The Marrow Controversy

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

Jn. 3:16

“Then Jesus said unto them…  my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven.  For the bread of God is He which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.”

Jn. 6:32-33

“Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.”

Jn. 4:10



Order of Contents

Read the Marrow!
Articles  24+
Books  4+

Marrow Men  18+
Continuators  12
Primary Sources  3
.     Pro  20+
.     Contra  8
Biblio  1




The Marrow Controversy (Wikipedia) was an intriguing doctrinal dispute in the Church of Scotland between 1718-1723 over a reprinted book entitled, The Marrow of Modern Divinity.  John Macleod gives a synopsis of the Marrow theology:

“This seems to be the true ‘Marrow’ view of the assurance of faith, that the hearer of the gospel is warranted to cherish in view of God’s free grant of Christ as a Saviour to sinners of mankind.  He is warranted to feel assured that Christ as a Savriour is held out to him in the Gospel to be taken as his own.

Of this gift thus held out the believer says: ‘I take Him as my own.’  Here is faith’s fiducial [trusting] act.” (Scottish Theology in Relation to Church History, RAP, 1995, p. 161)

The Marrow of Modern Divinity was written in 1645, intending to be a compendium of the ‘marrow,’ or essence, of the lately current (largely English), orthodox, doctrinal and practical theology.  The Marrow was attributed to an E.F., which may have stood for Edward Fisher.  The original printing had recommendations by Joseph Caryl, Jeremiah Burroughs and William Strong, who were members of the Westminster Assembly.

The Marrow was apparently largely unknown in its own day, though it rose to prominence in the early 1700’s as it was read and promoted by Rev. Thomas Boston in the Church of Scotland, and reprinted in 1718.  The book came under fire in the Church of Scotland, giving rise to controversy over the nature of the atonement and the Gospel Offer, Assurance, the nature of sanctification, evangelical motives to ethical obedience and the Christian’s relationship to the Law.

The Marrow was accused of teaching a universal redemption, as it included a phrase from Ezekiel Culverwell (1554-1631) that Christ’s death was a ‘deed of gift and grant’ for all mankind.  The Marrow men urged that this referred to all humankind having warrant as ‘mankind-sinners’ to come to come Christ through the revealed proclamation of the gospel.

The Marrow also included a phrase from John Preston (1587-1628) that, referring to the gospel-hearer, ‘Christ is dead for him’.  The Marrow men denied that this meant that Christ necessarily had died (past tense) for the gospel-hearer with respect to the Decree, but that in the call of the gospel Christ was presently Revealed (present tense) as crucified and that the atonement was fully offered to him.  All of the Marrow Men clearly opposed the doctrine of a universal atonement (with the exception of Hog).

The controversy also revealed elements of neonomian legalism and hyper-calvinistic anti-nomianism in the Church of Scotland at the time, these tendencies being especially brought out in the debates over:

– Whether assurance is of the essence of faith

– Whether holiness is necessary to salvation

– Whether fear of punishment and hope of reward are proper motives for obedience

– Whether the believer is under the Law as a rule of life

Twelve ministers, having believed that the General Assembly, in condemning the Marrow by an act in 1720, had condemned some ‘precious gospel truths,’ entered a complaint by way of a petition to the 1721 General Assembly.

The specific issues differed upon, which form a summary of the theological controversy, are summarily elucidated by Thomas M’Crie (the younger) in 6 points in Story of the Scottish Church (1875), pp. 458-59.  John Brown of Whitburn gives representations of both sides in parallel columns in 4 points in Appendix 2 of his Gospel Truth Accurately Stated (1831).

The Assembly’s 1720 Act was upheld and the Marrow Men rebuked, though allowed to continue in their ministries.  The fervor continued to grow as the Marrow Men continued to openly teach and promote what the Assembly had condemned.

The Marrow Theology continued prominently in the Secession Church of Scotland from its founding in 1733 through the 1700’s, the Secession Church being the main evangelical light in Scotland during that time.

