by Thomas Manton
1. What is quickening?
2. Why asked of God?
First, What is this quickening? Quickening in scripture is put for two things:—
1. For regeneration, or the first infusion of the life of grace; as Eph. 2:5, 'And you that were dead in trespasses and sins hath he quickened;' that is, infused life, or making to live a new life.
2. It is put for the renewed excitations of God's grace, God's breathing upon his own work. God, that begins life in our souls, carries on this life, and actuates it. Now this kind of quickening is twofold spoken of in this psalm; there is quickening in duties, and quickening in afflictions. Quickening in duties, that is opposite to deadness of spirit; quickening in affliction, that is opposite to faintness.
[1.] Quickening in duties, that is opposite to that deadness of spirit which creeps upon us now and then, and is occasioned either by our negligence or by our carnal liberty, that deadness of spirit that doth hinder the activity of grace.
(1.) By our negligence and slothfulness in the spiritual life, when we do not stir up ourselves: Isa. 64:7, 'There is none that stirreth up himself to take hold on thee;' when men grow careless and neglectful in their souls. An instrument, though never so well in tune, yet if hung up and laid by, soon grows out of order; so when our hearts are neglected, when they are not under a constant exercise of grace, a deadness creeps upon us. Wells are sweeter for the draining. Our graces they are more fresh and lively the more they are kept a-work, otherwise they lose their vitality. A key rusts that is seldom turned in the lock, and therefore negligence is a cause of this deadness: 2 Tim. 1:6, 'Stir up the gift that is in thee.' We must blow up the ashes. There needs blowing if we would keep in the fire; we grow dead and lukewarm, and cold in the spiritual life, for want of exercise.
(2.) This deadness is occasioned by carnal liberty: Ps. 119:37, 'Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity, and quicken thou me in thy way.' When we have been too busy about the vanities of the world, or pleasures of the flesh, when we have given contentment to the flesh, and been intermeddling with worldly cares and delights, it brings a brawn and deadness upon the heart: Luke 21:34, 'Take heed that your hearts be not overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness, and the cares of this world,' &c. I say, by this the soul is distempered, and rendered inapt for God. Christians! this is a disease very incident to the saints, this deadness that creeps upon them. We have not such lively stirrings, nor a like influence of grace; we have not those earnest and lively motions we were wont to have in prayer. Now God he quickeneth us. How? By exciting the operative graces, as faith, love, hope, and fear, when these are kept pregnant and lively, as we read of 'lively hope,' 1 Peter 1:3. There is living faith and lively faith, and living fear and lively fear of God, and living hope and lively hope. All graces God makes them lively and vivacious, that they may put forth their operations the more readily. Well, this is quickening in duties.
[2.] There is quickening in afflictions, and so it is opposed to fainting, that fainting which is occasioned by too deep a sense of present troubles, or by unbelief, or distrust of God and his promises, and the supplies of his grace. Oh! when troubles press upon us very sore, our hearts are like a bird, dead in the nest, overcome, so that we have no spirit, life, nor aptness for God's service: 'My soul droopeth for very heaviness;' we have lost our life and our courage for God.
Well, how doth God quicken us? By reviving our suffering graces, as our hope of eternal life and eternal glory, patience and faith, and so puts life into us again, that we may go on cheerfully in our service. By infusion of new comforts. He revives the spirit of his contrite ones; so the prophet saith, Isa. 57:15. He doth revive our spirits again when they are dead and sunk under our troubles. Oh! it is very necessary for this: Ps. 80:18, 'Quicken us, and we will call upon thy name.' Discomfort and discouragement they weaken our hands; until the Lord cheers us again we have no life in prayer. By two things especially doth God quicken us in affliction—by reviving the sense of his love, and by reviving the hopes of glory. By reviving the sense of his love: Rom. 5:5, 'The love of God is shed abroad,' like a fragrant ointment that doth revive us, when we are even ready to give up the ghost; Ps. 65:6, 'Wilt thou not revive us again, that thy people may rejoice in thee?' I say, when he restores the sense of his love after great and pressing sorrow, then he is said to quicken. So when he doth renew upon us the hopes of glory: Rom. 5:2, 3, 'We rejoice in hope of the glory of God.' Well, you see what this quickening is.
Secondly, This quickening must be asked of God.
1. Because it is his prerogative to govern the heart of man, especially to quicken us. God will be owned as the fountain of all life: 1 Tim. 6:13, 'I charge thee in the sight of God, who quickeneth all things.' It is God that quickeneth all things. All the life that is in the creature, all the life that is in new creatures, it comes from God; it is he that giveth us life at first, and he must keep in this life in the soul, and restore it. The meanest worm, all the life it hath, it hath from God. When John would prove the Godhead of Christ, he brings this argument, John 1:4, 'In him is life.' There is not a gnat but receives this benefit from Christ as God. He hath the life of all things, and this life is the light of men; much more the noble creature man hath this life from God; much more the new creature; greater operation of spiritual life, more depends upon his influence; and therefore, if we would be quickened, and carried out with any life and strength, we must go to God for it.
