This week we want to continue through the neglected Puritan Thomas Manton's (1620–1677) "Christ's Temptation and Transfiguration Practically Explained and Improved in Several Sermons” (Works 1, 258–336). Sermon 3 treats Matthew 4:5–6 (click here for sermon 1 and sermon 2).

This is a particularly insightful and practical sermon on the role of Satan and angels both in Christ's temptations as well as our own.

In dealing with Satan's use of Psalm 91:11–12, Manton described "the devil's cunning in citing Scripture" (Works 1, 278). Just as Satan disguises himself as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14) and just as he "took the habit [clothing] and guise of a prophet," in this account he "cometh like a divine [theologian], with a Bible in his hand, and turneth to the place; here the enemy of God cometh with the word of God, and disguiseth the worst of actions with the best of words, opposeth God to God, and turneth his truth to countenance it" (Works 1, 278). Manton applied this with a general principle: "Christians, you have not to do with a foolish devil, who will appear in his own colours and ugly shape but with a devout devil, who, for his own turn, can pretend to be godly" (Works 1, 278). Remember that! Satan is no fool; he is devout.

In the second half of the sermon Manton offered several observations. The first was that although Christ rejected Satan's first temptation Satan continued "like a troublesome fly that is often beaten off" since he "is incessant in his attempts against the saints, and is ready to assault afresh upon every occasion" (Works 1, 280). Because of this you and I must incessantly watch out for him and his temptations.

The third observation is an allegorical one. Since Satan took Christ up to the pinnacle of the temple and tempted him to cast himself down, Manton observed: "If Satan lead us up, it is to throw us down" (Works 1, 282). This observation has spoken most to me as I pray I do not allow my head to be lifted up so high in pride by Satan that I come crashing down to the destruction of myself and everyone around me. May God help us all in this!

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Observation six is the longest and deals in two parts with the ministry of angels. Manton speaks of them not as ministers of conversion and sanctification but of preservation (Works 1, 284). He then digresses into the age-old question of whether each believer has a guardian angel. Manton's answer? "It is enough for us to believe that all the angels are our guardians" (Works 1, 285). He went on to say that their ministry was not the care of souls (cura animarum) but the service of outward help (ministerium externi auxilii), in which he further described them as custodians/guardians of the body (custodia corporisWorks 1, 285). Why did the Lord choose to work through angels? For four reasons:

  1. To manifest the great love and care which God hath over his people
  2. We understand the operation of finite agents better tan infinite
  3. To counterwork the devil
  4. To begin our acquaintance, which in heaven shall be perfected (Works 1, 285).

What use is this ministry of the angels towards us in our temptations? This shows us our happy state as God's people, since "no heirs of a crown have such guards as they have" (Works 1, 285). This breeds confidence and comfort in difficulities when all visible help seems at an end (Works 1, 286). This should cause us to live holy lives because they are among us (Works 1, 286).

Congrats to Timothy C. of Sweet Water, PA, and Linda M. of Lytle, TX, winners of our book giveaway for Wayne Spear's, Faith of Our Fathers.

Entry into our newest book giveaway is now open and the deadline is April 22. Thanks to our friends at Latimer Trust, we have two (2) copies of Lee Gatiss', The Tragedy of 1662: The Ejection and Persecution of the Puritans.

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In concluding our series on the Puritan vision for Christian zeal (part 1part 2part 3, part 4), we now take up come practical ways in which we can put it into practice. We must pray for grace to put Christian zeal into action, whatever our calling in life may be. Let us look briefly at three callings: the ministry, the laborer, and the parent.
 
The Ministry
If you are called to be a minister, it would be tragic for you to follow that calling without zeal. William Gurnall (1616-1679) said that ministers must have “a zealous boldness,” writing, “Jeremiah tells us the word of God was as fire in his bones; it broke out of his mouth as the flame out of a furnace” (The Christian in Complete Armour, 2:578). The zealous minister has a tender love for souls and labors for their salvation (1 Cor. 9:22). He catechizes and instructs the ignorant (1 Tim. 4:11), rebukes and persuades the profane (Titus 1:9–13), exhorts and encourages those seeking God’s grace (2 Cor. 5:20), assures those who have begun to run well (1 Tim. 4:13), establishes the wavering and doubtful (Titus 2:1), revives the fearful and despondent (1 Tim. 4:16), restores the rebellious (2 Cor. 2:6–8), comforts those who are strong and faithful with the hope of glory (1 Tim. 4:6), and zealously intercedes for the flock entrusted to him (Col. 4:12–13). (John Reynolds, Zeal a Virtue: Or, a Discourse Concerning Sacred Zeal, London, 1716, pp. 163–64) It is true that such things are incumbent upon the minister whether he is zealous or not, but how impossible these things would be if his heart were cold and lifeless in its calling?
 
