John Flavel, The Method of Grace in the Gospel Redemption THE BANNER OF TRUTH TRUST 3 Murrayfield Road, Edinburgh EH12 6EL PO Box 621, Carlisle, Pennsylvania 17013, U.S.A. First published by W. BARNES AND SON, 1820 Reprinted by THE BANNER OF TRUTH TRUST 1968 Second reprint 1982 ISBN 0 85151 060 4 Printed and Bound in Great Britain by Fakenham Press Limited, Fakenham, Norfolk The Method Of Grace In The Gospel Redemption The Epistle Dedicatory To the Worshipful John Upton of Lupton, Esq. and the most accomplished and virtuous Lady, his dear Consort, the Author wishes Grace, Mercy, and Peace. Honoured and worthy Friends. It was a comfortable expression, which Ambrose used in his funeral orations at the death of Theodosius; "what though he were gone, yet he was not wholly gone; for he had left Honorius, with others of his children, behind him, in whom Theodosius still lived." Your renowned and worthy ancestors are gone, yet (blessed be God) they are not wholly gone; whilst the prudence, piety, and publicness of their spirits, still live and flourish in you, the top branch of a renowned and religious Family. It is a great truth, which Philo Jude us recommends to the observation of all posterity, "That it is not a natural descent from the most honourable and illustrious progenitors, nor the greatest affluence of riches and pleasures that makes a man either honourable or happy; but the habitation of God in his soul, as in his temple, tho' (saith he) those that never tasted religion, nor have seen its glory, will not credit this assertion." "The soul which is filled with God, (saith Plotinus) and brings forth the beautiful fruits of righteousness, this is the truly noble soul:" Our new birth makes us more honourable than our natural birth, let our birth-right dignities be what they will. The children of nobles are, by nature, the children of wrath, even as others: Omnis Sanguis concolor, all blood is of one colour: it is all tainted in Adam, and mingled together in his posterity. "There is no king, saith Seneca, which rose not from a servant; there is no servant which rose not from a king: these things have been blended, and jumbled to and fro in a long issue of changes, ever directed by an all wise Providence. But though the privileges of natural birth signify nothing as to eternal salvation, yet in civil and political respects and considerations, those that by birth, education, or estate, possess an higher station in the world, differ from the vulgar, as stars of greater magnitude and lustre: their interest and influence are great in these things, and the welfare of kingdoms greatly depends upon them. It is therefore a great design of the enemy of mankind, to corrupt persons of eminent rank and quality both in religion and morality; and by their influence and example, to infect and poison the whole body politic; and his success herein deserves to be greatly lamented and bewailed. Persons of eminency are more especially obliged to shun base and sordid actions. Hierom professed he saw nothing desirable in nobility, except this, that such persons are bound by a certain kind of necessity, not to degenerate from the probity, or stain the glory of their ancestors. But alas! how many in our times have not only exposed Christianity to contempt, but obscured the glory of their own families, and the kingdom in which they had their birth and breeding; so that if you will take right marks of your way to heaven you will have little direction from those of your own rank. As mariners take their direction at sea, by looking up to the heavens, so must you. In this general corruption it is very hard to escape infection; many (as Salvian complained) are compelled to be evil, lest they should be accounted vile, and incur the offence of God, to avoid the slights and censures of men. Although there is no more reason why they should be offended at the rational and religious pleasures you and other pious gentlemen take in the ways of godliness, than there is, that you should envy the sinful pleasures they take in the ways of wickedness. It was an excellent apology that Tertullian made for the Christians of his time, against the Gentiles "Wherein (saith he) do we offend you, if we believe there are other pleasures? if we will not partake with you in your delights, it is only for our own injury: we reject your pleasures, and you are not delighted with ours." But by how much the infection spreads and prevails among those of your order, by so much the more we have reason to value you, and all those that remain sound and untainted, both in religion and morality, as persons worthy of singular respect and honour: and blessed be God there is yet a number of such left. Sir, It was a special happiness, which Chrysostom earnestly recommended to persons of quality, that they would