How to Live, and that Well in all Estates and Times, Specially when Helps and Comforts Faile – William Perkins
William Perkins was born in 1558 to Thomas and Hannah Perkins in the village of Marston Jabbett, in Bulkington parish, Warwickshire. As a youth, he indulged in recklessness, profanity, and drunkenness. In 1577, he entered Christs College in Cambridge as a pensioner, suggesting that socially he nearly qualified as gentry. He earned a bachelors degree in 1581 and a masters degree in 1584.
While a student, Perkins experienced a powerful conversion that probably began when he overheard a woman in the street chide her naughty child by alluding to drunken Perkins. That incident so humiliated Perkins that he gave up his wicked ways and fled to Christ for salvation. He gave up the study of mathematics and his fascination with black magic and the occult, and took up theology. In time, he joined up with Laurence Chaderton (15361640), 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 Calvinist and Puritan convictions.
Cambridge was the leading Puritan center of the day. Perkinss formal training was Calvinism within a scholastic framework. The strict scholastic training at Cambridge was modified somewhat, however, by Peter Ramuss influence. Ramism had won the support of the Puritans, due to its practicality. Ramus, a converted Roman Catholic, had reformed the arts curriculum by applying it to daily life. He proposed a method to simplify all academic subjects, offering a single logic for both dialectic and rhetoric to make them understandable and memorable. Chaderton first introduced Ramuss Art of Logick to Cambridge students, particularly to Gabriel Harvey, a lecturer who used Ramuss methods for reforming the arts of grammar, rhetoric, and logic.
Perkins was impressed with Harveys presentation and applied it to his manual on preaching titled The Art of Prophesying, or a treatise concerning the sacred and only true manner and method of preaching. Perkinss training in Ramuss method oriented him toward practical application rather than speculative theory, and gave him skills for becoming a popular preacher and theologian.
From 1584 until his death, Perkins served as lecturer, or preacher, at Great St. Andrews Church, Cambridge, a most influential pulpit across the street from Christs College. He also served as a fellow at Christs College from 1584 to 1595. Fellows were required to preach, lecture, and tutor students, acting as guides to learning as well as guardians of finances, morals, and manners.
Perkins died from kidney stone complications in 1602.