A Godly Man Prizes Christ

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]), 44-55 [Sect. 7 of chap 4, "Showing the Characteristics of a Godly Man"]

To illustrate this, I shall show:

I. That Jesus Christ is in Himself precious.

II. That a godly man esteems Him precious.

I. Jesus Christ is in Himself Precious

"Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious" (1 Pet 2:6).

1. Christ is compared to "a bundle of myrrh" (Song 1:13). Myrrh is very precious; it was one of the chief spices of which the holy anointing oil was made (Ex 30:25).

a. Myrrh is of a perfuming nature. So Christ perfumes our persons and services, so that they are a sweet odour to God. Why is the church, that heavenly bride, so perfumed with grace? Because Christ, that myrrh tree, has dropped His perfume upon her (Song 3:6).

b. Myrrh is of an exhilarating nature. Its smell comforts and refreshes the spirits. So Christ comforts the souls of His people, when they are fainting under their sins and suffering.

2. Christ is compared to a pearl: "when he had found one pearl of great price" (Mt 13:46). Christ, this pearl, was little with regard to His humility, but of infinite value. Jesus Christ is a pearl that God wears in His bosom (Jn 1:18); a pearl whose lustre drowns the world’s glory (Gal 6:14); a pearl that enriches the soul, the angelic part of man (1 Cor 1:5); a pearl that enlightens heaven (Rev 21:23); a pearl so precious that it makes us precious to God (Eph 1:6); a pearl that is consoling and restorative (Lk 2:25); a pearl of more value than heaven (Col 1:16,17). The preciousness of Christ is seen in three ways:

a. He is precious in His person; He is the picture of His Father’s glory (Heb 1:3).

b. Christ is precious in His offices, which are several rays of the Sun of righteousness:

i. Christ’s prophetic office is precious (Deut 18:15). He is the great oracle of heaven; He has a preciousness above all the prophets who went before Him; He teaches not only the ear, but the heart. He who has "the key of David" in His hand opened the heart of Lydia (Acts 16:14).

ii. Christ’s priestly office is precious. This is the solid basis of our comfort. "Now once hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself" (Heb 9:26). By virtue of this sacrifice, the soul may go to God with boldness: "Lord, give me heaven; Christ has purchased it for me; He hung upon the Cross, that I might sit upon the throne." Christ’s blood and incense are the two hinges on which our salvation turns.

iii. Christ’s regal office is precious: "He hath on his vesture, and on his thigh a name written, King of kings, and Lord of lords" (Rev 19:16). Christ has a pre-eminence above all other kings for majesty; He has the highest throne, the richest crown, the largest dominions, and the longest possession: "Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever" (Heb 1:8). Though Christ has many assessors – those who sit with Him (Eph 2:6) – He has no successors. Christ sets up His sceptre where no other king does; He rules the will and affections; His power binds the conscience. The angels take the oath of allegiance to Him (Heb 1:6). Christ’s kingship is seen in two royal acts:

(1) In ruling His people. He rules with clemency; His regal rod has honey at the end of it. Christ displays the ensign of mercy, which makes so many volunteers run to His standard (Ps 110:3). Holiness without mercy, and justice without mercy, would be dreadful, but mercy encourages poor sinners to trust in Him.

(2) In overruling His enemies. He pulls down their pride, befools their policy, restrains their malice: "the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain" (Ps 76:10), or as it is in the Hebrew, "thou shalt girdle up." That stone "cut out of the mountain without hands, which smote the image" (Dan 2:34) was an emblem, says Augustine, of Christ’s monarchical power, conquering and triumphing over His enemies.

c. Christ is precious in His benefits. By Christ all dangers are removed; through Christ all mercies are conveyed. In His blood flows justification (Acts 13:39); purgation (Heb 9:14); fructification (Jn 1:16); pacification (Rom 5:1); adoption (Gal 4:5); perseverance (Heb 12:2); glorification (Heb 9:12). This will be a matter of sublimest joy to eternity. We read that those who had passed over the sea of glass stood with their harps and sang the song of Moses and the Lamb (Rev 15:2,3). So when the saints of God have passed over the glassy sea of this world, they shall sing hallelujahs to the Lamb who has redeemed them from sin and hell, and has translated them into that glorious paradise, where they shall see God for ever and ever.

