by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

May 4, 2003

"Thou hast filled me with indignation" (Jeremiah 15:17).

Friends and fellow church members gave me many lovely gifts on my birthday a few weeks ago. One of our deacons, Dr. Kreighton Chan, presented me with the nine-volume set of John Gill's Exposition of the Old And New Testament, reprinted by The Baptist Standard Bearer, Inc., No. 1 Iron Oaks Drive, Paris, Arkansas 72855. The set was originally published in London, in 1809.

I have spent several hours reading this commentary - and I am both delighted and upset. I am delighted to have finally "discovered" one of the best commentaries I have seen in the English language. I think every preacher should have this commentary. Make sure your pastor gets this set for Christmas, or for his birthday, or on some other occasion. This is a commentary he needs. He will use it every week for the rest of his life. I say that without the slightest hesitation. Yes, I am delighted with Dr. Gill's commentary.

But, secondly, I am upset. Why wasn't I told about this set by my teachers? My pastor for many years is a great scholar, with deep knowledge of the Biblical languages. He has taught at some of the leading theological schools, as well as pastoring the large Southern Baptist church I attended as a young person. But my pastor never told me to buy Dr. Gill's commentary. I attended the Southern Baptist seminary in the San Francisco Bay Area for three years. I will not go into the foolish and harmful things they taught there. It's enough to say that they attacked the Bible, and gave us virtually nothing to prepare us for pastoral ministry. One of my classmates from that Southern Baptist seminary phoned me on my birthday a couple of weeks ago. As we talked about our experiences there, he said, "I wish they had taught us how to preach." I couldn't agree with him more. We had to learn to preach on our own. And I wish they had made us buy (and read) John Gill's nine-volume Exposition of the Old and New Testament. I threw away nearly every book I bought at seminary - because they were worthless for the work of preaching and pastoring. If they had made me buy Gill's commentary it would have been worn with age by now - because I would have used it every week.

I have been an independent Baptist for nearly twenty years now, and still no one told me about Gill's commentary. All I heard was that it was "dry and stodgy." Rubbish! It is fresh and alive - on page after page! I also heard that it presented strong five-point Calvinism throughout. More rubbish! Yes, Dr. Gill was an old-fashioned Calvinist, but he was first and foremost a Bible teacher, and his comments are superb. Preachers need this set! I wish every Bible college required its students to buy this set of commentaries. And I wish they required every graduating student to buy the complete set of Spurgeon's sermons as well. Most of the other books would be lost or misplaced over the years, but Gill and Spurgeon would be treasured - and would deeply enrich the preaching in our churches.

On the one hand, men who are reading Gill and Spurgeon would not be reading John Maxwell! On the other hand, men who were reading them would not be reading Peter Ruckman. When are we going to wake up and go to these treasure troves, and load our bags with diamonds and rubies?

By the way, both of these men pastored the same Baptist church, now located at Elephant and Castle, London. And no, I am not a five-point Calvinist. You don't have to be one to fill your pockets with the precious preaching gems that Gill and Spurgeon offer!