Thomas Manton

SERMON XXVI

Verse 25. – “My soul cleaveth unto the dust: quicken thou me according to thy word.”

DOCTRINE. – That God’s children may have such great afflictions brought upon them, that their souls may even cleave to the dust.

    These afflictions may respect their inward or outward condition.

  1. Their inward condition; and so through grief and terrors of conscience they are ready to drop into the grave. That trouble of mind is a usual exercise of God’s people, see Heman’s complaint, Psalm lxxxviii. From verse 3 to the end of verse 7. “My soul is full of trouble, and my live draweth nigh unto the grave. I am counted with them that go down into the pit. I am as a man that hath no strength, free among the dead, like the slain that lie in the grave, whom thou rememberest no more, and they are cut off from thy hand. Thou hast laid me in the lowest pit, in darkness, in the deep. Thy wrath lieth hard upon me, and thou hast afflicted me with all thy waves. Selah.” Thou holdest mine eyes waking: I am so troubled that I cannot speak: I have considered the days of old, the years of ancient time, &c.” (Psalm lxxvii. 1, &c.).By the sense of God’s wrath he was even wounded to death; and the sore running upon him would admit of no plaster. Yea the remembrance of God was a trouble to him: “I remembered God, and was troubled.” What a heavy word was that! Soul-troubles are the most pressing troubles; a child of God is as a lost man in such a condition. 
  2. In respect of the heavy weight of outward pressures. Thus David fasted, and lay by all night upon the earth in his child’s sickness: “David therefore besought God for the child: and David fasted, and went in, and lay all night upon the earth. And the elders of his house arose, and went to him to raise him up from the earth; but he would not: neither did he eat bread with them” (2 Sam. xii. 16, 17). And when he was driven from his place by Absalom, and was in danger of his life every moment (which some interpreters think to be the case intended in the text) when he went up Mount of Olives bare foot, going and weeping: “And David went up by the ascent of Mount Olivet, and wept as he went up, and had his head covered; and he went barefoot, and all the people that was with him covered every man his head, and they went up weeping as they went” (2 Sam. xv. 30). 

    Now the reasons of this are these: –
    1. To correct them for past sins. This was the cause of David’s trouble, and this puts a sting into all miseries. God’s children smart under their sins here in this world, as well as others: “Behold the righteous shall be recompensed in the earth: much more the wicked and the sinner” (Prov. xi. 31). Recompensed in the earth, that is, punished for his sins. Compare with it, 1 Peter iv. 18: “And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?” God punisheth here, that he may spare for ever. He giveth some remembrance of the evil, and corrects his people, not to complete their justification, or to make more satisfaction for God’s justice, than Christ hath made; yet to promote their sanctification, that is, to make sin bitter to them, and to vindicate the glory of God, that he is not partial.

    USE 1. – Let us bless God that we are not put to such great trials. How gentle is our exercise compared with David’s case! We are weak, and God will not overburden us. There is a great deal of the wisdom and love of God seen in the measure of the cross, and in the nature and kind of it. We have no cause to say belly cleaveth to the dust, or that we are pressed above measure. God giveth us only a gentle remembrance. If brought upon our knees, we are not brought upon our faces. 

  1. To humble them, and bring them low in the midst of their great enjoyments, therefore he casts them down even to the dust; because we cannot keep our hearts low, therefore God maketh our condition low. This was Paul’s case: “And our hope of you is steadfast, knowing that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also the consolation: for we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble, which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life: but we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead” (2 Cor. i. 7, 9). That is, not build too securely on their own sufficiencies.
  2. To try their graces, which are never tried to the life, till we be near the point of death. The sincerity of our estate, and the strength of faith, is not discovered upon the throne so much as in the dust, if we can depend upon God in the hardest condition.
  3. To waken the spirit of prayer: “Out of the depths have I cried unto to thee, O Lord” (Psalm cxxx. 1). Affliction puts an edge upon our desires. They that are flat and careless at other times, are oftenest then with God.
  4. To show the more of his glory, and the riches of his goodness in their recovery: “Thou which hast showed me great and sore troubles, shalt quicken me again, and shalt bring me up again from the depths of the earth: thou shalt increase my greatness, and comfort me on every side” (Psalm lxxi. 20, 21). By the greater humiliation, God prepareth us for the greater blessings. As there are multitudes of troubles to humble and try the saints; so his mercies do not come alone, but with great plenty.