so order their conversations, that their parents might rather glory in them, than they in their parents; "Otherwise (saith he) it is better to rise to honour from a contemptible parent, than to be contemptible from an honourable parent; but blessed be God, you and your worthy ancestors reflect honour upon each other. Had God suffered you to degenerate, as many do, it would have been but a poor consolation to have said, My progenitors were men of honour, the love and delight of their country. This, as one excellently expresseth it, would be the same thing, as if one that is blind himself, should boast what a sharp and piercing sight his father had or one that is lame himself, should glory in those feats of activity his grandfather performed; but God (to whose bounty therefore you are doubly obliged) has made you the inheritor of their virtues, as well as of their lands, and therein fulfilled many thousand prayers, which have been poured out to God upon your account. But I must forbear, lest I provoke others to envy, and draw upon myself the suspicion of flattery. What has been already said may serve far a sufficient reason of this dedication. I know the agreeableness of such discourses to the pious dispositions of your souls, is of itself sufficient to make it welcome to you. It is a treatise of Christ, yea, of the Method of Grace, in the application of Christ; than which no subject can be more necessary to study, or sweet to experience. All goodness is attractive, how powerfully attractive then must Jesus Christ be, who is the ocean of all goodness, from whom all streams of goodness are derived, and into whom they all empty themselves? If Pindarus could say of the lovely Theoxenus, that whosoever saw that august and comely face of his, and was not surprised with amazement, and inflamed with love, must have an heart of adamant or brass; what then shall we resemble that man's heart unto, that has no ferverous affections kindled in it by the incomparable beauty of Christ! a beauty, which excels in lustre and brightness, that visible light which so dazzles our eyes, as that light does darkness itself; as Plato speaks of the divine light Christ is "huperkallontos kalos", inexpressible beauty, and all other beauties are but "eikon, kai skia", an image, nay, a shadow of his beauty. How was holy Ignatius ravished with desires after Christ, when he cried out, O how I long to be thrown into the jaws of those lions, which I hear roaring for me! and if they will not dispatch me the sooner, "kai orostiasomai" I will enforce them to it by violence, that I may enjoy the sight of my blessed Jesus. O my heart, (saith another, how is it thou art not drawn up by the very root, by thy desires after Christ? The necessity, and the trial of our union with, and interest in, this lovely LORD JESUS, the main subject of this discourse. Without the personal application of Christ by faith, our hopes of heaven are but deluding dreams, Heb. 3: 11. "I sware in my wrath, "ei eiseleusontai", if they shall enter into my rest:" What then? Nay, there is all: but it is a dreadful Aposiopesis (as one calls it) such a pause as may justly shake every vein of the unbeliever's heart: If they shall enter: as if he had said, If ever they come into my glory, then say, I am no God, for I have sworn the contrary. I will not be tiresome, but conclude all in a few requests to you and to God for you both. That which I request of you is, (1.) That you will search and try your own hearts by these truths, especially now, when so great trials are like to be made of every man's root and foundation in religion. Account that your first work, which Bellarmine calls "the first error of Protestants", to make sure your interest in Christ; every thing is as its foundation is: a true diamond will endure the smartest stroke of the hammer, but a false one will fly. (2.) That you be humble under all that dignity and honour, which God has put upon you; be ye clothed with humility. It was the glory of the primitive Christians, that they did not speak but live great things: humility will be the lustre of your other excellencies: estates and honours are but appendants and fine trappings, which add not any real worth, yet how are some vain minds puffed up with these things! But ye have not so learned Christ. (3.) That you steadily persevere in those good ways of God, in which you have walked, and beware of heart, or life-apostasy. You expect happiness whilst God is in heaven, and God expects holiness from you whilst you are on earth. It was an excellent truth which Tossanus recommended to his posterity in his last will and testament, from his own experience: "I beseech you, (smith he) my dear children and kindred, that you never be ashamed of the truths of the gospel, either by reason of scandals in the