William Bradford Institute
for Study of the
Early Settlement of America

Home
Sermons
 
Back
 
Cases of Conscience


by William Perkins


Chapter 5

Of the first main question touching man.

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

For answer to this question, some grounds must be laid down before
hand. The first is this: that we must consider and remember, how 1.
by what means God brings any man to salvation. For look how God
saves others, so that he who does not know how to be saved, must use
the means whereby God saves them.

Section 7

In the work effecting of man salvation ordinarily there are two
special actions of God: the giving of the first grace, and after
that, the giving of the second. The former of these two works has
10 actions. 1. God gives man the outward means of salvation,
especially the ministry of the word: and with it, he sent some
outward and inward cross, to break and subdue the stubbornness of
our nature, that it may be made it pliable to the will of God. This
we may see an example of the jailer, Acts 16. And of the Jews that
were converted at Peter's Sermon, Acts 2. 2. This done, God brings
the mind of man to consideration of law, and therein generally to
see what is good, and what is evil, what is sin, and what is not
sin. 3. Upon a serious consideration of the law, he makes a man
particularly to see and know his own peculiar and proper sins,
whereby he offends God. 4. Upon the site of sin he strikes the heart
with legal fear, whereby when a man sees his sin he makes and to
fear punishment and hell, into despair of salvation, in regard of
anything in Him.

Now these four actions, are indeed no fruits of grace, for Reprobate
may go thus far; but their only works of Preparation going before
grace; the other actions which follow, are affects of grace. 5. The
fifth action of grace therefore is, to stir up the mind to serious
consideration of the promise of salvation propounded and published
in the Gospel. 6. After this the sixth is, the kindle of the heart,
some sense of the sparks of faith, that is, a will and desire to
believe, in grace to strive against doubting and despair. Now in
the same instant, when God begins to kindling the heart, any sparks
of faith, then also He justifies the sinner, and with this begins
the work of sanctification. 7. Then, so soon as faith is put it
into the heart, there is presently a combat: for a fight of
doubting, despair, and distrust. And in this combat, Faith shows
itself, by fervent, constant, and earnest invocation for pardon: and
after invocation follows the strength and prevailing of this desire.
8. Furthermore, God in mercy quite unsettles the conscience, as
touching the salvation of the soul, and the promise of life,
whereupon it rests and stays in itself. 9. Next after this settled
assurance, and persuasion of mercy, falls a storing up of the heart
to evangelical sorrow, according to God, that is, a grief for sin,
because it is sin, and because God is offended: And then the Lord
works repentance, whereby the sanctified heart turns itself on him.
And though this repentance be one of the last in order, yet it
didn't itself first: as when a candle is brought into our room, we
first see the light before we see the candle, and that the candle
must needs be before the light can be. 10. Lastly, God gives a man
grace to endeavor to obey his commandments by new obedience. And by
these degrees doth the Lord give the first grace.

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

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

 

Promoting a Greater Understanding of the Discovery of the Americas