Front Page Titles (by Subject) §49. - Of the Nature and Qualification of Religion, in Reference to Civil Society
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§49. - 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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What Prerogatives belong to Sovereigns, as being Protectors of the Publick Tranquility. The Care of preserving the Publick Peace, belonging in a most peculiar manner to Sovereigns, has furnished some with a specious Pretence to affirm, that since differences in Religion cause frequent Convulsions in the State, and it is to be deemed one of the greatest Happinesses of a Government, if its Subjects, in general, are of one Religion, all means, tho’ never so violent, may be put in execution to extirpate these Differences in Religion. They alledge, that as much more precious our Souls are before our Bodies, the more Sovereigns are obliged to be watchful over them; and, that the true Love which a Sovereign bears to his Subjects, can never be more conspicuous, than when he takes effectual care of their Salvation. These, it must be confess’d, are very specious Pretences, and have sometimes had such powerful influence over Princes, who were else naturally not inclined to Severity, that they have nevertheless by these plausible Arguments been prevailed upon to assist with their Authority the cruel Designs of Priests. It will therefore not be beyond our scope, to make a strict Enquiry what account ought to be made of these so specious Reasons in a well constituted Government. In the first place then, it is to be considered, that it has been foretold by our Saviour, that there should always be in the Church Weeds amongst the Wheat; that is to say, that there should be false Doctrines raised in the Church; and these, according to the Commands of our Saviour, were not to be extirpated Root and Branch, but to be reserved for the Day of Judgment. For a Sovereign that takes to such violent courses, may make a havock among his Subjects, which commonly proves equally pernicious to the Innocent and Guilty; nevertheless, he will find it impracticable quite to abolish all Errors and Differences in the Church. Never did any body shew a greater Love to Mankind than our Saviour, who sacrificed himself for our Salvation; Yet he made use of no other ways to propagate his Doctrine, than Teaching, when he might have commanded Twelve Legions of Angels to force Mankind to Obedience. How can a Prince be esteemed to follow the Foot-steps of Christ, who makes such profligate Wretches as the Dragoons his Apostles, for the Conversion of his Subjects? That Pretence of the Love of Sovereigns toward their Subjects, let it be never so specious, he ought not under that colour endeavour to subvert or alter the Method of propagating the Christian Doctrine, according to the true Genius of the Christian Religion. Besides this, it is not absolutely necessary to maintain the Publick Tranquility, that all the Subjects in general should be of one Religion, or, which is the same in effect, the differences about some Points in Religion, considered barely as such, are not the true causes of Disturbances in a State; but the Heats and Animosities, Ambition and perverted Zeal of some, who make these Differences their Tools, wherewith they often raise Disturbances in the State. Such turbulent Spirits ought to be curbed, and care to be taken so to tye up their Hands, as that they want Power to influence the Minds of such Subjects, as otherwise would be well satisfied, to enjoy peaceably a Liberty of Conscience. And what should move a Prince to disturb his good Subjects meerly upon the score of Differences in Opinion, as long as they live quietly under his Government? For, supposing their Opinion to be erroneous, it is not at his, but their own Peril, and they alone must be answerable for it. For, in my Opinion, Sovereigns are entrusted with the Sword, wherewith to dissect Controversies, as Alexander did with the Gordian Knot. But, that it may not be objected as if I intended to encourage all sorts of Heresies and Licentiousness, I do declare, that this is far different from my purpose, but that on the contrary, it is to be wished, and ought to be endeavoured, to procure but one Faith and Religion in a State, and especially such a one as is absolutely agreeable to the Doctrine of Christ and his Apostles, contained in the Holy Scripture; such a one as cannot but contribute towards the maintaining of the Publick Tranquility. For, I do not think, that all Uniformity in Religion is equally capable of procuring that Union; neither can the Pagan Religion, Mahometans, Arians, Anabaptists, and that of Antichrist himself, claim that Prerogative, but only the true and antient Religion contained in the Holy Scripture. For, this is only to be deemed the truly Antient Religion, which is derived from the pure and genuine Spring of the Primitive Christian Religion. As among the Jews, such only could boast to follow the true foot-steps of Antiquity, as proved their Doctrine out of the Books of Moses. All what degenerates from the Nature of its genuine Spring, tho’ back’d by the Traditions of some Ages, being only to be look’d upon as an inveterate Error. Princes being then Protectors of the Publick Tranquility, have an Authority to inspect what Canons are received into the Church, and to cause them to be examined according to the true Tenure of the Holy Scripture; and this care is not to be committed to the management of a few, who may perhaps be swayed by Faction or Interest, but to all such as have a solid knowledge of the Holy Scripture. If every thing be found consonant to its Rules, then may a Sovereign by his Authority Command this Doctrine to be Taught both in publick and private. But where there is not any Publick Form of Religion established in a Commonwealth, it is the Sovereign’s care, that one may be composed by the assistance of such as are well versed in the Holy Scripture, which being approved of by the general consent of his Subjects, ought to be professed by all, and all those especially, who pretend to the Ministry, are to be tyed up to its Rules. This form of Worship being once received, a Prince may justly deny his Protection to all such as will not comply with it, unless he find it to be against the Common Interest of the Commonweal. If any one should undertake to contradict this Publick Form, especially in such Points as are the Heads of the Christian Religion, he ought to be admonished to desist, his Reasons, if he has any, to be examined, and when convicted of his Error, to be silenced; if all this prove fruitless, he may lawfully be banished. For, since, according to the Doctrine of the Apostles, we are to avoid the Conversation of Hereticks, it would be unreasonable that a whole Society of Men should fly from one or a few capricious Persons; So that he or they ought to seek out for a new Habitation, after they have been legally convicted of their Error; for fear they should spread their erroneous Doctrines further than may be consistent with the Publick Safety. But we allow no other Punishment in such a case, except their Doctrine should amount to Blasphemy.