Archive for the ‘Thomas Manton’ Category

Manton on why the Gospel is Offered to All

February 16, 2012

Thomas Manton considers why the gospel offer and exhortations come to all rather than just the elect.

He notes that it could be said that “This is only for the elects sake, who certainly ‘are the called according to purpose,’ Rom. viii. 28; whereas others are called obiter, ‘by the by,’ and as they live and are intermingled with them … they [the elect] are hidden amongst others, and therefore the reprobate have the like favour in external means with them. The world standeth for the elects sake, yet the sun doth not shine upon them alone…”  However, Manton goes on to say that  “This might be answer enough; but that which I rather say is, that these exhortations have their use; for they carry their own blessing with them … As for others that are not converted by them, it is for their conviction, and to bridle their fierceness, and a means to civilise them, and keep them from growing worse, whereby many temporal blessing do accrue to them…”

I think there is biblical wisdom in Manton’s approach.

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Thomas Manton: A Guided Tour of the Life and Thought of a Puritan Pastor

December 1, 2011

Thomas Manton has long been a favourite of mine.  If you want to find out why see this interview I did on Manton some some ago – “Ten Reasons to Read Manton Today”. (That was back when I was going to present the work on James Durham and the Free Offer as an MPhil and go on to do a PhD on Manton.  Instead I upgraded the work on the free offer to doctoral level and expanded the scope.  Manton probably gets 6000 words or so in the thesis.)

Enough of that though … the purpose of this post it to say that it is a pleasure to see a new work published on Manton: Thomas Manton: A Guided Tour of the Life and Thought of a Puritan Pastor.  The book chronicles Manton’s life, studies in some depth aspects of his teaching on James (the subject of the author’s doctoral dissertation) and provides modernised versions of three of Manton’s sermons.

This is a well written book that will hopefully introduce people to Manton, and encourage them to take up his writings.

However, given the size of the book there are huge swathes of Manton’s thought that are not touched on (Manton’s position on “extreme unction” is covered but not his view of scripture or understanding of the atonement etc.) and a number of interesting historical points are not developed e.g. how did Manton’s appreciation for Richard Baxter influence his own later theology (if at all)?  The field is therefore ripe for more studies on Manton and for many more publications on him.  Of the marking of books, truly there is no end.

The Week that Was… and Manton at last

September 22, 2008

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.

Thomas Manton – More to Come Soon

September 13, 2008

If you want to see some of my thoughts on the value of Thomas Manton’s Works then they can be read here – thanks are due to Tony for being willing to discuss Manton with me!  I’ll post something on Thomas Manton’s understanding of the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart on Monday, D.V.

Thomas Manton on the Ministry

August 4, 2008

One of the points I bring up in my thesis regards Durham’s view of the work of the ministry and how that relates to the free offer.  For Durham the great goal and aim of the ministry is as follows:

The great work of the ministers of the gospel is to invite unto, and to endeavour to bring this marriage between Christ and souls to a close.
The Unsearchable Riches of Christ, p55

Because of this understanding of the ministry the free offer is obviously of foundational importance for Durham.  Preaching on one of Durham’s favourite “free offer” texts (2 Cor 5:20) Thomas Manton says the following:

The great business of the ministers of the gospel is to persuade men to reconciliation with God.
Works, 13:295

Here Manton and Durham are in perfect alignment.  Manton expands on this later in his sermon, highlighting the solemn responsibility of ministers to discharge this great duty of theirs:

These messengers [preachers] are under a charge to manage God’s message with all wisdom and faithfulness, and diligence, Mark xvi. 15,16, to preach the gospel to every creature, to rich and poor, learned and unlearned.  And woe be to them if they be not diligent, warning every man, and teaching every man, that they may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus, Col i.28 … If we have respect to our Lord we must be diligent in offering peace to all that are willing to repent and believe … You know the temptations, prejudices, and hatred of those you have to do with; therefore pray them to be reconciled.
Manton, Works, 13:302

Those who win souls are wise (Prov 11:30), may the Lord raise up preachers whose great desire is to be used by the Lord to turn many to righteousness (Dan 12:3).

