Category Archives: 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.
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.
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.
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.
Title: The Complete Works of Thomas Manton
Author: Thomas Manton
Boards: hardcover; green cloth and silver gilding
Dust jackets: no
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
Price USD: $1,000.00 / $320.00 at RHB
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!
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.
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:
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.
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.
A number of years ago, Thomas Manton taught me a very helpful little triad on the topic of faith. He wrote, “we are justified by faith, we live by faith, we walk by faith” (13:15). This simple statement was very helpful to a man with such a narrow view of faith that I thought of “faith” primarily in reference to initial saving faith or in reference to the weighty doctrinal content of “the faith.” Both are true. But like lungs forcing air into a deflated pool toy, Manton stretched my brain and heart to see the awesome reality now reinforced through my life in Sovereign Grace Ministries—faith has everything to do with daily life. The life I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Galatians 2:20). And it led me to realize that even those with genuine saving faith often struggle with unbelief (Mark 9:24, 16:14).
Manton convinced me of the importance of walking by faith by revealing the fruit that grows from a life of faith. He taught me that it is a life of faith that produces sincerity in the soul, vigor in the affections, watchfulness over the heart, self-denial of sinful compulsions, comfort in affliction, and confidence through our pilgrimage in this life. And I realized this life of faith impacts and influences my entire day, from the moment I awake until I fall asleep at night.
This is what I learned from Manton’s sermon on 2 Cor. 5:7: “for we walk by faith, not by sight” …
“Those who have faith must walk by it; for faith is here considered as working and putting forth itself. We walk, that is, we live, for in the dialect of the Hebrews this life is a walk; vitam nostram componimus, we must govern and direct our lives by the power and influence of faith. It is not enough to have faith, but we must walk by it; our whole conversation is carried on and influenced by faith, and by the Spirit of God on Christ’s part: Gal. 2:20, ‘I live by the faith of the Son of God ;’ a lively faith. There living by faith is spoken of as it respecteth the principle of the spiritual life; here walking by faith as the scope and end of it: there, as we derive virtue from Christ; here, as we press on to heaven, in the practice of holiness. In short, walking noteth a progress, and passing on from one place to another, through a straight and beaten way which lieth between both. So we pass on from the earthly state to the heavenly by the power and influence of our way; our way is through all conditions we are appointed unto, and through all duties required of us. …
1. Walking by faith maketh a man sincere, because he expecteth his reward from God only, though no man observe him, no man commend him: Mat. 6:6, ‘Thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.’ Yea, though all men hate him and condemn him: Mat 5:11-12, ‘Blessed are you when men shall revile and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my name’s sake; rejoice, and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in heaven.’ Now this is true sincerity, when we make God alone our paymaster, and count his rewards enough to repair our losses and repay our cost.
2. It maketh a man vigorous and lively. When we consider at the end of our work there is a life of endless joys to be possessed in heaven with God, that we shall never repent of the labour and pain that we have taken in the spiritual life: 1 Cor. 15:58, ‘Always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labour shall not be in vain in the Lord;’ Phil. 3:14, ‘I press towards the mark, because of the high prize of the calling of God in Jesus Christ.’ The thoughts of the prize and worth of the reward do add spirits to the runner.
3. It maketh a man watchful, that he be not corrupted with the delights of sense, which are apt to call back our thoughts, to interrupt our affections, to divert us from our work, and quench our zeal. Now one that walks by faith can compare his eternal happiness with these transitory pleasures which will soon have an end, and everlastingly forsake those miserable souls who were deluded by them. As Moses: Heb. 11:24-25, ‘By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.’
4. Walking by faith will make a man self-denying; for, having heaven in his eye, he knoweth that he cannot be a loser by God: Mark 10:21, ‘ Forsake all that thou hast, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven;’ so verses 29, 30, ‘Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sister, or father, or mother, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, but he shall receive an hundred-fold.’
5. Walking by faith maketh a man comfortable and confident; a believer is encouraged in all his duty, emboldened in his conflicts, comforted in all his sufferings. The quieting or emboldening of the soul is the great work of faith, or trust in God’s fidelity. A promise to him is more than all the visible things on earth, or sensible objects in the world; it can do more with him to make him forsake all earthly pleasures, possessions, and hopes : Ps. 56:4, ‘In God I will praise his word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me;’ so Paul: Acts 20:24, ‘But none of those things move me, neither count I my life dear unto me, so I may fulfill my course with joy. Save the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me’—did wait for him everywhere. I make no reckoning of these things. It maketh us constant. Have ye fixed upon these hopes with so great deliberation, and will you drawback, and slack in the prosecution of them? Have you gone so far in the way to heaven, and do you begin to look behind you, as if you were about to change your mind, Heb. 10:39. The apostle saith, Phil. 3:13, ‘I forget the things which are behind, reaching forth unto the things which are before.’ The world and the flesh are things behind us; we turned our backs upon them when we first looked after heavenly things.
