December 23, 2014

William Perkins (1558–1602) Distinguishing Between Restraining Grace and Renewing Grace

Again, grace must  be distinguished: it is twofold, restraining grace, or renewing grace. Restraining grace I term certain common gifts of God, serving only to order and frame the outward conversation of men to the Law of God, or serving to bereave men of excuse in the day of judgement. By this kind of grace, heathen men have been liberal, just, sober, valiant. By it men living in the church of God, have been enlightened, and having tasted of the good word of God, have rejoiced therein, and for a time outwardly conformed themselves thereto. Renewing grace is not common to all men, but proper to the elect, and it is a gift of God's Spirit, whereby the corruption of sin is not only restrained, but also mortified, and the decayed Image of God restored.
William Perkins, A Graine of Musterd-seed, Or, the Least measure of grace that is or can be effectual to Salvation (London: Printed by Thomas Creed, for Ralph Jackson and Hugh Burwell, 1597), 15–16. [Some spelling updated and modernized]
First, that we may put a difference between Christian and Heathen virtues. For, howbeit the same virtues in kind and name, are and may be found, both in them that profess Christ, and those also that are ignorant of the true God; yet they are in them after diverse manner. For in Heathen men they are the gifts of God, but not parts of regeneration and new birth: but in those that be true Christians, they are indeed not only the gifts of God’s spirit, but also essential parts of regeneration.

That we may the better yet conceive this difference, we must understand, that the grace of God in man, is two-fold; restraining, and renewing.

Restraining is that, which bridleth and restraineth the corruption of men’s hearts, from breaking forth into outward actions, for the common good, that Societies may be preserved, and one man may live orderly with another. Renewing grace is that, which doth not only restrain the corruption, but also mortifieth sin, and renews the heart daily more and more. The former of these is incident to Heathen men; & the Virtues which they have, serve only to repress the act of sin in their outward actions: but in Christians, they are graces of God, not only bridling and restraining the affections, but renewing the heart, and mortifying all corruption. And though those virtues of the Heathen be graces of God, yet they are but general and common to all: whereas the virtues of Christians, are special graces of the Spirit, sanctifying and renewing the mind, will, and affections. For example, chastity in Joseph as a grace of God’s spirit, renewing his heart; but chastity in Xenocrates was a common grace, serving only to curb and restrain the corruption of his heart. And the like may be said of the justice of Abraham, a Christian, and of Aristides, a Heathen.
William Perkins, The Whole Treatise of the Cases of Conscience, Distinguished into Three Books (London: Printed by John Legat, Printer to the University of Cambridge, 1606), 471–472.
Now as concerning grace: I say, that this is diversely distinguished. For first, it is either restraining or renewing. The restraining grace is that, whereby the inbred corruption of the heart, is not thereby utterly diminished and taken away, but in some restrained more, in some less, that it break not violently forth into action: and it is given only for a testimony unto man, and to preserve society: and for this kind of grace is general, that is, belonging to all and every man, amongst whom some do exceed othersome in the gifts of civil virtues: and there is no man, in whom God does not more or less restrain his natural corruption. Now renewing or Christian grace (as ancient writers do usually call it) is that whereby a man has power given to believe and repent, both in respect of will, and power: and it is universal in respect of those who believe.

Secondly, Grace is either natural, or supernatural: as Augustine himself teaches. Natural grace is that, which is bestowed on man together with nature: and this is either of nature perfect or corrupt. Perfect, as the image of God, or righteousness bestowed on Adam in his creation. This grace belongs generally unto all because we all were in Adam: and whosoever he received that was good, he received it both for himself and his posterity. The grace of nature corrupted is a natural enlightening (whereof John speaks: ‘He enlightens every man that comes into the world [Joh. 1:9]), yea and every natural gift. And these gifts truly by that order which God has made in nature, are due and belonging unto nature. But that Grace which is supernatural, is not due unto nature, especially unto nature corrupted, but is bestowed by special grace, and therefore is special. This the ancient writers affirm. Augustine says: “Nature is common to all, but not grace,” and he acknowledges a twofold grace: namely that common grace of nature, whereby we are made men: and Christian grace, whereby in Christ we are again born new men.
William Perkins, A Christian and Plaine Treatise of the Manner and Order of Predestination, and of the Largenes of Gods Grace (At London: Printed for William Welby, and Martin Clarke, 1606), 106-110. Or see "A Treatise of Predestination," in The Works of that Famous and Worthy Minister of Christ in the University of Cambridge, M. William Perkins (London: Printed by John Legatt, and are to be sold by James Boler, George Lathum, John Grismond, Robert Milbourne, and John Bellamie, 1631), 626. Originally posted by Ponter here (click).

In several places he also uses the expression "common grace." He uses it in The Reformation of Covetousness. Written upon the 6. Chapter of Matthew, from the 19. verse to the end of the said Chapter. (Imprinted at London, for Nicholas Ling, and John Newbery, 1603), 205; A godlie and learned exposition upon the whole epistle of Iude (London: Printed by Felix Kyngston for Thomas Man, dwelling in Pater noster row, at the signe of the Talbot, 1606), 126; and in A Christian and plain treatise of the manner and order of predestination and of the largeness of Gods grace (London: Printed by F. Kingston for William Welby and Martin Clarke, 1606), 108.


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