With respect to the doctrinal issues, the Marrow and its defenders were, “more in harmony with the reformed orthodoxy of the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries and, on balance, with the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms.” (David Lachman, ‘Marrow Controversy’ in Dictionary of Scottish Church History & Theology, 1993, p. 547)



Where to Start?


Lachman, David – ‘Marrow Controversy’  in Dictionary of Scottish Church History & Theology  (1993), pp. 546-48

The Dictionary is worth the price.  Flip around in it like a kid in a candy store.  It contains many articles that pertain to the Marrow Controversy, under the headings of the various persons and doctrines involved which fill out the Marrow scene in much more detail than simply the main article on the topic.

Ferguson, Sinclair – ‘The Marrow Controversy’  (2004)  44 pp.  being 3 lectures: (1) Historical Details, (2) Danger of Legalism, (3) Danger of Antinomianism

For classic Scottish pieces on the controversy, see M’Crie, Macleod and Beaton below.



Ferguson, Sinclair – The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance—Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters  (Crossway, 2015)  256 pp.  ToC



Read the Marrow, it’s great!

The Marrow is a dialogue between four friends.  ‘Neophyte’ is a new Christian.  ‘Evangelista’ is an evangelical and the voice of the author, Edward Fisher.  ‘Nomista’ is a legalist and ‘Antinomista’ is an anti-nomian (one who throws out God’s Law).


Fisher, Edward – The Marrow of Modern Divinity, with Notes by Thomas Boston  PDF  Buy  (1645; 1718)  in Thomas Boston, The Whole Works  (Aberdeen, 1850), vol. 7, pp. 143-490  ToC





M’Crie, Thomas, the elder – The Edinburgh Christian Observer

vol. 30

no. 8 (Aug, 1831), pp. 539-51
no. 10 (Oct, 1831), pp. 687-99
no. 12 (Dec, 1831), pp. 811-26

New Series, 1.2 (Feb, 1832), pp. 73-94

These articles were reprinted in The Confessional Presbyterian Journal, vol. 16 (2020), pp. 143-84.

M’Crie, Thomas, the younger

‘The Marrow Controversy: with Notices of the State of Scottish Theology in the Beginning of Last Century’  The British & Foreign Evangelical Review, II, (June 1853), pp. 411-40

pt. 2, ch. 3, ‘1717-1732’  of The Story of the Scottish Church  (London: Blackie & Son, 1875), pp. 450-64

M’Crie, Charles, G. – Article 5, Studies in Scottish Ecclesiastical Biography:  3. ‘Rev. James Hog of Carnock & Principal Hadow of St. Andrews’  in The British & Foreign Evangelical Review, vol. 33, no. 133 (Oct., 1884), pp. 669-719

This M’Crie was the grandson of Thomas M’Crie the elder, and a minister and historian in the Free Church of Scotland.

Walker, James – pp. 53-60  of Lecture 2, ‘The Atonement’  in The Theology & Theologians of Scotland, Chiefly of the Seventeenth & Eighteenth Centuries  in The Cunningham Lectures  (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1872)

MacEwen – a chapter in Studies, Historical, Doctrinal, Biographical



Henderson, Henry F. – ‘The Marrow Men’  in The Religious Controversies of Scotland  (1905), pp. 20-43

Beaton, Donald – ‘The ‘Marrow of Modern Divinity’ & the Marrow Controversy’  (SCHS, 1926)  22 pp.  This is virtually a reprint of the same article in the Princeton Theological Review, IV, no. 3 (July, 1906), pp. 317-38

Beaton was a theological tutor in the Free Presbyterian Synod in Scotland.  “…quite a competent account of this passage of doctrinal history…” – John Macleod, Scottish Theology

Macleod, John – Ch. 5, ‘The Neo-Nomians & the Marrow Controversy’  in Scottish Theology in Relation to Church History since the Reformation  (RAP, 1995), pp. 139-66

Macleod (1872-1948) was a Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland minister who became a professor in the Free Church of Scotland.

