Friday, October 04, 2019

"Cheer up, it could be worse" John Flavel style

I've been reading John Flavel's The Mystery of Providence off and on for some months. I can't recall how the  book came into my possession, but my copy is a 1976 Banner of Truth reprint, cover price 60p. I also have the six volume set of Flavel's Works, bought when I was a student at London Seminary, 1988-90. The Mystery of Providence is probably the West Country Puritan's best known book and is found in Volume 4 of the Works. But that's a hefty tome. The paperback is a more handy version for reading to redeem time when waiting for a hospital appointment, or something. 

What made me switch from sporadic to sustained reading was making my way though Some Pastors and Teachers by Sinclair B. Ferguson. Chapter 17 is on John Flavel and The Mystery of Providence. I'm sure I'll benefit from what the writer has to say, but thought that I should go Flavel ad fontes before looking at Ferguson's treatment. So I've put Some Pastors and Teachers on hold until I've finished Flavel. 

I'm now on Chapter 9, How to Meditate on the Providence of God, which is very thought provoking and practical. You can't help admire the Puritan Pastor's deep knowledge of Scripture, sound theological understanding and facility for telling application. Compared with the often heavy going John Owen, with whom I'm more familiar, Flavel is a lively and gripping writer. In one passage he seeks to shock his readers out of self pity when groaning under "sad and afflictive providences". It's his version of, 'cheer up, might be worse'. 
His sovereignty is gloriously displayed in His eternal decrees and temporal providences. He might have put you into what rank of creatures he pleased. He might have made you the most despicable creatures, worms, or toads: or, if men, the most vile, abject and miserable among men; and when you had run through all the miseries of this life, have damned you to eternity, made you miserable for ever, and all this without any wrong to you. And shall this not quieten us under the common afflictions of this life? (p. 130).
Or, as someone once said, "Anything above ground is a mercy of God". Yes, cheer up, it could be considerably worse. At least you're not a despicable toad. Hopefully not, anyway. 

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