Perkins: Rome Confuses Law And Gospel

The Church of Rome in a manner confounds the law and the gospel, saying that the gospel, which is the new law, reveals Christ more clearly than Moses’ law did, which they call the old law. But this is a wicked opinion, which overturns all religion, being the cause of many gross points in popery, which could not stand, if they would acknowledge a true distinction between the law and the gospel. They say for their defense that the precepts of both are the same in substance; that both require righteousness; both promise life, and threaten death; both command faith, repentance, and obedience; and therefore they are the same. Answer . First, the laws and precepts

Answer . First, the laws and precepts of the law and gospel are not the same, for Adam in his innocence knew the law, but he knew nothing then of believing in Christ. And though both require righteousness, promise life, and threaten death, yet the manner is far different, as before was noted, so likewise they differ in the commanding of faith, for the gospel commands faith, not as a work done, as the law does, but as an instrument laying hold on Christ. Again, the law commands faith generally, as to believe in God, and to believe His Word to be true; but besides this, the gospel requires a particular faith in Christ the Redeemer, whom the law never knew. Thirdly, the law commands not repentance, for the knowledge of the law was in Adam’s heart, when he needed no repentance.

William Perkins, An Exposition on Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, in Works, 1:244–45. (HT: Inwoo Lee)


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  • Inwoo Lee
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    Inwoo Lee (BA, UCSD) earned his MA (Historical Theology) in 2020 from Westminster Seminary California and is author of “Righteous Before God: William Perkins’ Doctrine of Justification in Elizabethan England” (MA Thesis, Westminster Seminary California, 2020). He lives in the Great Seoul area, in South Korea with his wife Holly.

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