The Works of William Perkins fills a major gap in Reformed and Puritan theology. Though Perkins is best known today for his writings on predestination, he also wrote prolifically on many subjects. His works filled over two thousand large pages of small print in three folio volumes and were reprinted several times in the decades after his death. His complete works, however, have not been in print since the mid-seventeenth century. This modern typeset edition of the Works includes four volumes of Perkins’s expositions of Scripture, three volumes of his doctrinal and polemical treatises, and three volumes of his practical writings.
This fifth volume begins the doctrinal treatises of Perkins with three contributions of catechetical theology. The first treatise is An Exposition of the Symbol or Apostles’ Creed. Examining the contours of Christian faith, Perkins handles each article of the Creed according to its basic meaning, the duties it calls us to, and the consolation it brings. He closes the entire work by explaining how the Creed is a “storehouse of remedies against all troubles and temptations whatsoever.”
The second treatise is An Exposition of the Lord’s Prayer. Detailing the chief Christian desires, Perkins explains the meaning of the petitions of the Lord’s Prayer and the “manifold uses” for each. Perkins closes his exposition with the proper uses of the Lord’s Prayer in general, the circumstances related to the way we pray, and a word on God hearing our prayers. This treatise also includes a collection of prayers (with short expositions) from the Bible and a poetic song “gathered out of the Psalms, containing the sobs and sighs of all repentant sinners.”
The third treatise is The Foundation of Christian Religion Gathered into Six Principles, which sets down the principle points of Christian religion in order to establish readers in true knowledge, unfeigned faith, and sound repentance. Providing a rudimentary understanding of the Ten Commandments, the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the two sacraments, Perkins’s Foundation sets a framework for people to profit more from sermons and to receive the Lord’s Supper with comfort.
· The Foundation of Christian Religion Gathered into Six Principles
· An Exposition of the Symbol, or the Creed of the Apostles
· An Exposition of the Lord’s Prayer
William Perkins (1558–1602) earned a bachelor’s degree in 1581 and a master’s degree in 1584 from Christ’s College in Cambridge. During those student years he joined up with Laurence Chaderton, who became his personal tutor and lifelong friend. Perkins and Chaderton met with Richard Greenham, Richard Rogers, and others in a spiritual brotherhood at Cambridge that espoused Puritan convictions.
From 1584 until his death, Perkins served as lecturer, or preacher, at Great St. Andrew’s Church, Cambridge, a most influential pulpit across the street from Christ’s College. He also served as a teaching fellow at Christ’s College, catechized students at Corpus Christi College on Thursday afternoons, and worked as a spiritual counselor on Sunday afternoons. In these roles Perkins influenced a generation of young students, including Richard Sibbes, John Cotton, John Preston, and William Ames. Thomas Goodwin wrote that when he entered Cambridge, six of his instructors who had sat under Perkins were still passing on his teaching. Ten years after Perkins’s death,
Cambridge was still “filled with the discourse of the power of Mr. William Perkins’ ministry,” Goodwin said.
Perkins’s influence as a theologian continued unabated after his death. This was due in large part to the widespread popularity of his writings. His writings were translated into several European languages and greatly influenced British and American Reformed theology, the Dutch Further Reformation, and European Pietism.
Ryan Hurd is a ThM student at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary and a member of Redeemer Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Ada, Michigan.
Joel R. Beeke is president of Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary and a pastor of the Heritage Reformed Congregation in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Derek W. H. Thomas is senior minister of First Presbyterian in Columbia, South Carolina, and the Robert Strong Professor of Systematic Theology and Practical Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary in Atlanta, Georgia.
“On the broad shoulders of William Perkins, epoch-making pioneer, stood the entire school of seventeenth-century Puritan pastors and divines, yet the Puritan reprint industry has steadily bypassed him. Now, however, he begins to reappear, admirably edited, and at last this yawning gap is being filled. Profound thanks to the publisher and heartfelt praise to God have become due.”
—J. I. Packer, Board of Governors’ Professor of Theology, Regent College, Vancouver, British Columbia
“Without a doubt, the Puritans were theological titans. The Puritan theological tradition did not emerge out of a vacuum. It was shaped by leaders and theologians who set the trajectory of the movement and shaped its commitments. William Perkins was one of those men. Perkins’s contribution to Puritan theology is inestimable, and this new reprint of his collected works is a much-awaited addition to all who are still shaped and influenced by the Puritans and their commitment to the centrality of the grace of God found only in Jesus Christ. Even now, every true gospel minister stands in debt to Perkins, and in his shadow.”
—R. Albert Mohler Jr., president, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
“The list of those influenced by the ministry of William Perkins reads like a veritable Who's Who of the Puritan Brotherhood and far beyond. This reprinting of his works, so long unobtainable except by a few, is therefore a publishing event of the first magnitude.”
—Sinclair B. Ferguson, professor of systematic theology, Redeemer Theological Seminary, Dallas
“The father of Elizabethan Puritanism, Perkins presided over a dynasty of faith. The scope of his work is wide, yet on every topic he treats one discovers erudition and deep reflection. He was the first in an amazing line of ministers at Cambridge University’s main church. A pastor to pastors, he wrote a bestseller on counseling, was a formative figure in the development of Reformed orthodoxy, and a judicious reformer within the Church of England. I am delighted to see Perkins’s works made available again for a wide audience.”
—Michael Horton, J. Gresham Machen Professor of Theology and Apologetics, Westminster Seminary California
“William Perkins was a most remarkable Christian. In his relatively short life he was a great preacher, pastor, and theologian. His prolific writings were foundational to the whole English Puritan enterprise and a profound influence beyond his own time and borders. His works have become rare, and their republication must be a source of real joy and blessing to all serious Christians. Perkins is the first Puritan we should read.”
—W. Robert Godfrey, president, Westminster Seminary California