Francis Turretin: Prince of the Reformed Scholastics (Vol. 2)





Francis Turretin:

Prince of the Reformed Scholastics, II

Being an Interaction with the Text of

Institutes of Elenctic Theology, Volume Two






Reformed Orthobilly






For Systematic Theology I, Master of Divinity Program

The North American Reformed Seminary

March 19th in the Year of Our Lord 2012

Select Table of Abbreviations


For Turretin’s Institutes, Volume Two (as cited)


ANF: Ante-Nicene Fathers, Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, eds. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1969-73).


CI: Christian Instruction, Augustine, John J. Gavigan, tr. (New York: Cima Publishing Co., 1947).


FC: Fathers of the Church, (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press).


LCC: Library of Christian Classics, John Baillie, John T. McNeill and Henry P. Van Dusen, eds. (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1953-66).


Loeb: Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press)


NPNF1: Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Philip Schaff, ed. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1956).


PG: Patrologiae cursus completus, series Graeca, 166 vols., J.-P. Migne, ed. (Paris: J.-P. Migne, 1857-87). Note: citations will include the volume first, followed by column number(s).


PL: Patrologiae cursus completus, series Latina, 217 vols., J.-P. Migne, ed. (Paris: Garnieri Fratres, 1878). Note: citations will include the volume first, followed by column number(s).



After reading and analyzing two volumes of Francis Turretin’s Institutes, I am even more convinced that he is justly titled the prince of the Reformed scholastics. Turretin’s Institutes of Elenctic Theology, Volume Two1 is another goldmine of theological riches. Turretin excellently accomplishes his goal of demonstrating and asserting the truth of sound doctrine in refutation of false doctrines.

Institutes2 covers seven topics: the law of God, the covenant of grace in its twofold economy, the Person and state of Christ, the mediatorial office of Christ, calling and faith, justification, and sanctification and good works. As with Volume One, I will treat each topic separately, interacting with quotations I consider to be useful or edifying.

The eleventh topic, and first in the Institutes2, is the law of God. Turretin covers controverted issues in various of the Ten Commandments, the uses of the law, natural law, the regulative principle, the lex triplica (moral, ceremonial and judicial), oaths, polygamy, usury, war and much more. As any orthodox student of Scripture, the law of God in its various types and uses was of great importance to Turretin. Thus, the law took up over 22% of the space in Institutes2. Moreover, 34% of the quotations I mined in this volume were taken from this most useful and edifying topic. Yet to save room for the other six topics, I will attempt to keep my treatment of the law more brief than I would like.2

Turretin’s discussion begins with a treatment of the law of nature:

As the right of God is twofold (one natural, founded in the perfectly just and holy nature of God; the other positive, depending on the will of God alone in which he also shows his own liberty), so there is a positive law of God built on the free and positive right of God (with respect to which things are then good because God commands them)… There is another (natural) founded on the natural right of God, with regard to which things are not called just because they are commanded, but are commanded because they were just and good antecedently to the command of God (being founded on the very holiness and wisdom of God).3

This fundamental assumption affects Turretin’s treatment of the lex triplica, the uses of the law, and the various aspects of the Ten Commandments.

Unlike the Libertines, who assume no rule of right or wrong but personal advantage, the Reformed assert that natural law arises “from a divine obligation being impressed by God upon the conscience of man in his very creation, on which the difference between right and wrong is founded and which contains the practical principles of immovable truth.”4

The absurdity of rejecting the laws of nature and nature’s God is plainly demonstrated by Turretin. If our advantage is the only rule of conduct, and not the glory of God or the good of our neighbor, then “all things would be equally lawful: to hate God as well as to love him; to kill parents as well as to honor them.”5 This, however, paves the way to atheism, takes away the moral right and government of God, and thus:

all the foundations of right will be removed; all the laws of men which could have flowed from no other source, and thus all government, honesty and order in human society will perish and the world be turned into mere confusion and villainy.6

Turretin could have written this as a journalist’s description of modern America! God’s moral right being denied him, we are degraded to villainy.

Lest we be drawn into our own notions of what constitutes natural law, Turretin explains that the moral law, delivered in Scripture, “is the same as to substance with the natural.” Thus the precepts of the Decalogue and the rest of the moral commands of Scripture are of natural right to God and are therefore indispensable.7 Yet the mode of delivery diverges between the natural and moral laws:

In the moral law, these duties are clearly, distinctly and fully declared; while in the natural law they are obscurely and imperfectly declared both because many intimations have been lost and obliterated by sin and because it has been variously corrupted by the vanity and wickedness of men (Rom. 1:20-22).8

Thus, if we are to be truly schooled in the law of nature, we must first inquire into the sacred oracles delivered by Moses, the Prophets, and the Apostles of our Lord Christ.

