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February’s Puritan: John Flavel

John FlavelThe Puritan we will be reading this month is John Flavel (1628-1691). Due to circumstances obviously beyond my control, instead of providing my own brief bio, I would like to link my readers to Timmy Brister’s excellent introduction to Flavel. You can read the bio here.

Excerpts from the bio:

In 1656, Flavel accepted a call to be minister in the thriving seaport of Dartmouth. He earned a smaller income there, but his work was more profitable; many were converted. One of his parishioners wrote of Flavel, “I could say much, though not enough of the excellency of his preaching; of his seasonable, suitable, and spiritual matter; of his plain expositions of Scripture; his talking method, his genuine and natural deductions, his convincing arguments, his clear and powerful demonstrations, his heart-searching applications, and his comfortable supports to those that were afflicted in conscience. In short, that person must have a very soft head, or a very hard heart, or both, that could sit under his ministry unaffected” (Erasmus Middleton, Evangelical Biography, 4:50-51).

Flavel’s power as a preacher came out of his depth of spiritual experience. He spent many hours in meditation and self-examination. As Middleton writes, “He [Flavel] attained to a well-grounded assurance, the ravishing comforts of which were many times shed abroad in his soul; this made him a powerful and successful preacher, as one who spoke from his own heart to those of others. He preached what he felt, and what he had handled, what he had seen and tasted of the word of life and they felt it also” (ibid., p. 58).

While meditating on heaven on one occasion, Flavel was so overcome with heavenly joy that he lost sight of this world. Stopping his horse by a spring, he viewed death as the most amiable face he had ever seen, except that of Christ’s, who made it so. When he finally arrived at an inn, the innkeeper said to him, “Sir, what is the matter with you? You look like a dead man.” “Friend,” Flavel replied, “I was never better in my life.” Years later, Flavel said that he understood more of heaven from that experience than from all the books he had ever read and all the sermons he had ever heard on the subject.

The Mystery of ProvidenceThis Month’s Book

This month we will be reading The Mystery of Providence by Flavel. Again, we turn to Timmy’s Flavel bio to give us some basic information:

First published in 1678 as Divine Conduct or the Mystery of Providence Opened, this frequently reprinted book is based on Psalm 57:2, “I will cry unto God most high; unto God that performeth all things for me.” It explains the following doctrine: “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” (p. 20).

This excellent book on providence opens avenues of spiritual knowledge and experience that few believers have probed. It is invaluable for understanding God’s purposes for our lives. Flavel teaches us how to find delight in discerning how God works all things in the world for His glory and our good.

Again, you can access Timmy’s excellent bio on Flavel here.

I pray you will take up and read as we begin the second month of the 2008 Puritan Reading Challenge. I’ve already made plans for how I’m going to tackle this month’s book. You can see just how here!

Join the 2008 Puritan Reading Challenge today by clicking the button in the sidebar!

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