The Federal theology of Thomas Boston
Thomas Boston (1676-1732) was a parish minister of the Church of Scotland and a theologian. He was involved in what has come to be known as the Marrow Controversy. This dispute concerned a book entitled The Marrow of Modern Divinity which the Church of Scotland condemned as heretical but which Boston believed to be a fine expression of orthodox Christian theology. In modern times, however, Boston has been the subject of contradictory and incompatible interpretations. There are those who regard Boston as a consistent federal Calvinist who was in complete agreement with the Westminster Confession of Faith. There are also those who argue that certain elements in Boston's theology ran counter to the teaching of the Confession and these, if followed through consistently, ought to have led to the rejection of federal theology. The object of the thesis was to determine which school of thought is correct in its interpretation of Boston. To establish this we have examined Boston's teaching on nine doctrines: the Covenants; the Person of Christ; The Atonement; Predestination; Regeneration; Justification; Sanctification; Repentance and Assurance. On the basis of this we conclude that he was indeed a consistent federal theologian. The opponents of federal theology have made the mistake of contrasting Boston with certain neonomians (especially Principal Hadow of St Andrews) while assuming that these neonomians were the authentic voice of federal Calvinism. Thus they were able to come to the mistaken conclusion that Boston, especially during the Marrow controversy, was engaged in a dispute with federal theology. The truth is that Boston was in dispute with a neonomian perversion of federal theology. The federal theology of Thomas Boston (1676-1732) is a paradigm of federal theology when it is properly understood as a theology of grace.