Archive for April, 2008

The Rock Christ – A Sermon by Francis Turretin

April 30, 2008
1 Cor. 10:4, “And that Rock was Christ.”
(Translated from Turrettin for the Reformed Presbyterian and Covenanter.)
(Originally appeared in the Reformed Presbyterian and Covenanter September 1868)

In the whole history of the Israelites wandering through the desert, there occurs scarcely anything more illustrious and wonderful, certainly nothing more mysterious, and which shadows forth Christ and his saving benefits more significantly, than the remarkable miracle of the Rock and the waters flowing from it, which God gave his chosen people to drink.

Paul’s words in 1 Cor. 10:4 are, “And they did all drink the same spiritual drink; for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them; and that Rock was Christ.” The aim of the apostle is to show the identity of the sacraments under the Old Testament with those under the New, if not in the sign, yet at least in the thing signified; lest the Corinthians, by supposing that they possessed more excellent sacraments, might promise themselves impunity in their sins, especially in the sin of idolatry, of which he was anxious to cure them. Hence he shows that the fathers were not in this respect inferior to us, but had the same sacraments as we, or analogous sacraments, which would correspond with baptism and the Lord’s Supper. The type of baptism he proves in the pillar of the cloud, and in the passage of the sea. But the type of the supper he proves in both its symbols, the bread in the manna, the drink in the rock, and in the waters that gushed out of it.

But that we may proceed to the mystery, to which the Holy Spirit in this connection evidently designs to call our attention, we must now endeavor to penetrate beneath the surface, and discover what lies hidden there. For that here there is a mystery, even though Paul had given us no express intimation of it, the very nature of the thing and the accompanying circumstances clearly evince. For if God had proposed to himself nothing more than to refresh his people with wholesome drink, could he not have sent water from heaven, or have brought them into some place that abounded in fountains of water? What necessity was there for him either to select a rock for this purpose, or to use a rod in smiting it that water might issue from it? The very fact, that to Moses he promised to stand upon the rock until the miracle would be performed, indicates with sufficient clearness that none other than the Son of God, who was the leader of the people, accomplished this whole work, and that everything connected with it related to none other than to him.

Since, then, there is something peculiar in the apostle’s selecting that rock from which the waters flowed, the ground of the analogy which it furnishes is deserving of careful consideration. For as God to supply his people with water chose in preference to everything else a rock, which not only contains no water in itself, but than which to yield water nothing in nature is more unlikely; so to the flesh nothing appears more absurd than to receive salvation from the crucified One, to obtain life from death, happiness from misery, the blessing from the curse. With reference to this, Christ is said to be a stumbling block to the Jews, and foolishness to the Greeks, but the wisdom and power of God to them who are the called. Again, as water flowed out of this rock, so Christ becomes to his people a fountain springing up to eternal life, and most copiously pouring out his waters of grace and salvation. Hence the prophets and the other inspired writers so frequently shadow forth under the symbol of water the saving benefits of Christ, and the gifts of his Spirit. But as the rock yielded no water until it was smitten, and when smitten, water gushed out of it in abundance, by which the Israelites were refreshed; so from the side of Christ there flowed blood and water, by which believers, hastening forward to the heavenly land of promise, are refreshed in the desert of the world. For since God could grant no favor to the sinner, unless appeased by the death of his Son, it behooved him to be stricken and afflicted, that the chastisement of our peace might be laid upon him, and that by his stripes we might obtain salvation. But as the rock was smitten by the rod of Moses, so Christ was smitten not only by the Jews, of whom Moses was a figure, but also by the rod of the law, of which Moses was the minister, that is, by the curse and penalty denounced in the law. Isa. 53:4 and 5; Gal. 3:13. As the rock, when smitten, gave forth copious streams of water which abundantly supplied all the people, so Christ, who is the inexhaustible fountain of salvation, in whom there is a fulness of all grace, pours out most copiously those healthful waters, the gifts of the Spirit, which supply abundantly, not this or that believer in particular, but the whole church. Hence he is said to be made to us by the Father, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption, and to be all in all. As nothing was more delightful to the Israelites while they remained in the dry and scorching desert, than fountains at whose streams of sweet purling water they could slake their thirst; so to believers, journeying through the parched and hot desert of the world, there is nothing more pleasant, nothing more grateful than to have belonging to. them a fountain, at which they may refresh themselves in their heat.

