This is Part 3 of Puritan Thomas Manton’s excellent case showing that it is no easy thing to be saved. It comes from his sermon on Mark 10:26.
I am editing these sections down, but I hope you will take the time to read the entire thing, as it has many more examples and Scripture references, and you can find it here:
And here are the previous blog posts:
Part 1 – Astonishment at Rich Men’s Difficulty
Part 2 – Doubt at Difficulty, but Generally Proved
From Thomas Manton:
Mark 10:26 – “And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved?”
II. Wherein lies the difficulty of salvation?
The reason of doubting is this: because God’s terms, upon which heaven is offered, are gentle and sweet, … the Law which God hath given us is holy, just, and good, becoming a God to give, and a creature to receive. … Therefore how is it so difficult, especially since there is so much strength given, habitual strength, … and there is so much actual strength. … And therefore since the way is so good, his yoke so easy, and there is so much strength given, and since the encouragements are so many, both from the work, and from the wages.
From the work itself; ‘Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace’, Prov. 3:7. There is a great deal of peace, comfort, and sweetness in walking with God.
And then for the wages, ‘God is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him’, Heb. 11:6.
Well then, (to sum up all) these things concur, since the way is plain, the helps many, the promises full and sure; why is it so difficult to go to heaven?
I answer: The fault is not in God, but in our own selves, in our own hearts, in our addictedness to temporal satisfactions: and therefore when God calls us off from the interests and concernments of the present world, wholly to look after the interests and concernments of the world to come, the disposition of our flesh, or carnal nature, and the course of God’s institutions will not suit. And this must needs be a very great difficulty, not easily removed: because, (1.) It is natural to us. (2.) It is increased by custom. (3.) It hath a powerful efficacy upon us to hinder us from walking in the ways of God, that are so sweet and pleasant.
(1.) This is natural to us, to be led by sense, or to be addicted to present things. There are three sorts of beings in the world:
- Angels that are pure spirits without flesh, these were made for heaven, and not earth
- There are brute creatures, that are flesh without immortal souls, these were made for earth, and not heaven
- And there is man, a middle nature between both these, that hath a fleshly substance, and an immortal soul, made partly for heaven, and partly for earth, as partaking of both; he hath a body that was made out of the dust, and so fitted to live in this world; and he hath a soul that came down from the superior world [from God when created], and must return thither again.
Now these two things must be regarded, according to the dignity of the parts of which man consisteth, his earthly part, and his heavenly part. The soul being the better part, the perfection and happiness of it should chiefly be looked after; the good of the soul is the enjoyment of the ever blessed God, this should be our main work and business, and the good of the body should be looked after in an inferior and subordinate manner. The good of the body is meat, drink, wealth, honour; these things are to be looked after in our passage to heaven. … Man was made for earth in his passage and way to heaven, but his home and happiness is in heaven, where he is to enjoy the blessed God, among his holy angels, and those blessed creatures that dwell above, in the region of spirits. This was the end for which man was created, and while man continued innocent, he had a heart inclined and disposed towards God as his chiefest good; he sought the good of his soul, and was to love him, and fear him, and serve him, and depend upon him as the fountain of his happiness.
But by the fall man was drawn off from God to the creature, to seek his happiness there. … Not only Adam in his own person, but all his posterity are turned from God to the creature. Now man in his pure naturals, is inclined to the creature, which conduceth to the satisfaction of the earthly part, and not to God, wherein the happiness of his soul lies. This will be evident to you, if you consider, that though the soul be created by God, yet it is created destitute of grace, or original righteousness; and being destitute of the image of God, or original righteousness, it doth only accommodate itself to the interests of the body, and seek the happiness of the body: for where there is not a principle to carry us higher, it can only close with things present, and known, such as are the pleasures of the body, and the interests of the bodily life, and so forgets God, and what concerns the enjoyment of him. And so it is said, Rom. 8:5, ‘They that are after the flesh, do mind (or favour) the things of the flesh, and they that are after the Spirit, the things of the Spirit’.
And thence proceeds all our mindlessness of God, and averseness to him; our unruly and inordinate appetites of temporal things, and the confusion, weakness, and disorder that is seen in the life of man, and all his operations and faculties. … He is sharp-sighted in all things that concern the present world, but cannot see things to come; and until the Lord make a gracious change upon him, he sees nothing of the worth of salvation, or of a need of Christ, and making any serious preparation for eternity.
Hence comes that averseness of will to what is truly good, that he cannot endure to hear of it, … and while the soul is so, it hath such a bent and proneness to that which is evil, or what concerns our interest in the world.
Hence it is that in the course of our lives we take up with the interests of the present world, and make no provision for a better life.
Well then, by a natural constitution, we are utterly at a loss, the soul being destitute of a principle that should carry it to look after spiritual things, as its great scope and interest, it wholly purveys and caters for bodily pleasures, and the honours and profits of the present life: here lieth the great difficulty in the way of salvation.
(2.) This addictedness to present things is increased by our converse in the world: so that besides natural inclination, there is inveterate custom, whereby this inclination to carnal satisfactions, such as riches, pleasures, ease, safety, and sensual [of the senses] delights, is strengthened and deeply engraved in us.
The first years of a man’s life are merely governed by sense, and the pleasures of the flesh are born and bred up with us, by which means we come to be stiff, and settled in a carnal frame. Custom is another nature, and therefore the more we are accustomed to delight in any course of life, we are weaned from it with the greater difficulty: … Every act disposeth the soul to the habit, and after the habit or custom is produced, every new deliberate act adds a stiffness of bent, or sway unto the faculty, wherein the custom is seated: so that by degrees we grow into an obstinacy and strength of will in a carnal course, which is called hardness of heart, or a heart of stone in scripture.
A man is ensnared by his customs, whatever they be; for an addictedness in the general to carnal satisfactions, brings a slavery upon us [like being addicted to something]. … Men by the tyranny of custom, become so impotent to resist their lusts [desires], that the satisfaction thereof becomes their very element, out of which they cannot live: it is their Eden, and their heaven, their very paradise, though at length indeed they find it to be their hell.
And of all evil customs, covetousness or worldliness is most dangerous, because it is of more credit, and of less infamy in the world; and besides, it doth multiply its acts most, and works incessantly.
Now while worldly men’s hearts are so deeply dyed with such desires, as carrieth them out to such things, they are hardly saved.
Well then, here is another reason of the difficulty, that our lusts are born and bred with us from our infancy, and can plead prescription; and religion cometh afterwards, and findeth us biased and prepossessed with other inclinations, which by reason of long use cannot easily be broken and shaken off.
May God grant us His graces and a desire against and breaking away from the ways of the world!
Stay tuned for part 4, if the Lord wills!