Front Page Titles (by Subject) §25. - Of the Nature and Qualification of Religion, in Reference to Civil Society
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§25. - 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).
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Of what nature this Power was. But, if we propose to form to our selves a true Idea of the Power granted to the Apostles, when the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven were given unto them, and how far it extends it self, we must take into serious Consideration, in what manner Christ himself did remit Sins, whilst he lived among us upon Earth. This is sufficiently manifest out of several Passages in St. Matthew, 9:2. Mark, 2:3. Luke, 5:20. c. 7:47, 48, 49, 50. where our Saviour verifies his Power of forgiving of Sins, by a Miracle, which could not but be the effect of a Divine Power. Besides this, there was no Plaintiff or Defendant, there was no open or express Confession of Sin; but as soon as Christ saw their Faith, he pronounced Remission of Sin. And, if we peruse the whole New Testament, it will most evidently appear, that neither Christ nor his Apostles did forgive Sins in a judicial way, where Crimes are first examined; but where the Faith was, the forgiveness of Sins was the immediate consequence of it. He that believed in him, says St. John, is not condemned, but he that believed not, is condemned already.92 Neither is that Confession (whether tacit or express) which ought to precede the Remission of Sins, like to those Confessions, which in Judicial Courts are required to be made by Offenders, and are sure to meet with deserved Punishment; But it has a resemblance to those Confessions, that are made to Physicians, by such of their Patients as labour under a secret Distemper, hoping thereby for Relief in their Diseases. As it is expressed in the 32 Psalm, v. 3, 4, 5. of David; Neither can true Repentance be supposed without such a Confession; for, how can we ask forgiveness either of God, or our Neighbour, whom we have offended, unless we confess and acknowledge our Error.93 Lastly, it is to be observed, That Christ and his Apostles, during the time of Grace, here upon Earth, did not intend to set up a judicial Court, but to preach, and to announce repentance and forgiveness of Sins. But of the great Day of judgment, it is said, That God will proceed to Judgment in a solemn manner, there, the Supream Judge will sit upon the Throne of Judgment; there Seats are to be prepared for the Assessours, the Books are to be opened, and every one is to be judged according to his Works;94 and that without Appeal: It ought also to be taken notice of, That, tho’ we have obtained pardon for an Offence from our Neighbour, this does not always and necessarily imply a Pardon from God Almighty; for it is possible, that, notwithstanding a Pardon obtained from Men, God has not absolved us from that Offence; as for instance, if the Offender be without true Faith, or an Hypocrite: And, on the other hand, it is possible that our Offences are forgiven by God, when forgiveness has been denied us by Men; as in case, our Neighbour refuses to pardon an Offence, tho’ we beg Forgiveness, and profer Satisfaction to be made; or, a Priest, being overcome by private Passion, should deny us Absolution; When therefore the Priest says; Thy Sins are forgiven unto thee, it is not always to be taken for granted, that Christ does then make use of the same Words; For, God alone is the Judge of our Faith, and even our Thoughts; But Men can only give their Judgment according to such Circumstances, or outward Signs, as effect our Senses, which often prove deceitful, and far different from what we keep concealed within us. And, tho’ in Civil Courts of Judicature it is sufficient, if Judgment be given in a Case, according to what is proved by Evidence, notwithstanding the same may be contrary to Truth; it is quite otherwise with God Almighty, who, searching into the very bottom of our Hearts, cannot be deceived by Hypocrisie. And, tho’ the Priest should tell thee a hundred times over and over, thy Sins are forgiven unto thee, and thou art destitute of Faith, it can avail thee nothing. Lastly, it ought not to be forgotten, that, when God did give unto the Apostles the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, he did not thereby surrender all his Power of forgiving Sins, or of receiving penitent Sinners into his Favour; or did debar himself from making use of this Power, unless by the means of Priests, so as to reserve only to himself the Supream Prerogative of remitting of Sins, in case of an unjust refusal of the Priest; No, by no means; for if this were granted, it would be in vain for us to pray every day; Forgive us our Sins. All these things duely considered, are evident Proofs, that, when it is said, that the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven were given unto the Apostles, it is to be understood from the Doctrine of the Gospel, which treats of the remission of Sins through our Faith in Christ; when the Apostles taught this Doctrine to the Believers, it was said of them, that they forgave Sins, in the same sense as they are said to save others by Preaching the Gospel to the Believers.95 And on the contrary, when they preach the Gospel to the Unbelieving, they are said to have bound them, so, as that they shall be bound in Heaven.96 The Apostles therefore, when they announced to the Believing the Grace of God and Forgiveness of Sins through Christ, did open the Gates of Heaven; and they shut them against such, as, being unbelieving, refused to accept this Doctrine. So, that, when a Minister of the Church applies this Doctrine of the Gospel to one particular Person, he says thus much to him: If thou believest according to thy Confession, I announce and confirm unto thee Remission of thy Sins, through the Merits of Christ; so, that thou mayest be now assured, that the same are forgiven by Christ in Heaven: But if thou not believest, thy Sins are not forgiven. For, remission of Sins is the necessary consequence of Faith, even before the Absolution is pronounced by the Priest; it being not left to the arbitrary Pleasure of Men, whether to apply the gracious Doctrine of Remission of Sins to a believing Person, or not; But, he that believes, is thereby justified before God, notwithstanding he be prevented from receiving Absolution from the Priest. Out of what has been said, it is evident, that, according to the Intention of our Saviour, these Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven were not to be made use of for the Establishment of a Temporal State, or to gain other Temporal Advantages. For, Christ ordered the Apostles to preach Remission of Sins, and give for nothing, what they had received for nothing; but not to traffick with the Word of God. Neither did they, by preaching the Gospel, make Men subject to themselves, but to Christ; Nay, St. Paul, could not understand without Indignation, that some among the Corinthians would be called from him, some from Apollo, &c.97
[93.]Prov. 28:13. (1 John 1:9; Jam. 5:16. [Puf.])
[95.]1 Tim. 4:16.
[97.]1 Cor. 1:12, 13.