Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Medicine for Christian mourners

I make it a point not to go too long without reading something from the Puritans. I haven't found another body of Christian literature that does a better job of bringing my spiritual compass back to true north. Thanks to the Puritan Paperbacks series from Banner of Truth these writings are more accessible than ever.

I've been reading John Flavel -- Facing Grief: Counsel for Mourners. Flavel (1627-1691) was a pastor in England and one of the hundreds of ministers who resigned from the Church of England in the Great Ejection of 1662. Along with loss of livelihood this brought other persecutions, including the threat of imprisonment. Flavel's parents died after contracting the plague while being confined in Newgate Prison. Flavel himself buried three wives and a child. He was a man well acquainted with the subject he writes about in this book first published in 1674 as A Token for Mourners. It's written as an extended exposition of Luke 7:13 and was something of a bestseller -- as recounted by Mark Dever in his foreward to the new edition from Banner of Truth.

For the next 150 years Flavel's Token was printed and re-printed in England and America. The times demanded that the heart-breaking experience of the loss of children be faced by most parents. And generations of Christian parents found comfort through this little book. [viii]

Death was more of a present reality for our forebears than it is to us in our medically advanced society. They had daily personal reminders of how fragile life was. Yet death and the grief it brings is still a universal part of the human experience. I liken this book to a vial of medicine that one keeps on hand knowing it will be needed someday, if not today. Flavel sets out his purpose in an opening letter addressed to "dear friends" grieving the loss of a loved one.

It is not my design to exasperate your troubles, but to heal them; and for that purpose have I sent you these papers, which I hope may be of use to you and many others in your condition, since they are the after-fruits of my own troubles; things that I have not commended to you from another hand, but which I have, in some measure, proved and tasted in my own trials. [xi]

Later in the week I'll share some tidbits from Flavel's pastoral counsel to Christian mourners.

1 comment:

shane lems said...

Glad you're reading this; I'm confident it will bring you Christian comfort.