The Works of John Flavel

by John Flavel

Banner of Truth (2015)

John Flavel (1628-1691), son of a Puritan minister who died in prison for his Nonconformity, was educated at University College, oxford, and laboured for almost the entire period of his ministry at Dartmouth, Devon. Having all the characteristics of the tradition to which he belonged — a tradition which believed that preaching should be ‘hissing hot’, searching, and expository — Flavel attained to pre-eminence in his ability to combine both instruction and appeal to the heart. Some Puritans might be more learned than he, and some more quaint, but for all-round usefulness none was his superior.

The repeated editions of Flavel’s Works bear their own witness to his popularity: five times were The Works of John Flavel issued in the 18th century and at least three times in the 19th. He was a favourite with Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield (who ranked him with John Bunyan and Matthew Henry), and, a century later, with such Scottish evangelical leaders as R. M. M’Cheyne and Andrew Bonar. But it was in the homes of Christian people that Flavel made his greatest appeal and influenced rising generations: Archibald Alexander, the first professor at Princeton Seminary, read him while still a ‘teenager’ and recorded in later life, ‘To John Flavel I certainly owe more than to any uninspired author.’

Flavel’s complete works had long been unobtainable until reprinted by the Trust in 1968. His six volumes are in themselves a library of the best Puritan divinity and a set will be a life-long treasure to those who possess it. He is one of that small number of evangelical writers who can by their lucidity and simplicity help those at the beginning of the Christian life and at the same time be a strong companion to those who near its end.

To purchase, click here: The Works of John Flavel

Volume I

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Volume II

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Volume III

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Volume IV

Divine Conduct, or The Mystery of Providence: A Treatise upon Psalm 57.2

Outline

  • Psalm 57:2
    • Remarkable items:
      • 1) David’s extreme danger
      • 2) David’s earnest address to God in that extremity
      • 3) The arguments David pleads with God in that address
        • 1. He pleads his reliance upon God as an argument to move mercy
        • 2. He please former experiences of his help in the pas distresses as an argument encouraging hope under the present strait
          • Consider:
            • 1) The duty resolved upon
            • 2) The encouragement to that resolution
              • 1. Objective, taken from the sovereignty of God
              • 2. Subjective, taken from the experience he had of his providence
    • Providence is, in its influenced upon the affairs and concerns of the saints:
      • 1) Universal
      • 2) Effectual
      • 3) Beneficial
      • 4) Encouraging
    • Doctrine:
      • That it is the duty of the saints, especially in times of straits, to reflect upon the performances of providence for them in all the states, and through all the stages of their lives.
        • Two-fold reflection:
          • 1) One entire and full, in the whole complex and perfect frame thereof
          • 2) The other partial and imperfect in the way to glory, where we only view it in single acts