Logically, since the moral law is of natural right, founded on the holiness and wisdom of God, no state of man can alter the creature’s obligation to this law. Whether we consider man as innocent, fallen, or redeemed, his obligation to the moral law is unchangeable. Moreover, whether we consider man in his private life, in the worship of God, in his family, or in the civil sphere, the moral law governs the totality of his life and activity. Thus, as Lactantius eloquently says, “It is not one thing at Rome, and another at Athens; one thing today, and another tomorrow; but in all times and nations this universal law must forever reign, eternal and imperishable.”9

In light of this foundation, Turretin’s treatment of the uses of the law, the lex triplica, and the specific applications of the Decalogue is firmly rooted in immutable truth. The law is extremely useful to fallen man, demonstrating his sinfulness, the curse due to him, and the righteousness to be sought in Christ. But the lawful use of the law is not terminated upon conversion. As Turretin eloquently states:

the law leads to Christ and Christ leads us back to the law; it leads to Christ as the redeemer and Christ leads to the law, as the leader and director of life. In this way, man in his integrity and as just was under the blessing of the law; corrupt, he comes under its curse; regenerated, he comes under its direction.10

Therefore, the law is extremely useful to man in every state.

For the saints in particular, God’s moral law serves as a means to an end. The direction Turretin speaks of has its terminus as everlasting life: “But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.” (Rom. 6:22). In this same vein Turretin explains why the moral law is necessary and cannot be abrogated under the New Testament:

With respect to the glory which we expect, to which the obedience due to the law stands related as a means to the end, without which we cannot attain unto it (Jn. 3:5; Mt. 5:8; Heb. 12:14); the way to the goal (Eph. 2:10; Phil. 3:14); the seed to the harvest (Gal. 6:7, 8) and the firstfruits to the mass (Rom. 8:23)yea, as the principle part of happiness. Hence arises the necessity of good works to glory; not of merit, but of means. No one can be glorified in heaven who has not been sanctified on earth by the pursuit of holiness and obedience to the law.11

Thus, regardless of man’s state, the law stands immutable as man’s guide and standard of right and wrong, expressing the natural right of God over His creature.

Moreover, the moral law, as delivered by Moses, is not an imperfect set of outdated Jewish precepts. It required no correction by our Lord or His Apostles:

Although Christ quotes the words of the law concerning retaliation (occurring in Ex. 21:24: ‘an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth’) and opposes to them his own opinion (‘resist not evil,’ Mt. 5:39), he does not on that account correct them, as if he meant to abolish simply all vengeance. For he himself as God ordained the magistrate and armed him with the sword for a terror and punishment of evildoers (Rom. 13:3). He himself, when smitten on the cheek, did not offer the other, but resisted evil by asserting his own innocence and rebuking the injustice of his adversaries (Jn. 18:23), which Paul also intimates (Acts 23:3).12

The holiness and wisdom of God guarantee the moral law’s perfect equity.

The perfect equity of the moral law also reaches into the political laws of men. As part of the lex triplica, the judicial laws of Moses come in for consideration. Some of the judicial laws of Moses fence the Decalogue, while others were unique to the polity of the Jews. These are founded on God’s natural right, while those are of mere positive right, resting on God’s will alone, as we considered above. Turretin explains:

The polity having been abolished, the laws must necessarily be abolished upon which that polity was founded. They are of positive right and referred simply to the Jewish state; but not forthwith the others founded in natural right and appendages to the decalogue. Therefore, the forensic law as to general determinations, founded upon the moral law, is not abrogated; but as to special determination, which concerned the state of the Jews, is abrogated.13

Those of particular right Turretin illustrates by the Levirate marriage, gleaning, etc.; those of common right he illustrates by the punishment of crimes, and laws protecting orphans, widows and strangers.14

Another part of the lex triplica is the ceremonial law. Although an entire paper could be written on Turretin’s masterful and edifying treatment of the ceremonial law (as it illustrates the gospel), I will merely touch on his treatment of the manner of its abrogation. Turretin argues that the meritorious cause of its abrogation was the death of our Lord (cf. Col. 2:14). Yet in God’s providence, He mercifully removed its binding power “successively and by degrees”15 in order to accommodated the Jews. The coup de grâce was, of course, the final destruction of the temple, but the cause of this end was the destruction of the true Temple, our Lord’s body (cf. Jn. 2:19-21).