The Laborer
Consider the environment in which a Christian laborer works. He is constantly confronted by bad examples; within hearing of profanity, coarse joking, and blasphemy; subjected to gossip, slander, complaining, backbiting, malicious speech, and lies; subjected to office smut in which sin is glamorized, marriage vows are broken, and flirting is fun. He is exposed to immodest dress, seductive speech, and wanton eyes. He faces orders and expectations that require him to lie, cheat, steal, deceive, withhold information, and present half-truths as full truths. 
 
The zealous laborer will be ever mindful that God is the source of his calling. Because God has placed him in the workplace, the zealous laborer will work not to be seen by men, or only when his boss is looking, but rather, will do all his work as unto the Lord who “hired” him (Eph. 6:5–9). His goal will be the Lord’s favor and pleasure, not only in his duties but also in the way he speaks of his work (without murmuring) and regards it. He will do his work joyfully, thankfully, and willingly, desiring that it might be a sweet-smelling offering and sacrifice unto the Lord his God (Eph. 5:2). We will then be enabled to work for our superiors “with good will” (Eph. 6:7). William Gouge (1575-1653) said that Christians should be “both quick and diligent” in serving those in authority over them, where quick means he does not waste time on a task but tries to get a lot done and diligent means he puts effort and care to do his job well (Of Domesticall Dutiesreprinted, 1976, 620).
 
The zealous laborer will also be mindful of the temptations particular to his calling. Some workers are required to travel away from home and family and spend many nights alone in hotels. Some must work closely with people of the opposite sex, whether in person or over the phone or through e-mail. Some are constantly exposed to the sins of others. 
 
The zealous laborer will not be outwitted by Satan but will be mindful of his wiles (2 Cor. 2:11). He will consider the places and situations where Satan has most likely set his traps and will be on guard against those temptations. He will be mindful that Satan is warring against him and will not miss the least opportunity to destroy him (1 Peter 5:8). He will guard his ears against conversations that would fill his mind with evil and will think only on things which are good (Phil. 4:8). He will strive to know his own heart and the temptations to which he is prone (Ps. 139:23–24) and will therefore guard his heart above all else (Prov. 4:23). He will make a covenant with his eyes to put no wicked thing before them (Ps. 101:3; Job 31:1). He will meditate upon the things of God (Ps. 1:1–3) to ever turn his feet into the way of God’s commandments (Ps. 119:59). He will store God’s Word in his heart that he might not sin against Him (Ps. 119:11).
 
Parents
Of all callings, parenting is the most demanding. The Christian parent is called to lead little ones to God, yet he struggles with their natural rebellion against the things of God, their pride, their selfishness, their innate love and desire for sin, and the inherited corruption of their nature. Against this barrage of natural wickedness, the parent understands that he must discipline his children and protect his children from straying into danger. 
 
It gets even more difficult. Not only does the parent face the sinfulness of his children, but he must also obey his calling in the face of his own sinfulness. He must expect from his children the very thing he is struggling to give himself, and he must discipline them for disobedience in the very areas in which he continues to struggle. This makes him feel like a hypocrite, nags at his conscience, and weighs heavily on him every time he has to correct his children. There is no excuse for his sin, but overlooking their sin just because he is struggling too only encourages their sin. Precisely because parenting is so hard, parents must constantly fan into flame the zeal of their love for their children. Gouge wrote, “The fountain of parents’ duties is love…. For great is that pain, pains [labors], cost, and care, which parents must undergo for their children. But if love be in them, no pain, pains, cost, or care, will seem too much.” (Of Domesticall Duties, 498)
  • The zealous parent gives serious consideration to the gravity, need, and promises of his calling. The gravity of a parent’s calling is inescapable, for God will hold us accountable for our children’s souls. As stewards of the Lord’s children, we are given the charge to bring them up according to His instruction for Him (Eph. 6:4). 
  • The zealous parent is constrained to personal holiness and true repentance. He pursues his own holiness to be an example and an encouragement to his children. He wants them to see Christ in him and in turn to desire “the God of their father.” He wants them to see that he is different from unbelieving parents only by God’s grace. He therefore puts the highest priority on his walk with Christ, seeking by God’s grace that his relationship with Christ will be used by God for their salvation. He also manifests true repentance when he sins. What the parent seeks to mirror, then, is the zealous life of faith and repentance to which the Lord calls him.
  • The zealous parent strives to be faithful in discipline and instruction (Eph. 6:4), applying the rod of correction (Prov. 13:24; 22:15; 23:14) as well as the loving hand of nurture and guidance (Prov. 22:6), for these are his parental duties before God and are neglected to his and his children’s peril. But the zealous parent also knows that God is the only One who can crown these efforts with success and bring his children to a saving end. Therefore, the zealous parent will be more on his knees than at his rod, more in his prayer closet than at his parental lectern, and will talk to God more about his children than to his children about God. 
  • The zealous parent will make the most zealous use of the means appointed by God to bring the good news of salvation to them, namely, public and family worship. He will ensure that his children are in God’s house every Lord’s Day (Heb. 10:24–25), where they partake of the blessings of God upon His people. There they can enjoy the presence of the Triune God among His people, witness the grace of God in them, and hear the Word of God assuring them weekly that God will save all who come to Him by Jesus Christ (Isa. 55:1–3, 6–7). 
  • The zealous parent will also take care not to neglect regular family worship (Deut. 4:9–10; 6:6–9; Ps. 78:1–7). He views consistent family worship during the week as important as weekly public worship and therefore is obligated before God to see that his children enjoy both. His daily family worship will consist of Scripture reading, so his children might be daily brought before the Word of God and the good news of Jesus Christ; of prayers with his family, so he might teach his children how to pray and encourage them to call upon the Lord who hears (Isa. 65:24); and of singing, so his children might learn to praise God and ever be reminded that God alone is worthy of their worship, adoration, and service.
There are several passages in the New Testament that appear to make a stark contrast between the Old or Mosaic Covenant—the covenant relationship the Lord made with Israel at Mount Sinai (e.g., Ex. 19-24)—and the New Covenant made with believers in Jesus Christ. Consequently, if you are going to argue cogently that the Mosaic Covenant is a gracious covenant and the same in substance with the New Covenant, then you will need to provide an adequate explanation of these passages.
 
