Biblical Counseling, Faith, Galatians, Galatians 2, Hope, perseverance, Persistence, Preaching, Psalm 119, Psalms, Psalms 119.1, Puritan Preaching, Sermon, Thomas Manton
The previous post in this series may be found here: https://memoirandremains.wordpress.com/2014/02/28/thomas-manton-on-psalm-119-1-a/
The second doctrine Manton sets forth from Psalm119:1 is “That sincere, constant, uniform obedience to God’s law is the only way to true blessedness.” He derives this doctrine from the present participle “walk”, “in this way we must walk, which notes both uniformity and constancy”.
To walk must be in accord with some rule. The way in which must walk is the law of God, “First, The rule is the law of God. All created beings have a rule. Christ’s human nature was the highest of all creatures, and yet it is to be in subjection to God; he is under a rule.”
Here Maton makes a striking observation, the rule of inanimate creatures is a rule of covenant, “Inanimate creatures, sun, moon, stars, are under a law of providence, under a covenant of night and day”.
This rule must most especially apply to those redeemed of God. Hebrews 8:10 quotes the promise of the New Covenant from Jeremiah 31:
For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
Now if the promise of the New Covenant is to have the law of God written on one’s heart, the law must be a blessing to know,. As Manton writes,
If the law might be disannulled as to new creatures, then why doth the Spirit of God write it with such legible characters in their hearts? This is promised as the great blessing of the covenant of grace, Heb. 8:10. Now, that which the Spirit engraves upon the heart, would Christ come to deface and abolish? The law was written upon tables of stone, and the great work of the Spirit is to write it upon the table of the heart;
If we are to follow the rule we must not fall too short, nor overshoot the mark.
Not short. There are many false rules with which men please themselves, and are but so many byways that lead us off from our own happiness. For instance, good meaning, that is a false rule; the world lives by guess and devout aims. But if good meaning were a rule, a man may oppose the interest of Christ, destroy his servants, and all upon good meaning: John 16:2, ‘Those that kill you will think they do God good service
Neither may we overshoot the mark:
That we may not act over. There is a superstitious and apocryphal holiness which is contrary to a genuine and scriptural holiness, yea, destructive to it: it is like the concubine to the wife: it draws away respects due to the true religion. Now, what is this kind of holiness? It is a temporary flesh-pleasing religion, which consists in a conformity to outward rites and ceremonies and external mortifications,
If there must be obedience, then let be such obedience as will bring blessing. “If you would be blessed, there must be a sincere, constant, uniform obedience. The will of God must not only be known but practised.”
How can such obedience be perfect?
Then, sincere obedience is required: ‘Blessed is the undefiled in the way.’ At first hearing of these words, a man might reply, Oh, then, none can be blessed, if that be the qualification; ‘for who can say, My heart is clean?’ Prov. 20:9. I answer—This undefiledness is to be understood according to the tenor of the second covenant, which doth not exclude the mercy of God and the justification of penitent sinners;
What does this mean in practice?
Ps. 84:11, ‘The Lord will be a sun and a shield’, &c. To whom? ‘To those that walk uprightly.’ This is possible enough; here is no ground of despair. This is that will lead us to blessedness, when we are troubled for our failings, and there is a diligent exercise in the purification of our hearts.
Such obedience must be constant, and it must be as to all things which God commands: we cannot chose this and ignore that.
To what use can we put this knowledge:
To show you that carnal men live as if they sought misery rather than happiness: Prov. 8:36, ‘He that sins against me wrongs his own soul; all that hate me love death.’ If a man were travelling to York, who would say his aim was to come to London? Do these men pursue happiness that walk in such defilement?
Also, if we will be blessed, we must take the law of God for our rule.
Take the law of God for your rule. Study the mind of God, and know the way to heaven, and keep exactly in it. It is an argument of sincerity when a man is careful to practise all that he knows, and to be inquisitive to know more, even the whole will of God, and when the heart is held under awe of God’s word.
We must also take the Spirit as our guide:
Take the Spirit of God for your guide. We can never walk in God’s way without the conduct of God’s Spirit. We must not only have a way, but a voice to direct us when we are wandering.
The work of obedience runs contrary to the course of this world. To aim for a constant sincere obedience, to walk in the law of the Lord will bring difficulty and discouragement. We will not be able to past through discouragement if we walk only by faith, “The promises for your encouragement. If you look elsewhere, and live by sense, and not by faith, you shall have discouragements enough.”
Moreover, the difficulties of obedience will be disorienting; we will loss our way unless with an unmoving mark at which to aim:
Fix the glory of God for your aim; else it is but a carnal course. The spiritual life is a living to God, Gal. 2:20, when he is made the end of every action. You have a journey to take, and whether you sleep or wake, your journey is still a-going. As in a ship, whether men sit, lie, or walk, whether they eat or sleep, the ship holds on its course, and makes towards its port; so you all are going into another world, either to heaven or hell, the broad or the narrow way.