Whisperers, Backbiters, Gossips, and Slanderers… and the Awful Evil and Utter Sinfulness of it.

Taken from, Complete Works of Thomas Manton, Vol. II, Sermon X
Written by Thomas Manton, D.D.

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“…They are gossips, slanderers…”

–Romans 1:29lp – 30fp

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THE context shows how corrupt and miserable man’s nature is without Christ.

His heart was first withdrawn from God, and then became a sink of loathsome sins and vices; therefore the apostle tells us how after men were false to God, how little they were true to themselves, whether considered singly and apart, or as to commerce and society: singly and apart, defiling themselves with uncleanness of all sorts; as to commerce and human society, full of malice and contention, which sometimes goes as far as blood; at other times shows itself in falseness and baseness of disposition, generally in self-love and detraction from others.

Of all judgments, spiritual judgments are the sorest. When God leaves mankind to its own degeneracy and corruption, and one great branch of this corruption is detraction, which vents itself either by whispering or backbiting. So it is in the text, ‘Whisperers, back biters.’ These two words agree that they both wound the fame of our neighbor, and they both do it behind his back or in his absence. But they differ—

(1.) In that whispering does it secretly and closely, but backbiting openly—the one being privy, the other open defamation, and are like theft and rapine; what theft and robbing are to our goods, the same are whispering and backbiting to our good names.

(2.) Whispering tends to breed strife among our friends, or to disgrace us to some who are well conceited of us; but backbiting to our general disgrace before all the world, or amongst whomsoever. The one seeks to ‘deprive us of the goodwill of our friends, the other to destroy our service. But however they agree and differ, they are often conjoined in scripture: 2 Cor. 12:20, ‘I fear lest when I come among you I shall not find you such as I would, and that I shall be found unto you such as ye would not; lest there be debates, envying, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults.’ The apostle foresaw it as too probable that neither of them would be much pleased with their meeting together: nor he with the Corinthians, when he should find them corrupted with partialities and divisions; nor the Corinthians with him, when he should be forced to inflict censures upon them for their factions and emulations, too much accusing, maligning, and speaking evil by their backbitings and whisperings against each other. So here in the text they are conjoined, ‘whisperers, backbiters,’ when the apostle speaks of the reigning sins among the Gentiles.

Doctrine. One great sin wherein the corruption of human nature maligns itself is detraction, or depriving others of a good repute.

First, The nature of it in general. It is an unjust violation of another’s fame, reputation, or that good report which is due to him. God, that hath bidden me to love my neighbor as myself, doth therein bid me to be tender not only of his person and goods, but of his good name. And indeed one precept is a guard and fence to another. I cannot be tender of his person and goods unless I be tender of his fame. For every man lives by his credit: and therefore certainly this is;

(1.) A sin against God;
(2.) A wrong to men;

(3.) It proceeds from evil causes.

1. It is a sin against God, who hath forbidden us to bear false witness against our neighbor, and to speak evil of others without a cause: Eph. 4:31, ‘Let all evil-speaking be far from you;’ by evil-speaking is meant there disgraceful and contumelious speeches, whereby we seek to stain the reputation of others.

2. It is a wrong to man, because it robs him of his good name, which is so deservedly esteemed by all that would do anything for God in the world: Prov. 22:1, ‘A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favor rather than silver and gold.’ The meaning is in order to service, and as it more nearly respects both life and livelihood. So Eccles. 7:1, ‘A good name is better than precious ointment.’ Their ointments were reckoned by those Oriental people amongst their most precious riches and treasures, yet a good name is preferred before them; which infers this conclusion, that the man himself should prize it so: for he that is lavish of his fame is not usually over-tender of his conscience. Therefore, as he himself should not prostitute his good name, so others should not blast it and blemish it; for it is a greater sin than to steal the best goods which he hath, and it is such an evil as scarce admits any sound restitution; for the imputation even of unjust crimes leaves a scar though the wound be healed.

3. The causes it proceeds from. They are these:

[1.] Malice and ill-will, which prompts us to speak falsely of others, so to make them odious, or do them wrong or hurt. Now, to hate our brother in our heart is no way consistent with that goodness and charity which the impression of the love of Christ should beget in us. The apostle saith, 1 Peter 4: 8, ‘Above all things have fervent charity among yourselves, for charity shall cover a multitude of sins.’ If nothing but love and fervent love will restrain us, surely where hatred is allowed, men care not w r hat they think, or speak, or do against others. Now, as there is a brotherly love due to our fellow-saints, so there is a love due to all men. 2 Peter 1:7, I am to hate no man, but to seek their good. There is a twofold hatred—the hatred of offence and abomination, and the hatred of enmity. The hatred of offence, which is opposite to the love of complacency, may be justified as to the wicked: Prov. 29: 27, ‘An unjust man is an abomination to the just, and he that is upright in the way is an abomination to the wicked.’ But then we should first and most abominate ourselves for sin; this very hatred and abhorrence should begin at home, and we should be most odious to ourselves for sin, for we know more sin by ourselves than we can do by another. But for the other hatred, the hatred of enmity, which is opposite to the love of benevolence, that should be quite banished out of the heart of a Christian. And it is not enough for God’s people to keep themselves free from hatred and malice against one another, but against all men: Titus 3:2, ‘Put them in mind to speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, showing all meekness to all men: for we ourselves were sometimes disobedient,’ etc. If this old hatred were gone, a multitude of offences would be covered.

