(1697 - 1771), English Baptist, Biblical scholar, staunch Calvinist
John Gill (23 November 1697 – 14 October 1771) was an English Baptist pastor, biblical scholar, and theologian who held to a firm Calvinistic soteriology. Born in Kettering, Northamptonshire, he attended Kettering Grammar School where he mastered the Latin classics and learned Greek by age 11. He continued self-study in everything from logic to Hebrew, his love for the latter remaining throughout his life.
John Gill was born November 23, 1697 in Kettering, Northamptonshire. In his youth, he attended Kettering Grammar School, mastering the Latin classics and learning Greek by age eleven. The young scholar continued self-study in everything from logic to Hebrew. His love for Hebrew would follow Gill throughout his life.
At the age of about twelve, Gill heard a sermon from his pastor, William Wallis, on the text, "And the Lord called unto Adam, and said unto him, where art thou?" (Genesis 3:9). The message stayed with Gill and eventually led to his conversion. It was not until seven years later that young John made a public profession when he was almost nineteen years of age.
His first pastoral work was as an intern assisting John Davis at Higham Ferrers in 1718 at age twenty one. He was subsequently called to pastor the Strict Baptist church at Goat Yard Chapel, Horsleydown, Southwark in 1719. In 1757, his congregation needed larger premises and moved to a Carter Lane, St. Olave’s Street, Southwark. His pastorate lasted 51 years. This Baptist Church would later become the Metropolitan Tabernacle pastored by Charles Spurgeon. During Gill's ministry the church strongly supported the preaching of George Whitefield at nearby Kennington Common.
In 1748, Gill was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity by the University of Aberdeen. He was a profound scholar and a prolific author. His most important works are:
- The Doctrine of the Trinity Stated and Vindicated ( London, 1731)
- The Cause of God and Truth (4 parts, 1735–8), a retort to Daniel Whitby's Five Points
- An Exposition of the New Testament (3 vols., 1746–8), which with his Exposition of the Old Testament (6 vols., 1748–63) forms his magnum opus
- A Dissertation on the Antiquity of the Hebrew Languages (1767)
- A Body of Doctrinal Divinity (1767)
- A Body of Practical Divinity (1770).
Works by John Gill
In his book A Body of Practical Divinity, John Gill presents his beliefs on the worship of God. The first section of his text features advice to Christians participating in internal worship. According to Gill, the worshippers should experience thankfulness, humility, and self-denial as they commune with God. Next, Gill discusses the nature of public worship in the church and the special worship duties that belong to pastors, deacons, and church-members. Finally, Gill reviews the duties shared by individuals who participate in private worship. He warns us that the Triune God must remain the sole object of human worship. Gill's practical wisdom is useful for all Christians who aim to ensure that the act of worship is always glorifying to God.
In Doctrinal Divinity, 18th century Baptist apologist John Gill presents a robustly Calvinist system of theology. Gill aims to develop a way of understanding and speaking about God, namely, a way to make sense of God's nature and works. To set the foundation for this project, Gill first discusses the evidence for God's existence and then moves on to establish the Divine authority of Scripture. Gill then explores God's characteristics in light of God's covenant with the chosen elect. Gill provides a Reformed perspective on the three-person Godhead, ultimately arguing for "the plurality of the Trinity in the unity of the Divine." Several sections of Doctrinal Divinity are devoted to the purpose of Christ and the role of God's grace. The book concludes with a discussion of the final predicament of man. Gill relies heavily on Biblical passages but also cites relevant literature from ancient poets and Greek philosophers. Since Gill's style is both narrative and exegetical, Doctrinal Divinity offers an engaging read for all audiences.
If we assume that Gill preached one sermon every Sunday, his series of 122 sermons on the Song of Solomon would have lasted over two years. A scholar of biblical languages, Gill believed that deep understanding of Scripture was absolutely essential even for the laypeople of the church. The interpretation of Scripture he taught, however, often made him a scandalous figure, as he endorsed the controversial view of hyper-Calvinism. This collection of sermons goes through the Song of Solomon verse by verse.
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