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History of the Christian Church, Volume VIII: Modern Christianity. The Swiss Reformation.
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§ 160. Geneva an Asylum for Protestants from all Countries.


Calvin gave to Geneva a cosmopolitan character which it retains to this day. It became, through him, as already stated, the capital of the Reformed Churches, and was called the Protestant Rome. Philip II. of Spain wrote to the French king: "Geneva is the source of all misfortune to France, the refuge of all heretics, the most terrible enemy of Rome. I am ready at any time, with all the power of my kingdom, to aid in its destruction." That city was, indeed, in the sixteenth century what North America has become, on a much larger scale, since the seventeenth century. It was an asylum for persecuted confessors of the evangelical faith without distinction of nationality, an impregnable moral fortress built upon the rock of the Bible.12251225    Michelet (Histoire de France, vol. X. 414) calls Calvinistic Geneva "la cite de l’esprit bâtie de stoicisme sur le roc de la prédestination," and (in vol. XI. 93) "la fabrique des saints et des martyrs, la sombre forge oùse forgeaissent les élus de la mort."

Zürich, Basel, and Strassburg were the only places in that age which can be compared with Geneva in generous hospitality to strangers.

At the beginning of the sixteenth century the city of Geneva numbered 12,000 souls, in 1543 not more than 13,000; but in the seven years from 1543 to 1550 it increased to 20,000, or at the rate of 1000 a year. This increase was chiefly due to the continuous influx of persecuted Protestants from France, Italy, and England. Some came also from Spain and Holland.12261226    Fourteen hundred French families settled in Geneva in eight years, during the reign of Henri II. Gaberel, Histoire de l’Église de Genève, I. 346; Michelet, X. 414. Most of them were educated men and not a few of them distinguished for learning and social position, as Cordier, Colladon, Etienne (Stephens), Marot, Ochino, Carraccioli, Knox, Whittingham. They had made sacrifices for the sake of religion, and thereby acquired the honor of confessors with the spirit of martyrs. There were special congregations for Italians and Englishmen, who were provided by the city with suitable places of worship. Calvin treated the refugees with great hospitality. He secured to them as far as possible the rights of citizenship. Some of them were even elected to the Large Council. An insult to a refugee from religious persecution was as punishable as an insult to a minister of the gospel. The favor and privileges accorded to these foreigners excited the envy and jealousy of the native Genevese, who opposed their admission to citizenship and their right to carry arms. This exclusive nativism gave Calvin a great deal of trouble.

The little Republic of Geneva was continually exposed to the danger of absorption by Savoy, France, and Spain, which hated her as the stronghold of heresy. It was in a large measure due to the wisdom and firmness of Calvin that in those critical times she preserved her liberty and independence. He also resisted the repeated attempts of Bern to interfere with the doctrine and discipline of the Church.

Geneva offers a wonderful aspect in modern history.

Embracing the élite of three nations, melted into one whole by the spirit of one man, it continues in the midst of mighty and bitter foes, without any external support, simply through its moral force. It has no territory, no army, no treasures, no temporal, no material resources. There it stands, a city of the spirit, built of Christian stoicism on the rock of predestination."



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