I’m presently reading through his second volume part 1 of John Flavel’s Works, The Method of Grace, Sermon 28. He is in this sermon speaking about the mortification of sin. His aim is application at this point. And here is a powerful paragraph I found this morning:
“The doctrine of Christ every where teacheth mortification : the whole stream of the gospel runs against sin ; the doctrine it teacheth is holy, pure, and heavenly ; it hath no tendency to extol corrupt nature, and feed its pride, by magnifying its freedom and power, or by stamping the merit and dignity of the blood of Christ upon its works and performances ; it never makes the death of Christ a cloke to cover sin, but an instrument to destroy it. And whatsoever doctrine it is which nourishes the pride of nature, to the disparagement of grace, or encourages licentiousness and fleshly lust, is not the doctrine of Christ, but a spurious offspring begotten by Satan upon the corrupt nature of man.“
That last phrase really gets at the point I am struck by. I might put it this way: The cross cannot be preached except that it deal with sin. And it is intolerable to teach of a cross without a cause.
Be careful that we do not accept a doctrine of Jesus that merely motivates people by positive thinking, but does not deal with the root of our problems. The same would be removing the foundation from our Bibles that tells us of sin and Satan and death. It introduces a house on a piece of property that can be blown away in an instant; it has no foundation to hold it. But because the Cross deals with sin, and Christ suffered and died for our sins, then we know that wherever a Christian is made there is a destruction of sin.
At a recent conference someone asked about the “hyper-grace movement” in which he described people teaching that the law is rescinded and that you can approach life without any moral obligation to God because you are under grace. Nevertheless, the speaker explained although we are not under the law in our justification, the law remains for us in regards to our sanctification. God does not justify those whom He does not sanctify. We should allow none to teach in our churches that hold to such a different doctrine than that of a cross that goes on dealing with sin in the lives of those who receive its teaching. The Cross always has a cause—The cross always deals with sin and does not cease to do so.
One example of how this takes place in preaching ministry is that of John Flavel’s preaching. Beeke writes,
“Flavel’s preaching was blessed by the Spirit. Robert Murray M‘Cheyne tells about an American immigrant, Luke Short, who remembered listening to Flavel preach in England when he was fifteen years old. The text was, “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema maranatha.” Eighty-five years after hearing Flavel preach on the horror of dying under God’s curse, the Spirit of God effectually converted him at the age of one hundred as he meditated on that sermon!”
Thus a sermon that has a Cross with a cause as its center goes on with the effects for many many years. The preaching of the gospel is so powerful that a man cannot get away from it; and if he knew of its delightful results, he would never want to get away, but run sooner to its cause to deal fully with sin.