In sermon IV from his sermons on the 119th Psalm, Manton, “How far may sin be in a blessed man, a child of God?” The verse under consideration reads, “They do no iniquity: they walk in his ways.” Having discussed the blessing which comes from avoiding sin (for instance, “In them true happiness has begun.” — for all our sorrow comes from sin, thus avoidance of sin is the beginning of true happiness), he comes to this question.
This shows Manton to be a careful pastor and to have an accurate understanding of the human beings in his congregation. A poor pastor would lash his hearers. Manson has seriously exhorted them to holiness and has noted that sin has to rightful place in the heart of a believer. But he now he comes to this question, what of remaining sin.
First, all believers continue with a “corrupt nature, they have sin in the as well as others.” He then compares the remains of sin ivy on a wall. You cut down the branch and new vines grow up in its place: “Such an indwelling sin is in us, though we pray, strive, and cut off the excrescences, the buddings out of it here and there, yet till it be plucked asunder by death, it continueth with us.”
Second, we have “infirmities”; our service is not perfect — it cannot reach the measure which God requires. “There are unavoidable infirmities which are pardoned of course.”
They may be guilty of some sins which by watchfulness might be prevented, as vain thoughts, idle, passionate speeches, and many carnal actions. It is possible that these may be prevented by the ordinary assistances of grace, and if we will keep a strict guard over our own hearts. But in this case God’s children may be overtaken and overborne; overtaken by the suddenness, or overborne by the violence of temptation.
Fourth, “they may fall foul.” — But this is no license to make a trade of sin.
Fifth: a peculiar sin. I will quote this at length, because it is very easy to be smug in this issue and to think that another’s peculiar weakness is especially evil — because it is not sin to me! We need gentleness in judging such things:
A child of God may have some particular evils, which may be called predominant sins (not with respect to grace, that is impossible, that a man should be renewed and have such sins that sin should carry the mastery over grace); but they may be said to have a predominancy in comparison of other sins; he may have some particular inclination to some evil above others. David had his iniquity, Ps. 18:23. Look, as the saints have particular graces; Abraham was eminent for faith, Timothy for sobriety, Moses for meekness, &c.; so they have their particular corruptions which are more suitable to their temper and course of life. Peter seems to be inclined to tergiversation, and to shrinking in a time of trouble. We find him often tripping in that kind; in the denial of his master; again, Gal. 2:12, it is said he dissembled and complied with the Jews, therefore Paul ‘withstood him to his face, for he was to be blamed.’ It is evident by experience there are particular corruptions to which the children of God are more inclinable: this appears by the great power and sway they bear in commanding other evils to be committed, by their falling into them out of inward propensity when outward temptations are few or weak, or none at all; and when resistance is made, yet they are more pestered and haunted with them than with other temptations, which is a constant matter of exercise and humiliation to them
Thomas Manton, The Complete Works of Thomas Manton, vol. 6 (London: James Nisbet & Co., 1872), 33.