Front Page Titles (by Subject) ESSAY 3: On the Power of Secular Government to Command Its Subjects to Attend Church Diligently - Essays on Church, State, and Politics
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ESSAY 3: On the Power of Secular Government to Command Its Subjects to Attend Church Diligently - Christian Thomasius, Essays on Church, State, and Politics 
Essays on Church, State, and Politics, edited, translated, and with an Introduction by Ian Hunter, Thomas Ahnert, and Frank Grunert (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2007).
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On the Power of Secular Government to Command Its Subjects to Attend Church Diligently
Necessary preliminary comments§I. The current dispute presupposes the following situation.1 Nearly thirty years ago a princely widow in one of the Anhaltine territories (where, as the guardian of her underage princes, she was acting as regent) had publicized an edict, in which her subjects were ordered in general terms to attend church and public worship diligently.2 Now, as the Lutheran and Reformed communities existed side by side in the Anhaltine territories, it could easily happen that a Calvinist nobleman might own a village with a Lutheran congregation, and that a Lutheran nobleman might own a village in which the congregation had a Reformed clergyman. Thus various questions could arise in connection with this edict, which have to be carefully distinguished from each other. For example, (1) whether an Evangelical or Protestant magistrate [Obrigkeit] has the right to command its subjects, be they Lutheran or Reformed, to attend public services diligently (especially on a Sunday) and not to stay away from them, unless they have an important reason? (2) Whether a Lutheran prince could likewise force his Calvinist subjects to visit Lutheran churches and, vice versa, a Calvinist prince force his Lutheran subjects to go to Calvinist churches? (3) Whether a Lutheran or Calvinist nobleman in particular could be ordered to attend the church of his village community (which might be Calvinist or Lutheran), whatever the circumstances (that is, no matter whether he is resident in the village, or in a town where there is a church of his confession)? (4) Whether a nobleman, who normally lives in his village, can be commanded to attend the congregation in his community or whether he could excuse himself by saying that his peasants were Reformed, but he was Lutheran, or that his peasants were Lutheran, but he was Reformed? And whatever other questions of this sort might come up. For there is no doubt that generally with such questions and the responses to them, quite different and sometimes contradictory reasons or decisions can arise, which I do not think it is necessary to examine in detail at the moment. Instead, I will turn to the dispute submitted to our faculty and the questions directed to us at that time.3
The nobleman’s letter of appeal to his ruler§II. A Lutheran nobleman, in fact, had for some time regularly gone to the church of his Reformed congregation, in the village where he usually lived. But then he ceased to visit the church and began to hold his Lutheran devotions at home, together with his children’s teacher, and to withdraw completely from the Calvinist services. When the Consistory4 reprimanded him for this, and he was admonished to attend the public service as before with his dependents, he sent the following letter to the most gracious princess.
(Following the usual titles) Your most princely Highness, I am compelled to address you most humbly, as your most princely highness’s Consistory recently summoned me and some members of my household and accused us, that we had, contrary not only to the most princely highness’s territorial statutes [Landes-Ordnung], but also to your most princely highness’s recently publicized edict, withdrawn from the public congregation in the church for a time. It [the Consistory] ordered us to attend these congregations in future or else to expect a strict admonishment. Now I can, your highness, most gracious lady, testify before God, that this previous absence from church did not reflect the slightest disobedience or rebellious disposition toward governmental decrees, but arose from a doubt in my conscience, which I entertain in this particular case. It is indeed true, your highness and most gracious lady, and I confess this publicly, that I do not completely reject church attendance in general and without qualification. Rather, I approve it in a certain regard, and especially where it aims at order and discipline among the brutish, disorderly children of the world; and I consider this to be praiseworthy to a certain extent, as I myself have also attended these congregations. I am not convinced in my conscience, however, that I should regard this attendance at church as an absolute necessity and certain sign of a true Christian, such that one can be compelled to it. I am rather convinced of the contrary. For that attendance at church is not an absolute necessity is evident from the lives of the first humans and the patriarchs, the first Christians and the hermits, who, because they lacked temples could not attend them, or hold large assemblies, but who are never doubted by anyone to have possessed true piety. Further, attending public church services is simply not a sign of a true Christian, because even before the construction of the temples, and during the lives of the hermits and the dispersal of the first Christians throughout the world, there were true Christians. And, later, many hypocrites joined in the public religious worship, so that jurists have come to consider the all-too-frequent attendance at church not only as a sign of hypocrisy, but as an indication of witchcraft, as witches usually claimed to have attended public services most frequently (cf. Crusius, On the Specific Proofs of Crimes, chapter 32, 10ff.).5 I therefore believe that nobody can be compelled to public attendance at church, as long as he otherwise does not cause offense, but lives piously to the extent that God’s grace permits. For the service that has to be rendered to God concerns God alone and does not require an assembly of many people. This service can be rendered to God in silence, outside the churches and congregations, as was done by the first men, the first Christians, and the hermits. But if divine service does not absolutely require a public congregation in the temples, then this belongs to the external matters and ceremonies, just as many jurists now even consider the command “thou shalt honor the Sabbath” to be