I am so grateful that the second volume of The Works of William Perkins is now out. Paul Smalley did a fine job editing this exposition of Galatians. Derek Thomas and I are grateful to be general editors of the Works. What wisdom our Puritan forefathers had!
The Works of William Perkins fills a major gap in Reformed and Puritan theology. Though Perkins is best known today for his writings on predestination, he also wrote prolifically on many subjects. His works filled over two thousand large pages of small print in three folio volumes and were reprinted several times in the decades after his death. However, his complete works have not been in print since the mid-seventeenth century. This modern, typeset edition of the Works includes four volumes of Perkins’s expositions of Scripture, three volumes of his doctrinal and polemical treatises, and three volumes of his practical writings.
The first volume, edited by J. Stephen Yuille, contains Perkins’s chronology of biblical history, his exposition of Christ’s temptation (Matt. 4:1-11), and his commentary on the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7).
This second volume contains Perkins’s Commentary on Galatians. Perkins preached on Galatians each Lord’s Day for over three years. Ralph Cudworth obtained Perkins’s handwritten notes and edited them to publication. Because Perkins did not complete the commentary, Cudworth supplemented the manuscript with his own comments on chapter 6.
This commentary of Perkins and Cudworth on Galatians first appeared in print in 1604, two years after Perkins’s death. Perkins’s other writings had already begun to be gathered and published. When the three-volume edition of his collected works first appeared, Galatians occupied over 320 large folio pages in the second volume (1609). It continued to appear as a part of several editions of the Works through their final 1635 reprint. Evidently, interest in the commentary warranted its publication again as a separate volume in 1617.
Following the model taught in his treatise The Art of Prophesying, Perkins’s pattern in commenting on Galatians is to explain the text, deduce a few points of doctrine from it, answer objections raised against the doctrine, and then give practical uses of what the passage teaches.
J. I. Packer writes, “On the broad shoulders of William Perkins, epoch-making pioneer, stood an entire school of seventeenth-century Puritan pastors and divines, yet the Puritan reprint industry has steadily bypassed him. Now, however, he begins to reappear, admirably edited, and at last this yawning gap is being filled. Profound thanks to the publisher and heartfelt praise to God have become due.”