"How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping them according to Your Word." (Psalm 119:9)
"This is the way which we must take if we intend to come to our journey's end... there are several things supposed:
1. We are from the birth polluted with sin; for we must be cleansed. It is not, 'direct his way,' but 'cleanse his way.'
2. We should be, very early and in good time, sensible of this evil; for the question is propounded concerning the young man.
3. We should earnestly seek for a remedy how to dry up the issue of sin that runneth upon us.
That which is inquired after is, what remedy there is against it? what course is to be taken? So that the sum of the question is this: How shall a man that is impure, and naturally defiled with sin, be made able, as soon as he cometh to the use of reason, to purge out that natural corruption, and live a holy and pure life to God? The answer given is, 'By taking heed thereto according to thy Word.'
Two things are to be observed:
I. The remedy (The Word—by way of address to God, called thy Word; because if God had not given direction about it, we should have been at an utter loss).
God demandeth His right as soon as we are capable to understand it. And it concerneth every one, as soon as he cometh to the use of reason, presently to mind his work, both in regard of God and himself.
'Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near when you will say, 'I have no delight in them'" (Ecclesiastes 12:1)...
We have nothing but what He gave us, and that for His own use and service. And therefore the vessel should be cleansed as soon as may be, that it may be 'fit for the master's use.' It is a kind of spiritual restitution for the neglects of childhood and the forgetfulness of infancy, when we were not in a capacity to know our Creator much less to serve Him. And therefore, as soon as we come to the use of reason, we should restore His right with advantage.
"Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it." (Proverbs 22:6)...
When well principled and seasoned in youth, it sticketh by them, before sin and worldly lusts have gotten a deeper rooting.
The Word, as a remedy against natural uncleanness, is considerable two ways—as a rule, and as an instrument...
A. As the only rule of that holiness which God will accept... Nothing is holiness in God's account, how specious soever it be, unless it be according to the Word. What doth the Word do about all these as the rule? It showeth the only way of reconciliation with God, or being cleansed from the guilt of sin, and the only way of solid and true sanctification and subjection to God, which is our cleansing from the filthiness of sin.
It is the only rule to teach us how to obtain true peace of conscience... There was no course to recover men from their entanglements and perplexities of soul, how to pacify God for sin, but they were still left in a floating uncertainty, till God revealed Himself as reconciling the world to Himself in Christ. Now, no doctrine doth propound the way of reconciliation with God, and redemption from those fears of his angry justice which are so natural to us, with such rational advantages, and claimeth such a just title to human belief, as the doctrine of the Gospel.
It is the only rule of true holiness. Never was it stated and brought to such a pitch as it is in the scriptures, nor enforced by such arguments as are found there; it requireth such a holiness as standeth in conformity to God, and is determined by His will. Now it is but reason that He that is the Supreme Being should be the rule of all the rest. It is a holiness of another rate than the blind heart could find out; not an external devotion, nor a civil course, but such as transformeth the heart and subdueth it to the will of God [see Romans 2:15]. If a man would attain to the highest exactness that a rational creature is capable of, not to moral virtue only, but a true genuine respect to God and man, he must regard and love the law of God that is pure. A man that would be holy had need of an exact rule, for to be sure his practice will come short of his rule; and therefore, if the rule itself be short, there will no due provision be made for respects to God or man. But now this is a rule that reacheth not only to the way, but the thoughts; that converteth the soul [see Psalm 19:7]. Take the fairest draughts of that moral perfection which yet is of human recommendation, and you will find it defective and maimed in some parts, either as to God or men... not reaching to the full subjection of the soul to God.
B. The Word is considerable as an instrument which God maketh use of to cleanse the heart of man... The doctrine of the Scripture holds out the remedy and means of cleansing—Christ's blood; which is not only an argument or motive to move us to it [see 1 Peter 1:8]. It presseth holiness upon this argument. Why? God hath been at great cost to bring it about, therefore we must not content ourselves with some smooth morality, which might have been whether Christ had been, yea or nay. Again, the Word propounds it as a purchase, whereby grace is procured for us; so it is said, 'He hath purchased the Spirit to bless us, and turn us from our sins. And it exciteth faith to apply and improve this remedy, and so conveyeth the power of God into the soul... Purifying their hearts by faith' (1 John 1:7; Acts 15:9).
II. The manner how it is applied and made use of (By taking heed thereto... by studying and endeavouring a holy conformity to God's will)...
The manner how the Word is applied and made use of, 'If he take heed thereunto according to thy Word.' This implieth a studying of the Word, and the tendency and importance of it, which is necessary if the young man would have benefit by it... If men would grow wise to salvation, and get any skill in the practice of godliness, they must be much in this blessed book of God, which is given us for direction... It is not a slight acquaintance with the Word that will make a young man so successful as to defeat the temptations of Satan, and be too hard for his own lust; it is not a little notional irradiation, but to have the Word dwell in you, and abide in you richly... we are prone to error and all manner of carnal fancies by the natural temper and frame of our hearts; and therefore, from our very tender and infant-age we should be acquainted with the word of God [see Isaiah 58:2; 2 Timothy 3:15]. It may be children, by reading the Word, get nothing but a little memorable knowledge, but yet it is good to plant the field of the memory; in time they will soak into the judgment and conscience, and thence into the heart and affections.
It implieth a care and watchfulness over our hearts and ways, that our will and actions be conformed to the Word. This must be the young man's daily prayer and care, that there be a conformity between His will and the Word, that He may be a walking Bible, Christ's living epistle, copy out the Word in His life, that the truths of it may appear plainly in his conversation.
All that I have said issueth itself into three points:
1. That the great duty of youth, as soon as they come to the full use of reason, is to inquire and study how they may cleanse their hearts and ways from sin.
2. That the Word of God is the only rule sufficient and effectual to accomplish this work.
3. If we would have this efficacy, there is required much care and watchfulness, that we come to the direction of the Word in every tittle; not a loose and inattentive reflection upon the Word, careless inconsiderateness, but a taking heed thereunto."
The Thomas Manton Homepage