Category Archives: BR > Reformation Heritage Books

Counting Others More Significant

Jeremiah Burroughs (c. 1600–1646) was an outstanding Puritan preacher and writer. He wrote the following in his book Excellency of a Gracious Spirit, a quote that made its way inside a very good new biography on the man by Phillip Simpson, A Life of Gospel Peace (RHB, 2011):

Rejoice in the good of others, though it eclipses your light, though it makes your parts, your abilities, and your excellencies dimmer in the eyes of others. Were it not for the eminence of some above you, your parts perhaps would shine more brightly and be of high esteem. Yet to rejoice in this from the heart, to bless God from the soul for His gifts and graces in others, that His name may be glorified more by others than I can glorify it myself; to be able to truly say, ‘Though I can do little, yet blessed be God there are some who can do more for God than I, and in this I do and will rejoice’—this is indeed to be able to do much more than others. This shows a great eminence of spirit.

New Biographies For Little Kids, And Big Kids, And Parents

In the mornings before I leave for work, we take time to read as a family. Of late we have been working through the Christian Biographies For Young Readers series (Reformation Heritage Books). We first read the John Calvin bio (2008) then moved on to Augustine (2009) and now finally on to John Owen (2010). The series is beautifully illustrated and the storyline (by Simonetta Carr) provides quite a lot of detail, just enough to provide historic context for the value of these three men in Church history. The publisher anticipates adding future bios to this series that will include Lady Jane Grey, Athanasius, John Knox, Jonathan Edwards, and others [John Bunyan please!]. The books are around 64-pages in length and can be read in about 30–40 minutes or 50 minutes if you gawk at the excellent paintings and random historical pictures. In that brief time the family gets a poignant introduction to the men and women God has used in building his Church over the centuries—which is especially helpful when most of your kids are named after dead preachers to begin with.

Look Much And Consider Much

In 1670 Puritan William Greenhill (1591–1671) published his long sermon: “Being against the Love of the World.” Our friends at Reformation Heritage Books will reprint the sermon next year under the title Stop Loving the World. This excerpt is pulled from the forthcoming title, pages 71–72 (posted with permission):

If you would have your heart removed from the things of the word, behold the crucified and glorified Lord Jesus Christ.

Set Christ crucified often before your eyes, and look on Him with the eye of faith. “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world” (Gal. 6:14). That is, “I look on Christ crucified, and by the eye of faith I can see Him hanging there, and all the glory of the world stained there. Is all the world comparable to Christ? There is the King, the High Priest, the Mediator, the great Prophet. There is the Heir of the world crucified. There is His blood running down. He has laid down His life for sinners, and to take my heart off from the world.” If you look on a dead man, it deadens your spirit. What will looking on Christ do then? It will deaden your heart toward the world if you look on Jesus Christ crucified. “I am crucified to the world,” said Paul.

Then look on Christ glorified, and your heart will be raised above the world. “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Col. 3:1–2). Christ has died, risen, and gone to glory. If now you are risen out of the state of sin, transferred from the power of darkness into the kingdom of God’s dear Son, you will have your heart where Christ is. Consider Christ in this way: “There is my Head, my King, my Husband. There is my Redeemer, the one who is a thousand times better than the world. Therefore, I will not set my heart on things of the earth, but on things above. How glorious it is to see the King in His glory!”

Look much, and consider much of Christ crucified and glorified.

New Reading Guide to Calvin’s Institutes

You’re a nerd when you read with two books open at the same time and just for fun and not because you have a class paper due. That’s me. When I read Scripture I keep a commentary open at my side. When I read poetry like John Donne’s Holy Sonnets I keep this commentary at hand. Even when I read The Lord of the Rings I keep this commentary at arms reach. I’ve come to appreciate commentaries, summaries, annotated guides, really any secondary literature by scholars more familiar with the original source before me. And over the years this practice has been deeply rewarding.

Few original sources are more enriching than John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion. It’s a very important work in the history of the reformed church, but it’s also old (first published in 1536), it’s foreign-born (written originally in Latin and French), and it’s quite long (1,600 pages). A good companion guide is essential. In the past I’ve used competent guides like T.H.L. Parker’s Calvin: An Introduction to His Thought.

But no guide summarizes Calvin’s points more concisely or more clearly than J. Mark Beach in his new book Piety’s Wisdom: A Summary of Calvin’s Institutes with Study Questions (RHB, 2010). This 352-page summary can be read as a stand-alone introduction to the life and theology of Calvin or it can be read as a chapter-by-chapter summary guide for readers committed to reading the entire Institutes.

Beach is a seminary professor but this book originated from pastoral convictions, a desire to connect the Christians of his congregation to the riches of Calvin. This was a high task—and a very difficult one—but a task Beach masterfully fulfills. The work oozes with theological conviction, biblical references, and pastoral sensitivities. I would say it surpasses other guides in its field but I’m not sure there are other guides written specifically to benefit the local church.

In the preface Beach explains the origin of the book:

Some years ago when I was serving as pastor to a congregation of believers in Pella, Iowa, I proposed to the adult study group that we study Calvin’s Institutes. I was encouraged by how many were interested in the project. But I also saw furrowed brows. Some asked, “You’re not expecting us to read all the way through the Institutes, are you?” At that moment I tasked myself with writing a synopsis of Calvin’s two big volumes.

