Posted by: Jerad File | September 21, 2015

Can a Pastor Leave a Church?

That question is foreign to us today. We are so individualized and professionalized that we assume, “Of course, how could you suggest otherwise?” It is common now for young preachers to use a church as a stepping stone to something bigge r in his career. John Gill would have none of that. In fact, he even says that a church’s consent should be sought for some good reasons to leave! 

Oh let us hear the voices of the past!

Posted by: Jerad File | September 14, 2010

Plato, Aristotle, and John Gill

Was John Gill a Hyper-Calvinist? It seems that most scholarship has tended to classify him as such. However, there has been dissent from this majority position. I’ve recently finished writing a master’s thesis on Gill, and though the main interest of my thesis did not pertain to Hyper-Calvinism, I could not totally overlook the issue. I read nearly all of the secondary literature that directly pertains to Gill, and I did briefly discuss the issue in a section of my introduction. Because my thesis was not about Hyper-Calvinism, I chose to leave the question unresolved. I did not want to have to defend either position because it would have been a distraction from my intended purpose. However, I did gain some insight on the question, and I would like to share my view in the form of this informal essay.
Was John Gill a Hyper-Calvinist? It depends on if you approach the question as a Platonist or an Aristotelian. What do I mean? It seems to me that Gill is often labeled a Hyper-Calvinist by those who approach the question as an Aristotelian. If you want to know what a chair is, you study chairs and you determine the shared characteristics that makes a chair a chair. Therefore, we can know what a Hyper-Calvinist is because we have observed them and deduced what it is that they all have in common. If a theologian fits this description, then he must be a Hyper-Calvinist? This of course may seem a little circular. Who do you study to come up with your definition? Curt Daniel studied John Gill. That seems to be Tom Nettles’ criticism of Daniel’s dissertation on John Gill and Hyper-Calvinism. Nettles says that Daniel assumes that Gill was a Hyper-Calvinist, and then builds a definition for Hyper-Calvinism based on Gill.1
On the other hand, attempts at defending Gill of the charge seem to approach the question as a Platonist. Platonists can know what a chair is because a perfect chair exists in the realm of the forms. Somewhere, out there, in the realm of the forms, there lives the perfect Hyper-Calvinist. We here in the real world can know what a Hyper-Calvinist is because there is some kind of objectively defined basis in the realm of the forms. It seems that the problem is that by this definition, usually the Hyper-Calvinist that lives in the realm of the forms is the only one that really exists. No person in the real world actually matches up to the standard set by that guy, so all the charges against Gill, and others, are dismissed because for one reason or another no one really fits our preconceived definition of a Hyper-Calvinist.
As I saw this kind of tendency played out while reading the source materials, I decided I’d rather just reject the use of the term Hyper-Calvinist as an unhelpful pejorative term describing doctrines held by straw men alone. I guess this probably makes me a Platonist. I find the term High-Calvinist equally unhelpful. It doesn’t have quite the same negative connotation, but it’s just as elusive to define. Stanely Fowler says that it’s synonymous with Hyper-Calvinism, while James Leo Garrett claims that High Calvinism is not significantly different than the five points held to at the synod of Dort.
I think that it would be a lot more helpful if instead of throwing around two words to describe a system—assuming everyone understands those two words the same as you do—is not a good way to gain much understanding about the issue. It would be a lot more helpful if each troubling tenant of Hyper-Calvinism was taken point by point and judged on its basis rather than its contribution to the system. I think Gill was in error when it comes to his doctrine of justification from eternity; however, it appears from my reading of Gill that he preached the Gospel to sinners believing that it is God’s instrument of conversion. Gill was certainly not an antinomian. And I still don’t understand why the belief in an eternal covenant between the persons of the Trinity to save the elect should belong in a definition of Hyper-Calvinism—maybe it is a necessary component, but I don’t see how by itself that should be troubling.
I don’t know if these insights will be helpful for anyone else, but it is the conclusion that I have come to after all the research that I’ve done on Gill. Maybe my opinion would be different if I had studied other supposed Hyper-Calvinists as well, but I haven’t. I’ve only studied Gill, so I admit my knowledge about the subject is limited.

1. Thomas Nettles, By His Grace and for His Glory: A Historical, Theological and Practical Study of the Doctrines of Grace in Baptist Life, rev. ed. (Cape Coral, FL: Founders Press, 2006), 36.

Posted by: allenmickle | February 23, 2010

New Papers on Gill, Fuller, and Hyper-Calvinism

Michael Haykin, Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, KY, and Director of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies, recently presented at the True Church Conference two papers with interest to Gillite readers.

“Hyper-Calvinism and the Theology of John Gill”

Here Haykin looks at Gill and his theology and considers his relation to hyper-calvinism with regard to the pactum salutis, eternal justification, and the free offer of the gospel. Like many before, Haykin acknowledges that Gill is complex and here gives a fair and balanced look at Gill’s theology.

“‘A Dull Flint’: Andrew Fuller–Rope Holder, Critic of Hyper-Calvinism and Missionary Pioneer”

An overview of the life, ministry, and theology of Andrew Fuller.

Posted by: Jerad File | September 7, 2009

More Gill Audio from Allen Mickle!

Allen Mickle, one of the contributors to this blog, recently presented a paper at the conference on Baptist Spirituality put on by the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies. His paper was entitled “A Fountain of Gardens, a Well of Living Waters: A Survey of Christian Spirituality from John Gill’s Exposition of the Book of Solomon’s Song.” The audio of his presentation is available here.

