The Method of Grace in the Gospel Redemption
by John Flavel
File 32
(... continued from file 31)

Sermon 30. 
1 John 11: 6. 
He that saith he abideth in him, ought himself also so to walk, even 
as he walked. 
These words have been resolved into their parts, and their sense 
opened in the former sermon: The observation was this: 
    That every man is bound to the imitation of Christ, under 
penalty of forfeiting his claim to Christ. 
    In prosecution of this point, we have already shown what the 
imitation of Christ imports, and what the imitable excellencies in 
the life of Christ are: It now remains that I shew you in the next 
place, why all that profess Christ are bound to imitate his example 
and then apply the whole. Now the necessity of this imitation of 
Christ will convincingly appear divers ways. 
    First, From the established order of salvation, which is fixed 
and unalterable: God that has appointed the end, has also 
established the means and order by which men shall attain the 
ultimate end. Now conformity to Christ is the established method in 
which God will bring souls to glory, Rom. 8: 29. "For whom he did 
foreknow, he also did predestinate, to be conformed to the image of 
his Son; that he might be the first born among many brethren." The 
same God who has predestinated men to salvation, has in order 
thereunto, predestinated them unto conformity to Christ, and this 
order of heaven is never to be reversed; we may as well hope to be 
saved without Christ, as to be saved without conformity to Christ. 
    Secondly, The nature of Christ-mystical requires this 
conformity, and renders it indispensably necessary. Otherwise, the 
body of Christ must be heterogeneous; of a nature different from the 
head, and how monstrous and uncomely would this be? This would 
represent Christ to the world in an image, or idea, much like that, 
Dan. 2: 32, 33. "The head of fine gold, the breasts and arms of 
silver, the thighs of brass, the legs of iron, the feet part of iron 
and part of clay." Christ, the head, is pure and holy, and therefore 
very unsuitable to sensual and earthly members. And therefore the 
apostle in his description of Christ-mystical, describes the members 
of Christ (as they ought to be) of the same nature and quality with 
the head, 2 Cor. 15: 48, 49. "As is the heavenly, such are they also 
that are heavenly; and as we have borne the image of the earthy, so 
we shall also bear the image of the heavenly." That image or 
resemblance of Christ, which shall be complete and perfect after the 
resurrection, must be begun in its first draught here by the work of 
    Thirdly, This resemblance and conformity to Christ appears 
necessary from the communion which all believers have with Christ in 
the same spirit of grace and holiness. Believers are called Christ's 
fellows, or co-partners, Psal. 14: 7. from their participation with 
him of the same spirit; as it is 1 Thes. 4: 8. God giveth the same 
Spirit unto us, which he more plentifully poured out upon Christ. 
Now where the same Spirit and principle is, there the same fruits 
and operations must be produced, according to the proportions and 
measures of the Spirit of grace communicated; and this reason is 
farther enforced by the very design and end of God, in the infusion 
of the Spirit of grace: For it is plain, from Ezek. 36: 27. that 
practical holiness and obedience is the scope and design of that 
infusion of the Spirit. The very innate property of the Spirit of 
God in men, is to elevate their minds, and set their affections upon 
heavenly things, to purge their hearts from earthly dross, and fit 
them for a life of holiness and obedience. Its nature also is 
assimilating, and changeth them in whom it is, into the same image 
with Jesus Christ their heavenly head, 2 Cor. 3: 18. 
    Fourthly, The necessity of this imitation of Christ may be 
argued, from the design and end of Christ's exhibition to the world 
in a body of flesh. For though we detest that doctrine of the 
Socinians, which makes the exemplary life of Christ to be the whole 
end of his incarnation; yet we must not run so far from an error, as 
to lose a precious truth. We say, the satisfaction of his blood was 
a main and principal end of his incarnation, according to Mat. 20: 
28. We affirm also, that it was a great design and end of the 
incarnation of Christ to set before us a pattern of holiness for our 
imitation; for so speaks the apostle, 1 Pet. 2: 21. "He has left us 
an example that we should follow his steps." And this example of 
Christ greatly obliges believers to his imitation, Phil. 2: 5. "Let 
this mind be in you, which also was in Christ Jesus. 
    Fifthly, Our imitation of Christ, is one of those great 
articles which every man is to subscribe, whom Christ will admit 
into the number of his disciples, Luke 14: 27. "Whosoever does not 
come after me, cannot be my disciple." And again, John 12: 26. "If 
any man serve me, let him follow me." To this condition we have 
submitted, if we be sincere believers; and therefore are strictly 
bound to the imitation of Christ, not only by God's command, but by 
our own consent. But if we profess interest in Christ, when our 
hearts never consented to follow, and imitate his example, then are 
we self-deceiving hypocrites, wholly disagreeing from the scripture 
character of believers, Rom. 8: 1. They that are Christ's being here 
described to be such as walk not after the flesh, but after the 
Spirit. And Gal. 5: 25. "If we live in the Spirit, let us walk in 
the Spirit." 
