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Reading Classics Together

July 30, 2015

Many times over the years I have invited readers of this blog to join me in a reading project, mostly as part of a program I’ve called Reading Classics Together. We’ve read some incredible books together —Holiness by J.C. Ryle, Christianity & Liberalism by Gresham Machen, The Religious Affections by Jonathan Edwards, The Cross of Christ by John Stott, Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices by Thomas Brooks, and a whole lot more. Most recently we read through The Mystery of Providence by John Flavel. I think it is time to read another classic.

I would like to return to modern times and read a book that I believe will prove to be an enduring classic—J.I. Packer’s Knowing God. This is a book I have been meaning to read but, for one reason or another, have never gotten to. And that makes it an ideal candidate for Reading Classics Together.

First published in 1973, Knowing God has gone on to sell more than 1 million copies, and helped establish Packer as one of the most important voices of twentieth-century Evangelicalism. In 2006, the editors at Christianity Today selected it as one of the top 50 books that have shaped Evangelicals. The publisher says this: “Written in an engaging and practical tone, this thought-provoking work seeks to transform and enrich the Christian understanding of God. Explaining both who God is and how we can relate to him, Packer divides his book into three sections: The first directs our attention to how and why we know God, the second to the attributes of God and the third to the benefits enjoyed by those who know him intimately. This guide leads readers into a greater understanding of God while providing advice to gaining a closer relationship with him as a result.”

From all accounts, it is a book that demands both reading and re-reading. So why don’t you get yourself a copy, or dig out the copy you have lying around, and let’s read it together. I was given a copy as a wedding gift and now, 17 years later, am finally going to read it.

I propose that we read 2 chapters a week. The chapters are quite short, so this pace should not be too demanding. We will begin on August 20. That gives you 3 weeks to track down a copy of the book and to read the first 2 chapters. Then, on August 20, visit my website and I will prepare an article on those first 2 chapters. At that point you are free to add comments of your own or direct us to a place where you have written about them. Then we will read 2 chapters per week until the book is finished— a process that will take 11 weeks. And it’s that simple!

Knowing God is very widely available. You can find it used at just about any online retailer, or buy it new at:

  • Amazon (in many formats ranging from discount paperback to deluxe hardcover, from Kindle to audiobook)
  • Westminster Books (paperback, hardcover)

The book is still under copyright so, unlike some of the older works, it is not (legally) available free online.

Let’s Get Started

Again, I will share my first post on August 20. All you need to do is obtain a copy of the book and read chapters 1 and 2 prior to August 20.

Why don’t you leave a comment below if you plan to join the program (or if you’ve got any questions).

July 16, 2015

I am a committed blogger, but a sporadical journaler. If blogging is thinking out loud and in public, journaling is thinking quietly and in private. I am convinced that both practices have value, and I have often regretted my lack of dedication to the discipline of keeping a journal.

This regret was heightened as I encountered a little postscript at the end of one of John Flavel’s books. Having written a couple hundred pages of theologically-dense teaching on God’s providence, he closes with a simple plea to Christians to maintain a journal that records specific instances of God’s compassion and care. He does not advocate a tell-all diary, but a prudent, humble, and appropriate record of our experiences and observations of God’s providence. He suggests that keeping this kind of journal can benefit and enrich not only ourselves but also other believers. He offers these 3 helpful instructions.

First, understand that your memory is far too slippery to entrust with all of the amazing providences you have encountered in your life. It is true that we do not easily forget the things that greatly affect us, but still, new impressions have a way of overwriting existing ones. One wise man has said, “My memory never failed me because I never trusted it.” Writing down our important memories secures against forgetting them and has the added benefit of making them useful to others. Why would you carry all of this treasure to heaven with you? By writing down your memories you can leave them as a legacy to those who follow you. The loss of your money, your property, and your possessions counts for nothing next to losing the record of God’s faithfulness to you.

