate than himself, and the
reason is because he can see his own heart better than he can another's. He
sees his own corruption and thinks surely it is not so with others; their
graces are not so weak as his; their corruptions are not so
strong. "Surely", he thinks, "they have better hearts than I." A humble
Christian studies his own infirmities, and another's excellences
and that makes him put a higher value upon others than himself. "Surely
I am more brutish than any man" (Proverbs 30:2). And Paul, though he was the
chief of the apostles, still calls himself "less than the least of all
saints" (Eph. 3:8).
Answer 3: A humble soul has a low esteem of his duties.
Pride is apt to breed in our holy things, as the worm breeds in the
sweetest fruit, and froth comes from the most tasty wine. A humble
person bemoans not only his sins—but also his duties. When he has prayed and
wept, "Alas," he says, "how little I have done! God might damn me for all
this!" He says, like good Nehemiah, "Remember me, O my God, concerning this
also, and spare me" (Neh. 13:22). "Remember, Lord, how I have poured out my
soul—but spare me and pardon me." He sees that his best duties weigh too
light; therefore he desires that Christ's merits may be put into the scales.
The humble saint blushes when he looks at his copy. He sees he cannot write
evenly, nor without blotting. This humbles him to think that his best duties
run to seed. He drops poison upon his sacrifice. "Oh," he
says, "I dare not say I have prayed or wept; those which I write down as
duties, God might write down as sins!"
Answer 4: A humble man is always giving bills of
indictment against himself. He complains, not of his poor
circumstances—but of his poor heart! "Oh, this evil heart of
unbelief!" "Lord," says Hooper, "I am hell—but you are heaven." A hypocrite
is forever telling how good he is. A humble soul is forever saying how bad
he is. Paul, that high-flown saint, was caught up into the third heaven—but
how this bird of paradise bemoans his corruptions! "O wretched man that I
am!" (Romans 7:24). Holy Bradford subscribes himself, "the hard-hearted
sinner". The more knowledge a humble Christian has, the more he
complains of ignorance; the more faith a humble Christian has, the
more he bewails his unbelief.
Answer 5: A humble man will justify God in an afflicted
condition. "You are just in all that is brought upon us" (Neh.
9:33). If men oppress and calumniate, the humble soul acknowledges God's
righteousness in the midst of severity: "Lo, I have sinned" (2 Sam. 24:17).
"Lord, my pride, my barrenness, my worldliness have been the procuring cause
of all these judgments." When clouds are around about God—yet
"righteousness is the habitation of his throne" (Psalm 97:2).
Answer 6: A humble soul is a Christ-magnifier
(Phil. 1:20). He gives the glory of all his actions to Christ and free
grace. King Canute took the crown off his own head and set it upon a
crucifix. So a humble saint takes the crown of honor from his own head and
sets it upon Christ's. And the reason is the love that he bears to Christ.
Love can part with anything to the object loved. Isaac loved Rebekah and he
gave away his jewels to her (Gen. 24:53). The humble saint loves Christ
entirely, therefore can part with anything to him. He gives away to Christ
the honor and praise of all he does. "Let Christ wear those jewels!"
Answer 7: A humble soul is willing to take a reproof for
sin. A wicked man is too high to stoop to a reproof. The prophet
Micaiah told King Ahab of his sin, and the King said, "I hate him!" (1 Kings
22:8). Reproof to a proud man is like pouring water on lime, which grows the
hotter. A gracious soul loves the one who reproves: "rebuke a wise man, and
he will love you" (Proverbs 9:8). The humble-spirited Christian can bear the
reproach of an enemy, and the reproof of a friend.
Answer 8: A humble man is willing to have his name and
gifts eclipsed, so that God's glory may be increased. He is
content to be outshone by others in gifts and esteem, so that the crown of
Christ may shine the brighter. This is the humble man's motto: "Let me
decrease; let Christ increase." It is his desire that Christ should be
exalted, and if this is effected, whoever is the instrument, he rejoices.
"some preach Christ of envy" (Phil. 1:15). They preached to take away some
of Paul's hearers. "Well," says he, "Christ is preached; and I therein do
rejoice" (v.18). A humble Christian is content to be laid aside, if God has
any other tools to work with which may bring him more glory.
Answer 9: A humble saint is content with that condition
which God sees is best for him. A proud man complains that he has
no more; a humble man wonders that he has so much: "I am not worthy of the
least of all your mercies!" (Gen. 32:10). When the heart lies low, it can
stoop to a low condition. A Christian looking at his sins wonders that
things are no worse with him. He says that his mercies are greater than he
deserves. He knows that the worst piece which God carves for him, is better
than he deserves; therefore he takes it thankfully upon his knees.
Answer 10: A humble Christian will stoop to the lowest
person and the lowest office; he will visit the poorest member of
Christ. Lazarus' sores are more precious to him than Dives' royal robes. He
does not say, "Stand aside, come not near to me, for I am holier than you"
(Isaiah 65:5)—but "condescends to men of low estate" (Romans 12:16).
