William Perkins on Predestination and Preaching - by Dr. Joel BeekeWilliam 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.”
Similarly, when Elizabethan England’s premier Puritan preacher William Perkins (1558-1602) proceeded (eighteen years prior to his untimely death at age 44) to write, teach, and preach predestinarian theology, he stepped forward on a taut theological cable, stretched between his conviction that God must be glorified in all things and his concern for the salvation of sinful men. Perkins believed that the proper balance between divine sovereignty and human responsibility depended on preaching that was practical, experimental,i1 and predestinarian. Interweaving supralapsarian predestination with experimental soul-examination, Perkins attempted the daring feat of setting forth a lively order of salvation (ordo salutis) that challenged all people, whether converted or not, to search for the fruits of predestination within their own souls on the basis of Christ’s work.
Perkins’s attempt to wed decretal and experimental theology makes his works worthy of attention. Serious study of these works isn’t enough, however; we must also become participants in applying their theology. If Perkins himself walked a tightrope of theology, his interpreters must also walk “a greased, slippery one.”
Perkins, often called the “father of Puritanism,”ii2 has been evaluated by many scholars.iii3 They have offered positive as well as negative commentary about his political, ethical, revivalistic, and ecclesiastical interests, but many have also offered contradictory assertions about his theological stand.iv4 In the areas of predestination and preaching, this commentary has been particularly divisive. For example, confusion abounds on Perkins’s Christological emphasis in predestination. Marshall M. Knappen faults Perkins for following Calvin too closely in Christological predestination, while Ian Breward believes Perkins strayed from Calvin at this point. Breward complains that the “work of Christ was discussed within the context of predestination rather than providing the key to the decrees of God.”v5
While Perkins cannot escape all charges of promoting confusion with his tightrope theology, his synthesis of decretal and experimental predestination is Christologically stable and a natural outgrowth of Calvinism. It is particularly faithful to the theology of Theodore Beza, which promotes a healthy combination of Reformed theology and Puritan piety.vi6 I reject William H. Chalker’s assertion that Perkins kills Calvin’s theology as well as Robert T. Kendall’s thesis that Beza—and thus Perkins—differ substantially from the Genevan Reformer. Rather, I concur with Richard Muller, who says, “Perkins’s thought is not a distortion of earlier Reformed Theology, but a positive outgrowth of the systematic beginnings of Protestant thought.”vii7
After a biographical overview, I’ll limit this introduction to showing that Perkins maintained his tightrope theology by focusing on how he expounded the immovable will of God and the movable and moved will of man in predestinarian preaching. Let the reader judge if I have fallen from the tightrope of interpreting the theology of Perkins.
Life and Influence of William Perkins viii8
Perkins was born in 1558 to Thomas and Hannah Perkins in the village of Marston Jabbett, in Bulkington Parish of Warwickshire county. His youth was given to recklessness, profanity, and drunkenness. In 1577, he entered Christ’s College in Cambridge as a pensioner, suggesting that socially he stood “on the borderline of the gentry.”ix9 He earned a bachelor’s degree in 1581 and a master’s degree in 1584.
While a student, Perkins experienced a powerful conversion, which possibly began when he overheard a woman in the street chide her naughty child by alluding to “drunken Perkins.”x10 Most likely that incident initiated the kind of conviction and humiliation that Perkins would often write about, in which pride is stripped away and a poor sinner is confronted with his own depravity and helplessness before an angry God. At any rate, Perkins gave up his wicked ways, fled to Christ for salvation, and began to bear fruits of holiness. He also gave up his study of mathematics and his fascination with black magic and the occult, and took up theology.xi11 He soon joined Laurence Chaderton (1536-1640), his personal tutor and lifelong friend who was called “the pope of Cambridge puritanism,”xii12 as well as Richard Greenham, Richard Rogers, and others in a spiritual brotherhood at Cambridge that espoused Calvinistic Puritan convictions.xiii13
Cambridge was the leading Puritan center of the day. Perkins’s formal training was thus Calvinistic within a scholastic framework.xiv14 The strict scholastic training had been modified, however, by the inroads that Peter Ramus’s (1515-1572) “method” had made at Cambridge ever since the 1560s when it won the support of the Puritans, due to its practicality.xv15 Ramus, a converted Roman Catholic, reformed the arts curriculum by applying it to daily life. He proposed a logic and method to simplify all academic subjects, proposing a single logic for both dialectic and rhetoric. The task of the logician was to classify concepts to make them understandable and memorable. That was done by method, the orderly presentation of a subject. Chaderton first introduced Ramus’s Ars Logica to Cambridge students and particularly to Gabriel Harvey, a lecturer who used Ramus’s methods for reforming the arts of grammar, rhetoric, and logic.
Perkins was impressed with Harvey’s presentation of Ramus’s method in rhetoric and applied it to his manual on preaching, The Arte of Prophecying, or a treatise concerning the sacred and onely true manner and methode of preaching.xvi16 Perkins’s Ramistic training at Cambridge oriented him toward practical application rather than speculative theory and gave him skills for becoming a popular preacher and theologian.xvii17
From 1584 until his death, Perkins served as lecturer, or preacher, at Great St. Andrew’s parish church, Cambridge, a most influential pulpit across the street from Christ’s College. He also served as a Fellow at Christ’s College from 1584 to 1595. Fellows were required to preach, lecture, and tutor students, acting as “guides to learning as well as guardians of finances, morals, and manners.”xviii18
Perkins resigned his fellowship to marry a young widow, Timothye Cradocke of Grant Chester, on July 2, 1595. That motivated Samuel Ward, later Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity, to respond in his diary, “Good Lord, grant… there follow no ruin to the college.” Men such as Ward counted it a great blessing to sit under Perkins’s teaching and to witness his exemplary living.xix19
Perkins served the University in other capacities. He was Dean of Christ’s College from 1590 to 1591. He catechized the students at Corpus Christi College on Thursday afternoons, lecturing on the Ten Commandments in a manner that deeply impressed the students.xx20 On Sunday afternoons, he worked as an adviser, counseling the spiritually distressed. “The balm which he applied most commonly to the walking wounded who shared with him their spiritual insecurities was the doctrine of divine predestination,” writes Mark Shaw.xxi21
Perkins had exceptional gifts for preaching and an uncanny ability to reach common people with plain preaching and theology. He pioneered Puritan casuistry—the art of dealing with “cases of conscience” by self-examination and scriptural diagnosis.xxii22 Many were convicted of sin and delivered from bondage under his preaching. The prisoners of the Cambridge jail were among the first to benefit from his powerful preaching. Thomas Fuller said that Perkins “would pronounce the word damne with such an emphasis as left a dolefull Echo in his auditours ears a good while after…. Many an Onesimus in bonds was converted to Christ.”xxiii23
Samuel Clarke provides a striking example of Perkins’s pastoral care. He says a condemned prisoner was climbing the gallows, looking “half-dead,” when Perkins said to him, “What man! What is the matter with thee? Art thou afraid of death?” The prisoner confessed that he was less afraid of death than of what would follow it. “Saist thou so,” said Perkins. “Come down again man and thou shalt see what Gods grace will do to strengthen thee.” When the prisoner came down, they knelt together, hand in hand, and Perkins offered “such an effectual prayer in confession of sins, … as made the poor prisoner burst out into abundance of tears.” Convinced the prisoner was brought “low enough, even to Hell gates,” Perkins showed him the freeness of the gospel in prayer. Clarke writes that the prisoner’s eyes were opened “to see how the black lines of all his sins were crossed, and cancelled with the red lines of his crucified Saviours precious blood; so graciously applying it to his wounded conscience, as made him break out into new showres of tears for joy of the inward consolation which he found.” The prisoner arose from his knees, went cheerfully up the ladder, testified of salvation in Christ’s blood, and bore his death with patience, “as if he actually saw himself delivered from the Hell which he feared before, and heaven opened for the receiving of his soul, to the great rejoicing of the beholders.”xxiv24
Perkins’s sermons were of many “colours,” writes Fuller. They seemed to be “all Law and all gospel, all cordials and all corrosives, as the different necessities of people apprehended” them. He was able to reach many types of people in various classes, being “systematic, scholarly, solid and simple at the same time.”xxv25 As Fuller says, “His church consisting of the university and town, the scholar could have no learneder, the townsmen no plainer, sermons.” Most importantly, he lived his sermons: “As his preaching was a comment on his text, so his practice was a comment on his preaching,” Fuller concludes.xxvi26
Like his mentor, Chaderton, Perkins worked to purify the established church from within rather than join those Puritans who advocated separation. Rather than addressing church polity, his primary concerns focused on addressing pastoral inadequacies, spiritual deficiencies, and soul-destroying ignorance in the church.
In time Perkins—a rhetorician, expositor, theologian, and pastor—became the principle architect of the young Puritan movement. His vision of reform for the church, combined with his intellect, piety, book writing, spiritual counseling, and communication skills enabled him to set the tone for seventeenth-century Puritans—in their accent on Reformed, experiential truth and self-examination, and in their polemic against Roman Catholicism and Arminianism. Fuller said of Perkins, who was handicapped in his right hand, “This Ehud, with a lefthanded pen did stab the Romish cause.” By the time of his death, Perkins’s writings in England were outselling those of Calvin, Beza, and Bullinger combined.xxvii27 He “moulded the piety of a whole nation,” H.C. Porter said.xxviii28
Perkins died from kidney stones in 1602, just before the end of Queen Elizabeth’s reign. His wife of seven years was pregnant at the time and caring for three small children as well as sorrowing over three additional children recently lost to various diseases. When John Cotton heard the bell toll for Perkins’s funeral, he secretly rejoiced that his conscience would no longer have to smart under such powerful preaching.xxix29 Perkins’s closest friend, James Montagu, later Bishop of Winchester, preached the funeral sermon for Perkins from Joshua 1:2, “Moses my servant is dead.” Ward, deeply distressed, wrote on behalf of many: “God knows his death is likely to be an irrevocable loss and a great judgment to the university, seeing there is none to supply his place.”xxx30 Perkins was buried in the church yard of Great St. Andrews.xxxi31
Eleven posthumous editions of Perkins’s writings, containing nearly fifty treatises, were printed by 1635. His major writings include expositions of Galatians 1-5, Matthew 5-7, Hebrews 11, Jude, and Revelation 1-3 as well as treatises on predestination, the order of salvation, assurance of faith, the Apostle’s Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, the worship of God, the Christian life and vocation, ministry and preaching, the errors of Roman Catholicism, and various cases of conscience. His writings, popularized for lay readership, are Bible-based in accord with the principles of literal and contextual interpretation established by the Reformers. They are practically and experientially Calvinistic, continually focusing on motives, desires, and distresses in the heart and life of sinners, ever aiming at finding and following the path of eternal life. To accentuate pietistic emphases, Perkins usually employs a Ramistic method that presents the definition of the subject and its further partition, often by dichotomies, into progressively more heads or topics, applying each truth set forth.xxxii32
Perkins’s influence continued through such theologians as William Ames (1576-1633), Richard Sibbes (1577-1635), John Cotton (1585-1652), and John Preston (1587-1628). Perkins’s ministry is what Cotton considered the “one good reason why there came so many excellent preachers out of Cambridge in England, more than out of Oxford.”xxxiii33 Thomas Goodwin (1600-1680) wrote that when he entered Cambridge, six of his instructors who had sat under Perkins were still passing on his teaching. Ten years after Perkins’s death, Cambridge was still “filled with the discourse of the power of Mr. William Perkins’ ministry,” Goodwin said.xxxiv34
The translation of Perkins’s writings prompted greater theological discussion between England and the Continent.xxxv35 J. van der Haar records 185 seventeenth-century printings in Dutch of Perkins’s individual or collected works,xxxvi36 twice as many as any other Puritan.xxxvii37 He and Ames, his most influential student on the continent, imfluenced Gisbertus Voetius (1589-1676) and numerous Dutch Nadere Reformatie (Dutch Second Reformation) theologians.xxxviii38 John Robinson (c. 1575-1625), the Separatist, was a disciple of Perkins. At least fifty editions of Perkins’s works were printed in Switzerland and in various parts of Germany.xxxix39 His writings were also translated into Spanish, French, Italian, Irish, Welsh, Hungarian, and Czech.xl40
In New England, nearly one hundred Cambridge men who led early migrations, including William Brewster of Plymouth, Thomas Hooker of Connecticut, John Winthrop of Massachusetts Bay, and Roger Williams of Rhode Island, grew up in Perkins’s shadow. Richard Mather was converted while reading Perkins, and Jonathan Edwards was fond of reading Perkins more than a century later.xli41 Samuel Morison remarks that “your typical Plymouth Colony library comprised a large and a small bible, Ainsworth’s translation of the Psalms, and the works of William Perkins, a favorite theologian.”xlii42 “Anyone who reads the writings of early New England learns that Perkins was indeed a towering figure in their eyes,”writes Perry Miller. Perkins and his followers were “the most quoted, most respected, and most influential of contemporary authors in the writings and sermons of early Massachusetts.”xliii43
The Immovable Will of God: Preaching Predestination
A Christocentric Supralapsarian Position
Though William Perkins rejoiced with other Englishmen at the defeat of Spain—and Rome—in the Armada, the battle with anti-Calvinists was far from over.xliv44 Deploring the way in which students were avoiding Protestant writers, Perkins determined to tell everyone that he stood for the truth—the Calvinist doctrine.xlv45 Through preaching and writing, he labored to explain the tenets of Calvinism in a way that anyone could understand them.
