The Gracious Providence of Godly Parents

 Today the words of John Flavel (1628-1691) have once again brought forth a great ocean of sweet thoughts to bless my heart and elicit prayers of thanksgiving to our great God.  As you read the following excerpt from Flavel’s The Mystery of Providence, may your heart swell to greater heights of gratitude, whether by the grace of God you are in the first or the fiftieth generation of a family of faithful believers.

O, it is no common mercy to descend from pious parents. Some of us do not only owe our natural life to them, as instruments of our beings, but our spiritual and eternal life also. It was no small mercy to Timothy to be descended from such progenitors (2 Tim. 1. 5), nor to Augustine that he had such a mother as Monica, who planted in his mind the precepts of life with her words, watered them with her tears, and nourished them with her example. We will a little more particularly inspect this mercy, and in so doing we shall find manifold mercies contained in it.

What a mercy was it to us to have parents that prayed for us before they had us, as well as in our infancy, when we could not pray for ourselves? Thus did Abraham (Gen. 15. 2) and Hannah (1 Sam. 1. 10, 11), and probably some here are the fruits and returns of their parents’ prayers. This was that holy course they continued all their days for you, carrying all your concerns, especially your eternal ones, before the Lord with their own; and pouring out their souls to God so affectionately for you, when their eye-strings and heart-strings were breaking. O put a value upon such mercies, for they are precious. It is a greater mercy to descend from praying parents than from the loins of nobles. See Job’s pious practice (1. 5).

What a special mercy was it to us to have the excrescences of corruption nipped in the bud by their pious and careful discipline! We now understand what a critical and dangerous season youth is, the wonderful proclivity of that age to every thing that is evil. Why else are they called youthful lusts (2 Tim. 2. 22)? When David asks: ‘Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way?’ it is plainly enough implied in the very question that the way he takes lies through the pollutions of the world in his youth (Ps. 119. 9). When you find a David praying that God would ‘not remember the sins of my youth’ (Ps. 25. 7), and a Job bitterly complaining that God ‘made me to possess the iniquities of my youth’ (13. 26), surely you cannot but reflect with a very thankful heart upon those happy means by which the corruption of your nature was happily prevented, or restrained in your youth.

And how great a mercy was it that we had parents who carefully instilled the good knowledge of God into our souls in our tender years? How diligent was Abraham in this duty (Gen. 18. 19), and David (1 Chron. 28. 9)! We have some of us had parents who might say to us, as the apostle: ‘My little children of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you’ (Gal. 4. 19). As they longed for us before they had us and rejoiced in us when they had us, so they could not endure to think that when they could have us no more, the devil should. As they thought no pains, care or cost too much for our bodies, to feed them, clothe and heal them; so did they think no prayers, counsels, or tears, too much for our souls, that they might be saved. They knew a parting time would come between them and us, and did strive to make it as easy and comfortable to them as they could, by leaving us in Christ and within the blessed bond of His covenant.

They were not glad that we had health and indifferent whether we had grace. They felt the miseries of our souls as much as of our bodies; and nothing was more desirable to them than that they might say in the great day: ‘Lord, here am I and the children which thou hast given me.’

And was it not a special favour to us to have parents that went before us as patterns of holiness, and beat the path to heaven for us by their examples? They could say to us: ‘those things ye have heard and seen in me, do’ (Phil. 4. 9); and ‘be ye followers of me, as also I am of Christ’ (1 Cor. 11. 1). The parents’ life is the child’s copy. O. it is no common mercy to have a fair copy set before us, especially in the moulding age; we saw what they did, as well as heard what they said. It was Abraham’s commendation, ‘that he commanded his children, and his household after him, to keep the way of the Lord.’ And such mercies some of us have had also....

If any shall say this was not their case, they had little help heavenward from their parents, so such I reply as follows.

If you had little furtherance, yet own it as a special providence that you had no hindrance; or, if you had opposition, yet admire the grace of God in plucking you out by a wonderful distinguishing hand of mercy from among them and keeping alive the languishing sparks of grace amidst the floods of opposition. And learn from hence, if God give you a posterity of your own, to be so much the more strict and careful of family duties, by how much you have acutely felt the want of it in yourselves....

Should you wish to read more, Flavel’s work is available online at

The Sea of God's Mercies

With spring Bible study classes complete and conferences past, I have recently had some time to spend in the works of some of my favorite Puritan authors.  Upon reading portions of The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs, I was once again struck by this thought which I had long ago marked in the margin.

It is a saying of Luther:  ‘The sea of God’s mercies should swallow up all our particular afflictions.’  Name any affliction that is upon you:  there is a sea of mercy to swallow it up.  If you pour a pailful of water on the floor of your house, it makes a great show, but if you throw it into the sea, there is no sign of it.  So, afflictions considered in themselves, we think are very great, but let them be considered with the sea of God’s mercies we enjoy, and then they are not so much, they are nothing in comparison.

How grateful I am for these faithful believers who have come before us, and for God’s grace in preserving their thoughts…for a heart such as mine in a time such as ours!

First Fruits of Heaven

The older I get, the more I notice that life’s changes and uncertainties increase with every passing year.  Now whether they actually increase, or simply seem to (because I don’t have the rest or stamina I used to have???), the result is the same:  I continually face the daily/hourly/moment-to-moment challenge of glorifying God in times of change and uncertainty…and even in the fear which too often accompanies such seasons.

And so, I have recently been thinking about contentment.  This evening, as I began reading chapter 11 of The Art of Divine Contentment by the Puritan Thomas Watson, he immediately brought to my attention a most wonderful and encouraging insight, quite worthy of further meditation.  In the excerpt below, I’ve emphasized the thoughts which stood out so strongly to my heart.

A contented Christian carries heaven about [with] him: for, what is heaven, but that sweet repose and full contentment that the soul shall have in God?  In contentment there are the first fruits of heaven. 
There are two things in a contented spirit, which make it like heaven.
(1.) God is there; something of God is to be seen in that heart. A discontented Christian is like a rough tempestuous sea; when the water is rough you can see nothing there; but when it is smooth and serene, then you may behold your face in the water. (Pr. 27:19)
When the heart rageth through discontent, it is like a rough sea, you can see nothing there, unless passion and murmuring; there is nothing of God, nothing of heaven in that heart: but by virtue of contentment, it is like the sea when it is smooth and calm, there is a face shining there; you may see something of Christ in that heart, a representation of all the graces.
(2.) Rest is there. O what a Sabbath is kept in a contented heart! What a heaven! A contented Christian is like Noah in the ark; though the ark were tossed with waves, Noah could sit and sing in the ark. The soul that is gotten into the ark of contentment, sits quiet, and sails above all the waves of trouble; he can sing in this spiritual ark; the wheels of the chariot move, but the axle-tree stirs not; the circumference of the heavens is carried about the earth, but the earth moves not out of its center. When we meet with motion and change in the creatures round about us, a contented spirit is not stirred nor moved out of its center.
The sails of a mill move with the wind, but the mill itself stands still, an emblem of contentment; when our outward estate moves with the wind of providence, yet the heart is settled through holy contentment; and when others are like quicksilver, shaking and trembling through disquiet, the contented spirit can say, as David, “O God my heart is fixed:” (Ps. 57:7) What is this but a piece of heaven?

While Watson’s thoughts have both excited and encouraged my heart, they have also added a wonderful implication to 1 Timothy 6:6–“Now godliness with contentment is great gain.”