William Perkins

Is your surname Perkins?

Research the Perkins family

William Perkins's Geni Profile

Share your family tree and photos with the people you know and love

  • Build your family tree online
  • Share photos and videos
  • Smart Matching™ technology
  • Free!


William Perkins

Birthdate: (44)
Birthplace: Marston Jabbett, Bulkington Parish, Warwickshire, England
Death: 1602 (43) ("The stone")
Place of Burial: Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, England, United Kingdom
Immediate Family:

Husband of Timothye Perkins

Occupation: Calvinist Theologian - Elizabethan Puritan leader
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
view all

Immediate Family

About William Perkins

From his Wikipedia page (accessed Dec. 5, 2013):


William Perkins (1558–1602) was an influential English cleric and Cambridge theologian, receiving both a B.A. and M.A. from the school in 1581 and 1584 respectively, and also one of the foremost leaders of the Puritan movement in the Church of England during the Elizabethan era. Although not entirely accepting of the Church of England's ecclesiastical practices, Perkins conformed to many of the policies and procedures imposed by the Elizabethan Settlement. He did remain, however, sympathetic to the non-conformist puritans and even faced disciplinary action for his support.

Perkins was a prolific author who penned over forty works, many of which were published posthumously. In addition to writing, he also served as a fellow at Christ's College and as a lecturer at St Andrew's Church in Cambridge. He was a firm proponent of Reformed theology, particularly the supralapsarian theology of Theodore Beza and John Calvin. In addition, he was a staunch defender of Protestant ideals, specifically the five solae with a particular emphasis on solus Christus and sola Scriptura.

Early life

Perkins was born to Thomas and Anna Perkins at Marston Jabbett in the parish of Bulkington, Warwickshire, England in 1558,[1] the year in which the Protestant Elizabeth I succeeded her Catholic sister Mary as Queen of England. Perkins lived his entire life under Elizabeth I, dying one year before the Virgin Queen's own death in 1603.

Perkins' relationship with Elizabeth was ambiguous: on the one hand, she was Good Queen Bess, the monarch under whom England finally and firmly became a Protestant nation; on the other hand, Perkins and the other members of the Puritan movement were frustrated that the Elizabethan settlement had not gone far enough and pushed for further Reformation.[2]

Little is known of Perkins' childhood and upbringing. Sometime in his early life he was rendered lame which forced him to write with his left hand.[3] His family was evidently of some means, since in June 1577, at age 19, Perkins was enrolled as a pensioner of Christ's College, Cambridge being trained in the tradition of the Reformed scholastic framework.[4] He would receive his BA in 1581 and his MA in 1584.[5]

According to an unverifiable story, Perkins was convicted of the error of his ways after he heard a Cambridge mother say to her child, "Hold your tongue, or I will give you to drunken Perkins yonder."[6] Whether or not the story is true, it is clear that Perkins had a religious awakening sometime between 1581 and 1584 during his time at Cambridge.[4]

Perkins thus began a lifelong association with the "moderate-puritan" wing of the Church of England which held views similar to those of the continental Calvinist theologians Theodore Beza, Girolamo Zanchi, and Zacharias Ursinus. Perkins' circle at Cambridge included Laurence Chaderton and Richard Greenham.[4]

Perkins as clergyman and Cambridge fellow

Following his ordination, Perkins preached his first sermons to the prisoners of the Cambridge jail.[1] On one celebrated occasion, Perkins encountered a young man who was going to be executed for his crimes and who feared he was shortly going to be in hell: Perkins convinced the man that, through Christ, God could forgive his sins, and the formerly distraught youth faced his execution with manly composure as a result.[4]

In 1584, after receiving his MA, Perkins was elected as a fellow of Christ's College, a post which he would hold until 1594. In 1585, he became a Lecturer of St. Andrew's Church in Cambridge, a post he would hold until his death.[7]

Perkins's churchmanship

As a "moderate Puritan", Perkins was firmly opposed to non-conformists and other separatists who refused to conform to the Church of England.[8][9] On the other hand, he also opposed the Elizabethan regime's program of imposing uniformity on the church. For example, when Archbishop of Canterbury John Whitgift imprisoned Francis Johnson for Johnson's support of a presbyterian form of church polity, Perkins loudly defended Johnson. This was not an isolated incident, and he appeared before the commission more than once.[3]

