John Gill was an influential minister and theologian of the eighteenth century. Deeply influenced by the Reformed tradition, he made significant innovation to the doctrine of the covenant of redemption. Current surveys of his theology have unfortunately not adequately explored this innovation. The primary cause of this failure is a lack of attention to Gill’s historical context, a context shaped by doctrinal antinomianism and no-offer Calvinism. This article will contextualize Gill’s thought and provide a more accurate reading of his covenant theology by arguing that he offered a unique construction of the covenant of redemption that radically minimized human agency in the reception of salvation.
John Gill was an influential Baptist minister and theologian of the eighteenth century. He pastored the church that Charles Haddon Spurgeon would later lead under the title of the Metropolitan Tabernacle. He was the first Baptist to compose a comprehensive systematic theology and the first Baptist to author a commentary on every canonical book. Both his pastoral ministry and publications brought his ideas in contact with the era’s more notable Christian figures.1 His name appears, for example, in works by Jonathan Edwards, Augustus Toplady, and John Wesley.2
Though never one to minimize his Baptist identity, Gill was deeply influenced by the Reformed tradition, particularly Reformed scholasticism and federal theology. He drew often from seventeenth-century Reformed theologians from both Europe and Britain; his works refer to such thinkers as Johannes Cocceius, Hermann Witsius, William Ames, and Thomas Goodwin. For this reason, Richard Muller has labeled him the eighteenth century’s most erudite preserver of seventeenth-century Reformed scholasticism.3 This reason also accounts for why analysis of Gill’s theology appears in historical surveys of the Reformed tradition despite his strong Baptist convictions.4
Of particular interest to Gill was the pactum salutis, the covenant of redemption. His treatment of this doctrine comprises an extended section of his systematic theology—almost the entirety of the second portion of the first volume—and references or allusions to it appear in his numerous polemical pieces.5 Gill’s focus on the covenant of redemption means that the concept receives more explicit consideration in his works than it does in many of the theologians’ works that he often quoted.
Gill offered significant innovation to the covenant of redemption, but current surveys of his theology have either failed to present such innovation adequately or have interpreted it incorrectly. The primary cause of this failure is a lack of attention to Gill’s historical context. Though certainly influenced by the aforementioned Reformed scholastic theologians, Gill constructed much of this thought in light of the doctrinal antinomianism and the no-offer theology he encountered in Northamptonshire during his youth. Such theologies sought to minimize human agency in the reception of salvation in order to highlight the “free grace” of God. A thorough examination of Gill’s doctrine of the covenant of redemption as influenced by these theologies has yet to appear.6
With this article I intend to offer such an examination, believing that it provides a more accurate portrayal of Gill’s convictions. In particular, it reveals that by building on tenets present within doctrinal antinomianism, Gill offered significant innovation to the doctrine of the covenant of redemption. Such innovation allowed him to minimize human agency in the reception of salvation to the point that, to borrow a phrase from Professor John Webster, he made the outworking of redemption in human history “a mere shadow” of what had already occurred within the intratrinitarian life of God.7 This minimization of the divine economy permitted him to propound a sophisticated version of no-offer theology.
I begin with a brief introduction to the historical milieu in which Gill’s theology arose in order to provide the necessary context. I then survey three significant aspects of Gill’s understanding of the covenant of redemption. I conclude with a brief exploration of how interpreting Gill in the manner I present here can contribute to contemporary Gill research.
The Historical Context of Gill’s Theology
Gill had his first experience with church life in eighteenth-century Northamptonshire. This fact has significance for one chief reason: during this time, many Baptists and Congregationalists in this region held to a unique theology marked by the hardening of doctrinal antinomianism into no-offer Calvinism.
Doctrinal antinomianism originated in seventeenth-century debates over justification and sanctification.8 Thinkers such as Tobias Crisp, John Eaton, and John Saltmarsh created controversy when they responded to the received Puritanism of their day by arguing for the complete passivity of the human person in the reception of salvation. A commercial understanding of Christ’s atonement “which held that the elect actually suffered and obeyed in the person of Christ,” the belief that justification precedes faith, and the collapsing of the covenant of grace into the covenant of redemption characterized their position.9
The itinerant minister Richard Davis likely brought doctrinal antinomianism to Northamptonshire, and there Joseph Hussey, John Skepp, and later John Brine developed it further so as to deny both the free offer of the gospel and the obligation of all people to respond positively to it. They did so in an attempt to further emphasize human passivity, arguing that while one may openly preach the gospel to all people, one should not exhort all people to come to Christ for salvation. Hussey, for example, warned that such appeals are “a thing that falls short of preaching the Gospel” because they imply that a human response to salvation might be possible.10
A number of events from Gill’s biography reveal his appreciation not only for doctrinal antinomianism but also for no-offer theology. With great controversy, he republished the writings of Tobias Crisp and added explanatory notes defending Crisp from his critics.11 He composed a preface to the collected hymns of Richard Davis in which he reminded his readers that, though Davis once held to the free offer of the gospel, he later rejected it in favor of the no-offer position of Hussey.12 John Skepp served as Gill’s personal mentor and preached Gill’s installment service at his church in London. Gill later honored Skepp by composing a recommendatory preface to Divine Energy, Skepp’s controversial tract that promoted no-offer theology.13
Though Gill did occasionally depart theologically from such thinkers as Crisp, Skepp, and Hussey, the desire controlling his thought was the one on display in their theologies—the minimization of human agency. When he did differ from these theologians, he often did so because he wished to go even further in emphasizing human passivity. This intention profoundly shaped his presentation of the covenant of redemption.
John Gill and the Covenant of Redemption
Collapsing the Covenant of Grace into the Covenant of Redemption
The term ‘covenant of redemption’ refers to an intratrinitarian compact between the Father and Son in which the Son agrees to serve as the surety of the elect in order to provide for their redemption. Important is the fact that in typical formulations of federal theology the covenant of redemption stands in relation to other covenants. Traditionally, the doctrine “rests in the cradle of the federal theology of the Reformed tradition, one that posits a covenant of works between God and man in the pre-fall state, and then subsequently a covenant of grace between God and the elect but fallen sinner.”14
This relation to the covenant of grace merits attention. While the covenant of redemption describes an eternal agreement between the Father and the Son, the covenant of grace refers to a covenant between humanity and God that has both conditional and unconditional characteristics. The covenant of grace is unconditional because by it God “freely offereth unto sinners life and salvation.”15 It is conditional because humanity must receive this offer through divinely enabled faith in Christ.16
Some formulations of federal theology explained the conditional nature of the covenant of grace differently from others, but the doctrinal antinomians received notoriety because of their desire to remove any notion of human agency from the covenant. Their position collapsed the covenant of grace into the covenant of redemption in order to achieve this aim, preserving only a conditional covenant of works and an unconditional covenant of grace.
