Category Archives: John Flavel

Flavel on Pastoral Pressures

Puritan pastor John Flavel said the following words in his address, “The Character of a Complete Evangelical Pastor, Drawn By Christ,” as published in The Whole Works of the Reverend John Flavel (Edinburgh, 1820), 6:568-569:

I may say to him that snatched at the ministry, as Henry IV did to his son that hastily snatched at the crown: He little knows what an heap of cares and toils he snatches at.

The labors of the ministry will exhaust the very marrow from your bones, hasten old age and death. They are fitly compared to the toil of men in harvest, to the labors of a woman in travail, and to the agonies of soldiers in the extremity of a battle. We must watch when others sleep.

And indeed it is not so much the expense of our labors, as the loss of them, that kills us. It is not with us, as with other laborers. They find their work as they leave it, so do not we.

Sin and Satan unravel almost all we do, the impressions we make on our people’s souls in one sermon, vanish before the next. How many truths have we to study! How many wiles of Satan, and mysteries of corruption, to detect! How many cases of conscience to resolve! Yea, we must fight in defense of the truths we preach, as well as study them to paleness, and preach them unto faintness.

But well-spent head, heart, lungs, and all; welcome pained breasts, aching backs, and trembling legs; if we can by all but approve ourselves Christ’s faithful servants, and hear that joyful voice from his mouth, ‘Well done, good and faithful servants.’

For my Logos peeps

If you use Logos Bible Software here are three notes from the week:

• I’m told that work to finish Herman Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics (4 vols) has been slower than expected. The work is now set to be released in 6 to 8 weeks (mid April / early May). This is bad news for those who ordered early. But it’s good news for slackers because you can still get in on the pre-pub price of $99.95 (the price will jump to $150 once it’s released).

• This week The Works of John Newton (6 vols) was offered as a pre-pub ($99.95). This is a set to seriously consider. See here for details.

• Also this week, The Whole Works of John Flavel (6 vols) was offered as a pre-pub (also for $99.95). This is another set worth a look. See here for details.

Flavel on Mystical Union with Christ

At the very heart of Puritanism is the saints’ mystical union with Christ. We are in Christ! He is our wisdom, our righteousness, our sanctification, our redemption. From this union to Christ we experience all the blessings and delights of communion with God and find spiritual vitality for obedience, prayer, ministry and sacrificial love. This powerful union is mystical because we cannot see it with our eyes. It is a spiritually-revealed truth.

Puritan John Flavel is certainly one of the most valuable (and perhaps one of the more overlooked) of the Puritans. The theme of mystical union with Christ is threaded throughout his entire ministry and now a study of Flavel on this theme has been published titled The Inner Sanctum of Puritan Piety: John Flavel’s Doctrine of Mystical Union with Christ by J. Stephen Yuille (RHB).

John Flavel (1628-1691) had an eventful life on the run as a nonconformist preacher (see Beeke’s bio of Flavel here). He is remembered for his books The Mystery of Providence, The Method of Grace, Christ Knocking at the Door of the Heart, The Fountain of Life, and Keeping the Heart. His complete works are still in print and available from the Banner of Truth in six volumes ($99). These works remain strikingly valuable for contemporary readers (read my full review here.)

Back to our specific theme. Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote, “If you have got hold of this idea [i.e., mystical union with Christ] you will have discovered the most glorious truth you will ever know in your life.” It is glorious because it reminds us that in all things, at all times, Christ is central to our lives. All of our spiritual vitality and life comes through Christ. Christ is the “Head” from whom the whole Body is nourished, knit together and grows (Col. 2:19). Paul’s phrase for Christ is simply “who is your life” (3:4) and says our lives are hidden in Christ (3:3). This glorious truth of being united to Christ is at the core of the Christian life.

And Flavel “got hold” of this idea. It became central to his ministry and from this center flowed his understanding of pursuing obedience, prayer and communion with God. Now, Yuille has taken the highlights of Flavel’s teaching on this theme and systematized them into one short volume (128 pages).

