Some Memoirs of the Life and Character of the Reverend and Learned Thomas Manton - by Dr. William HarrisThomas Manton (1620-1677) - One of the most prolific puritans of the day.
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“One way to get comfort is to plead the promise of God in prayer, show Him His handwriting; God is tender of His Word.”
Though the lives of great and excellent persons have been always reckoned a useful piece of history, and scarce anything is read with greater entertainment, yet it has often happened that they have been undertaken with great disadvantage, and not till the best means of collecting proper materials, either by the neglect of their friends, or the distant publication of their works, have been in a great measure lost. So it was in the Life of the famous Mr. Richard Hooker, which was not undertaken by Dr. Walton till near seventy years after his death. By this means there is reason to fear some memorable passages were past recovery, after all inquiry, in the lately-published account of that extraordinary person, Mr. John Howe, by Dr. Calamy.
And thus it has proved in the present case. One cannot but wonder that the life of a person of so great worth and general esteem, and who bore so great a part in the public affairs of his own time, was never attempted while his most intimate friends, and they who were best acquainted with the most remarkable passages concerning him, were yet alive. It has been thought, however, not improper upon this occasion to retrieve that error as far as may be, and lay together in one view what can be now gathered from some of his relations yet living, from his own writings, and the memoirs of those who published his works and were contemporary with him. And it is to be hoped that this short and imperfect account, drawn up under disadvantage indeed, but with strict regard to truth, may do some justice to the memory of so excellent a person and the interest he espoused, and give some entertainment and instruction to the world.
Dr. THOMAS MANTON was born in the year 1620, at Lawrence-Lydiat, in the county of Somerset. His father and both his grandfathers were ministers. He had his school-learning at the free school of Tiverton, in Devonshire. He run through his grammatical studies, and was qualified to enter upon academical learning at the age of fourteen, which was very unusual in those days, when the methods of school-learning were more difficult and tedious, and youth designed for the university were commonly detained to eighteen or nineteen years of age.
But his parents, either judging him too young, or loth to part with him so soon, kept him some time longer before he was sent to Oxford. He was placed in Wadham College in the year 1635; and, after preparatory studies, he applied himself to divinity, which was the work his heart was chiefly set upon, and which he designed to make the business of his life. By a course of unwearied diligence, joined with great intellectual endowments, he was early qualified for the work of the ministry, and took orders much sooner than was usual, and than he himself approved upon maturer thoughts and after he had more experience. There is a remarkable passage to this purpose in his Exposition of James, in which he expresses the humble acknowledgment of his fault, and which has proved monitory and affecting to others. He delivered it with tears in his eyes. It is on the 19th verse of the first chapter, ‘Be slow to speak.’ ‘I remember,’ says he, ‘my faults this day; I cannot excuse myself from much of crime and sin in it. I have been in the ministry these ten years, and yet not fully completed the thirtieth year of my age – the Lord forgive my rash intrusion.’
He was ordained by the excellent Joseph Hall, then Bishop of Exeter, afterwards removed to Norwich, who took particular notice of him upon that occasion, and expressed his apprehensions ‘that he would prove an extraordinary person.’ The times when he first entered into the ministry were full of trouble, the king and parliament being at open variance, and hostilities breaking out on both sides. He was confined to Exeter when it was besieged by the king’s forces. After its surrender he went to Lime. He preached his first sermon at Sewton, near Exeter, on those words, ‘Judge not, that ye be not judged,’ a copy of which is now in the hands of a relation. It was some time before he had any fixed place for the exercise of his ministry. He first began at Culhiton, in Devonshire, where he preached a weekly lecture, and was much attended and respected. There he had an occasion of reforming the disorderly practice of those who, after the example of a leading gentleman, fell to their private devotion in the congregation after the public worship was begun.
At his coming to London, he was soon taken notice of as a young man of excellent parts and growing hopes. Here he neither wanted work, nor will to perform it, for he was in the vigour of his youth, and applied himself to it with great diligence and pleasure, for which he was remarkable all his life. About this time he married Mrs. Morgan, who was a daughter of a genteel family of Manston, in Sidbury, Devon, and not Mr. Obadiah Sedgwick’s daughter, whom he succeeded in Covent Garden, as Mr. Wood mistakes it. She was a meek and pious woman, and though of a week and tender constitution, oulived the doctor twenty years, who was naturally hale and strong.
He had not been above three years in the ministry, before he had his first settlement, which was at Stoke Newington, in Middlesex, near London. He was presented to this living by the Honourable Colonel Popham, in whom he had a most worthy and kind patron; and was highly honoured and esteemed by him and his religious lady.
It was here he began and finished his excellent exposition of the Epistle of James on his week-day lectures, which he carried on without an assistant, besides his constant preaching both parts of the Lord’s-day. This exposition has been thought by good judges to be one of the best models of expounding Scripture, and to have joined together with the greatest judgment the critical explication and practical observations upon the several parts. Some time after, he went through the Epistle of Jude. This, though excellent in its kind, is not so strictly expository, but more in a sermon way, which he says was more in compliance with the desires of others than with his own judgment.
This was almost finished while he continued at Newington, and was dedicated to the Lady Popham.It is worth observing with what respect and sense of obligation he treats the colonel and his lady, and – so contrary to the modern modish way of address – with what faithfulness at the same time he warns them of their temptations and danger.
He continued seven years at Newington, and possessed the general respect of his parishioners, though there were several persons of different sentiments from himself. Being generally esteemed an excellent preacher, he was often employed in that work in London on the week-days; and other weighty affairs sometimes called for his attendance there. The custom of preaching to the sons of the clergy began in his time. Dr. Hall (afterwards Bishop of Chester, and son of the famous Bishop Hall of Norwich) preached the first sermon to them, as Mr. Manton did the second. He was several times, though not so often as some others, called to preach before the Parliament, and received their order in course for printing his sermons; though, I think, he never published but two of them himself. Some of them are printed among his posthumous works. In all of them the wisdom and judgment of Dr. Manton, in the suitableness of the subject to the circumstances of the times, and the prudent management of it to the best advantage, are very visible; particularly after he had given his testimony among the London ministers against the death of the king, he was appointed to preach before the Parliament. His text was, Deut. xxxiii. 4, 5, ‘Moses commanded us a law, even the inheritance of the congregation of Jacob; and he was king in Jeshurun, when the heads of the people and the tribes of Israel were gathered together.’ When they were highly offended at this sermon, some of his friends advised him to withdraw, for some in the House talked of sending him to the Tower, but he never flinched, and their heat abated.
His removal from Newington to Covent Garden was occasioned by the great age of Mr. Obadiah Sedgwick, who was now disabled for his work. The people growing uneasy, several worthy persons were proposed for the place, but Mr. Sedgwick would not be prevailed with to resign till Mr. Manton was mentioned, and to that he readily yielded. He was presented to the living, with great respect and satisfaction, by his noble and generous patron, the Earl, afterwards Duke, of Bedford, who greatly esteemed him to his dying day, and sent him, as a mark of his respect, a key of the garden which then belonged to Bedford House, either to walk in it at his leisure, or as convenient passage to the Strand. He had in this place a numerous congregation of persons of great note and rank, of which number was oftentimes the excellent Archbishop Usher, who used to say of him, that he was one of the ‘best preachers in England,’ and that he was a ‘voluminous preacher;’ not that he was ever long and tedious, but because he had the art of reducing the substance of whole volumes into a narrow compass, and representing it to great advantage. Mr. Charnock used to say of him, that he was the ‘best collector of sense of the age.’
