Thomas Watson – Signs and Character of a Godly Man

watson_0 “For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee.” Psalm 32:6

Who is the godly man? For the full answer whereunto, I shall lay down several specific signs and character of a godly man.

The first fundamental sign of a godly man is a man of know-ledge: “The prudent are crowned with knowledge” (Pro 14:18). The saints are called “wise virgins” (Mat 25:4). A natural man may have some discursive[44] knowledge of God, but he knoweth nothing as he ought to know (1Co 8:2). He knows not God savingly: he may have the eye of reason open, but he discerns not the things of God after a spiritual manner. Waters cannot go beyond their springhead; vapors cannot rise higher than the sun draws them. A natural man cannot act above his sphere. He is no more able to judge aright of sacred things, than a blind man is to judge of colors. 1. He sees not the evil of his heart: if a face is ever so black and deformed, yet it is not seen under a veil. The heart of a sinner is so black, that nothing but hell can pattern it, yet the veil of ignorance hides it. 2. He sees not the beauties of a Savior: Christ is a pearl, but a hidden pearl.

The knowledge of a godly man is quickening. [45] “I will never forget thy precepts, for with them thou hast quickened me” (Psa 119:93). Knowledge in a natural man’s head is like a torch in a dead man’s hand; true knowledge animates. A godly man is like John the Baptist, “a burning and a shining lamp” (Joh 5:35). He doth not only shine by illumination, but burn by affection. The spouse’s knowledge made her “sick of love” (Song 2:5), [or] “I am wounded with love. I am like a deer that is struck with a dart; my soul lies a-bleeding and nothing can cure me but a sight of Him whom my soul loves.”

The knowledge of a godly man is appropriating. “I know that my Redeemer liveth” (Job 19:25). A medicine is best when it is applied; this applicative knowledge is joyful. Christ is called a Surety[46] (Heb 7:22). O what joy, when I am drowned in debt, to know that Christ is my Surety! Christ is called an Advocate (1Jo 2:1). The Greek word for advocate signifies “a comforter.” O what comfort is it, when I have a bad cause, to know Christ is my Advocate, who never lost any cause He pleaded!

Question: But how shall I know that I make a right application of Christ? A hypocrite may think he applies when he doth not.

Answer: He, who rightly applies Christ, puts these two together: Jesus and Lord (Phi 3:8). Christ Jesus my Lord: many take Christ as a Jesus, but refuse Him as a Lord. Do you join Prince and Savior? (Act 5:31). Would you as well be ruled by Christ’s laws as saved by His blood? Christ is “a priest upon his throne” (Zec 6:13). He will never be a priest to intercede, unless your heart is the throne where He sways His scepter. A true applying of Christ is when we so take Him for a husband that we give up ourselves to Him as a Lord.

The knowledge of a godly man is transforming. “We all with open face, beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image” (2Co 3:8). As a painter looking upon a face, draws a face like it in the picture; so looking upon Christ in the glass of the Gospel, we are changed into His similitude.[47] We may look upon other objects that are glorious yet not be made glorious by them: a deformed face may look upon beauty and yet not be made beautiful. A wounded man may look upon a surgeon and yet not be healed. But this is the excellency of divine knowledge: it gives us such a sight of Christ as makes us partake of His nature. As Moses, when he had seen God’s back parts: his face shined, [for] some of the rays and beams of God’s glory fell upon him.

The knowledge of a godly man is growing: “Increasing in the knowledge of God” (Col 1:10). True knowledge is as the light of the morning, which increaseth in the horizon until it comes to the meridian.[48] So sweet is spiritual knowledge, that the more a saint knows, the thirstier he is of knowledge. It is called the riches of knowledge (1Co 1:5). The more riches a man hath, the more still he desires. Though Paul knew Christ, yet he would know him more: “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection” (Phi 3:10).

Question: But how shall we get this saving knowledge?

Answer: Not by the power of nature: some speak of how far well-improved reason will go. Alas, the plumb line of reason is too short to fathom the deep things of God. A man can no more by the power of reason reach the saving knowledge of God than a pigmy can reach the pyramids. The light of nature will no more help us to see Christ, than the light of a candle will help us to understand. “The natural man receiveth not the things of God, neither can he know them” (1Co 2:14). What shall we do then to know God in a soul-saving manner? I answer, “Let us implore the help of God’s Spirit.” Paul never saw himself blind until a light shined from heaven (Act 9:3). God must anoint our eyes ere[49] we can see. What needed Christ to have bid Laodicea to come to Him for eye-salve, if she could see before? (Rev 3:18). O let us beg the Spirit, which is a Spirit of revelation (Eph 1:17). Saving knowledge is not by speculation, but by inspiration (Job 32:8). The inspiration of the Almighty giveth understanding.

We may have excellent notions in divinity,[50] but the Holy Ghost must enable us to know them after a spiritual manner; a man may see the figures upon a dial, but he cannot tell how the day goes unless the sun shines. We may read many truths in the Bible, but we cannot know them savingly until God’s Spirit doth shine upon us. “The Spirit searching all things, yea, the deep things of God” (1Co 2:10). The Scripture discovers Christ to us, but the Spirit reveals Christ in us (Gal 1:16). The Spirit makes known that which all the world cannot do, namely, the sense of God’s love.

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Michael lives in Belleville, IL, a suburb of St. Louis, MO with his wife Erica and daughter Alissa. An 8 year Navy veteran, he is now employed at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) where he oversees advanced educational programs. Michael holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Religion (Biblical Studies) from Liberty University. He is an avid reader and blogger operating the website Christian Apologetics and Intelligence Ministry ( which provides both original content and shares relevant posts and articles from around the web.

bolingme – who has written posts on Apologetics and Intelligence Ministry.

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