Use 1: If humility is the inseparable
character of a godly man, let us test our hearts by this touchstone. Are we
humble? Alas, where does their godliness appear—who are swollen with pride
and ready to burst? But though men are proud, they will not confess it. This
bastard of pride is born—but none are willing to father it.
Therefore let me ask a few questions and let conscience answer:
1. Are not those proud, who are given to boasting?
"Your boasting is not good." (1 Corinthians 5:6).
(1) Many are proud of their riches. Their hearts
swell with their estates. Bernard calls pride the rich man's cousin. "Your
heart has become proud because of your wealth." (Ezek. 28:5).
(2) Many are proud of their apparel. They dress
themselves in such fashions as to make the devil fall in love with them.
Painted faces, gaudy attire, naked breasts, what are these, but the banners
which sinful pride displays?
(3) Many are proud of their beauty. The body is
but dust and blood kneaded together. Solomon says, "Beauty is vain"
(Proverbs 31:30). Yet some are so vain as to be proud of vanity!
(4) Many are proud of their gifts and abilities.
These trappings and ornaments do not approve them in God's eyes. An angel
is a creature of great abilities; but take away humility from an
angel—and he is a devil!
2. Are not those who have a high opinion of their own
excellences proud? Those who look at themselves in the magnifying
mirror of self-love, appear in their own eyes better than they are. Simon
Magus boasted that he was some great one (Acts 8:9). Alexander felt the need
to be the son of Jupiter and of the race of the gods. Sapor, King of
Persia, styles himself "Brother of the Sun and Moon". I have read of a pope
who trod upon the neck of Frederick the Emperor and as a cloak for his pride
cited that text, "You shall tread upon the lion, and the dragon shall you
trample under feet" (Psalm. 91:13). There is no idol like self; the proud
man bows down to this idol.
3. Are not those who despise others proud?
"The Pharisees trusted in themselves, that they were righteous, and despised
others" (Luke 18:9). The Chinese people say that Europe has one eye and they
have two, and all the rest of the world is blind. A proud man looks upon
others with such an eye of scorn, as Goliath did upon David: "when the
Philistine looked about, and saw David, he disdained him" (1 Sam. 17:42).
Those who stand upon the pinnacle of pride, look upon other men as no bigger
4. Are not those who trumpet their own praise proud?
"Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody" (Acts 5:36). A proud man
is the herald of his own good deeds; he blazes his own fame, and therein
lies his vice, to paint his own virtue.
5. Are not those proud, who take the glory due to God, to
themselves? "Is not this great Babylon, which I have
built?" (Dan. 4:30). So says the proud man, "Are not these the prayers I
have made? Are not these the works of charity I have done?" When Herod had
made an oration and the people cried him up for a god (Acts 12:22), he was
well content to have that honor done to him. Pride is the greatest
sacrilege; it robs God of his glory!
6. Are not those who are never pleased with their
condition proud? They speak harshly of God, charging his care and
wisdom, as if he had dealt badly with them. God himself cannot please a
proud man. He is forever finding fault, and flying in the face of heaven.
Oh, let us search if there is any of this leaven of
pride in us. Man is naturally a proud piece of flesh. This sin of pride
runs in the blood. Our first parents fell by their pride. They aspired to
deity. There are the seeds of this sin of pride in the best—but the godly do
not allow themselves in it. They strive to kill this weed, by mortification.
But certainly where this sin reigns and prevails, it cannot stand with
grace. You may as well call him who lacks wisdom, a prudent man; as
him who lacks humility, a godly man.
Use 2: Strive for this characteristic: be
humble. It is an apostolic exhortation, "Clothe yourselves with humility
toward one another, because, "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the
humble." (1 Pet. 5:5). Put humility on as an embroidered robe. It is better
to lack anything, rather than humility. It is better to lack gifts rather
than humility. No, it is better to lack "the comforts of the Spirit" rather
than lack humility. "What does the Lord require of you—but to walk humbly
with your God?" (Mic. 6:8).
1. The more value any man has, the more humble he is.
Feathers fly up—but gold descends! The golden saint descends in
humility. Some of the ancients have compared humility to the Celidonian
stone, which is little for substance—but of rare virtue.
2. God loves a humble soul. It is not our high
birth—but our humble hearts, which God delights in. A humble spirit is in
God's view: "to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a
contrite spirit" (Isaiah 66:2). A humble heart is God's palace! "For this is
what the high and lofty One says—he who lives forever, whose name is holy—I
live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly
in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the
contrite." (Isaiah 57:15). Great personages, besides their houses of state,
have lesser houses which upon occasion they retreat to. Besides God's house
of state in heaven, he has the humble soul for his retiring house, where he
takes up his rest, and solaces himself. Let Italy boast that it is, for
pleasure, the garden of the world. A humble heart glories in this, that it
is the presence chamber of the great and glorious King!
