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  • Writer's pictureDr. Roger D Duke

“So, Who In the World is John Gill Anyway?”

Please enjoy The Gospel as found in the writings of the Rev. Dr. John Gill. He is famous English Baptist pastor theologian of a by-gone era. This is a service of the A ministry of The Duke Consulting Group


(“Presented with permission by Christian History Institute, the publishers of Christian History magazine and sponsors of Redeem TV.")

John Gill was a pastor in greater London. A staunch Calvinist, he believed strongly in the sovereignty of God in all events.

Gill had become a pastor as the result of a sermon he had heard when he was about twelve. His pastor, William Wallace, preached on God asking Adam in the garden of Eden where he was, when Adam had hidden himself following his sin. The sermon put Gill under deep conviction of sin. Although he soon became a Christian, he did not immediately profess faith. Already a self-taught scholar in many subjects, including Hebrew, he knew that his church hoped to make him a pastor. Not until he was ready for that step did he confess Christ and become baptized. He was about nineteen years old. A week later, he preached his first sermon.

When he was twenty-one, Gill married Elizabeth Negus. She was adept at managing the household and handling its finances, which freed Gill for work. At twenty-two, Gill became pastor of a Baptist church at Hosly-down (about a mile from London Bridge). He ministered to that congregation for fifty-one years; it was not obvious at first that he would be able to serve so many years, because he was sickly, often fainting, until in his mid-twenties.

Given his love of books and scholarship, it was not surprising that he soon became an author. His first major work was on the Song of Solomon. Without exception his books and pamphlets advanced a strongly Calvinist interpretation of Scripture. He exchanged sharp words with his contemporaries (including John Wesley) on the differences between Calvinism and Arminianism, and on the topic of the proper method of baptism.

Probably the most famous of Gill’s works was A Body of Doctrinal Divinity. A typical argument in this popular book ran like this, “The promises of grace and glory, made to the elect of God, in covenant, were made to them as considered in Christ their head and representative: hence the promise of life is said to be in him (2 Timothy 1:1), and indeed, all the promises are Yea and Amen in him (2 Corinthians 1:20) ... Yea, Christ is also gone to heaven, not only as the Forerunner of his people, but as their Head and Representative: and hence they are said to be made to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 1:6:7).”

In a short survey of John Gill’s life, English Baptist pastor John Rippon once wrote, “This year the Doctor had a very memorable escape from being killed in his study.” He was referring to events of this day 15 March 1752. “In the morning, there was a violent hurricane, which much damaged many houses, both in London and Westminster. Soon after he had left his study to go to preach, a stack of chimneys forced through the roof into his study, breaking his writing table to pieces, and must have killed him had the fall but happened a little sooner.”

Afterward, John Gill remarked that “A man may come to danger and harm in his closet, as well as on the highway, if not protected by the special care of God’s providence.”

Five years after that instance of “special care” Gill dedicated a new church in Carter Lane. His congregation had outgrown the Hosly-down building. He survived for nineteen years after the close call with the fallen chimneys, dying in 1771.


John 1:1 In the beginning was the word [1]

That this is said not of the written word, but of the essential word of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, is clear, from all that is said from hence, to John 1:14 as that this word was in the beginning, was with God, and is God. [F]rom the creation of all things being ascribed to him, and his being said to be the life and light of men; from his coming into the world, and usage in it; from his bestowing the privilege of adoption on believers; and from his incarnation; and also there is a particular application of all this to Christ, John 1:15. And likewise from what this evangelist elsewhere says of him, when he calls him the word of life, and places him between the Father and the Holy Ghost; and speaks of the record of the word of God, and the testimony of Jesus, as the same thing; and represents him as a warrior and conqueror, 1 John 1:1 . Moreover this appears to be spoken of Christ, from what other inspired writers have said of him, under the same character; as the Evangelist Luke, Luke 1:2 , the Apostle Paul, Acts 20:32 and the Apostle [Peter in], 2 Peter 3:5. And who is called the word, not as man; for as man he was not in the beginning with God, but became so in the fulness [sic] of time; nor is the man God; besides, as such, he is a creature, and not the Creator, nor is he the life and light of men. . . . [H]e was the word, before he was man, and therefore not as such: nor can any part of the human nature be so called; not the flesh, for the word was made flesh; nor his human soul, for self-subsistence, deity, eternity, and the creation of all things, can never be ascribed to that; but he is the word as the Son of God, as is evident from what is here attributed to him, and from the word being said to be so, as in John 1:14 and from those places, where the word is explained by the Son, compare 1 John 5:5 . And is so called from his nature, being begotten of the Father; for as the word, whether silent or expressed, is the birth of the mind, the image of it, equal to it, and distinct from it; so Christ is the only begotten of the Father, the express image of his person, in all things equal to him, and a distinct person from him: and he may be so called, from some action, or actions, said of him, or ascribed to him; as that he spoke for, and on the behalf of the elect of God, in the eternal council and covenant of grace and peace; and spoke all things out of nothing, in creation; for with regard to those words so often mentioned in the history of the creation, and God said, may Jehovah the Son be called the word; also he was spoken of as the promised Messiah, throughout the whole Old Testament dispensation; and is the interpreter of his Father's mind, as he was in Eden's garden, as well as in the days of his flesh; and now speaks in heaven for the saints. . . .

[1] John Gill, “John 1:1,” John Gill’s Exposition of the Old & New Testament, Vol. VII (London: Mathews & Leigh, 1809; reprint, Paris, AR.: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1989), 737-738 (page citations are to the reprint edition).

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