JOHN GILL, (1697-1771)
A History of Preaching
F. R. Webber

John Gill, a Baptist preacher of note, was born in 1697 in Kettering, Northants. His formal education never went beyond that of the grammar school. However, he showed exceptional promise, and learned to read Latin and Greek while very young. A little later he studied Hebrew and theology.

In 1716 he began to preach, and he was ordained in 1718. He became assistant pastor of a Baptist congregation in Higham Ferrers, and in 1719 he was called to a languishing congregation in Southwark, London, becoming one of the predecessors to Charles H. Spurgeon. His preaching was evangelical to a degree, and he met with considerable opposition at first. This antagonism gave way gradually, and he gained many more friends than he lost.

Gill was a tireless student, and in spite of his early lack of opportunities, he became a man of considerable learning. He was interested particularly in the Oriental languages, and he made friends with some of the most learned Jewish scholars in London, and through their assistance he mastered the most difficult rabbinical studies. From 1729 to 1756 he delivered Wednesday evening sermonic lectures on the theology of the Bible, and these drew many people of all denominations to his little chapel across the bridge from London.

Gill's sermons show evidence of careful thinking, and they are expressed clearly and directly. He was a doctrinal preacher. His sermons set forth such things as the doctrine of the Trinity, the fall of man, original sin, the plan of Redemption, the active and passive obedience of the Saviour, His suffering, death, resurrection and ascension into Heaven, justification by faith, the Person and work of the Holy Ghost, the perseverance of the saints, the resurrection of the dead and eternal life.

In an age when many of the popular preachers in London were inclined to question the doctrine of the Trinity, and to speak only of God the Father, and rarely of the Son, and the Holy Ghost, Dr. Gill bore emphatic witness to the deity of Jesus Christ and the work of the Holy Ghost. He was especially distressed at any effort to claim for man the slightest credit for salvation, and to take from the Saviour the entire process of man's redemption.

Opinions differ in regard to Dr. Gill. Robert Hall can see but little true worth in him, but on the other hand Augustus M. Toplady declares: "This age has not produced, for instance, a more learned, pious and profound divine than the late Dr. Gill. He was, I believe, the greatest man the Baptists ever enjoyed." John Gill was the author of many doctrinal and evangelical writings, as well as exegetical studies. Men who are led aside by the results of negative Biblical criticism scoff at him and declare that he has no real depth of scholarship, yet all of them are ready to admit that in the subject of rabbinical Hebrew, his words carry weight.

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