Front Page Titles (by Subject) §30. - Of the Nature and Qualification of Religion, in Reference to Civil Society
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§30. - 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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Whether the Church be a State? Though it be evident that, the Union of the Believers under Christ their King, and that Mystical Body, whose Head is Christ, the Members of all the Believers in general, cannot be considered as a Temporal State; nevertheless, it is worth our enquiry, whether not all those in General, that profess the Christian Doctrine, may be considered as a Body belonging under one Civil Government, or at least, have a near resemblance to a Civil Commonwealth? Or, which is the same in effect, Whether the Church, according to our Saviour’s Intention ought to be considered as a State or Commonwealth? We take here the Word State, in its common Acceptation, viz. for a certain Society of Men, which being independent from any Foreign Jurisdiction, live under the Protection of their own Sovereigns. The main intention of this Question is, that, after we shall have made it appear, That the Church, according to the intention of Christ and his Apostles, neither was, nor could be a State, it may from thence be concluded, whether that Church which pretends to a Sovereignty, considered as such, be Christ’s Church? But, to trace the very original of this Question, it ought first of all to be considered, in what Sense the Word Ecclesia or Church, is taken in the holy Scripture. The word Ecclesia has its off-spring out of the Democracy’s of the Greeks, whereby they understood a Convention, Meeting, or sometimes, a Concourse of the People, or of a considerable Part of their Citizens, in order to receive Propositions, to consult and make Decrees, concerning Matters belonging to the Commonwealth. It is derived of Evocare, or to Call-forth, not, that thereby was always understood an Assembly, summoned out of a greater Multitude, (for I can see no reason why not all the Citizens had a Right to appear in those Assemblies;) but, because they were called out of their private Dwelling-places, and from their ordinary Business, to meet in a publick Place. So, that the original Signification of the Word, Ecclesia, implies not that of a State, but only a certain Qualification of a Democratical Government; it being evident, that a great number of Men cannot conveniently give their assent to a thing, unless they be Convened in one Place. In the Translation the LXX Interpreters, this Word is taken for a Convention, or Meeting of a considerable number of People; met, not only for the exercise of Divine Worship, but also for unlawful Ends.134 So the Greek word ἐκκλησιάζειν, is taken for the Calling and Summoning an Assembly, about Matters concerning the Commonwealth.135 But in the New Testament, the word Ecclesia, is, generally, taken, either, for all the Christians in General, wherever dispersed, or for the Congregation of the Believers in a certain Country, City, private House, or Family. In either sense, if we duely weigh the Attributes and Actions properly belonging to the Church (for by these we ought to judge of the Nature of a thing in Moral Cases) we do not meet with any thing, which has a relation to a Civil State. The true Encomium most frequently given to the Members of the Church is; that they are Brothers, holy, and redeemed by the Blood of Christ. Their chief Actions are said to be, to hear the Word of God, to pray unto and praise God, to be Charitable, to walk in the fear of God, to Fast, and to provide for the Poor. It is spoken of St. Paul and Barnabas, That they did Constitute Elders in those Churches, which they had planted in Asia,136 where the word χειροτοήσαντες is made use of, which implies as much, as having made them by Suffrages of the Congregation; in the same manner as the Decrees used to pass in the antient Democracies, by the plurality of Votes; by which it appears, that they pretended to no Absolute Power of Constituting Elders over them, but such as were approved of by the Congregation. And it is remarkable that these, nevertheless are said to have been made Overseers over the Church by the Holy Ghost.137 So were the Judges, that were set in the Land by Jehosaphat, stiled Judges for the Lord;138 because, whoever