[2.] It comes from uncharitable credulity, whereby men easily believe a false report, and so propagate and convey it to others: Jer. 20:10, ‘I have heard the defaming of many; Report, say they, and we will report it. All my familiars watched for my halting,’ &c. The prophet complains—Many, and those no mean ones, have I heard reproaching and taunting me, so that he was a terror to himself and to all his friends. Many had combined by false suggestions and malicious information against him to work his ruin. If any will raise a report tending to the discredit of another, some will foster it, and it loses nothing in the carriage, till by additions and misconstructions it grows to a downright and dangerous infamy.

[3.] It comes through rashness and unruliness of tongue: some men never learned to bridle their tongues, and the apostle James tells us that ‘therefore their religion is vain,’ James 1:26. Till we make conscience of these evils, as well as others, we content ourselves with a partial obedience, and therefore cannot be sincere. But many never set themselves to learn this part of their duty, and therefore divulge a report before they try it, or receive any just proof of it. Possibly it may not come from downright malice, but their tongues hang too loose, without the coercion and just restraint of grace, and so they either report false things, or speak truth to an evil end: Prov. 11:13, ‘A tale-bearer reveals secrets; but he that is of a faithful spirit conceals the matter.’ Whisperers must be talking, and be it true or false, out it comes. Certainly it is a sin as long as you knew it not to be true, or, if you do, when you have no warrantable call to mention it. To reveal secrets which you may conceal without wrong to God, or your own consciences, or the common good, or the good of your neighbor, is loquacity, or the sin of idle and impertinent talkativeness, the disease of a whisperer and tale-bearer.

[4.] It comes from carnal zeal, which is nothing else but passion for our different interests and opinions. The bitter envying which the apostle speaks of, James 3:14, hath made mad work in the world as to strifes, and confusions, and quarrels, and bloodsheds, and persecutions. But usually it vents itself in evil-speaking; for the apostle makes ‘backbitings and whisperings’ the fruits of ‘swellings and tumults,’ 2 Cor. 12:20. Oh, what false and lying tales are there carried to and fro, that a man knows not what or whom to believe! So many lies walk under the disguise of religion, that not to credit them, or countenance the report, seems a decay of affection, but surely not to religion, but only the interest of a faction.

But a question arises, Is all speaking evil of another unlawful?

Answer. I cannot say so, but yet it is hard to keep it from sin.

1. He that doth it without just cause is plainly a detractor, and so a grievous sinner before God. You may impose and impute false crimes upon others, which is properly called slander, and God thereby convinces the professor of the true religion to be a hypocrite: Ps. 50:20, ‘You sit and speak against thy brother, and slanders thy own mother’s son,’ God doth not only reject the liars for hypocrites, but also the backbiters and slanderers. Those that allow themselves in the frequent practice of this sin, what hopes can they have of acceptance with God, since he hath entered his plea against them? For the act to be sure is sinful; there can be no other end in it but the wronging of our brother’s fame and reputation, to his loss and hurt. The nature of the thing shows it.

2. He that doth but speak what he hath heard from others, without any assertion or asseveration of his own, as not knowing the truth of the report, can hardly be excused from sin. For if without just cause he speaks those things that may wound the reputation of others, he is in part accessory: for he reports those things which may induce the hearers to think ill of another, or at least beget a suspicion in their minds concerning him, and so is a concurring cause to wrong another’s name and good report. Now we should be so jealous of sin, that we should not countenance it in others without a just and weighty cause.

3. He that doth speak that which is true, but tends to the infamy of another, may be guilty of sin, if he have not a sufficient call and warrant. As for instance;

(1.) If it be a matter we have nothing to do with, but only speak of their faults for talk sake; this is to be ‘busy-bodies and tattlers,’ 1 Tim. 5:13: as we all love to speak of other men’s faults, when we look little at home. This is a sin, when it is not matter of our cognizance. Or,

(2.) If we aggravate things beyond their just size and proportion; for then we do not exercise Christian lenity and meekness towards those that are fallen, Gal. 6:1. Or,

(3.) If we urge their crimes, and deny their graces; this is like flies to pitch on the sore place. Is there no good amongst all this evil? But it may be done, when crimes are public, and men themselves have forfeited all good repute, and God doth as it were hang them up in chains for a warning to the rest of the world; or when their reputation may injure the truth, and seduce the souls of others, or be an injury to the just who are slandered by them. In short, when the glory of God, or love to the public good, or the avoiding some great danger that may befall others by their esteem, then a lesser good is to be neglected to procure a greater, and a growing evil prevented, when men, by dissembling their wickedness, seek a fame to the manifest hurt of others’ souls.

Secondly, The kinds of it are two in the text whispering and backbiting.

