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William Perkins and the Making of a Protestant England$
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W. B. Patterson

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199681525

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199681525.001.0001

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Practical Divinity and the Role of Conscience

Practical Divinity and the Role of Conscience

(p.90) 4 Practical Divinity and the Role of Conscience
William Perkins and the Making of a Protestant England

W. B. Patterson

Oxford University Press

Perkins’s several books on problems of conscience, which deal with a variety of religious and moral issues, reflect his conviction that greater attention to this subject was urgently needed both in England and on the Continent. In constructing a distinctively Protestant ‘practical divinity’, after the discontinuance in the Church of England of the practices and beliefs associated with the sacrament of penance, Perkins gave case divinity a new character and prominence. He emphasized the use of human understanding, enlightened by scriptural revelation and the Holy Spirit, as the means by which ordinary parishioners as well as their pastors could deal with the problems and dilemmas of everyday life. He made a persuasive case for the practice of private confession, consistent with the description in the Elizabethan Book of Common Prayer. His views on conscience pervaded English writing on the subject for much of the seventeenth century.

Keywords:   conscience, practical divinity, penance, Private Confession, moral and ethical questions

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