The Method of Grace is Worth our Reflection

Just how is grace applied to the individual? This is a question that we all have an interest in, but which we rarely spend enough time in reflection on. To help us with this failing, the Puritan minister John Flavel has written the excellent book Method of Grace. (You can find it for free as an eBook here; for Kindle here; and as a print book–well worth it, IMO–here.) I’ve already reflected on Flavel on assurance and on Union with Christ, here I’ll wrap up with a few reflections on the book as a whole.

In this book, Flavel gives us an overview of the work of the Holy Spirit in the salvation of sinners. He begins with a general overview of the subject (sermons 1-2); then talks about the external call to belief in preaching the Gospel (sermon 3). Flavel then gives an extended discussion of the operations of the Holy Spirit on the internal life of the individual (sermons 4-17), followed by a description of the benefits of salvation held out before us by the Spirit (sermons 16-19). Flavel also describes the role of the Law in our salvation (sermons 20-21) and what the life of the new believer looks like (sermons 22-30) and the obstacles to belief created by the world, the flesh, and the devil (sermons 31-35).

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Overall, I can’t recommend this book enough. It is challenging, convicting, and encouraging all at the same time. Sure, it’s difficult Puritan prose (though Flavel is much easier than most Puritans), but it is more than worth the time and effort. We do need to spend time reflecting on what happens in salvation, both for evangelism (which is important) and for self-examination and thinking about whether we ourselves are genuinely saved (which is more important). We ought always be holding our lives up to the measure of Scripture and judging what we see in ourselves by God’s standard. Do we have genuine faith? Is our life reflective of a genuine work of the Spirit in bringing us to repent of our sins and believe in the atoning death of Christ? How do I even know? Let me leave you with one small part of Flavel’s answer to these questions:

“[If you want to know if you are a new creature by the power of the Spirit, then ask:]
1. Wherever the new creature is formed, there a man’s course and conversation is changed…
2. The new creature continually opposes and conflicts with the motions of sin in the heart… Grace can no more incorporate with sin, than oil with water…
3. The mind and affections of the new creature are set upon heavenly and spiritual things…
4. The new creature is a praying creature, living by its daily communion with God, which is its livelihood and subsistence… If, therefore, thou be a prayerless soul, or if, in all thy prayers, thou art a stranger to communion with God; if there be no brokenness of heart for sin in thy confessions, no melting affections for Christ and holiness in thy supplications; surely Satan doth but baffle and delude thy over-credulous soul, in persuading thee that t hou art a new creature.” (Sermon XXVI)

Dr. Coyle Neal is co-host of the City of Man Podcast and an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, MO.

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