a matter concerning ceremony and do not want to regard it as absolutely binding morally. Yet, if this is the case, then one cannot use coercion in such external and indifferent matters [adiaphoris]. For they are not such an essential part of the veneration of God that a spiritual effect must be attributed to them, or that they cannot be omitted without sin, as Ziegler has demonstrated very well against the papalists, who argue that some ceremonies are meritorious (see Lancelotti’s Institutes of Canon Law, book 2, title 3, §15, at the end and book 2, title 6, §6, and book 2, title 18, §1).6 We also find nothing of this in God’s word, that one should be compelled to the external worship of God. Instead, Christ and his disciples regarded the external church and ceremonial order as a shadow of the true inner worship of God (Luke XVII, verses 20 and 21; John IV, verses 11, 21, 22, etc.; Acts VII, verse 48). Moreover, the apostles have always argued against all such ceremonies and arbitrarily established divine worship on holidays, Sabbaths, feast days, and such like, insofar as they do even the slightest harm to the inner free divine worship; and they explained that the true worship of God is spiritual, inward, and thus free, not tied to a particular place, time, or other circumstances (Galatians IV, verses 10 and 11, Colossians II, verse 16; cf. Romans XII, verse 12, James I, verse 27, Romans I, verse 9, Philippians III, verse 3, 1 Thessalonians I, verse 9; Arnold’s Image of the first Christians, book 2, chapter 1, 1, p. 145, his Church History, book 1, chapter 2, §5, and book 2, chapter 3, §4, chapter 14, 17).7 And so the first Christians for several hundred years did not perform such an external, ceremonial divine worship, until wealth and splendor as well as superstition entered the church together with the Jews or pagans. As long as the church remained with the early simplicity and manner of the old divine worship, it was pleasing to God. But as soon as it introduced the external religious worship, which was considered a meritorious ceremony, it departed from true Christianity and clung to external worship and drew God’s wrath and punishment on itself. And thus it is not an unrestricted duty of a secular government to force someone to perform this external divine worship as something absolutely necessary. Theologians and jurists have always argued this against the papalists, because otherwise this would end in the coercion of consciences, in spite of the fact that the power over consciences belongs to God alone. (See Biedenbach in his Decade of Theological Consilia,Decas III, pp. 196ff.; Dürr in Moral Theology, p. 374; Lincke On the Law Concerning Temples, p. 65.)8 I know well that it might be objected that this causes offense to our fellow Christians, since civil society requires that a person shows his piety to another. But piety does not consist in the uniformity of external rites, for this uniformity in external ceremony is an indifferent matter, especially according to natural religion, and partly unnecessary. For God, who divines hearts, has no need of external signs as a testimony of inner devotion. And these [external signs] have little relevance to civil society, because otherwise even an atheist, who offends his fellow man every day with his godless conduct, could brush off this offense and edify his neighbor by attending church. Yet a righteous, virtuous Christian, who leads a pious life without attending external church services, would have to offend his fellow Christians by his omission of these external actions. But this is false, and thus it is true that external attendance at church is an unreliable sign of piety and a dubious bond of society, and that a Christian, virtuous, inoffensive life, led according to God’s will with sincere love, serves this end much better. And therefore neither is my fellow Christian offended nor is the bond of society cut if I withdraw from external public worship. (See Pufendorf, On the Relationship of Christian Religion to Civil Life §§3 & 7; Thomasius, On the Right of the Prince in Indifferent Things, §1, and his Ethics, chapter 3, §31).9 This is particularly the case as nobody tends to be attacked for a particular opinion in religious matters, since the public peace is not disturbed by such an opinion. Even more applicable in the case of rulers is Bodin’s proposal in his Six Books on the Commonwealth, book 4, chapter 7, that one does not punish anyone because of religion, but allows everybody to perform at least their rituals for themselves, as long as this can be done without public unrest. Otherwise, such people lose all fear of God, because their conscience does not allow them to attend the ceremonies of others, and they are not allowed to have their own. Freedom of conscience is thus granted with the greatest care by the most eminent commonwealths, and almost everybody is permitted to believe according to his opinion, as the famous commonwealth of Holland shows in particular. Conversely, when such people are not tolerated in a territory, there eventuates what the Protestants themselves call a bloodless persecution. (See Kesler On Persecution, pp. 143 & 159; Wigand, On Persecution, p. 21.)10 And under these circumstances, those who on grounds of conscience consider the physical attendance in church to be among the matters left to the free decision of a Christian, and to which one quite simply should not be coerced, will not be considered by anyone to be in willful contempt of God and his word. These, however, are the people your most princely territorial statute clearly is directed at, and without doubt your most princely highness’s most recent gracious edict, which I revere with most humble respect and submission, as it refers to the territorial statutes, applies to these as well. Therefore I also live trusting humbly in the supreme grace of your most princely highness, that this same grace will permit those people to make use of their Christian freedom, whose conscience suffers as a result of the compulsion to attend these external churches, and who have in part, concerning these and similar doubts, undergone severe struggles with reason and human fear, and who have also experienced opposition from others, before they submitted to the impulses of their conscience, and resolved to resign themselves to the obloquy and judgments of the world. Moreover, as they lead a pious life and do not disturb the common peace, I also trust that they will in that respect be graciously distinguished from other, impious and malicious despisers of God and his word. And in this most humble hope I remain forever.