One such passage is John 1:17: “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” We will look at this verse through the lens of John Ball (1585-1640) and his book, A Treatise on the Covenant of Grace.
 
Undoubtedly, the apostle John is making a contrast between the Old (Mosaic) and New covenants. On one side of the divide is Moses and the law while on the other is Christ, grace, and truth. The issue, therefore, is not if there is a contrast but what kind of contrast there is. Since "law" is pitted against "grace" it would be easy to assume that it is a law/gospel or a covenant works/covenant of grace contrast. In other words, God through Moses related to Israel in the Promised Land on the principles of law, commandments, and works whereas God through Christ relates to the church in the world on the substantially different principles of grace, promise, and faith. However, as Ball pointed out, one problem with this approach is that Moses taught the gospel (e.g., John 5:46). So how then did Ball understand John 1:17? Simply put, he said that the contrast is between promise and fulfillment.
 
The law that was given through Moses included the ceremonial laws that prefigured the saving work of Christ. Because these laws were mere copies of God’s true redemptive work in Christ they were weak and ineffective. The blood of bulls and goats couldn’t take away the sins of God’s people or empower them to keep the commandments. The law could not in and of itself procure those things which it symbolized and signified. The only way for the law or Old Covenant to be effectual was but by the coming of Christ and the New Covenant. The copy had to be replaced by the reality. The shadow had to give way to the truth. Ball wrote, “The first covenant therefore could not be fulfilled or effectual, but by the bringing in of a second, which was prefigured thereby" (p. 119).
 
This aspect of the law of Moses is the key to unlocking the contrast in John 1:17. “Law” is indeed set in opposition to “grace” but in the sense that a weak copy is opposed to the powerful reality. Grace doesn’t come from the law itself but from Jesus who is the truth, and not a copy of the truth:
The Law was given by Moses [John 1:17] and the righteousness of faith was taught by Moses, as our Saviour testifies [John 5:46]. Why then does the Apostle in the words following add by way of opposition, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ? The sense of the place seems to be this, that the Law prefiguring Christ, and redemption in Him, and teaching and commanding what ought to be done, but neither giving grace to do it, nor containing the substance of the thing prefigured, was given by Moses: but grace to do what was commanded came from Christ, in whom also the substance of what was prefigured by the Ceremonies is fulfilled (p. 119; see also John Calvin’s comments on John 1:17).
Although the law pointed to Christ and spoke of Christ, it could not do what only Christ could do and it could not give what only Christ could give. This is not to say that the Mosaic Covenant was devoid of grace (forgiveness and renewal) but that the grace received under Moses came not from the law of Moses but from Christ. This is why Ball said that the Old (first) Covenant had to be superseded by the New Covenant. The only way for the Old Covenant to be a gracious covenant and administer the gospel was for Christ to come in fulfillment of the Old Covenant.
 
