Thomas Manton was a Presbyterian preacher in London, England in the 17th century. His Commentary on Jude was first published in 1658. It richly deserves its fortune of being republished down through the years.
Manton has correctly grasped the thrust of Jude: the command to the church to contend for the Christian Faith against those enemies within, whom we would call antinomians but whom Manton calls the “fanatical and libertine party” (p. 14). The error of such church members was that “in the gospel chiefly they abused the doctrine of Christian liberty and free justification by Christ” (p. 152). This makes a commentary on Jude especially useful in our own day, when the churches miserably fail to contend earnestly for the faith, by sharp, antithetical preaching and resolute discipline, and when the grossest iniquities are resting comfortably upon the pillow of free grace, in the churches.
The commentary is full of solid, sound doctrine. Explaining the words of verse 4, “who were before of old ordained to this condemnation,” Manton “opens,” proves, vindicates, and applies the doctrine of reprobation, explaining that reprobation “is an eternal decree”; that “there is a decree and pre-ordination, not only a naked foresight of those that perish”; that “this decree of God is founded in His own goodwill and pleasure”; and more (pp. 136ff.).
But the special power and appeal of the commentary lie in the application of sound doctrine. Manton himself calls it “a practical commentary” (p. 6). This was a gift in which the Puritans (to whom Manton belonged) abounded, and one from the exercise of which we can learn. Commenting on Jude’s statement that the ungodly men “crept in unawares,” Manton comes to application:
Learn hence to be more watchful in admissions to the church: no perils so great as those occasioned by false brethren. We think to fill the church, but we do but fill the house with thieves: wicked men ever prove a trouble. It is an easy matter to fill the church by remitting the rigour and severity of discipline; but heaven is never the fuller, but the emptier, for wicked men are hardened and confirmed in their own security; and the church never fareth the better, it loseth in strength what it gets in breadth, as a river doth, and zeal is lessened the more the number is increased: yea, wicked men usually prove a trouble, and we come to wish afterward we had been more strict. . . when the church keep a strait hand, hypocrites dare not join, but sound believers will the sooner, and then the church, though it be a lesser body, it is more sound, healthy, and active (p. 130).
And this, 300 years before “church growth” has been exalted into a theological science!
Admittedly, Manton tends to be too expansive in his comments, sometimes preaching the sermon on the text, instead of only interpreting the text. But his doctrinal soundness, his practical wisdom, and his eloquent style—the book is full of pithy, memorable expressions—bless this expansiveness so as to make the book delightful devotional reading for every believer, as well as a help to the preacher.
REVIVAL, by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1987. Pp. vi-316. $9.95 (paper). SAVED IN ETERNITY: THE ASSURANCE OF OUR SALVATION, by Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1988. Pp. 1-187. (Reviewed by Prof. R.D. Decker)
David Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981) was one of the greatest evangelical preachers of the twentieth century. His many volumes of printed sermons continue to inspire and instruct thousands of Gods people, preachers, and laypersons alike. Lloyd-Jones gave up a promising career in medicine to become a minister of the gospel. From 1938 he co-pastored the great Westminster Chapel in London with G. Campbell Morgan. Upon the latter’s death in 1945, Lloyd-Jones became the pastor of Westminster until he retired in 1968.
Lloyd-Jones was a strong advocate of expository preaching. A sermon must be “exposition moulded into a message.” (Cf. his book, Preaching and Preachers, p. 72.) By exposition Lloyd-Jones meant exegesis. A sermon must be exegetically based. It must explain the meaning of the text. Lloyd-Jones did not approve of what he called “topical preaching with a moral twist” (Preaching and Preachers, p. 59). Was his practice consistent with his theory of preaching? We think not, at least not in the two books under review.
Both books are collections of sermons preached in Westminster Chapel. Revival contains twenty-four sermons preached on the subject of revival in 1959 upon the occasion of the one hundredth anniversary of the Welsh Revival. Revival Lloyd-Jones describes as a mighty outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon many. He saw several hindrances to this happening in his day. A denial of the authority of the Bible, a denial of the essential truths about our Lord Jesus Christ, and the fact that society “has become amoral,” Lloyd-Jones saw as hindrances to revival. Church history indicates that a rediscovery of the vital truths of Scripture always accompanies periods of revival. For this Gods people must pray fervently, and these great truths must be faithfully preached. By these means God may bring revival to the church once more.
Lloyd-Jones certainly has many good things to say about revival. And who would not like to see a mighty outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the church? From the point of view of homiletics, however, it must be said that these sermons are not exegetically based, nor are they constructed textually. One cannot call them exposition molded into message. The content is biblical, but is not derived from the text itself. The sermons are topical. This book would make for good devotional reading. It contains interesting insights into the revival of 1859 in Wales.
The same is true of Saved In Eternity, though to a lesser extent. This book contains thirteen sermons based on John 17:1-5. The first two are by no means expositions of verse one. They are on the subject of prayer. They do present an excellent summary of the Bible’s teaching on this subject. Therein lies the value of the book. The other sermons in the series are more expository. If one is searching for insights into the subject of prayer, as well as for some rather profound insights into our Lords beautiful prayer recorded in John 17, he will do well to purchase this book and read it carefully. The sermons in both of these books, however, ought not be used as models of what expository (exegetical, textual) preaching ought to be.