“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.

“The most excellent study for expanding the soul” by Charles Spurgeon

“It has been said by some one that ‘the proper study of mankind is man.’ I will not oppose the idea, but I believe it is equally true that the proper study of God’s elect is God; the proper study of a Christian is the Godhead.

The highest science, the loftiest speculation, the mightiest philosophy, which can ever engage the attention of a child of God, is the name, the nature, the person, the work, the doings, and the existence of the great God whom he calls his Father.

There is something exceedingly improving to the mind in a contemplation of the Divinity. It is a subject so vast, that all our thoughts are lost in its immensity; so deep, that our pride is drowned in its infinity.

Other subjects we can compass and grapple with; in them we feel a kind of self-content, and go our way with the thought, ‘Behold I am wise.’

But when we come to this master-science, finding that our plumb-line cannot sound its depth, and that our eagle eye cannot see its height, we turn away with the thought, that vain man would be wise, but he is like a wild ass’s colt; and with the solemn exclamation, ‘I am but of yesterday, and know nothing.’

No subject of contemplation will tend more to humble the mind, than thoughts of God. But while the subject humbles the mind it also expands it. He who often thinks of God, will have a larger mind than the man who simply plods around this narrow globe.

The most excellent study for expanding the soul, is the science of Christ, and Him crucified, and the knowledge of the Godhead in the glorious Trinity.

Would you lose your sorrows? Would you drown your cares? Then go, plunge yourself in the Godhead’s deepest sea; be lost in His immensity; and you shall come forth as from a couch of rest, refreshed and invigorated.

I know nothing which can so comfort the soul; so calm the swelling billows of grief and sorrow; so speak peace to the winds of trial, as a devout musing upon the subject of the Godhead.

Nothing will so enlarge the intellect, nothing so magnify the whole soul of man, as a devout, earnest, continued investigation of the great subject of the Deity. And, whilst humbling and expanding, this subject is eminently consolatary.

Oh, there is, in contemplating Christ, a balm for every wound; in musing on the Father, there is a quietus for every grief; and in the influence of the Holy Ghost, there is a balsam for every sore.

It is to that subject that I invite you this morning. We shall present you with one view of it,—that is the immutability of the glorious Jehovah.

“I am,” says my text, “Jehovah,” (for so it should be translated) “I am Jehovah, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.’ (Malachi 3:6)”

–Charles H. Spurgeon, “The Immutability of God,” in The New Park Street Pulpit Sermons, Volume 1 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1855), 1. Spurgeon preached this sermon from Malachi 3:6 on January 7, 1855. He was twenty years old.

“It is the will of the Lord of lights to teach the ignorant, to strengthen the feeble, to illumine the blind, and to make His truth to reign” by John Calvin

“O you who call yourselves bishops and pastors of the poor people, see to it that the sheep of Jesus Christ are not deprived of their proper pasture; and that it is not prohibited and forbidden to any Christian freely and in his own language to read, handle, and hear this holy gospel, seeing that such is the will of God, and Jesus Christ commands it.

For it is for this cause that he has sent His apostles and servants throughout the whole world; giving them the power to speak in all tongues, so that they may in every language preach to every creature; and he has made them debtors to the Greeks and the barbarians, to the wise and the simple, in order that none might be excluded from their teaching.

Surely, if you are truly their vicars, successors, and imitators, it is your office to do the same, watching over the flock and seeking every possible means to have everyone instructed in the faith of Jesus Christ, by the pure Word of God. Otherwise, the sentence is already proclaimed and put down in writing, that God will demand their souls at your hands.

It is the will of the Lord of lights by His Holy Spirit, by means of this holy and saving gospel, to teach the ignorant, to strengthen the feeble, to illumine the blind, and to make His truth to reign among all peoples and nations, to the end that the whole world may know but one God and one Savior, Jesus Christ; one faith, and one gospel.

So be it.”

–John Calvin, “Preface to Olivetan’s New Testament,” Calvin: Commentaries, Ed. Joseph Haroutunian (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1958), 72-73.

“His only purpose in speaking to Moses was so that He might call everyone to Christ” by John Calvin

“God did not speak through Moses and the Prophets for nothing.

His only purpose in speaking to Moses was so that He might call everyone to Christ.

Therefore, it is clear that those who repudiate Christ are no disciples of Moses.”

–John Calvin, Calvin: Commentaries, Ed. Joseph Haroutunian (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1958), 104. Commenting on John 5:38.

“This is what we should seek in the whole of Scripture” by John Calvin

“This is what we should in short seek in the whole of Scripture: truly to know Jesus Christ, and the infinite riches that are comprised in Him and are offered to us by Him from God the Father.

If one were to sift thoroughly the Law and the Prophets, he would not find a single word which would not draw and bring us to Him.