On 13 January 1587, Perkins preached a sermon denouncing the practice of kneeling to receive Communion, and was ultimately called before the Vice-Chancellor as a result. During the final set of trials against Puritan ministers in 1590–91, Perkins confirmed that he had discussed the Book of Discipline with Puritan ministers, but claimed that he could not remember whom he had talked to. Perkins married Timothye Cradocke of Grantchester on 2 July 1595. (He had previously resigned his fellowship at Christ's College, since only unmarried men could be fellows.) Eventually, the couple would have seven children, three of which would die from various children's ailments and one being born after Perkin's death.[4]

Theological opinions

Perkins was a proponent of "double predestination"[4][10] and was a major player in introducing the thought of Theodore Beza to England. He viewed the Reformed concept of the Covenant of Grace, which is central to Reformed soteriology and double predestination, to be a doctrine of great consoling value.[11] He was responsible for the publication in English of Beza's famous chart about double predestination. In addition to adopting a Reformed soteriology, he also strongly held to the doctrines of sola Christi and sola Scriptura which "serve as the twin foundation stones for what Perkins conceived as biblical preaching."[12]


Although relatively unknown, Perkins has had an influence that is felt by Christians all around the world.[7] Perkins' views on double predestination made him a major target of Jacobus Arminius, the Dutch Reformed clergyman who opposed the doctrine of predestination.[13][14]

In his lifetime, Perkins attained enormous popularity, with sales of his works eventually surpassing even Calvin's. When he died, his writings were selling more copies than those of many of the most famous of the Reformers combined.[4]

From his position at Cambridge, Perkins was able to influence a whole generation of English churchmen.[15] His pupils include:

  • William Ames, Puritan who eventually left England to become professor of theology at Franeker
  • John Robinson, the founder of congregationalism in Leiden and pastor of the group which went on to found the Plymouth Colony
  • Thomas Goodwin
  • Paul Baynes
  • Samuel Ward, master of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge
  • Phineas Fletcher, a poet
  • Thomas Draxe
  • Thomas Taylor
  • James Ussher, Archbishop of Armagh
  • James Montagu, master of Sidney Sussex and later bishop of Winchester
  • Richard Sibbes


In 1602, Perkins suffered from "the stone". After several weeks of suffering, he died at age 44.[4]

James Montagu preached his funeral sermon, taking as his text Joshua 1.2, ‘Moses my servant is dead’. He was buried in St. Andrew's, the church which he had pastored for eighteen years.[4]

Publications by Perkins

  • G.P. Cantabrigiense (1584), Libellus de Memoria, Verissimaque Bene Recordandi Scientia (in latin), Londini: Excudebat Robertus VValde-graue, p. 68, OL 18859599M
  • G.P. Cantabrigiense (1584), Antidicsonus Cuiusdam Cantabrigiensis (in latin), Londini: Excudebat Henricus Midletonus pro I. Harisono, p. 48, OL 18563671M Against Alexander Dicson.[16]
  • Foure Great Lyers, Striuing Who Shall Win the Siluer Whetstone: Also, A Resolution to the Count (1585)
  • A Treatise Tending Vnto a Declaration Whether a Man be in the Estate of Damnation or in the Estate of Grace: And If he be in the First, How he may in Time Come out of it: if in the second, how he maie discerne it, and perseuere in the same to the end. The points that are handled are set downe in the page following (1590)
  • Armilla aurea, id est, Miranda series causarum et salutis & damnationis iuxta verbum Dei: Eius synopsin continet annexa tabula (1590)
  • A golden chaine, or the description of theologie: containing the order of the causes of saluation and damnation, according to Gods woord. A view of the order wherof, is to be seene in the table annexed (1591)
  • The foundation of Christian religion : gathered into sixe principles. And it is to bee learned of ignorant people, that they may be fit to hear sermons with profit, and to receiue the Lords Supper with comfort (1591)
  • Prophetica, sive, De sacra et vnica ratione concionandi tractatus (1592)
  • A case of conscience : the greatest that euer was; how a man may know whether he be the child of God or no. Resolued by the word of God. Whereunto is added a briefe discourse, taken out of Hier. Zanchius (1592)
  • An exposition of the Lords prayer : in the way of catechising seruing for ignorant people (1592)
  • Tvvo treatises·: I. Of the nature and practise of repentance. II. Of the combat of the flesh and spirit (1593)
  • An exposition of the Lords praier : in the way of catechisme (1593)
  • A direction for the government of the tongue according to Gods word (1593)
  • An exposition of the Symbole or Creed of the Apostles : according to the tenour of the Scriptures, and the consent of orthodoxe Fathers of the Church (1595)
  • A salve for a sicke man, or, A treatise containing the nature, differences, and kindes of death : as also the right manner of dying well. And it may serue for spirituall instruction to 1. Mariners when they goe to sea. 2. Souldiers when they goe to battell. 3. Women when they trauell of child (1595)
  • A declaration of the true manner of knowing Christ crucified (1596)
  • A reformed Catholike, or, A declaration shewing how neere we may come to the present Church of Rome in sundrie points of religion, and wherein we must for euer depart from them : with an advertisement to all fauourers of the Romane religion, shewing that the said religion is against the Catholike principles and grounds of the catechisme (1597)
  • De praedestinationis modo et ordine : et de amplitudine gratiae diuinae Christiana & perspicua disceptatio (1598)
  • Specimen digesti, sive Harmoniæ bibliorum Veteris et Novi Testamneti (1598)
  • A warning against the idolatrie of the last times : And an instruction touching religious, or diuine worship (1601)
  • The true gaine : more in worth then all the goods in the world (1601)
  • How to liue, and that well: in all estates and times, specially when helps and comforts faile (1601)