In order to save space for the other topics in Institutes2, I will briefly touch on the First and Second Commandments. The First Commandment requires that we have no other gods, and the implications of this law were clearly seen by many of the Church Fathers. For instance, Turretin cites the following which the papists included in their Index Expurgatorius:16

From the Index of Athanasius they erase, ‘God alone is to be adored and no creature.’ From Augustine, they destroy ‘the saints are to be honored by imitation, not by adoration’ (Of True Religion 55 [108] [LCC 6:280; PL 34.169]); and ‘against those who say, I do not worship images, but by them I am drawn to that which I ought to worship’ (‘In Psalmum CXIII* Enarratio: De altera parte,’ 3, 4 [PL 37.1483]).17

Of course, the papists would find these sentences in the Fathers as damning to their anti-Christian worship of images.

The Fathers were even more hard hitting when it came to the Second Commandment, eviscerating any form of invocation or worship of the saints:

Epiphanius says, ‘The holy church of God does not adore a creature’ (haeres. 69+). Athanasius says, ‘A creature adores not a creature, adoration belongs to the deity alone’ (‘Contra Arianos, Oratio tertia,’ Opera Omnia [1627], 1:394). Gregory of Nyssa: ‘He who adores a creature, although he may do it in the name of Christ, is an idolater, giving the name of Christ to an idol’ (Oratio Funebris de Placilla Imperatrice [PG 46.891]). Gregory Nazianzus: ‘Neither worshipping any above nor under; for the former cannot be done, the latter is wicked and impious’ (Oratio 22.12 [PG 35.1143-44]).18

And of crosses:

Minucius Felix says, ‘Crosses, we neither worship nor desire; you evidently who consecrate wooden gods, adore wooden crosses, as perhaps parts of your gods’ (Octavio 29 [ANF 4:191; PL 3.346]).19

Ambrose referred to the worship of relics of the cross as “a pagan error and the vanity of the impious.”20 Thus the Fathers severely forbad such lawlessness as would later become commonplace in the kingdom of Anti-Christ.

What is more strikingly ironic is that Gregory the Great, by many supposed to be the first pope at Rome, had this to say to Serenus, Bishop of Marseilles, who broke images in pieces that had been used in worship:

‘We praise your zeal that nothing manufactured can be adored, but we judge that you ought not to have broken the images themselves’ (Gregory the Great, Letter 13, ‘To Serenus’ [NPNF2, 13:53; PL 77.1128]).21

Thus, in accordance with the Second Commandment, no graven images are to be adored. After this powerful citation of Gregory, Turretin cites a series of imperial and conciliar decrees during the eighth and ninth centuries condemning the worship of images which is summarized in a work Turretin recommends on the topic.22 Of note in this regard is a work Turretin cites by Charlemagne entitled Capitulare de Imaginibus in which Charlemagne “most learnedly impugned the worship of images against the false Synod of Nice.” Moreover, Charlemagne also assembled a Council at Frankfort in 794 which condemned the Nicene decree favoring idolatry, and enacted a severe decree against the worship of images.23 All this demonstrates clearly the Fathers’ abhorrence of idolatry well into the eighth and ninth centuries.

The twelfth topic is the covenant of grace in its twofold economy. Turretin’s burden is to free this covenant from the profane thoughts of Anabaptists, legalists, Antinomians, and Arminians. Against the Anabaptist the covenant is affirmed as one in substance from the Old to the New administration. Against the legalist it is affirmed as an unconditional covenant, so far as our election and justification are concerned. Against the Antinomian it is affirmed as conditional, so far as sanctification and obedience to the law of God are means to the end of everlasting life. Against the Arminian the covenant of grace is affirmed as being particular to the elect alone. We will briefly touch on Turretin’s treatment of each of these errors.

God has always had one covenant of grace ever since the fall of man. Whether in the days of Abraham, Moses, David, or Christ incarnate, the covenant has had the same Mediator, the same internal form, and the same substance, though different in administration.24 The Anabaptists feign a difference of substance and not merely of administration between the Old and New covenants. Nevertheless the Reformed have seen, in a wonderful manner, that God has given fallen man only one way of salvation, through the Person and work of Jesus Christ. The substance of this work, moreover, is signed and sealed to the elect in both the Old and New covenants, visibly demonstrating the unity of God’s covenant of grace:

Sixth, the sacraments (the seals of the covenant) were the same in both testaments as to substance, signifying and sealing Christ and his benefits. It is evident both with respect to the ordinary (to wit, circumcision, which is called a seal of the righteousness of faith [Rom. 4:11] and the Passover, which is fulfilled in Christ [1 Cor. 5:7]); and with respect to the extraordinary (the passage of the sea and the deluge which answer to our baptism [1 Cor. 10:1, 2; 1 Pet. 3:20]; manna and the water from the rock, answering to the Eucharist [1 Cor. 10:3, 4]).25

Thus, as Turretin demonstrates in the same place, the new and old sacraments’ names are used interchangeably (1 Cor. 10:1-4; Col. 2:11, 12; 1 Cor. 5:7; Heb. 9). If nothing else, this interchangeability should convince the most skeptical.