    Sixthly, The honour of Christ necessitates the conformity of 
Christians to his example, else what way is there left to stop 
detracting mouths, and vindicate the name of Christ from the 
reproaches of the world? How can wisdom be justified of her 
children, except it be this way? By what means shall we cut off 
occasion from such as desire occasion, but by regulating our lives 
by Christ's example? The world has eyes to see what we practise, as 
well as ears to hear what we profess. Therefore either shew the 
consistency between your profession and practice, or you can never 
hope to vindicate the name and honour of the Lord Jesus. The uses 
follow; for 
    1. Information. 
    2. Exhortation. 
    3. Consolation. 
                     First use, for information. 
    Inference 1. If all that profess interest in Christ, be 
strictly bound to imitate his holy example; then it follows, that 
religion is very unjustly charged by the world, with the scandals 
and evils of them that profess it. Nothing can be more unjust and 
irrational, if we consider, 
    First, That the Christian religion severely censures loose and 
scandalous actions in all professors, and therefore is not to be 
censured for them. It is absurd to condemn religion for what itself 
condemns: looseness no way flows from the principles of 
Christianity, but is most opposite and contrary to it, Tit. 2: 11, 
12. "For the grace of God that brings salvation, has appeared unto 
all men; teaching us, that denying all ungodliness and worldly 
lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this 
present world." 
    Secondly, It is an argument of the excellency of the Christian 
religion, and that even wicked men themselves covet the name and 
profession of it, though they only cloak and cover their evils under 
it. I confess it is a great abuse of such an excellent thing as 
religion is; but yet, if it had not an awful reverence paid it by 
the consciences of all men, it would never be abused to this 
purpose, by hypocrites, as it is. 
    Thirdly, According to this reasoning, there can be no religion 
in the world; for name me that religion which is not scandalised by 
the practices of some that profess it. So that this practice has a 
natural tendency to Atheism; and is, no doubt, encouraged by the 
devil for that end. 
    Inf. 2. If all men forfeit their claim to Christ, who endeavour 
not to imitate him in the holiness of his life, then how small a 
number of real Christians are there in the world? Indeed, if liberal 
talking, without accurate walking: if common profession without holy 
practices, were enough to constitute a Christian; then this quarter 
of the world would abound with Christians: But if Christ owns none 
for such but those that tread in the steps of his example; then the 
number of real Christians is very small. The generality of men that 
live under the Christian name, are such as walk after the flesh, 
Rom. 8: 2. according to the course of this world, they yield their 
members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin, Rom. 6: 13. 
Strict godliness is a mere bondage to them; narrow is the way, and 
few there be that walk therein. 
    Inf. 3. What blessed times should we all see, if true religion 
did once generally obtain, and prevail in the world! How would it 
humble the proud, meeken the passionate, and spiritualise those that 
are carnal! The perverse world charges religion with all the tumults 
and disturbances that are in it; whereas nothing in the world but 
religion, advanced in the power of it, can heal and cure these 
epidemical evils. O if men were once brought under the power of 
religion indeed, to walk after Christ in holiness, obedience, 
meekness, and self denial; no such miseries as these would be heard 
of among us, Isa. 11: 8, 9. "The sucking child shall play upon the 
hole of the asp, and a weaned child shall put his hand on the 
cockatrice den; they shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy 
mountain: For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, 
as the waters cover the sea". 
    Inf. 4. Hence it also follows, that real Christians are the 
sweetest companions. It is a comfortable thing to walk with them 
that walk after the example of Christ; the holiness, heavenliness, 
humility, self-denial, and diligence in obedience, which was in 
Christ, are, in some measure, to be found in all sincere Christians: 
They shed forth the virtues of him that calleth them; the graces of 
the Spirit do more or less thine forth in them: And O how endearing, 
sweet, and engaging are these things! Upon this very account the 
apostle invited others into the fellowship of the saints, 1 John 1: 
3. "That ye might have fellowship with us, and truly our fellowship 
is with the Father, and with his Son Christ Jesus." And is it not 
sweet to have fellowship with them who have fellowship with Christ? 
O let all your delights be in the saints, and in the excellent of 
the earth, who excel in virtue, Psal. 16: 3. Yet, mistake not, there 
is a great deal of difference betwixt one Christian and another, and 
even the best of Christians are sanctified but in part. If there be 
something sweet and engaging, there is also something bitter and 
distasteful in the best of men. If there be something to draw forth 
your delight and love, there is also something to exercise your pity 
and patience. Yet this is most certain, that notwithstanding all 
their infirmities and corruptions, they are the best and sweetest 
company this world affords. 
