Sunday, March 2, 2008

The Mystery of Providence Chapter 10

In this, the longest chapter, Flavel is concerned with showing us the advantages of meditating on Providence. According to our author, we are all quite prone to forget the great workings of God. Therefore, we are urged to frequently meditate upon and jog down for our memory the activities of Providence. These points are fairly self-explanatory and need to a greater exposition; the advantages of meditating on Providence are thus:

  • By this means you may maintain sweet and conscious communion with God from day to day
  • A great part of the pleasure and delight of the Christian life is made out of the observations of Providence
  • Consider what an effectual means the due observation of Providence will be to overpower and suppress the natural atheism that is in your hearts
  • The remembering and recording of the performances of Providence will be a singular support to faith in future exigencies
  • The remembrance of former providences will minister to your souls continual matter of praise and thanksgiving
  • The due observation of Providence will endear Jesus Christ every day more and more to your souls
  • The due observations of Providence have a marvelous efficacy to melt the heart, and make it thaw and submit before the Lord
  • Due observation of Providence will both beget and secure inward tranquility in your minds, amidst the vicissitudes and revolutions of things in this unstable vain world
  • Due observations of the ways of God in His providences towards us have an excellent usefulness and aptitude to advance and improve holiness in our hearts and lives
  • The consideration and study of Providence will be of singular use to us in a dying hour

Much of the suggestions in this chapter are not new. Flavel is merely giving further evidences for his argumentation. Throughout this work Flavel has given us much the same suggestions: meditate on the Providence of God because it will make your relationship with Jesus sweeter; meditate on the Providence of God because it will be used to overpower sin; meditate on the Providence of God because it will result in your praise of the Lord; meditate on the Providence of God because it will give you comfort in afflictions. Do you feel, as I do, that this work might have been more effective had it been shortened?

Do believers still have a “natural atheism” in their hearts?

Have you seen in your own experience that remembering the way that God delivered in the past gave more faith for future needs? Do you find it easier to trust God in faith than you did at the first?

How might observing Providence create holiness in our lives?


  1. I would add this to your explanation of his point: exigencies = emergencies.
    Also, I think believers do have a sort of "natural athiesm" in our hearts; while that phrase might be too strong, I think it to be a good description of what Paul means when he says, "So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members." Rom. 7:21-23 Perhaps a better phrase might be our "natural anti-theism," b/c our sinful flesh acts not out of a disbelief of God's existence, but out of a rebellion against Him; that said, I have heard several pastors speak of "practical athiesm: living in fear/worry/sin as if God didn't exist", and that seems to be similar to Flavel's point.
    Regarding the memory of Providence to make faith easier, I think "easier" might be too strong. I think it helps us see that faith isn't as crazy/irresponsible as it seems (I've seen that in my own life), because we've seen God do bigger stuff in our lives, or recorded for us in Scripture. Faith is still difficult, though, because it will not happen without submission to God through Christ; no amount of remembering Providence will equal submission.
    Thanks for the post, brother; hope the comment is helpful. Hope all's well in your home.

  2. Ahh, the classic Romans 7. As I'm sure you are aware, that is a very debatable text. Is Paul talking about himself before he came to Christ? Is Paul talking about himself as a Christian struggling with sin? My views have changed on this in the past couple of months...I now see it as Paul speaking of himself under the law (before Christ).

    But, even without Romans 7 could we still say that believers have a natural atheism? I think you make good points about "practical atheism". Thanks for engaging this question. It's a decent one and a very important one. Because if its true that Christ has taken away our "natural atheism" and we are still clinging to it or speaking as if we have it...then, well, that's dangerous. If we still have a propensity towards "natural atheism" and we pretend we don't...well, that's dangerous.

    Great thoughts, Will. I appreciate your interaction. It is my hope that others will join the discussion. It's an important question.

    P.S. Great point, "No amount of remembering Providence will equal submission". I like that.

  3. I think Paul was speaking of his present state. I relate to what he says. I know in my heart of hearts I do not want to sin. It repulses me. But yet, I do find my flesh (old self)fighting against my new self.It is a battle that I can't seem to win. But if I stand firm with Christ, He gives me the power to overcome in Him The sad think is I do not always cling to Christ. Thank God for His mercy and work on the cross. Thank God for His providences that when I desire to sin, He often places obstacles in front of me. Here is a simple example that happened just the other day.

    A nice looking lady was walking down a sidewalk by the hospital. As I was driving by, I spotted her up ahead. Now this lady was wearing a short skirt and had an very nice figure from the distance I was at the time. In my new man , I did not want to ogle at her or gain lustful thoughts, but yet It was as if I couldn't help it. I knew I was going to check her out. But as I got closer all of a sudden the traffic picked up, the car in front of me stopped for no real apparent reason and before I could get moving again, she disappeared in to the building. My first reaction was , drat that guy had to stop and make me miss this opportunity, but then I realised ---no God planned{providence) it that way for my good, and I had to thank God for His protection. Part of me wanted too, but really, in the depthss of my soul, I did not want to sin.

  4. By the way. I want to thank you so much for your summaries of these chapeters and books. I realise that probably not many read them, but I think this is a great ministry. I blog so much lately that I just do not seem to have time to get to all of them. Thanks again.

  5. Fred,

    Thanks for your encouragement. Also, thanks for sharing the be honest I thought for certain that you were going to say that the girl turned out to be a dude. But I digress :-) I thank God for protecting you...I know that our hearts are really deceptive, and that we battle hard core. I also know that Romans 7 really does sound like our experience.

    However, we have to be really careful not to view it based on our experience. As one that used to hold to it being a "present state" Christian, I must say that I no longer hold to that view. I know that some pretty heavy hitters like Sproul, most all of the Puritans, and possibly Piper hold to it being the Christian. But contextually speaking I no longer can allow myself to believe that it is referring to the believer. I do not see that as Paul's point, and think that we really need to listen to some of the terms that Paul uses there. Can we find what you describe in other texts...probably so. I don't think you need Romans 7 to develop the idea of our battle with the flesh.

    So, briefly let me give you the evidence...also knowing that its not a HUGE issue;

    1) Keep in mind the context. Paul is discussing whether or not the Law causes one to sin. And this is in the middle of the discussion on us being freed from the Law. (7:3) Which also is involved with Paul's entire argument in Chapter 6.

    2) The "good" in this passage must be interpreted in the context...and it's referring to the Law.

    3) It is difficult to understand what Paul means in verse 24 (in my opinion the major shift) if Paul is talking about the Christian as he is now. This "body of death" is the slave body. That is the climax of what Paul is saying. Paul has just said in Chapter 6 that we have been delivered from this "soma" (slave body). Why then would we be still wondering who will deliver us? Therefore, v.24 makes better sense if we understand this to be Paul speaking from a pre-Christian struggling with following the Law.

    4)Again if we look at 8:3, it seems to flow best to think of Paul now shifting his argument to us in our Christian state..and what Christ has done.

    So, the way I see it, Paul is discussing in Chapter 6 what Christ has done...he then begins discussing the implications for the he does this he reverts back to his old state under the Law, to explain it...then again he shifts to our present blessings to display that Christ has freed us from this Law. Jesus did what the Law could not do (could not do in our sinful state). Seems to flow best in the context.

    What then about our battles with sin? Because we obviously still battle sin? This is where we must understand Paul's admonishment in 6:12-14. Do not let sin reign. Sin is still battling against us...but we do not necessarily have this dual nature of "not being able to do what we want to do". We no longer sin out of our nature...we sin contrary to our nature. Don't forget we've been changed! Our hearts are no longer deceitful above all things.

    Still growing in this,



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