Dr. Manton had a great respect for Mr. Christopher Love, who was beheaded in the year 1651, by the then Parliament, for being concerned with some others in sending remittances abroad to support the royal family in their distress. I am informed that he attended him on the scaffold at Tower Hill, and that Mr. Love, as a token of his respect, gave him his cloak. The doctor was resolved to preach his funeral sermon, which the Government understanding, signified their displeasure, and the soldiers threatened to shoot him; but that did not daunt him, for he preached at St Lawrence Jury, where Mr. Love had been minister, to a numerous congregation, though not graced with the pulpit cloth, or having the convenience of a cushion. He was too wise to lay himself open to the rage of his enemies; but the sermon was printed afterwards, under the title of ‘The Saint’s Triumph over Death.’ Lord Clarendon speaks of Mr. Love in terms of great disrespect, upon the report of a sermon he preached when he was a young man, at Uxbridge, at the time of the treaty. How far he might fail in his prudence in so nice a circumstance, I am not able to say; but it appears, from the accounts of them who well knew him, and by the resentment his death generally met with at that time, as well as by several volumes of sermons printed after his death, that he was a person of worth and esteem. It was certainly a rash and ungenerous censure in the noble author, of one he knew so little at that time, and who afterwards lost his life for serving the royal family.
The Government afterwards, for what reason it was best known to themselves, seemed at least to have an esteem for him, though he was far from courting their favour. When Cromwell took on him the Protectorship, in the year 1653, the very morning the ceremony was to be performed, a messenger came to Dr. Manton, to acquaint him that he must immediately come to Whitehall. The doctor asked him the occasion: he told him he should know that when he came there. The Protector himself, without any previous notice, told him what he was to do, that is, to pray upon that occasion. The doctor laboured all he could to be excused, and told him it was a work of that nature which required some time to consider and prepare for it. The Protector replied that he knew he was not at a loss to perform the service he expected from him; and opening his study-door, he put him in with his hand, amid bid him consider there, which was not above half an hour. The doctor employed that time in looking over his books, which, he said, was a noble collection. It was at this time, as I am informed, that the worthy Judge Rookesby had the misfortune, by the fall of a scaffold, to break his thigh, by which he always went lame, and was obliged to have one constantly to lead him. He was an upright judge, and a wise and religious person; he was constant to his principles, and always attended the preaching of good old Mr. Stretton to his dying day.
About this time the doctor was made one of the chaplains to the Protector; and appointed one of the committee to examine persons who were to be admitted to the ministry, or inducted into livings; as he was afterwards appointed one in 1659, by an act of that Parliament in which the secluded members were restored. And though this proved troublesome to him, considering his constant employment in preaching, yet he has been heard to say, that he very seldom absented himself from that service, that he might, to his power, keep matters from running into extremes; for there were many in those days, as well as in these, who were forward to run into the ministry, and had more zeal than knowledge; and perhaps sometimes persons of worth liable to be discouraged. There is a pretty remarkable instance of his kind respect to a grave and sober person, who appeared before them (cap in hand, no doubt), and was little taken notice of, but by himself: he, seeing him stand, called for a chair, in respect to his years and appearance; at which some of the commissioners were displeased. This person appeared to be of a Christian and ingenuous temper; for, after the Restoration, he was preferred to an Irish bishopric, perhaps an archbishopric; for he used to give in charge to Bishop Worth, whose occasions often called him over to England, that on his first coming to London he should visit Dr. Manton, and give his service to him, and let him know, that if he was molested in his preaching in England, he should be welcome in Ireland, and have liberty to preach in any part of his diocese undisturbed. What interest he had in the Protector he never employed for any sordid ends of his own, who might have had anything from him, but purely to do what service he could to others: he never refused to apply to him for anything in which he could serve another, though it was not always with success. He was once desired by some of the principal Royalists to use his interest in him for sparing Dr. Hewit’s life, who was condemned for being in a plot against the then Government; which he did accordingly. The Protector told him, if Dr. Hewit had shown himself an ingenuous person, and would have owned what he knew was his share in the design against him, he would have spared his life; but he was, he said, of so obstinate a temper, that he resolved he should die. The Protector convinced Dr. Manton before he parted that he knew how far he was engaged in that plot.
While he was minister at Covent Garden, he was invited to preach before the Lord Mayor and Court of Aldermen, and the Companies of the city, upon some public occasion, at St Paul’s. The doctor chose some difficult subject, in which he had opportunity of displaying his judgment and learning, and appearing to the best advantage. He was heard with the admiration and applause of the more intelligent part of the audience; and was invited to dine with my Lord Mayor, and received public thanks for his performance. But upon his return in the evening to Covent Garden, a poor man following him, gently plucked him by the sleeve of his gown, and asked him if he were the gentleman who had preached that day before my Lord Mayor. He replied, he was. ‘Sir,’ says he, ‘I came with earnest desires after the word of God, and hopes of getting some good to my soul, but I was greatly disappointed; for I could not understand a great deal of what you said; you were quite above me.’ The doctor replied, with tears in his eyes, ‘Friend, if I did not give you a sermon, you have given me one; and, by the grace of God, I will never play the fool to preach before my Lord Mayor in such a manner again.’
Upon a public fast at Covent Garden church, for the persecuted Protestants in the valleys of Piedmont, Dr. Manton had got Mr. Baxter, who happened to be then in London, and Dr. Wilkins, who was afterwards Bishop of Chester, to assist him. Mr. Baxter opened the day, and preached upon the words of the prophet Amos, chap. vi. 6: ‘But they are not grieved for the afflictions of Joseph.’ He, after his manner, took a great compass, and grasped the whole subject. Dr. Manton succeeded him, and had chosen the same text: he was obliged often to refer to the former discourse, and to say, every now and then, ‘As it has been observed by my reverend brother.’ Dr. Wilkins sat cruelly uneasy, and reckoned that between them both he should have nothing left to say; for he had got the same text too. He insisted upon being excused, but Dr. Manton obliged him to go up into the pulpit; and by an ingenious artifice, he succeeded admirably. Before he named his text, he prepared the audience by expressing the fears of their narrow-spiritedness, and little concern for the interest of God in the world: ‘For,’ says he, ‘without any knowledge or design of our own, we have all three been directed to the same words.’ Which, spoken with the majesty and authority peculiar to the presence and spirit of that excellent person, so awakened the attention, and disposed the minds of the people, that he was heard with more regard, and was thought to do more good than both the former, though he had scarce a single thought throughout the sermon distinct from the other two.
In the year 1660 he was very instrumental, with many other Presbyterian divines, in the restoration of King Charles II. It must be owned, by impartial judges, that the Presbyterian party, who had the greatest influence in the nation at that time, had the greatest share in that change; nor could all the Episcopal party in the three kingdoms have once put it into motion, or brought it to any effect, without them, though they had all the favour and preferment bestowed upon them afterwards; which, whether it were more just or politic, more agreeable to the laws of equity or the rules of prudence, I leave to the reader to determine. Perhaps, if the king had been brought in upon the conditions the noble Earl of Southampton would have proposed, and which were approved by the Earl of Clarendon, when it was too late, it had prevented a great deal of the arbitrary and violent proceedings of that loose and luxurious reign, and contributed to the safety and happiness of the prince, and people too. He was one of the divines appointed to wait upon the king at Breda, where they were well received, and for some time after greatly caressed. The doctor was sworn one of the king’s chaplains by the Earl of Manchester, Lord Chamberlain, who truly honoured him. He was one of the commissioners at the Savoy Conference, and used his utmost endeavours in that unsuccessful affair. Dr. Reynolds, afterwards Bishop of Norwich, joined with those divines who were for alterations in ecclesiastical affairs. He was the first who received the commmssion from the Bishop of London, of which he immediately acquainted Dr. Manton. The original letter is now in my hands, and expresses the candour and goodness of that excellent person, and his great respect for Dr. Manton. It is in these words: –
‘Sir, – This morning the Bishop of London sent me the commission about revising the Liturgy under the great seal, to take notice of; with direction to give notice to the commissioners who are not bishops. I went to Mr. Calamy, and it is desired that we meet to-morrow morning at nine o clock, at his house, in regard of his lameness, to advise together, and send a joint letter to those who are out of this town. He and I desire you not to fail; and withal to call upon Dr. Bates and Dr. Jacomb in your way, to desire their company. So, with my best respects,
‘I remain your most loving brother,
‘EDWARD REYNOLDS, B.N.