II. A Godly Man Esteems Christ Precious

"Unto you therefore which believe, he is precious" (1 Pet 2:7). In the Greek it is "an honour." Believers have an honourable esteem of Christ. The psalmist speaks like one captivated with Christ’s amazing beauty: "there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee" (Ps 73:25). He did not say he had nothing; he had many comforts on earth, but he desired none but God; as if a wife should say that there is no-one’s company she prizes like her husband’s. How did David prize Christ? "Thou art fairer than the children of men" (Ps 45:2). The spouse in the Song of Solomon looked upon Christ as the Coriphaeus, the most incomparable one, "the chiefest among ten thousand" (Song 5:10). Christ outvies all other: "As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons" (Song 2:3). Christ infinitely more excels all the beauties and glories of this visible world than the apple tree surpasses the trees of the wild forest. Paul so prized Christ that he made Him his chief study: "I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ" (1 Cor 2:2). He judged nothing else of value. He knew Christ best: "have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord?" (1 Cor 9:1). He saw Him with his bodily eyes in a vision, when he was caught up into the third heaven (2 Cor 12:2), and he saw Him with the eye of his faith in the blessed supper. Therefore he knew Him best. Consider how he slighted and despised other things in comparison with Christ: "I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord" (Phil 3:8). Gain he esteemed loss, and gold dung for Christ. Indeed, a godly person cannot choose but set a high valuation upon Christ; he sees a fullness of value in Him:

1. A fullness in regard to variety. "In whom are hid all the treasures" (Col 2:3). No country has all commodities of its own growth, but Christ has all kinds of fullness – fullness of merit, of spirit, of love. He has a treasure adequate for all our wants.

2. A fullness in regard to degree. Christ has not only a few drops, or rays, but is more full of goodness than the sun is of light; He has the fullness of the Godhead (Col 2:9).

3. A fullness in regard to duration. The fullness in the creature, like the brooks of Arabia, is soon dried up, but Christ’s fullness is inexhaustible; it is a fullness overflowing and ever-flowing.

And this fullness is for believers: Christ is a common thesaurus (as Luther says), a common treasury or store for the saints: "of his fullness have all we received" (Jn 1:16). Put a glass under a still and it receives water out of the still, drop by drop. So those who are united to Christ have the dews and drops of His grace distilling on them. Well, then, may Christ be admired by all those who believe.

Use 1:

Is a godly man a high prizer of Christ? Then what is to be thought of those who do not put a value upon Christ? Are they godly or not? There are four sorts of persons who do not prize Christ:

1. The Jews. They do not believe in Christ: "unto this day, the veil is upon their heart" (2 Cor 3:15). They expect their future age and a Messiah still to come, as their own Talmud reports. They blaspheme Christ; they slight righteousness imputed; they despise the virgin Mary, calling her in derision Marah, which signifies bitterness; they vilify the gospel; they deny the Christian Sabbath; they hold Christians in abomination; they regard it as not lawful for a Jew to take medicine from a Christian. Schecardus relates the story of one, Bendema, a Jew who was bitten by a snake. A Christian came to heal him, but he refused his help and chose rather to die than to be healed by a Christian. So do the Jews hate Christ and all that wear his livery.

2. The Socinians, who acknowledge only Christ’s humanity. This is to set him below the angels, for human nature, simply considered, is inferior to the angelic (Ps 8:5).

3. Proud nominal Christians, who do not lay the whole stress of their salvation upon Christ, but would mingle their dross with His gold, their duties with His merits. This is to steal a jewel from Christ’s crown and implicitly to deny Him to be a perfect Saviour.

4. Airy theorists, who prefer the study of the arts and sciences before Christ. Not that the knowledge of these is not commendable: "Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians" (Acts 7:22). Human learning is of good use to prepare for the study of better things, as a coarser dye prepares the cloth for a richer and a deeper dye. But the fault is when the study of Christ is neglected. The knowledge of Christ ought to have the pre-eminence. It was surely not without a mystery that God allowed all Solomon’s writings about birds and plants to be lost, but what he wrote about spiritual wisdom to be miraculously preserved, as if God would teach us that to know Christ (the true Wisdom) is the crowning knowledge (Prov 8:12). One leaf of this tree of life will give us more comfort on a death-bed than the whole idea and platform of human science. What is it to know all the motions of the orbs and influences of the stars, and in the meantime to be ignorant of Christ, the bright Morning Star (Rev 22:16)? What is it to understand the nature of minerals or precious stones, and not to know Christ the true Cornerstone (Is 28:16)? It is under-valuing, yes, despising Christ, when with the lodestone we draw iron and straw to us, but neglect Him who has tried gold to bestow on us (Rev 3:18).

