Front Page Titles (by Subject) §53. - Of the Nature and Qualification of Religion, in Reference to Civil Society
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§53. - 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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Concerning the Right of Reformation. Last of all, it very well deserves to make an Enquiry who it is that has the Power in the Commonwealth to amend such Errors and Abuses, as are crept into the Church, either in Point of Doctrine, Morality, or Church-Government? Or, which turns to the same Account, who has the Right of Reformation? Where first of all it is unquestionable, that there is no occasion of a Reformation, where the Clergy, upon Admonition, desist from these Abuses; like as when a Creditor, upon Summons, is paid by his Debtor, ought to supercede his Action against him. But, put the case, that the Clergy either absolutely refuse, or from time to time protract to desist from such Abuses, so that there is but two ways left to be chosen; either patiently to submit to their capricious Humour, or else certain Persons, in the State, being damnified by these Abuses, have a Right and Power to controul their Extravagancies. Those that maintain the first Position, must prove, that the Clergy has been invested with such an unlimited Power by God Almighty, to impose upon Christians, even the most absurd Matters, at leasure, without being liable to be controuled by any Power upon Earth; Or, they must demonstrate, that Christians have absolutely submitted their Faith to the Clergy, and that in such a manner, that every thing which should be ordained by them, should be received for Truth with all imaginable submission and patience. But, because it would favour of too much Impudence to pretend to the first, it lies then at their Door to prove, that the Clergy, and their Supream Head, did never err, either in Point of Doctrine, Ceremonies, or Church-Government; All which having been sufficiently demonstrated to the contrary, by the consent of several Christian Nations. We are of Opinion, that when any Abuses are crept into the Church, which are prejudicial to the Commonwealth, or the Authority of Sovereigns, these, by vertue of their Sovereign Right and Prerogative, have a Power to abolish and reform all such matters as interfere with the Publick Good and Civil Authority. At the same time, it cannot be denyed, but that in a case of such moment it may be very convenient to acquaint the People with the Reasons of such a Reformation, lest they should be surprized at it, and look upon it as an Innovation, which might prove of dangerous consequence. And, if especially, the Rights of the People are invaded by these Abuses, this Reformation ought to be undertaken with the knowledge and approbation of the Subjects. It may be objected, that by such a Reformation Divisions are raised in the Church. But this is to be look’d upon as a matter of no great Weight; such a Division being not to be imputed to those that rectifie such Errors, but to those that obstinately refuse to return into the right Path, either out of Self-interest or Pride. There is nothing more obvious out of the antient Ecclesiastical History, than that such as were plainly convicted of an Error, used to be excluded from the Communion of the Church. But such as begin a Reformation upon a good and legal Account, can under no Colour whatsoever be accused of Schism or Rebellion. For, those are Rebels, who by forcible Ways endeavour to withdraw themselves from the Allegiance due to their lawful Sovereign: Whereas all such as free themselves from Abuses unjustly imposed upon them, without their own consent, or any Divine Authority, rather deserve to be stiled defenders of their own Liberty and Conscience; especially, if these Abuses and Errors are dangerous to their Souls. For, no Teacher, no Bishop, no Convention whatsoever, was ever invested with an absolute Power of domineering over Christians at pleasure, so that no Remedy should be left against their Usurpation. It cannot therefore but be look’d upon as a great piece of Impudence in the Roman Catholick Party, when they assume to themselves wholly and entirely the Title of the Church, with exclusion to all others, that are not of the same Communion. For, they either must pretend their Church to be the Universal, or else a particular Church. By the Universal Church, is, according to the Tenure of the Holy Scripture, understood the whole multitude of the Believers, wheresoever dispersed in the World, whose Union consists in this, That they acknowledge one God, one Redeemer, one Baptism, one Faith and Eternal Salvation; from whence only are excluded such as pretend to dissolve this Union; that is, who deny the true God, and his Son Christ, and who do not agree with the very Fundamental Principles of the Christian Religion. This is the true Catholick Church, not the Pope with his Ecclesiasticks and Ceremonies, who impose their Authority upon Christendom. And, since those that, for weighty Reasons have withdrawn themselves from the Church of Rome, may and do believe a true Baptism, a true God and Father, a Faith agreeable to the Holy Scripture, it is evident that the Roman Church is not to be taken for the Universal Church; and that a Christian may be a Member of the true Catholick Church, in a right sense, notwithstanding that he never was in the Communion of the Roman Church, or, upon better Consideration, has freed himself from its Abuses and Errors. But the Popish Religion, considered as a particular Church, as it ought to be, (tho’, if we unravel the bottom of its modern Constitution, it will easily appear, that the whole frame of that Church is not so much adapted to the Rules of a Christian Congregation, as to a Temporal State; where, under a Religious pretext, the chief aim is to extend its Sovereignty over the greatest part of Europe) those, that have withdrawn themselves from that Communion, are no more to be counted Rebels, than our Modern Philosophers are to be taken for Fools and Madmen, because they differ in Opinion from Aristotle. For, all Believers, who adhere to the true Faith, are, in regard of their Head Jesus Christ, of an equal degree, and aim all at the same End. And Christ having given this Promise to all Believers; That where two or three were gathered together in his Name, there would he be in the midst of them;207 no Church can claim any Prerogative by reason of the number of its Adherents. What the Romanists208 alledge for themselves out of the Apostolical Creed, is so full of absurdity, that it contradicts it self, viz. out of these words: I believe in one Holy, Catholick, and Apostolical Church; For, except they could cajole us into a belief that these words imply as much as to say: There is but one true Church upon Earth, which is the Roman Catholick, there being no other besides that, I cannot see what Inference can be drawn from thence to their Advantage; Besides, that the very sense of the words contradict this Interpretation, if Reason, the Holy Scripture, and Experience it self did not sufficiently convince us to the contrary. It is beyond contradiction, that there is but one true Church upon Earth, there being but one God, one Christ, one Baptism, and one Faith; But, concerning one Point, many Errors and Abuses may be committed. Neither have the Popish Party any reason to brag of a particular Holiness, especially concerning these matters, wherein they differ from the Protestants. The word Catholick, relates here to a Doctrine, not to a Sovereign State, whose Authority is to be Universal over Christendom, so that that Church is to be esteemed a Catholick Church, which contains every particular Point of Doctrine in the true sense, as they are proposed in the Holy Scripture; And those are called Hereticks, who only profess some particular Points out of the Holy Writ, (for such as absolutely reject it, are counted Infidels and Reprobates) but either deny, or explain the rest in a wrong and perverted sense. How can the Popish Clergy therefore assume the Title of the Catholick Church, before they have, and that without contradiction, proved every Point of their Faith out of the Holy Scripture? Or, exclude us Protestants from that Title, till they have proved that our Doctrine is contrary to it? Lastly, It is called the Apostolical Church, as being founded upon the Doctrine of the Apostles. And the true Church loses nothing of its intrinsick Value, whether it has been planted by the Apostles, or whether the Apostolical Doctrine has been transmitted to them by others.
[208.]The Roman Catholics. [SZu]