church, or persecutions upon it: truth may labour for a time, but cannot be conquered, and I have often found God to be wonderfully present with them that walk before him in truth, though for a time they may be oppressed with troubles and calumnies." (4.) Lastly, that you keep a strict and constant watch over your own hearts, lest they be ensnared by the tempting, charming, and dangerous snares attending a full and easy condition in the world. There are temptations suited to all conditions. Those that are poor and low in estate and reputation, are tempted to cozen, cheat, lie, and flatter, and all to get up to the mount of riches and honours; but those that were born upon that mount, though they be more free from those temptations, yet lie exposed to others no less dangerous, and therefore we find, "Not many mighty, not many noble are called," 1 Cor. 1: 26. Many great and stately ships, which spread much sail, and draw much water, perish in the storms, when small barks creep along the shore under the wind, and get safe into their port. Never aim at an higher station in this world than that you are in: Some have wished in their dying hour, they had been lower, but no wise man ever wished himself at the top at honour, at the brink of eternity. I will conclude all with this hearty wish for you, that as God has set you in a capacity of much service for him in your generation, so your hearts may be enlarged for God accordingly, and that you may be very instrumental for his glory on earth, and may go safe, but late to heaven. That the blessings of heaven may be multiplied upon you both, and your hopeful springing branches: and that you may live to see your children's children, and peace upon Israel. In a word, that God will follow these truths in your hands with the blessing of his Spirit; and that the manifold infirmities of him that ministers them, may be no prejudice or bar to their success with you, or any into whose hands they shall come; which is the hearty desire of Your Most Faithful Friend, and Servant in Christ, JOHN FLAVEL. The Epistle To The Reader Every creature, by the instinct of nature, or by the light of reason, strives to avoid danger, and get out of harm's way. The cattle in the fields presaging a storm at hand, fly to the hedges and thickets for shelter. The fowls of heaven, by the same natural instinct, perceiving the approach of winter, take their timely flight to a warmer climate. This naturalists have observed of them, and their observation is confirmed by scripture testimony. Of the cattle it is said, Job 37: 6, 7, 8. "He saith to the snow, Be thou on the earth, likewise the small rain, and the great rain of his strength; then the beasts go into dens, and remain in their places." And of the fowls of the air it is said, Jer. 8: 7. "The stork in the heavens knoweth her appointed times, and the turtle, and the crane, and the swallow, observe the time of their coming." But man being a prudent and prospecting creature has the advantage of all other creatures in his foreseeing faculty: "For God has taught him more than the beasts of the earth, and made him wiser than the fowls of heaven," Job 35: 11. "And a wise man's heart discerneth both time and judgement," Eccl. 8: 5. For as there are natural signs of the change of the weather, Matt. 16: 3, so there are moral signs of the changes of times and providence, yet such is the supineness and inexcusable regardlessness of most men, that they will not fear till they feel, nor think any danger very considerable, till it become inevitable. We of this nation have long enjoyed the light of the glorious gospel among us; it has shone in much clearness upon this sinful island, for more than a whole century of happy years: but the longest day has an end, and we have cause to fear our bright sun is going down upon us; for the shadows in England are grown greater than the substance, which is one sign of approaching night, Jer. 6: 4. "The beasts of prey creep out of their dens and coverts," which is another sign of night at hand, Psal. 104: 20. "And the workmen come home apace from their labours, and go to rest," which is as sad a sign as any of the rest, Job 7: 1, 2. Isa. 57: 1, 2. Happy were it, if, in such a juncture as this, every man would make it his work and business to secure himself in Christ from the storm of God's indignation, which is ready to fall upon these sinful nations. It is said of the Egyptians, when the storm of hail was coming upon the land, Exod. 9: 20. "He that feared the word of the Lord made his servants and cattle flee into the houses." It is but an odd sight to see the prudence of an Egyptian out-vying the wisdom and circumspection of a Christian. God, who provides natural shelter and refuge for all creatures, has not left his people unprovided with, and destitute of