The Godly Man's Picture, Drawn with a
Scripture Pencil, or, Some Characteristic
Marks of a Man who is Going to Heaven

By Thomas Watson

Christian Reader,
The soul being so precious, and salvation so glorious—it is the highest point of prudence to make preparations for the eternal world. It is beyond all dispute, that there is an inheritance in light; and it is most strenuously asserted in Holy Scripture that there must be a fitness and suitability for it (Col. 1:12). If anyone asks, "Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord?" the answer is, "He who has clean hands, and a pure heart" (Psalm 24:4). To describe such a person is the work of this ensuing treatise. Here you have the godly man's portrait, and see him portrayed in his full lineaments.

What a rare thing godliness is! It is not airy and puffed up—but solid, and such as will take up the heart and spirits. Godliness consists in an exact harmony between holy principles and practices. Oh, that all into whose hands this book shall providentially come, may be so enamored with piety as to embrace it heartily. So sublime is godliness that it cannot be delineated in its perfect radiance and luster, though an angel should take the pencil. Godliness is our wisdom. "The fear of the Lord, that is wisdom" (Job 28:28). Morality without piety is profound madness. Godliness is a spiritual queen, and whoever marries her, is sure of a large dowry with her. Godliness has the promise of the present life and of that which is to come (1 Tim. 4:8). Godliness gives assurance, yes, holy triumph in God; and how sweet is that! (Isaiah 32:17).

It was old Latimer who said, "When sometimes I sit alone, and have a settled assurance of the state of my soul, and know that God is my God—I can laugh at all troubles, and nothing can daunt me." Godliness puts a man in heaven before his time. Christian, aspire after piety; it is a lawful ambition. Look at the saints' characteristics here, and never leave off until you have got them stamped upon your own soul. This is the grand business which should swallow up your time and thoughts. Other speculations and quaint notions are nothing, compared to the priceless soul. They are like wafers which have fine words printed upon them, and are curious to the eye—but are thin, and yield little nourishment. But I will not keep you longer in the porch. Should I have enlarged upon any one characteristic of the godly man, it would have required a volume—but designing to go over many, I have contracted my sails, and given you only a brief summary of things. If this piece conduces to the good of souls, I shall have my desire. That the God of grace will effectually accomplish this shall be the prayer of him who is
Yours in all Christian affection,
Thomas Watson


"For this cause shall everyone who is godly pray unto you." (Psalm 32:6)

Holy David at the beginning of this psalm, shows us wherein true happiness consists; not in beauty, honor, riches (the world's trinity)—but in the forgiveness of sin. "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven" (v. 1). The Hebrew word "to forgive" signifies "to carry out of sight", which agrees well with the words of Jeremiah: "In those days, says the Lord, the sins of Judah shall be sought for, and they shall not be found" (Jer. 50:20). This is an incomprehensible blessing, and such as lays a foundation for all other mercies. I shall just glance at it, and lay down these five assertions about it:

1. Forgiveness of sin is an act of God's free grace.

The Greek word for "forgive" (charizomai) makes clear the source of pardon. Pardon does not arise from anything inherent in us—but is the pure result of free grace (charis). "I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake" (Isaiah 43:25). When a creditor forgives a debtor, he does it freely. Pardon of sin is a royal thread, spun out of the heart of free grace. Paul cries out, "I obtained mercy" (1 Tim. 1:13)—"I was be-mercied". He who is pardoned, is all bestrewn with mercy. When the Lord pardons a sinner, he does not only pay a debt—but gives an inheritance!

2. God, in forgiving sin, remits the guilt and penalty.

Guilt cries for justice. No sooner had Adam eaten the apple, than he saw the "flaming sword" and heard the curse. But in forgiveness of sin, God indulges the sinner. He seems to say to him, "Though you have fallen into the hands of my justice and deserve to die—yet I will absolve you, and whatever is charged against you shall be discharged."

3. Forgiveness of sin is through the blood of Christ.

Free grace is the impulsive cause; Christ's blood is the meritorious cause. "Without shedding of blood is no remission of sin" (Heb. 9:22). Justice would be revenged either on the sinner, or on the surety. Every pardon is the price of Christ's blood.

4. Before sin is forgiven, it must be repented of.

Therefore repentance and remission are linked together: "that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name" (Luke 24:47). Not that repentance in a popish sense merits forgiveness. Christ's blood must wash our tears away—but repentance is a qualification, though not a cause of forgiveness. He who is humbled for sin, will value pardoning mercy the more. When there is nothing in the soul but clouds of sorrow, and now God brings a pardon—which is a setting up of a rainbow in the cloud, to tell the sinner that the flood of wrath shall not overflow him—oh, what joy there is at the sight of this rainbow! The soul that before was steeped in tears, now melts in love to God (Luke 7:38, 47).

5. God having forgiven sin, he will no longer call it to remembrance. (Jer. 31:34)

The Lord will not upbraid us with former unkindness. "He will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea" (Mic. 7:19). Sin shall not be cast in like cork which rises up again—but like lead which sinks to the bottom. How we should all labor for this covenant blessing!