Not only are the Anabaptists to be refuted here, but the legalists as well. The covenant condition is not man’s meritorious works, but the empty hand of faith laying hold on Christ and His righteousness; in discussing legal versus evangelical obedience:

The former precedes as the cause of life (‘Do this and thou shalt live’); the latter follows as its fruit, not that you may live but because you live. The former is not admitted unless it is perfect and absolute; the latter is admitted even if imperfect, provided it be sincere. That is only commanded as man’s duty; this is also promised and given as the gift of God.26

Since the fall of man, there has only been one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. The covenant of grace is founded upon this faithful Savior, and the free promise of His obedience and passion for us. Hallelujah!

Yet there is evangelical obedience in this covenant of grace, and therefore the Antinomian is likewise refuted. Our obedience to the commandments is not meritorious, but is an irrefragable clause in the covenant of grace:

Now these are the two principal duties demandedfaith and repentance. The former embraces the promises; the latter fulfills the commands; the one answers to the promise of grace–’Believe and thou shalt be saved’; the other is commanded by the evangelical law–’Walk before me, and be thou perfect’ (Gen. 17:1).27

Turretin goes on to demonstrate that the two special benefits God gives us, remission of sins and the law written on our hearts, correspond with man’s two duties of faith and repentance. Faith embraces remission of sins, and repentance reduces the law written on the heart to practical obedience to God’s precepts. Thus, the Antinomian, like the legalist, falls off the pathway to glory by rejecting one of the fundamental uses of the law.

In the last place, the covenant of grace is particular, made only with the elect, as against the profane babbling of the Arminian. God’s covenant actually accomplishes salvation, not merely making it possible. Thus, the sacraments are not seals of this covenant to the reprobate within the visible church, but only to the elect, who are truly members of Christ, the foundation and substance of the covenant:

Nor thence can you properly infertherefore also the covenant belongs to the called who are in the church and not only to the elect. For the offering of the sealing is one thing, the real application of it another. The former is common to all the called; the latter is special to believers. So far is the covenant from being sealed for salvation unto unbelievers that on the contrary their own condemnation is sealed because they pronounce judgment upon themselves.28

This passage likewise deals a mighty blow to the corrupt notions of the neo-Arminians in the Federal Vision camp. In summary, Turretin demonstrates the unity, grace, conditions, and particularity of the covenant of grace against the various errors on this topic.

The thirteenth and fourteenth topics deal the Person and state of Christ, and His mediatorial office. As any pious soul, Turretin rejoiced in his faithful Savior, Christ. He loved to dwell on the themes of His Person, offices and work. Thus, Christ took up over 30% of the space in Institutes2. The first portion of this most delightful topic that we will consider is the Person and state of Christ.

Jesus Christ is God-man: fully God and fully man. Eternally begotten of the Father, yet humbly born of a Virgin; impassible and immutable, yet suffering for us and growing in wisdom; Lord of glory, yet subject to his father and mother. And this humiliation was necessary for our salvation, as Turretin confirms from the Fathers:

‘If the flesh did not need to be saved, the word of God would by no means have been made flesh’ (Irenaeus, Against Heresies 5.14 [ANF 1:541; PG 7:1161]); ‘There was no cause for the coming of Christ, the Lord, except to save sinners, remove diseases, remove wounds; neither is there cause for medicine’ (Augustine, Sermon 175, ‘De Verbis Apostoli [9]’ [PL 38:945]); ‘If Adam had not sinned, there would have been no need for our Redeemer to take on him our flesh’ (Gregory the Great, In Librum Primum Regum 4.1.7 [PL 79:222]).29

Turretin continues explaining the same thought:

our mediator ought to be God-man (theanthrōpos) to accomplish these things; man to suffer, God to overcome; man to receive the punishment we deserved, God to endure and drink it to the dregs; man to acquire salvation for us by dying, God to apply it to us by overcoming; man to become ours by the assumption of flesh, God to make us like himself by the bestowal of the Spirit. This neither a mere man nor God alone could do.30

In short, God being impassible made our salvation impossible; but the Incarnation untied this Gordian knot, and united divine power with human weakness to suffer and overcome.

Here Turretin discusses the Virgin birth of Christ as proof that “he was a true man,” yet begotten without man’s help “that we might believe he was also something other than a man,” as Ambrose expressed it.31 Yet concerning the Virgin herself, I believe Turretin wandered from the truth by accepting a merely human faith:

This is not expressly declared in Scripture, but yet is piously believed with human faith from the consent of the ancient church.32

Rather, the perpetual virginity of Mary is not only not declared, it is patently contradicted, unless the plain words of Scripture be twisted to suit a merely human faith. Yet Turretin upbraids the papists for applying this same human faith to the notion that Mary took a vow of celibacy from Luke 1:34, “These words are falsely wrested to a vow of which there is not the slightest trace.”33 This is the only disappointing section that I found in Institutes2, and thankfully it is not a question of great moment, except for the idolatry to which “Mary ever-virgin” will ever be attached.

