John Flavel’s “Double Scheme”

I was blessed and convicted recently in reading John Flavel’s Double Scheme[1]. It is a call to godliness and a reminder to be circumspect as a member of the church of Jesus Christ. Below is the first column of the Double Scheme, the second will come in a later post.

It reads as follows:

Flavel’s Double Scheme, or Table,”containing, in the first column, the SINS most common to the members of particular churches, plainly forbidden in the Word, and for which God sets marks of His displeasure on them.  And, in the second, the DUTIES enjoined on them in the Scripture, in the conscientious discharge whereof, they receive signal fruits of His favor.

1.  SIN:  The first, and more general sin of church members, is a defect in their care and circumspection, to prevent all just offenses to them that are without (i.e., unbelievers). This is forbidden in Colossians 4:5:  “Walk in wisdom towards them which are without.” By a careless disregard of this rule, we harden the wicked in their sins, bring guilt upon ourselves and reproach upon the name and ways of God.

2. SIN:  The second, and more particular sin of some church members, is idleness, and neglect of their civil callings. This is against the express rule of 2 Thessalonians 3:11-12, “For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies. Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread.” This brings poverty on themselves, and scandal on religion.

3. SIN:  The third sin is tale-bearing [gossip], and revealing the secrets of families, and persons. Because of these much strife arises, to the cooling and quenching of mutual love. This is expressly forbidden in Leviticus 19:16, “You shall not go about as a slanderer among your people, and you are not to act against the life of your neighbor; I am the LORD.”

4. SIN:  The fourth sin is a disposition to believe rumors, and consequent rash criticism. This we ought not to do against the meanest member of the church, according to 2 Corinthians 12:20, “For I am afraid that perhaps when I come I may find you to be not what I wish and may be found by you to be not what you wish; that perhaps there will be strife, jealousy, angry tempers, disputes, slanders, gossip, arrogance, disturbances.” Much less against church officers, 1 Timothy 5:19, “Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses.” This strikes at the bond of peace.

5. SIN: Their fifth sin is in their neglect of God’s ordinances upon slight diversions, when they are neither disabled by works of necessity or mercy. This is contrary to Hebrews 10:25, “not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”

6. SIN:  The sixth sin is a defect in zeal for God’s ordinances, manifested in their dilatory attendance. This is contrary to Psalm 122:1, “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD.’” And unsuitable to their first practice (as Christians), “Where then is that sense of blessing you had?”

7. SIN:  The seventh sin is irreverence, and the want of seriousness under ordinances. This is contrary to Psalm 89:7: “A God greatly feared in the council of the holy ones, And awesome above all those who are around Him?” And this is manifest in vain attire: “The woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels” (1 Corinthians 11:10). And unseemly postures and gestures:  “Guard your steps as you go to the house of God and draw near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools; for they do not know they are doing evil” (Ecclesiastes 5:1).

8.  SIN: The eighth sin worthy of reproof in them, is, the neglect of giving and taking of due reproofs from each other. This is contrary to Leviticus 19:17, “You shall not hate your fellow countryman in your heart; you may surely reprove your neighbor, but shall not incur sin because of him.”

[I think Andrew Bonar provided a good explanation of the latter part of this verse in his commentary on Leviticus.  He writes, “If a brother defame us, or slight us, or give us cause for grief and anger, we are to tell it to the person face to face. There must be no self-satisfaction, as if you were in this better than he. Even for his sake, the evil must not be left on him” (Leviticus 19:17).  JIH]

9.  SIN:  The ninth sin is, mutual strife and animosities, not seasonably and prudently composed among themselves, but scandalously exposed to the view of the world. This is contrary to the apostle’s rule in 1 Corinthians 6:5-6: “I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not among you one wise man who will be able to decide between his brethren, but brother goes to law with brother, and that before unbelievers?”

10. SIN:  The tenth sin is, the privateness of their spirits, centering too much on their own concerns. This is expressly condemned in Philippians 2:21: “All seek their own, not the things that are Jesus Christ’s.” And it is contrary to scripture example in 2 Corinthians 11:29, “Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?”

[1] This “double scheme or table” of sins and duties of the members of churches is available in volume 6 of his works, published by Banner of Truth. It is also available on Google Books in Old English. This republishing of the double scheme is edited from the original version to accommodate modern English readers. The translation I have used is the New American Standard Update (1995).

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