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Theological Book Reviews - The Grace of Law

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Today, many Christians are turning back to the puritans to, “walk in the old paths,” of God’s word, and to continue to proclaim old truth that glorifies Jesus Christ. There is no new theology. In our electronic age, more and more people are looking to add electronic books (ePubs, mobi and PDF formats) to their library – books from the Reformers and Puritans – in order to become a “digital puritan” themselves. Take a moment to visit Puritan Publications (click the banner below) to find the biggest selection of rare puritan works updated in modern English in both print form and in multiple electronic forms. There are new books published every month. All proceeds go to support A Puritan’s Mind.

What did the Puritans think about the Law? In this dissertation now published, Kevan surveys Puritanism on this important topic.

Theological Book Reviews – The Grace of Law
Reviewed by Dr. C. Matthew McMahon

The Grace of Law

by Ernest F. Kevan
Soli Deo Gloria Publications, Morgan, PA: 1993.
294 Pages, Paperback.

When the morals of humanity degenerates, moving closely towards the radical relativism which has evolved today, then a book like “The Grace of Law” is much needed. This is Kevan’s doctoral dissertation on a “Study of Puritan Theology”, specifically the Puritan’s view of the law. Here he demonstrates how the Puritans excelled in understanding the relationship between their salvation and election in Jesus Christ and their adherence to law. They were not antinomians by any means, nor legalists. They did not work for their salvation (as popular opinion would have us believe) but they were obedient in their salvation. The keeping of the moral law was that which demonstrated to the world that they had been converted.

Dr. Kevan explores the indispensable place of the law in the life of every Christian through the eyes of the Puritans. He shows how the Puritans expressed the relationship of the law to grace, and how the Christian is now free in Christ to keep the law. Dr. Kevan says in his preface “The object of this work is to explore the puritan teaching on the place which the law of God must take in the life of a believer and to examine it for the contribution that it may make towards a true understanding of the Christian doctrine of sanctification.”

There is no doubt that this is an exceptionally well documented and written book on the subject. I have found little which matches it concise and poignant spectrum of teaching. Its value is the extensive and well ordered treatment of the puritans view, and the documentation for further study of such an important topic. It is impossible to read the puritans and not find page after page, or sermon after sermon, of references to the law of God. It was their hammer by which they drove the nails of obedience, assurance, sanctification and the like into the mind of the believer. To remove the law from the theme of puritan preaching would have crippled it.

The book has 7 chapters and a conclusion; as well as a thorough documented list of primary and secondary sources for bibliographic information. The chapters include “The Law of God for Man,” “The Place of the Law and the Purpose of God,” and “Christian Law Keeping.” He also covers a helpful topic in his chapter “The Puritan Doctrine: An Assessment in the Light of Recent Critical Studies” showing how far recent scholarship and this topic have come.

I would heartily recommend this book to anyone dealing with the “legalism vs. antinomianism” subject, one who is wrestling with the place of the law in the life of the Christian. Dr. Kevan’s use of Puritan quotes will give you enough to chew on for quite some time. You will come away with a real sense of what the Puritans taught and preached concerning moral values and the distinction of what is right and wrong.

Some Quotes:
“Unless, therefore, the heart be right, the endeavor to obey God’s Law is nothing more than a display of legalism.”

“The Law is thus the glorious expression of the glory of God in so far as that glory is to be realized by the creatures whom He has made in His own image.”

“The Puritans regarded man as a rational being. By this they meant not only that he was a participator in that Divine reason which is at the heart of the universe, but that he was unique, in that he alone of the inhabitants of the earth was aware of this Divine reason and of the obligation rightly to relate himself to it. This obligation of right relationship to the Law – in distinction from the non-volitional aspects of conformity in the lower orders of being – gives rise to the concept of moral Law.”

“The Puritans had a great fear of what they called “morality”, by which they meant a mere legalism in the doing of good works for no other reason than they were expected to do so.”

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