    USE: II – If this should be our case, do not count it strange. It is a usual exercise of God’s people; let us therefore not be offended, but approve God’s holy and wise dispensation. If there be great troubles, there have been great sins, or there will be great comforts, or for the present there are great graces. As such a dispensation is a correction, there is reason to approve it. If you be hid in the dust, have not you laid Gods honour in the dust, and trampled his laws under foot? As it is a trial, you have cause to approve it: for it is but meet that when God hath planted grace in the heart, he should prove the strength of it. Therefore if you be kept so long in your heavy condition that you seem dead; yet if you have faith to keep you alive, and patience be exercised, it is for your greater good: “And not only so, but we glory in tribulation also, knowing that tribulation worketh patience” (Rom. v. 3). And so affliction is an exercise for your benefit and spiritual improvement. The husbandman when he teareth and render the ground up with the plough, it is to make it more fruitful; the longer the metal is in the fire, the more pure it cometh forth; nay, sometimes you have your outward comforts with advantage after troubles: “And the Lord turned the captivity of Job when he prayed for his friends: also the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before: and the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning.”(Job xlii. 10, 12). Oh when we are fitted to enjoy comforts, we shall have them plenty enough.

    DOCTRINE II. – That in such great and heavy troubles we should deal with God for help.

    In the dust David calleth to God for quickening. The reasons of this, why in great troubles we should go to God for help, are, first, from the inconvenience of any other course. (1.) If the godly should smother their grief, and not go to God with it, their sorrow were able to choak them. It is no small case that we have a God to go to, to whom we may freely open our minds. Prayer hath a pacative virtue; as, Hannah “prayed unto the Lord, and wept sore;” and mark the event, “the woman went her way, and did eat, and her countenance was no more sad,” &c. (1 Sam. i. 18). An oven stopped up, is the hotter within; but vent and utterance giveth ease to the heart, if it be merely by way of complaint to a friend, without expectation of relief; much more to go to God, and lay open our case before him. (2.) To seek our comfort elsewhere from earthly things, it is a vain and evil course. 1st, It is vain; for God is the party with whom we have to do. In many troubles the creatures may be instruments of our wo; but the principle party is God. Strike in with him, and you stop the mischief at the head: “When a man’s ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him” (Prov. xvi. 7). In other troubles God hath a more immediate hand, as sickness and terrors of conscience; our business then lieth not with the creatures in sickness, not with physicians first, but with God. In troubles of spirit we are not to quench our thirst at the nearest ditch, but to run to the fountain of living water; not to take up with ordinary comforts, that is an attempt to break prison, and to get out of troubles before God letteth us out. He is our party then, whoever be the instrument. 2ndly, It is evil that we refuse to come before God when he whippeth us into his presence, and beateth us to the throne of grace: “All this evil is come upon us, yet made we not our prayer before the Lord our God, that we might turn from our iniquities, and understand thy truth” (Dan. ix. 13). When men are ready to dies, and will not so much as confer with the physician, they are either stupid or desperate. Afflictions summon us into his presence. God sendeth a tempest after us, as after Jonah. Now that trouble which chaseth us to God, is so far a sanctified troubled. Second, The hope of relief from God, who alone can and will help us: “He putteth his mouth in the dust: if so be there may be hope” (Lam. iii. 29).  Now this hope is from God’s power and will.

(1.) His power. God can quicken us when we are as good as dead, because he is the wee-spring of life and comfort. Other things give us life, but only as water scaldeth when it is the instrument of heat; but God alone can help us. God is the great quickener: “That I might trust in him that raised the dead:” and, “I am the resurrection and the life.” (2.) His will. When we are humble and teachable in our affections, 1st, It is some hope if we have nothing to bring before God but our grief and misery; for he is pitiful. A beggar will uncover his sore to move your bowels; for so many times all the reason that a poor, pitiful, afflicted person can bring for himself is lamenting his case to God, how discouraged he is, and apt to faint, as David represents his case: “My soul cleaveth to the dust;” and elsewhere: “But I am poor and sorrowful; let thy salvation, O God, set me up on high” (Psalm lxix. 29). Justice seeketh a fit object, but mercy a fit occasion. 2ndly, It is a greater ground of hope when we are humbled under God’s hand, and have a due sense of our condition, that is, are convinced of our emptiness, weakness, nothingness, or emptied of self-conceit and carnal confidence: “For the Lord shall judge this people, and repent himself for his servants, when he seeth that their power is gone, and there is none shut up or left” (Deut. xxxii. 36). God’s judgments are to break our carnal dependencies. 3rdly, Still hope increaseth, when we acknowledge his justice and wisdom in all our troubles: “If then their uncircumcised hearts be humbled, and they than accept of the punishment of their iniquity” (Lev. xxvi. 41); kiss the rod wherewith they are corrected, be glad it is no worse, and see that all this cometh from a just and wise God. 4thly, There is further hope, when we can cast ourselves upon his faithfulness and omnipotency, in the face of all discouragements. Christ’s question to the man long possessed was: “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth” (Mark ix. 23). God’s power is exercised, when glorified by faith and dependence. 5thly, When we submit to what may be most for his glory. Carnal prayers, though never so earnest, fail when we are too earnest upon our private end, and the means which we fancy: “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us; but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy and for thy truth’s sake” (Psalm cxv. 1).

