The Method of Grace in the Gospel Redemption
by John Flavel
File 28
(... continued from file 27)

Sermon 26. 
2 Cor. 5: 17. 
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things 
are passed away; behold, all things are become new. 
    After the explication of the sense of this scripture, we 
    Doct. That God's creating of a new supernatural work of grace 
         in the soul of any man, is that man's sure and infallible 
         evidence of a saving interest in Jesus Christ. 
    You have heard why the regenerating work of the Spirit is 
called a new creation; in what respect every soul in Christ is 
renewed; what the eximious properties of this new creature are; the 
indispensableness and necessity thereof have been also proved; and 
how it evidences our interest In Christ, was cleared in the 
doctrinal part: Which we now come to improve, in the several uses 
serving for our 
    1.  Information. 
2.  Conviction. 
3.  Examination. 
4.  Exhortation. 
5.  Consolation. 
                     First use, for information. 
    Is the new creature the sure and infallible evidence of our 
saving interest in Christ? From hence then we arc informed, 
    Inference 1. How miserable and deplorable an estate all 
unrenewed souls are in; who can lay no claim to Christ during that 
state, and therefore are under an impossibility of salvation. O 
reader! if this be the state of thy soul, better had it been for 
thee not to have been God's natural workmanship as a man, except 
thou be his spiritual workmanship also, as a new man. I know the 
schoolmen determine otherwise, and say, that damnation is rather to 
be chosen than annihilation: a miserable being is better than no 
being: and it is very true, with respect to the glory of God, whose 
justice shall triumph for ever in the damnation of the unregenerate; 
but, with respect to us, it is much better never to have been his 
creatures, in the way of generation, than not to be his new 
creatures, in the way of regeneration. So Christ speaks of Judas, 
that son of perdition, Mark 14: 21. "Good had it been for that man 
if he had never been born:" For what is a being without the comfort 
of it? What is life without the joy and pleasure of it? A damned 
being is a being without comfort; no glimpse of light shines into 
that darkness; they shall, indeed, see and understand the felicity, 
light, and joy of the saints in glory; but not partake, in the least 
measure, of the comfort, Luke 13: 28. "They shall see Abraham, and 
Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of God, but they themselves shut 
out:" Such a sight is so far from giving any comfort, that it will 
be the aggravation and increase of torment. O it is better to have 
no being at all, than to have a being only to capacitate a man for 
misery; to desire death, while death flies from him, Rev. 4: 6. The 
opinion of the schoolmen will never pass for sound doctrine among 
the damned. Think on it, reader, and lay it to thine heart, better 
thou hadst died from the womb, better the knees kind prevented thee, 
and the breasts which thou hast sucked, than that thou shouldst live 
and die a stranger to the new birth, or that thy mother should bring 
thee forth only to increase, and fill up the number of the damned. 
    Inf. 2. And, on the contrary, we may hence learn, what cause 
regenerate souls have to bless God, for the day wherein they were 
born. O what a privileged state does the new birth bring men into! 
It is possible, for the present, they understand it not; for many 
believers are like a great heir lying in the cradle, that knows not 
to what an estate and honour he is born: nevertheless, on the same 
day wherein we become new creatures by regeneration, we have a firm 
title and solid claim to all the privileges of the sons of God, John 
1: 12, 13. God becomes our Father by a triple title, not only the 
Father of our beings by nature, which was all the relation we had to 
him before, but our Father by adoption, and by regeneration: which 
is a much sweeter, and more comfortable relation. In that day the 
image of God is restored, Eph. 4: 24. this is both the health and 
beauty of the soul. In that day we are begotten again to a lively 
hope, 1 Pet. 1: 3. a hope more worth than ten thousand worlds, in 
the troubles of life, and in the straits of death: this is a 
creature which lives for ever, and will make thy life happy for 
ever. Some have kept their birth day as a festival, a day of 
rejoicing; but none have more cause to rejoice that ever they were 
born, than those that are new-born. 
    Inf. 3. Learn frown hence, that the work of grace is wholly 
supernatural; it is a creation, and a creation-work is above the 
power of the creature. No power but that which gave being to the 
world, can give a being to the new creature: Almighty Power goes 
forth to give being to the new creature. This creature is not born 
of flesh, or of blood, nor of the will of man, but of God, John 1: 
13. The nature of this new creature speaks its original to be above 
the power of nature; the very notion of a new creation spoils the 
proud boasts of the great asserters of the power and ability of the 
will of man. When God, therefore, puts the question, who maketh thee 
to differ? And what hast thou that thou hast not received? Let thy 
soul, reader, answer it with all humility and thankfulness. It is 
thou, Lord, thou only, that madest me to differ from another; and 
what I have received, I have received from thy free grace. 
