Francis Turretin: Prince of the Reformed Scholastics (Vol. 3)





Francis Turretin:

Prince of the Reformed Scholastics, III

Being an Interaction with the Text of

Institutes of Elenctic Theology, Volume Three






Reformed Orthobilly






For Systematic Theology I, Master of Divinity Program

The North American Reformed Seminary

May 3rd in the Year of Our Lord 2012

Select Table of Abbreviations


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


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


CCSL: Corpus Christianorum, Series Latina, Turnholt: Brepols, 1953- .


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


Hefele: A History of the Councils of the Church, Charles J. Hefele (New York: AMS Press, 1883/1972).


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


Mansi: Sacrorum Conciliorum, Giovan D. Mansi (Paris: H. Welter, 1901-27).


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


NPNF2: Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, eds. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1952).


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).


Tanner: Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, Norman P. Tanner, ed. (London and Washington, D.C.: Sheed & Ward and Georgetown University Press, 1990).

After reading and analyzing all three volumes of Francis Turretin’s Institutes, I am now fully convinced that Turretin is the prince of the Reformed scholastics. Turretin’s Institutes of Elenctic Theology, Volume Three1 is the fitting capstone on a house of theological riches. Turretin concludes his Institutes by demolishing the heart and soul of the Roman tyranny. Institutes3 covers three powerful topics: the church, the sacraments, and last things. As with the other two volumes, I will treat each topic separately, interacting with quotations I consider to be useful or edifying.

The eighteenth topic, and first in the Institutes3, is the church of Christ. Turretin’s main focus is on the tyrannical teachings of Rome, while also covering useful topics such as synodical authority, discerning the true church, the Two Kingdoms, and ministerial calling and pay. This topic dominates this tome, taking up over half of the total pages in Institutes3. Moreover, 63% of the quotations I mined in this volume were taken from this eminently useful and edifying topic.

First, then, Turretin’s major adversary is Rome, whose pope he identifies as the Antichrist. Turretin approaches this topic exegetically and historically. Exegetically, since such a belief may not be based on mere historical conjecture; historically, since Scripture (unlike in other instances), does not specifically identify the man of sin.

To clear the way for a proper exegesis, Turretin explains:

By this apostasy cannot be meant (1) political defection from the Roman Empire, instead of a spiritual and ecclesiastical defection from the faith of Christ. Neither the words nor the adjuncts by which it is described allow this. Not the words because as often as the Scripture of the New Testament uses the word apostasias or the verb aphistēmi, it denotes a defection from the faith (Acts 21:21; 1 Tim. 4:1).2

Not only the word apostasy itself demonstrates this, but the associated lying miracles and seductions of lawlessness (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:9-10) associated with it demonstrate an ecclesiastical tyrant for its only proper subject. This apostasy is also a defection from the faith and spiritual fornication (cf. Revelation 17:2 and 4), which is the biblical language for idolatry, or spiritual adultery of the church from her heavenly Husband.

This exegetical background being established, the historical picture Turretin paints leaves little room for doubt who the apostate is: the pope. Not only pretending ecclesiastical supremacy, but civil and even divine. The Romish historian Genebrand claims that during 150 years “’about fifty Popes from John VIII, namely, until Leo IX, wholly failed, apostacticor apostate, rather than apostolical’ (Chronographiae 4 [1580], p. 318).”3 Turretin comments:

Rather they also fell into heresy: as Liberius subscribing to Arianism; Honorius I subscribing to Monothelitism and on that account condemned in the general Council VI (Constantinople III, A.D. 680-681), Act 13 (cf. Hefele, 5:167); Marcellinus I sacrificing to idols; Zosimus favoring Pelagianism; John XIII denying the immortality of the soul and the resurrection of the body, condemned in the Council of Constance; Gregory VII and Boniface VIII claiming for themselves supreme power over kings and princes; and very many others of whom even Romanist historians speak.4

Not only did historians relate such apostasy, but the bishop of Rome (Gregory I) well-nigh prophesied concerning the pride of Antichrist, stating:

I speak confidently because whoever calls himself universal bishop or priest, or in his pride desires to be so called, runs before Antichrist (Book 7, Letter 30, ‘Gregorius Mauricio Augusto’ [CCSL 140.491]).5

Moreover, in writing to John III, Bishop of Constantinople, who had claimed the title of ecumenical bishop, the same Gregory inveighs against such tearing asunder of Christ’s body. Gregory argues that if it were unlawful for apostles or apostolic men (Paul, Cephas or Apollos) to be our head, how much less lawful for those who were not apostles or apostolic?!