As the rock poured out its waters not for a moment, and then became dry, but perpetually, so long as the people were journeying in the desert, for it followed them, its streams flowing after them wherever they went; so the blood of Christ and the gifts of his grace continue through all times and in all places. Not only is he present to his children by the gifts which he so freely bestows upon them, but he himself dignifies them with his presence, yea, he does not follow them so much as he accompanies them, and goes before them, lest anything should fail them in the way in which they must walk. Hence two distinguishing privileges of believers are here brought to view, perseverance in grace, and the presence of Christ himself, according to which he has promised to be with us even to the end of the world. And although for the purpose of chastising our ingratitude, or exercising our faith, he sometimes suffers those refreshing waters to be withdrawn for a little, as in the desert, yet he never absolutely denies them to us, but intends that we harassing him, as it were, by our prayers, shall draw them out in the practice of faith and repentance.

Furthermore, in this comparison, many points of dissimilarity are to be observed. The rock of Moses was destitute of life and reason; but Christ is the living, life-giving and rational rock. It had no water in its bosom; but Christ is the fountain of life, from whose fulness we all receive grace for grace. It could satisfy bodily thirst for the time, but not for ever; but Christ makes us so to drink of his health-giving water, that when we have once drank from him, we thirst no more, but he becomes in us a fountain springing up to eternal life. The rock could not follow the Israelites, but Christ accompanies them perpetually as the author and finisher of their faith, who after having redeemed them from the spiritual Egypt, and led them through the red sea of his own blood, conducts them in the desert of the world by the lamp of his word, nourishes them with celestial manna, quenches their thirst and refreshes them with healthful waters, until they come to the heavenly Canaan, where “he who is on the throne, will shade them, and they shall hunger no more, neither shall they thirst any more, nor shall the sun light on them, for the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them,” not to streams, “but to living fountains of waters, and ‘shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.” So let it be.

Unity, Liberty, and Charity – Who said it first?

April 28, 2008


I happened to be reading LP Cruz’s blog today, and noticed an article in which he ascribed to “a 17th century Lutheran pastor” the famous saying, “In the essentials, unity, in the non-essentials, liberty, and in all things, Charity,” or something to that effect.

It seems like sound-thinking and appeals to our softer side; but who said it first? LP Cruz’s post sparked my interest to dig deeper into the subject.


Ramage’s “Beautiful thoughts from Latin Authors,” ascribes the maxim to Melancthon, and notes that it has been carved in stone above his garden gate. (link) Cox too seems to maintain Melancthon as the originator, posting that quotation prominently on the title page of his biography of that reformer (link). Matthes likewise seems to be of the same view in his life and works of Melancthon (link), though my German and ability to read the older scripts is not good enough for me to be definitive. Hoefer also seems to be willing to attribute the saying to Melancthon (link).


Belton thinks that the origin of the phrase is “really unknown,” though he seems to have found it in a few 17th century writers (link). This is perhaps the most honest and direct conclusion we could give, but it is our part as scholars to dig, guess, and delve. To that end, we cannot be satisfied with Belton’s willing agnosticism on the matter.


Remarkably, the earliest I was able to find a reference (published 1719) to this famous maxim was in the works of the unworthy son of Francis Turretin, Jean Alphonse, who provides the saying with the addition of Prudence to the final line of the saying (link). J.A. Turretin appears to ascribe the phrase to Witsius. Cunningham (and others) agree that Witsius adopted this as his favorite motto (link).

