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"A Reformed Catholic", William Perkins (7), Of Satisfaction

What is sufficient to satisfy divine justice?

For Perkins the only and all-sufficient satisfaction made to God's justice for our sins, is to be found in the person of Christ, being procured by the merit of his death, and his obedience. But for Rome there remains a need to satisfy the justice of God for the temporal punishment of offences, to be purged either by works in this life or in purgatory.

In A Reformed Catholic Perkins sets out the points regarding Satisfaction on which we can agree with Rome and those points on which we must differ, and in those matters our coming out from her is proven to be warranted and our continued separation necessary.

Our Consent with Rome

First, we acknowledge and hold civil or politic satisfaction: that is, a recompense for injuries, and damages offered any way to our neighbours. This Zacchaeus practised, when at his conversion he restored four-fold, things gotten by forgery and deception. Again by civil satisfaction I understand, the imposition of fines, and penalties upon offenders, and the inflicting of death upon malefactors. For all these are satisfactions to the law, and societies of men when they are wronged. All these we maintain as necessary, for neither Church, nor commonwealth can well be without them: considering they are notable means to uphold civil peace; and other whiles they are fruits of true faith, as the satisfaction of Zacchaeus was.

Second, we acknowledge canonical or ecclesiastical satisfaction: and that is, when any having given offence to the church of God or any part thereof, do make an open public testimony of their repentance. Miriam for murmuring against Moses, was stricken with leprosy, and afterward by his prayer she was cleansed, and yet for all that she must go seven days out of the tent and congregation, that she might make a kind of satisfaction to the people for her trespass. And in the Old Testament, sackcloth and ashes were signs of their satisfaction.

Third, we hold that no man can be saved, unless, he make a perfect satisfaction to the justice of God for all his sins: because God is infinite in justice, and therefore will either exact an everlasting punishment, or satisfaction for the same.

The dissent or difference from Rome

The points of our difference and dissent are these.

The Church of Rome teaches and believes, that Christ by his death has made a satisfaction for all the sins of men, and for the eternal punishment of them all: yet so, as they themselves must satisfy the justice of God for the temporal punishment of their offences, either on earth or in purgatory. We teach and believe, that Christ by his death and passion has made a perfect and all-sufficient satisfaction to the justice of God for all the sins of men, and for the whole punishment thereof both eternal and temporal. Thus we differ, and herein we for our parts must for ever stand at difference with them so as if there were no more points of variance but this one, it should be sufficient to keep us always from uniting our religions, and cause us to obey the voice of Christ, Come out of her my people. For as in the former points, so in this also, the Papists err, not in circumstance, but in the very foundation and life of religion.

Our Reasons

Reason 1

A satisfaction that is made imperfect either directly or by consequent, is indeed no satisfaction at all. But the Papists make Christ's satisfaction imperfect, in that they do add a supply by human satisfactions and this much a learned schoolman, Biel in plain words confessed. Although (saith he) the passion of Christ be the principal merit, for which grace is conferred, the opening of the kingdom and glory: yet IS IT NEVER THE ALONE AND TOTAL MERITORIOUS CAUSE: it is manifest, because always with the merit of Christ, there concurs some work, as the merit of congruity or condignity of him that receives grace or glory, if he be of years and have the use of reason: or of some other for him, if he want reason (Super. lib. 3. dist. 19. concl. 5). For that which admits a supply by an other, is imperfect in itself. Therefore human satisfactions cannot stand. Learned Papists make answer, that Christ's satisfaction and man's may stand well together. For (say they) Christ's satisfaction is sufficient in itself to answer the justice of God for all sin and punishment: but it is not sufficient to this or that man till it be applied: and it must be applied by our satisfaction made to God for the temporal punishment of our sins.

But I say again, that man's satisfaction can be no means to apply the satisfaction of Christ: and I prove it thus. The means of apply∣ing God's blessings and graces unto man are twofold: some respect God himself, and some respect man. Those which respect God, are such whereby God on his part does offer and convey his mercies in Christ unto man: of this sort are the preaching of the Word, Baptism, and the Lord's Supper, and these are as it were the hand of God whereby he reaches down and gives unto us Christ with all his benefits. The other means of applying on man's part, are those whereby the said benefits are received. Of this sort there is only one, namely faith, whereby we believe that Christ with all his benefits belong unto us. And this is the hand of man whereby he receives Christ as he is offered, or exhibited by God in the word and sacraments. As for other means beside these, in Scripture we find none. Foolish therefore is the answer of the Papist, that make men's satisfactions means to apply the satisfaction of Christ unto us: for by human satisfactions, Christ's is neither offered on God's part, nor yet received on man's part: let them prove it if they can. Others, not content with this their former answer, say; that our satisfactions do nothing to derogate from the satisfaction of Christ: because our works have their dignity and merit from Christ's satisfaction: he meriting that our works should satisfy God's justice for temporal punishments. But this is also absurd and false, as the former was. For if Christ did satisfy that man might satisfy, then Christ does make every believer to be a Christ, a Jesus, a Redeemer, and a Priest in the same order with his own self. But to make sinful man his own redeemer, though it be but from temporal punishments, is a doctrine of devils. For the Holy Ghost in Heb. 7. 24 teaches that the priesthood of Christ is incommunicable, and cannot pass from him to any other. Now to make satisfaction for sin or any part of the punishment thereof, is a duty, or a part of Christ's priesthood, and therefore to make satisfaction is a work that cannot pass from his person to the person of any man.

