The Christology Of John Flavel -- By: Brian H. Cosby

Journal: Puritan Reformed Journal
Volume: PRJ 04:1 (Jan 2012)
Article: The Christology Of John Flavel
Author: Brian H. Cosby


The Christology Of John Flavel

Brian H. Cosby

John Flavel In His Historical-Theological Context

John Flavel’s (bap. 1630-1691) The Fountain of Life Opened Up; or, A Display of Christ in His Essential and Mediatorial Glory1 (1673) is arguably the most extensive treatment of the person and work of Christ published in English Puritanism during the seventeenth century.2 The work spans over five hundred pages and presents a blend of meticulous theology and practical application. Despite a recent awakening of scholarly studies on Flavel, he remains a virtual unknown, overshadowed by the Puritan “greats”: John Owen, Richard Baxter, John Bunyan, Richard Sibbes, Thomas Goodwin, Stephen Charnock, William Perkins, and Thomas Boston.3 But during the seventeenth

century, there is substantial evidence that Flavel had as much influence as any of these Puritans.4

Anthony á Wood (1632-1695), the Oxford historian and Royalist, once wrote that Flavel had “more disciples than ever John Owen the independent or Rich. Baxter the presbyterian.”5 One of Flavel’s contemporaries, John Galpine, wrote that Flavel was “deservedly famous among the Writers of this Age.”6 Shortly after Flavel’s death, the New England Puritan and Harvard College president, Increase Mather (1639-1723), wrote optimistically of Flavel’s lasting influence: “[Flavel’s] works, already published, have made his name precious in both Englands; and it will be so, as long as the earth shall endure.”7 To be sure, Flavel’s influence remained strong during the revivals in New England during the early 1740s. Jonathan Edwards quotes “Holy Mr. Flavel”8—as he calls him—more than anyone else in Religious Affections (1746) except for Solomon Stoddard (1643-1728) and Thomas Shepard (1605-1649). In fact, James I. Packer calls Edwards the “spiritual heir” of Flavel.9 But since the mid-nineteenth century, his influence seems to have waned.10

John Flavel was born in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, and baptized on September 26, 1630. His father, Richard Flavel (d. 1665), w...

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