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GILL FOUND GOD IS SOVEREIGN EVEN OVER FALLING CHIMNEYS

[John Gill]


John Gill was a pastor in greater London. A staunch Calvinist, he believed strongly in the sovereignty of God in all events.

Gill had become a pastor as the result of a sermon he had heard when he was about twelve. His pastor, William Wallace, preached on God asking Adam in the garden of Eden where he was, when Adam had hidden himself following his sin. The sermon put Gill under deep conviction of sin. Although he soon became a Christian, he did not immediately profess faith. Already a self-taught scholar in many subjects, including Hebrew, he knew that his church hoped to make him a pastor. Not until he was ready for that step did he confess Christ and become baptized. He was about nineteen years old. A week later, he preached his first sermon.

When he was twenty-one, Gill married Elizabeth Negus. She was adept at managing the household and handling its finances, which freed Gill for work. At twenty-two, Gill became pastor of a Baptist church at Hosly-down (about a mile from London Bridge). He ministered to that congregation for fifty-one years; it was not obvious at first that he would be able to serve so many years, because he was sickly, often fainting, until in his mid-twenties.

Given his love of books and scholarship, it was not surprising that he soon became an author. His first major work was on the Song of Solomon. Without exception his books and pamphlets advanced a strongly Calvinist interpretation of Scripture. He exchanged sharp words with his contemporaries (including John Wesley) on the differences between Calvinism and Arminianism, and on the topic of the proper method of baptism.

Probably the most famous of Gill’s works was A Body of Doctrinal Divinity. A typical argument in this popular book ran like this, “The promises of grace and glory, made to the elect of God, in covenant, were made to them as considered in Christ their head and representative: hence the promise of life is said to be in him (2 Timothy 1:1), and indeed, all the promises are Yea and Amen in him (2 Corinthians 1:20) ... Yea, Christ is also gone to heaven, not only as the Forerunner of his people, but as their Head and Representative: and hence they are said to be made to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 1:6:7).”

In a short survey of John Gill’s life, English Baptist pastor John Rippon once wrote, “This year the Doctor had a very memorable escape from being killed in his study.” He was referring to events of this day 15 March 1752. “In the morning, there was a violent hurricane, which much damaged many houses, both in London and Westminster. Soon after he had left his study to go to preach, a stack of chimneys forced through the roof into his study, breaking his writing table to pieces, and must have killed him had the fall but happened a little sooner.”

Afterward, John Gill remarked that “A man may come to danger and harm in his closet, as well as on the highway, if not protected by the special care of God’s providence.”

Five years after that instance of “special care” Gill dedicated a new church in Carter Lane. His congregation had outgrown the Hosly-down building. He survived for nineteen years after the close call with the fallen chimneys, dying in 1771.

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