Tag Archives: Puritan theology

Puritan Wisdom from John Flavel

John Flavel (1627?-1691) was a 17th-century Puritan Presbyterian minister. He accepted a call to a church in Dartmouth, England in 1656. I am currently reading The Method of Grace, a book of 34 of his (long!) sermons, and I find their content substantive and compelling. I am reprinting this brief excerpt because I find it especially so.

First, One that is truly burdened with sin, will not allow himself to live in the secret practice of sin; either your trouble will put an end to your course of sinning, or your sinning will put an end to your troubles. Consult 2 Corinthians 7:11 –John Flavel: The Method of Grace, Sermon No. 9

John Flavel

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A small county murder’s nexus with a Puritan

My husband was  counsel to the defendant in a murder trial this week. The trial ran from Tuesday morning through today (Friday) around noon. The jury convicted the defendant of second-degree murder after deliberating an hour and a half. The slaying occurred a little more than two years ago.

The defendant, who has Parkinson’s Disease, testified that he feared the victim, with whom he was friends, because, he claimed, the victim had walked into his house, and because, he alleged, the victim had once shoved him (“threw me down”) on the stairs. The defendant also testified that the victim had robbed him at various times.

Things evidently didn’t improve, so when friend victim walked in, friend defendant shot him.  The .45 caliber bullet took quite a tour through the victim’s chest, heart, aorta, and arm. A medical autopsy expert testified and showed grizzly slides showing a very great deal of blood. I attended only Thursday morning; my chief interest in the trial was hearing the expert’s testimony.

Sentencing negotiations are underway. The defendant told me yesterday that he looks forward to prison.

I was reading The Bruised Reed by Puritan Richard Sibbes (1577–1635) today, recovering from the rare occasion of sitting in on a trial, even just one day, for just a few hours. I was there because I like the defendant. He thanked me very graciously for a roll I served him at the jail’s Thanksgiving dinner last year. My husband and I were among several people who helped serve the dinner. It was my favorite Thanksgiving of all time. But Sibbes had something serious to say that seemed connected to friend defendant:

“All light that is not spiritual, because it lacks the strength of sanctifying grace, yields to every little temptation, especially when it is fitted and suited to personal inclinations.” (Richard Sibbes: The Bruised Reed)

“Personal inclinations.” They should probably be treated like flashing signs at railroad crossings. Ignore them at terrible, bloody peril.

 

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