3. The times we live in are humbling. The Lord
seems to say to us now, as he did to Israel, "Remove your jewelry and
ornaments until I decide what to do with you." (Exod. 33:5). "My displeasure
is breaking forth—I have eclipsed the light of the sanctuary, I have stained
the waters with blood, I have shot the arrow of pestilence—therefore lay
down your pride—"Remove your jewelry and ornaments!" Woe to those who lift
themselves up, when God is casting them down. When should people be
humble—if not when under the rod? "Humble yourselves under the mighty hand
of God" (1 Pet. 5:6). When God afflicts his people, and cuts them short in
their privileges, it is time then to "sit in sackcloth—and sit in the dust"
4. What a horrid sin pride is! Chrysostom
calls it "the mother of hell". Pride is a complicated evil, as Aristotle
said. Justice encompasses all virtue in itself; so pride encompasses all
vice. Pride is a spiritual drunkenness; it flies up like wine into the brain
and intoxicates it. Pride is idolatry; a proud man is a self-worshiper.
Pride is revenge; Haman plotted Mordecai's death because he would not bow
the knee. How odious is this sin to God! "Everyone who is proud in heart, is
an abomination to the Lord!" (Proverbs 16:5). "I hate pride and arrogance!"
5. The mischief of pride. It is the breakneck
of souls! "As surely as I live," says the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel,
"Moab and Ammon will be destroyed as completely as Sodom and Gomorrah. Their
land will become a place of stinging nettles, salt pits, and eternal
desolation. They will receive the wages of their pride!" (Zeph. 2:9,10).
"Doves", says Pliny, "take a pride in their feathers, and in their flying
high; at last they fly so high that they are a prey to the hawk." Men fly so
high in pride that at last they are a prey to the devil, the prince of the
6. Humility raises one's esteem in the eyes of others.
All give respect to the humble: "Before honor is humility" (Proverbs 15:33).
Question: What means may we use to be humble?
Answer 1: Let us set before us the golden pattern of
Christ. His degree is 'doctorate in humility'. "But made himself of
no reputation, and was made in the likeness of men" (Phil. 2:7). O what
abasement it was for the Son of God to take our flesh! No, that Christ
should take our nature when it was in disgrace, being stained with sin—this
was the wonder of humility. Look at a humble Savior—and let the plumes of
pride fall off!
Answer 2: Study God's immensity and purity; a sight
of glory humbles. Elijah wrapped his face in a mantle when God's glory
passed before him (1 Kings 19:13). The stars vanish when the sun appears.
Answer 3: Let us study ourselves.
First, our dark side. By looking at our faces in
the mirror of the Word, we see our spots. What a world of sin swarms
in us! We may say with Bernard, "Lord, I am nothing but sin or sterility,
either sinfulness or barrenness."
Secondly, our light side. Is there any good in us?
1. How disproportionate is our good—compared to the
means of grace we have enjoyed! There is still something lacking in our
faith (1 Thess. 3:10). O Christian, do not be proud of what you have—but be
humble for what you lack.
2. The grace we have is not of our own growth. We
are indebted to Christ and free grace for it. As he said of that axe which
fell in the water, "Alas, master, for it was borrowed" (2 Kings 6:5),
so I may say of all the good and excellence in us, "It is borrowed". Would
it not be folly to be proud of a ring that is loaned to us? "For who makes
you to differ from another? And what have you that you did not receive?" (1
Cor. 4:7). The moon has no cause to be proud of her light—as she
borrows it from the sun.
3. How far short we come of others! Perhaps other
Christians are giants in grace; they are in Christ not only before
us—but above us. We are but like the foot in Christ's body;
they are like the eye.
4. Our beauty is spotted. The church is said to be
"fair as the moon" (Song 6:10), which when it shines brightest, has a dark
spot in it. Faith is mixed with unbelief. A Christian has that in his very
grace, which may humble him.
5. If we would be humble, let us contemplate our
mortality. Shall dust exalt itself? The thoughts of the grave should
bury our pride. They say that when there is a swelling in the body,
the hand of a dead man stroking that part cures the swelling. The serious
meditation of death is enough to cure the swelling of pride.
12. A godly man is a PRAYING man.
"Let everyone who is godly pray to You." Psalm 32:6
As soon as grace is poured in—prayer is
poured out! "But I give myself unto prayer" (Psalm 109:4). In the Hebrew it
is, "but I prayer". Prayer and I are all one. Prayer is the soul's communion
with heaven. God comes down to us by his Spirit—and we go up to him by
prayer. Caligula placed his idols—as whispering in Jupiter's ear.
Prayer is a whispering in God's ear! A godly man cannot live without
prayer. A man cannot live unless he takes his breath, nor can the soul,
unless it breathes forth its desires to God. As soon as the babe of grace is
born, it cries. No sooner was Paul converted than "behold, he prays!" (Acts
9:11). No doubt he prayed before, being a Pharisee—but it was either
superficially or superstitiously. But when the work of grace had
been done in his soul, behold, now he prays!
