What is godliness?

Watson WednesdaysWednesdays with Watson is a weekly reading taken from my favorite Puritan writer, Thomas Watson.  This week’s selection is taken from The Godly Man’ Picture, chapter 2:  “Expounding 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:

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.…

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.

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.


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