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John Gill, Doctrinal And Practical Body Of Divinity

As it is my goal to align John Gill’s “Body of Doctrinal and Practical Divinity” with the Framework of Sovereign Grace, I have rearranged the eleven branches of theology, together with the individual chapters, in order to demonstrate how they fit together in the grand scheme of God’s masterplan for the ages.

I have reduced the original eleven “Books” (or branches) to three main headings—(1) Of God; (2) Of God’s Revelation; (3) Of God’s Works. I have also reduced the original one hundred fifty-six chapters to one hundred fifty-one, having subtracted the five chapters belonging to the Appendix (a dissertation on the baptism of Jewish Proselytes).

Under the first heading, “Of God”, there are thirty chapters. The first nine speak on the Godhead in general, whereas the last twenty-one speak of His attributes in particular. As God is a spirit Being, so Gill arranged the divine attributes under the following headings—(1) God, as a spirit being, is uncreated, one chapter; (2) God, as a spirit being, is active, two chapters; (3) God, as a spirit being, is rational, two chapters; (4) God, as a spirit being, is volitional, one chapter; (5) God, as a spirit being, is affectionate, seven chapters; (6) God, as a spirit being, is virtuous, five chapters; God, as a spirit being, is majestic, two chapters.

I. Of God

1. His Being (Existence)
2. His Nature (Spirituality and Simplicity)
3. His Unity
4. His Godhead (Plurality)
5. His Personal Relations
6. Personality of the Father
7. Personality of the Son
8. Personality of the Holy Spirit
9. His Names

10. His Attributes and Immutability

1. God, as a Spirit, is Uncreated.

11. His Infinity

2. God, as a Spirit, is Active.

12. His Life
13. His Omnipotence

3. God, as a Spirit, is Rational.

14. His Omniscience
15. His Wisdom

4. God, as a Spirit, is Volitional.

16. His Sovereign Will

5. God, as a Spirit, is Affectionate.

17. His Joy
18. His Love
19. His Grace
20. His Mercy
21. His Long-suffering
22. His Hatred
23. His Anger and Wrath

6. God, as a Spirit, is Virtuous.

24. His Goodness
25. His Holiness
26. His Justice and Righteousness
27. His Veracity
28. His Faithfulness

7. God, as a Spirit, is Majestic.

29. His Sufficiency and Perfection
30. His Blessedness

Under the second heading, “Of God’s Revelation”, there are three chapters. While it is obvious why the “Scripture” has been classified under this heading, it may not be so clear as to why God’s “Creation” and “Providence” are placed into the category. Within the context of the Framework of Sovereign Grace, the Lord makes Himself known by what He has made (Creation), what He does (Providence) and what He says (Scripture). Of course, the Lord also makes Himself known, and especially so, by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit, but the chapters dealing with this special revelation to the heart are reserved for the third heading, “Of God’s Works”.

II. Of God’s Revelation

31. Creation (General)
32. Providence
33. Scripture

Under the third heading, “Of God’s Works”, there are one hundred eighteen chapters. The first sixteen deal with God’s eternal decree, whereas the last one hundred and two chapters deals with God’s providential orderings in time. All that God has decreed from eternity, is the blueprint for what He brings to pass throughout the course of history. In other words, God’s providential orderings in time are based upon His immutable decree from eternity. Absolute predestination is to providence, what a set of blueprints are to a house.

With reference to God’s providential orderings, there are seven main sections—(1) Creation of angels and humans, three chapters; (2) Covenant of Works, eight chapters; (3) Covenant of Grace, sixty-two chapters; (4) Christian and church relations, fourteen chapters; (5) Domestic and governmental relations, four chapters; (6) Death and the afterlife, three chapters; (7) World to come, eight chapters.

With particular reference to the Covenant of Grace, there are three main sections—(1) Dispensations of the covenant, seven chapters; (2) In the fulness of time, the Son is sent, twenty-three chapters; (3) At the appointed time, the Holy Spirit is sent, thirty-two chapters.

