Posts Tagged ‘thomas boston’
The sum of the matter lies here: It is our duty to speak truth, that is, so as our mind agree with the matter, and our mouth with our mind. We must speak things as we think them to be, and think them to be what they are.
- Thomas Boston, The Complete Works of the Late Rev. Thomas Boston (1853; repr., Tentmaker Publications: Stokes-on-Trent, 2002), 2:312.
Here Thomas Boston reflects on the ninth commandment–the Christian’s need to speak the truth. He sees in it the double necessity of being true to one’s self and true to the subject at hand. Or to put it another way, the Christian must speak the truth and believe the truth he speaks.
In just a few paltry words, Boston gets to the heart of Christian religion. It is not intellectual assent. Even demons confess that Jesus is Lord (James 2:19). It is a heart-faith tied to mouth-faith that makes true faith. At the same time I know how often cowardice gets the best of the Christian. He truly believes that Jesus is the only hope for the lost sinner yet his mouth rebels against his heart in the evangelistic moment. No, one cannot exist without the other. Truth is verified by the tongue in concert with the heart.
I’m currently ploughing through Thomas Boston’s biography found in volume 12 of his works. Aside from some humorous sections, I’m finding in Boston a kindred spirit in matters of the application of grace to my soul. Take, for example, his advice to himself when he was facing the particular difficulties of illness, an impending marriage, and no call to a local church.
To carry Christianity in these perplexing circumstances, I proposed to myself, that I should,
- Live near God, so as my heart should not have wherewith to reproach me, Job 27:6; Acts 23:1.
- Beware of anxious thoughts about them; lay them before the Lord in prayer, and leave them on him, trusting him with him, though in a manner blindly, Phil 4:6;
- Believe the promise, that all things should work together for my good, Rom 8:28;
- Remember man’s extremity is God’s opportunity, with my former experiences of the same, Gen 22:14;
- Use of the means [Bible study, prayer, sacraments] with dependence on the Lord for success;
- Be diligent about the work of my station, and ply my studies more closely; and for this end, beware of sleeping too much;
- Lastly, Not think that, because God doth not presently answer, therefore he will not answer at all, but wait on him; Isa 28:16;
and if at any time I begin to faint under my difficulties, I should press myself to hang by the promises, remembering the shortness of my time, and that no man knows love or hatred by all that is before him; and should read Heb 12. And my conscience bore me witness, that to be helped so to live in a course of filial obedience, would be more sweet to me, than to be rid of all these difficulties.
- Thomas Boston, The Complete Works of the Late Rev. Thomas Boston (1853; repr., Tentmaker Publications: Stokes-on-Trent, 2002), 12:65.
“For what is grace but glory in the bud, and glory but grace brought to perfection?”
- Thomas Boston, The Complete Works of the Late Rev. Thomas Boston (1853; repr., Tentmaker Publications: Stokes-on-Trent, 2002), 1:576.
Boston is discussing the “golden chain of salvation”. This “golden chain” is commonly called the ordo salutis. See Murray’s work for an excellent treatment of this topic. Boston–preaching through the Westminster Shorter Catechism–summarize the “golden chain” in five parts.
- God’s foreknowledge
- Glorification–into which he subsumes sanctification
The quote above is a pithy summary of this glorious process. The grace of God’s foreknowledge is the beginning of glory. Glorification is the end of God’s grace.
There is no way to thank God enough for being the focus of his flowering grace.
The biblical doctrine of justification–being made righteous before God by the imputed righteousness of Christ–is unpopular to many. However, it is the very core of orthodox Christian religion. The unpopular importance of this doctrine creates in me a certain joy when I read or hear pastors give pause to show the simple clarity of justification.