He goes on to detail the purpose of his work:

This book does not aim to be a book for Calvin scholars. I am not trying to present a fresh vision on Calvin or his works. Nor am I seeking to commandeer Calvin to win some modern, theological fight. The goal of this synopsis is more modest in the academic sense but no less important in the churchly sense, namely, to present Calvin as a teacher of biblical truth and thus to instruct believers today in the faith they profess. This book therefore is directed to all persons who want to read Calvin’s theology but find themselves short on time and too overwhelmed to study the bulky volumes that comprise the Institutes.

Any pastor who wants his church to benefit from the Institutes should take a look at Piety’s Wisdom. But don’t take my word for it. Here’s the endorsement from a leading authority on reformation-era theology, Richard A. Muller:

Mark Beach’s Piety’s Wisdom provides a finely done summary and analysis of Calvin’s Institutes that should be of considerable service to Christian laity, pastors, and students in coming to terms with the thought of the Genevan Reformer. Beach writes clearly and concisely, and with considerable insight into Calvin’s thought. The book includes a short biographical sketch and a contextual introduction to the Institutes. It stands as one of the best and most trustworthy introductions to Calvin presently available.

You can preview the first 32 pages here (PDF).

Currently the book can be purchased only through the publisher’s website. It sells for $15. UPDATE: It will be available from Westminster soonly ($15).

Highly recommended.

Flavel on Mystical Union with Christ

At the very heart of Puritanism is the saints’ mystical union with Christ. We are in Christ! He is our wisdom, our righteousness, our sanctification, our redemption. From this union to Christ we experience all the blessings and delights of communion with God and find spiritual vitality for obedience, prayer, ministry and sacrificial love. This powerful union is mystical because we cannot see it with our eyes. It is a spiritually-revealed truth.

Puritan John Flavel is certainly one of the most valuable (and perhaps one of the more overlooked) of the Puritans. The theme of mystical union with Christ is threaded throughout his entire ministry and now a study of Flavel on this theme has been published titled The Inner Sanctum of Puritan Piety: John Flavel’s Doctrine of Mystical Union with Christ by J. Stephen Yuille (RHB).

John Flavel (1628-1691) had an eventful life on the run as a nonconformist preacher (see Beeke’s bio of Flavel here). He is remembered for his books The Mystery of Providence, The Method of Grace, Christ Knocking at the Door of the Heart, The Fountain of Life, and Keeping the Heart. His complete works are still in print and available from the Banner of Truth in six volumes ($99). These works remain strikingly valuable for contemporary readers (read my full review here.)

Back to our specific theme. Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote, “If you have got hold of this idea [i.e., mystical union with Christ] you will have discovered the most glorious truth you will ever know in your life.” It is glorious because it reminds us that in all things, at all times, Christ is central to our lives. All of our spiritual vitality and life comes through Christ. Christ is the “Head” from whom the whole Body is nourished, knit together and grows (Col. 2:19). Paul’s phrase for Christ is simply “who is your life” (3:4) and says our lives are hidden in Christ (3:3). This glorious truth of being united to Christ is at the core of the Christian life.

And Flavel “got hold” of this idea. It became central to his ministry and from this center flowed his understanding of pursuing obedience, prayer and communion with God. Now, Yuille has taken the highlights of Flavel’s teaching on this theme and systematized them into one short volume (128 pages).

Yuille covers the full spectrum of the doctrine in this book. I have taken the index and provided it to the right. The comprehensiveness of this volume does not make it unreadable or overly academic. Yuille was a prof at Toronto Baptist Seminary, but he is a pastor, too. And this book shows the intellectual awareness of a scholar and the experiential sensitivities of a pastor.

Whether this is your introduction to the full scope of the mystical union with Christ, or your introduction to John Flavel (or both!) this short work will richly bless your soul. Yuille has well-captured the precious truth of our union with Christ through the ministry of a first-rate Puritan.

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Title: The Inner Sanctum of Puritan Piety: John Flavel’s Doctrine of Mystical Union with Christ
Author: J. Stephen Yuille (forward by Michael A. G. Haykin)
Table of Contents: scanned and posted online [click here]
Boards: paperback
Pages: 128
Topical index: yes
Scriptural index: no
Text: perfect type
Publisher: Reformation Heritage Books
Year: 2007
Price USD: $12.00/$9.00 from RHB
ISBNs: 9781601780171

A Conversation with Jonathan Edwards

I’m not alone in saying that Jonathan Edwards was likely the greatest theological mind in American history. Yet for a man who carefully dissected his terms, and frequently lamented the limitations of the English language in allowing him to express his thoughts (!), Edwards can be frustratingly complex and often too deep for many readers. So what is the best entry point into Edwards’s theology?

One book I return to frequently is A Conversation with Jonathan Edwards by Gary Crampton (Reformation Heritage Books). Crampton assembled the book in a Q&A format, posing theological questions and then writing answers, which are citations of direct quotes from the works of Edwards. Crampton book, which is just over 200 pages, provides a comprehensive overview of Edwards’s theology in way that I find very engaging. Chapters include Edwards thoughts on man, knowledge, Scripture, God, angels, man, soteriology, the Church, the family, eschatology, and heaven and hell.

