Sent: Saturday, March 04, 2006 10:04 PM
Subject: JOHN GILL ON MEANS IN THE NEW BIRTH [03/04--2006]
IN THE NEW BIRTH [03/04--2006]

The following is an abridgment of Chapter 7 in my series of articles entitled, THE HISTORY AND HERESIES OF HARDSHELLISM. A list of all the articles is at the end. -- Bob L. Ross

Famous Baptist Pastor, Scholar, and Commentator
Who Lived Before the "Primitive Baptist Church" Originated

    Dr. Gill pastored in London at the church later pastored by C. H. Spurgeon.  He is one of the most famous Baptists in English history. His massive works are on the Internet at --
John Gill Archive >><<

    Some few men have made comments about Dr. Gill which we believe are unjustified.  Some have claimed that he advocated "Hardshell" theology, or "Hyper-Calvinism."  In fact, one brother published a paper in which he said that Gill "might well be called the father of that anti-missionary movement which we sometimes term hardshellism." But this is not the case.

    Some Hardshells think they find Hardshellism in Gill's writings, but such thinking is the same as that which thinks it finds Hardshellism in the Bible.  If they read Gill in a piece-meal manner, as they read the Bible, then those who believe Hardshellism may find something with which they can agree. But on occasions, I have had the opportunity to
"chase" Hardshells away from Dr. Gill. The do not appreciate his "means" doctrine on the subject of the new birth.

    John Gill was a Confessional Calvinist, not a Hardshell. Hardshells deny that the Gospel has anything to do with calling sinners unto salvation.  They say that the Gospel is to be preached to those already "regenerated" for the purpose of "saving their lives," or to give them "direction," and not to sinners in order to bring them to Christ.  Hardshellism teaches that men are regenerated by the Spirit in a "direct operation," apart from the preaching of the Word of God and before faith in Christ.

    Confessional Calvinists on the other hand teach that the Gospel is the "means" used of God in calling sinners to salvation and the new birth.  2 Thessalonians 2:14 states that those chosen are "called by the Gospel."  It is the Spirit alone who is the "efficient cause," yes; but the Bible teaches that the preaching of the Gospel is used of the Spirit in performing His work.

    This is what John Gill taught.  And to vindicate Gill of erroneous charges, I have selected a few comments from Gill's works to show his true position.  These quotations have to do with the place of the gospel and ministers in bringing lost souls to be born again, or saved. I hope the quotations are free of copyist mistakes.
    It will be seen from these quotations that Gill, and the Baptists of his time, were not of the "Primitive Baptist order."  He uses "regeneration" and "conversion" in referring to the new birth, not to two distinct experiences. 

From Gill's Commentary

    Commenting on Proverbs 11:30:
    Again Christ's ministers are called 'fishers' of men, and are said to 'catch' men, Matt. 4:19, Luke 4:10; and which they do by casting and spreading the net of the Gospel; the Gospel is the net; the world is the sea into which it is cast:  where natural men are in their element, as fishes in the sea; the casting of the net is the preaching of the Gospel; and by means of this souls are caught and gathered in to Christ and his churches, Matt. 13:47 (Volume 3, page 28).

    Commenting on Mark 16:16:
    'To every creature,' that is, to every man; and particularly the Gentiles, as distinguished from the Jews, are often intended by this phase . . . Now to these, Christ would have the Gospel preached, as well as to the Jews; even to all, without distinction of people, Jews and Gentiles, Barbarians, Scythians, bond and free, male and female, rich and poor, greater or lesser sinners, even to all mankind (Volume 5, page 401).

    Romans 1:16:
    It (the gospel) is the power of God organically or instrumentally; as it is a means made use of by God in quickening dead sinners, enlightening blind eyes, unstopping deaf ears, softening hard hearts, and making of enemies friends (Volume 6, pages 5, 6).

    Romans 10:14:
    On this passage, Gill says that "it was absolutely necessary that the Gospel should be preached to the Gentiles, as well as to the Jews."  He goes on to say, "There is no hearing of Christ, and salvation by him, without the preaching of the Gospel; the usual and ordinary way of hearing from God, and of Christ, is by the ministry of the word:  this shows not only the necessity and usefulness of the Gospel ministry, but also points out the subject-matter of it, which is Christ, and him crucified" (Vol. 6, page 90).

