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A Cluttered Mind
4 Stars Out Of 5
A weighty and solid book
June 28, 2013
A Cluttered Mind
'I hadn't really thought about it.'
'And yet, I don't remember not thinking about it.'
Those were my thoughts when I first received Prepared By Grace For Grace: The Puritans on God's Ordinary Way of Leading Sinners to Christ. When it comes to a doctrine of preparation, I have no 'formal' training. I don't recall it ever coming up in a seminary classroom_at least not in this form or description. And yet, I've had, since I discovered the doctrines of grace, some basic formulation of how God uses the Law, His Spirit, and the Word to convict sinners of sin and open their eyes to the need of a Savior.
Dr. Bekke and his teaching assistant, Paul Smalley, lay out in great detail what the history of this doctrine has been. It has not been without controversy (but I'm not sure which of the primary doctrines of grace have been left alone in that regard either). Even within the 'camp' of the Puritans, there was disagreement about how much God directed a soul's preparation to receive the gospel. The authors start with the doctrine and modern scholarship; then move all the way back to cover the period from Augustine to Calvin. From there, they move into the Puritan era, discussing the various thoughts of men like Richard Sibbes, Thomas Hooker and Thomas Shephard. During the pinnacle of Puritanism around the time of the Westminster gathering, men like Jeremiah Burroughs and William Guthrie weigh in on this particular teaching. Even though technically out of the time period of the Puritans, Jonathan Edwards was nevertheless a 'late born Puritan' and is given a chapter to himself in Bekke's work.
I do not think I could recommend this book to just any Christian. It is certainly not for the novice, the beginner on the path of godliness. It's not even directed at the casual Christian, sitting in most evangelical church pews or seats. This is a serious book for serious believers, for the doctrinally astute, for a upper college or seminary level student. Prepared By Grace for Grace is weighty, yet it's not ponderous. It is most certainly not 'milk' for babes in Christ. This would be that medium-rare cooked Kobi ribeye steak that only a connoisseur of the 'meat of the Word' will read and be able to use to great benefit.
Before one comes to a saving faith in Christ the Holy Spirit is doing a work in that person. The Spirit of God is softening the persons heart so that when the gospel is presented to them they will not only be receptive to hear the message but to respond appropriately. The grace one needs to be saved is applied to the believer before the moment they are saved. The Puritans called this preparatory grace which is the subject of the new book Prepared by Grace, for Grace by Joel R. Beeke and Paul M. Smalley.
In this book Beeke and Smalley point us to the Puritans and how many of them believed and wrote that God was working grace in our lives before we accepted the call of salvation. They write that, Complacency in sin, conviction of sin, and conversion to Christ constituted the Puritan process of personal salvation, going on to say that, Most Puritans believed that God uses the law to prepare the way for the gospel in men's souls. In other words God gives us His Spirit and uses the law to prepare our hearts to be converted to Christ.
The law plays an important role in this book because the Puritans rightly believed that the law reveals and convicts the person of sin. But the law is powerless to save. That is where the Holy Spirit comes into the picture. When a person is convicted by the law of their sin the Holy Spirit saves us by grace.
The Puritans come from a reformed perspective which the authors writs doesn't contradict a person being prepared by grace for grace. They believed that both God and man have a work in the salvation of their soul (Philippians 2:12-13).
This book is full of many quotes from the Puritans so the English is different than what we are used to. Also this book is written more along academic lines although I believe anyone would benefit from reading it. You will have a better understanding of how the Holy Spirit was working in your life even before you made a decision to make Christ your Lord.
Disclaimer- I received this book for free from Reformation Heritage Books through CrossFocused Reviews for this review. All that was required of me is that I review it, positively or negatively, on my site.