A godly man is on the mount of prayer every day. He
begins the day with prayer. Before he opens his shop—he opens his
heart to God! We burn sweet incense in our houses; a godly man's house
is "a house of incense"; he airs it with the incense of prayer. He engages
in no business without seeking God. A godly man consults God in everything;
he asks God's permission and his blessing. The Greeks asked counsel at their
oracles; just so, a godly man enquires at the divine oracle (Gen. 24:12; 1
Sam. 23:3,4). A true saint continually shoots up his heart to heaven, by
Question: Is prayer a sign of a godly man? May not a
hypocrite pray eloquently and with seeming devotion?
Answer: He may: "they seek me daily" (Isaiah 58:2).
But a hypocrite does not pray "in the Spirit" (Eph. 6:18). A man may have
the gift of prayer, and not have the spirit of prayer.
Question: How shall we know that we have the spirit
Answer: When the prayer which we make is spiritual.
Question: What is it to make a SPIRITUAL PRAYER?
Answer 1: When we pray with KNOWLEDGE. Under
the law, Aaron was to "light the lamps" when he burned the incense on the
altar (Exod. 30:7). Incense typified prayer, and the lighting of the lamps
typified knowledge. When the incense of prayer burns, the lamp of knowledge
must be lit: "I will pray with the understanding" (1 Cor. 14:15). We must
know the majesty and holiness of God, so that we may be deeply affected with
reverence when we come before him. We must put up such petitions as are
exactly adequate and agreeable to God's will. "Be not rash with your mouth,
to utter anything before God" (Eccles. 5:2). The Lord would not have the
blind offered to him (Mal. 1:8). How can we pray with affection when we
do not pray with judgment? The Papists pray in an unknown tongue. Christ may
reply to them as he did to the mother of Zebedee's children, "You know not
what you ask" (Matt. 20:22). He who prays he knows not how, shall be heard
he knows not when.
Answer 2: A spiritual prayer is when the HEART and spirit
pray. There are not only words but desires. It is excellent when
a man can say, "Lord, my heart prays." Hannah "prayed in her heart" (1 Sam.
1:13). The sound of a trumpet comes from within—and the excellent music of
prayer comes from within the heart. If the heart does not accompany duty—it
is speaking, not praying.
Answer 3: A spiritual prayer is a FERVENT prayer.
"The effectual fervent prayer . . . avails much" (Jas. 5:16).
The heart, like the mainspring, should carry the affections in a most
zealous and rapid manner. Fervency is the wing of prayer by which it
ascends to heaven. Prayer is expressed by sighs and groans (Romans 8:26). It
is not so much the gifts of the Spirit—as the groans of the
Spirit, which God likes. Prayer is called a "wrestling" (Gen. 32:24) and a
"pouring out of the soul" (1 Sam. 1:15). Prayer is compared to incense
(Psalm 141:2). Incense without fire makes no sweet smell. Prayer without
fervency is like incense without fire. Christ prayed with "Strong crying and
tears" (Heb. 5:7); crying prayer prevails. When the heart is inflamed in
prayer, a Christian is carried as it were in a fiery chariot up to heaven.
Answer 4: A spiritual prayer is such as comes from a
BROKEN heart. "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit" (Psalm
51:17). The incense was to be beaten, to typify the breaking of the
heart in prayer. It is not the eloquent tongue—but the melting heart—which
Moses said to the Lord, "I am not eloquent." "Oh,"
says a Christian, "I cannot pray like others." But can you weep and sigh?
Does your soul melt out at your eyes? God accepts broken expressions, when
they come from broken hearts. I have read of a plant which bears no
fruit—but it weeps forth a kind of gum which is very costly. So, though you
do not flourish with those gifts and expressions like others—yet if you can
weep forth tears from a contrite heart, these are exceedingly precious to
God, and he will put them in his bottle. Jacob wept in prayer and had "power
over the angel" (Hos. 12:4).
Answer 5: A spiritual prayer is a BELIEVING prayer.
"Whatever you shall ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive" (Matt.
21:22). The reason why so many prayers suffer shipwreck, is because they
split against the rock of unbelief. Praying without faith, is like
shooting without bullets. When faith takes prayer by the hand, then we draw
near to God. We should come to God in prayer like the leper: "Lord, if you
will, you can make me clean" (Matt. 8:2). It is a disparagement to deity to
have such a whisper in the heart, that "God's ear is heavy and cannot hear"
(Isaiah 59:1). What is said of the people of Israel may be applied to
prayer—"They could not enter in, because of unbelief" (Heb. 3:19).
Answer 6: A spiritual prayer is a HOLY prayer.
"Lift up holy hands in prayer" (1 Tim. 2:8). Prayer must be offered on
the altar of a pure heart. Sin lived in—makes the heart hard, and God's
ear deaf. Sin stops the mouth of prayer. Sin does what the thief does to the
traveler—puts a gag in his mouth so that he cannot speak. Sin poisons and
infests prayer. A wicked man's prayer carries the plague, and will God come
near him? The loadstone loses its virtue when it is spread with garlic; so
does prayer when it is polluted with sin. "If I regard iniquity in my heart,
the Lord will not hear me" (Psalm 66:18). It is foolish to pray against sin
and then to sin against prayer. A spiritual prayer, like the spirits of
wine, must be refined and taken off the lees and dregs of sin: "that they
may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness" (Mal. 3:3). If the
heart is holy—this altar will sanctify the gift.
