Front Page Titles (by Subject) §38. - Of the Nature and Qualification of Religion, in Reference to Civil Society
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§38. - 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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Some Observations concerning the nature and use of Councils. If the whole matter be duly weighed, it furnishes us with several Observations, which may not a little contribute towards the Explaining the Nature of Ecclesiastical Councils. In the first place, it is most apparent, that these Councils are not such Bodies whose Authority is everlasting for the Government of the Church: But that they are extraordinary Convocations or Conventions, composed out of some selected and most eminent Men of the Church, who are called together for the composing certain Controversies arisen in the Church. And, because those Councils were very frequent in the Church from its Primitive times, this alone may serve as a convincing Argument, that the Church never acknowledged one infallible Judge for the deciding of Controversies. For to what purpose were so many Heads set to work, if one single Person was sufficient and infallible in the Decision of them? And (what is yet more) if the Decrees of the Councils had only their obliging Force from his Confirmation. Furthermore, those that compose such a Council are not to be considered as Members of an Assembly or Colledge, who by the Majority of Votes can so absolutely determine the Question in hand, as to be obligatory to all Christians in general; Truth generally speaking, not depending from the Plurality of Suffrages; much less, can they pretend to a legislative Power vested in them so as to impose what Laws or Canons they please upon the Church. But, they may be considered no otherwise than Men deputed by the Churches for the examining the true Grounds of the Controversies laid before them, and for searching for the Decision of them in the Holy Scripture; So that these Churches are not obliged to acquiesce in this Decision any further than they find it agreeable to the Word of God. For it may chance to fall out so that a Controversie which appears at first sight very intricate and difficult, afterwards being well weighed and the Reasons thereof duly examined on both sides, is very plain and easy to be determined. But if any moral Decrees are made by a Council, the same are to be taken to have no obliging Power, but what proceeds either from a preceding Commission and Authority, or from the Approbation of these Churches; so that Councils have no coercive Power over the Church. I cannot but touch, by the by, upon this Head, viz. that this Assertion; The Council is above the Pope, is of such a Nature as will easily gain credit with all that are guided by right Reason, or the Scriptures. For, who can be so stupid as not to be sensible, that a great many learned Men, who with joint labour apply themselves to the search after Truth, are to be preferred before the Judgment of one single Person, and that oftentimes of such a one, who has but a very indifferent insight into the Holy Scriptures and Divinity. This seems to imply somewhat of a Contradiction, that this Point is asserted by the self-same People, who make the Papal Chair the Center of the Church, and the Pope the Oecumenick Bishop: For, the Romish Church pretends to be a Monarchical State; but this Assertion of the Superiority of the Councils, favours most of an Aristocracy. But this Riddle may be unfolded in a few Words: The French Clergy allows the Pope to be the Supream Head of the Church, as far as they find it suitable with their Interest. But whenever he attempts any thing against them, or the States Policy of that Kingdom, the old Song of the Liberty of the Gallican Church, and the antient Doctrine of the Sorbone is revived, which serves the French Clergy now and then for a Pretext, to persuade the vulgar sort of People, that the Gallican Church has not been polluted with those gross and abominable Errours as are introduced in the Church of Rome.185 The next thing to be considered is, that it is most evident, that if a Controversie arises, which may be decided within the Body of one Church, there is no Occasion for the Communicating in such a Point with other Churches; And, that, in case one Church alone is not stock’d sufficiently with able Teachers for the composing of the Difference, and therefore must call to its Aid those of other Churches, it is superfluous to call together a greater number than may be sufficient for the accomplishment of the Work. So did the Church of Antioch refer the whole Controversie to those of Jerusalem, without giving the least Trouble to those of Phoenice and Samaria, though their Deputies passed in their Way thither through both these Places. Besides this, the Deputies that are sent, ought to receive their Authority and Instruction from their several Churches, whom they represent, because no Church has without reserve submitted herself to the Determination of her Teachers, but only as far as their Doctrine is agreeable to the Word of God. Neither are the Words in the Epistle to the Hebr. c. 13:17. to be understood any otherwise than with this Limitation. Besides this, it is absolutely requisite that such Persons as have raised a Controversie should be heard in the Council, that their Reasons should be duely examined, weighed, and proceeded upon, according to the Rules prescribed in the Holy Writ. And if the Controversie does not barely concern a Point of Doctrine, but implies a Temporal Interest, those that have any Share in it cannot pretend to a Power of deciding the Point in Prejudice of the adverse Party. From whence it is evident, that the Points in question betwixt the Protestant Church and the Papal Chair cannot be composed by any Council, their Difference arising not barely from Point of Doctrine, but about Domination, Temporal Dignities, and vast Revenues. Nor is there the least Probability of any Composition betwixt these two Parties by way of Arbitration; For who is it that can pretend to decide so great a Point? Who is likely to be accepted of as an Arbitrator by both Parties? The Protestants, in all likelihood, will not be so foolish as to submit themselves and their Case to the Determination of any Assembly consisting all of Roman Catholicks their sworn Enemies; nor can they have the Imprudence as to ask it. And as for the Pope, he likes his Station too well, to put it to the Hazard of an Arbitration. But if an Assembly should be proposed to consist of an equal Number chosen by each Party, this Expedient would scarce take, it being to be feared that they would scarce keep within the bounds of Moderation, and that the Assembly would appear sometimes not unlike the Feast of the Centaures.
[185.]The nationalistic ecclesiastical movement in France was called Gallicanism. Louis XIV claimed that the French monarch could limit papal authority. In 1682 an assembly of the French clergy met in Paris and adopted the Four Gallican Articles, which had been drafted by Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet. The articles asserted the king’s independence from Rome in secular matters and proclaimed that, in matters of faith, the pope’s judgment was not to be regarded as infallible without the assent of the whole church. [SZu]