With this understanding of John 1:17 we might paraphrase it thus: Moses delivered the law, which included impotent copies and shadows of salvation in Christ; grace and truth, that is actual salvation, including the forgiveness of sins and the power to obey, came through Jesus Christ. This verse, therefore, does not contradict the position that the Mosaic Covenant is a gracious covenant. For the contrast is not between works and grace but between promise and fulfillment.

 
 
Thanks Todd Pruitt! Thanks for "sharing" this on Facebook last week! You ruined my weekend. Okay, that's a bit hyperbolic, but after watching this clip (in the complete sermon it's at 22:53–24:53) where Steven Furtick says, “God broke the law for love,” I felt I had to respond.
 
So I consulted with the great Miles Finch and asked him, "Should I respond?" Here was his answer:

And away we go.

There are so many things about this that make me want to SCREAM! How could anyone give an "Amen" to this? Beware of analogies from our lives in trying to explain the character of the incomprehensible God! Has this guy ever picked up a basic book of Christan theology and worked through it thoughtfully? But I digress. What is really so bad about this is what it says about the character of God and the cross of Christ.

 
"God Broke the Law": The Character of God
To say, "God broke the law for love," confuses people at best about the character of God and destroys the character of God found in Scripture at worst.
 
The Law & God's Righteousness
The way Furtick speaks of the "law" makes it sound like it's just some verbal predication and convention that God can set up, take down, use, or ignore at his whim. It's not! The law is a manifestation of the righteous character of God himself, in which we hear, "And God spoke all these words" (Ex. 20:1). For example, all throughout Romans 1-3 the inspired apostle speaks of the "righteousness of God," meaning, that God "will render to each one according to his works" (Rom. 2:6). If you do good, God will righteously give you eternal life; if you do evil, God will righteously give you eternal death (Rom. 2:6-11). And then right after saying this, Paul speaks of the concrete way in which we know God's righteousness to render according to works: the law. The law is "the embodiment of knowledge and truth" (Rom. 2:20) of God himself. This is why the law is like a mirror, reflecting the righteousness of God and our sins (Rom. 3:20). The law is God's righteousness revealed. (On the justice of God, see also Thomas Watson, A Body of Divinity, pp. 87-93)
 
Is the Law Breakable by God?
Can God break his own law, therefore, that reflects himself to humanity? Wilhelmus à Brakel (1635–1711), a Dutch pastor and theologian of the nadere reformatie (Dutch "puritanism"), put the question like this:
In reference to the avenging justice of God, does God punish sin because it pleases Him, since He could refrain from doing so if He so desired, or is the punishment of sin a necessary consequence of the righteous character of God, so that He cannot but punish sin, that is, He cannot let sin remain unpunished? (The Christian's Reasonable Servicep. 128)
Note that first part: "does God punish sin because it pleases Him, since He could refrain from doing so if He so desired?" Since God is God, he is free and unconstrained. Yet, as à Brakel went on to say, "The freeness with which God exercises His will should not be construed to mean that it is a matter of indifference to Him whether or not He punishes sin" (p. 128). Is God free? Yes. Is he free to break his own law? No. Furtick sounds as if God can change when he says, "God broke the law."
 
The Necessity of God's Righteousness
God's righteousness is neither a constraint nor indifference; instead, it is what we call a "necessary consequence." à Brakel explained this to mean that "God by virtue of His perfect, holy, and righteous character is inclined as the only wise God to punish sin at a time and in a manner suitable to Him" (p. 128). God as the superlatively righteous God must punish sin; he cannot avoid doing this and we cannot avoid experiencing this. For God to withhold righteousness would actually be unjust and completely contrary to who he is. God is righteous; God must punish the unrighteousness of the unrighteous. He cannot set his righteousness aside, as Furtick's words lead one to believe. As Scripture says:
  • “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” (Gen. 18:25)
  • "...keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty." (Ex. 34:7)
  • “...you hate all evildoers. You destroy those who speak lies; the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.” (Ps. 5:5-6)
  • "The Lord judge the peoples...you who test the minds and hearts, O righteous God." (Ps. 7:9)
  • “The Lord is a jealous and avenging God; the Lord is avenging and wrathful; the Lord takes vengeance on his adversaries and keeps wrath for his enemies. The Lord is slow to anger and great in power, and the Lord will by no means clear the guilty.” (Nah. 1:2-3)
"...For Love": The Cross of Christ
To say, "God broke the law...for love," again confuses people at best about the cross of Christ and destroys the character of the cross found in Scripture at worst.
 
The illustration Furtick gives pits law versus love, God's righteousness versus his grace. To this à Brakel once wrote, "You are guilty, however, of distorting the essential meaning of the grace of God by interpreting it to refer to remission of sin and absolution from punishment apart from satisfaction" (p. 129; emphasis mine). Furtick comes off as such as "grace-saturated" preacher and his people are left thinking of God as so, so gracous. But love apart from law is not grace. Again, à Brakel is so good here: "Grace is not incompatible with justice, but confirms it" (p. 129).
 