(i) How sad it is to lack pardon! It must of necessity go badly with the malefactor, who lacks his pardon. All the curses of God stand in full force against the unpardoned sinner; his very blessings are cursed (Mal. 2:2). Caesar wondered at one of his soldiers, who was so merry when he was in debt. Can that sinner be merry who is heir to all God's curses—and does not know how soon he may take up his lodgings among the damned!

(ii) How sweet it is to have pardon!

(a) The pardoned soul is out of the gunshot of hell (Romans 8:33). Satan may accuse—but Christ will show a discharge!

(b) The pardoned soul may go to God with boldness in prayer. Guilt clips the wings of prayer, so that it cannot fly to the throne of grace—but forgiveness breeds confidence. He who has his pardon, may look his prince in the face with comfort.

This great mercy of pardon David had obtained, as appears in verse 5: "You forgave me". And because he had found God "a God of pardons" (Neh. 9:17), he therefore encouraged others to seek God in the words of the text: "For this cause shall everyone who is godly pray unto you."

The Nature of Godliness

It will first be enquired, "What is godliness?" I answer in general, "Godliness is the sacred impression and workmanship of God in a man, whereby from being carnal he is made spiritual." When godliness is wrought in a person, he does not receive a new soul—but he has "another spirit" (Numb. 14:24). The faculties are not new—but the qualities are; the strings are the same—but the tune is corrected. Concerning godliness, I shall lay down these seven maxims or propositions:

1. Godliness is a REAL thing

It is not a fantasy, but a fact. Godliness is not the feverish fantasy of a sick brain; a Christian is no enthusiast, one whose religion is all made up of theory. Godliness has truth for its foundation; it is called "the way of truth" (Psalm 119:30). Godliness is a ray and beam that shines from God. If God is true, then godliness is true.

2. Godliness is an INTRINSIC thing

It lies chiefly in the heart: "circumcision is that of the heart" (Romans 2:29). The dew lies on the leaf, the sap is hidden in the root. The moralist's religion is all in the leaf; it consists only in externals—but godliness is a holy sap which is rooted in the soul: "Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place" (Psalm 51:6).

3. Godliness is a SUPERNATURAL thing

By nature we inherit nothing but evil. "When we were in the flesh, the motions of sins did work in our members" (Romans 7:5). We sucked in sin as naturally as our mother's milk; but godliness is the "wisdom from above" (Jas. 3:17). It is breathed in from heaven. God must light up the lamp of grace in the heart. Weeds grow by themselves; flowers are planted. Godliness is a celestial plant which comes from the New Jerusalem. Therefore it is called a "fruit of the Spirit" (Gal. 5:22). A man has no more power to make himself godly, than to create himself.

4. Godliness is an EXTENSIVE thing

It is a sacred leaven which spreads itself into the whole soul: "May the God of peace sanctify you wholly" (1 Thess. 5:23). There is light in the understanding, order in the affections, pliableness in the will, exemplariness in the life. We do not call a black man white, because he has white teeth. He who is good only in some part is not godly. Grace is called "the new man" (Col. 3:10), not a new eye, or tongue—but a new man. He who is godly is good all over; though he is regenerate only in part—yet it is in every part.

5. Godliness is an INTENSE thing

It does not lie in a dead formality and indifference—but is vigorous and flaming: "fervent in spirit" (Romans 12:11). We call water hot when it is so in the third or fourth degree. He whose devotion is inflamed is godly, and his heart boils over in holy affections.

6. Godliness is a GLORIOUS thing

As the jewel to the ring, so is piety to the soul, bespangling it in God's eyes. Reason makes us men; godliness makes us earthly angels; by it we "partake of the divine nature" (2 Pet. 1:4). Godliness is near akin to glory: "glory and virtue" (2 Pet. 1:3). Godliness is glory in the seed, and glory is godliness in the flower.

7. Godliness is a PERMANENT thing

Aristotle says, "Names are given from the habit". We do not call the one who blushes ruddy—but the one who is of a ruddy complexion (1 Sam. 17:42). A blush of godliness is not enough to distinguish a Christian—but godliness must be the temper and complexion of the soul. Godliness is a fixed thing. There is a great deal of difference between a stake in the hedge—and a tree in the garden. A stake rots and molders—but a tree, having life in it, abides and flourishes. When godliness has taken root in the soul, it abides to eternity: "his seed remains in him" (1 John 3:9). Godliness being engraved in the heart by the Holy Spirit, as with the point of a diamond, can never be erased.

A reproof to such as are only PRETENDERS to Godliness

"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness." Matthew 23:27-28

Here is a sharp rebuke to such as are "glittering dross" Christians, who only make a show of godliness, like Michal, who put "an image in the bed", and so deceived Saul's messengers (1 Sam. 19:16). These our Savior calls "whited sepulchers" (Matt. 23:27)—their beauty is all paint! In ancient times a third part of the inhabitants of England were called Picts, which signifies "painted". It is to be feared that they still retain their old name. How many are painted over with a religious profession, whose seeming luster dazzles the eyes of beholders—but within there is nothing but putrefaction! Hypocrites are like the swan, which has white feathers—but a black skin; or like that flower, which has a lovely appearance—but a bad scent. "You have a name that you live, and are dead" (Rev. 3:1). These the apostle Jude compares to "clouds without water" (Jude 12). They claim to be full of the Spirit—but they are empty clouds; their goodness is but a religious cheat.

