July 11, 2009

Erroll Hulse on Hyper-Calvinism, Responsibility and John Gill

I thought this might be a useful addition to David's post [at Theology Online] asking, Was John Gill a hyper-Calvinist?
The essence of hyper-Calvinism is to minimise the moral and spiritual responsibilities of sinners. Hyperism undoubtedly affects preaching and teaching and is very dangerous because it can stultify and destroy the witness and life of a church. There are few exceptions. There have been some like William Gadsby, who although they intellectually adhered to hyperism nevertheless preached with such power and warmth that many were converted. They were better than the system to which they adhered. Gill's church on the other hand shrunk and we are not surprised. When Gill declared, "that there are universal offers of grace and salvation made to all men, I utterly deny", he was expressing with accuracy the deficiency of all his writings and works. Valuable though they may be in many other ways they are destitute of pleadings with sinners to repent, believe and be saved.
Erroll Hulse, The Free Offer of the Gospel: An Exposition of Common Grace and the Free Invitation of the Gospel (Worthington and Haywards Heath, Sussex,. UK: Carey Publications, 1973), 15.
John Gill, John Brine, Lewis Wayman and John Skepp were firmly in the hyper-Calvinist camp.
Ibid., 23.

Update on 9-1-2014:
As we look closely at his [Gill's] life and works we find that theologically he mingled with high Calvinists and you will look in vain for references to men at lower Calvinistic levels. Although these names may not be familiar to us now it is noteworthy that Gill's friendship was with Richard Davis, John Skepp, and John Brine who were all hyper-Calvinists. His preferences in literature lay in the direction of Tobias Crisp and the orthodox men of Holland such as Witsius, but also happily with Thomas Goodwin and John Owen. Gill's failure lay not so much in what he said but in what he omitted to say. Had he followed John Owen's line he would have surely ranked amongst the greatest theologians. He certainly was one of the most learned men the Baptists have ever produced. Unhappily he restricted the Gospel by failing to beseech the unconverted to be converted to God. To fail to do justice to scriptures which highlight man's responsibility to believe and repent and to suppress the gracious invitations of Christ to all men is to deprive the word "Gospel" of its real meaning. Invitations and exhortations are to the Gospel what heaters are to cold buildings in an English winter. Turn them off and the people freeze.
Erroll Hulse, An Introduction to the Baptists (Haywards Heath, UK: Carey Publications, 1976), 31.

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