Wednesday, January 6, 2016

William Ames (1558-1602) on the Marks of Christian Adoption

William Perkins (1558–1602) said that a believer should esteem his adoption as God’s child to be greater than being “the childe or heir of any earthly Prince [since] the son of the greatest Potentate may be the child of wrath: but the child of God by grace, hath Christ Jesus to bee his eldest brother, with whom he is fellow heir in heaven; he hath the holy Ghost also for his comforter, and the kingdom of heaven for his everlasting inheritance” (1). 

Perkins lamented how few people realize this experientially: “At earthly preferments men will stand amazed; but seldom shall you find a man that is ravished with joy in this, that he is the child of God” (1). 

The Puritans often shared the apostle John’s sense of awe when he declared, “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God” (1 John 3:1). (2)

Christian adoption is defined in the Westminster Standards in this way:

SC, Q. 34: Adoption is an act of God’s free grace, whereby we are received into the number, and have a right to all the privileges, of the sons of God.

LC, Q. 74: Adoption is an act of the free grace of God, in and for His only Son Jesus Christ, whereby all those that are justified are received into the number of His children, have His name put upon them, the Spirit of His Son given to them, are under His fatherly care and dispensations, admitted to all the liberties and privileges of the sons of God, made heirs of all the promises, and fellow heirs with Christ in glory.

WCF, Chap. 12: All those that are justified, God vouchsafeth, in and for His only Son Jesus Christ, to make partakers of the grace of adoption, by which they are taken into the number, and enjoy the liberties and privileges of the children of God, have His name put upon them, receive the spirit of adoption, have access to the throne of grace with boldness, are enabled to cry, Abba, Father, are pitied, protected, provided for, and chastened by Him as by a Father: yet never cast off, but sealed to the day of redemption; and inherit the promises, as heirs of everlasting salvation.

William Perkins provided six marks that may help certify one’s adoption (3):
  • “An earnest and hearty desire in all things to further the glory of God.”
  • “A care and readiness to resign our selves in subjection to God, to be ruled by his word and spirit, in thought, word, and deed.” 
  • “A sincere endeavor to do his will in all things with cheerfulness, making conscience of everything we know to be evil.” 
  • “Upright walking in a mans lawful calling, and yet still by faith to rely upon Gods providence, being well pleased with Gods sending whatsoever it is.” 
  • “Every day to humble a mans self before God for his offenses, seeking his favour in Christ unfainedly, and so daily renewing his faith & repentance.” 
  • “A continual combat between the flesh and the spirit, corruption haling and drawing one way, and grace resisting the same & drawing another way.”
  1. William Perkins, A cloud of Faithfull Witnesses, Leading to the Heavenly Canaan: or, A Commentarie upon the 11. Chapter to the Hebrews, in The Workes of that Famous and Worthy Minister of Christ in the Universitie of Cambridge, Mr. William Perkins (London: John Legatt and Cantrell Ligge, 1612–13), 3:138 (2nd pagination).
  2. Joel R. Beeke and Mark Jones, A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012).
  3. Perkins, 3:154.