I came across an author doing just that as I read this morning from Thomas Boston’s works. In expounding the Christian’s union to Christ, he gives the following application:
“There is a solid rational ground for the doctrine of our justification by the imputed righteousness of Christ. Let profane men deride it as a putative or imaginary righteousness and justification, to make way for their own works; and let the corrupters of the Protestant doctrine set up faith, repentance, and new obedience, as our evangelical righteousness, upon which we are justified, as the fulfilling of the gospel-law; we need no other righteousness for justification but Christ’s. For a believer is by faith united to Christ. Having this union with him, we have a communion with him in his righteousness, which is ours, since we are one with him, and being ours, must be imputed to us, or reckoned ours on the most solid ground. Christ is the believer’s Surety by his own voluntary act, the debtor’s consent by faith, the Judge’s approbation in the world. What then is more rational than that this righteousness be imputed to the believer, and thereupon justified?” 
 Thomas Boston, The Complete Works of the Late Rev. Thomas Boston (1853; repr., Tentmaker Publications: Stokes-on-Trent, 2002), 1:553.
“Bless God for the gospel, that discovers unto us this infallible way of being delivered from condemnation and wrath, this sure way to peace and reconciliation with God, this precious balm for troubled conscience, and this effectual remedy for appeasing an angry God. O prize the gospel, and the precious discoveries thereof, in which all blessings are contained; and accept of a slain Savior as your only Redeemer from sin and wrath, from hell and condemnation; and glory in his cross, and what he hath done for your redemption and deliverance.”
- Thomas Boston, The Complete Works of the Late Rev. Thomas Boston (1853; repr., Tentmaker Publications: Stokes-on-Trent, 2002), 1:468.
“Grace had never sailed to us, but in the streams of the Mediator’s blood.”
- Thomas Boston, The Complete Works of the Late Rev. Thomas Boston (1853; repr., Tentmaker Publications: Stokes-on-Trent, 2002), 1:453.
Does Jesus free sinners from the power of sin? Or does he provide a way for sinners to be forgiven of their sins? The answer is both. Jesus rescues us from the slavery to sin. Jesus also pays the infinite debt we owe for sinning against a holy God.
Yet the question of priority and focus has been brought up in recent years. This question of emphasis has most often been broached in conversations about contextualization. Does a certain group–urban, suburban, or rural–or a certain worldview–modern or postmodern–need to hear the gospel couched in freedom-language as opposed to forgiveness-language.
I first heard the question asked and answered in a lecture given by Tim Keller on contextualization in ministry. I then read Mark Driscoll ask this very question in the opening chapter of his book, Confessions of a Reformission Rev. Driscoll asked,
“Will you proclaim a gospel of forgiveness, fulfillment, or freedom? Traditional, contemporary, and emerging churches also differ in how they present the gospel. The traditional church generally proclaims a gospel of forgiveness… Though this gospel made sense to most people at one time, this sort of gospel seems judgmental, mean-spirited, naive, and narrowminded to the ever-growing number of people who do not understand the basic terms of Christianity… The emerging church proclaims the gospel of freedom.” 
To his credit, Driscoll does not just preach a gospel of freedom. He also preaches forgiveness of sin in Christ alone. His sermons are replete with calls to repentance and warnings of eternal judgment. However, he asks a good question of emphasis.
It is my contention that we need to be as balanced as the Bible is balanced. To draw out some biblical emphases at the expense of others is dangerous ground.
But more importantly, what is at stake is the wonder of the person and work of Christ. Every generation and worldview has a mortal need of understanding how Jesus Christ provides both redemption and release, both the price and the power. Everyone approaches God with a debt they cannot pay and shackles they cannot loose.
This need was clarified and beautified for me in the following quotes from Thomas Boston.
Talking about Christ’s payment of the debt owed by sinners, Boston says,
“They were fallen under the dominion of Satan, and liable to eternal death, and could not obtain their liberty by escape, or by mere force and power; for they were arrested and detained prisoners by order of divine justice: so that till God the Supreme Judge was satisfied, there could be no discharge. Now, the Lord Jesus Christ hat procured their deliverance by his death and bloody sufferings. Hence the apostle says in Colossians 1:14, ‘We have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins.’ No less than the precious blood of Christ, who was God and man in one person, could be a sufficient price for the redemption of poor captive sinners.” 