Three questions sent to us§III. Now the above document shows quite clearly that the Lutheran nobleman did not want to raise or answer the fourth question in the first paragraph,11 but that he wanted to reflect mainly on the abovementioned first question,12 although he also added other questions and assertions, which have nothing to do with the matter. But as her highness sent the nobleman’s letter to the Consistory and he was concerned—because of certain circumstances that will be reported soon—that the matter would not end well, he sent the following three questions to our faculty:13
In the Anhalt principality of N. there is a village N., in which the church and pastor are Reformed, but the person exercising jurisdictional authority, N.N., is a Lutheran. Some time ago a princely general mandate was issued that everyone should diligently attend church, but the abovementioned nobleman had his reasons for withdrawing for a time from the public congregation. When the princely consistory found out as a result of a denunciation by the pastor in N. that the nobleman of N., together with his children’s teacher, had not attended church for some time, while otherwise leading a virtuous and pious life, the nobleman was summoned and questioned on this. He was then ordered to attend church according to the mandate of the prince. Thereupon, the nobleman of N. turned to the most gracious princess, and appealed against this summons (see the attached document under A) [i.e., the letter in §II above]; but this was sent back to the princely consistory, which asked the advocate, who had written this letter, ex officio, whether he had formulated it. He replied that the nobleman of N. sent him the documentation and he only brought this into the requisite form, and so did not deal with the material, but [only with] the formal aspect of the question. And as this leads to another claim against the nobleman of N., the following questions are raised: (1) Whether the document under A is such that the nobleman of N. or the advocate, who formalized it, can be summoned or punished for it? (2) What procedure the high princely consistory at N. could adopt and what punishment it could decide on? (3) Whether the nobleman of N., being a Lutheran, can be forced to attend church in N.?
My response to the above questions§IV. One could conclude from these three questions, that the appellant might have begun to recognize that the reasons listed in his document (see above §II) would hardly release him from the obligation to attend church in his village. Therefore a well-known jurist14 may have given him the advice that he should set aside the general question, raised previously—on the right of the supreme civil power to force subjects to attend church (see above §I, number 1)—and should rather claim that as a Lutheran he could not be forced to go into a Reformed church. This jurist advising him may have led him to expect that when he sent the case to our faculty he would receive a favorable response. However, the matter turned out otherwise, for the then Ordinarius [head of the faculty] sent the case to me in order to present it before the faculty. When I had presented the matter and had clearly pointed out that concerning Lutherans and Reformed the three questions specified above (§I, numbers 2, 3, & 4) should certainly not be confused with each other, the decision of the third question proposed to us was unanimously decided such that the appellant, although he was Lutheran, was nevertheless obliged under these circumstances to attend the Reformed church in his village. And therefore I began work and wrote the reply as follows:15
As the same has [submitted] the account of the case to us, together with the attached material under A and three questions etc., therefore etc. and concerning the first two questions we consider the following to be right: it is being asked by him: (1) Whether the document under A is such that he or the advocate, who formalized it, can be summoned or punished because of it? (2) What procedure the supreme princely consistory at N. intends to adopt and to what punishment this could lead?
