Short pithy gems from John Flavel

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The soul is of more value than ten thousand worlds!

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Whatever we have over-loved, idolized, and leaned upon God has from time to time broken it, and made us to see the vanity of it. So that we find the readiest course to be rid of our comforts is to set our hearts inordinately upon them!

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Brethren, it is easier to declaim against a thousand sins of others than to mortify one sin in ourselves!

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Those who know God will be humble.
Those who know themselves cannot be proud.

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Affliction is a bitter pill, which, being enrapt up in patience and quiet submission, may be easily swallowed. But discontent chews the pill, and so embitters the soul.

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When God gives you comforts it is your great evil not to observe His hand in them.

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Jesus Christ is in every way sufficient to the vast desires of the soul.

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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.

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All the tears of a penitent sinner should he shed as many as there have been fallen drops of rain since the creation cannot wash away one sin. The everlasting burnings in Hell cannot purify the flaming conscience from the least sin.

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No doctrine is more excellent, or necessary to be preached and studied than Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.

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

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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!

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As God did not at first choose you because you were high He will not now forsake you because you are low.

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The knowledge of Christ is profound and large. All other sciences are but shadows this is a boundless, bottomless ocean. Eternity itself cannot fully reveal Him.

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The worldly person fears man not God.
The strong Christian fears God not man.
The weak Christian fears man too much and God too little.

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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.

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To see a man humble under prosperity, is one of the greatest rarities in the world!

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As the blood of Christ is the fountain of all merit so the Spirit of Christ is the fountain of all spiritual life. Until He quickens us and infuses the principle of the divine life into our souls we can put forth no hand, or vital act of faith, to lay hold upon Jesus Christ.

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The Scriptures teach us . . .
the best way of living,
the noblest way of suffering, and
the most comfortable way of dying.

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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 teach them to curse, swear, and lie. If ground are uncultivated then weeds will spring.

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We must not think that faith itself is the soul's rest; it is only the means of it. We cannot find rest in any work or duty of our own but we may find it in Christ, whom faith apprehends for justification and salvation.

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

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Jesus, our head, is already in Heaven; and if the head is above water, the body cannot drown.

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The Providence of God is like Hebrew words it can be read only backwards.

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One word of God can do more than ten thousand words of men to relieve a distressed soul.

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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 leads to life, and may there be that go in there."

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To keep the heart then, is carefully to preserve it from sin which disorders it; and maintain that spiritual and gracious frame, which fits it for a life of communion with God.

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Oh sirs, deal with sin as sin and speak of Heaven and Hell as they are, and not as if you were in jest.

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Providence so orders the case, that faith and prayer come between our wants and supplies, and the goodness of God may be the more magnified in our eyes thereby.

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We acknowledge no righteousness but what the obedience and satisfaction of Christ yields us. His blood, not our faith; his satisfaction, not our believing it is the matter of our justification before God.

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If God has given you but a small portion of the world yet if you are godly, He has promised never to forsake you (Hebrews 13:5).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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You may look upon some providences once and again, and see little or nothing in them but look "seven times," that is, meditate often upon them, and you will see their increasing glory, like that increasing cloud (1 Kings 18:44).

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Whatever is the ground of one's distress it should drive him to God.

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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.

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Let us see that our knowledge of Christ is not a powerless, barren, unpractical knowledge. O that, in its passage from our understanding to our lips it might powerfully melt, sweeten, and ravish our hearts! Remember, brethren, a holy calling never saved any man without a holy heart. If only our tongues are sanctified then our whole man must be damned. We must be judged by the same gospel, and stand at the same bar, and be sentenced to the same terms, and dealt with as severely as any other men.

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That which does not begin with prayer, seldom winds up with comfort.

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The more afflictions you have been under the more assistance you have had for this life of holiness.

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Providence is like a curious piece of tapestry made of a thousand threads, which, single, appear useless but put together, they represent a beautiful history to the eye.

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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.

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The Spirit must first take hold of us, before we can live in Christ; and when he does so, then we are enabled to exert that vital act of faith, whereby we receive Christ.

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Christian! You know you carry gunpowder about you. You should keep those who carry fire, at a distance. It is a dangerous crisis when a proud heart meets with flattering lips!

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There is no grace more excellent than faith. There is no sin more execrable and abominable then unbelief. Faith is the saving grace and unbelief the damning sin. Men's heart's are full of self-righteousness and vain confidence.

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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.

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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 (Genesis 50:20).

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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 around the borders of religion too long. Will you now resolve to look better to your hearts? Will you 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!

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God's unspotted faithfulness never failed any soul that dared trust himself in its arms.

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When the world smiles upon us, and we have got a warm nest, how do we prophesy of rest and peace in those acquisitions, thinking with Baruch, great things for ourselves but Providence by a particular or general calamity overturns our plans (Jeremiah 45:4,5) and all this to turn our hearts from the creature to God.