Then Boston turns to freedom that Christ has given us from the powers of sin and Satan, saying,
“By his death on the cross he spoiled the principalities and powers. And he manifested this power in his ascension; for when he ascended on high, he led captivity captive. And in the day of power he redeems his people from the slavery of sin and Satan, the curse of the law, from the sting of death, and the wrath of God; and puts them in possession of a full salvation.” 
In summary, Boston concludes,
“The former, viz. redeeming by price or purchase, Christ doth as a Priest, the latter as a Prophet and King. Both were absolutely necessary: for without a ransom justice would not quit us nor let us go: and without overcoming or conquering power, the elect, while slaves to sin and Satan, will not quit their master, nor accept liberty.” 
Both aspects of Christ’s saving power are absolutely necessary. I admit that I have never planted a church–much less in a metropolitan center. However I do not see wisdom in preaching an imbalanced gospel for fear of withholding the full wonder of the love of Christ displayed in his freeing and forgiving grace.
 Mark Driscoll, Confessions of a Reformission Rev., (Zondervan: Grand Rapids, 2006), 23-25.
 Thomas Boston, The Complete Works of the Late Rev. Thomas Boston (1853; repr., Tentmaker Publications: Stokes-on-Trent, 2002), 1:379.
 Ibid., 380.
“No less than the precious blood of Christ, who was God and man in one person, could be a sufficient price for the redemption of poor captive sinners.”
-Thomas Boston, The Complete Works of the Late Rev. Thomas Boston (1853; repr., Tentmaker Publications: Stokes-on-Trent, 2002), 1:379.
“Blessed be God for the revelation of the covenant of grace, wherein life and salvation is freely provided and offered to fallen man through the obedience and satisfaction of the second Adam. Well may it be called a covenant of grace: for it came from the rich and free grace of God, as its true spring; it is all bespangled with gracious promises, as the heavens are with stars; and all the blessings contained in it are gratuitous and free, such as men cannot plead any right or title unto by any merit or works of their own.”
-Thomas Boston, The Complete Works of the Late Rev. Thomas Boston (1853; repr., Tentmaker Publications: Stokes-on-Trent, 2002), 1:241.
“Thus God brings good, the greatest good out of the worst of evils. What greater evil or more atrocious wickedness can be imagined, than the violent death of the innocent Son of God, who went about doing good, and was holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners? And yet what a rich and astonishing good resulted therefrom, even glory to God, and peace and good-will towards men.”
-Thomas Boston, The Complete Works of the Late Rev. Thomas Boston (1853; repr., Tentmaker Publications: Stokes-on-Trent, 2002), 1:191.
Thomas Boston writing on the creation of Eve out of Adam’s side,
“[Eve's body] was not made out of man’s head, to show her that she is not to be her husband’s mistress, nor usurp authority over him (1 Timothy 2:12); nor out of his feet, to show him that she is not to be his slave, to be trampled on by him; but out of his side, near his heart, to show him that she must be treated as his companion, loved, nourished, and cherished by him.”
-Thomas Boston, The Complete Works of the Late Rev. Thomas Boston (1853; repr., Tentmaker Publications: Stokes-on-Trent, 2002), 1:179.
“The sword of justice was in a manner asleep before, in all the terrible judgments which had been executed on the world, but now it must be awakened and roused up to pierce the heart of the blessed Redeemer.”
-Thomas Boston, The Complete Works of the Late Rev. Thomas Boston (1853; repr., Tentmaker Publications: Stokes-on-Trent, 2002), 1:108.
“If all things were made for him, then man and angels especially, who are the master-pieces of the whole creation. We have our rise and being from the pure fountain of God’s infinite power and goodness; and therefore we ought to run towards that again, till we empty all our faculties and excellencies into that same ocean of divine goodness.” – Thomas Boston, Works; vol 1, 157.
