Book Review: The Reign of Grace, by Abraham Booth
To many people, the doctrines of grace are essentially just the five points of Calvinism, commonly remembered by the acronym â€œTULIPâ€; but in reality, the doctrine of God's sovereign, reigning grace impacts every part of Christian doctrine and life. Few people give more evidence of having come to understand and delight in the far-reaching implications of this marvelous grace of God than eighteenth century Baptist Abraham Booth. When he first learned of the doctrines of grace, his life was transformed, and he was driven to write of the precious treasure he had encountered in the warm and compelling volume, The Reign of Grace. For both the dour, stodgy old Calvinist whose affections are quite out of keeping with his doctrine and the non-Calvinist who is suspicious either of the truth or the practical effects of Calvinism, this masterpiece of heart and mind would be a very salutary cordial.
Three things immediately come to mind as outstanding characteristics of Booth's classic volume on the reign of grace: the first is its comprehensive, overarching point of view. Booth did not write with the minute exhaustiveness of John Owen, for example â€“ he did not trace out every argument to the smallest detail and account for every scriptural passage and inference pertaining to his theme â€“ but he did manage to lay out a birds-eye view of his subject, leaving no major realm of God's sovereign grace unscathed, but touching upon every part of his amazing plan of salvation from election in eternity past to future glorification, and everything that comes between both in redemptive history and the personal application of Christ's redemptive work. When you get to the end of his book, there is a feeling of completeness, harmony, an appropriateness arising from the realization that those things worthy of emphasis have been duly emphasized, and relatively more minor points have borne a corresponding de-emphasis.
Unlike many other works on the Calvinistic conception of soteriology, this is not structured similarly to the five Canons of Dort; instead, Booth, begins with an overview of the utterly free and sovereign nature of God's grace, then proceeds to show how that sovereign grace reigns in every part of a Christian's salvation, and provides for each believer an innumerable host of amazing blessings in Christ. Before reflecting on the blessed end of all true believers whom reigning grace has called out and preserved, in a stirring final chapter, Booth spends some time laying out the centrality of the person and work of Christ, in a rich section of his work which demonstrates just how vital the doctrines of reigning grace are for the glorification of the Savior. In the conclusion, reigning grace is not just supported logically, it is reveled in as a necessary means to an all-embracing doxological end.
The second outstanding characteristic is the heartfelt warmth of writing. Booth does not just teach, he exults. He does not just prove, he worships. His spirit is one and the same with the apostle Paul's, who, at the end of his most unrelenting demonstration of God's utter sovereignty breaks forth in spontaneous worship at the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God (Rom. 11:33-36). Similarly, Booth not only asserts, but he also models the truth that the knowledge of God's reigning grace is patently incompatible with any intellectual arrogance, lack of concern for evangelization, half-heartedness in holy living, or any of the other effects with which it is sometimes charged.
The final characteristic is the book's pointedness in applying truth to different classes of people in tones of comfort and encouragement, or else of rebuke and exhortation as appropriate. Booth offers much hope and consolation to the weak and struggling but is quick to rebuke the arrogant and disbelieving. His sharpest rebukes, however, are reserved for those who embrace the doctrines of God's reigning grace outwardly, but deny him with their works, and are unconcerned with holy living. Throughout, it is evident that he is writing both with a heart of passionate adoration for Christ and a pastoral heart of concern for the people who stand in such desperate need of Christ.
Booth had an eloquence that was not born of crafty wordsmithing or literary excellence, but of genuine conviction. For the joint attributes of explaining clearly what reigning grace does and modeling practically what its effects should be, The Reign of Grace is among the most outstanding works of its kind I have encountered.
The Reign of Grace: available at Monergism Books.