“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.

“Greater is He that is for us” by J.C. Ryle

“The truth here taught is full of strong consolation for all true Christians. We live in a world full of difficulties and snares.

We are ourselves weak and compassed with infirmity.

The awful thought that we have a mighty spiritual enemy ever near us, subtle, powerful, and malicious as Satan is, might well disquiet us, and cast us down.

But, thanks be unto God, we have in Jesus an almighty Friend, who is ‘able to save us to the uttermost.’

He has already triumphed over Satan on the cross. He will ever triumph over him in the hearts of all believers, and intercede for them that their faith fail not.

And He will finally triumph over Satan completely, when He shall come forth at the second advent., and bind him in the bottomless pit.

And now, Are we ourselves delivered from Satan’s power? This after all is the grand question that concerns our souls.—He still reigns and rules in the hearts of all who are children of disobedience. (Eph. 2:3.)

He is still a king over the ungodly. Have we, by grace, broken his bonds, and escaped his hand? Have we really renounced him and all his works?

Do we daily resist him and make him flee? Do we put on the whole armour of God and stand against his wiles?

May we never rest till we can give satisfactory answers to these questions.”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Mark (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1857/2012), 72-73. Ryle is commenting on Mark 5:1-17.

“Ministers need many prayers” by J.C. Ryle

“It is a serious responsibility to be a minister of the gospel! Ministers need many prayers.

We are taught, in the next place, that the great work of a minister of Christ is to do good.

He is to sent to seek ‘lost sheep,’– to proclaim good tidings– to relieve those who are suffering,– to diminish sorrow,– and to increase joy. His life is meant to be one of ‘giving,’ rather than receiving.

This is a high standard, and a very peculiar one. Let it be well weighed, and carefully examined.

It is plain, for one thing, that the life of a faithful minister of Christ cannot be one of ease. He must be ready to spend body and mind, time and strength, in the work of his calling.

Laziness and frivolity are bad enough in any profession, but worst of all in that of a watchman for souls.

It is plain, for another thing, that the position of the ministers of Christ is not that which ignorant people sometimes ascribe to them, and which they unhappily sometimes claim for themselves. They are not so much ordained to rule as to serve.

They are not intended so much to have dominion over the Church, as to supply its wants, and wait upon its members. (2 Cor. 1:24.) Happy would it be for the cause of true religion, if these things were better understood!

Half the diseases of Christianity have arisen from mistaken notions about the minister’s office.”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Matthew (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1858/2012), 77-78. Ryle is commenting on Matthew 10:1-15.

“A zealous man lives for one thing” by J.C. Ryle

“A zealous man in religion is pre-eminently a man of one thing. It is not enough to say that he is earnest, hearty, uncompromising, thorough-going, whole-hearted, fervent in spirit.

He only sees one thing, he cares for one thing, he lives for one thing, he is swallowed up in one thing; and that one thing is to please God.

Whether he lives, or whether he dies,—whether he has health, or whether he has sickness,—whether he is rich, or whether he is poor,—whether he pleases man, or whether he gives offense,—whether he is thought wise, or whether he is thought foolish,—whether he gets blame, or whether he gets praise,—whether he gets honor, or whether he gets shame,—for all this the zealous man cares nothing at all.

He burns for one thing, and that one thing is to please God and to advance God’s glory. If he is consumed in the very burning, he cares not for it,—he is content. He feels that, like a lamp, he is made to burn; and if consumed in burning, he has but done the work for which God appointed him.”

—J.C. Ryle, Practical Religion: Being Plain Papers on the Daily Duties, Experience, Dangers, and Privileges of Professing Christians (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1878/2013), 174-175.

“The priceless merit of His sufferings” by J.C. Ryle

“We must not be content with a vague general belief, that Christ’s sufferings on the cross were vicarious. We are intended to see this truth in every part of His passion.

We may follow Him all through, from the bar of Pilate, to the minute of His death, and see Him at every step as our mighty Substitute, our Representative, our Head, our Surety, our Proxy, the Divine Friend who undertook to stand in our stead, and by the priceless merit of His sufferings, to purchase our redemption.

