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 will express his thankfulness in every duty. He mingles thanksgiving with prayer: ‘in every thing by prayer with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God’ (Phil. 4:6). Thanksgiving is the more divine part of prayer. In our petitions we express our own necessities; in our thanksgivings we declare God’s excellences. Prayer goes up as incense, when it is perfumed with thanksgiving.
And as a godly man expresses thankfulness in every duty, he does so in every condition. He will be thankful in adversity as well as prosperity: ‘In every thing give thanks’ (1 Thess. 5:18). A gracious soul is thankful and rejoices that he is drawn nearer to God, though it be by the cords of affliction. When it goes well with him, he praises God’s mercy; when it goes badly with him, he magnifies God’s justice. When God has a rod in his hand, a godly man will have a psalm in his mouth. The devil’s smiting of Job was like striking a musical instrument; he sounded forth praise: ‘The Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord’ (Job. 1:21). When God’s spiritual plants are cut and bleed, they drop thankfulness; the saints’ tears cannot drown their praises.
If this is the sign of a godly man, then the number of the godly appears to be very small. Few are in the work of praise. Sinners cut God short of his thank offering: ‘Where are the nine?’ (Luke 17:17). Of ten lepers healed there was but one who returned to give praise. Most of the world are sepulchres to bury God’s praise. You will hear some swearing and cursing but few who bless God. Praise is the yearly rent that men owe, but most are behindhand with their rent. God gave King Hezekiah a marvellous deliverance, ‘but Hezekiah rendered not again according to the benefit done unto him’ (2 Chron. 32:25). That ‘but’ was a blot on his escutcheon. Some, instead of being thankful to God, ‘render evil for good’. They are the worse for mercy: ‘Do ye thus requite the Lord, O foolish people and unwise?’ (Deut. 32:6). This is like the toad that turns the most wholesome herb to poison. Where shall we find a grateful Christian? We read of the saints ‘having harps in their hands’ (Rev 5: 8) — the emblem of praise. Many have tears in their eyes and complaints in their mouths, but few have harps in their hand and are blessing and praising the name of God.