Primarily concerned with the conversion of souls and subsequent growth in godliness, Perkins believed that a biblical realization of God’s sovereign grace in predestination was vital for spiritual comfort and assurance. He believed that predestination worked out experimentally in the souls of believers was inseparable from sovereign predestination in Christ. Far from being harsh and cold, sovereign predestination was the foundation upon which experimental faith could be built. It was the hope, expectation, and guarantee of salvation for the true believer.
In the introduction to his Armilla Aurea (1590), translated as A Golden Chaine (1591),xlvi46 in which he first articulates his doctrine of predestination, Perkins identifies four viewpoints:
• The old and new Pelagians, who place the cause of predestination in man, in that God ordained men to life or death according to his foreknowledge of their free will rejection or receiving of offered grace.
• The Lutherans, who teach that God decided to choose some to salvation by His mere mercy but to reject the rest because He foresaw they would reject His grace.
• The semi-Pelagian Roman Catholics, who ascribe God’s predestination partly to mercy and partly to foreseen human preparations and meritorious works.
• Finally, those who teach that the cause of the execution of God’s predestination is God’s mercy in those who are saved and man’s fall and corruption in those who perish, but that the divine decree concerning both has no other cause than His will and pleasure.
Perkins concludes, “Of these four opinions, the three former I labour to oppugn as erroneous, and to maintain the last, as being truth which will bear weight in the balance of the sanctuary.”xlvii47
Used in this context, Perkins’s expression “the balance of the sanctuary” (balance here referring figuratively to a scale used to weigh objects according to the weight given them in Scripture) expresses his position on the relationship between predestination and preaching. Only this kind of predestination prevents the derogation of power and glory from God and secures the eternal salvation of the saints in God through Christ. Decretal theology, which exalts God and abases man, in addition to experimental theology, by which a sinner makes his election “effectual by a life consonant with God’s choice,”xlviii48 are conceptually and realistically linked together.
Perkins was a supralapsarian more for practical than metaphysical reasons. Adhering to high Calvinism for the framework of his predestination and practical theology, Perkins believed that accenting the sovereignty of God and His decree gave God the most glory and the Christian the most comfort, as well as served as the best polemic against Lutherans, semi-Pelagian Roman Catholics like Robert Bellarmine, and anti-predestinarians in England like Peter Baro and William Barrett. Though greatly indebted to Calvin, Perkins relied heavily upon such theologians as Theodore Beza (1519-1605), Girolamo Zanchi (1516-1590), Zacharias Ursinus (1534-1583), and Caspar Olevianus (1536-1587).xlix49 Freely admitting that he used these writers (he even added a work of Beza to his Golden Chaine), Perkins nonetheless used his gifts to add to the treasury of high Calvinism.
The most notable feature of Perkins’s Golden Chaine is his supralapsarian doctrine of double predestination. It is outlined in his famous chart titled: “A Survey or Table declaring the order of the causes of salvation and damnation according to Gods word.”l50 Like Theodore Beza’s chart, though more detailed, Perkins’s chart begins with God and His decree of predestination, is divided into two chains of causes for the execution of election and reprobation, then traces the orderly progression of those executions from the eternal decrees of God to the final consummation of all things, where the elect and reprobate mutually end in glorifying God.
It is impossible to understand predestination without realizing how God’s decrees reveal the truth about the Godhead and its activity. Perkins sees the Godhead first in terms of its internal activity, then in terms of its external relation to the created order. When Perkins discusses the nature of God, he describes it as a lively and most perfect essence by which God is complete within Himself. Distinguishing the Father as unbegotten, the Son as begotten, and the Spirit as proceeding from both, Perkins describes the glory within their relationship—the communion of three Persons who work and will the same things. The life of God is the union of the Godhead in its glory and attributes; consequently, God’s essence may never be known outside of His attributes and glory.li51
God’s attributes make Him truly glorious and distinguish Him from all false gods. By His wisdom and through His foreknowledge, for example, God sees all things that will come to pass, while through His counsel He perceives the best reason for all things that will come into being. Furthermore, with one act, God freely willed all things that were to be; by His omnipotency God has the power to perform every work necessary to carry out His will. This nature of God, this internal activity, this life of God, this operation on behalf of man, is God’s glory.
Perkins thus defines God’s glory as “the infinite excellency of his most simple and most holy divine nature.”lii52 Proceeding from this internal glory, God’s decree, as well as its execution, is “the manifestation of the glorie of God.” Predestination, which is only God’s decree concerning man (for His “whole decree is that by which God in himself, hath necessarily, and yet freely, from all eternitie determined all things”) is “that by which he hath ordained all men to a certaine and everlasting estate: that is, either to salvation or condemnation, for his owne glory.”liii53
Predestination is the means by which God manifests the glory of the Godhead outside of Himself to the human race. He returns glory to Himself via mercy to the elect and justice to the reprobate. Both proceed from His sovereignty. Election is God’s decree “whereby on his owne free will, he hath ordained certaine men to salvation, to the praise of the glorie 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 certaine men unto eternal destruction, and miserie, and that to the praise of his justice.”liv54
Through election and reprobation—the two parts of predestination—God sets the eternal destiny of men prior to viewing them as either created or fallen. Absolute sovereignty guarantees that God’s purposes and glory cannot be set aside by the actions of men. Whatever his destiny, man may be assured that he cannot move the immovable will of God. Nor can he help but glorify God in either His justice or mercy. Like Edwards, who later said that people should be brought to such God-centeredness that they will glorify God even in condemnation, Perkins teaches that the glory of God should make all persons, regardless of their end, praise the sovereign God.lv55
Pure glory and absolute sovereignty in double predestination: these are the heartbeats of Perkins’s theology. Like Beza, Perkins upheld a supralapsarian position by denying that God, in reprobating, considered man as fallen. He also used Beza’s argument for support, that the end is first in the intention of an agent. Thus God first decided the end—the manifestation of His glory in saving and damning—before He considered the means, such as creation and the fall. lvi56 Ultimately, predestination must not be understood in terms of what it does for man, but in terms of its highest goal—the glory of God.
As a theological tightrope walker, Perkins knew that his supralapsarian view prompted two objections: (1) it makes God the author of sin; (2) it subordinates Christ.lvii57 In addressing the first objection, Perkins adamantly rejected the idea that God is the author of sin. Yes, God permitted the fall of man, but that doesn’t mean that he caused the fall, Perkins said. He explained how God was not the cause of the fall by using the illustration of an unpropped house in a windstorm. As an unsupported house would fall with the blowing of the wind, so man without the help of God falls. Thus, the cause of the fall may not be imputed to the owner but to the wind.
Likewise, when God left Adam to himself, He did not will Adam’s fall or cause his sin. Rather, Adam’s fall was due to his own wilful disobedience of God in eating the forbidden fruit. Without constraint, men willingly fall from integrity. And God leaves them to their own desires, freely suffering them to fall. As Perkins says, we must not think that man’s fall was by chance, or by God’s failure to know it, or by barely winking at it, or by permitting it, or by allowing it against his will. Rather, miraculously, it happened, “not without the will of God, yet without all approbation of it.”lviii58
God did not make Adam sin. He did not infuse corruption in any form or withdraw any gift that had been Adam’s from creation. He merely ceased for a time to give Adam the grace necessary to stand. He did not confer the confirming grace that He had every right to withhold.
The devil and Adam—not God—are responsible for sin. The devil is guilty because he tempted Adam to sin as representative head of the entire human race, and Adam is guilty for voluntarily falling away from God and His help. The proper cause of the fall, according to Perkins, was “ the diuell devil attempting our ouerthrow, and Adams will, which when it began to bee prooued by tentations temptations, did not desire Gods assistance, but voluntarily bent it selfe to fal away.”lix59
Here, then, says Perkins, is the dilemma. Though the decree of God “doth altogether order every euent event, partly by inclining and gently bending the will in all things that are good, and partly by forsaking it in things that are euill: yet the will of the creature left vnto itselfe, is carried headlong of its owne accord, not of necessitie in itselfe for the decree of the fall planted nothing in Adam whereby he should fall, but contingently that way which the decree of God determined from eternitie.”lx60
Second, Perkins defends God against the charge of authoring sin by explaining that while the decree of God is immutable so that necessity follows, such necessity does not bind God. For while necessity is tied to the decree, God was free from eternity while making the decree. God acted freely, not out of necessity, in establishing the decree.
Furthermore, man was also free to act. To explain this, Perkins offers the necessity of infallibility and the necessity of compulsion. The necessity of infallibility refers to the consequences of the previous decree, thereby safeguarding the voluntary acts of the creature who is in no wise coerced by God’s secret decree. Since man’s actions are judged by the rule of God’s law and not by His decree, neither the sovereignty nor the necessity of God’s decree imply divine guilt in sin. Nor do they limit man’s freedom or responsibility.
The necessity of compulsion refers to something that must be accomplished because of God’s decree without the concurrence of man. It refers to the inanimate and irrational things of creation, such as water that must flow downhill, or a sun that must rise and set. The necessity of this decree does not limit either the freedom of God or man.lxi61
Third, Perkins defends God by explaining that God would be the author of sin if nothing had intervened between the decree and the fall. The decree of reprobation did not cause damnation; rather, Adam’s voluntary sin did. His free choice to sin was followed by his willingness to lie in sin. The decree of reprobation is the foundation, but not the cause, of all manifestations of God’s justice and wrath.
Perkins denied that God creates anyone to damnation; rather, He creates the reprobate to manifest His justice and glory in their deserved damnation. God decreed damnation not as damnation but as an execution of His justice. Sin, therefore, is not an effect but a consequence of the decree of reprobation. Sin, however, is the meriting cause of actual damnation.lxii62
This distinction is critical for Perkins’s theological balancing act between supralapsarianism and God’s freedom from sin. God decides to forsake some men not only “in order that Adam and his posterity might know that they could fall by themselves, but also that they could not stand, much less rise again,” Perkins says.lxiii63 God did not forsake men because He found them in sin. Rather, as every man is like a lump of clay in the potter’s hand, so God, according to His sovereign will, makes vessels of wrath. Reprobation must not be grounded
in God foreseeing that sinners would reject Him, for this would make reprobation depend upon men. Rather, for His own wise, sovereign reasons, God fitted vessels for wrath by the first act of reprobation (sovereign will of decree) as well as by the second act of reprobation (an ordination to just punishment on account of voluntary sin).
Here Perkins appears to synthesize supralapsarianism and infralapsarianism. The decree itself is supralapsarian, but its execution bears infralapsarian overtones that reveals itself in expressions such as “out of the mass of mankind.” Perkins asserts that though Adam’s fall allows no one to make any claim on God, the holy God wills to take His elect out of the mass of mankind for His own everlasting love and glory.lxiv64 The elect become vessels of God’s mercy solely out of God’s will and without regard to their good or evil. They are ordained to salvation and heavenly glory.
While electing and ordaining are part of one act, Perkins separates them to make some distinctions. In the first act, election, God provides grace for those who have fallen, while in the second, ordaining, they are given the means by which grace will be manifested and conferred, such as the preaching of the Word. Through preaching, the elect are called to salvation while the
reprobate are reprimanded for not repenting.
With regard to reprobation, it too can be divided into two acts: the first act, the design to abandon, lies in God alone and is absolute. The second act, the purpose to damn, is not absolute but is the result of sin. Consequently, no one is absolutely ordained to hell or perdition except on account of his sin.lxv65
Though with a supralapsarian accent, Perkins’s defense of God’s double predestination and freedom from authoring sin anticipated the Canons of Dort (1618-1619). Consistent with sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Reformed theologians, Perkins would have wholeheartedly agreed with the controversial yet soundly pious intention of the Canons to distinguish between preterition and damnation. Election and reprobation are absolute and depend solely on the immovable will of God, whereas damnation depends solely on the just reward of sin. Thus, while faith does not cause the salvation of the elect, sin does cause the eternal perdition of the reprobate.
Along with Calvin, Dort, and Westminster, Perkins would wholeheartedly concur that reprobation is both sovereign and just.lxvi66 No one is the victim of injustice, for God is under no obligation to grant mercy to sinners. The decree of creation and the fall is the means God used to allow Adam and his posterity to fall away from Him, but also to carry predestination to its glorious, happy end in Christ-centered salvation. Only in the sense that Adam’s fall opened the way for the sacrifice of Christ upon the cross can Perkins call it a “happy fault,” for no matter how tragic sin may be, it cannot compare to the righteousness of Christ.
In sum, God stands above and beyond human sin—though He chooses to save some men out of it. He is not the author of sin, for He is never unjust. “It stands more with equitie a thousand fold, that all the creatures in heaven and earth should jointly serve to set forth the glory and maijestie of God the creator in their eternall destruction, then the striking of a flie or the killing of a flea should serve for the dignities of all men in the world,” Perkin concludes.lxvii67 Indeed, without sovereign predestination God’s glory would be lost and all mankind would be lost. Thus God must be glorified as divine Goldsmith for the salvation of the elect in Christ and as divine Potter for the damnation of the reprobate outside of Christ.
As for the charge that supralapsarianism subordinates Christ, Perkins firmly maintains that not election per se, but election in Christ draws the line of separation between the elect and reprobate. Contrary to accusations, Perkins emphasizes Christ-centered predestination. For Perkins, salvation is never focused on a bare decree, but always upon the decreed Christ. The election and work of Christ is not commanded by God’s decree; rather, it is voluntarily chosen by the Son. In fact, Perkins went beyond what Franciscus Gomarus would state at the Synod of Dort, namely, “Christ in accordance with his divine nature also participated in the work of election” but may not be called “the foundation“ of election. In the following, he shows no qualms stating that Christ is the foundation, means, and end of election:
Election is God’s decree whereby of his own free will he hath ordained certain men to salvation, to the praise of the glory of his grace. . . . There appertain three things to the execution of this decree: first the foundation, secondly the means, thirdly the degrees. The foundation is Christ Jesus, called of his Father from all eternity to perform the office of the Mediator, that in him all those which should be saved might be chosen.