1. Whispering, which is private defamation of our brother, to bring him into disfavor and disrespect with those that formerly had a better opinion of him. Herein whispering differs from backbiting, because the whisperer stings secretly, but the other doth more openly attack our credit. Now this whispering is a great sin:

[1.] Because it is here reckoned among the sins which reigned among the heathen, and God hath expressly forbidden to his people: Lev. 19:16, ‘You shalt not go up and down as a tale-bearer among thy people.’ You see tale-bearing and crimination is expressly against God’s word; and if your hearts stand in awe of the word of God, how dare you indulge it and allow it in yourselves? It is observed that the Hebrew word rokel properly signifies a merchant or a trafficker up and down with spices and other things; whereupon rakil, the word there used, is a tale-bearer, that accuser that makes merchandise of words, and like a peddler goes from place to place to open his pack, and utter his wares, to hear and spread abroad criminations of other men. This is made the property of very wicked men: Jer. 11:4, ‘Every neighbor will walk with slanders.’

2. It is against natural equity, because they do that to others which they would not have done to themselves, Mat. 7: 2; and therefore storm and take great offence when God, by a righteous providence, permits others to retaliate with them, and pay them home in their own coin, as usually he doth; for they who are not tender of the credit and reputation of others, their names are cast out of God’s protection, and permitted to the strife of tongues.

3. They are a cause of much mischief in the world, as—

[1.] Grief to the party wronged: Prov. 18:8, ‘The words of a tale-bearer’—we read in the margin ‘of a whisperer’—‘are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly;’ that is, they equally hurt as a sharp sword that is thrust into us, and causes pain and anguish. By ‘the chambers of the belly,’ is understood the heart. Now whether the heart of the hearer, or the heart of the party injured? Why not both? The hearer; the words pierce into his heart, and breed hatred, or at least suspicion of his friend. The party injured; when he comes to the knowledge of it, they breed his grief and vexation.

[2.] They are a cause of much debate and strife: Prov. 26:20, ‘Where no wood is, there the fire goes out: so where there is no tale-bearer (or whisperer) strife ceases.’ Where strife is compared to fire, and the whisperer’s information or criminations, to the wood or matter that feeds the fire; the extinction, or putting out of the fire, to the ceasing of strife and contention, which is caused by the absence of the whisperer; that is, when he is not admitted by either party: Prov. 16:28, ‘A froward man sows strife, and a whisperer separates choice friends.’ Husband and wife, parents and children, masters and servants, princes and subjects, intimate friends. Now ‘He that sows discord between friends or brethren is an abomination to the Lord,’ Prov. 6:19. Therefore, how can one that fears God, allow himself in speaking evil privately against his neighbor?

[3.] There is a greater mischief than this, and that is, it many times tends to the destruction of another’s life: Ezek. 22:9, ‘In thee are men that carry tales to shed blood.’ Usually the vapors of slander descend in the showers of persecution; and the devil was first a liar, and then a murderer. By whispers men are stirred up to hate others, and then pursue them with all manner of hostility and displeasures. As Doeg the Edomite first accused, and then, by the command of Saul, slew Abimelech the high priest, and all his family, destroying the whole city of the priests called Nob, as you may see 1 Sam. 22:9. David, when he professes the uprightness of his government, would allow no such in his court, but would severely punish them: Ps. 101:5, ‘Whoso privately slanders his neighbor, him will I cut off.’ These ways of whispering and detraction, by which men are wont to gain confidence, favor, and employment from princes, should not only miss of their aims with him, but be severely punished when he met with them.

But here arises a question, whether all private complaints and in formations against others come under the name of whispering?

I answer—No, with these cautions:—

1. If the party be duly admonished; for before we go any further, the rule is, Mat. 18:15, ‘First tell him his fault between him and thee alone.’ Private admonition must always precede crimination to others; therefore if you forbear privately to admonish the offender in love, and seek not to reclaim him from his sinful course, you cannot be excused from sin.

2. If it be made to such as have power to redress the fault, by the most discreet and gentle means, before it break out any further. So it is said, Gen. 37:2, Joseph ‘brought unto his father their evil report;’ that is, their infamous carriage, which caused evil report of them; which is set down, not to note his ill-will, but his good affection and godliness.

3. If the complainer seeks nothing but the amendment of the party; otherwise, to vent and divulge the fault, to make the party less respected, or to his hurt, is not love, but closer malice; for true zeal is not for destruction, but for edification.

4. If he grieve that he hath cause to complain, and pray for his conversion; for then it is more likely that all is done in love. Many times the grief is personated, and when whisperers have a mind to wound to the quick, they will say, I am sorry to hear such a thing, loath to speak of it. But this is like the archer that draws back his hand that the arrow may fly with the more force. But when we pray to God, there is the greater presumption of sincerity, because we explicitly make him a party, and do what we do as in his sight and presence.