‘LONDON, April 1, 1660.
He was offered at this time the deanery of Rochester, which Dr. Harding was in great fear he would accept, and plied him with letters to come to some resolution; having reason to hope that, upon his refusal, he should obtain it, as he afterwards did. The doctor kept it some time in suspense, being willing to see whether the king’s declaration could be got to pass into a law, which they had great encouragements given them to expect, and which would have gone a great way towards uniting the principal parties in the nation, and laying the foundation of a lasting peace. Many persons who had, in the former times, purchased bishops’ and deans’ lands, earnestly pressed him to accept the deanery, with hopes they might find better usage from him in renewing their leases, and offered their money for new ones, which he might have taken with the deanery, and quitted again in 1662, there being then no assent and consent imposed; but he was above such underhand dealings, and scorned to enrich himself with the spoils of others. When he saw the most prudent and condescending endeavours, through the violence and ambition of some leading men, availed nothing to the peace of the church and the happiness of the nation, he sat down under the melancholy prospect of what he lived to see come to pass, namely, the decay of serious religion, with a flood of profaneness and a violent spirit of persecution. The greatest worth and the best pretensions met with no regard where there were any scruples in point of ceremony and subscription.
In the interval between the Restoration and his ejectment, he was greatly esteemed by persons of the first quality at court. Sir John Baber used to tell him, that the king had a singular respect for him. Lord Chancellor Hyde was always highly civil and obliging to him. He had free access to him upon all occasions, which he always improved, not for himself, but for the service of others. I shall only give a single instance. Mr. James, of Berkshire, who was afterwards known by the name of Black James, an honest and worthy person, was at the point of being cast out of his living, which was a sequestration. He came to London to make friends to the Lord Chancellor, but could find none proper for his purpose. He was at length advised to go to Dr. Manton, to whom he was yet a stranger, as the most likely to serve him in this distress. He came to him late in the evening, and when he was in bed. He told his case to Mrs. Manton, who advised him to come again in the morning, and did not doubt but the doctor would go with him. He answered, with great concern, that it would be too late; and that if he could not put a stop to it that night, he and his family must be ruined. On so pressing a case the doctor rose, and, because it rained, went with him in a coach to the Lord Chancellor, at York House; who spying the doctor in the crowd, where many persons were attending, called to him to know what business he had there at that time of night. When he acquainted him with his errand, my lord called to the person who stamped the orders upon such occasions, and asked him what he was doing? He answered, ‘that he was just going to put the stamp to an order for passing away such a living.’ Upon which he bid him stop; and upon hearing further of the matter, bid the doctor not trouble himself, his friend should not be molested. He enjoyed it to the time of his ejectment, in 1662, which was a great support to a pretty numerous family. Upon his refusing the deanery, he fell under Lord Clarendon’s displeasure, so fickle is the favour of the great; and he once accused him to the king for dropping some treasonable expressions in a sermon. The king was so just and kind as to send for him, and ordered him to bring his notes. When he read them, the king asked, whether upon his word this was all that was delivered; and upon the doctor’s assurance that it was so, without a syllable added to it, the king said, ‘Doctor, I am satisfied, and you may be assured of my favour; but look to yourself, or else Hyde will be too hard for you.’
In whatsoever company he was, he had courage, as became a faithful minister of Christ, to oppose sin; and upon proper occasions, to reprove sinners. Duke Lauderdale, who pretended to carry it with great respect to him, in some company where the doctor was present, behaved himself very indecently: the doctor modestly reproved him, but the duke never loved him afterward. He was once at dinner at Lord Manchester’s in Whitehall, when several persons of great note began to drink the king’s health, a custom which then began to be much in vogue, and was commonly abused to great disorders. When it came to him, he refused to comply with it, apprehending it beneath time dignity of a minister to give any countenance to the sinful excess it so often occasioned in those times. It put a stop to it at that time, and Prince Rupert, who was present, inquired who he was. Many of the Scotch nobility greatly respected him, particularly the Duchess of Hamilton, who attended his ministry. Notwithstanding the great and weighty affairs then on foot, which took up a great part of his time, he never omitted his beloved work of constant preaching, to the time of his ejection, in 1662. He then usually resorted to his own church, where he was succeeded by Dr. Patrick, the late Bishop of Ely. It happened cross, that Dr. Patrick receiving a scurrilous letter from an unknown person, full of reflections upon himself, had so little wisdom at that time as to charge it upon Dr. Manton, in a letter to him, with very unbecoming reflections. This occasioned his not attending any more his preaching; for no man living more abhorred a base and unworthy action. Having this occasion of speaking a little to his dis-advantage, I shall take the opportunity of doing a piece of justice to the memory of that learned person, who has since, by many books of devotion, and excellent paraphrases and commentaries on the scripture, as well as by his exemplary life, done so much good to the world, and deserved so well of the Christian church. It has been generally allowed, that Dr. Patrick wrote the first volumes of the ‘Friendly Debate,’ in the heat of his youth, and in the midst of his expectations; which by aggravating some weak and uncautious expressions, in a few particular writers, designed to expose the Nonconformist ministry to contempt and ridicule. The design was afterwards carried on by a worse hand, and with a more virulent spirit, a method altogether unreasonable and unworthy, because it will be always easy to gather rash and unadvised expressions from thse weaker persons of any party of men, and only serves to expose religion to the scorn and contempt of the profane. But Bishop Patrick in his advanced age, and in a public debate in the House of Lords, about the ‘Occasional Bill,’ took the opportunity to declare himself to this purpose: ‘That he had been known to write against the Dissenters with some warmth, in his younger years; but that he had lived long enough to see reason to alter his opinion of that people, and that way of writing; and that he was verily persuaded there were some who were honest men and good Christians, who would be neither, if they did not ordinarily go to church, and sometimes to the meeting; and on the other hand, some were honest men and good Christians, who would be neither, if they did not ordinarily go to the meetings and sometimes to church.’ A rare instance this of retractation and moderation; which I think redounds greatly to his honour, and is worthy of imitation.
But to return to the history. After he ceased to attend upon Dr. Patrick’s ministry, he used to preach on the Lord’s-day evenings in his own house to his family, and some few of his neighbours; and some time after, on Wednesday mornings, when the violence of the times would allow it. Upon the increase of his hearers, he was obliged to lay two rooms into one; which yet, by reason of the number of the people, and the straitness of the place, proved very inconvenient to him, especially in hot weather, and prejudicial to his health. He had lived in that respect and good-will in the parish, that his neighbours were generally civil to him, and gave him no trouble. Only a little before his ejectment, one Bird, a tailor, a zealous stickler for the Common Prayer, complained to Dr. Sheldon, then Bishop of London, that Dr. Manton deprived him of the means of his salvation; meaning the use of the Common Prayer. ‘Well,’ says the bishop, ‘all in good time; but you may go to heaven without the Common Prayer.’ There was one Justice Ball, within a few doors of him, who often threatened him, and was at last as good as his word. He was sometimes in danger from the churchwardens, of which number there were always three. The Duke of Bedford having always the choice of one, took care to have him a friend to the doctor; and his well-known respect to him gave him countenance and protection from the malice of the meaner people. His meeting afterwards adjoined to Lord Wharton’s house in St Giles’s, which he allowed him the convenience of, whether he was in town or not. The good-natured Earl of Berkshire lived next door, who was himself a Jansenist Papist, and offered him the liberty, when he was in trouble, to come to his house; which it was easy to do, by only passing over a low wall which parted the gardens.