Tobias Crisp was perhaps the most prominent advocate of this formulation. Troubled by the lack of assurance found in what he perceived as the Puritan obsession with self-examination, he sought a soteriology that emphasized human passivity in light of an efficacious divine grace. This effort led him to shift the covenant of grace into the conceptual territory normally occupied by the covenant of redemption. For Crisp, the covenant of redemption actually became the covenant of grace, wherein the Father entered into the covenant with Christ—not with humanity—because only Christ could fulfill its conditions.17
In this covenant, Christ agreed to serve as a substitute for the people of God by performing all of the conditions that the more traditional formulations of the covenant of grace expected the elect to perform. Crisp’s approach made Christ, not the believer, “the subject of spiritual activity” because in it is “such a strong substitution of Christ and the believer that, in the end, Christ is the sole actor.”18 John Saltmarsh perhaps best succinctly explained this position when he wrote, “Christ hath believed perfectly, he hath repented perfectly, he hath sorrowed for sin perfectly, he hath obeyed perfectly, he hath mortified sin perfectly, and all is ours, and we are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.”19
The rejection of any form of conditionality meant that for Crisp the elect procure Christ simply through “a passive receiving,” one that must occur “without hands.”20 He placed justification prior to faith in the ordo salutis (order of salvation) in order to argue that faith serves merely as a “pipe-conduit” through which the Spirit reveals to the elect that they are already justified in Christ.21 The reception of justification therefore does not hinge on the condition that the elect first exercise divinely enabled faith in Christ. They are already justified. Faith only awakens them to their justified status.
Gill’s desire to minimize human agency led him to follow the covenant theology of Crisp and the other doctrinal antinomians. He propounded that a covenant “cannot be made between God and man; for what can man restipulate with God, which is in his power to do or give to him, and which God has not a prior right unto?” While he acknowledged that God may condescend to make specific promises to certain individuals, such promises for him did not “formally constitute a covenant.”22
This human inability to covenant with God stood for Gill in contrast to an actual covenant enacted between the Father and the Son. The covenant “made between God and Christ, and with the elect in him, as their Head and Representative, is a proper covenant, consisting of stipulation and restipulation.” Here “God the Father in it stipulates with his Son, that he shall do such and such work and service, on condition of which he promises to confer such and such honours and benefits on him, and on the elect in him; and Christ the Son of God restipulates and agrees to do all that is proposed and prescribed.”23
Gill freely acknowledged that his approach broke with tradition. He admitted that most theologians made the covenant of redemption and the covenant of grace “distinct covenants.” He elucidated their position by explaining that “the covenant of redemption, they say, was made with Christ in eternity; the covenant of grace with the elect, or with believers, in time.” He deemed this approach “very wrongly said,” however. Humanity’s inability to covenant with God meant that only one covenant could exist, and therefore for him “what is called a covenant of redemption, is a covenant of grace.”24
This collapsing of the two covenants allowed Gill to achieve the antinomian aim of denying any form of conditionality. He argued, “Christ’s work of redemption, atonement, and satisfaction for sin … is the only condition of the covenant; and that lies on the Mediator and surety of the covenant, and not on the persons for whose sake it is made.” Passionately restating this claim so as to ensure clarity, he further wrote that “the blessings of the covenant are not supped on any conditions to be performed [by the elect]; they do not wait for any, but take place without them.”25
While Gill clearly advocated for the antinomian understanding of the covenant of redemption, he constructed his theology with more conceptual clarity than his antinomian precursors. Crisp and Saltmarsh did not write as systematic theologians. Their works feature repetition, unfinished thoughts, and, because many of them were originally delivered as sermons, rhetorical excess. Gill, by contrast, was an organized thinker, and he advocated for his theology in a lengthy work of systematic theology. One therefore finds in his thought a deliberateness lacking in those to whom his work was indebted.
Gill perhaps best revealed his attention to detail in the manner in which he handled the doctrines that accompanied antinomian covenant theology. The antinomian reformulation of the covenant of redemption did not stand alone; as mentioned, it was buttressed by a commercial understanding of the atonement and the conviction that justification must precede faith. Though Gill retained the understanding of the atonement promulgated by the antinomians, he contributed a more detailed understanding of the relationship between faith and justification than his antinomian predecessors.26 This contribution would lead to his innovative work on the covenant of redemption—and to his radical reconstruction of Protestant soteriology.
Justification and Union with Christ as Eternal Acts of God
Gill sought to reduce human agency further by removing from his soteriology an area in which he feared it still could reside—time. While he clearly rejected any notion of conditionality in the covenant, he foresaw that if he went on also to remove any notion of temporality, he could display human passivity with even more clarity. In short, he desired to move “the entire economy of salvation up into eternity” where it could be rendered “impervious to the will of the creature.”27
In his proposal, unconditional election creates on behalf of the elect an eternal “being in Christ, a kind of subsistence in him.” This is an esse representativum, a representative being, through which the elect “are capable of having grants of grace made to them in Christ.”28 Three notable gifts received through this representation are union with Christ, justification, and adoption. Gill classified these not as transient acts of God—as would certainly be the more customary approach—but rather as eternal and immanent divine acts.29
The covenant of redemption accounts for how the elect can receive such gifts within eternity. No longer tied to an understating of covenant theology that required human conditionality, Gill asserted that in the pretemporal agreement between Father and Son, the Son’s promise to serve as surety for the elect was so secure that the Father applied the benefits of the atonement to the elect through their eternal union with Christ. This application, though it occurred before Christ’s actual death on the cross, was effectual in bringing the benefits of Christ’s death to the elect.
Gill’s description of the covenant of redemption expressed this idea without reservation. He wrote:
The sum and substance of the everlasting covenant made with Christ, is the salvation and eternal happiness of the chosen ones; all the blessings and grants of grace to them are secured in that eternal compact; for they were blessed with all spiritual blessings in him, and had grace given them in him before the world was.30
For Gill, then, the covenant of redemption ceases to perform its more traditional role of serving as an explanatory tool that describes the manner in which the Father and Son agreed on the outworking of salvation in human history. Instead, the covenantal agreement is where salvation actually occurs.
This proposal, as one might imagine, generated significant controversy, especially given Gill’s status as an influential minister and theologian. Opponents raised a number of objections, focusing on Gill’s exegetical arguments, theological claims, and even the implications that his soteriology might have on practical Christian living.31 Interestingly, as Gill attempted to respond directly to these challenges, his primary mode of defense was to point back to previous theologians in the Reformed tradition who, he believed, expressed views matching his own.32
He at least had some merit in making such a claim; the belief that justification precedes faith indeed did not originate with his work. As already noted, in the British context doctrinal antinomians such as Tobias Crisp held to the position. It was for this reason that Richard Baxter considered justification before faith the “error and pillar of antinomianism.”33 In addition, noted high Calvinists William Twisse, the Prolocutor of the Westminster Assembly, and William Pemble also associated themselves with the justification before faith opinion.34
Gill, certainly aware of this history, marshalled an impressive list of theologians to support his cause. In addition to the aforementioned Crisp, Twisse, and Pemble, he added such names as Thomas Goodwin, William Ames, and Johannes Maccovious. Particularly troubling for Abraham Taylor, whom Gill debated over this matter, was the fact that Gill also cited Taylor’s own father, Richard Taylor.35
Gill’s appeal to tradition took two seemingly contradictory forms. At times he implied that those who held to justification before faith shared the theological system that he himself propounded; at other times he suggested that he moved beyond such thinkers and embarked on a new course, one that went even further in diminishing human agency.36 Of the two, the latter is most certainly correct.