I use A Conversation with Jonathan Edwards as an index and field guide to the  complete works of Edwards now available online from Yale University. Using Crampton as my map, I can more easily and efficiently find my way around Edwards’s works and locate specific writings in a snap.

Partly because it was produced by a small publisher (RHB), I don’t think this book has received the publicity it deserves. But if you are looking for a jumpstart into the theology of Edwards, or if you would like a map to help you sift through the online works of Edwards, this may be the best single volume overview available. I highly recommend it.

————–

Title: A Conversation with Jonathan Edwards
Author: Gary Crampton
Boards: paper
Pages: 202
Topical index: no (it’s arranged topically)
Scriptural index: no
Text: perfect type
Publisher: Reformation Heritage Books
Year: 2006
Price USD: $16.00 / $12.00 from publisher
ISBNs: 1892777762

Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries

On October 31 many of us will celebrate Reformation Day, an annual reminder of a time when the sharp scalpel of biblical convictions smoothed and refined the church in many of Her priorities, associations, methods, preaching, and ordinances. Not much was left un-reformed during the period and we see this in the abundance of reformed creeds produced during the period.

To commemorate the date, Reformation Heritage Books is preparing to release the first of a three-volume series beginning with the first title, Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation: 1523-1552 edited by James T. Dennison, Jr. (2008). It will be shipping by Reformation Day. In total, the large cloth covered volume contains 33 confessions. Flipping through the volume I’m reminded of the speed with which the flame of reformation spread from country to country and find it difficult to comprehend the tumult of the period.

Some snapshots of the new volume.

The confessions are chronologically organized, and several of them translated into English for the first time. A brief introduction is included for each of the 33 confessions. The first volume includes:

1. The Sixty-Seven Articles of Huldrych Zwingli (1523)
2. Zwingli’s Short Christian Instruction (1523)
3. The Ten Theses of Bern (1528)
4. Confession of the East Friesland Preachers (1528)
5. William Farel’s Summary (1529)
6. Zwingli, Fidei ratio (1530)
7. The Tetrapolitan Confession (1530)
8. Waldensian Confession (1530)
9. Zwingli, Fidei Expositio (1531)
10. The Bern Synod (1532)
11. Waldensian Synod of Chanforan (1532)
12. The Waldensian Confession of Angrogna (1532)
13. The First Confession of Basel (1534)
14. The Bohemian Confession (1535)
15. The Lausanne Articles (1536)
16. The First Helvetic Confession (1536)
17. Calvin’s Catechism (1537)
18. Geneva Confession (1536/37)
19. Calvin’s Catechism (1538)
20. Waldensian Confession of Mérindol (1541)
21. Waldensian Confession of Provence (1543)
22. The Waldensian Confession of Mérindol (1543)
23. The Walloon Confession of Wesel (1544/45)
24. Calvin’s Catechism (1545)
25. Juan Diaz’s Sum of the Christian Religion (1546)
26. Valdés’s Catechism (1549)
27. Consensus Tigurinus (1549)
28. Anglican Catechism (1549)
29. London Confession of John à Lasco (1551)
30. Large Emden Catechism of the Strangers’ Church, London (1551)
31. Vallérandus Poullain: Confession of the Glastonbury Congregation (1551)
32. Rhaetian Confession (1552)
33. Consensus Genevensis: Calvin on Eternal Predestination (1552)

Review: Complete Works of Thomas Manton

For each of the past several years, we’ve been blessed with at least one monumental publishing achievement that further exposes contemporary readers to the exegetical and theological gems of the Puritan literary legacy. In 2006, Reformation Heritage Books reprinted the 12-volume Works of Thomas Goodwin. And over the last two years Justin Taylor and Kelly Kapic have blessed us with carefully edited and re-typeset versions of John Owen classics—Overcoming Sin and Temptation (Crossway, 2006) and Communion with the Triune God (Crossway, 2007).

But 2008 will be known for its own monumental achievement, in the reprinting of what I consider to be one of the leading collections of Puritan sermons. Solid Ground Christian Books has printed and is now shipping a new photolithographed, cloth-covered, sewn-bound, edition of the 22-volume, 10,500 page, Complete Works of Thomas Manton. And today I want to tell you about it.

Thomas Who?

Two years ago I compiled a list of most helpful Puritan resources for expositional, theological, and pastoral research. That list placed at #5 a man named Thomas Manton. Some of you were perplexed that I ranked this more obscure Puritan above those of more repute—John Owen, John Flavel, Richard Sibbes, Jeremiah Burroughs, Thomas Brooks, Thomas Goodwin, and Edward Reynolds. Each of these men represent exceptional gifting in the Puritan period; and if you disagree that Manton deserves to be above them, I think we can agree Rev. Manton belongs among them.

