God sees us praying (or not)

Manton Monday — Insights from puritan Thomas Manton

One of the great encouragements for keeping up our prayers comes from the instructions of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount: Matthew 6:6   “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” esv. Jesus reminds us that our heavenly Father sees us. Of course, such a fact will unsettle those who neglect prayer (or do worse things, thinking no one sees them). Puritan Thomas Manton speaks of both consequences of the fact that “God sees” us in secret  — Manton

Here are the encouragements to this personal, private, and solitary prayer, taken from God’s sight, and God’s reward. From God’s sight, [He observes] thy carriage; the posture and frame of they spirit, the fervor and uprightness of heart which thou manifest in prayer is all known to Him. Mark, that which is the hypocrite’s fear, and binds condemnation upon the heart of a wicked man, is here made to be the saints’ support and ground of comfort — that they pray to an all-seeing God (1 John 3:20, “…for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything…”). Their heavenly Father sees in secret; He can interpret their groans, and read the language of their sighs. Though they fail as to the outside of a duty, and there be much brokenness of speech, yet God sees brokenness of heart there, and it is that He looks after. God sees.

[Works, Vol. 1, page 9]

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Pray in a closet?

Manton Monday — Insights from puritan Thomas MantonManton

Matthew 6:5-6   “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” esv

Of course, most of us also know the KJV  which says, “But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door….” In what way are Christians to understand this duty in prayer? Are we to make use of a physical secret place for prayer?

Puritan Thomas Manton provides some helpful insight today —

These words are not to be taken metaphorically, not yet pressed too literally. Not metaphorically, as some would carry them:  ‘Descend into thy heart, be serious and devout with God in the closet of thy soul, which is the most inward recess and retiring place of man.’ This were to be wanton with Scripture. The literal sense is not to be lear without necessity, not yet pressed too literally, as if prayer should be confined to a chamber and closet. Christ prayed in the mountain (Matt. 19:23); and (Gen. 24:63) Isaac went into the field to meditate. The meaning is, private prayer must be performed in a private place, retired from company and the sight of men as much as may be.

[Works, Vol. 1, page 8]

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Combined strength in prayer

Manton Monday — Insights from Puritan Thomas Manton

“Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” Matthew 18:19-20 esv

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The promises of God’s word are precious, especially those related to prayer. One promise found here in Matthew 18 leads us to believe that there is a greater ‘impact’ (for lack of a better word) when groups of believers pray together. Listen to the commentary of Thomas Manton on this Scripture (written while discussing another verse about praying in private).

“When they shall agree in one public prayer, it seems to have a greater efficacy put upon it — when more are interested in the same prayer — when, with a combined force, they do as it were besiege the God of heaven, and will not let Him go unless He leaves a blessing. Look, as the [civil or legal] petition of a shire and county to an authority is more than a private man’s supplication, so when we meet as a church to pray, as as a family, there is combined strength. And in this sense, that saying of the schoolmen is orthodox enough — viz., that prayer made in the church has a more easy audience with God. Why? Because of the concurrence of many which are met there to worship God.”

[Works, Volume 1, page 8; emphasis added]

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Delivered In Person

MANTON MONDAYS – Insights and quotes from Puritan Thomas Manton1140201_bible_in_pew

Learn to regard the promises and threatenings of the Word with more reverence, as if God in person had delivered them to you. 1st Thessalonians 2:13, “For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because when ye received the Word of God, which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but (as it is in truth) the Word of God.”

Look to the threatenings. God has left room for His mercy, and that must be sought in God’s way, or else we have no security and peace.

Look to the promises. Seek after them more, and mind them more. Surely your neglect says you do not count them true (1st John 5:10). If one should offer you a hundred pounds [currency], and you should go away and never accept it, it is a sign that you do not believe him.Venture more on the promises; they are God’s bills of exchange, whereby you have treasures in heaven.

[Works of Thomas Manton, Vol. X.445-446]

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The First Promise of Grace

“14 The LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life.  15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”  Gen. 3:14-15 esv

MANTON MONDAY (from the writings of Puritan Thomas Manton)Manton

These words are a part of the gospel preached in paradise, or the first promise of grace and life made to mankind, now fallen and dead in sin. As God was cursing the serpent, He draws out this comfort to our first parents, who were confounded with the sense of sin and their defection from God. Satan’s condemnation is our salvation. He did the first mischief, therefore the crushing of his head gives hope of our deliverance out of that state of misery into which he has plunged us.