    Inf. 5. In a word, if no men's claim to Christ be warranted but 
theirs that walk as he walked; how vain and groundless then are the 
hopes and expectations of all unsanctified men, who walk after their 
own lusts? None are snore forward to claim the privileges of 
religion than those that reject the duties of it; multitudes hope to 
be saved by Christ, who yet refuse to be governed by him: But such 
hopes have no scripture warrant to support them; yea, they have many 
scripture testimonies against them, 1 Cor. 6: 9. "Know ye not that 
the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God?" Be not 
deceived, neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor 
effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind; nor thieves, nor 
covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners shall 
inherit the kingdom of God." O how many thousand vain hopes are laid 
in the dust, and how many thousand souls are sentenced to hell by 
this one scripture! 
                    Second use, for exhortation. 
    If this be so, it naturally presses all the professors of 
Christianity to strict godliness in their conversations, as ever 
they expect benefit by Christ. O professors, be ye not conformed 
unto this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your 
minds: Set the example of Christ before you, and labour to tread in 
his steps. This is the great business of religion, the main scope of 
the gospel. Give me leave, therefore, closely to press it upon your 
hearts, by the following motives. 
    Motive 1. Christ has conformed himself to you by his abasing 
incarnation; how reasonable therefore is it that you conform 
yourselves to him in the way of obedience and sanctification? He 
came as near to you as it was possible for him to do, strive you 
therefore to come as near to Christ as it is possible for you to do: 
he has taken your nature upon him, Heb. 2: 14. yea, and with your 
nature he has taken your weaknesses and infirmities, Rom. 8: 3. and 
not only your natures and your infirmities, but your condition also, 
for he came under the law for your sakes, Gal. 4: 4. He conformed 
himself to you, though he was infinitely above you; that was his 
abasement: do you conform yourselves to him who are infinitely 
beneath him: that will be your advancement: his conformity to you 
emptied him of his glory, your conformity to him will fill you with 
glory: he conformed himself to you, though you had no obligation 
upon him; will you not conform yourselves to him, who lie under 
infinite obligations so to do? 
    Motive 2. You shall be conformed to Christ in glory; how 
reasonable therefore is it you should now conform yourselves to him 
in holiness? The apostle saith, 1 John 3: 2. "We shall be like unto 
him, for we shall see him as he is:" Yea, not only your souls shall 
be like him, but your very bodies, even those vile bodies of yours 
shall be changed, that they may be fashioned like unto his glorious 
body." How forcible a motive is this to bring men into conformity 
with Christ here! especially, seeing our conformity to him in 
holiness, is the evidence of our conformity to him in gory, Rom. 6: 
5. 2 Pet. 3: 11. 0 professors, as ever you look to be with Christ in 
glory hereafter, see that ye walk after Christ's example in holiness 
and obedience here. 
    Motive 3. The conformity of your lives to Christ, your pattern, 
is your highest excellency in this world: The measure of your grace 
is to be estimated by this rule. The excellency of every creature 
rises higher and higher, according as it approaches still nearer and 
nearer to its original; the more you resemble Christ in grace, the 
more illustrious and resplendent will your conversations be in true 
spiritual glory. 
    Motive 4. So far as you imitate Christ in your lives, and no 
farther, you will be beneficial in the world in which you live: so 
far as God helps you to follow Christ, you will be helpful to bring 
others to Christ, or build them up in Christ; for all men are 
forbidden by the gospel to follow you one step farther than you 
follow Christ, 1 Cor. 11: 1. and when you have finished your course 
in this world, the remembrance of your ways will be no further sweet 
to others, than they are ways of holiness and obedience to Christ, 1 
Cor. 4: 17. If you walk according to the course of this world, the 
world will not be the better for your walking. 
    Motive 5. To walk as Christ walked, is a walk only worthy of a 
Christian; this is to "walk worthy of the Lord," 1 Thess. 2: 12. 
Col. 1: 10. By worthiness the apostle does not mean meritoriousness, 
but comeliness, or that decorum which befits a Christian: as, when a 
man walks suitably to his place and calling in the world, we say he 
acts like himself; so, when you walk after Christ's pattern, you 
then act like yourselves, like men of your character and profession; 
this is consonant to your vocation, Eph. 4: 1. "I beseech you, that 
you walk worthy of the vocation wherewith you are called. This 
walking suits with your obligation, 2 Cor. 5: 15. for it is to live 
unto him who died for us. This walking only suits with your 
designation, Eph. 2: 1O. "For you are created in Christ Jesus unto 
good works, which God has before ordained we should walk in them." 
In a word, such walking as this, and such only becomes your 
expectation, 2 Pet. 3: 11. "Wherefore [beloved! seeing that you look 
for such things, be diligent, that ye may be found of him in peace, 
without spot, and blameless." 