Second, do not simply record these treasures in a book, but also ensure that you refer to them often. When you experience wants or needs or difficulties, or when temptations assault you, turn to the written record of God’s past graces. When when are in any kind of distress it will do your soul good to see how God has faithfully delivered you from similar situations in the past.

Third, be careful not to diminish your past difficulties and dangers when comparing them to newer ones. Whatever is beside us always appears most significant to us. Just as the land seems to shrink as the sailor sails away from it, so those troubling situations can seem to grow smaller as time increases the distance between them and us. By reading the accounts of God’s mercies you will remember that in the past you have faced dangers just as great and fears just as terrifying. For this reason make sure you do not only record the facts, but also your emotional and spiritual experience of them. Write them as if you will need to cling to them in the future.

These are Flavel’s 3 simple instructions on maintaining the most helpful kind of spiritual journal.

The End

If you have been reading The Mystery of Providence with me, this brings us to the end of our reading. I hope and trust you enjoyed the book. I found it deeply encouraging and hope to return to it often in the future. Thanks for reading this classic with me!

Image credit: Shutterstock

July 09, 2015

There is a natural seed of atheism in every heart. This seed exists even in the believer’s heart. Even in your heart. The seed is nourished in times of difficulty when you pass rash and false judgment upon the circumstances in your life. When you see the wicked prosper and the godly crushed it may tempt you to think that there is no purpose to your faith and that all of this pursuit of holiness and godliness is a waste of time and effort.

In his work The Mystery of Providence, John Flavel tells of the importance of pondering the many acts of providence that have demonstrated the being, wisdom, power, love, and faithfulness of God. As you ponder them you will see that he has delivered you from danger, fear, and difficulty. If you look, you will see that God shows himself to spiritual eyes in his providences just as clearly as the sun shows itself by its beams of light.

In those times you find yourself in despair over your circumstances, Flavel gives you 5 things to ponder:

Haven’t you seen the hand of God in the provision he has made for you all throughout your life? Hasn’t God supplied what you needed in your times of trouble? Just consider the consistency of God’s provision and even the way he has, at times, given them through extraordinary means. Consider it and be encouraged.

Haven’t you seen God preserve you through so many dangers? Think how many times you have outlived dangers, sicknesses, accidents, and other potential tragedies. See the hand of God behind every single one of them and believe in his goodness.

Haven’t you discerned the hand of God in the many answers to your prayers? Think of the many times that God has seen fit to answer your prayers in clear and specific ways. Think of how many others you know who have prayed and received what they requested. This is the mercy of God and it is meant to encourage you.

Haven’t you seen God’s hand in guiding and directing your paths in ways you could never have planned? At so many times God has blessed you far beyond all you had imagined as he led you to places you would never have planned to go. See all of this as God’s mercy and see this as evidence of God’s love for you.

Haven’t you seen God graciously deliver you from sins and temptations? Hasn’t he graciously delivered you from so many of life’s difficulties? Hasn’t he done this time after time throughout your life? If you look, you will see God’s deliverances as clearly as you can see the noon-day sun. Be encouraged!

Next Week

We will continue our reading next week with chapter 11 & 12 and just finish up the book. Read it by next Thursday and check in to see what I (and others) have to say about it. And then we will be done!

Your Turn

The purpose of this project is to read classics together. So do feel free to leave a comment if you have something you would like to say. Alternatively, you may leave a link to your blog or Facebook or anywhere else you have reflected on what you have read.

