Dr. JOHN GILL
MINISTER AND PASTOR
As a Minister in his early days few persons were more animated than himself; and he gave himself wholly to divine things. His constant studies prepared him for his public work, rendering it easy to himself, and beneficial to his people. He came into the pulpit, at times, with an heavenly lustre on his countenance, in the fulness of the blessing of the Gospel of Christ; enriched, and generally enriching. In preaching funeral sermons, and on other extraordinary occasions, when he was a young man, and surrounded with large congregations, his exertions have been such that the people have conveyed to him, as well as they were able, three or four handkerchiefs to wipe his face, in one discourse. The sermons, which were not inserted in the body of his Exposition, he generally wrote an outline of, making what might be read in less than ten minutes. Such we have yet preserved in his own handwriting. The ideas contained in these manuscripts it is certain were familiar to him when he entered the pulpit. But he delivered not his sermons menioriter, as it is phrased; treasuring up words, as a schoolboy does his lesson. Of him it cannot be said
“He toil’d, and stow’d his lumber in his brainÂ—
He toil’d, and then he dragg’d it out again.”
He had so mastered his subject before he appeared among his people, that it was totally unnecessary for him to adopt the servile method execrated in this couplet. And when, after a course of years, the fervour of his youth had much abated, his public labours demanded attention. But this was not secured by a flood of eloquence, by rhetorical action, by meretricious ornaments, or by any of the eccentricities which gain upon weak persons. But the effect was produced by his solemn deportment, his expressive language, his perspicuous method, his nervous reasoning, his interesting address; and, by his substantial matter delivered with accuracy. And, all being ornamented with his own personal religion, and crowned with the superabundant influences of the Spirit of God, he sometimes preached as with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven, and poured out his prayers, with divine freedom and fervency, into the very bosom of God.
As a Pastor he presided over the flock with dignity and affection. Mingled were his cares and comfortsÂ—such as other faithful shepherds have experienced in their different situations. In the course of his ministry he had some weak, some unworthy, and some very wicked persons to deal with. As to the feeble of the flock, it may be truly declared he was an affectionate friend and father to them. He really “bore with their weaknesses, failings, and infirmities,” and particularly when he saw they were sincerely on the Lord’s side. A godly woman visited him one day, in great trouble about the singing; for the clerk, in about three years had introduced two new tunes. Not that he was a famous singer, or able to conduct a variety of song. The young people were pleased;
but the good woman could hardly bear it. The Doctor, after patiently listening, asked her whether she understood singing? No, she said. What! can’t you sing? No; she was no singer, nor her aged father before her. And, though they had had about an hundred years between them to learn the old hundred tune, they could not sing it, nor any other tune. The Doctor did not hurt her feelings, by telling her that people who did not undersatnd singing were the last who should complain; but he meekly said. Sister, what tunes should you like us to sing? Why, Sir, she replied, I should very much like David’s tunes. Well, said he, if you will get David’s tunes for us, we can then try to sing them. Such weak good people may be found among most denominations of Christians.
But he sometimes was accosted by rude people, and in his own congregation. A cynical old man, who had taken an antipathy against some of his minister’s tenets, oftener than once had grinned contempt at him from the gallery; and then would meet him at the foot of the pulpit-stairs, and ask. Is this preaching? repeating his question. The insolence at first met no answer from the preacher. But, it seems, he determined not to be often treated in this manner. Not long after, the said churl, planting himself again in the same position, expressed his contempt somewhat louder; “Is this the great Doctor Gill?” The Doctor, immediately, with the full strength of his voice, looking him in the face, and pointing him to the pulpit, said. Go up and do betterÂ—Go up and do better. This was answering a fool according to his folly. And the answer afforded gratification to all who heard it.
But the holy man felt himself exceedingly distressed when any of his communion disgraced their profession, by errors either in doctrine, or in practice. From both sources he had his share of sorrows, as the records of his faithful church-discipline evince. A single extract shall here be given respecting some, who seemed pleased enough, in their own way, with the work of Christ, but who were totally inimical to the work of the Spirit. Understanding, that several of the members positively denied the doctrine of an internal principle of sanctifying grace; or, in other words, of a new nature infused into the heart by the Holy Spirit, in regeneration;
the Doctor seriously brought the business before the church, and,
as he, by virtue of his pastoral office, kept the church-book, he has made this entry in it of the result of the transaction, with his own pen:Â—”Agreed, that to deny the internal sanctification of the Spirit, as a principle of grace and holiness wrought in the heart, or as consisting of grace communicated to and implanted in the soul, which, though but a begun work, and as yet incomplete, is an abiding work of grace, and will abide, notwithstanding all corruptions, temptations, and snares, and be performed by the author of it until the day of Christ, when it will be the saints’ meetness for eternal glory; is a grievous error, which highly reflects dishonour on the blessed Spirit and his operations of grace on the heart, is subversive of true religion and powerful godliness, and renders persons unfit for church-communion. Wherefore, it is further agreed, that such persons who appear to have embraced this error be not admitted to the communion of this church; and should any such who are members of it appear to have received it and continue in it, that they be forthwith excluded from it.” Two members then present declaring themselves to be of the opinion condemned in the above resolution, and also a third person who was absent, but who was well known to have been under this awful delusion, were consequently excluded that evening.
This is the man who by Calvinists of today is dubbed “Antinomian, Hyper Calvinist, a hindrance to evangelical prospects,” and other unworthy epithets. Will the writings of present or past critics of this man of God stand the test of time in the affection of spirit-taught souls as have these of Doctor John Gill?