Book Review: The Godly Man’s Picture

IT HAS COME TO MY ATTENTION that I have not done nearly enough gushing over books lately. All the titles I’ve been reviewing have fallen into the “mildly interesting” to “moderately convicting” categories of reading, with nary a real live gusher among them. Well. This book breaks the trend, because I absolutely loved it, and there is definitely some gushing in the near future, if you keep reading. It was gripping. Illuminating. Grin-inducing. Thought-provoking. I was torn between reading slowly, so that it would last longer, and finishing quickly, so that I could share my thoughts about it. Hands down, this is the best book I’ve read so far this year.

Sounds like a thrilling and colourful adventure tale, doesn’t it? The title of the post may have given you a hint that such is not the case…try a sermon series originally published in 1666.

Puritan preacher Thomas Watson sets out to draw a picture of a godly man. What characteristics set him apart? How can we test our own lives to see if they match the requirements? What obstacles lie on the path to godliness? Watson begins his book with several assertions about godliness itself: it is real, though supernatural, both extensive and intense, glorious and permanent. He then takes a chapter to reprove and warn those who are only pretending to godliness, before settling into the main section of the book, which consists of twenty-four characteristics of the godly man. I’m only going to give you a few quotes from some of my favorite sections, since a summary of all of them would make this blog unconscionably long.

The godly man is:

  • A Man Who Loves the Word

“What sums of money the martyrs gave for a few leaves of the Bible! Do we make the Word our bosom friend? … When we want direction, do we consult this sacred oracle? When we find corruptions strong, do we make use of this “sword of the Spirit” to hew them down? When we are disconsolate, do we go to this bottle of the water of life for comfort? Then we are lovers of the Word!” But alas, how can they who are seldom conversant with the Scriptures say they love them? Their eyes begin to be sore when they look at a Bible. The two testaments are hung up like rusty armor which is seldom or never made use of. The Lord wrote the law with his own finger, but though God took pains to write, men will not take pains to read.”

This is so true, and so convicting. We have such easy access to the Bible, but how often, even if we’re reading it every day, do we make important decisions without considering the Bible, or try to fight the spiritual war without donning our armor?

  • A Man Who Weeps

“Grace dissolves and liquifies the soul, causing a spiritual thaw…Does your soul melt out at your eyes?”

I just found this whole section funny. It is so different from how we look at things today! Yes, Christians should be sad sometimes. When we look at our own hearts, and when we look at the world around us, we see much to make us sad. (Watson does note the other side of the equation as well—we should often be joyful!)

  • A Zealous Man

“Zeal makes the blood rise when God’s honor is impeached.”

I have been accused of being a radical, and it was encouraging to read that it is sometimes a good thing!

  • A Man Who Loves the Saints

“A Christian in this life is like a good face full of freckles. You who cannot love another because of his imperfections have never yet seen your own face in the mirror”

He is comparing Christians to freckles. Freckles. I just had to put in this quote, because it is a new favorite of mine. If you see me smiling for no apparent reason, it is probably because I’m visualizing every Christian I know as a face full of freckles.

Thomas Watson concludes the book with more warnings and encouragement: while it is dangerous to be ungodly, if we are doubtful about our own godliness, we can use all these characteristics as “evidence” for our own peace when the devil assails us with doubts. Though we fail in many areas, Christ does not break a bruised reed, and as long as our salvation is on the sure foundation of faith in Christ (never, ever, faith in our own works!) we will exhibit godliness, however faint it may be at times.

There are a few things about this book as a whole that I especially appreciated:

  1. Firmly Founded on Scripture.

The picture of a godly man must be “drawn with a scripture pencil” as the subtitle points out, and thus Watson backs up every point he makes with scripture references and illustrations. (For those of you who read my other blog, Preparing for the Ultimate Career, I got a ton of ideas for future Psalm 119 posts as I was reading through, since that chapter is referenced over and over throughout the book.)

2. Vivid Word Pictures.

This is a stylistic thing: I just love the way he uses similes, illustrations, and word pictures to make his points.

3. Stuffed with Doctrine.

Even though on the surface this is more of a practical “How to recognize a godly man when you meet him” book, there is so much doctrine included as well.

4. Suffused with love.

Thomas Watson is a good pastor: in every line he writes, his deep love of God, and his sincere care for people is clear.

I cannot recommend this book enough: it could easily be read in small sections by anyone who is looking for a good devotional, it is worth reading no matter how much or little you know about godliness, and I think it can be understood even by older children, as well as adults. Sadly, I will have to give this copy back to my brother in a few months, but I will certainly get my own, as well as looking out for other titles written by Thomas Watson.

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