Front Page Titles (by Subject) §47. - Of the Nature and Qualification of Religion, in Reference to Civil Society
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§47. - 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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Their Right concerning Church-Discipline. For what Reasons the Primitive Christians did introduce Church Discipline, viz. to be distinguished from the Heathens by their holy Life and Conversation, and to supply the Defects of the civil Pagan Laws, which did not restrain them from such Vices as were abominable to the Christians, has been sufficiently explained before. This Reason takes no more place now, after whole Commonwealths as well as their Sovereigns are entred into the Communion of the Christian Church; for there is not the same Occasion now to be distinguished from the Heathens by an unspotted Conversation, after the rooting out of the Pagan Religion, all Christians being under an equal Obligation to endeavour an unblemished Life. But, notwithstanding the general Conversion of whole Commonwealths to the Christian Faith, care ought to be taken, that Holiness of Life be not laid aside among Christians; from whence arises this Question: Whether it be better to make use of the antient Church Discipline now, in the same manner as it was practised in the Primitive times? Or, whether it be not more expedient to admit of some Alterations, after Sovereigns are entred into the Communion of the Church? The last of these two seems to be most probable; because this antient Church Discipline which was introduced for a certain time, to supply the deficiency of the Pagan Laws, and to amend their vicious Lives and Conversation, and was thus left to the direction of certain People, is not an Essential part of Christianity; and, besides this, carries this Inconveniency along with it, that it may easily degenerate into a kind of a pretended Soveraignty, and prove prejudicial to the Civil Power. And, as Soveraigns have a Right to provide against every thing that may be the probable cause of Convulsions in the State; so may this defect be supplied by the Civil Laws, and Vices may be suppressed by Civil Punishments. Neither do I see any reason to the contrary, why Vices should not be as easily corrected by Punishments prescribed by the Civil Laws, as by Church-Censures; or, why the first should not prove as effectual as the latter for the suppressing of Publick Scandals? It will perhaps be objected, That Ecclesiastical Discipline has a much greater Influence over Christians towards the amendment of their Lives, than Civil Punishments; because the first penetrates into the Heart; whereas Civil Punishments do not touch us but superficially: Unto this it may be answered, That Church-Discipline does not always answer this end, it being not to be doubted, but that some Men, tho’ they undergo all the Church-Penances, retain in their hearts the same vicious Inclinations, or sometimes grow more stubborn and bold. But if it be taken as an Expiation for our Sins in regard of God Almighty, it is to be observed, that if we pretend to an Expiation for any Trespasses, which fall under the cognizance of Humane Laws, we must therein be directed by the Word of God, which does not prescribe Church-Penance as a proper Satisfaction in this case. For our sins are not remitted, because we have undergone Church-Penance, but because our Hearts are purified by the Blood of Christ, provided we, by the Faith, apply his Sufferings unto us. But, supposing it should be thought most convenient, that some sort of Vices ought to be corrected by Church-Discipline, the best Expedient would be, to leave it first to the determination of the Civil Judges, who, according to the Circumstances of the Case, ought to send the Delinquents to the Ecclesiastical Court, there to undergo the Church-Censure. For, Christian Soveraigns have an unquestionable Right to determine, what sort of Misdemeanors are punishable by the Civil Laws, and which of them come under the Cognizance of Ecclesiastical Courts; and consequently, to decree, what sort of Church-Censure ought to be laid upon the Delinquents, according to the different Nature of the Trespass; which may be put in Execution by the Ministers accordingly. Concerning Excommunication, the same ought not to be put in Practice, but, with this caution, that it ought not to be left to the discretion of Priests, so as to be inflicted by them at pleasure; but this Power ought to be limited by certain Rules prescribed by those that have the Legislative Power in a State. For, in a Christian Commonwealth Excommunication alters the Civil Condition of a Subject, and renders him infamous and detestable among his fellow-Christians: And as it affects the Civil State of Subjects, Soveraigns, unless they will let others encroach upon their Prerogative, ought to determine concerning its Legality.