"The Fountain of Life": John Gill’s Doctrine of Christ's Eternal Sonship
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John Gill believed that without the doctrine of eternal generation the doctrine of the Trinity could not be upheld. For Gill, this doctrine provided the foundation for the distinctions between the persons within the Godhead and evinced the Son’s divine nature. Both of these aspects of Gill’s doctrine of eternal generation were crucial in defending the doctrine of the Trinity in opposition to Socinianism and a resurging Sabellianism. While Gill’s doctrine of the Trinity and eternal generation belonged within the Nicene tradition, he followed Calvin’s understanding of the Son as autotheos that led him away from the Nicene tradition’s dominant formulation of eternal generation as a communication of the divine essence from the Father to the Son. Gill, in reaction to the anti-Trinitarian context of his day, opted for Calvin’s definition, arguing that the Son, just as much as the Father, is the fons Deitatis. While Gill’s doctrine of aseity, as it related to generation, took a narrow turn in what could be described a “Calvinistic” direction, he adopted a familiar understanding of the Son as the divine Word by way of the mental analogy. The Son’s designation as the Image and Wisdom of God further advanced his understanding of the Son as the Word—a name he believed pointed to the Son’s consubstantiality and personal distinction. Gill also applied the Son’s identification as the Word to the Son’s works in creation and salvation, taking his understanding of this name in a Reformed direction by appropriating it into his covenant theology.