John Gill On Resisting Sexual Temptation -- By: Jonathan Boyd

Journal: Puritan Reformed Journal
Volume: PRJ 06:1 (Jan 2014)
Article: John Gill On Resisting Sexual Temptation
Author: Jonathan Boyd

John Gill On Resisting Sexual Temptation

Jonathan Boyd

The name of John Gill (1697-1771) is often associated in our day with hyper-Calvinism, the kind that is purported to have plunged the Particular Baptists of the eighteenth century into a profound spiritual lethargy. This idea, coupled with the vastness of his writings (over 10,000 folio pages), have led many to shy away from reading Gill. Others have read Gill only in order to critique his position on the free offer of the gospel or his position on the divine decrees (he was committed to eternal justification, for example). This focus is understandable but truncates the spiritual benefit that could be received from a wider reading of one of the most eminent Baptist pastor- theologians of history. In the words of Augustus Toplady, his Anglican contemporary, Gill “considered not any subject superficially, or by halves. As deeply as human sagacity, enlightened by grace, could penetrate, he went to the bottom of every thing he engaged in.”1 Gill also incorporated a wealth of knowledge of the Semitic languages and rabbinic literature in his writings; this knowledge, coupled with many years of pastoral experience, makes much of Gill’s writing relevant for our day. Although he was surely wrong in some areas of his theology, we should appreciate his thoroughness and wisdom as applied to many areas of theology, ethics, and ministry.

In this article, I propose to look at an aspect of Gill’s thought that has never been investigated in print: his sexual ethics, and particularly his advice on resisting sexual temptation. How should a pastor approach the teachings of God’s Word about sex and sexual temptation? What advice does Gill offer to people who struggle with lust

or pornography? Some pastors of our era garner headlines for the shock value of their teaching on these topics, but I believe that Gill’s approach has more biblical merit. His approach to sexuality and sexual temptation is sober but not prudish, radical but not impractical, and always Christ-centered.

In order to understand Gill’s teaching on sexuality and resisting temptation, we must first see him in his original context. This requires no small effort, as many cultural aspects have changed over more than two hundred years; in addition, the scholarly guild has sometimes wrongly assessed Gill’s theology, a fact that could skew our understanding of his view on sexual ethics.

John Gill In His Context

Gill was born in England in the town of Kettering, Northamptonshire, on November 23, 1697, to Edward and Elizabeth Gill. Gill’s parents were dissenters and eve...

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