Christ pacifies all inward troubles, and commands peace when their spirits are tumultuous—appeasing strife within. When the tumultuous affections are up, and in a hurry; when anger, hatred, and revenge begin to rise in the soul, this hushes and stills all. “I will hearken (saith the saints) what God the Lord will speak, for He will speak peace to His people, and to His saints” (Ps 75:8). He that saith to the raging sea, be still, and it obeys Him; He alone can pacify the disquieted spirit. They say of frogs, that if they be croaking never so much in the night, bring but a light among them, and they are all quiet: such a light is the peace of Christ among our disordered affections.
Adapted from The Whole Works of the Reverend John Flavel, 1:205–206.
“I have set the Lord always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.”
This is the way to live. With God always before us, we shall have the noblest companionship, the holiest example, the sweetest consolation, and the mightiest influence. This must be a resolute act of the mind. ‘I have set,’ and it must be maintained as a set and settled thing. Always to have an eye to the Lord’s eye, and an ear for the Lord’s voice — this is the right state for the godly man. His God is near him, filling the horizon of his vision, leading the way of his life, and furnishing the theme of his meditation. What vanities we should avoid, what sins we should overcome, what virtues we should exhibit, what joys we should experience if we did indeed set the Lord always before us! Why not?
This is the way to be safe. The Lord being ever in our minds, we come to feel safety and certainty because of His being so near. He is at our right hand to guide and aid us; and hence we are not moved by fear, nor force, nor fraud, nor fickleness. When God stands at a man’s right hand, that man is himself sure to stand. Come on, then, ye foemen of the truth! Rush against me like a furious tempest, if ye will. God upholds me. God abides with me. Whom shall I fear?
Faith’s Checkbook, 337.
THIS world’s a forest, where, from day to day,
Bears, wolves, and lions, range and seek their prey;
Amidst them all poor harmless lambs are fed,
And by their very dens in safety led.
They roar upon us, but are held in chains;
Our shepherd is their keeper, he maintains
Our lot. Why then should we so trembling stand?
We meet them, true, but in their keeper’s hand.
He that to raging seas such bounds hath put,
The mouths of rav’nous beasts can also shut.
Sleep in the woods, poor lambs, yourselves repose
Upon his care, whose eyes do never close.
If unbelief in you don’t lose their chain,
Fear not their struggling, that’s but all in vain.
If God can check the waves by smallest sand,
A twined thread may hold these in his hand.
Shun ṣin, keep close to Christ; for other evils
You need not fear, tho’ compass’d round with devils.
The Whole Works of the Reverend John Flavel, 5:255.
God respects you as much in a low as in a high condition, and therefore it need not so much trouble you to be made low. Not only so but, to speak home, he manifests more of his love, grace, and tenderness in the time of affliction than prosperity. As God did not at first choose you because you were high, so he will not forsake you because you are low. Men may look shy upon you, and alter their respects as your condition is altered. When providence has blasted your estates, your summer friends may grow strange, as fearing you may be troublesome to them. But will God do so? No, no!
Adapted from The Whole Works of the Reverend John Flavel, 5:442.
The great work of prayer is to lift up the heart to God
To withdraw the heart from all created things which we see and feel here below, that we may converse with God in heaven: “Unto thee lift I up mine eyes, O thou that dwellest in the heavens” (Ps 123:1) and “Let us lift up our heart with our hands unto God in the heavens” (Lam 3:41). Prayer doth not consist in a multitude and clatter of words, but in the getting up of the heart to God, that we may behave ourselves as if we were alone with God, in the midst of glorious saints and angels.
There is a double advantage which we have by this getting the soul into heaven in prayer. It is a means to free us from distractions and doubts. To free us from distractions and other intercurrent thoughts. Until we get our hearts out of the world, as if we were dead and shut up to all present things, how easily is the heart carried away with the thoughts of earthly concernments! Until we can separate and purge our spirits, how do we interline our prayers with many ridiculous thoughts!
It is too usual for us to deal with God as an unskillful person that will gather a posy for his friend, and puts in as many or more stinking weeds than he doth choice flowers. The flesh interposeth, and our carnal hearts interline and interlace our prayers with vain thoughts and earthly distractions. When with our censer we come to offer incense to God, we mingle sulfur with our incense.
Therefore we should labour all that we can to get the heart above the world into the presence of God and company of the blessed, that we may deal with him as if we were by him in heaven, and were wholly swallowed up of his glory.
Though our bodies are on earth, yet our spirits should be with our Father in heaven. For want of practising this in prayer, these distractions increase upon us. So for doubts, when we look to things below, even the very manifestations of God to us upon earth, we have many discouragements, dangers without and difficulties within: till we get above the mists of the lower world, we can see nothing of clearness and comfort; but when we can get God and our hearts together, then we can see there is much in the fountain, though nothing in the stream; and though little on earth, yet we have a God in heaven.
The Complete Works of Thomas Manton, 1:60–61.