Sin Shall Gasp Its Last (Manton)

The Works of Thomas Manton: 22 Volume Set

Some people are deathly afraid of death. They do all they can to avoid death. The goal of their life is to not die. But living to avoid death is no way to live. The author of Hebrews calls this being a slave to the fear of death (Heb. 2:15). Furthermore, such a fear of death often reveals an idol: life. The person who is terribly afraid of death often idolizes life. They go hand in hand.

But the Christian need not fear death. The Christian isn’t living to avoid death at all costs. For the Christian, death has lost its sting because of Jesus’ resurrection (1 Cor. 15:55-56). Death cannot separate a child of God from his or her sovereign Father (Rom. 8:38-39). For the Christian, death is not loss, but gain (Phil. 1:21). Those who trust in Christ will be raised on the last day and live forever in the new creation (John 6:44; 2 Peter 3:13, etc.).

The Bible says a lot more about what death means for followers of Christ. I was thinking about this earlier today when I read Thomas Manton’s sermon on Romans 8:10 (But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. NIV) Here is a paragraph from Manton’s sermon that is quite comforting:

[One end and use of death is] to finish transgression and make an end of sin. We groan under the burden of sin while we are in our mortal bodies (Rom. 7:24). But when the believer dies, death is the destruction of sin rather than the destruction of the repentant sinner. The veil of the sinful flesh is rent, and by the sight of God we are purified all in an instant. And then sin shall gasp its last, and our Physician will perfect the cure which he has begun in us and we shall be presented faultless before the presence of God.

Thomas Manton, Works, vol. 11, p. 14.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54105

Afflictions as Medicine, Providence as a Whole (Manton)

Many Christians have memorized the great promise of Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (NIV).”  Although afflictions and trials usually cloud our judgment and cause us to sometimes second guess this promise, it is true despite our feelings. I appreciate how Thomas Manton commented on this verse:

It [the affliction] shall turn to good. This is the comfort of the people of God, that all that befall them is either good or shall turn to good: Rom. 8:28…. If we have even a little faith, we may know it for the present, and be assured of it before we see it; and if we have but a little patience, we shall know it and find it by experience.

All things work together for good; singly and apart they may be against us, but ‘omnia simul adjumento sunt.’ Poisonous ingredients in a medicine, take them singly, and they are destructive; but as they are tempered with other things by the hands of a skilful physician, they prove wholesome and useful. So all things that befall us, are tempered and ordered by God for good. There is no beauty in a building till all the pieces be get together. We view God’s work by halves, and then his providence seems to be against us; but all together it works for our good. How for our good? Sometimes for good temporal, usually for good spiritual, but certainly for good eternal.

Sometimes for our temporal good: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Gen 50:20 NIV)….

For our spiritual good. All affliction is made up and recompensed to the soul; it afflicts the body, but betters the heart: “It is good for me to be afflicted, so that I might learn your decrees” (Ps. 119:71 NIV)….

For our eternal good. Heaven will make complete amends: For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all (2 Cor. 4:17 NIV)….

The above quotes – edited and summarized – are found in Thomas Manton’s Works, Volume 15, p. 128.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

To Distinguish is To Avoid Trouble (Manton)

In his treatise The Life of Faith Thomas Manton (d. 1677) spent a few paragraphs explaining from Scripture how to improve on cheerfully “walking with God in a course of obedience.” One way is to meditate on God’s promises. Another way is to plead those promises. Still another way is to “counterbalance things.”

What does Manton mean when he says we should counterbalance things? It means to distinguish between fearing God and fearing man (Mt. 10:28). It means to distinguish between eternal and temporal things (Rom. 8:18). It means to understand the use and profit of afflictions despite the present pain of them (Heb. 12:11). After briefly explaining several ways of “counterbalancing” or distinguishing things, Manton writes a few brief but brilliant lines. These are worth reading a few times!

