A Classic Study by John Flavel (1628Ė1691)

[Here, we continue our reprint of excerpts from John Flavelís book Navigation Spiritualized. John Flavel was a 17th century minister in the seaside town of Dartmouth, England. A good many of his parishioners made their living on the sea, and so Mr. Flavel wrote Navigation Spiritualized, a book which draws parallels between things of the sea and spiritual things.]óEd.


Casting Off Cargo

To save the ship, rich ladingís cast away,

Thy soul is shipwrecked if thy lusts do stay.



In storms and distresses at sea, the richest commodities are cast overboard; they stand not upon it, when life and all is in jeopardy and hazard (see Jonah 1:5). The mariners cast forth the wares that were in the ship into the sea, to lighten it. And, they cast out the very tacklings of the ship (see Acts 27:18,19). How highly soever men prize such commodities, yet reason tells them, it were better these should perish, than life. Satan himself could say, "Skin for skin, and all that a man hath will he give for his life" (Job 2:4).



And surely, it is every way as highly reasonable that men should mortify, cast out, and cut off their dearest lusts, rather than their immortal souls should sink and perish in the storm of Godís wrath. Life indeed is a precious treasure, and highly valued by men: You know what Solomon saith, that "a living dog is better than a dead lion" (Eccl. 9:4). And we find men willing to part with their estates, limbs, or any outward comfort for the preservation of it. The woman in the gospel spent all she had on the physicians for her health, a degree below life. Some men indeed do much overvalue their lives, and part with Christ and peace of conscience for it; but he that thus saves it, shall lose. Now if life be so much worth, what then is the soul worth? Alas! Life is but "a vapour, which appeareth for a little while, and then vanisheth away," (James 4:14).

Life indeed is more worth than all the world, but my soul is more worth than ten thousand lives. Nature teacheth you to value the first so high, and grace should teach you to value the second much higher (see Matt. 19:20). Now here is the case: Either you must part with your sins, or with your soul; if these be not cast out, both must sink together. "If ye live after the flesh, ye must die," (Rom. 8:13). God saith to you in this case, as to Ahab, when he spared Benhadad: "Because thou hast let go a man whom God hath appointed to destruction, therefore thy life shall go for his life" (I Kings 20:42). Guilt will raise a storm of wrath, as Jonah did, if not cast out.



And must sin or the soul perish? Must my life, yea, my eternal life go for it if I spare it? O then let me not be cruel to mine own soul in sparing my sin; O my soul, this foolish pity and cruel indulgence will by thy ruin: If I spare it, God hath said, He will not spare me (see Deut. 29:20). It is true the pains of mortification are sharp, but yet is easier than the pains of hell. To cut off a right hand, or pluck out a right eye is hard; but to have my soul cut off eternally from God is harder. Is it as easy (O my soul!) to burn for them in hell, as to mortify them on earth? Surely, it is "profitable for me, that one member perish, rather than that all be cast into hell" (Matt. 5:24). I see the merchant willing to part with rich wares if embarked with them in a storm. And those that have gangrened legs or arms, willingly stretch them out to be cut off to preserve life: And shall I be willing to endure no difficulties for my soul? Christ reckoned souls worth His blood: And is it not worth my self-denial? Lord, let me not warm a snake in my bosom, that will at last sting me to the heart.

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