Thursday, December 3, 2009

I believe that you are the man we are looking for...

So, I really must apologize for not blogging at a more regular pace, but with having to research and type out 50 more pages for this semester's work, I am a bit busy.

But soft, what light through yonder computer screen breaks? It is a new blog post, and you are its reader!

Today, I am handing in a 21-page paper on William Perkins. Now, as I have done in the past (see here and also here), I typically post my paper. However, these have been nice, short 5 pagers that most of you graciously trudge through for the sake of my ego. I will NOT, I repeat NOT force you to read my 21-pages worth of thoughts on William Perkins in one sitting. I do say one sitting, because I am tempted at this point to break it up for you. he he he. However, what I think I will do is take some of the more applicable sections of what I learned about his writing and have you discover more about this, and hopefully walk away all the more blessed because of it.

First, for most of us, if I said the name, William Perkins - you have absolutely NO idea who I am talking about. Do not fret, my friend, you are in good company. I looked over the list of 7 authors that I had to read this semester for the course, English Puritanism, and I could not tell you who 5 of these strapping young lads were either (William Perkins being on the "who?" list). Perkins was born in Marston Jabbet (that would be in jolly-old England) sometime in 1558. He had the privilege of receiving a great education, being tutored as a boy by the Puritan Laurence Chaderton, and then doing both his BA and MA at Christ's College in Cambridge.

Now, for a little history - Perkins lived during the wonderful prosperous time of Queen Elizabeth I. I have not read too much about Queen Bess, so I won't be giving too much information about her in particular (if you want to read more, please do so, or you can always enjoy Cate Blanchett preening and commanding storms to reign down on Spain). She was the Protestant Queen though, and from what I have learned this semester about these times in England - they were a raging turmoil of constant shift between Catholic and Protestant (i.e. Church of England/soon-to-be called Anglican) rulers. So, with every changing of the guard, the people and churches would either be Catholic people and churches or they would be Protestant people and churches. This, I grant you, is a VAST oversimplification of the events that took place, but you are reading a blog, aren't you?

Elizabeth I, for what it is worth, brought some stability to the church world during her reign. Those with Puritan sympathies as well, were able to coexist at this time. This would not be the case in about 50 years, but William Perkins had the great benefit of living during the time of Elizabeth and not later. He became the pastor and preacher of St. Andrews in Cambridge and was able to preach more about reform, Calvinist theology and a great deal on the assurance of salvation without ever having to feel the wrath of the government or flee for his life (unlike his successors).

What is known about Perkins' early life will come as a shock to some - the man was known for his drinking and galavanting, possibly had a child out of wedlock, oh and it is thought that he liked to dabble in astrology. The story goes that he had a great awakening of the soul one night when he overheard a mother telling her child that he better hold his tongue, or she would give him to the drunk Perkins. Whether this is true or not, we really cannot say. However, he did change his ways and started following the Lord sometime between 1581 and 1584. He died in 1602, this leaves us with just about 20 years.

These 20 years proceeded to be some of the most influential 20 years of a man's life. He published many works, and his own books moved to the top of the "best-seller" list, outshining the late, great John Calvin. This is quite a feat in and of itself. He also was able to preach to many, soon-to-be, great Puritan thinkers and theologians - men like William Ames, Thomas Goodwin and Samuel Ward (just to name a few).

This is the man: a former drunk, well-educated man, who more than likely had a penchant for the ladies. What we will see in the blogs to come is that he was quite possibly one of the most well-spoken, effectual preachers of his day (and I would argue could teach some of our preachers today a thing or two about it as well!). The most wonderful thing of all is that God used this man, despite his former life of sin - God used him for great and wonderful things. It is a lesson to us all - don't get hung up on the sins of the past; repent and offer yourself as a servant all the more. Who knows, maybe you are the next William Perkins?

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