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Francis Turretin (1660)

Institutes of Elenctic Theology
(Loci III, Q 15)



Francis Turretin's Institutes was the central textbook for Systematic Theology used in the Ivy League Colleges in the 18th century. In this excerpt, Turretin deals with the most controversial theological topic of the era: the question of whether Godwills sin. Turretin's answer, drawn from medieval scholastics as well as Luther, is that there are two features of God's will: 1) what he tells people to do (his precepts), and 2) what he ultimately wants people to do.

Various distinctions of the will of God have arisen. The first and principal distinction is that of the decretive and preceptive will. The former means that which God wills to do or permit himself; the latter what he wills that we should do. The former relates to the futurition and the event of things and is the rule of Gods external acts; the latter is concerned with the precepts and promises and is the rule of our action. The former cannot be resisted and is always fulfilled: Who hath resisted his will? (Romans 9:19). The latter is often violated by men: How often would I have gathered you together, and ye would not (Mt. 23:37).

[Another] distinction of the will is into secret and revealed.  The former is commonly applied to the decretive will, which for the most part lies concealed in God; but the latter to the preceptive will, which is revealed and manifested in the law and gospel. The foundation [for this distinction] springs from Dt. 29:29: The secret things belong unto the Lord our God; but those things which are revealed belong unto us, and to our children, that we may do all the words of this law. The former is called a profound and unfathomable abyss (Ps. 36:6, Romans 11:33-34); the latter is discovered to all, nor is it far from us (Dt. 30:14; Romans 10:8). The former has for its object all those things which God wills either to effect or permit (and which he wills to do in particular concerning individuals and are therefore absolute and determined to one thing). The latter relates to those things which belong to our duty and are proposed conditionally. The former always takes place; the latter is often violated.

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