September 28, 2007

John Flavel (1630–1691) on Being Concerned About Your Convictions

2. If every conviction be a knock of Christ, how deeply are we all concerned in the success of convictions. Conviction is an embryo of the new creature: if it come to a perfect new birth, it brings forth salvation to your souls; if it fails, you are finally lost. It is of infinite moment, therefore, to every one, to be tender of these convictions of conscience. It is true, conviction and conversion are two things: there may be conviction without conversion, though there can be no conversion without conviction. The blossoms on the trees in the spring of the year cannot properly be called fruit, but are rather the rudiments of fruit, or something in order to fruit. If they open kindly, and knit or set firmly, perfect fruit follows them; but if a blight or a frosty morning kill them, no fruit is to be expected. Thus it is here. Great care, therefore, ought to be taken about the preservation and success of convictions, both by the soul itself that is under them, and by all others who are concerned about them.
John Flavel, Christ Knocking at the Door of Sinners' Hearts; or, A Solemn Entreaty to Receive the Saviour and His Gospel in This the Day of Mercy (New York: American Tract Society, 1850), 130.
I know it is hard for men to dwell with their own convictions: guilt and wrath are sad subjects for men's thoughts to dwell upon; but it is far better to dwell with the thoughts of sin and wrath here, than to be under them in hell for ever. You may be freed from your convictions and your salvation together. Be not too eager after peace—a good trouble is better than a false peace. And on the other hand, beware that your convictions turn not into discouragements to faith; this will cross the proper intention of them: they are Christ's knocks for entrance, and were never intended to be bars or stumbling-blocks, but steps in your way to Christ.
Ibid., 130–131.

Honestly, this is one of the best sermons I have ever read. I am mainly reading it to see what Flavel, in the latter years of his life, says about the revealed will of God (like his use of the term "intention" above). However, I keep coming across excellent illustrations and statements that are well-worth posting, such as those contained in the two quotes above.

I had a roommate once who humorously said, "have you ever noticed that if you're not reading what Tony is reading, you must be backslidden?" He said this because I was urgently pressing (understatement?) others to read what I was reading in order to get excited about the same theological insights I was gaining through the literature. With that in mind, let me just say that if you're not reading this sermon by Flavel, you're backslidden, and you should be concerned about this conviction :-)

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