Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Flavel, John (1630?-1691)

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FLAVEL, JOHN (1630?–1691), presbyterian divine, eldest son of the Rev. Richard Flavel, described as ‘a painful and eminent minister,’ who was incumbent successively of Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, Hasler and Willersey, Gloucestershire (from which last living he was ejected in 1662), was born in or about 1630 at Bromsgrove. Having received his early education at the schools of the neighbourhood, he entered University College, Oxford, at an early age, and gained a good reputation for talent and diligence. On 27 April 1650 he was sent by ‘the standing committee of Devon’ to Diptford, a parish on the Avon, five miles from Totnes, where the minister, Mr. Walplate, had become infirm. On 17 Oct. 1650, after examination and the preaching of a ‘trial sermon,’ he was ordained Mr. Walplate's assistant by the classis at Salisbury. He continued to minister at Diptford for about six years, succeeding the senior minister when he died, and endearing himself greatly to the people, not only by his earnestness, but by his easy dealings with them in the matter of tithes. In 1656 he removed to Dartmouth, though the Diptford emoluments were much greater. On the passing of the Act of Uniformity (1662) he was ejected, but continued to preach in private until the Five Mile Act drove him from Dartmouth. He kept as near it, however, as possible, removing to Slapton, five miles off, and there preached twice each Sunday to all who came, among whom were many of his old parishioners. On the granting of the indulgence of 1671 he returned to Dartmouth, and continued to officiate there even after the liberty to do so was withdrawn. In the end he found himself obliged to remove to London, travelling by sea and narrowly escaping shipwreck in a storm, which is said to have ceased in answer to his prayers. Finding that he would be safer at Dartmouth he returned there, and met with his people nightly in his own house, until in 1687, on the relaxation of the penal laws, they built a meeting-house for him. Just before his death he acted as moderator at a meeting of dissenting ministers held at Topsham. He died suddenly of paralysis at Exeter on 26 June 1691, and was buried in Dartmouth churchyard. Wood bitterly comments on the violence of his dissent.

Flavel was four times married: first to Jane Randal; secondly, to Elizabeth Morries; thirdly, to Ann Downe; and, lastly, to a daughter of the Rev. George Jeffries. There is a portrait of him in Dr. Williams's library, London.

He was a voluminous and popular author. There is a play of fine fancy in some of them, such as the ‘Husbandry Spiritualised.’ All display vigorous diction and strong evangelical sentiments. They comprise:

  1. ‘Husbandry Spiritualised,’ Lond. 1669.
  2. ‘Navigation Spiritualised,’ Lond. 1671.
  3. ‘The Fountain of Life Opened, or a Display of Christ in his Essential and Mediatorial Glory, containing forty-two sermons,’ Lond. 1672.
  4. ‘A Saint indeed,’ Lond. 1671.
  5. ‘A Token for Mourners,’ Lond. 1674.
  6. ‘The Seaman's Companion,’ Lond. 1676.
  7. ‘Divine Conduct, or the Mystery of Providence Opened,’ Lond. 1678, 1814, 1822.
  8. ‘The Touchstone of Sincerity,’ Lond. 1678.
  9. ‘The Method of Grace in the Gospel Redemption,’ Lond. 1680.
  10. ‘A Practical Treatise of Fear, wherein the various Kinds, Uses, Causes, Effects, and Remedies thereof are distinctly opened and prescribed,' Lond. 1682.
  11. 'The Righteous Man's Refuge,' Lond. 1682.
  12. 'Preparations for Sufferings, or the Best Work in the Worst Times,' Lond. 1682.
  13. 'England's Duty under the present Gospel Liberty,' Lond. 1689.
  14. 'Mount Pisgah, or a Thanksgiving Sermon for England's Delivery from Popery,' Lond. 1689.
  15. 'Sacramental Meditations upon divers select places of Scripture,' Lond. 1689.
  16. 'The Reasonableness of Personal Reformation and the Necessity of Conversion,' Lond. 1691.
  17. 'An Exposition of the Assembly's Catechism,' Lond. 1693.
  18. 'Pneumatologia, a Treatise of the Soul of Man,' Lond. 1698.
  19. 'Planelogia, a succinct and seasonable Discourse of the Occasions, Causes, Nature, Rise, Growth, and Remedies of Mental Errors.'
  20. 'Vindiciarum Vindex, or a Refutation of the weak and impertinent Rejoinder of Mr. Philip Carey' (a leading anabaptist in Dartmouth).
  21. 'Gospel Unity recommended to the Churches of Christ.'
  22. ' A Faithful and Succinct Account of some late and wonderful Sea Deliverances.'
  23. 'Antipharmacum Saluberrimum, or a serious and seasonable Caveat to all the Saints in this Hour of Temptation.'
  24. ' Tydings from Rome, or England's Alarm.'
  25. ' A pathetic and serious Dissuasive from the horrid and detestable Sins of Drunkenness, Swearing, Uncleanness, Forgetfulness of Mercies, Violation of Promises, and Atheistical Contempt of Death.'
  26. 'The Balm of the Covenant applied to the Bleeding Wounds of afflicted Saints.'
  27. 'Vindiciæ Legis et Fœderis.'
  28. 'A Familiar Conference between a Minister and a doubting Christian concerning the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper.'
  29. 'A Table or Scheme of the Sins and Duties of Believers.' Many editions of several of these treatises have appeared.

Collected editions of Flavel's worts were issued in 1673, 1701, 1764, and 1797 (6 vols. Newcastle}. Charles Bradley [q. v.] edited a selection in 1823.

[Life prefixed to collected edition of his Works, Glasgow, 1754; Palmer's Nonconf. Mem. ii. 18-22; Wood's Athenae Oxon. (Bliss), iv. 323-6.]

T. H.