The Wanderer

As I walked through the wilderness of this world …

Posts Tagged ‘John Flavel

Desiring Christ

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John Flavel, preaching in his Method of Grace on alluring the hearts of men to come to Christ, focuses on his being “the desire of all nations.” He asserts that “the desires of God’s elect in all kingdoms, and among all people of the earth, are, and shall be drawn out after, and fixed upon the Lord Jesus Christ.” Having explored the title, and asked why and how it is appropriate, Flavel spends most of his sermon in applying these truths. He concludes with seven uses of direction for stirring up heart desires toward Christ, as follows:

Do these, or any other considerations, put thee upon this enquiry; how shall I get my desires kindled and enflamed towards Christ? Alas! my heart is cold and dead, not a serious desire stirring in it after Christ. To such I shall offer the following directions.

Flavel, JohnDirect. 1. Redeem some time every day for meditation; get out of the noise and clamour of the world, Psal. 4:4. and seriously bethink yourselves how the present state of your soul stands, and how it is like to go with you for ever: here all sound conversion begins, Psal. 69:5–9.

Direct. 2. Consider seriously of that lamentable state, in which you came into the world; children of wrath by nature, under the curse and condemnation of the law: so that either your state must be changed, or you inevitably damned, John 3:3.

Direct. 3. Consider the way and course you have taken since you came into the world, proceeding from iniquity to iniquity. What command of God have you not violated a thousand times over? What sin is committed in the world, that you are not one way or other guilty of before God? How many secret sins upon your score, unknown to the most intimate friend you have in the world? Either this guilt must be separated from your souls, or your souls from God to all eternity.

Direct. 4. Think upon the severe wrath of God due to every sin; “The wages of sin is death,” Rom. 6:23. And how intolerable the fulness of that wrath must be when a few drops sprinkled upon the conscience in this world, are so insupportable, that hath made some to chuse strangling rather than life; and yet this wrath must abide for ever upon you, if you get not interest in Jesus Christ, John 3:36.

Direct. 5. Ponder well the happy state and condition they are in who have obtained pardon and peace by Jesus Christ, Psal. 32:12. And seeing the grace of God is free, and you are set under the means thereof; why may not you be as capable thereof as others?

Direct. 6. Seriously consider the great uncertainty of your time, and preciousness of the opportunities of salvation, never to be recovered, when they are once past, John 9:4. let this provoke you to lay hold upon those golden seasons whilst they are yet with you; that you may not bewail your folly and madness, when they are out of your reach.

Direct. 7. Associate yourselves with serious Christians; get into their acquaintance, and beg their assistance; beseech them to pray for you; and see that you rest not here, but be frequently upon your knees, begging of the Lord a new heart, and a new state.

In conclusion of the whole, let me beseech and beg all the people of God, as upon my knees, to take heed, and beware, lest by the carelessness and scandal of their lives they quench the weak desires beginning to kindle in the hearts of others. You know what the law of God awards for striking a woman with child, so that her fruit go from her, Exod. 21:22, 23. O shed not soul-blood, by stifling the hopeful desires of any after Christ.

Blessed be God for Jesus Christ, the desire of all nations.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Tuesday 24 September 2019 at 09:03

100 days of John Flavel

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Written by Jeremy Walker

Wednesday 5 September 2012 at 08:44

Posted in While wandering . . .

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On reading Flavel

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Lewis Allen offers some good reasons, drawing on J. W. Alexander:

How could I have postponed to this place dear John Flavel? Noone needs to be told how pious, how faithful, how tender, how rich, how full of unction are his works. In no other writer have the highest truths of religion been more remarkably brought down to the lowest capacity; yet with no sinking of the doctrine, and with a perpetual sparkle and zest, belonging to the most generous liquor. It has always been a wonder to me, how Flavel could maintain such simplicity and naiveté, and such childlike and almost frolicsome grace, amidst the multiform studies which he pursued. I can account for it only by his having been constantly among the people, in actual duty as a Pastor. Opening one of his volumes at random I find quotations, often in Greek and Latin, and in the order here annexed, from Cicero, Pope Adrian, Plato, Chrysostom, Horace, Ovid, Luther, Bernard, Claudian, Menander and Petronius. His residence at Dartmouth would afford a multitude of pastoral instances, if this were our present object.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Friday 20 July 2012 at 08:30

Posted in While wandering . . .

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Gospel delight

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John Flavel (1630-1691):

Ecstasy and delight are essential to the believer’s soul and they promote sanctification. We were not meant to live without spiritual exhilaration, and the Christian who goes for a long time without the experience of heart-warming will soon find himself tempted to have his emotions satisfied from earthly things and not, as he ought, from the Spirit of God. The soul is so constituted that it craves fulfillment from things outside itself and will embrace earthly joys for satisfaction when it cannot reach spiritual ones. The believer is in spiritual danger if he allows himself to go for any length of time without tasting the love of Christ and savoring the felt comforts of a Savior’s presence. When Christ ceases to fill the heart with satisfaction, our souls will go in silent search of other lovers. By the enjoyment of the love of Christ in the heart of a believer, we mean an experience of the “love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given to us” (Rom. 5:5). Because the Lord has made himself accessible to us in the means of grace, it is our duty and privilege to seek this experience from Him in these means till we are made the joyful partakers of it.