Question: But why do people content themselves with a show of godliness?

Answer: This helps to keep up their fame. Men are ambitious of credit, and wish to gain repute in the world, therefore they will dress themselves in the garb and mode of religion, so that others may write them down for saints. But alas, what is one the better for having others commend him—and his conscience condemn him? What good will it do a man when he is in hell—that others think he has gone to heaven? Oh, beware of this! Counterfeit piety is double iniquity.

1. To have only a show of godliness is a God-enraging sin

The man who is a pretender to saintship—but whose heart tells him he has nothing but the name, carries Christ in his Bible but not in his heart. Some political design spurs him on in the ways of God; he makes religion a lackey to his carnal interest. What is this but to abuse God to his face, and to serve the devil in Christ's livery? Hypocrisy makes the fury rise up in God's face; therefore he calls such people "the generation of his wrath" (Isaiah 10:6). God will send them to hell, to do penance for their hypocrisy!

2. To make only a show of godliness is self-delusion

It is a horrible mistake to take a show of grace, for grace. This is to cheat yourself: "deceiving your own souls" (Jas. 1:22). He who has counterfeit gold instead of true gold, wrongs himself most. The hypocrite deceives others while he lives—but deceives himself when he dies.

3. To have only a name, and make a show of godliness, is odious to God and man

The hypocrite is abhorred by all. Wicked men hate him because he makes a show, and God hates him because he only makes a show. The wicked hate him because he has so much as a mask of godliness, and God hates him because he has no more. "You have almost persuaded me to be a Christian" (Acts 26:28). The wicked hate the hypocrite because he is almost a Christian, and God hates him because he is only almost one.

4. To make a show of piety is a vain thing

Hypocrites lose all they have done. Their sham tears drop beside God's bottle; their prayers and fasts prove abortive. "When you fasted and mourned, did you at all fast unto me, even to me?" (Zech. 7:5). As God will not recompense a slothful servant, neither will he recompense a treacherous one. The hypocrites' full reward is in this life: "They have their reward" (Matt. 6:5). A poor reward—the empty breath of men. The hypocrite may make his receipt and write, "Received in full payment". Hypocrites may have the praise of men—but though these triumphs are granted them, they shall never have the privilege of sitting in heaven. What acceptance can he look for from God, whose heart tells him he is no better than a charlatan in divinity?

5. To have only a pretense of godliness will yield no comfort at death

Will painted gold enrich a man? Will painted wine refresh him who is thirsty? Will the paint of godliness stand you in any stead? How were the foolish virgins better for their "blazing lamps", when they had no oil? What is the lamp of profession without the oil of grace? He who has only a painted holiness shall have only a painted happiness.

6. You who have nothing but a specious pretext and mask of piety expose yourself to Satan's scorn

You shall be brought forth at the last day, as was Samson, to make the devil sport (Judges 16:25). He will say, "What has become of your vows, tears, confessions? Has all your religion come to this? Did you so often defy the devil, and have you now come to dwell with me? Could you meet with no weapon to kill you—but what was made of gospel metal? Could you not suck poison anywhere but out of ordinances? Could you find no way to hell—but by counterfeit godliness?" What a vexation this will be, to have the devil thus reproach a man! What will it be to have the devil triumph over a man at the last day!

Let us therefore take heed of this pious pageantry or devout stage-play. That which may make us fear our hearts the more is when we see tall cedars in the church worm-eaten with hypocrisy. Balaam a prophet, Jehu a king, Judas an apostle—all of them stand to this day on record as hypocrites.

It is true that there are the seeds of this sin in the best Christian; but as it was with leprosy under the law, all who had swellings or spots in the skin of the flesh were not reputed unclean and put out of the camp (Lev. 13:6); so all who have the swellings of hypocrisy in them are not to be judged hypocrites, for these may be the spots of God's children (Deut. 32:5). But that which distinguishes a hypocrite is when hypocrisy is predominant and is like a spreading cancer in the body.

Question: When is a man under the dominion and power of hypocrisy?

Answer: There are two signs of its predominance:

(i) When one serves God for sinister ends.

(ii) When there is some sin dear to a man, which he cannot part with. These two are as clear signs of a hypocrite as any I know.

Oh, let us take David's candle and lantern, and search for this leaven, and burn it before the Lord!

Christian, if you mourn for hypocrisy—yet find this sin so potent that you cannot get the mastery of it, go to Christ. Beg of him that he would exercise his kingly office in your soul, that he would subdue this sin, and put it under the yoke. Beg of Christ to exercise his spiritual surgery upon you. Desire him to lance your heart and cut out the rotten flesh, and that he would apply the medicine of his blood to heal you of your hypocrisy. Say that prayer of David often: "Let my heart be sound in your statutes" (Psalm 119:80). "Lord, let me be anything rather than a hypocrite." A double-heart will exclude from one heaven.