Why is God's character as righteous so important to empahsize in light of this sermon clip? Because it directly affects the nature of the cross of Christ. God has so loved the world—a world that has done nothing to deserve anything and in fact everything to forfeit!—in giving his Son (John 3:16). And all God people said, "Amen!" But you have to ask what did God give his to do? To die. Jesus was born to die. Why? To demonstrate that God has loved us sinners so much that he would provide the very way his character demands that sin be dealt with. As Paul says, the cross was meant "to show [God's] righteousness" (Rom. 3:25). How? That he might show his justice in punishing our sins and satisfying the righteous demands of God that he might show his grace and love in being the justifier of the one who simply believes (Rom. 3:26). And so on the cross Jesus, who had no sin, became sin for us as our sins were imputed to him, so that we, who were nothing but sin, might become the righteousness of God through Christ's righteousness being imputed to us (2 Cor. 5:21).
 
In response to the sentiment of this sermon, I say this to you, brothers and sisters in Christ: apart from the never-compromising righteousess of God punishing his Son and being satisfied by his Son on the cross there is no salvation for a world of sinners like you, me, and our unsaved friends. This is love. This is grace. As John Newton said so many centuries ago:
Let us love, and sing, and wonder,
Let us praise the Savior's name!
He has hushed the law's loud thunder,
He has quenched Mount Sinai's flame.
 
Let us wonder, grace and justice
Join and point to mercy's store;
When we trust in Christ our fortress,
Justice smiles, and asks no more.
What have you done for me lately? As a former basketball player I new this line well. No one cared about your last game. All that mattered was today and what you would do in the games to come. It’s no stretch of the imagination to say that this kind of attitude affects us all. At least here in America, we are captive to the arrogance and self-centeredness of chronological snobbery. We do not look to the past nor do we care much about it; but what we do care about is today and progressing into the future. As believers in Christ we have been liberated from the bondage of such a worldview. More and more we are to be transformed in our minds from such a worldview (Rom. 12:1–2).
 
One of the ways we see the Word of God challenge this worldview is in its revelation of God’s eternal decrees. Think about that: God’s plans and his eternal plans are disclosed to us, sin-bound creatures. The Westminster Larger Catechism says it like this:
What are the decrees of God?

God's decrees are the wise, free, and holy acts of the counsel of his will, whereby, from all eternity, he hath, for his own glory, unchangeably foreordained whatsoever comes to pass in time, especially concerning angels and men. (Q&A 12)
In summary, the Catechism teaches us that the decrees of God are his plan and his purpose for all things. As believers, we need to spend time meditating upon the past—even eternity. One place in Scripture we read of these decrees for “whatsoever comes to pass in time” is Ephesians 1:4–11.
 
His Plan for All Things
God’s decrees are his plan for all things. The Christian God does not only know “the end from the beginning,” in the sense that he knows all potentialities that could and may happen, but he is the God who declares all actualities “from ancient times things not yet done” (Isa. 46:10). This is why he can say, “I am God, and there is none like me” (Isa. 46:9). And in Ephesians 1, Paul expresses with his pen the doxology in his heart about this truth of God. Paul’s present “blessed be” (Eph. 1:3) is rooted in the eternal “to be” of God. Notice in Ephesians 1 several aspects of God’s plan for all things.
 
A Wise Plan
Paul says God’s eternal plan is wise. Paul speaks of the eternal decree of election and predestination of us so that we would become sons of God through Christ (1:4–5). He goes on to say that this decree was executed in our lives when “he lavished upon us [grace], in all wisdom and insight” (1:8). God’s plans, then, are never arbitrary, haphazard, or random; they are wise. In a personal sense, when I came to faith, where I came to faith, and how I came to faith were all a part of God’s wisdom applied in my life.
 
A Free Plan
His plan is also free. We read that it was “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” who has blessed us (1:3), who has chosen us (1:4), and who has predestined us all according to “the purpose of his will” (1:5). Nothing outside of him, in any way whatsoever, compelled or constrained God to do this. The only thing that moved him was his own will (1:5, 11), which our older translators called God’s “good pleasure” (eudokia). This is illustrated in the fact that Paul praises God for choosing us “that we should be holy” (1:4). This led Augustine to say in his debates with the Pelagians, “Not therefore because we were to be so, but that we might be so” (Non ergo quia futuri eramus, sed ut essemus) [De Praedestinatione Sanctorum, 18.36].
 
What a comfort this is to us, miserable sinners! If God based his plan for us on anything in us, even if he waited a million lifetimes, he would not find anything worthy. This is why Paul says, “Blessed be…God.” This is why we do as well.
 
