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.
David sometimes sang with his harp, and sometimes the organ of his eye wept: ‘I water my couch with my tears’ (Psa. 6:6).…Grace dissolves and liquefies the soul, causing a spiritual thaw. The sorrow of the heart runs out at the eye (Psa. 31:9).
The Rabbis report that the same night on which Israel departed from Egypt towards Canaan, all the idols of Egypt were broken down by lightning and earthquake. So at that very time at which men go forth from their natural condition towards heaven, all the idols of sin in the heart must be broken down by repentance. A melting heart is the chief branch of the covenant of grace (Ezek. 36:26), and the product of the Spirit: ‘I will pour upon the house of David the spirit of grace, and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him’ (Zech. 12:10).
Question: But why is a godly man a weeper? Is not sin pardoned, which is the ground of joy? Has he not had a transforming work upon his heart? Why, then, does he weep?
Answer: A godly man finds enough reasons for weeping:
1. He weeps for indwelling sin, the law in his members (Rom. 7:23), the outbursts and first risings of sin. His nature is a poisoned fountain. A regenerate person grieves that he carries that about him which is enmity to God; his heart is like a wide sea in which there are innumerable creeping things (Psa. 104:25) – vain, sinful thoughts. A child of God laments hidden wickedness; he has more evil in him than he knows of. There are those windings in his heart which he cannot trace, an unknown world of sin: ‘Who can understand his errors?’ (Psa. 19:12).
2. A godly man weeps for clinging corruption. If he could get rid of sin, there would be some comfort, but he cannot shake off this viper. Sin cleaves to him like leprosy to the wall (Lev. 14:39). Though a child of God forsakes his sin, yet sin will not forsake him. ‘Concerning the rest of the beasts, they had their dominion taken away: yet their lives were prolonged for a season’ (Dan. 7:12). So though the dominion of sin is taken away, yet its life is prolonged for a season; and while sin lives, it molests. The Persians were daily enemies to the Romans and would invade their frontiers. So sin ‘wars against the soul’ (I Pet. 2:11). And there is no cessation of arms till death. Will not this cause tears?
3. A child of God weeps that he is sometimes overcome by the prevalence of corruption: ‘The evil which I would not, that I do’ (Rom. 7: 19). Paul was like a man carried downstream. How often a saint is overpowered by pride and passion! When David had sinned, he steeped his soul in the brinish tears of repentance. It cannot but grieve a regenerate person to think he should be so foolish as, after he has felt the smart of sin, still to put this fire in his bosom again.
4. A godly heart grieves that he can be no more holy. It troubles him that he shoots so short of the rule and standard which God has set. ‘I should’, says he, ‘love the Lord with all my heart. But how defective my love is! How far short I come of what I should be, no, of what I might have been! What can I see in my life but either blanks or blots?’
5. A godly man sometimes weeps out of the sense of God’s love. Gold is the finest and most solid of all the metals, yet it is soonest melted in the fire. Gracious hearts, which are golden hearts, are the soonest melted into tears by the fire of God’s love. I once knew a holy man, who was walking in his garden and shedding plenty of tears when a friend came on him accidentally and asked him why he wept. He broke forth into this pathetic expression: ‘Oh, the love of Christ, the love of Christ!’ Thus have we seen the cloud melted into water by the sunbeams.