John Flavel, Life. 
The Life of the late Rev. Mr. John Flavel, minister of Dartmouth. 
Those of the name of Flavel derive their pedigree from one who was 
the third great officer that came over with William the Conqueror; 
but this worthy Divine was far from that weakness and vanity to 
boast of any thing of that nature, being of the poet's mind, who 
    Et genus, et proavos, et quae non fecimus ipsi, 
    Vix ea nostra voco --- 
His father was Mr. Richard Flavel, a faithful and eminent minister. 
He was first minister at Broomsgrove, in Worcestershire, then at 
Hasler, and removed from thence to Willersey, in Gloucestershire, 
where he continued to 1660, whence he was outed upon the restoration 
of King Charles II because it was a sequestered living, and the 
incumbent then alive: this did not so much affect Mr. Flavel, as 
that he wanted a fixed place for the exercise of his pastoral 
function. He was a person of such extraordinary piety, that those 
who conversed with him, said, They never heard one vain word drop 
from his mouth. A little before the turning out of the Nonconformist 
ministers, being near Totness, in Devon, he preached from Hosea 7: 
6. "The days of visitation are come, the days of recompence are 
come, Israel shall know it". His application was so close, that it 
offended some people, and occasioned his being carried before some 
Justices of the Peace; but they could not reach him, so that he was 
discharged. He afterwards quitted that country, and his son's house, 
which was his retiring place, and came to London, where he continued 
in a faithful and acceptable discharge of his office, till the time 
of the dreadful plague in 1665, that he was taken and imprisoned in 
the manner following. He was at Mr. Blake's house in Covent-Garden, 
where some people had met privately for worship: whilst he was at 
prayer, a party of soldiers brake in upon them, with their swords 
drawn and demanded their preacher, threatening some, and flattering 
others to discover him, but in vain. Some of the company threw a 
coloured cloak over him, and in this disguise he was, together with 
his hearers, carried to Whitehall; the women were dismissed, but the 
men were detained and forced to lie all that night upon the bare 
floor; and, because they would not pay five pounds each, were sent 
to Newgate, where the pestilence raged most violently, as in other 
places of the city. Here Mr. Flavel and his wife were shut up, and 
seized with the sickness: they were bailed out, but died of the 
contagion; of which their son John had a divine monition given him 
by a dream, as we shall observe in its proper place. Mr. Richard 
Flavel left two sons behind him, both ministers of the gospel, viz. 
John and Phinehas. 
    John the eldest was born in Worcestershire. It was observable, 
that whilst his mother lay in with him, a nightingale made her nest 
in the out-side of the chamber-window, where she used to sing most 
sweetly. He was religiously educated by his father, and having 
profiled well at the grammar schools, was sent early to Oxford, and 
settled a commoner in University College. He plied his studies hard, 
and exceeded many of his contemporaries in university learning. 
    Soon after his commencing bachelor of arts, Mr. Walplate, the 
minister of Diptford, in the county of Devon, was rendered incapable 
of performing his office by reason of his age and infirmity, and 
sent to Oxford for an assistant; Mr. Flavel, though but young, was 
commended to him as a son duly qualified, and was accordingly 
settled there by the standing committee of Devon, April 27, 1650, to 
preach as a probationer and assistant to Mr. Walplate. 
    Mr. Flavel considering the weight of his charge, applied 
himself to the work of his calling with great diligence; and being 
assiduous in reading, meditation and prayer, he increased in 
ministerial knowledge daily, (for he found himself that he came raw 
enough in that respect from the university) so that he attained to 
an high degree of eminency and reputation for his useful labours in 
the church. 
    About six months after his settling at Diptford, he heard of an 
ordination to be at Salisbury, and therefore went thither with his 
testimonials, and offered himself to be examined and ordained by the 
presbyters there: they appointed him a text, upon which he preached 
to their general satisfaction; and having afterwards examined him as 
to his learning, &c. they set him apart to the work of the ministry, 
with prayer and imposition of hands, on the 17th day of October, 
    Mr. Flavel being thus ordained, returned to Diptford, and after 
Mr. Walplate's death succeeded in the rectory. To avoid all 
encumbrances from the world, and avocations from his studies and 
ministerial work, he chose a person of worth and reputation in the 
parish (of whom he had a good assurance that he would be faithful to 
himself, and kind to his parishioners) and let him the whole tithes 
much below the real value, which was very pleasing to his people. By 
this means he was the better able to deal with them in private, 
since the hire of his labours was no way a hindrance to the success 
of them. 
