William Perkins

1558-1602. English Puritan scholar. Born in Marston Jabbet, Warwickshire, and educated at Christ's College, Cambridge, he was fellow there till 1595. He was thereafter lecturer at Great St. Andrews, Cambridge, till his death. A noted preacher and pastor, he influenced many undergraduates who later became Puritan leaders (W. Ames* was perhaps the best known). Though associated with the classical movement, he never publicly advocated a presbyterian polity, but was concerned for pastoral renewal and practical piety. He wrote many popular spiritual guides like A golden chaine (1590), which went through numerous editions in England and abroad, as far away as Hungary. A notable systematic theologian, Perkins had a rare capacity for popularization and presenting important issues without trivializing them. In addition to writing substantial treatises like De Praedestinatione (1597), which provoked Arminius to reply, Perkins was a prolific commentator on Scripture, a formidable patristic scholar, and polemicist on subjects ranging from Roman Catholicism to witchcraft and astrology. His writing on preaching, the role of the ministry, and collection of cases of conscience had considerable influence in the Church of England and the Netherlands. He was one of the founders of the tradition of English practical divinity which considerably influenced continental Pietism during the seventeenth century.

T. Wood, Five Pastorals (1961); T.F. Merrill, William Perkins (1966); I. Breward, The Work of William Perkins (1970).