Secondly, Backbiting is a more public speaking evil of our absent brother, to the impairing of his credit. Now, this may be done two ways:

1. With respect to the good things found in him.
2. With respect to the evil supposed to be committed by him.

1. With respect to the good things found in him. There are four degrees in this:

[1.] The first and highest is, when we deny those good things which we know to be in another. This is not only to wrong our neighbor, but to rob God of his own praise; for he expects to be glorified for all those gifts and graces which he hath scattered among the sons of men, not only actively by persons themselves, but objectively by the beholders. As for instance, if God hath made any a new creature, he is to be ‘to the praise of his glorious grace,’ not only actively, but objectively, Eph. 1:12; though the man in whom this work was wrought be silent, yet the work should speak for itself, that is, give occasion to beholders to praise God. Now to deny this work, is not only to wrong the party, but wrong God. Thus Job’s friends counted him a hypocrite, when upright; and the people of God are often traduced as ‘dissemblers, when yet true,’ 2 Cor. 6:8. Jesus Christ himself was counted a wine-bibber, because of his free and social course of life; for he affected not a monkish austerity. This is the highest degree, when men plainly deny those gifts and graces which are conspicuous in others.

[2.] When they do not deny, but lessen, the gifts and graces of others. To extenuate and clip another’s due praise is envy, but in honor to prefer them above ourselves is charity and humility: Phil, 2:3, ‘In lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.’ Humility is content to sit in the lowest place: Rom. 12:10, ‘In honor preferring one another.’ Some say this is not to be understood of that opinion we have of others, but the respect we put upon them. We are to honor others, non sententia mentis, sed actionibus et officiis; that is meant of offices of love and outward respect, but not of the sentiments of the mind. Certainly it is just that we should contemn no man, but give everyone all agreeable honor and respect. But that a rich man should judge a poor man to be in place and estate before him; a learned man, an ignorant man more knowing; a godly man, a wicked more holy, is impossible and sometimes inconvenient. Therefore they understand it of condescending to mutual offices of love and respect, or, rather detracting from ourselves than others. But though this exposition might fit the latter place, yet not the former. ‘Esteeming others better than ourselves,’ must relate to the opinions and sentiments of our minds: therefore the meaning is, We should carry all things with that quietness and humility as if everyone had a better opinion of others’ wisdom and godliness than his own. And this is reasonable enough for every one that is acquainted with himself. Humility will teach him to think meanly of himself or anything that is his; and his charity will prompt him to give others all that possibly can belong to them, without any retrenchment or defalcation.

[3.] When we own the good done by them, but deprave it by supposing a sinister intention. Thus Satan could not deny but that Job served God, but (Job 1:9) ‘Doth Job serve God for nothing?’ It is usual to count the servants of God hypocrites and self-seekers, and accordingly to persecute them. If one be poor, it is discontent, melancholy, or some fleshly ends set him on work. If mean and simple, it is their folly and ignorance makes them so scrupulous and precise. If ministers be zealous for God, they must do something for their calling; if great men, they only mind their own interest and advantage. Where the action is fair, we are not competent judges of the intention of the heart.

[4.] When neither denying, nor lessening, nor depraving, but when we have just occasion to speak of a man’s due commendation, we enviously suppress it. Envy is a natural sin: James 4:5, ‘The spirit that dwells in us lusts to envy.’ And it maligns itself by a dislike of other men’s just praise. This is a sin of omission at least; therefore it is said, 1 Cor. 13:4, ‘Charity envies not.’ Nothing is more contrary to the goodness commended to us in the gospel than such a spirit, which cannot bear the good of another whether seen or spoken of. Thus Joseph’s virtue was an eyesore to his brethren, therefore they endeavored his destruction. Charity rejoices in the gifts and graces of others as in our own; but where this hath no place, their praises are our disgrace. And few there be that can say with John the Baptist, ‘He must increase, but I must decrease,’ John 3:30; that is, in splendor and fame, and so confirmed the testimony given to Christ.

2. As to evil supposed to be committed by them.

[1.] When we publish their secret slips, which in charity we ought to conceal: Prov. 11:13, ‘A tale-bearer reveals secrets.’ Certain things should have a veil drawn over them, and not be manifested without sufficient cause. But when a man intrudes himself into the mention of things faulty, which he might with better manners and more honesty conceal, it is the effect of a base heart.

[2.] When, in relating any evil action of another, we use harder terms than the quality of the fact requires, and make evils worse than they are, beams of motes, and mountains of mole-hills. We should lessen sins all that we can; I mean, the sins and faults of others: Acts 3:17, ‘And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers,’ Certainly we should not aggravate things to the height, nor from a simple act determine the state of the person, nor from the failings of a single person conclude the whole party.

[3.] By imposing false crimes: Prov. 10:18, ‘He that utters a slander is a fool;’ that is, a wicked person. As Mephibosheth said of Ziba, 2 Sam. 19:27, ‘He hath slandered thy servant unto my lord the king.’ The most godly and innocent persons cannot escape the scourge of the tongue, and unjust calumnies.

II. The heinousness of the sin.

1. In general, that is evident from what is said already. I shall urge two arguments more.

[1.] That men shall be called to an account for these sins as well as others; they are not passed by in the judgment: Jude 15, ‘God will execute judgment upon all ungodly sinners,’ not only for their ungodly deeds, but ‘for all their hard speeches.’ Now, if injurious and contumelious language come into the judgment, how should all beware of the least accession to this guilt? So 1 Peter 4:4, 5, ‘They speak evil of you, who shall give an account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead.’ The mockers as well as persecutors were to give a strict and sad account. It is no slight and light sin to divulge and spread false calumnies to hurt the credit of our brethren. God takes notice of a thought in our heart against them, a word in our mouths, and will exact a strict account thereof.