    Whilst he was at Diptford he married one Mrs. Jane Randal, a 
pious gentlewoman, of a good family, who died in travail of her 
first child without being delivered. His year of mourning being 
expired, his acquaintance and intimate friends advised him to marry 
a second time, wherein he was again very happy. Sometime after this 
second marriage, the people of Dartmouth (a great and noted sea-port 
in the county of Devon, formerly under the charge of the Reverend 
Mr. Anthony Hartford, deceased) unanimously chose Mr. Flavel to 
succeed him. They urged him to accept their call, (1.) Because there 
were exceptions made against all the other candidates, but none 
against him. (2.) Because, being acceptable to the whole town, he 
was the more like to be an instrument of healing the breaches among 
the good people there. (3.) Because Dartmouth, being a considerable 
and populous town, required an able and eminent minister, which was 
not so necessary for a country-parish, that might besides be more 
easily supplied with another pastor than Dartmouth. 
    That which made them more pressing and earnest with Mr. Flavel, 
was this; at a provincial synod in that county, Mr. Flavel, though 
but a young man, was voted into the chair as moderator, where he 
opened the assembly with a most devout and pertinent prayer; he 
examined the candidates who offered themselves to their trials for 
the ministry with great learning, stated the cases and questions 
proposed to them with much acuteness and judgement, and in the whole 
demeaned himself with that gravity, piety, and seriousness, during 
his presidency, that all the ministers of the assembly admired and 
loved him. The Reverend Mr. Hartford, his predecessor at Dartmouth, 
took particular notice of him, from that time forward contracted a 
strict friendship with him, and spoke of him among the magistrates 
and people of Dartmouth, as an extraordinary person, who was like to 
be a great light in the church. This, with their having several 
times heard him preach, occasioned their importunity with Mr. Flavel 
to come and be their minister; upon which, having spread his case 
before the Lord, and submitted to the decision of his neighbouring 
ministers, he was prevailed upon to remove to Dartmouth, to his 
great loss in temporals, the rectory of Diptford being a much 
greater benefice. 
    Mr. Flavel being settled at Dartmouth by the election of 
people, and an order from Whitehall by the commissioners for 
approbation of public preachers, of the 10th of December, 1656, he 
was associated with Mr. Allein Geere, a very worthy, but sickly, 
man. The ministerial work was thus divided betwixt them; Mr. Flavel 
was to preach on the Lord's-day at Townstall, the mother-church 
standing upon a hill without the town; and every fortnight in his 
turn at the Wednesday's Lecture in Dartmouth. Here God crowned his 
labours with many conversions. One of his judicious hearers 
expressed himself thus concerning him; "I could say much, though not 
enough, of the excellency of his preaching; of his seasonable, 
suitable and spiritual matter; of his plain expositions of 
scripture, his taking method, his genuine and natural deductions, 
his convincing arguments, his clear and powerful demonstrations, his 
heart searching applications, and his comfortable supports to those 
that were afflicted in conscience. In short that person must have a 
very soft head, or a very hard heart, or both, that could sit under 
his ministry unaffected." 
    By his unwearied application to study, he had acquired a great 
stock both of divine and human learning. He was master of the 
controversies betwixt the Jews and Christians, Papists and 
Protestants, Lutherans and Calvinists, and betwixt the Orthodox, and 
the Armenians and Socinians: he was likewise well read in the 
Controversies about Church-discipline, Infant-Baptism, and 
Antinomianism. He was well acquainted with the School-divinity, and 
drew up a judicious and ingenious scheme of the whole body of that 
Theology in good Latin, which he presented to a person of quality, 
but it was never printed. He had one way of improving his knowledge, 
which is very proper for young divines; whatever remarkable passage 
he heard in private conference, if he was familiar with the relator, 
he would desire him to repeat it again, and insert it into his 
Aversaria: by these methods he acquired a vast stock of proper 
materials for his popular sermons in the pulpit, and his more 
elaborate works for the press. 
    He had an excellent gift of prayer, and was never at a loss in 
all his various occasions for suitable matter and words; and, which 
was the most remarkable of all, he always brought with him a broken 
heart and moving affections: his tongue and spirit were touched with 
a live coal from the altar, and he was evidently assisted by the 
holy Spirit of grace and supplication in that divine ordinance. 
