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 Godís 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: ìWho hath resisted his will?î
(Romans 9:19). The latter is often violated by men: ìHow often would I
have gathered you together, and ye would notî (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: ìThe 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.î 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.