Joel Beeke’s study on the Puritans on Adoption is a welcome addition to a very scant collection of historical studies on this doctrine. In fact, the doctrine of adoption itself has received relatively little attention. Perhaps one reason, maybe the key reason, is that there has been a “lack of dissent or heresy that needed to be addressed” (37).
In his first chapter Beeke seeks to dispel the myth that adoption was ignored by the Puritans. His effort provides a wonderfully comprehensive bibliography of 17th & 18th century writings on adoption. However, Beeke does note, “The Puritans are by no means exhaustive in their doctrine of spiritual adoption” (107).
The book is filled with gems and a helpful unfolding of the doctrine. Beeke summarises Manton and Charnock on the distinctions between adoption and regeneration (27). The Trinitarian involvement in adoption is gloriously explained by Stephen Marshall (45). John Cotton writes, “On the one hand, the believer shares with Jesus the unspeakable love of the Father, but on the other hand, he shares with Jesus the hostility, estrangement, and even hatred of the world” (69). The memorable Thomas Watson says “If we are adopted then we have an interest in all the promises: the promises are the children’s bread” (82).
Currently there are myriads of new studies on adoption (most unpublished). Still, there is room for more historical treatments of the doctrine. Going back to the 19th century to today there has been general consensus on the lack of treatment the doctrine has received. There is plenty more to be explored as to why this is the case, or why people thought it was the case.
Beeke’s brief book provides a helpful summary of the key points of the Puritans on adoption, and it is the doorway into a vast world of resources on adoption. The references in chapter 1, the footnotes throughout, and the extensive bibliography (citing specific pages/chapters in people’s works or more extensive theologies) give more than adequate direction for anyone wanting to study this subject further.