Those who lived in his family, say, that he was always full and 
copious in prayer, seemed constantly to exceed himself, and rarely 
made use twice of the same expressions. 
    When the act of uniformity turned him out with the rest of his 
nonconforming brethren, he did not thereupon quit his relation to 
his church, he thought the souls of his flock to be more precious 
than to be so tamely neglected; he took all opportunities of 
ministering the word and sacraments to them in private meetings, and 
joined with other ministers in solemn days of fasting and 
humiliation, to pray that God would once more restore the ark of his 
covenant unto his afflicted Israel. About four months after that 
fatal Bartholomew day, his reverend colleague, Mr. Allein Geere, 
died; so that the whole care of the flock devolved upon Mr. Flavel, 
which, though a heavy and pressing burden, he undertook very 
    Upon the execution of the Oxford act, which banished all 
nonconformist ministers five miles from any towns which sent members 
to parliament, he was forced to leave Dartmouth, to the great sorrow 
of his people, who followed him out of town; and at Townstall 
church-yard they took such a mournful farewell of one another as the 
place might very well have been called Bochim. He removed to 
Slapton, a parish five miles from Dartmouth, or any other 
corporation, which put him out of the legal reach of his 
adversaries. Here he met with signal instances of God's fatherly 
care and protection, and preached twice every Lord's-day to such as 
durst adventure to hear him, which many of his own people and others 
did, not withstanding the rigour and severity of the act against 
conventicles. He many times slipped privately into Dartmouth, where 
by preaching and conversation he edified his flock, to the great 
refreshment of his own soul and theirs, though with very much 
danger, because of his watchful adversaries, who constantly laid 
wait for him, so that he could not make any long stay in the town. 
    In those times Mr. Flavel being at Exeter, was invited to 
preach by many good people of that city, who for safety chose a wood 
about three miles from the city to be the place of their assembly, 
where they were broke up by their enemies by that time the sermon 
was well begun. Mr. Flavel, by the care of the people, made his 
escape through the middle of his enraging enemies; and though many 
of his hearers were taken, carried before Justice Tuckfield, and 
fined; yet the rest, being nothing discouraged, reassembled, and 
carrying Mr. Flavel to another wood, he preached to them without any 
disturbance; and, after he had concluded, rode to a gentleman's 
house near the wood, who, though an absolute stranger to Mr. Flavel, 
entertained him with great civility that night, and next day he 
returned to Exeter in safety. Amongst those taken at this time, 
there was a Tanner who had a numerous family, and but a small stock; 
he was fined notwithstanding in forty pounds; at which he was 
nothing discouraged, but told a friend, who asked him how he bore up 
under his loss, "That he took the spoiling of his goods joyfully, 
for the sake of his Lord Jesus for whom his life and all that he had 
was too little. 
    As soon as the Nonconformists had any respite from their 
trouble, Mr. Flavel laid hold of the opportunity, and returned to 
Dartmouth, where, during the first indulgence granted by King 
Charles II he kept open doors, and preached freely to all that would 
come and hear him; and when that liberty was revoked, he made it his 
business notwithstanding to preach in season and out of season, and 
seldom missed of an opportunity of preaching on the Lord's-day. 
During this time, God was pleased to deprive him of his second wife, 
which was a great affliction, she having been a help meet for him, 
and such an one he stood much in need of, as being a man of an 
infirm and weak constitution, who laboured under many infirmities. 
In convenient time he married a third wife, Mrs. Ann Downs, daughter 
of Mr. Thomas Downs, minister of Exeter, who lived very happy with 
him eleven years, and left him two sons, who are youths of great 
    The persecution against the Nonconformists being renewed, Mr. 
Flavel found it unsafe to stay at Dartmouth, and therefore resolved 
to go to London, where he hoped to be in less danger, and to have 
more liberty to exercise his function. The night before he embarked 
for that end, he had the following premonition by a dream; he 
thought he was on board the ship, and that a storm arose which 
exceedingly terrified the passengers, during their consternation 
there sat writing at the table a person of admirable sagacity and 
gravity, who had a child in a cradle by him that was very froward; 
he thought he saw the father take up a little whip, and give the 
child a lash, saying, "Child be quiet, I will discipline, but not 
hurt thee". Upon this Mr. Flavel awaked, and musing on his dream, he 
concluded, that he should meet with some trouble in his passage: his 
friends being at dinner with him, assured him of a pleasant passage, 
because the wind and weather were very fair; Mr. Flavel replied, 
"That he was not of their mind, but expected much trouble because of 
his dream", adding, "that when he had such representations made to 
him in his sleep, they seldom or never failed. 