Was He scourged? It was that ‘through His stripes we might be healed.’

Was He condemned, though innocent? It was that we might be acquitted though guilty.

Did He wear a crown of thorns? It was that we might wear the crown of glory.

Was He stripped of His raiment? It was that we might be clothed in everlasting righteousness.

Was He mocked and reviled? It was that we might be honored and blessed.

Was He reckoned a malefactor, and numbered among transgressors? It was that we might be reckoned innocent, and justified from all sin.

Was He declared unable to save Himself? It was that He might be able to save others to the uttermost.

Did He die at last, and that the most painful and disgraceful of deaths? It was that we might live forevermore, and be exalted to the highest glory.

Let us ponder these things well. They are worth remembering.”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Matthew (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1856/2012), 314. Ryle is commenting on Matthew 27:45-56.

“Without Christ crucified” by J.C. Ryle

“The cross is the foundation of a church’s prosperity. No church will ever be honored in which Christ crucified is not continually lifted up.

Nothing whatever can make up for the want of the cross. Without it all things may be done decently and in order.

Without it there may be splendid ceremonies, beautiful music, gorgeous churches, learned ministers, crowded communion tables, huge collections for the poor. But without the cross no good will be done.

Dark hearts will not be enlightened.
Proud hearts will not be humbled.
Mourning hearts will not be comforted.
Fainting hearts will not be cheered.

Sermons about the Catholic Church and an apostolic ministry,—sermons about baptism and the Lord’s supper,—sermons about unity and schism,—sermons about fasts and communion,—sermons about fathers and saints,—such sermons will never make up for the absence of sermons about the cross of Christ.

They may amuse some. They will feed none. A gorgeous banqueting room and splendid gold plate on the table will never make up to a hungry man for the want of food.

Christ crucified is God’s grand ordinance for doing good to men. Whenever a church keeps back Christ crucified, or puts anything whatever in that foremost place which Christ crucified should always have, from that moment a church ceases to be useful.

Without Christ crucified in her pulpits, a church is little better than a cumberer of the ground, a dead carcass, a well without water, a barren fig tree, a sleeping watchman, a silent trumpet, a dumb witness, an ambassador without terms of peace, a messenger without tidings, a lighthouse without fire, a stumbling-block to weak believers, a comfort to infidels, a hot-bed for formalism, a joy to the devil, and an offence to God.”

–J.C. Ryle, Startling Questions (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1853), 295–297.

“We have Christ, and having Him, we have all” by J.C. Ryle

“Last of all, if it be right to ‘hold fast that which is good,’ (1 Thess. 5:21) let us make sure that we have each laid hold personally upon Christ’s truth for ourselves.

It will not save us to know all controversies and to be able to detect everything which is false. Head knowledge will never bring us to heaven. It will not save us to be able to argue and reason with Roman Catholics or to detect the errors of the Popes’ Bulls.

Let us see that we each lay hold upon Jesus Christ for ourselves, by our own personal faith.

Let us see to it that we each flee for refuge, and lay hold upon the hope set before us in His glorious Gospel.

Let us do this, and all shall be well with us, whatever else may go ill.

Let us do this, and then all things are ours.

The church may fail.
The state may go to ruin.
The foundations of all establishments may be shaken.
The enemies of truth may for a season prevail.

But as for us, all shall be well. We shall have in this world peace, and in the world which is to come, life everlasting; for we shall have Christ, and having Him, we have all.

This is real ‘good,’ lasting good, good in sickness, good in health, good in life, good in death, good in time, and good in eternity.

All other things are but uncertain.
They all wear out.
They fade.
They droop.
They wither.
They decay.

The longer we have them the more worthless we find them, and the more satisfied we become, that everything here below is ‘vanity and vexation of spirit.’

But as for hope in Christ, that is always good. The longer we use it the better it seems. The more we wear it in our hearts the brighter it will look.

It is good when we first have it.
It is better far when we grow older.
It is better still in the day of trial, and the hour of death.

And it will prove best of all in the day of judgment.”

–J.C. Ryle, Knots Untied: Being Plain Statements on Disputed Points in Religion (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1874/2016), 60-61.