The Method of Grace in the Gospel Redemption
by John Flavel
File 15
(... continued from file 14)

Sermon 13. 
Alluring the Hearts of Men to come to Christ, by a fourth Motive 
contained in another Title of Christ. 
                            Haggai 2: 7. 
             -- And the desire of all nation shall come. 
    The former chapter is mainly spent, in reproving the negligence 
of the Jews, who, being discouraged from time to time, had delayed 
the rebuilding the temple: and, in the mean time, employed their 
care and cost in building and adorning their own houses: but, at 
last, beings persuaded to set about the work, they met with this 
discouragement, that such was the poverty of the present time, that 
the second structure would no way answer the magnificence and 
splendour of the first. In Solomon's days the nation was wealthy, 
now drained; so that there would be no proportion betwixt the second 
and the first. To this grand discouragement the prophet applies this 
relief; that whatsoever should be wanting in external pomp and 
glory, should be more than recompensed by the presence of Jesus 
Christ in this second temple. For Christ, "the desire of all 
nations," saith he, shall come into it. Which, by the way, may give 
us this useful note: That the presence of Jesus Christ gives a more 
real and excellent glory to the places of his worship, than any 
external beauty or outward ornaments whatsoever can bestow upon 
them. Our eyes, like the disciples, are apt to be dazzled with the 
goodly stones of the temple, and, in the mean time, to neglect and 
overlook that which gives it the greatest honour and beauty. 
    But to return. In these words we have both the description of 
Christ, and an index pointing at the time of his incarnation: he is 
called "the desire of all nations;" and the time of his coming in 
the flesh, is plainly intimated to be whilst the second temple 
should be standing. Where, by the way, we find just cause to admire 
at and bemoan the blindness that is happened to the Jews, who, 
owning the truth of this prophecy, and not able to deny the 
destruction of the second temple, many hundred years past, will not 
yet be brought to acknowledge the incarnation of the true Messiah 
    But to the point. The character, or description of Christ, 
stiled the desire of all nations, who was to come into the world in 
the time of the second temple, Mal. 3: 12. and that, after grievous 
concussions and shakings of the world, which were to make way for 
his coming; for so our prophet here speaks, "I will shake all 
nations, and the desire of all nations shall come," to which the 
apostle alludes, in Heb. 12: 26. applying this prophecy to Jesus 
Christ, here called the "desire of all nations:" putting the act for 
the object, desire for the thing desired: as in Ezek. 24: 16. "The 
desire of thine eyes," i.e. the desirable wife of thy bosom; so 
here, the "desire of all nations," i.e. Christ, the object of the 
desires of God's elect, in all nations of the world: a Saviour 
infinitely desirable in himself, and actually desired by all the 
people of God, dispersed among all kindreds, tongues, and nations of 
the world. From whence this note is, 
    Doct. 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. 
    The merciful God beholding the universal ruins of the world by 
sin, has provided an universal remedy for his own elect, in every 
part of the earth. Christ is not impropriated to any one kingdom or 
nation in the world; but intended to be God's salvation to the ends 
of the earth; and accordingly speaks the apostle, Col. 2: 11. "There 
is neither Greek, nor Jew, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free; but 
Christ is all and in all." In the explication of this point two 
things must be enquired into. 
    1. Why Christ is called the desire of all nations. 
    2. Upon what account the people of God, in all nations, desire 
    First, Why he is called the desire of all nations, and what 
that phrase may import; and there are divers things that are 
supposed, or included in it. 
    First, That God the Father has appointed him as a common remedy 
for the sins and miseries of his people, in all parts and quarters 
of the world. So in the covenant of redemption, betwixt the Father 
and the Son, the Lord expresseth himself, Isa. 49: 6. and he said, 
"It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant, to raise up 
the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the presented of Israel: I will 
also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my 
salvation unto the end of the earth." Suitable thereunto is that 
prophecy, Isa. 52: 15. "He shall sprinkle many nations." If God had 
not appointed him for, he could not be desired by all nations. 