Not long after the Act of Ejectment, when the Government was forming a plot for the Presbyterians, for they had none of their own, in a debate in the House of Lords, Dr. Ward, bishop of Salisbury, said, ‘It was time to look after them, when such men as Dr. Manton refused to take the oaths;’ which slander was soon contradicted by Lord Chamberlain Manchester, who assured the House of the falseness of the charge; and that he himself had administered the oath to him when he was sworn one of His Majesty’s chaplains. The doctor took notice of this as very disingenuous, because, not long before, the bishop and he had met at Astrop Wells; and the bishop had treated him with great civility, and entered into particular freedoms with him. The doctor, indeed, was in his judgment utterly against taking the Oxford oath, viz., ‘That it is not lawful, upon any pretence whatsoever, to take up arms against the king; and, that we will not at any time endeavour any alteration of the government in Church or State.’ And when some few of his brethren were satisfied to take it upon an explication allowed them by the Lord Keeper Bridgman, that is, that the oath meant only unlawful endeavours, the famous Mr. Gouge came from Hammersmith with a design to take it; but calling upon Dr. Manton to know his opinion of it, he was so well satisfied with the reasons of his judgment, that he was perfectly easy in his mind, and never took it afterwards.
In the year 1670, the meetings seemed for some time to be connived at, and were much attended. I remember to have heard some of the worthy ejected ministers speak of this period with particular pleasure; they observed that, after the looseness and excess which followed the Restoration, the reproaches and persecutions of the Nonconformists, for several years, and the late terrible judgments of plague and fire, multitudes everywhere frequented the opened meetings, some from curiosity, and some upon better motives; and many were delivered from the prejudices they had entertained, and received the first serious impressions upon their minds. God remarkably owned their ministry at that time, and crowned it, under all their disadvantages, with an extraordinary success. Soon after this indulgence expired, the doctor was taken prisoner, on a Lord’s-day, in the afternoon, just after he had done his sermon. The door happened to be opened to let a gentleman out, at the very time the Justice and his attendants were at the door; who immediately rushed in, and went up-stairs; but finding the doctor in his prayer, they stayed till he had done, and then took the names of the principal persons. The doctor being warm with preaching, they were so civil to take his word to come to them after some convenient time. He went to them to a house in the Piazzas, where many persons of note were gathered together; among whom was the then Duke of Richmond. After some discourse, they tendered him the Oxford oath. Upon his refusing to take it, they threatened to send him to prison. It was thought they questioned their own skill to draw up a warrant which would be sufficient to hold him; and that it was afterward drawn up by the Lord Chief-Justice Vaughan. They dismissed him, however, at that time, upon his promise to come to them within two or three days; and then gave the warrant to a constable, and committed him to the Gatehouse; only allowing him a day’s respite, till his room could be got ready. This imprisonment, by the kind providence of God, was more favourable and commodious than could have been thought, or than his enemies designed, or than he expected. The keeper of the prison at that time was the Lady Broughton, who was noted for her strictness and severity in her office, though she carried it quite otherwise towards the doctor; for she allowed him a large handsome room joining to the Gatehouse, with a small one sufficient to hold a bed. For some time it was not thought prudent to admit any to come to him, but his wife and servant who attended him. It is worth notice here, that the doctor could not omit his delightful work of preaching, though to so small a congregation; which he did, according to his former custom, both parts of the Lord’s-day and once on a week-day. After some time his children, and some few friends, to the number of twelve or fifteen, were admitted to hear him preach. The Lady Broughton was highly civil and obliging, and placed a great confidence in him. When she designed to go for a little time into the country, she would have ordered the keys of the common jail to be brought to him every night; the doctor, smiling, told her that he, being a prisoner himself, could not think it proper to be the keeper or jailer to others. However, no person had the opening and shutting of the door of the house where he was but his own servant, so that he might have gone out of prison when he pleased, for any restraint he was under. When the town was pretty empty, he ventured, once with his keeper and once without, to visit his worthy friend Mr. Gunston of Newington, who was agreeably surprised to see him, as he had a very highs and hearty respect for him. Thus like Joseph, ‘he found favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison;’ and the ‘keeper of the prison’ would have ‘commnitted to his hands all the prisoners who were in the prison.’ This, it must be owned, was a milder confinemnent and gentler usage than many others met with in those days, who lay under long and close confinements, and suffered confiscation of goods, and banishment, and death. This Protestant persecution fell short indeed of dragooning and dungeons and galleys in France, and of the racks and tortures of the Inquisition in Spain; but that a person of Dr. Manton’s worth and merit should be thought to deserve such treatment from a Government which he helped to lay the foundations of, and which he not only never injured, but had served in circumstances of danger and importance, when others of less desert and pretensions had all the opportunities of public service, and all the favour and preferment, I believe will appear shocking, at this distance, to all impartial lovers of liberty and of their country, and fix a brand for ever upon the gratitude and politics of those times.
Some time after his imprisonment, when the indulgence was renewed, he preached in a large room taken for him in Whitehart Yard, not far from his house; but there also he was at length disturbed. A band of rabble came on the Lord’s-day morning to seize him; but the doctor, having notice of it overnight, escaped their fury. Mr. James Bedford was got to preach for him, who had taken the Oxford oath. When they found themselves disappointed, they were in a great rage, and took the names of several; but did not detain the minister, for their malice was levelled against the doctor. The good Lord Wharton was there, whom they pretended not to know; and upon his refusing to tell them his name, they threatened to send him to prison; but they thought better of it. The place was fined forty pounds, and the minister twenty, which was paid by Lord Wharton.
Sir John Baber, his near neighbour, and who owed all his preferment at court to the doctor’s interest there, continued his hearty friend, though a great courtier. He often visited the doctor, by which means he had opportunity of greater intelligence than most others. About this time there happened some difference among the ministers of the city, about the manner of addressing the king for his indulgence. Some contended earnestly to have it expressed more largely, and others opposed it; for though they always thought they had a right to their liberty, they feared giving any countenance to the dispensing power, or advantage to the Papists; which were things well known to be in view, and much at heart at that time. The difference came to be known at court, and there were apprehensions of ill consequences. Sir John Baber carried Dr. Manton and Dr. Bates to Lord Arlington’s, at Whitehall, who was then Secretary of State, it was supposed, by his order. When they were together, the king, to their great surprise, came into the room – it was thought by design. Dr. Bates pressed Dr. Manton to address the king for his indulgence; which he did in a few words, and with great caution; but it was kindly accepted by the king, and well approved by the ministers, when it was communicated to them; and put a happy end to their contentions about it. It was by the means of Sir John Baber that Dr. Manton and Mr. Baxter were invited to confer with the Lord Keeper Bridgman, about a comprehension and toleration, in the year 1668. They afterwards met with Dr. Wilkins and Dr. Burton. Proposals were drawn up and corrected by mutual consent; in pursuance of which the excellent Judge Hale prepared a bill to be laid before the next session of Parliament; but it was rejected upon the first motion by the High Church party. In the year 1674, Dr. Manton and Mr. Baxter, with Dr. Bates and Mr. Pool, met with Dr. Tillotson and Dr. Stillingfleet, to consider of an accommodation, by the encouragement of several Lords, spiritual and temporal. They canvassed several draughts, and at length all agreed in one; but when it came to be communicated to the bishops, several things in which they had agreed could not be obtained, and the whole design miscarried. So easy a thing it has ever been found for wise and sober men to adjust matters of difference, and agree upon terms of accommodation; when nothing will satisfy unreasonable prejudice, and where the lust of power, and the bias of interest, strongly lead men the other way.