Answer 7: A spiritual prayer is a HUMBLE prayer.
"Lord, you have heard the desire of the humble" (Psalm 10:17). Prayer is the
asking of an alms, which requires humility. "The publican, standing afar
off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven—but smote upon his
breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner" (Luke 18:13). God's
incomprehensible glory may even amaze us and strike a holy consternation
into us, when we approach near to him: "O my God, I blush to lift up my face
to you" (Ezra 9:6). It is lovely to see a poor nothing lie prostrate
at the feet of its Maker. "Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto
the Lord—who am but dust and ashes" (Gen. 18:27). The lower the heart
descends—the higher the prayer ascends.
Answer 8: A spiritual prayer is when we pray in the NAME
OF CHRIST. To pray in the name of Christ is not only to name
Christ in prayer—but to pray in the hope and confidence of Christ's
mediation. As a child claims his estate in the right of his father who
purchased it, so we come for mercy in the name of Christ, who has purchased
it for us in his blood. Unless we pray thus, we do not pray at all; no, we
rather provoke God. As it was with Uzziah, when he wanted to offer incense
without a priest, God was angry and struck him with leprosy (2 Chron.
26:16-19). So when we do not come in Christ's name in prayer, we offer up
incense without a priest, and what can we expect but to meet with wrath?
Answer 9: A spiritual prayer is when we pray out of LOVE
to prayer. A wicked man may pray—but he does not love
prayer. "Will he delight himself in the Almighty?" (Job 27:10). A godly man
is carried on the wings of delight. He is never so well, as when he is
praying. He is not forced with fear—but fired with love. "I
will make them joyful in my house of prayer" (Isaiah 56:7).
Answer 10: A spiritual prayer is when we have SPIRITUAL
GOALS in prayer. There is a vast difference between a spiritual
prayer and a carnal desire. The goals of a hypocrite are selfish and carnal.
He looks asquint in prayer. It is not the sense of his spiritual needs which
moves him—but rather his lusts. "You ask amiss, that you may consume it upon
your lusts" (Jas. 4:3). The sinner prays more for food, than for
grace. This, God does not interpret as praying—but as howling:
"They do not cry out to me from their hearts but howl upon their
beds. They gather together for grain and new wine but turn away from me. " (Hos.
Prayers which lack a good aim—lack a good
answer. A godly man has spiritual goals in prayer. He sends out his
prayer as a merchant sends out his ship, so that he may have large returns
of spiritual blessings. His design in prayer is that his heart may be more
holy and that he may have more communion with God. A godly man engages in
the trade of prayer—so that he may increase the stock of grace.
Answer 11: A spiritual prayer is accompanied with the use
of MEANS. There must be works—as well as prayer. When
Hezekiah was sick he did not only pray for recovery—but he "prepared a
poultice of figs and applies it to the boil" (Isaiah 38:21). Thus it is in
the case of the soul when we pray against sin and avoid temptations. When we
pray for grace and use opportunities to the full, this is laying a fig on
the boil which will make us recover. To pray for holiness and neglect
the means—is like winding up the clock and taking off the weights.
Answer 12: A spiritual prayer is that which leaves a
SPIRITUAL MOOD behind upon the heart. A Christian is better after
prayer. He has gained more strength over sin, as a man by exercise gets
strength. The heart after prayer keeps a tincture of holiness, as the vessel
favors and relishes of the wine which is put into it. Having been with God
on the mount—Moses' face shone. So, having been on the mount of prayer—our
graces shine and our lives shine. This is the sign of a godly
man—he prays in the Spirit. This is the right kind of praying. The gift
of prayer is ordinary—like culinary fire. But spiritual prayer is
more rare and excellent—like elemental fire which comes from heaven.
Use 1: Is a godly man of a praying spirit?
Then this excludes from being godly:
1. Those who do not pray at all. Their houses
are unhallowed houses. It is made the note of a reprobate that "he does not
call upon God" (Psalm 14:4). Does that poor creature who never asks for
alms, think that he will receive any? Do those who never seek mercy from
God, think that they will receive it? Truly, then God should befriend them
more than he did his own Son. "He offered up prayers and supplications with
strong cries" (Heb. 5:7). None of God's children are tongue-tied.
"Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your
hearts, crying, Abba, Father" (Gal. 4:6). Creatures by the instinct
of nature cry to God: "the young ravens which cry" (Psalm 147:9). "The lions
seek their meat from God" (Psalm 104:21). Not to cry to God, is worse than
2. Others pray—but it is seldom. Like that
profane atheist of whom Heylin speaks, who told God that "he was no
common beggar; he had never troubled him before and if he would hear him
now, he would never trouble him again."