III. Of God’s Works

1. Eternal Decree

34. Works of God in General
35. Special Decrees of God
36. Decree of Rejection
37. Eternal Union of Elect unto God
38. God’s Eternal Act of Justification
39. Everlasting Council of the Godhead
40. Everlasting Covenant of Grace
41. Role of Father in the Covenant
42. Role of Son in the Covenant
43. Christ as Covenant Head of the Elect
44. Christ as Mediator of the Covenant
45. Christ as Surety of the Covenant
46. Christ as Testator of the Covenant
47. Role of Holy Spirit in the Covenant
48. Properties of the Covenant of Grace
49. Delight of God in Himself

2. Providential Orderings

(1) Angels and Humans

50. Creation of Angels
51. Confirmation of Elect Angels
52. Creation of Man

(2) Covenant of Works

53. Man in State of Innocence
54. Law Given to Adam
55. Sin and Fall of First Parents
56. Nature and Effects of Sin of Man
57. Imputation of Sin to Adam’s Posterity
58. Corruption of Human Nature
59. Actual Sins and Transgressions
60. Punishment of Sin

(3) Covenant of Grace

(i) Dispensations of the Covenant

61. Administration of the Covenant of Grace
62. Covenant of Grace—Patriarchal
63. Covenant of Grace—Mosaic
64. Covenant of Grace—Kings
65. Introduction of the New Covenant
66. Of the Law of God
67. Of the Gospel

(ii) Fulness of Time, Son Sent

68. Kingly Office of Christ
69. Prophetic Office of Christ
70. Priestly Office of Christ
71. Incarnation of Christ
72. Humiliation of Christ
73. Active Obedience of Christ
74. Passive Obedience of Christ
75. Redemption by Christ
76. Causes of Redemption
77. Objects of Redemption
78. Texts Which Seem to Favour Universal Redemption
79. Satisfaction of Christ
80. Propitiation and Reconciliation by Christ
81. Pardon and Forgiveness of Sin
82. Justification
83. Adoption
84. Burial of Christ
85. Resurrection of Christ
86. Ascension of Christ
87. Christ at Right Hand of Father
88. Intercession of Christ
89. Blessings of Christ
90. Scriptural Reign of Christ

(iii) Appointed Time, Holy Spirit Sent

91. Regeneration
92. Effectual Calling
93. Conversion
94. Sanctification
95. Good Works in General
96. Liberty Of The Sons Of God
97. Ten Commandments
98. Object of Worship
99. Internal Worship, Godliness
100. Communion with God
101. Knowledge of God
102. Faith in God
103. Fear of God
104. Repentance toward God
105. Trust and Confidence in God
106. Grace of Hope
107. Grace of Love
108. Spiritual Joy
109. Peace and Tranquility of Mind
110. Contentment of Mind
111. Thankfulness to God
112. Humility
113. Self Denial
114. Resignation to the Will of God
115. Patience
116. Christian Fortitude
117. Zeal
118. Wisdom and Prudence
119. Godly Sincerity
120. Spiritual Mindedness
121. Good Conscience
122. Perseverance of the Saints

(4) Christian and Church Relations

123. Gospel Church
124. Baptism
125. Duties of Church Members
126. Church Discipline
127. Church Officers, Particularly Pastors
128. Duties of Members Towards Their Pastor
129. Office of Deacon
130. Place and Time of Public Worship
131. Lord’s Table
132. Public Ministry of the Word
133. Public Hearing of the Word
134. Public Prayer
135. Lord’s Prayer
136. Singing Psalms

(5) Domestic and Governmental Relations

137. Duties of Husband and Wife
138. Duties of Parents and Children
139. Duties of Masters and Servants
140. Duties of Magistrates and Subjects

(6) Death and Afterlife

141. Death of the Body
142. Immortality of the Soul
143. Separate State of the Soul

(7) World to Come

144. Second Coming of Christ
145. Resurrection of the Body
146. Conflagration of the Universe
147. New Heaven and New Earth
148. Millennium—Reign of Christ
149. Last and General Judgment
150. Final State of Wicked in Hell
151. Final State of Saints in Heaven

By arranging the chapters of Gill’s Divinity in this order, I hope to demonstrate how each branch of theology fits together according to the Framework of Sovereign Grace.

Jared Smith

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John Gill’s “Body of Doctrinal and Practical Divinity” was originally published in four volumes.

