November 1, 2014

Thomas Manton (1620–1677) on God's Common Mercy, Patience, and Invitations

9. Consider your own experiences. We have not only heard that God is merciful, but we have known it. All men may speak of patience, and common mercy, and outward deliverances, but few improve them to a spiritual use and purpose. (1.) Consider God's patience; how long hath he waited for your conversion? and he that hath spared you can save you. It is said, 'The wages of sin is death,' Rom. iv. 23. The word implieth that God is bound to pay it by virtue of an implicit bargain and agreement between him and the creature. But as yet the hand of God hath not found you out; you are indebted to justice, but mercy stoppeth the arrest of vengeance. Many others have been taken away in their sins by a sudden arrow and dart from heaven; vengeance hath trodden upon the heel of sin; as Zimri and Cosbi unloaded their lusts and their lives together; the angels for an aspiring thought were turned out of heaven; Gehazi was blasted with leprosy just upon his lie; and Lot's wife turned into a stone for a look, a glance upon Sodom; and Herod smitten with lice in the midst of his pomp and vainglory: and some have 'perished in the midway,' Ps. ii., in the very heat of some carnal and wicked pursuit. God can do the like to you; therefore reason thus: If mercy would not save me, why hath mercy spared me? God might have sued out the bond long since; what is the meaning of the dispensation? Is God weak or unjust? or hath he a mind to be gracious? Surely he would not have spared me all this while, if he had not a mind to save my soul. Such reasonings as these many times give us the first encouragement to apply ourselves to God. Wicked me, like spiders, draw other conclusions, Ps. 1. 21. But should not his patience, &c., Rom. ii. 4. (2.) Consider God's goodness in giving thee food, and clothing, and honour, and gladness of heart, and all this without thy desert. say, Certainly all these benefits are but so many baits to catch my soul. I see the sun riseth every day with a fresh countenance, and shineth upon the fields of just and unjust; to what purpose, but to show that God is gracious without hire? This bodily sun is but an obscure type of the Sun of Righteousness, that is willing to display his beams and wings over a poor languishing soul. Common mercies are the tastes of God's love while you are sinners, and the common fruits of Christ's death, that you may be invited to come for more. Why hath he given me 'the unrighteous mammon,' but that I may look after 'the true riches'? What a vile unthankful heart should I have, if I should be contented with mammon without Christ, and be like Judas, with the bag in my hand, and the devil in my heart! God's children are wont to make these gifts a step to higher dispensations: they know God, like the good householder, bringeth forth the best at least; therefore they must have something above and beyond all these things. Common hearts are contented with common mercies; but they are still waiting when the master of the feast will bid them sit higher. I may have this and be damned; where are the arguments of his special love? (3.) Consider deliverances from imminent dangers. Then the curse began to seize upon you; but God snatched you out of the fire like 'brands out of the burning,' Amos iv. 11; or like a debtor that escapeth out of the sergeant's hands. Every deliverance is a temporary pardon: see Ps. Ixviii. 38, 'Then he, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity, and destroyed them not;' the meaning is, respited vengeance, as appeareth by the context. So Mat. xviii. 32, 'He forgave them the debt;' yet it was after required; the meaning is, spared them for the present. Thus when God taketh you out of the teeth and jaws of wrath, when you are delivered out of sickness and apparent danger, you have a reprieve or a temporary pardon. Oh! if you had died, you had died in your sins, and so been eternally miserable: if the Lord had taken the present advantage, you had been howling a sad note among the screech-owls of darkness. Forever blessed be that mercy that made a rescue!

10. Consider God's invitations. Mercy pointeth and beckoneth to thee to come and be saved. How many means hath God used to call thee to himself! Every good motion is a call, every preacher a messenger sent from heaven to invite thee to Christ, every sermon a new summons. Plead with thyself, Though God hath not drawn me, yet he hath warned me. The elect have no more favour in the general means than thou hast. Though God's grace be limited by the pleasure of his wisdom, yet thou hast a fair warrant and encouragement, and every way as good a ground to come to Christ as others have: 'Whosoever,' &c., John vi. 37. When the gospel doth not exclude me, why should I exclude myself? Doubts that God will not accept me if I come, are but foolish jealousies without a cause. But it is time to leave off this meditation upon God's mercy, which hath carried me out so far, and to come to the uses.


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