It could be said against the nobleman and his advocate that the content of the document referred to can indeed be considered punishable, for in it the right of supreme civil power in ecclesiastical affairs is almost continuously attacked and censured, the earlier opposition against the high princely edicts is defended contrary to the rules of sound reason, and various matters, which tend toward fanaticism, or which are at least inappropriate in this case, are being mixed in here. In the present case, however, the question is not what a Christian magistrate is obliged to do. Nor does it concern the advice that duly appointed councillors should give to the magistrate—in accordance with the rules of Christian and reasonable prudence—concerning the administration of justice in the churches. The question is rather what the duty of a subject requires, when the magistrate commands him to attend congregations diligently. Therefore everything listed in the document A [i.e., the nobleman’s original letter to the princess] on these points: That the external attendance at church was no absolute necessity for, or sign of a true Christian; that the external ecclesiastical ceremonies were not to be considered meritorious and were no essential part of the divine worship—which had a spiritual effect—such that they could not be omitted without sin; that Christ and the apostles had agitated against such external ceremonies insofar as they harmed the inner veneration of God etc.—all this has no bearing on the present questions; for, in its command and ordinance, the high princely consistory did not advance contrary propositions, and nor should such conclusions be drawn from them. This is setting aside the fact that it is not evident how external divine worship can harm internal. For Christ and the apostles did not attack the external divine worship, but those people who clung to the external rituals alone, and who, while they should do one without ceasing to do the other, neglected the inner veneration of God out of the foolishness of their heart. Therefore the princely consistory will be delighted if the nobleman and his children’s teacher, in addition to attending services, lead their lives in such a way that everyone is aware of their pious and virtuous conduct (of which they boast in their document A). When they have the testimony of others, they will no longer need to testify for themselves, as this testimony is not valid on the basis of either sound reason or Holy Scripture. Furthermore, the lack of justification for this rebelliousness is evident from the fact that the same nobleman admits in his document that he does not completely reject attendance at church, but approves of it insofar as it aims at order and discipline among the brutish children of the world. Thus, he considers church attendance praiseworthy in a certain sense, or at least concedes that the external ceremonies of divine worship are not morally binding in an absolute sense, but are middle-things [adiaphora] and hence indifferent. Nevertheless he does not want to obey the command of the secular magistrate in such indifferent matters, even though the magistrate can command something only in matters that are not morally binding in an absolute sense. Yet if one refuses obedience to the civil power in indifferent matters one tears the levers of government from the magistrate’s hands. This was one of the most frequent tactics of the papacy, as it avoided obedience to the civil magistrate by appealing to Christian freedom and used this principle as a cover for its malice. Hereafter signs of fanaticism appear in the words of the document, since the same nobleman says at the end of it that because of these doubts he had undergone many severe battles with reason and with human fear, which is the first step toward lapsing into fantasizing, when one rejects reason and the senses. For we Christians and especially we Lutherans should, according to the interpretation of the first article, thank God every day that he gave us reason and all the senses and preserves them, and that God’s holy word does not require an unreasonable, but a reasonable form of worship from us. And the pretext of combating human fear, whenever the civil power commands something in indifferent matters, is also an effect of fanaticism. For those minds which are imbued with this conviction, from an excessive imagined holiness, believe the inner impulses of their disobedient heart to be divine inspirations, and want to convince themselves and others that the civil power has to submit to them, or should at least take second place to them. Moreover, in this case the same nobleman has no cause to battle with reason, since Holy Scripture itself admonishes that one should not fail to attend public congregations. Further, although they were neither necessary for salvation nor meritorious, Christ our Savior performed the Mosaic ceremonies and commanded that one should obey the civil power in matters that are not improper (to this belong all matters that are considered to promote good order and discipline in a praiseworthy manner), and that one should obey also for the sake of one’s conscience. Furthermore, in this instance of disobedience, the nobleman cannot plead violation of his conscience, since he considers attending church in itself to be praiseworthy and does not reject it completely. And conscience should also urge virtuous and pious spirits to set an example to the brutish children of this world in those matters which are commanded for keeping order among them. For this reason, if the nobleman continues to be disobedient, it is not unfair for the high princely consistory to proceed by commanding him and his children’s teacher to leave the territory, while keeping the children behind, and to do as the hermits and first Christians did, who had no temples; or else to send them to the Dutch, especially as he refers to them so often in the document A, and wants to use their example to support his disobedience. One cannot justify the refusal of those who live in human societies to attend church by using the example of those who do not attend public congregations as a result of their living in a desert or having no temples. And neither Holland nor any other state can prescribe to a prince how he should act in the exercise of his regalian right in religious matters. Moreover, even though the same nobleman wanted to argue in his document that such exile is a bloodless persecution, nevertheless the high princely consistory would reply with better justification that exile and removal from a territory are entirely different from [arbitrary] expulsion, and, unlike the latter, are not to be considered a punishment, but a reasonable measure, derived from the nature of all human associations. For nothing is more innocent (and this was practiced by the faithful Abraham and Lot themselves),16 than the principle that where there are two contrary factions in one society and no side (under the pretext that it is in the right and cannot be forced to do anything by the other) wants to make concessions to the other, one side—and this should in all reason be the smaller of the two—gives way to the other and moves to another place. Thus, if the society in which he lives expects no more from the nobleman than this, he must not complain that he is suffering an injustice.
Yet, the question meanwhile is not whether the nobleman produced such reasons, based on his letter, which could free him from worrying impositions if he continues to be disobedient; but whether there is anything improper in this letter, which in itself merits a punishment. Then the nobleman protests early on that he did not intend to be rebellious or disobedient, and repeats this at the end, that he humbly and submissively respected the high princely edicts. He declares at the same time, that with this piece of writing he mainly wanted to preclude the high princely consistory from considering him to be guided by willful contempt of God and his word. In fact, there are indeed no injurious words in the document A. Furthermore, the nobleman appeals repeatedly to his conscience, now to its doubts, now to its conviction, while, moreover, the entire context proves that his document is the bona fide outcome of an erring or confused conscience, rather than malicious intent. Such errors are not to be reckoned punishable actions, especially as such erroneous opinions have been fashionable here and there, and since the same nobleman, as a cavalier who has never turned his studies into a profession, could easily be led astray by others; and as his advocate declares, that he [the advocate] did not supply the materials of the document, but only brought it into the form of the usual official style.