The first two volumes were published in 1769, and were entitled, “A Body Of Doctrinal Divinity”. They were divided into seven “Books”, each of which dealt with a particular branch of doctrinal theology—Book 1: Of God, His Word, Names, Nature, Perfections And Persons; Book 2: Of The Acts And Works Of God; Book 3: Of The External Works Of God; Book 4: Of The Acts Of The Grace Of God Towards And Upon His Elect In Time; Book 5: Of The Grace Of Christ In His States Of Humiliation And Exaltation, And In The Offices Exercised By Him In Them; Book 6: Of The Blessings Of Grace, And The Doctrines Of It; Book 7: Of The Final State Of Men.”

The last two volumes were published in 1770, and were entitled, “A Body Of Practical Divinity”. They were divided into four “Books”, each of which dealt with a particular branche of practical theology—Book 1: Of The Worship Of God; Book 2: Of External Worship, As Public; Book 3: Of The Public Ordinances Of Divine Worship; Book 4: Of Private Worship, Or Various Duties, Domestic, Civil And Moral.” The last volume includes an Appendix with a dissertation concerning the baptism of Jewish Proselytes.

The order in which these “Books” and chapters appear are as follows:

“A Doctrinal Body Of Divinity”

Book 1: Of God, His Word, Names, Nature, Perfections And Persons

Chapter 1—Of The Being Of God
Chapter 2—Of The Holy Scriptures
Chapter 3—Of The Names Of God
Chapter 4—Of The Nature Of God
Chapter 5—Of The Attributes Of God In General, And Of His Immutability In Particular
Chapter 6—Of The Infinity Of God, His Omnipresence And Eternity
Chapter 7—Of The Life Of God
Chapter 8—Of The Omnipotence Of God
Chapter 9—Of The Omniscience Of God
Chapter 10—Of The Wisdom Of God
Chapter 11—Of The Will Of God, And The Sovereign Of It
Chapter 12—Of The Love Of God
Chapter 13—Of The Grace Of God
Chapter 14—Of The Mercy Of God
Chapter 15—Of The Longsuffering Of God
Chapter 16—Of The Goodness Of God
Chapter 17—Of The Anger And Wrath Of God
Chapter 18—Of The Hatred Of God
Chapter 19—Of The Joy Of God
Chapter 20—Of The Holiness Of God
Chapter 21—Of The Justice Or Righteousness Of God
Chapter 22—Of The Veracity Of God
Chapter 23—Of The Faithfulness Of God
Chapter 24—Of The Sufficiency And Perfection Of God
Chapter 25—Of The Blessedness Of God
Chapter 26—Of The Unity Of God
Chapter 27—Of A Plurality In The Godhead; Or, A Trinity Of Persons In The Unity Of The Divine Essence
Chapter 28—Of The Personal Relations; Or, Relative Properties Which Distinguish The Three Divine Persons In The Deity
Chapter 29—Of The Distinct Personality, And Deity Of The Father
Chapter 30—Of The Distinct Personality, And Deity Of The Son
Chapter 31—Of The Distinct Personality, And Deity Of The Holy Spirit

Book 2: Of The Acts And Works Of God

Chapter 1—Of The Internal Acts And Works Of God; And Of His Decrees In General
Chapter 2—Of The Special Decrees Of God, Relating To Rational Creatures, Angels, And Men; And Particularly Of Election
Chapter 3—Of The Decree Of Rejection, Or Some Angels, And Of Some Men
Chapter 4—Of The Eternal Union Of The Elect Of God Unto Him
Chapter 5—Of Other Eternal And Immanent Acts In God, Particularly Adoption And Justification
Chapter 6—Of The Everlasting Council Between The Three Divine Persons, Concerning The Salvation Of Men
Chapter 7—Of The Everlasting Covenant Of Grace, Between The Father, And The Son, And The Holy Spirit
Chapter 8—Of The Part Which The Father Takes In The Covenant
Chapter 9—Of The Part The Son Of God, The Second Person, Has Taken In The Covenant
Chapter 10—Of Christ, As The Covenant Head Of The Elect
Chapter 11—Of Christ, The Mediator Of The Covenant
Chapter 12—Of Christ, The Surety Of The Covenant
Chapter 13—Of Christ, The Testator Of The Covenant
Chapter 14—Of The Concern The Spirit Of God Has In The Covenant Of Grace
Chapter 15—Of The Properties Of The Covenant Of Grace
Chapter 16—Of The Complacency And Delight God Has In Himself, And The Divine Persons In Each Other, Before Any Creature Was Brought Into Being