    Inf. 4. If the work of grace be a new creation, let not the 
parents, and friends of the unregenerate utterly despair of the 
conversion of their relations, how great soever their present 
discouragements are. If it had been possible for a man to have seen 
the rude and undigested chaos before the Spirit of God moved upon 
it, would he not have said, Can such a beautiful order of beings, 
such a pleasant variety of creatures, spring out of this dark lump? 
Surely it would have been very hard for a man to have imagined it. 
It may be, you see no dispositions or hopeful inclinations in your 
friends towards God and spiritual things; nay, possibly they are 
totally opposite, and filled with enmity against them; they deride 
and jeer all serious piety wherever they behold it; this, indeed, is 
very sad; but yet remember the work of grace is creation-work: 
though there be no disposition at all in their wills, no tenderness 
in their consciences, no light or knowledge in their minds; yet God, 
that commanded the light to shine out of darkness, can shine into 
their hearts, to give them the light of the knowledge of the glory 
of God in the face of Jesus Christ: he can say to the dry bones, 
live; to the proud and stubborn heart, come down and yield thyself 
to the will of God; and if he command, the work is done. God can 
make thee yet to rejoice over thy most uncomfortable relations; to 
say with the father of the prodigal, Luke 15: 24. "This my son was 
dead, and is alive again; he was lost and is found; and they began 
to be merry." Difficulties are for men, but not for God: he works, 
in conversion, by a power which is able to subdue all things unto 
    Inf. 5. If none but new creatures be in Christ, how small a 
remnant among men belong to Christ in this world! Among the 
multitude of rational creatures inhabiting this world, how few, how 
very few, are new creatures? It is the observation of the learned 
Mr. Brerewood, that if the world be divided into thirty parts, 
nineteen parts are heathenish Idolaters; six parts Mahometans, and 
only five out of thirty which may be, in a large sense, called 
Christians; of which the far greater part is overspread with Popish 
darkness: separate from the remainder, the multitudes of profane, 
merely civil, and hypocritical professors of religion; and how few 
will remain for Jesus Christ in this world? Look over the cities, 
towns, and parishes in this populous kingdom, and how few shall you 
find that speak the language or do the works of new creatures? How 
few have ever had any awakening convictions on them? And how many of 
those that have been convinced have miscarried, and never come to 
the new birth? The more cause have they, whom God has indeed 
regenerated, to admire the riches of God's distinguishing mercy to 
    Inf. 6. If the change by grace be a new creation, how universal 
and marvellous a change does regeneration make upon men! The new 
creation speaks a marvellous and universal alteration, both upon the 
state and tempers of men; they come out of darkness, gross, hellish 
darkness, into light, a marvellous and heavenly light, 1 Pet. 2: 9. 
Eph. 5: 8. their condition, disposition, and conversation, (as you 
have heard) are all new; and yet this marvellous change, as great 
and universal as it is, is not alike evident, and clearly 
discernible in all new creatures: and the reasons are, 
    First, Because the work of grace is wrought in divers methods 
and manners in the people of God. Some are changed from a state of 
notorious profaneness unto serious godliness; there the change is 
conspicuous and very evident; all the neighbourhood rings ofit: but 
in others it is more insensibly distilled in their tender years, by 
the blessing of God, upon religious education, and there it is more 
    Secondly, Though a great change be wrought, yet much natural 
corruption still remains for their humiliation and daily exercise; 
and this is a ground of fear and doubting; they see not how such 
corruptions are consistent with the new creature. 
    Thirdly, In some, the new creature shews itself mostly in the 
affectionate part, in desires and breathings after God; and but 
little in the clearness of their understandings, and strength of 
their judgements; for want of which they are entangled and kept in 
darkness most of their days. 
    Fourthly, Some Christians are more tried, and exercised by 
temptation from Satan than others are; and these clouds darken the 
work of grace in them. 
    Fifthly, There is great difference and variety found in the 
natural tempers and constitutions of the regenerate; some are of a 
more melancholy, fearful, and suspicious temper than others are; and 
are therefore much longer held under doubtings and trouble of 
spirit; nevertheless, what differences soever these things make, the 
change made by grace is a marvellous change. 