    Accordingly, when they were advanced within five leagues of 
Portland in their voyage, they were overtaken by a dreadful tempest 
insomuch that betwixt one and two in the morning, the master and 
seamen concluded, that, unless God changed the wind, there was no 
hope of life; it was impossible for them to weather Portland, so 
that they must of necessity be wrecked on the rocks or on the shore. 
Upon this Mr. Flavel called all the hands that could be spared into 
the cabin to prayer; but the violence of the tempest was such, that 
they could not prevent themselves from being thrown from the one 
side unto the other as the ship was tossed; and not only so, but 
mighty seas broke in upon them, as if they would have drowned them 
in the very cabin. Mr. Flavel in this danger took hold of the two 
pillars of the cabin bed, and calling upon God, begged mercy for 
himself and the rest in the ship. Amongst other arguments in prayer, 
he made use of this, that if he and his company perished in that 
storm, the name of God would be blasphemed, the enemies of religion 
would say, that though he escaped their hands on shore, yet divine 
vengeance had overtaken him at sea. In the midst of prayer his faith 
and hope were raised, insomuch that he expected a gracious answer; 
so that, committing himself and his company to the mercy of God, he 
concluded the duty. No sooner was prayer ended, but one came down 
from the deck, crying, "Deliverance! Deliverance! God is a God 
hearing prayer! In a moment the wind is coming fair west!" And so 
sailing before it, they were brought safely to London. Mr. Flavel 
found many of his old friends there; and God raised him new ones, 
with abundance of work, and extraordinary encouragement in it. 
During his stay in London, he married his fourth wife, a widow 
gentlewoman, (daughter to Mr. George Jeffries, formerly minister of 
King's Bridge) but now his sorrowful relict. 
    Mr. Flavel, while he was in London, narrowly escaped being 
taken, with the reverend Mr. Jenkins, at Mr. Fox's in Moorfields, 
where they were keeping a day of fasting and prayer. He was so near, 
that he heard the insolence of the officers and soldiers to Mr. 
Jenkins when they had taken him; and observed it in his diary, that 
Mr. Jenkins might have escaped as well as himself, had it not been 
for a piece of vanity in a lady, whose long train hindered his going 
down stairs, Mr. Jenkins, out of his too great civility having let 
her pass before him. 
    Mr. Flavel after this, returned to Dartmouth, where with his 
family and dear people he blessed God for his mercies towards him. 
He was in a little time after confined close prisoner to his house, 
where many of his dear flock stole in over night, or betimes on the 
Lord's day in the morning, to enjoy the benefit of his labours, and 
spend the sabbath in hearing, praying, singing of psalms, and holy 
    Mr. Jenkins, above mentioned, dying in prison, his people gave 
Mr. Flavel a call to the pastoral office among them, and Mr. Reeve's 
people did the like. Mr. Flavel communicated these calls unto his 
flock, and kept a day of prayer with them to beg direction of God in 
this important affair; he was graciously pleased to answer them by 
fixing Mr. Flavel's resolution to stay with his flock at Dartmouth. 
Many arguments were made use of to persuade him to come to London, 
as, that since he was turned out by the act of uniformity, he had 
had but very little maintenance from his church; that those at 
London were rich and numerous congregations; that he had a family 
and children to provide for; and that the city was a theatre of 
honour and reputation. But none of these things could prevail with 
him to leave his poor people at Dartmouth. 
    In 1687, when it pleased God so to over-rule affairs, that King 
James II thought it his interest to dispense with the penal laws 
against them, Mr. Flavel, who had formerly been confined to a 
corner, shone brightly, as a flaming beacon upon the top of an hill. 
His affectionate people prepared a large place for him, where God 
blessed his labours to the conviction of many people, by his sermons 
on Rev. 3: 20. "Behold I stand at the door and knock". This 
encouraged him to print those sermons, under the title of England's 
Duty, &c. hoping that it might do good abroad, as well as in his own 
congregation. He made a vow to the Lord under his confinement, that 
if he should be once more entrusted with public liberty, he would 
improve it to the advantage of the gospel; this he performed in a 
most conscientious manner, preached twice every Lord's-day, and 
lectured every Wednesday, in which he went over most of the 3d 
chapter of St John's gospel, shewing the indispensable necessity of 
regeneration. He preached likewise every Thursday before the 
sacrament, and then after examination admitted communicants. He had 
no assistance on sacrament-days, so that he was many times almost 
spent before he distributed the elements. When the duty of the day 
was over, he would often complain of a sore breast, an aking head, 
and a pained back; yet he would be early at study again next Monday. 
