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On Abraham Booth’s “The Reign of Grace.”
English minister and writer Abraham Booth is most likely not very well-known amongst the average reader. Active in ministry and authorship during the 1700s, Booth became known as a Baptist apologist for his defense, examination, and explanation of many of the Baptist distinctives called into question during his day. His numerous works were considered among the Baptists to be a complete and incontrovertible attestation to their doctrines. Later in life, he would dissent from the school of the general Baptists and align himself more closely with the Particular Baptists, who we know today as the Reformed Baptists.
During his nearly 50 year ministry, Booth published several works, including The Death of Legal Hope, the Life of Evangelical Obedience (1770), An Apology for Baptists (1778), Pædobaptism Examined (1784), and Glad Tidings to Perishing Sinners (1796). But perhaps the hallmark of all his works, though, is that of 1768’s The Reign of Grace. In this comprehensive work, Booth endeavors to extrapolate from Scripture the true nature of the Lord’s grace and all its ensuing ramifications in the life of a believer. His wish was that God’s free grace solely be on display through the fourteen separate discourses, intimating that such grace is secure, everlasting, and absolutely firm because of the work of God’s Son. No amount of performances or pretenses can win the favor of God. No accumulation of services or courtesies can ever repay the debt of sin we owe.
Too often, and too easily, our old Adam speaks to us the lie that we can merit our way out of rebellion. That we can obey our way to God and work our way to heaven. Yes, even those who would deny a works-salvation in theory often succumb to living by one in function. Through rigorous law-keeping and standard-making, we hope we’ll have done enough to tip the scales of God in our favor. “If we put enough forward, then surely he’ll accept us,” we often think. But what the gospel reveals is something far better. It doesn’t tell us the secret formula to follow or list to check to ensure we’re accepted in the Father’s sight. Instead it tells us that this favor isn’t up to us at all.
The grand design of the gospel is to reveal the righteousness of God, and to display the riches of that grace which provided and freely bestows the wonderful gift. The gospel informs us, that, in regard to justification, what is required of the transgressor, both as to doing and suffering was performed by our adorable Substitute.1
The lengthy volume is as in-depth into the doctrine and theology of grace as one may desire. Diving deep into the vast intricacies that feel the touch of grace in this life. From election to pardon to adoption to justification to sanctification, Booth determines address all aspects of Christian life and prove that grace does it all. From first to last, God’s work of grace, as seen in the life, death, and resurrection of his Son, is the only foundation and grounds upon which we have any hope of life. Thus, the more we’re fixated on this work, the more our attention and affection is drawn towards the good news that “It is finished,” the more our entire lives will be remade and reformed according to his Word.
Furthermore, this news has no further, underlying stipulations to be met. The freeing truth of the gospel, as is evinced by Booth throughout the work, is that nothing’s stronger than this grace. It is the most sure thing in creation, surer than anything your eye can see or mind perceive. Notwithstanding your depravity, this grace is proffered freely to you. “Be your sins like a debt of millions of talents,” Booth writes, “be they more in number than the stars in the firmament, and heavier than the sand of the sea; yet this full forgiveness superabounds.”2 Complete forgiveness, absolute justification, full pardon, immediate adoption — these are the gifts of the gospel, coming at once to the soul that relinquishes its own and find its righteousness in bloodstained ground of Calvary.
I’d highly recommend reading and studying this stout volume on God’s grace, especially for those who consider themselves Reformed in any sense of the term. Regardless of your views and understandings of election and Calvinism, The Reign of Grace remains a monumental work that expounds the plain truth of the gospel: That Jesus saves sinners, and only sinners. (1 Tm 1:15)
The mercy of God and the gospel of Christ, were never designed to assist and reward the righteous, but to relieve the miserable and save the desperate — to deliver those who have no other assistance, nor any other hope . . . the unworthy and sinful are the only persons with whom grace is at all concerned.3
Abraham Booth, The Reign of Grace, from Its Rise to Its Consummation (Philadelphia: Joseph Whetnam, 1838), 192.