“Sacraments had provoked controversy among Christians ever since Paul rebuked the church at Corinth for irregularities at the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11:20-34). The rudiments of medieval baptismal doctrine emerged in the course of contention between Augustine and the Donatists in the early fifth century. Roman eucharistic doctrine was shaped by the ninth-century that erupted when Radbertus of Cobie in France affirmed a sacramental transmutation producing the natural body and blood of Christ in the Lord’s Supper. In the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215 the Church decided officially that the substance of the bread and wine was transmuted into the body and blood of Christ, but neither this definition of transubstantiation nor explanations of the seven sacraments at the Council of Florence in 1439 could put an end to controversy. Fifteenth-century theologians continued earlier disputes between the Dominicans, who argued that sacraments themselves contained and conveyed grace, and the Franciscans, who said that God conferred grace directly whenever the sacraments were administered. Sacramental controversy was no innovation of the sixteenth-century reformers.” E. Brooks Holifield, The Covenant Sealed: The Development of Puritan Sacramental Theology in Old and New England, 1570-1720
For a sound, consistent, scriptural exposition of the word of God, no commentary, we believe, in any language can be compared with Dr. Gill’s. There may be commentaries on individual books of Scripture, which may surpass Dr. Gill’s in depth of research and fullness of exposition: and the great work from which Poole compiled his Synopsis may be more suitable to scholars and divines, as bringing together into one focus all the learning of those eminent men who in the 16th century devoted days and nights to the study and interpretation of the word of God. But for English readers there is no commentary equal to Dr. Gill’s. His alone of all we have seen is based upon consistent, harmonious views of divine truth, without turning aside to the right hand or the left. It is said of the late Mr. Simeon, of Cambridge, that his plan of preaching was, if he had what is called an Arminian text, to preach from it Arminianism, and if he took a Calvinistic text, to preach from it Calvinism. Not so Dr. Gill. He knew nothing about Arminian texts, or Arminian interpretations. He believed that the Scripture, as an inspired revelation from God, must be harmonious and consistent with itself, and that no two passages could so contradict each other as the doctrines of free will contradict the doctrines of grace. The exhortation of the apostle is, “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith.” (Rom. 12:6.) This apostolic rule was closely followed by Dr. Gill. “The proportion,” or as the word literally means, “analogy of faith,” was his rule and guide in interpreting the Scripture; and, therefore, as all his explanations were modeled according to the beautiful proportions of divine truth as received by faith, so every view disproportionate to the same harmonious plan was rejected by him as God-dishonoring, inconsistent, and contradictory. It is this sound, consistent, harmonious interpretation of divine truth which has stamped a peculiar weight and value on Dr. Gill’s Commentary, such as no other exposition of the whole Scripture possesses.
1. An interpreter of the word of God should have a deep and well-grounded knowledge of the languages in which the Scriptures were originally written. This Dr. Gill undoubtedly possessed. His knowledge of Hebrew, in particular, was deep and accurate, and his acquaintance with the Rabbinical writers, that is, the Jewish expositors of the Old Testament, was nearly unparalleled. Indeed, he has almost overlaid his Commentary too much with his vast and almost cumbrous Rabbinical learning, and seems to have given it more place and attached to it more value than it really deserves.
2. Another striking and admirable feature of this Commentary is, the condensation of thought and expression throughout. Dr. Gill possessed a rare and valuable gift,—that of packing. He will sometimes give four or five explanations of a difficult passage; but his words are so few and well chosen, and the meaning so condensed, that he will pack in three or four lines what most writers would swell to half a page, and then not be half so full, clear, or determinate. His Commentary has thus become full of ideas and germs of thought, which, by-the-bye, has made it such a storehouse for parsonic thieves; for the Doctor has in half a dozen lines furnished many a sermon with all the ideas it ever had worth a straw, and has given the two or three grains of gold which, under the pulpit hammer, have been beaten out to last an hour.
3. Another striking feature, in our judgment, of this admirable Commentary is the sound sense and great fairness of interpretation which pervade it. Dr. Gill possessed that priceless gift, a sound, sober mind. His judgment in divine things was not only clear and decisive, but eminently characterized by solidity and sobriety. This preserved him from all wild enthusiastic flights of imagination, as well as from that strong temptation of experimental writers and preachers,—fanciful interpretation. He never runs a figure out of breath, nor hunts a type to death; nor does he find deep mysteries in “nine and twenty knives,” or Satan bestriding the old man of sin in Balaam and his donkey.