McIntyre, David, M. – ‘First Strictures on ‘The Marrow of Modern Divnity”  The Evangelical Quarterly, 10.1  (Jan. 1938), pp. 61-70

MacIntyre (1859-1938) was the principal of the Bible Training Institute of Glasgow.

Mechie, Stewart

“The Marrow Controversy Reviewed,”  The Evangelical Quarterly 22.1 (1950), pp. 20-31

‘The Theological Climate in Early Eighteenth Century Scotland’  in Reformation & Revolution, ed. Duncan Shaw  (1967), pp. 258-72

Murray, Ian – ‘The Free Offer of the Gospel Viewed in the Light of the Marrow Controversy’  in Banner of Truth Magazine (1958)

Murray, John J. – ‘The Marrow Controversy – Thomas Boston & the Free Offer’  in Preaching & Revival. The Westminster Conference  Buy  (London, 1984), pp. 34-56

MacLeod, Ian – ch. 2, ‘Willison & the Marrow Controversy’ & ‘Willison’s Conclusions on the Marrow Controversy’  in The Sacramental Theology & Practice of the Reverend John Willison (1680-1750)  PhD thesis  (1994), pp. 43-59

Philip, William J.U. – ‘The Marrow & the Dry Bones: Ossified Orthodoxy & the Battle for the Gospel in Eighteenth-Century Scottish Calvinism’  Scottish Bulletin of Evangelical Theology 15 (Spring, 1997), 1:26-51

Hall, Joseph H. – ‘The Marrow Controversy: a Defense of Grace and the Free Offer of the Gospel’  Mid-America Journal of Theology, 10 (1999), pp. 239-57

McIntosh, J. – ‘The Marrow Controversy’  (1999)  a lecture given at a public meeting of the Inverness Branch of the Scottish Reformation Society



Procee, G.R. – ‘The Marrow Controversy’  Download  n.d.  19 pp.  This paper is hosted on the net by the Free Reformed Churches of North America

Makidon, Michael – ‘The Marrow Controversy’  in The Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society  (2003)  13 pp.

Macleod, Donald – pp. 11-15 of ‘Reformed Theology in Scotland’  in Theology in Scotland  (2010)

Wilson, Andy – ‘A Righteousness Apart from the Law That Is Not against the Law: The Story & Message of The Marrow of Modern Divinity’  in Ordained Servant Online, an organ of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church  Rev. Wilson is a pastor in the PCA.

Fentiman, Travis – ‘The Marrow of Modern Divinity on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel’   (2015)

Somerset, Douglas – ‘Thomas Boston & the Authorship of ‘Queries to the Friendly-Advisor”  Scottish Reformation Society Historical Journal, 1 (2011), 39-58

Irons, Lee – ‘The Law in the Hand of Christ’  (2017)  9 pp.

Irons’ writings are generally not recommended, but here (out his fondness for the ‘republication doctrine’, which the Marrow of Modern Divinity did teach, though in a more orthodox way than the modern revision) Irons documents the phrase and idea of ‘the law in the hand of Christ’ in:

Edward Fisher, Samuel Bolton, Simon Ford, Thomas Worden, Robert Traill, the Marrow Men, Thomas Boston, Ebenezer Erskine, Ralph Erskine, John Gill, John Colquhoun & Joseph Kerr.





Lachman, David – The Marrow Controversy, 1718-1723: a Historical & Theological Analysis  Buy  (1988)  500 pp.

A first rate dissertation and the standard for a full, detailed investigation into the controversy from the primary documents.



Moore, Jonathan D. – English Hypothetical Universalism: John Preston and the Softening of Reformed Theology  (Eerdmans, 2007)  320 pp.  ToC

While the context of the passages relating to the Atonement that the Marrow quotes out of John Preston are consistent with the Revealed Will of God (as the Marrow men held and as Dr. Lachman shows), yet, as Moore demonstrates, other passages in Preston are distinctive of English Hypothetical Universalism.