He allowed himself very little recreation, accounting time a 
precious jewel that ought to be improved at any rate. 
    He was not only a zealous preacher in the pulpit, but a sincere 
Christian in his closet, frequent in self-examination, as well as in 
pressing it upon others; being afraid, lest while he preached to 
others he himself should be a cast-away. To prove this, I shall 
transcribe what follows from his own diary. 
    "To make sure of eternal life, (said he) is the great business 
which the sons of death have to do in this world. Whether a man 
consider the immortality of his own soul, the ineffable joys and 
glory of heaven, the extreme and endless torments of hell, the 
inconceivable sweetness of peace of conscience, or the misery of 
being subject to the terrors thereof; all these put a necessity, a 
solemnity, a glory upon this work. But, Oh! the difficulties and 
dangers attending it! How many, and how great are these? What 
judgement, faithfulness, resolution, and watchfulness does it 
require? Such is the deceitfulness, darkness, and inconstancy of our 
hearts, and such the malice, policy and diligence of Satan to manage 
and improve it, that he who attempts this work had need both to 
watch his seasons for it, and frequently look up to God for his 
guidance and illumination, and to spend many sad and serious 
thoughts before he adventure upon a determination and conclusion of 
the state of his soul. 
    To the end therefore that this most important work may not 
miscarry in my hands, I have collected, with all the care I can, the 
best and soundest characters I can find in the writings of our 
modern divines, taken out of the scripture, and by their labours 
illustrated and prepared for use, that I might make a right 
application of them. 
    1. I have earnestly sought the Lord for the assistance of his 
Spirit, which can only manifest my own heart unto me, and show me 
the true state thereof, which is that thing my soul does most 
earnestly desire to know; and I hope the Lord will answer my desire 
therein, according to his promises, Luke 11: 13. John 14: 26. 
    2. I have endeavoured to cast out and lay aside self-love, lest 
my heart being prepossessed therewith, my judgement should be 
perverted, and become partial on passing sentence on my estate. I 
have, in some measure, brought my heart to be willing to judge and 
condemn myself for an hypocrite, if such I shall be found on trial, 
as to approve myself for sincere and upright. Yea, I would have it 
so far from being grievous to me so to do, that if I have been all 
this while mistaken and deceived, I shall rejoice and bless the Lord 
with my soul, that now at last it may be discovered to me, and I may 
be set right, though I lay the foundation new again. This I have 
laboured to bring my heart to, knowing that thousands have dashed 
and split to pieces upon this rock. And indeed he that will own the 
person of a judge, must put off the person of a friend. 
    3. It has been my endeavour to keep upon my heart a deep sense 
of that great judgement-day throughout this work as knowing by 
experience what a potent influence this has on the conscience, to 
make it deliberate, serious and faithful in its work, and therefore 
I have demanded of my sun conscience, before the resolution of each 
question, O my conscience, deal faithfully with me in this 
particular, and say no more to me than thou wilt own and stand to in 
the great day, when the counsels of all hearts shall be made 
    4. Having seriously weighed each mark, and considered where in 
the weight and substance of it lieth, I have gone to the Lord in 
prayer for his assistance, ere I have drawn up the answer of my 
conscience, and as my heart has been persuaded therein, so have I 
determined and resolved: what has been clear to my experience, I 
have so set down; and what has been dubious, I have here left it so. 
    5. I have made choice of the fittest seasons I had for this 
work, and set to it when I have found my heart in the most quiet and 
serious frame. For as he that would see his face in a glass, must be 
fixed, not in motion, or in water, must make no commotion in it; so 
it is in this case. 
    6. Lastly, To the end I may be successful in this work, I have 
laboured all along carefully to distinguish betwixt such sins as are 
grounds of doubting, and such as are only grounds of humiliation; 
knowing that not every evil is a ground of doubting, though all, 
even the smallest infirmities, administer matter of humiliation; and 
thus I have desired to enterprise this great business. O Lord, 
assist thy servant, that he may not mistake herein; but, if his 
conscience do now condemn him, he may lay a better foundation whilst 
he has time; and if it shall now acquit him, he may also have 
boldness in the day of judgement." 