is fitly qualified for any Office or Function, not contrary to the Word of God, and has obtained the same by lawful ways and Means, may justly be said to have been Constituted in that same Office by God Almighty. And though it belongs most properly to the Church to constitute Teachers, this nevertheless does not imply any Act of Sovereignty; it being evident, that a private Colledge or Society, subject to another Jurisdiction, may lawfully enjoy the same Power. A Dissension being arosen concerning an Article of Faith in the Church of Antiocha, they determined, that some of them should go concerning this Question then in dispute, to the Church of Jerusalem;139 And these Deputies were by the rest of the Brethren, conducted out of the Town, in their way to Jerusalem; where this Question having been debated, and determined, they sent Word thus, to their Brethren, It seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and us, &c. where it is to be observed, that to send Deputies, concerning such Matters, as are not intended in prejudice of the Sovereign Power; for one Congregation to consult another, concerning any Articles of Faith; and to determine any Differences about them, are to be looked upon, as Actions of such a nature, which do not imply a Sovereign and Absolute Power; but may legally belong to a private Colledge, or sometimes a private Person; provided the Business in hand be not imposed upon its Members, but transacted and admitted by common consent. So the Church of Jerusalem, chose certain Men, who were to be Overseers of the Poor, which they had a Right to do, as being a Society or Colledge.140 In the same Sense ought to be taken, what is said in the 2 Epistle to the Corinthians, c. 8:19. That the Churches had chosen one to travel with St. Paul. The Church is called a Flock, which is to be fed by the Bishops, with the pure Word of God, who are to preserve it from the Wolves; That is to say, from Men speaking perverse things, to draw away Disciples after them;141 Against those Teachers the Church ought to be watchful, not ceasing to Admonish their Auditors to avoid their Snares. What concerns that passage in the 1 Epistle to the Corinthians, c. 6:1. and following Verses, it is apparent enough, that there is not any Sovereign Authority or Jurisdiction granted to the Christians, (barely considered as Christians:) But the Apostle enjoyns them, that in case of any Differences in Civil Affairs among the Members of the Church, they should rather refer it to the Arbitration of the Brethren, than to go to Law before the Gentiles, and fall under the Censure of being Avaricious. In the following Chapter, it is plainly expressed, that no body, by becoming a Member of the Church, does change his Qualification or Function, which belonged to him as a Subject; or that Christianity is inconsistent with the Subjection to a Civil Government;142 a Servant therefore, by being a Christian, does not become a Freeman; neither is a Subject thereby absolved from the Allegiance due to his Sovereign;143 concerning the Union and Modesty, which ought to be practised in the Church, or the Christian Congregations, where the Word of God was Preached, and the Sacraments Administred, St. Paul speaks in the 1 Epistle to the Corinthians; c. 11:18 and following Verses; and in the 14 Chap. 34:40 Verse. And, what sort of Religious Exercises was to be used in these Congregations, is expressed in the 1 Epistle to the Corinthians, c. 14. viz. to be Hymns, Doctrines, Tongues, Prophesies, Revelations, Interpretations; all which are to be applied to Edifie the Congregation; and in the 12 Chapter, 28 Verse, the several Degrees and Functions of the Members of the Church, are thus enumerated: First, Apostles, secondarily, Prophets, thirdly, Teachers; after that, Miracles, then Gifts of Healings, Helps, Governments, Diversities of Tongues;144 All which are Requisites belonging to the propagating and establishing of the Gospel, and are Gifts of that self same Spirit, who dispenses his Gifts to every Man, as he pleases; So, that he, that has received more noble Endowments, can therefore not claim any Prerogative, as being a more honorable Member of this Mystical Body, or pretend to any Jurisdiction over such as are not endowed with these Qualifications in the same Degree as himself. And charity, which is the inseparable Attribute of all