Human Nature in its Fourfold State

by Thomas Boston

Sovereign Grace Publishers

This is THE classic on human nature. It was immediately acclaimed as such, and went through several printings during the author’s lifetime. The book deals with the four states of human existence: The State of Innocence; the State of Nature; the State of Grace; and, the Eternal State.

The State of Innocence is, of course, only in the case of Adam, in whom all mankind enjoyed a state of innocence. [”God made man upright, – Eccl. 7:29) in His own image, and glorious were those two in the garden of Eden.

The State of Nature came after the man [”sought out many inventions,” – Eccles. 7:29] the first being the venture into what it would be like when one had disobeyed God. Then immediately that pure soul and body became corrupt. Sin entered the world, and death by sin. Adam, and all fathers since, were to pass on his own image to his posterity, with sin and corruption infecting them all. Thereafter all would be [”shapen in iniquity,”] (Ps. 51:5), conceived in sin. Man became totally depraved, dead in sins and trespasses, short of grace, not one of all Adam’s posterity seeking to God (Rom. 3:10-18).

But praise be to Almighty God, there is for many a State of Grace. All who are to attain to this State must be born again, must be regenerated and made spiritually alive, for only then can all things be made new in such a new creature (1 Cor. 5:17). This supernatural change restores the image of God (Eph. 4:24; 2 Cor. 3:18). A mystical union between Christ and the believer is forged, for such a one is grafted into and united with the Lord Jesus Christ. Being thus anointed, the believer is adopted into God’s family and becomes a child of God.

The Eternal State is the next state after death. ‘The life of man is a stream, running into death’s devouring deeps.’ And that life is vain, and short, and swift. Then it is that some enter into everlasting condemnation, and some into everlasting life. For the former there is no hope or joy ever. For the latter there is everlasting joy and peace.


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  • I. Man’s Original Righteousness
      • 1. The state of innocence wherein man was created. ‘God hath made man upright.’
      • 2. Here is man’s fallen state: ‘But they have sought out many inventions.’
      • 3. Observe here the certainty and importance of these things; ‘Lo, this only have I found.’
    • I. Man’s Original Righteousness — Inquire into the righteousness of this state wherein man was created
        • it was:
          • 1. Universal, both with respect to the subject of it, the whole man, and the object of it, the whole law
          • 2. Natural to him, and not supernatural, in that state
          • 3. Mutable; it was a righteousness that might be lost, as is manifested by the doleful event
      • 1. Man’s understanding was a lamp of light. He had perfect knowledge of the law, and of his duty accordingly
      • 2. His will in all things was agreeable with the will of God
        • The law was impressed upon Adam’s soul, by:
          • 1. Putting the law in the mind, denoting knowledge of it
          • 2. Writing it in the heart, denoting inclinations in the will, answerable to the commands of the law
      • 3. His affections were orderly, pure, and holy; which is a necessary part of that uprightness wherein man was created
    • II. Happiness is the result of holiness; and as this was a holy, so it was a happy state — Lay before you some of the happy concomitants and consequences thereof
      • 1. Man was then a very glorious creature
      • 2. He was the favourite of Heaven
      • 3. God made him lord of the world, prince of the inferior creatures, universal lord and emperor of the whole earth
        • When God made him thus holy and happy, He graciously gave him this restriction…to keep him from falling
          • 1. As it was most proper for the honour of God to assert His sovereign dominion over all; so it was most proper for man’s safety
          • 2. This was a memorial of his mutable state given to him from heaven, to be laid up for his greater caution
          • 3. God made man upright, directed towards God as his chief end
      • 4. As he had a perfect tranquility within his own breast, so he had a perfect calm without
      • 5. Man had a life of pure delight and unalloyed pleasure, in this state
      • 6. He was immortal
    • III. The Doctrine of the State of Innocence applied — Apply the whole
      • Use 1 – for information:
        • 1) That not God, but man himself was the cause of his ruin
        • 2) God may most justly require of men perfect obedience to His law, and condemn them for their not obeying it perfectly
        • 3) Behold here the infinite obligation we lie under to Jesus Christ the second Adam
      • Use 2 – A reproof to three sorts of persons:
        • 1) Those who hate religion in the power of it, wherever it appears
        • 2) Those who put religion to shame, and those who are ashamed of religion, before a graceless world
        • 3) The proud self-conceited professor, who admires himself in a garment of rags which he has patched together
      • Use 3 – Of lamentation

