Written by Thomas Manton.
Patience, also hath a great influence upon religion; for that which destroyeth all religion and godliness is making haste.
Therefore, it is said, Isa. 38: 16, ‘He that believes, shall not make haste.’ God’s promises are not presently effected; and if we cannot tarry, but run to our own shifts, because they are next at hand, presently you run into a snare. On the other side it is said, Lam. 3: 26, ‘It is good to hope and quietly to wait for the salvation of God.’ When we can hope and wait, it mightily secures our obedience. Sense is all for present satisfaction, but faith and hope can tarry God’s leisure, till those better things which he hath promised do come in hand.
Whatever our condition be, afflicted or prosperous, we are in the place and station where God hath set us, and there we must abide till he bring us to his kingdom. Impatience and precipitation is the cause of all mischief. What moved the Israelites to make a golden calf, but impatience, not waiting for Moses, who, according to their mind and fancy, remained too long with God in the mount? What made Saul force himself to offer sacrifice, but because he could not tarry an hour longer for Samuel, and so lost the kingdom? 1 Sam. 13:12-14. what made the bad servant, or church officer, to smite his fellow-servant, and eat and drink with the drunken, that is, to abuse church censures, countenance the profane, and smite and curb the godly, but only this? Mat.24: 48, ‘ My Lord delays his coming.’ He sees the strictest are hated in the world, and the others befriended; and honor and interest runs that way, and Christ comes not to rectify these disorders.
My Lord delays his coming.’
Hasty men are loath to be kept in suspense and long expectation, and so miscarry. Look to all sorts of sinners. The carnal and sensual, they cannot wait for the time when they shall have pleasures for evermore at God’s right hand, therefore take up with present delights. Like those who cannot tarry till the grapes be ripe, therefore eat them sour and green. Solid and everlasting pleasures they cannot wait for, therefore choose the pleasures of sin, that are but for a season. A covetous man will wax rich in a day, and cannot tarry the fair leisure of providence; therefore we are told, ‘ He that makes haste to be rich cannot be innocent’ Prov. 28: 20. An ambitious man will not stay till God gives true crowns and honors in his kingdom, and therefore he must have honor and greatness here, though his climbing and affecting to be built one story higher in the world cost him the ruin and loss of his soul. All revolt and apostasy from God proceeds from hence, because they cannot wait for God’s help, and tarry his fulfilling the promise; but finding themselves pressed and destitute, the flesh, that is tender and delicate, grows impatient.
It is tedious to suffer for a while, but they do not consider it is more tedious to suffer forevermore.
Thence comes also our murmuring and distrustful repining: Ps. 31: 22, ‘ I said in my haste, I am cut off; nevertheless thou heard the voice of my supplication.’ Just at that time when God was about to hear him. So, ‘ I said in my haste, All men are liars’. And thence also our unlawful attempts, and stepping out of God’s way. Men fly to unwarrantable means, because they cannot depend upon God, and wait with patience. Look, as an impetuous river is always troubled and thick, so is also a precipitate, impatient spirit out of order, full of distemper, a ready prey to Satan.
1. As to the carnal and unregenerate. Till their hearts be changed, they can never attain to this patient waiting for Christ, for two reasons:
[1.] In the wicked there is no sound belief of these things, for they live by sense and not by faith. The apostle tells us, ‘ He that lacketh grace is blind, and cannot see afar off,’ 2 Peter i. 9. Things of another world are too uncertain, and too far off for them to apprehend, so as to be much moved by them. They hear of the coming of Christ, and speak by rote of it after others, but they do not believe it ; therefore, till God enlighten them, how shall they be affected with this matter?
[2.] There is an utter unsuitableness of heart to them. Things present, that suit their fancies and please their senses, carry away their hearts. Ps. 49:18, ‘Whilst he lived he blessed his soul; and men will praise thee when thou doest well to thyself.’ Men bless themselves, and the carnal world applauds them in a sensual course and way of living. They measure all happiness by their outward condition in the world, and please themselves with golden dreams of contentment; and this being seconded with the flattery and applauses of the deceived world, they are fast asleep in the midst of the greatest soul-dangers, and so go down into hell before they think of it.
2. Come we now to the regenerate. Such the apostle looks upon the Thessalonians to be. They need to have their hearts directed to the patient waiting for Christ, for these reasons:
[1.] Because we have too dim and doubtful a foresight of these things. How dark a prospect have even the best of God’s children of the world to come ! We may speak of others as unbelievers, but God knows how doubtful our own thoughts are about eternity and Christ’s coming ; how little we can shut the eye of sense, and open that of faith, and say truly with the apostle, 2 Cor. iv. 18, ‘ We look not at the things that are seen, that are temporal ; but to the things unseen, that are eternal.’ Alas ! we have no through sight into another world. The best Christians have need to have their eyes anointed with spiritual eye-salve, that their sight may be more sharp and piercing ; to beg ‘ the spirit of wisdom and revelation, to open the eyes of their mind, that they may see what is the hope of Christ’s calling,’ Eph. i. 17, 18. There are too many intervening clouds between us and eternity, that darken our sight and obscure our faith.
