Archive for August 21st, 2010

The purchase of all those mercies which Providence conveys to us, is by His own blood; for not only spiritual and eternal mercies but even all our temporal ones are the acquisition of His blood. As sin forfeited all, so Christ restored all these mercies again to us by His death. Sin had so shut up the womb of mercy that had not Christ made an atonement by death it could never have brought forth one mercy to all eternity for us. It is with Him that God freely gives us all things (Romans 8:32): heaven itself, and all things needful to bring us thither, among which is principally included the tutelage and aid of divine Providence. So that whatever good we receive from the hand of Providence, we must put it upon the score of Christ’s blood; and when we receive it, we may say, it is the price of blood; it is a mercy rising up out of the death of Christ; it cost Him dear though it come to me freely; it is sweet in the possession but costly in the acquisition. Now this is a most endearing consideration. Did Christ die that these mercies might live? Did He pay His invaluable blood to purchase these comforts that I possess? O what transcendent, matchless love was the love of Christ! … If the life of Christ had not been so painful and sad to Him, ours could not have been so sweet and comfortable to us. It is through His poverty we are enriched (2 Corinthians 8:9). These sweet mercies that are born of Providence every day are the fruits of ‘the travail of his soul’ (Isaiah 53:11).

The sanctification of all those mercies which Providence conveys to us is by our union with Christ. It is by virtue of our union with His person that we enjoy the sanctified gifts and blessings of Providence. All these are mercies additional to that great mercy, Christ (Matthew 6:33). They are given with Him (Romans 8:32). This is the tenure by which we hold them (1 Corinthians 3:21-23). What we lost in Adam is restored again with advantage in Christ. Immediately upon the fall, that curse (Genesis 2:17) seized upon all the miserable posterity of Adam and upon all their comforts, outward as well as inward; and this still lies heavy upon them. All that Providence does for them that are Christless is but to feed so many poor condemned wretches till the sentence they are under is executed upon them. It is indeed bountiful and openhanded to many of them and fills them with earthly comforts; but not one special sanctified mercy is to be found among all their enjoyments. These gifts of Providence do but deceive, defile and destroy them through their own corruptions, and for want of union with Christ. ‘The prosperity of fools shall destroy them’ (Proverbs 1:32). But when a man is once in Christ, then all providences are sanctified and sweet. ‘Unto the pure, all things are pure’ (Titus 1:15). ‘A little that a righteous man hath is better than the treasures of many wicked’ (Psalm 37:16). Now Christ becomes a head of influence as well as of dominion; and in all things He consults the good of His own members (Ephesians 1:22).

source: John Flavel, ‘The Providence of God’ Chapter 10 – The Advantages of Meditating on Providence.

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How may a Christian discern when a providence is sanctified, and comes from the love of God to him?

To some all providences are overruled and ordered for good, according to that blessed promise (Romans 8:28); not only things that are good in themselves, as ordinances, graces, duties and mercies, but things that are evil in themselves, as temptations, afflictions, and even their sins and corruptions, shall turn in the issue to their advantage and benefit. For though sin is so intrinsically and formally evil in its own nature, that in itself it is not capable of sanctification, yet out of this worst of evils God can work good to His people. And though He never makes sin the instrument of good, yet His providence may make it the occasion of good to His people, so that spiritual benefits may, by the wise overruling of Providence, be occasioned by it.

For the understanding of [whether a providence is sanctified for good] I shall premise two necessary considerations:

First, let it be considered that we cannot know from the matter of the things before us, whether they are sanctified or unsanctified to us … We cannot understand the mind and heart of God by the things He dispenses with His hand. If prosperous providences befall us, we cannot say, This is a sure sign that God loves me … and from adverse afflictive providences we cannot know His hatred.

Secondly, though the providences of God materially considered afford no evidence of God’s love to us, yet the manner in which they befall us, and the effects and fruits they produce in us, do distinguish them very manifestly; and by them we may discern whether they are sanctified providences and fruits of the love of God, or not. Yet these effects and fruits of providences by which we discern their nature do not always appear immediately; but time must be allowed for the soul’s exercise under them.

The benefit of a providence is discerned as that of a medicine is. For the present it gripes, and makes the stomach sick and loathing, but afterwards we find the benefit of it in our recovery of health and cheerfulness. Now the providences of God are some of them comfortable, and others sad and grievous to nature, and the way to discern the sanctification and blessing of them is by the manner in which they come, and their operations upon our spirits.

For sad and afflictive providences, in whatever kind or degree they befall us, we may warrantably conclude they are blessings to us, and come from the love of God, when they come in a proper season, when we have need of them, either to prevent some sin we are falling into, or recover us out of a remiss, supine, and careless frame of spirit into which we are already fallen. … Certainly, it is a good sign that God designs your good by those troubles which are so fitted and wisely ordered to meet the need. … When our troubles are fitted both for quality and degree to work properly upon our most predominant corruptions, then they look like sanctified strokes.

[note: Flavel argues that both sad/afflictive providences as well as comfortable/pleasant providences can be understood as issuing from God’s love or hatred by (1) the fruit they produce in a person’s spirit in relation to God (2) by the way in which God administers them (type, timing, degree etc.)].

If Christians in reading the Scriptures would judiciously collect and record the providences they shall meet with there, and add those that have fallen out in their own time and experience, O what a precious treasure would these make! What an antidote would it be to their souls against the spreading atheism of these days, and satisfy them beyond what many other arguments can do, that ‘The LORD he is the God; the LORD he is the God’.

source: John Flavel, ‘The Providence of God’.

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