Use, Is to show the advantage the people of God have above the carnal and unregenerate. The people of God walk by faith, against the present want of sight. How do the world walk? Not by faith, they have it not; nor by the sight of heaven, for they are not there, and so continuing never shall be there. So they have neither faith nor sight; what do they live by, then? They live by sense and by fancy: by sense as to the present world; and they live by fancy and vain conceit as to the world to come. Live in their sins and vain pleasures, and yet hope to be saved. Here they walk by sight, but not such a sight as the apostle meaneth; they must have something in the view of sense—lands, honours, pleasures; and when these are out of sight, they are in darkness, and have nothing to live upon. But now a Christian is never at a loss, let his condition be what it will. Suppose God should bring him so low and bare that he hath no estate to live on, no house to dwell in, yet he hath an inheritance in the promises: Ps. 119:111, ‘Thy testimonies I have taken for an heritage for ever;’ and ‘God is his habitation,’ Ps. 90:1. A full heap in his own keeping is not such a supply to him as God’s all-sufficiency, Gen. 17:11. That is his storehouse. But his great happiness is in the other world; there is all his hope and his desire, and he looketh upon other promises only in order to that.”
-Thomas Manton, Sermons Upon 2 Corinthians V.: Sermon X. (SGCB), Works 13:20-22.
For each the past several years we’ve been blessed with at least one monumental publishing achievement that furthers the Puritan legacy. This year I’m excited to announce one of the most important Puritan projects of the year—and certainly one of the most important I’ve seen in my 6 years of reading and collecting precious Puritan works!
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.
I’ve been (gently) criticized by my blog readers for saying that Manton is overall more valuable for expositional research than John Owen, Richard Sibbes, and Thomas Goodwin. But I stand by my placement of Manton in the Puritan Library series and soon I will begin arguing that (1) because of Manton’s excellent biblical insights, (2) warm application of eternal truths to daily life, and (3) because of the excellent 250 page indices in the back of the Works, he is one of the most helpful and useful of all the Puritans for the preaching pastor. Can I argue successfully? You be the judge.
Bottom line: This set is an epic feat in recent Puritan publishing. And over the next few weeks I’ll be looking closer at the set and talking with those familiar with Manton in order to bring substance to that very claim.
In a sermon on John 3:16 (“God so loved, that he gave…”), Puritan Thomas Manton makes the following point on God’s indescribable love towards sinners in sending His Son:
“Love is at the bottom of all. We may give a reason of other things, but we cannot give a reason of his love, God showed his wisdom, power, justice, and holiness in our redemption by Christ. If you ask, Why he made so much ado about a worthless creature, raised out of the dust of the ground at first, and had now disordered himself, and could be of no use to him? We have an answer at hand, Because he loved us. If you continue to ask, But why did he love us? We have no other answer but because he loved us; for beyond the first rise of things we cannot go. And the same reason is given by Moses, Deuteronomy 7:7-8: ‘The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because you were more in number than any people, for ye were the fewest of all people; but because the Lord loved you…’ That is, in short, he loved you because he loved you. All came from his free and undeserved mercy; higher we cannot go in seeking after the causes of what is done for our salvation.”
-Thomas Manton, The Complete Works of Thomas Manton, 2:340-341.
“Confession is an act of mortification,
it is as it were the vomit of the soul;
it breeds a dislike of the sweetest morsels
when they are cast up in loathsome ejections;
sin is sweet in commission,
but bitter in the remembrance.
God’s children find that their hatred
is never more keen and exasperated against sin
than in confessing.”
- Thomas Manton, Works, 4:457
“Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly.” (Proverbs 26:11, ESV)
Part 8: To Quote or not to Quote?
“The great Puritan preacher Jeremiah Burroughs once said of this passage …”
If you think this is the only way (or the best way) to integrate the Puritans into your sermon, this post is for you.
That was me a few years ago. I was introduced to the Puritans and fell in love, going bonkers quoting this Puritan and that Puritan. My listeners, (unfortunate college students), were forced to endure 150-word quotes by John Owen. I’m certain as soon as I said “In the words of one Puritan…” they began thinking about their homework or dinner or (living off 3 hours of sleep each night) simply blacked out.
In this post we answer the questions regarding the best use of the Puritan quotations.
