Francis Turretin (1623-1687) on guilt, grace, and gratitude in the Old Testament ceremonial law

Francis Turretin

 

Those of you who are familiar with the Heidelberg Catechism will know that the Catechism explicitly adopts a threefold structure in its treatment of Christian doctrine, as laid out in Question 2:

Question 2. How many things are necessary for thee to know, that thou, enjoying this comfort, mayest live and die happily?
Answer: Three; the first, how great my sins and miseries are; the second, how I may be delivered from all my sins and miseries; the third, how I shall express my gratitude to God for such deliverance.

These three things are often summarized as “guilt, grace, and gratitude”.

Now, how might the Old Testament ceremonial law have anything to do with the above? With the ceremonial law having been fulfilled and abolished in the work of Christ (Col. 2:14, 16; Dan. 9:27; Eph. 2:15-16), some may wonder whether it is still of any benefit to us when we read of it in the Old Testament. The Belgic Confession helps us in this regard:

Article 25: The Fulfillment of the Law

We believe that the ceremonies and symbols of the law have ended with the coming of Christ, and that all foreshadowings have come to an end, so that the use of them ought to be abolished among Christians. Yet the truth and substance of these things remain for us in Jesus Christ, in whom they have been fulfilled.

Nevertheless, we continue to use the witnesses drawn from the law and prophets to confirm us in the gospel and to regulate our lives with full integrity for the glory of God, according to his will.

The Confession states that “we continue to use the witness drawn from the law and prophets to confirm us in the gospel…”. In this line, Francis Turretin (1623-1687) demonstrates how “guilt, grace, and gratitude” were exhibited in the Old Testament ceremonial law:

“With regard to the covenant of grace, there was a use of the law to show its necessity by a demonstration of sin and of human misery; of its truth and excellence by a shadowing forth of Christ and his offices and benefits; to seal his manifold grace in its figures and sacraments; to keep up the expectation and desire of him by that laborious worship and by the severity of its discipline to compel them to seek him; and to exhibit the righteousness and image of the spiritual worship required by him in that covenant. Undoubtedly three things are always to be specially inculcated upon man: (1) his misery; (2) God’s mercy; (3) the duty of gratitude: what he is by nature; what he has received by grace; and what he owes by obedience. These three things the ceremonial law set before the eyes of the Israelites, since ceremonies included especially these three relations. The first inasmuch as they were appendices of the law and the two others as sacraments of evangelical grace. (a) There were confessions of sins, of human misery and of guilt contracted by sin (Col. 2:14; Heb.10:1-3). (b) Symbols and shadows of God’s mercy and of the grace to be bestowed by Christ (Col. 2:17; Heb. 9:13, 14). (c) Images and pictures of duty and of the worship to be paid to God in testimony of a grateful mind (Rom. 12:1). Misery engendered in their minds humility; mercy, solace; and the duty of gratitude, sanctification. These three were expressly designated in the sacrifices. For as they were a “handwriting” on the part of God (Col. 2:14) representing the debt contracted by sin, so they were a shadow of the ransom (lytrou) to be paid by Christ (Col. 2:17, Heb. 10:5, 10) and pictures of the reasonable (latreias logikēs) and gospel worship to be given to God by believers (Rom. 12:1; 1 Pet. 2:5).”

– Francis Turretin (1623-1687), Institutes of Elenctic Theology, XI.24.9

Advertisements

Francis Turretin (1623–1687) on the beauty of God’s creation as “the highest art”

Image

“[He] is blind who does not see the most beautiful order everywhere and most wicked who does not acknowledge it. There is a suitable disposition of parts, so constant a concord of things so discordant, so harmonious an agreement and consent of creatures the most diverse, so swift and at the same time equable motion of the heavenly bodies and so immutable a stability and constancy of the order once established. So not only do the heavens declare the glory of God, but every blade of grass and flower in the field, every pebble on the shore and every shell in the ocean proclaim not only his power and goodness, but also his manifold wisdom, so near each one that even by feeling, God can be found. Augustine says, ‘The prophetic voices excepted, the world itself by its own most regular mutability and mobility and the exquisitely beautiful appearance of all visible things, silently as it were proclaims both that it was made and could be made only by a God unspeakably and invisibly great, and unspeakably and invisibly beautiful.’ You may say perhaps that these things were so arranged by chance and by a fortuitous concourse of atoms. But I know not whether such an impious and absurd opinion is worthy of refutation, since these things denote not chance, but the highest art.”