[2.] Our thoughts of these things are strange and dull, and too rare and unfrequent. How seldom have we any serious thoughts of his coming, and how unwelcome are they to our hearts ! It was a complaint against Israel, that they did put far away the evil day ; but the complaint against us may be taken up thus, that we put far away the good day, when all our desires and hopes shall be accomplished and satisfied. The atheistical world deny it, and we forget it. Solomon saith to the sensual young man, ‘ Kemember, that for all these things God shall bring thee to judgment.’ Young men forget or put off these thoughts, lest, like cold water cast into a boiling pot, they should check the fervour, of their lusts. But, alas ! grave men, good men, forget these things. When Christ had spoken of his coming to judgment, he saith, Mark 13: 37, ‘ What I say unto you, I say unto all, Watch’ Watching is keeping up this attentiveness to his second coming with all Christian vigilance and endeavour. But few regard the charge : therefore ‘ the Lord direct your hearts,’ &c.
[3.] Because our affections are so cold, and we are no more affected with it, but as if we were senseless of the weight of these things. Some dead and drowsy desires we have, but not that lively motion which will become hope and love. If nature say, ‘ Come not to torment us before the time/ grace should say, ‘ Come, Lord Jesus, oh, come quickly.’ We are not only to look for his appearing, but to love his appearing. Where are these desires, that Christ would either come down to us, or take us up to himself, that we may live with him forever ?
[4.] This prayer need to be made for the renewed too, because Christians think of it with too much perplexity and fear. Is the sight of a Saviour unwelcome to you; or should the drawing nigh of your redemption be a comfort or a terror? Why do you then believe in Christ, and choose his favour for your happiness ? We thought that this had been all your hope, and your desire, and your great comfort; and shall your hope be your torment, and beget horror rather than joy ? Oh, beg the Lord to direct your hearts, that you may ‘hope to the end for the grace that shall be brought unto you at the revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ,’ 1 Peter i. 13. We do not only wait for glory, but for grace ; and shall not this be a comfort to you ?
[5.] We need to pray this prayer, because our preparations are too slender for so great a day. Serious preparation is necessary. It is described 2 Peter iii. 14, ‘Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent, that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless ; ‘ that is, in a state of reconciliation with God. But we live too securely and quietly, in an unprepared state. If we have the habitual preparation, we do not keep up the actual preparation by clarifying and refining our souls from the dregs of sense, by honouring God in the world with greater earnestness, that when our Lord comes, he may find us so doing. We do not stand ‘ with our loins girt, and our lamps burning,’ that when the Lord knocks we may open to him immediately. We do not keep up the heavenly desire, the actual readiness. The return of a husband after long absence is more welcome to the wife than to a harlot ; but she would have all things ready for his reception and entertainment.
[6.] Because our motions are too inconstant. We interrupt the course of our obedience frequently, faint in our afflictions, do not keep up the fervour of our affections, and follow after salvation with that industrious diligence. We need often the Christian watchword, ‘The Lord is at hand.’ We lose much of our first love, intermit of our first works. Therefore, ‘ The Lord direct your hearts to the patient waiting for Christ.’ The exhortation is to quicken you to take care of this grace, that you may be constantly exercised in it. While we are upon earth, we should continually be expecting Christ’s coming from heaven. The motives may be these:
1. Before Christ’s coming in the flesh, the saints waited for him. ‘ I have waited for thy salvation, Lord,’ saith Jacob, Gen. xlix. 18. And Simeon for Christ, the Saviour of the world ; for so it is explained, ‘ Mine eyes have seen thy salvation.’ And our Lord tells us, ‘Abraham rejoiced to see my day,’ John viii. 56 ; and it is said of Anna and others, that they ‘ waited for the consolation of Israel,’ Luke ii. 25, 38. And after Christ was come, the disciples were commanded to ‘ wait for the promise of the Spirit,’ Acts 1: 4. So, by parity of reason, we must wait for the coming of Christ ; for that is the next great promise to be accomplished, and the great thing to put life into our religion.
