Cases of Conscience

William Perkins (1558-1602) - The Father of Puritanism

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Election is God’s decree “whereby on his own free will, he hath ordained certain men to salvation, to the praise of the glory of his grace.” Reprobation is “that part of predestination, whereby God, according to the most free and just purpose of his will, hath determined to reject certain men unto eternal destruction, and misery, and that to the praise of his justice.”

Chapter 5

Of the first main question touching man.

Question 1: What must a man do, that he may come into God’s favor, and be saved?

For answer to this question, some grounds must be laid down before hand. The first is this: that we must consider and remember, how

1. by what means God brings any man to salvation. For look how God saves others, so that he who does not know how to be saved, must use the means whereby God saves them.

Section 7

In the work effecting of man salvation ordinarily there are two special actions of God: the giving of the first grace, and after that, the giving of the second. The former of these two works has 10 actions.

1. God gives man the outward means of salvation, especially the ministry of the word: and with it, he sent some outward and inward cross, to break and subdue the stubbornness of our nature, that it may be made it pliable to the will of God. This we may see an example of the jailer, Acts 16. And of the Jews that were converted at Peter’s Sermon, Acts 2.

2. This done, God brings the mind of man to consideration of law, and therein generally to see what is good, and what is evil, what is sin, and what is not sin.

3. Upon a serious consideration of the law, he makes a man particularly to see and know his own peculiar and proper sins, whereby he offends God.

4. Upon the site of sin he strikes the heart with legal fear, whereby when a man sees his sin he makes and to fear punishment and hell, into despair of salvation, in regard of anything in Him.

Now these four actions, are indeed no fruits of grace, for Reprobate may go thus far; but their only works of Preparation going before grace; the other actions which follow, are affects of grace.

5. The fifth action of grace therefore is, to stir up the mind to serious consideration of the promise of salvation propounded and published in the Gospel.

6. After this the sixth is, the kindle of the heart, some sense of the sparks of faith, that is, a will and desire to believe, in grace to strive against doubting and despair. Now in the same instant, when God begins to kindling the heart, any sparks of faith, then also He justifies the sinner, and with this begins the work of sanctification.

7. Then, so soon as faith is put it into the heart, there is presently a combat: for a fight of doubting, despair, and distrust. And in this combat, Faith shows itself, by fervent, constant, and earnest invocation for pardon: and after invocation follows the strength and prevailing of this desire.

8. Furthermore, God in mercy quite unsettles the conscience, as touching the salvation of the soul, and the promise of life, whereupon it rests and stays in itself.

9. Next after this settled assurance, and persuasion of mercy, falls a storing up of the heart to evangelical sorrow, according to God, that is, a grief for sin, because it is sin, and because God is offended: And then the Lord works repentance, whereby the sanctified heart turns itself on him. And though this repentance be one of the last in order, yet it didn’t itself first: as when a candle is brought into our room, we first see the light before we see the candle, and that the candle must needs be before the light can be.

10. Lastly, God gives a man grace to endeavor to obey his commandments by new obedience. And by these degrees doth the Lord give the first grace.

The second work of God tending to salvation is the giving of the second grace, which is nothing itself, but the continuance of the first grace given. For look as by creation, God gave a being to man and all other creatures, and then by his providence continued the same being which was as it were a second creation; so in bringing a man to salvation, God gives the first grace: for example, to believe and repent; and then in mercy gives the second, to preserve and continue in faith and repentance to the end. And this, if we regard man in himself, is very necessary. For as fire, without supply of matter where it is fed and contained, would soon go out, so, unless God of His goodness should follow His children, and by new and daily supplies continue His first grace in them, they would undoubtedly lose the same, and finally fall away.

The second ground for the answer of this Question is taken from some special places in Scripture, where the same is moved and resolved. The men that were at Peter’s Sermon, being touched with the sense of their own misery, upon the doctrine which had been delivered, as the Holy Ghost saith, were pricked in their hearts, and cried out one to another, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” Peter moved by the Spirit of God, answers them, “Repent, and be baptized for the remission of your sins.” The like was the case of the jailor; who after that stubbornness of his heart was beaten down, by fear of the departure of the prisoners, he came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas and moved this question to them, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” to they gave the answer “Believe on the Lord Jesus and thou shall be saved, and thine household.” The young man in the Gospel comes to Christ and asks him, “What shall I do to be saved?” Christ answers him “Keep the Commandments.” When he replied that he had kept them from his youth, Christ tells him, that he must go yet further, and sell all that he hath and give to the poor. And John tells the Scribes and Pharisees, who came unto his Baptism, and confessed his sins, That if they would flee from the wrath to come, they must repent and “bring forth fruits worthy of repentance.” Form these places then, I frame this answer to the Question in hand: the man that would stand in the favor of God and be saved must do four things: first, humble himself before God; secondly, believe in Christ; thirdly, repent of his sins; fourthly, perform new obedience to God.

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