Monday, July 17, 2006

John Gill on the ministry of the Word

In a reply on the "Hyper-Calvinism" blog, I mentioned that is a charge often leveled against English Baptist pastor John Gill (1697-1771). Here is a quote from him relative to the subject, plus some of Gene Bridges thoughts on the matter. I post this not as proof of Gill being right or wrong, but simply as a matter of record and opinion concerning what he actually believed, which is sometimes a source of controversy.

"The ministry of the word is for the conversion of sinners; without which churches would not be increased nor supported, and must in course fail, and come to nothing ; but the hand of the Lord being with his ministers, many in every age believe and turn to the Lord, and are added to the churches; by which means they are kept up and preserved: and hence it is necessary in the ministers of the word, to set forth the lost and miserable estate and condition of men by nature, the danger they are in, the necessity of regeneration and repentance , and of a better righteousness than their own, and of faith in Christ; which things are blessed for the turning of men from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God." -- John Gill, as quoted by Tom Nettles in his book By His Grace and For His Glory, p.106 (Read Nettles 73-107 for further discussion of Gill & Hyper-Calvinism)

"Gill's use of the offers vocabulary usually throws people who read it today without knowing his operative categories. You have to remember, Gill was an academic who was trying to be extremely precise. His precision is his downfall, because others who were not as precise have taken and still take his work and misunderstand it, thus historians have had a hard time with where to place him...Gill divides the supra scheme into two parts: postive and negative, where the positive is active, with God effectuating His decree to elect by regeneration; it is passive with respect to reprobation by God passing men over, not by God putting fresh unbelief in their hearts and minds. He says that the degree of reprobation "puts nothing in them, it leaves them as it finds them, and therefore does them no injustice." ...Gill did not deny duty faith. This is the single most commonly adduced charge against him, and it seems based on his rejection of the offers vocabulary. True, he did state: GOD does not require all men to believe in Christ and where he does it is according to the revelation he makes of him. He does not require the heathen, who are without external revelation of Christ to believe him at all; and those who have the outward ministry of the word unattended with the special illuminations of God's Spirit are obliged to believe no further than the external revelations they enjoy reaches. (Cause of God and Truth). However, he is simply stating here that man is not condemned for disbelieving the gospel, rather he is condemned for his sins. The basis for the condemnation of those who have never heard is not their rejection of Christ, but their sins. In short, if they die without hearing the gospel, they are justly condemned and their separation from the gospel reflects the presumptive judgment of God. This is not, as some have thought, a denial of duty faith. Elsewhere he writes that "It is man's duty to believe the word of the Lord and obey His will, though he has not a power, yea, even though God has decreed to withhold that grace without which he cannot believe and obey." ... Gill's take on the offers vocabulary is what really throws us for a loop today, because when we see "offer" we think "free offer of the gospel" and the duty of the minister to urge people to come to Christ. First, Gill teaches that is men's responsibility to call everyone to come to Christ. Secondly, for Gill, he was making a category distinction over those who spoke of an offer of grace. Grace, he says, is not offered in the gospel, it is given by God. To speak of an offer of grace is therefore a category error. Gill's other category for offers is the offer of the gospel. The preacher is to offer the gospel to every person, for, unlike offering grace, offering the gospel is his duty and within his power. ("The minister should preach the gospel with a view to seeing all his hearers is one part of the gospel ministry to persuade men.")" -- Gene M. Bridges on Gill, excerpts from a
Baptist Board thread 30 May 2006


Anonymous said...

At my age, ad being engaged in ministry all my life, I have been through all the misconceptions of the ages. We not only do not understand the language of those old time theologians and preachers, we have huge bridges with to-day's ministers.

Most of my life the word "religion" was not a bad term. I still often speak of the Christian religion...that is what I grew up with. To-day it is anathema.

We need to exercise more patience and understanding as we read the old theologs. IN fact, this is what I deem to be a great problem to-day. Many do not read what is actually said. We see this all the time on places like the BaptistBoard.

Cheers, and thanks for correctly stating Gill's viewpoint.


amity said...

"Gill divides the supra scheme into two parts: postive and negative... it is passive with respect to reprobation by God passing men over, not by God putting fresh unbelief in their hearts and minds. He says that the degree of reprobation "puts nothing in them, it leaves them as it finds them, and therefore does them no injustice.""

We are back to God hardening Pharaoh's heart then. How would Gill handle that? I've got to admit I do not have his commentary, only Matthew Henry's, but I am hoping to get it.

amity said...

I found an answer online at Crosswalk, looking up his commentary on Romans 9:18:

He is consistent.

hoyt sparks said...

Gill and many other writers in the past and today write many words to say a little meaning when it is all boiled down.
The way I understand the writings of Paul and others in the NT, is that the preacher of the Gospel is not to decide before he preaches who is and is not a quickened and made alive child of God, or one that will be quickened and made alive in the future, but, instead, every preacher of the Gospel is to preach to "ALL" within hearing. God has decided which one of the "hearers" is a quickened and made alive child of God who will "spiritually" hear the truth of the Gospel that is being preached; and God has decided which one of the "hearers" is not a quickened and made alive child of God, hears, at that time, with the natural ear, but, in a time set, will spiritually hear and respond to the Gospel preached; and God has decided which one hears only with the natural ear and will forever hear only with the natural ear, never to respond "Spiritually" to the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In all this, the preacher is to "broadcast" the preached word, not to be concerned if the ones in audience are or will be a quickened and made alive child of God or if they will never be quickened and made alive spiritually, as it is in Christ.

amity said...

If this interpretation of "God hardening" is correct, then it seems a very odd turn of phrase for the Bible to choose. If God does not harden people's hearts directly, then why is that expression even in the Bible? If it were not in there at all, the meaning of those verses would clearly teach what Gill and others claim.