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Archive for the ‘Flavel, John’ Category

There are hard texts in the works [of providence] as well as in the Word of God. It becomes us modestly and humbly to show reverence, but not to dogmatize too boldly and positively upon them. (Flavel, The Mystery of Providence, 141)

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John Flavel, in 1678, instructs readers to see God as the author of all circumstances in life, including suffering:

Set before you the sovereignty of God. Eye Him as the Being infinitely superior to you, at whose pleasure you and all your have subsist (Psalm 115:3), which is the most conclusive reason and argument for submission (Psalm 46:10). For if we, all we have proceeded from His will, how right is it that we be resigned up to it!

Set the grace and goodness of God before you in all afflictive providences. O see Him passing by you i the cloudy and dark day, proclaiming His name, ‘The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious’ (Exodus 34:6).

Eye the wisdom of God in all your afflictions. Behold it in the choice of the kind of your affliction, this, and not another; the time, now and not at another season; the degree, in this measure only, and not in a greater; the supports offered you under it, not left altogether helpless; the issue to which it is overruled, it is to your good, not ruin.

Set the faithfulness of the Lord before you under the saddest providences. 
O what quietness will this breed! I see my God will not lose my heart, if a rod can prevent it. he would rather hear me groan here than howl hereafter. His love is judicious, not fond. He consults my good rather than my ease.

Eye the all-sufficiency of God in the day of affliction. See enough in Him still, whatever is gone. Here is the fountain still as full as ever, though this or that pipe is cut off, which was wont to convey somewhat of it to me.

Lastly, eye the immutablity of God. Look on Him as the Rock of ages, ‘The Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning (James 1:17). Eye Jesus Christ as ‘the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever.’

The Mystery of Providence, 1678, (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 2006), 130-132

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Grace is in no sense contingent upon or dependent upon what man does.

Source: D. M. Lloyd Jones

No repentance, obedience, self-denial, prayers, tears, reformation or ordinances, without the new creation, avail any thing to the salvation of thy soul.

Source: John Flavel

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The opening of your hearts to receive the Lord Jesus Christ is not a work done by any power of your own, but the arm of the Lord is revealed therein.

Source: John Flavel, The Method Of Grace

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Happy were it, if puzzled and perplexed Christians would turn their eyes from the defects that are in their obedience, to the fulness and completeness of Christ’s obedience; and see themselves complete in him, when most lame and defective in themselves.

Source: John Flavel, ‘Opens the Covenant of Redemption betwixt the Father and the Redeemer’. John Flavel (1628-1691) was the son of a Puritan minister who died in prison for non-conformity.

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Source: A sermon by John Flavel in 1671 on Isaiah 53:12

Doctrine: That the business of man’s salvation was transacted upon covenant terms, between the Father and the Son, from all eternity.

The persons transacting and dealing with each other in this covenant are great persons, God the Father, and God the Son.

The business, transacted between them; and that was the redemption and recovery of all God’s elect …

For the manner, or quality of the transaction, it was federal, or of the nature of a covenant; it was by mutual engagements and stipulations, each Person undertaking to perform his part in order to our recovery.

[The Father] promiseth to invest [Christ], and anoint him to a threefold office, answerable to the misery that lay upon the elect; for, if ever man be restored to that happiness, the blindness of his mind must be cured, the guilt of sin expiated, and his captivity to sin led captive. Christ must, "of God, be made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption." And he is made so to us as our Prophet, Priest, and King.

Blindness – Prophet (a light to the Gentiles – Isaiah42) – Wisdom

Guilt – Priest (of the order of Melchizedek – Psalm 110) – Sanctification

Captivity to sin – King (over enemies – Psalm 2) – Redemption

When was this compact made between the Father and the Son? I answer, it bears date from eternity. Before this world was made, then were his delights in us, while as yet we had no existence, but only in the infinite mind and purpose of God, who had decreed this for us in Christ Jesus, as the apostle speaks, 2 Tim 1:9. What grace was that which was given us in Christ before the world began, but this grace of redemption, which was from everlasting thus contrived and designed for us, in that way which hath been here opened?

Andrew’s comment. We are very loved people when you think that as long as God has existed, we have existed in the mind of God. He has always, as long as he has existed loved us and our creation and redemption are merely God’s love in history. But as long as he has existed he has loved us knowing all our weakness and failures. This is love … not that we loved him but that he loved us!

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God is in control of His universe.

God is working out His perfect purposes.

God is not my servant.

God’s ways are far more mysterious and wonderful than I can understand.

God is good — all the time, I can trust Him — all the time.

God’s timetable is not the same as mine.

God is far more interested in what I become than what I do.

Freedom from suffering is no part of the Christian Gospel.

Suffering is an integral part of the Christian life.

God works through suffering to fulfill His purposes in me.

God’s purposes, not mine, are what will bring Him glory.

God guides me by enabling me to read His providences though the lenses of His Word.

I have few greater pleasures than to read His providences than tracing the wonders of God’s ways.

Source: Ferguson, ‘The Mystery of Providence’ in The Devoted Life – An Invitation to the Puritan Classics, 222-223.

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John Flavel provides an example of how God’s providence might ordain suffering as a means of preserving his people from sin and temptation.

Basil was sorely grieved with an inveterate headache; he earnestly prayed it might be removed; God removed it. No sooner was he freed of this clog, but he felt the inordinate motions of lust, which made him pray for his headache again.

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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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