To All Ignorant PeopleThe Order of Salvation and Damnation by William Perkins (1558-1602)
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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.”
To all ignorant people that desire to be instructed
Poor people, your manner is to soothe up yourselves, as though you were in a most happy estate, but if the matter come to a just trial, it will fall out far otherwise. For you lead your lives in great ignorance, as may appear by these your common opinions which follow:
- 1. That faith is a man’s good meaning and his good serving of God.
- 2. That God is served by the rehearsing of the ten commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Creed.
- 3. That ye have believed in Christ ever since you could remember.
- 4. That it is a pity he should live, which doth any wit doubt of his salvation.
- 5. That none can tell whether he shall be saved or no certainly; but that all men must be of a good belief.
- 6. That howsoever a man live, yet if he call upon God on his death-bed, and say “Lord have mercy upon me” and so go away like a lamb, he is certainly saved.
- 7. That if any be strangely visited, he is either taken with a planer, or bewitched.
- 8. That a man may lawfully swear, when he speaks nothing but the truth, and swears by nothing but that which is good, as by his faith, or troth.
- 9. That a preacher is a good man no longer than he is in the pulpit. They think all like themselves.
- 10. That a man may repent when he will, because the Scriptures saith, “At what time soever a sinner doth repent of his sins, &c.
- 11. That it is an easier thing to please God that it is to please our neighbor.
- 12. That ye can keep the commandments, as well as God will give you leave.
- 13. That it is the safest to do in Religion as most do.
- 14. That merry ballads and books, as Scoggin, Bevis of South Hampton, &c., are good to drive away the time, and to remove heart-qualms.
- 15. That ye can serve God with all your hearts, and that ye would be sorry else.
- 16. That a man need not hear so many sermons, except he could follow them better.
- 17. That a man which cometh at no sermons, may as well believe, as he which hears all the sermons in the world.
- 18. That ye know all the preacher can tell you. For he can say nothing, but that every man is a sinner, that we must love our neighbors as ourselves, that every man must be saved by Christ, and all this ye can tell as well as he.
- 19. That is was a good world when the old Religion was, because all things were cheap.
- 20. That drinking or bezeling in the ale house or tavern, is good fellowship, and shows a good kind nature, and maintains neighborhood.
- 21. That a man may swear by the Mass, because it is nothing now, and by our Lady, because She is gone out of the country now.
- 22. That every man must be for himself, and God for us all.
- 23. That a man may make of his own, whatever he can.
- 24. That if a man remember to say his prayers every morning (though he never understand them) he has blessed himself for all the day following.
- 25. That a man prayeth when he saith the ten Commandments.
- 26. That a man eats his Maker in the sacrament.
- 27. That a man be no adulterer, no thief, no murderer, and do no man harm, he is a right honest man.
- 28. That a man need to have any knowledge of Religion, because he is not book learned.
- 29. That one may have a good meaning when he saith, and doth that which is evil.
- 30. That a man may go to Wizards, and Wise Men, for counsel, because God hath provided a salve for every sore.
- 31. That ye are to be excused in all your doings because the best men are sinners.
- 32. That ye have so strong a faith in Christ that no evil company can hurt you.
These and such like sayings what argue they but your gross ignorance? Now where ignorance reigneth there reigns sin; and where sin reigns, there the devil rules; and where he rules, man are in a damnable case.
You will reply unto me thus: ye are not so bad as I would make you; if need be you can say the Creed, the Lord’s prayer, and the ten Commandments; and therefore ye will be of God’s belief, say all men what they will, and you desire the devil from your hearts.
I answer again, that it is not sufficient to say all these without book, unless you can understand the meaning of the words, and be able to make a right use of the Commandments, of the Creed, of the Lord’s prayer, by applying them inwardly to your hearts and consciences, and outwardly, to your lives and conversations. This is the very point in which you fail.
And for a help in this your ignorance, to bring you to a true knowledge, unfeigned faith, and sound repentance: here I have set down the principal point of Christian religion, in fixed plain and easier rules, even such as the simplest may easily learn; and hereunto is adjoined an exposition of them word by word. If ye do want either good directions, then use this my labor for your instructions. In the reading of it, first learn the fixed principals; and when ye have them without the book, and the meaning of them withal, then learn the exposition also, which being well conceived, and in some measure felt in the heart, ye shall be able to profit by Sermons, whereas now ye cannot; and the ordinary parts of the Catechism, namely, the ten Commandments, the Creed, the Lord’s prayer, and the institution of the sacraments, shall more easily be understood.
Thine in Christ Jesus,