Thursday, February 14, 2008

Mystery of Providence - Chapter Seven

The Work of Sanctification

Having lived in England for five years, I may be one of the few American readers to understand the footnote appearing at the end of this chapter, on page 108. The section looks like this:

Does not the providence of which this day* calls us to celebrate the memory, show the great regard God has for His people? O if not so, why were we not given up ‘as a prey to their teeth?’ ‘If it had not been the Lord who was on our side,’ then wicked men, compared to fire, water, wild beasts, ‘had swallowed us up quick’ (Ps. 124). O blessed be God for that teeming providence that has already brought forth more than seventy years liberty and peace to the Church of God. I suggest concerning this providence that you do by it as the Jews by their Purim (Esth. 9. 27, 28), and the rather, because we seem now to be as near danger by the same enemy as ever since that time. If such a mercy as this is forgotten, God may say: ‘I will deliver you no more’ (Judges 10. 13).

*Preached November 5.

Non-British readers may be saying "So, what's so important about November 5th?" November 5th, commonly known as "Guy Fawkes Day" commemorates the foiled Gunpowder Plot that attempted to destroy both English government and the English Protestant Reformation in one blow in 1605. I remember the bonfires, revelry, and the burning of the "Guys" during my youth in England, but paid little attention at the time to the historic significance of this event. Flavel points to God's providence in the uncovering of this plot and the more than seventy years liberty and peace to the Church of God that had been the result.

On a personal note, this was a difficult chapter. While I recognize the reality of sanctification in my life I realize just how deficient I continue to be. Each day I recognize my sin and rebellion, coupled with my total inability to please God in my flesh. The corruption of the heart shows itself in raising up great expectations to ourselves from the creature, and planning abundance of felicity and contentment from some promising and hopeful enjoyments we have in the world. (pg. 104)

Yet, my sense of filth and sin is in many ways the result of God's work within me. The things that I once ignored, rationalized, or even cultivated are now seen for what they truly are. The work of sanctification allows me to see myself for what I really am. I am not yet what I ought to be, but thanks be to God that I am no longer what I used to be.

And now let us consider and marvel that ever this great and blessed God should be so much concerned, as you have heard He is in all His providences, about such vile, despicable worms as we are! He does not need us, but is perfectly blessed and happy in Himself without us. We can add nothing to Him: ‘Can a man be profitable unto God?’ (Job 22. 2). No, the holiest of men add nothing to Him; yet, see how great account He makes of us. For does not His eternal electing love show the dear account He made of us (Eph. 1. 4, 5)? How ancient, how free, and how astonishing is this act of grace! This is that design which all providences are in pursuit of, and will not rest till they have executed. (pg. 107)

Let us consider, and let us marvel.

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