Yuille covers the full spectrum of the doctrine in this book. I have taken the index and provided it to the right. The comprehensiveness of this volume does not make it unreadable or overly academic. Yuille was a prof at Toronto Baptist Seminary, but he is a pastor, too. And this book shows the intellectual awareness of a scholar and the experiential sensitivities of a pastor.

Whether this is your introduction to the full scope of the mystical union with Christ, or your introduction to John Flavel (or both!) this short work will richly bless your soul. Yuille has well-captured the precious truth of our union with Christ through the ministry of a first-rate Puritan.

———–

Title: The Inner Sanctum of Puritan Piety: John Flavel’s Doctrine of Mystical Union with Christ
Author: J. Stephen Yuille (forward by Michael A. G. Haykin)
Table of Contents: scanned and posted online [click here]
Boards: paperback
Pages: 128
Topical index: yes
Scriptural index: no
Text: perfect type
Publisher: Reformation Heritage Books
Year: 2007
Price USD: $12.00/$9.00 from RHB
ISBNs: 9781601780171

The Inner Sanctum of Puritan Piety: John Flavel’s Doctrine of Mystical Union with Christ

tsslogo.jpgBook Review
The Inner Sanctum of Puritan Piety: John Flavel’s Doctrine of Mystical Union with Christ
by J. Stephen Yuille

At the very heart of Puritanism is the saints’ mystical union with Christ. We are in Christ! He is our wisdom, our righteousness, our sanctification, our redemption. From this union to Christ we experience all the blessings and delights of communion with God and find spiritual vitality for obedience, prayer, ministry and sacrificial love. This powerful union is mystical because we cannot see it with our eyes. It is a spiritually-revealed truth.

Puritan John Flavel is certainly one of the most valuable (and perhaps one of the more overlooked) of the Puritans. The theme of mystical union with Christ is threaded throughout his entire ministry. A study of Flavel on this theme has become one of my favorite books of the year: The Inner Sanctum of Puritan Piety: John Flavel’s Doctrine of Mystical Union with Christ by J. Stephen Yuille (Reformation Heritage, 2007).

John Flavel (1628-1691) had an eventful life on the run as a nonconformist preacher (see Beeke’s bio of Flavel here). He is remembered for his books The Mystery of Providence, The Method of Grace, Christ Knocking at the Door of the Heart, The Fountain of Life, and Keeping the Heart. His complete works are still in print and available from the Banner of Truth in six volumes. These works remain strikingly valuable for contemporary readers. Almost a year ago I wrote this review.

Back to our specific theme. Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote, “If you have got hold of this idea [i.e., mystical union with Christ] you will have discovered the most glorious truth you will ever know in your life.” It is glorious because it reminds us that in all things, at all times, Christ is central to our lives. All of our spiritual vitality and life comes through Christ. Christ is the “Head” from whom the whole Body is nourished, knit together and grows (Col. 2:19). Paul’s phrase for Christ is simply “who is your life” (3:4) and says our lives are hidden in Christ (3:3). This glorious truth of being united to Christ is at the core of the Christian life.

And Flavel “got hold” of this idea. It became central to his ministry and from this center flowed his understanding of pursuing obedience, prayer and communion with God. Now, Yuille has taken the highlights of Flavel’s teaching on this theme and systematized them into one short volume (128 pages).

Yuille covers the full spectrum of the doctrine in this book. I have taken the index and provided it to the right (click for larger image). The comprehensiveness of this volume does not make it unreadable or overly academic. Yuille is a professor at Toronto Baptist Seminary, but he is also a pastor and this book shows the intellectual awareness of a scholar and the experiential sensitivities of a pastor.