Q. How can Christ be subordinate unto God’s election seeing he together with the Father decreed all things?
A. Christ as he is Mediator is not subordinate to the very decree itself of election, but to the execution thereof only.lxviii68
Perkins goes on to say that this act—i.e., the purpose of saving or conferring glory, as he explains in more detail in A Treatise of Predestination—has “no inward impulsive cause over and beside the good pleasure of God: and it is with regard to Christ the Mediator, in whom all are elected to grace and saluation; and to dreame of any election out of him, is against all sense: because he is the foundation of election to be executed, in regard of the beginning, the meanes, and the end.”
Perkins states that there are five degrees in the act of election: “the ordaining of a Mediatour, the promising of him beeing ordained, the exhibiting of him beeing promised, the applying of him beeing exhibited or to bee exhibited, and the accomplishment of the application.” He then adds: “The ordaining of a Mediatour is that, whereby the second person beeing the Sonne of God, is appointed from all eternitie to bee a Mediatour betweene God himself and men. And hence it is that Peter saith, that Christ was foreknowne before the foundation of the world. And well saith Augustine, that Christ was predestinated to bee our head. For howsoeuer as hee is the substantiall word (logos) of the Father, or the Sonne, hee doth predestinate with the Father, and the Holy Ghost; yet as hee is the Mediator, hee is.”lxix69
With approval, Perkins quotes Cyril, who wrote, “Christ knoweth his sheepe, electing and foreseeing them unto euerlasting life.” He also cites Augustine, who wrote, “Christ by his secret dispensation hath out of an unfaithful people predestinated some to euerlasting liberty, quickening them of his free mercy: and damned others in euerlasting death, in leauing them by his hidden iudgement in their wickednesse.”lxx70
Perkins was more Christ-centered in his predestinarianism than most scholars realize. Though criticism is expected of Chalker, Kendall, Miller, and the like, even Breward, who is usually sympathetic to Perkins, attributes the “withering Christ” view to Perkins. Breward is correct in saying that Perkins’s “definition of theology was a combination of Peter Ramus and John Calvin, and the arrangement of the whole work A Golden Chaine, prefaced as it was by a formidable looking diagram, owed a good deal to Ramist categories of arrangement and aristotelian logic.”lxxi71 But he errs in failing to add Perkins’s “in Christ” note in this summary: “Calvin insisted that Christ was the mirror in which we contemplated election; Perkins taught that predestination was a glass in which we beheld God’s majesty.”lxxii72
Though Perkins centered predestination in a Trinitarian framework more than Calvin did, by no means did his views denigrate Christ. It is true that Perkins was influenced by the Italian, Girolamo Zanchi, who was less Christocentric in predestination and was more grounded in scholastic theology and aristotelianism. For this reason, some scholars, including Breward, have assumed a lack of Christocentrism in Perkins, which is unfortunate as well as unjustified.lxxiii73
Muller offers a more accurate picture of Perkins’s Christocentric predestination. A systematic analysis of the relation of the persons of the Trinity to God’s works permits Perkins to avoid the problem of most supralapsarians: the subordination of Christ to the decree. The decrees of predestination are prior even to God’s decree to create. Christ is the “foundation of election” before all worlds. Although the Son incarnate subordinates himself to the execution of the decree, the Son as eternal God stands prior to the decree. With the Father and the Spirit, the Son sets forth the decree in eternity.
Calvin hinted at such a resolution of the problem, Muller concludes. Beza included a Christological exposition at the heart of the Tabula. But prior to Perkins’s time, no one had so meticulously placed the Mediator in such a central relation to the decree and its execution. The ordo salutis originates and is effected in Christ.lxxiv74
Muller takes Perkins seriously when Perkins says that to dream of an election outside of Christ is “against all sense!”lxxv75 From the framework of High Calvinism, specifically, a Christocentric, supralapsarian position, Perkins believed that preaching predestination meant proclaiming the whole counsel of God from eternal, decretal sovereign pleasure to eternal, sovereign glory via a divine soteriological chain of election and reprobation. To this chain, viewed from God’s side as the means of decretal execution, we must now turn.
Sovereign Pleasure to Sovereign Glory: A Golden Chain of Election and Reprobation
In his most famous work, Armilla Aurea (A Golden Chaine, 1591), Perkins
stresses that the will of God in Christ is immovable, not only in sovereign decree, but also in the execution of sovereign decree. The title page expresses this conviction by describing A Golden Chaine as
THE DESCRIPTION OF THEOLOGIE,
Containing the order of the causes of Salvation and
Damnation, according to Gods word. A view whereof is to be seene
in the Table annexed.
Hereunto is adjoyned the order which M. Theodore Beza
used in comforting afflicted conscienceslxxvi76
The next page, which contains “The Table,” shows that Perkins bases his soteriological system on election and reprobation as the primary structuring principle of his theology. “The redde gray line sheweth the order of the causes of saluation from the first to the last and the blacke line, sheweth the order of the causes of damnation,” Perkins says. This order of causes leads to the image of a chain in which all the links are inseparably united.lxxvii77 Thus, every individual is tied to his predetermined destiny, which is inescapably linked to divine covenant grace in Christ or inevitable divine wrath outside of Christ. Neither the elect nor the reprobate is able to break out of this chain of eternal destiny; any attempts to do so will be futile, for all are tied to the eternal decree of predestined election or reprobation.
The foundation of Perkins’s theology is that God not only decreed man’s destiny but also the means through which the elect might attain eternal life, and without which the reprobate could not be saved. The means are grounded in the execution of predestination, which involves its foundation in Jesus Christ; its being carried out in the covenants of works and grace; and its becoming made evident through calling, justification, sanctification, and glorification.
The Foundation of Decretal Execution: Jesus Christ
Predestination does not affect anyone apart from the work of Jesus Christ. Thus Perkins states that, from God’s viewpoint, the reprobate has no possibility of salvation because he has absolutely no link with Christ in the golden chain. Without Christ, man is totally hopeless.
Christ is the foundation of election, as the center column of Perkins’s chart shows. He is predestined to be Mediator. He is promised to the elect. He is offered by grace to the elect. And, finally, He is personally applied to their souls in all His benefits, natures, offices, and states.lxxviii78
This Christ-centeredness is what sets Perkins’s theological chart apart from Beza’s Tabula.lxxix79 Perkins’s chart is similar to Beza’s in showing the following contrasts:
• God’s love for His elect versus His hatred for the reprobate
• The effectual calling of the elect versus the ineffectual calling of the reprobate
• The softening of the heart of the elect versus the hardening of the heart of the reprobate
• Faith versus ignorance
• Justification and sanctification versus unrighteousness and pollution
• The glorification of the elect versus the damnation of the reprobate.
Kendall errs, however, in stating that “Perkins’ contribution to Beza’s chart was merely making it more attractive and more understandable.”lxxx80 The greatest contrast between Beza’s and Perkins’s tables is the center of the diagram. In Beza’s Tabula, the execution of the decree is a two-part process. The central column of Beza’s table, running parallel to election and reprobation, is an unmarked pathway between the fall and the Final Judgment. By contrast, the center of Perkins’s table is the work of Christ as “mediator of the elect.” Perkins draws lines connecting the work of Christ with the progress of the Christian life, showing “how faith apprehends Christ and applies him to justification and sanctification.” Perkins is well aware of the believer’s sense of spiritual combat. Like election, Christian volition and faithful obedience are meaningful only in Christ. Christ is thus central to predestination.
In his diagram, Perkins shows that the “imputation of righteousness” to
believers is achieved only through faith in Christ. Faith is grounded in “the holiness of Christ’s manhood,” and His “fulfilling of the law.” Sanctification follows the imputation of righteousness. The mortification of sinful flesh, results from faithful apprehension of Christ’s accursed death, His burial, and His “bondage under the grave.” The believer’s new life grows out of Christ’s resurrection. Perkins’s diagram, therefore, emphasizes how Christ’s work applies to every part of the order of salvation. In sum, Perkins’s chart asserts that the God-centeredness of election is paralleled by the Christ-centeredness of salvation.lxxxi81
The Means of Decretal Execution: The Covenant of Works and the Covenant of Grace
After introducing Christ as the foundation of election, Perkins explains how election is carried out through the two covenants. Although his chart does not show this connection, a major part of his discussion falls under covenantal headings.lxxxii82
Incorporating parts of Calvin’s covenant concept as well as Beza’s system, Perkins explains that God’s covenant is “his contract with man concerning the obtaining of life eternall, upon a certen condition. This covenant consisteth of two parts: God’s promise to man, Man’s promise to God. God’s promise to man, is that, whereby hee bindeth himselfe to man to bee his God, if hee performe the condition. Man’s promise to God, is that, whereby he voweth his allegiance unto his Lord, and to performe the condition betweene them.”lxxxiii83
In a dipleuric view of covenant, the pact between God and man implies voluntary action: God makes demands, and man obeys. This view is consistent with Perkins’s emphasis on apprehending Christ’s benefits to unbolt the door that prevents the application of such benefits. To this Perkins adds a monopleuric view of covenant as a testament in which sinners are made heirs through God’s gracious and unmerited gift of salvation in Christ.
Perkins combines these views of covenant as if no tension exists between them. He validates both, first by making a sharp distinction between the antelapsarian covenant of works and the postlapsarian covenant of grace. The former is God’s covenant “made with condition of perfect obedience and is expressed in the moral law.”lxxxiv84 After the fall, the covenant of works still finds expression in the Ten Commandments. This law contains two parts: the edict, which commands obedience; and the condition, eternal life to those who fulfill the law. No fallen man can obey the law, of course, which only serves to bind man to God and His grace all the more. After a lengthy discussion of the Ten Commandments, Perkins states that the use of the law is:
• “To lay open sinne, and make it knowne”
• “To effect and augmente sinne”
• “To denounce eternall damnation for the least disobedience, without offering any hope of pardon” which shows man his need for God and leads him to repentance that “frees” him in Christ
• To guide the regenerate “to new obedience.”
Because the law condemns man, God has established the covenant of grace, “whereby God freely promising Christ and his benefits, exacts againe of man, that hee would by faith receive Christ, and repent of his sinnes.” Just as the law is linked with the covenant of works, so the gospel is tied to the covenant of grace. lxxxv85
By teaching how this covenant of grace operates, Perkins offers another way to relieve the tension between God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility. Without the covenant of grace, man cannot fulfill God’s demands, whereas with it, man finds his will renewed through the Holy Spirit to the point that he is capable of choosing repentance. In Perkins’s diagram, man becomes active in “mortification and vivification” which lead to “repentance and new obedience.” For Perkins, conversion is the point of reconciliation around which the monopleuric and dipleuric aspects of covenant theology can unite. This allowed the Christian life, considered as a covenantal warfare of conscience, to be systematized and stated as a vast series of “cases of conscience.” It also allowed the covenant to be presented in the form of a voluntary act by the regenerate in their search for personal assurance. The greatest case of conscience would naturally be “whether a man be a childe of God or no,” that is, whether a man is savingly brought into the covenant of grace and converted.lxxxvi86 Consequently, Perkins could say that though faith and repentance are the conditions of the covenant of grace, man is totally incapable of initiating or meriting the covenant relation through any goodness or obedience in himself. Ultimately, the decree of election and the covenant of grace is based upon the good pleasure of God. God chooses to be in covenant with man; God initiates the covenant relation; God freely, out of His sovereign will alone, invites man into the covenant of grace by granting him conditional faith and repentance. The decreeing, establishing, and maintaining of the covenant are all dependent on the free grace and sovereign will of God. Man does not tie up God, as Perry Miller claims; rather, God ties Himself to man in covenant.
Perkins’s view of the Incarnation is that God binds Himself in covenant with the elect sinner, thereby limiting His freedom, as it were, for man’s sake. For Perkins, the covenant of grace is not just a contract, because covenant must always be understood in terms of divine predestination. Hence, all conditions, including both faith and repentance, remain gifts of the gracious, sovereign, covenant-establishing Jehovah.
For Perkins the covenant of grace from a divine perspective is one-sided
and initiated by grace. God’s dealings with Abel and Cain, Isaac and Ishmael, and Jacob and Esau are examples of His role as the divine Initiator of the covenant. From them we learn that “when God receiues any man into couenant of eternall life, it proceeds not of any dignitie in the man whom God calleth, but from his mercie and alone good pleasure. . . . As for the opinion of them that say, that foreseene faith and good workes are the cause that mooued God to chose men to saluation, it is friulous frivolous. For faith and goode workes are the fruits and effects of Gods election.”lxxxvii87
Since God’s covenant is made with man, apart from any effort put forth by him, “in this covenant we do not so much offer, or promise any great matter to God, as in a manner only receiue.” In its fullest manifestation, the covenant is the gospel itself as well as “the instrument, and, as it were, the conduit pipe of the holy Ghost, to fashion and deriue faith unto the soule: by which faith, they which beleeue, doe, as with an hand, apprehend Christs righteousnes.”lxxxviii88 Far from being capricious, God’s covenant assures man that God can be counted on graciously to fulfill the golden chain of salvation in the hearts of the elect (Rom. 8:29-30). Thus the covenant of grace forms the heart of salvation itself. Perkins writes,”We are to know God, not as hee is in himself, but as hee hath reuealed himself unto us in the couenant of grace; and therefore we must acknowledge the Father to bee our Father, the Son to bee our Redeemer, the holy Ghost to bee our comforter, and seek to grow in the knowledge and experience of this.”lxxxix89
Without abandoning the Calvinist view of God’s eternal decrees, Perkins’s covenant emphasis helps us to focus on God’s relationship with man. By focusing on the covenant, Perkins and other Puritans reduced the inscrutable mystery of God’s dealings to laws that are understandable to us. They saw, though through a glass darkly, the movement of God’s secret counsels in the revealed covenants, and His concern for man particularly in the covenant of grace.
