This book is the gleanings of a thorough and industrious study. It is a simple, practical, and memorable summary of Christian doctrine.
Boston describes in the work the four 'states' of humanity. These are:
- The State of Innocence, or Primitive Integrity;
- The State of Nature, or Entire Deprivation;
- The State of Grace, or Begun Recovery;
- The Eternal State, or the State of Consummate Happiness or Misery.
What Boston is in fact doing in his treatment of these themes is setting out a 'touchstone of grace', conscious as he is of a great amount of chaff amongst the wheat, and well aware that not all who confess Christ with the mouth are true Christians. He clearly distinguishes between an historical faith and a true saving faith, and shows how the appearance of godliness is different from the substance of godliness.
The key issue in the book is the question of how the Lord transfers sinners from their wretched state of nature into the state of grace. 'I am now to show how the branches are cut off from the natural stock, the first Adam, and grafted into the true vine, the Lord Jesus Christ'...
It is our being in Christ, or our not being in him, that determines our eternal destiny. He who is in Christ and believes in him and lives off his power will hear at the end of this brief life, 'Come, ye blessed of my Father.' Those who live and die outside of Christ will hear: 'Depart from me, ye workers of iniquity.'
Not many people believe in hell nowadays. Many no longer even agree that heaven exists...With his whole heart, Boston desired that his hearers and readers would be assured of the state of consummate happiness and that they would escape the consummate state of misery by way of genuine conversion. He knew that both of these states know no end!