Perkins: What Does Paul Mean By “Schoolmaster”?

Here by “schoolmaster” understand one that teaches little children or [minors] the first rudiments or elements, A, B, C. And the law is “a schoolmaster to Christ,” for two causes. One, because it points out and shadows forth unto us Christ by bodily rudiments of ceremonies and sacrifices. The second is because the law, specially the moral law, urges and compels men to go to Christ. For it shows us our sins, and that without remedy. It shows us the damnation that is due unto us. And by this means, it makes us despair of salvation in respect of ourselves. And thus it enforces us to seek for help out of ourselves in Christ. The law is then our schoolmaster not by the plain teaching, but by stripes and correction. In this verse, Paul sets down the manner and way of our salvation, which is on this manner: first, the law prepares us by humbling us; then comes the gospel, and it stirs up faith. And faith wrought in the heart apprehends Christ for justification, sanctification, and glorification. Paul sets this forth by a fit similitude. They that would be the servants and children of God must come into the school of God and be taught of Him. In this school are two forms and two masters. In the first form, the teacher and master is the law. And he teaches men to know their sin and their deserved damnation, and he causes us to despair of our salvation in respect of ourselves. And when men have been well schooled by the law and are brought to acknowledge their sins and that they are slaves of sin and Satan, then must they be taken up to a higher form and be taught by another schoolmaster, which is faith or the gospel. The lesson of the gospel is that men after they are humbled must fly to the throne of grace, believe in Christ, and with all their hearts turn unto God that they may be justified and glorified. When we have by the teaching of this second master learned this good lesson, we are become children and servants of God.

William Perkins | The Works of William Perkins, ed. Paul M. Smalley, Joel R. Beeke, and Derek W. H. Thomas, vol. 2 (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2015), 204–05.


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Posted by Tony Phelps | Tuesday, March 26, 2024 | Categorized HeidelQuotes, Scripture | Tagged Bookmark the permalink.

About Tony Phelps

Tony grew up in Rhode Island. He was educated at BA (University of Rhode Island) and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He worked in the insurance industry for ten years. He planted a PCA church in Wakefield, RI where he served for eleven years. In 2015–18 he pastored Covenant Reformed Church (URCNA) in Colorado Springs. He is currently pastor of Living Hope (OPC). Tony is married to Donna and together they have three children. Meet all the Heidelberg contributors»


  1. Wasn’t the pedegogue generally a servant of the house in the Roman society of the time of Paul’s usage? If so in a sense the law/schoolmanster was a servant to the child.


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