Book 3: Of The External Works Of God

Chapter 1—Of Creation In General
Chapter 2—Of The Creation Of Angels
Chapter 3—Of The Creation Of Man
Chapter 4—Of The Providence Of God
Chapter 5—Of The Confirmation Of The Elect Angels, And The Fall Of The Non-Elect
Chapter 6—Of Of The Honor And Happiness Of Man In A State Of Innocency
Chapter 7—Of The Law Given To Adam, And The Covenant Made With Him In His State Of Innocence; In Which He Was The Federal Head And Representative Of His Posterity
Chapter 8—Of The Sin And Fall Of Our First Parents
Chapter 9—Of The Nature, Aggravations, And Sad Effects Of The Sin Of Man
Chapter 10—Of The Imputation Of Adam’s Sin To All His Posterity
Chapter 11—Of The Corruption Of Human Nature
Chapter 12—Of Actual Sins And Transgressions
Chapter 13—Of The Punishment Of Sin

Book 4: Of The Acts Of The Grace Of God Towards And Upon His Elect In Time

Chapter 1—Of The Manifestation And Administration Of The Covenant Of Grace
Chapter 2—Of The Exhibitions Of The Covenant Of Grace In The Patriarchal State
Chapter 3—Of The Exhibitions Of The Covenant Of Grace Under The Mosaic Dispensation
Chapter 4—Of The Covenant Of Grace, As Exhibited In The Times Of David, And The Succeeding Prophets, To The Coming Of Christ
Chapter 5—Of The Abrogation Of The Old Covenant, Or First Administration Of It, And The Introduction Of The New, Or Second Administration Of It
Chapter 6—Of The Law Of God
Chapter 7—Of The Gospel

Book 5: Of The Grace Of Christ In His States Of Humiliation And Exaltation, And In The Offices Exercised By Him In Them

Chapter 1—Of The Incarnation Of Christ
Chapter 2—Of Christ’s State Of Humiliation
Chapter 3—Of The Active Obedience Of Christ In His State Of Humiliation
Chapter 4—Of The Passive Obedience Of Christ, Or Of His Sufferings And Death
Chapter 5—Of The Burial Of Christ
Chapter 6—Of The Resurrection Of Christ From The Dead
Chapter 7—Of The Ascension Of Christ To Heaven
Chapter 8—Of The Session Of Christ At The Right Hand Of God
Chapter 9—Of The Prophetic Office Of Christ
Chapter 10—Of Priestly Office Of Christ
Chapter 11—Of The Intercession Of Christ
Chapter 12—Of Christ’s Blessing His People As A Priest
Chapter 13—Of The Kingly Office Of Christ
Chapter 14—Of The Spiritual Reign Of Christ

Book 6: Of The Blessings Of Grace, And The Doctrines Of It

Chapter 1—Of Redemption By Christ
Chapter 2—Of The Causes Of Redemption By Christ
Chapter 3—Of The Objects Of Redemption By Christ
Chapter 4—Of Those Texts Of Scripture Which Seem To Favor Universal Redemption
Chapter 5—Of The Satisfaction Of Christ
Chapter 6—Of Propitiation, Atonement, And Reconciliation, As Ascribed To Christ
Chapter 7—Of The Pardon Of Sin
Chapter 8—Of Justification
Chapter 9—Of Adoption
Chapter 10—Of The Liberty Of The Sons Of God
Chapter 11—Of Regeneration
Chapter 12—Of Effectual Calling
Chapter 13—Of Conversion
Chapter 14—Of Sanctification
Chapter 15—Of The Perseverance Of The Saints

Book 7: Of The Final State Of Men

Chapter 1—Of The Death Of The Body
Chapter 2—Of The Immortality Of The Soul
Chapter 3—Of The Separate State Of The Soul Until The Resurrection, And Its Employment In That State
Chapter 4—Of The Resurrection Of The Body
Chapter 5—Of The Second Coming Of Christ, And His Personal Appearance
Chapter 6—Of The Conflagration Of The Universe
Chapter 7—Of The New Heavens And Earth, And The Inhabitants Of Them
Chapter 8—Of The Millennium, Or Personal Reign Of Christ With The Saints On The New Earth A Thousand Years
Chapter 9—Of The Last And General Judgment
Chapter 10—Of The Final State Of The Wicked In Hell
Chapter 11—Of The Final State Of The Saints In Heaven

