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.
‘O how love I thy law’ (Psa. 119:97).
A: A godly man loves the Word written.
Chrysostom compares the Scripture to a garden set with knots and flowers. A godly man delights to walk in this garden and sweetly solace himself. He loves every branch and part of the Word:
1. He loves the counselling part of the Word, as it is a directory and rule of life. The Word is the mercurial statue which points us to our duty. It contains in it things to be believed and practised. A godly man loves the aphorisms of the Word.
2. He loves the threatening part of the Word. The Scripture is like the Garden of Eden: as it has a tree of life in it, so it has a flaming sword at its gates. This is the threatening of the Word. It flashes fire in the face of every person who goes on obstinately in wickedness. ‘God shall wound the hairy scalp of such an one as goeth on still in his trespasses’ (Psa. 68:21). The Word gives no indulgence to evil. It will not let a man halt between God and sin. The true mother would not let the child be divided (1 Kings 3:26), and God will not have the heart divided. The Word thunders out threatenings against the very appearance of evil. It is like that flying roll full of curses (Zech. 5:1).
A godly man loves the menaces of the Word. He knows there is love in every threat. God would not have us perish; he therefore mercifully threatens us, so that he may scare us from sin. God’s threats are like the buoy, which shows the rocks in the sea and threatens death to such as come near. The threat is a curbing bit to check us, so that we may not run in full career to hell. There is mercy in every threat.
3. He loves the consolatory part of the Word — the promises. He goes feeding on these as Samson went on his way eating the honeycomb (Judges 14:8, 9). The promises are all marrow and sweetness. They are our Bezar stone when we are fainting; they are the conduits of the water of life. ‘In the multitude of my thoughts within me thy comforts delight my soul’ (Psa. 94:19). The promises were David’s harp to drive away sad thoughts; they were the breast which gave him the milk of divine consolation.
A godly man shows his love to the Word written:
(i) By diligently reading it. The noble Bereans ‘searched the Scriptures daily’ (Acts 17:11). Apollos was mighty in the Scriptures (Acts 18:24). The Word is our Magna Carta for heaven; we should be daily reading over this charter. The Word shows what is truth and what is error. It is the field where the pearl of price is hidden. How we should dig for this pearl! A godly man’s heart is the library to hold the Word of God; it dwells richly in him (Col. 3:16). It is reported of Melanchthon that when he was young, he always carried the Bible with him and read it greedily. The Word has a double work: to teach us and to judge us. Those who will not be taught by the Word shall be judged by the Word. Oh, let us make ourselves familiar with the Scripture! What if it should be as in the times of Diocletian, who commanded by proclamation that the Bible be burned? Or as in Queen Mary’s days, when it spelled death to have a Bible in English? By diligent conversing with Scripture, we may carry a Bible in our heads.
(ii) By frequently meditating on it: ‘It is my meditation all the day’ (Psa. 119:97). A pious soul meditates on the truth and holiness of the Word. He not only has a few transient thoughts, but leaves his mind steeping in the Scripture. By meditation, he sucks from this sweet flower and ruminates on holy truths in his mind.
(iii) By delighting in it. It is his recreation: ‘Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart’ (Jer. 15:16). Never did a man take such delight in a dish that he loved as the prophet did in the Word. And indeed, how can a saint choose but take great pleasure in the Word? All that ever he hopes to be worth is contained in it. Does not a son take pleasure in reading his father’s will and testament, in which he bequeaths his estate to him?
(iv) By hiding it: ‘Thy word have I hid in mine heart’ (Psa. 119:11) — as one hides a treasure so that it should not be stolen. The Word is the jewel; the heart is the cabinet where it must be locked up. Many hide the Word in their memory, but not in their heart. And why would David enclose the Word in his heart? ‘That I might be kept from sinning against thee.’ As a man would carry an antidote about him when he comes near an infected place, so a godly man carries the Word in his heart as a spiritual antidote to preserve him from the infection of sin. Why have so many been poisoned with error, others with moral vice, but because they have not hidden the Word as a holy antidote in their heart?
(v) By defending it. A wise man will not let his land be taken from him but will defend his title. David looked upon the Word as his land of inheritance: ‘Thy testimonies have I taken as an heritage for ever’ (Psa. 119:111). And do you think he would let his inheritance be wrested out of his hands? A godly man will not only dispute for the Word but die for it: ‘I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God’(Rev. 6:9).
(vi) By preferring it above things most precious: (a) Above food: ‘I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food’ (Job 23:12). (b) Above riches: ‘The law of thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver’ (Psa. 119:72). (c) Above worldly honour. Memorable is the story of King Edward the Sixth. On the day of his coronation, when they presented three swords before him, signifying to him that he was monarch of three kingdoms, the king said, ‘There is still one sword missing.’ On being asked what that was, he answered, ‘The Holy Bible, which is the “sword of the Spirit” and is to be preferred before these ensigns of royalty.’
(vii) By talking about it: ‘My tongue shall speak of thy word’ (Psa. 119:172). As a covetous man talks of his rich purchase, so a godly man speaks of the Word. What a treasure it is, how full of beauty and sweetness! Those whose mouths the devil has gagged, who never speak of God’s Word, indicate that they never reaped any good from it.
(viii) By conforming to it. The Word is his sundial, by which he sets his life, the balance in which he weighs his actions. He copies out the Word in his daily walk: ‘I have kept the faith’ (2 Tim. 4:7). St Paul kept the doctrine of faith, and lived the life of faith.