August 4, 2007

Thomas Manton (1620–1677) Affirms Common Grace

There is a common and inferior sort of grace, which is made known to all the world. The whole earth is full of his goodness, but this grace that bringeth salvation, that is peculiar to the elect, to a few poor base creatures in themselves, a little handful whom God hath chosen out of the world; John 14:22, ‘How is it that thou wouldst manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?'
Thomas Manton, “Several Sermons Upon Titus II: 11–14: Sermon I,” in The Complete Works of Thomas Manton, D.D. (London: James Nisbet, 1874), 16:48.

Notice the connection he makes between God's goodness and common grace. He rightly interprets the sense of the Psalms and the overall biblical witness. His "goodness" is not merely speaking of God's delight in ethical purity in the way he treats all of humanity, but it speaks to his loving interest in their well-being. David Silversides, in his criticism of Hoeksemian doctrine, notes that:
It must also be borne in mind that elsewhere Hoeksema's definition of the word 'goodness' is very different from the meaning commonly given to it by Reformed writers [such as Manton above] and, more particularly, its usage in the Westminster Standards. For example, in Answer 4 of the Shorter Catechism, we read, 'God is a Spirit, infinite eternal and unchangeable in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth'. The Shorter Catechism has been criticised by some at this point for not using the terms 'grace, mercy, love', but it must be recognised that in the minds of the Westminster Assembly the term goodness included all of these. This explains why the term 'goodness' is expanded in the Larger Catechism as equivalent to 'most merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness' (Ans. 9) and in the Westminster Confession as 'most loving, gracious, merciful, longsuffering, abundant in goodness...forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin; the rewarder of them that diligently seek him...' (ch. II,i).

The terms 'good' and 'goodness' (Heb. tob) are consistently linked to God's mercy or faithful love (Heb. chesed), for example in Psalms 23:6, 25:7-8, 86:5, 100:5, 145:9 etc., and when Psalm 34:8 is referred to in 1 Peter 2:3, the term is rendered 'gracious' (Gk. chreestos: A.V. 'kind'). No doubt this explains why the term is rendered 'gracious' in the 1650 Metrical Psalter7 rendering Psalm 86:5.

7. This version, though known as the 'Scottish Psalter', was initially the work of the Westminster Assembly and sent to the Scottish General Assembly for scrutiny and finalisation.
David Silversides, The Free Offer: Biblical & Reformed (Glasgow, Scotland: Marpet Press, 2005), 16–17.

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