It is not at all clear that the theologians Gill cited held to justification in the exact manner that he claimed. To reveal this fact clearly one must distinguish between justification in eternity, which was Gill’s position, and justification from eternity, the one held by most if not all of the theologians cited by Gill. The former claims that justification is “complete at the moment God ordains the justification of the elect in eternity.” The latter, while certainly recognizing that God “ordains the salvation of a certain number of individuals eternally,” contends that the act of eternal justification is incomplete until justification receives its actualization in the lives of the elect at a moment in human history.37
Tobias Crisp, for example, distinguished between Christ’s acceptance of the obligation to die for the sins of the elect in the covenant of redemption, the execution of the plan of redemption in time and space through Christ’s death, and the application of the benefits of Christ’s death to the elect at the moment of their conception. His theology therefore could present justification as preceding faith but not as occurring completely within eternity. For him, justification began in the eternal plan of God but found its actualization in the lives of the elect while they were in the womb. Unlike the theology of Gill, his theology at least featured a focus on the importance of the outworking of redemption in history.38
Several passages in Crisp’s work even stand in opposition to Gill. Crisp claimed that while the Father certainly had awareness that Christ would fulfill his covenant obligations and provide satisfaction for the sins of the elect,
the particular application of this grace to persons … must needs be in time. Before a man is in being, there cannot be a personal application of the grace of God unto him; God cannot apply his grace to nothing.39
Such a statement disagrees with Gill’s argument that justification must occur solely in eternity and, moreover, with Gill’s insistence that the elect receive the benefits of salvation through a representative being in Christ.
Thomas Goodwin also merits mention due to the frequency with which his name appears in Gill’s corpus. Much like Crisp, Goodwin separated salvation into three stages: an immanent act within the covenant of redemption in which God’s eternal love “set and passed upon us,” a transient act in which Christ “suffered representing us,” and an applicatory act “wrought in us.”40 Although Goodwin did claim that Christ’s pledge to serve as our surety in the covenant of redemption made the elect “in this respect justified from all eternity,” one must take this remark within the broader context of his three-stage soteriology.41 He intended such a statement only to portray the fact that justification has origins within the covenant of redemption. For Goodwin, actual justification occurs only when it is applied in time, in the third stage of his soteriology. This “true and real act of justification” means that, according to Goodwin, those who frame justification as merely the “apprehension of God’s having already justified us, both from eternity, and in Christ bearing our sins” commit a “great mistake.”42
Other theologians noted by Gill also differed from him. William Pemble did not make justification an immanent and eternal act of God as Gill proposed, and William Twisse retained an element of conditionality in his soteriology, also setting him apart from Gill.43 The Dutch theologians to whom Gill sometimes appealed, most notably Maccovius and Hoorbeck, did not hold to eternal justification in the manner Gill suggested they did.44
In the end, one must conclude that Gill’s particular deployment of the covenant of redemption departed not only from the received tradition as codified in various confessional statements but also from what was found even in the most robust forms of doctrinal antinomianism and high Calvinism.45 In a radical manner he negated the outworking of the divine economy in history and reformulated salvation as an eternal and immanent act occurring within the covenant of redemption itself. Such an approach left no room for human agency, and it severed justification completely from the instrumentality of faith.
To elucidate further Gill’s willingness to depart from the majority opinion, one has only to explore in more detail this last point: his strong denial of the doctrine of justification by faith. For Gill, justification, occurring as it does within eternity and apart from any human agency, cannot in any way depend on the faith of the believer for its actualization. He wrote:
It is generally said that they [the elect] are not united to Christ until they believe, and that the bond of union is the Spirit on Christ’s part, and faith on ours. I am ready to think that these phrases are taken up by divines, one from another, without a thorough consideration of them … Why must this union be pieced up with faith on our part? This smells so prodigious rank of self, that one may justly suspect that something rotten and nauseous lies at the bottom of it.46
He followed this statement with a series of arguments that sought to demonstrate the illegitimacy of the justification by faith position.47
The Incorporation of the Holy Spirit into the Covenant of Redemption
Gill’s construction of the covenant of redemption is original and certainly controversial, but his proposal offers yet more innovation. Even with his presentation of salvation as an eternal and immanent act of God, he recognized that he still had to address the question of how the elect become aware of their justified status in time. To an answer this question, he again turned to the covenant of redemption, and he again offered a rather distinct approach.
Gill made the atypical move of incorporating the Holy Spirit into the covenant of redemption. In his scheme, the Father proposed the covenant and its conditions to the Son. These conditions included the expectation that the Son become incarnate and die for the sins of the elect. The Son accepted such conditions, and the surety provided by his acceptance allowed the Father to provide for the elect eternal justification, eternal adoption, and eternal union with Christ. While salvation therefore occurred completely within the covenant of redemption and not in time, Gill did include the Holy Spirit in the covenant so that something akin to a bridge might exist between this eternal salvation and the temporal existence of the elect on earth. Within the covenant of redemption, the Spirit took an active role and agreed to bear “witness to” and “make application of” salvation to the elect in time.48
With the phrase ‘application of’ salvation, Gill did not intend to refer to the reception of salvation on the part of the elect or even the actualization of salvation in time; as demonstrated, his theological system rejected such concepts. The Spirit’s “witness to salvation” would only entail the Spirit testifying to the elect that they have been justified eternally in Christ and that they are therefore free of all condemnation.
To ensure that no possible confusion could exist over this matter, Gill made use of the categories of active justification and passive justification. Active justification, or justification in foro Dei (in the court of God), he considered “strictly and properly justification.” For him this was eternal justification, justification as an immanent and eternal act of God. He described passive justification, or justification in foro conscientiæ (in the court of conscience), as merely justification “declarative to and upon the conscience of the believer.”49 This form of justification is therefore simply the existential awareness that one has indeed been eternally justified.
While Gill argued that faith has no role to play in active or actual justification, he admitted that it does have significance in the reception of passive justification. The Spirit operates on the elect in order to create in them conscious faith in Christ. Such faith then allows them to enjoy the benefits of passive justification.50
This understanding of the connection between faith and passive justification allowed Gill to make sense of the biblical texts that appear to connect faith and justification. In his system, any scriptural assertion that relates faith to justification “can only be understood as speaking of faith as a prerequisite to the knowledge and comfort of it.”51 It cannot speak of active justification.