“A Practical Body Of Divinity”

Book 1: Of The Worship Of God

Chapter 1—Of The Worship Of God, Or Practical Religion Of The Object Of Worship
Chapter 2—Of Internal Worship, And Of Godliness The Groundwork Of It
Chapter 3—Of The Knowledge Of God
Chapter 4—Of Repentance Towards God
Chapter 5—Of The Fear Of God
Chapter 6—Of Faith In God And In Christ
Chapter 7—Of Trust And Confidence In God
Chapter 8—Of The Grace Of Hope
Chapter 9—Of The Grace Of Love
Chapter 10—Of Spiritual Joy
Chapter 11—Of Peace And Tranquility Of Mind
Chapter 12—Of Contentment Of Mind
Chapter 13—Of Thankfulness To God
Chapter 14—Of Humility
Chapter 15—Of Self-Denial
Chapter 16—Of Resignation To The Will Of God
Chapter 17—Of Patience
Chapter 18—Of Christian Fortitude
Chapter 19—Of Zeal
Chapter 20—Of Wisdom Or Prudence
Chapter 21—Of Godly Sincerity
Chapter 22—Of Spiritual Mindedness
Chapter 23—Of A Good Conscience
Chapter 24—Of Communion With God

Book 2: Of External Worship, As Public

Chapter 1—Of The Nature Of A Gospel Church, the Seat Of Public Worship
Chapter 2—Of The Duties Of The Member Of A Church To Each Other
Chapter 3—Of The Officers Of A Church, Particularly Pastors
Chapter 4—Of The Duties Of Members Of Churches To Their Pastors
Chapter 5—Of Of The Office Of Deacons
Chapter 6—Of The Discipline Of A Church Of Christ

Book 3: Of The Public Ordinances Of Divine Worship

Chapter 1—Of Baptism
Chapter 2—Of The Lord’s Supper
Chapter 3—Of The Public Ministry Of The Word
Chapter 4—Of The Public Hearing Of The Word
Chapter 5—Of Public Prayer
Chapter 6—Of The Lord’s Prayer
Chapter 7—Of Singing Psalms, As A Part Of Public Worship
Chapter 8—Of The Circumstances Of Public Worship, As To Place And Time

Book 4: Of Private Worship, Or Various Duties, Domestic, Civil And Moral

Chapter 1—Of The Respective Duties Of Husband And Wife
Chapter 2—Of The Respective Duties Of Parents And Children
Chapter 3—Of The Respective Duties Of Masters And Servants
Chapter 4—Of The Respective Duties Of Magistrates And Subjects
Chapter 5—Of Good Works In General
Chapter 6—A Compendium Or Summary Of The Decalogue Or Ten Commandments

Appendix: A Dissertation Concerning The Baptism Of Jewish Proselytes

Chapter 1—A Dissertation Concerning The Baptism Of Jewish Proselytes Of The Various Sorts Of Proselytes Among The Jews
Chapter 2—The Occasion Of This Dissertation
Chapter 3—The Proof Of The Baptism Of Jewish Proselytes Inquired Into; Whether There Is Any Proof Of It Before, At, Or Quickly After The Times Of John And Christ
Chapter 4—The Proof Of This Custom Only From The Talmuds And Talmudical Writers
Chapter 5—The Reasons Why Christian Baptism Is Not Founded On, And Taken From, The Pretended Jewish Baptism Of Israelites And Proselytes

The four volumes of Gill’s “Body of Doctrinal and Practical Divinity” contains a total of eleven “Books”, or, branches of doctrinal and practical theology, with one hundred fifty-six chapters combined.

Jared Smith

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In the year 1999, I became the pastor of Bethesda Chapel, a Strict and Particular Baptist church[1] in London, England. I was a Moderate-Calvinist for the first ten years of my ministry, although I refused to identify with the Reformed Baptist Movement.[2] In the year 2010, the congregation came under internal and external pressures to adopt a plural eldership.[3] I resisted this pressure for scriptural, historical and practical reasons, but at the time, I was not well informed on the issues. Three years later, I completed an exhaustive study on the subject, resulting in an unpublished book, in excess of a thousand pages. My initial resistance to the Reformed Baptists’ views on plural elderships was confirmed and staunchly defended.