4. The fullness of the Commentary is another noticeable feature in Dr. Gill’s Exposition. Most commentators skip over all the difficult passages. They bring you very nicely and comfortably over all the smooth ground; but just as you come to the marsh and the bog, where a few stepping stones and a friendly hand to help you over them would be acceptable, where is your companion? Gone. Lost himself, perhaps, in the bog; at any rate, not at hand to render any help. And where are the stepping stones he promised to put down? There is hardly one to be seen; or, if there be an attempt at any, they are too small, few, or wide apart to be of the least service. To one who has any insight into the word of truth, how empty, meager, and unsatisfactory are nearly all commentaries. The really difficult passages are skipped over, or by confused attempts at explanation made more difficult than before. Their views of doctrine are confused or contradictory. The sweet vein of experience in the word is never touched upon or brought to light; and even the letter of truth is garbled and mangled, or watered and diluted, until it is made to mean just nothing at all, or the very opposite of the sacred writer’s meaning. As dry as a chip, and as hard, stale, and tasteless as a forgotten crust in a corner, these miserable and abortive attempts at opening up the sacred word of God, instead of feeding you with honey out of the rock, will drain away every drop of life and feeling out of your soul, and leave you as barren and empty as if you had been attending a banter’s camp meeting, or hearing a trial sermon of a Cheshunt student as fresh from his theological tutor’s hand as his new gown. With all their learning, and with all their labor, they are as destitute of dew as the mountains of Gilboa; of life, as the Dead Sea; of unction and savor, as the shoes of the Gibeonites; and of power and profit as the rocks of Sinai.
5. There is at times a savor and sweetness in the Commentary of Dr. Gill which forms a striking contrast to these heaps of dead leaves. And this gives the crowning value to his exposition of the Scriptures.
By J. C. Philpot
“Election secures every minister in his station, and all the success that shall attend his labours. It has been observed that those, who have been the most forward at lampooning me for an Antinomian, have been the greatest novices in divinity; and, while they have been contending for the law as the only rule of life, they have preached the greatest confusion, discovered the greatest ignorance of the nature of the law, and have evidently appeared in the strongest bondage: “He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity;” he that binds grievous burdens on other men’s shoulders goes a sure way to load his own back.
No wonder that legions are flocking back to Sinai; it is a proof that the law is not dead to them, nor they to it; they begun in the Spirit before they had been killed by the letter. Their first husband, it is to be feared, is not dead, therefore they are not loosed from that law: and being adulteresses, the first husband has taken them up and brought them back, not being loosed from their old bond of wedlock, nor favoured with a writing of divorcement; therefore, as a wife of the first covenant, the eloped Lo-ruhamah is brought back, Hos. 1:6; Hos. 2-1,2; but Hephzibah, the Lord’s delight, whom He has espoused to Himself, if she goes back, will return again to her first husband, saying, It was better with me then than it is now.
Consider, Sir, and see if there be anything that you want to make you holy or happy that does not come from the law of the Spirit of life; and whether any of these things come from the law of works; whether mercy, grace, hope, or help comes from that quarter: and take heed that you do not jumble these two covenants together. One is a covenant of works, the other of grace; one is the law of death, the other the law of life; bond children are under the law; free children are under grace; they that are under grace are under the blessing, those under the law are under the curse; one are the heirs of promise, the other heirs of wrath; one are children of God, the other are children of the devil. The free-born children receive the inheritance freely, the bond children work to earn it. “The gift of God is eternal life,” “the wages of sin is death.” And in order to clear the doctrine from the charge of Antinomianism, I will inquire what this law of the Spirit of life produces, for we are told that the gospel brings forth fruit, Col. 1:6. Paul says, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance, against such there is no law.”
Now let us see what the law of the wise, which Solomon calls a fountain of life, produces. I think we shall find the same things springing from this fountain as comes from Paul’s law of the Spirit: Solomon says wisdom loves them that love her; and that love is better than a house full of sacrifices; and that, “if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be condemned.”