    And, indeed, herein the grace of God does admirably shine forth 
in the freeness of it, that even the most barbarous nations are not 
excluded from the benefits of redemption by Christ. This is what the 
apostle admires, that Christ should be preached to the Gentiles, 1 
Tim. 3: 16. a people that seemed to be lost in the darkness of 
idolatry; yet even for them Christ was given by the Father, "Ask of 
me (saith he) and I will give thee the Heathen for thine 
inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy 
    Secondly, Christ, the desire of all nations, plainly notes the 
sufficiency that is in him, to supply the wants of the whole world; 
as the sun in the heavens suffices all nations for light and 
influence, so does the Sun of righteousness suffice for the 
redemption, justification, sanctification and salvation of the 
people of God all over the world; Isa 14: 22. "Look unto me, and be 
ye saved, all ye ends of the earth." 
    Thirdly, It implies the reality that is in godliness. It shews 
you that religion is no fancy, as the atheistical world would 
persuade us; and this evidently appears in the uniform effects of it 
upon the hearts of all men, in all nations of the world, that are 
truly religious: all their desires, like so many needles touched by 
one and the same loadstone, move towards Jesus Christ, and all meet 
together in one and the same blessed object, Christ. Were it 
possible for the people of God to come out of all nations, kindreds 
and languages in the world, into one place, and there confer and 
compare the desires and workings of their hearts, though they never 
saw each other's faces, nor heard of each other's names, yet, as 
face answers to face in a glass, so would their desires after Christ 
answer to each other. All hearts work after him in the same manner; 
what one saith, all say: These are my troubles and burdens, these my 
wants and miseries; the same things my desires and fears: one and 
the same Spirit works in all believers throughout the world; which 
could never be if religion were but a fancy, as some call it; or a 
combination or confederacy, as others call it: fancies are as 
various as faces; and confederacies presuppose mutual acquaintance 
and conference. 
    Fourthly, Christ, the desire of all nations, implies the vast 
extent his kingdom has, and shall have in the world; out of every 
nation under heaven some shall be brought to Christ, and to heaven 
by him; and though the number of God's elect, compared with the 
multitudes of the ungodly in all nations, is but a remnant, a little 
flock; and, in that comparative sense, there are few that shall be 
saved; yet considered absolutely, and in themselves, they are a vast 
number, which no man can number, Matth. 8: 11. "Many shall come from 
the east, and from the west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and 
Isaac, and Jacob, in the Kingdom of heaven." In order whereunto, the 
gospel, like the sun in the heavens, circuits the world. It arose in 
the east, and takes its course towards the western world; rising, by 
degrees, upon the remote, idolatrous nations of the earth: out of 
all which a number is to be saved, even "Ethiopia shall stretch out 
her hands to God," Psal. 68: 31. And this consideration should move 
us to pray earnestly for the poor Heathens, who yet sit in darkness, 
and the shadow of death; there is yet hope for them. 
    Fifthly, It holds forth this, that when God opens the eyes of 
men to see their sin and danger by it, nothing but Christ can give 
them satisfaction: it is not the amenity, fertility, riches and 
pleasures, the inhabitants of any kingdom of the world do enjoy, 
that can satisfy the desires of their souls: when once God touches 
their hearts with the sense of sin and misery, then Christ, and none 
but Christ is desirable and necessary, in the eyes of such persons. 
Many kingdoms of the world abound with riches and pleasures; the 
providence of God has carved liberal portions of the goody things of 
this life to many of them, and scarce left any thing to their 
desires that the world can afford. Yet all this can give no 
satisfaction without Jesus Christ, the desire of all nations, the 
one thing necessary, when once they come to see the necessity and 
excellency of him: then take the world who will, so they may have 
Christ, the desire of their souls. Thus we see upon what grounds and 
reasons Christ is stiled the desire of all nations. 
    Object. But there lies one great objection against this truth, 
which must be solved; viz. if Christ be the desire of all nations, 
how comes it to pass, that Jesus Christ finds no entertainment in so 
many nations of the world among whom Christianity is hissed at, and 
Christians not tolerated to live among them? Who see no beauty in 
him that they should desire him. 
    Sol. First, We must remember the nations of the world have 
their times and seasons of conversion; those that once embraced 
Christ, have now lost him, and idols are now set up in the places 
where he once was sweetly worshipped. The sun of the gospel is gone 
down upon them, and now shines in another Hemisphere; and so the 
nations of the world are to have their distinct days and seasons of 
illumination. The gospel, like the sea, gaineth in one place what it 
loseth in another; and in the times and seasons appointed by the 
Father, they come successively to be enlightened in the knowledge of 
Christ; and then shall the promise be fulfilled, Isa. 49: 7. "Thus 
saith the Lord, the Redeemer of Israel, and his holy One, To him 
whom man despiseth, to him whom the nation abhorreth, to a servant 
of rulers; kings shall see and arise, princes also shall worship, 
because of the Lord that is faithful. 
