John Flavel Quotes

John Flavel (1627?–1691), was an English Presbyterian divine. Flavel, the eldest son of the Rev. Richard Flavel, described as ‘a painful and eminent minister,’ who was incumbent successively of Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, Hasler and Willersey, Gloucestershire (from which last living he was ejected in 1662), was born in or about 1630 at Bromsgrove. 

Flavel was born at Bromsgrove in Wordesterchire. He was the elder son of Richard Flavel, described in contemporary records as “a painful and eminent minister.” After receiving his early education, partly at home and partly at the grammar-schools of Bromsgrove and Haslar, he entered University College, Oxford. Soon after taking orders in 1650 he obtained a curacy at Diptford, Devon, and on the death of the vicar he was appointed to succeed him. From Diptford he removed in 1656 to Dartmouth. He was ejected from his living by the passing of the Act of Uniformity in 1662, but continued to preach and administer the sacraments privately till the Five Mile Act of 1665, when he retired to Slapton, 5 miles away. He then lived for a time in London, but returned to Dartmouth, where he labored till his death in 1691. He was married four times. He was a vigorous and voluminous writer, and not without a play of fine fancy.


“Providence is wiser than you, and you may be confident it has suited all things better to your eternal good than you could do had you been left to your own option.” ~ John Flavel


“They that know God will be humble. They that know themselves cannot be proud.” ~ John Flavel


“Providence is like a curious piece of tapestry made of a thousand shreds, which, single, appear useless, but put together, they represent a beautiful history to the eye.” ~ John Flavel


“It would much conduce to the settlement of your heart, to consider that by fretting and discontent you do yourself more injury than all your afflictions could do. Your own discontent is that which arms your troubles with a sting; you make your burden heavy by struggling under it. Did you but lie quietly under the hand of God, your condition would be much more easy than it is.” ~ John Flavel


“There is not such a pleasant history for you to read in all the world as the history of your own lives, if you would sit down and record from the beginning hitherto what God has been to you, and done for you; what evidences and outbreakings of his mercy, faithfulness, and love there have been in all the conditions you have passed through.” ~ John Flavel


“Christ [is] the very essence of all delights and pleasures, the very soul and substance of them. As all the rivers are gathered into the ocean, which is congregation or meeting-place of all waters in the world: so Christ is that ocean in which all true delights and pleasures meet. . . .” ~ John Flavel


“There is not a greater discovery of pride in the world than in the contests of our wills with the will of God.” ~ John Flavel


“Suppose that by revenge you might destroy one enemy; yet, by exercising the Christian’s temper you might conquer three‌–‌your own lust, Satan’s temptation, and your enemy’s heart.” ~ John Flavel


“If we were to understand how dear we are to God, our relation to Him, our value in His eyes, and how He protects us by His faithful promises and gracious presence, we would not tremble at every appearance of danger.” ~ John Flavel


“Observed duties maintain our credit; but secret duties maintain our life.” ~ John Flavel


“The heart of man is his worst part before it be regenerate, and the best afterwards: it is the seat of principles, and fountain of actions. The eye of God is, and the eye of a Christian ought to be, principally fixed upon it. The greatest difficulty in conversion, is, to win the heart to God; and the greatest difficulty after conversion, is, to keep the heart with God.” ~ John Flavel


“In short, forbidden fear is merely concerned with self-preservation. It does not take God’s glory into account. On the contrary, it actually desires the removal of what it perceives as dangerous, meaning it desires the removal of God.” ~ John Flavel


“The state of the whole body depends upon the soundness and vigour of the heart, and the everlasting state of the whole man upon the good or ill condition of the soul.” ~ John Flavel


“A bad heart and a slippery memory deprive men of the comfort of many mercies, and defraud God of the glory due for them.” ~ John Flavel


“Oh, study your hearts, watch your hearts, keep your hearts” ~ John Flavel


“One word of God can do more than ten thousand words of men to relieve a distressed soul.” ~ John Flavel


“Two things destroy the peace and tranquility of our lives; our bewailing past disappointments, or fearing future ones.” ~ John Flavel


“It is a good sign that our troubles are sanctified to us when they turn our hearts against sin, and not against God.” ~ John Flavel


