September 28, 2007

John Flavel on Christ Knocking: Chapter 5

This action of knocking is sometimes ascribed to the soul, and is expressive of its desire to come into the gracious presence and communion of God: so Matt. 7:7, "To him that knocketh, it shall be opened;" that is, to him that seeks by importunate prayer, fellowship and communion with the Lord, it shall be granted. But here it is applied to Christ, and is expressive of his importunate desire to come into union and communion with the souls of sinners.
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), 107.
II. We must consider WHAT is MEANT BY CHRIST'S KNOCKING at the door, and what that action implies. In the general, knocking is an action significant of the desire of one who is without, to come in; it is a sign appointed to that end. And what is Christ's knocking, but a signification to the soul of his earnest desire to come into it—a notice given to the soul of Christ's willingness to possess it for his own habitation? It is as if Christ should say, "Soul, thou art the house that was built by my hand, purchased and redeemed by my blood; I have an unquestionable right to it, and now demand entrance." More particularly, there are divers great things implied in this gracious act of Christ's knocking at the door of the soul.
Ibid., 109.
(2.) Christ knocks in the word by its awful threatening, menacing the soul that opens not with eternal ruin; these are dreadful knocks. 0, sinner, saith Christ, wilt thou not open? Shall all the tenders of my grace made to thee be in vain? Know then, that this thy obstinacy shall be thy damnation.
Ibid., 116.
(3.) The Spirit knocks by the gracious invitations of the word; and without this, no heart would ever open to Christ. It is not frosts and snow, storms and thunder, but the gentle distilling dews and cherishing sunbeams that make the flowers open in the spring. The terrors of the law may be preparatory, but only the grace of the gospel is that which effectually opens the sinner's heart. The obdurate flint will sooner break when smitten upon the soft pillow, than upon the anvil. Now the gospel abounds with alluring invitations to draw the will and open the heart of a sinner; such as that, Matt. 11:28, "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." What a charming voice is here; he that considers it, may well wonder what heart in the world can resist it. Like unto this is Isaiah 55:1, "Ho, every one that thirtieth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price." Come, sinner, come; though thou hast no qualifications nor worthiness, nor righteousness of thy own though thou art but a heap of sin and vileness, yet come; grace is a gift, not a sale. And such is John 7:37, "In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come to me and drink." As if he had said, My grace is not a sealed fountain; it is free and open to the greatest of sinners; if they thirst, they are invited to come and drink. This is that oil of the gospel-grace which makes the key turn so pleasantly and effectually among all the cross-wards of man's will. Thus you see how the word preached becomes an instrument in the Spirit's hand to open the door of a sinner's heart, at which it knocks by its mighty convictions, dreadful threatenings, and gracious invitations.
Ibid., 116–117.
(2.) As God makes use of the hammer of judgments, so he makes use of mercies to make way for Christ into the hearts of men. Every mercy is a call, a knock of God: and truly if there were any ingenuousness left unextinguished in the heart, one would think mercy would prevail more than all judgments. Knowest thou not that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? Rom. 2:4. Or in other words, Dost thou not see the hand of mercy stretched out to lead thee into a corner, there to mourn over thy sins committed against so gracious and merciful a God? By every mercy you receive, Christ doth, as it were, sue you to open your hearts to him; they are so many gifts sent from heaven to make way for Christ into your hearts. It would be an endless task to enumerate all the mercies bestowed to this end upon the unregenerate: but surely this is the errand of them all; and the Lord takes it ill when his end is not answered in them: hence is that complaint, Jer. 5:24; "Neither say they in their heart, Let us now fear the Lord our God, that giveth rain, both the former and the latter, in his season. Some of you have been marvellously preserved in times of common contagion and death, when thousands have fallen at your right hand and left: then have you been preserved or recovered, according to Exod. 15:26, "I will put none of these diseases upon thee, for I am the Lord that healeth thee. "I am Jehovah Rophe, the Lord the physician: many of you have been at the grave's mouth in diseases, others upon the deep; yet the hand of mercy pulled you back, and suffered you not to drop into the grave and hell in the same moment. O what a knock was here given by the hand of mercy at thy hard heart. Certainly, if men would but observe, they might see a marvellous working and moulding of things by the hand of providence, for the production of thousands of mercies for them: and if mercy would do the work and win you over to Christ, many rods had been spared which your obstinacy has made necessary. O ungrateful sinners, doth your Redeemer thus woo you by so many gifts of mercy, and yet will you shut him out? "Do ye thus requite the Lord, foolish people and unwise?" For which of all his benefits do your ungrateful souls shut the doors upon him?
Ibid., 119–120.
4. Sometimes Christ knocks with a succession of convictions, a quick repetition of his calls. Some men have had thousands of convictions in a few years; for in this case the Lord saith, as in Exod. 4:8, "If they will not hearken to the voice of the first sign," yet they may "believe the voice of the latter sign." And yet sometimes neither the former nor the latter avail any thing. "How often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!" Matt. 23:37. "How often!" intimating the many calls Christ gave Jerusalem to come unto him, yet all in vain.
Ibid., 122–123.
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.
MOTIVE 3. Jesus Christ has an unquestionable right to enter into and possess every one of your souls. Satan is but an usurper: Christ is your lawful owner and proprietor; thy soul, sinner, hath not so full a title to thy body, as Christ hath to thy soul. Satan keeps Christ out of his right. Christ knocks at the door of his own house; he built it, and therefore may well claim admission into it: it is his own creature. "By him were all things created that are in heaven and that are in earth, visible and invisible;" bodies or souls. Col. 1:16. The invisible part, thy soul, is his workmanship a stately structure of his own raising. He has also a right by redemption; Christ hath bought thy soul, and that at the invaluable price of his own blood. Who then can dispute the right of Christ to enter into his own house? But, alas, he cometh to his own and his own receive him not. John 1:11.
Ibid., 135–136.
MOTIVE 5. Christ this day solemnly demands entrance into thy soul; he begs thee to open to him, 2 Cor. 5:20; he commands thee to open unto him, 1 John 3:23; he denounces eternal ruin to those who refuse him entrance. Now consider well here is entrance demanded under pain of the eternal wrath of God: this demand is recorded in heaven; at your own peril be it, if you shut the door against him. Only this will I say in my Redeemer's behalf; if you refuse, bear witness heaven and earth this day that Christ solemnly demanded entrance into thy soul, and was refused; bear witness that the door was shut against the only Redeemer, who intreated, commanded, and threatened eternal damnation to the rejecters of him. Oh, methinks that scripture, Prov. 1 : 24-31, should strike terror into the very centre of the soul that refuses the offers of Christ!
Ibid., 137.
1. An opening heart to Christ is a work wholly and altogether supernatural; a special work of the Spirit of God, never found upon any but an elect soul. There are common gifts of the Spirit, such as knowledge, vanishing convictions, etc., but the opening of the heart by faith is the special, saving, and peculiar work of the Spirit. "This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom He hath sent." John 6:29. Yea, the almighty power of God, the exceeding greatness of his power, is exerted in the work of faith. Eph. 1:19. It rises not out of nature, as common gifts do; but of this it is expressly said, "Not of yourselves, it is the gift of God." Eph. 2:8. Where this work is effectually wrought, we may reason as solidly as comfortably from it, both backward to the electing love of God, and forward to our eternal glorification with him. Rom. 8:30.
Ibid., 138.

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