Gill’s approach also allowed him to espouse a sophisticated form of no-offer Calvinism. In his theology, the elect receive an internal call by the Spirit that leads them to exercise faith so that they might receive passive justification. The non-elect, however, receive no such internal call. They have only the possibility of receiving an external call, what Gill defined as simply the indicatives of the gospel as presented in scripture or in a homily. For Gill, this external call carries with it no obligation to trust in Christ.52
To buttress this no-offer theology, Gill made further distinction between sensible sinners—those to whom the Holy Spirit has ministered the internal call—and nonelect sinners—those who only receive the external call of the gospel. Sensible sinners are those who have been eternally justified. They have the obligation to perform what Gill entitled evangelical repentance; that is, they must turn to Christ and trust that he has justified them in eternity. Nonelect sinners have no such requirement; they are only obligated to perform outward moral reform—what Gill labeled legal repentance—and are not expected to look to Christ for salvation. This distinction between sensible sinners and nonelect sinners allowed Gill to account for the calls in scripture that seem to implore all people to repent and trust in Christ.53
Gill espoused his no-offer position with vigor. He argued that the external call, given to sinners in a “state of nature and unregeneracy,” is not
a call to them to regenerate and convert themselves, of which there is no instance; and which is the pure work of the Spirit of God: nor to make their peace with God, which they cannot make by any thing they can do; and which is only made by the blood of Christ: nor to get an interest in Christ, which is not got, but given: nor to the exercise of evangelical grace, which they have not, and therefore can never exercise: nor to any spiritual vital acts, which they are incapable of, being natural men and dead in trespasses and sins.54
Ministers could, however, “encourage and exhort sensible sinners to believe in Christ” so that they might receive passive justification.55 Ministers presumably discerned the identity of these sensible sinners because such people could testify to the fact that they were the recipients of an internal call by the Spirit.
Gill’s no-offer convictions mark a clear departure from the broader Reformed tradition.56 Dutch theologians who employed the categories of active and passive justification made no such move into no-offer theology. For this reason one can find in the theology of Maccovius, Witsius, and Wilhelmus á Brakel a different understanding of active and passive justification from the one Gill presents, despite Gill’s claims to the contrary.57
Similarly, Tobias Crisp made no move into no-offer theology. He possessed a strong interest in the unconditionality of the gospel, and he spoke often of the passive receiving of Christ. Still, he never went as far as Gill. He did not explicitly deny the offer of the gospel or the duty of all people to receive it, nor did his fellow antinomians Saltmarsh and Eaton.58
Gill held to his no-offer theology despite its departure from the broader tradition because he believed that it highlighted the free grace of God through its promotion of complete human passivity. Though it left little hope for people not privy to the Spirit’s internal call, his position did allow him in a consistent manner to explain how the elect can passively become aware of their status in Christ. His explanation combined the novel approach of incorporating the Holy Spirit into the covenant of redemption with his unique understanding of active and passive justification to achieve this aim.
The Value of Interpreting Gill in the Manner I Propose
Many researchers unfortunately tend to associate Gill with mainstream Reformed soteriology rather than with the tradition’s outliers such as doctrinal antinomianism or no-offer theology. Such a reading creates incomplete or even inaccurate portrayals of Gill, particularly in regard to his federal theology. Interpreting Gill in the context outlined here offers a more precise examination of his theology than that found in many of his contemporary interpreters. Three examples merit mention.
The Work of John V. Fesko
John Fesko devotes a brief section to Gill’s theology in his recent historical survey of the doctrine of the covenant of redemption. While Fesko’s excellent volume deserves close attention, further research into Gill’s historical context would have allowed Fesko to portray Gill more comprehensively.
Fesko does not mention doctrinal antinomianism in relation to Gill, and this omission causes him to misinterpret Gill’s collapsing of the covenant of grace into the covenant of redemption. He notes that theologians such as John Brown of Haddington, Thomas Boston, and A.A. Hodge all placed the covenant of grace and the covenant of redemption closely together in a manner similar to Gill. Fesko then uses this claim to assert that Gill’s structuring of the covenants does not depart markedly from the broader tradition. The implication, of course, is that Gill’s construction of the covenant possesses no noteworthy consequences for his soteriology.59
While some theologians outside of the antinomian tradition indeed collapsed the covenant of grace into the covenant of redemption, antinomian theologians embraced this approach out of a desire to remove any aspect of conditionality. Such a rejection of conditionality is not present in every theologian who accepted this version of covenant theology, however. Tellingly, all but one of the theologians mentioned by Fesko emphasized conditionality.60 Fesko’s neglect of the antinomian tradition therefore leads him to place Gill in the company of many theologians who are not entirely like him. Furthermore, it does not permit him to explore in detail the full consequences of Gill’s rejection of the conditional nature of the covenant of grace.
Fesko does subsequently consider Gill’s remarks on the Holy Spirit’s role in the covenant of redemption and eternal justification, and here his statements are helpful and accurate. One remaining concern, however, is that Fesko does not address Gill’s acceptance of no-offer Calvinism. Fesko rightly explains that Gill’s convictions concerning eternal justification were unusual, but he does not explore how Gill developed his understanding of eternal justification into the no-offer position.
The Work of Hong-Gyu Park
Hong-Gyu Park’s doctoral thesis from the University of Aberdeen represents the most significant scholarly research devoted exclusively to Gill within the past several years. Park contends that the “criticism of Gill as a High or Hyper-Calvinist [i.e., a no-offer Calvinist] is a myth which cannot be historically or theologically proved [sic]” and that contemporary readers should interpret Gill instead as a traditional Reformed orthodox theologian who was “faithful to the Reformed theologian tradition” within his Particular Baptist context.61
In making this argument, Park unfortunately does not sufficiently compare Gill with the broader Reformed tradition. His treatment of Gill’s statements on justification illustrates this point. Park simply takes Gill at his word when Gill claimed that his views on justification accorded well with many previous thinkers.62 As demonstrated here, however, Gill’s assertion of this fact was incorrect. Gill’s understanding of justification differed significantly from the theologians he cited, and Park does not adequately probe these differences.