July 02, 2015

There are times in the Christian’s life where we wait upon God, where we wait for relief from some kind of afflication, and where we wait for a long time for God to answer prayer. I am certain that you have experienced times like these, and know that the temptation in such times is to despair and to demand, to grow angry and impatient. But in The Mystery of Providence John Flavel warns: Though God means to give you the comfort or mercy you long for, he usually first exercises your patience by making you wait. He does that for these 3 reasons:

  1. Because this is not the right time for you to receive that mercy. Simply stated, God does not judge time as you do. You are in a hurry, but God is not, and he knows the perfect time to dispense his mercy. “For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him” (Isaiah 30:18). Will you wait for his timing?
  2. These difficult circumstances have not accomplished in your heart what God means for them to accomplish. Though you may be earnest and impatient in your desire for what you believe are better circumstances, God will wait until the trial has accomplished his purposes.
  3. The more you pray and the more you search your heart, the sweeter the relief will be when it comes. God means to overwhelm you with his grace, and it may take fervent prayer and humble patience for you to respond to his mercy in the right way. “It will be said on that day, ‘Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation’ (Isaiah 25:9 ESV).”

As a sinful human being you are prone to judge your circumstances by your senses and observations. Always consider that God’s heart can be toward you even while his hand appears to be against you. If your circumstances continue unabated you may be tempted to think that your prayers have been useless and that you are without hope in the world. You may even go so far as to conclude that God is angry with you and has closed his ears to your prayers. But the God who has saved you will never turn his back on you.

Instead of believing such lies, consider these 6 things:

  1. God is delaying his mercy for your benefit. God is waiting so that he may extend grace to you at the perfect moment. Right now you are in the time of preparation where God is readying the comfort he means to give you. A foolish child plucks an apple while it is green. But when that apple is ripe, it drops off of its own accord and is far more delicious and wholesome. Wait with wisdom and patience. It will be worth the wait.
  2. A heart that trusts in God is far more precious than any comfort. It is a greater mercy to have a heart that trusts in God than to enjoy the comfort you are sure you need. Flavel says, “a frame is better than a fruition.” A heart oriented toward God is much more precious and enduring than any peaceful or comfortable circumstance.
  3. Mercy is never nearer than when your heart and hope is lowest. Light shines the brightest when you are sure that only darkness remains. God’s mercy will be all the brighter when your heart is in its darkest state.
  4. God delays his mercy because you are unfit to receive it. God’s mercy may be waiting for you to become ready to receive it. God may holding it back for your own good, even while you grumble and complain about his lack of haste.
  5. Remember that any mercy you desire is only and entirely a gift of grace. You do not deserve God’s mercy and have no claim to it. Because of this, the only proper way to wait for it is with patience and gratitude. You are waiting for a gift, not for your just reward.
  6. Consider how many people are forever cut off from all hope of mercy. Consider those who are perishing without grace and how for them all that remains is the further expectation of wrath. This might have been you if not for the grace of God. So wait for God’s mercy with patient humility.

Next Week

We will continue our reading next week with chapter 10: “Motives of Reflecting on God’s Providence.” Read it by next Thursday and check in to see what I (and others) have to say about it.

Your Turn

The purpose of this project is to read classics together. So do feel free to leave a comment if you have something you would like to say. Alternatively, you may leave a link to your blog or Facebook or anywhere else you have reflected on what you have read.

If you would like to read along with us, you are free to do so (though you’ve got some catching up to do). Simply get a copy of the book and start reading…

June 25, 2015

It is our duty to reflect on life’s circumstances and to look for God’s hand in them. It is our duty because God works in and through our circumstances and, by his providence, matures and strengthens us in them. In his work The Mystery of Providence, John Flavel writes about the importance of doing this very thing: reflecting upon God’s performance of providence. He offers 7 reasons that this is our duty.

God commands it. God expressly commands that we seriously and diligently reflect on our circumstances and acknowledge his providence. This is true whether we perceive them to be acts of mercy or acts of judgment. We are responsible before God to investigate each one of them. If we fail to do this we fail to uncover these evidences of God’s favor and, instead, display our own lack of faithfulness.

Neglecting it is a sin. We know the importance of reflecting on God’s providence because to fail to do so is called a sin. To be unobservant in this way is displeasing to God.

The Bible draws special attention to God’s acts of providence. Consider, for example, God’s great work of deliverance in leading his people out of Egypt and into the promised land. God immediately calls on his people to observe and consider it. God calls upon all men to “come and see” the great works that he has done. These calls are meaningless unless it implies a serious duty.

