Turretin on the civil magistrate

A godly magistrate can call a council, for magistrates are nurse-fathers to the church (Isa. 49:21-23, p. 308).

On The Civil Magistrate

Thirty Fourth Question:  What is the right of the Christian magistrate about sacred things, and does the care and recognition of religion belong in any way to him?  We affirm.

  1. 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)
    1. “A multiple right concerning sacred things.”
    2. Isaiah 49.23 calls him a “nursing father” to the church.
    3. Magistrates are called “gods” (Ps. 82.6).
    4. Natural law argument: to him is commended the safety of the commonwealth and all things pertaining to it, which includes religion.
  2. Explanation: While magistrates may not usurp the calling of preachers, they may still discharge the duties of their own office.
    1. As ministers may not draw the sword, so magistrates may not take the keys of the kingdom.
    2. Jesus told kings to “Kiss the Son” (Ps 2).
  3. Magistrates have a limited, not absolute sacred right.
    1. Stated negatively
      1. He cannot make new articles of faith.
      2. He cannot preach or administer the sacraments.
      3. He cannot exercise church discipline
    2. Stated positively
      1. Establish sacred doctrine in the state and reform it when it falls, as per Asa, Josiah, etc.
      2. Protect the church, restrain heretics, promote the glory of God.
      3. Open and encourage schools (320).
      4. Convene councils
  4. Political power is occupied with a thing either directly and immediately, or indirectly, mediately, and consequently..
    1. In the former, it is concerned with the external man.
    2. In the latter, with spiritual.
    3. If the title “Head of the Church” is applied to the magistrate, then it can only be applied in an external, defensive way (322).
  5. Can he compel to faith? (323ff)
    1. “No one ought to be forced to faith.”
  6. What about heretics?
    1. Heretics should be punished, but not capitally (327ff).
    2. 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.
    3. Turretin gives three propositions:
      1. Heretics can be coerced.
      2. Most heretics shouldn’t be executed.
      3. One may kill blasphemous arch-heretics (332).

4 thoughts on “Turretin on the civil magistrate

  1. Hey Jacob, I’m curious about your constant subject shifting over the past couple of months, and also the constant changing of the title of your blog. Is there a particular reason why the shift from soul-care to Reformed dogmatics to treatments of civil government? Maybe this requires a post of its own, but I tend to find your own biographical tales as very insightful.


    • Several thoughts:
      1) The above views on the civil magistrate were never in conflict with my other blogs. I just didn’t talk about them for several reasons, partly because from2003 to2007 I talked about little else.

      2) I exhausted the topic of soul-care, at least in this part of my studies.

      3) My own church is confessionally Reformed and I want to focus on more traditional Reformed topics.


  2. Pingback: Review: Gillespie, Aaron’s Rod Blossoming | Outlaw Huguenot

  3. Pingback: De Regno Christ (Review, Bucer) – Outlaw Huguenot

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