, ,

Manton ends his sermon the blessedness of being forgiven as follows. If happiness is to be a goal of life (and religion), then what is meant by “happiness:

Christians, a man that flows in wealth and honour, till he be pardoned, is not a happy man. A man that lives afflicted, contemned, not taken notice of in the world, if he be a pardoned sinner, oh, the blessedness of that man! They are not happy that have least trouble, but they that have least cause; not they that have a benumbed conscience, but they that have a conscience sound, established, and settled in the grace of God, through Jesus Christ our Lord, and bottomed upon his holy covenant, and that peace and grace he offers to us; this is the happy man. 

 Happiness is not merely the immediate emotional state of being pleased. Earlier in the sermon he actually drew an opposing argument, “We may lull the soul to sleep with carnal delights”. It is not immediate pleasure which constitutes happiness — because that “happiness” will soon disappear (that worm has famously eaten away happiness). Manton points at happiness as something which cannot be lost: pardon for sin (which is the enemy of happiness). 

What then must we do to enjoy that happiness of being pardoned?

Let me entreat you, if this be such a blessed thing, to make it your daily, your earnest, your hearty prayer to God, that your sins may be pardoned, Mat. 6:12. 

At this point, he makes a very pointed counseling application: We should be constantly bringing ourselves to forgiveness, to the receive the fruit of pardon:

Our Lord hath taught us to pray (for we make but too much work for pardoning mercy every day), ‘Every day forgive us our trespasses.’ To-day, in one of the petitions, is common to all that follow; as we beg daily bread, we must beg daily pardon, daily grace against temptations. Under the law, they had a lamb every morning and every evening offered to God for a daily sacrifice, Num. 28:4–6. We are all invited to look to the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sins of the world. Surely we have as much need as they—more cause than they; because now all is clear, and openly made known unto us. 

He here uses a number of biblical illustrations to drive home his point:

God came to Adam in the cool of the day; he would not let him sleep in his sins: before night came, he comes and rouseth his conscience, and then gives out the promise of the seed of the woman that should break the serpent’s head. In reconciliation with God, let not the sun go down upon God’s wrath, Eph. 4:26. A man should not sleep in his anger, nor out of charity with man; surely we should make our peace with God every day. If a man, under the law, had contracted any uncleanness, he was to wash his clothes before evening, that he might not lie a night in his uncleanness. We should daily earnestly come to God with this request, Lord, pardon our sins. 

He then clears the text. In this point he does something very near to the technique which Spurgeon will develop where he says, “Someone will say”. Manton does this here, but not by saying, “Maybe you are asking” — that is a poor way to put it. If you say, Perhaps you are thinking, I respond, “Not me — I guess it doesn’t matter”. Now make it third person: someone cares about this:

But what! must those that are already adopted into God’s family, and taken into his grace and favour, daily pray for pardon of sin? Though upon our first faith our state be changed, and we are indeed made children of God, and heirs of eternal life by faith in Christ Jesus; yet he that is clean, need wash his feet. We contract a great deal of sinful defilement and pollution by walking up and down here in a dirty world; and we must every day be cleansing our consciences before God, and begging that we may be made partakers of this benefit. 

In fact this is so important, that God may force us to the work by stirring our memory. In this section he again employs illustrations — I find the illustration of the ghost particularly evocative:

The Lord may, for our unthankfulness, our negligence, our stupid security, revive the memory of old sins, and make us look into the debt-book (that hath been cancelled) with horror, and make us ‘possess the sins of our youth.’ An old bruise is felt upon every change of weather. When we prove unthankful, and careless, and stupid, and negligent, and do not keep our watch, the Lord may suffer these things to return upon our consciences with great amazement. Guilt raked out of its grave is more frightful than a ghost, or one risen from the dead. Few believers have, upon right terms, the assurance of their own sincerity; and though God may blot sins out of the book of his remembrance, yet he will not blot them out of our consciences. The worm of conscience is killed still by the application of the blood of Christ and the Spirit. This short exhortation I would give you, the other would take up too much time.

 Thomas Manton, The Complete Works of Thomas Manton, vol. 2 (London: James Nisbet & Co., 1871), 188–189.