“The Providence of God is like Hebrew words – it can be read only backwards.” ~ John Flavel


“God rejects all duties (how glorious soever in other respects) which are offered him without the heart. He that performs duty without the heart, that is, heedlessly, is no more accepted with God than he that performs it with a double heart, that is, hypocritically.” ~ John Flavel


“Second, we are ignorant of others. We fear people because we do not know them. If we were to understand them better, we would fear them less. We overvalue them; therefore, we fear them. Apparently, the artist often paints the lion fiercer than he is. I am sure our imagination paints people more dreadful than they are. If wicked people, especially multitudes, align themselves against us, our hearts fail and we perceive inevitable ruin. “The floods of ungodly men made me afraid” (2 Sam. 22:5b).” ~ John Flavel


“What is a child, but a piece of the parent enrapt up in another skin? And yet our dearest children are but as strangers to us, in comparison of the unspeakable dearness that was between the Father and Christ. Now, that he should ever be content to part with a Son, and such an only One, is such a manifestation of love, as will be admired to all eternity.” ~ John Flavel


“Enjoyment of your desires is the thing that will please you, but resignation of your wills is that which is pleasing to God.” ~ John Flavel


“Providences in themselves are not a perfect guide. They often puzzle and entangle our thoughts; but bring them to the Word, and your duty will be quickly manifested.” ~ John Flavel


“The strength of our unmortified corruption shows itself in our pride and the swelling vanity of our hearts when we have a name and esteem among men. When we are applauded and honoured, when we are admired for any gift or excellence that is in us, this draws forth the pride of the heart and shows the vanity that is in it.” ~ John Flavel


“It is my ignorance of God’s design that makes me quarrel with him.” ~ John Flavel


“Every man loves the mercies of God, but a saint loves the God of his mercies. The mercies of God, as they are the fuel of a wicked man’s lusts, so they are fuel to maintain a good man’s love to God; not that their love to God is grounded upon these external benefits.” ~ John Flavel


“There is no sin in complaining to God, but much wickedness in complaining of him.” ~ John Flavel


“Some poor creatures are engaged in callings that eat up their time and strength, and make their lives very uncomfortable to them: they have not only spending and wasting employments in the world, but such as allow little or no time for their general calling; and yet all this doth but keep them and theirs alive.” ~ John Flavel


“If I yield to thy temptation, I must either feel the pangs of conscience, or the flames of hell.” ~ John Flavel


“We are inclined to a sinful trust and dependence upon each other, and to an inordinate fear and dread of each other. We act as if the creature were a god rather than a man, a spirit rather than flesh. Thus, our fear magnifies and exalts the creature, putting it (as it were) in God’s room and place. God rebukes this sin in His own people: “I, even I, am he that comforteth you: Who art thou, that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall die, and of the son of man which shall be made as grass; and forgettest the LORD thy maker?” (Isa. 51:12–13a). It is evident that fear exalts people and belittles God. It thinks upon a person’s harmful power so much that it forgets God’s saving power. In this way, a mortal worm, which perishes as the grass, eclipses the glory of the great God, who stretched forth the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth.” ~ John Flavel


“But if you have derived any benefit from the reproaches and wrongs which you have received, if they have put you upon examining your own heart, if they have made you more careful how you conduct, if they have convinced you of the value of a sanctified temper; will you not forgive them? Will you not forgive one who has been instrumental of so much good to you? What though he meant it for evil? If through the Divine blessing your happiness has been promoted by what he has done, why should you even have a hard thought of him?” ~ John Flavel


“He has either strengthened your back to bear, or lightened your burden, or else opened an unexpected door of escape, according to promise (1 Corinthians 10:13), so that the evil which you feared did not come upon you.” ~ John Flavel


“O happy providences, however smart, that make the soul for ever afraid of sin!” ~ John Flavel


“The less fear a person has, the more happiness he has – unless, of course, it is that fear which is his happiness and excellence.” ~ John Flavel


“Sin had so shut up mercy from us, that had not Christ made an atonement by his death, we should never have obtained it to all eternity.” ~ John Flavel