We cannot praise God without it. How can we praise God if we do not praise him for the things he has done and is doing? Think again of how often the biblical writers consider what God has done and then give him praise and thanks. If we neglect this duty, we defraud God of the praise we owe him, and we remove the opportunity to worship his name.

Without it we lose the benefit of the works God has done. God’s great works are done so that we can praise and thank him for them. We need to consider what God has accomplished for us and for others. This is the food our faith feeds upon in times of distress. In troubled times we shall find ourselves starving if we do not taste of what God has done.

We slight God without it. It is through God’s providence that he draws near to us. We slight him—we turn away from his presence—if we do not rejoice in his providence. It is contemptuous of us to ignore him when he is present with us.

We cannot suitably pray without it. Unless we observe God’s providence, we cannot pray in a way that is suitable to our circumstances. Sometimes we are to pray prayers of praise and other times prayers of contrition. We cannot know how we are to pray unless we observe his providence and read it properly.

In each of these ways we owe it to our God to consider his providence in each of our circumstances.

Next Week

We will continue our reading next week with chapter 9: “Directions on Meditating on God’s Providence.” Read it by next Thursday and check in to see what I (and others) have to say about it.

Your Turn

The purpose of this project is to read classics together. So do feel free to leave a comment if you have something you would like to say. Alternatively, you may leave a link to your blog or Facebook or anywhere else you have reflected on what you have read.

If you would like to read along with us, we have only just begun, so there is lots of time to get caught up. Simply get a copy of the book and start reading…

June 18, 2015

We Calvinists probably have a heightened awareness of our own depravity. After all, we proclaim it right at the beginning of our favorite acronym, TULIP. What makes our total depravity all the more remarkable is the grace of God that still counts us as valuable. In his work The Mystery of Providence, John Flavel offers 6 proofs that God actually does assign us such value and worth.

We know by the fact of his eternal, electing love. When we are aware of our deep sinfulness, we can only see this act of electing grace as being ancient, free, and utterly astonishing. Every aspect of God’s providence flows toward, or out of, this one.

We know by the precious gift of his Son. If David could look at the stars and marvel at the grace and magnitude of God (see Psalm 8), how much more should we look to the very Son of God clothed in flesh and marvel at what God has done?

We know by the close and careful attention God gives each of us, especially as it is seen through his moment-by-moment providential care. If God withdrew his care for even a second, we would soon be overwhelmed by sin and ruin.

We know by the tenderness of God’s providential care. “As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem” (Isaiah 66:13). Flavel says, “As birds fly to their nests when their young are in danger, so he defends his.” Yet no tenderness displayed in a creature can serve as more than a dim shadow of the tender heart of the Creator.

We know by the sheer variety of the expressions of his providence. God’s providence is a veritable fountain that streams forth innumerable blessings spiritual and temporal, ordinary and extraordinary, public and personal.

We know by the way he invisibly ministers to us through the heavenly beings. “Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation” (Hebrews 1:14)?

Whatever else we know, we know that God loves us—that he loves to love us.

Next Week

We will continue our reading next week with chapter 8: “The Duty of Reflecting on God’s Providence.” Read it by next Thursday and check in to see what I (and others) have to say about it.

Your Turn

The purpose of this project is to read classics together. So do feel free to leave a comment if you have something you would like to say. Alternatively, you may leave a link to your blog or Facebook or anywhere else you have reflected on what you have read.

If you would like to read along with us, we have only just begun, so there is lots of time to get caught up. Simply get a copy of the book and start reading…

Image credit: Shutterstock

June 11, 2015

God’s providence is the single greatest hindrance to the floods of sin that would otherwise gush out of our sinful hearts. If it were not for God’s care and preservation, even we Christians would be far more sinful than we dare imagine. If it were not for God’s gracious interference, our best efforts in holiness would not be enough to keep us from drowning in sin and heaping contempt on the name of Christ. God takes far better care of us than we do of ourselves. For this reason, every Christian owes unending thanks to God for preserving us from what we would otherwise do and who we would otherwise become. This is roughly what John Flavel teaches in chapter 6 of his work The Mystery of Providence. Here are a few of the ways in which God interferes with our desire and attempts to sin against him.