    Secondly, Let it also be remembered, that although Christ be 
rejected by the rulers and body of many nations; yet he is the 
desire of all the elect of God dispersed and scattered among those 
    In the next place, Secondly, we are to enquire upon what 
account Christ becomes the desire of all nations, i.e. of all those 
in all the nations of the world, that belong to the election of 
grace. And the true ground and reason thereof is, because Christ 
only has that in himself which relieves their wants, and answers to 
all their need. As. 
    First, They are all, by nature, under condemnation, Rom. 5: 16, 
18. under the curse of the law; against which, nothing is found in 
heaven or earth, able to relieve their consciences, but the blood of 
sprinkling, the pure and perfect righteousness of the Lord Jesus: 
and hence it is, that Christ becomes so desirable in the eyes of 
poor sinners, all the world over. If any thing in nature could be 
found to pacify and purge the consciences of men from guilt and 
fear, Christ would never be desirable in their eyes; but finding no 
other remedy but the blood of Jesus, to him, therefore, shall all 
the ends of the earth look for righteousness, and for peace. 
    Secondly, All nations of the world are polluted with the filth 
of sin, both in nature and practice, which they shall see, and 
bitterly bewail, when the light of the gospel shall shine amongst 
them; and the same light, by which this shall be discovered, will 
also discover the only remedy of this evil to lie in the spirit of 
Christ, the only fountain opened to all nations for sanctification 
and cleansing: and this will make the Lord Jesus incomparably 
desirous in their eyes. O how welcome will he be that cometh unto 
them, not by blood only, but by water also, John 1: 5, 6. 
    Thirdly, When the light of the gospel shall shine upon the 
nations, they shall then see, that by reason of the guilt and filth 
of sin, they are all barred out of heaven; those doors are chained 
up against them, and that none but Christ can open an entrance for 
them into that kingdom of God! that "no man cometh to the Father but 
by him," John 14: 6. "Neither is there any name under heaven given 
among men, whereby they must be saved, but the name of Christ," Acts 
4: 12. Hence the hearts of sinners shall pant after him, as a hart 
panteth for the water-brooks. And thus you see upon what grounds 
Christ becomes the desire of all nations. The improvement of all 
followeth, in five several uses of the point; viz. 
    1. For information. 
    2. For examination. 
    3. For consolation. 
    4. For exhortation. 
    5. For direction. 
                     First use for information. 
    First, Is Christ the desire of all nations? how vile a sin is 
it then in any nation, upon whom the light of the gospel has shined, 
to reject Jesus Christ? And say, as those in Job 21: 14. "Depart 
from us, we desire not the knowledge of thy ways." To thrust away 
his worship, government, and servants from amongst them; and in 
effect to say, as it is Luke 19: 14. "We will not have this man to 
reign over us." Thus did the Jews, Acts 13: 46. they put away Christ 
from among them, and thereby judged themselves unworthy of eternal 
life. This is at once a fearful sin, and a dreadful sign. How soon 
did vengeance overtake them like the overthrow of Sodom? O. let it 
be for a warning to all nations to the end of the world. He would 
have gathered the children of Israel under his wings as a hen does 
her brood, even when the Roman Eagle was hovering over them, but 
they would not; therefore their houses were left unto them desolate, 
their city and temple made an heap. 
    Secondly, If Jesus Christ be the desire of all nations, how 
incomparably happy then must that nation be, that enjoys Christ in 
the power and purity of his gospel-ordinances! If Christ, under a 
vail made Canaan a glorious land, (as it is called) Dan. 11: 41. 
what a glorious place must that nation be, that beholds him with 
open face in the bright sun-shine of the gospel! O England, know thy 
happiness and the day of thy visitation: what others desire, thou 
enjoyest: provoke not the Lord Jesus to depart from thee, by 
corrupting his worship, longing after idolatry, abusing his 
messengers, and oppressing his people, lest his soul depart from 
                     Second use for examination. 
    If Christ be the desire of all nations, examine whether he be 
the desire of your souls in particular; else you shall have no 
benefit by him. Are your desires after Christ true spiritual 
desires? Reflect, I beseech you, upon the frames and tempers of your 
heart. Can you say of your desires after Christ, as Peter did of his 
love to Christ? Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I 
desire thee. Try your desires as to their sincerity by the following 
    First, Are they vehement and ardent? Has Christ the supreme 
place in your desires? Do you esteem all things to be but dross and 
dung in comparison of the excellencies of Jesus Christ your Lord? 
