The Tears of the Godly

Puritan Thomas Watson said that gospel tears are one mark of a godly man.  Here are his reasons why a godly man weeps.

  1. A godly man weeps because of his indwelling sin, his sinful nature which he knows is at enmity with God.
  2. A godly man weeps because his corruption clings to him, and he cannot fully escape it in this life.
  3. A godly man weeps because he is sometimes overcome by his sin, even though he has felt the deep conviction of it before.
  4. A godly man weeps because is not more holy than he is, even though he is well aware that God desires righteousness from him.
  5. A godly man weeps because he senses God’s love; his heart is like gold that is easily melted by fire.
  6. A godly man weeps because his sins are in some ways worse than the sins of others.

In what sense are the sins of the justified, forgiven, godly man worse than the sins of others?

  1. Because he acts against his own principles, sinning not only against God’s righteous law but against his own principles, knowledge, vows, prayers, hopes, and experiences.
  2. Because he sins unkindly against the kindness of God, in the same way that Peter’s denial of Christ was a sin against love.  “The sins of the godly go nearest to God’s heart.  Others’ sins anger God; these grieve him… The unkindness of a spouse goes nearest to the heart of her husband.”
  3. Because he brings more shame to God when he sins, tarnishing the church of Christ and the Christian religion.

This should make the godly man mourn even more for his own sins.  Yet his is not a despairing sorrow but a good and right and profitable sorrow.  There is a great difference between the sorrow of a godly man and the sorrow of the wicked.  A godly man’s sorrow has three significant characteristics:

  1. The sorrow of the godly man is inward.  It is an affliction of the soul which runs deep as opposed to the hypocrites whose sorrow is merely external, physical, facial.
  2. The sorrow of the godly man is ingenuous (without reservation, candid, sincere, guileless).  The godly man weeps over his sin, not the consequences that follow.  “It is more for the spot than the sting.  Hypocrites weep for sin only as it brings affliction.”
  3. The sorrow of the godly man is influential.  It effects true, lasting change.  “Divine tears not only wet but wash; they purge out the love of sin.”

Watson concludes with two implications:

  1. “How far from being godly are those who scarcely ever shed a tear for sin!  If they lose a near relation, they weep; but though they are in danger of losing God and their souls, they do not weep.  How few know what it is to be in an agony for sin or what a broken heart means!”  “It was a greater plague for Pharaoh to have his heart turned into stone than to have his rivers turned into blood.”
  2. “Let us strive for this divine characteristic: be weepers.”  “Repenting tears are precious… They are beautifying.  A tear in the eye adorns more than a ring on the finger.”  “A sinner’s mirth turns to melancholy.  A saint’s mourning turns to music.”

David taught us three powerful truths: godly men sin, godly men weep when they sin, and God desires godly sorrow more than religious exercises.  “For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.  The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Psalm 51:16-17).

Thomas Watson, The Godly Man’s Picture, Puritan Paperbacks (Carlisle, Pa.: Banner of Truth Trust, 1999 [original 1666]), 55-60.

One thought on “The Tears of the Godly

  1. I feel like, gunner, we avoid the reality of sin – both inwardly and outwardly.

    and I think that paralizes the church.

    because it severs limbs, it breaks up unity.


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