Review: All Things Made New
Here is another worthy addition to a fine series, Banner of Truth’s ‘Puritan Paperbacks’. The quarry of Puritan spiritual writings seems inexhaustible: surely a testimony to the Christian godliness of our nation in a past age. In his ten-page ‘Introduction’ to this book Lewis Allen provides a valuable overview for all those who are new to Puritan writings, summarising that: ‘The Puritans were godly, Bible-believing church pastors on the sixteenth and seventeenth-centuries. They longed to see godliness flourish in heart, home, church, and nation’ (p.vii). John Flavel (1627-1691) was all of that and more, as well as being one of the most easily read of the Puritans. Flavel’s ministry, apart from frequent interruptions by persecution under the restored monarchy, was mostly exercised in Dartmouth, Devon, where his people were typically fishing and farming folk, and their vital conversion and spiritual growth and well-being was his constant concern.
Rather than reprinting a complete book Lewis Allen has selected fourteen sermons from Flavel’s writings, and arranged them under four major headings: 1) Salvation in Jesus Christ, 2) Trusting in and belonging to Christ, 3) Living the Christian life, and, 4) The Church. In true Puritan fashion in each sermon after a brief explication of the text Flavel proceeds to state the leading doctrine or doctrines deduced from it, followed by deep practical application. The object is always to interest, edify, challenge and above all spiritually benefit the hearer as they are led through the essentials of saving faith.
In Part 1 we are introduced to great truths: Love divine, Jesus the God-man, he came to go to the cross, and, Jesus reigns! Part 2 discusses: The riches of God in Christ, united with Jesus, salvation flows from the whole Trinity, and true (spiritual) freedom. Part 3 moves on to personal and practical implications of the faith: How to guard your heart, how to trust in God in tough times, how to be encouraged (God is still at work!) and, how to discern God’s working in your own life. Part 4 passes from the people to the pastors with sound advice on: Living in gospel unity, and a discussion of ‘an authentic gospel ministry’.
Flavel’s writings shine with memorable gems: ‘a compassionate spirit towards those who labour under burdens of sin or affliction is Christ-like and truly excellent: this was the Spirit of Christ’ (p.47) ‘There is an exact and dear union between Christ and all true believers’ (p.96) ‘The opening of the heart to receive Christ, by faith, is the great design and aim of the gospel’ (p.117) and much more.
This review first appeared in the December 2017 edition of the British Church Newspaper.
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