First, it must be stated that there is both a good way and a very poor way to use the Puritans.
The poor way is to force a Puritan thought or quote on a text that does not complement the clear meaning of the biblical text. The quote may be good and it may be biblical, but if it does not fit with the text it appears the preacher is forcing another authority upon the text for his own end. Your hearers know when you are not being straight with them, and they will dismiss you and your quote.
The best use of the Puritans (or any other source for that matter) is to reinforce the plain meaning of a text. We should let the text stand on its own and bring in quotations and thoughts that drive the thought home. Another way to say this: The text of scripture should authenticate the Puritan quote, not the other way around.
For example, let the biblical text teach on the importance of God’s perfect holiness. Let John Owen then come along and instruct the Christian to find their delight and affection in that perfect holiness of God.
I can say after several years of preaching experience, no source will better help you reinforce the plain meaning of scripture than the Puritans. They cherish what God cherishes, delight in what God delights, and hate what He hates. If ever there were people suited for complementing the text of scripture, the Puritans are it.
Narrow the quotes
After studying our printed Puritans, e-Puritans, and online Puritan sources, we have a mountain of material that may fit our sermon. What do we do?
It is essential (before writing your sermon notes) to carefully sift through the quotations for the most appropriate. I have found that 10 quotes per sermon is more than enough for me. And in selecting only the 10 best, there are dozens of other excellent quotations that hit the cutting-room floor. You may have a ton of great material, but the truth is that your sermon will become more powerful the more focused it becomes.
As an aside, I formerly pasted directly all interesting quotations into my Microsoft Word sermon note file and then tried to incorporate all the material into my sermon. I would discourage this practice. It’s important that preachers use a buffer between what you find in your research and your sermon notes themselves.
For me, I use a Moleskine notebook for my quotes. When I write my sermon out (usually in about one day) I consult this notebook. I am amazed how many quotes simply do not fit my sermon! Had I started typing out my sermon with 50 quotes and points from various day’s thoughts, I could never write a clear sermon. It would be confusing and broken. Use a buffer.
Let’s say we have our 10 best quotations that fit our sermon notes well. No what? We have three separate options.
(1) Directly quote. I am still committed to directly quoting the Puritans (even to college students). My series of photo cards entitled “Quotes from Dead Guys with Cool Hair” was an attempt to introduce my students to the Puritans. The cards were geared towards issues in the college life and were well received.
Here are some examples of direct quotes.
In a sermon on Galatians 6:12-15, Thomas Manton provided me an excellent quotation to explain the reciprocating crucifixion of the believer to the world and the world to the believer. It’s from my sermon delivered on 12/17/04,
Manton: “And truly to eye our pattern, Christ, hanging and dying on the cross will pierce the world to the very heart. He was contented to be the most despicable object upon earth in the eyes of men. If Christians be not ashamed of their head and glorious chief, this spectacle should kill all our worldly affections, and make us despise all the honor, and riches, and pomp, and pleasure of the world, the favor or frowns, the love or wrath, the praise or dispraise of men, so far as it is opposite to the kingdom of Christ. When it is crucified to us, we should be crucified to it.”
In a sermon to college students I wanted to convey the importance of redeeming the time. This quote is from my sermon delivered 10/21/05 on Ephesians 5:15-16,
Richard Baxter: “1. To redeem time is to see that we cast none of it away in vain; but use every minute of it as a most precious thing, and spend it wholly in the way of duty. 2. That we be not only doing good, but doing the best and greatest good which we are able and have a call to do. 3. That we do not only the best things, but do them in the best manner and in the greatest measure, and do as much good as possibly we can. 4. That we watch for special opportunities. 5. That we presently take them then they fall, and improve them when we take them. 6. That we part with all that is to be parted with, to save our time … This is the true redeeming of our time.”
These were both excellent quotations. In both cases, I took a little liberty in updating spelling for clarity.
Once I started quoting Puritans directly in sermons I began using sermon handouts. This practice has worked well for me over the years. Handouts provide great freedom by allowing you to quote lengthier Puritan quotes.
Handouts also give the preacher the freedom to skip over quotes. Let your people read them at home. I quoted eight different authors in my sermon on Ephesians 5:15-16 (download notes here), though I doubt I read more than four of them.
Be certain when you print notes that you define difficult words for your hearers in aggregations [that is ‘brackets’].
(2) Paraphrase quote. Often the Puritan quotes are excellent but could be better stated for clarity and conciseness. This is where paraphrasing comes in. Paraphrasing is simply the act of restating an idea with new words.
