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Complete Works of Thomas Manton, D.D. Vol. VIII.
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SERMON CXLII.

Thy testimonies are wonderful; therefore doth my soul keep them.—Ver. 129.

USE 1. Reproof to several sorts.

1. Of those proud carnalists that scorn the simplicity of the word. Many wit themselves into hell by lifting up the pride of reason against the word of God; think all respect to the word to be fond credulity. To them the gospel seemeth a base and a mean doctrine, whereas it is indeed wonderful. They never studied it, and therefore think nothing but plain points in it, have no spiritual eyes, and are looking on what is uppermost. There is nothing vulgar. The angels prize what they contemn: Eph. iii. 10, ‘To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God.’ They despise the word, as if it were too low a discipline for their wit and parts, scoff at that as mean which a gracious heart findeth to be mystery; they see none of this sublimity that we speak of; this pearl of price seemeth to them but as a common stone. This is pride not to be endured, for the foolishness of man to contemn the wisdom of God. The excellency of scripture can never be sufficiently understood; they never pierced the depths of scripture, else they would find it sublime and subtle enough; but they are ignorant of what they seem to understand so well: 1 Cor. viii. 2, ‘If any man think that he knoweth anything, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know.’

2. Others that give up themselves to the itch of curiosity must have mysteries made more mystical, and therefore fly from the letter of the scriptures to ungrounded subtleties and spiritualities, as if all the written word were an allegory: Rev. ii. 24, ‘But to you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine, and which have not known the depths of Satan.’ Men must have βάθη, but βάθη τοῦ Ζατανᾶ, are loath to be tethered, and tied up to a few common truths. The bait to our first parents was the fruit of the tree, it is good for knowledge: Gen. iii. 5, 6, ‘God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof and did eat.’ If any be of such a rigid temper and constitution as not to be moved with the pleasures of the senses, Satan draweth them to nice and ungrounded speculations; they would be wise above the rate which God hath allowed, run into strange and uncouth notions; and so many, otherwise of a sober life, have an unsound judgment.

3. Those that would fathom these mysteries by the line and plummet of their own reason, believe God’s word, and the things contained in it, no further than they can see natural reason for it, these are not disciples of the doctrine of Christ, but judges, and set a prince at the subject’s bar; the scantling of their own private senses and reason is made the standard for the highest mysteries to be measured by. They come to judge the word rather than to be judged by it. Mysteries are to be admired, not curiously searched and discussed by mere human reason. Every light must keep its place; sense, reason, faith, light of glory. If sense be made the judge of reason, there is wrong judgment. Some things we apprehend by reason that cannot be known by sense, as that the sun is bigger than the earth. So faith corrects reason. Shall we doubt of that to be true which droppeth from God’s own mouth, because it exceedeth our own understanding?

4. Those that prostitute their wonder to every paltry, carnal vanity. Oh, what trifles are these to the wonders of God’s law! If we see a fair building, we cry out, Oh wonderful! as the disciples: Mark xiii. 1, ‘Master, see what manner of stones, and what buildings are these.’ Oh! there are God’s testimonies; a more noble nature, the person of Christ: Col. ii. 9, ‘In him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.’ Oh, wonderful! at an heap of money: what are these to the unsearchable riches of grace? Rare plot! μέγα μυστήριον: all in and about Christ is rare; his name is Wonderful. He that found out the causes of things by philosophy could say, Nihil admirari; but he that hath the most knowledge of religion as to divine things may say, Omnia admirari—the transcendent goodness of God in the pardon of sins, riches of everlasting glory, purity of divine commands; but as to the world, Nil admirari. You know better things in God’s testimonies.

5. Those that find more favour and more matter to wonder at in other books, in Plato, in Aristotle, or heathen writers, they have a savour there, a wonder there; but are not affected with those mysteries and those notions which are in the gospel. They like those books where they find flowers of rhetoric, chemical, experiments, philosophical notions, maxims of policy, but they slight the word.