3. Others pray—but not "in the Holy Spirit"
(Jude 20). They are more like parrots, than weeping doves.
Their hearts do not melt in prayer: they exercise their tongues more than
their hearts and affections.
Use 2: As you would prove the new birth, cry
"Abba, Father"; be men of prayer. Pray at least twice a day. In the temple
there was the morning and evening sacrifice. Daniel prayed
three times a day. No, he so loved prayer that he would not neglect prayer
to save his life (Dan. 6:10). Luther spent three hours every day in prayer.
Objection: But what need is there of prayer, when God
has made so many promises of blessings?
Answer: Prayer is the condition annexed to the
promise. Promises turn upon the hinge of prayer: "I will yet for this
be inquired of by the house of Israel" (Ezek. 36:37). A king promises a
pardon—but it must be sued for. David had a promise that God would build him
a house—but he sues for the promise by prayer (2 Sam. 7:25). Christ himself
had all the promises made sure to him—yet he prayed and spent whole nights
Therefore if you would be counted godly, be given to
prayer. Prayer sanctifies your mercies (1 Tim. 4:5). Prayer weeds out sin.
Prayer waters grace.
That I may encourage Christians and hold up their heads
in prayer, as Aaron and Hur held up Moses" hands (Exod. 17:12), let me
propound these few considerations:
1. Prayer is a seed sown in God's ear. Other
seed sown in the ground may be picked up by the birds—but this seed
(especially if watered with tears) is too precious to lose.
2. Consider the power of prayer. The apostle,
having set out the whole armor of a Christian, brings in prayer as the chief
part (Eph. 6:18). Without this (says Zanchius), all the rest are of little
value. By prayer, Moses divided the Red Sea. . By prayer, Joshua stopped the
course of the sun and made it stand still (Josh. 10: 13). More, prayer made
the Sun of righteousness stand still: "and Jesus stood still" (Luke
18:40). Prayer is the entrance to all blessings, spiritual and temporal.
Prayer has a power in it to destroy the insolent enemies of the church. We
read that "the two witnesses" have a flame on their lips—fire proceeds out
of their mouths which devours their enemies (Rev. 11:3,5). This fire is
certainly to be interpreted of their prayers. David prayed, "Lord, turn the
counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness" (2 Sam. 15:31). This prayer made
Ahithophel hang himself. Moses' prayer against Amalek, did more than
Joshua's sword. Prayer has a kind of omnipotency in it; it has raised
the dead, overcome angels, cast out devils. It has influence upon God
himself (Exod. 32:10). Jacob's prayer held God: "I will not let you go,
except you bless me" (Gen. 32:26). Prayer finds God free—but leaves him
3. Jesus Christ prays our prayers over again.
He takes the dross out, and presents nothing but pure gold to his Father.
Christ mingles his sweet fragrances, with the prayers of the saints (Rev.
5:8). Think of the dignity of his person—he is God; and the sweetness of his
relationship—he is a Son. Oh then, what encouragement there is here for us
to pray! Our prayers are put in the hands of a Mediator. Though, as they
come from us, they are weak and imperfect—yet as they come from Christ, they
are mighty and powerful.
4. The sweet promises which God has made to prayer.
"He will be very gracious unto you at the voice of your cry" (Isaiah 30:19).
"Then shall you go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And you
shall seek me, and find me, when you shall search for me with all your
heart" (Jer. 29:12,13); and "before they call, I will answer; and while they
are yet speaking, I will hear" (Isaiah 65:24). These promises keep the head
of prayer above water. God is bound with his own promises, as Samson was
bound with his own hair.
Let us, then, close ranks and with our Savior pray yet
more earnestly (Luke 22:44). Let us be importunate suitors, and resolve with
Bernard that we will not come away from God without God. Prayer is a
bomb which bursts heaven's gates open.
Question: How shall we go about praying aright?
Answer: Implore the Spirit of God: "praying in the
Holy Spirit" (Jude 20). The Holy Spirit both originates prayer and
inflames it. God understands no other language, but that of his Spirit.
Pray for the Holy Spirit that you may pray in the Holy Spirit.
13. A godly man is a SINCERE man
"Behold an Israelite indeed, in whose spirit there is no
deceit" (John 1:47). The word for sincere, haplous, signifies
"without pleats and folds". A godly man is plain-hearted, having no subtle
subterfuges. Religion is the uniform a godly man wears, and this uniform is
lined with sincerity.
Question: In what does the godly man's sincerity
Answer 1: The godly man is what he seems to be.
He is a Jew inwardly (Romans 2:29). Grace runs through his
heart, as silver through the veins of the earth. The hypocrite is not what
he seems. A picture is like a man—but it lacks breath. The hypocrite is a
picture; he does not breathe forth sanctity. A godly man answers to his
profession as the transcript to the original.
