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Covenant and Assurance in Early English Puritanism

  • John von Rohr (a1)

This paper deals with the nature of the idea of “covenant” in English Puritan writings of the first half of the seventeenth century, and particularly as this bears upon the question of the assurance of salvation.

That this assurance could be obtained was a commonly accepted axiom and, indeed, the actual striving for such awareness was a commonly recognized obligation. When William Ames wrote, “The assurance of our calling and election is a thing greatly to be desired”, he also added the statement that this certainty “is not only possible for us to attaine unto, but also … it belongs to our duty to make this our calling and election sure”. There may well be many difficulties along the way, with serious agonies and doubtings. But excessive fearfulness is as great a sin as presumption, denying as it does the power of God's mercy. And so William Perkins could say, “we doe not teach that all and every man living within the precincts of the Church, professing the name of Christ is certen of his salvation, … but that he ought so to be, and must indeavor to attaine thereto”.

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1. Ames William, An Analytical Exposition of both the Epistles of the Apostle Peter…, (1641) pp. 162f.

2. Perkins William, A Reformed Catholike … in Works (1608) I, 606.

3. Ball John, A Treatise of the Covenant of Grace… (1645) “To the Reader” By Simeon Ash.

4. Sutton Thomas, Lectures on the 11th Chapter of Romans (1632) 401, 403.

5. Perkins William, A Commentarie, Or, Exposition upon the five first Chapters of the Epistle to the Galatians… (1617) 186.

6. Ibid., 502.

7. John Ball, op. cit., 199.

8. Harris Robert, A Treatise of the New Covenant … (1632) I, 32f.

9. Ball John, A Treatise of Faith … (1632) 413.

10. Robert Harris, op. cit., II, 171.

11. Preston John, The Saints Qualification … (1637, 3rd edition) 489.

12. Ames William, The Marrow of Sacred Divinity … (1642) 132.

13. Preston John, The New Covenant, or The Saints Portion … (1629) II, 144f.

14. Preston John, The Breast-Plate of Faith and Love … (1630) II, 84f.

15. Preston John, The New Covenant, or The Saints Portion … (1629) II, 154.

16. Bayne Paul. A Commentary Upon The whole Epistle of the Apostle Paul to the Ephevians … (1658, 5th edtion) 121.

17. Perkins William, A Treatise Tending unto a Declaration, Whether a Man be in the Estate of Damnation, or in the Estate of Grace …, in Works (1608) I, 413.

18. Preston John, The Breast-Plate of Faith and Love … (1630) III, 147.

19. Preston John, The New Covenant, or The Saints Portion … (1629) II, 224233.

20. Robert Harris, op. cit., II, 195, 163.

21. Miller Perry, The New England Mind: The Seventeenth Century (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1954) p. 389.

22. Jenison Robert, Two Treatises, The First Concerning Gods Certaine performance of his conditional Promises, as touching the Elect … (1642), 117.

23. Ibid., 120.

24. Culverwell Ezekiel, A Treatise of Faith … (1633) 151, 149.

25. Bacon Robert, The Spirit of Prelacie Yet Working … (1646) 18.

26. Rutherfurd Samuel, The Covenant of Life Opened:Or, A Treatise of the Covenant of Grace … (1655) 233.

27. Preston John, The Breast Plate of Faith and Love … (1630) I, 38.

28. Robert Jenison, op. cit., 50.

29. Samuel Rutherfurd, op. cit., 343f.

30. Quoted in The Covenant of Grace, not Absolute, but Conditional, Modestly Asserted … (1692) 63.

31. Ames William, The Marrow of Sacred Divinity … (1642) 102.

32. Sibbes Richard, The Faithful Covenanter, in Works (1863 edition) VI, 4.

33. Ibid., 19.

34. Preston John, Life Eternall … (1631) 86f.

35. Robert Bacon, op. cit., 18.

36. Samuel Rutherfurd, op. cit., 17.

37. Perkins William, A Golden Chaine …, in Works (1608) I, 115.

38. Sibbes Richard, The Bride's Longing for her Bridegroom's Second Coming, in Works (1863 edition) VI, 541f.

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Church History
  • ISSN: 0009-6407
  • EISSN: 1755-2613
  • URL: /core/journals/church-history
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