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He left the grammar fchool rather early in life. The occafion was this: the fchool-mafter infifted, that the children of Diffenting parents, as well as others, fhould go with him to church, on week-days, at the hours of prayer: upon which the children of Diffenters were taken away from the school, and he among the reft. Thofe Diffenters, who were in affluent circumstances, fent their children to diftant parts for their further education: but this was not the cafe with his parents. This was a very difcouraging circumftance. Several ways and means were thought of by his friends; but all proved fruitless. Some efforts were made by minifters, both of other denominations and of his own, to get him upon one or other of the funds in London, and that he might be sent to one of their feminaries of learning. To this end fpecimens of his progrefs in literature were fent up to town: but the answer returned by way of objection was, that he was too young; and, fhould he continue, as it might be fuppofed he would, to make fuch rapid advances in his ftudies, he would go through the common circle of learning before he could be capable of taking care of himfelf, or of being employed in any public fervice.
If any credit can be given to the ftory of the Woodman, concerning what the ftranger faid on the morning of his birth, which feemed to fuppofe that fome difficulties and obftructions would be thrown in the way of his becoming a fcholar, they now began to appear. And yet, notwithstanding all this, fuch was his defire of learning, that he not only retained what knowledge of the Latin and Greek languages he had acquired, but he improved himself in both, by conftantly reading all fuch books in thofe languages, as he could obtain. In process of time he ftudied Logic, Rhetoric, Moral and Natural Philofophy. He likewife, Suo Marte, learned the Hebrew language, without any living affiftance, by the help of Buxtorf's Grammar and Lexicon. With only thefe, he furmounted the chief difficulties of that language: and could foon read the Hebrew Bible with great eafe and pleasure. In this language he always took peculiar delight. He read books, in various branches of literature, in the Latin tongue, to improve his mind with whatfoever was ufeful: and particularly Syftems of Divinity. For fome few years his time was daily divided: part of it was employed in his father's business; and the other part of it in clofe studying. And thus he went on, till he had nearly attained to the nineteenth year of his age.
It is now time to look back, and take fome notice of the religious turn of his mind, and of his inquiries after divine and fpiritual things. He had flight convictions of fin, and occafional thoughts of a future ftate, from his childhood. Sometimes he was terrified with the fear of death, hell and eternity; and ftrangely elated with thinking on the joys of heaven, the glories of another world, and the happiness of faints made perfect above. But thefe impreffions
were, for fome time, both fuperficial and tranfitory. When he was about twelve years of age, the workings of his mind became more ferious, fettled and effectual and especially after hearing a Sermon of Mr William Wallis's, on Gen. iii. 9. And the Lord God called unto Adam, and faid unto him, Where art thou? For a while it was, as it were, continually ringing in his ears, "Man, "where art thou? What a wretched ftate and condition art thou in? How "miferable wilt thou be, living and dying, in an unconverted state!" Hence he used to call Mr Wallis, if any man, his fpiritual father, who died foon after. And now he began clearly to fee the depravity of his nature; the exceeding finfulness of fin; his need of Chrift, and falvation by him; and of a better righteousness than his own; even the righteoufnefs of Chrift, to be received by faith and in a short time was favoured with a comfortable hope and faith of intereft in HIM, from feveral exceeding great and precious promises, powerfully applied to his foul. It was, moreover, his happy lot, to have his mind. early irradiated with the light and knowledge of evangelic truths, by means of the miniftry of several gofpel-preachers in thofe parts of the country, whom at times he had the opportunity of hearing and these truths, coming to him with power, failed not of freeing him from the bondage of the Law, and of filling him with joy and peace in believing; yet though he early arrived to fatisfaction in his mind about his eternal ftate, he did not make a public profeffion of religion until he was almost nineteen years of age; partly by reason of his youth for fome time, and the folemnity of a profeffion; and chiefly in the latter part of this period of his life, because he perceived the eye of the church was upon him to call him forth to the miniftry, as foon as they conveniently could, fhould he become a member of it; their then prefent paftor being greatly involved in worldly bufinefs, and much needed affiftance.
Nov. 1, 1716, he made a public profeffion of his faith in Chrift, by declaring to the church with which he stood connected, the dealings of God with his foul, to their fatisfaction: and was the fame day baptized by their paftor, Mr Thomas Wallis, who fucceeded his father Mr William Wallis in that office. The ordinance of Baptifm was adminiftered to him by immersion, in a river, in the fight of many fpectators: and the following Hymn, compofed by himfelf, was fung at the fame time.