A while back, I took some good advice and upgraded my meager but expanding Puritan library with the Works of Thomas Boston. My only exposure to Boston before the purchase of his works was through his book, Human Nature in its Fourfold State, a classic on covenantal and redemptive-historical theology. My goal in purchasing this set was to read through Boston’s works, slowly but steadily.
I steeled myself for what it would take to work myself through Boston’s 12 volumes. Past experience has taught me that multiple volume collections of an author’s work can pose particular challenged. You see, when someone buys the complete works of an author it is because they have already read and fallen in love with some of that author’s work. The illusion is that all of an author’s works will be as profound as the favorite selections of an author’s work. The reality though is that all authors, like most skilled artisans, produce great work in addition to a good bit of mediocrity. The table in your house is not always decked with a Thanksgiving feast and you would be sorely disappointed if you expected it to be. It is for this reason that I was prepared to be patient with Boston, willing to trudge the valleys to reach the peaks. There has been only one problem. I can’t seem to get off of the peaks!
Boston has made for excellent reading and I’m barely through the first volume. That sentence should stand out to those avid readers of theology. The way most sets of an author’s works are organized place at the forefront of volume one whatever work qualifies as that author’s explanation of general theology. For Boston it is no different. Volume 1 and the beginning of volume 2 are devoted to Boston’s unfolding of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, thereby providing the reader with a general sense of Boston’s systematic theology before diving into his work on more specific points of theology. What this tactic can often amount to is a certain amount of monotony that comes from seeing endless forest instead of examining more interesting trees. But that has not been the case for Boston.
What I have come to joyful discover in Boston’s writing is an intentional grounding of all his theology in Jesus Christ and the plan of redemption. This may sound more simple than profound but it is not. It actually raises a good question. Is the unfolding of the covenant of grace in the person and work of Jesus Christ a topic solely relevant to studies in soteriology and christology or is it a topic that shapes and crowns all areas of theology? Or put another way, “How Christ centered should our theology be?” To this second question, Boston answers with a firm, “Very!”
To provide an example, I have just finished reading his work on the attributes of God as explained by question four of the Westminster Shorter Catechism. That answer reads, “God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.” Boston takes ample space to explain each attribute. These attributes could be described accurately without talking about the plan of redemption in any detail. After all, in the scheme of the Shorter Catechism, Jesus isn’t mentioned until well into the section on God’s providence. But in each of these attributes Boston pauses, after giving a general biblical description, to show how Jesus Christ and salvation in him highlights the true richness of the attribute of God in question. How gloriously refreshing.
This is why I love reading Boston. He can’t help but take his reader to the Cross. That is where he sets up his seminary, on the hill of Golgotha. He is a peripatetic that walks the Via Dolorossa. This is not to say that he succumbs to Christo-monism or that he neglects the depths of the whole counsel of God. He is thoroughly balanced in the seven loci of systematic theology. But what Boston understands and exemplified is the simple truth that Jesus articulated on a country stroll to place called Emaus. All Scripture, and by deduction all theology, is about himself. All our theology should be Christo-centric.
That is why I have found it a distinct pleasure to read Boston. He ministers to my soul by consistently taking me to the only One who can satisfy my soul. This is why so much of the modern, cross-centered movement has latched onto Puritans like Boston. They and I have found in him a kindred spirit, a teacher, a pastor, a theologian, a man thoroughly captivated by Jesus Christ. It is my hope that you will join me in reading Boston and learning from him how to exalt Christ in all you do.
“Thus eternal life springs from death, glory from ignominy, and blessedness from a curse. We are healed by stripes, quickened by death, purchased by blood, crowned by a cross, advanced to the highest honor by the lowest humility, comforted by sorrows, glorified by disgrace, absolved by condemnation, and made rich by poverty. Thus the wisdom of God shines with a radiant brightness in the work of redemption.” -Thomas Boston, Works: Vol 1, 88.