I’d like to thank EP Books for giving me a copy of William Perkins in return for my honest review.
The Reformation was a confusing time, full of theological, political, and social change. I think that studying the time period through both an overview (I have a resource coming to help you do that), and through biographies is really helpful. William Perkins (1558-1602) by Joel Beeke and Stephen Yuille (EP Books, 2015) is an informative read, both historically and theologically.
In his lifetime, William Perkins was a wildly popular Reformer. His works (21 books in his lifetime, and 27 compiled after his death) were translated and reprinted in many languages across Europe. Perkins’ emphasis on sanctification and holiness earned him the title of “Puritan”, though it was a title he himself rejected. He was no Separatist, preferring to reform the Anglican Church of Queen Elizabeth’s day from within. That said, his theology was Calvinist, and his teachings on personal sanctification, predestination, and the sovereignty of God were strongly Reformed…..
Joel Beeke and Stephen Yuille have approached this biography in a scholarly manner, rather than a narrative (or chronological) one. While that isn’t always my preference for biographies, in this case it was entirely readable, and very understandable. They did an wonderful job of summarizing Perkins’ teachings in a number of areas, quoting him liberally, while explaining the contemporary events and the reactions of others to those teachings. The book is divided into ten sections, each discussion an aspect of William Perkins’ identity and teachings (ie. The Convert, The Theologian, The Reformer, The Preacher, etc.). I feel like I learned a lot while reading, not just about history and the life of this important figure, but about theology and the Bible as well.
One of the things I found really fascinating about William Perkins was his youth. He was (reportedly) heavily involved in witchcraft and the Occult, as well as a drunk. While the authors could not substantiate the degree to which these activities had hold of William Perkins’ life, we have his own testimony to his wicked heart (though he did not engage in sharing sordid details, he owned his sorcery and drunkenness). It was his radical conversion which convinced Perkins that God had pursued him relentlessly. His change of heart and his allegiance to Jesus as Lord informed the seriousness with which he viewed sanctification and holiness. I find that’s often true. Those of us who have sinned greatly are so very aware of the devastation from which we have been saved, and are loathe to return to our sin, but desire to commit our moments to Christ.
I thoroughly enjoyed this biography, and I learned a lot. I found William Perkins to be not just a historically interesting read, but a spiritually edifying one as well. I will certainly be using this book with my boys when we study the Reformation in high school, and I intend to read it again myself.
William Perkins would coordinate well with studies involving
- The English Reformation
- The Church of England / Anglicanism
- Queen Elizabeth I
- Law versus Grace
- The Sabbath
You can find William Perkins at
- Amazon: William Perkins
Bitesize Biographies from EP Books
Additional Bitesize Biographies reviewed at Thinking Kids:
- George Whitefield
- Samuel Rutherford
- Zachary Macaulay
- Festo Kivengere
- George Smeaton
- Thomas Chalmers
- Girolamo Savonarola
- George Muller
- Ulrich Zwingli
- Gresham Machen
Other books for older students reviewed on Thinking Kids:
- God’s Story: A Student’s Guide to Church History by Brian Cosby
- Water the Earth: A Student’s Guide to Missions by Aaron Little
- Rebels Rescued: A Student’s Guide to Reformed Theology by Brian Cosby
- Bitesize Theology: An ABC of Christian Faith by Peter Jeffrey
- Questions God Asks by Israel Wayne
- Grace Works! (And Ways We Think It Doesn’t) by Douglas Bond
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- Christian Books for Preschoolers
- Christian Books for 4-7 Year Olds
- Christian Books for the Middle Grades
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- Christian Books for High School
- Christian Books for Kids’ Devotions
- Christian Books about Parenting
~ Danika Cooley
Danika Cooley is the author of When Lightning Struck! The Story of Martin Luther (Fortress Press, 2015), Wonderfully Made (CF4K, 2016), and Bible Road Trip. Her work has been featured in internationally-recognized children's magazines over 150 times.