2. The people of God are described by this, 1 Thes. 1: 10, ‘ Who wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.’ A man would have thought, in those early days, they should have been described by their respect to what was past rather than to what was to come, which was at so great a distance : they should have been described by believing Christ was already come in the flesh, rather than waiting for his coming in glory. No ; this is proposed as an evidence of their sincerity and Christianity, ‘Waiting for the coming of Christ’ And so it is said, Heb. 9: 28, ‘ That Christ would appear unto the salvation of them that look for him.’ That is the property of true believers. But they that look not for his coming, love not, and long not for his coming, cannot expect his salvation. It is an allusion to the people, who, upon the day of expiation, when the high priest went into the holiest before the mercy-seat, were waiting for his coming out, that he might solemnly bless them. So must we look for Christ’s return, now he is gone within the veil of the heavenly sanctuary, that he may come out and bless us with everlasting blessings.
3. This should move us to it, the benefits that will come to us hereby ; for this waiting for Christ breeds in us contempt of the world, mortification of the flesh, tolerance and enduring of the cross.
[1.] It breeds in us contempt of the world ; because we look for higher and better things to be dispensed to us when Christ comes. ‘ Set not your affections on things on earth, but on things in heaven.’ Why ? ‘ For your life is hid with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall you also appear with him in glory,’ Col. iii. 2-4. The more the heart is given to one, the other gets the less. Earthly things be little regarded in comparison of that glorious state, both of soul and body, which we shall have at Christ’s appearance.
[2.] This conduceth to the mortification of the flesh ; therefore we deny ourselves present satisfactions, that we may not be castaways, disallowed in the judgment. ‘ Be sober, and hope to the end, for the grace that is to be brought to vou at the coming of Christ’ 1 Peter 1: 13. [3.] The tolerance and enduring of the cross. This gives a quiet temper in all troubles. We may suffer now, ‘ but when Christ shall appear, we shall rejoice with exceeding joy,’ 1 Peter iv. 13. And then our reward will very much exceed the proportion of our sufferings ; they are no more to be set against them than a feather against a talent of lead. ‘ I reckon they are not worthy to be compared,’ saith the apostle, Rom. viii. 18. It would be a disgrace to a man’s reason that these things should bear any competition with our great hopes : ‘ these light afflictions, that are but for a moment,’ with ‘ that exceed ing weight of glory,’ Christ shall bestow upon us. For means, all I shall say is this : if you wait for Christ’s coming, look upon it as sure and as near : Rev. xxii. 12, Behold, I come quickly, and bring my reward with me.’ We have the promise of the eternal God for it, so attested, and made out to us with such evidence, that we have no reason to doubt of the recompenses of religion.
But things at a distance, though never so great, will not leave a due impression upon us: therefore we must look upon this promise with a certainty of persuasion that it will not be long before its accomplishment. Thus faith lessens the distance between hope and enjoyment, and enables us comfortably to wait.
Meet the Author and part of your Christian heritage: Thomas Manton (1620–1677) was an English Puritan clergyman. Thomas Manton was invited to preach before Parliament on at least six occasions. The first occasion was on June 30, 1647, which was a fast day for Parliament. His sermon was based on Zechariah 14:9 and entitled, “Meat out of the Eater; or, Hopes of Unity in and by Divided and Distracted Times.”
Exactly one year later, on June 30, 1648, he preached another fast sermon on Revelation 3:20, “England’s Spiritual Languishing; with the Causes and the Cure.” He also participated in the Westminster Assembly as one of three clerks, was later appointed to write a preface to the second edition of the Westminster Confession in 1658, and served Oliver Cromwell as a chaplain and a trier (an overseeing body that examined men for the ministry).
In 1656 he moved to London as he was appointed as a lecturer at Westminster Abbey and most importantly as rector of St. Paul’s, Covent Garden, succeeding Obadiah Sedgwick. During this time Cromwell died and England entered a period of great uncertainty. This led Presbyterians such as Manton to call for the restoration of Charles II in 1660, traveling along with others to Breda, The Netherlands, to negotiate his return. After Charles returned, Manton was part of the negotiations called the Savoy Conference, in which the scruples of the Presbyterians and Congregationalists concerning the Prayer Book were formally discussed. Yet since the Cavalier Parliament was filled with Laudians, 1662 saw the enactment of the Act of Uniformity 1662. All ministers were to be ordained or re-ordained by a bishop, they were to renounce the Solemn League and Covenant, promise loyalty to the Prayer Book, and subscribe the Thirty-Nine Articles. Since Manton was on favorable terms with Charles II he was offered the Deanery of Rochester, but he refused on conscience grounds.
Manton’s last years were tumultuous. The Act of Uniformity led to the “Great Ejection.” On August 17, 1662, Manton preached his last sermon at Covent Garden on Hebrews 12:1. He also continued to write even when imprisoned for refusing to cooperate for six months in 1670 in violation of the Conventicle Act. 1672 saw the Declaration of Indulgence, in which men like Manton were granted a license to preach at home. Manton then became a lecturer at Pinner’s Hall for the so-called “morning exercises.” Parliament, though, revoked this Indulgence the year after. Manton would later die on October 18, 1677, and was survived by his wife and three children.