All trouble comes from not right sorting and comparing things; Seeking that on earth which is only to be had in heaven; seeking that in the creature which is only to be had in God; looking for that from self which is only to be found in Christ; seeking that in the law which is only to be had in the gospel.

Thomas Manton, Complete Works

That’s a great quote for sure! If we think about it, so many of our troubles in the Christian life come from not distinguishing the things Manton mentions. Lord, help us to properly “counterbalance things!”

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

Critical and Opinionated Christians (Manton)

Sadly, some Christians are super critical and overly opinionated.  They constantly criticize others and go around boldly stating their opinion (as if they’re always right).  This is a sign of pride.  Of course, no Christian is perfect – we all struggle with various sins, passions, and evil pleasures.  But it is important for those who follow Christ to be humble, loving, patient, kind, gentle, peaceful, and so forth (cf. Gal. 5:22).  We should fight against being critical and overly opinionated.  Thomas Manton does a nice job explaining moderation and Christian wisdom in his commentary on James 3:17.  He said, “A truly wise Christian is moderate:”

1) In his criticism.  He is not always making the worst of matters but judges charitably and favorably where things are capable of being interpreted without censure.  People who examine everything by very strict rules and use harder terms than the nature of human actions requires may seem to be more wise and perceptive than others, but they show lack of this true wisdom that the apostle commends. Austerity [a severe manner] is the sign of folly.  Wise Christians, in weighing actions, always allow for human frailty.

2) In his opinions.  He does not urge his own opinions too much or wrest those of his adversaries beyond what they intended to odious consequences that they disclaim – a fault that has much disturbed the peace of Christendom.  Charity should consider not what follows of itself from any other opinion, but what follows in the conscience of those who hold it.  A person may err in logic without erring in faith; and though you may show him the consequences of his opinion, you must not make him responsible for them.  To make anyone worse than he is, is the way to disgrace an adversary not reclaim him.

These are good reminders!  Rather than always criticising and voicing our opinion, we should seek the wisdom from above, Christ-like wisdom, wisdom that is pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere (James 3:17, NIV).

The above quotes are found in Thomas Manton’s (abridged) commentary on James, p. 215-216.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

 

 

We All Stumble in Many Ways

James (Geneva Commentaries)One of the most famous lines the Apostle Paul wrote actually comes from the Psalms: there is none righteous, not even one (NASB; Rom 3:10; cf. Ps. 14 & 53).  James agreed: We all stumble in many ways (James 3:2 NASB; cf. Prov. 20:9).  Thomas Manton had some great reflections on this verse (James 3:2) and the fact that even Christians are sinful, saints and sinners at the same time:

  1. Walk with more caution.  You carry a sinning heart within you. …The man who has gunpowder with him will be afraid of sparks.

  2. Censure others with all the more tenderness, allow for human frailty in every action (Gal. 6:1).  We all need forgiveness; without grace you might fall into the same sins.

  3. Be all the more earnest with God in asking for grace, [that] God will still keep you dependent on and indebted to his power.

  4. Magnify the love of God with all the more praise.  Paul groans under his corruptions (see the end of Rom. 7) and then admires the happiness of those who are in Christ (Rom 8:1).  They had so many sins, and yet none were under condemnation.

Manton then wrote,

“Do not be altogether dismayed at the sight of failings.  A godly person observed that Christians are usually to blame for three things: 1) they seek in themselves what they can only find in Christ; 2) they seek in the law what will only be found in the gospel; and 3) they seek on earth what will only be enjoyed in heaven.  We complain of sin and ask, ‘when will the earthly state be free of sin?’ You should not complain but run to your Advocate.

I love those three points in this last paragraph.  How true – not just back then, but even today!  Indeed, we are sinful.  But in Christ, by God’s sovereign grace, we are also saints, and one day we won’t have to struggle against sin any more.  Until then we fight the war against sin, trusting in Christ for the victory.

The above slightly edited quotes are found in Thomas Manton’s commentary on James 3:2.

Shane Lems