The words are dark in comparison of the larger explications of the grace of God by Jesus Christ which were after delivered to the church. Who would look for a great tree in a little seed? Yet the seminal virtue does afterward diffuse and dilate itself into all those stately and lofty branches in which the fowls of the air do take up their lodging and shelter. So do these few words contain all the articles and mysteries of the christian faith, which are the fountains of our solid peace and consolation. In the seed of the woman is contained all the doctrine concerning the incarnation of the Son of God; in the bruising of his heal, his death and sufferings; in the crushing of the serpent’s head, His glorious victory and conquest. As obscure as these words are, an eagle-eyed and discerning faith could pick a great deal of comfort out of them. The antediluvian fathers, so famous throughout all ages for their faith and confidence in God, had no other gospel to live upon. Abel, who offered a better sacrifice than Cain, Enoch, who walked with God, Noah, who prepared the ark, did all that they did in the strength and upon the encouragement of this promise.  [WORKS of Thomas Manton, XVII.241]

Our help in this world of snares

This world is no friend to those desiring to live in a manner pleasing to God. Thomas Manton wrote, 1308371_81342165

The world is full of snares; we are carnal, and there are carnal persons around us, and the devil is a restless enemy watching for all opportunities; and surely having so much pride in us, and love of pleasure, and so many worldly desires — we give in but too, too often. Therefore, unless GOD keep us, we shall be tossed to and fro like feathers with the wind of every temptation.

How glad we are to have God as our gracious and great helper! The doxology that ends the Epistle of Jude stirs us to praise the Lord —

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
(Jude 1:24-25, ESV)

The temporal trumps the eternal?

Thomas Manton writes:

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“Alas, in general, things temporal work more upon us than things eternal, and the things visible than things invisible. A small matter will prove to be a temptation, and a little pleasure or profit will greatly motivate us. We do not have half the seriousness in spiritual things as in earthly. Surely men do not cherish heaven, since they labor and care for it so little. Alas! They live as if they have never heard of such a thing, or do not believe what they hear, since every toy and trifle is preferred before it. If a poor man understood that some great inheritance was bequeathed to him, would he not often think of it, and rejoice in it, and long to take possession of it? The promise of eternal life is left with us in the gospel, but who puts in for a share? Who longs for it? Who takes hold of it? Who gives all diligence to make it sure? Who desires to go and see it? O, that I might be dissolved, and be with Christ! If these hopes have so little an influence on us, it is a sign we do not cherish them more in our hearts.”

Tooth and Nail?

“But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.” Galatians 5:15 esv

Such violence is brutish. God hath armed the beasts with teeth and claws, but man with reason and judgment; to smite with the hand is beneath a man; to smite with the tongue beneath a Christian…

Thomas Manton, Works v:400

Faith versus sin’s instant gratification

Why do we find the power of a temptation to sin so great, and let go of the delights and future glories that are promised us? Why does the temptation to sinful instant gratification often eclipse our joy in the future gratification offered to us in Christ?

An excerpt today from Thomas Manton is most helpful — beginning with a keen diagnosis of how present temptations work, and then how faith brings us help. pdb

We should have such a faith to substantiate our hopes and to check sensuality, for we find the corrupt heart of man is all for present satisfaction. Though the pleasures of sin be short and inconsiderable, yet, because they are near at hand, they have more influence than the joys of heaven, which are future and absent. We wonder at the folly of Esau to sell his birthright for a morsel of meat, (Heb. 12:16). …When lust is up and eager for fulfilment, all considerations of eternal glory and blessedness are laid aside to give it satisfaction.

A little pleasure, a little gain, a little happiness in the world will make men part with all that is honest and sacred. A man would wonder at their folly, but the great reason is, they live by sense: “Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me” (2 Tim. 4:10). Here lies the bait, these things are present; we can taste the delights of the world, and feel the pleasures of the flesh; but the happiness of the world to come is a thing unseen and unknown. “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” (1 Cor. 15:32).

This is the language of every carnal heart. …Present advantages and vanities, though they are small and but trifles, have more power to pervert us than good things at a distance, and the promises of God, even, to allure and draw in our hearts to God. Here lies the root and strength of all temptations; the inconveniences of strictness in religion are present, and they may have present distaste and present trouble to the flesh, and our rewards are yet future.

So, how can we check this ‘living by sense’ that is so natural to us? Why, faith, substantiating our hopes provides a remedy. Faith makes things to become as real as if they were already enjoyed. …Where faith is alive and strong, and is “the conviction of things not seen”, it baffles and defeats all temptations.

~ Thomas Manton (1620-1677)

*This comes from Manton’s reflections on Hebrews 11. They are all profitable sermons, available online (plain text format), but also published by The Banner of Truth Trust.

This world is not your home…

King David, even at home in his comfortable palace, spoke of himself as a sojourner — one still traveling towards home. Puritan Thomas Manton explains that God’s children should count the world as a strange place, and Heaven to be their home.

David… had so ample a possession (he was king over an opulent and flourishing kingdom), yet Psalm 119:12 says, I am a stranger with thee, and a sojourner…. Not only he that was a wandering partridge, and flitted up and down, but David that was settled in a throne, he that was so powerful and victorious a prince … he doth acknowledge, Lord, I am a stranger. Jesus Christ, who was Lord paramount, he tells us I am not of this world (Jn 17:14)… He that was Lord of all, had neither house nor home; he passed through the world to sanctify it for a place of service; but his heart and constant residence was not here, to fix it as a place of rest. And so all that are Christ’s, have the Spirit of Christ, and say, as David in the text, I am a stranger in the earth. We do not dwell upon earth, but only pass through it.