Whether this is your introduction to the full scope of the mystical union with Christ, or your introduction to John Flavel (or both!) this short work will richly bless your soul. Yuille has well-captured the precious truth of our union with Christ through the ministry of a first-rate Puritan. The result is a contender for the 2007 TSS book of the year award.

———–

Title: The Inner Sanctum of Puritan Piety: John Flavel’s Doctrine of Mystical Union with Christ
Author: J. Stephen Yuille (forward by Michael A. G. Haykin)
Table of Contents: scanned and posted online by TSS [click here]
Reading level: 2.75/5.0 > moderate
Boards: paperback
Pages: 128
Volumes: 1
Dust jacket: no
Binding: glue
Paper: normal
Topical index: yes
Scriptural index: no
Text: perfect type
Publisher: Reformation Heritage Books
Year: 2007
Price USD: $12.00/$9.00 from RHB
ISBNs: 9781601780171

Book review: The Works of John Flavel (0851510604)

tsslogo.jpgBook review
The Works of John Flavel (6 volumes)

“Some Puritans might be more learned than he, and some more quaint, but for all-around usefulness none was his equal.” Iain Murray on John Flavel

It’s no exaggeration to say the six volume Works of John Flavel are one of the most useful of all the Puritans. Comprised of 22 books and 116 sermons covering a wide range of issues, I have found Flavel’s works to be useful on all topics in my expositional work. A simple scan through Martin’s topical index (A Guide to the Puritans) will bear this out.

John Flavel’s (1628-1691) preaching was experiential and strong. His biographer writes, “He preached what he felt, what he had handled, what he had seen and tasted of the word of life, and they [his hearers] felt it also” (1:xii). One of his hearers said, “that person must have a very soft head, or a very hard heart, or both, that could sit under his ministry unaffected” (1:vi).

Flavel was known for his personal godliness, commitment to prayer, faithfulness under hard trials, and generosity towards the poor. He was aware of the controversial issues but chose not to jump into the debates, instead filling the role of peacemaker. He lived through the persecution of Puritan preachers (between 1662-1687) and was given a few years of freedom in his last years. Yet during this time of turmoil, Flavel (like Owen, Goodwin, Bunyan, Manton and the other great Puritans) continued to produce the precious works we now own, collect and use.

The glory of Christ

The great litmus test of a preacher or author is this: What do they say about the preciousness of Christ? I am amazed at the number of popular books published under the category ‘Christian’ that — while talking much on theology or marriage issues or child-raising or personal fulfillment — totally neglect the beauty of Christ. Not so with Flavel. To him, the knowledge of Christ is of utmost importance for joy eternal and joy now.

At the beginning of his famous collection of sermons titled, The Fountain of Life Opened Up: A Display of Christ in His Essential and Mediatorial Glory, Flavel writes,

“Knowledge is man’s excellency above the beasts that perish (Ps. 32:9). The knowledge of Christ is the Christian’s excellency above the Heathen (1 Cor. 1:23, 24). Practical and saving knowledge of Christ is the sincere Christian’s excellency above the self-cozening hypocrite (Heb. 6:4, 6). But methodical and well-digested knowledge of Christ is the strong Christian’s excellency above the weak (Heb. 5:12, 13, 14). A saving, though an immethodical knowledge of Christ, will bring us to heaven (John 17:2) but a regular and methodical, as well as a saving knowledge of him, will bring heaven to us (Col. 2:2, 3). For such is the excellency thereof, even above all other knowledge of Christ, that it renders the understanding judicious, the memory tenacious, and the heart highly and fixedly joyous” (1:21).

This paragraph ignites into 500 pages of sermons to build in the reader’s knowledge of Christ and bring the heart a high and fixed joy.

Content

Contrasted to men like John Owen and Thomas Goodwin, Flavel’s works are very easy to read. Like all Puritans, his content is dense, but his sermons and books flow gracefully.