[2.] It is the property of a citizen of Zion, one that shall be not only accepted with God now, but dwell with God for ever, not to be given to backbiting: Ps. 15:3, ‘He that backbites not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbor;’ that is, that makes strict conscience of backbiting or calumniating, and abstains from doing any kind of wrong or reproach to his neighbor.

2. More particularly, it is the more heinous:

[1.] Partly from the person against whom it is committed. As suppose the godly and irreprovable for the main, who by their life and conversation have the best right to honor and esteem; to do it against them is most unjust: Ps. 64:3, ‘They whet their tongues as a sword; they shoot their arrows, even bitter words, that they may shoot in secret at the perfect; suddenly do they shoot at him and fear not;’ that is, their slanders and calumnies are shot like poisoned darts and arrows secretly or privately, without any desert or notice of the party against whom they are intended; or else against persons publicly employed, and in the special service of God, as magistrates: Num. 12:8, ‘Were ye not afraid to speak against my servant, against Moses?’ So in the ministry: 1 Tim.3:7, ‘He must have a good report from them without, lest he fall into reproach, and the snare of the devil.’ Against these it is not only unjust, but noxious and hurtful to God’s service.

[2.] From the persons before whom the slander is brought, as suppose kings and princes; so that they are deprived not only of private friendships, but the favor and countenance of these under whose protection they have their life and service. Thus Hainan whispered against the Jews, Esth. 3:8, ‘It is not for the king’s profit to suffer them to live;’ Doeg against the priests, Ps. 52:1, ‘Why boast thou in mischief, O mighty man? The goodness of God continues forever.’ It is a strange matter of pleasure and joy to some persons in power to be able to mischief those that deserve it least. God is eminently great and good. This sort of pride is diametrically opposite to his nature. Alas, to trouble a few persons, how irrational is it! But such are our depraved natures. Some are never pleased with those things that alone yield durable pleasure; but to be able with their counsel, as with one poisonous vapor, to blast a multitude of innocent persons.

[3.] From the end of it. If it be done with a direct intention of hurting another’s fame, it is worse than if out of a rash levity and loquacity. Some men have no direct intention of mischief, but are given to tattling. It is a great sin in them, and an unprofitable misspent of time; but it is a greater in those that make it their business to disgrace others or sow discord. These are the bane of human society.

[4.] From the effect or great hurt that follows, be it loss of estate, as in the case of Mephibosheth, or a general trouble and persecution on the people of God. When their good names are buried their persons cannot long subsist afterward with any degree of service. And all this may be the fruit of a deceitful tongue.

The use is, to show how good-natured Christianity is, and befriends human societies; it condemns not only sins against God, but sins against our neighbor.

It binds its professors to the practice of the apostle: Acts 24:16, ‘Herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence towards God and towards men;’ Phil.4:8, ‘Whatsoever things are honest, just, good, and true; if there be any virtue, or any praise, think of these things.’ The world hath taken up this prejudice, that religion makes us ill-natured. Of itself there is nothing more benign; it only condemns those that are good-natured to others but not to God.

Use 2. Let us not speak evil of others behind their backs, but tell them their faults plainly in love and wisdom, nor encourage others in this sin:

Prov. 25:23, ‘As the north wind drives away the rain, so doth an angry countenance a backbiting tongue.’ They that receive tales and delight to hear other men’s faults, encourage others in their sin, and are accessory to, or partakers of the guilt. It brings an evil habit and custom in our own souls.

In short, let us keep up a humble sense of our own faults, and looking at home, it will not only divert us from slandering of others, but make us compassionate towards them, and breed comfort in our own souls.

True Circumcision, and the Joy of its Promise

Taken from, “A Description of the True Circumcision”
Written by Thomas Manton

It is finished

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“for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh”

–Philippians 3:3

 

AMONG those that entertain thoughts of religion…

…there ever have been and will be many contests who are the true church and people of God. The lazy place their plea and claim in external observations; the serious look to the vitals and heart of religion, and cannot satisfy themselves in an outward form without the life and power. This was the very difference between the true Christians and a certain sort of persons who took upon them to be the circumcision. ‘The Jews are often called the circumcision,’ therefore ‘Christ is said to be a minister of the circumcision,’ as being sent to the people that were to be circumcised, Romans 15:8. And ‘Peter is called the apostle of the circumcision,’ Galatians 2:7, 8, as being appointed to deal with that people. Now these Judaizing Christians, who had a zeal for the ceremonies of the law, did falsely boast themselves to be the only people of God and the true circumcision. This was the difference between them: who were to be accounted the true circumcision, the Jewish zealots, who placed their justification in the ceremonies of the law, or those who adhered to Christ only, and looked for the mercy of God through him? ‘We are the circumcision’ say they, excluding the other and better sort of Christians. The one had the form, and the other the effect and power; the one were circumcised outwardly, the other spiritually. The apostle judges for the latter; the former were κατατομή, ‘the concision,’ who, instead of circumcising themselves, did cut asunder the church of God; but the sound believers were περιτομή, ‘the circumcision’ indeed, as being circumcised by the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by Christ, Colossians 2:11. They were the true children of Abraham, who did indeed perform that for which circumcision was intended, for we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.’

