Few teachings of the Puritans have provoked such strong reactions and conflicting interpretations as their views on preparing for saving faith. Many twentieth-century scholars dismissed preparation as a prime example of regression from the Reformed doctrine of grace for a man-centered legalism. In Prepared by Grace, for Grace, Joel Beeke and Paul Smalley make careful analysis of the Puritan understanding of preparatory grace, demonstrate its fundamental continuity with the Reformed tradition, and identify matters where even the Puritans disagreed among themselves. Clearing away the many misconceptions and associated accusations of preparationism, this study is sure to be the standard work on how the Puritans understood the ordinary way God leads sinners to Christ.
This book is a study of the Puritan teaching of preparatory grace, what they believed concerning God's way of preparing and converting the sinner's heart. At first glance you may wonder why you should even read this book, I know I did. Why study what the Puritans taught about preparatory grace? Well, as the authors say on page 34, "the language of preparation is the language of grace."
But I think Maurice Roberts answers this better than I could in his review printed on the back cover. "(This book) will help to cure us all of the modern danger of giving premature assurance to those who profess faith in Christ without evidences of being broken to repentance. The study of this book could do much to transform our evangelistic influence today."
Throughout the book, starting from the early Puritans through the later Puritans including Johnathan Edwards, the authors show us a theme emerging that really ties solidly into historic Reformed theology. We see God using the law to prepare sinners for faith, the law convicting them, awaking them and spurring them to seek faith in Christ. We see this law and gospel distinction expressed in two areas, mortification and vivication.
Here we see mortification being described as a sorrow for sin and dread of judgement as the sinner grows to hate his sin and see how miserable and lost he is, despairing of any hope of salvation within himself. We then see vivication as the new birth, as the new man finds consolation and life by faith in Christ.
This is helpful as we share the gospel with our neighbors, to be patient as we sew, clearly presenting the law in all it's force, before we extend the peace of the gospel. We will be much more effective in evangelicalism if we understand how God ordinarily prepares sinners by the preaching and teaching of the law, before He draws a heart to the sweet peace of faith in Christ. To me, this book is a huge help in evangelism and also very helpful in working with new converts and those under conviction of their sin but not yet come to faith.
For me personally, this book was incredibly helpful as I thought of my own spiritual journey and it really helped me see how God had worked in my life for many years, preparing my heart for faith in Christ. Since my spiritual awakening four years ago, I have often struggled with understanding why I went through what I went through spiritually. My conversion "story" doesn't really fit with your average evangelical "story" and it was a huge blessing to have a better understanding of preparatory grace, and to see God's hand over many years drawing me to true faith. I really was comforted as I came to a better understanding of the amazing grace of God for me, a wretched sinner. Soli Deo Gloria!
This book is not a dry, boring systematic theology, but really is a book about grace, the incredible grace showered on lost sinners by a loving God. Highly recommended!
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review.