The six-volume Banner of Truth edition is comprised of 22 books and 116 sermons. Volume one includes a short but helpful biography of Flavel’s life. A 500-page book, The Fountain of Life, follows and makes up most of the first volume. Spanning 42 hefty sermons, Flavel explores the beauty of Christ in His person and then in His work as the Mediator. He also explores the seven sayings of the Cross. As we saw earlier, a deep knowledge of Christ’s beauty brings heaven down to us and this he accomplishes in this first volume.

The second volume is a collection of 38 sermons. The first 35 comprise The Method of Grace in the Gospel Redemption, a series explaining how we are saved, why sinners should come to Christ, the benefits of Christ towards the believer, what happens to bring sinners up to the point of salvation (like conviction), distinguishing between the genuine and false believers, and the present and eternal state of the unregenerate. These sermons cover a broad landscape of evangelical themes. Three sermons in the nature of man’s soul complete volume two and continue into the first five sermons of volume three.

Volume three is given to a number of issues including the difference between sinful and non-sinful fear, God’s protection of His children in times of judgment upon the earth, the dangers of doctrinal error, and the importance of unity in the church around the Gospel.

Volume four includes 11 sermons delivered in England after the persecution of Puritans concluded in the late 1680s. In the midst of this evangelical freedom, England and its people should ever seek to repent, turn from sin and press close to Christ. “England hath now a day of special mercy: there is a wide door of opportunity opened to it; O that it might prove an effectual door! It is transporting and astonishing, that after all the high and horrid provocations, the atheism, profanes, and bitter enmity against light and reformation: the sweet voice is still heard in England, Behold, I stand at the door and knock” (4:3-4).

Following this, Divine Conduct or The Mystery of Providence highlights the many ways God has put each of us where we are from our birth, family heritage and spouse. God is in control and we should take note of His activities. How we encounter temptation is the theme of Antipharmacum Saluberrimum. Pressing close to Christ, not surprisingly, is where he begins. Two short books on the danger of “Popery” and one on letters of seamen saved from storms at sea close the volume.

Volume five includes a 200-page book, Husbandry Spiritualized: The heavenly use of earthly things based upon 1 Corinthians 3:9 (“You are God’s field”). In it Flavel takes the natural and common and teaches eternal truth. Like Divine Providence, it’s seeing God speaking in everyday life. Navigation Spiritualized: A new compass for seamen is a 100-page book spiritualizing sailing terms for the purpose of converting sailors. A Caution to Seamen follows on the prevalent sins of this profession like drunkenness and swearing. Another book for seamen and then a book on the important duty of watching over our own hearts follows. Books on discovering hypocrisy and another for those who mourn the loss of loved ones ends the volume.

The final volume includes several books. Preparations for Suffering teaches us to prepare and endure suffering and trials. Other topics include an exposition of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, twelve sacramental sermons for the Lord’s Supper, the necessity of conversion and personal reformation, importance of pastoral ministry and indexes.

Indexes

The subject index is adequate, spanning 40 pages. However, the textual index is limited to primary sermon texts (unnecessary if you use one of the two Puritan sermon indexes). Navigation through the works will certainly be hindered by this weakness but this should not detract from the value of Flavel.

Conclusion

Warmly devotional and diverse in content, John Flavel’s works are a ‘must-have’ for a Puritan library. He is one of the most readable and helpful of the Puritans and will be a great friend to your expositional preparations. Flavel will help you to see God’s work in the world, encourage evangelism, and (most importantly) point you towards the beauty of Christ in all topics.

Boards: clothbound, hardcover (burnt orange, gilded)
Volumes: 6
Pages: 3,700
Dust jackets: yes
Binding: Smyth sewn
Paper: normal, top edge painted (red)
End papers: front of each contains outline of all six volumes
Text: facsimile of 1820 version (W. Baynes and Son)
Topical Index: yes (good; end of vol. 6)
Textual index: yes (poor; end of vol. 6)
Biography: yes (short but excellent; vol. 1)
Publisher: Banner of Truth Trust
Price USD: $165/$123 at Monergism books
Indexed: yes, both Martin and PCA
ISBNs: 0851517234, 0851517226, 0851510604, 085151720x, 0851517196, 0851517188

The Puritan Study (picture)

 

Click on pictures for larger image.