“A cross without a Christ never did any man good.” ~ John Flavel


“The carnal person fears man, not God. The strong Christian fears God, not man. The weak Christian fears man too much and God too little.” ~ John Flavel


“The world is not a theater large enough to display the glory of Christ upon or unfold even half of the unsearchable riches that lie hidden in Him. And such is the deliciousness of this subject, Christ, that were there ten thousand volumes written upon it, they would never become tiring to the heart. We used to say that any one thing can finally tire us and this is true, except about this one eminent thing, Christ, and then one can never tire, for such is the variety of sweetness in Christ.” ~ John Flavel


“Thus, we may observe, it is usual with God to smite us in those very comforts which stole away too much of the love and delight of our souls from God; to cross us in those things from which we raised up too great expectations of comfort.” ~ John Flavel


“As God did not at first choose you because you were high, so he will not forsake you because you are low” ~ John Flavel


“That which begins not with prayer, seldom winds up with comfort.” ~ John Flavel


“Consider your spiritual mercies and privileges with which the Lord Jesus has invested you, and complain at your providential lot if you can. One of these mercies alone has enough in it to sweeten all your troubles in this world.” ~ John Flavel


“It is a greater mercy to descend from praying parents, than from nobles.” ~ John Flavel 


“Affliction is a pill, which, being wrapt up in patience and quiet submission, may be easily swallowed; but discontent chews the pill, and so embitters the soul. God throws away some comfort which he saw would hurt you, and you will throw away your peace after it; he shoots an arrow which sticks in your clothes, and was never intended to hurt, but only to drive you from sin, and you will thrust it deeper, to the piercing of your very heart, by despondency and discontent.” ~ John Flavel


“Did Christ finish His work for us? Then there can be no doubt but He will also finish His work in us.” ~ John Flavel


“If you neglect to instruct children in the way of holiness, will the devil neglect to instruct them in the way of wickedness? No; if you will not teach them to pray, he will to curse, swear, and lie; if ground be uncultivated, weeds will spring.” ~ John Flavel


“The knowledge of Christ is profound and large. All other sciences are but shadows; this is a boundless, bottomless ocean. Though something of Christ be unfolded in one age, and something in another, yet eternity itself cannot full unfold him.” ~ John Flavel


“The law sends us to Christ to be justified, and Christ sends us to the law to be regulated.” ~ John Flavel


“He is bread to the hungry, water to the thirsty, a garment to the naked, healing to the wounded; and whatever a soul can desire is found in Him.” ~ John Flavel


“What a mercy was it to us to have parents that prayed for us before they had us, as well as in our infancy when we could not pray for ourselves!” ~ John Flavel


“The Scriptures teach us the best way of living, the noblest way of suffering, and the most comfortable way of dying.” ~ John Flavel


“He feels all our sorrows, needs, and burdens as his own. That is why it is said that the sufferings of believers are called the sufferings of Christ.” ~ John Flavel


“Look to it, my dear friends, that none of you be found Christless at your appearance before him. Those that continue Christless now, will be left speechless then. God forbid that you that have heard so much of Christ, and you that have professed so much of Christ, should at last fall into a worse condition than those that never heard the name of Christ.” ~ John Flavel


“What, at peace with the Father and at war with the children? It cannot be.” ~ John Flavel


“To see a man humble under prosperity is one of the greatest rarities in the world.” ~ John Flavel


“Jesus, our head, is already in heaven; and if the head be above water, the body cannot drown.” ~ John Flavel


“Surely if He would not spare His own Son one stroke, one tear, one groan, one sigh, one circumstance of misery, it can never be imagined that ever He should, after this, deny or withhold from His people, for whose sakes all this was suffered, any mercies, any comforts, any privilege, spiritual or temporal, which is good for them.” ~ John Flavel


“Christ is so in love with holiness, that at the price of His blood He will buy it for us.” ~ John Flavel


“Whatever be the ground of one’s distress, it should drive him to, not from God.” ~ John Flavel


“I think it is not very difficult to discern by the duties and converses of Christians, what frames their spirits are under. Take a Christian in a good frame, and how serious, heavenly, and profitable, will his converses and duties be! what a lovely companion is he during the continuance of it!” ~ John Flavel