Moore also gives evidence that the phrase ‘Christ is dead for you’ (which the Marrow men took as relating to the Revealed Will of God in the call of the gospel), was synonymous in Preston’s time with ‘Christ died for you’, relating to the purpose of the Atonement.

Thus, it seems, the Marrow Men, while holding to their own theology which they believed was consistent with Limited Atonement, did not realize that a main figure from whom they were drawing from, Preston, had elements of Hypothetical Universalism in his various works.

VanDoodewaard, William – The Marrow Controversy and Seceder Tradition: Marrow Theology in the Associate Presbytery and Associate Synod Secession Churches of Scotland (1733-1799)  (2009)  330 pp.

Chrisco, Gerald – Theology of Assurance within the Marrow Controversy  Masters thesis  (Reformed Theological Seminary, 2009)  145 pp.



The Marrow Men



Boston, Thomas – Memoirs of the Life, Time & Writing of Thomas Boston  570 pp.



Watson, Jean L. – The Pastor of Ettrick: Thomas Boston  Ref  (Edinburgh: 1883)  153 pp.

Thomson, Andrew – Thomas Boston of Ettrick: his Life & Times  (1895)  263 pp.

Addison, William – The Life & Writings of Thomas Boston of Ettrick  (1936)  200 pp.


Boston’s Theology

Bruggink, Donald – The Theology of Thomas Boston, 1676-1732  PhD thesis  (University of Edinburgh: 1956)

McGowan, A.T.B. – The Federal Theology of Thomas Boston  (1990)  365 pp.

Tse, Chun – The Marrow of Certainty: Thomas Boston’s Theology of Assurance  Pre  (V&R: 2023)  ToC


James Hogg


Hogg, James – Memoirs of the Public Life of Mr. James Hogg & of the Ecclesiastical Proceedings of his Time, particularly of Some General Assemblies that Met Posterior to the Revolution  (Edinburgh: Ogle, 1798)  142 pp.



Moffatt, Charles – James Hog of Carnock (1658-1734), Leader in the Evangelical Party in Early Eighteenth Century Scotland  PhD thesis, (Univ. of Edin., 1960)


The Erskines

Kerr, John – The Erskines: Ebenezer & Ralph  (1881)  67 pp.

Erskine, Scott – The Erskine-Halcro Geneology. The Ancestors & Descendants of Henry Erskine, Minister of Chirnside, his wife, Margaret Halcro of Orkney, & their sons, Ebenezer & Ralph Erskine  (1895)  75 pp.

MacEwen, A.R. – The Erskines  in Famous Scots Series  (Edinburgh: Anderson, 1900)  155 pp.

MacEwen (1851-1916) was a minister in the United Presbyterian Church and the United Free Church of Scotland (post-1900) and a professor of Church History in New College, Edinburgh.  MacEwen described himself  as liberal and evangelical, and a ‘resolute advocate of central and unifying beliefs’.

Sell, Alan P.F. –  ‘The Message of the Erskines for Today’  The Evangelical Quarterly 60.4 (Oct.-Dec. 1988), pp. 299-316


Ralph Erskine


Fraser, Donald – The Life & Diary of the Reverend Ralph Erskine of Dunfermline, one of the Founders of the Secession Church  (1834)  565 pp.

Watson, Jean L. – The Life of Ralph Erskine  (1881)  105 pp.


Ebenezer Erskine

Fraser, Donald – The Life & Diary of the Rev. Ebenezer Erskine of Stirling, father of the Secession Church, to which is prefixed a Memoir of his father, Rev. Henry Erskine  (1837)  565 pp.

Brown, James Campbell – The Annals of Portmoak during the Ministry of the Rev. Ebenezer Erskine from 1703 to 1731, gathered from the Session Book  Published in the Kinross-shire Advertiser  (1889)

Muirhead, Andrew T. N. – Religion, Politics & Society in Stirling during the Ministry of Ebenezer Erskine, 1731-1754  M.Litt. thesis  (University of Stirling, 1983)

Myers, Stephen G. – “The Gospel in its Majesty”: the Theology and Ministry of Ebenezer Erskine  (Univ. of Edinburgh, 2008)  reprinted as Scottish Federalism & Covenantalism in Transition



Continuators of the Marrow Theology

See also the ‘Biographies’ section under ‘The Secession Church’ section on our Scottish Church history page.