I. The State of Innocence

1. Man’s Original Righteousness

  • p8 – “…man was made right (agreeable to the nature of God, whose work is perfect), without any imperfection, corruption, or principle of corruption, in his body or soul.”
  • p8 – “What David was in a gospel sense, that was [Adam] in a legal sense; one ‘according to God’s own heart,’ altogether righteous, pure, and holy. God made him thus: He did not first make him, and then make him righteous, but in the very making of him, He made him righteous.”
  • p9 – “DOCTRINE: God made man altogether righteous”
  • p9 – “A creature can no more be morally independent of God in its actions and powers, than it can be naturally independent of Him. A creature, as a creature, must acknowledge the Creator’s will as its supreme law; for as it cannot exist without Him, so it must not be but for Him, and according to His will;”
  • p9 – “…there is a twofold conformity required of a man; a conformity of the power of his soul to the law, which you may call habitual righteousness; and a conformity of all his actions to it, which is actual righteousness. Now, God made man habitually righteous; man was to make himself actually righteous.”
  • p10 – “It is true, Adam had not the law written upon tables of stone, but it was written upon his mind, the knowledge thereof being created with him. God impressed it upon his soul, and made him a law to himself, as the remains of it among the heathens do testify.”
  • p10 – “An inclination to evil is really a fountain of sin, and therefore inconsistent with that rectitude and uprightness which the text expressly says [Adam] was endued with at his creation. The will of man then was directed and naturally inclined to God and goodness, though mutable.”
  • p10 – “So that as the will, when we consider it as renewed by grace, is by that grace naturally inclined to the same holiness, in all its parts, which the law requires; so was the will of man, when we consider him as God made him at first, endued with natural inclinations to everything commanded by the law.”
  • p10 – “…when God promises, in the new covenant, to ‘write the law in the hearts of his people,’ it imports quite another thing than what heathens have: for though they have notions of it in their minds, yet their hearts go another way; their will has got a set and bias quite contrary to that law.”
  • p10 – “In a word, as Adam knew his Master’s pleasure in the matter of duty, so his will inclined to what he knew.”
  • p11 – “…as troubled water is unfit to receive the image of the sun so the heart filled with impure and disorderly affections is not fit for divine communications.”
  • p11 – “Man’s affections, then, in his primitive state, were pure from all defilement, free from all disorder and distemper, because in all their motions they were duly subjected to his clear reason, and his holy will.”
  • p11 – “There was nothing in the law but what was agreeable to his reason and will, as God made him, though sin has now set him at odds with it;”
  • p12 – “God set [man’s will] towards good only, yet he did not so fix and confirm its inclinations, that it could not alter. No, it was moveable to evil, and that only by man himself, God having given him a sufficient power to stand in this integrity, if he had pleased.”
  • p12 – “And herein believers have the advantage of Adam, that they can never totally nor finally fall away from grace.”
  • p12 – “Thus was man made originally righteous, being created in ‘God’s own image’, which consists in the positive qualities of ‘knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness’. All that God made was very good, according to their several natures. And so was man morally good, being made after the image of Him who is ‘good and upright’.
  • p13 – “God reduced the law, which he gave in his creation, into the form of a covenant, whereof perfect obedience was the condition: life was the thing promised, and death the penalty.”
  • p13 – “Yet it is not to be thought that man’s life and death did hang only on this matter of the forbidden fruit, but on the whole law; for so says the apostle, ‘It is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things with are written in the book of the law to do them.'”
  • p13 – “And Christ Himself expounds the promise of the covenant pf works, of eternal life, while He proposes the condition of that covenant to a proud young man, who, though he had not Adam’s stock, yet would needs enter into life in the way of working, as Adam was to have done under his covenant, ‘If thou wilt enter into life keep the commandments.'”
  • p13 – “The death threatened was such as the life promised was, and that most justly; namely, temporal, spiritual, and eternal death.”
  • p14 – “It was an act of grace, worthy of the gracious God whose favourite he was; for there was grace and free favour in the first covenant, though the exceeding riches of the grace, as the apostle calls it, were reserved for the second. It was certainly an act of grace, favour, and admirable condescension in God, to enter into a covenant, and such a covenant, with His own creature.”
  • p14 – “If [Adam] had stood in his integrity to the end of time, and there had been no covenant promising eternal life to him upon his obedience, God might have withdrawn His supporting hand at last and so have made him creep back into nothing, whence almighty power had drawn him forth.”
  • p14 – “Thus man was God’s deputy governor in the lower world, and this his dominion was an image of God’s sovereignty.”
