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  • Print publication year: 2007
  • Online publication date: September 2009



What the historical record strongly suggests is that no one is above the battle, because the battle is all there is.

In 1701 Christian Thomasius published a German translation of three of his recent Latin works, under the characteristic title, Dreyfache Rettung des Rechts Evangelischer Fürsten in Kirchen-Sachen (Triple Rescue of the Rights of Protestant Princes in Religious Matters). He was by then a celebrated professor in the University of Halle's law faculty, in the newly amalgamated kingdom of Brandenburg-Prussia, and the three works had originated as disputations in Thomasius's academic speciality, Staatskirchenrecht or public church law. Each of them argues for the sovereign's right to exercise power over churches as social associations inside the state. In the course of one of the disputations he defends himself against a section of the Halle student body who, in enthusiastically embracing a recent polemic advocating a presbyterian Calvinist church, had taken Thomasius to task for his anti-clericalism:

They further say that I should not only teach manners to the poor priests – which amounts to jumping the fence at its lowest point – but that I should be consistent and also tell home truths to the princes. I answer that I have occasionally also attempted this, but have gathered from many circumstances that I am not predestined for this work. Besides, they [the princes] have their court preachers who could and should better tell them this, and thus earn their pay. I would indeed have something to say to all the estates, because things go awry in all of them, but I have been charged by God to speak the truth to the clergy in particular. I am already so far engaged in this – which I do not from any hate – that I cannot now turn back. Still, we jurists must suffer the clergy reforming us from the pulpit, and must keep as quiet as mice about it.