Having explained that a “blessed man” is not perfectly holy, Manton next takes up the related question: If a believer is not perfect, then how does a believer differ? Or as he puts, “”Wherein doth grace now discover itself, where is the difference?”
He lists six ways in which true grace in a believer’s life causes the believer to differ:
In that they cannot fall into those iniquities wherein there is an absolute contrariety to grace, as hatred of God, total apostasy, so they cannot sin the sin unto death, 1 John 5:16.
The believer may become entangled in this world, but he will not reject his Savior.
Second, “They do not sin with a whole heart.” He demonstrates this from Psalm 119:176,
176 I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant,
for I do not forget your commandments.
There is this contradiction in the psalmist: he does stray but does not forgo and forget the commandments of God. It is not a complete plunging into rebellion.
This is observed in the next two elements: frequency and duration:
Third, “It is not their course; not constant, easy, and frequent.”
Fourth, “When they fall they do not rest in sin.”
This is not perfection. But, the believer is bothered by sin: it is not comfortable: it is not a place to rest. The believer in sin cannot have the rest of others, because he is not at home in sin. “They may fall into the dirt, but they do not lie and wallow there like swine in the mire.”
Fifth, “Their falls are sanctified. When they have smarted under sin, they grow more watchful and more circumspect. A child of God may have the worse in prælio, in the battle, but not in bello, in the war.” It is an interesting thing that believers who have fallen into sin are oddly safest from sin, because sin when recognized brings humility and humility is the enemy of sin.
Sixth, the manner and course of life:
Grace discovers itself by the constant endeavours which they make against sin. What is the constant course a Christian takes? They groan under the relics of sin; it is their burden that they have such an evil nature, Rom. 7:24.
In all of these things we see the same principle: Grace produces a disgust with sin and a desire for God. This desire may waiver in the moment, but it will return in the main. If you shake a compass, the needle will flutter, but it will return to true north (as Manton says).
It thus paradoxically the one who is most troubled by sin, who sees the most sin in his life that most likely the child of God.