If, therefore, he particularly opposed the subjection of the members of the Lord’s body to certain heads as it were beyond Christ and even to the apostles themselves, what will you say in the examination of the last day to Christ, the Head of the universal church, who endeavors under the appellation of universal to subject all his members to yourself’ (Letter 44, ‘To John of Constantinople’ [NPNF2, 12:166; PL 77.739]).6

The mystery of iniquity is not only known by its contrast with what Gregory says in rebuke to John III, but in the fact that later popes claim Gregory as their predecessor! No one could be further from their antichristian spirit! Christ alone is head of His church.

Scripture, history and a sort of prophecy agree in pointing to an apostasy from within the church which would claim universal jurisdiction over church and state, and even claim the title for the pope of a “God walking on the earth.” Some pitiful, fawning papal creatures even had the audacity to claim that the pope could make good evil and evil good. The mystery of iniquity, indeed.

Since the apostasy and lying spirits prophesied in Scripture includes a ban on certain meats and forbidding of marriage, it is only fitting that the Antichrist should support these doctrines of demons. Turretin cites a papist as follows:

This is the most impure proposition of Costerus: ‘If a priest commits fornication, or keeps a concubine in his house, although he is guilty of a grievous crime, still, if he marries, he sins worse.7

For a system to become this perverted requires the influence and power of demonic spirits.

The evil of celibacy, however, can only be truly appreciated when one considers the context of the early church, with which Rome feigns to be in harmony:

But the decree of the Council of Nicea comes up for special notice, by which it was provided that there should be no canon by which the use of marriage should be restrained; rather it was placed at the discretion of all. For since some were endeavoring to secure a law of celibacy, Paphnutius, Bishop of Thebes, earnestly dissuaded them.8

Turretin goes on to cite several sources9 demonstrating that Paphnutius’ arguments prevailed, and that Nicea unanimously passed a decree to this effect.

The hypocritical discord of Rome with the fathers of the church can also be seen by their vain notion that they have inherited the see of Peter, for whom they claim the primacy among the apostles. This can be seen by the discord between their opinion of Christ’s statement that He would build His church “upon this rock,” and that of the fathers, as well as the fathers’ reasons for assigning primacy to Rome.

Concerning the exegetical question of who the rock is upon whom Christ will build, Augustine and Hilary weigh in against Rome:

Augustine says, ‘Therefore, thou art Peter and upon this rock, which thou hast confessed, upon this rock, which thou hast acknowledged, saying, thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God, I will build my church, upon myself, who am the Son of the living God, I will build my church, upon myself I will build, not myself upon thee’ (Sermon 76, ‘De Verbis Domini [13]’ [PL 38.479]). This he often elsewhere confirms: Retractions 20 (FC 60:90-91); Tractate 124, On the Gospel of John (NPNF1, 7:450). Hilary: ‘There is therefore one immovable foundation of faith, this one blessed rock, confessed by the mouth of Peter, thou art the Son of the living God’ (The Trinity 2.23 [FC 25:54; PL 10.66]).10

The sound understanding of the fathers on this point is certainly out of accord with the later arrogations of popes and prelates.

Not only did the fathers’ understanding of Scripture counter Rome’s, but also their traditions regarding Rome’s primacy have nothing to do with the fable of Peter’s primacy:

Second, in the Council of Chalcedon this is decreed: ‘Let the order of ecclesiastical provinces follow the civil and political arrangements’ (tois politikois kai dēmosiois topois, kai tōn Ekklēsiastikōn paroikiōn hē taxis akoloutheitō, Canon 17, Tanner, 1:95). Thus the Roman bishop obtained the first place (ta presbeia) or the primacy of order, not because he was the successor of Peter, but because he was the bishop of that city which held dominion over the world; as it is expressly stated in the Council of Chalcedon (dia to basileuein polin ekeinēn, Canon 28, Tanner, 1:100).11

Not only the private opinion of the most famous of fathers, but also the conciliar authority of Chalcedon (as well as Constantinople I and Nicea12) oppose the presumed primacy of Peter, inherited by the pope.

