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Recovering gospel freedom

This is the book that all the high-profile pastors seem to be reading at present – and it deserves that status.


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Sinclair B. Ferguson
Crossway. 256 pages. £13.00
ISBN 978 1 433 548 000

It springs from what at first might seem unlikely ground – a discussion of an early 18th-century bust-up among evangelicals in Scotland, known as ‘The Marrow Controversy’. But this piece of rather arcane historical analysis turns into a most helpful exposition of the ever relevant pastoral issues of the pitfalls of legalism and antinomianism (faith without law) along with the positive enjoyment of assurance of salvation – the very fountainhead of joyful, experimental evangelical Christianity.

The Marrow Men

It was the Marrow Men’s (among whom was Thomas Boston) insistence that repentance is not a qualification for coming to Christ which ‘smoked out’ the incipient legalism in many ministers, who in turn accused the Marrow Men of antinomianism. (I can feel some readers’ hackles already raised?) With great insight, Dr Ferguson exposes the fact that both legalism and antinomianism have the same root – a distorted view of God and his grace.

Much to my relief, the book contains a convincing defence of the Ten Commandments as the continuing rule of life for Christians (as per the Westminster Standards), but these must be received, not in a legalistic way, but rather from the hands of a gracious Christ. Neither gospel benefits nor the Law should be separated from him. Sadly, it is possible to have an evangelical head but a legalistic heart – a spiritual state which has often damaged the churches.

This is a great book, perhaps Dr Ferguson’s greatest. It is written for those fairly knowledgeable in Reformation/Puritan theology. Its substance probably needs to be put into a more popular format in order that the wider church may benefit.