The Importance of Godly Rulers | Francis Turretin

Excerpt from Francis Turretin’s dedication to the “most magnificent, noble, and honored men of the consul and all the Senate of the celebrated Republic of Geneva“, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, vol. 1.

Our Geneva, not shadowy and emblematically but truly, is that city sustained by the hand of God alone; not by human means or assistance: “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord” (Zech. 4:6).

But far greater and more illustrious ought that other benefit to be regarded which is the principal foundation of the divine protection under whose shade we thus far safely repose (viz., heavenly truth and the deposit of a purer religion with which inestimable gift God willed to bless us). Through it—the tyranny of the Roman Antichrist having been cast down, error triumphed over, superstition put to flight, idols overthrown, darkness scattered—that saving light which even long ago was hoped for after the darkness, has happily arisen upon those who were lying in the darkness of the shadow of death. Happy hills which God has loved so much as to place the golden candlestick of truth—from these the rays of divine truth diffused in every direction have lit up a great part of the world; favored state and church which Christ has thought worthy of so great honor as to consecrate it for the resting place of the ark, the seat of the gospel and the sanctuary of his name. However hated by the world, she may perceive the fury and rage of the devil and of Antichrist more and more excited against her. Yet beloved by God and dear to him as the pupil of his eye, she sweetly takes refuge under the shadow of his wings, joyfully rejoicing not only in her own good things, but imparting these favors to many others also so that she deserved the appellation of either the mother or the nurse of these who professed that they owed to this our state after God their own origin or increase. But in this respect she is most especially happy—that by the special favor of God she always enjoys the wonderful privilege of the Reformation and has preserved thus far unimpaired the most precious of religion committed to her. This is our glory, this our crown, by which we are well distinguished above many other people of the earth to whom he has denied similar grace: we are marked by the glorious name of the property of God and the Holy Lion.

Since, in truth, nothing should be more important to us than the constant and faithful custody of so great a benefit (with a grateful commemoration of it towards God the bestower), it was, most distinguished nobles, the unwearied desire of your pious ancestors, who, as the best nurses of the church (Isaiah 49:23), always held it among their first cares to support strenuously the cause of religion no less than that of liberty, that it might be preserved pure and free from all contagion of errors: most wisely judging it to be not so much the palladium in which Troy nor the heaven descended shield in which Rome formerly gloried, as the ark of the covenant, the indubitable pledge of God’s presence (upon the retention and conservation of which the security and happiness of the republic as well as of the church depend).

It would be a long story to recount with what monstrous errors that most base enemy of the human race, in a former age, strove to obscure and at the same time to extinguish the light of the renascent gospel—not only by sworn foes of the Reformation, who endeavored to draw it back under the pristine yoke of Anti-Christian bondage, but also by perfidious Sinons, who, living in its bosom under the plausible but false pretext of cherishing and illustrating religion, attempted to introduce into doctrine the faith of deadly opinions. With wonderful felicity by the vigilance of your ancestors, the Lord liberated it. Your annals testify by what numerous and great stratagems the divine work of the Reformation was attacked almost from its cradle; with what rage of profane and factious persons the holy discipline of morals was besieged and how often the purity of evangelical truth was assailed.

At one time, this was attempted by the fanatical rabble of the Anabaptists, who in the year 1536, immediately after the commencement of the Reformation, made a disturbance here. Afterwards it was the deceitful arts (more changeable than Proteus) and most iniquitous calamities of Peter Caroli, the impudent Sophist. Then again the destructive corruptions of the word of God and orthodox doctrine by Sebastian Castellio, the leader of modern semi-Pelagians; by the most base contrivances of Gruet, a turbulent man, throwing together into the same hodgepodge of errors Samosatenianism with Manichaeism. After that, in the year 1551, by the impiety of Jerome Bolsec who labored to corrupt the sacred doctrine of predestination and saving grace with Pelagian poison. At length, it was attempted by the horrible blasphemies of Michael Servetus, not a man, but a monster of all wickedness, in reference to the adorable mystery of the holy Trinity. This most abandoned man, although often warned, did not cease disgorging the most pestiferous poison among the common people, which he had already scattered for many years in the celebrated places of Europe. At length being thrown into prison and persevering in his diabolical obstinacy, he suffered the most just punishment of execrable impiety in the year 1553. Still Satan (so often vanquished) did not cease to renew the strife and to excite new masters of impiety afterwards: such as Valentine Gentilis, Paul Alciatus and other disciples of the same fraternity with the most impure Servetus. In the year 1558, these joined together the error of the Tritheists with Samosatenianism and Arianism (i.e., monsters with monsters). These the authority of your predecessors firmly restrained and happily put to flight, so that always with great praise, they approved themselves to be “strenuous and hearty defenders of the cause of piety,” the honorable utterance which that most distinguished man of God, Calvin, formerly used concerning them.

That this is also your principal care, most watchful fathers of your country, your zeal and piety do not suffer us to doubt. For indeed you have remembered that dominion is strengthened by piety and righteousness according to the oracle of the wisest of kings; and that your rule never could be happy and well ordered unless you took care that by the word of God, his authority should always avail with you and that Christ himself should reign through you. You have remembered that here might be not so much an aristocracy as a theocracy, having God always for its president and ruler; and that the safety of the republic, which should always be the supreme law, could not be better consulted than by defending those two impregnable ramparts—the culture of pure religion and the pious care of nurturing the church, which God has committed to the protection of your wings. This has been so accomplished thus far by you that not only has religion remained here uncontaminated by any corruption of error and superstition through the special favor of God, but nothing besides has been changed in the purer doctrine once received here, which you have bound yourselves always religiously to be retained. Go on, Lords, constantly in this sacred purpose and cause, by your pious and unwearied vigilance, these good things to be perpetual to us; so that under your auspices this republic may always be happy and flourishing in piety even to the latest posterity. This undoubtedly you can hope from God, who has promised to be a guard of those cities which would be the seats of truth and the refuge of the pious as long as you will always be solicitous about religiously worshiping and retaining him and promoting his glory above all things; as long as you will take care that among your citizens piety and justice, the love of religion and of country, love and the holy concord of souls shall flourish, and vices (too many in this most corrupt age even in the growing church) be severely repressed; as long as by our zeal this city shall truly correspond to her name “Reformed,” as much with respect to integrity of morals as to purity of doctrine (and, that I may speak the word, the “city of God” and true חפציבה [Hephzibah, “my delight is in her”—Isaiah 62:4], in which shall be the good pleasure of God).

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