Meldenius – not Augustine
Stanley ascribes the quotation to Rupertus Meldenius, and notes that it had for a time been falsely ascribed to Augustine (link). Jones notes the dubious ascription to Augustine here as well (link). Hamerton appears to have bought the Augustine line (link).

Narrowing it down Further

Hoyt lists both Meldenius (his preference) and Melancthon (link) (much the same thought here, as well).


Augustine was a rather obvious misattribution, his weighty name getting the credit for anything good in Latin among many Protestants. Ironically, the saying eventually came to be approved by a pope, as this thoughtful web page noted (link) and seems to have become taken essentially as dogma in other Catholic writings (e.g.). This may perhaps have been due to its misattribution to Augustine, though the pope seemed to have been aware of the dubious origin of the maxim.

Witsius probably did help popularize the expression, but does not seem to have taken credit for its origin. Furthermore, the 1626 date of Meldenius’ publication is slightly before Witsius’ birth, which naturally seals Witsius off from further consideration.

Melancthon (1497-1560) is old enough to antedate Meldenius’ publication, and would even be old enough to cast Meldenius’ originality into question, but it seems that the garden gate of Melancthon’s garden may simply not date to Melancthon’s time (which would hardly be surprising), and there appears to be no other record of Melancthon having heard of the saying.

At the end of the day, Meldenius has the edge on the others, given that his usage was the first to appear in print – that we have been able to recover (though I have not even been able to recover that). Here’s an interesting brief discussion of Meldenius for those who may be interested (link). In short, L.P. Cruz appears to be justified in attributing the famous phrase to “Peter Medeirlin, a Lutheran pastor of the 17th Century.” If you explore the final link above, you will find some reasonable speculation that Meldenius is a pseudonym (yes folks, people did publish pseudonymously before the Internet) for Medeirlin, based on a rearrangement of letters.

Regardless of who originated the saying let us follow the modified form published by J.A. Turretin, in which we maintain unity among Christians on the essentials (the gospel), liberty among Christians on the non-essentials (other doctrines), and both charity and prudence in all things.


P.S. Thanks to Albert for catching an error in the original version of this post.

Dabney Recommends for Sermon Preparation …

April 27, 2008

[After deducing the question from the text to be preached upon,] I proceed to study authorities, as time allows: first the Holy Scriptures, and then the soundest treatises, such as those of Turrettin and Owen. As I read I keep pencil and paper by me, and jot down everything which strikes me as possibly a point for the argument. I read on until I find from the recurrence of ideas already gathered, that I have apparently explored the whole field of discussion, at least in all its important outlines.

R. L. Dabney, Sacred Rhetoric, p. 226 (source)

Dabney’s advice to young preachers may surprise some of our opponents on Atonement-related issues. Of course, the fact that Dabney thinks Turretin and Owen to be the soundest of the treatises, does not mean that agrees with them 100% on every point, and no one should draw such an improper inference. In fact, on the Atonement, Dabney does not seem to find all of Turretin’s argument persuasive, as we hope to explore in another post at a later date.


The Real Turretin on: The Definition of "Catholic"

April 27, 2008

Catholicity, in the absolute sense of the word, as Turrettin remarks, can be predicated only of that society that includes the Church triumphant in heaven, as well as militant on earth, that society that comprehends all the elect, reaching back to the days of Abel, and onward to the last trumpet.

Institutio Theologiae Elencticae, Francisco Turrettino, vol. iii. quest, vi.; Genevae, 1688.

(source, Wylie, The Papacy, pp. 206-07)


The Real Turretin on: The Church of Rome (in his day)

