Thomas Manton on the Excellency of Saving Faith
To depend upon an invisible God for a happiness that lies in an invisible world, when in the meantime He permits us to be harassed with difficulties and troubles, requires faith. It is faith that makes us row against the stream of flesh and blood, and deny its cravings, that we may eventually obtain eternal salvation.
They that are thirsty of bodily life, and the comforts and interests of it, are certainly prodigal of their salvation. The flesh importunes to be pleased. Sense says to us, “Favor yourself, spare the flesh,” but faith says, “Save your soul.”
To creatures wedded to sense and present enjoyment, it is difficult and hard to cause us to set our hearts on another world, and lay up our hopes in heaven, and to part with all things which we see and love and find comfortable to our senses, for that God and glory which we have never seen. But we undervalue God’s gracious promises, whose accomplishments must with patience be expected, while their future goodness comes in actual competition with these bodily delights which we must forego, and those grievous bodily afflictions which we must endure, out of sincere respect to Christ and His ways.
The word of God must be our whole security, as being enough to support our hearts in waiting for it, however God may cover Himself with frowns and an appearance of anger in those afflictions which befall us in the way. The scriptures are written to direct us to know Christ aright, who is the kernel and the marrow of all the scriptures, who is the great subject of the Gospel. The chief benefit we have by Him is eternal life, by which all our pains and losses for Christ are recompensed, and from where we fetch our comfort all along during the course of our pilgrimage, and upon the hopes of which the life of grace is carried on, and the temptations of sense are defeated, so that this is the main blessing which faith aims at.
Nature declares there is a God; scripture declares there is a Christ. And shall we neglect this great salvation brought to us by Jesus Christ, or coldly seek after it? I judge Him faithful that has promised, and depend upon Him that He will make good His word, though this happiness is future and lies in another unseen, unknown world to which there is no coming but by faith.
In our passage to heaven we meet many temptations. We are assaulted both on the right hand and on the left with terrors of sense, which are a discouragement to us, and the delights of sense, which are a snare to us. Christ’s service will bring trouble with it. All that is precious in the world must be renounced, or else we shall not be able to hold out.
We owe God blind obedience. If God will have it so, faith must find a way through the great deep. No dangers are so great that we must decline. Certainly we have no true belief of the promise of eternal life if we can venture nothing upon it. That religion is worth nothing that costs nothing. Are you content to be at some considerable cost for eternal life? Most men love a cheap gospel.
Whether you like it or not, you are at God’s disposal and cannot shift yourselves out of His hands, either here or hereafter. It is a part of your duty to voluntarily surrender yourselves to be disposed of and ordered by God according to His pleasure, to be content to be what He will have you to be, and to do what He will have you to do. You must be content to enjoy what God will have you enjoy, and to lack what He will have you lack, and to lose what He will have you lose.
– From Volume 2 of Manton’s Works