While retaining Calvin’s concern for the glory of God, Perkins offered more emphasis on the conversion of man. As F. Ernest Stoeffler says, “Hand in hand with this reorientation goes his . . . concern for the practical aspects of Christianity which is typical of all Pietistic Puritanism.”xc90 This is particularly evident in Perkins’s Golden Chain, of which the vast majority is devoted to practical concerns rather than theoretical aspects of theology. For both Calvin and Perkins, predestination was crucial, but their emphases differed in how that worked out. For Calvin, predestination was the platform from which God’s justice and mercy were proclaimed whereas, for Perkins, it was more crucial to understand how predestination served via covenant to carry theology from the immovable divine will to the moved human will in conversion. Perkins did not use covenant to compromise the unconditionality of predestination. Rather, he used it to explain “how persons were related to the divine initiative” as well as to assist practical piety and personal assurance.xci91
In sum, for Perkins, the covenant brings to our understanding in time what God has already done past understanding from eternity.The covenant is God’s condescending love, which, far from dragging God down to man’s level—as Perry Miller impliesxcii92—constrains the elect to exalt their sovereign God all the more. For Perkins, God retains sovereign control of the covenant: predestination
is the primary structuring principle of theology, and covenant the way in which God works it out via preaching.
The Degrees of Decretal Execution: Effectual Calling, Justification, Sanctification, Glorification
According to Perkins, God shows “degrees of loue love” in carrying out election in Jesus Christ by means of covenant. Effectual calling, the first part of the process, represents the saving grace “whereby a sinner beeing severed from the world, is entertained into God’s family.”xciii93
The first part of effectual calling is a right hearing of the Word by those who were dead in sin; their minds are illuminated by the Spirit with irresistible truth. The preaching of the Word accomplishes two things: “the Law shewing a man his sin and the punishment thereof, which is eternall death” and “the Gospel, shewing saluation by Christ Jesus, to such as beleeue believe.” Both become so real that “the eyes of the mind are enlightened, the heart and eares opened, that he the elect sinner may see, heare, and vnderstand the preaching of the word of God.”xciv94
The second part of this process is the breaking of the sinner’s heart. It is “bruised in peeces under the preaching of the Word, that it may be fit to receiue Gods sauing grace offered vnto it.” To accomplish this, God uses four “principall hammers”:
• The knowledge of the law of God
• The knowledge of sinne, both original and actual, and what
punishment is due vnto them
• Compounction, or pricking of the heart, namely a sense and feeling
of the wrath of God for the same sinnes
• An holy desperation of a man’s own power, in the obtaining of
The product of effectual calling is saving faith, which Perkins defines as “a miraculous and supernatural facultie of the heart, apprehending Christ Iesus being applyed by the operation of the holy Ghost, and receiuing him to it selfe.”xcvi96 The act of receiving Christ is not something that man does in his own strength; rather, by Spirit-wrought faith the elect receives the grace that Christ brings, thereby bringing the believer into union with every aspect of Christ’s saving work through faith. As Munson says, “Faith then saves the elect, not because it is a perfect virtue, but because it apprehends a perfect object, which is the obedience of Christ. Whether faith is weak or strong does not matter for salvation rests on God’s mercy and promises.”xcvii97 According to Perkins, God “accepts the very seeds and rudiments of faith and repentance at the first, though they be but in measure, as a grain of musterd seede.”xcviii98 Once a sinner has been effectually called, he is justified. According to Perkins, justification, as the “declaration of God’s loue,” is the process “whereby such as beleeue, are accounted iust before God, through the obedience of Christ Iesus.” The foundation of justification is the obedience of Christ, expressed in “his Passion in life and death, and his fulfilling of the Law ioyned joined therewith.” Christ frees the elect from the debt of fulfilling the law “every moment, from our first beginning, both in regard of purity of nature and purity of action,” and of making “satisfaction for the breach of the law.” Christ is become our surety for this debt, and God accepts His obedience for us, “it beeing full satisfaction.” Justification thus consists of “remission of sins, and imputation of Christ’s righteousnesse.”xcix99 It takes place when a sinner is brought before God’s judgment seat, pleads guilty, and flees to Christ as his only refuge for acquittal.c100 Justification is clearly a judicial, sovereign act of God’s eternal good pleasure.
Justification includes other benefits as well. Outwardly it offers reconciliation, afflictions that serve as chastisements rather than punishments, and eternal life. Inwardly, it offers peace, quietness of conscience, entrance into God’s favor, boldness at the throne of grace, an abiding sense of spiritual joy, and intimate awareness of the love of God.ci101 Sanctification, the third part of this process, receives more attention from Perkins than any other part. He defines sanctification as that work “By which a Christian in his mind, in his will and in his affections is freed from the bondage and tyranny of sin and Satan and is little by little enabled through the Spirit of Christ to desire and approve that which is good and walk in it.” Sanctification has two parts. “The first is mortification when the power of sin is continually weakened, consumed and diminished. The second is vivification by which inherent righteousness is really put into them and afterward is continually increased.”cii102 Sanctification includes a changed life, repentance, and new obedience—in short, the entire field of “Christian warfare.” All the benefits of salvation that begin with regeneration are tied to a living relationship with Jesus Christ, to whom the believer is bound by the Holy Spirit. Perkins was optimistic about sanctification, not because of anything in man, but entirely because of Christ Jesus (1 Cor. 1:30).
Perkins taught that just as a fire without fuel will soon go out; so, unless God of His goodness, by new and daily supplies continues His grace in His children, they will grow cold and fall away.ciii103 As Victor Priebe concludes, “Sanctification, then, is dependent upon a moment by moment renewal as the believer looks away from himself and his deeds to the person and work of Christ. Mortification and vivification are evidence of that most vital and definitive reality—union with Christ upon which all reception of grace depends. . . . It is unquestionably clear that sanctification is the result of the activity of divine grace in man.”civ104
After sanctification comes the final step: glorification. This part of God’s love is “the perfect transforming of the Saints into the image of the Sonne of God,” Perkins says. Glorification awaits the fulfillment of the Last Judgment, when the elect shall enjoy “blessednesse. . . whereby God himselfe is all in all his elect.” By sovereign grace the elect will be ushered into perfect glory, a “wonderfull excelencie” that includes beholding the glory and majesty of God, fully conforming to Christ, and inheriting “the new heauens and the new earth.”cv105
God’s Hatred of the Reprobate
Perkins’s chart reveals that he developed reprobation as carefully as he did election. Indeed, the dark chain of reprobation from man’s perspective is really a golden chain from God’s perspective, for it, too, issues in the glory of God at the last.
Two differences of emphasis exist between reprobation and election, however. First, Perkins places reprobation under God’s providence. Election, of course, is also providential, but is presented as a more personal decree. Reprobation is connected more with divine providence than with God’s person. It receives, therefore, less emphasis in Perkins’s thought. Though God hates the reprobate justly and actively, reprobation belongs to the general acts of God’s providence. Second, in executing reprobation, God primarily passes over the reprobate by withholding from them His special, supernatural grace of election. Perkins even speaks of God permitting the reprobate to fall into sin. By using infralapsarian language such as “passing over” and “permitting,” Perkins again shows his tendency to move from a supralapsarian view of God’s decree to an infralapsarian conception of its execution.cvi106
According to Perkins, there are two types of reprobates: those who are not called, and those who are called, but not effectually. Those with no calling proceed from “ignorance and vanitie of minde” to “heart hardening” to “a reprobate sense” to “greedines in sinne” to “fulnes of sinne.” Those who are called may go as far as “yielding to God’s calling”—which may include “a generall illumination, penitence, temporarie faith, a tast taste, and zeale”—before they “relapse” into sin by means of “the deceit of sinne, the hardening of the heart, an euill heart, an vnbeleeuing heart, and apostasie.” Ultimately, also the ineffectually called are led to “fullnes of sinne,” so that the two streams of reprobates become one prior to death. For the reprobate, all calls remain ineffectual because all fail to bring them to Christ. Taken captive by their own sins, of which the greatest sin is “an vnbeleeuing heart,” the reprobate make themselves ripe for divine judgment and damnation.cvii107
Understanding the covenantal grace in Christ and inescapable wrath outside of this grace inevitably prompts questions, such as “Am I one of God’s favored elect? How can I avail myself of the salvation wrought in Christ? How can I be sure that I have true faith? If reprobates can also behave in ways that seem motivated by grace, how can I know whether I am a child of God?”cviii108
The preacher must address such critical questions, for preaching predestination decretally necessitates preaching predestination experimentally and practically. Sinners must be shown how God, from His immovable will, moves the will of man. They must be biblically instructed how to look for marks of predestination and covenant inclusion in their own hearts, and be closely questioned if they are working out their election by a life consonant with God’s choice.
Rightly, Munson calls preaching “the instrument of transition in Perkins’s theology.” Perkins focuses on the problem of how man can know God by faith by explaining how God’s will works itself out through the covenant of grace. The gospel is preached to all men without distinction. It views all men as possibly elect and demands a response. This accounts for the detailed exposition of the way of salvation and for the almost tangential treatment of reprobation in Perkins’s work. A Golden Chaine asks all men to inquire within themselves for signs of election as they encounter the means of grace.
Perkins’s concluding argument questions readers concerning “the right applying of Predestination to the persons of men.” The elect are known only to themselves and to God. They do not know that from “the first causes of election, but rather from the last effects thereof—the testimonie of Gods Spirit and the works of Sanctification.”cix109
Someone who lacks this testimony should not conclude that he is reprobate, however. Rather, he should seek the aid of God’s Word—particularly in preaching—and in the sacraments so that he might feel the power of Christ in him.
The Moved Will of Man: Predestinarian Preaching
The Need for Predestinarian Preaching: Bringing in the Elect
No Puritan was more concerned about preaching than William Perkins. Detesting the substitution of eloquence for the “lost art” of preaching, Perkins led the Puritan movement to reform preaching. He did this in his instructions to theological students at Cambridge; in his manual on preaching, The Arte of Prophecying, which quickly became a classic among Puritans; in advocating a method and plain style of preaching in his own pulpit exercises; and, above all, in stressing the experimental application of predestinarian doctrines.
Ultimately, it was the lack of this notion of predestinating grace as personally experienced (rightly called “experimental predestinarianism”)cx110 that Perkins missed in the preaching of his day. Perkins would have agreed fully with Dewey Wallace’s assertion that “Predestination is an astonishingly inward and spiritual doctrine. It bares the individual soul before God and strips away layers of concrete mediation between the soul and God. With one great sweep it could clear away the accumulated debris of religiosity, reducing religion to the essentials of the soul confronting God.”cxi111
Fighting against Elizabethan opposition to experimental predestinarianism, Perkins told listeners that good preachers were hard to find. He urged rulers and magistrates to support universities and theological schools that produced experimental preachers. Without such support, good pastors would decline from “one of 1,000” to “not one in 2,000.”cxii112
Perkins viewed preaching as the “mighty arme of God” to draw in the elect, or the chariot on which salvation comes riding into the hearts of men. He defined preaching as “prophecying in the name and roome of Christ, whereby men are called to the state of grace and conserued in it.”cxiii113 In essence, Perkins’s goal was to help preachers realize their responsibility as God’s instruments to explain election and the covenant. Biblically balanced preaching was paramount, for the Word preached is the power of God unto salvation, without which there would be no salvation.cxiv114 With such a high view of preaching, Perkins did not hesitate to assert that the sermon was the climax of public worship.
Preaching is the most solemn task a human being could ever undertake. It is serious business for both the preacher and the listener. Eternal issues are at stake. Consequently, the true preacher may never neglect studious sermon preparation or the plain, effective delivery of a sermon.
James I. Packer identifies seven characteristics of a Puritan sermon, which parallel Perkins’s homiletic approach. A sermon must be expository in method, doctrinal in content, orderly in arrangement, popular in style, practical and experimental in interest, realistic in application, and powerful in manner.cxv115 Breward confirms this when he writes of Perkins: “His emphasis on simplicity in preaching and his advocacy of a sermon structured according to doctrine, reason and use was taken for granted as homiletic orthodoxy until the end of the seventeenth century and beyond.”cxvi116
Perkins had four basic rules for preaching:
• Read the text distinctly out of the canonical Scriptures.
• Give the sense and understanding of it in terms of Scripture itself.
• Collect a few profitable points of doctrine out of the natural sense.
• Apply the doctrines to the life and manners of men in simple and plain speech.cxvii117
In interpreting Scripture, Perkins believed there is “one onely sense, and the same is the literall.” J.W. Blench asserts that Perkins substituted his applications” in the place of the “four senses” of Roman Catholicism.cxviii118 Whether that’s true or not, Perkins’s approach to preaching was clear: a minister, as God’s ambassador, had the task of proclaiming urgently the whole counsel of God. The best preachers were tightrope theologians: they preached the full sovereignty of God in double predestination and the full responsibility of man despite his total depravity.
For Perkins, preaching was the gateway to heaven. There were four ways to listen to it, however.
• People could hear the Word without zeal.
• They could listen, know, and even approve the Word.
• They could hear and taste the Word.
• They could hear the Word and yield in obedience to it.