Was Chrift baptiz'd to fanctify
And did his facred body lie
The Lord's-day following, Nov. 4th, he was received a member into the church, and partook of the Lord's-fupper: In the evening of that day, at a meeting of prayer in a private house, of the members and others, he read the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah, as fuitable to the fervice of the day, and expounded fome paffages of it: and, at the clofe of the meeting, fome of the brethren addreffed him to this purpose, "Friend, we take this as a beginning of the "exercise of your minifterial gift, which we are perfuaded the Lord has bestowed 66 upon you." And accordingly, the next Lord's-day, in the evening, at the fame place, he delivered a Sermon on 1 Cor. ii. 2. For I determined not to know any thing among you, fave Jefus Chrift, and him crucified. For a few days he continued preaching in this private manner: the church foon called him to exercise his minifterial gift in public, and fent him forth as a minister of the
Quickly after this, at the motion of fome of his friends at London, who had seen and converfed with him in the country, he removed to Higham-Ferrers, about fix or seven computed miles from Kettering. His view, and what inclined him to attend to this motion, was to carry on his studies under Mr John Davis, with whom he was to board: a gentleman of learning, and who now
taught in that place fome branches of literature; being lately come from Wales, and fettled paftor of a new church just planted at Higham. In this view, however, young Mr GILL was disappointed; but the defign of Mr GILL'S friends in London in this removal of him, was, chiefly to be affifting in this new church, and to the young converts in it, and to preach occafionally in the adjacent villages. Here he continued the year following: and in this time, and at that place, he contracted acquaintance with a young Gentlewoman of great piety and good fenfe, whofe name was ELIZABETH NEGUS; a member of the new gathered church, and whom he married in 1718. The Doctor was always of opinion, that his marriage with this excellent perfon, was the principal thing for which God in his providence fent him to that place: and he ever confidered his marriage to her, as one of the capital bleffings of his life. For fhe proved affectionate, difcreet, and careful: and, by her unremitting prudence, took off from his hands all domestic avocations, fo that he could, with more leifure, and greater ease of mind, purfue his ftudies, and devote himself to his minifterial fervice. This wife of his youth lived with him unto the year 1764, and by her he had many children, all of whom died in their infancy, except three: one of which, whofe name was ELIZABETH (a moft lovely and defirable child for perfon, fense, and grace) died May 30, 1738. when he had entered into the thirteenth year of her age, her Funeral Sermon was preached by her father from 1 Thess. iv. 13, 14. and was printed, with an account of fome of her choice experiences. The other two are ftill living: the one, a fon, whofe name is JOHN, a Goldfmith, who lived in Gracechurch-street, London; fince retired from bufinefs. The other, a daughter, whofe name is MARY, married to Mr GEORGE KEITH, a Bookfeller in the fame ftreet. Both thefe children have been a great happiness to their parents; and they have always had reafon to be thankful to God for their family comfort, peace, and harmony.
But to return: Mr GILL, during his abode at Higham-Ferrers, very frequently preached to the church at Kettering; which, as before obferved, is but fix or feven miles diftant The circumftances of the paftor there requiring affiftance, Mr GILL, quickly after his marriage, wholly removed thither: where his ministry, from the beginning, had been bleffed, not only to the comfort, but to the converfion of many fome of which feals of his miniftry are yet living. But his continuance here was not long; for, in the beginning of the year 1719, the church of Chrift at Horfly down, Southwark, near London, being deprived of their pastor by the death of Mr Benjamin Stinton, (fon in law to the famous Mr Benjamin Keach, and his fucceffor in his office, as paftor of that church) fome of the
She died Oct. 10, 1764, aged fixty-feven years and five months, having been married to the
members, hearing of Mr GILL, defired a friend of his to write to him, and invite him to give them a vifit, and preach to them; which he did, in the months of April and May, the fame year; and then returned into the country. About two months after, the church at Horfly-down wrote to him, requesting his return to them in the month of August; which he complied with, and continued preaching to them, till about Michaelmas: when they made choice of him to be their paftor, and called him, young as he was, to the exercife of that office; which, after taking fome time for confideration, he accepted of. And now he met with much trouble and great oppofition from many; partly on account of his youth (he not being quite twenty-two years of age), and chiefly because of his evangelical way of preaching. But God was with him, and blessed his miniftry to the converfion of many fouls; fo that large additionswere made to the church, year after year, for a confiderable time.
In 1723. when he was between twenty-five and twenty-fix years of age, it was the will of God to visit him with an Hectic fever, and other diforders of body; which greatly wafted and confumed him, and threatened his life: but it pleafed God to blefs the means made ufe of, and to restore him to health again; his time not being come, and he having more work to do for God in his church, and for the intereft of religion, as the following account will fhew.
In 1724. when he was now twenty-fix years of age, he began his Expofition of the Book of Solomon's Song; which was delivered, on Lord's-day mornings, to the church under his care, in one hundred and twenty-two Sermons, until the whole was finished: of which more hereafter. In this year, he printed a Sermon on the death of Mr John Smith, a Deacon of his church, from Rom. v. 20, 21. which was the first thing printed by him. And another Sermon, in the following year, intitled, The Urim and Thummim found with Chrift, from Deut.
In 1726. a pamphlet was published called, "The manner of baptizing with "water, cleared up from the word of God, and right reafon, &c." written dialoguewife and it after appeared to have been written by Mr Mathias Maurice, an Independent minifter, at Rowel, in Northamptonshire. The Baptifts in those parts, and especially at Kettering, which was but two computed miles, though long ones, from Rowel, thought themfelves ftruck at, and their interest affected by this pamphlet; and therefore fent it up to Mr GILL at London, and defired him to write an answer to it. He accordingly undertook it; and foon published his anfwer, called, "The antient mode of baptifm by immerfion, &c." to which Mr Maurice replied, in a pamphlet published in 1727. and which was anfwered, the fame year, by Mr GILL, in a tract, called, "A Defence of the antient "mode, &c." One Cogan, an Apothecary, and member of Mr Maurice's church, wrote fome remarks on Mr GILL'S rejoinder, in a moft virulent and