And so ends one of the two greatest works of Christian dogmatics. Turretin covers a number of issues that were existentially pressing for Protestants in the 17th century, both concerning salvation and persecution. From surveying the topics concerning the Church, Sacraments, and Eschaton, Turretin vindicates the calling of the Reformed ministers, the simplicity of the two sacraments, and the final hope in glory. Some highlights:
Was the Calling of the Reformers legitimate?
If ministers ought to be called, and we reject the Anabaptists who reject this, then were the Reformers legitimate ministers since they did not receive their call from an ordained ministry (in this case, the Roman Catholic Church)? Turretin makes a distinction between a church constituted and a church to be constituted (239). In a constituted church, we expect a call because we want to maintain good order. However, if we find ourselves in an area with no constituted church, granted it is an extreme example, no call is needed.
Turretin also represents the older, more robust view of the civil magistrate: Calling a Council
A godly magistrate can call a council, for magistrates are nurse-fathers to the church (Isa. 49:21-23, p. 308). Thesis: the pious and believing magistrate cannot and ought not to be excluded from all care of religion and sacred things, which has been enjoined upon him by God (316). Magistrates have a limited, not absolute sacred right.
Although the magistrate cannot compel belief, he is responsible to see that heretics are marginalized, although not executed. They can poison a nation just as thoroughly as an “external criminal.” However, Turretin makes a distinction between the ringleaders and those deceived. The latter shouldn’t really be punished. Turretin gives three propositions: Heretics can be coerced. Most heretics shouldn’t be executed. One may kill blasphemous arch-heretics (332).
Turretin gives a fine treatment on the beauty and simplicity of Reformed sacraments. Sign and thing signified: the sign is external and sensible (339). The signified thing is heavenly and invisible, in the soul, and communicated in a spiritual mode. The Form: analogy of relation (schesi). The thing promised is represented to our minds. There is a union between the sign and thing signified.
This is not easy reading but it is indispensable. We judge that Turretin should be a lifelong companion