Front Page Titles (by Subject) §35. - Of the Nature and Qualification of Religion, in Reference to Civil Society
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§35. - 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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There is no necessity for Christians to be united under one State. Neither does it appear, for what end or purpose all the Christians in General should be reduced under one State. For, each Congregation or Church may with more ease and conveniency constitute Teachers in their Churches, fitly qualified for the Ministry of the Gospel, and have a more watchful Eye over those who are known, and near at hand, than can be expected from one single Person, (tho’ never so wise) living at a great distance; who being besides this, overwhelmed with multitude of Businesses, is forced to see with other Peoples Eyes, and to hear with other Peoples Ears. Neither is it a sufficient Reason, what is alledged, that for the composing and determining of such Differences as may arise betwixt the Teachers of the Church, or betwixt them and others, a General Court ought to be established in the Christian Church, it being evident, that such Cases can be no where determined with more conveniency, than in the same Government where they live; and that there cannot any sufficient reason be given, why they should not acknowledge the same Jurisdiction with the rest of their fellow Subjects. There is one objection which has something of colour in it; for it is alledged, That if all the Christian Churches throughout the World were united under one Head, (whether under one Person, or a certain Assembly, matters not) the unity of Faith might be better preserved, Controversies sooner composed, and Heresies suppressed or quite extinguished; but if the whole matter be duely weighed, it will appear, that such an Ecclesiastical Monarch may be very easily spared in the Church. For, granting such an universal Judge of all Controversies arising in the Church, he must be supposed to be infallible, (and that beyond all contradiction) as well in point of Matter of Fact, as to the lawfulness of the Case; for it may so happen, that it be plain enough, whether a Doctrine be erroneous or not, when at the same time, it may be disputable, whether the said Error ought to be laid to a certain Man’s Charge or not? For, if an Appeal be allowed from this Judge, after Sentence pronounced, there will never be an end of the Process. It is therefore absolutely requisite, that this infallible Authority should be so manifestly proved, that it cannot reasonably be called in question. For, unless this Authority be unquestionable for the decision of this Controversie, we must run from this Judge to another, who must also be supposed to be Infallible, and so in infinite; it being granted by all, without Exception, that no body ought to be a Judge in his own Case. And, since this Privilege of being Infallible, could not be granted by any body, but by God alone; (the whole Body of Christians, being not invested with such a Power) it must plainly be proved out of the Scriptures, that this particular Prerogative and Authority was granted to one certain Person, for him and his Successors to decide all Controversies concerning the Articles of Faith, without being liable to any Error. But, of this there is not the least footstep in the holy Scripture; Nay, the Apostles, when they were sent by Christ into all the World, were endued with the same Spirit, and had an equal Authority. So, that there is but one way now left, for the attaining to the true Knowledge of the Christian Religion, both for the Teachers in the Church, and all Believers in general, which is, to study the Scriptures devoutly, and without Intermission.180 And whoever pretends to Inspiration, or to a prophetical Spirit, ought by undeniable Demonstrations to justifie his Pretensions. These Qualifications, which the Apostle Paul describes in the 2 Epistle to Timothy, c. 2:24, 25, ought to be applied to all Bishops and Teachers in general: And the Servant of the Lord, he says, must not strive, but be gentle unto all Men, apt to teach patiently. In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves, if God peradventure will give them Repentance to the acknowledging of the Truth. Out of what has been said, it is apparent, that, if any one now a-days, does pretend to any Prerogative, or Infallibility in deciding Controversies as to matter of Faith, he ought to be endued with such extraordinary Qualifications, as are most requisite for the due Explaining and Interpreting the Sense of the holy Scripture, and this in so high a degree, as that the other Teachers in the Church are not able to stand in Competition with him, nay, that even all their joint Endeavours, in this kind, are not to be compared to his Judgment. Besides this, it must be supposed, that this universal Judge (except he be to be look’d upon as an useless Engine) must be invested with a Power to execute his Decrees, and to oblige all Christians to acquiesce in his Judgment; For, if it be supposed, that his Decrees have no other force, than as far as they influence People by the force of Truth, they would be either useless, or else this Judge in vain pretends thereby to any