  • The works of that famous and worthie minister of Christ, in the Universitie of Cambridge, M.W. Perkins : gathered into one volume, and newly corrected according to his owne copies. With distinct chapters, and contents of euery book, and a generall table of the whole (1603)
  • The reformation of couetousnesse: Written vpon the 6. chapter of Mathew, from the 19. verse to the ende of the said chapter (1603)
  • A commentarie or exposition, vpon the fiue first chapters of the Epistle to the Galatians: penned by the godly, learned, and iudiciall diuine (1604)
  • Lectures vpon the three first chapters of the Reuelation: preached in Cambridge anno Dom. 1595 (1604)
  • Gvilielmi Perkinsi Problema de Romanæ fidei ementito Catholicismo. : Estq´; Antidotum contra Thesaurum Catholicum Iodoci Coccij. Et [propaidoia] iuventutis in lectione omnium patrum (1604)
  • The first part of The cases of conscience : Wherein specially, three maine questions concerning man, simply considered in himselfe, are propounded and resolued, according to the word of God (1604)
  • Satans sophistrie ansuuered by our Sauiour Christ: and in diuers sermons further manifested (1604)
  • Hepieíkeia: or, a treatise of Christian equitie and moderation (1604)
  • M. Perkins, his Exhortation to repentance, out of Zephaniah: preached in 2. sermons in Sturbridge Faire. Together with two treatises of the duties and dignitie of the ministrie: deliuered publiquely in the Vniuersitie of Cambridge. With a preface præfixed touching the publishing of all such workes of his as are to be expected: with a catalogue of all the perticulers [sic] of them, diligently perused and published, by a preacher of the word (1605)
  • Works newly corrected according to his owne copies (1605)
  • Of the calling of the ministerie two treatises, describing the duties and dignities of that calling (1605)
  • The combat betweene Christ and the diuell displayed, or A commentarie upon the temptations of Christ (1606)
  • A godlie and learned exposition vpon the whole epistle of Ivde... (1606)
  • A C[hristian] and [plain]e treatise of the manner and order of predestination : and of the largenes of Gods grace (1606)
  • The arte of prophecying, or, A treatise concerning the sacred and onely true manner and methode of preaching (1607)
  • A cloud of faithfull witnesses, leading to the heauenly Canaan, or, A commentarie vpon the 11 chapter to the Hebrewes (1607)
  • A treatise of mans imaginations : Shewing his naturall euill thoughts: His want of good thoughts: The way to reforme them (1607)
  • A discourse of the damned art of witchcraft: so farre forth as it is revealed in the Scriptures and manifest by true experience ... (1608)
  • The vvhole treatise of the cases of conscience : distinguished into three bookes (1608)
  • Christian oeconomie: or, A short survey of the right manner of erecting and ordering a familie : according to the scriptures (1609)
  • A graine of musterd-seede: or, the least measure of grace that is or can be effectuall to saluation (1611)
  • A resolution to the countryman prooving it utterly unlawfull to buy or use our yeerely prognostications (1618)
  • Deaths knell: or, The sicke mans passing-bell : summoning all sicke consciences to pr[e]pare themselues for the coming of the grea[t] day of doome, lest mercies gate be shut against them: fit for all those that desire to arriue at the heauenly Ierusalem. Whereunto are added prayers fit for housholders. The ninth edition. (1628)
  • The works of William Perkins, ed. Ian Breward (1970)


  • 1. Brook 1994, p. 129
  • 2. Schaefer 2004, p. 40
  • 3. Neal 1843, p. 213
  • 4. Beeke & Pederson 2006
  • 5. Venn & Venn 1953
  • 6. Ferguson 1996, p. viii
  • 7. Ferguson 1996, p. vii
  • 8. Schaefer 2004, pp. 38–39
  • 9. Herbert 1982, p. 8
  • 10. A Puritan's Mind 2012
  • 11. von Rohr 1965, pp. 195–196
  • 12. Schaefer 2004, p. 42
  • 13. Arminius 1602
  • 14. Storms 2006
  • 15. Schaefer 2004, p. 41
  • 16. Ioan P. Culianu (15 November 1987). Eros and Magic in the Renaissance. University of Chicago Press. p. 63. ISBN 978-0-226-12316-5.


