John Flavel’s Theology Of The Holy Spirit -- By: Adam Embry

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 14:4 (Winter 2010)
Article: John Flavel’s Theology Of The Holy Spirit
Author: Adam Embry


John Flavel’s Theology Of The Holy Spirit

Adam Embry

The people quietly gathered on the shore at midnight, watching as a man waded in the water toward the large rock in the middle of the Kingsbridge estuary. The low water during spring tides provided an unlikely, but necessary, pulpit on the rock for the English minister in exile. At another beach the minister swam away from civil authorities seeking his arrest, but most often he secretly met with his church in the woods. Such scenes were all too familiar for English nonconformists living after the ejection of Puritan ministers from the Church of England in 1662.

The words from the preacher standing on the rock arrested the hearers’ attention. On this particular evening, urgency filled John Flavel’s voice, as he pleaded on behalf of the Holy Spirit for professing believers not to grieve the Spirit.

I plead now on his behalf, who hath so many times helped you to plead for yourselves with God.... O grieve not the holy Spirit of God by which you are sealed, to the day of redemption. There is nothing grieves him more than impure practices, for he is a holy Spirit.... He ... saith, as it were, to the unkind and disingenuous soul, “Hath thou thus requited me, for all the favours and kindness thou hast received from me? Have I quickened thee, when thou wast dead in transgressions? Did I descend upon thee in the preaching of the gospel, and communicate life, even the life of God, to thee; leaving others in the state of the dead? Have I shed forth such rich influences of grace and comfort upon thee? Comforting thee in all thy troubles, helping thee in all thy duties; satisfying thee in all thy doubts and perplexities of soul; saving thee, and pulling thee back from so many destructive temptations and dangers? What had been thy condition, if I had not come unto thee? Could the word have converted thee without me? Could ministers, could angels, have done that for thee which I did? And when I had quickened thee, and made thee a living soul, what couldst thou have done, without my exciting and assisting grace.”1

The Spirit And The Puritans

John Flavel’s preaching and theology of the

Holy Spirit were representative of English Puritans during his lifetime (1627-91), but Puritanism’s view of the Spirit was exceptional.2 Puritan scholar J. I. Packer believes, “The work of the Holy Spirit is the field in which the Puritans’ most valuable contributions to the church’s theological heritage were made.”3 Historian Geoffrey Nuttal...

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