WILLIAM PERKINS, EDITED BY RANDALL J. PEDERSON
This third volume from the Works of William Perkins collection contains Perkins’s A Cloud of Faithful Witnesses, Leading to the Heavenly Canaan, which was his exposition of Hebrews 11. Within, Perkins contends that the whole chapter of Hebrews 11 is meant to urge readers to persevere in faith by persuading them of the excellence of faith. In his characteristic manner, Perkins brings the abiding importance of this message through careful exegesis and perceptive application.
In an age of cheap faith and easy believism, this exposition offers us a way to put our faith to the test, to try it against the faith of the “great cloud of witnesses,” and, in the end, to put it into practice, assured that God’s mercy will uphold us for life.
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. However, his complete works 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.
Reformation Heritage Books is excited to announce the publication of the inaugural volume of a projected ten volume set of The Works of William Perkins, often called “the father of Puritanism.” Can you imagine studying the Reformation without having access to John Calvin’s Institutes and commentaries? We believe that the printing of Perkins’s Works in modern print will revolutionize and transform Puritan studies, and be a great blessing to the church of Jesus Christ around the world.
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. However, the complete Works have not been in print since the early seventeenth century. This modern typeset edition of the Works includes four volumes of Perkin’s expositions of Scripture, three volumes of his doctrinal and polemical treatises, and three volumes of his practical writings.
The first volume contains a masterful treatment of the Sermon on the Mount and an enlightening exposition of Christ being tempted by Satan in the wilderness. Scholars, ministers, and lay people will all profit greatly from reading this great Puritan writer.
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.
Randall J. Pederson (M.T.S. Calvin Theological Seminary) is a member of the Heritage Netherlands Reformed Congregation in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and the author of several publications relating to Puritanism.
Joel R. Beeke (PhD, Westminster Seminary) is president and professor of systematic theology and homiletics at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary; a pastor of the Heritage Reformed Congregation in Grand Rapids, Michigan; editor of Banner of Sovereign Grace Truth; editorial director of Reformation Heritage Books; and a prolific author.
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
“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
“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, Westminster Seminary California
“William Perkins was an incredible thinker and theologian. But for this hugely impressive undertaking by Reformation Heritage Books and the capable editors, the works of Perkins may never have seen the light of day in the church again. This reprint may not be a dream come true, but it is close!” — Mark Jones, minister, Faith Vancouver Presbyterian Church (PCA) and coauthor of A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life
“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 Works of William Perkins is a veritable treasure of sixteenth-century Protestant orthodoxy and Reformed piety. In the first reprint of Perkins’s works in almost four hundred years, RHB has given the church an immeasurable gift that will keep on giving for centuries to come!” — Jon D. Payne, senior minister, Christ Church Presbyterian (PCA), Charleston, South Carolina, and author of John Owen on the Lord’s Supper
“Few Elizabethan theologians have offered as wide a range of Reformed reflection on Scripture and theology as William Perkins, and none is more accessible or edifying. Another great publishing decision by Reformation Heritage Books!” — Chad Van Dixhoorn, associate professor of church history, Reformed Theological Seminary
“There was no more important leader in the Puritan movement than William Perkins. To see his works reprinted in a reader-friendly format and with state-of-the-art critical apparatus as a bonus seems too good to be true. This project is a landmark event for both Reformation scholarship and the spiritual edification of Christians.” — Leland Ryken, author of Worldly Saints: The Puritans as They Really Were
“I have enjoyed and benefited from William Perkins’s works ever since I first encountered them. This eminent Puritan’s writings have been hidden for too long in ancient editions difficult to obtain. It will be a delight to have them readily available in a fresh and attractive newly typeset edition. RHB is to be heartily congratulated on the vision and commitment to the lively, practical, Puritan theology which this new series exemplifies.” — Robert Strivens, principal, London Theological Seminary
“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
“Perkins is profound yet simple, exegetical and practical, and theological and devotional. He was a professor and pastor who trained an entire generation of Puritan pastors. He towered above most in a time of theological and spiritual giants, and it is time for a new generation to learn why. The rare combination of precision, sound theology, and pastoral skill found in Perkins’s expositions of Scripture will provide ministers with help that they will not likely find in standard Bible commentaries. With the Lord’s help, Perkins will make us better preachers by making us better men.” — Ryan M. McGraw, pastor, First Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Sunnyvale, California
“Church of England pastor and preacher. Theologian at Christ’s College, Cambridge. William Perkins was powerfully used by God in each of these capacities. His writings provide a rich scriptural body of teaching that will challenge and bless readers—from the ordinary to scholars.” — William VanDoodewaard, associate professor of church history, Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary.