Quotes

  • p336 – “‘If the building emulate the skies, yet sin being at bottom, all will totter.'” [oracle to Phocas]
  • p336 – “It is a fond vanity, to think of ensuring a destiny that can control the stars, and endure the assaults of fortune (as they love to speak) while Providence is not engaged for them; no, not so much
    as by a bare acknowledgment.”
  • p336 – “…it is not the vast bulk of an estate, nor the best human security in the world, but the vigilant care of Divine Providence, that guards both it and its owners from the stroke of ruin. It is the fear of God within us, and the Providence of God round about us, which makes the firm and solid basis of all sanctified and durable prosperity.”
  • p337 -“This is the most noble and divine life that can be to live and act in this world upon eternal designs: To look upon ourselves, and what we have, as things devoted to God; not to be content that Providence should serve itself of us, (for so it doth even of those things which understand nothing of it) but to study wherein we may serve Providence, and be instrumental in its hand for the good of many; this is to be truly honourable…”
  • p338 – “But the approbation of God is infinitely better than the most glorious name among men, before or after death.”
  • p338 – “To mark how providence have gone a long step by step with the promises, and both with us, until they have now brought us near to our everlasting rest. Oh! how delectable! how transporting are such meditations as these!”
  • p338 – “One taste of spiritual sense will satisfy you better than all the accurate descriptions and high encomiums that the most elegant pen can bestow upon it.”
  • p338 – “…those that walk and converse with God, in all his dispensations towards them, these are the persons who are most fully and immediately capable of these high pleasures of the Christian life.”
  • p339 – “There are two ways whereby the blessed God condescends to manifest himself to men, his word, and his works.”
  • p339 – “But the prime glory and excellency of his providential works consists in this, that they are the very fulfillings and real accomplishments of his written word.”
  • p340 – “It will doubtless be a part of our entertainment in heaven, to view with transporting delight how the designs and methods were laid to bring us hither: And what will be a part of our blessedness in heaven may be well allowed to have a prime ingrediency into our heaven upon earth.”
  • p340 – “To search for pleasure among the due observations of Providence is to search for water in the ocean: For Providence doth not only ultimately design to bring you to heaven, but (as intermediate thereunto) to bring (by this means) much of heaven into your souls in the way thither.”
  • p340 – “How great a pleasure is it to discern how the most wise God is providentially steering all to the port of his own praise and his people’s happiness, whilst the whole world is busily employed in managing the sails and tugging at the oars with a quite opposite design and purpose? To see how they promote his design by opposing it, and fulfil his will by resisting it, enlarge his church by scattering it, and make their rest come the more sweet to their souls by making their condition so restless in the world. This is pleasant to observe in general: But to record and note its particular designs upon ourselves; with what profound wisdom, infinite tenderness, and incessant vigilancy it hath managed all that concerns us from first to last is ravishing and transporting.”
  • p340 – “Here [providence] prevented, and there it delivered. Here it directed, and there it corrected. In this it grieved, and in that it relieved. Here was the poison, and there the antidote. This providence raised a dismal cloud, and that dispelled it again. This straitened, and that enlarged. Here a want, and there a supply. This relation withered,
    and that springing up in its room. Words cannot express the high delights and gratification a gracious heart may find in such employment as this.”
  • p341 – “O what a world of rarities are to be found in providence! The blind, heedless world makes nothing of them: They cannot find one sweet bit where a gracious soul would make a rich feast.”
  • p341 – “The bee makes a sweeter meal upon one single flower, than the ox doth upon the whole meadow where thousands of them grow.”
  • p341 – “O reader! if thy heart be spiritual, and well stocked with experience, if thou hast recorded the ways of Providence towards thee, and wilt but allow thyself time to reflect upon them; what a life of pleasure mayest thou live!”
  • p342 – “The greatness of God is a glorious and unsearchable mystery…The condescension of the most high God to men is also a profound mystery…But when both these meet together (as they do in this scripture) they make up a matchless mystery. Here we find the most high God performing all things for a poor distressed creature.”
  • p345 – “…the most strict and proper notion of providence, which is nothing else but the performance of God’s gracious purposes and promises to his people.”
  • p345 – “Payment is the performance of promises. Grace makes the promise, and providence the payment.”
  • p346 – “[Providence] hath not only its hand in this or that, but in all that concerns [the interests of the saints]: it hath its eyes upon every thing that relates to them throughout their lives, from first to last; not only great and more important, but the most minute and ordinary affairs of our lives are transacted and managed by it: it touches all things that touch us, whether more nearly or remotely.”
  • p346 – “It is true, we often prejudice [providence’s] works, and unjustly censure its designs; and under many of our straits and troubles, we say, all these things are against us. But, indeed, providence neither doth, nor can do any thing that is really against the true interest and good of the saints: for what are the works of providence, but the execution of God’s decree, and the fulfilling of his word?”
  • p347 – “If thou be a Christian indeed, I know thou hast, if not in thy book, yet certainly in thy heart, a great many precious favours upon record; the very remembrance and rehearsal of them is sweet. How much more sweet was the actual enjoyment? Baxter’s Saint’s Rest p.761”
  • p348 – “It is in that mount of God, where we shall see both the wilderness and Canaan: The glorious kingdom into which we are to come, and the way through which we were led into it: There the saints shall have a ravishing view of that beautiful frame;”
  • p348 – “For it is certain, no ship at sea keeps more exactly by the compass which directs its course, than providence doth by that promise…”
  • p348 – “O how ravishing and delightful a sight is that! to behold, at one view the whole design of providence, and the proper place and use of every single act, which we could not understand in this world:”
  • p349 – “All the dark, intricate, puzzling providences at which we were sometimes so stumbled, and sometimes amazed, which we could neither reconcile with the promise, nor with each other, nay, which we so unjustly censured and bitterly bewailed as if they had fallen out quite cross to our happiness, we shall then see to be unto us, as the difficult passage through the wilderness was unto Israel…”
  • p349 – “It is certainly an highway of walking with God in this world; and as sweet communion may a soul enjoy with him in his providences, as in any of his ordinances.”
  • p349 – “How often have the hearts of its observers been melted into tears of joy at the beholding of its wise and unexpected productions? How often hath it convinced them upon a sober recollection of the events of their lives, that if the Lord had left them to their own counsels, they had as often been their own tormentors, if not executioners? Into what, and how many fatal mischiefs had they precipitated themselves, if Providence had been as short sighted as they? They have given it their interest more than their importunity, and not suffering them to perish by their own desires.”