An Eternal Plan
His plan is also eternal. God chose us in Christ “before the foundation of the world” (1:4). One of the implications of this is that God’s decrees are unchangeable. As we saw above in what the Lord said through Isaiah centuries before, God has foreordained the end from the beginning. And God concluded this statement, saying, “My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose” (Isa. 46:10).
 
When we meditate upon this, it leads us both to serene rest and vigorous activity. Our salvation is of the Lord from eternity past into eternity future. As a believer I can exclaim with confidence and joy, “It is finished.” And because of this, I am led to vigorous action. The same God who says he “works in [me], both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13) also says to me, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12). In other words, the eternal God who decreed from eternity my eternal salvation also decreed this through the use of temporal and tangible means. I need to receive the Word by reading it, hearing it preached, and by meditating upon it. I need the tangibility of the sacraments for my temporal weaknesses. I need prayer and fasting to draw me closer to my Father. I need the fellowship of my brothers and sisters. In the words of Thomas Watson, “As a man who refuses food murders himself, so he that refuses to work out his salvation destroys himself” [A Body of Divinity, 69–70].
 
A Comprehensive Plan
The final aspect of God’s plan is that it is a comprehensive plan. It concerns all things. One of the most powerful verses that led me to become an Augustinian in my view of grace is Ephesians 1:11: “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.” Our predestination to salvation is just one aspect of God’s larger purpose and counsel for everything. “All things” are executed in time and space because they were purposed in eternity. And in that, I can thank God when the world seems hell-bent on its own destruction. God is in control.
 
His Purpose for All Things
Because he is in control, we also learn that God’s decrees are his purpose for all things. The Catechism says the decrees of God are “for [the purpose of] his own glory.” We see this in many ways in Ephesians 1. We were predestined “that we should be holy and blameless” (1:4), that is, that we should glorify God in our lives. We were adopted into God’s eternal family “to the praise of his glorious grace” (1:6), that is, to demonstrate his overflowing riches of benevolence and love. And as Paul concludes, we who have hoped in Christ exist “to the praise of his glory” (1:12).
 
What a difference in approach God’s revelation of himself makes for us in contrast to how we the all-too-often reason. When we think of God’s eternal decrees, we all too often get bogged down into a labyrinth of speculation about things like the order of the decrees. Yet God in his Word makes it very clear how he wants us to approach this deep truth: all of this is meant to cause us to praise and glorify him now, and into eternity. And it’s when I meditate upon my past, and further behind that, to God’s past, that I am of most use to my neighbor now and in the future.
Alright, you could rightly say that Cotton Mather (1663-1728) does not meet the strict historical definition of a “Puritan” preacher (see Mark Jones' post here). Still, as a Massachusetts Bay Colony boy, son of Increase Mather, and grandson of John Cotton and Richard Mather, he stands firmly in the Puritan preaching tradition.
 
Here I want to focus on his, Manductio ad Ministerium: Directions for a Candidate for the Ministry (1726). We could say that Mather’s was the first official American word on preaching.
 
Devotional Reading
In this work, Mather viewed the preacher as a gold digger in the “Rich Mines” of Scripture in order to become “a Skilful Artist” for God, which he cannot do without regular and devotional Bible reading. So, Mather charged: “Read them Child; I say, Read them, with an Uncommon Assiduity.” This sounds like my seminary president, E. Robert Jordan who told preachers in training over and over and over in a chapel sermon, “Men, Read your Bibles, Read your Bibles, Reeeeaad your Bibles.” After 20 years, I can’t get that piece of advice out of my head even if I do struggle to keep it in my heart. By the way, preachers, did I mention that, in order to be an effective preacher, Mather says that you need to read your Bibles?
 
Exegesis
Mather also noted that good exegesis demands a sanctified heart since, all the commentators in the world, “are poor Things to interpret the Bible, in Comparison of an Illiterate Christian” with “a sanctified Soul. . . Among all the Hermeneutic Instruments for the opening of the Scriptures, We say of This; There is none like it.” Regarding commentaries in general (as he wrote in the 1720s), Mather viewed those of Matthew Henry as the best in terms of learning combined with “Experimental Piety.”
 