UPDATE: Sorry I didn’t notice this until today, but one of the plenary sessions also pertained to Gill. Robert Strivens spoke on “Evangelical Spiritualities in Early 18th Century English Dissent: Philip Doddridge and John Gill”, and you can listen to that audio here as well.

Posted by: Jerad File | July 27, 2009

New Audio on John Gill!!!!

Dr. George Ella

Dr. George Ella

Dr. George Ella has been in Alabama and Tennessee this month, and included in his lecture tour are a couple of presentations on Gill. So far I’ve found the audio for one of his lectures on “John Gill (1697-1771): Pastor Scholar.” I’ll try to find audio for the other lecture on Gill, and when I find that it is available I will link to it.  Also of interest is the conference that Ella was speaking at, the 2009 Gadsen Conference on the English Bible.


Here’s a link to what I believe is the same presentation given at a different church. It was brought to my attention in the comments section below.

Posted by: Jerad File | June 7, 2009

No Salvation Outside the Church

“No Salvation Outside the Church.” This quotation from Cyprian usually causes me to think of Roman Catholicism. In this sense, it would be interpreted to mean “no salvation outside of the institutional Roman Catholic Church.” Of course, any Protestant should have a problem with this understanding of the expression. However, there is something quite true about Cyprian’s statement that should be embraced by Baptists. John Gill is one who recognized that ecclesiology and soteriology are interrelated. Timothy George recognized fact about Gill when he stated, “John Gill was a theologian of the church and his theology of grace must be seen in the light of his ecclesiology.” (Timothy George, “The Ecclesiology of John Gill,” in The Life and Thought of John Gill (1697-1771): A Tercentennial Appreciation, Michael A. G. Haykin, ed. New York: Brill, 1997, 226.) This became clearer to me when I read the following quotation from his Body of Practical Doctrinal and Practical Divinity. Speaking of the “invisible church” Gill sates,

 “As a general assembly, called, The general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, Heb. Xii. 23. and which include all the elect of God, that have been, are, or shall be in the world; and who will form the pure, holy and undefiled Jerusalem-church-state, in which none will be but those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life; and this consists of the redeemed of the Lamb, and is the church which Christ has purchased with his blood; and who make up his spouse, the church he has loved, and given himself for, to wash, and cleanse, and present to himself a glorious church, without spot or wrinkle; this is the body, the church of which Christ is the head; and in which he is the sole officer, being Prophet, Priest, and King of it; it being, not the seat of human government, as a particular church is: and this church is but one, though particular churches are many: to this may be applied the words of Christ; My dove, my undefiled, is but one, Cant. Vi. 9. And this is what is sometimes called by divines, the invisible church.

It’s quite evident to me that from this quotation Gill’s doctrine of the church is directly related to election as well as particular redemption. The Church is all those who Christ died for and none but the elect.

The Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies is hosting the 3rd Annual conference devoted to Baptist History. This year the conference is titled, “Baptist Spirituality: Historical Perspectives.” It is being held August 24-25, 2009 on the campus of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

The theme of the 2009 conference is, “Baptist Spirituality:  Historical Perspectives” Featured speakers will include: Crawford Gribben, Michael Haykin , Robert Strivens, Greg Thornbury, Kevin Smith, Tom Nettles, Greg Wills, Gerald Priest, Jason Lee, and Malcolm Yarnell. Other established Baptist History scholars, as well as several Ph.D. students will be presenting papers on the conference theme during the parallel sessions.

Make sure you come to hear me present my paper on John Gill,

“A Fountain of Gardens, A Well of Living Waters”: A Survey of Christian Spirituality from John Gill’s (1697-1771) Exposition of the Book of Solomon’s Song.

To Register for this excellent conference, see here.

Posted by: Jerad File | May 1, 2009

Peter Toon (1939-2009)

Over at Between Two Worlds, Justin Taylor paid tribute to Peter Toon who passed away April 25, 2009. I’m making note of this here because Taylor links to a site where most of Toon’s works are available online. The reason this is relevant to John Gill is that Toon’s first book, The Emergence of Hyper-Calvinism in English Nonconformity: 1689-1765, is referenced in nearly all recent secondary literature on Gill.

Posted by: Jerad File | April 20, 2009

Even Right Doctrine Can Be Dangerous

I’m still working my way through George Ella’s biography of Gill and I stumbled across a quote worth mentioning. This was in Ella’s chapter defending Gill against those who have called him a Hyper-Calvinist. Ella is speaking of how it has been claimed that some of Gill’s doctrines may have lead to Hyper-Calvinism in the hands of lesser men, yet they were safe in the hands of Gill. Ella states, “any gospel truth which can be both a savour of death and a savour of life is ‘perilous’ in the wrong hands. This applies equally to all the Five Points.” This is ought to be no surprise though. Even Peter said that there are things which Paul said that were twisted in a way not consistent with the gospel. This is an important thing to remember both for understanding Gill, and for understanding the Bible. If only partially understood, even right things can be dangerous. I would venture to guess that the danger is present for both regenerate as well as the unregenerate.

Posted by: Jerad File | April 13, 2009

Give Away Winner Selected!!!!

In the interest of assuring a “genuine free offer” I placed each name entry on a slip of paper and mixed them in a bowl. I then allowed my 4 year old daughter to pick one paper from the bowl. I’m pleased to announce that the winner is Bryan Walker from mark12ministries. Thank you to everyone who entered. It has been a fun chance to do something new and attract a lot of new traffic to the blog. Hopefully we have also stirred up an interest in John Gill.

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