defence and security, in the most tempestuous times of national judgements. It is said, Mic. 5: 5. "This man (meaning the man Christ Jesus) shall be the peace when the Assyrian shall come into our land, and when he shall tread in our palaces." And Isa. 26: 20. "Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee; hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast." My friends, let me speak as freely, as I am sure I speak seasonably. A sound of judgement is in our ears; "The Lord's voice crieth unto the city, and the man of wisdom shall see thy name: hear ye the rod, and who has appointed it," Mic. 6: 9. All things round about us seem to posture themselves for trouble and distress. Where is the man of wisdom that does not foresee a shower of wrath and indignation coming? "We have heard a voice of trembling, of fear, and not of peace. Ask ye now, and see whether a man does travail with child? Wherefore do I see every man with his hands on his loins, as a woman in travail, and all faces are turned into paleness? Alas, for that day is great, so that none is like it; it is even the day of Jacob's trouble, but he shall be delivered out of it," Jer. 30: 5, 6, 7. Many eyes are now opened to see the common danger, but some foresaw it long ago; when they saw the general decay of godliness every where, the notorious profanity and atheism that overspread the nations; the spirit of enmity and bitterness against the power of godliness wherever it appeared: and though there seemed to be a present calm, and general quietness, yet those that were wise in heart could not but discern the distress of nations, with great perplexity, in these seeds of judgement and calamity: but as the ephah fills more and more, so the determined wrath grows more and more visible to every eye; and it is a fond thing to dream of tranquillity in the midst of so much iniquity. Indeed, if these nations were once swept with the besom of reformation, we might hope God would not sweep them with the besom of destruction; but what peace can be expected, whilst the highest provocations are continued? It is therefore the great and present concernment of all to provide themselves of a refuge before the storm overtakes them; for, as Augustin well observes, None facile inveniuntur praefidia in adversitate, quae non fuerint in pace quaesita. O take up your lodgings in the attributes and promises of God before the night overtake you; view them often by faith, and clear up your interest in them, that you may be able to go to them in the dark, when the ministers and ordinances of Christ have taken their leave of you, and bid you good night. Whilst many are hastening on the wrath of God by profaneness, and many by smiting their fellow servants; and multitudes resolve, if trouble come, to fish in the troubled waters for safety and preferment, not doubting, (whensoever the overflowing flood comes) but they shall stand dry. O that you would be mourning for their sins, and providing better for your own safety. Reader, it is thy one thing necessary to get a cleared interest in Jesus Christ; which being once obtained, thou mayest face the storm with boldness, and say, come troubles and distresses, losses and trials, prisons and death, I am provided for you; do your worst, you can do me no harm: let the winds roar, the lightnings flash, the rains and hail fall never so furiously, I have a good roof over my head, a comfortable lodging provided for me; "My place of defence is the munition of rocks, where bread shall be given me, and my waters shall be sure," Isa. 33: 16. The design of the ensuing treatise is to assist thee in this great work; and though it was promised to the world many years past, yet providence has reserved it for the fittest season, and brought it to thy hand in a time of need. It contains the method of grace in the application of the great redemption to the souls of men, as the former part contains the method of grace in the interpretation thereof by Jesus Christ. The acceptation God has given the former part, signified by the desires of many, for the publication of this, has at last prevailed with me (notwithstanding the secret consciousness of my inequality to so great an undertaking) to adventure this second part also upon the ingenuity and candour of the reader. And I consent the more willingly to the publication of this, because the design I first aimed at, could not be entire and complete without it; but especially, the quality of the subject matter, which (through the blessing and concurrence of the Spirit) may be useful both to rouse the drowsy consciences of this sleepy generation, and to assist the upright in clearing the work of the Spirit upon their own souls. These considerations have prevailed with me against all discouragements. And now, reader, it is impossible