Phil. 3: 8. Is he to you as the refuge city to the man-slayer? Heb. 
6: 18, 19. As a spring of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a 
great rock in a weary land? Isa. 32: 2. Such vehement desires are 
true desires. 
    Secondly, Are your desires after Christ universal; i.e. is 
every thing in Christ desirable in your eyes? The hypocrite, like 
the harlot, is for a divided Christ; they would be called by his 
name, but live upon their own stock, Isa. 4: 1. If his holiness and 
government, his cross and sufferings be desirable for his saints: 
such universal desires are right desires. 
    Thirdly, Are your desires after Christ industrious desires, 
using all the means of accomplishing what you desire! thou say you 
desire Christ, but what will you do to obtain your desires? If you 
seek him carefully and incessantly in all the ways of duty; if you 
will strive in prayer, labour to believe, cut off right hands, and 
pluck out right eyes, i.e. be content to part with the most 
profitable and pleasant ways of sin that you may enjoy Christ, the 
desire of your souls; then are your desires right desires. 
    Fourthly, Are your desires after Christ permanent desires, or 
only a sudden motion or fit which goes off again without effect? If 
your desires after Christ abide upon your hearts, if your longings 
be after him at all times, though not in the same height and degree, 
then are your desires right desires. Christ always dwells in the 
desires of his people; they can feel him in their desires, when they 
cannot discern him in their love or delight. 
    Fifthly, Will your desires after Christ admit no satisfaction, 
nor find rest any where but in the enjoyment of Christ? then are 
your desires right desires. The soul that desires Christ, can never 
be at rest till it come home to Christ, 2 Cor. 5: 2, 6. Phil. 1: 23. 
The devil can satisfy others with the riches and pleasure of this 
world, as children are quieted with rattles; but if nothing but 
Christ can rest and terminate your desires, surely such restless 
desires are right desires. 
    Sixthly, Do your desires after Christ spring from a deep sense 
of your need and want of Christ? Has conviction opened your eyes to 
see your misery, to feel your burthens, and to make you sensible 
that your remedy lies only in the Lord Jesus? then are your desires 
right desires. Bread and water are made necessary and desirable by 
hunger and thirst; by these things try the truth of your desires 
after Christ. 
                     Third use for consolation. 
    Do you indeed, upon serious trial, find such desires after 
Christ as were described above? O, bless the Lord for that day 
wherein Christ, the desire of all nations, became the desire of your 
souls; and for your comfort, know that you are happy and blessed 
souls at present. 
    First, Blessed in this, that your eyes have been opened to see 
both the want and worth of Christ. Had not Christ applied his 
precious eye-salve to the eyes of your mind, you could never have 
desired him; you would have said with them in Isa. 53: 2, 3. "He has 
no form nor comeliness, and when we shall see him, there is no 
beauty that we should desire him:" Or, as they to the spouse, Cant. 
5: 9. "What is thy beloved more than another beloved." O, blessed 
souls, enlightened of the Lord, to see those things that are hid 
from them that perish! 
    Secondly, You are blessed in this, that your desires after 
Christ are a sure evidence that the desire of Christ is towards you: 
had he not first desired you, you could never have desired him. We 
may say of desires, as it is said of love, we desire him because he 
first desired us: our desires after Christ are inflamed from the 
desires of Christ after you. 
    Thirdly, Blessed in this, that your desires shall surely be 
satisfied, Matt. 5: 6. "Blessed are they that hunger and thirst 
after righteousness, for they shall be filled." Prov. 10: 24. "The 
desires of the righteous shall be granted." God never raised such 
desires as these in the souls of his people, to be a torment to them 
for ever. 
    Fourthly, Blessed in this, that God has guided your desires to 
make the best choice that ever was made in the world; whilst the 
desires of others are hunting after riches, pleasure, and honour in 
the world; toiling themselves like children in pursuit of a painted 
butter fly, which when they have caught, does but daub their 
fingers: God, meanwhile, has directed your desires to Christ, the 
most excellent object in heaven or earth. Any good will satisfy some 
men; O, happy soul, if none but Christ can satisfy thee! Psal. 4: 6. 
    Fifthly, Blessed in this, that there is a work of grace 
certainly wrought upon thy soul; and these very desires after Christ 
are a part thereof. 