In the words we have a threefold description of the true circumcision: how they stand affected to God, Christ, self.

I. They worship God in the spirit.
II. They rejoice in Christ Jesus.
III. They have no confidence in the flesh.

In the promises of Christ there is matter of joy…

In the general, God is your God, and that is more than to have all the world to be yours: compare Genesis 17:7, ‘I will establish my covenant between me and thee, and thy seed after thee in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and thy seed after thee,’ with Psalm 144:15, ‘Happy is that people whose God is the Lord.’ We have an eternal and all-sufficient God to live upon, and from whom to derive our joy and comfort; a God infinite in power, wisdom, and goodness to be our portion. And where is matter of joy and comfort, if not in God? Behold the difference between carnal men and the children of God; the world is their portion, and God is ours; and who is better provided for? More especially we are told, 1 Timothy 4:8, that ‘Godliness hath the promises of this life, and that which is to come.’ Heaven and earth are laid at the feet of godliness; what would you more? Surely we have full consolation offered to us in the promises of the gospel; he can want nothing to his comfort who hath an interest in them.

To instance, in the lowest blessings, those which concern this life: God is our God, that can cure all diseases, overcome all enemies, supply all wants, deliver in all dangers, and will do it so far as is for our good; and desires of anything beyond this are not to be satisfied, but mortified, Psalm 84:11. But then for the more excel lent promises of the new covenant, which concern another world, such as the pardoning of our sins, the healing our natures, and the glorifying of our persons: 2 Peter 1:4, ‘Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises, that by these you might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.’ The pardon of all our sins, which are the great trouble and burden of the creatures. Who will rejoice like the pardoned sinner, who is discharged of his debt, eased of his burthen, and hath his filth covered? Psalm 32:1, ‘Blessed is the man whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.’

Oh, the blessedness of the man! He is like one fetched back from execution. Then the taking away of the stony heart, and the giving of a holy and heavenly heart. Oh, what matter of joy is this, to have all things necessary to life and godliness! What is the trouble of a gracious heart, but the relics of corruption? Romans 7:24. Paul groans sorely, but yet blesses God for his hopes by Christ, Romans 7:25. Renewing grace is dearly bought, and plentifully bestowed, Titus 3:5, 6; and graciously offered to those that will seek after it: Proverbs 1:23, ‘Turn you at my reproof; behold, I will pour out my Spirit unto you.’ And this promise to be fulfilled by a divine power, 2 Peter 1:3. ‘Oh, what a comfort is the Redeemer’s grace to a soul that hath been long exercised in subduing sin!

It is true it groans while it is a-doing, yet the very groans of the sick show that life and health is sweet. Healing, renewing grace makes other things sweet; as your whole duty to God, it makes it become your delight. But the great promise is eternal life: 1 John 2:25, ‘And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life.’ That is a matter of joy indeed. What, to live forever with God! The forethought of it revives us; the foretaste of it is a kind of heaven upon earth, 1 Peter 1:8. The certain hope of it will swallow up all grief and sorrow, Romans 5:2, 3. So that there is no question but that in the promises of Christ there is matter of great joy.

A Living hope? Or a dead faith?

Taken and adapted from, “The complete works of Thomas Manton, Vol. 3.”
Written by Thomas Manton in a Sermon on 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2.
Edited for thought and sense.

death.
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Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.

–2 Thessalonians 2:1-2
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There are graces planted in us, faith, hope, and love, to move us earnestly to desire Christ’s coming.

Faith believes that Christ will be as good as his word: ‘I will come again; if it were not so, I would have told you, –John 14:2. And if Christ says in a way of promise, ‘I come,’ the church says, ‘Amen,’ in a way of faith, ‘even so, come.’ If Christ had gone away in discontent,and with a threat in his mouth. Ye shall never see my face more, we should altogether despair of seeing him again; but he parted in love, and left a promise with us, which upholds the heart of believers during his absence. Would Christ deceive us, and flatter us into a fools’ paradise? What need that ? He can strike us dead in an instant if we do not please him,and we have hitherto found him true in all things, and will he fail us at last?

Hope, then is faith’s handmaid…

…it looks for that which we do believe, and it is the immediate effect of the new creature: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…” –1 Peter 1:3

As soon as grace is infused, it discovers itself by its tendency to its end and rest; it came from heaven, and it carries the soul there.

Love is an affection of union, and it desires to be with the party loved…

Paul says, ‘I desire to depart, and to be with Christ;’ therefore his voice is, ‘Come, come.’ Therefore, since God has communion with us in our houses of clay; therefore we desire presence with him in his palace of glory. His voice now is very sweet when he says, ‘Come unto me, ye that are weary and heavy laden,’ but much more will it be so when he says, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit a kingdom prepared for you before the foundations of the world were laid.’ –Phil. 1:23. Reconciliation with God is wonderful, but think just how great the future and the benefits will be with Christ in Heaven!