Again, if Christ by his satisfaction give power to man to satisfy, then man does satisfy by Christ, and Christ beside his own satisfaction upon the cross, must daily satisfy in man, to the end of the world: but this cannot be, for Christ upon the cross, when death was upon him, said, It is finished, that is, I have fully satisfied for all the sins of mankind, both in respect of the fault and punishment. As for Christ's burial and resurrection which followed his death, they served not to satisfy but to confirm and ratify the same. Again Paul says, 2. Cor. 5. 21. He that knew no sin was made sin for us, that is, the punishment of sin for us; but if the Church of Rome say true, that Christ does daily satisfy, then Paul spake too short, and should have said further, that Christ was made sin for us, and in us too: and that God was not only in Christ but also in us reconciling the world to himself. But Paul never knew this learning: and therefore let them turn themselves which way they will, by putting a supplement to Christ's satisfaction, they do indeed annihilate the same.

Reason 2

In sundry places of Scriptrue, especially in the Epistles of Paul: we are are said to be redeemed, justified, and saved freely: which word freely, does import that we are justified and saved without any thing done on our part or by our selves in the matter of our salvation: and if this be so, then can we do nothing at all that may satisfy the justice of God for the least punishment of our sins. If we satisfy in our own persons we are not saved freely: and if we be saved freely, we make no satisfaction at all.

Reason 3

We pray daily, forgive us our sins: now to plead pardon, and to satisfy for our sins be contrary: and for all things, for which we can make satisfaction, we need not crave a pardon; but we are taught in the foresaid petition wholly and only to use the plea of pardon for our sins, and therefore we acknowledge that we cannot make any satisfaction at all.

Reason 4

The judgement of the ancient church.


On Baptism, Guiltiness being taken away, the PUNISHMENT IS ALSO TAKEN AWAY. (Serm. 37. de verbs Apost)


Christ, by taking upon him the punishment and not the fault, has done away both the fault and THE PUNISHMENT. And in Tom. 10. hom. 5. saith, when we are gone out of this world, there will remain no compunction or satisfaction. Some new editions have foisted in the word [aliqua] and so have turned the sense on this manner: There will remain no compunction or some satisfaction. But this is flat against Augustine's meaning who saith a little before, that when the way is ended there is no compounding of our cause with any.


Say not to me, I have sinned: how shall I be freed from so many sins? Thou canst not: but thy God can. Yea, and he will so blot out thy sins that there shall REMAIN NO PRINT OF THEM: which thing befalls not the body, for when it is healed there remains a scar: but God as soon as he exempts thee from punishment, he giveth thee justice. (proem. in Esa)


I read of Peter's tears, but I read not OF HIS SATISFACTION. Again, Let us adore Christ that he may say unto us, fear not thy sins of this world, nor the waves of bodily sufferings: I have remission of sins. (De bono mer)


On Psalm 31. The sin that is covered is not seen, the sin that is not seen is not imputed: that which is NOT IMPUTED, IS NOT PUNISHED.


On Matt. hom. 44, Among all men, some endure punishment in this life and the life to come: others in this life alone: others alone in the life to come: others neither in this life nor the life to come. There alone, as Dives, who was not allowed so much as of one drop of water. Here alone, as the incestuous man among the Corinthians. Neither here nor there, as the Apostles and Prophets, as also Job and the rest of this kind: for they endured NO SUFFERINGS FOR PUNISHMENT, but that they might be known to be conquerors in the fight.

Objections of Papists

Objection 1

Lev. 4. Moses according to God's commandment prescribed several sacrifices for several persons; and they were means of satisfaction for the temporal punishments of their daily sins.


Those sacrifices were only signs and types of Christ's satisfaction to be offered to his Father in his alone sacrifice upon the cross: and whosoever offered any sacrifice in the Old Testament, did thus and no otherwise esteem of it, but as a type and figure of better things. Secondly, the said sacrifices were satisfactions to the Church, whereby men did testify their repentance for their offences, and likewise their desire to be reconciled to God and men. And such kind of satisfactions, we acknowledge.

Objection 2

Men, whose sins are all pardoned, have afterward sundry crosses and afflictions laid upon them, unto the end of their days: therefore in all likelihood they make satisfaction to God for temporal punishments. As for example, the Israelites for murmuring against the Lord in the wilderness were barred all from the land of promise: and the like befell Moses and Aaron for not glorifying God, as they should have done at the waters of strife.