    These things being previously dispatched, he tried himself by 
the scripture marks of sincerity and regeneration; by this means he 
attained to a well-grounded assurance, the ravishing comforts of 
which were many times shed abroad in his soul; this made him a 
powerful and successful preacher, as one who spoke from his own 
heart to those of others. He preached what he felt, what he had 
handled, what he had seen and tasted of the word of life, and they 
felt it also. 
    We may guess what a sweet and blessed intercourse he had with 
heaven, from that history we meet with in his "Pneumatologia", p. 
323, which I refer to, and likewise of that revelation he had of his 
father and mother's death, p. 339. He was a mighty wrestler with God 
in secret prayer, and particularly begged of him to crown his 
sermons, printed books and private discourses, with the conversion 
of poor sinners, a work which his heart was much set upon. It 
pleased God to answer him by many instances, of which the two that 
follow deserve peculiar notice. 
    In 1673, there came into Dartmouth port a ship of Pool, in her 
return from Virginia; the Surgeon of this ship, a lusty young man of 
23 years of age, fell into a deep melancholy, which the Devil 
improved to make him murder himself. This he attempted on the 
Lord's-day, early in the morning, when he was in bed with his 
brother; he first cut his own throat with a knife he had prepared on 
purpose, and leaping out of the bed, thrust it likewise into his 
stomach, and so lay wallowing in his own blood, till his brother 
awaked and cried for help. A Physician and Surgeon were brought, who 
concluded the wound in his throat mortal; they stitched it up 
however, and applied a plaister, but without hopes of cure, because 
he already breathed through the wound, and his voice was become 
inarticulate. Mr. Flavel came to visit him in this condition, and 
apprehending him to be within a few minutes of eternity, laboured to 
prepare him for it; he asked him his own apprehensions of his 
condition, and the young man answered, that he hoped in God for 
eternal life. Mr. Flavel replied, that he feared his hopes were ill 
grounded: the scripture tells us, that "no murderer has eternal life 
abiding in him: self-murder was the grossest of all murder, &c. Mr. 
Flavel insisted so much on the aggravations of the crime, that the 
young man's conscience began to fail, his heart began to melt, and 
then he broke out into tears, bewailing his sin and misery, and 
asked Mr. Flavel, If there might yet be any hope for him? he told 
him there might; and finding him altogether unacquainted with the 
nature of faith and repentance, he opened them to him. The poor man 
sucked in this doctrine greedily, prayed with great vehemence to 
God, that he would work them on his soul, and entreated Mr. Flavel 
to pray with him, and for him, that he might be, though late, a 
sincere gospel penitent, and sound believer. Mr. Flavel prayed with 
him accordingly, and it pleased God exceedingly to melt the young 
man's heart, during the performance of that duty. He was very loth 
to part with Mr. Flavel, but the duty of the day obliging him to be 
gone, in a few words he summed up those counsels that he thought 
most necessary, and so took his farewell of him, never expecting to 
see him any more in this world. But it pleased God to order it 
otherwise; the young man continued alive contrary to all 
expectation, panted earnestly after the Lord Jesus, and no discourse 
was pleasing to him, but that of Christ and faith. In this frame Mr. 
Flavel found him in the evening; he rejoiced greatly when he saw him 
come again, intreated him to continue his discourse upon those 
subjects, and told him, Sir, the Lord has given me repentance for 
this and for all my other sins; I see the evil of them now, so as I 
never saw them before! O I loathe myself! I do also believe, Lord, 
help my unbelief. I am heartily willing to take Christ upon his own 
terms; hut one thing troubles me, I doubt this bloody sin will not 
be pardoned. Will Jesus Christ, said he, apply his blood to one, who 
has shed his own blood? Mr. Flavel told him that the Lord Jesus shad 
his blood for them who with wicked hands had shed his own blood, 
which was a greater sin then shedding the blood of his; to which the 
wounded man replied, I will cast myself upon Christ, let him do what 
he will. In this condition Mr. Flavel left him that night. 
    Next morning his wounds were to be opened, and the Surgeon's 
opinion was, that he would immediately expire: Mr. Flavel was again 
requested to give him a visit, which he did, found him in a very 
serious frame, and prayed with him. The wound in his stomach was 
afterwards opened, when the ventricle was so much swollen, that it 
came out at the orifice of the wound, and lay like a livid 
discoloured tripe upon his body, and was also cut through; every one 
thought it impossible for him to live; however, the Surgeon enlarged 
the orifice of the wound, fomented it, and wrought the ventricle 
again into his body, and, stitching up the wound, left his patient 
to the disposal of providence. 