When the indulgence was more fully fixed in 1672, the merchants, and other citizens of London, set up a lecture at Pinner’s Hall. Dr. Manton was one of the six first chosen, and opened the lecture. He was much concerned at the little bickerings which began there in his time, and afterward broke out into scandalous contentions, and an open division at last. Mr. Baxter was often censured for his preaching there; and once published a sheet upon that occasion, which he called, ‘An Appeal to the Light.’ His preaching upon these words, ‘And ye will not come unto me, that you might have life,’ in which he fully justified the great God, and laid the blame of men’s destruction upon themselves, though it was followed by another upon these words, ‘Without me you can do nothing,’ occasioned a great clamour against him among some people of which he complained to Dr. Manton. The doctor, on his next turn, in the close of his sermon, pretty sharply rebuked them for their rash mistakes, and unbecoming reflections upon so worthy and useful a person. It was observed, that his reproof was managed with so much decency and wisdom, that he was not by any reflected upon for his freedom therein. He has been heard to express his esteem of Mr. Baxter in the highest terms; namely, that he thought him one of the most extraordinary persons the Christian church had produced since the apostles’ days; and that he did not look upon himself as worthy to carry his books after him. This was the opinion of one who knew him with the greatest intimacy for many years, and was a great judge of true worth.
When he first began to grow into ill health, he could not be persuaded by his friends and physicians to forbear preaching for any considerable time; which had been the delightful work of his life. He was at length prevailed with to spend some time at Woburn, with Lord Wharton, for the benefit of the air. But finding little good by it, he returned to town on the beginning of the week, in order to administer the Lord’s Supper the next Lord’s-day, of which he gave notice to his people; but he did not live to accomplish it. The day before he took his bed, he was in his study, of which he took a solemn leave, with hands and eyes lift up to heaven, blessing God for the many comfortable and serious hours he had spent there, and waiting in joyful hope of a state of clearer knowledge and higher enjoyments of God. At night he prayed with his family under great indisposition, and recommended himself to God’s wise disposal; desiring, ‘If he had no further work for him to do in this world, he would take him to himself;’ which he expressed with great serenity of mind, and an unreserved resignation to the divine good pleasure. When he went to bed he was suddenly seized with a kind of lethargy, by which he was deprived of his senses, to the great grief and loss of his friends who came to visit him. He died October 18th, 1677, in the fifty-seventh year of his age, and lies interred in the chancel of the church of Stoke Newington.
Dr. Bates preached his funeral sermon, who had a most affectionate esteem for him, very frequently visited him, always advised with him in matters of moment, and, for some years after his death, would weep when he spoke of him. He says of him:- ‘His name is worthy of precious and eternal memory. God had furnished him with a rare union of those parts which are requisite to form an eminent minister of his word. A clear judgment, a rich fancy, a strong memory, and happy elocution met in him; and were excellently improved by his diligent study. In preaching the word he was of conspicuous eminence; and none could detract from him, but from ignorance or envy. He was endowed with an extraordinary knowledge of the scripture; and in his preaching, gave such perspicuous accounts of the order and dependence of divine truths, and with that felicity applied the scripture to confirm them, that every subject, by his management, was cultivated and improved. His discourses were so clear and convincing, that none, without offering violence to conscience, could resist their evidence; and from hence they were effectual, not only to inspire a sudden flame, and raise a short commotion in the affections, but to make a lasting change in the life. His doctrine was uncorrupt and pure; the truth according to godliness. He was far from the guilty, vile intention to prostitute the sacred ordinances for acquiring any private secular advantage; neither did he entertain his hearers with impertinent subleties, empty notions, intricate disputes, dry and barren, without productive virtue; but as one who always had in his eye the great end of his ministry, the glory of God, and the salvation of men. His sermons were directed to open their eyes, that they might see their wretched condition as sinners, to hasten their flight from the wrath to come, and make them humbly, and thankfully, and entirely receive Christ as their Prince and all-sufficient Saviour; and to build up the converted in their holy faith, and more excellent love, which is the ‘fulfilling of the law:’ in short, to make true Christians eminent in knowledge and universal obedience.
‘And as the matter of his sermons was designed for the good of souls, so his way of expression was proper for that end. His style was not exquisitely studied, not consisting of harmonious periods, but far distant from vulgar meanness. His expression was natural and free, clear and eloquent, quick and powerful; without any spice of folly; and always suitable to the simplicity and majesty of divine truth. His sermons afforded substantial food with delight, so that a fastidious mind could not disrelish them. He abhorred a vain ostentation of wit in handling sacred truths, so venerable and grave, and of eternal consequence. His fervour and earnestness in preaching was such as might soften and make pliant the most stubborn and obstinate spirit. I am not speaking of one whose talent was only voice, who laboured in the pulpit as if the end of preaching were the exercise of the body, and not for the profit of souls. But this man of God was inflamed with holy zeal, and from thence such expressions broke forth as were capable of procuring attention and consent in his hearers. He spake as one who had a living faith within him of divine truth. From this union of zeal with his knowledge, he was excellently qualified to convince and convert souls. His unparalleled assiduity in preaching declared him very sensible of those dear and strong obligations which lie upon ministers to be very diligent in that blessed work. This faithful minister abounded in the work of the Lord; and, which is truly admirable, though so frequent in preaching, yet was always superior to others, and equal to himself, He was no fomentor of faction, but studious of the public tranquillity; he knew what a blessing peace is, and wisely foresaw the pernicious consequences which attend divisions.
‘Consider him as a Christian, his life was answerable to his doctrine. This servant of God was like a fruitful tree, which produces in the branches what it contains in the root. His inward grace was made visible in a conversation becoming the gospel. His resolute contempt of the world secured him from being wrought upon by those motives which tempt low spirits from their duty. He would not rashly throw himself into troubles, nor, spreta conscientia, avoid them. His generous constancy of mind in resisting the current of popular humour, declared his loyalty to his divine Master. His charity was eminent in procuring supplies for others, when in mean circumstances himself. But he had great experience of God’s fatherly provision, to which his filial confidence was correspondent. I shall finish my character of him by observing his humility. He was deeply affected with the sense of his frailty and unworthiness. He considered the infinite purity of God, and the perfection of his law, the rule of duty; and by that humbling light discovered his manifold defects. He expressed his thoughts to me a little before his death. ‘If the holy prophets were under strong impressions of fear upon extraordinary discoveries of the divine presence, how shall we poor creatures appear before the holy and dreadful Majesty? It is infinitely terrible to appear before God, the Judge of all, without the protection of the blood of sprinkling, which speaketh better things than that of Abel.’ This alone relieved him, and supported his hopes. Though his labours were abundant, yet he knew that the work of God, passing through our hands is so blemished, that without appealing to pardoning mercy and grace, we cannot stand in judgment. This was the subject of his last public sermon, upon 2 Tim. i. 18, which was published from his notes, with the second edition of his funeral sermon.
Mr. Collins, a man of a most sweet and obliging temper, as well as of great abilities and worth, on his turn to preach at the merchants’ lecture, after the doctor’s death, took great notice of it, and was much affected with the loss of so valuable a person. Good old Mr. Case used to say, long before his death, that he should live to preach his funeral sermon; and he did preach upon that occasion, when he was almost dead himself, for he was above eighty years of age. His text was, 2 Kings x. 32; ‘In those days the Lord began to cut Israel short.’ After he had considered the text, he came to speak of several worthy ministers cut off by death about that time, as well as others cut off by the laws which forbade their preaching. The last he named was Dr. Manton. At the mention of his name he stopped, and wept for some time before he could proceed; and then said, ‘If I had mentioned no other but Dr. Manton, I might well say, that God began to cut England short;’ with other expressions of his love and esteem. He had always a high opinion of the doctor’s preaching, and would often urge him to print. When the doctor answered him that he had not time, in the midst of such constant employments, to prepare anything, with due care, for the public view; he would reply, ‘You need only send your notes to the press, when you come out of the pulpit.’