Park also fails to explore Gill’s relationship to doctrinal antinomianism of no-offer theology. He frequently asserts without warrant that one must not interpret Gill as a theologian deeply influenced by doctrinal antinomianism. He makes this claim despite the fact that Gill passionately defended the doctrinal antinomians and republished the writings of Tobias Crisp. In addition, he often minimizes the personal relationships Gill had with major no-offer proponents.63
On one point, however, Park does surprisingly concede Gill’s reliance on the antinomian tradition. He claims that figures such as John Bunyan and Benjamin Keach accepted aspects of antinomian covenant theology, and he then claims that Gill was simply upholding the values of these early Baptists when he occasionally shaped his theology in the antinomian manner.64
While leaders such as Bunyan and Keach did employ such antinomian moves as collapsing the covenant of grace into the covenant of redemption, they retained an element of conditionality in their thought in an attempt to preserve human agency.65 Bunyan did so by speaking of covenant conditions.66 Keach used similar language.67 The theologies of Bunyan and Keach therefore display antinomianism’s influence, but they do not share antinomianism’s complete rejection of conditionality. In light of this detail, to claim that a strong version of doctrinal antinomianism existed among some of the early Calvinistic Baptists is incorrect. Such doctrinal antinomianism is present in Gill’s thought, however, and by not sufficiently probing the antinomian tradition, Park misses this important point.
Park’s thesis does provide some helpful insights into Gill’s theology. Still, a more careful examination of Gill’s historical context would have provided a more accurate interpretation. It would have revealed Gill not as an exponent of the broader Reformed tradition but rather as an innovator who constructed a sophisticated form of no-offer theology based on the convictions present in doctrinal antinomianism.
The Work of Thomas J. Nettles
Many Baptists are presently debating the question of Gill’s theological identity; specifically, they question whether he was or was not an exponent of no-offer Calvinism.68 Gill’s defenders compare his theology to that of noted no-offer theologians such as Hussey or Skepp, and when they discover differences, they argue that Gill remains free of the charge of supporting no-offer theology. They often support this argument with a survey of Gill’s ministry practice—usually an examination of his preached sermons—that attempts to show examples of Gill ministering in a manner inconsistent with no-offer theology.69
While such research is not without merit, it does not fully consider Gill’s theological convictions. Thomas Nettles, likely Gill’s most respected contemporary defender, does not thoroughly address Gill’s covenant theology or beliefs about eternal justification.70 Surely Gill’s views on such matters deserve attention, especially since they shaped his understanding of how one might offer—or, more precisely, might not offer—the gospel.
Grounding his no-offer theology in the covenant of redemption, Gill actually represents a unique form of no-offer theology, one not found in any other no-offer proponent except his protégée John Brine. While Hussey and Skepp primarily based their arguments against the open gospel offer on Adam’s inability to believe in Christ before the fall and a particular understanding of limited atonement, Gill took a more sophisticated approach. In Gill, one finds a strong example of no-offer theology, but one will perhaps not discern it at first if one only seeks to find in Gill certain tendencies found in Hussey’s or Skepp’s theology. One must take Gill’s full project in its proper context in order to see his no-offer position clearly. One must examine how his theology innovated upon the antinomian understanding of the covenant of redemption in order to arrive at its conclusions.
Gill made significant innovation to the traditional understanding of the covenant of redemption. Such innovation becomes apparent when one receives his work within its proper historical context. He employed certain tenets of the doctrinal antinomianism he received during his youth—most notably a willingness to collapse the covenant of grace into the covenant of redemption and a desire to place justification prior to faith—to new ends. By constructing a new and sophisticated form of eternal justification and by portraying the Spirit as an active member of the covenant of redemption, he could fashion a complex version of no-offer theology. This no-offer theology, though unique in its formulation, accorded with the proposals of such noted no-offer proponents as Joseph Hussey and John Skepp. It worked to diminish human agency to the point that it denied universal offers of the gospel and the obligation of all people to respond positively to the gospel.
Interpreting Gill in the manner that I propose here will allow future research to proceed in a more accurate direction. It will present Gill not as an advocate for traditional Reformed soteriology but as a theological innovator who stands outside of the broader Reformed soteriological tradition. It may also open the door for more exploration into the influence that doctrinal antinomianism and no-offer theology had during Gill’s era.
For a succinct survey of Gill’s life and work, see Timothy George, “John Gill,” in Theologians of the Baptist Tradition, ed. Timothy George and David Dockery (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2001), 11–33.
Edwards referenced Gill numerous times, including once in his significant Freedom of the Will. For brief consideration of the use of Gill in Edwards, see Michael A.G. Haykin, “Great Admirers of the Transatlantic Divinity,” in After Jonathan Edwards: The Courses of New England Theology (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), 198. Perhaps with hyperbole Toplady stated that he considered Gill one of the most compelling theologians since Augustine. Recorded in John Rippon and Benjamin Francis, A Brief Memoir of the Life and Writings of the Late Rev. John Gill, D.D. (London: John Bennett, 1838), 137–138. Gill involved himself in a contentious debate with Wesley over soteriology. One can find a summary of this exchange in Robert Oliver, “John Gill (1697–1771): His Life and Ministry,” in The Life and Thought of John Gill (1697–1771): A Tercentennial Appreciation, ed. Michael A.G. Haykin (Leiden: Brill, 1997), 29–30.
Richard A. Muller, The Divine Essence and Attributes, vol. 3 of Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics: The Rise and Development of Reformed Orthodoxy (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003), 150. See also Richard A. Muller, “John Gill and the Reformed Tradition: A Study in the Reception of Protestant Orthodoxy in the Eighteenth Century,” in The Life and Thought of John Gill (1697–1771): A Tercentennial Appreciation, ed. Michael A.G. Haykin (Leiden: Brill, 1997), 51–68. Muller does, however, also note that aspects of Gill’s theology appear to depart from the broader Reformed tradition. See Richard A. Muller, “The Spirit and the Covenant: John Gill’s Critique of the Pactum Salutis,” Foundations 24, no. 1 (1981): 4–14.
E.g., Fesko believes that it may at first appear “counter-intuitive” to include a convictional Baptist such as Gill in his survey of the development of the covenant of redemption; however, he justifies Gill’s inclusion by noting how seriously Gill and his Particular Baptist colleagues accepted federal theology. J.V. Fesko, The Covenant of Redemption: Origins, Development, and Reception (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2016), 110.
An examination of the covenant of redemption appears in the second book of the first volume of Gill’s systematic theology. John Gill, A Complete Body of Doctrinal and Practical Divinity, 2 vols. (new ed.; London: Tegg & Company, 1839), 1:246–366.
Most considerations of Gill locate him within the context of traditional Reformed soteriology and do not sufficiently explore how doctrinal antinomianism and no-offer theology shaped his presentation of the covenant of redemption. This fact has unfortunately caused scholars to offer inaccurate portrayals of Gill’s thought. I interact with the most noteworthy of such portrayals at the conclusion of this article. However, a few researchers do correctly note Gill’s indebtedness to doctrinal antinomianism and no-offer theology but do not then explore how such theological traditions influenced Gill’s federal theology. Their accounts of Gill’s theology are helpful but incomplete; the covenant of redemption played a major role in Gill’s theological system. For this reason I will not interact often with their works in this article. For examples, consider Peter Naylor, Picking Up a Pin for the Lord: English Particular Baptists from 1688 to the Early Nineteenth Century (London: Grace Publications, 1992), 150–164; Curt Daniel, “John Gill and Calvinistic Antinomianism,” in The Life and Thought of John Gill (1697–1771): A Tercentennial Appreciation, ed. Michael A.G. Haykin (Leiden: Brill, 1997), 171–190. The work of Richard Muller serves as an exception to this trend. Muller offers a substantive survey of Gill’s presentation of the covenant of redemption. He rightly connects Gill’s convictions to the influence of doctrinal antinomianism, but his work leaves much unexplored, likely because it was some of the first in the modern period to analyze Gill. With this article, I hope to supplement Muller’s research. See Muller, “The Spirit and the Covenant,” 4–14.
