January 28, 2008

John Flavel (1630–1691) on Christ Knocking: Chapter 6

"HERE are pains and patience, all means used by Christ to gain entrance into the souls of sinners. The language speaks the earnestness of his suit, and the vehemency of his desire to be in union with the souls of men."
"All the miracles he wrought on earth were so many works of mercy. He could have wrought miracles to destroy and ruin such as received him not; but his almighty power was employed to heal and to save the bodies of men, that thereby he might win their souls unto himself." Ibid., 144.

"3. As his life, so his doctrine was a most pathetic invitation unto sinners. "Never man spake like this man." John 7:46. Whenever he opened his lips, heaven opened, the very heart of God was opened to sinners; the whole stream and current of his doctrine was one continued powerful persuasive to draw sinners to him. This was his language: "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Matt. 11 : 28. "In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink." John 7:37. He compares his invitations to the call of a hen, to gather her chickens under her wings: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings!" Luke 13:34. Certainly the whole gospel is nothing but the charming voice of the heavenly bridegroom." Ibid., 144-145.

"5. His sorrows and mourning upon account of the obstinacy and unbelief of sinners, speak the vehemence of his desire after union with them. It is said, Mark 3:5, "When he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts." You see that a hard heart is a grief to Jesus Christ. How tenderly did Christ mourn over Jerusalem, when it rejected him. It is said that when Jesus came nigh to the city, he wept over it. Luke 19:41. The Redeemer's tears wept over obstinate Jerusalem spoke the zeal and fervor of his concern for their salvation; how loath Christ is to give up sinners. What a mournful voice is that in John 5:40 : "Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life." How ready would I be to give you life; but you would rather die than come to me for it. What can Christ do more to express his willingness? All the sorrows that ever touched the heart of Christ from men, were on this account, that they would not yield to his calls and invitations." Ibid., 145-146.

"8. The dreadful threatening of Christ against all who refuse him and shut, the doors of their hearts against him, show his vehement desire to prevent the loss and ruin of souls. The threatenings of Christ are not intended to discourage any from coming to him, to fright away souls from him; no, that is not their intention: but to bring them under a blessed necessity of compliance with his terms. O the dreadful threatenings which, like claps of thunder, come from the mouth of Christ against all who refuse or delay to come unto him: "If ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins." John 8:24. "He that believeth not the Son shall, not see life." John 3:36. What a terrible thunder-clap is that against all unbelievers. "He that believeth not, shall be damned." Mark 16:16. All these and many more warnings are given from heaven to prevent the ruin of men; the very threatenings of the gospel carry a design of mercy in them: damnation is threatened, that it may be prevented." Ibid., 147-148.

"2. And that which still increases the wonder is, that though Christ make no profit by our conversion, yet has he impoverished himself to gain such unprofitable creatures as we are to him. He hath made himself poor to make us rich; so speaks the apostle: "For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich." 2 Cor. 8:9. He expends his riches, but gains no advantage to himself. His incarnation impoverished his reputation. Phil. 2:7. How poor was Christ when he said, "But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people." Psalm 22:6. How poor in temporal comforts, when he said, "The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head." Matt. 8:20. Yea, how poor was he in spiritual comforts, when that astonishing cry broke from him upon the cross, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" Matt. 27:46. O let it astonish us, that Christ should earnestly desire union with our souls upon terms of such deep self-denial to himself.

3. Though Christ gain nothing by you, and impoverished himself for you, yet he endures many vile repulses, delays, and denials of his suit, and yet will not leave you. O astonishing grace! One would think that the least delay, and much more a refusal of an overture from Christ, upon such terms as these, would make his indignation quickly rise against such a soul; and that he would say, Thou hast refused my offer, so full of self-denying and condescending grace, and never shall another offer be made to so unworthy a soul. Yet you see he is contented to wait as well as knock: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock." Ibid., 158.

"(2.) As the soul is capable of espousals to Christ on earth, so it is capable of glory with Christ in heaven throughout eternity. ''Father, I will that they also whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory which thou hast given me." John 17:24. The soul of man has a natural capacity of enjoying eternal blessedness which other creatures have not. And this will be the aggravation of hell-torments, that men capable of the highest happiness should, as it were, receive that capacity in vain; but that which constitutes an actual right to the everlasting enjoyment of Christ in glory, is the soul's espousals to him here by his grace. Upon these two accounts it is that Christ puts such a price upon them, courts their love so affectionately, laments their loss so pathetically, and encourages his ministers to all diligence in persuading and wooing them for him with such abundant rewards. Dan. 12:3. Know then your own worth and dignity; neither pawn nor sell so precious a thing as thy soul for any thing Satan can set before thee by way of exchange for it. "What shall a man give in exchange for his soul!" Mark 8:37." Ibid., 161-162.
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