So, altogether it is evident from this that neither the same nobleman nor his advocate can be punished because of this document.
As far as the third question is concerned we consider the following to be right. The same nobleman wants to be informed whether he as a Lutheran can be compelled to attend the church in N. where the preacher is a Calvinist. He further asks whether this is possible even though many teachers are of the opinion that the Reformed religion differs from the Lutheran in the fundamentals of faith, and teaches things such that a Lutheran cannot with a clear conscience listen to the sermons of the Reformed. He also considers the fact that in many places where the members of a parish are mixed, and some belong to the Lutheran religion, the Lutherans are usually allowed to participate in the services in neighboring places where there are Lutheran preachers. And yet, according to the account of events, the preacher in N. denounced the nobleman’s absence to the high princely consistory, and seemed to have given occasion to some enmity.
Nevertheless, anyone can easily determine through a reasonable comparison of both religions, that the different opinions of these related confessions are not such that any of them affects the foundation of faith. Both the Reformed and Lutherans agree that salvation is achieved through belief in Christ and the Holy Trinity, not through good works. Further, the same nobleman does not refer to any reason in his document or in the account of the circumstances, why he as a Lutheran should be justified in complaining about the preacher in N. in doctrinal matters. Rather, he admits quite openly in his document A that he had until then made use of the church in N., and ceased doing so for reasons that are contrary to the principles of both Lutheran and Reformed religion, and cannot be based on the Augsburg Confession as the common creed of both Protestant confessions. In this case, however, it might be that the nobleman, once he had been ordered again by the high princely consistory to attend public church services, wanted to refrain from using these reasons, but resorted to the pretext of the Lutheran religion in order to present his further refusals in a more favorable light. If so, then it would indeed seem to be the case and to create a strong suspicion against him, that he was no longer resisting the high princely commands in good faith and out of an erroneous conscience, but rather that he was trying to elude them through his cunning, and tried to cover up deliberate disobedience with the pretext of some scruples of conscience concerning the Reformed religion. For human nature is not such, that someone could switch so quickly from the opinion that all visits to temples and churches (and so also of Lutheran congregations) are indifferent, unnecessary, or even detrimental to the inner service to God (contrary to the opinion of both Lutherans as well as Reformed), to a belief in Lutheran religion as the only path to salvation. For his own benefit, the nobleman should thus examine the minds of those who actually want to harm him with such poorly reasoned advice. Where someone is trying to convince him through such advice, he should consider that it makes no sense that he should ignore the rules of sound reason and the orders of his territorial prince, or that he must combat reason and the fear of men. Then, however, when it was sensed, that this audacious struggle over a long period of time did no good, [these same people] came up with artificial and sophistic arguments and the hatred of others, and thereby wanted to distract him from the observance of the duties he owes to God and the magistrate to whom he is subject. Similarly, the fact that the preacher in N. denounced the matter to the high princely consistory cannot be considered a sufficient and reasonable ground for the nobleman to detest him. This is especially so as, according to his own report, a general edict that one should not miss the public congregations was published shortly before this. Thus the preacher in N. could not act otherwise in accordance with this duty than he did in following the edict. Neither was the gracious command given to him as an unrestricted compulsion, but is to be understood from the nature of the matter as saying that the nobleman and his dependents cannot miss the public congregations without weighty reasons, such as illness and the like; since all affirmative laws allow the tacit exceptions of place, time, and unsuitableness, and exclude what is far-fetched, etc. Moreover, there would undoubtedly be no better way for him to refute the suspicion of a willful refusal to attend services—which has not come up without reason—than if he attends church services in N. with his dependents as before. If illness or other similarly urgent circumstances occasionally prevent him from attending the church services, he should nevertheless constantly urge his dependents not to withdraw from the congregations. This is the case all the more as nobody will prevent him from holding his private devotions as before with his children and servants. We also cannot see how attendance at the public congregations, at which a Reformed clergyman preaches, can do any harm to inner worship (which is also part of the beliefs of the Lutheran church).
