January 2, 2012

Flavel on Keeping a Clean Conscience

John Flavel (1628?-1691) was an English Puritan who John Piper once refered to as one of the Redwoods of the Christian faith. In his work A Practical Treatisie of Fear, Flavel offers six rules for keeping a clean conscious. Salvation is by Christ alone, but our consciences often plague us because of unresolved sins. The best way for a Christian to keep a clear conscience is to be mindful to avoid the sins that would splatter it. Flavel's wisdom is worth meditating upon, especially at the start of a new year.

1. “Over-awe your hearts every day, and in every place with the eye of God.”  Speak and live as someone who knows that God always sees him.

2. Do no action that you dare not preface with prayer. Touch not that you dare not pray for a blessing upon; if you dare not pray, dare not to engage; if you cannot spend your prayers before, be confident, shame and guilt will follow after."

3. “Be more afraid of grieving God, or wounding conscience, than of displeasing or losing all the friends you have in the world.” Remember that sinning to avoid danger is like sinking your ship to avoid pirates.

4. Consider the clear council that you would give another person in the same situation. We're too prone to adjust the standards when our own interests are at stake.  On the other hand, King David's judgment was upright when he unknowingly judged himself in Nathan's parable.

5. Be willing to bear faithful reproofs from men as if they were from God.

6. “Be mindful daily of your dying-day, and your great audit-day, and do all with respect to them.”

All quotes from John Flavel, Works, 3:306. Text not in quotation marks is my paraphrase.


  1. good stuff nate! thanks for posting some flavel!

  2. #3 Reminds me of E. Welch's book "when people are big and God is small"

    I have not heard something like #5 before that is good to think about


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