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In his exhaustive Exposition on the Entire Bible, John Gill follows the traditional commentary style of a short summary of the book, summary of each chapter, and then commentary on each individual verse following up to the next chapter.
John Gill was a forefather of the Metropolitan Tabernacle we now most associate with Charles Spurgeon. Spurgeon, who spent much time reading and critiquing commentaries, is quick to say that he was unaware of a better commentator of the Old Testament. Gill’s greatest asset was his expertise as a Hebrew scholar.
Spurgeon had his criticisms as well. He wrote publicly that Gill used too many straw-man arguments and held loose interpretations of the Parables. Spurgeon wrote,“Very seldom does he allow himself to be run away with by imagination, except now and then when he tries to open up a parable, and finds a meaning in every circumstance and minute detail; or when he falls upon a text which is not congenial with his creed, and hacks and hews terribly to bring the word of God into a more systematic shape. Gill is the Coryphaeus of hyper-Calvinism, but if his followers never went beyond their master, they would not go very far astray.”
But the bottom-line, Spurgeon writes, is that “the world and the church take leave to question his dogmatism, but they both bow before his erudition [learning] … For good, sound, massive, sober sense in commenting, who can excel Gill?”
At another place, Spurgeon considered this commentary “remarkable for the copiousness of its glossary, the brilliance of its argument, his apprehension of prophecy, and the richness of his Hebrew scholarship. His preparations for the pulpit having, as is well known, furnished the materials for the press, we can but reflect on the priceless value of his ministry.”
In other words, the obvious power of his public preaching endures through the press. This was not a man addicted to scholarship, but a man driven by the conviction to preach through the whole counsel of God. His commentaries exemplify what was certainly a “priceless ministry.”
Richard Muller writes of John Gill that he “stands as perhaps the most erudite [or learned] of the eighteenth-century Dissenting theologies in the tradition of the older orthodoxy” (Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics, 3:150). “Erudite” being the same word used by Spurgeon.
There seems to be a consensus that Gill’s writings are firmly founded upon solid biblical scholarship. He shows a deep level of understanding with Scripture, allowing the bible to interpret itself. His wealth of insight into the Hebrew language, tradition and culture soaks both the Old and New Testaments. John Gill’s work stands as an testimony of one man’s faithfulness to preach through the entire bible in light of a culture encouraging men and women to judge divine reality through empty philosophical “rationalism.” He was and remains through his works “a star of the first magnitude amidst surrounding darkness” (Spurgeon).
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About the Author
Early life and education
At the age of about 12, Gill heard a sermon from his pastor, William Wallis, on the text, "And the Lord called unto Adam, and said unto him, where art thou?" (Genesis 3:9). The message stayed with Gill and eventually led to his conversion. It was not until seven years later that he made a public profession when he was 18.
His first pastoral work was as an intern assisting John Davis at Higham Ferrers in 1718 at age 21. He became pastor at the Strict Baptist church at Goat Yard Chapel, Horsleydown, Southwark in 1719. His pastorate lasted 51 years. In 1757 his congregation needed larger premises and moved to a Carter Lane, St. Olave’s Street, Southwark. This Baptist church was once pastored by Benjamin Keach and would later become the New Park Street Chapel and then the Metropolitan Tabernacle pastored by Charles Spurgeon.
During Gill's ministry the church strongly supported the preaching of George Whitefield at nearby Kennington Common.
In 1748, Gill was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity by the University of Aberdeen. He was a profound scholar and a prolific author. His most important works are:
The Doctrine of the Trinity Stated and Vindicated (London, 1731)
The Cause of God and Truth (4 parts, 1735–8), a retort to Daniel Whitby's Five Points
An Exposition of the New Testament (3 vols., 1746–8), which with his Exposition of the Old Testament (6 vols., 1748–63) forms his magnum opus
A Collection of Sermons and Tracts
A Dissertation Concerning the Antiquity of the Hebrew Language, Letters, Vowel-Points, and Accents (1767)
A Body of Doctrinal Divinity (1767)
A Body of Practical Divinity (1770).
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