Not pictured – Manton on CD, Bunyan 3 vol. works, Goodwin works, Reynolds works and volumes 3-12 of the Boston works. Each day the full sets are coming together.

UPDATED 10/3 … new pictures

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Works of Edward Reynolds

(Soli Deo Gloria)

Works of Thomas Goodwin

(Reformation Heritage Books)

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The Puritan Study (Part 9) The Strategy of Building a Puritan Study

Part 9: The Strategy of Building a Puritan Library

I assume many of you are like me, lacking access to a solid library of Puritan literature. Here in my hometown we have no seminary and it is rare to find a fellow believer who has even heard of Spurgeon, not to mention Boston, Manton and Goodwin.

So building a Puritan library was my responsibility. I just started buying Puritans that I had indexes for and especially the Puritans published by The Banner of Truth. I learned from both my successes and mistakes.

The Strategy

First, I assume you already spend a fair amount of money on books right now. If you are like me, you probably look around your library with regret at some of the volumes that serve no purpose in your expositional research. For years, my library suffered from a clear game plan.

A poorly planned library will lack important reference books like commentaries and Puritan sermons. It will be heavy on contemporary controversies and issues books. Read blogs if you want to be up-to-date on the current trends in the church. Buy commentaries and Puritans if you want a solid expositional library.

A solid library that helps support the preacher or writer in their expositional work is no accident.

This post will help you define your own personal game plan.

Bottom line

The Puritan Study I have described in this series comes to a grand total of $1,500.00. That sounds like a lot but it figures out to $1.40 a day for 3 years (which is about what I spend at Starbucks). And to have this entire library in three years is pretty fast!

I’ve broken down my list of Puritans into $500 segments. Again, this list is ordered by availability and usefulness of each author. Your first $500 will be the best-spent money. The second and third $500 increments are important but not immediate.

(Note: What follows is a simple strategy for building a Puritan library. Specific reviews of each author and set will follow the Puritan Study series. Pictures of each set can be seen here. Updated (3/17/07): Note that most of these resources can be found at a more reasonable price through Monergism Books. Please check them before making any purchases.)

Here is my strategy, broken into three phases…

// THE FIRST $500

1. Charles Haddon Spurgeon (63 sermon vols.; CD-Rom)

I cannot begin with any more important preacher than Charles (C.H.) Spurgeon. The Puritans thoroughly impact everything Spurgeon preached or wrote. Look at his commentary on the Psalms (The Treasury of David) and you will see why Spurgeon is a priceless Puritan resource. He is the great Puritan synthesizer. Spurgeon’s complete works total about 150 volumes and you can download them all for $15.00 or buy the CD-Rom for $20.00 from Ages software. (If you have extra money, I would recommend buying some printed volumes from Pilgrim Publications but especially his autobiography and the classic book on pastoral ministry, Lectures to My Students.) [Read Piper's biography of Spurgeon here]

2. Jonathan Edwards (2 vol. works; printed)

An extraordinarily rich resource! These two volumes of works by Jonathan Edwards are gems to the Puritan researcher. I would recommend the Banner of Truth volumes for their sturdy binding. You can buy volumes one and two here in the Banner of Truth editions or a cheaper version. The complementary text files can be found online for free. [Read Piper's biography of Edwards here]

3. John Bunyan (3 vol. works; printed)

John Bunyan is most famous for his novel, The Pilgrim’s Progress. But he was also an incredibly gifted (and imaginative) preacher. These three clothbound volumes from the Banner of Truth are well built and come with an excellent topical index. You can find them for about $89.00. All of the associated text files can be found online for free. [Read Piper's biography of Bunyan here]

