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Thou has commanded us to keep thy precepts diligently. Ps. 119:4

In this fifth sermon on the 119th Psalm, Manton begins by providing a help to obedience. There would be no need to speak of obedience, if it were “natural” to use. What then keeps us from obedience? Manton begins here:

Doctrine 1: To gain the heart to full obedience, it is good to consider the authority of God in his word.

Manson makes three points: the first two concern our benefit in obedience; the third, the necessity of obedience.

Our profit:  Obedience to God’s commands is both reasonable and profitable: our good lies in in obedience:

First, it is reasonable to obey God. “If we were left at our liberty, we should take up the ways of God rather than any other: Rom. vii. 12, “The commandment is holy, just, and good.”

Second, it is to our benefit to obey God, both in this life — and more even more so at the judgment. Obedience, “will bring in a full reward for the future.”

God commands:

The next motive is that of the text, to urge the command of God. It is a course enjoined and imposed upon us by our sovereign lawgiver. It is not in our choice, as if it were an indifferent thing whether we will walk in the laws of God or not, but of absolute necessity, unless we renounce the authority of God.

Thomas Manton, The Complete Works of Thomas Manton, vol. 6 (London: James Nisbet & Co., 1872), 39.

He then supports this point with three considerations:

First, God is not our equal: He is our creator, therefore he has the right to command. He is our judge and therefore has the power to enforce his commands by punishment or reward.

Second, God has not suggested but commanded:

Unless you mean to renounce the sovereign majesty of God, and put him besides the throne, and break out into open rebellion against him, you must do what he hath commanded: 1 Tim. 1:9, ‘Charge them that be rich in the world,’ &c., not only advise but charge them. And Titus 2:15, ‘These things exhort, and rebuke with all authority.’ God will have the creatures know that he expects this duty and homage from them.

Thomas Manton, The Complete Works of Thomas Manton, vol. 6 (London: James Nisbet & Co., 1872), 40.

Third, God has given us precise directions that must be followed, “precepts”.

Christians, if we had the awe of God’s authority upon our hearts, what kind of persons would we be at all times, in all places, and in all company? what a check would this be to a proud thought, a light word, or a passionate speech?—what exactness would we study in our conversations, had we but serious thoughts of the sovereign majesty of God, and of his authority forbidding these things in the word!

Thomas Manton, The Complete Works of Thomas Manton, vol. 6 (London: James Nisbet & Co., 1872), 41.

At this point, Manton stops and considers the various hesitations, doubts, questions or weaknesses which could beset his hearers. He asks, Why should I consider the authority of God? This is a key point of the best preaching: it does not merely drop information before the hearer, but it helps the hearer process in the information. The preacher anticipates questions, uncovers motives, et cetera.

The very best preaching and the very best counseling are the same: helping another to understand, to digest, to live in accordance with God’s will.

1  We take God without the seriousness deserved: it shows in how we live:

Because then the heart would not be so loose, off and on in point of duty; when a thing is counted arbitrary (as generally we count so of strictness), the heart hangs off more from God. When we press men to pray in secret, to be full of good works, to meditate of God, to examine conscience, to redeem time, to be watchful, they think these be counsels of perfection, not rules of duty, enforced by the positive command of God; therefore are men so slight and careless in them. But now, when a man hath learned to urge a naughty heart with the authority of God, and charge them in the name of God, he lies more under the awe of duty. Hath God said I must search and try my ways, and shall I live in a constant neglect of it?

Thomas Manton, The Complete Works of Thomas Manton, vol. 6 (London: James Nisbet & Co., 1872), 41.

2  Obedience requires appropriate fear: disobedience comes from taking the commands of God too lightly:

The heart is never right until we be brought to fear a commandment more than any inconveniencies whatsoever. To a wicked man there seems to be nothing so light as a command, and therefore he breaks through against checks of conscience. But a man that hath the awe of God upon him, when mindful of God’s authority, he fears a command

Thomas Manton, The Complete Works of Thomas Manton, vol. 6 (London: James Nisbet & Co., 1872), 41.

3 If God has commanded the duty, then God will make obedience possible. We need not doubt our ability, because God stands behind the obedience. If someone thinks they will fail, they almost certainly will:

Many times we are doubtful of success, and so our hands are weakened thereby. We forbear duty, because we do not know what will come of it. Now, a sense of God’s authority and command doth fortify the heart against these discouragements

Thomas Manton, The Complete Works of Thomas Manton, vol. 6 (London: James Nisbet & Co., 1872), 41.

4  The purpose or profit behind some commands are not immediately obvious. Why should God command that I not eat from this tree? Why should God command such and such a morality, a behavior? Why should God command faith? We do not need to quibble at God’s reasons when we know that it is God who commands.

5  God does not need our bare behavior. When God commands us he is seeking the  voluntary submission of our will to his:

Obedience is never right but when it is done out of a conscience of God’s authority, intuitu voluntatis. The bare sight of God’s will should be reason enough to a gracious heart. It is the will of God; it is his command, So it is often urged: 1 Thes. 4:3, the apostle bids them follow holiness, ‘for this is the will of God, your sanctification.’ And servants should be faithful in their burdensome and hard labours; 1 Peter 2:15, ‘For so is the will of God, that with well-doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.’ And 1 Thes. 5:18, ‘In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.’ That is argument enough to a godly Christian, that God hath signified his will and good pleasure, though the duty were never so cross to his own desires and interests. They obey simply for the commandment sake, without any other reason and inducement.

Thomas Manton, The Complete Works of Thomas Manton, vol. 6 (London: James Nisbet & Co., 1872), 42.