Thus it seems that under these circumstances the high princely consistory indeed has the right to urge him emphatically to attend services in the church in N. with his dependents. Everything V.R. W.17
My clarification of the third question§V. On this occasion I want to recount another example, which does not directly prove the decision of the third question, but clarifies it to some extent. The most blessed Landes-Hauptman of Fr. (to whom I dedicated my German version of the notable matters in the life of Socrates in 1693),18 was a sincere Calvinist and, when he was in Dessau, also attended the Reformed church. But while he lived for the sake of convenience on one of his estates at Mehlau (which was not far away from Dessau), he, together with his family, regularly attended the Lutheran church of the congregation at Mehlau, even though this was not just a Lutheran but a Gnesio-Lutheran church,19 and the pulpit was inscribed in large golden letters with the words:
Indeed, he was so far from feeling hatred and suspicion toward even the more zealous Lutherans that, whenever the regular Lutheran clergyman could not preach in Mehlau, he usually substituted a Lutheran Magister [of theology] from nearby Wittenberg, and afterward invited him for lunch, and treated him very kindly. I also remember, that on this occasion I met for the first time the Magister Stoltz, (who subsequently displayed his Wittenberg zealotry against Brenneisen’s treatise on the Right of Protestant Princes in Theological Disputes in two orthodox publications in 1697).20 In fact I learned from his sermon and from the conversation with him over lunch that he was more than anybody worthy to be incorporated into the holy order of heretic-mongers [Ketzermacher]. Now (to return to the topic) since a Calvinist nobleman and state minister in Anhalt does not scruple to attend services in the Lutheran church of his village, so it also seems to me that the Lutheran nobleman seeking our opinion would have done well, if he had not allowed himself to be incited by others, to cover up his obstinacy with the feeble pretext that he, as a Lutheran, could not be urged to go to church in his village N.
The unusual fate of my reply§VI. My above response however had a slightly unusual fate. For after I had sent this to the head of our faculty for examination, he returned it to me and let me know, partly orally through the short-hand writer, partly in writing in his own hand, that he would like to see the counterarguments left out altogether in the first and second questions and replaced with the following few words: Although there are all manner of things in the submitted document which we cannot approve at all . . . Yet, in the meantime he said “In the third question (these were his own words) I would prefer to see a negative reply,21 in accordance with the text in the Westphalian peace treaty, article 5, §31,22 which refers to Catholics and Protestants, but can be used here as it is the same problem, although the decision would not be pleasing to the princess, since she had this same controversy with the consistory at an earlier point about the Lutherans. Or one could leave this question out.” I found this suggestion rather surprising, especially as the head of the faculty, when I presented the case, did not object anything to my opinion that the question should be answered in the affirmative, and none of my other colleagues commented on this. I also thought about what must have impelled the head of the faculty to this extraordinary resolution: Whether it seemed to him that in the first two questions the principles of the Quakers and Pseudomystics were refuted a little too clearly, though mildly, and that in the third question I moved away from the common Lutheran opinion that there is a fundamental disagreement between Lutherans and Reformed? Or whether perhaps he advised the nobleman seeking our opinion to add the third question and promised him an affirmative decision in advance? Why then (because this last seems very probable to me) did he not present the case himself, but selected me to present it? And so on. Nevertheless, I soon replied to the head of faculty in writing that, as far as the abbreviation of the counterarguments in the first two questions was concerned, he as the head was free to revise the argument and change it at his pleasure. As far as the third question was concerned, I could not understand how, contrary to the conclusion of the faculty, the negative conclusion could be now defended in the place of the affirmative. I also do not understand, how article 5, paragraph 31 of the Westphalian peace treaty can be applied to the present case, even though it otherwise could be applied to both Protestant religions. This is not to mention the fact that article 5 cannot be applied to the controversies between the two Protestant religions, since this is dealt with elsewhere, in particular it is dealt with manifestly in article 7 and, moreover, toward the end of this article the princes of Anhalt are expressly excepted from the general provision. Given this, I nevertheless left it to the head of faculty whether he wanted to leave out this third question and the response to it, or whether he wanted to produce a special response to this under his name (as the matter would probably have been entrusted to him). And so he let me know soon afterward that he had resolved to leave out the third question and the response to it.
How this was changed§VII. I would consider it unnecessary to recount the circumstances so far in such detail, if I had not found afterward, that this last promise was not kept, but that in the minutes of the faculty my above response was completely changed, under my own name, in the following way:
As the same sent us a report, in addition to a document under A with the seal of our faculty, as well as two questions etc., the same person was asked: whether the document under A was such, that the nobleman or his advocate, who had put it in the requisite form, could be summoned or punished for it? Although in the document he handed over there were various irresponsible matters, which undoubtedly had to displease the princely consistory and which we too cannot approve at all, yet since the same nobleman protested at the beginning, that he had no intention of being rebellious etc. (for the rest see above §IV in the counterarguments for questions 1 and 2).
