‘An Obscure Fellow’? The Enduring Impact of William Perkins’ Soteriology upon English Protestantism, 1584-1648
That William Perkins (1558-1602) is one of the most important figures in the development of Anglophone Protestant thought and practice, is a fact well established by both the opinions of his contemporaries, and the work of modern scholarship. But while virtually every monograph or article dealing with Perkins will acknowledge that he shaped both the Established Church and the Puritan movement profoundly, there has been startlingly little said, beyond the usual listing of his influential pupils (to name but a few, Archbishop Ussher, Samuel Ward, John Robinson, pastor of the Mayflower Pilgrims, Richard Sibbes and William Ames), as to how the ideas of a once little-known Cambridge college Fellow became both a benchmark of Protestant orthodoxy, and a catalyst for momentous challenges to the English Church’s ‘Calvinist Consensus’. My doctoral work at King’s College London focusses on reconstructing the reception of probably the most distinctive of Perkins’ ideas: his supralapsarian soteriology and complex ordo salutis, from the publication of his first works in 1584 until the dissolution of the Westminster Assembly in 1648, with particular reference to how his doctrine was lauded, modified or rejected by subsequent generations of English churchmen.