Use 2:

Is it the sign of a godly person to be a Christ-prizer? Then let us test our godliness by this: Do we set a high estimation on Christ?


How shall we know that?

Answer 1:

If we are prizers of Christ, then we prefer Him in our judgements before other things. We value Christ above honour and riches; the Pearl of Price lies nearest our heart. He who prizes Christ esteems the gleanings of Christ better than the world’s vintage. He counts the worst things of Christ better than the best things of the world: "esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt" (Heb 11:26). And is it thus with us? Has the price of worldly things fallen? Gregory Nazianzene solemnly blessed God that he had anything to lose for Christ’s sake. But alas, how few Nazianzenes are to be found! You will hear some say they have honourable thoughts of Christ, but they prize their land and estate above Him. The young man in the Gospel preferred his bags of gold before Christ. Judas valued thirty pieces of silver above Him. May it not be feared, if an hour of trial comes, that there are many who would rather renounce their baptism, and throw off Christ’s livery, than hazard the loss of their earthly possessions for Him?

Answer 2:

If we are prizers of Christ, we cannot live without Him; things which we value we know not how to be without. A man may live without music, but not without food. A child of God can lack health and friends, but he cannot lack Christ. In the absence of Christ, he says, like Job, "I went mourning without the sun" (Job 30:28). I have the starlight of creature comforts, but I need the Sun of righteousness. "Give me children," said Rachel, "or else I die" (Gen 30:1). So the soul says, "Lord, give me Christ, or I die. One drop of the water of life to quench my thirst." Let us test by this – do they prize Christ who can manage well enough to be without Him? Give a child a rattle, and it will not want gold. If men only have worldly provisions, "corn and wine", they can be content enough without Christ. Christ is a spiritual Rock (1 Cor 10:4). Just let men have "oil in the cruse" and they do not care about honey from this rock. If their trade has gone, they complain, but if God takes away the gospel, which is the ark wherein Christ the manna is hidden, they are quiet and tame enough. Do those prize Christ who can sit down content without Him?

Answer 3:

If we are prizers of Christ, then we shall not complain at any pains to get Him. He who prizes gold will dig for it in the mine: "My soul followeth hard after God" (Ps 63:8). Plutarch reports of the Gauls, an ancient people in France, that after they had tasted the sweet wine of the Italian grape, they enquired after the country, and never rested till they had arrived at it. He in whose eye Christ is precious never rests till he has gained Him: "I sought him whom my soul loveth; I held him, and would not let him go" (Song 3:1,4).

Test by this! Many say they have Christ in high veneration, but they are not industrious in the use of means to obtain Him. If Christ would drop as a ripe fig into their mouth, they could be content to have Him, but they will not put themselves to too much trouble to get Him. Does He who will not take medicine or exercise prize his health?

Answer 4:

If we are prizers of Christ, then we take great pleasure in Christ. What joy a man takes in that which he counts his treasure! He who prizes Christ makes Him his greatest joy. He can delight in Christ when other delights have gone: "Although the fig tree shall not blossom, yet I will rejoice in the Lord" (Hab 3:17,18). Though a flower in a man’s garden dies, he can still delight in his money and jewels. He who esteems Christ can solace himself in Christ when there is an autumn on all other comforts.

Answer 5:

If we are prizers of Christ, then we will part with our dearest pleasures for Him. Paul said of the Galatians that they so esteemed him that they were ready to pull out their own eyes and give them to him (Gal 4:15). He who esteems Christ will pull out that lust which is his right eye. A wise man will throw away a poison for a stimulant. He who sets a high value on Christ will part with his pride, unjust gain and sinful fashions (Is 30:32). He will set his feet on the neck of his sins.

Test by this! How can they be said to prize Christ who will not leave a vanity for him? Not a spot on the face, nor an oath, nor an intemperate cup. What scorn and contempt they put on the Lord Jesus who prefer a damning pleasure before a saving Christ!