6. Those that admire more what man puts into an ordinance than the word of God. The further off anything is from the majesty of the scriptures, the more it taketh with unregenerate men, taken with toys and baubles of delight more than the substantial goodness of Christianity. We are apt to say of the labour of man, excellences of man, admirable! but we little regard the truths of God; as in a field of corn, prize the poppies and well-coloured weeds, but slight and overlook the more valuable corn.

Use 2. Instruction. To instruct us how to entertain the word of God. We never entertain it rightly till we entertain it with wonder.

Considerations.

1. We have not a true sight and sense of the word if we admire it not. There is such transcendent love, admirable depths of wisdom, unsearchable treasures of happiness, raised strains of purity, a harmonious coincidence of all parts. What would we admire but that which is great and excellent? Why are not we then transported and ravished with those wonderful felicities, as the favour of and fellowship with God, everlasting enjoyment? Nothing is of such weight and importance as this is; all is nothing to this: Phil. iii. 8, ‘Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.’ Would we admire what is rare and strange? As the object of wonder is inauditum et insperatum, it could not enter into the heart of man to conceive what God hath done for us in Christ; unheard of, unlocked for: 2 Sam. vii. 19, ‘And this was yet a small thing in thy sight, O Lord God; but thou hast spoken also of thy servant’s house for a great while to come; and is this the manner of man, O Lord God?’ If we wonder at what is wise and deep, the terms upon which salvation is dispensed and propagated are with excellent wisdom: 1 Cor. ii. 2, ‘We speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world, to our glory.’ These are mysteries that lie out of the road of vulgar understandings.

2. Upon every new looking, it argueth some distemper unless we wonder. Either carelessness of soul-necessities, or stupidness, and inattentiveness, or else carnal savour, prevailing too much.

3. It is a great help to practice. The more the word is admired, the more reverence it striketh into the conscience; the more it is submitted unto, the more should we frame our practice. In the text, ‘Therefore doth my soul keep them.’ The word must be kept; not only affected with it, but our esteem must last, and we must ever be tender of doing anything contrary to it. It must be kept by the soul; there is the directive and commanding power; it must be preserved or kept there, not confined there. If not kept there, it will not be kept elsewhere. There understanding is clear, conscience aweful, heart ready. Human authority reacheth no further than to bind men to conform to order in the course of their practice; but divine authority bringeth under the heart and thoughts to the obedience of Christ, 2 Cor. x. 5. It bindeth the conscience to approve of God’s commanded will, to choose it with affection, to embrace it with the whole man. to follow on with strength and constant endeavours. Therefore wonderful, partly because a renewed esteem is the beginning of a pure and entire subjection to it. Why did any give up themselves to the discipline of it? Plato and Zeno’s doctrine was admired. Sc to God; reverence is the mother of obedience. If we have not a slight esteem of the word, we shall look more after keeping of it. And partly because wonderfulness of promises evidenceth them to be of God; it commendeth itself to the consciences of men.

Means.

1. A spiritual gust to relish knowledge and spiritual things. A brutish soul admires the sweetness of carnal things; the sober part of the world, that prize intellectual food, the perfections of the mind, they have a taste and relish for those things: Ps. cxix. 103, ‘How sweet is thy word to my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth.’ A sensual heart is not affected with these things.

2. A diligent search: Eph. iii. 9, ‘And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God.’ The more diligently we search into these things, the more we admire them. A superficial view satisfieth and contenteth sooner than a deep search. Herein they differ from other things, for the more they are searched into, the less they are admired; imperfections which formerly lay hid then come in view.

3. A thorough insight or spiritual illumination: Ps. cxix. 18, ‘Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law;’ and ver. 27, ‘Make me to understand the way of thy precepts; so shall I talk of thy wondrous works.’ The testimonies of God have more in recess than in open view.

4. Experience; if we have felt the wonderful power, majesty, and authority of the word: John viii. 32, ‘Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’ Where there is no such effect they have no experience.

5. Show forth the wonderfulness of God’s testimonies by the raisedness of your conversations. They disparage the word that live at a mean rate: 2 Tim. iii. 5, ‘Having a form of godliness, but denying the power;’ 1 Peter iv. 14, ‘If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the Spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified.’

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