Brown of Whitburn, John – Gospel Truth Accurately Stated & Illustrated  (1817)

Appendix 1, ‘Notices of Several Divines, particularly of the Church of Scotland, who were friends to the Doctrine of Grace, not among the Twelve Representers’, pp. 437-49

Includes biographical sketches of: Robert Trail, Frazer of Culross, James Webster, Mr. Warden, Mr. Hamilton of Airth, Mr. Brisbane, Mr. Lindsay of Bothkennar, John McLaren of Edinburgh, William Wilson of Perth, John Gib of Cliesh, Neil M’Vicar of West Kirk, Edinburgh, Alex. Wardrop of Whitburn, Robert Riccalton of Hobkirk, Mr. Mair of Culross, Mr. Simpson of Morebattle, John Grant of Auchinleck, Robert Lithgow of Ashkirk and others.

Appendix 9, ‘Opinions of Modern Evangelical Divines, which Accord with those of the Venerable Marrow-Men’, pp. 470-87


The Seceders

Associate Presbytery – Act of the Associate Presbytery, concerning the Doctrine of Grace: wherein the said Doctrine…  is Asserted & Vindicated, from the Errors Vented & Published in some Acts of the Assemblies of this Church [of Scotland]…  (1744)  75 pp.

The Associate Presbytery was the Secession Church.  This work is not included in this online edition of Adam Gib’s A Display of the Secession Testimony, vol 1, pp. 171-210.  The reason may be that the act of the Church of Scotland condemning the Marrow is technically still in effect, and the Edinburgh Theological Seminary may not feel comfortable making the piece available (which criticizes the Church of Scotland on this point).

A View of Evangelical Subjection and Obedience to the Moral Law, pp. 211-220 (which was also part of the Marrow Controversy) is also left out of this online edition.


Adam Gib

‘The Open Door of the House of Mercy’  (1774)  7 pp.  in The Master’s Trumpet, issue 4  (Dec, 2004)

This is the best theological analysis of the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel.  Gib posits the grounds of the Sincere Free Offer in the Revealed Will of God, as opposed to the Decrees of God and the Extent of the Atonement.  He distinguishes and guards the doctrine from a General Atonement of the Arminians on the one hand, and relates it to Biblical Limited Atonement on the other hand.  Gib was a mid-1700’s Scottish minister from the Seceder tradition.

‘Concerning the Gospel Call & the Warrant of Faith’  (1747; RBO)  31 pp.  from The Present Truth: A Display of the Secession Testimony, vol. 2, Progression 5.  With an introduction by Travis Fentiman.

This is the larger section from which the above shorter article was selected.  Read the whole thing!


John Brown of Whitburn

Brown of Whitburn, John – Gospel Truth Accurately Stated and Illustrated, by James Hog, Thomas Boston, Ebenezer and Ralph Erskine and others, occasioned by the republication of the Marrow of Modern Divinity  (1817; 1831)  500 pp.

Brown (1754-1832) was the oldest son of John Brown of Haddington and was a minister in the Associate (Burgher) Synod.

“In the Memoirs of James Hervey (E. 1806, 1821), he chronicled the life of an English Non-conformist whose understanding of the gospel was drawn from the Marrow theology.  He also edited his father’s Select Remains (L, 1789), and popular digests of literature which adhered to the Marrow outlook.” – Dictionary of Scottish Church History & Theology


James Hervey

ed. Brown of Whitburn, John – Memoirs of James Hervey  (1822)  537 pp.  ToC

Hervey (1714-1758) was ‘an English Non-conformist whose understanding of the gospel was drawn from the Marrow theology.’ (DSCH&T)

