The Mystery of Providence by John Flavel


12 books every Christian should own and read

A series of book reviews used for the monthly church bulletin of 2013


Book no. 10: The Mystery of Providence by John Flavel 


One of the first endeavours of the newly formed Banner of Truth Trust was to commence a book series entitled “Puritan Paperbacks”. This series represents the best British Calvinistic literature of the 16th and 17th centuries. Most of the titles had been out of print for many years and through the work of the Trust they found new light of day. At present there are over 40 volumes which comprise the Puritan Paperback series and while I have benefited greatly from the ones I have read, I have not read as many as I ought. Let me begin by saying that you will be blessed by whichever one of the titles you may choose to read. Probably my favourite up to this point is the Mystery of Providence by John Flavel.


Some people resist reading a book as soon as the word Puritan is mentioned. Unfairly they are thought to be long winded and dry. Flavel’s writing is one example which debunks this view. He approaches this important subject in systematic and devotional fashion:


Part one is entitled ‘The Evidence of Providence’. In this section Flavel looks at how God’s providence shapes the every-day affairs of our lives. Where, when and to whom we were born is no accident; our conversion is not a case of good luck. He explains the way in which the hand of God protects us from the evil one and provides for our every need.


Part two is entitled ‘Meditation on the Providence of God’. Building upon part one, Flavel explains how we should make good use of God’s providence by meditating upon it. All too often we fail to see the sovereignty of God in our lives and as a consequence we fail to worship Him as we should and we struggle to trust Him for the future. As an antidote Flavel advises his readers to consider providence at work in their own lives in the light of scripture. We are directed by the Word of God in life not providence, but the Word helps us to understand providence and to make use of it.


Part three is entitled ‘Application of the Doctrine of Providence’. This section is concerned particularly with the practical problems associated with God’s providence. Once again we are exhorted with the need to consider God’s dealings with us from the perspective of His Word.  Dark providences will only lead to despair unless we can approach them with a Biblical mindset.


This book is a tonic to the doubt, the self-sufficiency, and indifference we must continually overcome. Flavel wants us to see the hand of God in absolutely every aspect of our lives. This has profound implications as to how we can and should live. Far from being long winded and dry this is a lively and practical book which is sure to stimulate and encourage all who take the time to read it and take its lessons to heart.