HT Justin Taylor‘s replacement (!)

Written by Jeremy Walker

Monday 8 August 2011 at 17:14

Posted in Christian living

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The touchstone of sincerity

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John FlavelMy father put me on to this.  It is taken from John Flavel writing on “The Touchstone of Sincerity: or, The Signs of Grace, and Symptoms of Hypocrisy,” in The Works of John Flavel (London: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1968) 5:599.

Flavel says that sincerity lies at the heart of true religion.  However, it is easy for sensitive Christians to torture themselves unnecessarily.  They imagine that they are far worse than they actually are and therefore fail to recognise the grace and sincerity that God has actually worked in them.  Sin remains in the best of the saints.  Every Christian struggles with particular sins; we tend to be slow and dull in fulfilling our Christian duties; fears and doubts perplex us at times; and, hypocrisy and sinful motives still plague us.  John Flavel suggests that many of our problems about discerning whether we are genuine or not would be resolved if we sat down and in a calm spirit gave an honest answer to each of the following six questions.

  1. Do I seek the approval of God as I live out my life, as I pray, as I worship, as I do good works?  Or do I seek principally the approval and applause of men?  Think of Paul whose aim was ‘not as pleasing men, but God’ (1Thes 2.4; Col 3.23).
  2. What restrains me from committing sin?  Is it the fact that my sinning would bring shame and reproach on me now and place my soul in danger and bring me distress in the future?  Or is it because I fear God and therefore hate sin because it is against him?  Think of Joseph (Gen 39.9) and compare with Psalm 19.12-13 or 119.113.
  3. Do I rejoice to see God’s work advancing in the world and his glory promoted by other men and women?  Or do I have reservations and regrets because I have no share in the credit and honour of it?  Again, think of Paul (Phil 1.18).
  4. Although some Christian duties are hard to carry out and require much self-denial, do I nevertheless desire to fulfil those duties?  In my heart do I sincerely desire to do all the will of God, even though I am unable to follow that pattern perfectly?  David was a man whose heart was set on doing all God’s will (Ps 119.4-6).
  5. Am I an ‘all-weathers’ Christian?  Am I sincerely determined to pursue Christ and holiness even if I face opposition and adversity?  Or do I conduct myself in such a way that I am overly-concerned to protect myself and play safe?  Is there a secret reserve in my heart that holds me back from hazarding all for Christ?  This is contrary to the practice of the saints (e.g. Ps 106.3; 44.17-19; Rev. 22.11).
  6. What is my attitude to secret sins and secret duties?  Do I make no conscience of committing secret sins and neglecting secret duties?  Or am I conscientious in following the rules and patterns of integrity laid out in God’s word?  (See Ps 19.12 again and also Mt 6.5-6).

Flavel concludes: “A few such questions solemnly propounded to our hearts, in a calm and serious hour, would sound them, and discover much of their sincerity towards the Lord.”

Written by Jeremy Walker

Friday 28 August 2009 at 23:08

Remembering and rejoicing

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Just before Christmas last year my dear wife miscarried.  I can still remember sitting in the room for the scan with a big foolish grin on my face (my wife was ahead of me, and knew better what to look for, and had already reached her own conclusion) as the nurse looked at me and said, “I am afraid I have got some bad news for you.”

mystery-of-providence-flavelNo amount of professional poise or genuine sympathy from the hospital staff makes that news easy to bear.  I went home, and pulled down John Flavel’s The Mystery of Providence.  I don’t think I actually finished re-reading it, but I needed time to be reminded of those basic truths of God’s good and gracious government of all things, and to have them pressed upon my soul.

I know that Christians of different stripes take their comfort differently under these circumstances.  I found mine primarily in the character of my God, in his righteousness and in his mercy:

Far be it from you to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from you!  Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?  (Gen 18.25)

But the Lord said, “You have had pity on the plant for which you have not laboured, nor made it grow, which came up in a night and perished in a night.  And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left – and much livestock?”  (Jon 4:10-11)

Last night, God was pleased to bring into this world William Latimer Walker, also preserving his mother through labour and delivery.  We were always conscious of the frailty of life.  I am more conscious of how grateful I must be for the health of my wife and myself, and for the continuing health and preservation of William’s “big bwuvver,” Caleb.  I am much more conscious of how thankful to God we must be that this baby has survived and seems so healthy.

I am also conscious that William is the son that would never have been born had God not been pleased to take the second child from us.  We do not know from what God spared that baby, or us, by taking him or her when he did.  But William is, in a distinctive way, the child the Lord intended for us.  We shall look forward with excitement and a little trepidation to learning what that might mean.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Friday 7 November 2008 at 13:36

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