Thomas Manton (1620-1677): There is no wrinkle upon the brow of eternity

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The Puritans are a delight to read, not only because of what they say, but especially because of how they say it. They had a wonderful way with words, and Thomas Manton (1620-1677) was no exception. In a sermon on Psalm 119:89 (“Forever, O LORD, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens”), he expounds the attributes of God in relation to eternity, and writes the following regarding God’s power:

“His power is eternal; therefore it is said, Rom. i. 20, that his eternal power and godhead is clearly understood from the creation of the world, and seen in the things that are made. How else could so many things be educed out of nothing, and still kept from returning into their original nothing, if there were not an infinite and eternal power then and still at work? So Isa. xxvi. 4, ‘Trust ye in the Lord for ever, for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength.’ We may depend upon him, for his arm is never dried up, nor doth his strength fail; there is no wrinkle upon the brow of eternity. God is where he was at first; he continueth for ever a God of infinite power, able to save those that trust in him.”

Later in the same sermon, Manton brings temporal things into the light of eternity:

“This eternity of God is not seriously and sufficiently enough thought of and improved, till it lessen all other things in our opinion and estimation of them and affection to them. Two things should especially be lessened—the time we spend in the world, and the things that we enjoy in the world.

[1.] The time we spend in the world. Alas! what is this to God’s eternity! Ps. xxxix. 5, ‘Behold, thou hast made my days as an handbreadth, and mine age is nothing before thee.’ Whether our days be spent in prosperity or adversity they are but short, a hand-breadth, a mere nothing, compared with God’s eternity: Ps. ex. 4, ‘A thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night.’ A thousand years, compared to eternity, are but as a drop spilt and left in the ocean, or as time insensibly past over in sleep. Forty, fifty, or seventy years seemeth a great time with us; yet with God, who is infinite, ten thousand years is no considerable space, but a very short and small duration.

[2.] As time, so the things of the world: 2 Cor. iv. 18, ‘The things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.’ They are short as to continuance and use. As to continuance, he calleth the honours and delight of Pharaoh’s court, Heb. xi. 25, ‘The pleasures of sin for a season.’ Whatsoever is temporal a man may see the end of it. Be it evil: a man in the deep waters is not discouraged as long as he can see banks; but in eternity there are neither banks nor bottom. If good: Ps. cxix. 96, ‘I have seen an end of all perfection.’ The most shining glory will shortly be burnt out to a snuff; it wastes every day. Eternity maketh good things infinitely good, and evil things infinitely evil. If it be temporal, whatever paineth us is but a flea-bite to eternal torments. Whatever pleaseth or delights, it is but a may-game to eternal joys. So for use too, it is but for a season, Deut. xxiii. 24; the law gave an indulgence to eat of his neighbours’ grapes for refreshment; ‘But thou shalt not put any in thy vessel:’ 1 Tim. vi. 7, ‘For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.’ The manna was useful and refreshing when used in the day, but if kept all night it perished and was useless; it was useful in the wilderness, but ceased when they came to Canaan.”

Manton concludes his sermon thus:

“Be resolvedly true to your end, which is the enjoyment of God, and that will quicken you the more, and direct you; for the end is both our measure and our motive. In short, do all things from eternal principles to eternal ends. The eternal principle is the grace of the Spirit; the eternal end is the pleasing, glorifying, and enjoying of God: Phil. i. 11, ‘Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ unto the praise and glory of God.’ Actions carried on from eternal principles, according to an eternal rule, for an eternal end, cannot miscarry.”

– Thomas Manton (1620-1677), Works, Vol. VII, Sermon XCIII

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