A Godly Man Has the Spirit of God Residing In Him

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]), 67-77 [Sect. 10 of chap 4, "Showing the Characteristics of a Godly Man"]

"The Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us" (2 Tim 1:14; Gal 4:6).

The schoolmen raise the question whether a man receives the Holy Ghost himself or not. Montanus held that the godly so have God’s Spirit in them that they partake of His essence, and have become one person with himself. But this amounts to no less than blasphemy. Then it would follow that every saint was to be worshipped.

I conceive that the 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 that is there but the beams that sparkle from it. Indeed, some divines have thought that the godly have more than the influx of the Spirit, though to say how it is more is ineffable, and is fitter for some seraphic pen to describe than mine. The Spirit of God reveals himself in a gracious soul in two ways:

1. By His Motions

These are some of that sweet perfume that 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?


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?


a. 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 privilege.

b. 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:

a. God’s Spirit has a teaching virtue; the Spirit teaches convincingly (Jn 16:8). He so teaches as to persuade.

b. 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 (Ex 30:25). The Spirit sanctifies a man’s fancy, 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 map of heaven.

c. God’s Spirit has a vivifying virtue: "the Spirit giveth life" (2 Cor 3:6). As the blowing in an organ 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 Ki 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" (Ezk 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, hope lively. The Spirit removes the weights of the soul and gives it wings: "Or ever I was aware, my soul made me like the chariots of Amminadib" (SS 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.

d. God’s Spirit has a jurisdictive 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).

e. 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 an heart of flesh" (Ezk 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 impressions.

f. The Spirit of God has a corroborating 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 a redundancy.


How shall we know whether we are acting in the strength of God’s Spirit, or in the strength of our own abilities?


a. When we humbly cast ourselves upon God for assistance, as David going out against Goliath cast himself upon God for help: "I come to thee in the name of the Lord" (1 Sam 17:45).

b. When our duties are divinely qualified, we do them with pure aims.

c. 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.

g. God’s Spirit has a comforting virtue. Sadness may arise in a gracious heart (Ps 43:5). As the heaven, though it is a bright and lucid body, still has interposed clouds, 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" (Jn 14:16). These comforts are real and infallible. 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.


How does the Spirit give comfort?


a. 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).

b. 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 Ghost’ (Rom 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.

c. 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 sides. The Spirit applies whatever Christ has purchased; he shows us that our sins are done away in Christ, and though we are spotted in ourselves, we are undefiled in our Head.

d: 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 Ghost" (Rom 9:1). Conscience draws up a certificate for a man, then the Holy Ghost comes and signs the certificate.

e. The Spirit conveys the oil of joy through two golden pipes:

(i) The Ordinances. As Christ in prayer had his countenance changed (Lk 9:29) and there was a glorious lustre 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.

(ii) The Promises. The promises are comforting: (i) For their sureness (Rom 4:16). God in the promises has put his truth in pawn. (ii) For their suitableness, being calculated for every Christian’s condition. The promises are like a herb garden. There is no disease but some herb may be found there to cure it. But the promises of themselves cannot comfort. Only the Spirit enables us to suck 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 distil consolation into the soul. Thus we see how the Spirit is in the godly by his virtues.

Objection 1:

But is being filled with the Spirit the sign of a godly man? Are not the wicked said to partake of the Holy Ghost (Heb 6:4)?


Wicked men may partake of the Spirit’s working, but not of his indwelling. They may have God’s Spirit move upon them; the godly have him enter into them (Ezk 3:24).

Objection 2:

But the unregenerate taste the heavenly gift (Heb 6:4).


It is with them as it is with cooks who may have a snack 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 (Jn 7:38).


Use 1: Prove Your Own Selves

Firstly, the indwelling of the Spirit brands those as ungodly who have none of God’s Spirit: "if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his" (Rom 8:9). And if he is none of Christ"s, then whose is he? To what regiment does he belong? It is the misery of a sinner that he has none of God’s Spirit. I think it is very offensive to hear men who never had God’s Spirit say, "Take not thy holy spirit from us" (Ps 51:11). Will those who are drunkards and swearers say they have God’s Spirit in them? So 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 prison? A sinner’s heart is a gaol, both for darkness and obnoxiousness, and will God’s free Spirit be confined to a prison (Ps 51:12)? A sinner’s heart is the emblem of hell. What should 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 that now worketh 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" (Jn 13:27). Satan abuses the godly, but enters into the wicked. When the devils went into the herd of swine, they ran violently down a steep place into the sea (Mt 8:32). Why is it that men run 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! These (say they) are "men of the Spirit." O wretches, to make those tongues which should be organs of God’s praise instruments to blaspheme! Have you none to throw your squibs 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: Plead for More of The Spirit

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 thy Holy Spirit"; and with the spouse, "Awake, O north wind; and come, thou south; blow upon my garden" (SS 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 ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?" (Lk 11:13). God’s Spirit is a rich jewel. Go to God for him: "Lord, give me thy 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 supplications (Zech 12:10). He helps both the inventiveness and the affection: "The Spirit helps us with sighs and groans" (Rom 8:26).

2. We cannot resist temptation without him: "ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is 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 with 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 to their priest" (Jdg 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 gat no heat" (1 Kg 1:1). So though the ministers of God ply us with prayers and counsel as with hot clothes, yet we are cold and chilly till God’s Spirit comes; and then we say, like the disciples, "Did not our heart burn within us?" (Lk 24:32). Oh, therefore, what need we have of the Spirit!

Use 3: Be Grateful for the Spirit

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 Jn 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 (Mt 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 till 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?


How do we grieve the Spirit?


a. 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 Spirit.

b. We grieve the Spirit when we deny the work of the Spirit in our hearts. If someone gives another person a token 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. W

[Editorial note: The final part of this chapter is rather difficult to follow in the way that it is printed in the Banner of Truth edition. We have made some editorial restructuring and changed a couple of enumeration markers (‘firstly’, ‘secondly’, etc) in order to make the text flow with reasonable sense. As a result also, there are now three, instead of two uses as in the original. We trust that the changes have enhanced the edification value of the chapter. — JJ Lim]