John Webster, “ ‘It was the Will of the Lord to Bruise Him’: Soteriology and the Doctrine of God,” in God of Salvation: Soteriology in Theological Perspective, ed. Ivor Davidson and Murray Rae (Farnham: Ashgate, 2011), 29.
The nature of the term ‘doctrinal antinomianism’ merits comment. Often scholars distinguish between doctrinal antinomianism—a term referring to a unique set of doctrinal convictions—and practical antinomianism, a reference to the practice of lawlessness. See, for example, Gert van den Brink, “Calvin, Witsius (1636–1708), and the English Antinomians,” Church History and Religious Culture 91, no. 1–2 (2011): 230. The proponents of doctrinal antinomianism did not necessarily live profligate lifestyles; one should not by default consider them practical antinomians. In their case, the label ‘antinomian’ originates from their theology’s critics, most notably Richard Baxter, who feared that tenets of their theology might lead to unrighteous living. Interestingly, despite the fact that the antinomianism descriptor might therefore not be entirely just, its usage persists and appears frequently in the academic literature. Pederson justifies its use by writing, “As with ‘Puritan,’ the term [i.e., doctrinal antinomianism] has strong historical connotations, and in the absence of a better term, it is as good as any to distinguish” this movement. Randall J. Pederson, Unity and Diversity: English Puritans and the Puritan Reformation, 1603–1689 (Leiden: Brill, 2014), 213. It is this frequent use of the term ‘doctrinal antinomianism’ that leads me to employ it here. In this article, I will use antinomianism as shorthand to refer to doctrinal antinomianism unless stated otherwise.
Tim Cooper, Fear and Polemic in Seventeenth-Century England: Richard Baxter and Antinomianism (Surrey: Ashgate, 2001), 60. Consider also David R. Como, Blown by the Spirit: Puritanism and the Emergence of an Antinomian Underground in Pre-Civil-War England (Stanford: Stanford University Press: 2004).
Joseph Hussey, God’s Operations of Grace but No Offers of His Grace (London: D. Bridge, 1707), 17. With the terms ‘no-offer theology’ or ‘no-offer Calvinism,’ I refer to this theological system—sometimes described with the label ‘hyper-Calvinism’—that denied universal offers of the gospel and the duty of all people to respond positively to the gospel. For an introduction to no-offer theology and a description of how doctrinal antinomianism hardened into no-offer theology, see Peter Toon, The Emergence of Hyper-Calvinism in English Nonconformity, 1689–1765 (London: Olive Tree, 1967; Eugene: Wipf & Stock, 2011); Geoffrey Nuttall, “Northamptonshire and the Modern Question: A Turning-Point in Eighteenth-Century Dissent,” Journal of Theological Studies 16, no. 1 (1965): 101–123.
Tobias Crisp, Christ Alone Exalted, ed. John Gill (London: John Bennett, 1755).
John Gill, preface to Hymns Composed on Several Subjects and on Divers Occasions, by Richard Davis (London: J. Ward, 1748), 5.
See John Gill, preface to Divine Energy of the Efficacious Operations of the Spirit of God upon the Soul of Man, by John Skepp (London: Button and Son, 1815), xiii–xv.
Fesko, The Covenant of Redemption, 15.
This line is, of course, taken from the Westminster Confession of Faith’s statement on the covenant of grace in WCF 7.3 Particular Baptists adopted much of the Westminster Confession for their own purposes. Their adaptation, known as the Second London Confession, followed the Westminster Confession verbatim on this particular point. See the Second London Confession as recorded in William Lumpkin, ed., Baptist Confessions of Faith, rev. ed. (Valley Forge: Judson, 1969), 259–260. Interestingly, the Second London Confession in its section entitled “Of God’s Covenant” featured more explicit reference to the covenant of redemption than did the Westminster Confession of Faith.
The use of the term ‘conditional’ in regard to the covenant of grace can cause confusion. While much of the tradition presented the covenant of grace as conditional, some theologians did avoid such language. They did so often out of a desire to avoid the neonomian position of Richard Baxter. They preferred instead to speak of the covenant of grace as offering promises to the elect and then presented faith as the instrument the elect employ to receive such promises. Lachman rightly notes that a considerable part of the disagreement between these positions was “largely verbal” and that there was often “no significant doctrinal difference.” See David C. Lachman, The Marrow Controversy (Edinburgh: Rutherford House, 1988), 37. I employ the term ‘conditional’ here merely to express the fact that according to traditional federal theology at least some divinely enabled action must occur on the part of the elect before the full benefits of salvation receive their actualization. This claim was the one that the doctrinal antinomians denied. See the importance the Westminster Confession places on faith as a condition for the reception of salvation in WCF 7.3 For helpful introductions to the covenant of grace, see John von Rohr, The Covenant of Grace in Puritan Thought (Atlanta: Scholars Press), 53–86; idem, “Covenant and Assurance in Early English Puritanism,” Church History 34, no. 2 (1965): 195–203; Richard L. Greaves, “The Origins and Development of English Covenant Thought,” Historian 31, no. 1 (1968): 21–35; Lachman, Marrow Controversy, 36–54.
Crisp, Christ Alone Exalted, 1:85 ff. Crisp is likely the first person in England to argue for such an understanding of the covenant of grace. See J.I. Packer, The Redemption and Restoration of Man in the Thought of Richard Baxter (Carlisle: Paternoster, 2003), 250. For introductions to Crisp’s covenant theology, see David Parnham, “The Covenantal Quietism of Tobias Crisp,” Church History 75, no. 3 (2006): 511–543; idem, “The Humbling of ‘High Presumption’: Tobias Crisp Dismantles the Puritan Ordo Salutis,” The Journal of Ecclesiastical History 56, no. 1 (2005): 50–74; Pederson, Unity in Diversity, 244–248.
Van den Brink, “Calvin, Witsius (1636–1708), and the English Antinomians,” 232–233.
John Saltmarsh, Free Grace: Or, the Flowings of Christ’s Blood Freely to Sinners (London: G. Terry, 1792), 100.