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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.

A lie is falsehood. And the formality of it, is an intention to deceive.

Written by, Thomas Manton.
Taken from, “The Complete Works of Thomas Manton”.
Edited for thought and sense by Michael Pursley.

“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true…”
–Phil 4:8

ww-a-lie-largeHere is a general rule for the regulating of our conversations. In it observe…

‘Whatsoever things are true,’ ( ἀληθῆ ) –This concerns both our speeches and our actions.

Our speeches should be free from lying and falsehood: Eph. 4:25, ‘Wherefore, putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.’ Lying is when men wittingly and willingly, and with a purpose to deceive, speak that which is false.

The matter of a lie is falsehood, and the formality of it is an intention to deceive.

Now this we may do two ways –either by way of assertion or promise.

The lying assertion is concerning what is past and present. Thus Ananias lied to the Holy Ghost when he brought part of the price instead of all : Acts 5:3, ‘But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?’

The promissory lie is when we promise that which we mean not to perform: Prov. 19:22, ‘The desire of a man is his kindness, and a poor man is better than a liar.’ That which men should desire is to be in a capacity to show kindness or do good ; for greatness in the world is valuable upon this account, as it givetha man a power to show kindness to others. But many that covet the praise and reputation of it are very forward in promises, but fail in performance. Now a poor man that loves you, and will do his best, is a surer friend than such great men as only give you good words, and sprinkle you with a little court holywater.

But this should be far from a christian…

…for he is to keep his word, though it be to his hurt: Ps. 15:4, ‘In whose eyes a vile person is contemned; but he honors them that fear the Lord: he that swears to his own hurt, and changes not.’ Lying is a sin most contrary to the nature of God, who is truth itself; but the devil is called the father of lies. And it is most contrary to the new nature: Eph. 4:24,-25, ‘And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. Wherefore, putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbor;’ Isa. 63:8, ‘And he said, surely they are my people, children that will not lie.’ It is most contrary to human society, for commerce is kept up by truth.

For truth in actions. We should always keep the integrity of a good conscience: Ps. 32: 2, ‘Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputes not iniquity in,whose spirit there is no guile; ‘ 2 Cor. 1:12, ‘For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity not, with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversations in the world, and more especially to you-ward.’ And truth, sincerity and, candor should be seen in all that we do. Satan assaults you with wiles, but your strength lies in downright honesty: Eph. 4:14, ‘ Stand, therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness.’ This will give you courage in the day of sore trial, and comfort in the very agonies of death: Isa. 38: 2-3, ‘And Hezekiah turned his face towards the wall,and prayed unto the Lord,and said. ‘Remember now, 0 Lord, I beseech thee, how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart,and have done that which is good in thy sight.’

Therefore we must carry ourselves sincerely, free from hypocrisy and dissimulation, whether towards God or men.

 

Righteousness by Faith

Written by, Thomas Manton,  Circa 1670, published 1874.
Taken from, “The Complete Works of Thomas Manton”, Vol. 18.
Edited with apologies for thought and sense by Michael Pursley.

white-robe “For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.”
 –Gal. 5: 5.

In the context of this passage, the apostle persuades the Galatians to stand fast in the liberty of the gospel,and not to be entangled again in the bondage…

The blessedness of a christian is implied in the word ‘Hope.’

Hope is taken two ways in scripture, “for the thing hoped for,and for the affection or act of him that hopes. Here it is taken in the first sense, for the thing hoped for. As also Titus ii.13, ‘Looking for the blessed hope.’ So Col. i. 5, ‘ For the hope which is laid up for us in heaven.’

But what is The ground and foundation of this hope?  …’The righteousness of faith!’

Only here it is opposed, partly to the covenant of works, which could not give life; partly to the legal observances; for it presently followeth, ‘Neither circumcision, nor uncircumcision,’ etc. But by no means is it opposed to evangelical obedience; for the whole new testament obedience is comprised in this term, ‘The righteousness of faith;’ as appeareth by the apostle’s explication in the next verse, ‘But faith,which works by love.’

Also, in this text is shown the duty of a christian…

…’We wait.’ De jure, we ought; defacto, we do. All true christians wait for the mercy of God and life everlasting. And he calls it waiting, because a believer hath not so much in possession as in expectation. This waiting is not a devout sloth, but is accomplished by the Spirit all true christians are inclined to pursue after their hope built upon the righteousness of faith.  So we ask:

1. What is the righteousness of faith?
2. What is the hope built upon it?

3. What is the interest and work of the Spirit in bringing us to wait for this hope?

This righteousness of faith may be considered with respect to the object of faith…

…and the proper and principal object of faith is Jesus Christ and his merits; and so the righteousness of faith is the obedience and death of Christ, which, because it is apprehended by faith, it is sometimes called the righteousness of Christ,and sometimes the righteousness of faith: Phil. 3:9, ‘And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness which is by the law, but that which is by the faith of Christ, even the righteousness which is of God by faith.’ This certainly is the ground of our acceptance with God, and therefore the bottom and foundation of all our hope: Rom. 5: 19,’By the obedience of one shall many be made righteous;’ that is, by Christ’s merit and obedience; and 2 Cor. 5:21,’He was made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.’

