A Godly Man is a Sincere Man

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]), 96-103 [Sect. 13 of chap 4, "Showing the Characteristics of a Godly Man"])

"Behold an Israelite indeed, in whose spirit there is no guile" (Jn 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 livery a godly man wears and this livery is lined with sincerity.


In what does the godly man’s sincerity appear?


a. The godly man is what he seems to be. He is a Jew inwardly (Rom 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 an effigy, a picture; he does not breathe forth sanctity. He is only like an angel on a signpost. A godly man answers to his profession as the transcript to the original.

b. The godly man strives to approve himself to God in everything: "We labour, 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, thou good and faithful servant" (Mt 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.

c. The godly man is ingenuous in laying open his sins: "I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid" (Ps 32:5). The hypocrite veils and smothers his sin. He does not cut off his sin but conceals it. Like a patient that has some loathsome disease in his body, he will rather die than confess 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" (Ps 51:4). He does not say, "I have done evil," but "this evil." He points at his blood-guiltiness.

d. 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 helitropium turns about according to the motion of the sun, so a godly man’s actions all move towards the glory of God. It is an axiom in philosophy, "The means are in order to the end." A godly man’s praying and worshipping is so that he may honour 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 promotion blows. He never dives into the waters of the sanctuary except to fetch up a piece of gold from the bottom.

e. The godly man abhors dissimulation with men; his heart goes along with his tongue; he cannot flatter and hate, commend and censure (Ps 28:3). "Let love be without dissimulation" (Rom 12:9). Dissembled love is worse than hatred; counterfeiting of friendship is no better than a lie (Ps 78:36), for there is a pretence 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 colour 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 that hideth hatred with lying lips is a fool" (Prov 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 them that 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 no grace without sincerity.


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" (Ps 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 that is upright in his way is God’s delight" (Prov 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: "Thou hast kept fast my word, and hast 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 alchemy, be it never 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 that walketh uprightly walketh surely" (Prov 10:9). A sincere Christian will do nothing but what the Word warrants, and that is safe, as to the conscience. So, often the Lord takes care of the outward safety of those who are upright in their way: "I laid me down and slept" (Ps 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 sincere.

4. Sincerity is gospel perfection: "Hast thou 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 child that is put out to nurse, 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 profession, but sincerity. Let men go to church and make glorious pretences of holiness. Satan does not oppose this; this does him no hurt and them no good; but if men want to be sincerely pious, then Satan musters up all his forces against them. Now what the devil most assaults, 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 (Ps 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. The vileness of hypocrisy. The Lord would have no leaven offered up in sacrifice; leaven typified hypocrisy (Lk 12:1). The hypocrite does the devil double service; under the visor of piety, he can sin more and be less suspected: "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayers" (Mt 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 dishonour upon religion. Hypocrisy for the most part ends in scandal, and that brings an evil report on the ways of God. One man breaking in renders the honest suspect. 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, and his passions with his heart, like those who "feared the Lord, and served their own gods" (2 Kgs 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, "Thou hast said it" (Mt 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 (Mt 24:51). Hypocrites are the chief guests 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 hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob" (Num 23:21). God’s love does not make him blind; he can see infirmities. But how? Not with an eye of revenge, but 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 went on frowardly. I have seen his ways, and will heal him" (Is 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. So though the graces of God’s people are not drawn to their full length – no, 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 conscience drew up a certificate for him: "Remember, O Lord, how I have walked before thee in truth …" (Is 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 Jn 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 judgement. W