Pillars of grace

A long line of godly men (AD 100-1564)

Delighting in the doctrines of grace

A long line of godly men (AD 100-1564)
By Steven Lawson
Reformation Trust. 530 pages. 21.99
ISBN 978 1 567 692 112

This is the second in the excellent series written by Dr. Steven Lawson.

In volume 1, Foundations of Grace, Lawson did a sweep through the pages of Scripture, showing how all the biblical authors delighted in the doctrines of grace and God’s sovereignty in salvation. This second of five planned volumes is no less a tour de force, as you would expect from someone of the authority of Lawson, and picks up from the end of the apostolic period, through to the Reformers of the mid-16th century. History told through biography always makes more impact, I believe, and this book helps prove the case, as far as I am concerned.

Lawson’s longing, as he writes, is: ‘As we trace this long line of godly men from the first century to the 16th century, may the Lord use these pages to raise up new messengers who will sound the trumpet of his distinguishing grace. In this hour, may he prepare a new generation of renewed minds and passionate hearts to proclaim these glorious truths of Scripture’.

Masterful overview

Lawson begins with a masterful overview and summary of the biblical doctrines he is so keen to see reaffirmed, and follows that with as good a summary of 1,500 years of church history as I have ever read. It’s almost a cliche to say it, but, quite genuinely, this substantial 530-page book is worth it just for this chapter.

Dividing this period of history into The Church Fathers (Apostolic AD 100-150), Apologist (AD 150-250), African (AD 200-375), Cappadocian (AD 350-500), The Medieval Leaders (Monastics (AD 500-1200), Scholastics (AD 1000-1350), Pre-Reformers (AD 1350-1500) and The Protestant Reformers (German, English Swiss), our guide introduces us to 23 of the key players of their particular epoch with a biographical sketch, giving us the vital historical context in which they ministered, a brief guide to their writings and a summary of their theological positions on each of the doctrines of grace.

Lawson is honest in his portrayal of his subjects, pointing out when they were not as strong or sharp as they could have been on certain truths. He concludes each chapter with an application of the relevance for today of that individual pillar of grace, written with the heartfelt warmth and passion we have come to expect from him.

As an example, here is Lawson’s closing paragraph from his chapter on Ignatius of Antioch: ‘Where are such courageous men today? Where are the steady pillars for the contemporary church? We have great need of such stalwarts. May Christ give his church such strong servants in this present day, men who are not driven by opinion polls, who are not swayed by the shifting winds of the times, but who are staunch soldiers of the cross. May these dedicated disciples march with deep convictions in the truth and with high confidence in the Lord himself’.

I strongly commend this volume, as well as the first, and eagerly await the appearance of the promised additions to the series.

John Brand,
Principal, Edinburgh Bible College