Front Page Titles (by Subject) §17. - Of the Nature and Qualification of Religion, in Reference to Civil Society
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
§17. - Samuel von Pufendorf, Of the Nature and Qualification of Religion, in Reference to Civil Society 
Of the Nature and Qualification of Religion, in Reference to Civil Society, trans. Jodocus Crull, ed. and with an introduction by Simone Zurbuchen (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2002).
About Liberty Fund:
The copyright to this edition, in both print and electronic forms, is held by Liberty Fund, Inc.
Fair use statement:
But that of a Doctor or Teacher. As now Christ, during his abode here upon Earth, did not make the least appearance or outward shew, resembling the greatness of Temporal Princes; and, as out of all his Actions there cannot be gathered the least thing, which may prove his intention to have been to erect a new State or Commonwealth; so it is sufficiently apparent, that, during the whole course of his publick Conversation on Earth, he employed all his Time and Labour in publishing the Word of God. So that in the Quality of a Doctor or Teacher, he appeared to the Eyes of all the World; whereas his Office of being the Saviour of Mankind, was at that time understood, only by such, as were capable of applying the Antient Oracles of the Prophets to his Person.42 Furthermore, our Saviour to establish and shew his Authority, made use of such Miracles, as might be evident proofs of his Divine Power, partly, because the Antient Ceremonies which were to be abolished, were first ordained by God’s special Command; partly, because the principal Heads of his Doctrine were surpassing all Human Understanding. But, as for his way of Teaching, it was plain, and free from Vanity, without all affectation, wherein appeared nothing which justly might cause the least suspicion of fictitious Worship. Notwithstanding his Doctrine appeared thus in her Native and Pure Simplicity, yet, so powerful were its Charm, that all what Human Art, Dexterity, Eloquence has been able to invent of that kind, if compared to the solid Expressions of our Saviour, is only superficial and insipid. Neither do we find, that he made use of any outward means to promote his Doctrine. He did not call to his aid the Power and Authority of Civil Magistates, to force People to receive his Words. The Word was there, He that can take, let him take it. And how often do we read that he exclaimed to them, He that hath Ears to hear, let him hear.43 It was not God Almighty’s pleasure to pull People head-long into Heaven, or to make use of the new French way of Converting them by Dragoons; But, he has laid open to us the way of our Salvation, in such a manner, as not to have quite debarr’d us from our own choise; so, that if we will be refractory, we may prove the cause of our own Destruction. Neither, did it please Almighty God to inveigle Mankind by the Allurements of Profit and Temporal Pleasures, but rather to foretel those, that should follow his Doctrine, nothing but Adversities, Calamities, Persecutions and all sorts of Afflictions; reserving the chiefest Reward till after this Life, where also such as had neglected his Doctrine, were to receive condign Punishment. This is the most evident Proof that can be given of the intrinsick Value and extraordinary Worth of the Christian Doctrine; the natural Constitution of Mankind in general, being such as to be chiefly moved with those Objects that are present and affect our Senses; whereas those things that are represented to our Minds at a distance, are but faintly received, and often meet with dubious Interpretations. It is worth our Observation, what Method Christ made use of in his Doctrine, viz. That he taught as one having Authority, as it is expressed by Matth. 7:29. not as the Scribes, that is; he had no recourse to the Authority and Traditions of their Antient Rabbis, so as to set up for an Interpreter of their antient Laws, but he spoke Lord-like, and as a Legislator, who had a lawful Authority belonging to himself, to propose his Doctrine. It is my Will and Command, who is it that dare gain-say me? And in this one point only Christ exercised his Regal Power, as well as his Office of Teaching, when he promised great and ample Rewards to all such, as should receive his Doctrine, threatening with Eternal Damnation all those that should refuse to hearken to it. He that believed not, is condemned already, are his Words;44 quite contrary as it is with other speculative Sciences, the Ignorance of which makes no body liable to Punishments. And, in this Sense is to be taken what is related of our Saviour by St. John;45 The reason why the Jews were so bent to the Destruction of Christ, was, because they abominated his Doctrine; nor would they acknowledge him for the same Messias, which was promised so long before. But having at that time no Criminal Jurisdiction belonging to themselves, they were obliged to forge Treason and Rebellion against him, as if his design was to make himself King of the Jews. Jesus therefore being examined by Pilate concerning this Accusation, did not deny it, but witnessed a good Confession,46 viz. That his Kingdom was not of this World,47 which is as much as to say; His Kingdom was not like those of Temporal Princes, who exercise Acts of Sovereignty over their Subjects. For, if he had pretended to the same Prerogatives, he might have commanded his Servants, not his timerous Disciples, but those strong Legions of Angels, who always stand ready to his Command,48 to protect their Lord from falling into the Hands of Pilate. And when Pilate replied, That he then professed himself to be a King, he answered, That he was King, but a King of Truth, and that for this cause he came into the World, that he should bear witness unto Truth.49Pilate, by what Christ had professed, soon understood that this matter did not fall under his Cognizance, and therefore answered, What is Truth? As if he would have said, if nothing else can be objected against you, but that you make profession of Truth, I have no further business with you; for Truth is not subject to any Temporal Jurisdiction. Neither did the Laws of the Roman Empire, wherein so many Nations were comprehended, take any Cognizance at that time, of the various Opinions of their Subjects in matters of Religion, as it plainly appears out of the Acts,50 and out of the Apology of Athenagoras.51 It was for this reason that Pilate would have discharged him, if he had not at last thought it more convenient, to appease the rage of the Jews by Sacrificing him, though Innocent, to their Fury. But after Christ had once made this open Confession, he refused to make any further answer to Pilate, being sensible that Pilate was not desirous to be instructed in this Truth. The Kingdom of Christ therefore, is a Kingdom of Truth, where he, by the force of Truth, brings over our Souls to his Obedience; and this Truth has such powerful Charms, that the Kingdom of Christ needs not to be maintained by the same forcible means and Rules, by which Subjects must be kept in Obedience to the Civil Powers. And for the same reason it is, that there need not be established a particular State, in order to propagate and preserve Truth, no more, than it is necessary, to set up a separate Commonwealth, where Philosophy and other Sciences are to be taught. For, it is the true Genius of Truth, and such her intrinsick vertue, as to be convincing in it self, provided she be but represented in her genuine Shape; and the fruits, which she produces for the benefit of Mankind, be dexterously proposed to the view of the World. But the divine Truth has, beyond all others, this particular prerogative, that by vertue, and with the assistance of God’s Grace our Minds are insensibly drawn into a Belief of those things, that otherwise seem to surpass human Understanding.
[43.]Matt. 11:15; 13:9, 43; Luke 8:8; 14:35.
[46.]1 Tim. 6:13.
[48.]Matt. 4:11. [Puf.]
[50.]Acts 18:14, 15; 26:31. [Puf.]
[51.]Athenagoras was a Christian apologist from Athens. In c. a.d. 177 he addressed a “message” to the Emperors Marcus Aurelius Antoninus and Lucius Aurelius Commodus in which he defended Christians against charges of atheism, cannibalism, and sexual deviance (A Plea for the Christians). See note 187, below. [SZu]