Turretin likewise champions the biblical teaching that although Christ is God-man, the two natures are not confused or melded into on another; the infinite cannot be finite in the same subject, manner and respect.34 The reason is that:

the divine essence cannot be communicated to a creature because a created thing cannot be made an uncreated, otherwise it would be God. Therefore none of the essential properties of God which are identified with the divine essence may be communicated. The same nature would be at the same time created and uncreated, immense and finite, which is contradictory.35

Though the Lutherans and Papists feign a divine humanity, orthodoxy demands that we speak otherwise.

Albeit there is no communication of properties whereby divine attributes, in the abstract, are infused into the human nature, yet because Christ is one Person, the God-man, what is predicated of this one Person may be predicated of each nature:

This is done either directly, when what belongs to the divine nature is predicated of the person denominated from the divine nature, and what belongs to the human nature of the person denominated from the human nature (as when the Word is said to have been in the beginning with God and God [Jn. 1:1]; when the Son of man, it is said, must be delivered to death and crucified [Lk. 9:22]). Or it is done indirectly, as when what belongs to the deity is predicated of the man Christ and to the humanity of Christ as God (as when suffering is ascribed to God [Acts 20:28] and ubiquity [which is proper to deity] is ascribed to the Son of man [Jn. 3:13]).36

This communication, however, is not merely verbal, but real; not in respect of the natures being really communicated with each other, but with respect to Christ’s Person. The Son of God was made man, “not by commixture of confusion, but by an unconfused and unmixed union of the two natures.”37

In light of Christ’s theanthropic constitution, Turretin’s next topic is Christ’s mediatorial office. Divinity and humanity meet in one divine Person in order to effect the redemption of the elect for the glory of God. The incarnate God was obedient to the law, made satisfaction for its curse, and ever lives to make intercession for us. Thus what preceded in Institutes2 sets the stage for this topic.

Christ’s obedience to God’s law is a part of his satisfaction for our sins:

For as sin has brought upon us two evilsthe loss of life and exposure to death–so redemption must procure the two opposite benefits–deliverance from death and a right to life, escape from hell and an entrance into heaven.38

Turretin goes on to demonstrate this twofold benefit from Scripture from Daniel 9:24, Galatians 3:13 and 4:5, Romans 5:10, and Acts 26:18. In these passages we find both forgiveness of sins and the gift of righteousness expressed by various terms, manifesting the riches of our redemption.

Not only does Christ’s satisfaction include his active obedience, but also accomplished a real salvation. The consolation of the pious is that their salvation has been secured in particular, proven by the fact that:

the mission and death of Christ are restricted to certain onesto ‘his people,’ ‘his sheep,’ ‘his friends,’ ‘his church,’ ‘his body’and never extended to all men severally and collectively. Thus Christ ‘is called Jesus, because he shall save his people from their sins’ (Mt. 1:21). Elsewhere he is called ‘the Savior of his body’ (Eph. 5:23), ‘the good Shepherd, who lays down his life for the sheep’ (Jn. 10:15) and ‘for his friends’ (Jn. 15:13).39

If Christ died for all men without exception, how then could Scripture assign such particular language to the objects of His saving compassion?

Yet objections are raised by some quarters due to seemingly universal language in Scripture. Turretin cites the Synod of Dort’s accurate response to this objection:

‘The universal propositions, which are found in Scripture, do not signify that Christ died for each and every man and made satisfaction for them according to his Father’s purpose and his own intention. But they must be restricted to the totality of Christ’s body; or to be referred to that economy of the new covenant, by which, without regard to any external distinctions of peoples, the Son receives for his inheritance all nations, that is, to all nations and peoples in common, at his pleasure, he reveals and sends the grace of preaching, and out of them gathers his church, which is the foundation of the general call of the gospel’ (Acta Synodi Nationalis… Dordrechti, Head II, Th. 6, [1619-20], 1:132).40

Christ our Savior accomplishes a real atonement, and therefore is alone qualified to act as our Mediator. This pushes aside all heathen and papist superstition about intermediate demons or saints, with all the trash built up around it by the papists. That this is heathenish, Turretin demonstrates by a citation from Plato, where he says, “God is not approached by men, but all intercourse and communication between the gods and men is carried on by demons.”41 Like Plato, the papists believe in other intercessors between God and men apart from the man, Christ Jesus.