Compared to other favorite Puritans, Manton’s bibliography lacks pizzazz. Apart from two commentaries on James and Jude (both of which are excellent), he chose not to write books. Which explains why 20 of 22 volumes are stuffed full of expositions of Scripture. To the core of his life and ministry, Manton was a preacher of God’s Word, an able expositor who walked slowly through large sections of scripture in a very thorough and deliberate fashion. Dr. Joel Beeke writes, “Manton presents us with the best that English Puritans had to offer in careful, solid, warmhearted exposition of the Scriptures.”

The value of Manton’s works is discovered in the value of Manton the expositor.

So what type of preacher is Manton? Where does he rank among the other Puritan preachers? In assessing the value of Manton’s sermons, I find the careful thoughts of 19th century preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon especially insightful. Spurgeon, in his commentary on Psalm 119, speaks fondly about a season of focused reading in Manton’s Works. Here is Spurgeon’s experience:

While commenting upon the one hundred and nineteenth Psalm, I was brought into most intimate communion with Thomas Manton, who has discoursed upon that marvelous portion of Scripture with great fullness and power. I have come to know him so well that I could pick him out from among a thousand divines if he were again to put on his portly form, and display among modern men that countenance wherein was ‘a great mixture of majesty and meekness.’ His works occupy twenty-two volumes in the modern reprint—a mighty mountain of sound theology. They mostly consist of sermons; but what sermons! They are not so sparkling as those of Henry Smith, nor so profound as those of Owen, nor so rhetorical, is those of Howe, nor so pithy as those of Watson, nor so fascinating as those of Brooks; and yet they are second to none of these. For solid, sensible instruction, forcibly delivered, they cannot be surpassed. Manton is not brilliant, but he is always clear; he is not oratorical, but he is powerful; he is not striking, but he is deep. There is not a poor discourse in the whole collection—they are evenly good, constantly excellent. Ministers who do not know Manton need not wonder if they are themselves unknown.

Don’t you love the way Spurgeon slaps ministers around who are unfamiliar with the Puritans? Spurgeon has a great respect for the Puritan preachers, and an appreciation for their consistent value for the Church. Manton is not the most brilliant of the Puritans, but he certainly is one of the most readable—and thereby one of the most valuable—of all the Puritan authors. Manton’s sermons are marked by clarity, doctrinal precision, and simplicity. And that places Manton right along with the very best of them.

Spurgeon understood that Manton was a preacher concerned to connect the deep truths of scripture to common audiences. His preaching was not glamorous in the day, and thereby unstained with the contemporary oratorical decorations and superfluous adornments that would have surely dated his language. Spurgeon loved to recount one story that showcases Manton’s care to preach in a manner suitable to the common Christian.

While Dr. Manton was minister at Covent Garden he was invited to preach before the Lord Mayor and Court of Aldermen, and the Companies of the City, upon a public occasion, at St. Paul’s. The doctor chose a very difficult subject, in which he had an opportunity of displaying his judgment and learning, and appearing to the best advantage. He was heard with the admiration and applause of the more intelligent part of the audience; and was invited to dine with my Lord Mayor, and received public thanks for his performance.

But upon his return in the evening to Covent Garden, a poor man following him, gently plucked him by the sleeve of his gown, and asked him if he were the gentleman who had preached that day before the Lord Mayor. He replied, he was.

“Sir,” says he, “I came with an earnest desire after the word of God, and in hope of getting some good to my soul, but I was greatly disappointed, for I could not understand a great deal of what you said: you were quite above me.”

The doctor replied, with tears in his eyes, “Friend, if I did not give you a sermon, you have given me one; and, by the grace of God, I will never play the fool by preaching before my Lord Mayor in such a manner again.”

Well Manton did not play the fool and his volumes of sermons testify to Manton’s desire to communicate to and edify the common Christian audience of his day. There is sweet consistency throughout his many sermons, or as Spurgeon puts it, “There is not a poor discourse in the whole collection they are evenly good, constantly excellent.”

But these sermons are slightly different than other collections of sermons I have purchased and read over the years. Unlike Spurgeon’s sermons, Manton is much less wordy, making me think these printed sermons are more likely his sermon manuscripts than edited transcripts (as in the case of Spurgeon). This means Manton’s sermons, by comparison, have a sweet concentration about them. And each sermon is very carefully outlined with use of clear points and subpoints, which make his sermons very easy to follow. Take Manton’s concentrated sermon form and well-outlined structure, multiply this by several sermons per volume, multiply that by 20 volumes, and you get a lifetime of sermon gems to feast the soul.

22-Volume Works

Recently Solid Ground Christian Books has served the Church by reprinting and shipping the entire 22-volume Complete Works of Thomas Manton. Currently the set is available through Reformation Heritage Books for $320.00 (plus a free copy of Meet the Puritans on each set). After some time reading and getting familiar with this new set, I offer my thoughts.

The new Manton set bears an obvious resemblance to the Banner’s edition of John Owen’s Works. Each volume is identical in height and depth, and has the same paper thickness, sewn binding, and photolithographed 19th century typeset. They are also nearly twins in beautiful genuine green cloth covers (Manton being slightly darker). There are two differences. The Manton volumes are not clothed in dust jackets. But on the other hand, the pages in Manton are bleach white, making them clearer and easier to read than the yellow paper of the Owen set.

