The Week that Was… and Manton at last

So, no Thomas Manton so far but fear not for he is below.  But the absence of any posting was firstly due to accepting a job in London so we can go and live in Cambridge.  This decision was a hard one to make but it meant we can be back in a presbyterian church so we accepted.  Also Cambridge is a much better location while I am studying.  This meant a whole load of work before we could put the house on the market. 

Then along came appendicitis.  We were meant to go off on holiday on Saturday but I woke up with severe stomach pains and ended up in hospital instead of on the train to Scotland.  So I have a week of thesis writing up to look forward to instead of a holiday!

So, enough of me – on to Manton.  I’ve often thought that one of the hardest texts to preach on (bearing in mind WCF 3:8 – “The doctrine of this high mystery of predestination is to be handled with special prudence and care, that men, attending the will of God revealed in His Word, and yielding obedience thereunto, may, from the certainty of their effectual vocation, be assured of their eternal election. So shall this doctrine afford matter of praise, reverence, and admiration of God; and of humility, diligence, and abundant consolation to all that sincerely obey the Gospel”) is Exodus 4:21 “I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go.”  How can the doctrine that “God himself hath a hand in the hardening of obstinate sinners” (Manton, Works 17:221) be preached?  I think Thomas Manton shows us how (Works, 17:221-240). 

Manton points out an important theological point we must safeguard when we come to verses like this, “God is not and cannot be the author of sin … God hath not brought upon any necessity of sinning; and God that is good, cannot be the cause of evil” (17:226).  Allied to this “In the explication of this matter … we must not say too much, lest we leave a stain and blemish upon the divine glory.” (17:226).  That is “God infuseth no hardness and sin as he infuseth grace.  All influences from heaven are sweet and good, not sour…” (17:226).

However, we must also avoid saying “too little” on this matter.  We must proceed with care and caution to explain what this hardening actually means.  So we must not confine hardening to “mere idle permission” or mere “desertion and suspension of grace … [though] this is a part but not all” (17:227).  But positively hardening is “desertion,” it is a delivering them “up to the power of Satan,” it is “an active providence, which disposeth and propoundeth such objects as, meeting with a wicked heart, make it more hard” (17:227-229).

How do we apply this to ourselves?  “God delighteth not in judgement, and therefore he hath made a precedent once for all; here is Pharaoh set up, that all succeeding ages may stand in fear.  God would not have us learn to our bitter cost, but take example by others. (17: 230).  Although there are many other applications, surely this is the classic application of Ex 4:21.

Intertwined with this doctrine of God’s hardening is the doctrine of common grace.  Manton lists one of the causes of God’s hardening as “apostacy from grace received” (17:235).  Heb 6:4-6 is the key text here.  What I want to note is that despite the abuse made of God’s gifts and the hardening and condemnation they lead to, still the original gifts are called common grace.  The abuse does not erase the original nature of the gift.

3 Responses to “The Week that Was… and Manton at last”

  1. Greg MacDonald Says:


    Sorry to read of dodgy internals keeping you from Canaan! We were wondering if we had missed you. Hope alll is well and that new situ is suiting you well. As God’s precedent ‘once for all’ I take you do not mean that no others are ever judicially hardened since Pharaoh’s time?
    Would you see hardening as one of the more grave effects of Gospel preaching even, as a savour of death to some?

  2. Donald John MacLean Says:

    Hi Greg

    It was a real shame not to get over to Lewis. That will be four years now since I was over properly. And we aren’t getting any closer with moving to Cambridge! We will need to make an effort next year.

    >As God’s precedent ‘once for all’ I take you do not mean that no others >are ever judicially hardened since Pharaoh’s time?

    No, not at all! There are other examples of God’s hardening hearts in Scripture e.g. Deut 2:30. And it goes on even today.

    >Would you see hardening as one of the more grave effects of Gospel
    >preaching even, as a savour of death to some?

    Yes, every offer of the gospel that is rejected in some way hardens the heart and at length there may come that time when God in his sovereignty judicially hardens the heart to the point where Ps 81:11-12 & Heb 6:4-6 applies. So Manton, “There is a hardness of heart against the light and offers of the gospel, when Christ is tendered, but not received…” (17:231). Or again “The more calls … we resist … the more difficult and improbable is the reducing of a sinner to God; every day he groweth more wicked and profane. To resist the clamours of conscience is sad, but to weary and grieve the Spirit is dreadful: Ezek. xxiv. 13, ‘In thy wickedness is lewdness; because I have purged thee, and thou wast not purged, thou shalt not be purged from thy filthiness any more, till I have caused my fury to rest upon thee.'” (17:235). Cf. also Prov 29:1, Is 63:10.

    This should give gospel preaching a real sense of urgency – now, today is the day of salvation. This is why we see the Puritans and their best successors pleading with their people to accept the gospel offer. It is not indifferent, tomorrow is not as good as today we must seek the Lord while he may be found and call upon him while he is near. So the gospel offer doesn’t simply declare facts and leave it there, it lovingly, and in Christ’s stead, beseeches men to be reconciled.

    To close with more of Manton:

    “We are told of these things [judicial hardening] beforehand, not that we might despair, that is an ill consequence; but that, as we love our souls, we should take heed of resisting grace, and turning our backs upon our own mercies … Delay is that that undoeth all the world.” (17:234).

    Every blessing

  3. Kent Says:

    Logos Bible Software has just made The Complete Works of Thomas Manton available for pre-order. This is an electronic text of the 1870-1875 22-volume edition, with links to Scripture texts, advanced search tools, and other features not found in the print volumes. I thought you might be interested!

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