Gale, John

, a learned divine, and an eminent preacher among the baptists, was born May 26, 1680, at London. His father was a citizen of good repute; and observing the natural turn of his son to be from his infancy grave and composed, he resolved to breed him for the ministry. He spared no cost jn his education, and the boy’s diligence was such, that, both in school and out of school, heapplied attentively to his learning, and became not only master of the Latin and Greek, but of the Hebrew language, at the age of seventeen; when he was sent to Ley den, to finish what he had so happily begun. Soon after his arrival there he received the news of his mother’s death, and, being sensible that this would hasten his return home, he made it a spur to his industry; and so surprisingiwas.his progress in academical learning, that he was thought. -worthy of the degrees of master of arts and doctor of philosophy in his nineteenth year, and accordingly received those honours in 1699, having performed | the usual exercises with universal applause *. This extraordinary testimony of his son’s merit could not fail to be very acceptable to the father; and the rector of the university communicated it, in a strong letter of commendation. Upon this occasion our author published his “Thesis,” and dedicated it to his father and his two uncles, sir John and sir Joseph Wolf; and a aioble attestation of his merit was subjoined by Adrian Ileland in a Latin panegyric.

Thus honoured at Leyclen, he went to Amsterdam, where he continued his studies under professor Limborch. At the same time he contracted an acquaintance with John. Le Clerc, took all opportunities of visiting him, settled a correspondence with him, and became afterwards a zealous as well as able defender of his character f. Upon his return home he continued his studies with equal ardour; and, improving himself particularly in the Oriental languages, obtained critical skill in the books of the Old and New Testament. He had not been above four years thus employed, when the university of Leyden sent him an offer of a doctor’s degree in divinity, provided he would assent to the articles of Dort; but he refused that honour, on the principle of preserving a freedom of judgment.

This was about 1703; and Wall’s defence of Infant Baptism coming out in less than two years after, proved an occasion for Gale to^exert his talents in controversy. Soon after the publication of that book, he undertook to answer it, and pursued the subject in several letters written in 1705 and 1706; which were handed about in manuscript several years, till he consented to make them public in 171 J, under the title of “Reflections on Mr. Wall’s History of Infant Baptism.” The extraordinary merit of this piece raised him to the first place amoirg the baptists; yet he did not think fit to take upon himself the preacher’s office immediately. He was five and thirty years of age before he began to preach constantly and statedly J; when he was chosen one of the ministers of the baptist congregation in Paul’s alley, near Barbican.

*

The professor’s speech on the occasion was printed afterwards by Ttoerhaave. Among other things, he observes, that our student had obtained uch a readiness in the Greek language, as to be able to declaim in it publicly, Bibl. Choisee, torn. XV 1 11. p. 300. -f- See our author’s first letter upon Mr. Wall’s History of Infant Baptism, where he cites several passages from Le Clerc, which, he says, render it very evident that he acknowledged the divinity of Christ as plainly and expressly taught in the scriptures. He had, however, preached before, on the anniversary of the gunpowder-plot; and he published hisli> course with the title of a Thanksgiving Sermon, preached Nov. 5, 1713, 6s Psalm cv. ver. 1, and 15.

| As he was zealous to maintain and propagate those notions which he thought authorized by primitive antiquity, he became chairman to a society for promoting what they called primitive Christianity; from July 3, 1715, to Feb. the 10th following. This society met every week, at Mr. Winston’s house in Cross-street, Hatton-garden, which they named the “Primitive Library.” But though Dr. Gale testified a strong desire to extinguish all disputes among Christians, he was by no means willing to give up his own peculiar opinions. Hence it was that when Mr. Wall consented to hold a conference with him upon the subject of infant baptism, the dispute ended, as usual, without any good issue; and Wall was so far from being satisfied with the arguments of his antagonist, that he drew up an answer to the Reflections, and published it under the title of “A Defence of the History of Infant Baptism,” in 1719. This book, as well as the History, was so much approved by the university of Oxford, that Wall was honoured with the degree of D. D. upon the occasion. Dr. Gale’s Reflections were not without considerable advocates; and it is supposed, that he meditated an answer to Dr. Wall’s reply, but a premature death prevented the execution of tins and several designs which he had formed, for the promotion of Oriental learning and his own notions of scriptural knowledge, as he was seized with a fever, Dec. 1721, of which, after an illness of about three weeks, he died, in his forty-second year.

In his person, Dr. Gale was rather taller than the conru mon size, and of an open pleasant countenance; in his temper, of an easy and affable behaviour, serious without any tincture of moroseness. In his manners and morals, chearful without levity, having a most perfect command over his passions. He was greatly esteemed by, and lived in friendship with, Bradford bishop of Rochester, Hoadly bishop of Bangor, and the lord chancellor King. After his death a collection of his sermons were printed by subscription; the second edition whereof was published 1726, in 4 vols. 8vo, to which is prefixed an account of his life. It appears from some passages in his funeral sermon, that he was married, and had a family, left in great want. A contribution, however, was raised, which enabled his widow to set up a coffee-house in Finch-lane for the maintenance of her children. What became of them afterwards we are not told. Of Dr. Gale’s principal performance it may be | said, that, as Wall’s “History of Infant Baptism” is the best vindication of this doctrine, so the answer of Gale is the best defence of the baptists; which, as the subject had been handled by very great men before, is all ample commendation of both parties. 1

1

Life prefixed to his Works. General Dict. Biog. Brit Crosby’s Hist, of the Baptists, vol. IV. p. 366. Nichols’s Atterbury’s Correspondence. vol. 11. p. 468.