Hermeneutics and Piety in William Perkins

In the book of Acts the popularity of the Apostle Paul was growing in the city of Ephesus as “God was performing extraordinary miracles”[1] by his hands.  His fame became so known that others sought to duplicate it.  The seven sons of Sceva—Jewish exorcists—concluded that if Paul could cast out demons by the name of Jesus, they could too.  Upon encountering a man possessed by an evil spirit, the demon answered the sons of Sceva, saying, “I recognize Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you?”  While the seven sons of Sceva were unbelievers, the reaction of the demon toward those men is often no different than the response of most modern evangelicals when they hear the name William Perkins.  Many today say, “Calvin we know; Luther we know.  Jonathan Edwards and even John Wesley we know, but who is William Perkins?”  To most people’s surprise, Perkins rivaled the influence of John Calvin and Martin Luther on seventeenth century English Protestants and New England Colonial Puritans.[2]


The article is by M. Douglas Williams, a Ph.D. student at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky.

Click here to read his entire paper.

[1]The account described above is recorded in Acts 19:11-20.  The quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible, 1995.

[2]J. C. Alain, “William Perkins: Plain Preaching,” Preaching (1996): 42.  Paul R. Schaefer, “The Art of Prophesying by William Perkins (1558-1602)” in The Devoted Life: An Invitation to the Puritan Classics, eds. Kelly M. Kapic and Randall C. Gleason (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 38, speaks of Perkins as one of the most widely read preachers of his day, and one of the most outstanding theologian thinkers of the Elizabethan era.  He goes on to offer a couple of reasons for why the enormity of Perkins’ impact has not carried over to today.  He posits that the scarcity of reprints of his works exist today and the brevity of his life both seem to contribute to the lack of his recognition among modern believers.

Hermeneutics Piety William Perkins