    Sixthly, Blessed in this, that these desires after Christ keep 
thy soul active and working after him continually in the ways of 
duty, Psal. 27: 4. "One thing have I desired, that will I seek 
after." Desire will be a continual spring to diligence and industry 
in the ways of duty; the desire of the end quickeneth to the use of 
means, Prov. 18: 1. Others may fall asleep and cast off duty, but it 
will be hard for you to do so, whose souls burn with desire after 
    Seventhly, Blessed in this, that your desires after Christ will 
make death much the sweeter and easier to you, Phil. 1: 23. "I 
desire to be dissolved, and to be with Christ, which is far better." 
When a Christian was once asked, Whether he was willing to die? He 
returned this answer, "Let him be unwilling to die, who is unwilling 
to go to Christ." And much like it, was that of another, Vivere 
renuo, ut Christo vivam: I refuse this life, to live with Christ. 
                     Fourth use for exhortation. 
    In the fourth place, let me exhort and persuade all to make 
Jesus Christ the desire and choice of their souls. And here I fall 
in with the main scope and design of the gospel. And O that I could 
effectually press home this exhortation upon your hearts; let me 
offer some moving considerations to you, and may the lard accompany 
them to your hearts. 
    First, Every creature naturally desires its own preservation; 
do not you desire the preservation of your precious and immortal 
soul! If you do, then make Christ your desire and choice, without 
whom they can never be preserved, Jude, ver. 1. 
    Secondly, Do not your souls earnestly desire the bodies they 
live in? How tender are they over them, how careful to provide for 
them? though they pay a dear rent for those tenements they live in. 
And is not union with Christ infinitely more desirable than the 
union of soul and body? O covet union with him! then shall your 
souls be happy, when your bodies drop off from them at death, 2 Cor. 
5: 1, 2. yea, soul and body shall be happy in him, and with him for 
    Thirdly, How do the men of this world desire the enjoyments of 
it? They pant after the dust of the earth; they rise early, sit up 
late, eat the bread of carefulness; and all this for very vanity: 
Shall a worldling do more for earth, than you for heaven? Shall the 
creature be so earnestly desired, and Christ neglected? 
    Fourthly, What do all your desires in this world benefit you, 
if you go christless? Suppose you had the desire of your hearts in 
these things, how long should you have comfort in them, if you miss 
    Fifthly, Does Christ desire you, who have nothing lovely or 
desirable in you? And have you no desires after Christ, the most 
lovely and desirable one in both worlds? "His desires are towards 
you," Prov. 8: 31. O make him the desire and choice of your souls. 
    Sixthly, How absolutely necessary is Jesus Christ to your 
souls? Bread and water, breath and life, are not so necessary as 
Christ is; "One thing is necessary," Luke 10: 42. and that one thing 
is Christ. If you miss your desires in other things, you may yet be 
happy; but if you miss Christ you are undone for ever. 
    Seventhly, How suitable a good is Christ to your souls! 
comprising whatsoever they want, 1 Cor. 1: 30. Set your hearts where 
you will, none will be found to match and suit them, as Christ does. 
    Eighthly, How great are the benefits that will redound to you 
by Jesus Christ! In him you shall have a rich inheritance settled 
upon you: all things shall be yours, when you are Christ's, 1 Cor. 
3: 22. And is not such a Christ worth desiring? 
    Ninthly, All your well-grounded hopes of glory are built upon 
your union with Christ, 1 Cor. 1: 21. If you miss Christ, you must 
die without hope. Will not this draw your desires to him; 
    Tenthly, Suppose you were at the judgement seat of God, where 
you must shortly stand, and saw the terrors of the Lord in that day; 
the sheep divided from the goats; the sentences of absolution and 
condemnation passed, by the great and awful Judge, upon the 
righteous and wicked: would not Christ be then desirable in your 
eyes? As ever you expect to stand with comfort at that bar, let 
Christ be the desire and choice of your souls now. 
                      Fifth use for direction. 
    Do these, or any other considerations, put thee upon this 
enquiry; how shall I get my desires kindled and inflamed 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 
    Direct. 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: 59. 
    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 
    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 has made some 
to chase strangling rather than life, and yet this wrath must abide 
for ever upon you, if you get not interest in Jesus Christ, John 3: 
    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 bear 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. 

The Method of Grace in the Gospel Redemption
(continued in file 16...)

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