Here are two detail photos of the set, one a close-up picture of the binding, cover, and paper color and another of the photolithographic text and paper color (click pictures for larger).

And this leads me to my favorite feature of the Manton set.

What determines the usefulness of a prolific Puritan writer? For busy pastors under the time crunch of sermon preparation, or for the common Christian reader looking to be fed devotionally on a specific topic or passage, the answer often boils down to one feature—indexing. Has the Puritan set been carefully indexed for ease-of-use? And there are, in my opinion and experience, no Puritans that have been more exhaustively or carefully indexed than this set of Manton works! The whopping 306 pages(!) of topical and scriptural indices take up most of the final volume in the Manton set, putting at your fingertips all 10,500+ pages of theological, expositional, and pastoral wealth.

There may be no better way to catch a glimpse into the priorities and usefulness of Manton than to peruse this massive index for yourself. So for your convenience I have converted these 306 pages into a single PDF, which you can download by clicking here (30.8MB file). I think by perusing the index you will gain a vision for the topics covered and the usefulness of Manton.

Conclusion

In late October of 1870, J.C. Ryle wrote a foreword to commemorate the first modern printing of Manton’s Works. In it Ryle wrote:

In days like these, I am thankful that the publishers of Manton’s Works have boldly come forward to offer some real literary gold to the reading public. I earnestly trust that they will meet with the success which they deserve. If any recommendation of mine can help them in bringing out the writings of this admirable Puritan in a new form, I give it cheerfully and with all my heart.

Today, I simply echo the recommendations of Spurgeon, Ryle, and Beeke. There are few, if any, Puritan sets that will provide you a more consistent and bountiful source of spiritual food for your soul than The Complete Works of Thomas Manton. And that is why I am so grateful for the Puritan preacher and so indebted to Solid Ground Christian Books for investing the time and money to offer this literary gold once again to the reading public.

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Title: The Complete Works of Thomas Manton
Author: Thomas Manton
Boards: hardcover; green cloth and silver gilding
Pages: 10,500
Volumes: 22
Dust jackets: no
Binding: sewn
Topical index: yes (extensive!; 224 pages)
Scriptural index: yes (extensive!; 80 pages)
Text: Photolithograph of 1870 James Nisbet & Co. edition
Publisher: Solid Ground Christian Books
Year: 2008
Price USD: $1,000.00 / $320.00 at RHB
ISBN: 978-1-59925-159-2

Interview: Ten Reasons to Read Manton Today

Today we are honored to hear from Donald John MacLean. Donald John was raised in a Christian home in Inverness, in the Highlands of Scotland, where Puritan theology was read and (more importantly) lived out daily. How cool is that?

By day, he works full time as an actuary. By night, he is a historical theology student finishing his MPhil thesis: “James Durham (1622-1658) and the Free Offer of the Gospel.” Once completed, he plans to begin a PhD on Manton, which appears to be the first academic thesis on the Puritan.

Donald John is married to Ruth and they have two children: Hannah (3 years) and Jonathan (2 months).

So why his deep interest in Manton? I asked him a simple question: Please provide us your top 10 reasons why busy pastors and Christians in general would benefit from reading the Complete Works of Thomas Manton.

What follows is his excellent and instructive list:

1.) Manton reminds us of God’s glory and our sinfulness. A great strength of the Puritan writers in general, they understood the glory and majesty of the Triune God. The church would be served to recover this sense of awe and wonder towards God. Manton is particularly strong here. And he also understands the true source of this awe and how practically to recover it—“The less we converse with God in private, the more the awe of God is lessened” (Works, 1:17). Simple—the more we are in God’s presence the more we will be caught up with the glory of God in our lives. A loss of the sense of God’s majesty indicates of a lack of time spent truly in his presence. This connection is why Manton’s wonderful sermons on prayer provide great practical help and insight (1:3-254).

Related in this awe-inspiring vision of God, we see in Manton another need in the church today—a sense of the sinfulness of sin and an awareness of our continued sinfulness. In Manton’s sermon on Matthew 6:12 (“And forgive us our debts”) he reminds us of our need to pray to “our Father” for the continued forgiveness of sin. Why? To be remind us that our hearts are still corrupt, that we are still sinful in our actions, a justified Christian praying for continued pardon, praying for forgiveness to obtain (or increase) a sense and manifestation of pardon and where that exists to increase it. All these points are backed by wonderfully rich biblical exegesis (1:176ff). Reading Manton will help renew our vision of God’s holiness and our sinfulness.

2.) Manton demonstrates a profound understanding of Christ’s work in redeeming sinners
. Much of Manton’s work is focused on Christ. Volume one includes Manton on Christ’s Temptation, Transfiguration, and work showing Christ’s eternal glory and Divinity. But where Manton is so profoundly helpful—especially in view of the confusion over the atonement today in self-identified evangelical circles—is on the work of Christ in redeeming sinners as a penal substitution. His sermons on the great Christological chapter of Isaiah 53 (3:189-494) and his sermons on Christ’s High Priestly prayer in John 17 are all outstanding (10:107-11:149)! And Manton is helpful is in avoiding a caricatured view of penal substitution by notes that Christ enduring the wrath of God against sin on the cross is not to be mistaken as implying, “God is all wrath and justice, unwilling of himself to be reconciled to man, or that he delighteth in blood, and is hardly drawn to give out grace. Oh, no! These are false … and misrepresentations of God” (1:496).