This is that we rely upon Christ as the only meritorious cause of whatever benefit we obtain by the new covenant.

With respect to faith itself,whereby the merits of Christ’s obedience and death are applied and made beneficial to us. When we believe, we are qualified; and therefore it is said that ‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousnes,’ –Romans 4:3.

That is, God accepted Abraham as righteous for Christ’s sake. And so he does to every one that believeth; for,Rom. 3:22, ‘ The righteousness of God is by faith of Christ Jesus,unto all,and upon all them that believe;’ without any difference. If Abraham was justified by faith, we are justified by faith. Now, if you ask me what kind of believer is qualified and accepted as righteous, I answer, It is the penitent believer and the working believer.

The penitent believer; for faith and repentance are inseparable companions:

Mark 1:15, ‘Repent,and believe the gospel;’ Acts 12:38, ‘Repent, and be baptized every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost;’ Acts 11:21,’ The hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord.’ These two cannot be severed ; for till we are affected with that miserable estate where unto we have plunged ourselves by our sins, and there be an hearty sorrow for them, and a perfect hatred and detestation of them, and a full and peremptory resolution to forsake them, that we may turn to the Lord and live in his obedience, we will not prize Christ nor his benefits,or see such a need of the spiritual physician to heal our wounded souls; nor will God accept us as righteous while we continue in our unrighteousness. So that, though it be righteousness of faith, and the believer be only accepted as righteous, yet it is the penitent believer whose heart and mind is changed, and is willing by Christ to come to God.

So now we have herein, the basis of the working believer…

…for so it is explained in the next verse, ‘Faith working by love; and it is also so expressed elsewhere: Heb. 11:7, ‘By faith, Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark,to the saving of his house, by which he became an heir of the righteousness which is by faith We are warned of the eternal penalties threatened by God; if we do not repent and believe, we shall not be saved from wrath ; but if we believe, and prepare an ark, diligently using the means appointed for our safety, then we become heirs of the righteousness of faith, and are accepted by God, and have a right to all the benefits which depend thereupon. It was a business of vast charge, and an eminent piece of self-denying obedience, to prepare an ark. So true faith showeth itself by obedience.

Now the gospel and new covenant, called the ‘word of faith,’ Rom. 10:8; ‘The hearing of faith;’ ‘Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law,or by the hearing of faith?’ Gal. 3:2; ‘The law of faith,’ Rom. 3:27. This is the doctrine which is believed. So we may understand that all that the new covenant requires may be called the righteousness of faith. For look, as to be justified by the law, or works required by the law, is all one; so to be justified by faith, and to be justified by the new covenant, is all one also.

What is the hope built upon it, or the things hoped for by virtue of this righteousness? They are pardon and life.

1. Certainly pardon of sins is intended in the righteousness of faith, as it appears by that of the apostle, and as written in Rom. 4: 6-8.

2. There is also in it salvation or eternal life: Titus 3:7, ‘That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs, according to the hope of eternal life.

These two benefits give us the greatest support and comfort against all kinds of troubles. Against troubles of mind, or inward troubles, we are supported by the pardon of our sins : Mat. 9:2 ‘Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.’

Again, both are eminently accomplished at the last judgment, when the righteousness of faith stands us in good stead. Then by the one we are freed from the guilt of sin, and so have deliverance from eternal death; by the other we have not only right, but the entrance into God’s eternal glory.

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.

 

When God is God to You in Name Only…

Written by, Thomas Manton.
Taken from, “The Complete Works of Thomas Manton”, Vol. 18.
Edited with apologies for thought and sense by Michael Pursley.

imagesTrust in the Lord against your own carnal reasoning…

…especially when your carnal reasons betrays your trust in God. Those people who trust God no farther than they can see him, do not trust God at all; but only in the outward probabilities of their own situation.

God is a God to you in name only…

…when you allow your own carnal reasoning to contradict your trust in God, and to determine your hope in him. During these times you need to say, “Though he slay me, yet I will trust in him,” Job 13:15.

To trust God against our own carnal reasoning means to trust his wise and holy government.

We would often would like to interpose to save our own lusts or desires, which sometimes need a sharp cure. God’s quarrel is not against you as a person (if you are a Christian), but against your sins; he desires not your destruction, but your humiliation and reformation. The dearest loss is your sin, and are you loath to spare that?

There is nothing, however so sad, which befalls the people of God but that it tends to prevent something which is even sadder, and which would otherwise befall them: 1 Cor. 11:32, “But when we are judged,we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world;” Ps. 94: 12, 13, “Blessed is the one you discipline, Lord, the one you teach from your law; you grant them relief from days of trouble, till a pit is dug for the wicked.”

Trust him upon his gospel assurance…

…even against the terms of his own law. Ps. 130: 3-4, “If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you.” Ps. 143: 2, “Do not bring your servant into judgment, for no one living is righteous before you.”

 

That which destroys all religion and godliness is: MAKING HASTE

Written by Thomas Manton.

deathofsalesmanPatience, 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.

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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.