My new puritan is Thomas Manton – I am loving reading through his works. Isn’t it astonishing how these preachers from hundreds of years ago still speak to us today?! Here for example is a great word on lockdowns from Manton!
“That the devil often abuses our solitude. It is good sometimes to be alone; but then we need to be stocked with holy thoughts or employed in holy exercises, that we may be able to say, as Christ, ‘I am not alone, because the Father is with me’ (John16:32). However a state of retirement from human converse, if it be not necessary, exposes us to temptations: but if we are cast upon it, we must expect God’s presence and help.” (vol 1. P261).
Then today I read an astonishing sermon on the temptation of Christ – it is the third of his series on that. I won’t give you the whole sermon but it is really helpful. Here are a few gems for thought and delight…..despite the old language they really hit the mark for me… I have added a few of my own comments in between.“But chiefly Christ was not to begin his ministry by miracles, but doctrine – not from a demonstration of his power, but wisdom”.
“We read of the depths of Satan (Rev.2:24)…Here he comes like a minister, with a Bible in his hand, and turns to the place; here the enemy of God comes with the word of God, and disguises the worst of actions with the best of words, opposes God to God, and turns his truth to countenance a lie.” I have seen this so many times. It is one of the devils favourite and effective strategies. He misuses and misapplies the word of God.-
“He applies the word of God, not to instruct, but to deceive; rather to breed a contempt, disdain and hatred of scriptures, rather than a reverent esteem of them; to make the word of God seem uncertain; or if a reverence of them, to turn this reverence into an occasion of deceit; more particularly to tempt God to a needless proof of his power. We are not to cast ourselves into danger, that providence may fetch us off. God will protect us from the evils we suffer, not the evils we commit – not in dangers we seek, but such as befall us besides our intention.” A word for those who say ‘God will protect me – I can do what I want – I don’t need medicines or precautions.
“Certainly, evil angels may have a great hand in our diseases’ (Ps 78:49
“Whatever power God permits Satan to have over our bodies, or bodily interest, yet it is limited; he cannot hurt or molest any further than God pleases.” He writes about this in the context of Job. It’s not that all, or even most illnesses, are direct attacks of the devil. But some are. I believe I have experienced this a couple of times in my life. It’s a scary experience!
“Observe if Satan lead us up, it is to throw us down……God’s manner is quite contrary; when he means to exalt a man, he will first humble him, and make him low.” (Matthew 23:12)
“How often have we known a fond scrupulosity to end in a profane licentiousness.” Amen – I have known some who were super tight on some rules who ended up in licentiousness. Like the man who complained to presbytery about me having women at the door and praying, who ended up having an affair and leaving his family.
“What sad work is there made in the church by God by Solifidians and Nullifidians; heretofore it was all faith and free grace misapplied and misunderstood; and now it is all morality and virtue, while Christ is neglected, and the mystery of the gospel little set by or valued. It is ever the devil’s policy to work upon the humour of people. If they will reform the church, it shall be to a degree of separation, and condemning all churches and Christians that are not of their mode; if they be for uniting, Christ’s unquestionable interests must be trodden underfoot, and all cares of truth and reformation must be laid aside.” This is a key idea which I would love to think about more. Solifidians are those who say bare faith is enough, you don’t need works. That sounds right but it is wrong. We are not justified by works, but the faith that justifies is never alone – it is always accompanied by works. Nullifidians are those who don’t need faith and rely on their own virtue. In both cases Christ is neglected and his church is harmed.
“If he can destroy religion and godliness no other way, he will be religious and godly himself; but it is either, as to private Christians, to set them upon overdoing, that he may make them weary of the of the service of Christ; or as to the public, crying up some unnecessary things, which Christ never commanded. If men be troubled with sin, and see a necessity of the gospel, and prize the comforts of it, the gospel must be over-gospelled, or else it will not serve their turns; and that over-gospel must be carried to such a length as to destroy the very gospel, and free grace itself.” I love the phrase ‘over-gospelling’. It took me a while to work out what he was on about. But again I have seen it!
“All overdoing in God’s work is undoing. If Christ will trust, the devil will persuade him to trust, even to the degree of tempting God.” What a great thought. All overdoing in God’s work is undoing. There are far too many lazy Christians – but there are some of us who go the opposite way – and that is just as bad. Look to Christ – not our own doing! Ironically that makes what we do so much more effective.