Of these four ways of listening, only the last is “effectual hearing,” Perkins says, for those who are ordained to salvation are also ordained to the means. The elect respond favorably to the Word as willing servants, whereas the reprobate, who hear the Word and may even be led by the Spirit to understand God’s will in it, do not respond in obedience to it.cxix119
Since the elect are only known to God, Perkins assumed that everyone who listened to a sermon could potentially be gathered into gospel grace. He thus pressed every sinner to accept God’s offer of salvation in Christ. The gospel promise must be offered freely to every hearer as a “precious jewel,” Perkins said.cxx120 At the same time, he explained that there were two ways of regarding election: “One especially whereby God knows who are his. The other is more generall, whereby we repute all men to bee Elect that professe faith in Christ, leaving secret iudgments to God. Thus Paul writes to the Ephesians, Philippians, & etc. as Elect. And the ministers of the word are to speake to their congregations, as to the Elect people of God.”cxxi121
This effectively eliminates any need for a preacher to determine who might be elect and who might be reprobate. Rather, a preacher must so clearly preach the marks of saving grace that, with the help of the Holy Spirit, the sinner’s heart may confirm God’s judgment concerning his eternal welfare.
Predestination must be preached for at least four reasons:
• Predestination is part of God’s counsel revealed in His Word, none of which may be omitted in preaching.
• Predestination must be preached “to teach and to consider the great love of the Father which was bestowed upon us. Further it is necessary to hear the call of the gospel daily preached to us by the Lord.”cxxii122 As preaching cannot exist without the church, nor the church without predestination, so predestination cannot be realized without the church and preaching. The connection between predestination and preaching is deep and direct.
• Preaching predestination is useful for the humbling of our pride and for faith in God’s mercy. Luther said that predestination must be preached “that we may know ourselves and that we may long for the grace which is alone possible if we are convinced that we are unable to help ourselves, and that our salvation depends wholly on God. . .through which faith we can comprehend how that same God can be merciful and just, who carries the appearance of so much wrath and iniquity.”cxxiii123 Perkins agreed.
• Preaching is the instrument through which God accomplishes the effectual calling, justification, sanctification, and glorification of His elect. Through preaching, God comforts the elect, shows them His grace, acquaints them with His eternal purposes of love, and assures them that they shall never be lost. God uses preaching to move the will of all those He has determined to grace with salvation. Because the preacher does not know who those elect are, he must preach as though all could be saved, knowing that the many will not be saved. He may not be indifferent in this, for he knows he is performing God’s will by bringing in the elect through the Spirit-blessed proclamation of the Word.
Preaching sound theology is totally consistent with the serious intent to save souls, says Perkins, for the purpose of preaching is to deliver souls from hell and to make sinful men into new creatures like Christ. Perkins calls preaching the way to “lay hold of Christ,” to “repair the image of God,” and to “form Christ in the hearts of all believers.”cxxiv124 The elect are not just called by preaching, then neglected; rather, preaching serves as a continual “converter” in repairing the image of God in a believer.
The Essence of Predestinarian Preaching: Proclaiming the Moving Work of God
According to Perkins, the golden chain of salvation (effectual calling, justification, sanctification, and glorification) is applied to the elect via the preaching of God’s covenant. Consequently, Perkins was not only interested in preaching God’s sovereign grace to His elect from eternity but also God’s covenant acts of salvation by which election is realized. He was deeply concerned about how this personal, redemptive process breaks into man’s experience—how the elect respond to God’s overtures and acts as well as how the will of God is carried out in the hearts of the elect.cxxv125
A word of caution is in order. Shaw says, “The distinction between the divine and the human side of the covenant of grace in Perkins is admittedly a misleading one. Grace is the dominant force on both sides graciously moving man to receive what is graciously offered. Yet the distinction is important, for Perkins’s doctrine of salvation is at the same time a doctrine of conversion, of actual change in the depths of man’s being.”cxxvi126
The problem with what some call Perkins’s “morphology of conversion”cxxvii127 is clarified by Munson, who says that Perkins “insists that God does not work on man as on a stone when he offers grace in Christ; rather, he makes him willing to be regenerated and therefore does not regenerate him against his will. As soon as God begins to renew the will, it begins to be renewed; therefore, the will to be regenerate is the effect of regeneration begun. Against the Roman Catholics, Perkins argues that the will is not a cause with the grace for regeneration; it is rather a patient subject to receive the grace of conversion.”cxxviii128
The Divine Goldsmith: Preaching Election
The stages of human transformation in true conversion, according to Perkins, can be listed under the following four headings: humilation, faith, repentance, and new obedience. The process of mining gold in biblical times was a four-step process which neatly corresponds to Perkins’s four major conversion steps with God as divine Goldsmith:
• Mining. The goldsmith’s helpers went on long journeys to search for ore that contained specks of gold. They cut this raw ore out with tools and transported it back to the goldsmith’s shop. This parallels the work of the Holy Spirit who sends God’s “helping” preachers to gather His elect by the ministry of the Word.
• Smelting. The process of extracting gold from the ore and discarding the waste is like the refining process of saving faith as it strives for full assurance.
• Refining. The smelted gold is reheated to more than 1,000 degrees so that all impurities rise to the surface. These are then removed by the goldsmith. This process is like the stage of repentance, which involves true sorrow for sin and turning away from evil.
• Forming. In this process, the refined gold is beaten or shaped into the object determined by the goldsmith. This is like the stage of new obedience in which the believer’s will is swallowed up in God’s will, so that the believer wills to be formed and shaped by the will of God.
The First Step in Conversion: Humiliation (Mining).
Perkins includes four “actions of grace” that flow out of this first step of conversion:
• Attentive hearing of the Word. With this grace, “The ministrie of the word and with it some outward or inward crosse, breake and subdue the stubborness of our nature, that it may be plyable to the will of God.”
• Awareness of God’s law. With this grace, “God brings the minde of man to a consideration of the Law, and therein generally to see what is good and what is euill.”
• Conviction of sin. With this grace, “God makes a man particularly to see and know his owne peculiar and proper sinnes, whereby he offends God.”
• Despair of salvation. With this grace, “God smites the heart with a legall feare, whereby when man seeth his sinnes, he makes him to feare punishment and hell, and to despaire of saluation, in regard to any thing in himselfe.”
These four actions are “workes of preparation” that precede the work of grace. Perkins does not consider these to be fruits of grace, since the reprobate may actually go this far in the process of temporary faith. This prompts some critics to label Perkins as a preparationist. But that is not accurate for two reasons: First, these works are not attributed to the hearers (as is the case in preparationism) but are wrought in the hearers by the Spirit’s grace. Second, a careful reading of Perkins shows that he sees these actions as preparatory, not because they do not show saving grace in the elect, but rather because it would be impossible to know if these steps were saving until a person went beyond these actions to further actions of grace. As Shaw says, “All these works could be wrought in the lives of the non-elect by a common operation of the Spirit but when in retrospect a true believer analyzed these steps they were in fact works of regeneration and therefore fruits of faith.”cxxix129
It does not appear that Perkins ever addressed the question of whether a sinner who died before progressing beyond these four steps was truly saved. He probably would have begged the question by stating that God will lead all His elect to further stages of faith in Christ, for Perkins did not attribute to fallen man any ability in his natural will to move Godward.
Perkins’s ambiguity lies in whether humiliation in the elect is a part of regeneration. At one time he states that humiliation is “a fruit of faith: yet before faith, because in practise it is the first ‘while’ faith lieth in the heart.” At another time, he can state that the works of preparation are not part of regeneration.cxxx130 This ambiguity led the irenic Herman Witsius (1636-1708), who served as professor at Franeker, Utrecht, and Leiden, to defend Perkins and others by saying,
There were some of ours who spoke of preparation for regeneration and conversion but in quite a different sense from the Pelagianisers. They laid down in those to be regenerated 1) the breaking of natural contumacy and flexibility of will, 2) serious consideration of the law, 3) consideration of their own sins and offenses against God, 4) lawful fear of punishments and terror of hell and so despair of their salvation on score of anything in themselves. This is the order which Perkins recounts these preparations in his Cases of Conscience…. We think those more accurate in their philosophizing who lay down that these things and such as these in elect persons are not preparations for regeneration but the initial fruits and effects of initial regeneration.cxxxi131
Perkins would probably have had little trouble agreeing with Witsius’s assessment, providing that no preacher would be tempted to comfort sinners who remained in these first four degrees of action that could also belong to the reprobate. For Perkins, such needy sinners must be spurred onward to find rest only in Christ.
The Second Step in Conversion: Faith in Christ (Smelting). In this second step of conversion, the divine Goldsmith smelts out the impurities of false faith and grants His elect true, saving faith. With these actions, the reprobate and elect are definitively separated. This step also includes four actions (actions #5-8), which do the following, according to Perkins:
• Stirre vp the minde to a serious consideration of the promise of
saluation, propounded and published in the Gospell.
• Kindle in the heart some seedes or sparkes of faith, that is, a
will and desire to beleeue, and grace to striue against doubting and
• Fight with doubting, despaire, and distrust, evidenced by feruent, constant and earnest inuocation for pardon: and. . . a prevailing of this desire.
• Experience that God in mercy quiets and settles the Conscience, as touching the saluation of the soule, and the promise of life, whereupon it resteth and staieth it selfe.cxxxii132
For Perkins, faith is a supernatural gift given by God to the sinner
to take hold of Christ with all the promises of salvation.cxxxiii133 The object of faith is not the sinner or his experiences or faith itself; it is Jesus Christ alone. Faith sees Christ, first, as the sacrifice on the cross for the remission of sins, then learns to experience Him as the strength to battle temptation, the comfort in a storm of affliction, and ultimately as everything needed in this life and in the life to come.cxxxiv134 In sum, faith shows itself when “euery seuerall person doth particularly applie vnto himselfe, Christ with his merits, by an inward persuasion of the heart which commeth none other way, but by the effectuall certificate of the Holy Ghost concerning the mercie of God in Christ Iesus.”cxxxv135
Faith has no meaning outside of Jesus Christ. “Faith is . . . a principall grace of God, whereby man is ingrafted into Christ and thereby becomes one with Christ, and Christ one with him,” Perkins says.cxxxvi136 All of Perkins’s references to faith as an “instrument” or “hand” must be understood in this context. Faith is a gift of God’s sovereign pleasure that moves man to respond to Christ through the preaching of the Word.
Perkins’s use of the term “instrument” or “hand” conveys the simultaneously passive and active role of faith in this redemptive activity. As Hideo Oki writes, “The connotation of ‘instrument’ suggests activity. This activity, however, is never simply ‘positive’; on the contrary, it means that when it is most active, then it is moved and used by something other and higher than itself. Thus, in the midst of activity there is passivity, and in the midst of passivity it is most efficient in activity.”cxxxvii137
This is precisely what Perkins means. Initially, faith is the passive “instrument” or “hand” granted by God to the sinner to receive Jesus Christ. Yet precisely at the moment when Christ is received, faith responds to the gift of grace. Thus the response is most active when it has completely yielded to and is centered in the Person it has received.
This concept of faith, within the context of covenant, is the genius of Perkins’s theology. His intense concern for the godly life rises alongside his equally intense concern to maintain the Reformation principle of salvation by grace alone. For man is never granted salvation because of faith but by means of faith. There are five steps in saving faith:
• Knowing the gospel by the illumination of God’s Spirit.
• Hoping for pardon, “whereby a sinner, albeit hee yet feeleth not that his sinnes are certenly pardoned, yet hee beleeueth that they are pardonable.”
• Hungering and thirsting after the grace offered in Christ Jesus, “as a man hungreth and thirsteth after meate and drinke.”
• Approaching the throne of grace, “that there flying from the terrour of the Law, hee may take holde of Christ, and finde fauour with God.” The first part of this is “an humble confession of our sinnes before God particularly, if they be knowne sins, and generally, if unknowne.” The second part is “crauing pardon of some sinnes, with vnspeakeable sighes, and in perseuerance.”
• Applying, by the Spirit’s persuasion, “vnto himselfe those promises which are made in the Gospel.”cxxxviii138
These steps of faith are dependent upon the preaching of the Word of God as well as the inner witness of the Spirit, which leads to a personal assurance of having been “grasped” by God’s grace to embrace Christ. In this context, Perkins develops his major contribution to the discussion of assurance by making a distinction between weak faith and strong faith. Weak faith is like a grain of mustard seed or smoking flax, “which can neither giue out heat nor flame, but only smoke.” Weak faith has low levels of illuminating knowledge and of applying to the promises (the first and last steps of saving faith mentioned above), but shows itself by “a serious desire to beleeue, & an endeauour to obtaine Gods fauour.” God does not despise even the least spark of faith, Perkins says, providing the weak believer diligently uses the means of grace to increase it. He must “stirre vp his faith by meditation of Gods word, serious prayers, and other exercises belonging vnto faith.”cxxxix139
For Perkins, even weak faith is a “certaine and true” persuasion, since there can be no doubt in faith, but strong faith is a “full perswasion of the heart, whereby a Christian much more firmely taking hold on Christ Iesus, maketh full and resolute account that God loueth him, and that he will giue to him by name, Christ and all his graces pertaining to eternall life.”cxl140 Strong faith, or “full assurance,” claims God’s promises as a personal possession. Then, Perkins says, “to beleeue in Christ, is not confusedly to beleeue that he is a Redeemer of mankind, but withal to beleeue that he is my Sauiour, and I am elected, iustified, sanctified, and shall be glorified.”cxli141
Several thoughts converge in Perkins. First, in weak faith God’s promises are seen but are not yet appropriated by the co-witness of the Spirit and conscience within the Christian. Second, the distinction between weak and strong faith is helpful pastorally to keep weak believers from despair by encouraging them to believe that weak faith is still authentic faith. Third, each believer must seek for strong faith, but the typical believer will not receive it “at the first, but in some continuance of time, after that for a long space he hath kept a good conscience before God, and before men: and hath had diuers experiences of Gods loue and fauour towards him in Christ.”cxlii142 Finally, in strong faith, full assurance arises not as intrinsic to faith, but as a fruit of faith, ascertained by a personal, Spirit-worked apprehension of the benefits of faith.