On a related note I’m beginning to settle on studying Manton in depth when I finish Durham.  I think exploring Manton’s theology relative to the orthodoxy of Owen and the views of the proponents of Rigide Calvinisme in a Softer Dresse (Baxter, Howe etc) would be a worthwhile piece of work.

More from Manton

July 25, 2008

It’s been a while since I posted from Thomas Manton – his writings contain an embarrassment of riches on the free offer.  He has a series of sermons on Is 53 in vol 3 of his works (which I’m sure would make an interesting comparative study relative to Durham’s sermons on the same chapter if I had the time) .  One particularly important sermon is on Is 53:6 and this sermon sheds light on Manton’s understanding of the universal passages of scripture, as related to the extent of the atonement.  As interesting as this would be to post on I want to focus on a short section right at the end of his sermon which begins:

Though the efficacy and benefits be certainly intended to believers, yet God’s offer of Christ, and the publication of the gospel is general: Isa. lv. 1, ‘Ho, every one that thirsteth, come to the waters;’ Rev. xxii. 17, Whsoever will, let him take of the water of life freely.’   Such commands being rather an intimation of what he would have us do than what he intendeth we shall do; of the creature’s duty rather than of God’s [decretive] will.  It is the will of God’s pleasure that they ought to seek after an interest in Christ.  So it is said, 1 Tim ii. 4, ‘God will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth;’ voluntate praecepti, by the will of his command: and by virtue of this we are bidden to preach the gospel to every creature, Mark xvi. 16.  To the making it effectual, there is required not only God’s will, but God’s grace…
Thomas Manton, Works, 3:334

Now there is much here to comment on:

  1. Though the atonement is particular yet the offer of Christ is not limited but universal.
  2. We need to distinguish between the will of decree and the command.  Once we have done this we are perfectly at liberty to use the language of God’s willingness to save sinners.
  3. This willingness, in the sense of will of command, is for Manton the foundation of the gospel offer.
  4. Note Manton’s universal understanding of 1 Tim 2:4.  It is therefore inappropriate to speak of one “Calvinist” or “Augustinian” understanding of this verse, if by that is meant the text is limited by all “Calvinists” to the elect.

But we have a question here that we must address – given God’s universal sovereignty how can God be sincere in this offer?  Manton addresses this by arguing God is “serious,” “in earnest,” he “mocks no man.”  Manton offers three arguments to prove that “God is serious and in good earnest in these offers” (3:334):

  1. We know God is serious “by his entreaties.”  God “beseecheth you to take him.”  Texts such as Ezek 33:11, 2 Cor 5:20 are in scripture “to show that he is sincere and in earnest with all men.” (3:334).
  2. “Because it suiteth more with his delight that you should take hold of these offers and not refuse them.”  (3:334).  Again the text cited is Ezek 33:11.  Speaking of God’s “approbation or delight” he prefers that we accept than refuse the gospel offer.
  3. We know God is serious in offering Christ to us because he is angry when we refuse.  If God was not serious in his offers how could he be angry when we refuse?  Manton cites John 5:40 and Matt 23:37. (3:335).

Such is a Puritan defence of God’s sincerity of the gospel offer!

Weekly Update 30 – Thomas Manton on the Free Offer

November 25, 2007

Thomas Manton is one of my favourite Puritans.  I never tire of reading his works, though I have a bit of a way to go before I have read them all – there are 22 volumes of them!  Manton was a hugely influential Puritan and well worthy of study.  There seems to have been a comparative lack of academic interest in Manton.  For instance in the Index to British Theses a search for John Owen turns up 18 results, Richard Baxter 19 results, Thomas Goodwin 8 and Thomas Manton 0.  That simply does not come close to representing the relative importance and abilities of these four men.