The mystery of iniquity, however, not only opposes the fathers (while deceitfully claiming them as its own), but even has the audacity to claim mastery over truth. This is seen by the prerogative which she ascribes to the church over the faith. The true church, to the popes, is Rome itself, and the truth is subject to this prior claim. In this way, Rome places church over truth, rather than truth over church. Turretin powerfully marshals the fathers of the church to refute this vain notion; Chrysostom:

‘Where faith is, there is the church; where faith is not, there the church is not’ (“Homilia sexta,” Opus imperfectum: eruditi commentarii in evangelium Matthaei [PG 56.673]). ‘When heresy, which is the army of Antichrist, obtains, there is no proof of the church, except only by the Scriptures’ (“Homilia 49,” Opus imperfectum in Matthaeum [PG 56.908-9]).13

Augustine powerfully joins Chrysostom in determining the unity of the church from Scripture, rather than vice versa:

‘Let us not hear, I say this, you say that; but let us hear, the Lord says this. There are indeed Dominical books, in whose authority we both agree, we both believe, we both observe. There let us seek the church; there let us decide our cause’ (Contra Donatistas: De Unitate Ecclesiae 3.5 [PL 43.394]).14

Ambrosiater also demolishes the pompous claim to antiquity as the determiner of truth, citing the pagans as those who boasted antiquity against the Christians:

‘The pagans on account of their antiquity contend that they hold the truth because what is anterior, they say, cannot be false, as if antiquity or ancient custom settled the truth’ (Ambrosiater, Questiones veteris et Novi Testamenti: Quaestiones ex utroque mixtum 114 [PL 35.2345]). And a little afterwards: ‘This is a diabolical custom that falsehood should be commended by a derivation from antiquity’. What the ancients, therefore, answered to the pagans, the same we also must answer to the Romaniststhat a religion is to be estimated not from its antiquity, but from its truth.15

Along with Chrysostom, Ambrosiater, Augustine, and Cyprian,16 Gregory I, the bishop of Rome joins the chorus against the antichristian primacy of custom:

‘If perchance you oppose custom, we must recollect what the Lord said, I am the way, the truth, and the life. He did not say, I am custom, but I am the truth; and certainly, to use the opinion of Cyprian, any custom, however old, however common, is to be altogether postponed to the truth’ (‘Decreti,’ Pt. I, Dist. 8:5 Corpus Iuris Canonici [1959]).17

Thus, for any of the pious, including the pious fathers, the truth of God is victorious over all, and alone is the canon of faith, and the arbiter of what the true church is.

Aside from the negative treatment of the Roman Antichrist, Turretin has several other very profitable discussions about the church. One of these discussions concerns synodical authority. While some seem to think that such practices have no warrant in Scripture, Turretin demonstrates their divine and apostolic authority cogently:

And here the apostles shine out clearly to us by their example, who when a dispute arose about legal observances, immediately called a council: ‘And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter’ (Acts 15:6). For although the apostles were infallible and on this account could alone have settled this controversy, still they wished by their example under the guidance of the Holy Spirit to prescribe the order which should perpetually prevail in the church after their decease.18

If the infallible apostles themselves convened councils with other uninspired presbyters, who are we to consider ourselves above the need for such? Only the greatest of hubris could reject this apostolic practice.

Yet Turretin guards against ditches on either side of the road, demonstrating, first, that synodical authority “is not absolute and unlimited, to which we are bound to submit in blind obedience and without examination.”19 Though convened according to apostolic law, such synods lack apostolic infallibility. Second, Turretin guards against the puffed up notion of the Independents that synods carry no authority:

Although we are unwilling to grant infallible authority to councils, still we do not say that they have none. Rather they are of great weight in the church, inasmuch as their judgment, although not self-credible (autopiston), is still public and proceeds with the authority granted by Christ.20

This twofold caution establishes biblical Presbyterianism, in contrast to the tyranny of the pope, and the ecclesiastical lawlessness of the Independents.

Turretin also treats of the Two Kingdoms doctrine in accordance with Scripture. Though later generations have largely abandoned this biblical doctrine, Turretin faithfully maintains the Reformed faith on this point. In particular Turretin cites the pious kings of Judah as they interacted circa sacra, around sacred things:

So David constituted the orders and offices of the Levites (1 Ch. 23, 24). Solomon displaced Abiathar, guilty of sedition (1 K. 2:26, 27)… Here pertains the fact that Jehoshaphat enjoins upon the priests the reformation of public worship (2 Ch. 17:7-9); Jehoash rebuked the negligence of Jehoiada, the priest (2 K. 12:7); Hezekiah restored religion that had been corrupted by the priests (2 Ch. 29:30, 31); Josiah burned the bones of the priests upon the altar and cleansed the temple (2 K. 23:20).21

Yet this power is not so broadly extended as to grant magistrates power in sacra, or in sacred things. Nor does it abolish the power of church rulers:

The power of the magistrate about sacred things ought not to abrogate the power belonging to the rulers of the church, because although they are concerned with the same object materially still it is not the same formally. The power of the magistrate is external; that of pastors internal.22

In addition to the historical and approved examples of the pious kings of Judah, Turretin also proves the right of the magistrate about sacred things from God’s command for him to keep the divine law:

To him was committed the custody of the divine law; on this account he ought to care for the piety and worship of God, which is commanded by the first, no less than for justice and love, which is commanded by the second table.23

Turretin proves this from the charge to the kings of Israel in Deuteronomy 17:18-19, repeated in Joshua 1:8, and in Jehoash’s inauguration by Jehoiada in 2 Kings 11:12. This same divine command is confirmed in the requirements that kings and princes serve the Lord with fear and to kiss the Son (Psalm 2:11-12), and fall down before Christ (Psalm 72:10-11). Paul confirms the same by stating that magistrates are set up “that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty (1 Tim. 2:2), which could not be secured without a special care for religion.”24 Turretin charges those with sin who maintain otherwise.25

To further elucidate the teaching on the Two Kingdoms, Turretin gives the biblical terms for magistrates, such as nursing fathers, gods, pastors, and fathers.26 Each of these terms demonstrates a specific aspect of the God-ordained task of magistrates, including their power about sacred things. Whether the duty to procure spiritual and heavenly goods for their people, the mark of divine power they bear, their care for their people’s salvation, or their care for the instruction of their people in the fear of the Lord.

Turretin not only uses the canon of Scripture to prove this point, but even uses the canon of the Civil Law:

Marcian wished that ‘those who attempt to teach unlawful things be coerced with the ultimate punishment’ (Corpis Iuris Civilis, II: Codex Iustinianus 1.5.8 [‘Quicumque’] [Krueger, 1967], p. 52).27

In this way, Turretin securely establishes the Reformed doctrine of the Two Kingdoms in the approved examples of pious kings, in God’s command that magistrates be keepers of the divine law, and even by the witness of the Civil Law.

Also of concern in the church of Christ is the calling and authority of ministers. Since ministers bring the means of grace to the people, their role is valued and critical. Since the sacred ministry exists for the sake of the church, and not the church for its sake,28 ministers must be lawfully called to their office. Turretin demonstrates that even Christ did not presume to take His office upon Him, but was called to it (Hebrews 5:4-5), and therefore those who teach without being called or sent:

are said ‘to teach in their own name’ and not in the name of Christ (Jn. 5:43) (i.e., not sent by God), by themselves and their own authority and thrust in by themselves, who on that account deserve the name of thieves and robbers and not of true shepherds (Jn. 10:8).29

Turretin confirms this by the testimony of the ancient church, in which two distinct councils ratify this doctrine, as well as Cyprian and Chrysostom. Cyprian grounds the right of election or rejection of ministers in a divine right,30 and Chrysostom encompasses the thought in a span:

‘All elections and calls are invalid which are made without the knowledge and assent of the people’ (lib. 3 de Sacerdot.).31

The councils:

The Nicene says expressly: ‘If perchance any pastor of a church has died, let it be right for those received a little before, to succeed in the place of the deceased, provided they will be seen to deserve it, and the people shall have elected them’ (cf. Theodoret, Ecclesiastical History 1.8 [NPNF2, 3:46-47; PG 82.930]). The Council of Carthage III: ‘Let not a bishop ordain clergymen without the assent and testimony of the people’ (Canon 20, Mansi, 3:922).32

From the congregation’s right of election flows the minister’s right to pay for the divine service he renders. Turretin argues, along with Paul, that the analogy of the levitical priesthood’s salary, though not binding in “the special material from which and the manner in which the pay was given” yet remains, as cited by Paul in 1 Corinthians 9:13.33 He further confirms the right of ministers to receive pay:

From the threatenings following a withholding of pay. Because not to pay ministers their salaries is numbered among the most grievous sins of injustice towards a neighbor and of impiety towards God, upon which God threatens punishment and promises his blessing to those doing the opposite (Mal. 3:8, 10, 12; Neh. 13:10, 11; Gal. 6:6, 7). ‘God is not mocked,’ says the apostle, ‘for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.’34

In the nineteenth topic Turretin covers the sacraments. Again, Rome is the major adversary in this business with its false teaching on the true sacraments, and their piling up false sacraments. For brevity, however, I will discuss Turretin’s treatment of the nature of sacraments in general, baptism, with the balance of the space on the Eucharist.