It was at that time, early in my research of the origin and development of the Strict and Particular Baptist churches in England, that I came across a surprising fact. Bethesda Chapel was organized around Hyper-Calvinist views.[4] What is more, Bethesda Chapel belonged to a large circle of churches which subscribed to the same teachings. Needless to say, I was startled by this information, especially because I had been told by the Moderate-Calvinists that Hyper-Calvinism is a false gospel, embraced only by those who have lost all measure of common sense and biblical balance. But if that were true, then how could so many Strict and Particular Baptist churches have subscribed to those teachings? And, what exactly were those teachings which made them Hyper-Calvinists? Thus began my journey in grace, leading to deeper and sharper views of the gospel of Christ.

During the early part of this journey, I frequently got lost in the details of the issues, often ending with much confusion and frustration. I therefore changed my approach—first, discover God’s masterplan for the ages, then, consider how the details fit into that overview. I was familiar with the elaborate charts of Dispensationalism drawn up by men such as Scofield and Larkin. Although I did not agree with that framework of history and doctrine, I appreciated the way those teachings were illustrated. I was also familiar with the intricate diagrams of Covenantalism drawn up by men such as Perkins and Bunyan. Although I did agree with this framework of history and doctrine, it did not set out the teachings in the exact way I understood them. I therefore began the lengthy process of drawing up my own diagrams, none of which provided a sufficient or accurate overview of the gospel. Eventually, while studying the scriptures, I was captured by the analogy of a potter and the clay. I wondered whether this picture could serve as an overview of God’s masterplan. I gathered together all scriptural references to the analogy, after which two texts stood out with distinction—Romans 9 and 2 Timothy 2. Within minutes, a diagram of the potter and the clay took shape, with every word of both texts fitting perfectly together in what appeared to illustrate the grand scheme of God’s purpose in creation and redemption. Having secured this basic overview of history and theology, I returned to the detailed issues of sovereign grace. To my delight, every branch of theology, together with every event of history, fit perfectly together. Only then did I begin a careful study of John Gill’s “Doctrinal and Practical Body of Divinity”. It was a joy to discover the close alignment between the diagram and Gill’s teachings. This diagram became known as the Framework of Sovereign Grace.[5]

By the year 2014, I fully embraced the viewpoints of Hyper-Calvinism, using as a teaching tool the Framework of Sovereign Grace for my private and public ministries. Such was my passion to help others on their journey with the Lord, that I began the slow and tedious project of modernizing each chapter of Gill’s Divinity. Over the next four years, I completed a large portion of this work. However, in 2018 the project came to a grinding halt. This was largely due to a season of discouragement, having not received much support from peers or elder ministers. It was around that time I spoke with Don Fortner[6] regarding an unrelated matter. In the course of the conversation, I made an indirect reference to the work I was undertaking with Gill’s writings. Bro Fortner explained he had been asked by a publisher, several years prior, to do a similar project on Gill’s Divinity, but that he declined the request for three reasons. First, tampering with Gill’s writings will necessarily change his intended meaning—it is best to leave the reader to interpret the original text; Second, it is impossible for an editor to modernize Gill without his own prejudices standing in the way—it is best to let Gill represent himself in his own words; Third, a gospel preacher should focus on communicating his own convictions, rather than echoing that of others—people want to know what you (the living preacher before them) believes. Bro Fortner suggested it is far better to present to others my view of the gospel, rather than rewriting the works of Gill.

As one might imagine, my initial feeling to Bro Fortner’s feedback was not that of encouragement. Had my time and effort for four years been in vain? I sat on Bro Fortner’s counsel for several months, not knowing what I should do next. Around that time, I was conversing with another preacher on some of Gill’s teachings. We took different views on Gill’s position. However, having already meticulously examined and rewritten every line of Gill’s chapter on the subject, I was well informed on his point of view. I explained this in some detail, ending with my friend conceding the issue. It was then I realized, the time and effort given to modernizing Gill’s Divinity was intended by the Lord to be a benefit to me, rather than to others. The last four years of work was not in vain. Like a warm blanket on a cold night, there was a peace that ran over my soul which to this day remains a stay and comfort. Bro Fortner was correct! I would not meddle with Gill’s writings, unless it be strictly for personal use.

