January 18, 2007

Francis Turretin (1623–1687) on the Will of God

The following quotes from Francis Turretin (1623-1687), a high Calvinist Italian Reformer who followed Calvin and Beza in Geneva, are important because 1) he connects God's command with his preceptive "will" 2) he connects God's preceptive will with a serious "wish" and "desire."

We may build the case from the following Turretin quotes the following view of God's preceptive or approving will:

1) What God commands he seriously wills by will of precept.

2) What God wills by precept is a serious "wish" and "desire."

3) When God calls a man to salvation by will of precept, he seriously wills, i.e., he wishes and desires it.

4) Turretin interprets the meaning of the Synod of Dort as saying these things by implication.
VIII. (3) The question is not whether there is in God a will commanding and approving faith and the salvation of men; nor whether God in the gospel commands men to believe and repent if they wish to be saved; nor whether it pleases him for men to believe and be saved. For no one denies that God is pleased with the conversion and life of the sinner rather than with his death. We willingly subscribe to the Synod of Dort, which determines that "God sincerely and most truly shows in his word, what is pleasing to him; namely, that they who are called should come to him" (Acta Synodi Nationalis . . . Dordrechti [1620], Pt. I, p. 266). But the question is whether from such a will approving and commanding what men must do in order to obtain salvation, can be gathered any will or purpose of God by which he intended the salvation of all and everyone under the condition of faith and decreed to send Christ into the world for them. Hence it appears that they wander from the true order of the question who maintain that we treat here only of the will of approbation (euarestias), but not of the will of good pleasure (eudokias). It is evident that we treat not of that which God wishes to be done by us, but what he wills to do for the salvation of men and of the decree of sending Christ for them (which everyone sees belongs to the will of good pleasure [eudokias] and not to that of approbation [euarestias]).
Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, trans. G. M. Giger, ed. J. T. Dennison, 3 vols. (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1994), 1:397.
XLI. God wills those to be saved (whom he wills to repent and believe) in the same manner in which he wills them to believe. If he wills them to believe decretively and effectively (as with respect to the elect), he also wills them to be saved in this respect and so they are really saved. If he wills only preceptively and approvingly (as with respect to the reprobate upon whom he enjoins faith and repentance), in the same manner also he wills them to be saved (i.e., that he approves of and is pleased with their salvation), but not immediately that he destines it to them or intends it either absolutely or conditionally (because the method of the decretive will differs from that of the preceptive and approving). God indeed ought necessarily to will what he commands, but in the manner in which he commands (i.e., as he wills its being enjoined, but not always as to the execution and issue). Nor immediately does he intend what is commanded, since many things are commanded which are by no means intended. Thus God commanded Pharaoh to let the people go and yet he cannot be said to have actually intended (either absolutely or conditionally) their dismission since he intended on the contrary the hardening of Pharaoh and the retention of the people. He ordered Abraham to offer up his son and yet did not intend his immolation. He commands all to obey the law which yet he does not intend. As therefore from the command to fulfill the law you would erroneously gather that God intends the perfect sanctification of men and their justification and life from it, so from the command to believe and repent, you would notwithstanding falsely infer that God by that very thing intended the faith and repentance and so the salvation of all those to whom such an external command is promulgated. But although the end of the command in the signified act and on the part of the thing may be said to be that they should believe and repent, yet it cannot be determined that this is the end intended on the part of God and in the exercised act (for if he had intended this, he would have procured and effected the necessary means by which it would be brought about). Therefore the precept signifies that God really wills to enjoin that upon us, but not that he really wills or intends that what is commanded should take place. Nor does the example of legislators (who will and intend, as much as they can, those things which they enjoin upon their citizens) pertain to this because in them cannot be distinguished (as in God) the will of thing, could they immediately give effect to it as God can).
Ibid., 1:413–414.
XVI. It is one thing to will reprobates to come (i.e., to command them to come and to desire it); another to will they should not come (i.e., to nill the giving them the power to come). God can in calling them will the former and yet not the latter without any contrariety because the former respects only the will of precept, while the latter respects the will of decree. Although these are diverse (because they propose diverse objects to themselves, the former the commanding of duty, but the latter the execution of the thing itself), still they are not opposite and contrary, but are in the highest degree consistent with each other in various respects. He does not seriously call who does not will the called to come (i.e., who does not command nor is pleased with his coming). But not he who does not will him to come whither he calls (i.e., did not intend and decree to come). For a serious call does not require that there should be an intention and purpose of drawing him, but only that there should be a constant will of commanding duty and bestowing the blessing upon him who performs it (which God most seriously wills). But if he seriously make known what he enjoins upon the man and what is the way of salvation and what is agreeable to himself, God does not forthwith make known what he himself intended and decreed to do. Nor, if among men, a prince or a legislator commands nothing which he does not will (i.e., does not intend should also be done by his subjects because he has not the power of effecting this in them), does it follow that such is the case with God, upon whom alone it depends not only to command but also to effect this in man. But if such a legislator could be granted among men, he would rightly be said to will that which he approves and commands, although he does not intend to effect it.
Ibid., 2:507–508.
XXI. The invitation to the wedding proposed in the parable (Mt. 22:1-14) teaches that the king wills (i.e., commands and desires) the invited to come and that this is their duty; but not that the king intends or has decreed that they should really come. Otherwise he would have given them the ability to come and would have turned their hearts. Since he did not do this, it is the surest sign that he did not will they should come in this way. When it is said "all things are ready" (Lk. 14:17), it is not straightway intimated an intention of God to give salvation to them, but only the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice. For he was prepared by God and offered on the cross as a victim of infinite merit to expiate the sins of men and to acquire salvation for all clothed in the wedding garment and flying to him (i.e., to the truly believing and repenting) that no place for doubting about the truth and perfection of his satisfaction might remain.
Ibid., 2:509.

The Formula Consensus Helvetica (in which Turretin assisted) also says:
Canon XIX. Likewise the external call itself, which is made  by the preaching of the Gospel, is on the part of God also, who calls, earnest and sincere. For in His Word He unfolds earnestly and most truly, not indeed, His secret intention respecting the salvation or destruction of each individual, but what belongs to our duty, and what remains for us if we do or neglect this duty. Clearly it is the will of God who calls, that they who are called come to Him and not neglect so great salvation, and so He promises eternal life also in good earnest, to those who come to Him by faith;...
Translated in A. A. Hodge, Outlines of Theology (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1999), 661.

Klauber's translation:
Canon XIX: Likewise the external call itself, which is made by the preaching of the Gospel, is on the part of God also, who earnestly and sincerely calls. For in his Word he most earnestly and truly reveals, not, indeed, his secret will respecting the salvation or destruction of each individual, but our responsibility, and what will happen to us if we do or neglect this duty. Clearly it is the will of God who calls, that they who are called come to him and not neglect so great a salvation, and so he earnestly promises eternal life to those who come to him by faith;
Martin I. Klauber, “The Helvetic Formula Consensus (1675): An Introduction and Translation,” Trinity Journal 11.1 (Spring 1990): 120.

See also Donald J. MacLean, James Durham (1622–1658) and the Gospel Offer in its Seventeenth-Century Context (Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2015), 34–35, for an explication of Turretin’s view on the free offer.


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