Submitted by Prof. Renihan
Many will know William Perkins’ (1558-1602) name–some will know of his fame. He was one of the great English Puritans, preaching in Cambridge and teaching a whole generation of young scholars how to preach God’s Word. One of his most famous contributions to Puritan Theology is his work A Golden Chaine. It is both an exposition of the the ‘order and causes of salvation and damnation’ as well as an ‘ocular catechism’–a chart describing these things. The chart may be found here. For the benefit of our readers, we publish here the Epistle to the Reader, which gives the Author’s rationale for publication. Here is Perkins’ epistle (in all of its 1592 glory):
Christian Reader, there are at this day foure severall opinions of the order of Gods predestination. The first is of the olde and new Pelagians; who place the causes of Gods predestination in man; in that they hold, that God did ordaine men either to life or death, according as he did forsee, that they would by their naturall free-will, either reject or receive grace offered. The second of them, who (of some) are tearmed Lutherans; which teach, that God forseeing, how all mankinde beeing shutte up under unbeleefe, would therefore reject grace offered, did hereupon, purpose to choose some to salvation of his meere mercie, without any respect of their faith or good workes, and the rest to reject, beeing mooved to doe this, because he did eternally foresee that they would reject his grace offered them in the Gospell. The third Semipelagian Papists, which ascribe Gods predestination, partly to mercie, and partly to mens foreseen preparations and meritorious workes. The fourth, of such as teach, that the cause of the execution of Gods predestination, is his mercie in Christ, in them which are saved; and in them which perish, the fall and corruption of man: yet so, as that the decree and eternall counsell of God, concerning them both, hath not any cause beside his will and pleasure. Of these foure opinions, the three former I labour to oppugne as erronious, & to maintaine the last, as beeing trueth, which will beare weight in the balance of the Sanctuarie.
A further discourse whereof, here I make bold to offer to thy godly consideration: in reading whereof, regard not so much the thing it selfe, penned very slenderly, as mine intent and affection: who desire among the rest, to cast my mite into the treasurie of the Church of England, and for want of gold, pearle, & pretious stone to bring a rammes skin or twaine, and a little Goates haire, to the building of the Lords tabernacle.
The Father of our Lord Iesus Christ grant that according to the riches of his glorie, thou maiest be strengthened by his spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in they heart by faith; to the ende that thou beeing rooted and grounded in loue, maiest be able to comprehend with all Saints, what is the breadth, and length, and height thereof; and to know the law of Christ which passeth knowledge, that thou maiest be filled with all fulnes of God. Amen. Farewell. Iulie 23. the yeare of the last patience of Saints. 1592.
Thine in Christ Iesus,