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.
Is it the sign of a godly person to be a Christ-prizer? Then let us test our godliness by this: Do we set a high estimation on Christ?
Question: How shall we know that?
Answer 1: If we are prizers of Christ, then we prefer him in our judgments before other things. We value Christ above honour and riches; the Pearl of Price lies nearest our heart. He who prizes Christ esteems the gleanings of Christ better than the world’s vintage. He counts the worst things of Christ better than the best things of the world: ‘esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt’ (Heb. 11:26). And is it thus with us? Has the price of worldly things fallen? Gregory Nazianzene solemnly blessed God that he had anything to lose for Christ’s sake. But alas, how few Nazianzenes are to be found! You will hear some say they have honourable thoughts of Christ, but they prize their land and estate above him. The young man in the Gospel preferred his bags of gold before Christ. Judas valued thirty pieces of silver above him. May it not be feared, if an hour of trial comes, that there are many who would rather renounce their baptism, and throw off Christ’s livery, than hazard the loss of their earthly possessions for him?
Answer 2: If we are the prizers of Christ, we cannot live without him; things which we value we know not how to be without. A man may live without music, but not without food. A child of God can lack health and friends, but he cannot lack Christ. In the absence of Christ, he says, like Job, ‘I went mourning without the sun’ (Job 30:28) I have the starlight of creature comforts, but I need the Sun of righteousness. ‘Give me children,’ said Rachel, ‘or else I die’ (Gen. 30: 1). So the soul says, ‘Lord, give me Christ, or I die. One drop of the water of life to quench my thirst. ’ Let us test by this – do they prize Christ who can manage well enough to be without him? Give a child a rattle, and it will not want gold. If men only have worldly provisions, ‘corn and wine’, they can be content enough without Christ. Christ is a spiritual Rock (1 Cor. 10:4). Just let men have ‘oil in the cruse’ and they do not care about honey from this rock. If their trade has gone, they complain, but if God takes away the gospel, which is the ark wherein Christ the manna is hidden, they are quiet and tame enough. Do those prize Christ who can sit down content without him?
Answer 3: If we are prizers of Christ, then we shall not complain at any pains to get him. He who prizes gold will dig for it in the mine: ‘My soul followeth hard after God’ (Psa. 63:8). Plutarch reports of the Gauls, an ancient people in France, that after they had tasted the sweet wine of the Italian grape, they enquired after the country, and never rested till they had arrived at it. He in whose eye Christ is precious never rests till he has gained him: ‘I sought him whom my soul loveth; I held him, and would not let him go’ (Song 3:1, 4).
Test by this! Many say they have Christ in high veneration, but they are not industrious in the use of means to obtain him. If Christ would drop as a ripe fig into their mouth, they could be content to have him, but they will not put themselves to too much trouble to get him. Does he who will not take medicine or exercise prize his health?
Answer 4: If we are prizers of Christ, then we take great pleasure in Christ. What joy a man takes in that which he counts his treasure! He who prizes Christ makes him his greatest joy. He can delight in Christ when other delights have gone: ‘Although the fig tree shall not blossom, yet I will rejoice in the Lord’ (Hab. 3:17, 18). Though a flower in a man’s garden dies, he can still delight in his money and jewels. He who esteems Christ can solace himself in Christ when there is an autumn on all other comforts.
Answer 5: If we are prizers of Christ, then we will part with our dearest pleasures for him. Paul said of the Galatians that they so esteemed him that they were ready to pull out their own eyes and give them to him (Gal. 4:15). He who esteems Christ will pull out that lust which is his right eye. A wise man will throw away a poison for a stimulant. He who sets a high value on Christ will part with his pride, unjust gain and sinful fashions (Isa. 30: 32). He will set his feet on the neck of his sins.
Test by this! How can they be said to prize Christ who will not leave a vanity for him? Not a spot on the face, nor an oath, nor an intemperate cup. What scorn and contempt they put on the Lord Jesus who prefer a damning pleasure before a saving Christ!
Answer 6: If We are prizers of Christ, we shall think we cannot have him at too dear a rate. We may buy gold too dearly but we cannot purchase Christ too dearly. Though we part with our blood for him, it is no dear bargain. The apostles rejoiced that they were graced so much as to be disgraced for Christ (Acts 5:4 1). They esteemed their fetters more precious than bracelets of gold. Do not let him who refuses to bear his cross say that he prizes Christ: ‘When persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended’ (Matt. 13:21).
Answer 7: If we are prizers of Christ, we will be willing to help others to get a part in him. That which we esteem excellent, we are desirous our friend should have a share in it. If a man has found a spring of Water, he will call others that they may drink and satisfy their thirst. Do we commend Christ to others? Do we take them by the hand and lead them to Christ? This shows how few prize Christ, because they do not make more effort that their relations should have a part in him. They get land and riches for their posterity, but have no care to leave them the Pearl of Price as their portion.
Answer 8: If we are ‘prizers of Christ, then we prize him in health as well as in sickness; when we are enlarged, as well as when we are straitened. A friend is prized at all times; the Rose of Sharon is always sweet. He who values his Saviour aright has as precious thoughts of him in a day of prosperity as in a day of adversity. The wicked make use of Christ only when they are in straits – as the elders of Gilead went to Jephthah when they were in distress (Judges 11:7). Themistocles complained of the Athenians that they only ran to him as they did to a tree, to shelter them in a storm. Sinners desire Christ only for shelter. The Hebrews never chose their judges except when they were in some imminent danger. Godless persons never look for Christ except at death, when they are in danger of hell.