Perkins thus moves with his golden chain from God’s assurance of salvation from eternity to the elect’s assurance in time. The chain of divine sovereignty, covenant-establishment, mediatorial satisfaction, faith in Christ and the Spirit’s corroborating witness, results in assurance within the soul through what was called the “practical syllogism” (syllogismus practicus). A practical syllogism is, simply put, a conclusion drawn from an action. It involves three components: a major premise, a minor premise, and a conclusion. The basic form of the syllogism Perkins uses when it pertains to salvation is as follows:
Major premise: Those only who repent and believe in Christ alone for salvation, are children of God.
Minor premise: By the gracious work of the Spirit, I repent and believe in Christ alone for salvation.
Conclusion: Therefore I am a child of God.cxliii143
Though assurance by syllogism provides only secondary grounds of assurance that depend on the primary grounds (the sovereign work of the Father, the redeeming work of the Son, and the applying work of the Spirit), such assurance is nonetheless real and vital. Packer agrees: “In my opinion, Perkins was right, first to analyse conscience as operating by practical syllogisms, and second to affirm that scriptural self-examination will ordinarily yield the Christian solid grounds for confidence as to his or her regeneration and standing with God.”cxliv144
Perkins stresses that the human spirit’s syllogistic response to the inward, saving work of the Triune God does not degrade Christ in any way. Rather, it magnifies the unbreakable strength of God’s golden chain of salvation merited by the Son and applied by His Spirit. Though one might argue that Perkins linked these secondary grounds of assurance to a personal profession of faith, these grounds were only valid as evidence of the primary grounds. With Calvin, Perkins maintained that works do not save the elect, but often succeed in assuring them. Works are the evidence of election, not the cause of it.cxlv145
As Shaw says: “The child of God can grab that link of sanctification, or good works in the golden chain and feel with certainty the tug of all the rest…. Perkins’s general principle is clear: grab any part of the ordo salutis within reach and you have the whole chain. Anyone clutching the middle links (the covenant of grace, justification by faith, and sanctification by the Spirit) can be assured of possessing the end links (election and glorification).”cxlvi146 The impossibility of the human will to foil divine decree breeds certainty—not uncertainty—in the weakest of saints. Assurance is assurance because of election, which is the sinner’s only and solid hope. As Wallace writes: “The piety of predestinarian grace as an experience was particularly focused on providing assurance and certainty, as anxieties dissolved in the experience of being seized, in spite of one’s unworthiness, as one of the chosen of that awesome yet gracious numen upon which one was totally dependent. It must be remembered that the powerful religious experience was always that of being chosen, not of being left out, and thus certainty and reassurance, not despair, were derived from the unique logic of this way-of-being-religious.”cxlvii147
The Third Step of Conversion: Repentance (Refining). In saying that repentance follows faith, Perkins does not mean legal repentance but evangelical repentance that refines the soul and persuades the elect to live wholly unto God, hating sin and loving obedience for His sake. Such repentance, which corresponds with his ninth action of grace, flows from the conviction that “we have offended so merciful a God and loving Father” and produces a wholehearted changed toward God in “the mind and whole man in affection, life and conversation.”cxlviii148
Like Luther and Calvin, Perkins sees repentance as a lifelong process. It is not merely the start of the Christian life; it is the Christian life. It involves growth in holiness that is marked by continual confession of sin. Perkins went so far as to say, “The chiefest feeling that we must have in this life, must be the feeling of our sinnes.”cxlix149
For Perkins, repentance is a necessity; without it a person must question whether he has true faith. Repentance is a necessary condition of the covenant, but happily, God enables the believer to fulfil that condition. Perkins was no voluntarist. “He that turnes to God must first of all be turned of God, and after that we are turned, then we repent,” he wrote.cl150 The Spirit uses the gospel to reveal the way of repentance, though He also uses the law to serve as a guide in the believer’s repentant life.cli151
Perkins says that repentance must be “joyned with humiliation and faith as a third thing availeable to saluation, and not to be severed from them. For a man in show may have many good things: as for example, he may be humbled, and seeme to have some strength of faith; yet if there be in the said man, a want of this purpose and resolution not to sinne, the other are but dead things, and unprofitable, and for all them, he may come to eternall destruction.”clii152
The Fourth Step of Conversion: New Obedience (Forming).
This step of conversion, in which grace reaches its climax, corresponds with Perkins’s tenth action of grace, which he defines as “new obedience when the believer obeys the commands of God and begins to walk in newness of life.”cliii153
Three things are necessary in this step:
• It must be a fruit of the spirit of Christ in us, “for when we doe any good thing, it is Christ that doth it in us.”
• It requires keeping every commandment of God.
• It involves striving to keep the whole law in every part of a sinner’s “minde, will, affections, and all the faculties of soule and body.” According to Perkins, this means the sinner “must not live in the practise of any outward sinne.” It also means “there must be in him an inward resisting and restraining of the corruption of nature, and of the heart, that he may truly obey God, by the grace of the spirit of God.” And it means that he exercises the inward man “by all spirituall motions of Faith, Joy, Love, Hope and the praise of God.”cliv154 New obedience augments the believer’s assurance, strengthening the conscience by the means of grace, such as prayer and the sacraments. True prayer and a right use of the sacraments strengthen the believer’s faith that he is elect.
True prayer indicates piety. For Perkins, to pray is to put up our requests to God with assurance, according to His Word, from a contrite heart in the name of Christ. Conscience plays a key role in praying with assurance. Perkins wrote, “For unlesse a man bee in conscience in some measure perswaded that all his sinnes are pardoned,… hee cannot beleeue believe any other promises revealed in the word, nor that any of his praiers shall bee heard.”clv155
Through diligent use of the sacraments we receive “props and stays for faith to lean upon.”clvi156 Through the sacraments, the Holy Spirit restores piety, works a new willingness in the heart to practice cross-bearing and self-denial for Christ’s sake, and strengthens assurance in God’s promises.
Believers must press on in obedience, even if Spirit-given assurance diminishes in the midst of strong temptations. As long as they are “in this world according to their own feeling, there is an access and recess of the Spirit,” Perkins said.clvii157 Lack of feeling could be due to a weak conscience, strong doubts, failure to grasp any part of the golden chain of salvation, or simply the Spirit’s sovereignty. The testimony of the Spirit, which can be temporarily lost at any moment, emphasizes the need for continual self-examination, repentance, and obedience.
Perkins makes a serious attempt to link divine election with Reformed piety. The elect walk in godly piety as the fruit of divine decree, he says. They perform good works, but only in the strength of Christ who must cleanse these works from remnants of corruption. The Triune God of sovereign grace proves His elect in His fiery furnace to bring them forth as gold, shaped and formed according to His sovereign will. Indeed, on the Day of Judgment, all remaining imperfections will be removed. The elect will serve their Triune Goldsmith as persons mined, smelted, refined, and formed by the powerful application of the divine Word and Spirit. The golden chain will be finished to the glory of an electing God.
The Divine Potter: Preaching Reprobation
The reprobation of the divine Potter must be preached to warn the ungodly to flee from sin and seek grace to obey the revealed will of God as well as for the benefit of the elect, Perkins says. Preaching reprobation helps the elect in three ways:
• It shows how far a reprobate can go in the appearance of “actions of grace.” Reprobation preaching lovingly urges the elect to seek further exercises of grace and to make their calling and election sure in Christ (2 Peter 1:10).
• It moves the godly to examine themselves for marks of election.
• It provides an antidote to pride and a foundation for grateful humility before the Lord, who chose His own purely out of sovereign grace.clviii158 This teaching of Perkins is evident in Dort’s 1618-1619 doctrine of reprobation, in “illustrating and recommending” (I, 15) the elect to humble thanksgiving and complete self-negation before God. Three decades after Dort, this teaching also became part of the Westminster Confession, which states that double predestination grants the elect “matter of praise, reverence, and admiration of God; and of humility, diligence, and abundant consolation.”clix159
The Sequel of Predestinarian Preaching: Transition to Federal Theology
Most Puritan theologians who followed Perkins reversed his primary and subordinate structuring principles. Between his death in l603, and 1630, covenant theology became a most influential doctrine, which eventually took precedence over double predestination.clx160 Perkins himself paved the way for this covenantal emphasis, though his followers took that doctrine beyond where he left it. His student, William Ames, worked out Perkins’s covenant principles in greater detail than his master had. In his Marrow of Theology, Ames also repositioned the doctrine of predestination between the doctrine of Christ’s work and the doctrine of the Christian life. As John Eusden says, “This positioning is important, for it shows that Ames believes predestination to have chiefly an instrumental value…. In Ames’s concern with election, almost to the neglect of reprobation, predestination is set down as a hopeful promise…. Predestination is an invitation to begin one’s spiritual pilgrimage—with the implicit warning that the certainty of God’s decree shall not be known until one does begin. Ames did not consider the state of damnation in a separate chapter…. For him it is the dark shadow of election.”clxi161
The differences between Ames and Perkins in the matter of reprobation are significant. Ames nowhere reflects on the condition of the reprobate, either in this life or in eternity. He does not connect reprobation with the mediation of Christ, who came only to save men, not to deny and punish them. For Ames, God’s reprobation decree results from divine omission, not commission. The covenantal influence that Perkins brought to Reformed theology through Ames found its way rapidly to the Continent and New England. In the Netherlands, Ames passed his theology on to his student, John Koch (Johannes Cocceius, 1603-1669), who systematized covenant thought. Richard Sibbes (1557-1635), another disciple of Perkins, stressed God’s covenant as the exaltation of the riches of His mercy. John Preston (1587-1628), who was converted under and greatly influenced by Perkins, focused on the practical and experimental benefits of the covenant.clxii162
Without Perkins, covenant theology could not have been popularized so rapidly in seventeenth-century theology. Perkins provided the transition necessary to link predestination and covenant. However, his was a tightrope of tension that some of his students did not always manage well. Some fell from the tightrope of predestination altogether and became Arminians, shifting from a double-decree theology to a voluntaristic covenant theology. Others loosened its tautness by focusing on covenant at the expense of predestination. The majority, however, strove to maintain Perkins’s balance, even if few embraced supralapsarianism and most focused more on covenant than on predestination. Their faithfulness to his theology earned Perkins the title, “the father of Puritanism.”
Perkins earned the titles of both “scholastic, high Calvinist” and “father of pietism.”clxiii163 His theology affirms divine sovereignty in the predestination decree of the Father, the satisfaction made by Christ for the elect, and the saving work of the Spirit. Yet, Perkins never allows sovereignty to prevent a practical, evangelical emphasis on the individual believer working out his own salvation as hearer of the Word, follower of Christ, and warrior of the conscience. Divine sovereignty, individual piety, and the gospel offer of salvation are always in view. Perkins’s emphasis on sound doctrine and the reform of souls influenced Puritanism for years to come.clxiv164 J. I. Packer writes, “Puritanism, with its complex of biblical, devotional, ecclesiastical, reformational, polemical and cultural concerns, came of age, we might say, with Perkins, and began to display characteristically a wholeness of spiritual vision and a maturity of Christian patience that had not been seen in it before.”clxv165
Contemporary scholars have called Perkins “the principal architect of Elizabethan Puritanism,” “the Puritan theologian of Tudor times,” “the most important Puritan writer,” “the prince of Puritan theologians,” “the ideal Puritan clergyman of the quietist years,” “the most famous of all Puritan divines,” and have classed him with Calvin and Beza as third in “the trinity of the orthodox.”clxvi166 He was the first theologian to be more widely published in England than Calvin and the first English Protestant theologian to have a major impact in the British isles, on the continent, and in North America. Little wonder that Puritan scholars marvel that Perkins’s rare works remain largely unavailable until now.clxvii167
Perkins’s theology did not make him cold and heartless when dealing with sinners and saints in need of a Savior. Rather, his warm, practical theology set the tone for Puritan literature that would pour forth from the presses in the seventeenth century, and are frequently reprinted still today. The reprinting of The Works of William Perkins would be a fitting capstone to the past half-century of reprinted Puritan literature.clxviii168
Bibliography and Notes
[i] Experimental or experiential preaching addresses how a Christian experiences the truth of Christian doctrine in his life. The term experimental comes from experimentum, meaning trial, and is derived from the verb, experior, to know by experience, which in turn leads to “experiential,” meaning knowledge gained by experiment. Calvin used experimental and experiential interchangeably, since both words indicate the need for measuring experienced knowledge against the touchstone of Scripture. Experimental preaching seeks to explain in terms of biblical truth how matters ought to go, how they do go, and what is the goal of the Christian life. It aims to apply divine truth to the whole range of the believer’s personal experience as well as in his relationships with family, the church, and the world around him. Cf. Robert T. Kendall, Calvin and English Calvinism to 1649 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1979), pp. 8-9; Joel R. Beeke, “The Lasting Power of Reformed Experiential Preaching” (Morgan, Penn.: Soli Deo Gloria, forthcoming 2002).