Answer 6:

If we are prizers of Christ, we shall think we cannot have Him at too dear a rate. We may buy gold too dearly but we cannot purchase Christ too dearly. Though we part with our blood for Him, it is no dear bargain. The apostles rejoiced that they were graced so much as to be disgraced for Christ (Acts 5:41). They esteemed their fetters more precious than bracelets of gold. Do not let him who refuses to bear his cross say that he prizes Christ: "When persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended" (Mt 13:21).

Answer 7:

If we are prizers of Christ, we will be willing to help others to get a part in Him. That which we esteem excellent, we are desirous our friend should have a share in it. If a man has found a spring of water, he will call others that they may drink and satisfy their thirst. Do we commend Christ to others? Do we take them by the hand and lead them to Christ? This shows how few prize Christ, because they do not make more effort that their relations should have a part in Him. They get land and riches for their posterity, but have no care to leave them the Pearl of Price as their portion.

Answer 8:

If we are prizers of Christ, then we prize Him in health as well as in sickness; when we are enlarged, as well as when we are straitened. A friend is prized at all times, the Rose of Sharon is always sweet. He who values his Saviour aright has as precious thoughts of Him in a day of prosperity as in a day of adversity. The wicked make use of Christ only when they are in straits – as the elders of Gilead went to Jephthah when they were in distress (Jdg 11:7). Themistocles complained of the Athenians that they only ran to him as they did to a tree, to shelter them in a storm. Sinners desire Christ only for shelter. The Hebrews never chose their judges except when they were in some imminent danger. Godless persons never look for Christ except at death, when they are in danger of hell.

Use 3:

As we would prove to the world that we have the impress of godliness on us, let us be prizers of Jesus Christ; He is elect, precious. Christ is the wonder of beauty. Pliny said of the mulberry tree that there is nothing in it but what is therapeutic and useful: the fruit, leaves and bark. So there is nothing in Christ but what is precious. His name is precious, His virtues precious, His blood precious – more precious than the world.

Oh, then, let us have endearing thoughts of Christ, let Him be accounted our chief treasure and delight. This is the reason why millions perish – because they do not prize Christ. Christ is the door by which men are to enter heaven (Jn 10:9). If they do not know this door or are so proud that they will not stoop to go in at it, how can they be saved? That we may have Christ-admiring thoughts, let us consider:

1. We cannot prize Christ at too high a rate. We may prize other things above their value. That is our sin. We commonly overrate the creature; we think there is more in it than there is; therefore God makes our gourd wither, because we overprize it. But we cannot raise our esteem of Christ high enough; He is beyond all value. There is no ruby or diamond but the jeweller can set a fair price on it. He can say it is worth so much and no more. But Christ’s worth can never by fully known. No seraphim can set a due value on Him; His are unsearchable riches (Eph 3:8). Christ is more precious than the soul, than the angels, than heaven.

2. Jesus Christ has highly prized us. He took our flesh upon Him (Heb 2:16). He made His soul an offering for us (Is 53:10). How precious our salvation was to Christ! Shall not we prize and adore Him who has put such value upon us?

3. Not to prize Christ is great imprudence. Christ is our guide to glory. It is folly for a man to slight his guide. He is our physician (Mal 4:2). It is folly to despise our physician.

What! To set light by Christ for things of no value? "Ye fools and blind" (Mt 23:17). How is a fool tested but by showing him an apple and a piece of gold? If he chooses the apple before the gold, he is judged to be a fool and his estate is beggared. How many such idiots there are who prefer husks before manna, the gaudy, empty things of this life before the Prince of Glory! Will not Satan beggar them at last for fools?

4. Some slight Christ now and say, "There is no beauty that we should desire him" (Is 53:2). There is a day coming shortly when Christ will as much slight them. He will set as light by them as they do by Him. He will say, "I know you not" (Lk 13:27). What a slighting word that will be, when men cry, "Lord Jesus, save us," and he says, "I was offered to you but you would have none of me [Ps 81:11]; you scorned me, and now I will set light by you and your salvation. Depart from me, I do not know you." This is all that sinners get by rejecting the Lord of life. Christ will slight at the day of judgement those who have slighted Him in this day of grace. W