God stirs up other people, and especially other Christians, to keep us from fulfilling the evil we had planned to do. I heard some time ago from a young men who had his heart set on viewing pornography for the very first time. But just as he sat down in front of his computer his phone buzzed, and he found that his friend was calling simply to ask how he was doing in his battle for sexual purity. Just like that his intention to sin was thwarted for another day. God had intervened through the hand of another person.

God sometimes interferes with the very means or tools we had intended to use for evil purposes. The Spanish intended to invade England to overthrow the Protestant Queen Elizabeth I, but God used a mighty storm to break apart the Spanish fleet and end the threat. Perhaps that power outage or that computer crash you experienced, though an inconvenience, was actually a great mercy. God uses means both known and unknown to us to hinder us in our pursuit of sin.

God sometimes brings pain or sickness to our bodies in order to prevent us from sin. He uses these little evils to prevent the carrying out of much greater evil. Eternity may reveal that the headache that drove you to bed yesterday was actually a gift of God to prevent you from committing some great sin.

God sometimes uses his well-timed Word or even human wisdom to prevent his people from committing acts of sin. When David’s mind became filled with thoughts of the prosperity of the wicked, God dissolved his ingratitude through worship (see Psalm 73). How often have you considered sin, but been drawn aside by wisdom that has suddenly flooded your mind, or wisdom someone has quietly spoken to you?

God sometimes prevents his people from falling into sin by taking their very lives. Who knows what sin God has prevented, and what shame he has stopped, by graciously taking the lives of one of his saints before that person was able to commit so grave a sin. What seems like the ultimate evil may well have been the ultimate gift.

God’s kind providence keeps us from being as sinful as we would otherwise be. So, Christian, thank God for his providence, and prepare to be amazed when, in eternity, God gives you the gift of seeing how often and to what extent he has kept you from sin.

Next Week

We will continue our reading next week with chapter 7: “God’s Providence in Our Sanctification.” Read it by next Thursday and check in to see what I (and others) have to say about it.

Your Turn

The purpose of this project is to read classics together. So do feel free to leave a comment if you have something you would like to say. Alternatively, you may leave a link to your blog or Facebook or anywhere else you have reflected on what you have read.

If you would like to read along with us, we have only just begun, so there is lots of time to get caught up. Simply get a copy of the book and start reading…

Image credit: Shutterstock

June 04, 2015

We forget. Often we forget because we fail to deliberately remember—to remember and recount the goodness and mercy of God. In his work The Mystery of Providence, John Flavel gives a series of cautions to Christians who may be prone to this temptation to forget.

Do not forget God’s care and kindness. All throughout your life you have been the beneficiary of God’s kind providence. Yet is it possible that God could charge you in the same way he charged Israel: “But they soon forgot his works” (Psalm 106:13)? The human memory tends to be both faulty and slippery when it comes to remembering God’s mercy. But there is a high cost: Forgetting God’s past faithfulness deprives you of the comfort you want and God of the glory he deserves.

Do not distrust God in future times of need. God has been faithful in the past, so why doubt his provision in the future? Yet this was exactly the temptation that Israel faced: “He struck the rock so that water gushed out and streams overflowed. Can he also give bread or provide meat for his people” (Psalm 78:20)? It is both unreasonable and absurd to distrust God for the future when his care has been so clear throughout your life.

Do not grumble when your circumstances change. We are all tempted to grumble when our circumstances change from favorable to unfavorable. But grumbling is not made any less sinful simply because it is so common. If we acknowledge the sheer evil of the sin of grumbling we will be quick to identify and admire God’s bounty in every circumstance. We will be equally slow to complain when we perceive that they have become unfavorable.

