by Thomas Manton
CHRISTIAN READER,—Our blessed Lord, calling the multitude to some account of their so free and frequent motions in going to hear the first gospel preacher, John the Baptist, doth it in these terms, Mat. 11:7, 8, 'What went you out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind? But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? They that wear soft clothing are in kings' houses. But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet;' ver. 11, 'Verily I say unto you, that amongst them that are born of women, there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding, he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he;'—teaching us several things by that speech, relating to the religious action of hearing the word, and to a true gospel minister. With reference to the former—(1.) That he that goeth out to hear ought in the first place to propound to himself a due end. (2.) That men may propose to themselves in such motions very false and undue ends, such as going to see reeds shaken with the wind, men clothed with soft raiment, &c. (3.) That the true end men should propose to themselves should be, not to hear a philosopher or an orator, but a prophet; which term signifieth a person revealing the will of God; for the signification of that term is not to be restrained to one only from God revealing things to come, but publishing the divine will, whether relating to future things or things before revealed; which is evident not only from the application of it to the Baptist, but to any that will consider that predictions of future contingencies was the least part of any of the ancient prophets' work. This is that true and more special end which every good man ought to propound to himself when he goeth to hear as a religious action, whose object is not a mere sound, which is the object of hearing considered as a natural act, but of the 'joyful sound.' Nor can there lie any obligation upon any religiously to hear anything but the will of God, which a discourse doth not cease to be by the addition of man's words for the explanation or application of any part of the divine will, by such as God hath betrusted with that employment, more than an ambassador's message ceaseth to be his master's will because delivered in his own words, though to the sense of his instructions. Which thing well digested would not only teach ministers what and how to preach, but the people also what and how to hear, according to the direction of their Lord. If our end in hearing were to tickle our ears with a sound, our reason would guide us to hear such whose language is 'as the voice of one that hath a lovely song, and can play well on an instrument.' If our end were to promove ourselves in critical learning, or improve our reason, the same reason would guide us to choose to hear the best philosophisers or grammarians, such as best understood the niceties of words and varieties of syntax. But if our end be to hear a prophet, one that should reveal God's mind unto us, and to make it more intelligible, that by it we may be more improved in knowledge, faith, love, obedience, and other habits fitting us for the kingdom of God and eternal salvation, the same reason will teach us to hear the most substantial, scriptural, and practical sermons that we can, as being most accommodate to the true end of our action, to which every wise man proportioneth mediate actions. And indeed all other discourses are abusively called preaching, and Athens were a more proper place for them than a preacher's pulpit.
God hath seemed to have reserved it for a great blessing to the last age of the world that, for aught appears to us from any books, it hath been more fertile of such preaching than any since that of the apostles. The ancient church had persons that did famously in their generations; such were Chrysostom in the Greek, and Augustine in the Latin church; but besides that they were but very few, whoso reads the one and the other must compliment antiquity at a great rate, if himself hath any judgment, and doth not say that multitudes in the last age have been as to preaching greater than they. In the former are to be found many judicious explications of scripture, many honest and spiritual discourses; in the latter, not these things only, but a pleasantness of wit and fancy. But for plenty of matter, clearness of judgment, orderliness of method, and many other things, they have not been a little exceeded by men of this last age. Nor is it any disparagement to them, more than it was to John the Baptist, that 'the least in the kingdom of heaven' was to be 'greater than he;' or to Christ, that the apostles, John 14:12, were to do greater things than he had done. In the middle ages of the church, preaching generally was turned into trifling about scholastic niceties; and to the very dawning of the Reformation the priests' texts were out of Scotus or Aquinas; and we remember they were not ashamed when Luther, Melancthon, &c., restored in some degree the true kind of preaching, to petition magistrates for the suppression of it, and a liberty to trifle still in that great work of God with discourses upon Scotus and Aquinas. Though Luther, Zuinglius, and others in Germany, and Mr Calvin, Farellus, and Viret, and Beza, in France, about a hundred and fifty years since mended this matter in a great degree, yet we all know how ill their examples were followed; so as Mr Perkins, who began to flourish about the year 1580, is generally judged to have been the first who amongst us restored preaching to its true use, and taught us the true manner of it, whose piety was followed by many; but as their number hath vastly increased since that time, especially in the fifty or sixty years last past, so God hath seemed to pour out his Spirit upon ministers, as to spiritual gifts, in a more plentiful measure, yet in very different proportions, that he might have some to feed his lambs, as well as others to feed his sheep. The generality of good preachers have made it their business to preach Christ, and the exceeding riches of his grace, and to study matter rather than words, upon Mr Perkins' old principle verba sequentur res. But all have not had alike fertile invention, or solid judgment, or alike skill and learning in languages and arts, &c. Some particular persons have been blessed with them all, by which they have made stars of the first magnitude in the church of God. Such, reader, we take the reverend author of these sermons to have been, in all whose writings thou shalt find a quick and fertile invention, governed with a grave and solid judgment, and the issue of both expressed in a grave and decent style, so as it is not easy to say what one would desire in a divine that was wanting in him. He had a heart full of love and zeal for God and his glory, and out of the abundance of his heart his mouth continually spake. So frequent, yet so learned and solid preaching by the same person, was little less than miraculous. But he was a scribe fully instructed in the things of the kingdom of God, and, like a good householder, was continually fetching out of the storehouse of his knowing and judicious soul things both old and new. He was no studier of words and phrases, he abhorred such a pedantry, and debasing the authority of gospel propositions; but a grave and serious soul, fitted with his skill in arts and languages; neither ever did nor could want expressions above the scorn of the most wanton word-dressers, though beneath the expectations of such as can be pleased with the tuneableness of paranomasias, or the rollings of six-footed words. He was a good and learned, a grave and judicious person, and his auditory never failed (though he laboured more than the most preachers, his constant course of preaching being for many years five times, and, till near his end, three times a week) to hear from him a pious, learned, and most judicious discourse. This those who never heard him may easily believe by his printed commentaries and sermons, in which we never met with any that complained for want of anything fit for a divine. So that he is one of those authors upon the credit of whose name not only the plainer and less intelligent sort of people, but even scholars, may adventure to buy any book that was his, and be assured they will see no cause to repent of the expense of their money. His late large folio upon the 119th Psalm is a plentiful evidence of this; and a great part of our English world hath given their suffrage to this, by making it so scarce in so short a time, as the price of it is enhanced above a fifth part.