“William Perkins was arguably the single most seminal figure in the development of Puritan theology in England. This edition will make his works accessible to a much wider readership. It is to be welcomed.” — Robert Letham, Wales Evangelical School of Theology
“William Perkins (1558–1602) was one of England’s most heavenly preachers. Both as a profound Cambridge scholar and as a deeply spiritual preacher he is justly acknowledged to have been the Father of English Puritanism. His influence was international, shaping the religious outlook of theologians as far afield as Holland, Spain, France, and Hungary. In New England he was a standard author, widely read by many, including Jonathan Edwards. This reprint of Perkins’s works is certainly to be welcomed.” — Maurice Roberts
“The republishing of William Perkins’s writings in an accessible format is a major event for those interested in Puritan and Reformed theology. Looking through these pages, I am astonished to discover how widely, creatively, and wisely Perkins thought and wrote.” — Paul Helm, teaching fellow, Regent College, Vancouver
“Sixty years ago, hardly any Puritan books remained in print. Now, in the kindness of God and through the diligent labors of Christian scholars, we have a veritable feast of Puritan reprints to consume and enjoy. Unfortunately, the complete works of William Perkins, a foundational leader in early English Reformed orthodoxy, has not been reprinted in 379 years. Thanks to Joel Beeke, Reformation Heritage Books, and several fine editors, this is no longer the case. They have produced a new standard edition of Perkins’s works, which I trust will be profitably used and enjoyed until the return of Christ.” — Justin Taylor
“It is always exciting to see ‘new’ Puritan works become available. And that excitement is in direct proportion to the scarcity and importance of a work. To see The Works of William Perkins become available once again, especially in a newly updated version, is cause for great rejoicing.” — Don Kistler
“We need to learn two vital things from God’s Word: what God wants us to know and how we are to put that to work in our lives. Almost no one but the Puritans could do both, in a way deeply faithful to what our Lord wants to teach us. William Perkins was their pioneer, showing so many before, and now us, how wholeheartedly to please our God.” — D. Clair Davis, professor emeritus, Westminster Theological Seminary
“To read the Puritans is not only to be on solid biblical grounds; it also means having our hearts as well as our minds engaged with God’s truth. For that reason, in spite of the distance of years that separates us from them, the expositions and writings of the Puritans remain rich, rewarding, and relevant. William Perkins stands virtually at the head of that movement in the sixteenth century, yet until now has been one of the least accessible of Puritan theologians. What a joy to have that changed with the republication of his writings, and what a debt the reading Christian public owes to the publishers and editors of these volumes. Read with profit and learn with excitement: this is Bible teaching at its very best.” — Iain D Campbell, Point Free Church of Scotland, UK
“William Perkins’s voluminous writings on a vast range of subjects are legendary, outselling the works of Calvin, Beza, and Bullinger combined! But where are those writings today? During the past sixty years or so, many Puritan works have been reprinted and published, but only a few of Perkins’s books have been offered to the public. This means that the bulk of his writings have remained hidden from view. Until now, that is! Sampling volume 1 with its many scholarly and interesting articles and footnotes has been a joy, also because of its readable style. I most heartily commend Reformation Heritage Books for undertaking this monumental task of reprinting all ten volumes!”— Cornelis Pronk, emeritus pastor of the Free Reformed Church of Brantford, Ontario, Canada
“This is a welcome collection of the gospel-saturated writings of William Perkins. A faithful pastor, Puritan leader, prolific author, and lecturer, Perkins defended the doctrines of the Protestant Reformation throughout his life. Giving particular emphasis to solus Christus and sola Scriptura, these Reformed doctrines drove him as a pastor to preach the unsearchable riches of God’s truth with confidence and assurance. Sadly, Perkins is unknown to the modern Christian. However, throughout the centuries, the writings, meditations, and treatises of this Puritan luminary have influenced Christians around the world. It is my hope that many will be introduced and reintroduced to the writings of this Reformed stalwart. May his zeal for gospel advance awaken a new generation of biblical preachers and teachers to herald the glory of our sovereign God in this present day.”— Steven J. Lawson, president, OnePassion Ministries, and professor of preaching at The Master’s Seminary