    Romans 10:17:
    'So then faith cometh by hearing' & c.  That is, by preaching; for the word hearing is used in the same sense as in the preceding verse; and designs the report of the Gospel, or the preaching of the word, which is the means God makes use of to convey faith into the hearts of his people; for preachers are ministers, or instruments, by whom others believe (Vol. 6, p. 9).

    I Corinthians 1:18:
    'It (the Gospel) is the power of God;' organically or instrumentally; it being the means of quickening them when dead in sin, of enlightening their dark minds, or unstopping their deaf ears, of softening their hard hearts, and of enemies making them friends to God, Christ, and his people:  and it is likewise so declaratively, there being a wonderful display of the power of God in the ministration of it; as may be seen when observed who were the first preachers of it, men of no figure in life, of no education, illiterate mechanics, very mean and abject; into these earthen vessels were put the treasure of the Gospel, that the excellency of the power might appear to be of God, and not man (Volume 6, page 155).

    I Corinthians 4:15:
    'For in Christ Jesus have I begotten you through the Gospel;' which is to be understood of regeneration, a being born again, and from above; of being quickened when dead in trespasses and sins; of having Christ formed in the soul; of being made a partaker of the Divine nature, and a new creature:  which the apostle ascribes to himself, not as the efficient cause thereof, for regeneration is not of men but of God; not of the will of the flesh, of a man's own free-will and power, nor of the will of any other man, or minister; but of the sovereign will, grace, and mercy of God, Father, Son, and Spirit.
    The Father of Christ begets us again according to his abundant mercy; and the Son quickens whom he will; and we are born again of water and of the Spirit, of the grace of the Spirit; hence the washing of regeneration, and renewing work, are ascribed to him; but the apostle speaks this of himself, only as the instrument or means, which God made use of in doing this work upon the hearts of his people; and which the other phrases show; for he is said to do it 'in Christ;' he preached Christ unto them, and salvation by him, and the necessity of faith in him; he directed them to him to believe in him, and was the means of bringing of them to the faith of Christ:
    And it was the power and grace of Christ accompanying his ministry, which made it an effectual means of their regeneration and conversion; and which were brought about 'through the Gospel;' not through the preaching of the law; for though by that is the knowledge of sin, and convictions may be wrought by such means; yet these leave nothing but a sense of wrath and damnation; nor is the law any other than a killing letter; no regeneration, no quickening grace, no faith nor holiness come this way, but through the preaching the Gospel; in and through which, as a vehicle, the Spirit of God conveys himself into the heart, as a Spirit of regeneration and faith; and God of his own will and rich mercy, by the word of truth, by the Gospel of grace and truth, which came by Christ, so called in distinction from the law which came by Moses, begets us again as his new creatures; which shows the usefulness of the Gospel ministry, and in what account Gospel ministers are to be had, who are spiritual fathers, or the instruments of the conversion of men (Volume 6, page 174).

    I Corinthians 1:21:
    This (preaching), through efficacious grace, becomes the means of regenerating and quickening men, showing them their need of salvation, and where it is, and of working faith in them to look to Christ for it (Vol. 6, p. 156).

    I Corinthians 4:20:
    Gill says that the "power" spoken of in this verse has reference to "the powerful efficacy of the Spirit, attending the preaching of the Gospel to the quickening of dead sinners, the enlightening of blind eyes, and unstopping of deaf ears; the softening of hard hearts, the delivering of persons from the slavery of sin and Satan, the transforming and renewing of them both inwardly and outwardly (Vol. 6, p. 176).

    I Corinthians 9:22:
    'That I might by all means save some;' that is, that he might be the means of saving some of Jews and Gentiles, and of all sorts of men; by preaching the Gospel of salvation to them, and by directing them to Christ, the only Saviour of lost sinners; thus he explains what he means by so often saying that he might 'gain' them (Volume 6, page 208).

    I Corinthians 15:2:
    It (the Gospel) was the means of their salvation, and had been made the power of God unto salvation to them.  Salvation is inseparably connected with true faith in Christ as a Saviour, etc. (Volume 6, page 255).

