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Puritan Thomas Manton – When God’s Word is Hidden in Your Heart (Christian devotional)
11 Your word I have hidden in my heart,
That I might not sin against You.
12 Blessed are You, O Lord!
Teach me Your statutes.
Thomas Manton – (1620-1677), Puritan clergyman
Born in Laurence Lydiard, Somerset, Manton was educated locally and then at Hart Hall, Oxford where he graduated BA in 1639. Joseph Hall, bishop of Norwich, ordained him deacon the following year. He never took priest’s orders, holding that he was properly ordained to the ministerial office. He was then appointed town lecturer of Collumpton in Devon. After a profitable few years, he was called to the parish of Stoke Newington in Middlesex in the winter of 1644-1645, and began to build a reputation as a forthright and popular defender of Reformed principles. This led to his participation in several key events, such as the Westminster Assembly and confession publication, and his being asked to preach before Parliament on several occasions.
After ten years in Middlesex, he was appointed to the living of St. Paul’s in Covent Garden. Again he became very popular and continued to exercise a wide influence on public affairs, calling for the restoration of Charles II in 1660. For his part in this he was offered the Deanery of Rochester by the new monarch, but he refused on conscience grounds. He had disapproved of the execution of Charles I. In 1658, he had assisted Richard Baxter to draw up the Fundamentals of Religion. He was one of Oliver Cromwell’s chaplains and a trier.
The Act of Uniformity 1662 saw Manton resign his living with many other Puritans in protest at this attack on their Reformed principles. Despite his lack of patronage, he continued to preach and write even when imprisoned for refusing to cooperate.
Although Manton is little known now, in his day he was held in as much esteem as men like John Owen. He was best known for his skilled expository preaching. His finest work is probably his Exposition of James.
“I do not regard him as a writer of striking power and brilliancy, compared to some of his cotemporaries. He never carries you by storm, and excites enthusiasm by passages of profound thought expressed in majestic language, such as you will find frequently in Charnock, and occasionally in Howe. He never rouses your inmost feelings, thrills your conscience, or stirs your heart of hearts, like Baxter. Such rhetoric as this was not Manton’s gift, and the reader who expects to find it in his writings will be disappointed.
As a writer, I consider that Manton holds a somewhat peculiar place among the Puritan divines. He has pre-eminently a style of his own, and a style very unlike that of most of his school. I will try to explain what I mean.
Manton’s chief excellence as a writer, in my judgment, consists in the ease, perspicuousness, and clearness of his style. He sees his subject clearly, expresses himself clearly, and seldom fails in making you see clearly what he means. He has a happy faculty of simplifying the point he handles. He never worries you with acres of long, ponderous, involved sentences, like Goodwin or Owen. His books, if not striking, are generally easy and pleasant reading, and destitute of anything harsh, cramped, obscure, and requiring a second glance to be understood. For my own part, I find it easier to read fifty pages of Manton’s than ten of some of his brethren’s; and after reading, I feel that I carry more away.
Manton was a Calvinist in his theology. He held the very doctrine which is so admirably set forth in the seventeenth Article of the Church of England. He held the same views which were held by nine-tenths of the English Reformers, and four-fifths of all the leading divines of the Church of England down to the accession of James I. He maintained and taught personal election, the perseverance of the saints, the absolute necessity of a regeneration evidenced by its fruits, as well as salvation by free grace, justification by faith alone, and the uselessness of ceremonial observances without true and vital religion. As an expositor of Scripture, I regard Manton with unmingled admiration. Here, at any rate, he is ‘facile princeps’ among the divines of the Puritan school.”