Arminius, Jacobus (1602), Concerning the Order and Mode of Predestination and the Amplitude of Divine Grace by Rev. William Perkins, retrieved 2013-05-08

Beeke, Joel; Pederson, Randall (2006), "William Perkins", Meet the Puritans, Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, ISBN 1601780001, retrieved 2013-05-08

Brook, Benjamin (1994), "William Perkins", The Lives of the Puritans (London: Soli Deo Gloria) 2, ISBN 1877611794

Ferguson, Sinclair (1996), "Foreward", The Art of Prophesying, Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, ISBN 0851516890

Herbert, James (March 1982), "William Perkins's "A Reformed Catholic": A Psycho-Cultural Interpretation", Church History (Cambridge University Press) 51 (1): 7–23, doi:10.2307/3165250, ISSN 0009-6407, JSTOR 2165150

Neal, Daniel (1843), History of the Puritans 1, New York: Harper & Brothers, OCLC 600071622 A Puritan's Mind (2012), William Perkins, retrieved 2013-05-08

Schaefer, Paul (2004), "The Arte of Prophesying", in Kapic, Kelly; Gleason, Randall, The Devoted Life (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press), ISBN 0830827943

Storms, Sam (8 November 2006), Arminian Controversy, Enjoying God Ministries, retrieved 2013-05-08

Venn, John; Venn, John Archibald (1953), "William Perkins", in Venn, John; Venn, John Archibald, Alumni Cantabrigienses (Online ed.), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, retrieved 2013-05-08

von Rohr, John (June 1965), "Covenant and Assurance in Early English Puritanism", Church History (Cambridge University Press) 34 (2): 195–203, doi:10.2307/3162903, ISSN 0009-6407, JSTOR 3162903


William Perkins, an outstanding preacher, made great contributions to the Puritan Movement despite the shortness of his life. He was born in Marton, Warwickshire, in 1558 and educated in Christ's College, Cambridge. In his early years he demonstrated scholarly ability, but his personal life was wild and sinful. He was much devoted to drunkenness. While he was walking through town, he heard a young woman say to her child "Hold your tongue, or I will give you to drunken Perkins, yonder." Finding himself as a byword among the people his conscience gripped him and became so deeply impressed by it that it was a first step to his conversion. After his conversion he became a strong exponent of Calvinism and always dealt sympathetically with those in spiritual need. He became a fellow at the college in 1578 at the age of 24.

Mr. Perkins was so pious and exemplary in his life, that malice itself was unable to reproach his character. As his preaching was a just comment upon his text; so his practice was a just comment upon his preaching. He was naturally cheerful and pleasant; rather reserved towards strangers, but familiar upon their further acquaintance. He was of a middle stature, ruddy complexion, bright hair, and inclined to corpulency, but not to idleness. He was esteemed by all, says Fuller, as a painful and faithful dispenser of the word of God; and his great piety procured him liberty in his ministry, and respect to his person, even from those who differed from him in other matters. He is classed among the fellows and learned writers of Christ's College, Cambridge. Churton styles him “the learned and pious, but Calvinistic Perkins," as if his Calvinism was a considerable blemish in his character. Toplady, on the contrary, applauds him on account of his Calvinistic opinions, and denominates him “the learned, holy, and laborious Perkins." The celebrated Archbishop Usher had the highest opinion of him, and often expressed his wish to die as holy Mr. Perkins did, who expired crying for mercy and forgiveness. Herein he was, indeed, gratified; for his last words were Lord, especially forgive my sins of omission."

(from "The Lives of the Puritans," by Benjamin Brook)


Possibly the same person?

William Perkins: a Puritan clergyman (1555-1602), urged fair trials for the accused (witches) yet, at the same time, favored the use of torture. (The Dark World of Witches, by Eric Maple)

view all

William Perkins's Timeline

Marston Jabbett, Bulkington Parish, Warwickshire, England
Age 44
January 23, 1934
Age 44
February 23, 1935
Age 44
April 26, 1990
Age 44
Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, England, United Kingdom