4. Thomas Boston (12 vol. works; printed)

Jonathan Edwards considered Thomas Boston, “a truly great divine.” Boston is one of my personal favorites. These precious volumes have provided me many years of sermon quotes and exegetical thoughts on God’s Word. The entire 12-volume set has been recently published by Tentmaker in a beautiful cloth binding and is available in the United States for $325.00 here or $250.00 here. Worth every penny! You can buy the incredible Memoirs alone. [Read our full review of this set here]

5. Thomas Manton (22 vol. works; CD-Rom)

A set that is simply too large to make affordable in print format. The CD-Rom of Manton’s complete 22-volume set can be purchased for only $10.00. A great price for a must-have set of works! The first three volumes are avaliable in print.

// THE SECOND $500

6. John Owen (16 vol. but especially vols. 1,2 and 6; printed)

All of John Owen’s 16-volumes works are excellent. I especially have found volumes one, two, six and seven of great use. You can add other volumes in the future but these three are essential. The volumes are clothbound (as you would expect from the Banner of Truth) and run about $25.00 each or $75.00 total. The text files are available online for free but you will want to read these volumes cover-to-cover, making the printed works a must. [Read Piper's biography of Owen here]

7. John Flavel (6 vol. works; printed)

Another excellent Puritan I have used on several occasions. Your meditations and sermons will be greatly blessed by Flavel. The Banner of Truth volumes are clothbound and beautiful. They sell for $150.00.

8. Richard Sibbes (7 vol. works; printed)

The “sweet dropper,” Sibbes was an incredible Puritan preacher. The Banner of Truth volumes are clothbound and run $126.00.

9. Jeremiah Burroughs (misc. books; printed)

Burroughs is the most difficult author on the list because his works are not collected and published by various companies. Several of his works comprise the Gospel Life series ($91.00). The six titles include Gospel Worship, Gospel Fear, Gospel Conversation, Gospel Revelation, Gospel Remission, and Gospel Reconciliation. Beyond this there are other Burroughs titles in print including The Sinfulness of Sin or The Evil of Evil ($17.00), The Excellency of a Gracious Spirit, Hope ($15.00), Irenicum to the Lovers of Truth and Peace ($22.00), The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment ($6.25), The Saints’ Happiness, The Saints’ Treasury and A Treatise of Earthly-Mindedness. All told, it would be easy to spend $180.00 on Burroughs alone. Still, his works are indexed and very valuable.

10. Thomas Brooks (6 vol. works; printed)

The Complete Works of Thomas Brooks in six volumes is available in cloth binding from Banner of Truth for $140.00. One Puritan scholar says of Brooks, “He had a body of divinity in his head and the power of it in his heart.” Incredible material!

// THE THIRD $500

11. Thomas Goodwin (12 vol. works; printed)

Reformation Heritage Books has recently reprinted the paperback version of Goodwin’s 12 volume works. This is a great service to the Puritan community and can be purchased for $240.00. I have yet to read a Puritan that glorifies the person and works of Christ more than Goodwin. [read our full review here]

12. John Newton (6 vol. works; printed)

“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me” are the words of John Newton. An excellent preacher, his complete works are available in cloth binding for $144.00. [Read Piper's biography of Newton here]

13. David Clarkson (3 vol. works; printed)

Not as experiential as the authors above, but well indexed and valuable. The works of David Clarkson are available for $62.00.

14. Edward Reynolds (vols. 1,4,5,6 of 6 vol. works; printed)

Like Burroughs, the complete works of Reynolds are not available. Today there are five volumes in print: Commentary on Ecclesiastes, Meditations on the Holy Sacrament of the Lord’s Last Supper, Preaching Christ, Sinfulness Of Sin and Treatise on the Passions and Faculties of the Soul. All these valuable volumes can be purchased for about $115.00. Spurgeon wrote, “Reynolds was a man of vast learning and thoroughly evangelical spirit.” The digital files are beginning to appear on Google books for free download.