Manton explains well the necessity of the cross. One wonderful quote is Manton commenting on 2 Corinthians 5:19 (“God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them”) where he writes, “There is more glory in these few words, and more of God discovered in them, than there is in all the world. Oh, what a deal of comfort, and what a foundation for the rejoicing of our faith, is there laid in this reconciliation in and by Jesus Christ our Lord! That one sentence discovers more of God’s intentions and good will to man than all the bounty of his providence in and by all the creatures put together” (7:467).

Quotable statements like these abound in Manton.

3.) Manton understands the priority of Word of God in the Christian life
. Here I am thinking primarily of Manton on Psalm 119 (volumes 6-8 of the Works). On Psalm 119:97 (“Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day”) Manton comments, “God’s people have a great love to his word; yea, such a hearty affection as can not easily be expressed” (7:463). Among the great reasons there are for that love surely chief is that “it reveals reconciliation by Christ” (7:468). Here Manton explains the various “uses” of Scripture—to increase our knowledge of God, to convert sinners, to humble, to cleanse, to comfort, to build up faith, to direct us in our practice. That zeal and love for the word of God needs to grow in us all (I speak to myself first) and I believe reading Manton on Psalm 119 will stir in our hearts a desire to swim deeper in God’s Word.

Manton’s sermons on Psalm 119 are a wonderful example of sustained, exegetical preaching (though I’m not suggesting every preacher produce 3 volumes worth of sermons on the chapter!). Spurgeon, who wrote a commentary on Psalm 119 himself, wrote, “While commentating on [Ps 119] I was brought into intimate communion with Thomas Manton, who has discoursed upon this marvelous portion of scripture with great fullness and power.”

4.) Manton is a marvelous example of preaching application well. Manton is a preacher, not a lecturer. His goal is not merely imparting knowledge but in moving his hearers to action. And this emphasis on application is in many places (from my perspective) a neglected part of preaching today.

The Westminster Directory of Public worship exhorts preachers not to “rest in general doctrine…but to bring it home to special use, by application to his hearers: which albeit it prove a work of great difficulty to himself, requiring much prudence, zeal, and meditation, and to the natural and corrupt man will be very unpleasant; yet he is to endeavour to perform it in such a manner, that his auditors may feel the word of God to be quick and powerful, and a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart; and that, if any unbeliever or ignorant person be present, he may have the secrets of his heart made manifest, and give glory to God.” James Durham said, “Application is the life of Preaching … the main part of a Pastoral gift, dexterously to feed by Application” (Commentary on Revelation, 335).

Manton wonderfully models Puritan application in practice. Because of his gift in applying the truth, it is very rare to read a Manton sermon without being humbled, rebuked, comforted, encouraged when necessary, and drawn towards Christ in praise and thankfulness.

5.) Manton is a passionate evangelist, revealing a God who offers delight to sinners.
Manton is absolutely committed to the sovereignty of God in saving sinners, yet that does not hinder his great burden to see sinners saved. We see in Manton a wonderful picture of a Calvinistic evangelist. Manton believes it is a key duty of the ministry to win souls to Christ: “The great business of the ministers of the gospel is to persuade men to reconciliation with God” (13:295). A classic example of this are his sermons on Ezekiel 18:23 (“Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? says the Lord GOD, and not that he should turn from his ways and live?”). Manton begins his sermons by setting out the pastoral importance of the free offer of the gospel because if we have false views of God—that he is an “inexorable judge”—we simply have no grounds to turn to him for salvation.

Manton’s aim in these sermons is to counter this view of God that he feared was held by “many men” in the church, arguing: “There is nothing so necessary to draw us to repentance as good thoughts of God. In the first temptation the devil sought to weaken the reputation and credit of God’s goodness … as if he were harsh, severe, and envious in restraining them from the tree of knowledge … In the bosom of the church this conceit possesseth many men’s hearts, that God is harsh and severe, and delighteth more in our ruin than salvation … Oh, what a monstrous picture do men draw of God in their thoughts, as if he were a tyrant, or an inexorable judge, that gave no leave for repentance, or left any hope of pardon to the guilty” (21:463). Manton argues that Ezekiel 18:23 teaches us that “as God is a merciful God, and loveth all the creatures which he hath made, so their life is more pleasing than their death; a thing more acceptable in itself to such a being as God is” (21:464). And Manton closes his exposition of this passage with 7 reasons why God takes no pleasure in our eternal destruction (21:468-71). All this with the aim to draw men to Christ!

[As an aside, I think Manton is more helpful on texts like Ezekiel 18:23 than another Puritan giant, John Owen. In his otherwise masterful defense of particular redemption, Owen spends his exposition of Ezekiel 18:23 by refusing to take the text in its natural sense (Works, 10:387), which is unnecessary given a straightforward reading of the passage in no way endangers particular redemption!]

