John Gill (November 23, 1697-October 14, 1771) was an English Baptist, a biblical scholar, and a staunch Calvinist. Gill's relationship with hyper-Calvinism is a matter of academic debate.
He was born 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 was once pastored by Benjamin Keach and would later become the New Park Street Chapel and then 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 Language (1767)
A Body of Doctrinal Divinity (1767)
A Body of Practical Divinity (1770).
John Gill is the first major writing Baptist theologian. His work retains its influence into the twenty-first century. Gill's relationship with hyper-Calvinism in English Baptist life is a matter of debate. Peter Toon has argued that Gill was himself a hyper-Calvinist, which would make Gill the father of Baptist hyper-Calvinism. Tom Nettles has argued that Gill was not a hyper-Calvinist himself, which would make him merely a precursor and hero to Baptist hyper-Calvinists.
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