“Long unavailable to modern readership, the Works of William Perkins are now available in an attractive and readable edition. In this first volume, Perkins offers a rich banquet of biblical exposition, sound theology, and thoughtful application. Especially in his expositions of our Lord’s temptations and of the Sermon on the Mount, Perkins treats us to soul-fattening and Christ-exalting fare. Tolle, lege—take and read!”— Guy Prentiss Waters, James M. Baird, Jr. Professor of New Testament, Reformed Theological Seminary
“The reissuing of William Perkins’s Works adds another stalwart to the circulating classics in theology, both systematic and practical. Having back in print again this classic that earlier saints cherished with the likes of Calvin, Beza, Ames, and Turretin surely expands any library. Not only is this welcome as a resource tool, but it is also aesthetically printed and should be of great value to students, pastors, teachers, and leaders. There’s simply no longer any reason to fail to learn from the father of British Puritanism. We hope the churches will drink deeply from this reopened well. It is a resource and a coveted treat.”— David W. Hall, senior minister, Midway Presbyterian Church, Powder Springs, GA
“I am genuinely excited and thrilled to learn of the intention of Reformation Heritage Books to republish—for the first time since 1616–1618—these truly outstanding and invaluable Works. Whether on predestination, redemption, conscience, family life, assurance, comfort, or Protestantism, Perkins, by God’s free grace, is the one effectively able to instruct, edify, and confirm. May this republishing venture be wonderfully blessed of the Lord. I, for one, wish it Godspeed, praying that as in the sixteenth century, so in this twenty-first century William Perkins will prove to be an able minister, to the good of our churches and to the good of our souls.” — Malcolm H. Watts, minister of Emmanuel Church, Salisbury, England
“Relatively few in the church’s history have left a written legacy of enduring value beyond their own time. Perkins is surely among that select group. Reformation Heritage Books is to be commended for its commitment to making his Works available in this projected series, beginning with this volume.”— Richard B. Gaffin Jr., professor of biblical and systematic theology emeritus, Westminster Theological Seminary
“As English Puritanism took shape in the reign of the first Queen Elizabeth (1558–1603), no faithful servant of God was of greater significance than William Perkins. Historians have long recognized the impact of his relatively brief ministry on the University and city of Cambridge not only during his lifetime, but for years after his death. Students of Puritanism have, however, been frustrated by the inaccessibility of his written legacy, never reprinted in whole since the seventeenth century. That considerable task has now been undertaken by Reformation Heritage Books in a fine, carefully edited edition, replete with helps for the modern reader. It deserves a wide circulation with the prayer that it will spread the influence of this outstanding preacher in our generation and those to come.”— Robert W. Oliver
“It is good news indeed that Reformation Heritage Books has made the first volume of Perkins’s works available for a broader readership. The text has been well edited and the promise of the entire series is truly exciting. May our great God bless His church through the reading of these valuable works!” — Richard Gamble, professor of systematic theology, Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Pittsburgh
“One of the earliest of the British Puritan preachers, William Perkins was among the most influential pastor-educators of his time. Renowned for his piety, respected for his Christ-centered preaching, and remembered for his practical theological works, Perkins’s influence helped shape the Protestant Reformation in England and Europe as well as the development of Christianity in North America. Perkins’s publications model a pastor’s heart and preacher’s passion for the timely application of biblical truth to the hearts and minds of his hearers. Whether it is a more formal theological discourse or exposition of a biblical text, Perkins’s ability to both explain and apply the teaching of Scripture in a manner that is reverent, rich, and relevant will be a source of spiritual gratification to all who read his works. Buried for centuries in the often-forgotten annals of church history, the republication of Perkins’s writings will allow one of Christ’s choice gifts to His body to speak with fresh power to the spiritual needs of today’s church and world.”— James M. Garretson, ministry director on behalf of Christian Union, Harvard Law School
