by Thomas Manton, (1620–1677), English Puritan clergyman.
There is an evil day: Eph. 6:13, ‘That ye may be able to stand in the evil day.’ And there is an hour of temptation upon the world: Rev.3:10, ‘I will keep thee from the hour of temptation which shall come upon all the world.’ There are certain times when God is proving what men will do, and when the devil is likely to make a great advantage of our discontents and afflictions, when things fall cross to our desires, and we know not what evil waits for us; how should we do to behave ourselves?
1. Be not over-confident or over-diffident.
Not over-confident, in running beyond the bounds of our calling, to cast ourselves into dangers and hazards of temptation. Nor over-diffident, by base flying from, or giving way when God calls for valiant resistance. Both ways is the devil likely to assault us; either by making us foolhardy. So Satan seeks to drive us beyond the bounds of our calling, to put us out of our place, that we may be a prey to him. As men use to trouble the water, that they may rouse the fish, and draw them into the snare, and drive them out of places of safety where they rest; so the devil seeks to put us out of our safety. Peter would needs come to Christ: Matt.14:28, ‘Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water; and we see he sinks before he could accomplish his purpose. So when we are over-confident, and run out of our calling upon hazards, then we are ever and anon ready to sink. But we should not turn back when God calls us to a valiant resistance: ‘Should such a man as I flee?’ Neh. 6:11. Observe Peter’s dastardliness when he ventures without a call into the priest’s hail; a question of the damsel’s overturns him. He that was so cowardly when he was out of his way, look upon his boldness when he was in his work: Acts 4:7-13, ‘When they saw the boldness of Peter and John, they marvelled.’ John was the disciple of love, and Peter was the fearful disciple; yet how full of boldness, courage, and zeal when they were called and singled out to give proof of the reality of God’s grace. And therefore we should never be over-forward, nor over-backward, but own God in his truth when we are in our calling. Let not Satan bring you out of your place to cast yourselves as a prey to him.
2. In an hour of temptation, we should be more solicitous about duties than events, and about sins than dangers.
As to events, God is concerned as well as you, and he will order them for his own glory. It should be your great care that you may be kept blameless to his heavenly kingdom: 2 Tim.4:17-18, ‘The Lord, that hath delivered me out of the mouth of the lion, shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom.’ However God deal with you as to events, and whatever dangers attend you, this should be your care mainly, that you may not sin, but be kept blameless. David often begged direction, that he might be guided in his trouble, and not falter, and do anything unseemly.
3. Be more jealous of Satan’s wiles than of his open assaults.
Natural courage, and the bravery of a common and ordinary resolution, together with deep engagement of credit and interest, may do much to make us stand out against assaults, against open force and violence of evil men; but there needs a great deal of judgment to stand out against the wiles and crafts of the devil. Flesh and blood will not so easily bear us out against the secret ensnarings of the heart. The young prophet doth thunder out his message against the king, 1 Kings 13:3, yet was enticed by the wiles of the old prophet. So we may stand out against an open assault and apparent violence, but take heed of the secret wiles of Satan.
4. The wiles of Satan are to enforce and draw us into those corruptions which are incident to the season.
‘What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.’
Then our great business is, to cherish our dependence upon God, to prevent distrust and unbelieving thoughts of God’s providence. As, on the other side, in a time when we are likely to be corrupted with ease and prosperity, then our business is to watch against security and deadness of heart, which is apt to grow upon us. As Nazianzen said, When things go prosperous with me, I read the Lamentations of Jeremiah, I remember the mournful passages which befall the people of God, and that is my cure. So to prevent despondency in a time of fears, to encourage our souls to dependence.
Meet the the author and part of your Christian heritage: Thomas Manton, (1620–1677), English Puritan clergyman. Although Manton is little known now, in his day he was held in as much esteem as men like John Owen. He was best known for his skilled expository preaching, and was a favourite of John Charles Ryle, who championed his republication in the mid-19th century, and Charles Spurgeon. Of Manton, Ryle said he was “a man who could neither say, nor do, nor write anything without being observed.” Spurgeon said his works contained “a mighty mountain of sound theology” and his sermons were “second to none” to his contemporaries. He went on to say, “Manton is not brilliant, but he is always clever; he is not oratorical, but he is powerful; he is not striking, but he is deep.” His finest work is probably his Exposition of James.