Crisp, Christ Exalted, 1:106. E.g., Crisp wrote, “Ye may easily perceive, beloved, what I drive at in all this discourse, namely, to strip the creature stark naked, leave it shiftless, and unable any way to help itself, that all the help that it receives may appear to be of the free grace of God, merely, without its concurrence in it.” Crisp, Christ Exalted, 1:320–321.
See Crisp, Christ Exalted, 2:107–108, 224, 281.
Gill, Complete Body, 1:309. Gill’s position on this matter differs from that of many other covenant theologians. While influential figures such as Turretin argued that it would be impossible for God to make a covenant with humanity, they also espoused that God “commandeers the concept” of covenant to describe a relationship with his creatures. Gill rejected this notion and argued instead that any talk of a covenant between humanity and God, even when used for illustrative purposes, is impossible. See J. Mark Beach, Christ and the Covenant: Francis Turretin’s Federal Theology as a Defense of the Doctrine of Grace (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2007), 82.
Gill, Complete Body, 1:309.
Gill, Complete Body, 1:311.
Gill, Complete Body, 1:357.
Gill did seek to defend Crisp’s commercial understanding of the atonement, but he could occasionally minimize some of its more controversial elements when engaged in polemical debate. See, for example, John Gill, A Collection of Sermons and Tracts (London: George Keith, 1773), 2:80.
Muller, “The Spirit and the Covenant,” 12.
Gill, Complete Body, 1:286.
Gill structured the first volume of his systematic theology along this line. He made a strong bifurcation between God’s internal works and God’s external works and placed union with Christ, adoption, and justification in the former category. Gill, Complete Body, 1:246–366. I use the phrases ‘eternal act’ and ‘immanent act’ in this paper out of a desire to follow Gill’s language. With such wording Gill intended to refer to divine actions that precede the creation of the world.
Gill, Complete Body, 1:311. Italics added.
Gill and Abraham Taylor engaged in a particularly noteworthy exchange. See a summary in Alan P.F. Sell, Hinterland Theology: A Stimulus to Theological Construction (Milton Keynes, 2008), 57–63.
Gill’s most important polemical works on this matter are The Doctrine of Justification by the Righteousness of Christ and The Doctrines of God’s Everlasting Love to His Elect. See Gill, Sermons and Tracts, 3:147–230.
Richard Baxter, Aphorismes of Justification (Hague: Abraham Brown, 1655), 112. See also John Flavel, A Blow to the Root of Antinomianism (Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1840).
Indeed, it appears that both Twisse and Pemble influenced Crisp’s position on justification before faith. See J.I. Packer, Redemption and Restoration of Man, 250. John Cotton interestingly noted that the positions of Twisse and Pemble led some in New England to associate the two men with antinomianism. David D. Hall, ed., The Antinomian Controversy, 1636–38: A Documentary History, 2nd ed. (Durham: Duke University Press, 1990), 406–411.
Gill, Sermons and Tracts, 3:205n.
In a polemical work, for example, Gill asserted that he desired to go “a step higher” than many previous exponents of the justification before faith position. Gill, Sermons and Tracts, 3:166.
Oliver Crisp, Deviant Calvinism: Broadening Reformed Theology (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2014), 44–45.
See in particular Crisp, Christ Exalted, 1:339–366. For further analysis of Crisp’s views on justification, see the aforementioned works on Crisp in note 18.
Crisp, Christ Exalted, 1:355.
Thomas Goodwin, The Works of Thomas Goodwin (Edinburgh: James Nichol, 1863), 6:405.
Goodwin, The Works of Thomas Goodwin, 8:135.
Goodwin, The Works of Thomas Goodwin, 8:405. Goodwin even explicitly rejected the very position that Gill would later espouse: “Take Antinomianism, as you call it. All those glorious truths of the gospel, that a man is justified from all eternity, yea, and glorified from all eternity too, &c.; men cleave to all these truths, whereas other truths are to be joined with them. A man, before he believeth, is unjustified, therefore he is said to be justified by faith; and he is a child of wrath until he believe.” Goodwin, The Works of Thomas Goodwin, 4:277. This reading of Goodwin relies heavily on the following works: Mark Jones, Why Heaven Kissed Earth: The Christology of the Puritan Reformed Orthodox Theologian, 1600–1680 (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2010), 232–238; Joel R. Beeke and Mark Jones, A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012), 133–141. Cf. Carl R. Trueman, The Claims of Truth: Owen’s Trinitarian Theology (Carlisle: Paternoster, 1998), 28.
For this reading of Pemble and Twisse, see Hans Boersma, A Hot Pepper Corn: Richard Baxter’s Doctrine of Justification in Its Seventeenth-Century Context of Controversy (Vancouver: Regent College Publishing, 2003), 71–88. This is, of course, not to claim that Twisse’s views on justification were within the bounds of the Westminster Confession. See Chad van Dixhoorn, “The Strange Silence of Prolocutor Twisse: Predestination and Politics in the Westminster Assembly’s Debate Over Justification,” The Sixteenth Century Journal 40, no. 2 (2009): 395–418.
For interaction with Maccovius and Hoornbeck, see Fesko, Covenant of Redemption, 119–121. See also Beeke and Jones, Puritan Theology, 141–148. In his notations on the works of Crisp, Gill also cited Witsius as an example of a Dutch theologian who shared his views. See Crisp, Christ Exalted, 1:234n. Gill’s reading of Witsius, however, is not correct. See Fesko, Covenant of Redemption, 120.
The Westminster Confession, the Second London Confession, and the Savoy Declaration all reject justification as occurring either in eternity or at the cross event. For more information on doctrinal antinomianism’s convictions regarding justification, see Robert J. McKelvey, “ ‘That Error and Pillar of Antinomianism’: Eternal Justification,” in Drawn into Controversies: Reformed Theological Diversity and Debates Within Seventeenth-Century British Puritanism, ed. Michael A.G. Haykin and Mark Jones (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2011), 223–262. Cf. J.V. Fesko, The Theology of the Westminster Standards: Historical Context and Theological Insights (Wheaton: Crossway, 2014), 229–232.
Gill, Sermons and Tracts, 3:198.
Gill, Sermons and Tracts, 3:198–203. See also Gill, Complete Body, 1:292–294.