Dr. Manton wrote a very ingenious and serious preface to Mr. Case’s Meditations, drawn up when he was prisoner in the Tower, and published under the title of ‘Correction, Instruction;’ which is a very useful practical book upon the subject of afflictions.
He also wrote a preface to the second edition of ‘Smectymnus;’ to Mr. Clifford’s ‘Book of the Covenant;’ to ‘Ignatius Jourdain’s Life;’ Mr. Strong’s ‘Sermons of the Certainty and Eternity of Hell Torments;’ and to the second edition (1658), in quarto, of the Assembly’s ‘Confession of Faith,’ etc.
His works were published by several principal ministers of that time, and it will entertain the reader to see the high apprehensions they had of him, and the beautiful variety in which they represent them. They have indeed drawn their own character, as well as his, in the different turn of their mind and manner of expression.
The first which came out was ‘Twenty Sermons,’ in quarto, in the year 1678. Dr. Bates gives this fine and beautiful account of them: ‘The main design of them is to represent the inseparable connexion between Christian duties and privileges, wherein the essence of our religion consists. The gospel is not a naked, unconditionate offer of pardon and eternal life in favour of sinners, but upon the most convenient terms for the glory of God and the good of men, enforced by the strongest obligations upon them to receive humbly and thankfully those benefits. The promises are attended with commands to repent and believe, and persevere in a uniform practice of obedience. The Son of God came into the world, not to make God less holy, but to make us holy; and not to vacate our duty, and free us from the law as a rule of obedience, for that is both impossible, and would be most infamous and reproachful to our Saviour. To challenge such an exemption in point of right is to make ourselves gods; to usurp it in point of fact is to make ourselves devils. But his end was to enable and induce us to return to God as our rightful Lord and proper felicity, from whom we rebelliously and miserably fell, in seeking for happiness out of him. Accordingly, the gospel is called the law of faith, as it commands those duties upon motives of eternal hopes and fears, and as it will justify or condemn men with respect to their obedience or disobedience, which is the proper character of a law. These things are managed in the following sermons in that convincing, persuasive manner as makes them very necessary for these times, when some who aspire to extraordinary heights in religion, and esteem themselves favourites of heaven, yet wofully neglect the duties of the lower hemisphere, as righteousness, truth, and honesty; and when carnal Christians are so numerous, who despise serious godliness as a solemn hypocrisy, and live in open violation of Christ’s precepts, and yet presume to be saved by him.’
‘I shall only add further, they commend to our ardent affections and endeavours true holiness, as distinguished from the most refined unregenerate morality. The doctor saw the absolute necessity of this, and spake with great jealousy of those who seemed in their discourses to make it their highest aim to improve and cultivate some moral virtues, as justice, temperance, benignity, etc., by philosophical helps, representing them as becoming the dignity of our nature, agreeable to reason, and beneficial to society, and but transiently speaking of the operations of the Holy Spirit, which are as requisite to free the soul from the chains of sin as to release the body at last from the bands of death; who seldom preach of evangelical graces, faith in the Redeemer, the love of God for his admirable wisdom in our salvation, zeal for his glory, humility in ascribing all we can return in grateful obedience to the most free and powerful grace of God in Christ, which are the vital principles of good works, and derive the noblest forms to all virtues. Indeed, men may be composed and considerate in their words and actions, may abstain from gross enormities, and do many praiseworthy actions, by the rules of moral prudence, yet without the infusion of divine grace to cleanse their stained nature, to renew them according to the image of God shining in the gospel, to act them from motives superior to all that moral wisdom propounds,- all their virtues, of what elevation soever, though in a heroic degree, cannot make them real saints. As the plant-animal has a faint resemblance of the sensitive life, but remains in the lower rank of vegetables, so these have a shadow and appearance of the life of God, but continue in the corrupt state of nature. The difference is greater between sanctifying saving grace, wrought by the special power of the Spirit, with the holy operations flowing from them, and the virtuous habits and actions which are the effect of moral counsel and constancy, than between true pearls produced by the celestial beams of the sun, and counterfeit ones formed by the smoky heat of the fire.’
No doubt the proper Christian graces require the influence of the Divine Spirit, and are the effect of nobler motives than mere pagan morality.
ln 1679 was published, in octavo, ‘Eighteen Sermons on the Second Chapter of the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians, containing the Description, Rise, Growth, and Fall of Antichrist; with divers Cautions and Arguments to establish Christians against the Apostasy of the Church of Rome.’ This was well fitted for common use, and very seasonable at that time.
In the preface to this volume, Mr. Baxter says of him, ‘How sound he was in judgment against extremes in the controversies of these times; how great a lamenter of the scandalous and dividing mistakes of some self-conceited men; how earnestly desirous of healing our present breaches, and not unacquainted with the proper means and terms; how hard and successful a student; how frequent and laborious a preacher; and how highly and deservedly esteemed, is commonly known here. The small distaste which some few had of him, I took for a part of his honour, who would not win reputation with any by flattering them in their mistakes, or unwarrantable ways. He used not to serve God with that which cost him nothing; nor was of their mind who cannot expect or extol God’s grace without denying those endeavours of men to which his necessary grace exciteth them. He knew that, ‘without Christ we can do nothing;’ and yet that, ‘by Christ strengthening us, we can do all things’ which God hath made necessary to be done by us. He was not of their mind who think it derogatory to the honour of Christ to praise his works in the souls and lives of any of his servants; and that it is for the honour of his grace that his justified ones are graceless, and that their Judge should dishonour his own righteousness, if he make his disciples more righteous personally than the scribes and pharisees; and will say to them, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.’ He knew how to regard the righteousness and intercession of Christ, with pardon of sin and divine acceptance, instead of legal personal perfection, without denying either the necessity or assigned office of our faith and repentance, and evangelical sincerity in obeying Him who redeemed and justifies us. He knew the difference between man’s being justified from the charge of being liable to damnation as Christless, impenitent, unbelieving, and ungodly; and being liable to damnation for mere sin as sin, against the law of innocence, which required of us no less than personal, perfect, and perpetual obedience. He greatly lamented the wrong which truth and the church underwent from those who neither know such difference, nor have humility enough to suspect their judgment, nor to forbear reviling those who have not as confused and unsound apprehensions and expressions as themselves.’
In the year 1684 Dr. Bates published his ‘Exposition of the Lord’s Prayer,’ in octavo.
In 1685 Mr. Hurst published, in octavo, ‘Several Discourses tending to promote Peace and Holiness among Christians;’ and dedicated them to Arthur, Earl of Anglesea, to whom he was chaplain. In the same year was published, ‘Christ’s Temptations and Transfiguration explained and improved; and Christ’s Eternal Existence and the Dignity of his Person asserted and proved, in opposition to the Socinians,’ in octavo. Dr. Jacomb, who published this volume, says of him, ‘That he did not so much concern himself in what is polemical and controversial; but chose rather, in a plain way, as best suiting with sermon-work, to assert and prove the truth by scripture testimony and argument; and that he has done to the full.