for me to speak particularly and distinctly to the case of thy soul, which I am ignorant of, except the Lord shall direct my discourse to it in some of the following suppositions. If thou be one that hast sincerely applied, and received Jesus Christ by faith, this discourse (through the blessing of the Spirit) may be useful to thee, to clear and confirm thy evidences, to melt thy heart in the sense of thy mercies, and to engage and quicken thee in the way of thy duties. Here thou wilt see what great things the Lord has done for thy soul, and how these dignities, as thou art his son or daughter, by the double title of regeneration and adoption, do oblige thee to yield up thyself to God entirely, and to say from thy heart, Lord, whatever I am, I am for thee, whatever I can do, I will do for thee; and whatever I can suffer, I will suffer for thee; and all that I am, or have, all that I can do or suffer, is nothing to what thou hast done for my soul. If thou be a stranger to regeneration and faith; a person that makes a powerless profession of Christ; that has a name to live, but are dead; here it is possible thou mayest meet with something that will convince thee how dangerous a thing it is to be an old creature in the new creature's dress and habit; and what is it that blinds thy judgement, and is likeliest to prove thy ruin; a seasonable and full conviction whereof will be the greatest mercy that can befall thee in this world, if thereby at last God may help thee to put on Christ, as well as the name of Christ. If thou be in darkness about the state of thy own soul, and willing to have it faithfully and impartially tried by the rule of the word, which will not warp to any man's humour or interest, here thou wilt find some weak assistance offered thee, to clear and disentangle thy doubting thoughts, which, through thy prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, may lead thee to a comfortable settlement and inward peace. If thou be a proud, conceited, presumptuous soul, who has too little knowledge, and too much pride and self-love, to admit any doubts or scruples of thy state towards God, there are many things in this treatise proper for thy conviction and better information; for woe to thee, if thou shouldst not fear, till thou begin to feel thy misery, if thy troubles do not come on till all thy hopes are one off. I know all these things are performed by me with much infirmity; and that the whole management is quite below the dignity of the subject. But when I consider that the success of sermons and books in the world has but little relation to the elegancy of language, and accuracy at method, and that many may be useful, who cannot be excellent, I am willing, in all humility and sincerity to commit it to the direction of Providence, and the blessing of the Spirit. One thing I shall earnestly request of all the people of God, into whose hands this shall fall, that now at last they will be persuaded to end all their unbrotherly quarrels and strifes among themselves, which have wasted so much precious time, and decayed the vital spirits of religion, hindered the conversion of multitudes, and increased and confirmed the atheism of the times, and now at last opened a breach, at which the common enemy is ready to enter and end the quarrel to our cost. O put on, as the elect of God, bowels of mercy, and a spirit of charity and forbearance, if not for your own sakes, yet for the church's sake: Si non vis tibi parcere, parce Carthagini. I remember it is noted in our English history as a very remarkable thing, that when the Severn overflowed part of Somersetshire, it was observed that dogs and hares, cats and rats, to avoid the common destruction, would swim to the next rising ground, and abide quietly together in that common danger, without the least discovery of their natural antipathy. The story applies itself, and O that Christians would everywhere depose their animosities, that the hearts of the fathers might be turned to the children, and the children to the fathers, lest God come and smite the earth with a curse. O that you would dwell more in your closets, and be more frequently and fervently upon your knees. O that you would search your hearts more narrowly, and sift them more thoroughly than ever, before the day pass as the chaff; and the Lord's fierce anger come upon you: look into your Bibles, then into your hearts, and then to heavens for a true discovery of your conditions; and if this poor mite may contribute any thing to that end, it will be a great reward of the unworthy labours of Thy Servant in Christ, John Flavel The Method of Grace in the Gospel Redemption (continued in file 2...) ---------------------------------------------------- file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-09: flamt-01.txt .