“As an expositor of Scripture, I regard Manton with unmingled admiration” by J.C. Ryle

“As an expositor of Scripture, I regard Manton with unmingled admiration. Here, at any rate, he is ‘facile princeps’ (‘easily the first or best’) among the divines of the Puritan school.

The value of expository preaching is continually pressed on ministers in the present day, and not without reason.

The end of all preaching is to bring men under the influence of God’s Word; and nothing seems so likely to make men understand and value the Word as lectures in which the Word is explained.

It was so in Chrysostom’s days; it ought to be so again. The idea, no doubt, like every good theory, may be easily ridden to death; and I believe that with ignorant, semi-heathen congregations, a short pithy text often does more good than a long passage expounded.

But I have no doubt of the immense value of expository preaching, when people will bring their Bibles to the service, and accompany the preacher as he travels on, or go home to their Bibles after the service, and compare what they have heard with the written Word.

I hold it to be a prime excellence of Manton’s expository sermons that, while they are very full, they are never too long.

For my own part, I am painfully struck with the general neglect with which these expository works of Manton’s have been treated of late. Modern commentators who are very familiar with German commentaries seem hardly to know of the existence of Manton’s expositions.

Yet I venture boldly to say, that no student of the chapters I have named will ever fail to find new light thrown on their meaning by Manton. I rejoice to think that now at length these valuable works are about to become accessible to the general public.

They have been too long buried, and it is high time they should be brought to light. I value their author most highly as a man, a writer, and a theologian; but if I must speak out all I think, there is no part in which I value him more than as a homiletical expositor of Scripture.

It only remains for me to express my earnest hope that this new edition of Manton’s works may prove acceptable to the public, and meet with many purchasers and readers.

If any one wants to buy a good specimen of a Puritan divine, my advice unhesitatingly is, ‘Let him buy Manton.’

We have fallen upon evil days both for thinking and reading. Sermons which contain thought and matter are increasingly rare.

The inexpressible shallownesss, thinness, and superficiality of many popular sermons in this day is something lamentable and appalling.

Readers of real books appear to become fewer and fewer every year. Newspapers, and magazines, and periodicals seem to absorb the whole reading powers of the rising generation. What it will all end in God only knows.

The prospect before us is sorrowful and humiliating.

In days like these, I am thankful that the publishers of Manton’s Works have boldly come forward to offer some real literary gold to the reading public. I earnestly trust that they will meet with the success which they deserve.

If any recommendation of mine can help them in bringing out the writings of this admirable Puritan in a new form, I give it cheerfully and with all my heart.

J.C. RYLE,
Vicar of Stradbroke, Suffolk.
29th October 1870.”

–J.C. Ryle, “An Estimate of Thomas Manton,” in Thomas Manton, The Works of Thomas Manton, Vol. 2 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1871/2020), 2: xvii–xix.

“When the Bible runs dry, then I shall” by Robert Murray M’Cheyne

“He spoke from the pulpit as one earnestly occupied with the souls before him. He made them feel sympathy with what he spoke, for his own eye and heart were on them.

And while his style was singularly clear, this clearness itself was so much the consequence of his being able thoroughly to analyse and explain his subject, that all his hearers alike reaped the benefit.

He went about his public work with awful reverence. So evident was this, that I remember a countryman in my parish observed to me: ‘Before he opened his lips, as he came along the passage, there was something about him that sorely affected me.’

In the vestry there was never any idle conversation; all was preparation of heart in approaching God; and a short prayer preceded his entering the pulpit. Surely in going forth to speak for God, a man may well be overawed.

Surely in putting forth his hand to sow the seed of the kingdom, a man may even tremble! And surely we should aim at nothing less than to pour forth the truth upon our people through the channel of our own living and deeply affected souls.

After announcing the subject of his discourse, he used generally to show the position it occupied in the context, and then proceed to bring out the doctrines of the text, in the manner of our old divines. This done, he divided his subject; and herein he was eminently skilful.

‘The heads of his sermons,’ said a friend, ‘were not the mile-stones that tell you how near you are to your journey’s end, but they were nails which fixed and fastened all he said. Divisions are often dry; but not so his divisions,—they were so textual and so feeling, and they brought out the spirit of a passage so surprisingly.’

It was his wish to arrive nearer at the primitive mode of expounding Scripture in his sermons.

Hence when one asked him, If he was never afraid of running short of sermons some day? he replied, ‘No; I am just an interpreter of Scripture in my sermons; and when the Bible runs dry, then I shall.’

And in the same spirit he carefully avoided the too common mode of accommodating texts,—fastening a doctrine on the words, not drawing it from the obvious connection of the passage.

He endeavoured at all times to preach the mind of the Spirit in a passage; for he feared that to do otherwise would be to grieve the Spirit who had written it.

Interpretation was thus a solemn matter to him. And yet, adhering scrupulously to this sure principle, he felt himself in no way restrained from using, for every day’s necessities, all parts of the Old Testament as much as the New.

His manner was first to ascertain the primary sense and application, and so proceed to handle it for present use. He regarded the prophecies as history yet to be, and drew lessons from them accordingly as he would have done from the past.

Every spiritual gift being in the hands of Jesus, if he found Moses or Paul in the possession of precious things, he forthwith was led to follow them into the presence of that same Lord who gave them all their grace.

There is a wide difference between preaching doctrine and preaching Christ. Mr M‘Cheyne preached all the doctrines of Scripture as understood by our Confession of Faith, dwelling upon ruin by the Fall, and recovery by the Mediator.

‘The things of the human heart, and the things of the Divine Mind,’ were in substance his constant theme. From personal experience of deep temptation, he could lay open the secrets of the heart, so that he once said, ‘He supposed the reason why some of the worst sinners in Dundee had come to hear him was, because his heart exhibited so much likeness to theirs.’

Still it was not doctrine alone that he preached; it was Christ, from whom all doctrine shoots forth as rays from a centre.”

–Robert Murray McCheyne and Andrew A. Bonar, Memoir and Remains of the Rev. Robert Murray McCheyne (Edinburgh; London: Oliphant Anderson & Ferrier, 1894), 71-73.