Do not show any discontentment. Do not show even slightest discontentment with the situation in which God places you. Instead, choose to be pleased and satisfied with all that God gives you. Choose to say, with David, “The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance” (Psalm 16:6). You can have confidence that the circumstance you experience now is the one God has determined is best for you, and equal confidence that some day you will judge it so.

Do not neglect God in your times of desperation. If you truly believe that it is God’s providence that dispenses all circumstances, then it is your responsibility to continue to pursue and worship God in every one of them. Remember God’s command: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6). Remember God and he will not forget you.

Do not distract yourself with sinful worries. Jesus told us that when we are concerned about provision we simply need to look at the birds. Yet he did not tell us to look at the pet birds that are fed by hand every day, but to the wild birds who do not know where their next meal will come from. After all, God provides even for these. Won’t he then also provide for you? Do not allow sinful worries to distract you from living and rejoicing.

Through it all, remember who you are in Christ, remember his promises, and work those promises into your heart until you are satisfied and content with all that God’s providence has given you.

Next Week

We will continue our reading next week with chapter 6: “God’s Providence in Our Preservation.” Read it by next Thursday and check in to see what I (and others) have to say about it.

Your Turn

The purpose of this project is to read classics together. So do feel free to leave a comment if you have something you would like to say. Alternatively, you may leave a link to your blog or Facebook or anywhere else you have reflected on what you have read.

If you would like to read along with us, we have only just begun, so there is lots of time to get caught up. Simply get a copy of the book and start reading…

May 28, 2015

I have so much and give thanks so little. God has blessed me tremendously in all areas of life, and I return thanks to him so sparsely and so half-heartedly. This is my conclusion as I continue reading through John Flavel’s classic work The Mystery of Providence. In chapter 4 Flavel instructs the reader to acknowledge the hand of God in and behind our daily work. Along the way he offers every Christian 4 cautions related to vocation:

Do Not Be Lazy. Do not be slothful or idle in your vocation, whatever it is. This is true of those who work in an office environment, those who are workers in the home, and even those who are students. People who are negligent in their main vocational responsibility are almost invariably guilty of sin elsewhere. Looking to 2 Thessalonians 3:11, Flavel says, “He that lives idly cannot live honestly.” (We could also quote Spurgeon who says, “Idle people tempt the devil to tempt them.”)

Do Not Be Idolatrous. While laziness lies at one end of a spectrum, idolatry lies at the other. Flavel distinguishes between a particular calling, which is your day-to-day vocation at this time, and your general calling, which is the one we all share as humans and as Christians—the pursuit and enjoyment of God. His warning is this: Do not be so intent upon your particular calling that it begins to interfere with your general calling. “Beware you lose not your God in the crowd and hurry of earthly business.” He quotes Seneca who offers this wisdom: “I do not give, but lend myself to business.” Do not allow your vocation to displace or replace your God.

Do Not Be Proud. As sinful people, pride is our near-constant companion in this world, and it is never so near to us as when we experience success. Flavel wants you to remember that any success you experience in your calling and your earthly employment comes primarily by the blessing of God rather than through your diligence. Yes, diligence is important, but it is God who then blesses and rewards your hard work. Humbly commit all of your work to the Lord and thank him for every bit of the prosperity you enjoy.

Do Not Be Discontent. Finally, be satisfied with the circumstances and status you have now, and be content with the employment God has given you. You may be tempted to waste your days wishing that your life was better, but you need to acknowledge the sovereignty of God and his calling upon you to succeed and excel right where you are. “Providence is wiser than you, and you may be confident hath suited all things better to your eternal good than you could do, had you been left to your own option.” I don’t see this as a call to apathy or a call away from ambition, but a call to Christian contentment. When we acknowledge God, we acknowledge the good in our circumstances, even if they are not the ones we would have chosen.

