Wednesdays with Watson is a weekly reading taken from my favorite Puritan writer, Thomas Watson. This week’s selection is taken from The Godly Man’s Picture.
A godly man is a servant of God.
‘We are the servants of the God of heaven’ (Ezra 5:11); ‘Epaphras, a servant of Christ’ (Col. 4:12).
Question: In what sense is a godly man a servant of God?
Answer: In seven respects:
1. A servant leaves all others, and confines himself to one master. So a godly man leaves the service of sin, and betakes himself to the service of God (Rom. 5:22). Sin is a tyrannizing thing; a sinner is a slave when he sins with most freedom. The wages which sin gives may deter us from its service: ‘the wages of sin is death’ (Rom. 6:23). Here is damnable pay! A godly man enlists himself in God’s family, and is one of his menial servants: ‘O Lord, truly I am thy servant; I am thy servant’ (Psa. 116:16). David repeats himself, as if he had said, ‘Lord, I have given my pledge; no-one else can lay claim to me; my ear is bored to thy service’.
2. A servant is not independent, at his own disposal, but at the disposal of his master. A servant must not do what he pleases, but be at the will of his master. Thus a godly man is God’s servant. He is wholly at God’s disposal. He has no will of his own: ‘Thy will be done on earth’. Some will say to the godly, ‘Why cannot you behave like others? Why will you not drink and swear and profane the Sabbath as others do?’ The godly are God’s servants; they must not do what they Want, but be under the rules of the family; they must do nothing but what they can show their master’s authority for.
3. A servant is bound. There are covenants and indentures sealed between him and his master. Thus there are indentures drawn in baptism, and in conversion the indentures are renewed and sealed. There we bind ourselves to God to be his sworn servants: ‘I have sworn, and I will perform it, that I will keep thy righteous judgments’ (Psa. 119:106). A godly man has tied himself to the Lord by vow, and he makes conscience of his vow. He would rather die by persecution than live by perjury (Psa. 56:12).
4. A servant not only wears his master’s livery, but does his work. Thus a godly man works for God. St Paul ‘spent and was spent for Christ’ (2 Cor. 12: 15). He worked harder than all the other apostles (1 Cor. 15:10). A godly man is active for God to his last breath, ‘even unto the end’ (Psa. 119:112). Only ‘the dead rest from their labours’ (Rev. 14:13).
5. A servant follows his master; thus a godly man is a servant of God. While others wonder after the beast, he follows after the Lamb (Rev. 13: 3; 14:4). He wants to tread in the steps of Christ. If a master leaps over hedge and ditch, the servant will follow him. A godly man will follow Christ through afflictions: ‘If any man will come after me, let him take up his cross daily, and follow me’ (Luke 9:23). Peter wanted to follow Christ on the water. A godly man will follow Christ though it is death every step. He will keep his goodness when others are bad. As all the water in the salt sea cannot make the fish salt, but they still retain their freshness, so all the wickedness in the world cannot make a godly man wicked, but he still retains his piety. He will follow Christ in the worst times.
6. A servant is satisfied with his master’s allowance. He does not say, ‘I will have such provisions made ready’. If he has short commons, he does not find fault. He knows he is a servant, and accepts his master’s carving. In this sense, a godly man is God’s servant; he is willing to live on God’s allowance; if he has only some left-overs, he does not grumble. Paul knew he was a servant, therefore whether more or less fell to his share, he was indifferent (Phil. 4:11). When Christians complain at their condition, they forget that they are servants, and must live on the allowance of their heavenly Master. You who have the least bit from God will die in his debt.
7. A servant will stand up for the honour of his master. He cannot hear his master reproached, but will vindicate his credit. Thus, every godly man will stand up for the honour of his Master, Christ. ‘My zeal hath consumed me’ (Psa. 119:139). A servant of God stands up for his truths. Some can hear God’s name reproached, and his ways spoken against, yet remain silent. God will be ashamed of such servants, and reject them before men and angels.