Thursday, March 6, 2008

Review of John Flavel--The Mystery of Providence

Author: John Flavel

Pages: 221 pages

Publisher: Banner of Truth

Price: 5.99 USD

Genre: Puritan Paperback

Quick Summary:

As it says on the back cover the purpose of this work is to, “persuade Christians of the excellency of observing and meditating upon [Providence]”. It is especially important to keep in mind the difficulties that would have attended Flavel and his congregants in 1678, when this work was first published. 16 years earlier Flavel was one of the ministers booted out of his congregation in the Great Ejection of 1662. Flavel knew heartache. Yet, Flavel also knew a sovereign God. It is the workings of this Sovereign God in the midst of such heartache that he offers this work.

If you like history you will probably like the first part of this work. Flavel gives very few points of application, yet he tells numerous stories to give us evidence of Providence. This covers a little over the first 100 pages. Then, our author gives what appears to be the main body of this work; encouragement to adhere to our duty of meditating on Providence. Finally, about two-thirds of the way through the book, Flavel will appease our microwave culture by giving numerous points of application.

What I Liked:

Many people tend to like the second and third section the best. I love to hear stories and study history. Therefore, I tend to like the first section a little more. I do appreciate Flavel’s simplicity in building his argument. He does not take us through a ton of loops to overwhelm us with evidence of Providence and then exhort us to respond. He does it simply, I appreciate that. Even though the book is not filled with a ton of new information, it is so overwhelming with examples that it causes you to stop and think. That appears to be one of Flavel’s primary goals; to get us to stop and smell the beautiful garden that God has planted before our eyes. He succeeds.

What I Disliked:

My personality is not the type that enjoys sniffing at roses. If the roses are quickly changing and offering new sensory material for me to take in, then maybe I could hack it. But to spend an hour admiring the intricacies of a bed of very similar roses would, frankly, bore me. At times in reading this work I felt bored. I felt like screaming, “I get it”. Move on to something new John. This, however, is probably less the authors fault and more mine. Would this book have better served us had it been a little shorter and more pointed? I am not certain. Is it better to be overwhelmed by the evidence of Providence or is it better to be stimulated to such a point that it teases your appetite and causes you to taste and see that the Lord is good? We probably need both.

Should You Buy It?

Probably. This is not like a Bruised Reed where I will, like a puppy begging for bacon, urge you to read it. Nevertheless, it is an excellent book to read. I am going to give it a 3 out of 5 stars but it probably deserves better. If you like smelling the roses then you will love it. If you are like me and would rather take a quick glance and then move on to another bed of roses, then you probably need to read it as well. We could use a little slowing down.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars


  1. Instead of roses, I would say... California red wines. (as a Presbyterian, I'm allowed;-) While the different varieties may look almost the same, when slowly savored, the differences are evident- subtle, but there.

  2. great analogy....i'm not presbo so I can't say wine...I'll get kicked out of the MBC. :-)

    But seriously, thank you for that it.



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