Reviewed by: James A. La Belle
Christ: Humbled yet Exalted, by John Flavel (abridged by J. Stephen Yuille). Reformation Heritage, 2021. Paperback, 208 pages, $12.00. Reviewed by OP pastor James A. La Belle.
This book by Stephen Yuille is an abridgment of twenty-five sermons in one of Flavel’s most important writings, The Fountain of Life: A Display of Christ in His Essential and Mediatorial Glory, a treatise found in volume 1 of Flavel’s works. In typical Puritan fashion, Flavel’s treatise is a collection of sermons. This means each chapter of Yuille’s book has the structure of what you’d expect from a Puritan sermon: an orienting introduction, which leads to a doctrine drawn from the text, followed by reasons, arguments, or propositions in support of that doctrine, and then a number of applications (or inferences, as Flavel likes to call them) that flow from that doctrine. This makes Yuille’s book devotional and edifying, perfect for the morning prayer closet or Lord’s Day afternoon reading. And given that it’s an abridgment, the chapters are short enough for quick reading and yet meaty enough for plenty of meditation.
Yuille jumps into Flavel’s work near the middle. So up to this point in the work, Flavel’s sermons have covered Christ’s essential and eternal glory, the covenant of redemption between the Father as having elected a people and the Son as volunteering to redeem them, the glory of the person of Jesus Christ as the Redeemer of the elect and the nature of his role as the Mediator between God and sinful man, and then finally the threefold office by which Christ exercises that mediation and accomplishes that redemption on our behalf, namely, Prophet, Priest, and King. This is important to know because these rich elements of Flavel’s well-known work are missing in Yuille’s abridgment. So if you’re interested in these aspects of Christ’s glory, you’ll want to buy Flavel’s Fountain of Life—which, if you didn’t realize it, is essentially forty-two sermons on Questions 20–28 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism.
The beauty of Yuille’s book is that it turns our attention to the heart of Christ’s mediatorial work: his humiliation and exaltation. In other words, it treats Questions 27–28 of the Catechism, with fifteen chapters on Christ’s humiliation and five chapters on his exaltation. I’m currently doing a study for the congregation through Yuille’s book and have greatly appreciated it. Personally, I would rather read Flavel himself (and, truth be told, I am reading Flavel alongside Yuille), but Yuille’s treatment has the following commendable strengths. For one, it’s accessible. Many, even in our OPC congregations, are unsure of their ability to profitably digest a Puritan work. Yuille updates the language and makes it readable for teens and adults. I can see it working extremely well for a group study because the homiletic structure affords ample applications that would facilitate wonderful discussions. Secondly, it’s on point. Yuille doesn’t sacrifice any of the essential content of Flavel’s excellent treatise. He carefully distills the golden threads of Puritan exposition and application, offering his audience the genius of yesterday in today’s parlance. And thirdly, it’s Christ-centered. The centrality of the gospel is constantly threatened today by so many peripheral concerns. We can never have too many good books on the grand gospel of our glorious Savior. I highly recommend this book. “Thank you, Stephen.”
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