Next Week

We will continue our reading next week with chapter 5: “God’s Providence in Our Family.” Read it by next Thursday and check in to see what I (and others) have to say about it.

Your Turn

The purpose of this project is to read classics together. So do feel free to leave a comment if you have something you would like to say. Alternatively, you may leave a link to your blog or Facebook or anywhere else you have reflected on what you have read.

If you would like to read along with us, we have only just begun, so there is lots of time to get caught up. Simply get a copy of the book and start reading…

May 21, 2015

Testimony is a good Christian word, isn’t it? It is a word we use to describe a person’s account of their conversion. At Grace Fellowship Church we ask people to share their testimony aloud before they are baptized, and to send it in printed form to the members of the church as they apply for church membership. Sometimes at an evening service we will invite someone to come to the front and to tell us how the Lord saved her. We even keep a big binder full of these testimonies for anyone who would like to read through them—an amazing collection of stories that are so very different and yet all tell the same story.

Do you talk about your conversion? Do you find yourself thinking back to it and recounting its circumstances? Do you remember and share your testimony? John Flavel considers this one of the great joys and responsibilities of the Christian life saying, “This is a subject which every gracious heart loves to steep its thoughts in. It is certainly the sweetest history that ever they repeated; they love to think and talk of it.” Do you?

In chapter 3 of Flavel’s book The Mystery of Providence, Flavel instructs his reader in the importance of considering and recounting God’s providence in our salvation.

In nothing does Providence shine forth more gloriously in this world than in ordering the occasions, instruments and means of conversion of the people of God. However skilfully its hand had moulded your bodies, however tenderly it had preserved them and however bountifully it had provided for them; if it had not also ordered some means or other for your conversion, all the former favours and benefits it had done for you had meant little. This, O this, is the most excellent benefit you ever received from its hand. You are more indebted to it for this, than for all your other mercies. And in explaining this performance of Providence, I cannot but think your hearts must be deeply affected.

But with all the emphasis we place on testimony, there is one kind of person that can sometimes feel a little bit inadequate—the person who grew up in a Christian home, who put his faith in Christ at a very young age and through circumstances that may have long since been lost to the mists of time.

Flavel acknowledges this person, stating that not every Christian can recount the circumstances of their salvation in quite the same way. While for some people salvation was “wrought in person of riper years, who in their youthful days were more profane and vile,” for others salvation came to “persons in their tender years, into whose hearts grace was more imperceptibly and indiscernibly instilled by God’s blessing upon pious education.”

In the former sort, the distinct acts of the Spirit, illuminating, convincing, humbling, drawing them to Christ and sealing them are more evident and discernible. In the latter, these are more obscure and confused. They can remember that God gave them an esteem and liking of godly persons, care of duty and conscience of sin; but as to the time, place, instruments and manner of the work, they can give but a slender account of them.

There is a clear difference between these people, but it is not the difference between genuine and false salvation. Rather, God has simply chosen to bring about the miracle of conversion in a different way.

However, if the work is savingly wrought in them, there is no reason they should be troubled because the circumstances of it are not so evident to them as they are to others. Let the substance and reality of the work appear and there is no reason to afflict yourselves because of the lack of evidence of such circumstance.

In other words, salvation is no more genuine to those who can clearly remember and recount the circumstances that led to their conversion. And I would go so far as to say that the “boring” testimonies of childhood conversions are the most blessed of all. After all, aren’t these exactly the testimonies we wish for our children?

Next Week

We will continue our reading next week with chapter 4: “God’s Providence in Our Work.” Read it by next Thursday and check in to see what I (and others) have to say about it.

Your Turn

The purpose of this project is to read classics together. So do feel free to leave a comment if you have something you would like to say. Alternatively, you may leave a link to your blog or Facebook or anywhere else you have reflected on what you have read.

If you would like to read along with us, we have only just begun, so there is lots of time to get caught up. Simply get a copy of the book and start reading…

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