Having obeyed the urging of an older friend in ministry to buy all six volumes of the Works of John Flavel, Lewis Allen now wants to kindle in others a love for this Puritan.
In the introduction, Allen writes, ‘Flavel insisted that he himself wanted to hear sermons that were “hissing hot”, direct and practical rather than long-winded and theoretical’. He adds, ‘His sermons have those qualities in abundance. Flavel knew that time was short, and that people needed to be led to Jesus Christ, and to be built up in him. He wasted neither time nor words’ (p.xiv).
Eleven of Flavel’s sermons have been selected, in addition to two chapters from The Mystery of Providence and another from A Saint Indeed. Some vocabulary has been replaced with modern equivalents and the occasional sentence reworded. Flavel’s scriptural quotations have been replaced with equivalents from the NIV (1984 edition). In each chapter, the structure and order typical of Puritan preachers is evident, where outline is followed by doctrine, application and exhortation.
The book is divided into four parts: ‘Salvation is in Jesus Christ’; ‘Trusting in and belonging to Christ’; ‘Living the Christian life’; and ‘The Church’. The selected sermons and chapters are full of the practical divinity present in many Puritan works. Flavel is full of Christ and Christ’s compassion.
It would be difficult to disagree with Allen’s analysis that: ‘Flavel, like his Lord, was a tender-hearted pastor. He writes with a gentleness and proven authority on issues related to the Christian life. He understood his people well, and knew how their minds worked and the kind of things that brought them sorrow and made them shed tears. When you read Flavel, you will sense his genuine concern to help others, including you!’ (p.viii).
The selected sermons and chapters show Puritan practical divinity at its best. For those unfamiliar with the writing of John Flavel or new to Puritan writing in general, this book is an excellent introduction. It will whet the appetite for more and give rise to serious consideration for the purchase of all six volumes.
Dowlais, South Wales