The Great Gain of Godliness by Thomas Watson PDF Print E-mail
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great gain of godliness

The Great Gain of Godliness by Thomas Watson available from first published in 1682 is an excellent exposition on Malachi 3:15-18: “…Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name. And they shall be mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him…” Words of comfort to be sure, but the author’s main design, however, was “to encourage piety, and confute the atheists of the world, who imagine there is no gain in godliness.”     

     Although C. H. Spurgeon had amassed a marvelous library of 12,000 books, the absence of this one rare jewel caused him to tell his college students that The Great Gain of Godliness “would be a great find if we could come at it, for Watson is one of the clearest and liveliest of Puritan authors. We fear we shall never see this commentary, for we have tried to obtain it, and tried in vain.”     

     This powerful book begins by exhorting a righteous people in a time not unlike today where sin rages, as hearts wax cold. Yet Watson stirs the disheartened heart by commending it to its duty. “…the profaneness of the times should not slacken but heighten our zeal. The looser others are, the stricter we should be. In those degenerate times when men were arrived at the acme and height of impudence, and dared to speak treason against heaven, then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another…The more outrageous others are in sin, the more courageous we should be for truth. When the atheists said, ‘It is vain to serve God,’ then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another.”     

     He goes on to point out the hypocrites while strengthening the weakness of the believer. “To profess religion when the times favour it is no great matter. Almost all will court the gospel Queen when she is hung with jewels. But to own the ways of God when they are decried and maligned, to love a persecuted truth, this evidences a vital principle of goodness. Dead fish swim down the stream, living fish swim against it….See hence how unworthy they are of the name of Christians who use sinful compliance, and cut the garment of their religion according to the mode and fashion of the times...God will say, Seeing you sinned with the multitude, you shall go to hell with the multitude.”     

      I love his analogy that dead fish float downstream; they go with the flow; they blend in, and consequently slide down into the abyss with all the other dead fish.      

     Watson goes on with a greater exhortation: “To keep up a spirit in holiness in an adulterous generation is a Christian’s honour…If we love Christ, we will own him in the worst times…Reproaches are but assulae crucis, splinters of the cross. How will he endure the stake, who cannot bear a scoff?...Better have men reproach you for being good, than have God damn you for being wicked…If a lame man laugh at you for walking upright, will you therefore limp?”     

     In the next five chapters, Watson teaches on the difference between the fear of man and the fear of God. He gives good reasons to fear God, shows how to walk in the fear of God, points out the excellence of fearing God, and then leads us to examine our hearts to ascertain if the fear of God resides there. Fear being the “leading grace, the first seed God sows in the heart…a divine fear, which is the reverencing and adoring of God’s holiness, and the setting of ourselves always under his sacred inspection….a holy, sweet reverential fear.” And as scripture tells us, this is the beginning of wisdom.      

     I love the assurance this fear, an affirmation of our faith, brings. For as Watson so clearly points out, “Nothing can hurt him. Plunder him of his money, he carries a treasure about him of which he cannot be robbed. Cast him into prison, his conscience is free; kill his body, it shall rise again….When they die they shall go to God, and while they live everything in the world shall do them good.” “When the Empress Eudoxia threatened to banish Chrysostom, the preacher said, ‘Tell her, I fear nothing but sin.’”      

     Continuing with the text in Malachi, that “they who feared the Lord spake often one to another,” Watson outlines the purpose of the tongue of the righteous. First, it is for enriching others’ souls with godly wisdom. Secondly, it was formed for rebuking sin. “If you would be in covenant with God break off the covenant with sin. What king will be in league with him who holds correspondence with his enemy?” Are we so comfortable with our own eternal assurance or perhaps so desirous of man’s approval that we neglect our neighbors’ souls? “Silence in religion is a loud sin!” Lest we be like those in Psalm 12:2 who “speak vanity every one with his neighbor,” let us make the most of our time with those who are lost and those who are saved. Thirdly, our tongues are for exhortation as prescribed in Colossians 4:6: “Let your words be seasoned with salt.” “For by thy words, thou shalt be justified, and by thy words, thou shalt be condemned” (Matthew 12:37). Watson then tells us that Jesus “left us a pattern. His words were perfumed with holiness.” “All bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth” (Luke 4:22). For “what men delight in they will be speaking of.”      Continuing again in Malachi with “for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name,” Watson so stirringly points out, “There is nothing but God worth thinking upon….Thinking much on God would cure the love of the world…For those who are mounted high in the contemplation of Christ and glory, how the things of the world disappear, and even shrink into nothing!...Paul’s thoughts are sublime, he lived in the altitudes, and how he scorned the world! ‘The world is crucified unto me’ (Galatians 6:14).”     

     And finally, the reward, “the great gain of Godliness” in Malachi: “And they shall be mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.” “God will make known all the memorable and pious actions of his people before men and angels: he will say, here are those who have prayed and wept for sin; here are those who have been advocates for my truth; here are those who have laid to heart my dishonors, and have mourned for what they could not reform. These are my renowned ones, my Hephzibahs in whom my soul delights.” Isaiah 62:4 Ah yes, what a comfort we have in God’s precious promises!     

     This little easy-to-read book of just 166 pages contains a wealth of truth, exhortation, and comfort that every family needs to read! Spurgeon searched and searched for this gem, but we have it right at our fingertips. So do not miss out on this precious possession for your own library!