Proclamation
Turning to the act of proclamation, Mather reminded the preacher, “you are now coming to feed the Flocks on the High Mountains of Israel” and must enter into the pulpit “with a Trembling Soul.” I guess that means no "ice-breaker" jokes! Furthermore, he warned against anything but “Well-Studied Sermons” and called preachers who “use other Men’s Sermons,” nothing but “Pitiful Parsons.” Cancel your sermon subscription service! He also supported preaching through books of the Bible but demanded liberty to providentially treat subjects “the Necessities of the People” call for. He exhorted preachers to plan ahead and avoid spending “almost as much Time in determining what Subject” to preach as to making “a Sermon upon it.” He urged treating Christ as the sum and substance of all preaching with this  “Motto” upon all preaching, “CHRIST IS ALL.” Likewise, if hearts are to be “Suitably touched”, the preacher must prayerfully depend on the Lord for both himself and then his hearers to be affected. “To feel what you Speak,” he affirms, “how wondrously will it qualify you to be a Lively Speaker!” Hmmm, all of this sounds pretty relevant for today, does it not?
 
Delivery
Regarding delivery,  Mather argued that “a Well prepared Sermon should be a Well pronounced One.” Some suggestions included: avoiding all that is indecent, speaking deliberately, not beginning too high, concluding with vigor, and using notes without “dull Reading.” Concerning pulpit notes, let them “be little other than a Quiver, on which you may cast your Eye now and then, to see what Arrow is to next fetch’d . . .  and then, with your Eye as much as may be on them whom you speak to, Let it be shot away, with a Vivacity becoming One in Earnest, for to have the Truths well entertained” by the hearers. Obviously, we cannot dictate how much “paper” a preacher carries into the pulpit. However, we should note well that Mather knew the difference between being preaching “to” someone and preaching “at” them. It is a challenge to fully grasp this distinction and even more difficult to take action upon it.
 
“Finally,” concludes Mather, appeals to the conscience should be powerfully placed by “the Hands of that flaming Preacher in the Bosom of the Hearer. In such Flames you may Do wondrously!”  May the Lord gift the church with such "on fire" preachers!

This week we want to continue through Thomas Manton's (1620–1677) "Christ's Temptation and Transfiguration Practically Explained and Improved in Several Sermons” (Works 1, 258–336).
 
Sermon 2 treats Matthew 4:2–4. As with sermon 1, Manton follows the classic Puritan plain style of preaching, opening with the basic scope of the text, structuring his sermon along the lines of the text itself, deriving doctrines, and offering uses of those doctrines for his hearers' souls' sake.
 
Under the heading, "The Occasion," Manton delves into the depths of catholic Christology in dealing with Christ's forty days and nights of fasting. This aspect of his work reveals his true humanity, since Christ "submitted to all our sinless infirmities." Note well: Manton speaks of Christ's partaking of our sinless infirmities as something he did in the past in his state of humiliation and not a present reality in his state of exaltation (see Westminster Larger Catechism, Q&A 39 & 48 as compared with Q&A 52). The temptation also reveals his divinity, since it "enabled him to continue . . . without eating or drinking anything" (Works 1, 267). Here Manton shows us how preachers can preach the intricacies of Chalcedonian Christology all the while doing so in a way that is understandable and experiential to our people. Not only this, Manton shows us that it is necessary to know our theology and to preach that theology when it arises from the text.
 
Under the heading, "The Temptation Itself," Manton exposits the devious ways of Satan so well. But while he is doing so, his purpose is to highlight the true sufferings of our Savior as well as our need to be on guard for his wiles. For example, Manton gives a general proverbial statement concerning the Devil's work in tempting Christ when he was hungry: "Satan fits his temptations to men's present case and condition" (Works 1, 268). One of the wonderful things Manton points out is that this temptation of Satan was intended "to weaken his [Christ's] confidence in the care and love of God's fatherly providence" (Works 1, 270). We don't think enough of the fact that as our truly human elder brother, Jesus needed to trust in the Lord. In doing so, he lays a foundation for our doing so as well because we are united to him!
 
Under the heading, "Christ's Answer," Manton may sound moralistic to our overly-sensitive biblical-theological/redemptive-historical ears, when he speaks of Christ's answering Satan with Scripture: "This answer is not given for the tempter's sake, but ours, that we may know how to answer in like cases, and repel such kind of temptations" (Works 1, 272). In our modern context, I would ask those so on guard for "moralism," is it not the point of the Reformed biblical-theological movement that because of our union with Christ we live out of Christ? If Christ answered the Devil with Scripture, we who are in union with him need to do as he did: "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Gal. 2:20).
 
In conclusion, Manton offers five "observations" from the text that relect on the theological and practical reality of Christ's temptation for us. If you've never read Manton, you need to because this is where he is so, so good. He exposits the text and he applies the text.
  1. "God may leave his children and servants to great straits" (Works 1, 273).
  2. "The devil maketh an advantage of our necessities" in order to tempt us "to unlawful means to satisfy our hunger . . . to question our adoption . . . to draw us to a diffidence and distrust of God's providence" (Works 1, 273–274).
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  3. In tempting, Satan pretendeth to help the tempted party to a better condition" (Works 1, 274–275).
  4. "Satan's first temptations are more plausible," meaning, he tempts us with little things that don't sound so bad at first (Works 1, 275).
  5. "There is no way to defeat Satan's temptations but by a sound belief of God's all-sufficiency, and the nothingness of the creature" (Works 1, 275).