[ii] Puritanism has been variously defined. I use the term “Puritans” here of those who desired to reform and purify the Church of England and were concerned about living a godly life consonant with the Reformed doctrines of grace. As J. I. Packer writes, “Puritanism was an evangelical holiness movement seeking to implement its vision of spiritual renewal, national and personal, in the church, the state, and the home; in education, evangelism, and economics; in individual discipleship and devotion, and in pastoral care and competence…. It was Perkins, quite specifically, who established Puritanism in this mould” (An Anglican to Remember—William Perkins: Puritan Popularizer, St. Antholin’s Lectureship Charity Lecture , pp. 1-2).
[iii] Dissertations and theses that contribute to an understanding of Perkins’s theology include Ian Breward, “The Life and Theology of William Perkins” (Ph.D., University of Manchester, 1963); William H. Chalker, “Calvin and Some Seventeenth Century English Calvinists” (Ph.D., Duke University, 1961); Lionel Greve, “Freedom and Discipline in the Theology of John Calvin, William Perkins, and John Wesley: An Examination of the Origin and Nature of Pietism” (Ph.D., Hartford Seminary Foundation, 1976); Robert W. A. Letham, “Saving Faith and Assurance in Reformed Theology: Zwingli to the Synod of Dort,” 2 vols. (Ph.D., University of Aberdeen, 1979); R. David Lightfoot, “William Perkins’ View of Sanctification” (Th.M., Dallas Theological Seminary, 1984); Donald Keith McKim, Ramism in William Perkins’s Theology (New York: Peter Lang, 1987); C.C. Markham, “William Perkins’ Understanding of the Function of Conscience” (Ph.D., Vanderbilt University, 1967); Richard Alfred Muller, “Predestination and Christology in Sixteenth-Century Reformed Theology” (Ph.D. Duke University, 1976); Charles Robert Munson, “William Perkins: Theologian of Transition” (Ph.D. dissertation, Case Western Reserve, 1971); Willem Jan op’t Hof, Engelse piëtistische geschriften in het Nederlands, 1598-1622 (Rotterdam: Lindenberg, 1987); Joseph A. Pipa, Jr., “William Perkins and the Development of Puritan Preaching” (Ph.D., Westminster Theological Seminary, 1985); Victor L. Priebe, “The Covenant Theology of William Perkins” (Ph.D., Drew University, 1967); Mark R. Shaw, “The Marrow of Practical Divinity: A Study in the Theology of William Perkins” (Ph.D., Westminister Theological Seminary, 1981); Paul R. Schaefer, Jr., “The Spiritual Brotherhood on the Habits of the Heart: Cambridge Protestants and the Doctrine of Sanctification from William Perkins to Thomas Shepard” (Ph.D., Keble College, Oxford University, 1994); Rosemary Sisson, “William Perkins” (M.A., University of Cambridge, 1952); C. J. Sommerville, “Conversion, Sacrament and Assurance in the Puritan Covenant of Grace to 1650” (M.A., University of Kansas, 1963); Young Jae Timothy Song, Theology and Piety in the Reformed Federal Thought of William Perkins and John Preston (Lewiston, New York: Edwin Mellin, 1998); Lynn Baird Tipson, Jr., “The Development of a Puritan Understanding of Conversion” (Ph.D., Yale University, 1972); J. R. Tufft, “William Perkins, 1558-1602” (Ph.D., Edinburgh, 1952); Jan Jacobus van Baarsel, William Perkins: eene bijdrage tot de Kennis der religieuse ontwikkeling in Engeland ten tijde, van Koningin Elisabeth (‘s-Gravenhage: H.P. De Swart & Zoon, 1912); William G. Wilcox, “New England Covenant Theology: Its Precursors and Early American Exponents” (Ph.D. Duke University, 1959); James Eugene Williams, Jr., “An Evaluation of William Perkins’ Doctrine of Predestination in the Light of John Calvin’s Writings” (Th.M., Dallas Theological Seminary, 1986); Andrew Alexander Woolsey, “Unity and Continuity in Covenantal Thought: A Study in the Reformed Tradition to the Westminster Assembly” (Ph.D., University of Glasgow, 1988).
[iv] Perkins’s critics—both positive and negative—agree that he provided a major link in Reformed thought between Beza and the Westminster Confession. Those who view that linkage as largely negative include Perry Miller (Errand into the Wilderness [Cambridge: Belknap Press, 1956]); Karl Barth (Church Dogmatics, III/4 [Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1961], p. 8); Basil Hall (“Calvin Against the Calvinists,” in John Calvin, ed. G. E. Duffield [Appleford, England: Sutton Courtney Press, 1966], pp. 19-37); Robert T. Kendall (Calvin and English Calvinism “Living the Christian Life in the Teaching of William Perkins and His Followers,” in Living the Christian Life [London: Westminster Conference, 1974]; “John Cotton—First English Calvinist?,” The Puritan Experiment in the New World [London: Westminster Conferencee, 1976]; “The Puritan Modification of Calvin’s Theology,” in John Calvin: His Influence in the Western World, ed. W. Stanford Reid [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1982], pp. 199-214); Chalker and Knappen as noted above. Scholars who have reacted positively to Perkins include F. Ernest Stoeffler (The Rise of Evangelical Pietism [Leiden: Brill, 1965]); Ian Breward (“William Perkins and the Origins of Puritan Casuistry,” Faith and a Good Conscience [London: Puritan and Reformed Studies Conference, 1962]; “The Significance of William Perkins,” Journal of Religious History 4 :113-28; “William Perkins and the Origins of Puritan Casuistry,” The Evangelist Quarterly 40 :16-22); Richard Muller (“Perkins’ A Golden Chaine: Predestinarian System or Schematized Ordo Salutis?,” Sixteenth Century Journal 9, 1 :69-81; “Covenant and Conscience in English Reformed Theology,” Westminster Theological Journal 42 :308-34; Christ and the Decrees: Christology and Predestination in Reformed Theology from Calvin to Perkins [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1988]); Mark R. Shaw (“Drama in the Meeting House: the concept of Conversion in the Theology of William Perkins” Westminster Theological Journal 45 (1983):41-72; “William Perkins and the New Pelagians: Another Look at the Cambridge Predestination Controversy of the 1590s,” Westminster Theological Journal 58 :267-302); Joel R. Beeke (The Quest for Full Assurance: The Legacy of Calvin and His Successors [Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1999]); Greve, Markham, Munson, op’t Hof, Pipa, Priebe, Schaefer, Sommerville, Song, van Baarsel, and Woolsey, as noted above). See Shaw, “The Marrow of Practical Divinity,” pp. 4-29 for a summary of interpretations of Perkins’s thought.
[v] M.M. Knappen, Tudor Puritanism: A Chapter in the History of Idealism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1939), pp. 374-76; Ian Breward, intro. and ed., The Work of William Perkins, vol. 3 of The Courtenay Library of Reformation Classics (Abingdon, England: Sutton Courtenay Press, 1970), p. 86. Hereafter, Work of Perkins. For Perkins’s writings, I used Breward’s volume as well as The Workes of That Famovs andVVorthy Minister of Christ in the Vniuersitie of Cambridge, Mr. William Perkins, 3 vols. (London: John Legatt, 1612-13)—hereafter Works, and Thomas F. Merrill, ed., William Perkins, 1558-1602, English Puritanist—His Pioneer Works on Casuistry: “A Discourse of Conscience” and “the Whole Treatise of Cases of Conscience” (Nieuwkoop: B. DeGraaf, 1966)—hereafter Works on Casuistry. Additional printings of Perkins’s writings include A Commentary on Galatians, ed. Gerald T. Sheppard (New York: Pilgrim Press, 1989), A Commentary on Hebrews 11, ed. John H. Augustine (New York: Pilgrim Press, 1991), and The Art of Prophesying, ed. Sinclair Ferguson (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1996).
[vi] Work of Perkins, p. xi.
[vii] “Perkins’ A Golden Chaine,” pp. 69-71, 79-81.
[viii] Thomas Fuller provided the basics of what is known about Perkins’s life (Abel Redevivus; or, The Dead Yet Speaking [London: William Tegg, 1867], 2:145-54, and The Holy and Profane State [London: William Tegg, 1841]). See Breward, “The Life and Theology of William Perkins,” and idem, introduction in Work of Perkins; Munson, “William Perkins: Theologian of Transition”; Tufft, “William Perkins, 1558-1602,” for the best accounts to date.
[ix] A pensioner paid his “commons”—i.e., common expenses of the college. A sizar could not afford the commons and was compelled to work during his college career. A scholar indicated a student whose commons had been waved on the basis of potential.
[x] Benjamin Brook, The Lives of the Puritans (Pittsburgh: Soli Deo Gloria, 1994), 2:129.
[xi] Works, II:653.
[xii] Patrick Collinson, The Elizabethan Puritan Movement (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967), p. 125. Cf. Peter Lake, Moderate puritans and the Elizabethan church (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982).
[xiii] Munson, “William Perkins: Theologian of Transition,” pp. 18-25.
[xiv] William T. Costello, The Scholastic Curriculum at Early Seventeenth-Century Cambridge (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1958), p. 146.
[xv] James Bass Mullinger, The University of Cambridge (Cambridge: Univerity Press, 1884), 2:404.
[xvi] See Banner of Truth’s edition of The Art of Prophesying for a well-edited, contemporary reprint.
[xvii] Munson, “William Perkins: Theologian of Transition,” pp. 12-25.
[xviii] Mark Curtis, Oxford and Cambridge in Transition 1558-1642 (Oxford: University Press, 1965), p. 80.
[xix] Two Elizabethan Puritan Diaries, ed. M.M. Knappen (Chicago: American Society of Church History, 1933), pp. 109, 127.
[xx] Tufft, “William Perkins,” p. 34; Gerald R. Bragg, Freedom and Authority: A Study of English Thought in the Early Seventeenth Century (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1975), p. 138.
[xxi] “William Perkins and the New Pelagians,” p. 284.
[xxii] Works on Casuistry, pp. x-xv, xviii-xx; Breward, “William Perkins and the Origins of Puritan Casuistry,” The Evangelist Quarterly 40 (1968):16-22; George L. Mosse, The Holy Pretence: A Study in Christianity and Reason of State from William Perkins to John Winthrop (Oxford: Blackwell, 1957), pp. 48-67.
[xxiii] Abel Redevivus, 2:145-46.
[xxiv] The Marrow of Ecclesiastical History (London: W.B., 1675), pp. 416-17.
[xxv] Packer, An Anglican to Remember, p. 3.
[xxvi] Abel Redevivus, 2:148, 151.
[xxvii] Louis B. Wright, Middle-Class Culture in Elizabethan England (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1935), pp. 281-84; Breward, “The Significance of William Perkins,” Journal of Religious History 4 (1966):116.
[xxviii] Reformation and Reaction in Tudor Cambridge (London: Cambridge University Press, 1958), p. 260. Porter claims that more than fifty of the 210 books printed in Cambridge between 1585 and 1618 were written by Perkins (ibid., p. 264).
[xxix] Cotton Mather, Magnalia Christi Americana; or The Ecclesiastical History of New England (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1979), 1:255.
[xxx] Two Elizabethan Puritan Diaries, p. 130.
[xxxi] Everett Emerson, English Puritanism from John Hooper to John Milton (Durham: Duke University Press, 1968), p. 159.
[xxxii] McKim, “Ramism in William Perkins,” pp. iv-vi, but see Pipa, “William Perkins and the Development of Preaching,” pp. 161-68, who shows that Perkins did not slavishly follow Ramus. For example, Ramus denigrated the traditional syllogism but Perkins was fond of it, nor was Perkins locked into the use of dichotomy. For a summary of Perkins’s writings, see Packer, An Anglican to Remember, pp. 8-11.
[xxxiii] Louis B. Wright, “William Perkins: Elizabethan Apostle of ‘Practical Divinity,’” Huntington Library Quarterly 3, 2 (1940):194.
[xxxiv] “Memoir of Thomas Goodwin,” in The Works of Thomas Goodwin, D.D., ed. John C. Miller (Edinburgh: James Nichol, 1862), 2:xiii-xiv.
[xxxv] Breward, “The Significance of William Perkins,” p. 116.
[xxxvi] From Abbadie to Young: A Bibliography of English, mostly Puritan Works, Translated i/o Dutch Language (Veenendaal: Kool, 1980), 1:96-108.
[xxxvii] Cornelis W. Schoneveld, Intertraffic of the Mind: Studies in Seventeenth-Century Anglo-Dutch Translation with a Checklist of Books Translated from English into Dutch, 1600-1700 (Leiden: Brill, 1983), pp. 220-26.
[xxxviii] The Nadere Reformatie was a primarily seventeenth and early eighteenth century movement that paralleled English Puritanism in both time and substance. Voetius was to the Nadere Reformatie what John Owen, often called the prince of the Puritans, was to English Puritanism. Voetius called Perkins “the Homer [that is, the magisterial classic], of practical Englishmen “ (Packer, An Anglican to Remember, p. 3). Cf. Joel R. Beeke, Gisbertus Voetius: Toward a Reformed Marriage of Knowledge and Piety (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 1999), pp. 9, 11; Breward, “The Significance of Perkins,” p. 128.
[xxxix] Breward, “Life and Theology of Perkins,” Appendix 2.
[xl] Munson, “William Perkins: Theologian of Transition,” pp. 56-59.
[xli] Porter, Reformation and Reaction in Tudor Cambridge, pp. 258-60.
[xlii] The Intellectual Life of Colonial New England, 2nd ed. (New York: New York University Press, 1956), p. 134.
[xliii] Errand into the Wilderness, p. 57-59.
[xliv] Irvonwy Morgan, Puritan Spirituality (London: Epworth Press, 1973), p.24.
[xlv] Breward, “Life and Theology of Perkins,” p. 16.