The best examples I can give come from my book entitled, Come Unto Me: God’s Invitation to the World, where I used hundreds of quotes and paraphrases from the Puritan sermons.
I thought this quote by Spurgeon too difficult for a non-Christian. So I paraphrased it.
Charles Spurgeon: “The gospel was brought near to us, earnest hearts were set a praying for us, the text was written which would convert us; and as I have already said, the blood was spilt which cleanses us, and the Spirit of God was given, who should renew us. All this was done while as yet we had no breathings of soul after God” (Sermons 23:216).
Paraphrase: “During the same period as the ungodly were in a state of spiritual rebellion towards God, Christ gave Himself on the Cross to die for those who were undeserving. The blood of Christ was shed, the text of the bible was written, the actions of God were moving all while the sinner was loving the sin which alienates himself from God!”
I really liked Thomas Boston’s likening a worldly man’s pursuit of wealth to a blind mole, but I didn’t like the wording.
Thomas Boston: “Hence the carnal man, I may say, never gets up his back, but on his belly doth he go, and labours, as if he were a slave condemned to the mines, to dig in the bowels of the earth; like the blind moles, his constant labor is in the earth, and he never opens his eyes till he is dying.”
Paraphrase: “The soul that pursues wealth spends its short life digging deeply into the dark mines of worldliness, like the blind mole tunneling deep into the temporal world.”
If you love the thought, but are having difficulty with the wording of a quote, paraphrase it.
(3) Create your own thought. Ironically, as I mature in preaching I find myself doing more of this. I find a great quotation by John Owen and by the time I’m getting ready to insert the thought into my sermon I find his quote has catapulted my thoughts further into the text and I cut the quote itself.
I did this in the last post with the quote from John Owen. His thought led me to my own. Frequently, the more useful the Puritans become in your life and ministry, the less you will mention them.
Psalm 73 sermon
An interesting thing happened to me recently to illustrate the point. When I was asked to preach on Psalm 73 (title: Depression, Worldliness and the Presence of God), I used more Puritan resources than on any other sermon I can recall (over 200 printed pages). However, I only quoted one Puritan, an excerpt from Jonathan Edwards’ sermon Sinner in the Hands of an Angry God. As you will see in the sermon notes, Edwards’ thoughts are authenticated by the text.
I was amazed how many people asked me after the sermon for that title so they could read the entire sermon by Jonathan Edwards (although the church bookstore 20-feet away carries a paperback version of the sermon). This reminds us that pulpit promotion increases interest. Even if you have a bookstore full of Puritans, you still need to tell your people who they are any why they are important. Sermons are great place for this.
Now, back to the Psalm 73 sermon. I only quoted one Puritan although there were many paraphrases of the Puritans throughout the entire sermon and many thoughts catapulted from my Puritan research. All of the comments I received were encouragements for how deeply the text had taken hold of me. “You grasped the text, or rather, the text grasped you,” one said. Another said, “The sermon was text-driven.” Certainly, I let the text drive everything else but the reality is that its depth also drew from the meditations of 14 faithful Puritan preachers.
What I learned was this: The more you use Puritan literature and the less you directly quote Puritan literature the more impressed your hearers will be with God’s Word. It wasn’t that I didn’t use other sources, but that I carefully discerned the important Puritan sources from the not-so-important, let scripture authenticate the Puritan quotes, and then internalized those quotes. The final product was deeply biblical and very mature because it was deeply Puritan.
I hope my intention in this post has become clear by now. We want to use the Puritans, but not so our hearers are impressed with our scholarship. Nor should our intention be to impress people with the wisdom of the Puritans themselves. Our goal must be to use the power of the Puritan sermons to display the power of God’s Word.
When our hearers walk away from our sermons impressed with the power of God’s Word (rather than impressed with us or our Puritan library) we have used the Puritans correctly.
Would Jonathan Edwards have it any other way?
Next time … Part 9: The Strategy of Building a Puritan Study
Part 5: Print book searches
We have spoken much about the Puritan literature; today we begin looking at real research. In the next post we will specifically cover e-Puritan searches, but today we are concerned with using printed Puritans.
One of the most important resources available to the Puritan researcher are the printed indexes. This is true in both the works of a single author and in the Puritan index by Robert Martin (A Guide to the Puritans).
There are two reasons why Puritan Thomas Manton is my homeboy. First, his sermons are filled with rich exposition and pastoral warmth. When I really need a quote to convey a deeper truth, Manton is my source. And second, whoever edited his complete works did an incredible job (and an incredible service to preachers today) by including a detailed index. His 22-volume works (available on CD-Rom) conclude with over 300 pages of textual and topical indexes! A dream for the researcher.
