Learning from William Perkins on Election

WilliamPerkinsPortraitHow did William Perkins see Jesus Christ as the foundation, means, and ends of election?

William Perkins writes on this topic the following, “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.”

How did William Perkins see predestination as being carried out through the covenants?

Perkins taught that God established a covenant of works with Adam in paradise, thus setting a covenantal context for the fall. Similarly, He made the covenant of grace as the context for the salvation of the elect.

How did William Perkins see reprobation as a logical concomitant of election, and what were the differences he emphasizes between the two?

Perkins wrote “If there be an eternal decree of God, whereby he chooseth some men, then there must needs be another whereby he doth pass by others.” Two differences of emphasis exist between reprobation and election, however. First God willed the sin and damnation of men but not with the will of approval or action. God’s will to elect sinners consisted of His delight in showing grace and His intent to work grace in them. But God’s will to reprobate sinners did not include any delight in their sin, nor any intent to work sin in them. Rather He willed not to prevent their sinning because He delighted in the glorification of His justice. Second, in executing reprobation, God primarily passes over the reprobate by withholding from them His special, supernatural grace of election.

How did Williams Perkins see preaching as essential for bringing in the elect?

Munson writes, “Perkins’ golden chain of the causes of salvation is linked through the instrument of preaching. Perkins wrote on the preaching of the Gospel “This gospel must be preached. It is the allure of the soul, whereby men’s forward minds are mitigated and moved from an ungodly and barbarous life unto Christian faith and repentance.” Perkins also said “The gospel preached is that ordinary means to beget faith.” Plain and powerful preaching of Scripture was not merely the work of a man, but a heavenly intrusion where the Spirit of the electing God speaks.


The Puritan Practical Use of Election

The Puritans used this doctrine to preach to the unconverted, knowing that it humbles man and can alarm man. Puritan Dickson wrote on this topic,

“Election and reprobation may be safely taught, others say it could make men despair, let none take offense at this doctrine, because Christ’s sheep will hear his voice, forces men to turn to God or force men to become reprobates, either turn to God or take home the black news that they are reprobate, very needful to put men to their decisions.”

The Puritans used the doctrine to the comfort and awakening of distressed souls. Thomas Horton wrote on the matter,

“Doctrine of comfort takes all out of ourselves and deserts, doctrine of arrogance, presumption are of despair they will not hold out or support a man when he is in need of them, doctrines of free grace are doctrines of comfort because it reduces everything to God that he will fulfill what he has promised.”

Parr writes,

“Unworthiness may dismay thee, but remember it is God’s will that matters. Use this doctrine of election for believers to teach them of their privileges and safety, use their election as a motive to live holy unto God.”

Owen writes,

“God makes a consideration of electing love as free and undeserved, his principal argument for obedience, (Col. 3) as elect of God, bowels of mercies, also an encouragement to holiness, the fountain of electing grace will never fail us.”

There is No Falling Back

The whole human race is connected onto the belt of Adam, common person for us natural man, and when we are taken from Adam and hung on Christ’s belt, there is no falling back (election). We believe by faith in Christ, rooted in election.

Deny the doctrine of election, you deny the Gospel, you are enabled to believe because you are elected.