“It is not only an affront put upon God, but also a great wrong, to neglect the word of God, and the way He prescribes, and to seek blessedness in temporal things,” says puritan Thomas Manton while preaching on Psalm 119:12.
In an extended “Tuesday with Thomas Manton” let me share all three points he gives to this heading, as he asserts “…the true way to blessedness [is] set down in God’s statutes; but in outward things there wants [lacks] fulness, sincerity, eternity.”
[1.] There wants fulness. That which makes us blessed, it must fill up the heart of man. As a vessel is never full until it have as much as it can hold, so we can never be said to have a full happiness and contentment until we have as much as we can hold. That which fills must be greater than the thing filled. Now man’s heart is such a chaos of desires, that it can never be filled up but in God: Ps. xvi. 11, ‘In thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand are pleasures for evermore.’ Therefore, of the joy and happiness we have in God, it is said, ‘Enter into thy master’s joy,’ Mat. xxv. When we speak of a cup of water, that enters into the man, that is taken down into the man; but if we speak of a river of water, or tub of water, that is greater than the man is capable of, or can receive, – the man enters into it; so this joy and happiness, which is truly and genuinely so, it must exceed our capacity, greater than we can receive, that we may enter into it; it is the infinite God can only satisfy the heart of man. In temporal things there is no kind of fulness; you have not one worldly comfort, but you desire more of it. Ahab was a king, yet still he wants something, Naboth’s vineyard. A man is not satisfied with abundance, neither is his soul filled with increase of worldly things; yet we may desire more, Eccles. v.; and if we have one thing to the full, yet we shall need another. If a man be strong, he may needlearning; it may be though he hath some kind of learning and knowledge, yet he hath not wisdom. Naaman was rich, wise, valiant, and honourable, but he was a leper. There is a but upon all worldly happiness; therefore there is no fulness in these things.
[2.] There is no sincerity in them. All that is in the world is but a semblance and an appearance, that which tickles the senses; it doth not go to the heart. You would have thought Belshazzar was merry at the heart when he was quaffing and carousing in the cups of the temple; but how soon is the edge of his bravery taken off, Dan. v. 5,6. Haman in the midst of his honours was troubled at the heart for want of Mordecai’s knee. Those things which seem to affect us so much cannot allay one unquiet passion, certainly cannot still and pacify the least storm of the conscience; and therefore, whatever face men put upon temporal enjoyments, if they cannot see God’s special love in them, they want [lack] sincere joy. There is many a smart lash they feel when the world hears not the stroke: Prov. xiv. 13, ‘Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful, and the end of that mirth is heaviness.’ All the laughter and merriment which men seem to receive from the creature, it is but a little appearance, not such as will go to the conscience, that will indeed and thoroughly rejoice and comfort a man, and give him solid joy.
[3.] There wants eternity. An immortal soul must have an eternal good, ‘pleasures for evermore,’ Ps. xvi. 11. In this world we have but a poor changeable happiness: Luke xii. 20, it was said to the rich fool, ‘This night thy soul shall be required of thee.’ Thus much for the first branch, blessed art thou, 0 Lord. [emphasis added]
Lord, turn our hearts to you today.