The doctrine of preparation, formally speaking, is not the primary topic occupying most pulpits across the US. I have no scientific survey to back my claim, only my experience from the churches I have attended and the conversation I have with friends and family regarding their respective worship sessions. To be honest, I can’t think of a time, outside of this book, where I spent so much time really deep diving into the topic of preparation. But nonetheless, the topic is important, and in light of the current state of the western Church, one that needs to be discussed.
Professors Beeke and Smalley have done their homework and their product is a clear demonstration of their labor. The exact purpose of the book is to help the reader understand the Puritan (broad definition) doctrine of preparation up against the false conclusions that all too many modern critics of Puritan thought have deduced. In broad strokes, it is as if the modern critics have presented their case with a sad mixture of doctrinal ignorance and hearsay. Beeke and Smalley, however, call to the witness stand primary source after primary source almost ad nauseum. They cover the history of the doctrine of preparation from Calvin, through the English Puritans, on through to Edwards and the post-Puritan New England Reformers back to the continental reformers of Zwingli to Turretin. And what the reader will find is one coherent, unified thread, even if particular articulation varied between language, time, and geography.
I especially found the chapters dealing with Flavel and Bunyan, the Westminster Confession of Faith, and Jonathan Edwards to be the most enjoyable and edifying. Beeke and Smalley, in my estimation, due a fantastic job of walking the reader through Pilgrim’s Progress and how Bunyan used Christian’s steps to articulate his doctrine of preparation.
This book is best suited for serious Bible students, church leaders, Pastors, Seminary students and professors, and finally for laymen intent on wrestling with the more nuanced theological positions one would expect from the Puritans and Calvinistic thinkers. With that in mind, a basic understanding of Calvinism in general and where the Reformers differed from Rome specifically would go a long way in helping the reader to better understand why the Reformers were so precise in their doctrine of preparation.
I heartily recommend this book and am very grateful for Professors Beeke and Smalley and Reformation Heritage Books for this production. A worthy addition to any serious theological library.