    Inf. 7. Lastly, How incongruous are carnal ways and courses to 
the spirit of Christians! who being new creatures, can never delight 
or find pleasure in their former sinful companions and practices. 
Alas! those things are now most unsuitable, loathsome and 
detestable, how pleasant soever they once were; that which they 
counted their liberty, would now be reckoned their greatest bondage; 
that which was their glory, is now their shame; Rom. 6: 21. "What 
fruit had ye then in those things, whereof ye are now ashamed; for 
the end of those things is death:" they need not be pressed by 
others, but will freely confess of themselves, what fools and mad 
men they once were. None can censure their former conversation more 
freely than themselves do, 1 Tim. 13, 14. 
                     Second use, for conviction. 
    If none be in Christ but new creatures, and the new creation 
makes such a change, as has been described; this may convince us, 
how many of us deceive ourselves, and run into dangerous and fatal 
mistakes, in the greatest concernment we have in this world. But 
before I urge this use, I desire none may make a perverse and ill 
use of it; let not the wicked conclude, from hence, that there is no 
such thing as true religion in the world, or that all who do profess 
it, are but hypocrites; neither let the godly injure themselves by 
that which is designed for their benefit: let none conclude, that 
seeing there are so many mistakes committed about this near 
creature, that therefore assurance must needs be impossible, as the 
Papists affirm it to be. The proper use that should be made of this 
doctrine, is, to undeceive false pretenders, and to awaken all to a 
more deep and thorough search of their own conditions; which being 
precautioned, let all men be convinced of the following truths: 
    First, That the change made by civility, upon such as were lewd 
and profane, is, in its whole kind and nature, a different thing 
from the new creature; the power and efficacy of moral virtue is one 
thing, the influence of the regenerating Spirit is quite another 
thing, however some have studied to comfort them. The Heathens 
excelled in moral and homolitical] virtues: Plato, Aristides, 
Seneca, and multitudes more, have outvied many professed Christians, 
in justice, temperance, patience, &c. yet were perfect strangers to 
the new creation. A man may be very strict and temperate, free from 
the pollutions of the world, and yet a perfect stranger to 
regeneration all the while, John 3: 10. 
    Secondly, That many strong convictions and troubles for sin may 
be found where the new creature is never formed. Conviction, indeed, 
is an antecedent unto, and preparative for the new creature, as the 
blossoms of the tree are to the fruit that follows them; but as 
fruit does not always follow where those blossoms and flowers 
appear, so neither does the new creature follow all convictions and 
troubles for sin. Conviction is a common work of the Spirit both 
upon the elect and reprobate; but the new creature is formed only in 
God's elect. Convictions may be blasted, and vanish away, and the 
man that was under troubles for sin, may return again, with "the dog 
to his vomit, and the sow that was washed, to her wallowing in the 
mire," 2 Pet. 2: 22. but the new creature never perishes, nor can 
consist with such a return to sin. 
    Thirdly, That excellent gifts and abilities, fitting men for 
service in the church of God, may be where the new creature is not; 
for these are promiscuously dispensed by the Spirit both to the 
regenerate and unregenerate: Math. 7: 22. "Many will say unto me, in 
that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name?" Gifts are 
attainable by study; prayer and preaching are reduced to an art; but 
regeneration is wholly supernatural. Sin, in dominion, is consistent 
with excellent gifts, but wholly incompatible with the new creature. 
In a word, these things are so different in nature from the new 
creature, that they oft-times prove the greatest bars and obstacles 
in the world to the regenerating work of the Spirit. Let no man, 
therefore, trust to things whereby multitudes deceive and destroy 
their own souls. Reader, it may cost thee many an aking head to 
attain gifts, but thou wilt find an aking heart for sin if ever God 
make thee a new creature. 
    Fourthly, Be convinced that multitudes of religious duties may 
be performed by men, in whom the new creature was never formed. 
Though all new creatures perform the duties of religion, yet all 
that perform the duties of religion, are not new creatures; 
regeneration is not the only root from which the duties of religion 
spring, Isa. 58: 2. "Yet they seek me daily, and delight to know my 
ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and forsook not the 
ordinances of their God, they ask of me the ordinances of justice, 
they take delight in approaching to God." These are but weak and 
slippery foundations for men to build their confidence and hopes 
                   The third use, for examination. 