Here is what Paul calls the first fruit of the Spirit, the next is joy; “the heart knoweth his own bitterness, and a stranger doth not intermeddle with his joy.” Peace; “wisdom’s ways are pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.” Longsuffering; “the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.” Gentleness; “be not hasty to go out of his sight; stand not in the evil thing.” Goodness; “the upright shall have good things in possession.” Faith; “in the fear of the Lord is strong confidence, and His children shall have a place of refuge.” Meekness; “Surely he scorneth the scorners, but he giveth grace to the lowly.” Temperance; “the righteous eateth to the satisfying of his soul.” Thus the fruits of Paul’s law of the Spirit are the same as those that spring from Solomon’s law of the wise, which he calls a fountain of life: and remember the gospel is called the ministration of the Spirit, and the law is the ministration of the letter; “the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life.” Solomon’s fountain of life is supplied from God in covenant, who tells us that all his springs are in Zion; therefore it is vain to expect help from Sinai. The law of the Spirit will remain what it is, notwithstanding men’s legality; and the ministration of the letter will remain what it is, notwithstanding man’s faith and love, one will ever give life, and the other will ever give death: the one will ever produce freedom, and the other will ever gender to bondage.” – William Huntington
“The scheme of some persons, if I apprehend it right, is this, that Christ came into this world, to relax the old law of works, and to mitigate and abate the severities of it, and to introduce a new law, a gospel law, a law of milder terms, a remedial law, the terms and conditions of which, are faith, repentance, and sincere obedience, which though imperfect, is through Christ and for his sake accepted of, in the room of a perfect righteousness. The whole of which scheme is entirely false. For, in the first place, Christ came not into the world, either to destroy, or relax the law of God, but to fulfill it, which he did completely, by his active and passive obedience to it.
He fulfilled every jot and tittle of the perceptive part of the law, which required a holy nature and perfect obedience, both which were found in him. He bore the whole penalty of the law, in the room and stead of his people, all its exactions, requirements and demands were answered by him; all its severities were executed on him; he was not spared or abated any thing, and hereby he magnified the law, and made it honorable.
He indeed freed his people from the curse and condemnation of it; but has not either abolished or relaxed it, but keeps it in his own hands as a rule of life and conversation to them, and has left it in its full mandatory, cursing and damning power over others without the least mitigation, relaxation, or infringement of it. Moreover the gospel is no new law, it: is no law at all, there is nothing in it that looks like a law, it is called (Acts 20:24), The gospel of the grace of God; because it is a discovery of the exceeding riches of God’s grace in his kindness to lost man, through Jesus Christ It is called the gospel of our salvation, because it reveals the Savior, it gives an account of his person, office, and grace, and of the great salvation he has wrought out; and points out the persons who shall share in it, and be everlasting possessors of it, as the word euggelion itself translated, gospel, signifies good news, or glad tidings. Now what is there either in the name, or thing, that looks like a law.
The gospel is no other than a pure promise, a free declaration of peace and pardon, righteousness, life, and salvation to poor sinners by Jesus Christ. The sum and substance of it is, that this is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners (1 Tim. 1:15).” – John Gill
“If there be any doctrine too difficult for a child, it is rather the fault of the teacher’s conception of it than of the child’s power to receive it, provided that child be really converted to God. It is ours to make doctrine simple; this is to be a main part of our work. Teach the little ones the whole truth and nothing but the truth; for instruction is the great want of the child’s nature. A child has not only to live as you and I have, but also to grow; hence he has double need of food.”
From Charles Spurgeon’s work, Come Ye Children: A Book for Parents and Teachers on the Christian Training of Children
Other Resources on godly parenting by Spurgeon:
Spiritual Parenting (paperback)
Oh yeah! If you love Bavinck and Engelsma give this interesting video a listen.
“The afflictions of God’s people, whether personal or domestic, do not affect their covenant interest. That remains always the same; David’s afflictions were many; remember David and all his afflictions (Ps. 132:1). The phrase denotes his afflictions were not few , but many, very many. Many are the afflictions of the righteous (Ps. 34:19); but these do not at all affect their covenant interest…”
Gill reminds us that in and through our afflictions we find God’s loving hand. We are tested and tried, reproved and corrected all because of God’s love toward us in Christ who is our surety in the covenant.
“For such whom the Lord loves he rebukes and chastens, and scourges every son whom he receives; whom he receives into covenant, and into covenant as a son of his. He often afflicts them; but then it is when it is necessary he should deal with them. Afflictions are fruits of the covenant of grace.”
“…my loving-kindness will I not utterly take from him; nor suffer my faithfulness to fail: my covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out from my lips (Ps. 89:30, 34). The afflictions of God’s people make for their good. They work together for good; sometimes for their temporal good; as in the case of Joseph. For their spiritual good, the exercise of their graces; and that they may be made more and more partakers of his holiness. And for their eternal good; for these light afflictions, which are but for a moment, work for us afar more exceeding and eternal weight of glory (2 Cor. 4:17).” – The Stability of the Covenant