In the Pocket Puritans Series
Often considered a modern phenomenon, binge drinking is in fact an age-old problem. John Flavel, a 17th-century Puritan minister in the naval port of Dartmouth, England, pulls no punches as he confronts the sin of drunkenness head on. Flavel’s treatment is a highly relevant expose of the soul-destroying evils of this detestable sin.
“Drunkenness is like a sudden landfall, which brings a great deal of dirt with it.”
“To read the work of a Puritan doctor of the soul is to enter a rich world of spiritual theology to feed the mind, heart-searching analysis to probe the conscience, Christ-centered grace to transform the heart, and wise counsel to direct the life. This series of Pocket Puritans provides all this in miniature, but also in abundance.”
— Sinclair B. Ferguson
Flavel’s Ten effective arguments against the practice:
- It should exceedingly dissuade from this sin, to consider that it an high abuse of the bounty and goodness of God in affording us those sweet refreshments, to make our lives comfortable to us upon earth.
- It degrades a man from the honour of his creation, and equalizes him to the beast that perishes.
- Drunkenness is a a sin by which you greatly wrong and abuse your own body.
- Drunkenness wastes and scatters your estate, poverty attends excess.
- Consider what vile and ignominious characters the Spirit of God has put upon the subjects of this sin.
- Sadly consider, there can be nothing of the sanctifying Spirit in a soul that is under the dominion of this lust.
- It is a sin over which many direful woes and threats hang in the Word.
- Drunkenness is a leading sin, which has a great retinue and attendance of other sins waiting on it.
- That drunkards are in Scripture marked out for hell; the characters of death are upon them.
- That it is a sin out of whose power few, or none are ever rescued and reclaimed.
About the Author
The eldest son of the Rev. Richard Flavel, John Flavel was born at Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, about 1628. Thus his childhood was spent in the stormy years prior to the Civil War in 1642. Following the defeat of the Royalist cause he ‘plied his studies hard’ as a commoner at University College, Oxford. Then, in 1650, entered the ministry to share in that sunny decade of spiritual reaping which preceded the restoration of Charles II.
Flavel’s life and work was carried on in the county of Devon, first in the country parish of Diptford and from 1656 in the thriving sea-port of Dartmouth. Through the last years of the Protectorate and until that August day in 1662 when about 120 ministers in Devon and approaching 1,800 in England as a whole were turned out of their livings for failing to comply with the terms of the Act of Uniformity, Flavel preached every week at Townstall, the mother-church which stood on the hill outside the town.
Nonconformist and Persecuted
Flavel held a prominent place in the suffering ranks of the nonconformists. He endured a full share of the persecution which continued until James II fled the country in 1688. The repressive legislation which followed 1662, while it broke the evangelical ministry of England in a public sense, scattered Gospel light into new areas and led not infrequently to the use of strange pulpits.
We hear of Flavel preaching at midnight in the great hall of a house at South Molton. On another occasion in a woods, three miles from Exeter. But the most colourful site of all (though it could not have been a comfortable one) was at Saltstone Rock, an island in the Salcombe Estuary which is submerged at high tide. But wherever Flavel was forced to wander he was never far from Dartmouth. ‘O that there were not a prayerless family in this town!’ was one of many petitions he offered for Dartmouth.
Taking advantage of the Indulgence given by Charles II in 1672 (for which he and 163 of his congregation wrote an address of thanks to the King) Flavel obtained licence for a Nonconformist meeting-house in the town, and, when this was withdrawn, he stayed at his post until the summer of 1682 when his person was in such danger that he took ship to London on July 10.
In London Flavel joined the congregation of his friend William Jenkyn. He narrowly escaped arrest when Jenkyn was seized in September 1684. Declining an invitation to succeed his friend, Flavel again returned to Dartmouth where that same year an effigy of him was burned by a angry mob! But despite all hazards, Flavel maintained a ministry among his scattered flock until that November day in 1688 when the bells of Exeter, Plymouth, and no doubt of Dartmouth also, rang to welcome the coming of William of Orange – an event which led quickly to the flight of James II.
By the time of this ‘Glorious Revolution’ Flavel’s work was approaching its end. Speaking for his fellow-ministers he wrote, ‘We have long borne the burden and heat of the day; we are veteran soldiers almost worn out.’ While visiting Exeter to preach he died suddenly of a massive stroke on June 26, 1691, in his 64th year.