2. God as our judge, he must be treated with about it, for he smites us with deadness; therefore till he takes off his sentence, we cannot get rid of this distemper; it is one of God's spiritual plagues, which must be removed before we can hope for any liveliness, and any activity of grace again. Under the law, God punished sins more sensibly; as unhallowed addresses, he punished them with death. Under the gospel, he punisheth sins with deadness of heart. When they seem careless in the worshipping of God, they have a blow and breach, as he smote Uzzah and Nadab and Abihu dead in the place; and now he smites with deadness, Rev. 3:7. He 'hath the key of David, that openeth and no man shutteth, and shutteth and no man openeth;' without his permission we can never recover our former lively estate again, for there is a judicial sentence passed upon us.
Use. To press us to be often with God for quickening, that we may obtain this benefit. I have spoken of it at large upon another verse; if you would have this benefit, rouse up yourselves: Isa. 64:7, 'There is none that stirreth up himself;' and 2 Tim. 1:6, 'Stir up the gift that is in thee.' A man hath a faculty to work upon his own heart, to commune and reason with himself; and we are bidden to 'strengthen the things that are ready to die,' Rev. 3:2. When things are dying and fainting in the soul, we are to strengthen ourselves; therefore, if we would have God to quicken us, thus must we do, chide the heart for its deadness in duty; we can be lively enough in a way of sin; chide the heart for its deadness in affliction: Ps. 42, 'Why art thou cast down, O my soul? still trust in God.' And after you have done this, then look up, and expect this grace from God in and through Christ Jesus. It is said, John 10:10, 'I am come that they may have life, and have it more abundantly.' Jesus Christ, he came not only that we might have life enough to keep body and soul together, but that we might not only be living but lively, full of life, strength, and cheerfulness in the service of God. He is come into the world for this end and purpose: expect it through Christ, who hath purchased it for us. And then plead with God about it, according to his promise, Ah! Lord, according to thy word; hast thou not said, I will quicken a dead heart? When thou art broken and tossed with affliction, remember it is the high and lofty one that hath said he will 'revive the heart of the contrite ones,' Isa. 57:15; and plead thus with God, Ah! Lord, dost not thou delight in a cheerful spirit? 'Wilt thou not revive us again, that thy people may rejoice in thee?' Ps. 85:6. And then humble yourselves for the cause of the distemper. What is the matter? how comes this deadness upon me? Isa. 63:17, 'Why hast thou caused us to err from thy ways, and hardened our heart from thy fear?' Inquire what is the cause of this deadness that grows upon me, that you may humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God.
The argument only is behind, according to thy word. David, when he begs for quickening, he is encouraged so to do by a promise. The question is, where this promise should be? Some think it was that general promise of the law, 'If thou do these things, thou shalt live in them,' Lev. 18:5; and that from thence David drew this particular conclusion, that God would give life to his people. But rather it was some other promise, some word of God he had to bear him out in this request. We see he hath made many promises to us of sanctifying our affliction: Isa. 27:9, 'The fruit of all shall be the taking away of sin;' of bettering and improving us by it, Heb. 2:11; of moderating our affliction; that he will 'stay his rough wind in the day of the east-wind,' Isa. 27:8; that he will 'lay no more upon us than he will enable us to bear,' 1 Cor. 10:13. He hath promised he will moderate our affliction, so that we shall not be tempted above our strength. He hath promised he will deliver us from it, that 'the rod of the wicked shall not always rest on the back of the righteous?' Ps. 125:3; that he will be with us in it, and never fail us, Heb. 13:5. Now, I argue thus: if the people of God could stay their hearts upon God's word when they had but such obscure hints to work upon, that we do not know where the promise lies, ah! how should our hearts be stayed upon God when we have so many promises! When the scriptures are enlarged for the comfort and enlarging of our faith, surely we should say now as Paul, when he got a word, Acts 27:25, 'I believe God;' I may expect God will do thus for me, when his word speaks it everywhere. Then you may expostulate with God: I have thy word for it, Lord; as she, when she showed him the jewel, ring, and staff, Whose are these? So we may cast in God his promises: Whose are these according to thy word? And mark, David, that was punctual with God, 'I have sworn, and I will perform it; and quicken me according to thy word.' Sincere hearts may plead promises with God: Isa. 38:3, 'Lord, remember I have walked before thee with an upright heart.' These may look up and wait upon God for deliverance.
Manton, T. (1872). The Complete Works of Thomas Manton (Vol. 8, pp. 103–106). London: James Nisbet & Co.