In 1703 was published, ‘A Practical Exposition of Isaiah liii.’ This, though published last, was earlier written than any of the other; for so he speaks in the preface to the Exposition of James, ‘I have the rather chosen this scripture, that it might be an allay to those comforts, which, in another exercise, I have endeavoured to draw out of Isaiah liii. I would, at the same time, carry on the doctrine of faith and manners, and show you your duty, together with your encouragement; lest, with Ephraim, you should only love to tread out the corn, and refuse to break the clods. We are all apt to divorce comfort from duty, and content ourselves with a barren, unfruitful, knowledge of Christ; as if all He required of the world were only a few naked, cold, unactive apprehensions of his merit, and all things were so done for us, that nothing remained to be done by us. This is the wretched conceit of many in the present age; and, therefore, they abuse the sweetness of grace to looseness, and the power of it to laziness. Christ’s merits, and the Spirit’s efficacy, are the common places from whence they draw all the defence and excuse of their own wantonness and idleness.’
Besides these lesser volumes, there are five large volumes in folio. The first was, ‘Sermons upon the 119th Psalm,’ published in the year 1681. Dr. Bates says, ‘They were preached by him in his usual course of three times a week; which I do not mention to lessen their worth, but to show how diligent and exact he was in performing his duty. I cannot but admire the fecundity and variety of his thoughts; that though the same things so often occur in the verses of this psalm, yet, by a judicious observing the different arguments and motives whereby the psalmist enforces the same request, or some other circumstance, every sermon contains new conceptions, and proper to the text.’ Mr. Alsop says of them, ‘The matter of them is spiritual, and speaks the author one intimately acquainted with the secrets of wisdom. He writes like one who knew the psalmist’s heart, and felt in his own soul the sanctifying power of what he wrote. Their design is practical, beginning with the understanding, dealing with the affections, but still driving on the design of practical holiness. The manner of handling is not inferior to the dignity of the matter; so plain, as to accommodate the most sublime truths to the meanest spiritual capacity; and yet so elevated, as to approve itself to the most refined understanding; which knows how to be succinct without obscurity; and, where the weight of the argument requires it, to enlarge without nauseous prolixity. He studied mote to profit than please; and yet an honest heart will be then best pleased when most profited. He chose rather to speak appositely than elegantly, and yet the judicious account propriety the greatest elegance. He laboured more industriously to conceal his learning than others to ostentate theirs; and yet, when he would most veil it, the discerning reader cannot but discover it, and rejoice to find such a mass and treasure of useful learning couched under a well-studied and artificial plainness. I have admired, and must recommend to the observation of the reader, the fruitfulness of the author’s holy invention, accompanied with solid judgment, in that whereas the coincidence of the matter in this psalm might have superseded his labours in very many verses; yet, without force, or offering violence to the sacred text, he has, either from the connexion of one verse with its predecessor, or the harmony between the parts of the same verse, found out new matter to entertain his own meditations, and the reader’s expectations.’
The second volume was published in 1684, and contains sermons on the whole of the 25th of Matthew and 17th of John, and the 6th and 8th of the Romans, and the 5th of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians. Dr. Collings, who seems to have written the preface to this volume, says, ‘In all his writings one finds a quick and fertile invention, governed with a solid judgment; and the issue of both expressed in a grave and decent style. He had a heart full of love and zeal for God and his glory; and out of the abundance of his heart his mouth continually spake. So frequent, and yet so learned and solid, preaching by the same person was little less than miraculous. He was a good and learned, a grave and judicious, person; and his auditory never failed, though he laboured more than most preachers, to hear from him a pious, learned, and judicious discourse. He is one of those authors upon the credit of whose name not only private and less intelligent people, but even scholars, may venture to buy any book which was his.’
The third volume was published in 1689, and contains sermons upon the 11th chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews; with a treatise of the Life of Faith, and another of Self-denial; and some preparatory sermons for the Lord’s Supper, and sermons before the Parliament. It was dedicated to King William, soon after the Revolution, by Mr. Howe, in as noble and masterly a preface as is, perhaps, anywhere to be met with.
The fourth volume was published In 1693, and contains sermons upon several texts of scripture. It is directed to the Lord Philip Wharton, by Mr. William Taylor, who was many years my lord’s chaplain, and transcribed a great part of the doctor’s notes for the press, and was himself a person of great integrity and wisdom. He tells my lord, ‘Though his preaching was so constant, yet in all his sermons may be observed a solidity of judgment, exactness of method, fulness of matter, strength of argument, persuasive elegance, together with a serious vein of piety running through the whole, as few have come near him, but none have exceeded him.’ Mr. Alsop says of this volume:- ‘Acquired learning humbly waits upon divine revelation; great ministerial gifts were managed by greater grace. A warm zeal, guided by solid judgment; a fervent love to saints and sinners, kindled by a burning zeal for the interest of a Saviour; and a plain elegance of style adapted to the meanest capacity, and yet far above the contempt of the highest pretender.
The fifth volume was published in 1701, and contains sermons on the 5th chapter to the Ephesians, on the 3d of the Philippians, on the 1st chapter of the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians, and on the 3d chapter of the First Epistle of John, with one hundred and forty sermons on particular texts. This volume, though it appeared last, and after so many others, is so far from running dregs, that, in my opinion, it contains some of his ripest and most digested thoughts; and is preferable, both for the subject and management, to any one of the former. This was directed to the excellent Sir Thomas Abney, then Lord Mayor of London, and to the Lady Abney, by Mr. Howe; in which he expresses his sense of Dr. Manton in this remarkable paragraph: ‘And that an eminent servant of Christ, who, through a tract of so many years, hath been so great and public a teacher and example of the ancient seriousness, piety, righteousness, sobriety, strictness of manners, with most diffusive charity (for which London has been renowned, for some ages, beyond most cities in the world), should have his memory revived by such a testimony from persons under your character, and who hold so public a station as you do in it, can never be thought unbecoming, as long as clearly explained and exemplified religion, solid useful learning, and good sense, are in any credit in the world.
There are some sermons of his in the several volumes of the ‘Morning Exercises;’ for Dr. Manton was too considerable to be missed in any design which was set on foot for the public good. There is one in that at St Giles’s, on ‘Man’s Impotency to Help himself out of the Misery he is in by Nature;’ another in that at Cripplegate, about ‘Strictness in Holy Duties;’ a third in the Supplement, concerning ‘The Improvement of our Baptism;’ and a fourth in that against Popery, upon ‘The Sufficiency of the Scripture.’ There is also a funeral sermon for Mrs. Jane Blackwel, upon ‘The Blessed Estate of them who Die in the Lord,’ in the year 1656. These sermons, with the two before the House of Commons,(One is ‘Meat for the Eater; or, Hopes of Unity in and by Divided and Distracted Times,’ on Zech. xiv.10. The other is ‘England’s Spiritual Languishing, with the Causes and Cure,’ on Rev. ii.3.) and one on the death of Mr. Love, including the Exposition on James and Jude, were all he published himself; and are written with a correct judgment and beautiful simplicity. His other works were all printed from his sermon-notes, prepared for the pulpit; and whosoever shall consider the greatness of the number and variety of the subjects, the natural order in which they are disposed, and the skilful management; the constant frequency of his preaching, and the affairs of business in which he was often engaged, will easily be able to make a judgment of his great abilities and vast application, and to make the requisite allowances for posthumous works; especially when he tells us that he was ‘humbled with the constant burden of four times a week preaching;’ and to the last, three times; and that where ‘the style seems too curt and abrupt, know that I sometimes reserved myself for sudden inculcations and enlargement.’ And though, as they now appear, they have been well received, and very useful to younger ministers and Christian families, yet I believe I might safely venture to say, that if he had had the same leisure to compose and polish, he was capable of equalling any performances of that kind of the celebrated writers of the age; and that hardly any, under his disadvantage, and so constantly employed, would have exceeded his. As no man of the age had a greater number of his sermons published after his death, perhaps it will not displease the reader to see his own judgment of posthumous writings. ‘Let it not stumble thee,’ says he, ‘that the piece is posthumous, and comes out so long after the author’s death; it were to be wished that they who excel in public gifts would during life publish their own works, to prevent spurious obtrusions upon the world, and to give them their last hand and polishing, as the apostle Peter was careful to write before his decease (2 Pet. i. 12). But usually the Church’s treasure is most increased by legacies. As Elijah let fall his mantle when he was taken up into heaven, so God’s eminent servants, when their persons could no longer remain in this world, have left behind them some worthy pieces, as monuments of their graces, and zeal for the public welfare. Whether it be out of a modest sense of their own endeavours, as being loth, upon choice and of their own accord, to venture abroad into the world; or whether it be that being occupied and taken up with other labours; or whether it be in conformity to Christ, who would not leave his Spirit till his departure; or whether it be out of hope that their works would find a more kindly reception after their death, the living being more liable to envy and reproach, but when the author is in heaven, the work is more esteemed upon earth; whether for this or that cause, usual it is that not only the life, but the death of God’s servants have been profitable to the Church. By that means many useful treatises have been freed from that privacy and obscurity to which, by the modesty of their authors, they had formerly been confined.’ (Quotation from: Epistle to Dr. Sibbes’ Comment on the First Chapter of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians).