  • p14 – “The Lord dealt most liberally and bountifully with him, ‘put all things under his feet;’ only he kept one thing, one tree in the garden, out of his hands, even the tree of knowledge of good and evil.”
  • p14 – “Man being set down in a beautiful paradise, it was an act of infinite wisdom, and of grace too, to keep him from one single tree, as a visible testimony that he must hold all from his Creator as his great landlord; that so, while he saw himself lord of the creatures, he might not forget that he was still God’s subject.”
  • p15 – “For man was created with free will to good, which the tree of life was an evidence of: but his will was also free to evil, and the forbidden tree was to him a memorial thereof.”
  • p15 – “Now this fair tree, of which he was forbidden to eat, taught him the same lesson; that his happiness lay not in enjoyment of the creatures, for there was a want even in paradise: so that the forbidden tree was, in effect, the hand of all the creatures, pointing man away from themselves to God for happiness.”
  • p15 – “God placed him, not in a common place of the earth, but in Eden, a place eminent for pleasantness, as the name of it imports; nay, not only in Eden, but in the garden of Eden–the most pleasant spot of that pleasant place; a garden planted by God Himself, to be the mansion-house of this His favourite.”
  • p15 – “[Adam] knew not those delights which luxury has invented for the gratification of lust, but his delights were such as came out of the hand of God, without passing through sinful hands, which always leave marks of impurity on what they touch.”
  • p16 – “But, above all, his knowledge of God, and that as his God, and the communion which he had with Him, could not but afford him the most refined and exquisite pleasure in the innermost recesses of his heart. Great is that delight which the saints find in those views of the glory of God, which their souls are sometimes let into, while they are compassed about with many infirmities: and much more may well be allowed to sinless Adam, who no doubt had a peculiar relish of these pleasures.”
  • p16 – “[Man] would never have died if he had not sinned; it was in case of sin that death was threatened, which shows it to be the consequence of sin, and not of the sinless human nature.”
  • p16 – “…Adam was the root of all mankind, our common head and representative, who received from God our inheritance and stock, to keep it for himself and his children, and to convey it to them.”
  • p16 – “That not God, but man himself was the cause of his ruin. God made him upright; his Creator set him up, but he threw himself down.”
  • p16 – “[God] gave man ability to keep the whole law; man has lost it by his own fault; but his sin could never take away that right which God has to exact perfect obedience of His creature, and to punish in case of disobedience.”
  • p16 – “Free grace will fix those whom free will shook down into a gulf of misery.”
  • p17 – “There is a generation who make so bold with the God who made them, and can in a moment crush them, that they ridicule piety, and make a mock of seriousness.”
  • p17 – “Holiness was the glory which God put on man when He made him; but now the sons of men turn that glory into shame, because they themselves glory in their shame. There are others that secretly approve of religion, and in religious company will profess it, who, at other times, to be neighbour-like, are ashamed to own it; so weak are they, that they are blown over with the wind of the wicked’s mouth.”
  • p17 – “There are many who, when once they have gathered some scraps of knowledge of religion, and have attained to some reformation of life, swell big with conceit of themselves; a sad sign that the effects of the fall lie so heavy upon them that they have not as yet come to themselves. They have eyes behind, to see their attainments, but no eyes within, no eyes before, to see their wants, which would surely humble them: for true knowledge makes men to see, both what once they were, and what they are at present, and so is humbling, and will not suffer them to be content with any measure of grace attained, but inclines them to press forward, ‘forgetting the things that are behind’.”
  • p17 – “Here was a stately building; man carved like a fair palace, but now lying in ashes: let us stand and look on the ruins, and drop a tear.”
  • p17 – “Where is our primitive glory now? Once no darkness in the mind, no rebellion in the will, no disorder in the affections. But ah! ‘How is the faithful city become an harlot!–Righteousness lodged in it; but now murderers.'”
  • p17 – “Happy wast thou, O man! who was like unto thee? no pain nor sickness could affect thee, no death could approach thee, no sigh was heard from thee, till these bitter fruits were plucked from the forbidden tree. Heaven shone upon thee, and earth smiled: thou was the companion of angels, and the envy of devils. But how low is he now laid, who was created for dominion, and made lord of the world!”
  • p18 – “Come then, O sinner, look to Jesus Christ, the second Adam: quit the first Adam and his covenant; come over to the Mediator and Surety if the new and better covenant; and let your hearts say, ‘Be thou our ruler, and let this breach be under thy hand.'”

II. The State of Nature

1. The Sinfulness of Man’s Natural State

2. The Misery of Man’s Natural State

3. Man’s Utter Inability to Recover Himself


III. The State of Grace

1. Regeneration

2. Mystical Union Between Christ and Believers


IV. The Eternal State

1. Death

2. Difference Between the Righteous and the Wicked in their Death

3. The Resurrection

4. The General Judgment

5. The Kingdom of Heaven

6. Hell