Four years later, in the year 2022, I began teaching a series of studies on Bible Doctrine. The first twenty to thirty sessions are preliminary in nature, dealing with the significance of systematic theology, establishing definitions for commonly used labels and setting forth a historic backdrop of the Strict and Particular Baptists. After these preliminary studies are finished, I will begin examining the major branches of theology. As a supplement to these teachings, I will be aligning the chapters of Gill’s Divinity with my own studies on those topics. Not only will this provide a helpful resource to venture deeper into the various branches of the gospel, but it can also serve as a guide to the teachings of Gill. I will be showing how each of Gill’s chapters fit within the Framework of Sovereign Grace. In this way, I hope to honor Bro Fortner’s counsel—to present my view of the gospel, while promoting Gill’s Body of Divinity, without making changes to his writings.

If the Lord is pleased to make any part of my gospel labor profitable to the souls of His people, then I will find the utmost joy in knowing my work in the Lord is not in vain.

Jared Smith

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[1] Bethesda Chapel, Kensington Place, organized in 1866. In the early 1870’s, the first pastor of the church (David Crumpton) spearheaded the inception of the Metropolitan Association of Strict Baptist Churches. Between the 1870’s and the 1950’s, virtually all of the churches belonging to the Association were Hyper-Calvinists. I believe William Styles was the Secretary of this Association in the latter part of the 19th century. In his “Guide to Church Fellowship”, he points out on pages 78,79, “Duty-faith is the doctrine that it is the duty of natural men to exercise spiritual Faith in the Lord Jesus, and so to obtain salvation. Its emphatic denial is a distinguishing feature of the Strict and Particular section of the Baptist denomination.”
[2] Dr. Kenneth Dix (Baptist Historian) traced the Reformed Baptist Movement to the 1950’s, with the influences of such men as Ian Murray, Sidney Norton and Erroll Hulse. Together with the publications of the Banner of Truth Magazine (Est 1955) and Reformation Today (Est 1970), Baptist churches were Presbyterianized and the “Hyper” elements of Calvinism repressed.
The Reformed Baptists eventually commandeered the Strict and Particular Baptist chapels, revising their…

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A Body Of Doctrinal And Practical Divinity
Or,
A System Of Practical Truths Deduced From The Sacred Scriptures
By John Gill
1815

Preface

John Gill was born in Kettering, Northamptonshire, England, on November 23rd, 1697. At age 12, he was converted to Christ under the preaching ministry of William Wallis. However, he waited six years before agreeing to be baptized, after which he became a member of his local church. At the age of 23, he was inducted as pastor of the Strict and Particular Baptist Horselydown church, the office of which he held until his death on October 14th, 1771. His 50 year pastoral ministry was accompanied by a prolific written ministry. He was the first Baptist to write an exhaustive theological treatise, which remains the definitive statement on Baptist doctrine to date.

Particular Baptist history has been treated in modern times, in much the same way present-day journalists report the news—it is skewed according to one’s prejudicial viewpoint. I am old enough to remember a time when ethical standards required historians and journalists to report the facts, without bias or bigotry. Objectivity is no longer the goal, leaving us with fake news and fake history.

Here is a case in point. Moderate-Calvinists (particularly, the Reformed Baptists) view Particular Baptist history as a single stream of Moderate-Calvinism to which the majority of churches belonged. Every now again, a small number of these churches would fall outside the mainstream, chasing after “hyper” views of Calvinism. Hyper-Calvinism, therefore, is unorthodox in teaching, and does not directly share in the mainstream heritage of the Particular Baptists.

As you can see, by framing the history in this form, the Moderate-Calvinists are able to deny the Hyper-Calvinists a legitimate existence among the Particular Baptists, thereby giving themselves the high ground when denouncing Hyper-Calvinism as a false gospel. It should be evident to every objective researcher, that if a historian is driven by a bias to undermine the views of others, then he/she is a partisan and disingenuous reporter. A historian should not seek to denigrate and/or deny the existence of other groups, in an effort to defend his/her own doctrinal convictions. Yet this tends to be the modus operandi of the Moderate-Calvinists.

What does an unbiased and objective view of Particular Baptist history look like?

