A Godly Man Strives to be an Instrument for making others Godly

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]), 183-188 [Sect. 24 of chap 4, "Showing the Characteristics of a Godly Man"]

He is not content to go to heaven alone but wants to take others there. Spiders work only for themselves, but bees work for others. A godly man is both a diamond and a lodestone – a diamond for the sparkling lustre of grace and a lodestone for his attractiveness. He is always drawing others to embrace piety. Living things have a propagating virtue. Where religion lives in the heart, there will be an endeavour to propagate the life of grace in those we converse with: "My son, Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds" (Phm 10). Though God is the fountain of grace, yet the saints are pipes to transmit living streams to others. This great effort for the conversion of souls proceeds:

1. From The Nature Of Godliness

It is like fire which assimilates and turns everything into its own nature. Where there is the fire of grace in the heart, it will endeavour to inflame others. Grace is a holy leaven, which will be seasoning and leavening others with divine principles. Paul would gladly have converted Agrippa – how he courted him with rhetoric! "King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest" (Acts 26:27). His zeal and eloquence had almost captivated the king (v. 28). Then Agrippa said to Paul, "Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian."

2. From A Spirit Of Compassion

Grace makes the heart tender. A godly man cannot choose but pity those who are in the gall of bitterness. He sees what a deadly cup is brewing for the wicked. They must, without repentance, be bound over to God’s wrath. The fire which rained on Sodom was but a painted fire in comparison with hell fire. This is a fire with a vengeance: "suffering the vengeance of eternal fire" (Jude 7). Now when a godly man sees captive sinners ready to be damned, he strives to convert them from the error of their way: "Knowing the terror of the Lord, we persuade men" (2 Cor 5:11).

3. From A Holy Zeal He Has For Christ’s Glory

The glory of Christ is as dear to him as his own salvation. Therefore, that this may be promoted, he strives with the greatest effort to bring souls to Christ.

It is a glory to Christ when multitudes are born to him. Every star adds a lustre to the sky; every convert is a member added to Christ’s body and a jewel adorning his crown. Though Christ’s glory cannot be increased, as He is God, yet as He is Mediator, it may. The more there are saved, the more Christ is exalted. Why else should the angels rejoice at the conversion of a sinner, but because Christ’s glory now shines the more (Lk 15:10)?

Use 1:

This excludes those who are spiritual eunuchs from the number of the godly. They do not strive to promote the salvation of others. "The one through whom no-one else is born is himself born unworthily."

1. If men loved Christ, they would try to draw as many as they could to him. He who loves his captain will persuade others to come under his banner. This unmasks the hypocrite. Though a hypocrite may make a show of grace himself, yet he never bothers to procure grace in others. He is without compassion. I may allude to the verse: "that that dieth, let it die; and that that is to be cut off, let it be cut off" (Zech 11:9). Let souls go to the devil, he cares not.

2. How far from being godly are those who instead of striving for grace in others, work to destroy all hopeful beginnings of grace in them! Instead of drawing them to Christ, they draw them from Christ. Their work is to poison and harm souls. This harming of souls occurs in three ways:

(i) By bad edicts. So Jeroboam made Israel sin (1 Kgs 16:26). He forced them to idolatry.

(ii) By bad examples. Examples speak louder than precepts, but principally the examples of great men are influential. Men placed on high are like the "pillar of cloud". When that went, Israel went. If great men move irregularly, others will follow them.

(iii) By bad company. The breath of sinners is infectious. They are like the dragon which "cast a flood out of his mouth" (Rev 12:15). They cast a flood of oaths out of their mouths. Wicked tongues are set on fire by hell (Jas 3:6). The sinner finds match and gunpowder, and the devil finds fire. The wicked are for ever setting snares and temptations before others, as the prophet speaks in another sense: "I set pots full of wine, and cups, and I said unto them, Drink" (Jer 35:5). So the wicked set pots of wine before others and make them drink, till reason is stupefied and lust inflamed. These who make men proselytes to the devil are prodigiously wicked. How sad will be the doom of those who, besides their own sins, have the blood of others to answer for!

3. If it is the sign of a godly man to promote grace in others, then how much more ought he to promote it in his near relations. A godly man will be careful that his children should know God. He would be sorry that any of his flesh should burn in hell. He labours to see Christ formed in those who are [under his influence]. Augustine says that his mother Monica travailed with greater care and pain for his spiritual than for his natural birth.

The time of childhood is the fittest time to be sowing seed of religion in our children. "Whom shall he make to understand doctrine? Them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts" (Isa 28:9). The wax, while it is soft and tender, will take any impression. Children, while they are young, will fear a reproof; when they are old, they will hate it.

(i) It is pleasing to God that our children should know him early in life. When you come into a garden, you love to pluck the young bud and smell it. God loves a saint in the bud. Of all the trees which the Lord could have chosen in a prophetic vision (Jer 1:11), he chose the almond tree, which is one of the first of the trees to blossom. Such an almond tree is an early convert.

(ii) By endeavouring to bring up our children in the fear of the Lord, we shall provide for God’s glory when we are dead. A godly man should not only honour God while he lives, but do something that may promote God’s glory when he is dead. If our children are seasoned with gracious principles, they will stand up in our place when we have gone, and will glorify God in their generation. A good piece of ground bears not only a fore-crop but an after-crop. He who is godly does not only bear God a good crop of obedience himself while he lives, but by training his child in the principles of religion, he bears God an after-crop when he is dead.

Use 2:

Let all who have God’s name placed on them do what in them lies to advance piety in others. A knife touched with a lodestone will attract the needle. He whose heart is divinely touched with the lodestone of God’s Spirit will endeavour to attract those who are near him to Christ. The heathen could say, "We are not born for ourselves only". The more excellent anything is, the more communicative it is. In the body every member is diffusive: the eye conveys light; the head, spirits; the liver, blood. A Christian must not move altogether within his own circle, but seek the welfare of others. To be diffusively good makes us resemble God, whose sacred influence is universal.

And surely it will be no grief of heart when conscience can witness for us that we have brought glory to God in this matter by working to fill heaven.

Not that this is in any way meritorious, or has any casual influence on our salvation. Christ’s blood is the cause, but our promoting God’s glory in the conversion of others is a signal evidence of our salvation. As the rainbow is not a cause why God will not drown the world, but is a sign that he will not drown it; or as Rahab’s scarlet thread hung out of the window (Jos 2:18) was not a cause why she was exempted from destruction, but was a sign of her being exempted, so our building up others in the faith is not a cause why we are saved, but it is a symbol of our piety and a presage of our felicity.

Conclusion [of Chapter 4]

And thus I have shown the marks and characteristics of a godly man. If a person thus described is reputed a fanatic, then Abraham and Moses and David and Paul were fanatics, which I think none but atheists will dare to affirm! W