further Prerogative, but what he has in common with other Christians that apply themselves to the Study of the holy Scripture. Furthermore, this obliging Power must either have been obtained by a peculiar Privilegde granted by God Almighty, or by a general consent of the Christians, or by an inherent Right to a Sovereignty over all the Christian Churches. As for a priviledge granted by God, or the general consent of the Christian Churches, there is not the least Proof of it, as far as ever I could find; And as to the pretended Sovereign Power, its legal Title ought to be proved by such Documents as are suitable to so great a Pretension. For it is a very insignificant Proof, to alledge in a case of such Moment Tradition, and a long continued Usurpation, which adds nothing to the right of a long continued illegal Possession, and cannot be taken for a solid Foundation, whereupon to build a real Pretension to such a Sovereignty; for it is possible, that, whereas something of a Prerogative was intended in the primitive times, the same, in process of Time, has been abused, and consequently degenerated into an insufferable Tyranny. We cannot therefore, but look upon such a Tradition, as has not the least foundation in the Scriptures, as very suspicious; especially, when we consider, that such a Sovereign Power is quite contrary to the true Genius of the Christian Religion. It may perhaps be objected, that nothing else can be so powerful to put a stop to all Controversies; but it ought to be considered also, that thereby the worsest sort of Slavery must be introduced, worse than that whereof Tacitus complains in his time: Adempto, per Inquisitiones, & loquendi audiendiq; Commercio, atque ipsacum voce memoria perdatur, si tam in nostra potestate foret oblivisci, quam tacere. By the Inquisition the benefit of our Tongue and Ears is taken away at once; and if it was as easie to controul Mens Memories, as it is to bridle their Tongues, the very remembrance of things past, had been long ago abolished among us.181 Truly, by such Methods, perhaps the Commonwealth may be stock’d with Hypocrites, and dissembling Hereticks, but few will be brought over to the Orthodox Christian Faith. As it is therefore absolutely requisite, that a hidden Ulcer should be laid open, whereby it may the sooner be purg’d from its Malignancy, and proper Remedies more immediately be applied to the affected Part; So, is it much conducing in the Church, that such Scruples and Erroneous Opinions as have seised our Minds should be brought to light, that by applying timely Remedies, they may be removed before they are gone too far; than by couching them over to let them run into a malignant Suppuration, which at last may turn to an incurable Gangren. It is also to be taken notice of, that if this Ecclesiastical Sovereignty be granted, there must of necessity be a double headed Sovereign Power in one State; it being evident, that Subjects would be obliged to acknowledge the Authority of this Ecclesiastical Judge in point of Controversie, as well, and in the same measure, as they do the Authority of their civil Governours in civil Actions. And, since this Ecclesiastical Sovereignty has a different scope from that, for which Civil Societies were erected, it must consequently be of a quite different nature, and make up a particular Sovereignty. Wherefore, if both these should happen to be joined in one person, he becomes thereby at once master over our Lives and Consciences: But, if this Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction be lodged in another Person, he must either at the same time be acknowledged to have a Power of executing his Decrees, by his own Prerogative, or else to have only an Authority of giving Sentence, leaving the Execution of it to the civil Magistrates. If the first of these two be supposed, it is evident, that a double headed Sovereignty must carry along with it great Inconveniencies and Distractions; and if the latter, those that exercise the Sovereignty in the State, must be look’d upon as Executioners only to this holy Judge. All these Things duely considered, as they must needs occasion great Convulsions in the State, so no man that is not beyond his Wits will be apt to imagine, (unless it be made appear by most evident Proofs) that Christ intended to introduce, by his Doctrine, such pernicious Diseases into civil Societies. For, tho’ it is impossible, that no Controversies should be raised in the Church, like Christ himself has foretold it in the Parable by Matthew, c. 13:24. And St. Paul in the 1 Epistle to the Corinthians, c. 11:19. Nevertheless, if any Controversie does arise, he that is the first Author of it must of necessity maintain his Opinion, under a colour at least of its being agreeable to the Scriptures. For, if any one should pretend to introduce a new Article of Faith, without endeavouring to prove it out of the holy Scripture, he would be look’d upon as a mad Man, tho’ he should call to his aid all the Sophistications of the Philosophers. And if he should insist upon the Authority of Traditions without the Scriptures, this would only serve to disclose the weakness of that Foundation whereupon he builds his Doctrine. But, if any one should make an attempt against any Article of Faith, received