The origin of the Particular Baptists in England dates back to the early 17th century. There is manifold evidence the churches of that time were widely split on many issues, including that of moderate and hyper views of Calvinism. Of course, at that time, these issues had not yet been refined by the controversies, and therefore no clearcut definitions established. This changed in 1707, when a Congregational minister named Joseph Hussey published a book against free offers of the gospel. It is naive to believe Hussey invented this view, or that he was the only man to hold the view at the time of his publication. As is the case today, views generally tend to be held by others before someone articulates them in writing. It is interesting to note, that when Hussey published his book, there was a ready people among the Particular Baptist churches who had ears to hear and eyes to see the scripturalness of that position. Sixty-two years later, John Gill published his Doctrinal Body of Divinity in 1769, which not only affirmed the teachings of Hussey on the matter, but also set those teachings within an iron-clad framework of Covenant Theology. Suddenly, a clear line was drawn among the Particular Baptist churches. A large number of congregations subscribed to Gill’s view, and became known as Hyper-Calvinists, or Gillites. As for the other congregations, a Baptist preacher named Andrew Fuller articulated their views in a book entitled, “The Gospel Worthy Of All Acceptation”, published in 1785. These churches became known as Moderate-Calvinists, or Fullerites. Far from there being a single stream of Particular Baptist churches embracing Moderate-Calvinism, there were two mainstreams, one subscribing to high views of grace, the other to moderate views of grace. However, it wasn’t until the mid 18th century that these doctrinal differences were clearly defined in the writings of John Gill and Andrew Fuller.

My dear friends, this is an unbiased and objective view of Particular Baptist history. Both groups of Calvinists have existed side by side from the beginning. There is no need to revise history in order to gain the high ground over one or the other of these groups. Let us recognize the legitimacy of both, having their roots among the Particular Baptists of the 17th century, and from this historic standpoint, discuss the doctrinal differences between them. This, of course, brings us to John Gill’s Body of Divinity. It is my hope and prayer the teachings of Gill will be examined with an unbiased mind and unprejudiced heart, judging for one’s self, in the light of the scriptures, whether those things be true or false.[1]

“Let every [person] be fully persuaded in [his/her] own mind.”

Jared Smith

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The label “Hyper-Calvinist” has a historic and theological meaning, revolving around three controversial issues:
(1) Duty Faith—Arminians believe it is the saving and moral duty of the unregenerate to believe on Christ to the saving of their souls; Moderate-Calvinists believe it is the moral duty of the unregenerate to believe on Christ to the saving of their souls; Hyper-Calvinists believe only those who have been regenerated by the Spirit of God, and therefore brought experientially under the authority of the covenant of grace, have a saving and moral duty to believe on Christ to the saving of their souls.
(2) Free Offer—Arminians and some Moderate-Calvinists believe since it is the saving/moral duty of the unregenerate to believe on Christ to the saving of their souls, the gospel must be freely offered to all sinners in order to give them the opportunity to accept God’s gift unto salvation; other Moderate-Calvinists replace the notion of a free offer with that of a divine command (or gospel call) to savingly believe and repent; Hyper-Calvinists believe since it is the saving/moral duty of the regenerate to believe on Christ to the saving of their souls, so the gospel should be freely and fully preached to all sinners, and those who have ears to hear will hear.
(3) Believer’s Rule of Conduct—Arminians and Moderate-Calvinists believe the regenerate’s rule of conduct is either the heart law under the authority of the covenant of works, or the moral law (ten commandments) under the authority of the Mosaic covenant; Hyper-Calvinists believe the regenerate’s rule of conduct is the gospel law under the authority of the covenant of grace.
The label “Hyper-Calvinism” also has a modern and erroneous meaning. The Arminians and Moderate-Calvinists exchange the aforementioned definitions for a set of self deductions. They argue—if Hyper-Calvinists do not believe saving faith is the duty of unregenerate sinners, this means they don’t believe faith is necessary in salvation (or that unbelief is a sin); if Hyper-Calvinists do not believe in the free offer of the gospel, then they do not nurture a love for souls or preach the gospel to unbelievers; if Hyper-Calvinists do not believe the moral law (ten commandments) is the rule for a believer’s conduct, then they are Antinomians. Although none of these deductions are true, yet they are the definitions Arminians and Moderate-Calvinists attach to Hyper-Calvinism.
If one wishes to know what a Hyper-Calvinist believes, it is a wise policy to speak with a Hyper-Calvinist.

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