Conclusion

By this point you may feel totally overwhelmed (and broke). Remember, this is a long-term goal.

I don’t even think it would be beneficial to buy all these works at once! Slowly add works as you grow comfortable with the ones you already have.

If you follow this plan you will spend your money wisely and have a storehouse of expositional material at arm’s-reach. This is my promise to you: Even if the Lord blesses you with 30 more years of expositional ministry, you will never exhaust the Puritan Study you built in three years.

————–
Next time … Part 10: Concluding Thoughts, part 1
—————

The Puritan Study (Part 7) Using the Christian Classics Ethereal Library

Part 7: Using the Christian Classics Ethereal Library

I don’t like clothes. At least not for my birthday.

When it’s my birthday I hope for books: old used books, new shrink-wrapped books, leather-bound, clothbound or paperback books. It’s all the same. My family and friends, however, don’t buy me books because few people know what I need or want and I’m not about to tell them. So I get shirts and polos and (with a winter birthday) a lot of fleece and sweatshirts. These are nice and generous gifts, but they are not as delightful as free books.

If you have never walked into the Christian Classics Ethereal Library, you are in for a special treat. There they offer hundreds of free books. Good ones. Some you want, some you need (and some to leave on the shelf). The point is: these books are downloadable, searchable and delightful as they are free!

Who’s Who at the CCEL

Many of the Puritans we have talked about on the digital shelves of the CCEL include Charles Spurgeon, John Owen, Jonathan Edwards, John Bunyan, Thomas Boston, John Flavel and Thomas Manton.

Beyond our Puritan Study, there are several other helpful references including the works of Augustine, Alexander MacLaren, Horatius Bonar, John Calvin, Stephen Charnock, John Foxe, William Gurnall, Matthew Henry, Charles Hodge, Martin Luther, A.W. Pink, Samuel Rutherford, Thomas Watson, Richard Baxter and Isaac Watts.

Take time to browse around and become familiar with the depth of free books available. There is also a very helpful topical index to locate books on given topics (click “Browse” > “Browse by Topics”).

Searches

We covered a majority of the tricks to electronic searches in the last post. Use those same textual and phrase searches here.

From my own experience at the CCEL, it seems the phrase searches are most fruitful because the various authors use too many different formats for verse references (ex.: ‘Ps. xvi. 11.’ / ‘Psal. 16: 11’).

An added bonus of the CCEL (as opposed to computer files) is that searches can

be done on the entire CCEL library with one click. Search on “pleasures for ever” and you will be searching their entire database!

But you can also run specific searches. Here is one example of a search I ran specifically of author John Owen and the phrase “Psa. xvi. 11” (see screenshot to the right).

There are several types of specific searches you can perform on the CCEL and they have a helpful search guide that does not bear repeating here.

Search Examples

After about 5 minutes of searching, here are three examples I found on a phrase search of “presence is fulness of joy.” Also, I’ve included a little information how I would use the quotations (though the next post in this series will address this topic more fully).

(i) John Owen teaches us that true faith is revealed when we seek the presence of God, knowing (again by faith) that it’s in His presence that our greatest joy springs. By contrast a weak faith would reveal itself in the heart by a lack of anticipation of God’s eternal presence, and a greater display of worldliness. This second point is not found here in Owen, but made obvious from a moment’s meditation upon Owen’s quote. I personally would not quote this passage to my listeners.