Christians, is more noble and excellent than all other spiritual Gifts.145 Alms are the only Taxes which belong to the Church, and these also cannot be exacted by the Sovereign Authority of the Church;146 Tho’ it be undeniable; that every Church is obliged to maintain its Ministers. In the 2 Epist. to the Corinthians, c. 11:28. St. Paul professes, That the Care of all the Churches lies upon him, to strengthen those that were weak, and to obviate Scandals. And in the next following Chapter, he says, That the Church of Corinth is in no wise inferior to other Churches, which were planted by others, who had exercised the Apostolical Function before him.147 Neither is any thing to be met withal in the Holy Scripture, which proves the Subordination of one Church to another; Nay, the Congregations of small Towns, and even of private Families, are often stiled Churches, as those of vast Cities; and those particular Churches, which were planted in Judea, are called the Churches of God.148 In the Epistle to the Ephesians, c. 1:22. c. 5:23. and to the Colossians, c. 1:18, 24. Christ is called the Head of the Body of the Church, which he has presented to himself a glorious Church, not having Spot or Wrinkle, or any such thing, but that it should be Holy and without Blemish, sanctified by Christ’s Redemption, and cleansed with the washing of Water, by the Word.149 What Qualifications are required in a Bishop, or a Governour of a particular Church, is expressed in the 1 Epistle to Timothy, c. 3:2. and following Verses; in the 2 Epistle to Timothy, c. 4:2. in the Epistle to Titus, c. 1:7, 8, 9, and c. 2:7. All which, if duely examined, have a relation meerly to the Purity of his Doctrine, and his being blameless in his Behaviour; and do not in the least favour of any thing properly belonging to the Supream Governours of a State. For, it is said, that he must be the Husband of one Wife, Vigilant, Sober, of a good Behaviour, given to Hospitality, apt to Teach; Not given to Wine, no Striker, not greedy of Filthy Lucre; but patient, not a Bawler, not Covetous. One that ruled well his own House, having his Children in Subjection, with all Gravity; Not a Novice, not lifted up with Pride; All which are such Vertues as belong properly to a Teacher, or a private Person, In the 1 Epistle to Timothy, c. 3:15. the Church is called, the House of God; σύλος καὶἑδρίωμα, or, The Pillar and Ground of Truth; like we are used to affix Proclamations to great Pillars, to the view of every body. Tho’ some antient Manuscripts refer these words; The Pillar and Ground of Truth, to the following Sentence; the Preceding ending with the words, The Church of the living God. Then begins a new Sentence thus: The pillar and ground of Truth, and without Controversy, great is the Mystery of Godliness, God was manifest in the Flesh, &c. So, that, in this sense, this Passage is parallel to what Christ told St. Peter by St. Matthew, c. 16:18. and to that of St. John, c. 20:31. The Titles of Honour belonging to the Christian Church, are recited in the Epistle to the Hebrews, c. 12:22. where it is called, The mount of Sion, the City of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, the innumerable Company of Angels; the General Assembly and Church of the first Born, which are written in Heaven, where God is the Judge of all, and Jesus the Mediator of the New Covenant, and the Spirit of just Men made perfect.150 And in the Revelation, c. 2:3. the Churches of Asia are praised for their good Deeds, and their Vices exposed, with a severe Commination, that, if they did not repent, their Candlestick (which is the Doctrine of the Gospel) should be taken away from them;151 which is sufficient to shew, that the Light of the Gospel may be extinguished in particular Churches. All these passages, if duely compared and examined, do not furnish us with any Matter, proving the Christian Church to be a State, or to have any resemblance to a Temporal Sovereignty.
[134.]Ps. 26:5; Acts 19:32, 39, 40.
[135.]Num. 20:8, 10; Jos. 18:1, 2; Chron. 15:9, 10; 34:29.
[138.]2 Chron. 19:5, 6.
[141.]Acts 20:28, 29, 30.
[143.]1 Tim. 6:1, 2.
[145.]1 Cor. 16:1; 2 Cor. 8:2, 3, 8; 1 Tim. 5:16.
[146.]Philipp. 4:15; 2 Cor. 9:14; 1 Tim. 5:18.
[147.]2 Cor. 12:13. [Puf.]
[148.]1 Thess. 2:14; 2 Thess. 1:4.
[149.]Ephes. 5:26, 27.
[150.]Hebr. 12:22, 23, 24. [Puf.]
[151.]Rev. 2:3, 5. [Puf.]