Grace and Evil: The Signs of Their Unfolding Maturescence

Written by John Flavel
Taken and adapted from
Published by Timothy Williams

WHEAT-fm-singerman-frank.blogspot.com_THREE SIGNS OF THE MATURITY OF GRACE.

1. When wheat is near ripe, it bows the head, and stoops lower than when it was green. When the people of God are near ripe for heaven, they grow more humble and self-denying than in the days of their first profession. The longer a saint grows in this world, the better he is still acquainted with his own heart, and his obligations to God; both which are very humbling things. Paul had one foot in heaven, when he called himself the chiefest of sinners, and least of saints (1 Tim. 1: 15; Eph. 3: 8). A Christian, in the progress of his knowledge and grace, is like a vessel cast into the sea; the more it fills, the deeper it sinks. Those that went to study at Athens (saith Plutarch), at first coming seemed to themselves to be wise men ; afterwards, only lovers of wisdom ; and after that only rhetoricians, such as could speak of wisdom, but knew little of it; and last of all, idiots in their own apprehensions; still with the increase of learning laying aside their pride and arrogance.

2. When harvest is nigh, the grain is more solid and pithy than ever it was before ; green wheat is soft and spongy, but ripe wheat is substantial and weighty : so it is with Christians; the affections of a young Christian, perhaps, are more fervent and sprightly, but those of a grown Christian are more judicious and solid ; their love to Christ abounds more and more in all judgment (Phil. 1: 9). The limbs of a child are more active and pliable ; but as he grows up to a perfect state, the parts are more consolidated and firmly knit. The fingers of an old musician are not so nimble, but he hath a more judicious ear in music than in his youth.

3. When wheat is dead ripe, it’s apt to fall of its own accord to the ground, and there shed; whereby it doth, as it were, anticipate the harvest-man, and calls upon him to put in the sickle. Not unlike to which are the lookings and longings, the groanings and hastenings of ready Christians to their expected glory; they hasten to the coming of the Lord; or, as Montanus more fitly renders it, they hasten the coming of the Lord; i. e., they are urgent and instant in their desires and cries, to hasten His coming; their desires sally forth to meet the Lord, they willingly take death by the hand; as the corn bends to the earth, so do these souls to heaven. This shews harvest to be near.


When summers are even dead ripe for hell, these signs appear upon them, or by these at least you may conclude those souls not to be far from wrath, upon whom they appear.

1. When conscience is wasted and grown past feeling, having no remorse for sin; when it ceases to check, reprove, and smite for sin any more, the day of that sinner is at hand, his harvest is even come. The greatest violation of conscience is the greatest of sins; this was the case of the forlorn Gentiles, among whom Satan had such a plentiful harvest; the patience of God suffered them to grow till their consciences were grown seared and past feeling (Eph. 4:19). When a member is so mortified, that if you lance and cut it never so much, no fresh blood or quick flesh appears, nor doth the man feel any pain in all this, then it is time to cut it off.

2. When men give themselves over to the satisfaction of their lust, to commit sin with greediness, then they are grown to a maturity of sin; when men have slipped the reins of conscience, and rush headlong into all impiety, then the last sands of God’s patience are running down. Thus Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them, in like manner, gave themselves over to wickedness and strange sins; and then justice quickly trusses them up for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.

3. That man is even ripe for hell, that is become a contriver of sin, a designer, a student in wickedness; one would think it strange, that any man should set his invention on work upon such a subject as sin is; that any should study to become a dexterous artist this way: and yet the Scripture frequently speaks of such, “whose bellies prepare deceit” (Job 15: 35), “who travail in pain to bring forth ” this deformed birth (ver. 20), ” who wink with their eyes ” whilst plotting wickedness, as men use to do when they are most intent upon the study of any knotty problem (Prov.6:13). These have so much of hell already in them, that they are more than half in hell already.

4. He that was a forward professor of Christ is turned a bitter persecutor, is also within a few rounds of the top of the ladder, the contempt of their light, the Lord hath already punished upon them in their obduracy and madness against the light. Reader, if thou be gone thus far, thou art almost gone beyond all hope of recovery. Towards other sinners God usually exercises more patience, but with such he makes short work. When Judas turns traitor to his Lord, he is quickly sent to his own place. Such as are again entangled and overcome of those lusts they once seemed to have clean escaped, these bring upon themselves swift destruction, and their judgment lingers not (2 Pet. 2: 1, 3).

5. He that can endure no reproof or control in the way of his sin, but derides all counsel, and, like a strong current, rages at and sweeps away all obstacles in his way, will quickly fill into the dead lake. ” He that being often reproved hardens his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy” (Prov. 29. 1). This is a death-spot, a hell-spot, wherever it appears. From this very symptom the prophet plainly predicted the approaching ruin of Amaziah, “I know that God hath determined to destroy thee, because thou hast done this, and hast not hearkened to my voice” (2 Chron. 25: 16). He that will not be timely counseled, shall quickly be destroyed.

6. Lastly, when a man comes to glory in his sin, and boast of his wickedness, then it is time to cut him down, ”whose end is destruction, whose glory is in their shame” (Phil. 3: 19). 

You see now what are signs of a full ripe sinner; and when it comes to this, either with a nation, or with a single person, then ruin is near. –(Joel 3: 13; Gen. 15: 16).

It is in the filling up of the measure of sin, as in the filling of a vessel cast into the sea, which rolls from side to side, taking in the water by little and little, till it be full, and then down it sinks to the bottom.


Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage:  John Flavel (c.1627–1691) was an English Presbyterian clergyman, puritan, and author. Flavel was born at Bromsgrove in Wordesterchire. He was the elder son of Richard Flavel, described in contemporary records as “a painful and eminent minister.” After receiving his early education, partly at home and partly at the grammar-schools of Bromsgrove and Haslar, he entered University College, Oxford. Soon after taking orders in 1650 he obtained a curacy at Diptford, Devon, and on the death of the vicar he was appointed to succeed him. From Diptford he removed in 1656 to Dartmouth. He was ejected from his living by the passing of the Act of Uniformity in 1662, but continued to preach and administer the sacraments privately till the Five Mile Act of 1665, when he retired to Slapton, 5 miles away. He then lived for a time in London, but returned to Dartmouth, where he labored till his death in 1691. He was married four times. He was a vigorous and voluminous writer, and not without a play of fine fancy.

His principal works are his Navigation Spiritualized (1671); The Fountain of Life, in forty-two Sermons (1672); The Method of Grace (1680); Pneumatologia, a Treatise on the Soul of Man (1698); A Token for Mourners; Husbandry Spiritualized (1699).