already as such, in the Church, he is scarce worth taking notice of, unless he should be able to alledge at least, some specious Reasons out of the holy Scripture for his Opinion. And, in such a case (especially if his Endeavours seem to proceed from a real Love to Truth) he ought not to be absolutely slighted, without being heard, and his Reasons examined. So, that then the whole decision of the Matter must depend from a right Interpretation of the several passages in the holy Scripture relating to this Controversie; And to find out this Interpretation, I see not any necessity, which obliges us to have recourse to a Sovereign Power, or any infallible Authority, but only to such Means, as are most proper for the searching into, and finding out the genuine Sense of other Authors; viz. by a true Knowledge of the Tongue, and a diligent search into the nature and whole frame of the Christian Religion, and by duely comparing the Articles of Faith, and observing their Analogy and Connexion; Whosoever besides this, has a natural good Judgment, and is not prepossessed with Prejudice, private Interest, or Passion, it will be no such difficult Task for him, to find out the genuine Sense of the Scriptures, and to demonstrate it so plainly, that such as oppose him, will, by the consent of all Understanding People, be judged to be in the wrong. So did our Saviour at several times convince the Pharisees and Saduceans out of the whole Scripture, and by the force of his Arguments taken from thence, that they were not able to make any further reply. And why should it not be reasonably supposed, that in each Christian Church, there may be found a sufficient number of Teachers, capable of disproving such as pretend to introduce among them Innovations, and false Doctrines. But, supposing that these alone should prove insufficient, they may call to their aid those of the Neighbouring most famous Churches. From whence it appears, that there is no absolute Necessity of acknowledging a Judge General of Controversies in the Church. And, put the Case, that those that dissent from the Church, are so numerous, as to have spread their Doctrine all over the State, this Judge will prove useless in his Offices; For, if he pretends to have recourse to violent means to make them renounce their false Opinion, they will in all probability oppose force to force; But, if he takes the other way, and endeavours to convince them of their Error by Arguments taken out of the holy Scripture; this may be done as well by other Teachers fitly qualified for their Office; than by such a Judge General in the Church. Neither ought we to be so over timerous as to believe, that Errors should in so much prevail over Truth, as to domineer always and every where over it, it being not to be question’d, but that by help of the most clear-sighted Teachers in the Church, these Clouds may be soon dispersed, and Truth again appear in its splendor. I appeal to Experience, whether not a great many Heresies by the only help of prevailing Truth, without the assistance of such a Judge, or any human Force have by degrees dwindled away, and at last quite disappeared. It must be confest, there are some erroneous Opinions, which being nourished and maintained by a Temporal Interest, and certain Reasons of State of some particular Churches, are not so easie to be suppressed. Of this kind are those Controversies, wherein the Protestants differ with the Papishes; All which, if duely considered, are so deeply entangled with the Interest of the Popish Monarchy, that it is impossible for the Roman Catholicks to recede an Inch from the point of the controverted Articles, without diminution of their Authority, and endangering their great Revenues; so, that all hopes of an Union betwixt them and the Protestants, are in vain, unless the latter can resolve to submit themselves under the same Popish Yoak which they have shaken off so long ago. I cannot sufficiently admire that gross way of Arguing, made use of by the Papishes, when they talk of nothing else but the Authority of their Church, telling us, that, if we would but once acknowledge the same, all the Differences and Questions concerning the chief Articles of Faith would fall-a-course, making themselves both Party and Judge, and pretending to give Sentence in their own Case according to their own Testimony. They always make use of this Sophism, that they attribute only to themselves the glorious Name of the True Church, excluding all other Christians from it, but such as are of the same Communion with them. And, to back this pretence, nothing is more common among them, than to lay aside all manner of demonstrative Arguments founded in the Scriptures, and in lieu thereof, to find out new Methods (unknown to the Apostles) of Converting People; and to endeavour to establish their Authority by all manner of violence against those, that dare to maintain Truth in opposition to their Doctrine. For which reason God has threatned in a most peculiar manner to destroy this Monster of a State.182
[180.]2 Tim. 3:14, 15.
[181.]P. Cornelius Tacitus, The Life of Gnaeus Julius Agricola, chap. 2. [SZu]
[182.]For unknown reasons, in the Latin edition section 36 has been included in section 35. The translator obviously followed the original. [SZu]