Concerning the nature of the sacraments in general, Turretin discusses what constitutes a sacrament. He offers a succinct definition of a sacrament as follows:

‘Sacred visible signs and seals divinely instituted to signify and seal to our consciences the promises of saving grace in Christ and in turn to testify our faith and piety and obedience towards God.’35

Moreover, since the sacraments seal the promises of grace to us, Scripture is accustomed interchange the names of the signs and things signified:

as to circumcision is given the name of covenant (Gen. 17:11); to the lamb, the name Passover (Ex. 12:11); to the manna and water from the rock, the name of spiritual mean and drink and Christ (1 Cor. 10:4); to baptism, the name of the laver of regeneration and of the remission of sins (Tit. 3:5; Acts 22:16); to the bread, the name of the body of Christ (Mt. 26:26; 1 Cor. 10:16).36

With this context in mind, Turretin deals with the necessity of the sacraments. Sacraments, Turretin argues, are not simply necessary, but are necessary given the hypothesis of the divine command to do so, and of our infirmity.37 He contrasts the necessity of sacraments with the absolute necessity of the Word, without which there is no salvation.38

Having considered Turretin’s treatment of the sacraments in general, we will consider his treatment of the sacrament of initiation, baptism. Baptism seals regeneration, the sprinkling of Christ’s blood, the outpouring the Spirit, and many other saving benefits. As such, it cannot be despised without damnation:

Our opinion, however, is that baptism is indeed necessary according to the divine institution as an external means of salvation (by which God is efficacious in its legitimate use), so that he who despises it is guilty of a heinous crime and incurs eternal punishment.39

Or, as Augustine states the case:

‘For the conversion of the heart can indeed take place without the reception of baptism, but it cannot if baptism be despised’ (On Baptism, Against the Donatists 4.22 [NPNF1, 4.25, p. 462; PL 43.176]).40

Baptism is, therefore, necessary due to the divine command, and as an external means of salvation. Yet, we are not to impute such importance to it as to convert the sign into the thing signified. Turretin powerfully confirms this from two prominent fathers:

Gregory of Nyssa: ‘This benefit the water does not bestow, for it is higher than any creature; rather the precept of God and the approach of the Spirit, who comes mystically to our deliverance, bestows it. But the water subserves to show the cleansing’ (On the Baptism of Christ [NPNF2, 5:519; PG 46.582]). Augustine: ‘The water of the sacrament is one thing; the water which signifies the Spirit of God is another. The water of the sacrament is visible; the water of the Spirit is invisible. The former washes the body and signifies what is done in the soul; by the Spirit the soul itself is cleansed and filled’ (Homily 6, The Epistle of St. John [NPNF1, 7:498; PL 35.2026]).41

Thus, Turretin rightly asserts that we are neither to contemn nor idolize baptism, but to rightly use this sacrament in firm reliance on the divine promises which they seal.

On such group of errorists who contemn the sacrament of baptism are Anabaptists, and their heirs, the Baptists. Though, as Turretin clearly proves, the sacraments of the Old and New Testaments signify and seal the same spiritual realities, the Baptists are unmoved. Turretin argues:

as circumcision and the Passover are ascribed to us (1 Cor. 5:7; Col. 2:11), so baptism and the Lord’s Supper are ascribed to the fathers (1 Cor. 10:2-4). This interchange could not have a place unless there is an essential parity and identity between the sacraments of both Testaments which (as not existing between the signs) ought to exist with respect to the thing signified and the effect.42

This essential parity is what makes the Baptist position, when logically conceived, so blasphemous, as it must see God as peddling sacred mysteries based on merely profane principles of election such as carnal descent.

Not only are the signs essentially the same, but a positive command exists to baptize families. The general parity of the sacraments should be sufficient, but Scripture proceeds further. Infant baptism:

was commanded by Christ, if not in so many words (kata to rhēton), yet equivalently and as to the sense: ‘Go ye, and teach all nations, baptizing them’ (Mt. 18:19, 20). It is evident (a) because he who commands all nations to be baptized also commands infants to be baptized; for a precept concerning a genus includes all its species… (c) From the antithesis, for ‘all nations’ are opposed to all the Jews and them alone, as the difference between the Old and New Testaments demands, where infants as well as adults were circumcised. Therefore by parity the relation of baptism ought to be the same.43

Turretin proceeds to demonstrate that apostolic practice of household baptism confirms the essential identity of the sacraments and the command to baptize nations and therefore entire families from Acts 16:15 and 33; 18:8; and 1 Corinthians 1:16. What is of interest is that Acts 18:8 only mentions Crispus’ household faith, while 1 Corinthians 1:14-16 refers to Paul’s practice of baptizing by household,44 which Turretin rightly infers to mean that Crispus not only had a household faith, but likewise a household baptism.