April 27, 2008

To the same effect Turrettin denies that the modern Church of Rome can, without qualification, be called a true Church of Christ; but to explain his position he says: “The Church of Rome may be viewed under a two-fold aspect, as Christian in reference to the profession of Christianity, and of the evangelical truths which it retains; and as it is papal, in reference to its subjection to the Pope, and to its corruptions, as well in manners as in doctrine, which it has mixed up with those truths and built upon them, contrary to the word of God. In the former aspect, we do not deny that there is some truth in that Church; but in the latter, under which she is contemplated when we deny her to be a true Church, we deny that she is Christian and apostolical, but affirm her to be antichristian and apostate. In this view, impropriè et secundum quid, we admit the Church of Rome to be a Christian Church in three respects. 1. In respect to the people of God, the elect, still remaining in it, who are commanded to come out. 2. In respect to the external form, in which we discover some of the elements of a Church, in respect as well to the word of God and its preaching, which though corrupted, still remain, and as to the administration of the sacraments, especially baptism, which, as to the substance, still remains entire. 3. As to Christian and evangelical doctrines, as concerning the Trinity, Christ as mediator, his incarnation, death and resurrection, and others by which she is distinguished from pagans and infidels.” vol. iii. p. 135.

(source – C. Hodge, The Church and Its Polity – p. 211)


The Real Turretin on: Validity of Baptisms by Heretics

April 27, 2008

Turrettin, vol. iii. p. 442. “Some heretics,” he says, “corrupt the very substance of baptism, as the ancient Arians, modern Socinians, rejecting the doctrine of the Trinity others, retaining the essentials of the ordinance and the true doctrine of the Trinity, err as to other doctrines, as formerly the Novatians and Donatists, and now the Papists and Arminians. The baptisms of the former class are to be rejected; those of the latter are retained, although they err as to many doctrines, and their baptisms, in circumstantials, are polluted by various ceremonies.” See also Pictet, La Theologie Chretienne, Lib. xv. c. 13.

(source – C. Hodge, The Church and Its Polity – p. 194)


The Real Turretin on: The Relation of Church and State

April 27, 2008

According to the Reformed Church of Geneva, Germany, France, Holland, and Scotland, the relation of the state and Church is taught in the following propositions as given and sustained by Turrettin. Lec. 28, Ques. 34.

1. Various rights belong to the Christian magistrate in reference to the Church.

This authority is confined within certain limits, and is essentially different from that of pastors. These limits are thus determined, a. The magistrate cannot introduce new articles of faith, or new rites or modes of worship. b. He cannot administer the word and sacraments. c. He does not possess the power of the keys. d. He cannot prescribe to pastors the form of preaching or administration of the sacraments. e. He cannot decide on ecclesiastical affairs, or on controversies of faith, without consulting the pastors.

On the other hand, a. He ought to establish the true religion, and when established, faithfully uphold it, and if corrupted, restore and reform it. b. He should, to the utmost, protect the Church by restraining heretics and disturbers of its peace, by propagating and defending the true religion, and hindering the confession of false religions, c. Provide proper ministers, and sustain them in the administration of the word and sacraments, according to the word of God, and found schools as well for the Church as the state, d. See that ministers do their duty faithfully according to the canons of the Church and the laws of the land. e. Cause that confessions of faith and ecclesiastical constitutions, agreeable to the Scriptures, be sanctioned, and when sanctioned adhered to. f. To call ordinary and extraordinary synods, to moderate in them, and to sanction their decisions with his authority.

The question, “whether the state can rightfully force its subjects to profess the faith,” is answered in the negative. The question, “whether heretics should be capitally punished,” is answered in the affirmative, provided their heresy is gross and dangerous to the Church and state, and provided they are contumacious and malignant in the defense and propagation of it.

(source – C. Hodge, The Church and Its Polity – p. 114)


The Real Turretin on: Imputation

April 27, 2008

Turrettin (Theol. Elench. Quaest. IX., p. 678) says, “Imputation is either of something foreign to us, or of something properly our own. Sometimes that is imputed to us which is personally ours; in which sense God imputes to sinners their transgressions. Some times that is imputed which is without us, and not performed by ourselves; thus the righteousness of Christ is said to be imputed to us, and our sins are imputed to him, although he has neither sin in himself, nor we righteousness. Here we speak of the latter kind of imputation, not of the former, because we are treating of a sin committed by Adam, not by us.” The ground of this imputation is the union between Adam and his posterity. This union is not a mysterious identity of person, but, 1. “Natural, as he is the father, and we are the children. 2. Political and forensic, as he was the representative head and chief of the whole human race. The foundation, therefore, of imputation is not only the natural connection which exists between us and Adam, since in that case all his sins might be imputed to us, but mainly the moral and federal, in virtue of which God entered into covenant with him as our head.” Again, “We are constituted sinners in Adam in the same way in which we are constituted righteous in Christ.”