6.) Manton is a wonderfully levelheaded and balanced writer. He will help keep those who are “young, restless and reformed” from the danger of extremes. One example of this is how Manton works through the issue of the desire for purity as opposed to the desire for unity. For instance when discussing what is means to “earnestly contend for the faith” (Jude 3) Manton highlights certain truths which “are fundamentals … essentials in religion” which are so vital that even Paul must withstand Peter face-to-face. These fundamentals include “the creation of the world by God in six days out of nothing, God’s providence, man’s misery by sin, deliverance by Christ, the necessity of the new creature, the resurrection of the dead, and the everlasting recompenses … the mystery of the Trinity … the union of the two natures in the person of Christ, that the scriptures are the word of God” (5:118-9).

As a complement to this need for earnest contending we have Manton’s sermon “A Persuasive to Unity in things Indifferent.” The thrust of this sermon is that “when God’s people are divided in opinion, all lenity and mutual forbearance should be used to prevent things from coming to open rupture” (2:68). Manton observes that “Divisions in the Church breed atheism in the world,” and, “separation and distance from the rest of believers, doth not befriend godliness, but undermine it” (2:69). Manton is not promoting indifference to truth but we see his balance in his forceful reminder that although all truth is important not all truths must be contended for with the same degree of importance.

7.) Manton is discontent with Christianity as merely an abstract theological construct
. Christianity is experiential, always reaching through the mind into the heart and outward in actions. One example of this is Manton’s observation that, “A great fruit and token of piety is provision for the afflicted…Works of mercy so well become them that do expect or have received mercy from God…Now one of the chief glories of the Godhead is the unweariedness of his love and bounty: he visits the fatherless and the widows; so should we: the spirit of our religion is forgiving; and therefore the cruel heart is made by Paul a kind of ‘denying the faith,’ 1 Tim. v.8” (4:176).

8.) Manton is full of homiletic hints for preachers. To illustrate this I opened Manton’s commentary on Jude at random and read the following: “Ministers must press those doctrines that are most needed. It is cheap zeal that declaimeth against antiquated errors, and things now out of use and practice. We are to consider what the present age needeth…[What use is it] now to handle the case of Henry the Eighth’s divorce?” (5:103). So here we have a Puritan urging us to be relevant and contemporary in our preaching!

As an aside to preachers: If given the opportunity, I would never teach a text covered by Manton without reading him first. I find his words helpful and stimulating. And given the nature of his writings (mostly sermons) they are more easily assessable in a way that some of the Puritan theological or polemic works may not be (e.g. John Owen).

9.) Manton takes great care to encourage the Christian life. Manton is not only a wonderful theologian but also exceptionally helpful in encouraging us to daily obedience. A fine example of this is his sermons on Ephesians 5 (volume 19 of the Works). From these sermons I’ll just pick out some of his comments on “husbands love your wives” (doesn’t get much more practical than this!). The thrust of Manton’s sermon is “that husbands must love their wives with a sincere and tender love” (19:468). He quotes Luther on Christ’s love for the church, “I see nothing in Christ but a prodigality and excess of love” and says this must be the pattern for a husband’s love to his wife (19:470).

What are the effects of this love? First, the husband “delights in her presence and company, not suffering himself to be separated from her for any long time.” Secondly, this love causes the husband to “direct and instruct [her] in all things that belong to this life and the better.” Third, this act of love is “in providing all things necessary for them that conduce to health, food and raiment.” Fourth, is “in a care to preserve and defend her” (19:471-2). Manton urges husbands to “love not as bare husbands, but as Christians” (19:475).

This is only a little flavor of the feast of teaching scattered throughout Manton’s 22 volumes of books and sermons.

10.) Manton has a firm grasp of church and secular history. Which is clearly evident from the range of writers he cites. For instance in one page of his work on Jude (5:117) he quotes Luther, refers to the dispute between the Western and Eastern Church over Easter, refers to Arius, Nestorius and the Council of Nice, and draws a lesson from Chrystostom and Epiphanius disagreeing over Origen’s writings. Now I’m not suggesting preachers need to start referencing Church history to this degree(!) but I do think Manton’s evident engagement with the history of the Christian church was important.

First, his wide reading helped him with illustrations—he could often refer to an event in church history to help make his point.

Second, I’m sure his wide reading helped add to his wonderful balance I referred to above. If we are always and only people of our own time we will fall into the blind spots of our age—reading Manton will help us avoid this!

Conclusion

To close, I’ll leave you with just one miscellaneous directive. Don’t start with his sermons on 2 Thessalonians 2:1-17 (3:1-186). Manton’s understanding of that passage is so radically different to what would be common today it might be an off-putting introduction.

But virtually everything else he wrote is easily accessible and deeply beneficial to your soul!

Tolle lege! Take up and read.

Biography of Thomas Manton (1620-1677)

For the next several days this blog we will be devoted to exploring the life and work of the prolific Puritan Thomas Manton. I will be posting detailed photographs and a review of the Complete Works of Thomas Manton and we will be talking with a man who is preparing to begin work on what appears to be the very first PhD on Manton.

To celebrate this series, our friends at Reformation Heritage Books are offering this special offer: Purchase the Complete Works of Thomas Manton (which they sell for one of the most reasonable prices on-line—$320.00) and they will include a free copy of our 2006 book of the year, Meet the Puritans by Dr. Joel Beeke (minus the dusk jacket). Offer is good only while supplies last.

