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Saturday, March 1, 2014

John Flavel - Saint Indeed

Saint Indeed, known more so as Keeping the Heart in modern publications, was first published in London, in 1668.  Of its author, the Puritan clergyman John Flavel (c.1627-1691), the Reverend David Young, being quoted from an introductory essay to one publication of this work penned in 1830, is more fit to speak--

"Flavel, however, was very far from being a mere Evangelical, in the sense imposed on that term by the flippancy of modern sarcasm.  It is true he considered the sovereignty of grace, and the entire moral inability of man, as doctrines absolutely fundamental to accurate views of the Christian system; but, like all who are enlightenedly evangelical, he was also a Christian moralist of the very highest order, unfolding the principles of true morality, in the sublime of their heavenly origin, and enforcing obedience to its precepts without abatement or compromise, as the best of all evidence of genuine religion. . . . The two things, perhaps, for which Flavel was most remarkable, are mature and extensive experience of Christianity as a matter of personal exercise, and a strong propensity to Christian good-doing, excited by a particular sweetness and benevolence of disposition.  The first of these, combined with the vigour and soundness of his understanding, made him eminently skillful in analyzing the religion of the heart. . . . If we except the peerless 'Edwards on Religious Affections,' a work which is tacitly excluded from all our ordinary comparisons, we know not another writer whose accuracy in detecting false experience, and rescuing the true from dubious alliance, is more to be relied upon than that of Flavel. . . . 'The Saint Indeed,' and 'The Touchstone of Sincerity,' are perhaps the best of Flavel's writings, so far as the religion of the heart is concerned; and they are both so plain and practical, that a child may easily understand them, while the man of intellect and acquirement will find them well entitled to his most serious perusal. . . . We do think [Saint Indeed] better fitted than many more elaborate performances, for arresting the frivolous and profane, and inclining even their hearts to the pure and peacable wisdom which cometh from above.  Its judicious selection of matter, its uniform brevity of parts, its dignified simplicity, its plain dealing, but above all, its latent power of gentle and hallowed persuasion, are the likeliest of all human means for enticing the thoughtless to think of religion as a very solemn reality."

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