Grace and nature in the theology of John Gill (1697-1771)
John Gill (1697-1771), one of the greatest Baptist theologians, made a tremendous contribution to the establishment, education, and development of the Particular Baptists and Calvinistic Independents in his times. He stood firmly in the Reformed orthodox tradition in an age of theological turmoil. Despite such an enormous contribution, history, however, shows that he has been criticised as both deviating from the Reformed tradition and as a hinderer of the 'possible' growth of the Particular Baptists. He has been always recognised as a High or Hyper-Calvinist in a pejorative way. The crux of this evaluation or criticism is the claim that he put such extreme stress on the sovereign grace of God to the extent that human responsibility is limited or even eliminated, particularly with reference to salvation and evangelical piety. This criticism, however, has a weakness in that Gill has been always interpreted and criticised from an evangelistic perspective. As a result, all other significant doctrinal issues have been overshadowed. In particular, Gill's understanding of theology, Scripture, God, creation, and providence that shaped his concepts of salvation and evangelism, has been almost untouched. In addition, this criticism has distracted people from looking at Gill in the Reformed tradition out of which he emerged. This thesis raises a fundamental question concerning the criticism of Gill as a High or Hyper-Calvinist, in relation to the crucial question of the relationship between the sovereign grace of God and human responsibility. It does not directly deal with Gill's ideas of salvation and evangelism. Instead, it deals with more fundamental issues such as Gill's theological development and tradition, and the understanding of theology, Scripture, God, creation and providence that shaped his ideas of salvation and evangelism. In this process, we seek to prove that Gill maintained the typical Reformed balance between the sovereign grace of God and human responsibility, or between grace and nature, throughout his whole theological system. Finally, it identifies Gill as a Reformed orthodox theologian rather than as a High or Hyper-Calvinist.