Theron & Aspasio, or, a Series of Dialogues & Letters upon the Most Important & Interesting Subjects, vol. 1, 2 (in 2 vols) in vols. 2 & 3 of his Works

“…he published…  in 1755 a much more famous work, ‘Dialogues between Theron and Aspasio,’ in three volumes.  This work he dedicated to Lady Frances Shirley, a kinswoman of Selina Hastings, countesse of Huntingdon [q. v.] Aspasia endeavours to convince Theron of the doctrine of imputed righteousness.  The ‘Calvinistic controversy’ was then at its height, and Hervey, as a Calvinist, drew down upon himself many opponents, especially John Wesley, who wrote some ‘Remarks’ on ‘Theron and Aspasio’ which were not very complimentary either in matter or style.  Hervey wrote ‘Eleven Letters’ in reply, which were all but ready for the press when he died, and which were published by his brother, William Hervey, in 1706.  These are the most important of his works…” – DNB

A Defence of Theron & Aspasio  (1761)  300 pp.


Thomas Bell

Bell, Thomas – Treatise on the Nature & Effects of Saving Faith  (1814)  120 pp.

Bell was a minister in the Relief Church.


Calhoun, John

The Works of John Colquhoun

Colquhoun was a Church of Scotland minister.  See especially his View of Saving Faith, ch. 4, ‘The Warrant for Believing or Trusting in Christ’ and ch. 6, ‘The Assurance and Full Assurance of Faith’, as well as his A Collection of the Promises of the Gospel and A Treatise on the Law and Gospel.



Agnew, David C.A. – pt. 1, ch. 6, ‘Various Writings & Discussions of the Seventeenth & Eighteenth Centuries in Harmony with ‘The Marrow”  in The Theology of Consolation: or an Account of Many Old Writings & Writers on that Subject  (1881), pp. 91-114

Agnew was of the Free Church of Scotland.  For details about this work and its contents, see Beaton, p. 134.



Primary Sources & Documents


A Full & True State of the Controversy Concerning the Marrow of Modern Divinity, as Debated between the General Assembly & Several Ministers, 1720-1721  (Glasgow: Bryce, 1773)  185 pp.

This gives the main documents of the Marrow Controversy.  The publisher is in favor of the Marrow, as seen in the Dialogue on p. 104 ff.

General Assembly of the Church of Scotland – VII. Session 10, May 21, 1722, ‘Act concerning Doctrine, Confirming & Explaining the Acts 5th & 8th of the General Assembly, anno 1720’  in Acts of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland 1638-1842  (Edinburgh: Edinburgh Printing & Publishing Co, 1843)

This upheld and enlarged upon the 1720 Act condemning the Marrow doctrines.

Brown of Whitburn, John – Gospel Truth Accurately Stated & Illustrated, by James Hog, Thomas Boston, Ebenezer & Ralph Erskine & others, Occasioned by the Republication of the Marrow of Modern Divinity  (1817; Glasgow, 1831)  500 pp.  ToC

Brown (1754-1832) was the oldest son of John Brown of Haddington, was the father of John Brown of Edinburgh, and was a minister in the Associate (Burgher) Synod.

“…a work that a man should look up who wants to have in handy form a ‘Marrow’ exposition of the merits of The Marrow controversy…  This is an exposition of the subject that will be of interest to anyone who desires to learn what the teaching of Boston and his fellows was which told so much upon the thinking of Evangelical Scotland.” – John Macleod, Scottish Theology


Pro, for the Marrow

General Assembly & the Marrow Men – The Twelve Queries Proposed by the Commission of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, 1721, to the Marrow Men, with their Answers  (1812)  82 pp.

“A considerable literature was produced in the course of the controversy…  Few of the works are of enduring value; perhaps the best are the [Marrow] brethren’s Answers to the Commission’s Queries (E, 1722), Robert Riccaltoun’s Sober Enquiry (E, 1723) and Thomas Boston’s 1726 edition of the Marrow, with copious notes.” – D. Lachman, Dictionary


Thomas Boston

Sermons  in Works

‘Christ the Saviour of the World’  (1724)  on 1 Jn. 4:14  in vol. 6, p. 294 ff.