    Next, therefore, let me persuade every man to try the state of 
his own heart in this matter, and closely consider and weigh this 
great question: Am I really and indeed a new creature? or am I an 
old creature still, in a new creature's dress and habit? Some light 
may be given for the discovery hereof, from the consideration of the 
    1. Antecedents,  of the new creation. 
    2. Concomitants, of the new creation. 
    S. Consequents,  of the new creation. 
    First, Weigh and consider well the antecedents of the new 
creature; have those things passed upon your souls, which ordinarily 
make way for the new creature, in whomsoever the Lord forms it? 
    1. Has the Lord opened the eyes of your understanding in the 
knowledge of sin and of Christ? Has he showed you both your disease 
and remedy, by a new light shining from heaven into your souls! Thus 
the Lord does wherever he forms the new creature, Acts 26: 18. 
    2. Has he brought home the word with mighty power and efficacy 
upon your hearts to convince and humble them? This is the method in 
which the new creature is produced, Rom. 7: 9. 1 Thes. 1: 5. 
    3. Have these convictions over-turned your vain confidences, 
and brought you to a great concern and inward distress of soul, 
making you to cry, What &hall we do to be saved? These are the ways 
of the Spirit, in the formation of the new creature, Acts 16: 29. 
Acts 2: 37. If no such antecedent works of the Spirit have passed 
upon your hearts, you have no ground for your confidence, that the 
new creature is formed in you. 
    Secondly, Consider the concomitant frames and workings of 
spirit which ordinarily attend the production of the new creature, 
and judge impartially betwixt God and your own souls, whether they 
have been the very frames and workings of your hearts. 
    1. Have your vain spirits been composed to the greatest 
seriousness, and most solemn consideration of things eternal, as the 
hearts of all those are whom God regenerates? When the Lord is about 
this great work upon the soul of man, whatever vanity, levity, and 
sinful jollity was there before, it is banished from the heart at 
this time; for now heaven and hell, life and death, are before a 
man's eyes, and these are the most awful and solemn things that ever 
our thoughts conversed with in this world. Now a man of the most 
airy and pleasant constitution, when brought to the sight and sense 
of those things, saith of "laughter, It is mad; and of mirth, What 
does it?" Eccl. 2: 2. 
    2. A lowly, meek, and humble frame of heart accompanies the new 
creation; the soul is weary and heavy laden, Mat 11: 28. Convictions 
of sin have plucked down the pride and loftiness of the spirit of 
man, emptied him of his vain conceits; those that were of lofty, 
proud, and blustering humours before, are meekened and brought down 
to the very dust now: it is with them (to speak allusively) as it 
was with Jerusalem, that lofty city, Isa. 29: 1, 4. "Wo to Ariel, to 
Ariel, the city where David dwelt; thou shalt be brought down, and 
shalt speak out of the ground, and thy speech shall be low out of 
the dust" Ariel signifies the Lion of God: so Jerusalem in her 
prosperity was; other cities trembled at her voice; but when God 
brought her down, by humbling judgements, then she whispered out of 
the dust. So it is in this case. 
    3. A longing, thirsting frame of spirit accompanies the new 
creation; the desires of the soul are ardent after Christ; never did 
the hireling long for the shadow, as the weary soul does for Christ, 
and rest in him: if no such frames have accompanied that which you 
take for your new birth, you have the greatest reason in the world 
to suspect yourselves under a delusion. 
    Thirdly, Weigh well the effects and consequents of the new 
creature, and consider whether such fruits as these are found in 
your hearts and lives. 
    1. Wherever the new creature is formed, there a man's course 
and conversation is changed: Eph. 4: 22. "That ye put off, 
concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt, 
according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of 
your mind", the new creature cannot but blush and be ashamed of the 
old creature's conversation, Rom. 6: 21. 
    2. The new creature continually opposes and conflicts with the 
motions of sin in the heart; Gal. 5: 17. "The spirit lusteth against 
the flesh". Grace can no more incorporate with sin, than oil with 
water: contraries cannot consist in the same subject longer than 
they are fighting with each other; if there be no conflict with sin 
in thy soul, or if that conflict be only betwixt the conscience and 
affections, light in the one, struggling with lust in the other; 
thou wantest that fruit which should evidence thee to be a new 
    S. The mind and affections of the new creature are set upon 
heavenly and spiritual things, Col. 3: 1, 2. Eph. 4: 23. Rom. 8: 5. 