And for a fact, since all the treasures of wisdom and understanding are hidden in Him, there is not the least question of having, or turning toward, another goal; not unless we would deliberately turn aside from the light of truth, to lose ourselves in the darkness of lies.

Therefore, rightly does Saint Paul say in another passage that he would know nothing except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. And such knowledge although mean and contemptible to the mind of the flesh is nevertheless sufficient to occupy us all our lives. And we shall not waste our time if we employ all our study and apply all our understanding to profit from it.

What more would we ask for, as spiritual doctrine for our souls, than to know God, to be converted to Him, and to have His glorious image imprinted in us, so that we may partake of His righteousness, to become heirs of His Kingdom and to possess it in the end in full?

But the truth is that from the beginning God has given Himself, and at present gives Himself more fully, that we may contemplate Him in the face of his Christ. It is therefore not lawful that we turn away and become diverted even in the smallest degree by this or that.

On the contrary, our minds ought to come to a halt at the point where we learn in Scripture to know Jesus Christ and Him alone, so that we may be directly led by Him to the Father who contains in Himself all perfection.”

–John Calvin, “Preface to Olivetan’s New Testament,” Calvin: Commentaries, Ed. Joseph Haroutunian (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1958), 70.

“The four prime things that should be first and most studied and searched” by Thomas Brooks

“Beloved in our dearest Lord, Christ, the Scripture, your own hearts, and Satan’s devices, are the four prime things that should be first and most studied and searched.

If any cast off the study of these, they cannot be safe here, nor happy hereafter.

It is my work as a Christian, but much more as I am a Watchman, to do my best to discover the fullness of Christ, the emptiness of the creature, and the snares of the great deceiver.”

–Thomas Brooks, “Precious Remedies,” in The Works of Thomas Brooks, Volume 1, Ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1666/2001), 3.

“Read and re-read” by D.A. Carson

Read and re-read and re-read and re-read the biblical book. It is a mistake to choose the book and then start reading commentaries. Read the book.

Read it in English. Read it in Greek, or Hebrew, as the case may be. I’m quite flexible. Ideally, that means you should start the process of preparation in this regard a long time before. If you have time to read it only once before the first Sunday you’re going to preach it, you won’t have absorbed a great deal of it.

I knew a man in Toronto a number of years ago (he has long since gone to be with the Lord). His name was William Fitch. He was a Presbyterian minister and a very able expositor. It was his lifelong practice not to preach any part of the Word of God until he had read it in preparation for that sermon 100 times.

I’m not laying that on you as a burden or anything! Still, some of us I suspect have managed to preach on occasion from passages where we barely read it once! We’ve read the commentaries, of course.… But read the text. Read the text. Read, read, read, re-read the text.

Start the process early. Give time to re-reading and, thus, to meditation, to turning it over in your mind, to thinking about it when you’re driving your car, to waking up in the middle of the night and dreaming about it. Partly, this is because a lot of your best insights come when you’re not trying, when you’ve just flooded your mind with the Word of God, and then you begin to see the connections and how it works. You can’t force that. It’s just re-reading plus time.

That also gives you time to start collecting illustrations and bits and pieces that fit into it just from your other reading, from reading the newspaper or reading a novel or talking with your kids or something in the church that happens. Suddenly, you’ll discover, because you have allowed a little extra time in preparation, you enrich the entire process.

Having said that, I have to tell you quite frankly that sometimes I have achieved that, and quite frankly, I often haven’t because I’m just as pressured as the next bloke. I can start my preparation the week before, the same as everybody else, but ideally … ideally.… I like to start a long time in advance. I try.

That also gives you time to pray over the text. That is, to incorporate the text into your personal prayers. In much the same way I incorporated some of the prayers of Paul into personal prayers, this can be done, of course, in one way or another with all kinds of texts.

Eschew the division of head and heart. (This a more general observation but probably still worth making.) Some of us think when we are reading the Bible devotionally we are supposed to go all fluttery in the stomach and feel very spiritual and deeply meditative and highly reverent, and then when we’re doing our exegesis we can forget the reverence and just get on with the commentaries. Fight that dichotomy like the plague.

Make your detailed, analytic, careful, competent exegesis reverent and make your devotional life thoughtful and rigorous. Eschew like the plague this common division between head and heart.

That means, then, so far as your sermon preparation goes, you will simultaneously be trying to do rigorous exegesis and biblical theology and so forth while also thinking reverently and offering up this work to the Lord and wondering how it will apply to people’s lives. It will be part of a unified vision of things that is going on all the time.”

–D.A. Carson, “Preaching through Bible Books,” in D.A. Carson Sermon Library (Bellingham, WA: Faithlife, 2016).