George Ella, Biographical Sketches

One of the most successful Baptist contenders for the truth in the 18th century was John Gill (1697-1771) , a London pastor who was second to none in the kingdom for scholarly learning and prowess as a preacher. Sadly Gill has faded from the reading of most evangelicals, owing to the fact that his successors held to a radically different view of the gospel. Now he is being rediscovered as the number of publications dealing with him over the last few years show . Something, however, is going seriously wrong. Though contemporary American works such as Thomas J. Nettle’s By His Grace and for His Glory and Timothy George’s essay on Gill in Baptist Theologians show clearly that Gill was no Hyper-Calvinist but a great Reformed 18th century defender of orthodoxy and Baptist apologist, he is being displayed in modern British evangelical circles as a Hyper-Calvinist heretic with not an ounce of evangelical acumen in him. Jack Hoad in his book, The Baptist, maintains that “Dr John Gill was the prince of the hypercalvinistic preachers”, calling those Hyper-Calvinists whom he believes adopt “a supralapsarian view that God`s decree of election preceded his decree to permit the Fall of man.” Hoad is convinced that it was Gill’s influence ‘which was a major factor in the retention of a High Calvinist theology’ in the Baptist churches.

Peter Naylor, in his history of the Particular-cum-Strict Baptist churches entitled Picking Up a Pin For the Lord, equates Hyper-Calvinism with High-Calvinism which he defines, following Andrew Fuller, as being “more Calvinistic than Calvin himself”. Of this teaching he says:

‘High Calvinism’ was a theological system which would appear to have co-ordinated two denials. First, there was the denial that God calls all who hear about Christ to believe in him; no man is obliged as a matter of duty to trust in Christ as a condition of salvation. This denial applied to both the…

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The witness and teaching of Dr John Gill (1697-1771) so impressed his friends Augustus Toplady and James Hervey that they maintained his work would still be of great importance to future generations. This also became the conviction of John Rippon (1750-1836) and Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892), Gill’s more well-known successors to his pastorate, but it was also the testimony of those who served for shorter periods at Carter Lane such as John Martin, Benjamin Francis and John Fawcett. The witness of these faithful men of God has helped point generations to Gill’s works which have subsequently enriched their lives.

The present evangelical establishment is apparently striving to unite Calvinism with Arminianism, Baxterism and worse in an effort to promotean ecumenical doctrinal mish-mash which will suit all sides. Symptomatic of this is the new fashion of stressing the universality of the atonement, the belief that Christ died in vain for certain lost sinners, the myth that the covenant of works has been annulled for sinners, a rejection of preaching the law as a preparation for the work of grace and the idea that salvation comes through repentance and faith as human agencies in regeneration. This is all backed up by the nonsensical theory that the Father and Son represent paradoxical modes in the unity of the Godhead. Such a deviation from the witness of the Bible has resulted in the clear teaching of Particular Baptist John Gill being rejected for the syncretism of Andrew Fuller who succeeded in combining Arminianism Baxterism, Latitudinarianism and Socinianism and presenting it as The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation.

A by-product of this U-turn in modern evangelical thinking is a critical reassessment of the writings of John Gill and a re-interpretation of the works of those who have referred to them in an apparently positive way in the past. Typical of such revisionism, and following on a series of similar re-constructions concerning the life and writings of William Huntington, is the article entitled John Gill and C. H. Spurgeon in Issue 386 of the Banner of Truth magazine authored by the Rev. Iain Murray. In this essay, an ominous foretaste of a larger work on Hyper-Calvinism to follow, Iain Murray suggests that Spurgeon is ‘over generous to Gill’ and that Rippon is too…

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So often when speaking about the work of the Holy Spirit which infused the churches with new life in the 18th century, mention is made of Anglican stalwarts such as Whitefield, Hervey, Toplady and Romaine. The works of these men through God’s sovereign grace cannot be praised enough but the fact that recent biographers have highlighted their activities has tended to give the impression that other denominations, such as the Baptists, were quite inactive during this period. This is by no means the case as the testimony of John Gill shows.

John Gill was born in 1697 in the town of Kettering and became a member of the Particular Baptist church there before being called to the pastorate at Goat Yard Chapel, Horselydown, London. This church, now known as the Metropolitan Tabernacle, is famous in Baptist history for being pastored by such prominent men as Benjamin Keach, Benjamin Stinton, John Rippon and Charles H. Spurgeon besides Gill.

When Gill took over the Goat Yard church, its doctrines and methods of church government were far from Biblical. Too much emphasis was placed on the supervisory rights of extra-church affiliations which robbed local churches of their sovereignty. An association of ministers who met regularly at a Coffee House, of all places, had set themselves up as joint-elders of the Particular Baptist churches in London claiming the sole right to ordain pastors and deacons. Indeed, an influential minority in the churches maintained that they had no rights of their own regarding the…

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The Ministry of Septimus Sears (1819-1877) as Seen By his Congregation and Challenged by David Gay

Septimus Sears, renowned in England as one of the country’s most outstanding pastors and preachers, started his ministry at the age of 20 before taking over Clifton Strict Baptist Church, Bedfordshire which he shepherded from 1842 to his death in 1877. Sears suffered all his life from severe heart trouble and was burdened by long periods of paralysis and typhus. His neck bones were so deformed that he had to wear an iron collar to support his head. Nevertheless, he preached three times on the Lord’s Day and often during the week. He edited two Christian magazines, The Little Gleaner and The Sower, and published many sermons besides a number of popular hymnbooks and poetical works. The invalid pastor-poet established a school for poor children, founded organisations to care for orphans and the needy and erected homes for widows and the aged. He believed that gospel witness should be social and practical as well as spiritual. His labours were immense in the Lord and certainly not in vain.

