August 18, 2017

Devotions for the Heart (2)

selections collected by John Mincy from Keeping The Heart by John Flavel (written in 1667)

[Part One]

This article continues with some excerpts from Flavel’s wonderful little book (about 145 pages excluding editorial additions in the Soli Deo Gloria Publications 1998 edition). The excerpts arise, of course, from helpful contexts. They are given here to encourage a thorough reading of the whole book.

The affections command the thoughts to go after them. (p. 70)

It is with the heart in duty as it is with those who dig for gold ore: they try here and, finding none, try there, and so go from place to place till at last they hit upon the rich vein and there they sit down. (p. 70)

Why are you ready to be gone almost as soon as you come into the presence of God? Is it not because your affections are not engaged? (p. 70)

Never slight wandering thoughts in duty as small matters. Follow every vain thought with a deep sigh, turning to God with such words as these: “Lord, I came here to speak with Thee, and here a busy devil and a vain heart conspiring together have set upon me. O my God, what a heart have I! Shall I never wait upon Thee without distraction? When shall I enjoy an hour of free communion with Thee? Help me, my God, this once, do but display Thy glory before mine eye, and my heart shall quickly be recovered. Thou knowest I came here to enjoy Thee, and shall I go away without Thee? See how the heart of Thy poor child works towards Thee, strives to get near Thee, but cannot. My heart is aground; ‘come, thou north wind; blow, south wind.’ Oh, for a fresh gale now from Thy Spirit to set my affections afloat!” (p. 70, 71)

Well, then, awe your hearts with the authority of God in these Scriptures; and when carnal reason says, “My enemy deserves to be hated,” let conscience reply, “But does God deserve to be disobeyed? Thus and thus has to be done, and so he has wronged me; but what has God done that I should wrong Him? If he dares be so bold as to break the peace, shall I be so wicked as to break the precept? If he fears not to wrong me, shall not I fear to wrong God?” Oh, let the fear of God’s threatenings repress such sinful motions. (p. 74)

Keep down your heart by the consideration that by revenge you can but satisfy a lust, but by forgiveness you shall conquer a lust.

Suppose by revenge you should destroy one enemy. I will show you how, by forgiving, you shall conquer three: your own lust, the devil’s temptation, and your enemy’s heart. (p. 77)

Consider how you daily wrong God, and you will not be so easily inflamed with revenge against others who have wronged you. (p. 79)

I think the mercy of God to us should melt our very bowels into mercy over others. It is impossible that we can be cruel to others unless we forget how kind Christ has been to us. Those who have found mercy should show mercy. (p. 79)

If you can but avoid anger in its first rise, there is no great fear of it afterwards; for it is not with this sin as with other sins. Other sins grow to their full strength by degrees (their first motions are the weakest), but this sin is born in its full strength; it is strongest at first. Withstand it then, and it falls before you. Thus learn to keep your hearts when provocations arise. (p. 85, 86)

Say to Satan, “Why do you talk about the pleasure of sin when, by experience, I know there is more true pleasure in the mortification than can be in the commission of sin? Oh, how sweet is it to please God, to obey conscience, to preserve inward peace; to be able to say that in this trial I have discovered the sincerity of my heart, that now I know I fear the Lord, that now I see that I truly hate sin. Has sin any such delight as this?” This will choke that temptation. (p. 87)

Do I owe no reverence to myself? If the heathen man could say, “When you are tempted to commit sin, fear yourself more than any other witness,” shall I not be afraid to sin before my own conscience, which always has a reproof in its mouth or a pen in its hand to record my most secret actions? (p. 88)

Every working and appearance of hypocrisy does not presently prove the person in whom it appears to be a hypocrite. You must carefully distinguish between the presence and predominance of hypocrisy. There are remains of deceitfulness in the best hearts. David and Peter had sad experiences of it; yet the standing frame and general bent of the heart being upright it did not denominate them as hypocrites. (p. 92)

Everything which is a ground of grief to the people of God is not a sufficient ground of questioning their sincerity. There are many more things to trouble you than there are to stumble you. If upon every slip and failing through infirmity you should question all that ever was wrought upon you, your life would be made up of doubtings and fears. You could never attain a settled peace, nor live that life of praise and thankfulness the gospel calls for. (p. 93)

It is a good saying of [William] Ames: “We discern the growth of grace as the growth of plants, which we perceive rather to have grown than to grow.” (p. 97)

May not a man love God more solidly and strongly than the creature, and yet his affections to the creature be sometimes moved more violently and sensibly than towards God? As rooted malice argues a stronger hatred than a sudden though more violent passion, so we must measure our love not by violent motion of it now and then, but by the depth of the root and the constancy of its actions. (p. 98)

It is our unhappiness that when we give saints and sinners their proper portions, that each of them are prone to take up the other’s part. (p. 101)

Whether you are willing to die or not, I assure you there is no other way to obtain the full satisfaction of your soul and complete its happiness until the hand of death does you the kind office to draw aside the curtain of flesh; until then your soul cannot see God. (p. 108)

Most men need patience to die, but a saint who understands what death admits him to should rather need patience to live. (p. 108)

How true we find that saying of Theophrastus: “The soul pays a dear rent for the tenement it now lives in.” But glorified bodies are clogged with no indispositions. Death is the best physician; it will cure you of all diseases at once. (p. 111)

Many great services have been performed, many glorious works are wrought by men, which yet are utterly rejected by God, and shall never stand upon record in order to an eternal acceptance because they took no heed to keep their hearts with God in those duties. This is that fatal rock upon which thousands of vain professors have split themselves eternally. They are curious about the externals of religion, but disregard their hearts. Oh, how many hours have some professors spent in hearing, praying, reading, and conferring! Yet, as to the main end of religion, they may as well have sat still and done nothing; for all this signifies nothing if the great work (I mean, the heart work) is all the while neglected. (p. 114)

John Flavel (c. 1627-1691) was an English dissenting clergyman, a faithful preacher in the face of oppression, and a prolific Puritan author. A few details are available here.


John Mincy was a church planter in Singapore and California and is now pastor emeritus of Heritage Baptist Church in Antioch, California.


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