New Resource Page: On The Marrow Controversy

The Marrow of Modern Divinity was regarded by the orthodox Reformed, in the 17th century, as a good summary of the orthodox view of law and gospel, justification, sanctification, and the third (normative) use of the law in the life of the Christian. It should have been accepted as orthodox since Edward Fisher was summarizing and quoting  orthodox Reformed writers such Beza, Ursinus, et al. As Donald John Maclean explains in this lecture, the Marrow was not well received, however, by the General Assembly of the Scottish Church in the 18th century. When Thomas Boston recovered it and started promoting it, controversy ensued. Today, most orthodox Reformed folk receive the Marrow and the Marrow Men as representing the standard, mainstream Protestant, evangelical, Reformed view but there remain those who either say outright or imply either that the Marrow was received as antinomian or ought to be regarded as such. I have addressed this allegation at length in the Heidelcast series linked on the resource page below. The resource page contains a select bibliography, articles and quotations, and links to audio and video resources.

Resources On The Marrow Controversy


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  1. Should Sinclair Ferguson’s “The Whole Christ” also be considered a good resource on the Marrow Controversy?

  2. Dr. Clark, I do appreciate your work and ministry, and am thankful for the Heidelblog. I was also wondering if Sinclair Ferguson’s work on the Marrow Controversy is a good resource option, with some concerns. I learned about this controversy through Ferguson’s lecture series awhile back and have appreciated much that he’s said and explained on this issue. However, I do think his framework of understanding the Law/Gospel contrast as well as the covenant of works/covenant of grace contrast does not fully align with the historic views in reformed theology. Or even with the views of Edward Fisher and Thomas Boston. For Fisher and Boston, there was a strong contrast between the 1st and 3rd purposes of the law regarding justification and sanctification, as well as the covenant of works and the covenant of grace. But for Ferguson, he seems to view the prefall covenant in a more gracious context that is closer to the postfall covenant of grace. Likewise he seems to suggest that the way to resolve both legalism and antinomianism is by rejecting any notion of God as a legalistic God, and instead recognizing that the law always comes within the context of grace. This proposal is certainly different than E.F.’s explanations in the Marrow. Although in fairness, I don’t think that Ferguson’s views on this are a dominant part of his various works on the Marrow.

    • DB,

      Sinclair’s account of the history of the Marrow Controversy is very helpful. I am not terribly familiar with Sinclair’s systematic positions on these issues, though my impression is that he was generally carrying on Mr Murray’s program re the covenant of works. I’m confident that Sinclair upholds the distinction between law and gospel. Sinclair is a gospel man.

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