Concerning the other question: whether the nobleman, being a Lutheran, could be compelled to go to the church in N. where the preacher is a Calvinist? we believe it is true that it is the duty of a territorial ruler to look to it that the regular divine service is upheld, and everyone is assigned to the church in his own parish, and that, since both parties are Protestant, the difference in religion also cannot be taken into consideration, as far as attendance at sermons is concerned, since the nobleman is free to take communion in a neighboring Lutheran parish. However, the question is precisely whether a person can be compelled to attend the service of another religion. This sort of coercion is not approved in the Peace Treaty of Westphalia, article 5, §31, but on the contrary in these cases permission is granted to hold devotion with one’s dependents freely and without impediment at home. The wording is as follows: If they (the subjects) will profess a different religion from that of the lord of the territory, and embrace it, they should be tolerated with patience, and they should not be prevented from privately taking part in devotions at home, with a free conscience, without inquisition or disturbance, and also, where and as often as they want, to participate in neighboring territories in the public practice of religion, to send their children to external schools of their religion, or to have them instructed at home by private teachers. Although this text refers to Catholics and Protestants, nevertheless it must also apply to Calvinists and Lutherans because the rationale is the same, just as there is no example to be found of a Calvinist government that forces its Lutheran subjects to attend Calvinist services, but so far has left this to everyone’s own decision. This is also the best means to encourage Christian tolerance, and so we believe, that the nobleman under these circumstances cannot be compelled to visit the church at N. V. R. W.23
Conclusion§VIII. I did not add this change to my reply for the purpose of supposing or obstinately arguing that my own affirmative response is to be preferred to the negative. I thus rather leave it to the judgment of the impartial reader, which of us is in the right. Should he decide in favor of this last change, I would have a bad conscience if the praise that belongs to the true author were accorded to me and I allowed him to be deprived of it.
[1. ]This treatise was printed in a collection of Thomasius’s writings with the title Vernünfftige und Christliche aber nicht Scheinheilige Thomasische Gedancken und Erinnerungen über allerhand Gemischte Philosophische und Juristische Händel. Dritter Theil (Reasonable and Christian, but not hypocritical Thomasian thoughts and comments, on various philosophical and juristic debates) (Halle, 1725). The piece consists of an introduction by Thomasius, the letter of a nobleman requesting the legal advice of the law faculty at the University of Halle, Thomasius’s formal response to this, and finally an account by Thomasius of the way in which his advice was altered by the Halle law faculty.
[2. ]The principality in question appears to be Anhalt-Dessau, which enjoyed close ties with Brandenburg, as several members of the Calvinist ruling family entered the service of the Elector of Brandenburg from the late seventeenth century onward. After the death of Johann Georg II of Anhalt-Dessau in 1693 the principality passed to the regency of his widow, Henrietta Catharina, who was originally from the House of Orange. In 1698 her son Leopold I, who later also served as a Prussian general, succeeded to the government of the principality.
[3. ]Like most other law faculties in the Holy Roman Empire, that of the University of Halle routinely provided legal advice (consilia) to individuals and governments outside its own territory. The advice was based on the documentation submitted to the faculty by the party seeking the faculty’s advice.
[4. ]The Consistory was the supreme disciplinary body within the Protestant church of a particular territory. It was composed of both clerics and laymen.
[5. ]Christoph Crusius, Tractatus de Indiciis Delictorum Specialibus, cum praemissa maleficiorum eorumque poenae compendiosa relatione (Treatise on the specific proofs of crimes, with a full account of evil-doers and their punishment) (Frankfurt, 1635).
[6. ]Caspar Ziegler, Jus Canonicum, Notis & Animadversionibus Academicis ad Joh. Pauli Lancelotti . . . Institutiones enucleatum (Canon law, explained with academic notes and comments on the institutes of John Paul Lancelotti) (Wittenberg, 1669). Christian Thomasius later also published his own edition of Lancelotti’s work (Johannis Pauli Lancelotti Institutiones Juris Canonici: Cum Notis Variorum, Praecipue Arcana Dominationis Papalis, Episcopalis, et Clericalis In Ecclesia Romana Detegentibus; In Usum Auditorii Thomasiani. Partes IV (John Paul Lancelotti’s Institutes of Canon Law: with various authors’ notes, which reveal above all the secrets of papal, episcopal, and clerical domination in the Roman church; for the use of Thomasius’s lecture audience, in four parts) (Halle, 1715–17).
[7. ]Gottfried Arnold, Die erste Liebe der Gemeinen Jesu Christi, das ist, Wahre Abbildung der ersten Christen, nach ihren lebendigen Glauben und heiligen Leben (The first love of the congregations of Jesus Christ, that is, a true account of the first Christians, based on their living faith and holiness) (Frankfurt am Main, 1696); Arnold, Unparteyische Kirchen- und Ketzer-Historie vom Anfang des Neuen Testaments biß auff das Jahr Christi 1688 (Impartial history of the church and its heresies, from the beginning of the New Testament to the year 1688) (Frankfurt am Main, 1699–1700).
[8. ]Not Biedenbach, but Felix Bidembach, Consiliorum Theologicorum Decas III & IV (Decades III and IV of theological consilia) (Laugingen, 1608). J. C. Dürr, Compendium Theologiae Moralis (Handbook of moral theology). The edition used here is probably the third, which was published in Altdorf in 1698. Heinrich Lincken, Tractatus de Juribus Templorum cum discursu praeliminari de Juris Canonici Origine & Auctoritate (Treatise on the laws concerning temples, with a preliminary discourse on the origin and authority of canon law) (Jena, 1674).
