Affections, Assent, Exegeting the Heart, Faith, Keeping God's Testimonies, Keeping the Law, Obedience, Preaching, Psalms, Psalms 119, Psalms 119:2, Puritan Preaching, Sermon, Testimonies, Thomas Manton
The previous post in this will be found here: https://memoirandremains.wordpress.com/2014/03/23/thomas-manon-on-psalm-1191c/
Manton preached two sermons on Psalm 119:2, “Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, that seek him with the whole heart.”
From this verse he sets out two doctrines: (1) They that keep close to God’s testimonies are blessed. (2) Those would be blessed must make this their business sincerely to seek after God.
The second sermon concerns the mean and application of these two doctrines.
Manton analyzes the first doctrine by breaking it down into two parts: (A) What is mean by testimony. (B) What is meant by “keeping”.
A “Testimony” is what God has said
First, The notion by which the word of God is expressed is testimonies, whereby is intended the whole declaration of God’s will, in doctrines, commands, examples, threatenings, promises. The whole word is the testimony which God hath deposed for the satisfaction of the world about the way of their salvation. Now, because the word of God brancheth itself into two parts, the law and the gospel, this notion may be applied to both
As Manton works through this matter, he notes that a “testimony” declares the content of one’s heart. Thus, “the word isa full declaration of the Lord’s mind.” At this point Manton turns to exegete the hearer (or reader) of the sermon. The fact of God’s self-declaration reveals something of humanity — and it implies a response:
It is a blessed thing that we are not left to the uncertainty of our own thoughts: Micah 6:8, ‘He hath showed thee, O man, what is good.’ The way of pleasing and enjoying God is clearly revealed in his word. There we may know what we must do, what we may expect, and upon what terms. We have his testimony.
Now, since the testimony is of God, it is certain. Here, again, Manton uses the doctrine to exegete the hearer:
John 17:17, ‘Sanctify them by thy truth.’ The sanctifying power of God, that goes along with the gospel, is a clear confirmation of the divine testimony in it: John 8:32, ‘The truth shall make you free.’ By our disentanglement from lust we come to be settled in the truth. God’s testimony is the ultimate resolution of our faith. Why do we believe? Because it is God’s testimony.
If the sure testimony of God sets us free, it implies that we were earlier entangled.
In addition, this sure word of God rebukes us for our foolish rejection; which rejection will testify against us on the day of judgment.
Keeping the Testimony of God
Keeping the testimony of God is an act of faith: it entails an intellectual assent, the engaged affections and actual practic.
Assent: “We must understand the word of God, assent to it; we must revolve it often in our thoughts, and have it ready upon all occasions. Understand it we must if we would be blessed: ‘He that hath my commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me,’ John 14:21. We cannot make conscience of obedience till we know our duty.”
Affections: We must have affection for the testimony of God:
“Sometimes it alludes to the apple of the eye: Prov. 7:2, ‘Keep them as the apple of thine eye.’ Such tender affections should we have to the testimonies of the Lord, as a man has for his eye.”
Practice: We do not keep God’s word if we do not do God’s word:
Our actions are a better discovery of our thoughts than our words. When we get a little knowledge, and make a little profession, we think we observe his commands; but he is a liar if he be not exact, and walk close with God. It is not enough to understand the word, to be able to talk and dispute of the testimonies of God, but to keep them.
[This man who can talk but does not practice, reminds me of Talkative in Pilgrim’s Progress. Talkative says, “To talk of things that are good with you or with any other, to me is very acceptable; and I am glad that I have met with those that incline to so good a work. For, to speak the truth, there are but few that care thus to spend their time (as they are in their travels), but choose much rather to be speaking of things to no profit; and this hath been a trouble to me.”
Such sounds good, until one knows the rest. As Christian explains, “I will give you a further discovery of him. This man is for any company, and for any talk; as he talks now with you, so will he talk when he is on the ale bench; and the more drink he hath in his crown, the more of these things he hath in his mouth; religion hath no place in his heart, or house, or conversation; all he hath lieth in his tongue, and his religion is to make a noise therewith.”]
At this point, Manton explains the matter of “keeping” by explaining the difference between “legal” and “evangelical” obedience:
[T]here is a twofold keeping of God’s testimonies—legal and evangelical. Legal keeping is in a way of perfect and absolute obedience, without the least failing; so none of us can be blessed. Moses will accuse us; there will be failings in the best. But now evangelical keeping—that is, a filial and sincere obedience—is accepted, and the imperfections Christ pardoneth. If God’s pardon help us not, we are for ever miserable. The apostles had many failings; sometimes they manifested a weak faith, sometimes hardness of heart, sometimes passionateness when they met with disrespect, Luke 9; yet Christ returns this general acknowledgment of them when he was pleading with his Father, ‘Holy Father, they have kept thy word.’ When the heart is sincere, God will pass by our failings, James 5:11, ‘Ye have heard of the patience of Job.’ Ay! and of his impatience too, his cursing the day of his birth; but the Spirit of God puts a finger upon the scar, and takes notice of what is good. So long as we bewail sin, seek remission of sin, strive after perfection, endeavour to keep close and be tender of a command, though a naughty heart will carry us aside sometimes, we keep the testimony of the Lord in a gospel sense. Bewailing sin, that owns the law; seeking pardon, that owns the gospel; striving after perfection, that argueth sincerity and uprightness.