Concerning the Eucharist, Turretin’s approach is similar, although the idol-mania of the papists caused his pen to be prolific on this point. The theme of the pope as Antichrist returns to the fore with the vast and unconscionable abuses of the Supper. First, the spirit of Antichrist turned the spiritual presence into the corporeal; second, the doctrine of transubstantiation was foisted on the sacrament; third, the sacrament was converted into a propitiatory sacrifice; and last of all:

they have elevated this sacrifice into an idol, most severely enjoining the adoration of it. Since this is the greatest proof of their Antichristian idolatry, it ought not to be passed over untouched by us.45

That this is not the teaching of the sacred Scriptures is too plain to require refutation, although Turretin does a thorough job of it. However, that the pope’s feigned unity with fathers of the church may not go unchecked, Turretin cites several. Each of these fathers dismantles various pieces of the papal idolatry of the mass:

Theodoret, Bishop of Cyrus A.D. 423: ‘For who called what is by nature a body, grain and bread, he honored visible symbols with the appellation of his body and blood, not changing the nature, but adding grace to nature’ (Dialogues I [NPNF2, 3:168; PG 83.55])… Gelasius, a Roman bishop about the year 490: ‘Surely the sacrament we take of the Lord’s body and blood is a divine thing, on account of which, and by the same we are made partakers of the divine nature; and yet the substance of the bread and wine does not cease to be. And certainly the image and similitude of Christ’s body and blood are celebrated in the action of the mysteries’ (Tractatus de duabus naturis 14 [PL Supp.-III. 773]).46

Theodoret and a bishop of Rome refute transubstantiation soundly by these words! Augustine refutes the notion of a propitiatory sacrifice by stating that:

‘The flesh and blood of this sacrifice was promised before the coming of Christ by the similitude of victims, in the passion it was given by the truth itself, but after his ascension it is celebrated by a sacrament of memory’ (Reply to Faustus the Manichaean 20.21 [NPNF1, 4:262; PL 42.385]).47

The sacrifice is true and proper only in Christ’s passion, while the sacrament remembers this sacrifice after His ascension.

The giving of the Eucharist in one kind was also condemned by Gelasius, bishop of Rome (quoted above) in the strongest of terms as “superstition,” and “great sacrilege.”48 Even heathen recognize the basic fact, entirely ignored by the mystery of iniquity, that God cannot be eaten:

Balbus, the Stoic in Cicero, was not ignorant of this: ‘Do you suppose,’ says he, ‘that anyone is so senseless as to believe that which he eats to be a god?’ (De Natura Deorum 3.16.41 [Loeb, 19:324-25]).49

The Romish senselessness and superstition is beyond heathen, and is devilish and impious.

Yet Turretin uses none of these arguments to derogate from the right of Christ to receive worship and honor from His people. Quite the contrary, our religion recognizes:

no other Mediator and head of the church than Christ; no other propitiatory sacrifice than his death; no other purgatory than his blood; no other merit than his obedience; no other intercession than his prayers. It is our religion which teaches that God alone is to be adored and invoked and does not allow the glory and the religious worship due to him to be transferred to creatures.50

Christ is always and everywhere to be adored, and therefore also in the Eucharist. “But,” Turretin says, “we deny that on this account the sacrament itself should be adored; nay, we reject this worship as a most foul and detestable idolatry and bread-worship (artolatreian).”51

One final papal error is the notion that sacraments, administered by clerics in union with the pope, physically confer grace. This is known as sacramental efficacy ex opere operato, or the sacraments working grace by their own inherent power. Turretin refutes these notions with some very fundamental theological facts:

if the sacraments physically contained grace in themselves and conferred it by an inherent force, grace would be tied to the sacraments. This cannot be said without absurdity. (a) God is a perfect free agent. (b) To confer grace by an inherent power belongs to God alone. (c) Many are saved without the sacraments, as the thief on the cross; and with them many are damned, as Judas, Simon Magus.52

Such basic truths of the Christian faith cannot be but overthrown by the notion of sacraments physically conferring grace.

The deceit of Antichrist’s kingdom on this point is seen to be more brazen when one considers that, by their theory, sacraments are actually removed from the people of God. If we recall that a sacrament consists of both a sign and a thing signified, it is easy to see that if the sign becomes the thing signified, then there remains no more sacrament. This logically worked itself out by the mystery of iniquity forbidding the people to take of both elements at the Eucharist, but rather only granting them bread, and that at the peril of idolatry by requiring bread-worship. But even if both elements were administered, transubstantiation still turns bread into God, and eliminates the sign.

