September 11, 2006

A Few Quotes Related to John Gill's (1697–1771) Hyper-Calvinism

Be sure to check out all my other extensive quotes on John Gill here (click).

1) Gill himself wrote:
That there are universal offers of grace and salvation made to all men, I utterly deny; nay I deny that they are made to any; no not to God's elect: grace and salvation are promised for them in the everlasting covenant, procured for them by Christ, published and revealed in the gospel, and applied by the Spirit.
John Gill, The Doctrine of Predestination Stated, London, 1752, p. 29.

2) Owen Thomas said the following about Gill's views:
The same topic [Tony: the topic of the universality and particularity of Christ's work] has stirred up much controversy amongst the Baptists in England. In general, apart from those known as Arminian Baptists, they held to the higher and more limited understanding of atonement. This was particularly the case for Dr. John Gill and John Brine, the ablest and most influential theologians from amongst them in the last century. They would not allow that the gospel was good news to sinners as such, nor that it pertained directly to any except sinners who had already been brought to feel their need of it. They denied the existence of any offer of salvation in the gospel, not even to the elect, but that it was purely a revelation and declaration of salvation for the elect alone. It was a salvation for them; they had been chosen by God to receive it; it had been won for them by Christ, and to them only the Holy Spirit would apply it. Those who have heard the declaration of the gospel and ultimately are lost, are not condemned because of their failure to believe spiritually and savingly in Christ. These are Gill's own words20 and he has similar comments scattered here and there in his writings.
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20. John Gill, An Answer to the Birmingham Dialogue Writer, Collection of Sermons and Tracts (London, 1773), Vol. II, pp 119, 145, 147.

"God's will, decree or purpose to justify his elect, is the eternal justification of them."

John Gill, The Doctrine of Justification by the Righteousness of Christ Stated and Maintained, 1756, p. 52.
Owen Thomas, The Atonement Controversy in Welsh Theological Literature and Debate, 1707–1841 (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2002), 130.

3) Tom Ascol wrote this about Gill:
Gill so closely identifies the council [the Covenant of Redemption] with the covenant of grace that the distinctions between them are virtually meaningless. This results in the inevitable tendency to collapse salvation history back into eternity - an error which seventeenth century federalism diligently seeks to avoid.
Thomas B. Ascol, The Doctrine of Grace; A Critical Analysis of Federalism in the Theologies of John Gill and Andrew Fuller (Ph. D. thesis presented to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas, 1989), 77.

4) Robert Oliver says this about Gill:
Gill taught that justification is an eternal act of God, very closely linked with his election of sinners. He wrote, "It does not begin to take place in time, or at believing, but is antecedent to any act of faith."17

Gill seems to work on the assumption that since the decree to elect is election, so the decree to justify is justification. If such an analogy were true it might be argued that the decree to create is creation and the decree to redeem is redemption. This error can only lead to evangelistic and pastoral confusion. Faith, instead of being directed towards Christ as the sinner's only hope, becomes a belief by the elect sinner that he is justified.
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17. Gill, Body of Divinity, p. 203. 
Robert W. Oliver, History of the English Calvinistic Baptists (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2006), 7.

5) Spurgeon said this about Gill:
Gill is the Coryphaeus of hyper-Calvinism, but if his followers never went beyond their master, they would not go very far astray.
Charles H. Spurgeon, Commenting and Commentaries (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1998), 16.

6) C. Matthew McMahon said this about Gill:
Hyper-Calvinism formally took shape in 1707 at the time of John Hussey and his disciple, John Skepp. Skepp in turn prompted the young, and soon to be well-known Dr. John Gill, down a road that would spawn one of Hyper-Calvinism’s “greater” works, The Cause of God and Truth. Though Hyper-Calvinism had appeared in the writing of Hussey and the preaching of Skepp, Gill’s work far surpassed them both in notoriety and volume. Gill’s Hyper-Calvinist work focused on dismantling the heresy of Arminianism, the opposite extreme on the theological spectrum. However, in doing so, Gill’s result was an unbridled Hyper-Calvinism.
All house and no doors: A Brief Critique of the False Teachings of Hyper-Calvinism by C. Matthew McMahon

7) Cunningham said:
We fully admit the general fact upon which the argument is based,--namely, that in Scripture, men, without distinction and exception, have salvation, and all that leads to it, offered or tendered to them,--that they are invited to come to Christ and to receive pardon, and assured that all who accept the offer, and comply with the invitation, shall receive everything necessary for their eternal welfare. We fully admit that God in the Bible does all this, and authorizes and requires us to do the same in dealing with our fellow-men. Very few Calvinists have ever disputed the propriety and the obligation of addressing to men, indiscriminately, without distinction or exception, the offers and invitations of Gospel mercy; and the few who have fallen into error upon this subject,--such as Dr Gill, and some of the ultra-Calvinistic English Baptists of last century,--have usually based their refusal to offer to men indiscriminately pardon and acceptance, and to invite any or all to come to Christ that they might receive these blessings, upon the views they entertained, not about a limitation of the atonement, but about the entire depravity of human nature,--men's inability to repent and believe.
William Cunningham, Historical Theology (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1994), 2:344.

