A Godly Man Does Spiritual Things in a Spiritual Manner

A Godly Man Does Spiritual Things in a Spiritual Manner

By Thomas Watson; excerpted with minor editing from The Godly Man’s Picture,—

Drawn with a Scripture Pencil, or Some Characteristic Marks of a Man who is Going to Heaven
(BOT, 1992 [666]), 161-166 [Sect. 21 of chap 4, "Showing the Characteristics of a Godly Man"]

"We are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit" (Phil 3:3). Spiritual worship is pure worship: "Ye are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices" (1 Pet 2:5) – spiritual not only in the matter, but also in the quality. A wicked man either lives in the total neglect of duty or else discharges it in a dull, careless manner. Instead of "using the world as if he used it not" (1 Cor 7:31), he serves God as if he did not serve him. A godly man spiritualizes duty; he is not only for the doing of holy things but for the holy doing of things.


What is it to perform spiritual duties spiritually?


It consists in three things:

1. A Renewed Heart

To do duties from a spiritual principle, namely, a renewed principle of grace. A man may have gifts which attract admiration; he may have the most melting, ravishing expressions; he may speak like an angel come down from heaven; yet his duties may not be spiritual because he lacks the grace of the Spirit. Whatever a moral, unregenerate person does is only nature refined. Though he may do duties better than a godly man, yet not so well – better as to the matter and elegance, yet not so well, as lacking a renewed principle. A crab-tree may bear as well as a pippin; the fruit may be big and lovelier to the eye, yet it is not such good fruit as the other, because it does not come from so good a stock. So an unregenerate person may perform as many duties as a child of God, and these may seem to be more glorious to the outward view, but they are harsh and sour, because they do not come from the sweet and pleasant root of grace. A true saint gives God that wine which comes from the pure grape of the Spirit.

2. Purposefulness & Single-mindedness

To perform duties spiritually is to do them with the utmost intention. A Christian is very serious and strives to keep his thoughts close to the work in hand: "that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction" (1 Cor 7:35).


But may not a godly man have roving thoughts in duty?


Yes, sad experience proves it. The thoughts will be dancing up and down in prayer. The saints are called stars and many times in duty they are wandering stars. The heart is like quicksilver which will not settle. It is hard to tie two good thoughts together. We cannot lock our hearts so close but that distracting thoughts, like wind, will get in. Jerome complains about himself. "Sometimes," he says, "when I am doing God’s service, I am walking in the galleries or casting up accounts."

But these wandering thoughts in the godly are not allowed: "I hate vain thoughts" (Ps 119:113). They come like unwelcome guests who are no sooner spied than they are turned out.


From where do these wandering thoughts arise in the godly?


a. From the depravity of nature. They are the mud which the heart casts up.

b. From Satan. The devil, if he cannot hinder us from duty, will hinder us in duty. When we come before the Lord, he is at our right hand to resist us (Zech 3:1). Like when a man is going to write, and another stands at his elbow and jogs him, so that he cannot write evenly. Satan will set vain objects before the fancy to cause a diversion. The devil does not oppose formality but fervency. If he sees that we are setting ourselves in good earnest to seek God, he will be whispering things in our ears, so that we can scarcely attend to what we are doing.

c. These wandering thoughts arise from the world. These vermin are bred out of the earth. Worldly business often crowds into our duties, and while we are speaking to God, our hearts are talking with the world: "They sit before me as my people, but their heart goeth after their covetousness" (Ez 33:31). While we are hearing the Word or meditating, some worldly business or other commonly knocks at the door and we are called away from the duty while we are doing it. It is the same with us as it was with Abraham when he was going to worship – the birds came down on the sacrifice (Gen 15:11).