Where works have mentioned Manton they have sometimes incorrectly attempted to identify his theology with that of Baxter.  David Field in his recent work on John Howe helpfully counters this.  Field notes Manton’s respect for Baxter, “[Manton] was himself a fervent admirer of Baxter, considering himself not worthy to carry Baxter’s books after him.”  (David Field, Rigide Calvinisme in a Softer Dresse: The Moderate Presbyterianism of John Howe Edinburgh: Rutherford House, 2004, 169).  Given the amount Baxter wrote I don’t think he could have carried his books even if he wanted to!  Now the fact that Manton admired Baxter does not necessarily mean Manton shared Baxter’s controversial theology – even Durham, who used Baxter as an almost constant sparring partner, recognised his learning and gifts.  Indeed Field correctly notes regarding Manton that, contra Baxter, “… his treatment of justification is fully in line with the Westminster Confession… and he strongly asserts particular redemption over against an Amyraldian understanding of the atonement.” (Field, Rigide Calvinisme, 169).

With Manton’s “orthodoxy” out of the way I now want to turn to his exposition of Ezekiel 18:23, “Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord GOD: and not that he should return from his ways, and live?”  This is found in two sermons in volume 21 of his works.  There is so much in here I can’t cover it in one blog post but I hope to give a flavour of his exposition of this glorious verse.

Manton begins his exposition by setting out the pastoral importance of the free offer of the gospel.  If we have false views of God, that he is an “inexorable judge” then we simply have no grounds to turn to him for salvation.  Manton’s aim in these sermons is to counter this view of God which he feared was held by “many men” in the church: 

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.
Works, 21:463

For Manton the idea that God should simply desire (yes, that word!) the destruction of the creature is unthinkable:

[Manton’s paraphrase of Ezek 18:23] Ye know it is evident that I have no such desire, no such pleasure.  It dareth not enter into your thoughts that I should take pleasure in the bare destruction of the creature.
Works 21:463-4

This is because Manton held that God was in his nature merciful and also had a general (non saving) love towards all men:

And 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.
Works 21:464

Because of these general truths that he held (God does not desire the death of the wicked, God is merciful, God has a general love for all men) Manton is able to affirm:

That the repentance and salvation of the wicked is more pleasing to God than their death and destruction….  It is not all one to God whether ye repent or no… Our prejudices against God’s nature are so deep and inveterate that he needeth to interpose an oath.
Works 21:464

Now Manton is aware that what he is saying naturally raises some questions e.g. If what you are saying is true, why are the majority of people unbelievers?  Does that mean that God is unable to work out his pleasure?  Manton responds in three ways.

First, he notes that he is speaking “comparatively” not “absolutely”.  Of course, God “rejoiceth in the execution of his justice… but if you compare things with things he rejoiceth rather in acts of mercy than in acts of vengeance.”  Manton goes on to say in typically picturesque Puritan language, “Mercy, like live honey droppeth of its own accord.  He is forced to the other [judgement]; it is wrested from him.  Though the properties are equally infinite in God, yet they do diversely exert themselves towards men as to the effects.  Now the world is on trial.  God’s primary end is the conversion of the sinner; his second end the honour of his vindicatory justice.” (Works 21:465).  Manton’s last comment reflects the typical Reformed view that it is only per accidens (by accident) that the Gospel brings condemnation.  That is not its nature or end.

Secondly, Manton distinguishes between the secret and revealed wills of God.  He distinguished between God’s “liking and approbation” which is the revealed will and the “choice and resolved pursuit” which is the secret will.  So “God may be said to like the salvation of all men, yet not to intend it with an efficacious will.”  According to the revealed will we are at liberty to say that “He is unfeignedly pleased with the salvation of men”.  (Works 21:465).  Manton comments elsewhere, “Some scoff at this distinction, but the thing is as evident as daylight.” (Works 18:227).