Yet Augustine again gives a helpful admonition that distinguishes the two parts of the sacraments, and yet likewise holds them in sacramental union:

‘The sacraments are things in which, not what they are, but what they show, is always attended to, since signs exist as one thing and signify another’ (Contra Maximinum Arianorum 2.22.3 [PL 42.794]).53

The sign must exist in order for a sacrament to exist. With transubstantiation, only the accidents of bread and wine exist, while the substance is essentially converted:

Finally, Transubstantiation differs from every other substantial conversion in this, that only the substance is converted into anotherthe accidents remaining the samejust as would be the case if wood were miraculously converted into iron, the substance of the iron remaining hidden under the external appearance of the wood.54

Accidents remain, but the substance is changed, and therefore Augustine’s “signs exist as one thing” is destroyed by this diabolical conversion.

Turretin’s final topic in Institutes3 is eschatology, or the study of last things. Though in our day eschatology is often occupied with questions regarding the millennium, or, worse, with the putative tribulation, etc., Turretin occupies his pages with more edifying thoughts. For instance, acknowledging the human tendency to pry into God’s secret things, Turretin properly uses the docta ignorantia:

And we think we ought not too curiously to pry into the things which, as God has chosen to conceal from us, are both safely unknown and are defined dangerously. The certain knowledge of these is to be looked for at length on the happy day when that restoration will take place.55

It may even be argued that God has made us ignorant of such precise details regarding the end times so that we will more resolutely set our sights on occupying til He come! Speculation notwithstanding, Turretin discusses the basic facts of last things, such as the resurrection of the dead, glorification, eternal damnation, rewards and the conversion of the Jews.

The resurrection of the dead, Turretin urges, is a most beneficial and practical doctrine:

The doctrine of the resurrection is of the greatest utility. (1) It is the peculiar treasure (keimēlion) of the church, unknown to the heathen and revealed by the word alone, the proper faith of Christians. (2) It is the foundation of all solid consolation; hence hope and the resurrection of the dead are joined together (Acts 23:6; 24:15; 1 Cor. 15:19). For if there be no resurrection, faith is vain, we are found false witnesses, etc… (3) It is a most effectual stimulus to piety. Cyril of Jerusalem: ‘The resurrection is the root of every good work’ (Catechetical Lectures 18.1 [NPNF2, 7:134; PG 33.1017]).56

While impiety can easily be bred by endless disputes about eschatology, Turretin urges us to give careful consideration to “the root of every good work.”

The devil, the enemy of every good work, has therefore assaulted the resurrection by all means possible. Whether by Epicureans, Libertines or heathen, this article of the Creed has come under endless scoffing:

To the Athenians, the resurrection was silly talk (lērōdēs logos, Acts 17:32). Pliny calls the resurrection of the dead ‘childish nonsense’ and adds, ‘What madness is this, that life and death are to be repeated?’ (?Natural History 2.5.17 [Loeb, 1:180-81]). Caecilius: ‘Christians compose old women’s fables. They say that they shall be born again after death and ashes and dust; they in turn believe in their own falsehoods I know not with what confidence’ (cf. Minucius Felix, Octavius 11 [ANF 4:178; PL 3.277]).57

In heathens, who operate without any profession of Christian piety, this is understandable; for professed Christians to do so is less understandable.

Glorification, Turretin argues, is the end of depravity and misery for the elect:

To this immortality belongs impassibility, by which they will be subject to no passions at all, internal or external. Not to internal because there will no longer be in them the tinder of concupiscence, no defilement of sin, no inordinate desire (pathos)but they will be wholly pure and uncontaminated. In this sense, Paul says flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven (i.e., as to their depravity and misery).58

Eternal damnation is an exceedingly unpleasant topic for the wicked (its objects), but a source of consolation for the righteous, whose wrongs will be righted by it, for God has said “Vengeance is mine, I will repay.” Though scoffers deride this awful truth, yet:

it is asserted in so many passages of the Scriptures, and is confirmed by so many arguments (whether from the justice of God, or from the curse of the law, or from the heinousness and demerit of sin, or from the terrors and torments of conscience) that it is a proof not only of the highest impiety, but also madness to question or deny it.59

Those who deny this truth will feel its sting before too long.

While eternal damnation is the just recompense for the wicked, and eternal life the just reward of the work of Christ, yet among death and life, there are grades of reward. Christ asserts that “he who knew his master’s will and did it not shall be worthy of greater stripes.” Though the ignorant will not go unpunished, yet those who know will be punished with more stripes. Thus, grades of recompense exist in hell. Yet, as Turretin skillfully cites the fathers:

Ambrose: ‘As the increase of virtues, so also is the increase of reward’ (Expositionis in Lucam 5.61 [PL 15.1738] on Lk. 6:21). Augustine: ‘We believe there is one life to all the saints, but the rewards are diverse according to labors, and on the contrary in proportion to the delinquencies will also be the punishments of the sin’ (Sermon 236, ‘De Tempore [191]’ [PL 39.2183]).60

This is likewise in accordance with the promise that whoever was faithful with one five talents will be ruler over five cities, and ten, ten, etc.

