Man’s “complicated misery”: Abraham Booth, The Covenant of Works, and Theological Anthropology

At the outset of his ministry in the late eighteenth-century, the Particular Baptist pastor-theologian Abraham Booth (1734–1806) described mankind’s condition as a state of “complicated misery.” What were the theological convictions that led him to such a conclusion? In exploring this question, this paper will seek to demonstrate that Booth’s understanding of man’s fallen nature was tied to his commitment to a federal theology that closely followed the formulation of the Second London Confession of Faith (1677). In his doctrinal system, Booth connected the issue of theological anthropology to Adam’s fall in the covenant of works. He believed that the fall of Adam, and the subsequent imputation of his corruption and guilt to all his posterity, left mankind in a state of utter depravity and ruin, so that all men were by nature enemies of God and hopeless apart from God’s gracious intervention. Furthermore, Booth located man’s redemption from this fallen state in the covenant of grace, which involved the salvation of God’s elect through the mediatorial work of Jesus Christ. In his formulation of these ideas, Booth demonstrated much continuity with the Particular Baptist confessional tradition. In recent decades, scholars have made great strides in understanding the distinctiveness of Particular Baptist covenant theology as it developed in the seventeenth century. However, they have only begun to scratch the surface of how this covenant theology continued to develop in subsequent generations of Baptist life. As one of the most prolific and respected Particular Baptist pastor-theologians of the eighteenth-century, Abraham Booth is an ideal subject through which to track this development. This paper, therefore, seeks to contribute to ongoing Baptist scholarship by exploring Abraham Booth’s federal theology, and its implications for theological anthropology.

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