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John Flavel :: Preface

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A Saint Indeed by John Flavel


In presenting to the public, Mr. FLAVEL’s A Saint Indeed, or, The Great Work of a Christian in Keeping the Heart, it may be necessary for the Publisher to remark, that this edition comes into existence with the original title given to it by the author, and that his own arrangement of the work is strictly adhered to, without any mutilation, except that various quotations and references given in the work have been fairly translated, with all other necessary corrections.

He has also annexed, for the improvement of the volume, a Double Table, selected from the works of the reverend author; and he has subjoined to his Preface, a sketch of Mr. FLAVEL’s life, taken from Calamy’s Ejected Ministers. The whole work will be found to contain that vigour of thought and ingenuity of language, which so predominates through all his works, with every other excellence of this good and pious Christian—and which generally marks the production of an earlier day, and for which it is allowed that the superior refinement of modern writers, is, of itself, but a poor commutation.

The voluminous works of Mr. FLAVEL, shew that he was equally as laborious for the good of souls in the closet as in the pulpit—they have passed through many editions, and have made his name precious to the pious in both England and America, for near a century and a half past; and, as one of his contemporaries have said, they will be so, as long as the earth shall endure. This great and good man, like the Great Apostle to the gentiles, whether in bonds or in imprisonment, must be breathing out the praises of his Divine Master, and bringing forth consolatory epistles, and pointing out land marks for the people of God to steer by, through this dangerous and solitary wilderness, and bring them safe into their desired haven. Thus it appears at the time he penned this ingenious work, his own doors were shut against himself, still his breast lay open to the flock over whom his lord had made him overseer, having lived in those perilous times, when it was not safe for a true disciple of Christ to shew his face; and, being proscribed from preaching in the narrow sphere of his own flock, went forth without fear into the fields, and highways, beseeching sinners to be reconciled to God, counting not his life dear, so that he might win souls and finish his course with joy.

John Flavel, a celebrated English divine, was born in Worcestershire about the year 1627. He was educated at the University College, Oxford, where he took his degree of B. A. In 1650, he settled as assistant minister to Mr. Walplate, rector of Diptford in Devonshire, and shortly after succeeded to the rectory, which, however, in 1656, he resigned, in order that he might enlarge the sphere of his usefulness, by becoming minister of a very populous parish at Dartmouth; though the stipend in this situation was much less advantageous than that which he had left. In 1662, he was among the number of ejected ministers, for refusing the terms proposed by the act of uniformity. He did not however, entirely separate himself from his people, but preached and administered the sacrament privately, till the passing of the Oxford act in 1665, which prohibited non-conforming ministers from residing within five miles of any city, corporate town…or any place where they had preached.

Mr. Flavel was now obliged to retire to Slapton, a village five miles from Dartmouth, where he wrote his Saint Indeed, and where he preached to those who durst venture to become his auditors, and sometimes he visited his former people, but this required the greatest care on his part to avoid that persecution which would unquestionably follow the violation of the law. His zeal in some instances led him to the exercise of his talents at a hazard of his safety; once in a wood about three miles from Exeter, a congregation assembled to hear him, but he had scarcely begun, when a party sent for the purpose, surrounded the place of meeting, and it was with the utmost difficulty he escaped; others, who were supposed the leaders were apprehended and heavily fined. Those who were more fortunately circumstanced, remembering the admonition, "that if persecuted in one place they should flee to another," accompanied their preacher to an adjoining wood, where he preached without molestation. In 1685, the mob was excited against him, and would probably have destroyed him, had he fallen into their hands; to avoid therefore the threatened evil he came to London. Here, however, he was not long safe; in one instance while a number of persons were assembled, a party of soldiers broke in upon them, and though Mr. Flavel again escaped, yet an aged minister, Mr. Jenkins, fell into their hands, and was thrown into Newgate, where he suffered so much hardship, as speedily to terminate his life. After some stay in the metropolis, he returned to Dartmouth, where, a prisoner in his own house, he was useful in affording private instructions to those who resorted to him for the purpose.

In 1687, when king James assumed the right of dispensing with the laws, and granting more liberty to non-conformists, Mr. Flavel’s congregation immediately obtained for him a large place, in which he was enabled to exercise his ministerial functions; and by the revolution in 1688, he was permitted to do that by law, which he had performed before by connivance. He died at Exeter in 1691, in his 61st year, having long possessed, in an eminent degree, the respect and esteem of all good men.

He was a man of exemplary piety, and his various works were once much read, and are still greatly esteemed. They were collected after his death in two volumes folio—Calamy’s Ejected Ministers.


The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.


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