How may we get rid of these wandering thoughts, so that we may be more spiritual in duty?


a. Fix your eyes on God’s purity. He whom we serve is a holy God, and when we are worshipping him, he cannot tolerate our conversing with vanity. While a king’s subject is speaking to him, will he like him to be playing with a feather? Will God endure light, feathery hearts? How devout and reverent the angels are! They cover their faces and cry, "Holy, holy, holy."

b. Think of the grand importance of the duties we are engaged in. As David said, concerning his building a house for God, "the work is great" (1 Chr 29:1). When we are hearing the Word, "the work is great." This is the Word by which we shall be judged. When we are at prayer, "the work is great." We are pleading for the life of our souls, and is this a time to trifle?

c. Come with affection to duty. The nature of love is to fix the mind upon the object. The thoughts of a man who is in love are on the person he loves, and nothing can distract them. The thoughts of a man who loves the world are always intent on it. If our hearts were more fired with love, they would be more fixed on duty, and oh, what cause we have to love duty! Is not this the direct road to heaven? Do we not meet with God here? Can the spouse be better than in her husband’s company? Where can the soul be better than in drawing near to God?

d. Consider the mischief that these vain distracting thoughts do. They fly-blow our duties; they hinder fervency; they show great irreverence; they tempt God to turn his ear away from us. Why do we think God should heed our prayers, when we ourselves scarcely heed them?

3. Faith

To do duties spiritually is to do them in faith: "By faith Abel offered unto God a better sacrifice than Cain" (Heb 11:4). The holy oil for the tabernacle had several spices put into it (Ex 30:34). Faith is the sweet spice which must be put into duty. It is a wrong done to God to doubt either His mercy or His truth. A Christian may venture his soul upon the public faith of heaven.


a. How far from godliness are those who are unspiritual in their worship, who do not do duties from a renewed principle and with the utmost intention of soul, but merely to stop the mouth of conscience! Many people look no further than the bare doing of duties, but never heed how they are done. God does not judge our duties by length, but by love. When men put God off with the dreggish part of duty, may He not say, as He did through Isaiah, "Is it such a fast that I have chosen?" (Is 58:5). "Are these the duties I required? I called for the heart and spirit and you bring nothing but the carcass of duty. Should I receive comfort in this?"

b. Let us show ourselves godly by being more spiritual in duty. It is not the quantity but the quality; it is not how much we do but how well. A musician is commended, not for playing long but for playing well. We must not only do what God appoints but as God appoints. Oh, how many are unspiritual in spiritual things! They bring their services but not their hearts. They give God the skin, not the fat of the offering. "God is a Spirit" (Jn 4:24) – and it is the spirituality of duty he is best pleased with: "spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God" (1 Pet 2:5). The spirits of the wine are best. So is the spiritual part of duty: "making melody in your heart to the Lord" (Eph 5:19). It is the heart which makes the music; the spiritualizing of duty gives life to it. Without this it is dead praying, dead hearing – and dead things are not pleasing. A dead flower has no beauty, a dead breast has no sweetness.


What may we do to perform duties in a spiritual manner?


a. Let the soul be kept pure. Lust besots and dispirits a man. Beware of any tincture of uncleanness (Jas 1:21). Wood that is full of sap will not easily burn, and a heart steeped in sin is not fit to burn in holy devotion. Can he who feeds carnal lust be spiritual in worship? "Whoredom and wine and new wine take away the heart" (Hos 4:11). Any sin lived in takes away the heart. Such a person has no heart to pray or meditate. The more alive the heart is in sin, the more it dies to duty.

b. If we wish to be spiritual in duty, let us revolve these two things in our mind:

i. The profit which comes from a duty performed in a spiritual manner. It enfeebles corruption; it increases grace; it defeats Satan; it strengthens our communion with God; it breeds peace of conscience; it procures answers of mercy; and it leaves the heart always in better tune.

ii. The danger of doing duties in an unspiritual manner. They are as if they had not been done. For what the heart does not do is not done. Duties carelessly performed turn ordinances into judgements. Therefore many, though they are often doing duty, go away worse from duty. If medicine is not well made and the ingredients rightly mixed, it is as bad as poison for the body. So if duties are not well performed, they leave the heart harder and more sinful than before.

Unspiritual duties often create temporal judgements: "the Lord our God made a breach upon us, for that we sought him not after the due order" (1 Chr 15:13). Therefore God makes breaches in families and relationships because people do not worship him in that manner and due order which he requires.

c. If we want to have our duties spiritual, we must get our hearts spiritual. An earthly heart cannot be spiritual in duty. Let us beg from God a spiritual palate to relish a sweetness in holy things. For lack of spiritual hearts, we come to duty without delight, and go away without profit. If a man wants to have the wheels of his watch move regularly, he must mend the spring. Christian, if you want to move more spiritually in duty, get the spring of your heart mended. W