    USE – In deep calamities run to God, lay forth your case feelingly and with submission to the justice of his providence, trusting to his power, and submitting to his wisdom, without obtruding your model upon God, but leaving him to his own course; and this is the way to speed. Take heed,-

  1. Of a stupid carelessness under the rod; it is a time of seeking after God, a summons to the creature to come before him. Now if we think to sport away our trouble without looking after God’s comforts, it is a desperate security: “They have belied the Lord, and said, It is not he; neither shall evil come upon us; neither shall we see sword nor famine” (Jer. v. 12).
  2. Take heed to despondency. The throne of grace is set up on purpose for such a time: “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Heb. iv. 6). “Call upon me in the day of trouble, I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me” (Psalm 1. 15). Open your case before the Lord.
  3. Take heed of pitching too much upon outward things, either as to the time or way of deliverance. Lust is vehement; but the more you seek, the more comfortable will be the issue: “Do good in thy good pleasure unto Sion; build thou the walls of Jerusalem” (Psalm li. 18).

  Secondly, We come now to David’s supplication or petition thereupon; where observe, – 

First, The request itself, “Quicken thou me.”

    That God’s children need often go to God for quickening, because they often lie under deadness of heart; and therefore should desire God who is the fountain of grace, to emit; and send forth his influence.

    They need this quickening.
    (1.) By reason of their constant weakness,
    (2.) Their frequent indispositions and distempers of soul.

    1st, Their constant weakness in this world.
1. By reason of their inclination to sin.
2. The imperfection of their motions towards that which is good.

    (1.) By reason of their inclination to sin. Carnal concupiscence draweth us aside from God, to sensual objects, James i. 14; a man is “drawn away of his own lust.” There is a strong bias of corruption drawing us from Christ to present things: “Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us” (Heb. xii. 1). There is a carnal affection, or corrupt inclination, which carrieth us out inordinately to things lawful, or too often to things unlawful; this hangeth as a weight, retarding us in all our heavenly flights and motions. The love and care of the world, which is apt to press down the soul, and doth twine about us, and insinuate with us; the Apostle calleth it a law in his members (Rom. vii. 23); a warning to us, how when the flesh draweth us off so strongly one way, to implore the divine grace to draw us more strongly to the other.

(2.) Because of the imperfection of their motions to that which is good, though there be a purpose, bent of heart, and inclination that way. Our gyves are still about us; we feel the old maim. Grace is like a spark in wet wood that needs continued blowing.

     Secondly, The next circumstance is the argument, “according to thy word;” Chrysostom saith, “Quicken thou me to live according to thy word: but it is not a word of command, but a word of promise.” Mark here, –

1. He doth not say, Secundum meritum meum, but, secundum verbum tuum; the hope, or that help which we expect from God, is founded upon his word; there is our security, in his promises, not in our deservings:  Promittendo se fecit debitorem, &c.

2. When there was so little Scripture written, yet David could find out a word for his support: Alas! In our troubles and afflictions, no promise occurreth to mind. As in outward things, many that have less, live better than those that have abundance; so here, now Scripture is so large, we are less diligent, and therefore, though we have so many promises, we are apt to faint, we have not a word to bear us up.

3. This word did not help him, till he had lain under the heavy condition, that he seemed dead. Many, when they have a promise, think presently to enjoy the comfort of it. No, there, is waiting and striving first necessary. We never relish the comfort of the promises, till the creatures have spent their allowance, and we have been exercised. God will keep his word, and yet we must expect to be tried.

4. In this his dead condition, faith in God’s word kept him alive. When we have least feeling, and there is nothing left us, the word will support us: “And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah’s womb; he staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strong in faith, giving glory to God” (Rom. vi. 19, 20).

5. One good way to get comfort, is to plead the promise to God in prayer, Chirographa tua injiciebat tibi Domine, show him his hand writing; God is tender of his word. These arguings in prayer, are not to work upon God, but ourselves.

    USE. – Well then, let us thus deal with God, looking to him in the sense of our weakness, praying often to God for quickening, as David doth in the text. God keepeth grace in his own hands, and dispenseth it at his pleasure, that he may often hear from us, and that we may renew our dependence upon him; it is pleasing to him when we desire him to renew his work, and bring forth the actings of grace in their vigour and lustre. And let us acknowledge Divine grace, if there be strong actings of faith and love towards God. He is to be owned in his work.

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“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,” Titus 2:11
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