As Taught By Frances Turretin
Extracts and Abridgements from Frances Turretin’s Institutes of
Elenctic Theology

Meaning of the word “providence”

The word “providence” was called pronoia by the Greeks because
proteron noei embraces three things especially: prognosin (the knowledge
of the mind), prothesin (the decree of the will) and dioikesin (the
efficacious of the things decreed). The first forsees, the second provides,
the third procures. Hence, providence can be viewed either in the
antecedent decree or in the subsequent execution. The former is the
eternal destination of all things to their ends; the latter is the temporal
government of all things according to that decree.

The evidence of providence from the Scriptures

Scripture is accustomed to joining the creation of things with their
providence. It sets forth God, who is not only the momentary Creator
(ktistes) departing immediately from the work made by Him, but also the
constant provider (pronoetes), cherishing and sustaining his own work by
his continual influx and taking perpetual care of it. There is no need to
heap up the Scripture passages in establishing this point. They are almost
as many as there are pages in the Bible, since nothing is inculcated more
frequently, nothing more clearly in the word of God. You may consult Job
12, 38, 39, 40, 41; Psalms 19, 91, 104, 107, 136 etc. Christ says, “ My
Father worketh hitherto” (John 5:17), not as if creating new things, but
conserving and governing those already created. Thus, we have the
testimony of Luke 12:6-7, “Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings,
and not one of them is forgotten before God? 7 But even the very hairs of
your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value
than many sparrows.” And Paul says, “Nevertheless he left not himself
without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and
fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.” (Acts 14:17)
Elsewhere, Paul teaches that “God works all things according to the
counsel of his own will” (Eph. 1:11); “the Son upholds all things by the
word of his power” (Heb. 1:3); and “by him all things consist” (Col.
1:17) and so in numerous passages.

The Scriptures separate God from idols by the argument of providence
(Isa. 41:22, 23; 42:8, 9; Job 12:7-9). With the heathen, God and
providence (theos kai pronoia) are used promiscuously. Not only they
who deny the existence, but also they who deny the providence of God,
are condemned as atheists (atheotetos).

All Things are Under Providence

We believe all things without exception are under divine providence;
whether heavenly or sublunary, great or small, necessary and natural or
free and contingent. Thus, nothing in the nature of things can be granted
or happen which does not depend on it.

God created all things, therefore he also takes care of all things. For if it
was glorious for God to create them, it ought not to be unbecoming in him
to take care of them. Nay, as he created, he is bound to conserve and
govern them continually, since he never deserts his own work, but ought
to be perpetually present with it that it may not sink back into

Scripture most clearly establishes this both in general and in particular. In
general, in those passages which claim the care and government of all
things for God: “Thou, even thou, art LORD alone; thou hast made
heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth, and all things
that are therein, the seas, and all that is therein, and thou preservest them
all; and the host of heaven worshippeth thee.” (Neh. 9:6); “The eyes of all
wait upon thee; and thou givest them their meat in due season. Thou
openest thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing.” (Ps.
145:15-16) and so in innumerable passages.

In particular, those passages which subject to the providence of God all
the species of things and especially those which come into controversy,
the smallest things no less than the greatest are said to depend upon it.
What is more insignificant than “the hairs of our head”? And yet “all” are
said to be “numbered by God” (Lk. 12:7). What is more unimportant than
a sparrow? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without the will of the
heavenly Father (Matt. 10:29) who feeds all the fowls of the air by his
providence (Matt. 6:26) and gives food to the young ravens (Ps. 147:9)
What is of less importance than the grass and the flowers of the field?
And yet God clothes and makes them grow (Matt. 6:28, 30). What is more
mean than lice, frogs, locusts, worms and other insects? Yet God is said
to raise these up for the execution of his judgments (Ex. 8:16, 17; 10:12);
nay, they are called “his strong army, executing his word” (Joel 2:11).

God is so great in great things as not to be small in small. Nor is he said
to have so given the earth to the sons of men (Ps. 115:16), but that from
the heaven of heaven, He always looks down upon and retains them in
His care. The Psalmist means this – that God, content with His own
glory, inhabits the heavens and does not need to seek anything out of
Himself, as a seat of glory and the sanctuary of his majesty, and to have
given the earth to men; not just for supreme dominion, and absolute
power, but only for use with a dependence on His providence.

(Part II in the next weekly)

Yours affectionately,
Pastor Clement Chew