All gospel-minded Christians will thus profit from reading the following testimony to Sears’ preaching penned by his converts, congregation and friends.[1. Memoir of the Life and Labours of the Late Septimus Sears] They say his preaching included: “the infinite and inflexible justice of God in His…

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Part Two: The Mission Prospers

The mission at Serampore prospered and spread. Carey was given the most prominent building in the city for the church in which he preached for the next thirty-four years. The town of Serampore, too, prospered as it proved an asylum of peace for fugitives from the Americo-Franco-British wars and it persuaded many wealthy investors to settle there. More missionaries were urgently needed as Brunsdon soon died of a liver complaint. Fountain, who was doing pioneer work at Dinapoor, also died after a short illness. Thomas rejoined the mission but became insane and soon died.

The missionaries were able to purchase a very large house in the middle of the town with two acres of garden from the Governor’s nephew for £800. In no time, Ward had set up his press, sufficient paper was at hand and he began to print the Bengali Bible. Due to the generosity of the Danish King, the missionaries were able to add a school, a college, a hostel and private houses so that within a few years, the buildings alone of the mission station covered five acres. These were set in several acres of botanical gardens. Soon after settling in Serampore, Carey realised what a godsend Ward and Marshman were. He told the Society…

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My reason for publishing this account of William Carey and his Indian mission on my website.

On 18-21 February, 2010 a conference will be held at Muscle Shoals, Alabama under the theme ‘The Quagmire of Hyper-Calvinism’. The key speaker will be Dr. Michael Haykin who will lecture on Andrew Fuller as a missionary pioneer. The myth that Andrew Fuller pioneered a missionary movement is superstitiously believed by Dr. Haykin and his circle but the Baptist Missionary Society Fuller helped to found came at the rear end of a long line of Christian missionary organisations whether church based or, like the BMS, a para-church movement. Andrew Fuller was not the instigator of this missionary society but William Carey who urged the Baptists to act as other churches and nations had been acting for centuries. When Carey reached India, he had more support from Continental missionary societies and missionary minded friends from Scandinavia and Germany than from the Baptist Missionary Society which Fuller re-structured it Carey’s absence. Indeed, Carey founded his mission in a Danish, not British Protectorate. So fierce was Fuller’s and later Ryland Junior’s chauvinistic, political interference in the Indian Mission that Carey had to complain that Fuller’s influence was a ‘killing’ influence and that Ryland’s letters to the mission were ‘evil’. So, too, the myth that the BMS supported the…

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A number of modern writers who preach common-grace and duty-faith as redemptive means in evangelisation, view John Collet Ryland as a Hyper-Calvinist. Such a person, a recent BOT article tells us, does not appeal to sinners, “directly encouraging them to trust him (Christ), and appealing to them to do so now.” Obviously, given such criteria, Ryland’s critics know nothing of his extensive gospel ministry or are deliberately introducing a new conception of what ‘directly encouraging sinners’ means. Most of their ‘encouragement’ is found in their slogan ‘God’s provisions and man’s agency’ which stresses the need for man to use all his supposed natural abilities and duties to grasp out and take God’s provisions in Christ. Ryland affirmed that salvation was all of grace. Only then could he preach to sinners that salvation was truly there for all who repented and turned to Christ. Otherwise there would be no gospel for any man. The legalism of the duty-faith protagonists was thus obnoxious to him. Referring to the false doctrine introduced by Andrew Fuller and the two Robert Halls and supported by his son, Ryland said, “The devil threw out an empty barrel for them to roll about, while they ought to have been drinking the wine of the kingdom. That old dog, lying in the dark, has drawn off many good men to whip syllabub, and to sift quiddities, under pretence of zeal for the truth.” Sadly, this empty barrel-rolling and the verbal froth whipped up by redefining theological basics and making grace law-bound has become the favourite game of nominal evangelicals in the Reformed camp.

As a preacher, pioneer Baptist John Collet Ryland, according to his colleague and biographer William Newman (1773-1835) was ‘a star of the first magnitude’. Converted under Benjamin Beddome in revival days, on taking over a…

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In 1692, New England was in a tumult. Within a matter of weeks no less than 150 suspects had been charged with witchcraft and in the Massachusetts colony frightened men women and children believed that the devil was on the loose. The epicentre of this wave of evil which was to alienate children from their parents, churches from their pastors, servants from their masters and even wives from their husbands was the small community of Salem several hours ride on horseback from Boston.

Salem, though of very insignificant size, has received an over-proportioned importance in American ‘popular’ history as an example of how the Puritans strove to purge a town of its sin by burning its evil-doers[1. There were no burnings in Salem. The numerous novels and films dealing with these ‘burnings’ are pure flights of the imagination.]. To a balanced Christian mind, Salem ought rather to be an example of how superstition and lack of spiritual insight can so blind secular authorities and social critics that they see the very men who were gifted by God to…

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