“Tell me, you vain professor, when did you shed a tear for the deadness, hardness, unbelief, or earthliness of your heart? Do you think that such an easy religion can save you? If so, we may invert Christ’s words and say, ‘Wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to life, and may there be that go in there.'” ~ John Flavel


“Guilt is to danger, what fire is to gunpowder; a man need not fear to walk among many barrels of powder, if he have no fire about him.” John Flavel


“Grace makes the promise and providence the payment.” ~ John Flavel


“When God gives you comforts, it is your great evil not to observe His hand in them.” ~ John Flavel


“The soul of man, like the bird in the shell, is still growing or ripening in sin or grace, till at last the shell breaks by death, and the soul flies away to the piece it is prepared for, and where it must abide forever.” ~ John Flavel


“The more afflictions you have been under, the more assistance you have had for this life of holiness.” ~ John Flavel


“Turn in upon yourselves, get into your closets, and now resolve to dwell there. You have been strangers to this work too long; you have kept other vineyards too long; you have trifled about the borders of religion too long. Will you now resolve to look better to your hearts? Will you hate and come out of the crowds of business and clamors of the world and retire yourselves more than you have done? Oh, that this day you would resolve upon it!” ~ John Flavel


“If God has given you but a small portion of the world, yet if you are godly He has promised never to forsake you (Heb. 13:5). Providence has ordered that condition for you which is really best for your eternal good. If you had more of the world than you have, your heads and hearts might not be able to manage it to your advantage.” ~ John Flavel


“Let all Arminians know: we have as high an esteem for faith as any men in the world, but yet we will not rob Christ to clothe faith.” ~ John Flavel


“The opening of your hearts to receive the Lord Jesus Christ is not a work done by any power of your own, but the arm of the Lord is revealed therein.” ~ John Flavel


“All the tears of a penitent sinner, should he shed as many as there have fallen drops of rain, since the creation, to this day, cannot wash away one sin. The everlasting burnings in hell, cannot purify the flaming conscience, from the least sin.” ~ John Flavel


“And now let us consider and marvel that ever this great and blessed God should be so much concerned, as you have heard He is in all His providences, about such vile, despicable worms as we are! He does not need us, but is perfectly blessed and happy in Himself without us. We can add nothing to Him.” ~ John Flavel


“It is better to be as low as hell with a promise, than in Paradise without one.” ~ John Flavel


“The heart of a Christian, like the moon, commonly suffers an eclipse when it is at the full, and that by the interposition of the earth.” ~ John Flavel


“Look around in the world, and you may see some in every place who are objects of pity, bereaved by sad accidents of all the comforts of life, while in the meantime Providence has tenderly preserved you.” ~ John Flavel


“Brethren, it is easier to declaim against a thousand sins of others, than to mortify one sin in ourselves.” ~ John Flavel


“Sometimes God makes use of instruments for good to His people, who designed nothing but evil and mischief to them. Thus Joseph’s brethren were instrumental to his advancement in that very thing in which they designed his ruin (Gen. 50:20).” ~ John Flavel


“God’s unspotted faithfulness never failed any soul that durst trust himself in its arms.” ~ John Flavel


“Oh sirs, deal with sin as sin, and speak of heaven and hell as they are, and not as if you were in jest.” ~ John Flavel


“Providence is wiser than you, and you may be confident it has suited all things better to your eternal good than you could do had you been left to your own option.” ~ John Flavel


“Christ comes with kingly power, to rescue sinners, as a prey from the mouth of the terrible one.” ~ John Flavel


“Creatures, like pictures, are fairest at a certain distance, but it is not so with Christ; the nearer the soul approaches Him, and the longer it lives in the enjoyment of Him, still the sweeter and more desirable He becomes.” ~ John Flavel


“Afflictions have the same use and end to our souls, that frosty weather hath upon those clothes that are laid and bleaching, they alter the hue and make them white.” ~ John Flavel


“We are not distinguished from brutes by our senses, but by our understanding.” ~ John Flavel


“A hot iron, though blunt, will pierce sooner than a cold one, though sharper.” ~ John Flavel