Perkins: Faith Is The Instrument Of Salvation

Objection 8. In respect of God, who is truth itself, we are to believe the promise in particular: yet if we respect our own unworthiness and indisposition, we are to fear and in some part to doubt. For the promise of remission of sins is not absolute, but depends upon the condition of our works. Therefore our certainty is only conjectural.

Answer. I answer first that in respect of our own unworthiness, we are not to doubt of our salvation, but to be out of all doubt, yea to despair before the judgment seat of God. For they which are of the works of the law, are under the curse, (Gal. 3:10), and Paul saith of his own works of grace, “in this am I not justified” (1 Cor. 4:4). And David being out of all doubt of his own deserved damnation in regard of his own unworthiness saith freely, “Enter not into judgment with thy servant, O Lord, for no flesh shall be justified in thy sight” (Ps. 143:2).

Again the consideration of any unworthiness in ourselves, doth not hinder a resolution considering God’s mercy in Christ. For true faith makes an entrance unto God with boldness, (I say with boldness) even for those persons that are unworthy in themselves, (Eph. 4:12). And Abraham (whose faith is to be followed of us) did not upon the consideration of his old decayed body, rest himself with bare hope upon a likelihood of the accomplishment of God’s promise, but he “believed under hope even against hope” (Rom. 4:18).

Lastly I answer that the ground of the former objection is erroneous, namely that the promise of salvation depends on the condition of our works: because the Scripture saith, it is made and accomplished on man’s part freely. I grant indeed that to the promise there is annexed a condition of faith: yet faith here must not be considered as a work, but as an instrument apprehending Christ with His benefits: and withal repentance with the fruits thereof are on our part required, yet no otherwise but as they are necessary consequents of faith, and the signs and documents thereof.

—William Perkins, “Discourse of Conscience” (emphasis added)