Godliness - Comfort to the Godly

This concludes our look at Godliness according to Thomas Watson in “The Godly Man’s Picture”. At the end of the book (the second last chapter) he offers comfort to the godly. This is so important, because if you are a godly person you will mourn your lack of godliness. You will not focus on what you have but how far you still have to go. You may even become discouraged and wonder if the Lord has passed you by. Looking at a lack of godliness as a Christian you may wonder if you really were saved in the first place, for surely a pittance of fruit implies that you have been working out your salvation in your own strength.

In offering comfort Thomas Watson exposits Matthew 12:20, “a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory.” It is to be understood that we are like reeds subject to imbecility and shaking in this life, till it grows up unto a firm cedar in heaven. We are souls who feel the effects of sin and in that sense of sin we are bruised. If the bruise of sin is felt, it shall not be mortal. We will not be broken and, not only will Christ not break us, he will bind us up (Isaiah 61:1).

Why would the Lord not break the bruised reed? Well, first and most significantly he has promised not to. Other than that, it is out of the sweetness of his nature that he doesn’t. God will not exercise hardness toward the bruised reed lest he should be thought to lay aside his own tender disposition. As well, a contrite heart is [the godly man’s] sacrifice. This is what the Lord desires (Ps 51:17). We are to remain bruised and repentant as we look forward to the consummation of the salvation which is already ours.

A smoldering wick (or smoking flax KJV) is taken by Watson to indicate grace mingled with corruption. As with a little fire there may be much smoke, so with a little grace there may be much corruption. This spark of grace or faith will not be snuffed out. Again, consider the tender mercies of our God. A smoldering wick is easily quenched and one has to be careful not to put it out. Our God is tender. He is careful. He is able to keep the spark alive and fan it into flame. The Lord will not quench the work of his own grace. Though God destroy the whole earth, he will not destroy the least grace, because it bears a print of his own likeness on it.

The comfort we have as we mourn our lack of godliness, mourn our lack of light, and feel the bruise of sin is that this is what God desires of us. This disposition keeps us hungering and thirsting for more of righteousness and as such we are blessed because we will be satisfied. One day we will be filled to overflowing with righteousness and godliness though, at present, we may have to live in the “now and not yet” of our salvation. We can trust the power and strength of our God to get us there. Nothing will snatch us out of his hand (John 10:28). He who began the work in us will bring it to completion (Phil. 1:6). What comfort that we can pursue godliness with assurance because we are saved and not out of desperation to be saved.