[9. ]Samuel Pufendorf, De Habitu Religionis Christianae ad Vitam Civilem (Bremen, 1687). For a modern edition of the 1698 translation of this work, see Of the Nature and Qualification of Religion in Reference to Civil Society, trans. Jodocus Crull, ed. Simone Zurbuchen (Indianapolis, Ind.: Liberty Fund, 2002). Christian Thomasius, De Jure Principis circa Adiaphora (The right of Protestant princes regarding indifferent matters or adiaphora) (Halle, 1695). Translated as chapter 2 in this volume. Christian Thomasius, Einleitung zur Sittenlehre (Introduction to ethics) (Halle, 1692; repr. Hildesheim, 1995).
[10. ]Andreas Kesler, Patientia Christiana. Außführlicher Tractat von der Kirchen Christi Persecution (Christian Patience. A comprehensive treatise on the persecution of the church of Christ) (Coburg, 1630); Johann Wigand, De Persecutione Piorum (On the persecution of the pious) (Frankfurt am Main, 1580). Kesler distinguishes between bloody and bloodless persecution, the latter of which results in exile and loss of property but not in loss of life.
[11. ]That is, the question of whether a nobleman can be commanded to attend a village church not of his choosing.
[12. ]That is, the question of whether a Protestant magistrate has the authority to compel his subjects to attend public church services as such.
[13. ]The following paragraph thus contains the brief that the nobleman sent to Thomasius’s law faculty upon failing to receive the reply he desired from the princess. In it the nobleman refers to the letter he sent to the princess (see §II in this chapter) as appendix A attached to his brief.
[14. ]Not clear whether this refers to a particular person.
[15. ]What follows is Thomasius’s formal response to the nobleman’s brief, written as representative of the Halle law faculty.
[16. ]See Genesis 13:7–11: “[T]here was strife between the herdsmen of Abram’s cattle and the herdsmen of Lot’s cattle. . . . Then Abram said to Lot, ‘Let there be no strife between you and me, and between your herdsmen and my herdsmen; for we are kinsmen. Is not the whole land before you? Separate yourself from me. If you take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if you take the right hand, then I will go to the left.’ . . . [T]hus they separated from each other.”
[17. ]“V. R. W.” presumably stands for “Von Rechts Wegen” (“in accordance with law”). This concludes Thomasius’s original formal advice, provided in his capacity as professor of law at Halle.
[18. ]This is Thomasius’s translation of Charpentier’s life of Socrates, published as Das Ebenbild eines wahren und ohnpedantischen Philosophi, Oder: Das Leben Socrates, aus dem Französischen des Herrn Charpentier ins Teutsche übersetzt (The portrayal of a true and unpedantic philosopher, or: the life of Socrates, translated from the French of Mr. Charpentier into German) (Halle, 1693). The dedicatee is Dodo, Freiherr of Inn and Knyphausen, privy councillor to the Elector of Brandenburg.
[19. ]The Gnesio-Lutherans were a group of Lutheran theologians who were active mainly in the third quarter of the sixteenth century, though Thomasius also uses the term to describe his orthodox opponents. The sixteenth-century Gnesio-Lutherans criticized what they perceived as the corruption of Luther’s teachings by the followers of Philipp Melanchthon.
[20. ]Thomasius and Brenneisen published Das Recht Evangelischer Fürsten in theologischen Streitigkeiten (The right of Protestant princes in theological disputes) in 1696, as a counterattack to the criticisms that had been launched against the De jure principis circa adiaphora (The right of Protestant princes regarding indifferent matters or adiaphora) of the preceding year. Once again, Brenneisen played the role of Thomasius’s spear-carrier, presenting his teacher’s ideas in a public disputation under Thomasius’s supervision. Johann Gottlob Stoltze, church superintendent in Waldenburg, then countered with two further replies to Thomasius, the Anmerkungen über einige Lehrsätze Christiani Thomasii, vom Recht evangelischer Fürsten in theologischen Streitigkeiten (Comments on some doctrines of Christian Thomasius, concerning the right of Protestant princes in theological disputes) (Leipzig, 1697), and the Evangelischer Fürsten Recht in Vertheidigung der wahren evangelischen Lehre (Protestant princes’ right concerning the defense of the true doctrine of the gospel) (Altenburg, 1697).
[21. ]That is, Thomasius’s head of faculty wishes him to advise that the nobleman should not be forced to attend church in his village.
[22. ]This is the Peace of Westphalia of 1648. The paragraph referred to allowed private, domestic worship to those subjects whose confession differed from that of the ruling house. The text is cited below in §VII.
[23. ]See note 17 in this chapter.