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TO THE READER
THE character of Dr Manton is so generally known by his celebrated preaching so many years in this city, and by the numerous collections of excellent discourses published since his death, that I cannot think it needful to give any account of him here, as I do not pretend to add anything to the accounts already given by those excellent persons that published his former works. It will be sufficient to remark, that his works have been esteemed by some of the best judges one of the most valuable collections of scriptural and practical divinity, and to have been as generally serviceable to the world as most that have appeared in these latter ages, and in many respects no way inferior to some of the ancient monuments of the Christian church.
I shall reckon myself concerned only to give some account of this treatise.
As to the subject of it, I shall only observe, that as the prophecy of Isaiah contains the clearest revelations of the Messiah, and is writ in the loftiest style of any part of the Old Testament, so this excellent chapter is an eminent instance of both, containing an exact description both of his sufferings and his glories, represented in bright and lively colours, and in a phrase, though somewhat difficult and obscure, exceeding lofty and sublime. The veil of the temple seemed to have been drawn aside, though not yet rent asunder, and the light of the gospel shone forth with a brighter glory than ever it had appeared before. Upon those accounts this chapter has exercised the thoughts and employed the diligence of several eminent persons in former and later times; though, through some or other misfortune, they have been buried with their authors, and have never seen the light. Perhaps this is the only thing that can pretend to a just discourse now extant.
It would not be proper, in the preface to a practical discourse, to undertake the defence of this chapter, and to rescue it from the violence offered it in the posthumous annotations of a learned critic, who, with a great deal of force, and frequent absurdity, has applied this whole chapter to the prophet Jeremiah; not only cross to the brightest evidence of truth, and the general consent of Christian interpreters, but in flat contradiction to himself in two very accurate and elaborate treatises published by himself,—in the one66 Grotius de Relig. Chris., cap. v., sec. 19. of which, arguing against the Jews, he has these remarkable words, ‘That the Messiah was to pass through sufferings and death in the way to his kingdom, and in order to bestow invaluable blessings on his seed, there 190is no man can doubt that carefully considers Isaiah liii.’ And afterwards he adds, ‘To whom of all the kings and prophets can this agree? To none.’ In the other77 De Satisfactione, cap. i. he settles the true sense of the e, and exposes the perverse glosses of Socinus.
As to these discourses themselves, they bear the lively signatures of the excellent author, and are of a piece with the rest of his works. There is a judicious choice of pertinent matter, disposed in a regular method, expressed in a plain and native elegance, quickened and enlivened with proper images, and tinctured throughout with a deep savour of true piety. And though they may be thought neither so polished nor correct as his riper years and his last hand could easily have made them, or as were necessary to gratify the nice and the curious; yet they seem, however, excellently fitted to a better end,—to promote saving knowledge and real godliness, to move and to instruct the mind, and give entertainment as well as profit to the serious and the wise, and are particularly suitable to sacramental occasions.
It will be only further necessary to acquaint the reader that, as these sermons were preached in his stated and ordinary course, so they were preached in his early youth, and are younger than any of those that have seen the light; which must be his apology to the world if any expressions are found up and down less accurate and clear, or any thing different from what was known to be his sense in some of his later writings.
This account may be collected from the preface of his Exposition on James:—
‘I have the rather chosen this scripture, that it may 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 duties together with your encouragements, 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 and unfruitful knowledge of Jesus Christ; as if all he required of the world were only a few naked, cold, inactive 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 either abuse the sweetness of grace to looseness, or the power of it to laziness. Christ’s merit, and the Spirit’s efficacy are the common places from whence they draw all the defences and excuses of their own wantonness and idleness.’
I have compared the transcript with the original notes, and find reason, after all the care that has been taken, to beg the reader’s candour and excuse for any smaller errors that may have escaped, both of the copy and of the press.
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