    II Corinthians 3:6:
    It (the Gospel) is a means in the hand of the Spirit of God, of quickening dead sinners, of healing the deadly wounds of sin, of showing the way of life by Christ, and of working faith in the soul, to look to him, and live upon him; etc. (Vol. 6, p. 293).
    II Corinthians 10:16:
    'To preach the Gospel in the regions beyond you,' etc.  Here the apostle clearly expresses what he hoped for, and explains what he meant by being enlarged according to rule; namely, that he should be at liberty to preach the Gospel elsewhere; and hoped he should be directed by the providence of God, to carry it into the more remote and distant parts of the world, where as yet Christ had not been named," etc. (Volume 6, page 336).

    Galatians 4:13:
    'I preached the Gospel unto you at the first;' not the law, but the Gospel; and this he did at his first entrance among them, and was the first that preached it to them; and was the means of their conversion:  and therefore, being their spiritual father, they ought to be as he was, and follow him as they had for an example (Volume 6, page 394).

    James 1:18:
    Gill says that "the Word of truth" of this passage means "The Gospel, which is the word of truth, and truth itself, and contains nothing but truth; and by this souls are begotten and born again; see Eph. 1:13, I Pet. 1:23; and hence ministers of it are accounted spiritual fathers.  Faith, and every other grace in regeneration, and even the Spirit himself, the Regenerator, come this way (Volume 6, page 783).

    I Peter 1:23:
    Gill says that "the word of God" of this verse is "the Gospel, the word of truth, which is made use of as a means of begetting souls again (Volume 6, page 783).

From Other Works

    On page 372 of Gill's Body of Divinity, in his discussion of the Gospel, the third point of his outline is, "The effects of the gospel when attended with the power and Spirit of God."  Under this point, Gill says:

    1.  The regeneration of men, who are said to be born again by the word of God, and to be begotten again with the word of truth, I Pet. 1:23, James 1:18; hence ministers of the gospel are represented as spiritual fathers, I Cor. 4:15.
    2.  As in regeneration, souls are quickened by the Spirit and grace of God, this is ascribed to the gospel as an instrument, hence it is called the Spirit which giveth like, and said to be the saviour of life unto life, 2 Cor. 2:16 and 3:6.
    3.  The gospel is frequently spoken of as a light, a great light, a glorious light; and so is in the hands of the Spirit a means of enlightening the dark minds of men into the mysteries of grace, and the method of salvation; 'the entrance of thy word giveth light, it giveth understanding unto the simple,' Psalm 119:130.  The Spirit of God gives the gospel an entrance into the heart, being opened by him to attend unto it; and when it has an entrance, it gives light into a man's self, his state and condition, and into the way of life by Christ; it is a glass in which the glory of Christ, and of the riches of his grace, may be seen.

    In his discussion of effectual calling (Body of Divinity, page 539), Gill clearly states that the ministry of the Word and the call by it "have to do with unregenerate sinners."  He explains this is as follows:

    They may, and should be called upon to attend the outward means of grace, and to make use of them; to read the holy scriptures, which have been the means of conversion of some; to hear the word, and wait on the ministry of it, which may be blessed unto them, for the effectual calling of them.  And it is a part of the ministry of the word to lay before men their fallen, miserable, lost, and undone estate by nature; to open to them the nature of sin, its pollution and guilt, and the sad consequences of it; to inform them of their incapacity to make atonement for it; and of their impotence and inability to do what is spiritually good; and of the insufficiency of their own righteousness to justify them in the sight of God; and they are to be made acquainted, that salvation is alone by Christ, and not other ways; and the fullness, freeness, and suitableness of this salvation, are to be preached before them; and the whole to be left to the Spirit of God, to make application of it as he shall think fit.

    In his article on the public ministry of the Word (Body of Divinity, page 926), Gill states:

    This (the ministry) is not a device of men for sinister ends, and with selfish and lucrative views; but is by the appointment of Christ, who ordered his disciples, that what they heard in the ear, they should 'preach upon the housetops;' that is, in the most public manner; and therefore sent them into all the world, to preach the gospel to every creature under heaven; and accordingly the apostle Paul, that eminent minister of the word, preached it publicly, as well as from house to house, and even from Jerusalem about to Illyricum.