‘Christ, the Son of God, Gifted to Sinners’  on Isa. 9:6  in vol. 10, p. 188 ff.

‘The Mystery of Christ in the Form of a Servant’  in vol 7, p. 520 ff.

“…are also expositions of the Marrow theology.” – Beaton


Riccaltoun, Robert


The Politic DisputantChoice Instructions for Quashing a Stubborn Adversary [Hadow]…  (Edinburgh: 1722)  80 pp.  no ToC

For a specimen of this piece, see Beaton, p. 132.

“In the pamphlet warfare, the edition of The Marrow of 1726, with Boston’s notes and two pamphlets from the pen of an unordained licentiate, Robert Riccaltoun, are perhaps the most valuable documents.  Riccaltoun’s Politick Disputant exposes Hadow’s method of attack in a thorough and scathing and sarcastic fashion, such as [John] Witherspoon at his best might employ.” – John Macleod, Scottish Theology

A Sober Enquiry…  (1723)

ch. 3, ‘Christ’s Suretyship’

ch. 4, ‘Of the Testament of our Lord Jesus Christ, or the Covenant of Grace between God & Man by the Mediator’

“Riccaltoun (1691-1769) was the Church of Scotland minister at Hobkirk, Roxburghshire. His ‘Sober Enquiry’ is a masterful review and adjudication of the issues debated in the Marrow Controversy.

‘Riccaltoun attempted to mediate, though making it clear that the Marrow Brethren had the better argument and faulting [Principal James] Hadow for widening breaches rather than seeking peace.’ (The Dictionary of Scottish Church History and Theology)

Riccaltoun corrects misrepresentations among opponents, examines the real import of the Marrow of Modern Divinity’s unfamiliar phrases, and points to the common ground held by all true sons of the Church of Scotland. Though the Sober Enquiry has never been reprinted, the book contains an exceptionally able treatment of the role of the mediator in the covenant of grace, and the instrumentality of faith.” – Sherman Isbell

ch. 8, ‘Administration & Discharge of Christ’s Office Towards Sinners’  in A Treatise on the General Plan of Revelation  in Works  (1771), vol. 2, pp. 156-81



A Review of An Essay Upon Gospel & Legal Preaching: in Several Letters to a Friend  (Edinburgh: 1723)  128 pp.  no ToC

In response to a pamphlet below by George Logan.

A Sober Enquiry Into the Grounds of the Present Differences in the Church of Scotland  (1723)  446 pp.  no ToC

“His Sober Enquiry is looked upon as perhaps as able a piece of writing as was called forth in the whole course of the controversy.  It was the work of a man who showed himself to be at home in handling questions of Christian doctrine.” – John Macleod, Scottish Theology

“This is decidedly one of the ablest defences of the Marrow theology.” – Beaton, p. 188


James Hog

The works of James Hog at PRDL

A Conference Betwixt Epaphroditus & Epaphras: wherein the Very Reverend Principal Hadow’s Sermon, preached before the Synod of Fife, April 7th, 1719, is fairly enquired into, in so far as he findeth fault with Mr. Marshal on Sanctification, The Marrow of Modern Divinity, & the Explication of Passages Excepted Against in the Marrow  (Edinburgh: Mosman, 1719)

Hog reviews the first public sermon against the Marrow.


Ralph Erskine

Gospel Sonnets  (Pittsburgh: Loomis, 1831)

“Ralph Erskine’s Gospel Sonnets, at one time so highly prized by the serious minded in Scotland, and her sons beyond the seas, is a book steeped in the Marrow doctrines.” – Beaton

‘Christ the People’s Covenant…’  (1722)


‘The Word of Salvation Sent to Sinners’  in vol. 3, p. 288 ff.

‘Law Death, Gospel Life: or, the Death of Legal Righteousness, the Life of Gospel Holiness’  in vol. 2, p. 9 ff.