“Christians have heard about William Perkins, especially that he was an extraordinary preacher whose sermons made a deep impression on Cambridge and that they were still impacting the town in the decades that followed Perkins’s death in 1602 at a mere forty-four years of age. He was at the heart of the revival of truth and holy living that made the Reformation a glorious work of God. He was the outstanding Puritan theologian of his time, but most of us have not had the opportunity to study his works because of their rarity. After more than three hundred years, this ignorance is going to be ended with the remarkable appearance during the next decade of the complete works of this man of God. We are looking forward to their appearance very much. There will be sufficient gaps between their publication to ensure a sincere attempt at imbibing the truths of each volume, and then we face the challenge of translating Perkins’s teaching into flesh-and-blood living.”— Geoff Thomas
“We can be very grateful that volume 1 of William Perkins has been just republished by Reformation Heritage Books and that all of his monumental works are to be published in the next few years. His biblically faithful theology set the standard for Calvinism in both England and New England. His theological work is first rate, both in its understanding of the biblical teaching on God, man, and salvation, and especially in its intensely practical application of God’s inspired truth to the real world and to the lives we must live within it.His exposition of the Sermon on the Mount is shining with light and realistically diagnoses the Christian lives we live while on pilgrimage in a hostile world. He faithfully ties this sermon in to the rest of the Scriptures and puts Christ’s teaching in its biblical context. If you read Perkins’s treatise on The Combat between Christ and the Devil Displayed, you will be given much insight into what is happening in you and around you and thereby will more readily raise ‘the shield of faith.’ This republication of one of the princes of the Puritans is a major encouragement to the advance of evangelical Christianity in our jaded times. May many of God’s people read it. If so, the church will richly profit!” — Douglas F. Kelly, Richard Jordan Professor of Systematic Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary
“William Perkins, a father of the Puritan movement, had, by the time of his comparatively early death, influenced many future leaders in England and New England, and his writings were being read widely and destined to be quoted extensively in later Puritan literature. It has been rather surprising, therefore, that the complete works of such an influential figure have not been published since 1635, so the proposed ten-volume edition should be anticipated with eagerness. This opening volume both satisfies and stimulates our appetite, major attention being given to the Sermon on the Mount. During his ministry, Perkins was known especially for his ability to teach solid truth in an appealingly comprehensible way to ordinary Christians, and this real simplicity is evident also in his writing. These pages may be used by the Spirit not only to enrich our knowledge but, as he himself said of Christ’s great sermon, ‘to teach His disciples, with all that believe in Him, to lead a godly, holy, and blessed life.’ So may the Lord continue to bless today the ministry of this gifted servant, long in glory.” — Edward Donnelly, emeritus professor, Reformed Theological College, Belfast, Northern Ireland
“Perkins was justly esteemed by his contemporaries as a master in theology.” – Charles H. Spurgeon
“In orderliness of method and vivid description, William Perkins takes the crown.” – Gisbertus Voetius
“I gladly call to mind the time, when being young, I heard, worthy Master Perkins, so preach in a great assembly of students, that he instructed them soundly in the truth, stirred them up effectually to seek after godliness, made them fit for the kingdom of God; and by his own example shewing them, what things they should chiefly intend, that they might promote true religion, in the power of it, unto God’s glory, and others’ salvation.” – William Ames
“Mr. Perkins’s sermons were all law and all gospel. He was a rare instance of those opposite gifts meeting in so eminent a degree in the same preacher, even the vehemence and thunder of Boanerges, to awaken sinners to a sense of their sin and danger, and to drive them from destruction; and the persuasion and comfort of Barnabas, to pour the wine and oil of gospel consolation into their wounded spirits.” – Benjamin Brook