8) Mark Jones writes:
Incidentally, John Gill (1697–1771) rejected this distinction [between God's love of benevolence and love of complacency] as fiercely as [Samuel] Rutherford affirmed it,17 though one may question whether Gill accurately understood how orthodox Reformed theologians used it--which is not entirely uncommon in Gill's interpretation of the Reformed tradition.18 Gill's hyper-Calvinism and avowal of justification from eternity certainly contributed to his distaste for this doctrine. This also shows how similar antinomian theology is to hyper-Calvinism. In the end, the distinction between God's benevolent love and his complacent love has a rich Reformed pedigree.19
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17. "It is high time that these distinctions about the love of God, with that of an antecedent and consequent one, were laid aside, which so greatly obscure the glory of God's unchangeable love and grace." John Gill, A Collection of Sermons and Tracts (London: George Keith, 1773-78), 3:210.
18. See Joel R. Beeke and Mark Jones, A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012), 141, 147.
19. This distinction is used in the Acta of the Synod of Dort: Acta Synodi Nationalis: in nomine Domini nostri Jesu Christi (Dordrechti: Isaaci Joannidis Canini, 1620), 49. Thomas Goodwin refers to it as an "old distinction" (i.e., going back to the Medieval theologians). The Works of Thomas Goodwin, D.D. (1861-66; repr., Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2006), 1:109.
Mark Jones, Antinomianism: Reformed Theology's Unwelcome Guest? (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2013), 84–85.

4 comments:

sixtus said...

Tony,

I've read some stuff by Gill where he states that faith is the duty of all men. I apologize for not having the reference, but I know I have read the quote in a few different places. Is he just contradicting himself, or did he perhaps come to have a different view of this issue later on?

YnottonY said...

Hi Sixtus,

I would like to eventually see the quote from Gill that you are referencing. Please try to find it for me if you can. Thanks.

What is sometimes missed by readers is that Gill makes a distinction between an external or legal repentance and an internal or evangelical repentance. Whenever modern Christians think of repentance and faith, we automatically think of the spiritual/evangelical and/or saving sort of repentance. We then impose that sense of faith and repentance on Gill’s writings instead of letting his own categories emerge.

A legal repentance, in his view, concerns an outward conformity to external commands. It’s what modern evangelicals might call a carnal repentance. You might change your behavior externally, but your heart and affections are not really transformed. Sometimes Gill thinks that God commands this sort of external repentance to people in order to escape some pending physical calamity, not that God is necessarily commanding an inner, evangelical sort of transformation. In those scriptural instances where Gill does think that an inner transformation is commanded, his presupposition is that the audience is elect and that they have warrant to evangelically repent. They are “sensible sinners” who have alreay experienced the convicting work of the Spirit on their hearts.

Anyway, read Gill and look for this type of legal/evangelical distinction. It is confusing, but it is there in his theological system. Thus, when one says that he denies duty-faith, one means that he denies that EVANGELICAL faith/repentance is the duty of everyone that hears the call of the gospel, whether elect or not.

sixtus said...

Tony,

I haven't seen the usage of external repentence such as you describe above in any of my reading. Are there others besides Gill that used this terminology as well? Perhaps this is why some people are confused about where Gill stands on the free offer/duty faith issue...

YnottonY said...

Hi Sixtus,

The distinction is present in Gill. I’ve spoken with friends about the history and origins of his ideas, but I am not studied enough on the subject to speak on it. If you consult The Cause of God and Truth on passages that you think speak of all man’s duty to repent and believe in the evangelical sense, you will see Gill bringing up the legal and evangelical distinction. A failure to understand this distinction in Gill is definitely one of the reasons why some do not think that he denied duty-faith. Another reason, unfortunately, is that some just don’t want to see it. I think it’s clear enough for any careful reader to see, just as his denial of free offers.

You may want to try to carefully navigate through his comments on Acts 3:19 for starters. After you sift through all the false dilemmas and tricky distinctions, you will see that he denies that the text speaks of an evangelical repentance.