In 2016, every two months (Feb, Apr, June, Aug, Oct, Dec) we will be producing a Meet the Puritans Resource, which you will be able to find linked under Our Resources. These will be classic texts with introductions, footnotes, and modernized language. The purpose is to introduce you to the treasures of the Reformed tradition.

April's Resource is J.I. Packer's well-known "Introduction" to John Owen's classic work, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ:

In the context of the English-speaking Atlantic world during the 18th century, many of the oppressed were African enslaved persons. Yet during this time many enslaved Africans became Christians partly because of the Great Awakening. There is evidence from the mouths and pens of enslaved African Christians that they gospel that they heard and the Christianity that they believed was from a Reformed perspective. My focus in this post is on an enslaved African James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw.
 
We know Gronniosaw through his, A Narrative of the Most Remarkable Particulars in the Life of James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw, published in 1772 in London. In fact, this was one of the earliest, if not the earliest, English-language slave narrative. Gronniosaw was born in the kingdom of Bornu, a major West African kingdom in what is now Niger, Nigeria, Chad, and Cameroon. He gives his audience no date or year of birth since West Africans societies didn’t mark time by years or months. "W. Shirley," who wrote the Preface to the work, reckoned that Gronniosaw was sixty in 1772 and had been captured when he was fifteen. So Gronniosaw would have been born ca. 1710, and captured ca. 1725. What illustrates that the sin of chattel slavery was no respector of persons was the remarkable fact that Gronniosaw’s grandfather was the King of Bornu, which, of course, made him a prince.
 
This young prince's enslavement came through a bit of subterfuge. A merchant from the Gold Coast who traded in Bornu noticed convinced Gronniosaw, his parents, and his grandfather that living with him on the coast would serve him well. The trader assured Gronniosaw and his family that he would return. That never happened, of course. The merchant sold Gronniosaw to the captain of a Dutch ship off the coast of West Africa. After surviving the Middle Passage and arriving in Barbados, the captain sold him to a man from New York City, where he ventured became a house servant. Then, in what is a perplexing fact for us to look back upon, a minister named "Freelandhouse" purchased Gronniosaw. It was in that minister’s household that Gronniosaw learned about God and how to pray. He also accompanied his master to public worship each Lord’s Day. And it was during those Lord's Day sermons that Gronniosaw became convinced of his sin.
 
In his Narrative, Gronniosaw credits the Lord in bringing him to faith through ordinary means in that he recalled the gospel, especially that Jesus Christ was the Lamb of God. He also found solace in a relationship with his schoolmaster, and in reading Richard Baxter’s A Call to the Unconverted. Through reading Scripture, prayer, reading good literature, and being discipled, Gronniosaw felt his sins forgiven. He related an occasion in which he saw a light from heaven that shone only on him while he prayed for about a minute. He wrote: “I continued on my knees, and joy unspeakable took possession of my soul. --The peace and serenity which filled my mind after this was wonderful, and cannot be told.” He also thought on the text from Jeremiah 32:40: “I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts that they shall not depart from me.” Following this he went to his old school master to tell him, and they both rejoiced. Shortly after, his master died, and upon his deathbed set Gronniosaw free. After some years in freedom but still working for his master’s family, he landed in England.
 
What we can reflect on is here is the Lord's providence in the life of an African slave who served in a Dutch Reformed household in New York City. From the text of the Narrative it is clear that this particular Dutch Reformed slaveholding family included slaves in their household piety. Records show that there were other slaveholding households that operated in the same way. In these contexts, slaves received catechetical instruction at home and went to public worship. We have evidence of slaves being full communicant members of Dutch Reformed churches in New York. As full members of the church, this meant that they were able to baptize their babies.
 
Yet, we also need to acknowledge that the Reformed understanding of the time allowed for slaves to be members of the churches but to remain slaves. This was their (mis)understanding of New Testament passages such as 1 Corinthians 7, Ephesians 5, Colossians 3, and Paul's letter to Philemon. Many lacked an 18th century application of those passages, failing to question the premise that chattel slavery was the same as ancient slavery/servitude in the Graeco-Roman world. While Gronniosaw received his freedom from slavery at his master's death, the majority of African slave captives who became Christians and communicant members of the Dutch Reformed Church, remained enslaved, and would so for another 1oo years.
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Assistant Professor of History 
& Director of the African and African Diaspora Studies Minor
Calvin College, Grand Rapids, MI