[xlvi] For a list of Perkins’s writings, see Munson, “William Perkins: Theologian of Transition,” pp. 231-34; McKim, “Ramism in William Perkins,” pp. 335-37.
[xlvii] Work of Perkins, pp. 175-76. Cf. Michael T. Malone, “The Doctrine of Predestination in the Thought of William Perkins and Richard Hooker,” Anglican Theological Review 52 (1970):103-117.
[xlviii] Morgan, Puritan Spirituality, p. 25.
[xlix] W. Stanford Reid, John Calvin: His Influence in the Western World (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1982), pp. 206-207; Kendall, Calvin and English Calvinism, pp. 30-31, 76; Otto Grundler, “Thomism and Calvinism in the Theology of Girolamo Zanchi” (Ph.D. dissertation, Princeton Theological Seminary, 1960), p. 123; Dewey D. Wallace, Jr., Puritans and Predestination: Grace in English Protestant Theology, 1525-1695 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1982), p. 59; Lyle D. Bierma, German Calvinism in the Confessional Age: The Covenant Theology of Caspar Olevianus (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1996), pp. 176-81. Cf. C.M. Dent, Protestant Reformers in Elizabethan Oxford (Oxford: University Press, 1983), pp. 98-102.
[l] See Perkins’s chart on p. ?????. For an exposition of Perkins’s chart, see Cornelis Graafland, Van Calvijn tot Barth: Oorsprong en ontwikkeling van de leer der verkiezing in het Gereformeerd Protestantisme (‘s-Gravenhage: Boekencentrum, 1987), pp. 72-84.
[li] Works, I:15-16.
[lii] Works, I:13.
[liii] Works, I:15-16.
[liv] Works, I:24, 106.
[lv] Works, I:106.
[lvi] The terms supralapsarian and infralapsarian concern the moral order of God’s decree related to man’s eternal state. Supralapsarian literally means “above the fall” and infralapsarian, “below the fall” (supra=above; infra=below; lapsus=the fall). Supralapsarians believe that the decree of divine predestination must morally precede the decree concerning mankind’s creation and fall in order to preserve an accent on the absolute sovereignty of God. Infralpsarians maintain that the decree of predestination must morally follow the decree of creation and the fall, believing it to be inconsistent with the nature of God for Him to reprobate any man without first contemplating him as created, fallen, and sinful. See Joel R. Beeke, “Did Beza’s Supralapsarianism Spoil Calvin’s Theology?,” Reformed Theological Journal 13 (Nov 1997):58-60; William Hastie, The Theology of the Reformed Church (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1904); Klaas Dijk, De Strijd over Infra- en Supralapsarisme in de Gereformeerde Kerken van Nederland (Kampen: Kok, 1912).
[lvii] The subordinate role of Christ in supralapsarian predestination has been revived in the twentieth century by those who say that Christ only becomes a “carrier of salvation”—that He plays no active role since the decree of predestination is made prior to grace (J.K.S. Reid, “The Office of Christ in Predestination,” Scottish Journal of Theology 1 :5-19, 166-83; James Daane, The Freedom of God [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1973], chap. 7).
[lviii] Work of Perkins, pp. 197-98.
[lix] Works, II:607.
[lx] Works, II:621.
[lxi] Works, II:619.
[lxii] Works, I:294.
[lxiii] Works, II:611.
[lxiv] Works, I:24; II:691; Graafland, Van Calvijn tot Barth, pp. 78-79.
[lxv] Cf. Donald W. Sinnema, “The Issue of Reprobation at the Synod of Dort (1618-19) in Light of the History of This Doctrine” (Ph.D. dissertation, University of St. Michael’s College, Toronto School of Theology, 1985), p. 88.
[lxvi] Works, II:606. Perkins would agree with Calvin that election and reprobation are equally ultimate but not parallel—election being sovereign and gratuitous, reprobation being sovereign and just (Fred Klooster, Calvin’s Doctrine of Predestination [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1977], chap. 3.
[lxvii] Works, I:294.
[lxviii] Work of Perkins, pp. 197-98.
[lxix] Works, II:608.
[lxx] Works, II:607.
[lxxi] See McKim, “Ramism in William Perkins.”
[lxxii] Work of Perkins, pp. 85-86.
[lxxiii] Ibid., p. 83; Song, Theology and Piety in Reformed Federal Thought, pp. 44-49.
[lxxiv] Muller, “Perkins’ A Golden Chaine,” pp. 71, 76.
[lxxv] Even G.C. Berkouwer, who devoted a lengthy chapter to how election takes place in Christ, appears unaware of Perkins’s attempted solution (Divine Election, trans. Hugo Bekker [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1960], pp. 132-71).
[lxxvi] Works, I:9.
[lxxvii] Works, II:177.
[lxxviii] Cf. Works, II:608.
[lxxix] See Beza’s chart on p. ?????.
[lxxx] Reid, John Calvin, pp. 204-205.
[lxxxi] Muller, “Perkins’ A Golden Chaine,” pp. 76-77.
[lxxxii] Shaw, “The Marrow of Practical Divinity,” p. 124. Shaw concludes that “the background of Perkins’ covenant of grace was election in Christ as its formal cause and the work of Christ as its material cause.”
[lxxxiii] Works, I:32.
[lxxxiv] Works, I:32.
[lxxxv] Works, I:70.
[lxxxvi] Muller, “Covenant and Conscience,” pp. 310-11.
[lxxxvii] Works, I:279, 281.
[lxxxviii] Works, I:70.
[lxxxix] Works, II:258.
[xc] The Rise of Evangelical Pietism, p. 55.
[xci] Cf. Priebe, “Covenant Theology of Perkins,” pp. 167-73.
[xcii] Errand in the Wilderness, pp. 48-98.
[xciii] Works, I:77.
[xciv] Works, I:78.
[xcv] Works, I:79.
[xcvii] Munson, “William Perkins: Theologian of Transition,” p. 100.
[xcviii] Works, I:79-80.
[xcix] Works, I:81-82.
[c] Works, II:204.
[ci] Works, I:368.
[cii] Works, I:541.
[ciii] Works on Casuistry, p. 103.
[civ] Priebe, “Covenant Theology of Perkins,” p. 141.
[cv] Works, I:92, 94.
[cvi] Works II:696-702; Graafland, Van Calvijn tot Barth, p. 80.
[cvii] See chart on p. ????.
[cviii] Chalker, “Calvin and Some Seventeenth Century Calvinists,” p. 91.
[cix] Muller, “A Golden Chaine,” pp. 79-80.
[cx] Kendall, Calvin and English Calvinism, pp. 8-9.
[cxi] Puritans and Predestination, p. 193.
[cxii] Works, III:433.
[cxiii] Work of Perkins, p. 330.
[cxiv] Works, I:83.
[cxv] Reformation Today, Jul-Aug 1982, pp. 5-8.
[cxvi] Work of Perkins, p. 112.
[cxvii] Ibid., p. 330.
[cxviii] Preaching in England in the Late Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries (New York: Barnes & Noble, 1964), p. 58.
[cxix] Works, III:64.
[cxx] Work of Perkins, p. 300.
[cxxi] Works, II:646ff.
[cxxii] The Second Helvetic Confession, X:6, in Reformed Confessions Harmonized, ed. Joel R. Beeke and Sinclair B. Ferguson (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1999).
[cxxiii] Bondage of the Will, trans. J.I. Packer & O.R. Johnston (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2000), p. 71.
[cxxiv] Works, I:434; II:289, 294.
[cxxv] See Donald K. McKim, “William Perkins and the Theology of the Covenant,” in Studies of the Church in History, ed. Horton Davies (Allison Park, Penn.: Pickwith, 1983), pp. 85-87; Priebe, “Covenant Theology of Perkins.”
[cxxvi] “The Marrow of Practical Divinity,” p. 127.
[cxxvii] E.g., Morgan, Visible Saints: The History of a Puritan Idea (Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 1965), pp. 68-73.
[cxxviii] Munson, “William Perkins: Theologian of Transition,” p. 95.
[cxxix] “Norman Pettit has suggested that there were at least three continental attiudes on the position of preparation. Peter Martyr represented one extreme with the idea that the heart is taken by storm, ‘that grace comes only as an effectual call, with no preparatory dispositon of the heart.’ Bullinger represented the opposite extreme, ‘that grace follows the heart’s response to God’s offer of the covenant promises in preparatory repentance.’ Coming down in the middle between these two positions is Calvin, that grace, while entirely a matter of seizure, may nevertheless involve preparation through divine constraint of the heart.’ The English theologians opted broadly for the Calvin-Bullinger part of the spectrum but vacillated between the two Swiss reformers” (Shaw, “The Marrow of Practical Divinity,” p. 128-29; Pettit, The Heart Prepared: Grace and Conversion in Puritan Spiritual Life [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1966], pp. 44-47).
[cxxx] Works on Casuistry, p. 103; cf. Heinrich Heppe, Reformed Dogmatics, ed. Ernst Bizer; trans G.W. Thomson (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1950), p. 524.
[cxxxi] The Economy of the Covenants between God and Man, trans. William Crookshank (Escondido, Calif.: The den Dulk Christian Foundation, 1991), III, vi, II.
[cxxxii] Works, II:13.
[cxxxiii] Works, I:124.
[cxxxiv] Works, I:124.
[cxxxv] Works, I:79.
[cxxxvi] Works, II:18.
[cxxxvii] “Ethics in Seventeenth Century English Puritanism” (Th.D. dissertation, Union Theological Seminary, New York, 1960), p. 141.
[cxxxviii] Works, I:79-80.
[cxxxix] Works, I:80.
[cxli] Works, I:523.
[cxlii] Works, I:367.
[cxliii] Cf. Kendall, Calvin and English Calvinism, p. 71; Beeke, Quest for Full Assurance, pp. 65-72, 131-41.
[cxliv] An Anglican to Remember, p. 19.
[cxlv] Gordon J. Keddie, “’Unfallible Certenty of the Pardon of Sinne and Life Everlasting’”: The Doctrine of Assurance in the Theology of William Perkins,” The Evangelical Quarterly 48 (1976):30-44; Joel R. Beeke, Assurance of Faith: Calvin, English Puritanism, and the Dutch Second Reformation (New York: Peter Lang, 1991), pp. 105-118.
[cxlvi] Shaw, “The Marrow of Practical Divinity,” p. 166.
[cxlvii] Puritans and Predestination, pp. 195-96.
[cxlviii] Works on Casuistry, p. 106.
[cxlix] Works, I:599. Cf. Michael McGiggert, “Weak Christians, Backsliders, and Carnal Gospelers: Assurance of Salvation and the Pastoral Origins of Puritan Practical Divinity in the 1580s,” Church History 70, 3 (2001):473-74.
[cl] Works, I:453.
[cli] Works, I:454. Cf. Woolsey, “Unity and Continuity in Covenantal Thought,” p. 217.
[clii] Works on Casuistry, p. 106.
[cliii] Ibid., p. 107.
[clv] Works, I:329-31.
[clvi] Works, I:73.
[clvii] Works, I:413.
[clviii] Works, II:620ff; William Haller, The Rise of Puritanism (New York: Columbia University Press, 1938), pp. 130-31; Kendall, Calvin and English Calvinism, pp. 67-74.
[clix] WCF 3.8; Reformed Confessions Harmonized, p. 31; cf. John Murray, “Calvin, Dort, and Westminster on Predestination—A Comparative Study,” in Crises in the Reformed Churches: Essays in Commemoration of the Great Synod of Dort, 1618-1619, ed. Peter Y. De Jong (Grand Rapids: Reformed Fellowship, 1968), p. 157.
[clx] Michael McGiffert, “The Perkinsian Moment of Federal Theology,” Calvin Theological Journal 29 (1994):117-48.
[clxi] Eusden, pp. 26-28, in William Ames, Marrow of Theology (Boston: Pilgrim Press, 1968).
[clxii] Richard Sibbes, The Complete Works of Richard Sibbes, ed. A.B. Grosart (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1973), 1:29; John Preston, The New Covenant, or the Saints Portion: A Treatise Unfolding the all-sufficiencie of God, Man’s uprightness, and the Covenant of Grace, 10th edition (London: I.D. for Nicholas Bourne, 1639). Cf. Munson, “William Perkins: Theologian of Transition,” pp. 176-78.
[clxiii] Heinrich Heppe, Geschichte des Pietismus und der Mystik in der reformierten Kirche namentlich in der Niederlande (Leiden: Brill, 1879), p. 24-26.
[clxiv] Richard Muller, “William Perkins and the Protestant Exegetical Tradition: Interpretation, Style, and Method,” in Perkins, Commentary on Hebrews 11, p. 72.
[clxv] An Anglican to Remember, p. 4.
[clxvi] John Eusden, Puritans, Lawyers, and Politics (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1958), p. 11; Knappen, Tudor Puritanism, p. 375; Haller, Rise of Puritanism, p. 91; Collinson, Elizabethan Puritan Movement, p. 125; Paul Seaver, The Puritan Lectureships: The Politics of Religious Dessent, 1560-1662 (Palo Alto, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1970), p. 114; Christopher Hill, God’s Englishman: Oliver Cromwell and the English Revolution (New York: Harper & Row, 1970), p. 38; Packer, An Anglican to Remember, p. 1.
[clxvii] Louis Wright, “William Perkins: Elizabethan Apostle of ‘Practical Divinitie,’” Huntington Library Quarterly 3 (1940):171; Mosse, The Holy Pretense, p. 48.
[clxviii] For a comprehensive listing and annotated bibliography of Puritan literature reprinted since the 1950s, see Joel R. Beeke and Randall Pederson, A Reader’s Guide to Puritan Literature (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, forthcoming).