But Manton is not alone. The Complete Works of John Bunyan, Thomas Brooks, John Flavel and Richard Sibbes all come with excellent topical indexes.
As an aside, I was speaking with a close friend recently who admitted that keeping a list of quotations was very difficult for him. One of the great difficulties to making an effective index of quotations is an inability to view an individual quote within the big framework. Some will read a quote about the power of the Cross without thinking how it would be properly indexed (ex. Christ > the Cross > effects of > power in believer).
To me, this is why the Puritans are liberating. Once you determine the general content of your sermon, you can go searching for great quotations! Surrounding yourself with quality Puritan literature will lessen the importance of a lengthy quote index.
As another example, I don’t have many quotations indexed on the sobering topic of God’s eternal judgment upon sinners. And I don’t need to. All I need to remember is that Jonathan Edwards preached a few incredible sermons (like Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God) and John Bunyan preached another very quotable sermon on the same subject (A Few Sighs from Hell). Allow a little time to read and soak these sermons in and you will have all the quotes you could imagine on the subject.
This makes the topical Puritan index by Robert Martin, A Guide to the Puritans, especially important. Because while I knew that Edwards and Bunyan preached on the subject of God’s judgment, I was unaware that John Flavel (3:129-153), Thomas Boston (8:347-375) and Thomas Brooks (5:113-145) had also preached important sermons on the subject.
The wealth of Puritan sermons make personal quote indexes unnecessary.
Back to Psalm 16:11
As we began in Part 4, we are researching Psalm 16:11 as an example. And in studying our text we have three avenues of research open to us with these printed volumes.
(i) Primary text as sermon text. Of our 14 top Puritans, none preached sermons where Psalm 16:11 was their primary passage (Why not? I cannot say). If you are searching on a text and you find two or more sermons where your text is the primary text, you may have all the content necissary for your Puritan research. But our problem here is a common one. On Psalm 16:11 we will need to dig deeper.
(ii) Primary text as indexed text. I will use the scripture index from Manton as an example. If you look to the screenshot to the right you will see that Psalm 16:11 was a topic of concern for Manton throughout his ministry. We see this especially in the following works in the following places: (volume: printed page) 9:455; 12:474; 14:469; 15:400; 16:192; 19:236; 20:465; 22:19. And these references come from just one of our 14 Puritan friends.
(iii) Cross-reference text as sermon text. If you need more information from the cross-references, follow the steps for (ii) except with other texts like Ps. 36:8.
You can use these principles on any text or topic study. Just find the biblical passages and track down the references in the scripture index or look up the topic in the topic index. The printed editions of the Puritan works remain important for these indexes.
Now a few references from Manton that I found as a result of my research.
Manton, 9:455 – “What can be found in the creature is but a drop to the ocean in comparison of what a believer findeth in God himself. God is to them an overflowing fountain of all felicity … Here (in this life) it admits of increase and decrease; but there the soul is so filled that it cannot receive any more: Ps. xvii. 15, ‘As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake with thy likeness.’ … In heaven the soul shall be filled with unspeakable joy and delight. What delight is to the sense, that joy is to the mind. Three things are necessary to delight – a faculty, or power of the soul capable of pleasure; and then the thing itself; which being brought to the mind, doth stir up delight. As in bodily things, colors, fruits, tastes, pleasure consists in the near union and conjunction of these things. The more noble the faculty, the more excellent the object; the nearer the conjunction, the greater the delight and pleasure. Now in heaven our faculties are perfected: God is the subject, and there is a near conjunction. Oh! What embraces between him and the soul!”
Manton, 22:19 – “The tree of life is gone, when paradise was defaced by the flood; but God hath provided a better life by the death of his Son, that we should live for ever, both in body and soul, eternally in heaven. Nothing else be this deserveth to be called life. The bodily life is short; it is a dying life or a living death. It floweth from us as fast as it cometh to us; but this never fadeth, but endureth for ever. The bodily life is subject to pain and misery, but the heavenly, full of joy and endless glory. The bodily life is supported with meats and drinks, but there God is all in all. The bodily life is consistent with sin, but this life is pure and perfect” (references to 1 John 3:2, Jude 2-4 and Psalm 16:11).
The options of what we now do with the quotations will be the subject of a later post. My point here is to show that it took just five minutes to find these two references from the works of Manton. I have six others references remaining in the works of Manton and another 13 Puritans I have yet to open.
By using these printed scriptural and topical indexes, it should be obvious that Puritan sermons provide the valuable depth we need in our sermon preparation.
Next time … Part 6: Electronic searches.