Front Page Titles (by Subject) §51. - Of the Nature and Qualification of Religion, in Reference to Civil Society
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§51. - 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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Sovereigns in matters of Religion ought not to be misguided by Flatterers. Furthermore, as Sovereigns in all other Matters of Moment ought to act with great Circumspection; so, especially in matters of Religion, they cannot proceed with too much caution, an injustice of this nature, being the most sensible of all that can be done to a Subject. For what can be more abominable, than to let Subjects suffer unjustly for their Faith in Christ, and that perhaps for no other reason, but, because some others out of self Interest, cannot agree with them in Opinion. And, if a Prince, who prompted by his own cruel Inclinations tyrannises over his Subjects, is odious to all the World, how much more abominable appears a Prince, who acts the part of an Executioner, and is made an Instrument by others to fulfil their cruel Designs against their Fellow Subjects? All Christian Princes therefore, as they tender their Consciences, ought to avoid all manner of Extreamities in Matters of this Nature, which ought never to be undertaken, unless they be well instructed beforehand in every particular Point. A Prince ought not only to be satisfyed with, or rely entirely on what is represented to him by his Clergy, (tho’ never so pious in outward appearance;) there being too many Instances to be given, that the best of Princes, by their own Inclinations, abhorring all manner of Cruelty, have, by the Instigation of over-zealous Clergy-Men, turn’d the most cruel Tyrants: We scarce ever read of any Prince, who undertook to decide Controversies in Physick, or other Sciences (except he had attained to a particular Knowledge in these Matters) and, why should Sovereigns be too forward in deciding Religious Differences, which are of much greater Moment, (the eternal and temporal welfare of Millions of People do depend thereon) unless they be very well instructed in every thing that has any relation to it? And, since Princes very rarely bestow sufficient Time and Pains in being fully instructed in Divinity, it is to be wished, that they would be byassed by their own natural Understanding, rather than be influenc’d by the Opinions of others. As for an Instance, in those Controversies which are betwixt the Protestants and Papists, there are such evident Signs, from whence it is a difficult matter for a Christian Prince to discern, which of these two ought to be preferred before the other. For, if it be considered, that the Protestants are so far from forbidding the reading of the holy Scripture to the Laity, that on the contrary; they exhort them to it, and make the Scriptures the Touchstone of their Doctrine, and the true Judge of their Controversies; That the Protestants, trusting upon the goodness of their own Cause, do not forbid the reading of Popish Authors, but allow them to be publickly sold, as being confident, that the weakness of their Arguments cannot have any influence, even over an indifferent Understanding; it cannot but seem very strange, why in the Church of Rome, the Laity is not allowed the reading of the holy Scripture, nay, that they leave no stone unturn’d, to suppress the Validity of the holy Scripture; so, that in those places where the Inquisition is in vogue, a Man may with less danger be guilty of Blasphemy, Perjury, and other the most enormous Crimes, than to read and examine the Mysteries of the holy Scripture. On the other hand, what a clamour do they make about Traditions, and the Prerogatives of the Church, which Title they claim as belonging, in a most peculiar manner to themselves, and notwithstanding the same is not allowed them by others, they assume to themselves the Authority of giving Judgment in their own Cause. It is very well worth the Consideration of a Prince, that they will not allow our Books to be read among them, and especially, how careful they are in keeping them from the Knowledge of Great Men, tho’ belonging to the Communion of their Church. Who is so ignorant as not to know, what great Difficulties and Obstacles were to be surmounted before it could be obtained, that the Augsburgh Confession was read to the Emperour Charles V. All which, taken together, are most evident Proofs to any unbyassed Person, that the Protestants act like Men, as relying upon the goodness of their Cause; but the Roman Catholicks, as mistrusting themselves, and fearing, that if their Doctrine should be examined, according to the Tenure of the holy Scripture, and out of the Protestant Writtings, the same would scarce bear the Touchstone. It may also be taken into consideration, how far different the Interest of the Roman Catholicks Party is from that of the Protestants. For, tho’ both Parties with equal Zeal in Publick pretend to the Honour of God, and the Truth of the Gospel; and it is not to be denied, but that a great many among the Roman Catholicks, are very Zealous for the same; nevertheless, if we duely consider the Nature of Mankind in general, it may easily be supposed, that they aim at something more; And, what this something is, is easily discernable, if we make a due comparison betwixt the Clergy of both Parties. Among the Protestants, the greatest part of the Clergy are so stinted in their Revenues, as to give them no opportunity of living in State; what Respect is paid them, is on the account of their Function as being Teachers, their power very seldom reaches beyond their Revenues, which are very moderate, and oftentimes very mean. Both their Persons and Estates depend from the Authority of their Sovereigns, neither have they any where else to seek for Protection. On the contrary, in what Pomp and affluence of Fortune does the Popish Clergy live! Unto what hight have they not exalted their Power in Europe! Have they not so ordered their Matters, as to be almost independant from the Civil Magistrates? What likelihood can there be in all this, that the Protestants should be as much concerned for a Temporal By-Interest as the Popish Clergy? For, whereas, they first can expect no more than what is alloted them already, the latter have no less in view than vast Riches, and the Possessions of whole Kingdoms. All these Matters duely considered, may be convincing Proofs, that all the Clamour which the Popish Clergy makes against the Protestants, is of the same nature with that of Demetrius at Ephesus, when he exclaimed against St. Paul,203 Love and Meekness being the products of the Christian Faith; the Cruelties of the Popish Clergy exercised against Protestants, ought to be suspected by Princes, and serve them as a forewarning; what good is to be expected from those that prosecute with so much Barbarity all such, as oppose their Pride and Ambition? After the Persecutions were ceased in the Primitive Church, the Arians were the first, who shew’d their teeth to the Christians; But they would have blushed for shame, if they should have attempted to propagate their Religion by force of Arms, and such other cruel Persecutions as are now in vogue among the Popish Clergy. If we were not sufficiently convinced, that the Spirit of Envy is not the Spirit of Christ; we may be instructed as to this Point by our Saviour himself (when he rebuked James and John, who would have fire come down from Heaven) in these words: Ye know not, what manner of Spirit you are of; For the Son of Man is not come to destroy Mens lives, but to save them.204 The Sword of Christ is not girted on the side of Men, but goes out of his Mouth,205 and in all the holy Scripture, there is not one passage, where the Church of Christ is said to be drunken with the Blood of Hereticks; but it is said of the Whore of Babylon, that she is drunken with the Blood of the Saints, and with the Blood of the Martyrs of Christ.206
[203.]Acts 19:24, 25, 26, 27.
[204.]Luke 9:54, 55, 56.