Not only does Christ mediate in his manhood, but also in His Godhead, which the papists deny. It would appear that a merely human mediator makes room for their pantheon of mediators by His side. Yet Scripture speaks unequivocally on this topic:

‘God purchased the church with his blood’ (Acts 20:28); ‘The Lord of glory was crucified’ (1 Cor. 2:8); ‘He offered himself through the eternal Spirit’ (Heb. 9:14)… each nature contributing what was its ownthe human indeed the substance of the work (or passion); the divine, its infinite value and price.42

Since Christ mediates as God-man, He can have no competitors, equals or assistants: He does the whole work. This also casts aside the so-called priesthood of idol worshipping vicars imposed upon the devotees of the Roman tyrant.

In the fifteenth topic Turretin covers calling and faith. Because errors abound and man’s pride will scarcely be humbled, Turretin spent a great deal of time explaining this portion of God’s truth. The Pelagians new and old feign that man’s calling from God merely comes externally, and that man determines the answer to this call by his own will. Assuming this, they assert a mutable and unsure calling of the elect, resistible grace, and the apostasy of saints. To this Turretin musters the biblical teaching on effectual calling, assurance of salvation, irresistible grace, and the perseverance of the saints.

That there is a merely external call as well as an effectual call is evident from Scripture. Yet God’s effectual call requires nothing less than infinite power:

it is a work of divine omnipotence, which on this account belongs to God alone and cannot be ascribed to the finite human will as its proper cause. Hence it is called a ‘creation’ (2 Cor. 5:17) and a ‘resurrection’ (Col. 2:12), which can admit of no cooperation (synergeian) anymore than they who are created and raised can cooperate in their own creation and resurrection.43

The outward call of the gospel is even within the power of reprobates such as Judas or Demas. The inward and effectual call is only within the power of God Almighty.

From the Almighty Cause of salvation arises the firm assurance available to all saints. If God makes us a promise (“Believe and thou shalt be saved”), who are we to doubt? Nay, what room is left for us to doubt? “If a man, or an angel should make a promise, perhaps some might doubt, but if the supreme Essence, the Spirit of God… what room is there for doubt?”44

It is not that this blessed assurance is available to men who lead wicked lives, or who neglect the means of their own preservation. “Such is the holy security of the pious, which not only does not exclude watchfulness and the desire for piety, but necessarily supposes them as the certain means of their own preservation.”45 God has assured the end to those “who love God, who are called according to His purpose,” that is, to those who use the means which lead to that end.

The same “wonderful and ineffable power”46 that internally calls and affords all of the saints an assurance of faith, irresistibly conveys grace to the elect. Turretin points out that irresistible grace does not preclude that sinners resist the Holy Ghost’s call through the outward ministry of the church:

The question does not concern external and objective gracewhether man can resist the word and other external means employed by the Spirit for his conversion. For no one denies that resistance can be so made to them that they often remain useless and inefficacious. Rather the question concerns internal and subjective gracewhether when God applies it for conversion, man can so struggle against it that the event intended by God does not follow.47

This distinction corresponds to the external (resistible) and internal call (irresistible).

Concerning the well meaning offer of the gospel, Turretin demonstrates the absurdity of Arminianism, which assumes that God intends the salvation of all who are outwardly called by the gospel:

Therefore as it is absurd to say with respect to the elect that God calls them with the intention that they should be damned (since he has decreed to fulfill the condition in them), so it is no less absurd to say that he calls the reprobate with the intention that they should be saved (since God knew they would never have that condition; nay, he who alone can give, has decreed to withhold it from them). It can no more be concluded that God wills all to be saved for the reason that he promises pardon of sin and salvation to all promiscuously (if they repent), than that he nills the salvation of all for the reason that he denounces a curse and death upon all (unless they repent and believe).48

This argument is unimpeachable: God fulfills His holy will at all times, and no one can stay His hand, or say “What doest thou?”

Necessarily connected with the Almighty power which calls, and the irresistible will which effects our salvation is the infallible perseverance of the saints. He who began a good work in the elect will infallibly bring it to pass. This is not to say that man, considered by himself, even as redeemed, will infallibly persevere. Much to the contrary, redeemed man does not have the strength to endure; yet if Christ prays for him, his faith will not fail. The mediatorial office of Christ as our Great High Priest comes in here as one of the guarantees of our salvation:

‘God that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us, will give all things with him’ (Rom. 8:32). Since he has given the greater, he cannot withhold the lesser; he gave his Son to enemies (which is the greater), how will he not give perseverance to friends now reconciled?49

Therefore all things present or to come are ours in our faithful Savior.

