Wednesday, September 28, 2005

18th Century Theology with Thomas Boston

Thomas Boston was a Scottish preacher of genius. His writings are more readily available than ever before, in book form (including the ubiquitous Fourfold State of Man ), increasingly on the web (including bits of the ubiquitous Fourfold State of Man), on unsearchable CD rom and 0n searchable CD rom.

The Counsel of God

[God’s] counsel might, for us, have remained through eternity hid in the breast of the Father. The heathens could look up to the heavens and read much of God’s goodness, wisdom, and power, Rom. 1:20; but none could ascend into heaven and enter God’s secrets, but he that was in the bosom of the Father, and on his cabinet councils, John 3:13.(Works IV 378.) Christ the Counsellor is of the secret council of Heaven; Zech. 6:13, "A counsel of peace shall be between them both." He is a member of the cabinet-council of Heaven, to which the most favourite angel is not admitted. He has access to the sealed book of the divine decrees; Rev. 5:5; and there is nothing transacted there, nor has been from eternity, but what he is acquainted with; John 5:20, "For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things that himself doeth." With his Father and the Spirit he is of the council.(Works X 231f.) He is of the Father’s choice and nomination for a Counsellor to us; 1 Cor. 1:30, "He is made of God unto us wisdom." When the Father from eternity, pitying fallen man in his ruined state, was thinking on a Counsellor, that might by his wisdom retrieve their sinking affairs, he pitched on Jesus Christ; Ps. 89:19, "I have laid help upon one that is mighty." The highest angel was too weak for such a burden; but the Son, who was of the cabinet-council of heaven, was the choice; and sinners are referred to him, Matt. 17:5.(Works X 247)

[Christ] needs no counsel of men. The name of the wisest on earth, may be Consultor; the wisest of men says so, Prov. 11:14, "Where no counsel is, the people fall; but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety." But his name is counsellor. He is so far a Counsellor, that he is a Consultor of none; Rom. 11:34, "For who hath known the mind of the Lord, or who hath been his counsellor?" His servants are about his throne, but not to pretend to give him counsel. Consider, 1. His understanding is infinite. … 2. His counsels were all concerted before we had a being. … 3. The execution of them was begun entirely without us. … 4. How often have we seen that our counsels, had they been mixed with those of the great Counsellor, would have marred all? …(Works X 237)

Of the creation of man … God only spake the word and then the other creatures were produced; but being to create man, he called a council of the Trinity for that end: whereby the excellency of man above the other creatures, who is a compend of the world, is clearly demonstrated. Here we have the execution of that council: So God created man, &c. For, as says Seneca, a heathen moralist, man is not a work huddled over in a haste, and done without great forethought and consideration; for man is the greatest and most stupendous work of God, even of God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. As the sacred historian had said before of the Creator, "Let us make man in our image," &c., so it is not for nought that he repeats the act of creating three times in this verse; in which also the us in the former verse is restrained to God; so that the plurality there spoken of is not God and angels, but the three persons, one God; for it was not angels, but God that created man.(Works I 177)

There was a consultation of the Trinity concerning the making of man, and the result was, his creation after God’s image. How great must those sins be, which, breaking the laws of his creation, do signally deface that image?(Works X 542) What a stock [man] was originally. He was a vine of the Lord’s planting, a choice vine, a noble vine, wholly good. There was a consultation of the Trinity at the planting of this vine, Gen. 1:26, "Let us make man in our image, after our own likeness." There was no rottenness at the heart of it. There was sap and juice enough in it to have nourished all the branches, to bring forth fruit unto God. My meaning is, Adam was made able perfectly to keep the commandments of God, which would have procured eternal life to himself, and to all his posterity; for as all die by Adam’s disobedience, all would have had life by his obedience, if he had stood.(Works VIII 182)

There was also a consultation of the Trinity concerning man’s restoration, and the result was, the Son of God giving himself to the death for their recovery. How much greater, then, must the sin of unbelief be, which of its own nature tends to make the whole contrivance vain? The Sodomites were great sinners, and the Capernaumites unbelievers; which were the greatest sinners? The greatest punishment by a just Judge speaks the greatest sin; and so the Capernaumite unbelievers were the greatest sinners, Matt. 11:23, 24.(Works X 542) At the recovery of man, all hands were set to work (so to speak). The Father acts his part in choosing a certain number of the lost race to be partakers of his glory, giving them unto his Son for a people, and him to them for a Redeemer. The Son takes on their nature, and redeems them with his blood, and purchases eternal salvation for them. The Holy Spirit applies that purchase unto them, renewing their natures, quickening them, and knitting them to Christ as the Head of vital influences. O! should we not admire this great and glorious work?(Works I 535)

The plan of [the covenant of grace] was drawn from all eternity, in the council of the Trinity: for it is according to the eternal purpose purposed in Jesus Christ, Eph. 3:11. The objects of mercy, the time and place, the way and means, of conferring it on them, were designed particularly, before man was miserable, yea, before he was at all.(Works VIII 380) Here we find ourselves at the fountain-head of the salvation of lost sinners, the origin and rise of the glorious plan, laid from eternity in the secret council of the ever-blessed Trinity, for remedy of man’s misery. And this is a manifold mystery, the several folds of which we are not able fully to discover. With God it was all one piece, if I may so phrase it; for with him, all things are together and at once: and not one thing before and another after, as with us. Howbeit, we cannot conceive of it but in parcels; first one piece of the mystery and then another: and that because of the weakness of our capacity, as we are creatures; and much more, as we are creatures under much spiritual darkness. Wherefore we must of necessity address ourselves to the consideration of it in parcels; but still remembering, we are in the eternal mystery, transacted in the eternal decree of the holy Trinity all at once, by one eternal act of the divine will: in which, nevertheless, we are allowed to conceive a certain order, since otherwise we cannot take up the mystery.(Works VIII 408)

The promise of eternal life to the elect, comprehends also a promise of the Spirit of life to be communicated to them and each one of them, at the nick of time, prefixed in their cases respectively, in the eternal council; that is, the time appointed to be the time of love, the dawning of the day of grace to them, however long and dark their night may be. This promise is found, Isa. 44:3, "I will pour my Spirit upon thy seed." Ezek. 36:27, "I will put my Spirit within, you."(Works VIII 477) Now, at the time appointed for every one in the eternal council, this promise [of sanctification] is accomplished. The sinner being justified by faith, and taken into a saving relation to God, being reconciled, adopted, and made an heir of God through Christ, is sanctified. The bar being removed, the gulf filled up as to him, his saving interest in, and relation to a holy God being established; the communication between heaven and the sinner is opened, and sanctifying influences flow amain, to the sanctifying of him throughout.(Works VIII 488)

All the counsels of God are commands, [Prov.] 1:30, 31;(Works III 441)

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