    In this same article, on page 931, Gill makes this strong statement as to the ministry of the Word:

    2.  The ministry of the word is for the conversion of sinners; without which churches would not be increased nor supported, and must in course fail, and come to nothing: but the hand of the Lord being with his ministers, many in every age believe and turn to the Lord, and are added to the churches; by which means they are kept up and preserved:  and hence it is necessary in the ministers of the word, to set forth the lost and miserable estate and condition of men by nature, the danger they are in, the necessity of regeneration and repentance, and of a better righteousness than their own, and of faith in Christ; which things are blessed for the turning of men from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God.

    On pages 533 and 534 of his Body of Divinity, this mighty writer, dealing with the subject of regeneration, says:

    Fourthly, The instrumental cause of regeneration, if it may be so called, are the word of God, and the ministers of it; hence regenerate persons are said to be 'born again by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever,' I Pet. 1:23; and again, 'of his own will begat he us with the word of truth,' Jam. 1:18 . . . ministers of the gospel are not only represented as ministers and instruments by whom others believe, but as spiritual fathers; 'though you have ten thousand instructors in Christ,' says the apostle to the Corinthians, I Cor. 4:15, 'yet have ye not many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.'

    This refutes the Hardshell distinction between "regeneration" and "conversion."  Gill's view makes both terms apply to the "new birth."
    Under the discussion entitled, "Of Faith in God and in Christ," our worthy author, referring to faith in God the Father as the one who chose His people to salvation, says:

    This election of God is to be known by the gospel coming not in word only, but in power, by being effectually called, for 'whom he did predestinate, them he also called,' and by their having the faith of God's elect, for 'as many as were ordained to eternal life believed,' Rom. 8:30, Act 13:48 (page 733).

    On page 741 of the same chapter, Gill makes the following remark:

    'The belief of the truth,' of Christ, who is the truth, and of the gospel of truth, that comes by him, is the means through which God has chosen men to salvation.

    Again, in the same chapter, on page 743:

    Thirdly, the Word and ministers of it are the usual means and instruments of faith in the hand of God, and are used by him; the end of the word being written is, that men 'might believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God.'  John 20:31; and the word preached is, 'the word of faith;' and so called, with other reasons, because faith comes by it, Rom. 10:8, 17; this has often been the effect and consequence of hearing the word preached, Acts 17:4 and 18:8, and the ministers of it are the instruments by whom and through whose word, doctrine, and ministry, others believe, John 1:17, 20, I Cor. 3:5, but this is only when it is attended with the power and Spirit of God, I Cor. 2:4, 5.

    On page 871, Gill refers to the ministry of the word or preaching of the Gospel as "the means appointed of God for the gathering in his elect ones, for the number of them in conversion."
    In his answer to the Arminian Whitby (Cause of God and Truth, page 87), this notable advocate of Calvinism, remarks on a statement by the champion of free-willism:

    Which observations are very just; but are so far from militating against the doctrine of absolute election, that they establish it; since according to them, not only the end but the means, the death of Christ, the preaching of the gospel, and calling men by it, are appointed and fixed, which infallibly succeed to bring about the end, eternal salvation.

    These quotations make it quite clear that Gill's position regarding the place of the gospel and the gospel ministry is not the position taken by the "Primitive Baptist" denomination, nor the view of those today who teach "pre-faith regeneration."

Articles in This Series:

#1 - "Hardshellism" - A Modern Cult and an Enemy of the Gospel
           of Christ
#2 - Which Primitive Baptist Faction is the "Original Church"?
#3 - The Original Issue in the Anti-Missionism Movement Was on
           Methods, Not Theology
#4 - The "Old Baptists" and the Old Baptist Faith
#5 - The Hardshells and the Baptist Confession of Faith
#6 - Hardshell Doctrine is Pelagianism/Arminianism in a 19th
           Century "Package"
#7 - John Gill - Not a Hardshell
#8 - "Elementary, My Deat Watson" (by John H. Watson)
#9 - Regeneration in Relation to Faith in Calvinist Theology

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