He was a person of general learning, and had a fine collection of books, which sold for a considerable sum after his death; among which was the noble ‘Paris edition of the Councils,’ in thirty volumes, in folio, which the bookseller offered him for sixty pounds, or his Sermons on the One Hundred and Nineteenth Psalm. He began to transcribe them fair, but finding it too great an interruption in the frequent returns of his stated work, he chose rather to pay him in money. His great delight was in his study, and he was scarce ever seen without a book in his hand, if he was not engaged in company. He had diligently read the Fathers, and the principal schoolmen, which was a fashionable piece of learning in those times. And though he greatly preferred the plainness and simplicity of the former to the art and subtilty of the latter, yet he thought that we were more properly the Fathers, who stood on their shoulders, and have the advantage of seeing farther, in several respects, than they did. Perhaps scarce any man of the age had more diligently studied the scripture, or was a greater master of it. He had digested the best critics and commentators, and made a vast collection of judicious observations of his own, which appears in the pertinent and surprising use of the scripture upon all occasions, and the excellent glosses which are everywhere to be found in his writings. As he had a great reverence for the scripture himself, so he was observed to show a great zeal against using scripture phrases lightly in common conversation, or without a due regard to the sense and meaning of them, as a profanation of the scripture and a great dishonour to God. Dr. Bates used to say, ‘that he had heard the greatest men of those times sometimes preach a mean sermon, but never heard Dr. Manton do so upon any occasion.’ This will appear the less surprising, if we consider the great care he took about them. He generally writ the heads and principal branches first, and often writ them over twice afterwards, some copies of which are now in being. When his sermon did not please him, nor the matter open kindly, he would lay it aside for that time, though it were Saturday night, and sit up all night to prepare a sermon upon an easier subject, and more to his satisfaction. If a good thought came into his mind in the night, he would light his candle, and put on his gown, and write sometimes for an hour together at a table by his bedside, though the weather was ever so cold. He was well read in all the ancient and modern history, which he made his diversion, and in which he took a particular pleasure. This, by the advantage of an excellent judgment and strong memory, made his conversation very instructing and entertaining, and recommended him particularly to young gentlemen, who used to visit him after their travels. He would discourse with them as if he had been with them upon the spot, and bring things to their remembrance which they had forgot; and sometimes, to their great surprise, show a greater acquaintance with things abroad, attained by reading, than they had got by all the labour and expense of travelling. The celebrated Mr. Edmund Waller, who first refined the English poetry, and brought it to the ease and correctness in which it now appears, used to say of him, upon this account, that ‘he never discoursed with such a man as Dr. Manton in all his life.’ By this means he became a great judge of men and things; and was often resorted to by persons of the greatest note and figure in the world. He took his degree of Bachelor of Arts in the year 1639, and was created Bachelor of Divinity in 1654, and by virtue of His Majesty’s letters was created Doctor of Divinity at the same time with Dr. Bates, and several of the Royalists, in 1660. It was pleasantly said upon this latter occasion, that none could say of him that Creatio fit ex nihilo, having both learning and a degree before.
He was a strict observer of family religion. His method was this: he began morning and evening with a short prayer, then read a chapter, his children and servants were obliged to remember some part of it, which he made easy and pleasant to them by a familiar exposition; then he concluded with a longer prayer. Notwithstanding the labours of the Lord’s-day, he never omitted, after an hour’s respite, to repeat the heads of both his sermons to his family, usually walking, and then concluded the day with prayer and singing a psalm. His great acquaintance with the scriptures, and deep seriousness of mind, furnished him with great pertinency and variety of expression upon all occasions, and preserved a great solemnity and reverence in all his addresses to God. His prayer after sermon usually contained the heads of his sermon. He was noted for a lively and affectionate manner of administering the Lord’s Supper. He consecrated the elements of bread and wine apart; and whilst they were delivering, he was always full of heavenly discourse. He would often utter, with great fervour, those words: ‘Who is a God like unto thee, pardoning iniquity, transgression, and sin?’ and illustrate, in an affecting manner, the glory of the divine mercy to the lost world, in the death of Christ; and pathetically represent the danger of those who neglect and slight their baptismal covenant, and how terrible a witness it would be against them at the day of judgment.
Monday was his chief day of rest, in which he used to attend his visitors. On his Wednesday lecture several persons of considerable quality and distinction, who went to the Established Church on the Lord’s-day, would come to hear him. One observing to him that there were many coaches at his doors on those days, he answered, smiling ‘I have coach-hearers, but foot-payers;’ and yet he was far from the love of filthy lucre; for when it was proposed to him to bring his hearers to a subscription, he would not yield to it, but said his house should be free for all, as long as he could pay the rent of it. Some of his parishioners, and others who attended his ministry, used to present him, about Christmas, with what they collected among themselves, which was seldom above twelve or thirteen pounds. He had several persons of the first rank who belonged to his congregation, as the Countesses of Bedford, Manchester, Clare; the Ladies Baker, Trevor, the present Lord Trevor’s mother; the Lord and Lady Wharton, and most of their children, etc. By this means he had always a considerable collection for the poor at the sacrament, which was a great pleasure to him. He used to say sometimes, pleasantly, that he had money in the poor’s bag when he had little in his own. This he sometimes distributed among poor ministers, who were, many of them, at that time, in strait circumstances, as well as the poor of the congregation. Though he was a man of great gravity, and of a regular unaffected piety, yet he was extremely cheerful and pleasant among his friends, and upon every proper occasion. His religion sat easy, and well became him, and appeared amiable and lovely to others. He greatly disliked the forbidding rigours of some good people, and the rapturous pretensions of others; and used to say he had found it, by long observation, that they who would be over-godly at one time, would be under-godly at another.
I shall conclude with this summary account of his person and character. He was of a middle stature, and of a fair and fresh complexion, with a great mixture of majesty and sweetness in his countenance. In his younger years he was very slender, but grew corpulent in his advanced age; not by idleness or excess, for he was remarkably temperate and unweariedly diligent. He had naturally a little appetite, and generally declined all manner of feasts; but by a sedentary life, and the long confinement of the five-mile-act, which, he used to complain, first broke his constitution. In short, perhaps few men of the age in which he lived had more virtues and fewer failings, or were more remarkable for general knowledge, fearless integrity, great candour and wisdom, sound judgment, and natural eloquence, copious invention, and incredible industry, zeal for the glory of God, and good-will to men; for acceptance and usefulness in the world, and a clear and unspotted reputation, through a course of many years, among all parties of men.