Answer 2: The godly man strives to approve himself to God
in everything. "We labor, that, whether present or absent, we may
be accepted of him" (2 Cor. 5:9). It is better to have God approve,
than the world applaud. Those who ran in the Olympic race strove to
have the approval of the judge and umpire of the race. There is a time
coming shortly, when a smile from God's face will be infinitely better than
all the applause of men. How sweet that word will be, "Well done, good and
faithful servant!" (Matt. 25:21). A godly man is ambitious of God's
testimonial letters. The hypocrite desires the praise of men. Saul
was for the approval of the people (1 Sam. 15:30) A godly man approves his
heart to God, who is both the spectator and the judge.
Answer 3: The godly man is sincere in laying open his
sins. "I acknowledged my sin unto you, and my iniquity have I not
hid" (Psalm 32:5). The hypocrite veils and cloaks his sin. He does not
cut off his sin but conceals it. Like a patient who has some
loathsome disease in his body, he will rather die than reveal his disease.
But a godly man's sincerity is seen in this—he will confess and shame
himself for sin: "Lo, I have sinned, and I have done wickedly" (2 Sam.
24:17). No, a child of God will confess sin in particular. An unsound
Christian will confess sin wholesale, he will acknowledge he is a
sinner in general. Whereas David does, as it were, point with his finger to
the sore: "I have done this evil" (Psalm 51:4). He does not say, "I
have done evil"—but "this evil". He points at his blood-guiltiness.
Answer 4: The godly man has blessed designs in all he
does. He propounds this objective in every ordinance—that he may
have more acquaintance with God, and bring more glory to God. As the herb
heliotropium turns about according to the motion of the sun, so a godly
man's actions all move towards the glory of God. A godly man's praying and
worshiping, is so that he may honor God. Though he shoots short—yet he takes
correct aim. The hypocrite thinks of nothing but self-interest; the sails of
his mill move only when the wind of self promotion blows. He never
dives into the waters of the sanctuary—except to fetch up a piece of gold
from the bottom.
Answer 5: The godly man abhors deception. His
heart goes along with his tongue; he cannot both flatter and
hate; both commend and censure (Psalm 28:3). Love must be sincere" (Romans
12:9). Insincere love is worse than hatred; counterfeiting of friendship is
no better than a lie (Psalm 78:36), for there is a pretense of that which is
not. Many are like Joab: "He took Amasa by the beard to kiss him—and smote
him with his sword in the fifth rib, and he died" (2 Sam. 20:9,10).
"Horrible poisons lie hidden under sweet honey."
There is a river in Spain where the fish seem to be of a
golden color—but take them out of the water and they are like other fish.
All is not gold that glitters; there are some who pretend much kindness—but
they are like great veins which have little blood. If you lean upon them,
they are like a leg out of joint. For my part I seriously question a man's
sincerity with God—if he flatters and lies to his friend. "He who conceals
his hatred has lying lips" (Proverbs 10:18). By all that has been said, we
may test whether we have this mark of a godly man—being sincere.
Sincerity (as I conceive it) is not strictly a grace, but
rather the ingredient in every grace. Sincerity is that which
qualifies grace and without which grace is not true: "Grace be with all
those who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity" (Eph. 6:24). Sincerity
qualifies our love; sincerity is to grace what the blood and spirits are to
the body. There can be no life without the blood, so there can be no grace
Use: As we would be reputed godly, let us
strive for this characteristic of sincerity.
1. Sincerity renders us lovely in God's eyes.
God says of the sincere soul, as of Zion, "This is my rest forever: here
will I dwell; for I have desired it" (Psalm 132:14). A sincere heart is
God's paradise of delight. "Noah found grace in God's eyes." Why, what did
God see in Noah? He was girt with the girdle of sincerity (Gen. 6:9). Noah
was perfect in his generation. Truth resembles God, and when God sees a
sincere heart, he sees his own image, and he cannot choose but fall in love
with it: "He who is upright in his way, is God's delight" (Proverbs 11:20).
2. Sincerity makes our services find acceptance with God.
The church of Philadelphia had only "a little strength"; her grace was weak,
her services slender; yet of all the churches Christ wrote to, he found the
least fault with her. What was the reason? Because she was most sincere:
"You have kept fast my word, and have not denied my name" (Rev. 3:8). Though
we cannot pay God all we owe—yet a little in current coin, is accepted. God
takes sincerity for full payment. A little gold, though rusty, is
better than tin, be it ever so bright. A little sincerity, though rusted
over with many infirmities, is of more value with God than all the glorious
flourishes of hypocrites.
3. Sincerity is our safety. False hearts that
will step out of God's way and use carnal policy, when they think they are
most safe, are least secure. "He who walks uprightly walks surely" (Proverbs
10:9). A sincere Christian will do nothing but what the Word warrants, and
that is safe, as to the conscience. More, often the Lord takes care of the
outward safety of those who are upright in their way: "I laid me down and
slept" (Psalm 3:5). David was now beleaguered by enemies—yet God so encamped
about him by his providence, that he could sleep as securely as in a
garrison. "The Lord sustained me." The only way to be safe is to be
4. Sincerity is gospel perfection. "Have you
considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a
perfect and an upright man?" (Job 1:8). Though a Christian is full of
infirmities and, like a young child, weak and feeble—God still looks on him
as if he were completely righteous. Every true saint has the Thummim of
perfection on his breastplate.
