Motives to Persevere Godliness

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]), 216-219 [Chap 9]

So that I may encourage Christians to persevere in the profession of godliness, I shall propose these four considerations:

1. It is the glory and crown of a Christian to be grey-headed in godliness

"Mnason of Cyprus, an old disciple" (Acts 21:16). What an honour it is to see a Christian’s garments red with blood, yet his conscience pure white and his graces green and flourishing!

2. How sinners persevere in their sins!

They are settled on their lees (Zeph 1:12). The judgements of God will not deter or remove them. They say to their sin, as Ruth said to Naomi, "Where thou goest, I will go… the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me" (Ruth 1:16,17). So nothing shall part men from their sins. Oh, what a shame it is that the wicked should be fixed in evil and we unfixed in good, that they should be more constant in the devil’s service than we are in Christ’s!

3. Our perseverance in godliness may be a means of confirming others

Cyprian’s hearers followed him to the place of his suffering, and when they saw his steadfastness in the faith, they cried out, "Let us also die with our holy pastor." "Many of the brethren, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word" (Phil 1:14). St Paul’s zeal and constancy animated the onlookers. His prison chains made converts in Nero’s court, and two of those converts were afterwards martyrs, as history relates.

4. We shall lose nothing by our perseverance in godliness

There are eight glorious promises which God has entailed on the persevering saints:

i. "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life" (Rev 2:10). Christian, you may lose the breath of life but not the crown of life.

ii. "To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life" (Rev 2:7). This tree of life is the Lord Jesus. This tree infuses life and prevents death. The day we eat of this tree, our eyes shall indeed be opened to see God.

iii. "To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it" (Rev 2:17). This promise consists of three branches:

a. "I will give to eat of the hidden manna." This is mysterious. It signifies the love of God which is manna for sweetness and hidden for its rarity.

b. "I will give him a white stone", that is, absolution. It may be called a precious stone, says Jerome.

c. "And in the stone a new name", that is, adoption. He shall be reputed an heir of heaven, and no-one can know it, except the one who has the privy seal of the Spirit to assure him of it.

iv. "He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment, and I will not blot his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels" (Rev 3:5). The persevering saint shall be clothed in white. This is an emblem of joy (Ecc 9:8). He shall put off his mourning and be clothed in the white robe of glory. "And I will not blot his name out of the book of life." God will blot a believer’s sins out, but he will not blot his name out. The book of God’s decree has no errata in it. "But I will confess his name." If anyone has owned Christ on earth and worn his colours when it was death to wear them, Christ will not be ashamed of him, but will confess his name before his Father and the holy angels. Oh, what a comfort and honour it will be to have a good look from Christ, at the last day, no, to have Christ own us by name and say, "These were they who stood up for my truth and kept their garments pure in a defiling age. These shall walk with me in white, for they are worthy."

v. "Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out; and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God" (Rev 3:12). There are many excellent things couched in this promise: "I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God". The hypocrite is a reed shaken by the wind, but the conquering saint shall be a glorious pillar, a pillar of strength and a pillar in the temple for sanctity. "And he shall go no more out." I understand this of a glorified state. "He shall go no more out," that is, after he has overcome, he shall not go out to the wars any more. He shall never have any more sin or temptation to conflict with. No more noise of drum or cannon shall be heard, but having won the field, the believer shall now stay at home and divide the spoil. "And I will write upon him the name of my God", that is, he shall be openly acknowledged as my child, just as the Son bears his Father’s name. How honourable that saint must be who has God’s own name written on him! "And I will write upon him the name of the city of my God", that is, he shall be enrolled as a denizen or citizen of the Jerusalem above. He shall be made free in the angelic society.

vi. "He that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations" (Rev 2:26). This may have a double mystery. Either it may be understood of the saints living on earth: they shall have power over the nations: their zeal and patience shall overpower the adversaries of truth (Acts 6:10); or, principally, it may be understood of the saints triumphing in heaven. They shall have power over the nations: they shall share with Christ in some of his power; they shall join with him in judging the world in the last days: "Know ye not that the saints shall judge the world? (1 Cor 6:2).

vii. "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne" (Rev 3:21).

a. Here is, first, the saints’ dignity: they shall sit upon the throne.

b. Their safety: they shall sit with Christ. Christ holds them fast and no-one shall pluck them off his throne. The saints may be turned out of their houses, but they cannot be turned out of Christ’s throne. Men may as well pluck a star out of the sky as a saint out of the throne.

viii. "I will give him the morning star" (Rev 2:28). Though the saints may be sullied with reproach in this life, though they may be termed factious and disloyal – St Paul himself suffered trouble, in the

opinion of some, as an evildoer (2 Tim 2:9) – yet God will bring forth the saints’ righteousness as the light, and they shall shine like the morning star, which is brighter than the rest. "I will give him the morning star." This morning star is meant of Christ, as if Christ had said, "I will give the persevering saint some of my beauty; I will put some of my splendid rays on him; he shall have the nearest degree of glory to me, as the morning star is nearest the sun."

Oh, what soul-ravishing promises there are here! Who would not persevere in godliness! Whoever is not affected by these promises is either a stone or a brute.W