The Godly Man’s Picture, by Thomas Watson, 1622
Summary: After a brief introduction, Watson spends most of the book describing 26 characteristics of the godly before finishing with a few small chapters with practical advice on how to grow in godliness. Some characteristics are given a great deal of attention and others very little. Throughout, Watson uses many word pictures (see “Best Quote” below as example), and emphasizes right doctrine, passionate affections and vigilant obedience in each of the characteristics. For example, when talking about zeal (starting on page 112), he begins by distinguishing true and false zeal. True zeal is characterized by proper knowledge and leads to dutiful obedience. Watson is particularly helpful in describing the love for God’s Word.
Critique: There seems to be little sense in the arrangement of the topics, and each topic stands by itself, without needing help from the others. In this sense, Picture may be used as a kind of reference tool or compendium to see what Watson says on a particular topic. If used this way, it can certainly be quite helpful.
Several of the topics are too long, such as 21, “A godly man does spiritual things in a spiritual manner,” and others are too short, such as 5, “A godly man is very exact and careful about the worship of God.” This judgment may well come from the difference in cultural situation.
Watson’s use of illustrations and word pictures masterfully bring the concepts alive. Overall, this is a volume well worth consulting over and over.
Application: I think I nearly wore out my highlighter on this book. There are so many various places where little illustrations and applications have stuck in my mind, or at least, I want them to do so. This book will be quite useful in the future, especially on the various topics. I used 9, “A godly man is a lover of the Word,” this week in preparing a sermon, to, I trust, great affect.
Further, Watson has challenged me personally, in two ways. First, and more importantly, he has challenged me to be more godly myself. Several of the topics were quite convicting and convincing. Second, he has challenged me to be more holistic in my ministry. That is, Watson sets a great example of truth, passion and exhortation all together. The light and heat of the gospel radiate from this book (I can only imagine meeting Watson personally), and that encourages me to follow his example in my preaching, teaching, counseling and other ministries.
Best Quote: How many knowledgeable persons are ignorant? Their knowledge has no powerful influence upon them to make them better . . . Absalom might boast of the hair of his head, but that hanged him; so these may boast of the knowledge in their head, but it will destroy them. P.25.