“…Ralph Erskine’s sermons, and in them we have the essence of ‘Marrow’ teaching.” – John Macleod, Scottish Theology

‘The Pregnant Promise, with her Issue, or the Children of Promise Brought Forth and Described’  in vol. 4, p. 91 ff.

‘The Giving Love of God and Receiving Property of Faith’  in vol. 3, p. 198 ff.


Ebenezer Erskine


‘The Warrant & Duty of Sinners to Believe the Gospel’  (Gillies, 1843)  30 pp.


‘Christ in the Believer’s Arms’  in vol. 1, p. 148 ff.

‘The Law of Faith Issuing Forth out of Mt. Sion’  in vol. 1, p. 424 ff.

‘The Assurance of Faith Opened and Applied’  in vol. 1, p. 205 ff.

‘The Necessity and Profitableness of Good Works Asserted’  in vol. 1, p. 125 ff.


Contra the Marrow

Hadow, James

The Record of God & Duty of Faith therein Required, a Sermon … before the Synod of Fife at St. Andrew’s April 7th, 1719  (Edinburgh: Mosman, 1719)  39 pp.

Hadow (c.1670-1747) was the leading opponent of the Marrow and the principal of St. Andrews.  This sermon included the first public attack on the Marrow.

“This sermon… has been described as a creditable performance, though somewhat marred by imputations of rigidity and uncharitableness towards Hog.” – Beaton, The Marrow

A Commentary by James Hadow, Principal of St Mary’s College, University of St Andrews 1707-1747, on “The Marrow of Modern Divinity” [reprinted edition, Edinburgh, 1718]  Ref  (1719)  6 pp.

A Review of A Conference Betwixt Epaphroditus & Epaphras…  (Edinburgh: Mosman, 1719)  67 pp.  no ToC

A review of Hog’s work above.

The Antinomianism of the Marrow of Modern Divinity Detected. Wherein the Letter to a Private Christian, about believers receiving the law, as the law of Christ, is specially considered  Ref  (1722)

Hadow’s most extensive work against the Marrow.  “Hadow’s work was characterized by a narrow dogmatism, a tendency to wrest his opponents’ arguments to fit his own preconceptions, and an inability to accept any terminology other than his own.” (Lachman, Dictionary, p. 384)  This work was answered by Riccaltoun in his Sober Enquiry.

Anonymous – The Snake in the Grass: or, Remarks upon a Book, entitled, The Marrow of Modern Divinity: touching both the Covenant of Works & of Grace, etc. Originally done by E.F. about the year 1645: & lately revised, corrected & published by the Reverend Mr. James Hog  (Edinburgh, May 14, 1719)  47 pp.

The learned author of the tract aligned quotes from the Marrow, in sequence from the book, and gives his remarks on them, many of which are legitimate criticisms.  Worth reading.

Minister of the Church of Scotland – Remarks upon the Answers of the Brethren to the Queries Proposed by the Commission  (1722)  91 pp.

Multiple – Some Observations Upon the Answers of the Brethren to the Queries Propos’d to Them by the Commission of the Gen. Assembly, Upon Their Representation Humbly Offered to the Judicatories of the Church  Ref  Buy  (1722)  86 pp.

A Minister in the Church of Scotland [Logan, George] – An Essay upon Gospel & Legal Preaching  Ref  (1723)  142 pp.

This was reviewed by Riccaltoun above.




See the bibliographies in Lachman, VanDoodewaard and Beaton above.

Low, George D. – Appendix 2, ‘Bibliography – B. – The Marrow Controversy’  in A General Account of My Life by Thomas Boston  (1907), pp. 361-65

The list is divided into two parts: (a) for the Marrow, and (b) against the Marrow.

“The fullest bibliography of books and pamphlets connected with the Controversy [as of 1926]…” – Beaton




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Thomas Boston
Ralph Erskine
Ebenezer Erskine
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John Colquhoun

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Bible Verses on Degrees of Reward in Heaven

Bible Verses on Degrees of Punishment in Hell

The Mosaic Covenant