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.
"John Flavel said, 'To depend partly upon Christ’s righteousness, and partly upon our own, is to set one foot upon a rock, and the other in a quick-sand; either Christ will be to us all in all, or nothing at all, in point of righteousness and salvation.... As he did the whole work, so he expects the whole praise; if he be not able to save to the uttermost, why do we depend upon him at all? And if he be, why do we lean upon any beside him?'"
- from "To God’s Glory: Lessons on Puritanism" by Joel R. Beeke and Nicholas J. Thompson
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