John Gill: Reformed and Baptist

The eminent Particular Baptist preacher, theologian, and exegete, John Gill (1697-1771) stands as powerful proof, if any were needed, that the thought of English nonconformity and, within that category, English Baptist theology, is in large part an intellectual and spiritual descendant of the thought of those Reformers, Protestant orthodox writers, and Puritans who belonged to the Reformed confessional tradition. This must be acknowledged despite the pointed disagreement between Baptists and the Reformed confessional tradition over the doctrine of infant baptism: this one doctrine aside, their theology is primarily Reformed and what disagreements remain are nonetheless disagreements with and often within the Reformed tradition rather than indications of reliance on another theological or confessional mode.

Richard A. Muller, “John Gill and the Reformed Tradition: A Study in the Reception of Protestant Orthodoxy in the Eighteenth Century” in Michael A. G. Haykin ed., The Life and Thought of John Gill: A Tercentennial Appreciation (Leiden: E. J. Brill, ), 51.

Here’s another quote by Muller, this one more extensive:

John Gill (1697-1771) was one of the most eminent British theologians of the eighteenth century and one of the most biblically and theologically erudite writers of his time. This eminence and erudition are all the more remarkable because, as a Baptist and Dissenter, barred from the English universities, Gill was largely self-educated. He gained broad proficiency in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew through private study. His writings evidence not only a consistent use of these languages but also avast absorption of the international theological literature of his own and the preceding century. His work is of interest today from several perspectives. First, Gill stands as perhaps the primary exponent and codifier of Particular Baptist teachings in the eighteenth century. He was a cogent defender of the doctrines of election and adult baptism. Second, in a slight broadening of the first point, he was a pivotal figure in the development of what, rather imprecisely, has come to be called “hypercalvinist” theology after the time of Crisp and Saltmarsh. Third, more broadly still, with the exception of his repudiation of infant baptism, he stands in the trajectory of the older Reformed orthodoxy and was, with writers such as Thomas Boston and John Brown of Haddington, one of its significant mediators to eighteenth-century Britain. Unlike these other eighteenth-century orthodox writers, moreover, Gill typically identified his sources carefully, making clear his relationship to the older orthodox or scholastic tradition of Protestant thought. Fourth, in relation to each of these theological trajectories, Gill remains one of the most significant representatives of so-called precritical exegesis in eighteenth-century Britain.

Richard A. Muller, “Review of The Collected Writings of John Gill by John Gill,” in Calvin Theological Journal 38.2 (2003), 380.

For some of John Gill’s works see his page at the Post Reformation Digital Library.