    It pleased God that he was cured of those dangerous wounds in 
his body; and, upon solid grounds of a rational charity, there was 
ground to believe that he was also cured of that more dangerous 
wound which sin had made in his soul. Mr. Flavel spent many hours 
with him during his sickness; and when the Surgeon returned to Pool, 
after his recovery, Mr. Samuel Hardy, that worthy minister there, 
thanked Mr. Flavel in a letter, for the great pains he had taken 
with that young man, and congratulated his success, assuring him, 
that if ever a great and thorough work was wrought, it was upon that 
    The second instance is this: Mr. Flavel being in London in 
1673, his old bookseller, Mr. Boulder, gave him this following 
relation, viz. That some time before, there came into his shop a 
sparkish gentle man to enquire for some play-books; Mr. Boulder told 
him he had none, but shewed him Mr. Flavel's little treatise of 
"Keeping the Heart", intreated him to read it, and assured him it 
would do him more good than play books. The gentleman read the 
title, and glancing upon several pages here and there, broke out 
into these and such other expressions, What a damnable Fanatic was 
he who made this book? Mr. Boulter begged of him to buy and read it, 
and told him he had no cause to censure it so bitterly; at last he 
bought it, but told him he would not read it. What will you do with 
it then, said Mr. Boulter? I will tear and burn it, said he, and 
send it to the Devil. Mr. Boulder told him, that he should not have 
it. Upon this the gentleman promised to read it; and Mr. Boulder 
told him, if he disliked it upon reading, he would return him his 
money. About a month after, the gentleman came to the shop again in 
a very modest habit, and with a serious countenance, bespoke Mr. 
Boulder thus; Sir, I most heartily thank you for putting this book 
into my hands; I bless God that moved you to do it, it has saved my 
soul; blessed be God that ever I came into your shop. And then he 
bought a hundred more of those books of him, and told him he would 
give them to the poor who could not buy them, and so left him, 
praising and admiring the goodness of God. Thus it pleased God to 
bless the sermons, discourses and writings of Mr. Flavel. 
    He never delighted in controversies, but was obliged, contrary 
to his inclination, to write against Mr. Cary, the principal 
Anabaptist in Dartmouth, with whom, however, he maintained a 
friendly and Christian correspondence. When he wrote his 
"Planelogia", or, "Blow at the Root", he declared to his friends, 
that though those studies were very necessary, he took no pleasure 
in them, but had rather be employed in practical divinity. When he 
composed his "Reasonableness of Personal Reformation", he told an 
intimate acquaintance of his, that he seldom had a vain thought to 
interrupt him, which made him hope it would do the more good in the 
world. He purposed to have enlarged his book of "Sacramental 
Meditations", and had most judiciously stated and handled several 
cases of conscience on that occasion, which he designed to have 
inserted in the next edition, but lived not to finish them for the 
    Many times, when he preached abroad, he has had letters sent 
him from unknown persons, informing him how God had blessed his 
ministry to their souls, and converted them from being bitter 
enemies to religion. This encouraged him when he rode abroad, not 
only to accept of invitations to preach, but many times to offer his 
labours unto those that would be pleased to hear him; though for 
this he had no occasion where he was known, the people being 
generally importunate with him. One day after a long and hard 
journey, an intimate friend of his, out of a tender regard to him, 
pressed him with cogent arguments to forbear preaching at that 
season, but could not prevail with him; his bowels of compassion to 
needy and perishing souls made him overlook all considerations of 
himself: he preached an excellent sermons by which there was one 
converted, as he declared himself afterwards upon his admission to 
the Lord's table. 
    The last sermon that he preached to his people at Dartmouth, 
was on a public day of fasting and humiliations; in the close of 
which he was enlarged in such an extraordinary manner, when offering 
up praises to God for mercies received, that he seemed to be in 
ecstasy. This happened about a week before his death, and may justly 
be accounted a foretaste of those heavenly raptures that he now 
enjoys among the blessed spirits above. 