If, therefore, thy heart and affections be habitually earthly and 
wholly intent upon things below, driving eagerly after the world, as 
the great business and end of thy life, deceive not thyself, this is 
not the fruit of the new creature, nor consistent with it. 
    5. The new creature is a praying creature, living by its daily 
communion with God, which is its livelihood and subsistence, Zech. 
12: 10. Acts 9: 11. If, therefore, thou be a prayerless soul, or if, 
in all thy prayers, thou art a stranger to communion with God; if 
there be no brokenness of heart for sin in thy confessions, no 
melting affections for Christ and holiness in thy supplications; 
surely Satan does but baffle and delude thy over-credulous soul, in 
persuading thee that thou art a new creature. 
    Fifthly, The new creature is restless, after falls into sin, 
until it have recovered peace and pardon; it cannot endure itself in 
a state of defilement and pollution, Psal. 51: 8, 9, 10, 11, 12. It 
is with the conscience of a new creature, under sin, as it is with 
the eye, when any thing offends it; it cannot leave twinkling and 
watering till it have wept it out: and in the very same restless 
state it is, under the hiding of God's face and divine 
withdrawments, Cant. 5: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. If, therefore, thou 
canst sin and sin again without such a burdensome sense of sin, or 
restlessness, or solicitude how to recover purity and peace, with 
the light of God's countenance shining, as in days past, upon thy 
soul; delude not thyself, thou hast not the signs of a new creature 
in thee. 
                     Fourth use, of exhortation. 
    If the new creation be a sound evidence of our interest in 
Christ, then hence let me persuade all that are in Christ, to 
evidence themselves to be so, by walking as it becomes new 
    The new creature is born from above, all its tendencies are 
heavenward; accordingly, Get your affections on things that are 
above, and let your conversation be in heaven: if you live earthly 
and sensual lives, as others do, you must cross your new nature 
there in; and can those acts be pleasant unto you which are done 
with so much regret? wherein you must put a force upon your own 
spirits, and offer a kind of violence to your own hearts. Earthly 
delights and sorrows are suitable enough to the unregenerate and 
sensual men in the world, but exceedingly contrary unto that Spirit 
by which you are renovated. If ever you will act becoming the 
principles and nature of new creatures, then seek earthly things 
with submission, enjoy them with fear and caution, resign them with 
cheerfulness and readiness; and thus "let your moderation be known 
unto all men," Phil. 4: 5. Let your hearts daily meditate, and your 
tongues discourse about heavenly things; be exceeding tender of sin, 
strict and punctual in every duty; and hereby convince the world 
that you are men and women of another spirit. 
                     Fifth use, for consolation. 
    Let every new creature be cheerful and thankful: if God has 
renewed your natures, and thus altered the frame and temper of your 
hearts, he has bestowed the richest mercy upon you that heaven or 
earth affords. This is a work of the greatest rarity; a new 
creature, may be called, One among a thousand: it is also an 
everlasting work, never to be destroyed, as all other natural worlds 
of God (how excellent soever) must be: it is a work carried on by 
Almighty Power, through unspeakable difficulties and mighty 
oppositions, Eph. 1: 12. The exceeding greatness of God's power goes 
forth to produce it; and indeed no less is required to enlighten the 
blind mind, break the rocky heart, and bow the stubborn will of man; 
and the same Almighty Power which at first created it, is necessary 
to be continued every moment to preserve and continue it, 1 Pet. 1: 
5. The new creature is a mercy which draws a train of innumerable 
and invaluable mercies after it, Eph. 2: 13, 14. 1 Cor. 3: 20. When 
God has given us a new nature, then he dignifies us with a new name, 
Rev. 2: 17. brings us into a new covenant, Jer. 31: 33. begets us 
again to a new hope, 1 Pet. 1: 8. entitles us to a new inheritance, 
John 1: 12, 13. It is the new creature which through Christ makes 
our persons and duties acceptable with God, Gal. 6: 15. In a word, 
it is the wonderful work of God, of which we may say, "This is the 
Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes." There are 
unsearchable wonders in its generation, in its operation, and in its 
preservation. Let all therefore, whom the Lord has thus renewed, 
fall down at the feet of God, in an humble admiration of the 
unsearchable riches of free grace, and never open their mouths to 
complain under any adverse or bitter providences of God. 

The Method of Grace in the Gospel Redemption
(continued in file 29...)

file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-09: flamt-28.txt