Puritan Pastor Thomas Manton wrote the following, while preaching on Psalm 119:6. It reminds us that if we allow even one sin to linger around our feet, we may be undone.
“Keep but your passion afoot, or your lust afoot, or your worldliness afoot, and it will carry you further [away]. One sin keepeth possession [of you] for Satan; allow but one lust and corruption in the heart, and that will undermine all,and become thine eternal ruin; as one leak may sink a ship. A bird, tied by the leg, many make some show of escape. You never totally renounced Satan’s government, and wholly gave up yourselves to God. By keeping a part, the whole falleth to his share.”
Resolved to battle sin in me more fiercely,
James I. Packer has a great little article on CT’s Christian History web site, entitled God’s Chemo for My Cancered Soul. He is a fan of the puritans, and draws much help from John Owen.
Here are two paragraphs from the heart of Packer’s article…
Reaching across three centuries, Owen showed me my inside—my heart—as no one had ever done before. Sin, he told me, is a blind, anti-God, egocentric energy in the fallen human spiritual system, ever fomenting self-centered and self-deceiving desires, ambitions, purposes, plans, attitudes, and behaviors. Now that I was a regenerate believer, born again, a new creation in Christ, sin that formerly dominated me had been dethroned but was not yet destroyed. It was marauding within me all the time, bringing back sinful desires that I hoped I had seen the last of, and twisting my new desires for God and godliness out of shape so that they became pride-perverted too. Lifelong conflict with the besetting sins that besetting sin generates was what I must expect.
What to do? Here was Owen’s answer, in essence: Have the holiness of God clear in your mind. Remember that sin desensitizes you to itself. Watch—that is, prepare to recognize it, and search it out within you by disciplined, Bible-based, Spirit-led self-examination. Focus on the living Christ and his love for you on the cross. Pray, asking for strength to say “no” to sin’s suggestions and to fortify yourself against bad habits by forming good ones contrary to them. And ask Christ to kill the sinful urge you are fighting, as the theophanic angel in C. S. Lewis’s Great Divorce tells the man with the lizard to do.
We ought to take sin seriously. We ought to seek greater holiness, with the Spirit’s help.
I can still remember the day, well over a decade ago I was reading comments on Psalm 119 by my favorite Puritan, Thomas Manton, and ran across this helpful explanation of the exercise of faith. The verse from the psalm is this: 2 Blessed are those who keep his testimonies,
who seek him with their whole heart (esv).
Manton: “FAITH is often expressed by forms of motion: coming, running, going, seeking. Thus is the whole tendency of soul towards God expressed by terms that are proper to outward motion. COMING notes our serious resolution and purpose to make after God. GOING note the practice or progress in that resolution. RUNNING nots the fervour and earnestness of the soul to enjoy God. And SEEKING, that notes our diligence in the use of means.”
Every Tuesday I hope to post a delicious morsel from my favorite Puritan, Thomas Manton (c.1620–1677). Emphasis is my own.
“To convince us of sin, to humble the heart, to reduce and bring us back to God, there is no rule for this but the law of God. Men make laws as tailors do garments, to fit the crooked bodies they serve for, to suit the humours of the people to be governed by these laws; surely they are not a sufficient rule to convince us of sin, and to guide us to true happiness. A civil, orderly man is one thing, and a godly, renewed man, another. It is God’s prerogative to give a law to the conscience, and the renewed motions of the heart. Human laws are good to establish converse with men, but too short to establish communion with God; and therefore we must consult with the rule, which is “the law of the Lord,” that we many not come short of true blessedness.”
— Sermon on Psalm 119:1
(Page 6, Volume 1 of 3, Psalm 119, Banner of Truth Trust, 1990)