    The last sermon he preached was on the 21st of June, 1691, at 
Ashburton, from 1 Cor. 10: 12. "Wherefore let him that standeth take 
heed lest he fall". It was a very pathetical discourse, tending to 
awaken careless professors, and to stir them up to be solicitous 
about their souls. After having preached this sermon, he went to 
Exeter; and at Topsham, within three miles of that city, he presided 
as moderator in an assembly of the Nonconformist ministers of 
Devonshire, who unanimously voted him into the chair: the occasion 
of the meeting was about an union betwixt the Presbyterian and 
Independents, which Mr. Flavel was very zealous to promote, and 
brought to so great an issue in those parts, that the ministers 
declared their satisfaction with the heads of agreement concluded on 
by the London ministers of those denominations. Mr. Flavel closed 
the work of the day with prayer and praises, in which his spirit was 
carried out with wonderful enlargement and affection. 
    He wrote a letter to an eminent minister in London, with an 
account of their proceedings, that same day that he died; providence 
ordering it so, that he should finish that good work his heart was 
so intent upon, before he finished his course. 
    The manner of his death was sudden and surprising, his friends 
thought him as well that day in the evening of which he died, as he 
had been for many years: towards the end of supper he complained of 
a deadness in one of his hands, that he could not lift it to his 
head. This struck his wife and his friends about him with 
astonishment, they used some means to recover it to its former 
strength, but instead thereof, to their great grief the distemper 
seized all upon one side of his body. They put him to bed with all 
speed, and sent for physicians, but to no purpose; his distemper 
prevailed upon him so fast, that in a short time it made him 
speechless. He was sensible of his approaching death, and when they 
carried him upstairs, expressed his opinion that it would be the 
last time; but added, I know that it will be well with me; which 
were some of his last words. Thus died this holy man of God 
suddenly, and without pain, not giving so much as one groan. He 
exchanged this life for a better, on the 26th day of June, 1691, in 
the 64th year of his age. 
    His corpse was carried from Exeter to Dartmouth, attended by 
several ministers, and a great many other persons of good quality; 
abundance of people rode out from Dartmouth, Totness, Newton, 
Ashburton, and other places, to meet the corpse; when it was taken 
out of the hearse at the water side, his people and other friends 
could not forbear expressing the sense of their great loss, by 
floods of tears, and a bitter lamentation. It was interred the same 
night in Dartmouth church, and next day Mr. George Trosse, a 
minister of Exeter, preached his funeral-sermon from Elisha's 
lamentation upon the translation of Elijah, 2 Kings 2: 12. "My 
father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof. 
    We shall conclude with a character of Mr. Flavel. He was a man 
of a middle stature, and full of life and activity: he was very 
thoughtful, and when not discoursing or reading, much taken up in 
meditation, which made him digest his notions well. He was ready to 
learn from every body, and as free to communicate what he knew. He 
was bountiful to his own relations, and very charitable to the poor, 
but especially to the household of faith, and the necessitous 
members of his own church, to whom, during their sickness, he always 
sent suitable supplies. He freely taught academical learning to four 
young men whom he bred to the ministry, and one of them he 
maintained all the while at his own charge. He was exceedingly 
affectionate to all the people of Dartmouth, of which we shall give 
one remarkable instance. When our fleet was first engaged with the 
French, he called his people together to a solemn fast, and, like a 
man in an agony, wrestled with God in prayer for the church and 
nation, and particularly for the poor seamen of Dartmouth, that they 
might obtain mercy; the Lord heard and answered him, for not one of 
that town was killed in the fight, though many of them were in the 
engagement. As he was a faithful ambassador to his Master, he made 
his example the rule of his own practice, and was so far from 
reviling again, those that reviled him, that he prayed for those 
that despitefully used him: one remarkable instance of which is as 
follows: In 1685, some of the people of Dartmouth, accompanied too 
by some of the magistrates, made up his effigy, carried it through 
the streets in derision, with the covenant and bill of exclusion 
pinned to it, and set it upon a bonefire, and burnt it; some of the 
spectators were so much affected with the reproach and ignominy done 
to this reverend and pious minister, that they wept, and others 
scored and jeered: it was observable, that at the very same time, 
though he knew nothing of the matter, he was heaping coals of fire 
of another nature upon the heads of those wicked men, for he was 
then praying for the town of Dartmouth, its magistrates and 
inhabitants; and when news was brought him, upon the conclusion of 
his prayer, what they had been doing, he lifted up his prayer unto 
God for them in our Saviour's words, "Father, forgive them, for they 
know not what they do. 

file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-05: flavlife.txt