    Motive 6. How comfortable will the close of your life be at 
death, if you have walked after Christ's pattern and example in this 
world: A comfortable death is ordinarily the close of a holy life, 
Psal. 37: 37. "Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright; for the 
end of that man is peace." A loose, careless life puts many terrible 
stings into death. As worms in the body are bred of the putrefaction 
there, so the worm of conscience is bred of the moral putrefaction 
or corruption that is in our natures and conversations. O then be 
prevailed with by all these considerations to imitate Christ in the 
whole course and compass of your conversations. 
                     Third use, for consolation. 
    Lastly, I would leave a few words of support and comfort to 
such as sincerely study and endeavour, according to the tendency of 
their new nature to follow Christ's example, But being weak in 
grace, and meeting with strong temptations, are frequently carried 
aside from the holy purposes and designs of their honest, well- 
meaning hearts, to the great grief and discouragement of their 
souls. They heartily wish and aim at holiness, and say with David, 
Psal. 119: 5. "O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes." 
They follow after exactness in holiness as Paul did, Phil. 3: 12. 
"If by any means they might attain it." But finding how short they 
come in all things of the rule and pattern, they mourn as he did, 
Rom. 7: 24. "O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the 
body of this death?" Well, if this be thy case, be not discouraged, 
but hearken to a few words of support and comfort, with which I 
shall close this point. 
                              Support I 
    Such defects in obedience make no flaw in your justification: 
for your justification is not built upon your obedience, but upon 
Christ's, Rom. 3: 24. and how complete and defective soever you be 
in yourselves, yet at the same instant, "you are complete in him 
which is the head of all principality and power", Col. 2: 10. Wo to 
Abraham, Moses, David, Paul, and the most eminent saints that ever 
lived, if their justification and acceptation with God had depended 
upon the perfection and completeness of their obedience. 
                             Support II. 
    Your deep troubles for the defectiveness of your obedience, do 
not argue you to be less, but more sanctified than those who make no 
such complaints; for these prove you to be better acquainted with 
your own hearts than others are; to have a deeper hatred of sin than 
others have; and to love God with a more fervent love than others 
do; the most eminent saints have made the bitterest complaints upon 
this account, Psal. 65: 3. Rom. 7: 23, 24. 
                            Support III. 
    The Lord makes excellent uses even of your infirmities and 
failings to do you good, and makes them turn to your unexpected 
advantage: for, by these defects he hides pride from your eyes; he 
beats you off from self dependence; he makes you to admire the 
riches of free grace: he makes you to long more ardently for heaven, 
and entertain the sweeter thoughts of death; and does not the Lord 
then make blessed fruits to spring up to you from such a bitter 
root? O the blessed chemistry of heaven, to extract such mercies out 
of such miseries! 
                             Support IV. 
    Your bewailed infirmities do not break the bond of the 
everlasting covenant. The bond of the covenant holds firm, 
notwithstanding your defects and weaknesses, Jer. 32: 40. 
"Iniquities prevail against me," saith David, yet in the same breath 
he adds, "as for our transgressions thou shalt purge them away," 
Psal. 65: 3. He is still thy God, thy Father for all this. 
                             Support V. 
    Though the defects of your obedience are grievous to God, yet 
your deep sorrows for them are well-pleasing in his eyes, Psal. 51: 
17. "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a 
contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise." Ephraim was never a 
more pleasant child to his father, than when he bemoaned himself, 
and smote upon his thigh, as thou dost, Jer. 31: 20. Your sins 
grieve him, but your sorrows please him. 
                             Support VI. 
    Though God have left many defects to humble you, yet he has 
given many things to comfort you. This is a comfort that the desire 
of thy soul is to God, and to the remembrance of his name. This is a 
comfort, that thy sins are not thy delight as once they were; but 
thy shame and sorrow. This is a comfort, that thy case is not 
singular; but more or less, the same complaints and sorrows are 
found in all gracious souls through the world; and to say all in one 
word, this is the comfort above all comforts, that the time is at 
hand, in which all these defects, infirmities, and failings shall be 
done away, 1 Cor. 13: 10. "When that which is perfect is come, then 
that which is in part shall be done away." 
    For ever blessed be God for Jews Christ. 
    And thus I have finished the third general use of examination, 
whereby every man is to try his interest in Christ, and discern 
whether ever Christ has been effectually applied to his soul. That 
which remains is 
    An use of Lamentation. 
    Wherein the miserable and most wretched state of all those to 
whom Jesus Christ is not effectually applied, will be yet more 
particularly discovered and bewailed. 

The Method of Grace in the Gospel Redemption
(continued in file 33...)

file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-09: flamt-32.txt