We here offer a second volume, of a greater bulk (though no greater price), which contains his discourses upon the 25th of Matthew, the 17th chapter of John, the 6th and 8th chapters of Paul's Epistle to the Romans, and the 5th chapter of his second Epistle to the Corinthians; five chapters, than which possibly in the whole New Testament there will not be found five others more full of gospel doctrine, in the knowledge of which God's people are more concerned.
In the first, under the parable of the ten virgins (five of which were wise, five foolish), our Lord represents to us the state of the members of the church waiting for Christ's second coming to judgment; amongst whom some are sincere, some are hypocrites, the different actions and issues of whom are excellently represented to us, and most worthy to be learned and considered. Secondly, Under the parable of the talents we are instructed in God's different dispensation of his gifts to men, their different use of them, and the account they are like to be called to about them. To which is subjoined a hypotuposis of the day of judgment, fit to be continually in our eyes and ears.
In the second, we have our Saviour's last prayer for his elect, as well those that to the end of the world should believe, as those who at that time did believe. It was our Lord's legacy; what good Christian desireth not a full understanding of it, that he may know what to hope, and pray in faith for, as being first secured to him by the prayer of him whom the Father heareth always?
In the 6th and 8th of the Romans are contained great treasuries of gospel truth. Upon both (the latter especially) many learned men have spent their labours to great advantage; but the scripture is such a book as we never know when we fully comprehend it, and (if he may judge to whose share it fell to peruse some of those notes) the reader will find some things here discovered which he will hardly meet with elsewhere. His way of handling it is rather dogmatical and practical than polemical; yet he now and then judiciously resolveth a question. But all along in the handling of it he discovereth both an excellent notion, and a most profound and solid judgment.
The last discourses, on 2 Cor. 5, look like a cygnea cantio. Whether they were some of his last discourses we cannot tell, nor can we judge it from the subject, he being a person who was dying daily, and never so in love with his earthly tabernacle, nor possessed of so weak a faith as to the house in the heavens, as either to desire the former should stand longer than should be for the glory of God, or himself kept from the latter overlong. It pleased God not to surprise him with death, but to let him see it at some distance, making its approaches to him before it gave him the fatal word of arrest.
Thou wilt, reader, find some things once and again spoken to, as the text led him, but in such a variety of phrase that they have much new in them. Had this eminent person lived to have supravised his own notes, he might possibly have added or altered something. We have seen no reason to do it, but given thee his notes as they were under his hand, only when, not able to read some words in his notes, we were forced to add a word or two for clearing the sense.
Now, reader, what shall we say to thee, but only to quicken thee to bless God for this milk from the bottle, when thou canst not have it from the breasts, τοῦ μακαρίτου. Thus Dr Manton, though dead, yet speaketh. God give thee and us an hearing ear and an understanding heart! We have thus line upon line, and precept upon precept; let us not be barren and unfruitful. We commend these labours and thy soul to God's blessing, subscribing ourselves,
Table of Contents
THE EPISTLE DEDICATORY
TO THE READER
SERMON I. Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins
SERMON II. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them
SERMON III. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them
SERMON IV. While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept
SERMON V. While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept
SERMON VI. Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps.
SERMON VII. But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you
SERMON VIII. And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came
SERMON IX. Afterwards came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us.
SERMON X. Watch therefore; for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh
SERMON XI. For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country
SERMON XII. Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same
SERMON XIII. After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them.
SERMON XIV. Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man
SERMON XV. His lord said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant
SERMON XVI. Take therefore the talent from him, and give it to him which hath ten talents.