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Holiness

by Thomas Manton

"Behold I have longed after Thy precepts; quicken me in Thy righteousness" (Psa. 119:40). Desires set upon holiness are an affection properly exercised, and upon its due object. Desire is an earnest reaching forth of the soul after good absent and not yet attained. The object of it is something good, and the more truly good it is the more is our desire justified. There are certain bastard goods of a base and transitory nature, as pleasure, profit—we may easily overlash, and exceed in these things. But on holiness, which is more high and noble, and is truly good, and of great vicinity and nearness to our chiefest good than those others things are, we cannot exceed—there the faculty is rightly placed.

When we are hasty and passionate for those other things, the heart is corrupted, it is hard to escape sin: "He that makes haste to be rich cannot be innocent" (Prov. 28:20); and he that loves pleasure is in danger of not loving God (2 Tim. 3:4). But now in holiness there is no such snare: a man cannot be holy enough, nor like enough to God; and therefore here we may freely let out our affections to the full. When our desires are freely let out to other things, they are like a member out of joint, as when the arms hang backward, but here they are in their proper place; this is that which cannot be loved beyond what it doth deserve.

A Christian should set no manner of bounds to himself in holiness for he is to "be holy in all manner of conversation" (1 Peter 1:15), and to be "perfect as our heavenly Father" (Matt. 5:48). And then desire is not only after that which is good, but after a good absent. Desire ariseth from a sense of vacuity and emptiness. Emptiness is the cause of appetite and therefore is compared to hunger and thirst: "Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness" (Matt. 5:6)., So it is in desiring holiness, we have not yet attained (Phil. 3:13). There is an indigence and emptiness; we are not already perfect—we want more than we have, and our enjoyments are little in comparison of our expectations, and therefore we should make a swifter progress towards the mark, and with more earnestness of soul should press after that sinless estate we expect.

That little we have doth but quicken us to inquire after more, not cloy but provide the appetite. As a man hath a better stomach sometimes when he doth begin to eat, so when we begin with God, and have tasted of holiness, and tasted of comfort, being brought into a sense of obedience and subjection to God, we should desire more; or certainly he is not good that doth not desire to be better. So that David might well say, "I have longed after Thy precepts."


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