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Thomas Boston - 1

Thomas Boston - 1
Item# thomas-boston-1
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Thomas Boston (1676-1732) Of the many great divines who have adorned the ecclesiastical and theological scene in Scotland, Thomas Boston must be reckoned as among the greatest. Dr. Andrew Thomsom who wrote Thomas Boston : his life and times, asserts that "if Scotland had been searched during the early part of the eighteenth century there was not a minister of Christ within its bounds who, alike in personal character and in the discharge of his pastoral functions, approached nearer the apostolic model than did this man of God". Thomas Boston was born at Duns in Berwickshire, in the year 1676. In his Memoirs, he inform us that, at about the age of seven, he "began to conceive a remarkable pleasure" in reading the Bible. Some four years later, under a sermon by Henry Erskine, he was "awakened to a deep concern about the eternal state" of his soul. After receiving the elements of education at the local grammar school, he proceeded to the University of Edinburgh. At the end of the usual three years' course, he was licensed to preach by the Presbytery of Duns and Chirnside. It was during the period of his probationership that Boston penned his little classic: A Soliloquy on the Art of Man-Fishing. While reading the Scriptures in private, the words of Matthew 4:19, "Follow me and I will make you fishers of men", deeply impressed him, and his heart "cried our" for their accomplishment. In 1699, Boston was ordained and inducted to the small pastoral charge of Simprin, a village within a few miles of his home town. While he was understandably discouraged by the fewness of his hearers, such were his self-effacing views that he felt Simprin, or any other place, good enough for him, and "rather superior" to his "small talents". Under his anointed ministry, however, the wilderness was to blossom as the rose. Boston remained at Simprin until 1707 when he was translated to Ettrick. It was here he died in 1732, in the fifty-seventh year of his life. His biographer remarks that even before Boston's death, young and old had come to pronounce his name with reverence. It has become "a synonym for holy living". It was while Boston was at Simprin that a copy of Edward Fisher's Marrow of Modern Divinity came into his hands. The book was to have a profound effect upon him. He writes: "I rejoiced in it as a light which the Lord had seasonably struck up to me in my darkness". Up to this time, Boston had felt a certain inhibition in proclaiming the free and universal offer of Christ to men. This inhibition arose from the supposed antinomy between the decree of election and the indiscriminate offer of salvation to all men. But once he had grasped the formula, according to the theology of the Marrow , that "Jesus Christ is the Father's deed of gift and grant unto all mankind lost", his inhibition faded away,. and he began to preach with a fulness and freeness he had hitherto not known. his parishioners could not fail to recognise the deep transformation in their pastor and his ministrations. One of Boston's acquaintances, the worthy Rev. Thomas Davidson of Bruntee, affirmed that he looked upon the frequent opportunities he had of hearing him preach as one of the most exquisite privileges with which he was favoured. There was, he wrote, a "majestic energy" about Boston's preaching, and while there were few (if any) who courted popularity less than Boston did, yet, "like his shadow, it followed him whereever he went". Boston's popularity still persists among those who relish the truth as it is in Jesus. He invariably studied with pen in hand, and his sermons were written out in full before he delivered them. These facts, under the divine providence, contributed to the perpetuation of his productions. Due to this self-diffidence, however, Boston was very reluctant to publish, but he was prevailed on by those who recognised his genius as a preacher and theologian. The book for which he is most remembered is, of course, his Human Nature in Its Fourfold State a book which was designed by God to lead thousands to Christ. But apart from the Fourfold State, a Collection of Sermons, and an edition of the Marrow which he annotated, no other book by Boston issued from the press in his life-time. Among those published posthumously are his View of The Covenant of Works and of Grace, The Crook in The Lot, to mention but a few. Between 1720 and 1776, sixteen different works by Boston were published. Very few today are so fortunate as to possess the whole of Boston's works. The Beauties, originally published in 1831, was compiled by the Rev. Samuel M'Millan with the worthy object of presenting the public with a compend of Bostonian theology, which he hoped would effect much spiritual good, and countervail "the leaven of the Arminian scheme". In his preface, M'Millan wrote: "Boston was eminently blessed with a happy talent for using his great learning just as every godly minister should use it; not in flights of oratory, calculated to dazzle and astonish, but in bringing down the high mysteries of the gospel to the common capacity and in making them quite intelligible to the meanest understanding'. It was the editor's prayer that this volume would be greatly blessed by God in turning sinners from darkness to light and from the power of Satan unto God. This, we may add, is the prayer of the present publishers. In the last letter he wrote, Boston left his MSS. to the Lord and the management of his friends as the Lord would direct them. It gives us much pleasure to be the instruments in taking up his writings again, under God's direction we trust, and in furthering Ralph Erskine's prediction of their illustrious author: Whose golden pen to future times will bear His fame, till in the clouds his Lord appear.


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