I got this book about a week ago. The simple titled made me curious, and after reading the introduction (by Sinclair Ferguson) I was sold. The back has endorsements from Derek Thomas and Maurice Roberts (whose book “The Thought of God” was perhaps one of the best books I’ve read devotionally). The topic is preparatory grace. While we believe that salvation happens in an instant, we also know that God usually is slow to draw sinners to himself. Sometimes the process is so slow that the convert can’t really point to a moment of conversion. I, for one, can’t remember when I was saved. It could have been as early as five, and as late as twenty. All I know now is that at some point along the line, I got saved. Preparatory grace is exactly what it sounds like: grace that prepares sinners for salvation.
The theology behind preparatory grace attempts to understand how sinners get converted. Delving into the wisdom of the Puritans is helpful for this issue, as it has implications for how we preach the gospel and shepherd the flock. For example, should we always expect God’s work to be dramatic and clear? Sometimes it is, but most of us who labor in the ministry of the Word know that this is usually not the case. Often, it seems like a long, slow, arduous, and painful process. This book aims to understand this theologically.
I like Beeke’s approach because he does something only few are able to do well: wed history and theology. Here you have something biographical and something theological. You learn about great men from the past the great ideas they’ve wrestled with. Nothing is new under the sun, and we’d all do ourselves a favor to read what others have written on pressing topics.
This book fills a void, as Ferguson makes clear in the introduction. There’s not much written on the subject. In fact, I’ve just finished a class on soteriology in seminary, and we only briefly mentioned preparatory grace. A whole book on the subject, analyzed through the lens of the Puritans, is a great tool not only to go deeper with the subject but also to get into the minds of the towering pillars who came before.
Want to get to know the Puritans? First I’d recommend A Quest for Godliness, by Packer. Second I’d give you Worldly Saints by Leland Ryken. Third, I’d introduce you to Joel Beeke, whose life work has been with the Puritans. Anything you read by him will be soaking with Puritan wisdom, and this book is no different.