5. Sincerity is what the devil attacks most.
Satan's spite was not so much at Job's estate, as his integrity; he would
have wrested the shield of sincerity from him—but Job held that fast (Job
27:6). A thief does not fight for an empty purse—but for money. The devil
would have robbed Job of the jewel of a good conscience, and then he would
have been poor Job indeed. Satan does not oppose mere profession—but
sincerity. Let men go to church and make glorious pretenses of
holiness. Satan does not oppose this; this does him no hurt—and them no
good! But if men desire to be sincerely pious, then Satan musters up all his
forces against them. Now what the devil most assaults—that we must strive
most to maintain. Sincerity is our fort royal, where our chief treasure
lies. This fort is most shot at, therefore let us be more careful to
preserve it. While a man keeps his castle, his castle will keep him. While
we keep sincerity, sincerity will keep us.
6. Sincerity is the beauty of a Christian.
Wherein does the beauty of a diamond lie—but in this, that it is a true
diamond? If it is counterfeit, it is worth nothing. So wherein does the
beauty of a Christian lie—but in this, that he has truth in the inward parts
(Psalm 51:6)? Sincerity is a Christian's ensign of glory; it is both his
breastplate to defend him and his crown to adorn him.
7. See the vileness of hypocrisy. The Lord
would have no leaven offered up in sacrifice; leaven typified
hypocrisy (Luke 12:1). The hypocrite does the devil double service;
under the mask of piety, he can sin more and be less suspected: "Woe
unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you devour widows' houses,
and for a pretense make long prayers" (Matt. 23:14). Who would think that
those who pray for so many hours on end, would be guilty of extortion? Who
would suspect of false weights, the man who has the Bible so often in his
hand? Who would think that the one who seems to fear an oath, would slander?
Hypocrites are the worst sort of sinners; they reflect infinite dishonor
upon religion. Hypocrisy for the most part ends in scandal, and that brings
an evil report on the ways of God. One scandalous hypocrite makes the world
suspect that all professing Christians are like him. The hypocrite was born
to spite religion, and bring it into disrepute.
The hypocrite is a liar. He worships God with his
knee—but the passions with his heart, like those who "feared the Lord, and
served their own gods" (2 Kings 17:33).
The hypocrite is an impudent sinner. He knows his heart
is false—yet he goes on. Judas knew himself to be a hypocrite; he asks,
"Master, is it I?" Christ replies, "You have said it" (Matt. 26:25). Yet so
shameless was he as to persist in his falseness and betray Christ. All the
plagues and curses written in the Book of God are the hypocrite's portion!
Hell is his place of rendezvous (Matt. 24:51). Hypocrites are the chief
guests whom the devil expects, and he will make them as welcome as fire and
brimstone can make them!
8. If the heart is sincere, God will wink at many
failings. "He has not beheld iniquity in Jacob" (Numb. 23:21).
God's love does not make him blind; he can see infirmities. But how does God
look at a believer's sins? Not with an eye of revenge—but of pity, as a
physician sees a disease in his patient—so as to heal him. God does not see
iniquity in Jacob—so as to destroy him—but to heal him! "He kept on in his
willful ways. I have seen his ways, but I will heal him" (Isaiah 57:17,18).
How much pride, vanity, passion, does the Lord pass by in his sincere ones!
He sees the integrity—and pardons the infirmity. How much God
overlooked in Asa! The "high places were not removed"—yet it is said, "The
heart of Asa was perfect all his days" (2 Chron. 15:17). We esteem a
picture, though it is not drawn full length. Just so, the graces of
God's people are not drawn to their full length! They have many scars and
spots—yet having something of God in sincerity, they shall find mercy. God
loves the sincere, and it is the nature of love to cover infirmity.
9. Nothing but sincerity will give us comfort in an hour
of trouble. King Hezekiah thought he was dying—yet this revived
him, that his conscience drew up a certificate for him: "Remember, O Lord,
how I have walked before you in truth . . . " (Isaiah 38:3). Sincerity was
the best flower in his crown. What a golden shield this will be against
Satan! When he roars at us by his temptations, and sets our sins before us
on our death-bed, then we shall answer, "It is true, Satan; these have been
our misdeeds—but we have bewailed them; if we have sinned, it was against
the bent and purpose of our heart." This will stop the devil's mouth and
make him retreat; therefore strive for this jewel of sincerity. "If our
heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God" (1 John 3:21). If
we are cleared at the petty sessions in our conscience, then we may be
confident we shall be acquitted at the great assizes on the day of judgment.
"Our conscience testifies that we have conducted
ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you—in the
holiness and sincerity that are from God." 2 Corinthians 1:12. "Let
us draw near to God with a sincere heart." Hebrews 10:22.