John Owen – “When the soul hath a view by faith (which nothing else can give it) of the goodness of God as manifested in Christ — that is of the essential excellencies of his nature as exerting themselves in him — it reacheth after him with its most earnest embraces, and is restless until it comes unto perfect fruition. It sees in God the fountain of life, and would drink of the “river of his pleasures,” Ps. xxxvi. 8, 9 — that in his “presence is fulness of joy, and at his right hand are pleasures for evermore,” Ps. xvi. 11. It longs and pants to drink of that fountain — to bathe itself in that river of pleasures; and wherein it comes short of present enjoyment, it lives in hopes that when we “awake, it shall be satisfied with his likeness,” Ps. xvii. 15. There is nothing grievous unto a soul filled with this love, but what keeps it from the full enjoyment of these excellencies of God. What doth so naturally and necessarily, it groans under. Such is our present state in the body, wherein, in some sense, we are “absent from the Lord,” 2 Cor. v. 4, 8, 9. And what doth so morally, in the deviations of its will and affections, as sin — it hates and abhors and loathes itself for. Under the conduct of this love, the whole tendency of the soul is unto the enjoyment of God; — it would be lost in itself, and found in him, — nothing in itself, and all in him. Absolute complacency herein — that God is what he is, that he should be what he is, and nothing else, and that as such we may be united unto him, and enjoy Him according to the capacity of our natures is the life of divine love.” (from Christologia, chapter 13)

(ii) Puritan John Flavel emphasizes both the joy Christ must have experienced in the presence of God in His earthly life, and also the depth of Christ’s sacrifice through the incarnation. Maybe not points I would bring out in a sermon on Psalm 16:11, and certainly not a quotation I would read to my hearers, but it is still an interesting thought that reminds me to tie every sermon back to Christ and the Cross.

John Flavel – “(1.) We cannot but conceive it to be a state of matchless happiness, if we consider the persons enjoying and delighting in each other: he [Christ] was with God, John 1: 1. God, you know, is the fountain, ocean and centre of all delights and joys: Psal. 16: 11, “In thy presence is fulness of joy.” To be wrapt up in the soul and bosom of all delights, as Christ was, must needs be a state transcending apprehension; to have the fountain of love and delight letting out itself so immediately, and fully, and ever lastingly, upon this only begotten darling of his soul, so as it never did communicate itself to any; judge what a state of transcendent felicity this must be. Great persons have great delights.” (from Fountain of Life Opened Up, sermon 2)

(iii) Puritan Richard Baxter (whose printed works are a bit hard to find) is a highly recommended source of sermon material. Notice there is no biblical text reference in this passage (common in some Puritans). His point here is that without revelation we cannot understand that we have access to the full pleasures of God. This is an invitation from God in His own language, highlighting the importance of revelation. If the preacher were to update a few words and read the second half of this quote with increasing speed and volume it would beautifully illustrate the power of this concept – we are invited to experience the full joy of God’s presence!

Richard Baxter – “Thou wilt show me the path of life; in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” What presumption would it have been, once, to have thought or spoken of such a thing, if God had not spoken it before us! I durst not have thought of the saints’ preferment in this life, as Scripture sets it forth, had it not been the express truth of God. How unbecoming to talk of being sons of God—speaking to him—having fellowship with him—dwelling in him and he in us—if this had not been God’s own language! How much less durst we have once thought of shining forth as the sun—of being joint heirs with Christ—of judging the world—of sitting on Christ’s throne—of being one in him and the Father—if we had not all this from the mouth, and under the hand of God! But hath he said, and shall he not do it? Hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?—Yes, as the Lord God is true, thus shall it be done to the man whom Christ delighteth to honor.” (from,Saints’ Everlasting Rest, chapter 1)

Discriminate

Some searches will produce hundreds of references. You need to scan for authors you trust and avoid trying to look at every reference. This highlights the importance of taking several hours to become familiar with the resources at the CCEL. The more you know about who is referenced there, the less likely you will be to jump at the first search result you see. Take your time. Especially become familiar with the authors I mentioned at the beginning.

Quote? Paraphrase?

So now you have 300 Puritan quotations and a sermon to preach in three days. What do you do with all the material? Paraphrase? Quote directly? Next time we will answer the question: To Quote or Not to Quote?

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Next time … Part 8: To Quote or not to Quote?
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