Man must be considered in a twofold estate, as he is under the law, and as he is under grace. In the first estate, all afflictions are curses or legal punishments, be they little or great: but to them that are in the second estate and believe in Christ, though the same afflictions remain, yet do they change their habit or condition, and are the actions of a father serving to be trials, corrections, preventings, admonitions. 1. Cor. 11. 32. When we are judged, we are nurtured of the Lord and Heb. 12. 7. If we endure chastisement, God offers himself unto you as children. and Chrysost. saith, 1. Cor. hom. 28. When we are corrected of the Lord, it is more for our admonition then damnation: more for a medicine than for a punishment: more for a correction than for a penalty. And whereas God denied the believing Israelites, with Moses and Aaron to enter into the land of Canaan, it cannot be proved that it was a punishment or penalty of the law upon them. The scripture says no more but that it was an admonition to all men in all ages following, to take heed of like offences, as Paul writes, All these things came unto them for ensamples, and were written for our admonition, 1. Cor. 10. 11.

Objection 3

David was punished after his repentance for his adultery, for the child died, and he was plagued in his own kind, in the incest of Absalom: and when he had numbered the people he was yet punished in the death of his people after his own repentance.


I answer as before that the hand of God was upon David after his repentance: but yet the judgements which befell him were not curses unto him properly, but corrections for his sins, and trials of his faith, and means to prevent further sin, and to renew both his faith and repentance: as also they served to admonish others in like case; for David was a public person and his sins were offensive, both within the Church of God and without.

Objection 4

The Prophets of God, when the people are threatened with the plague, famine, sword, captivity, &c. exhort them to repent and to humble themselves in sackcloth and ashes; and thereby they turned away the wrath of God that was then coming forth against them. Therefore by temporal humiliation, men may escape the temporal punishments of the Lord.


Famine, sword, banishment, the plague, and other judgements sent on God's people, were not properly punishments of sin but only the corrections of a father whereby he humbled them that they might repent: or thus, they were punishments tending to correction, not serving for satisfaction. And the punishments of God are turned from them, not because they satisfy the justice of God in their own sufferings, but because by faith they lay hold on the satisfaction of the Messiah, and testify the same by their humiliation and repentance.

Objection 5

Dan. 4. 24. Daniel gives this counsel to Nabuchadnezzar, redeem thy sins by justice and thine iniquities by alms deeds. Behold (say they) alms deeds are made a means to satisfy for mans iniquities.


The word which they translate to redeem, (as the most learned in the Chaldee tongue with one consent avouch) does properly signify to break off; as if the prophet should say: O King, thou art a mighty Monarch, and to enlarge thy kingdom thou has used much injustice and cruelty, therefore now repent of thine iniquity, and break off these thy sins, testify they repentance by doing justice, and give alms to the poor whom thou has oppressed. Therefore here is nothing spoken of satisfaction for sin, but only of testification of repentance by the fruits thereof.

Objection 6

Math. 3. 2, 8 Do penance; and bring forth fruits worthy of penance, which (say they) are works of satisfaction enjoined by the priest.


This text is absurd: for the word μετάνοια signifies this much, change your minds from sin to God, and testify it by good works, that is, by doing the duties of the moral law; which must be done, not because they are means to satisfy God's justice for man's sin, but because they are fruits of that faith and repentance which lies in the heart.

Objection 7

2. Cor. 7. 10. Paul sets down sundry fruits of repentance: whereof the last is revenge, whereby repentant persons punish themselves, thereby to satisfy God's justice for the temporal punishment of their sins.


A repentant sinner must take revenge of himself, and that is only to use all means which serve to subdue the corruption of his nature, to bridle carnal affections, and to mortify sin: and these kind of actions are restraints properly, and not punishments: and are directed against the sin and not against the person.

Objection 8

Lastly, the Papists make three works of satisfaction, prayer, fasting, and alms deeds.


For the first, it is mere foolishness to think, that man by prayer can satisfy for his sins. It is all one as if they had said, that a beggar by asking of alms should deserve his alms: or, that a debtor by requesting his creditor to pardon his debt, should thereby pay his debt.

Secondly, fasting is a thing indifferent, of the same nature with eating and drinking, and of it self confers nothing to the obtainment of the kingdom of heaven, no more than eating and drinking does.

Third∣ly and lastly alms deeds cannot be works of satisfaction for sins. For when we give them as we ought, we do but our duty, whereunto we are bound. And we may as well say, that a man by paying one debt, may discharge another: as to say that by doing his duty he may satisfy God's justice for the punishment of his sins. These we confess be fruits of faith, but yet are they no works of satisfaction: but the only and all-sufficient satisfaction made to God's justice for our sins, is to be found in the person of Christ, being procured by the merit of his death, and his obedience.


And thus our doctrine touching satisfaction is cleared: and it is to be learned carefully of our common people, because the opinion of human satisfaction is natural and sticks fast in the heart of natural men. Hereupon when any have sinned, and feel touch of conscience any way, their manner is, then to perform some outward humiliation and repentance, thinking thereby to stop the mouth of conscience, and by doing some ceremonial duties to appease the wrath of God for their sins. Yea, many think to satisfy God's justice by repeating the Creed, the Lord's Prayer, and the Ten Commandments, so foolish are they in this kind.

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