– Francis Turretin (1623–1687), Institutes of Elenctic Theology, vol. 1, p. 171-172

Iain H. Murray on the sincerity of God’s offer in the proclamation of the Gospel to the non-elect

Image

“Finally, we can observe that the sincerity of God’s offer even to the non-elect is in accordance with the truth that God does desire, delight and approve of things which, for other reasons, He has not determined to carry into effect. This distinction can be illustrated from God’s commandments. His commandments express what He desires should be done. When the Israelites disobeyed them He cries – ‘O that my people had hearkened unto me.’ ‘O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments! then had thy peace been as a river . . .’ (Ps. 81:3; Is. 48:18; Deut. 5:29). Unmistakably such verses express what was God’s desire. Yet we must say that though their actions were, in their own nature, displeasing to God, He had nevertheless willed and permitted such conduct for wise and holy ends. Similarly with the Gospel offer. God desires that everyone should believe it; He has no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezek. 33:11) but delights in their conversion [1] – thus Christ yearned for the salvation of the people of Jerusalem (Matt. 23:37). Yet this desire, in the case of the non-elect, is for the fulfilment of something which in His inscrutable counsel and sovereign purpose He has not actually decreed to come to pass. This distinction between God’s desire and His will, or, more correctly stated between the will of God’s benevolence and His decretive will, underlies the free offer of the Gospel. [2] His benevolence and compassion, expressed in the universal call to repentance, extend to every creatures whom He has not decreed to save. At this mysterious evidence of the unsearchable character of God’s ways the humble believer stops and says with Calvin ‘we go no farther than the Lord leads us by his Word’.”

– Iain H. Murray, “The Free Offer of the Gospel: Viewed in the Light of the Marrow Controversy,” Banner of Truth 11 (June 1958), 13–14

[1] “God delights in the conversion and eternal life of the sinner, as a thing pleasing in itself, and congruous with his infinitely compassionate nature, and therefore demands from man as a duty due from him to turn if he would live.”

– Francis Turretin (1623–1687), quoted in W.G.T. Shedd’s Dogmatic Theology, vol. II, p. 483 (1889 edit.)

[2] This distinction may be a new one to some readers but it is far from novel. John Calvin (1509-1564), in expounding 2 Peter 3:9 (God is “not willing that any should perish…”), distinguishes between God’s wish or revealed will and His determinate (hidden) purpose in the following words: “But it may be asked, If God wishes none to perish, why is it that so many do perish? To this my answer is, that no mention is here made of the hidden purpose of God, according to which the reprobate are doomed to their own ruin, but only of his will as made known to us in the Gospel. For God there stretches out his hand without a difference to all, but lays hold only of those, to lead unto himself, whom he has chosen before the foundation of the world.”

John Calvin (1509-1564), Commentary on 2 Peter 3:9

Francis Turretin (1623–1687) on Reformation Churches

Image

“Our religion is that which is wholly occupied with knowing the one and triune God, the Creator, preserver and Redeemer, and rightly worshipping him according to his command.  It gives the entire glory of our salvation to God alone and writes against man alone the true cause of his sin and destruction.” 

“It is our religion which recognizes no other rule of faith and practice besides the sacred Scriptures; 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 depresses man as much as possible by taking away from him all presumption of his own strength and merits; and rises him to the highest point by preaching that the grace and mercy of God is the only cause of salvation, both as to acquisition and as to application.”

“It is our religion which brings solid peace and consolation to the soul of the believer in life and in death by the true confidence which it orders him to place, not in the uncertainty and vanity of his own righteousness or human satisfactions, but in the sole mercy of God and most perfect righteousness of Christ, which, applied to the heart by faith, takes away doubt and distrust and ingenerates a vivid persuasion of salvation after this life.”

– Francis Turretin (1623–1687), Institutes of Elenctic Theology, Vol. III, p. 139