Though we may not know the precise hour and day of the end, nor are we to speculate on the finer points of matters God has chosen to conceal at this time, yet there are general signs of the end. One of these general signs is that, after the fulness of the Gentiles has come in, all Israel will be saved. Nevertheless, due to the wickedness of professed Christians, such as the kingdom of Antichrist, this miraculously conversion goes on slowly:

Thus we should labor in this most especiallythat we may promote it not only by the preaching of sound doctrine, but also by the example of a better life, lest our conversation be a scandal to those obdurate Jews who for the most part estimate a doctrine from the life of its professors and feel persuaded that they do not have a proper reverence for God who so freely violate his precepts. For how can it happen that living for the greatest part among Romanists and estimating Christianity from their dreadful idol-mania, they should not be rather blinded every day than open their eyes to the light?61

Again, the proper use of the doctrine of final things is the practice of “every good work.”

We have looked at three topics in Institutes3, including the church, the sacraments, and last things. In this volume, the Roman Antichrist has come up for special dispute, due to his abuse of these precious biblical truths. Turretin has, with much profit, expounded the system of doctrine contained in Scripture against the backdrop of much error. His status as the prince of the Reformed Scholastics is now firmly secured in my mind. I cannot recommend these three volumes of the Institutes more highly.

1 Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, Volume Three: Eighteenth Through Twentieth Topics, (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 1997). This work will be cited as Institutes3in the text and footnotes. Note: spelling, capitalization, punctuation, formatting and citations have followed this edition as closely as possible.

2Institutes3, 76.

3 Cited in Institutes3, 79.

4Institutes3, 79.

5Institutes3, 152.

6Institutes3, 152.

7Institutes3, 246-7.

8Institutes3, 255.

9 Gelasius Cyzicenus (Actorum Concilii Nicaeni 2.32 [PG 85.1335-38]), Socrates (Ecclesiastical History 1.11 [NPNF2, 2:18]), Sozomen (Ecclesiastical History 1.23 [NPNF2, 2:256]), and Gratian (‘Decreti,’ Pt. I, Dist. XXXI Corpus Iuris Canonici [1955], pp. 111-16), cited in ibid.

10Institutes3, 164.

11Institutes3, 193.

12 Cf. Institutes3, 185 and 191, respectively.

13Institutes3, 91.

14 Cited in ibid.

15Institutes3, 100.

16 Cf. ibid.


18Institutes3, 307.

19Institutes3, 85.

20Institutes3, 311.

21Institutes3, 262; cf. ibid., 309.

22Institutes3, 280.

23Institutes3, 316.

24Institutes3, 317.

25 Cf. Institutes3, 316.

26 Cf. Institutes3, 317.

27Institutes3, 333.

28 Cf. Institutes3, 227.

29Institutes3, 212.

30 Cf. Institutes3, 230.

31Institutes3, 231.

32Institutes3, 230.

33Institutes3, 270.


35Institutes3, 339.

36Institutes3, 352.

37 Cf. Institutes3, 343.

38 Cf. Institutes3, 344.

39Institutes3, 387.

40Institutes3, 391.

41Institutes3, 367.

42Institutes3, 373.

43Institutes3, 415.

44 1 Corinthians 1:16 “And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other.” In Greek this passage reads “εβαπτισα δε και τον στεφανα οικον λοιπον ουκ οιδα ει τινα αλλον εβαπτισα”. The accusative, masculine, singular noun “οικον” is referred back to by Paul’s accusative, masculine, singular pronominal phrase “τινα αλλον” or “any other.” In other words, Paul baptized the household of Stephanas, but did not recall whether he baptized any other household. Thus, the apostolic practice is Acts is confirmed as a regular pattern in 1 Corinthians. Crispus and Gaius stand for their households, as is clear from correlation with Acts 18 where Crispus’ household faith would undoubtedly have met with a household baptism, according to the Apostle to the Gentiles’ practice.

45Institutes3, 538.

46Institutes3, 479.

47Institutes3, 537.

48 Cf. Institutes3, 456.

49Institutes3, 544.

50Institutes3, 139.

51Institutes3, 539.

52Institutes3, 365.

53Institutes3, 345.

54 The New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia, found at:

55Institutes3, 596.

56Institutes3, 562.

57Institutes3, 562-3.

58Institutes3, 619.

59Institutes3, 605.

60Institutes3, 628.

61Institutes3, 587.


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