While commenting upon the One Hundred and Nineteenth Psalm, I was brought into most intimate communion with Thomas Manton, who has discoursed upon that marvellous portion of Scripture with great fulness and power. I have come to know him so well that I could choose him out from among a thousand divines if he were again to put on his portly form, and display among modern men that countenance wherein was a “great mixture of majesty and meekness.” His works occupy twenty-two volumes in the modern reprint: a mighty mountain of sound theology. They mostly consist of sermons; but what sermons! They are not so sparkling as those of Henry Smith, nor so profound as those of Owen, nor so rhetorical as those of Howe, nor so pithy as those of Watson, nor so fascinating as those of Brooks; and yet they are second to none of these. For solid, sensible instruction forcibly delivered, they cannot be surpassed. Manton is not brilliant, but he is always clear; he is not oratorical, but he is powerful; he is not striking, but he is deep. There is not a poor discourse in the whole collection: he is evenly good, constantly excellent. Ministers who do not know Manton need not wonder if they are themselves unknown.
Inasmuch as Manton used but a few figures and illustrations, it came into my head to mark them all, for I felt sure that they would be very natural and forcible: I will give you the reasoning of which this volume is the result. I thought that here we should find a set of workable illustrations. It never occurred to this good man to introduce a metaphor by way of ornament; he was too intent upon telling his message to think about how his sentences might be adorned, and hence it fell out that if he did use a simile, it was because one was absolutely needful, or, at least, because it was the preferable mode of making himself understood. Here, then, is a man whose figures will be sure to be usable by the earnest preacher who has forsworn the baubles of rhetoric, and aims at nothing but the benefit of his hearers. I thought it worth while to go through volume after volume, and mark the metaphors; and then I resolved to complete the task by culling all the best figures out of the whole of Manton’s works. Thus my communing with the great Puritan ends in my clearing his house of all his pictures, and hanging them up in new frames of my own. As I leave his right to them unquestioned and unconcealed, I do not rob him, but I bless him by giving him another opportunity of speaking.
One kind of work leads on to another, and labor is lightened by being diversified: had it not been for “The Treasury of David” I had not been found among the metaphors of Manton.
I see it is thirteen years ago since I issued a volume of illustrations; I may surely take the liberty to put forth another. The former was entitled, “Feathers for Arrows;” it has met with a large sale, and it may be presumed to be useful, seeing it has been appropriated, almost every scrap of it, by the compilers of Cyclopædias of Illustrations.
To make this little book more generally acceptable, I have thrown it into a somewhat devotional form, using Manton’s figures as texts for brief meditations: this I humbly hope may be found profitable for reading in the chamber of private worship. The latter half of the work was composed in the gardens and olive-groves of Mentone, where I found it a pleasure to muse, and compose. How I wish that I could have flooded my sentences with the sunlight of that charming region! As it is, I have done my best to avoid dulness, and to aim at edification. If a single practical truth is the more clearly seen through my endeavors, I shall be grateful; and doubly so if others are helped to make their teaching more striking.
It is my design to bring out a third volume, consisting of illustrations which I have long been collecting at home and abroad, and patiently jotting down in pocket-books till leisure should be found for their proper shaping and arranging. Time is short, and it behooves each one to be working for his Lord, that when he is called home he may leave behind him something for the generations following. Highly shall we be favored if the gracious Master shall accept our service now, and grant us the consciousness of that acceptance; happier still if we may hope to hear Him say, “Well done.”