Gill, Complete Body, 1:352. One must note the unusual nature of Gill’s desire to make the Spirit a full, active participant in the covenant of redemption. Traditional formulations of the covenant of redemption envisioned only a covenantal agreement between the Father and Son. For example, Cocceius’s federal theology had a role for the Spirit but did not present the Spirit as a negotiating partner in the covenant. See Willem J. Van Asselt, The Federal Theology of Johannes Cocceius, 1603–1669 (Leiden: Brill, 2001), 234–235. Edwards placed great stress on the Spirit’s involvement in the covenant but similarly did not make the Spirit a party to the covenant. See Jonathan Edwards, Misc. 1062, “Economy of the Trinity and Covenant of Redemption,” in The Words of Jonathan Edwards: The “Miscellanies” (Entry Nos. 833–1152), vol. 20, ed. Amy Plantinga Pauw (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002), 442 ff. While Carl Trueman has argued that Owen made the Spirit an active participant in the covenant of redemption, his reading appears incorrect. See Laurence R. O’Donnell III, “The Holy Spirit’s Role in John Owen’s ‘Covenant of the Mediator’ Formulation: A Case Study in Reformed Orthodox Formulations of the Pactum Salutis,” Puritan Reformed Journal 4, no. 1 (2012): 91–115. Noteworthy, however, is the fact that Thomas Goodwin and perhaps David Dickson did speak of the Spirit as taking a participatory role in the covenant of redemption. See Jones, Why Heaven Kissed Earth, 139–144; Joohyun Kim, “The Holy Spirit in David Dickson’s Doctrine of the Pactum Salutis,” Puritan Reformed Journal 7, no. 2 (2015): 112–126. In light of the positions of Goodwin and perhaps Dickson, it appears that Muller in his work might be slightly overstating when he asserts that Gill’s inclusion of the Spirit into the covenant of redemption was one of his most significant and original contributions. Nonetheless, Gill’s approach was certainly atypical. See Muller, “Spirit and Covenant,” 4–5.
See Sermons and Tracts, 3:150.
Gill, Complete Body, 2:292–296.
Gill, Complete Body, 298.
Gill, Complete Body, 2:121–127.
Gill, Complete Body, 2:122.
Gill, Complete Body, 2:122. See also Gill, Sermons and Tracts, 3:269–270.
John Gill, The Cause of God and Truth (London: Thomas Tegg & Son, 1838), 317.
It does appear that a no-offer understanding of the gospel presentation does not accord with the broader Reformed tradition. See R. Scott Clark, “Janus, the Well-Meant Offer of the Gospel, and Westminster Theology,” in The Pattern of Sound Doctrine: Systematic Theology at the Westminster Seminaries, ed. David VanDrunen (Phillipsburg: P & R Publishing, 2004), 149–179; Donald John MacLean, James Durham (1622–1658) and the Gospel Offer in Its Seventeenth-Century Context (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2015), 11–62. Cf. Raymond A. Blacketer, “The Three Points in Most Parts Reformed: A Reexamination of the So-Called Well-Meant Offer of Salvation,” Calvin Theological Journal 35, no. 1 (2000): 37–65.
For Maccovius see Johannes Maccovius, Loci communes theologici (Amsterdam, 1658), 602–603, 608; Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007): 3:583. For Witsius see Herman Witsius, The Economy of the Covenants between God and Man (Edinburgh: Thomas Turnbull, 1803), 1:2.716; 18.104.22.168. For Brakel see Wilhelmus á Brakel, The Christian’s Reasonable Service (Ligonier: Reformation Trust Publishing, 1993), 2:376–381.
One may wonder how consistent Crisp was at this point; still, he does not receive association with no-offer Calvinism. It was only after antinomianism hardened—most notably through the infusion of Hussey’s strong insistence on human inability—that it became no-offer theology.
Fesko, The Covenant of Redemption, 111–113.
Both Brown and Hodge spoke openly of faith as a condition of the covenant of grace. See John Brown of Haddington, A Compendious View of Natural and Revealed Religion in Seven Books (Glasgow: John Bryce, 1782), 253–265; Archibald Alexander Hodge, Outlines of Theology: Rewritten and Enlarged (New York: Hodder & Stoughton, 1878), 369–370. Thomas Boston expressed discomfort with the use of the term ‘condition.’ He likely did so given the polemical context of the Marrow Controversy. See Thomas Boston, The Whole Works of Thomas Boston, ed. Samuel M’Millan (Aberdeen: George and Robert King, 1850), 8:398. I do not believe, though, that one can accurately categorize Boston as a doctrinal antinomian.
Hong-Gyu Park, “Grace and Nature in the Theology of John Gill, 1697–1771” (PhD diss., University of Aberdeen, 2001), 287.
Park, “Grace and Nature,” 46, 49. It is telling that Park by his own admission does not “directly deal with Gill’s ideas of salvation and evangelism,” the two areas of his thought that I believe clearly display his affiliation with doctrinal antinomianism and no-offer Calvinism. See Park, “Grace and Nature,” vi. The overall neglect of these important aspects of Gill’s thought lead to the inaccuracies in Park’s work that I mention here.
See Park’s presentation of Gill’s biography in which the influence of no-offer theologians in Gill’s early years does not receive adequate attention. Park, “Grace and Nature,” 26–72.
Park, “Grace and Nature,” 69–72. I must confess that I am somewhat confused over how to interpret Park’s comments on this point. The confusion emerges from the fact that Park begins his chapter on Gill’s biography by arguing that one should not interpret Gill in light of such thinkers as Crisp, Hussey, and Skepp, but rather in light of the Reformed orthodox tradition. Park, “Grace and Nature,” 64. He concludes this biographical section, however, by arguing that one should interpret Gill as belonging to the Baptist tradition, a tradition that he claims was directly influenced by antinomians such as Crisp. It appears that this line of argumentation is inconsistent.
For Bunyan’s work on the covenant of redemption, see John Bunyan, Doctrine of the Law and Grace Unfolded (London: Will Marshall, 1701), 81–152. Bunyan likely held his position because of the influence of Tobias Crisp. See Robert McKelvey, Histories that Mansoul and Her Wars Anatomize: The Drama of Redemption in John Bunyan’s Holy War (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2011), 65. For his part, Keach accepted aspects of antinomian covenant theology partly because of his opposition to Richard Baxter. See Benjamin Keach, The Everlasting Covenant: A Sweet Cordial for a Drooping Soul: Or, The Excellent Nature of the Covenant of Grace Opened (London: H. Barnard, 1693). For Keach’s rejection of Baxter, see D.B. Riker, A Catholic Reformed Theologian: Federalism and Baptism in the Thought of Benjamin Keach, 1640–1704 (Eugene: Wipf and Stock, 2009), 107–108.
Bunyan, Law and Grace Unfolded, 78. See also Richard A. Muller, “Covenant and Conscience in English Reformed Theology: Three Variations on a Seventeenth-Century Theme,” Westminster Journal of Theology 42, no. 2 (1980): 308–334.
Benjamin Keach, Exposition of the Parables and Express Similitudes of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (London: Aylott and Company, 1858), 685.
For a survey of the current debate over Gill’s identity and a critique of Gill’s defenders, see David Mark Rathel, “Was John Gill a Hyper-Calvinist?: Determining Gill’s Theological Identity,” Baptist Quarterly 48, no. 1 (2017): 47–59.
See, for example, Thomas J. Nettles, By His Grace and For His Glory: A Historical, Theological and Practical Study of the Doctrines of Grace in Baptist Life, rev. ed. (Cape Coral: Founders, 2006), 21–54.
Nettles, By His Grace, 21–45.