But before we jump into a review of the set, it’s appropriate for those not familiar with Manton to read the following biography taken directly from the pages of Meet the Puritans:

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Thomas Manton [1620-1677] was baptized on March 31, 1620 at Lydeard St. Lawrence, Somerset, where his father, Thomas Manton, was probably curate. The young Thomas was educated at the free school in Tiverton, Devon, then, at the age of sixteen, went to study at Wadham College, Oxford. He graduated from Oxford with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1639, a Bachelor of Divinity degree in 1654, and a Doctorate of Divinity degree in 1660.

Manton was ordained in 1640 to the diaconate at age twenty by Joseph Hall, and served for three years as lecturer at the parish church of Sowton, near Exeter, Devonshire, where he married Mary Morgan of Sidbury, Devonshire, in 1643. Through the patronage of Colonel Popham, he obtained the living of St. Mary’s, Stoke Newington, London, where his pastorate became a model of consistent, rigorous Calvinism. He soon became a leading Presbyterian in London, and used his influence to encourage ministers to establish Presbyterian church government and to promote public tranquility in troubled times. He was appointed one of three clerks at the Westminster Assembly and preached many times before Parliament during the Commonwealth.

Once, after Manton chose a difficult text to preach before the Lord Mayor, a needy believer rebuked him, complaining that he came for spiritual food but had been disappointed. Manton replied, “Friend, if I did not give you a sermon, you have given me one; and by the grace of God, I will never play the fool to preach before my Lord Mayor in such a manner again” (Hulse, Who are the Puritans?, p. 93).

Manton provided spiritual counsel to Christopher Love prior to his execution for insurrection in 1652, and was with Love when he was beheaded. Despite threats of being shot by soldiers from the army who were present that evening, Manton preached a funeral message to a large midnight audience at Love’s parish of St. Lawrence Jewry.

Despite his strong disapproval of the king’s execution, Manton retained the favor of Cromwell and his Parliament. In the mid 1650s, he served several important commissions, including being a commissioner for the approbation of public preachers, or “triers.” He served with Edmund Calamy, Stephen Marshall, and other Presbyterians in holding talks of accommodation with Congregationalists such as Joseph Caryl and Sidrach Simpson. He served on a committee to help resolve the division in the Church of Scotland between the Resolutioners and the Remonstranters. Then, too, he served on a committee with Thomas Goodwin, John Owen, Henry Jessey, and Richard Baxter for composing articles on the “fundamentals of religion” essential for subscription to the protectorate church.

In 1656, Manton was chosen as lecturer at Westminster Abbey and became rector of St. Paul’s, Covent Garden, London as Obadiah Sedgwick’s successor. Manton desired to establish Presbyterian discipline at St. Paul’s, but was prevented from doing so by his assistant, Abraham Pinchbecke, and his parishioners. He accepted this graciously, and was ever the gentleman, showing charity to all, including ministers of other persuasions.

When Oliver Cromwell was offered the crown by Parliament in 1657, Manton was chosen, together with John Owen, Joseph Caryl, Philip Nye, and George Gillespie, to pray with the Lord Protector for divine guidance. After Cromwell finally refused the crown, Manton delivered the public blessing at the inauguration of the second protectorate Parliament (Oxford DNB, 36:366).

After the failure of Richard Cromwell’s protectorate, Manton favored the Restoration of Charles II. He accompanied Charles at Breda and swore an oath of loyalty to the King. Manton was appointed one of twelve chaplains to King Charles II, though he never performed the duties or received the benefits of this office. All the while, Manton remained firmly Presbyterian in his convictions, and warned against the restoration of episcopacy and the Anglican liturgy.

After Manton was ejected from the Church of England pulpits for Nonconformity in 1662, he preached at his house in King Street, Covent Garden, and other private places. Attendance kept increasing until he was arrested in 1670 and imprisoned for six months. When the Declaration of Indulgence was granted in 1672, Manton was licensed as a Presbyterian at his home in Covent Gardne. He also became lecturer for London merchants in Pinner’s Hall and preacher at the revival of the Presbyterian morning exercises.

When the King’s indulgence was annulled in 1675, Manton’s congregation was torn apart. He continued to preach to his aristocratic followers at Covent Garden, however, until his death in 1677. William Bates preached at Manton’s funeral.

Manton was remembered at his funeral as “the king of preachers.” Bates said that he never heard him deliver a poor sermon and commended his ability to “represent the inseparable connection between Christian duties and privileges.” Archbishop James Ussher described Manton as “a voluminous preacher” and “one of the best in England.” That is certainly evident from Manton’s many writings, most of which are sermons. … Manton’s sermons fill twenty of his twenty-two volumes. They are the legacy of a preacher devoted to the systematic teaching and application of God’s Word. Manton presents us with the best that English Puritans had to offer in careful, solid, warmhearted exposition of the Scriptures.

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Taken from Meet the Puritans: With a Guide to Modern Reprints by Joel R. Beeke and Randall J. Pederson (RHB, 2006), pp. 429-433. Posted by permission of the publisher, Reformation Heritage Books.

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