Not only the mediation of Christ, but the nature of the covenant of grace guarantees our final perseverance, as Jeremiah says:

‘I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good,’ he says (32:40). ‘I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me.’ He does not say, I will exhort to fear and drive them to fear me, but ‘I will put’ fear in order that they may not depart. He does this to teach that he will most surely bring about the execution of the covenant.50

God’s promise is His bond, and, as Chrysostom asked, “What room is there for doubt?” Or as Augustine eloquently summarizes, “That is not really the body of Christ, which will not be with him forever.”51 Thus, all of the body of Christ will be with Him forever.

In the sixteenth topic Turretin discusses the biblical teaching on justification, which has a particular adversary in the papists. The papists assert a twofold justification: one by which an unjust man is made just, and one in which the just man is made more just.52 We likewise assert a twofold justification; one legal and one evangelical:

The former consists in one’s own obedience or a perfect conformity with the law, which is in him who is to be justified; the latter is another’s obedience or a perfect observance of the law, which is rendered by a surety in the place of him who is to be justifiedthe former in us, the latter in Christ.53

The papists confound the legal with the evangelical, as likewise sanctification with justification.

Yet some papists, such as Cornelius a Lapide, seek out this subterfuge, that “only the works of the law are excluded here, but not the works of hope, fear and love, which faith begets and produces.”54 However, a consideration of even some of the Schoolmen will refute such a notion:

Lombard says, ‘Without any works of the law, even the moral’ (In Epistolam ad Romanos [PL 191/1.1364] on Rom. 3:27). Thomas Aquinas says on this passage: ‘Without the works of the law, not only ceremonial, which do not bestow grace, but signify it, but also without the works of the moral precepts according to this, not by works of righteousness which we have done (Tit. 3:5)’ (‘Lectio IV Ad Romanos,’ In Omnes Sancta Pauli Epistolas Commentaria [ed. P. Marietti, 1917], 1:55-56 on Rom. 3:27-31).55

As Turretin remarks, Paul “passes from a part to the whole” and that seeking a partial justification by any particular laws requires obedience to the entire law (Acts 15:5 and Galatians 5:3).56

Not only did Turretin have the foresight to refute the New Perspectives on Paul hundreds of years before it reinvented Scripture, but likewise the so-called Federal Vision:

Nor does the difference between these modes of justification consist in thisthat in the former a perfect obedience and in the latter an imperfect is accepted of God as perfect, since the mode of justification would be always the sameby works. Rather the difference consists in thisthat since in both cases a perfect righteousness is required, in the former from the strictness (akribodikaiō) of the law God demands a personal righteousness, here from the forbearance (epieikeia) of the gospel he admits another’s (to wit, the righteousness of Christ).57

There is no final justification by works; that is merely a rehash of the old papist trash.

As to what justification is, Turretin cites some of the Fathers to powerful effect. Augustine, speaking on 2 Corinthians 5:21, says:

He, therefore, was sin, that we might be righteousness, not ours, but God’s, nor in us, but in him, as he demonstrated sin, not his own, but ours, nor in himself, but in us constituted in the likeness of sinful flesh, in which he was crucified.58

Imputation of an alien righteousness was not invented by the Reformers, or even by the Reformed Scholastics, but is a plain teaching of Scripture.

Bernard is likewise quoted to very edifying effect:

‘If one died for all, therefore all are dead; that the satisfaction of one might be imputed to all, as that one bore the sins of all’ (Contra… Errorum Abelardi Epistola CXC 6.15 [PL 182.1065]). And: ‘My merit then is the compassion of the Lord; I am not wholly destitute of merit, as long as he is not wanting in mercy’ (‘Sermon 61 [5],’ Song of Solomon [trans. S.J. Eales, 1984 rep.], p. 368; PL 183.1073).59

Again, Bernard and Augustine were both clear on the point that our justification is by imputation of Christ’s satisfaction, both by His passion, and by His righteousness.

The seventeenth topic is Turretin’s discussion of sanctification and good works. This is, of course, the logically next step after a discussion of calling and justification. As the papists join in battle against a free justification (making sanctification out to be our justification), so the Libertines and Antinomians rail against the doctrine of sanctification. If one assumes that sanctification is necessary, the Antinomian begins to carp about grace, grace, grace. Yet God is Lord of all, and His authority is unchangeable; therefore, any who would claim God as Father, or Christ as King, or Spirit as Sanctifier, must necessarily keep God’s commandments.

Turretin helpfully explains the necessity of good works and sanctification in the context of God’s covenant of grace:

And as to the covenant, everyone knows that it consists of two parts: on the one hand the promise on the part of God; on the other the stipulation of obedience on the part of man. For as God promises in it to be our God, he wishes that we also in turn should be his people.60

This is what Turretin referred to as the “evangelical law–’Walk before me, and be thou perfect’ (Gen. 17:1).”61 God’s law is the indispensable rule of right and wrong, and cannot lose its authority because of His covenant of grace and redemption.