Thirdly, Manton distinguishes the various ways God is related to us.  First, we are related to God as he is our sovereign Lord.  Here we are speaking of God’s sovereign will, his secret will and therefore we must note that “so God willeth not the salvation of all”.  That is to say he has not decreed it.  Now what we have here is a classic illustration of the dangers of “proof texting” from theologians.  If you went to Manton with the intention of proving that God does not will the salvation of all men, well there you have it.  But a couple of paragraphs earlier he had said that God does will the salvation of all men.  So the actual truth is that Manton does and does not believe that God wills the salvation of all men – it depends in what sense you are speaking.  Too often internet (and print!) polemics against the free offer ignore these distinctions and so make men like Manton and Durham stand on their heads.  Second, we are related to God as lawgiver where he tells us his “desire”.  Here we are dealing with the revealed will.  Thirdly, we are related to God as judge who does in this respect take pleasure in the execution of his justice.  Applying these to the free offer of the gospel Manton notes it is God as lawgiver, that is God as revealed, that we have to do with.  As revealed in the gospel God “did that for us which he was not bound to do, namely, in that he did provide us a Saviour, and open a door of hope for us… and call us to repent and believe in Christ, even every creature… with a promise of pardon, life, and salvation… he manifesteth the more grace and goodwill to our salvation, and that he is more ready to pardon than punish…” (Works 21:466-7).

Manton then moves on to argue that it would be “contrary… to the nature of God” to simply desire the (eternal) death of men.  Manton bases his arguments on God’s wisdom, goodness (“They were accounted monsters of men that glutted their eyes with cruelties; and can we imagine that God will make sport with the eternal ruin of his creatures.” Works 21:467) and mercy (“Therefore we ought to conceive of him that he can have no pleasure in our death, for mercy is an attribute that inclineth God to succour them that are in miseries.  How then can our destruction be more acceptable to God than our salvation?” Works 21:468).

Manton closes his sermon with seven evidences that God takes no pleasure in our eternal destruction (Works 21:468-71).  They are:

  1. God warns men that they are sinners.
  2. God “hath offered you free pardon upon the terms of faith and repentance… It is the great business of the Word to call men to faith and repentance… Surely God would not have given such directions, made such promises, found out such a way for our recovery, but he taketh pleasure in our conversion rather than our destruction.”
  3. God has provided a “redeemer”.  It is probably on the basis of sections like this that Manton’s position on the extent of the atonement gets questioned.  Manton makes his position on the extent of the atonement clear in his sermon on Is 53:6 where he explains what he means by seemingly universal statements (Works 3:328-331).
  4. “With what passionateness and meltingness of expression he wooeth me to return… such an affection God beareth to us that he expostulates, prayeth, entreateth that we would return and be reconciled.”  Manton cites Deut 5:29, Hos 11:8, Is 57:16, Ps 81:13, Matt 23:37, Luke 19:42.  It is interesting that Manton relates Christ’s weeping over Jerusalem to God rather than just to the human nature of Christ.
  5. God has, 2 Cor 5:20, “appointed men in our nature to offer you mercy”.
  6. God is merciful to all in providence.
  7. God welcomes all who turn to him.

There you have a typical Puritan exposition of the theological underpinnings and evidences for the free offer of the gospel.  As an aside Manton held to a universal application of 1 Tim 2:4: “It is the will of God’s pleasure that they ought to seek after an interest in Christ. So it is said, 1 Tim. 2:4, ‘God will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth;’ voluntate praecepti, by the will of his command: and by virtue of this we are bidden to preach the gospel to every creature… God is serious and in earnest in these offers and publications of Christ to all. That he mocketh no man you shall see: do but try him, accept him, and he will be as good as his word. It is not made to you fraudulently, and with an intent to deceive, but God is serious. God is bound to no man, and wicked men refuse him out of their own perverseness. And indeed we should rather admire his mercy that he giveth Christ to any, than quarrel at his justice that he doth not give him to all.” (Works 3:224).

I do like Manton!

Next week I’ll post something on Durham’s essay on the extent of the atonement where, among other things, he criticises William Twisse for his views on the extent of the atonement.  Yes, you read that right, Durham criticises the Prolocuter (Chairman) of the Westminster Assembly for his view of the extent of the atonement!  If you want to know why you’ll just have to wait until next week.