The Mystery of Providence by John Flavel (Book Notes)

From my personal reading notes archives, here are some real gems from John Flavel's The Mystery of Providence. I read this several years ago and its one of the best Puritan paperbacks Banner of Truth publishes.

“Who can but confess that as there are tools of all sorts and sizes in the shop of Providence, so there is a most skillful hand that uses them, and that they could no more produce such effects of themselves than the axe, saw, or chisel can cut or carve a rough log into a beautiful figure without the hand of a skillful artificer?” (p. 32)

“Be well satisfied in that station and employment in which Providence has placed you, and do not so much as wish yourself in another . . . 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.” (p. 80)

“Wise Providence considers our condition as pilgrims and strangers, and so allots the provision that is needful for our passage home.” (p. 87)

“The design and aim of . . . afflictive providences is to purge and cleanse believers from that pollution into which temptations have plunged them” (p. 101)

“Communion with God . . . consists in two things: God’s manifestation of Himself to the soul, and the soul’s answerable returns to God.” (p. 144)

“Every man loves the mercies of God, but the saint loves the God of his mercies.” (p. 146)

“How has God blessed crosses to mortify corruption, wants to kill wantonness, [and] disappointments to wean us from the world!” (p. 151)

“There is a natural seed of atheism in the best hearts, and this is very much nourished by passing rash and false judgment upon the works of Providence.” (p. 151)

“Whatever good we receive from the hand of Providence, we must put it upon the score of Christ’s blood; and when we receive it, we must say, it is the price of blood; it is a mercy rising up out of the death of Christ; it cost Him dear though it come to me freely; it is sweet in possession but costly in acquisition.” (p. 161)

“Two things destroy the peace and tranquillity of our lives, our bewailing past disappointments, or fearing future ones.” (p. 167-168)

“Many a time have we kissed those troubles at parting which we met with trembling.” (p. 169)

“If therefore I find the blessed effects of the rod upon me, that it has done its work, to break the hard heart and pull down the proud heart and awaken the drowzy heart and quicken the slothful, negligent, lazy heart; now with great probability I may conjecture a more comfortable aspect of Providence will quickly appear, the refreshing and reviving time is nigh.” (p. 170)

“Though [God] permits, limits, orders and overrules many unholy persons and actions, yet in all He works like Himself; and His holiness is no more defiled and stained by their impurity than the sunbeams are by the noxious exhalations of a dunghill.” (p. 171)

“O happy providences, however smart, that make the soul for ever afraid of sin! Surely such rods are well bestowed.” (p. 173)

“When God gives you comforts, it is your great evil not to observe His hand in them.” (p. 181)

“That which begins not in prayer seldom ends with comfort.” (p. 183)

“Everything is well and shall be well, when all is well between us and God.” (p. 183)

“Fear nothing but sin. Study nothing so much as how to please God.” (p. 184)

“Troubles, like a pregnant woman, must accomplish their appointed months, and when they have so done, Providence will midwife the mercies they go big with into the world, and not one of them shall miscarry.” (p. 191)

“The Lord does not compute and reckon His seasons of working by our arithmetic.” (p. 191)

“God never came under an absolute tie for outward enjoyments to any of us, and if we are disappointed, we can blame none but ourselves.” (p. 194)

“The lack of a good aim is the reason why we lack good success in our prayers.” (p. 195)

"Enjoyment of your desires is the thing that will please you, but resignation of your wills is that which is pleasing to God.” (p. 195)

“It is more excellent to act grace than to enjoy comfort.” (p. 196)

“If God wait for you with so much patience for your duties, well may you wait upon Him for His mercies.” (p. 197)

“Out of the worst of evils God can work good to His people.” (p. 198)

“We cannot understand the mind and heart of God by the things He dispenses with His hand.” (p. 199)

“No man’s spiritual state is discernible by the view of his temporal.” (p. 199)

“The wisdom of God is much seen in the choice of His rods. It is not any kind of trouble that will work upon and purge every sin; but when God for us such afflictions as, like medicine, are suited to the disease the soul labours under, this speaks divine care and love.” (p. 200-201)

“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, and to cross us in those things from which we raised too up too great expectations of comfort.” (p. 201)

“It is a good sign troubles are sanctified to us when they turn our hearts against sin, and not against God.” (p. 201)

“Happy afflictions, which make the soul fall out and quarrel only with sin.” (p. 201)

“Let a Christian . . . be but two or three years without an affliction, and he is almost good for nothing.” (p. 202)

“Whatever ends in the increase of our love to God proceeds from the love of God to us.” (p. 202)

“Sanctified afflictions are eye-salve; they teach us effectually, when the Spirit accompanies them, the evil of sin, the vanity of the creature, the necessity of securing things that cannot be shaken.” (p. 203)

“Whatever success, prosperity or comfort men acquire by sinful means and indirect courses are not sanctified mercies to them.” (p. 204)

“He is truly rich in grace whose riches or poverty neither hinders the acting or impoverishes the stock of his graces.” (p. 207)

“The change of providences is never nearer the people of God than when their hearts are lifted up, or grown secure by prosperity.” (p. 208)

“Certainly it were not so great a loss to lose your silver, your goods and chattels [earthly possessions], as it is to lose your experiences which God has . . . given you in this world.” (p. 220)

Perhaps the most helpful section of the book, in my own personal reading. was chapter ten on “The Advantages to Meditating on Providence.” Having already shown that it is our duty to think often about God’s providence in our lives, and having given some directives on how to do so, Flavel proposed ten advantages to be gained by the practice.

1. Meditation on Providence will help us maintain sweet and conscious communion with God
2. The greatest pleasure and delight in the Christian life is found in such meditation.
3. Meditation on Providence will suppress the natural atheism of the heart.
4. It will help support faith in future trials.
5. It will minister continuous matter for praise and thanksgiving to God.
6. It will endear Jesus Christ every day more and more to our souls
7. It will melt the heart and make it thaw and submit before the Lord.
8. It will beget and secure inward tranquility.
9. It will improve holiness in our hearts and lives.
10. And finally, meditation on Providence will help us at the hour of death.


cgl said...

What is the context for this little quote:

“There is a natural seed of atheism in the best hearts, and this is very much nourished by passing rash and false judgment upon the works of Providence.” (p. 151)

Where is he coming from to say that we all have a natural seed of atheism in our hearts? I might disagree with that.

Brian G. Hedges said...

The context is Flavel's reflection on Psalm 73 and the tendency of "carnal reason" (his words) to look upon the prosperity of the wicked and wrongly conclude that there is no gain in following the ways of God. By natural atheism, I think he means the God-less thoughts that sinful hearts produce.

proverbs37 said...

An excellent book. I have many of these same quotes highlighted in my copy. Thanks for posting this. Here's one of my favorites I didn't see in your list.

"Ah, did we but rightly understand what the demerit of sin is, we would rather admire the bounty of God than complain of the straithandedness of Providence." (pg 88)

mikew116 said...

I've looked at this book before and thought about buying it. I shall certainly do so after reading those quotes.