But the objection may arise that perfection is unattainable, and therefore, God must have decreased His requirements in the law. If we hold to the necessity of obedience to the law and good works, we make men hypocrites. Bernard very cogently answers this objection:

Therefore by commanding impossibilities he does not make prevaricators, but humble persons, that every mouth may be stopped and the whole world become subject to God.62

Thus, striving for holiness and obedience to the law of God is not a formula for hypocrisy, but results in humility and the glory of God.

We have looked at seven topics in Institutes2, including the law, the covenant of grace, the Person and state of Christ, the mediatorial office of Christ, calling and faith, justification, and sanctification. In each of these, Turretin has proved useful and edifying as an expounder of the system of doctrine contained in Scripture. His status as the prince of the Reformed Scholastics is more thoroughly cemented in my mind after studying Volume Two of his Institutes. Again, as with Volume One, I heartily commend Volume Two to any of the pious.

1 Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, Volume Two: Eleventh Through Seventeenth Topics, (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 1992). This work will be cited as Institutes2in the text and footnotes. Note: spelling, capitalization, punctuation, formatting and citations have followed this edition as closely as possible.

2 For a fuller treatment on the Reformed view of the law, see my paper on James Ussher’s Body of Divinity, submitted to TNARS for Systematic Theology II on July 8th, 2011, “James Ussher: A Case Study in Puritanism and the Law of God.”

3Institutes2, 2.

4Institutes2, 3.

5Institutes2, 5.


7 Cf. Institutes2, 12.

8Institutes2, 6-7.

9Divine Institutes 6.8 (FC 49:412-13; PL 6.660-61), cited in Institutes2, 6. Although Lactantius refers to the natural law, this is applicable to the moral law.

10Institutes2, 140.

11Institutes2, 143.

12Institutes2, 23.

13Institutes2, 167.

14 Cf. Institutes2, 166.

15Institutes2, 161.

16 The Roman Index Expurgatorius was a listing of books or portions of books that were not to be published or read by devotees of Rome without certain portions being purged. The audacity of excluding portions from Fathers like Athanasius and Augustine should not escape us. Cf. An Exact Reprint of the Roman Index Expurgatorius, Richard Gibbings, ed. (Dublin: Milliken and Son, 1837).

17Institutes2, 39.

18Institutes2, 45.

19Institutes2, 62.

20Funeral Oration on the Death of Theodosius 46 (FC 22.327; PL 16.1464), cited in Institutes2, 62.

21Institutes2, 58.

22Imperialia Decreta De Cultu Imaginum In Utroq. Imperio Tam Orientis Quam Occidentis Promulgata, Melchiore Haiminsfeldio Goldasto, ed. (Frankfort: Theodori de Bry & duorum eius filiorum, 1608), cited in Institutes2, 59.

23 Cf. Institutes2, 59.

24 Cf. Institutes2, 195, 203, 235, and 235, respectively.

25Institutes2, 200.

26Institutes2, 189.

27Institutes2, 184.

28Institutes2, 211.

29Institutes2, 300.

30Institutes2, 302-3.

31De Incarnationis Dominicae Sacramento: Liber Unus 9 (PL 16.843), cited in Institutes2, 344.

32Institutes2, 345.

33Institutes2, 346.

34 Cf. Institutes2, 317.

35Institutes2, 323.

36Institutes2, 322.

37Institutes2, 372.

38Institutes2, 447.

39Institutes2, 459.

40Institutes2, 482.

41Symposium 203 (Loeb, 3:178-79), cited in Institutes2, 388.

42Institutes2, 380.

43Institutes2, 545.

44Chrysostom, ‘Homily 14,’ On Romans (NPNF1, 11:442; PG 60.527), cited in Institutes2, 623.

45Institutes2, 631.

46Augustine, On the Grace of Christ, 24 [25] (NPNF1, 5:227; PL 44.373), cited in Institutes2, 623.

47Institutes2, 547.

48Institutes2, 506.

49Institutes2, 599.

50Institutes2, 595.

51CI 3.32 [45] (FC 2:153; PL 34.82), cited in Institutes2, 606.

52 Cf. Institutes2, 634.

53Institutes2, 637.

54 Cited in Institutes2, 678. Note: no reference to a work by a Lapide is given.

55Institutes2, 641.

56 Cf. Institutes2, 641.

57Institutes2, 671.

58Enchiridion 13 [41] (FC 2:406-7; PL 40:253), cited in Institutes2, 652.

59Institutes2, 654.

60Institutes2, 703.

61See above, page 13.

62‘Sermon 50 [2],’ Song of Solomon (trans. S.J. Eales, 1984 rep.), p. 303 (PL 183.1021), cited in Institutes2, 701-2.


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