Again, (Vol. II., p. 707,) to impute, he says, “is a forensic term, which is not to be understood physically of the infusion of righteousness, but judicially and relatively.” Imputation does not alter the moral character; hence the same individual
may, in different respects, be called both just and unjust: “For when reference is had to the inherent quality, he is called a sinner and ungodly; but when the external and forensic relation to Christ is regarded, he is pronounced just in Christ.” “When God justifies us on account of the righteousness of Christ, his judgment is still according to truth; because he does not pronounce us just in ourselves subjectively, which would be false, but in another putatively and relatively.”

(source, C. Hodge’s Commentary on Romans – pp. 280-281)


Turretin – Copernicus – Einstein – Advantages of Time

April 27, 2008

One of the few criticisms of Turretin that one is wont to find among theologians during the Industrial Revolution, was that Turretin rejected Copernicus’ heliocentricism. If science had never progressed beyond Copernicus, we might (as part of the necessary bowing and scraping to the religion of science) likewise criticize the great reformer for insisting that it is the Earth which is still and the Sun that moves.

Science, the ever-changing oracle whose mind is firmly set but continuously in motion, has changed, however. No longer is Copernicus heliocentricism fully accepted. It has been recognized that there is a sort of relative orbit of our entire solar system with respect to the galaxy center, and then a sort of mutual distancing of all galaxies from each other in the current acentric model of the universe.

Combining an acentric model of the universe and Einstein’s theory of relativity, we may justly “pick” the Earth as our stationary point, and describe the other motions with reference thereto. While it is possible that “aether” theories of the Universe may come back, for now they have been banished, such that it is impossible to objectively say that the Sun is moving and the Earth is still, or vice versa. Accordingly, under current scientific theory, the movements are relative. Picking the Sun as the stationary point makes the math easier when we are calculating orbits and so forth within in our Solar System, but there is no absolute requirement in this regard.

Furthermore, ultimately, Turretin is basically right. Whether or not he understood the matter this way, the Earth is the teleological center of the Universe. It is the focal point of history. The Universe is vast, but this dust speck has been given prominence. It is our reference point, whether or not it can fairly be said to move in an objective sense or not.


The Real Turretin on: Ordination

April 27, 2008

“While the ministry flourishes in the Church, it (the Church) ought indeed to use it (the ministry) in the calling of pastors, nor can pastors be ordinarily instituted except by a ministry already constituted ” (says Turrettin).

(source – p. 270 – no specific citation to Turretin)

Turrettin lays it down that “the pastors exercise the right which belongs to the body, as representing it, and in such away that that right always belongs radically to the body;” and again, “when a ministry is wanting or miserably corrupt, the Church, can elect for itself ministers for its edification even without the intervention of a ministry; as well both because this right it has from God, as because always and everywhere it is bound to preserve a ministry” tenetur ministerium conservare.

(source – p. 275 – no specific citation to Turretin)

Nevertheless, it appears that these translations may be gathered from Part III, Locus XVIII, Question XXV, items XVIII-XIX of Turretin’s Institutes of Elenctic Theology (link).

I thought it worth pointing out that Turretin leaves open the possibility of ministers being ordained from non-ministers – i.e. ordination by the flock, rather than by the shepherds. I’m not sure what Turretin’s Biblical warrant for this is – but perhaps the warrant is simply this: it is necessary that there be elders – and the specifically provided-for way of ordination is the preferred way they be appointed. Nevertheless, ordination is not something magical – necessarily requiring a chain of hand on head contact going back to Christ.


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