A Righteousness Apart from the Law That Is Not against the Law: The Story and Message of The Marrow of Modern Divinity

Christian Focus
By Andy Wilson - Posted at The Ordained Servant:


The Story of The Marrow of Modern Divinity

The Marrow of Modern Divinity is a book with an interesting history and an important message. The title is indicative of the book’s content: it is filled with choice quotations from key Reformers, including Luther, Calvin, Bullinger, Ursinus, and Ames. First published in 1645 by an English bookseller/barber/surgeon named Edward Fisher, it was also at the heart of a controversy in the eighteenth-century Scottish church. In the midst of that controversy, a minister named Thomas Boston published an edition of The Marrow that contained extensive explanatory notes on Fisher’s text. A 2009 edition published by Christian Focus presents Boston’s helpful, but sometimes cumbersome, notes in a reader-friendly format.[1]

The Marrow is written as a dialogue among four characters: Evangelista (a minister of the gospel); Nomista (a legalist); Antinomista (an antinomian); and Neophytus (a young Christian). Fisher uses the dialogue among these characters to distinguish the biblical gospel from the errors of antinomianism and legalism. Antinomianism says that God’s moral law has no abiding validity for the Christian. Legalism says that a person’s obedience is a contributing factor in his justification. But the gospel says that God counts his people as righteous on the basis of the righteousness of Christ alone, which is imputed to them by faith alone, and good works flow forth as the fruit of saving faith.

The Marrow is organized in three sections, the names of which are derived from phrases found in the Pauline epistles: the Law of Works, the Law of Faith, and the Law of Christ (see Rom. 3:27–28; 1 Cor. 9:21).[2] Boston explains these names as follows:
All men by nature are under the law of works; but taking the benefit of the law of faith, by believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, they are set free from the law of works, and brought under the law of Christ. “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden—take my yoke upon you” (Matt. 11:28–29). (Boston, 50)
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