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Providences often puzzle and entangle our thoughts but bring them to the Word, and your duty will be quickly manifested. "Until I went into the sanctuary of God then understood I their end" (Psalm 73:17). And not only their end but his own duty, to be quiet in an afflicted condition, and not envy their prosperity.

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For the infinite glorious Creator of all things, to become a creature, is a mystery exceeding all human understanding!

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Observed duties maintain our credit with men; but secret duties maintain our life with God.

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Let us consider and marvel that ever this great and blessed God should be so much concerned 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.

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No repentance, obedience, self-denial, prayers, tears, reformation or ordinances, without the new creation, avail anything to the salvation of your soul.

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It is the duty of the saints, especially in times of straights, to reflect upon the performances of Providence for them in all the states and through all the stages of their lives.

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I look upon every good man, as a good book, lent by its owner for another to read, and transcribe the excellent notions and golden passages that are in it for his own benefit, that they may return with him when the owner shall call for the book again. But in case this excellent book shall be thrown into a corner and no use made of it, it justly provokes the owner to take it away in displeasure.

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

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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.

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What, at Peace with the Father, and at War with the His children! It cannot be.

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It is better to be as low as Hell with a promise than in Paradise without one.

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It is the great support and solace of the saints in all the distresses that befall them here, that there is a wise Spirit sitting in all the wheels of motion, and governing the most eccentric creatures and their most pernicious designs to blessed and happy outcomes.

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Wrath to come implies both the futurity and perpetuity of this wrath.... Yes, it is not only certainly future but when it comes it will be abiding wrath, or wrath still coming. When millions of years and ages are past and gone, this will still be wrath to come. Ever coming as a river ever flowing.

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The soul of man, like the bird in the shell, is still growing or ripening in sin or grace until at last the shell breaks by death, and the soul flies away to the place it is prepared for, and where it must abide forever.

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All the dark, intricate, puzzling providences at which we were sometimes so offended we shall one day see to be to us; as the difficult passage through the wilderness was to Israel, "the right way to the city of habitation".

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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. And if we did but consider that there lies upon God no obligation of justice or gratitude to reward any of our duties, it would cure our murmurings!

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Christ and his benefits go inseparably and undividedly. Many would willingly receive his privileges who will not receive his person; but it cannot be. If we will have one, we must take the other too, Yes, we must accept his person first, and then his benefits. As it is in the marriage covenant, so it is here.

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Christ comes with kingly power to rescue sinners, as a prey from the mouth of the terrible one.

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Jesus is bread to the hungry, water to the thirsty, a garment to the naked, healing to the wounded. Whatever a soul can desire is found in Him.

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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.

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Men, 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!

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Regeneration expresses those supernatural, divine, new qualities imparted by the Spirit to the soul, which are the principle of all holy action.

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That soul is dead to which the Spirit of Christ is not given in the work of regeneration and all its works are dead works.

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How often has providence convinced its observers, upon a sober recollection of the events of their lives, that if the Lord had left them to their own counsels they had as often been their own tormentors, if not executioners!

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When our needs are permitted to grow to an extremity, and all visible hopes fail then to have relief given wonderfully enhances the price of such a mercy.

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If time is a ring of gold then opportunity is the rich diamond which gives it both its value and glory.

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Herein the sovereign grace of God appears that Jesus Christ passed by millions of creatures of more excellent gifts and temperaments, and never makes them one offer of salvation never turns aside to give one knock at the door of their hearts. But He comes to you, the vilest and basest of creatures, and will not be gone from your heart's door without His errand's end!

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It is true, some wicked men die in apparent peace, and some godly men die in turmoil but both are mistaken. A few moments will clear up the mistake of both!

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The life of a believer in this world is a life of labor and expectation. He must expect no rest or satisfaction on this side of Heaven, and the full enjoyment of God. As the rivers cannot rest until they pour themselves into the bosom of the sea so neither can renewed souls find rest until they come into the bosom of God!

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O when you go to God in any duty, take your heart aside, and say, "O my soul, I am now addressing myself to the greatest work that ever a creature was employed about I am going into the solemn presence of God about business of everlasting importance!"

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We should call our hearts to account every evening, and say, "O my heart! Where have you been today? Where have your thoughts been wandering? O naughty heart! O vain heart! Could you not abide by the fountain of delights? Is there better pleasure with the creature, than with your redeemer God?"

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Repentance will cost you more than a few cheap words against sin!


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The candle of your life is almost burnt down the hour-glass of time almost run out. Yet a few, a very few days and nights more and then time, nights and days shall be no more!

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The whole world is not a theater large enough to display the glory of Christ upon or unfold the one half of the unsearchable riches which lie hidden in Him! What shall I say of Christ? His excelling glory dazzles apprehension, and swallows up all expression!

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God's divine care thus engaged for you, is your convoy to accompany and secure you, until it sees you safe into your harbor of eternal rest!