On the Immunities & Non-Immunities of the Church with Respect to the Civil Government



Church is Subject to Legitimate Civil Law
Church Not Subject to Legitimate Civil Law is Romanism



Order of Contents

Articles  16+
Quotes  4
On Mt. 17:24-27, “Then are the children free.”
History  1
Latin  8





Vermigli, Peter Martyr – sections 6-11  of ch. 2, ‘Of the Receiving & Not Receiving of Rewards, Gifts & Offices, & also of Goods-Ecclesiastical & the Immunity of Ecclesiastical Persons’  in Common Places  (1583), pt. 4, pp. 31-34  See especially sections 10-11.

This discussion is in the larger context of ecclesiastical goods of the Church.

Willet, Andrew

Synopsis Papismi  (London, 1592), 7th Controversy, Concerning the Civil Magistrate, 1st Question, ‘Concerning the Authority of the Prince in Ecclesiastical Matters’

1st Part, ‘Concerning the Authority of the civil Magistrate over Ecclesiastical persons’, pp. 266-67

2nd Part, ‘Whether the Prince have Power over Ecclesiastical Goods?’, pp. 267-68

Hexapla in Genesin & Exodum…  (London, 1633)

ch. 47, section 3, ‘Explanation of Doubtful Questions’, Question 10, ‘Of the Privilege & Immunity of the Priests in Egypt’, p. 376

On the Ten Commandments, on the 5th Commandment, section 3, Places of Controversy, 3rd Confutation, ‘Against the Papists, that would have the Clergy Exempt from the authority of the Magistrate’, p. 322

On the Ten Commandments in Particular, ch. 21, section 5, Places of Confutation, 2nd Confutation, ‘Against the Papists, that would exempt Ecclesiastical Persons from the Civil Power’, p. 404

Controversy 8, ‘Whether Ecclesiastical Persons are Exempted from Tribute?’  in ch. 13, section 5, Places of Controversey  in Hexapla…  on Romans…  (Univ. of Cambridge, 1611), pp. 619-20



Bucanus, William – 49th Place, ‘Concerning Magistrates’  in Institutions of Christian Religion...  (1602; London, 1606)

‘Doth Paul Exempt the Faithful from Obedience to these Laws, in saying, 1 Tim. 1:9, ‘The Law is not given to the righteous?’

‘Are Clergymen, or Churchmen as they are Called, Exempted from all Taxes & Subsidies?’

Bucan (d. 1603) was a professor of divinity at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland.

Du Moulin, Pierre

Article 40, ‘Of the Exemption of the Clergy’  in The Buckler of the Faith: or, A Defence of the Confession of Faith of the Reformed Churches in France..  (London, 1620), pp. 535-42

ch. 6, ‘Of the Clergy & of their Liberties & Exemption’  in A Defence of the Catholic Faith Contained in the Book of…  King James I, King of Great Britain…  Against the Answer of N. Coeffeteau, Dr. of Divinity & Vicar General of the Dominican Preaching Friars...  (London, 1610), bk. 1

Davenant, John – Question 17, ‘The Papal Jesuits Cannot be Good Subjects’, pp. 307-8  in The Determinations or Resolutions of Certain Theological Questions..  in A Treatise on Justification…  (London, 1846), vol. 2

Rutherford, Samuel – The Due Right of Presbyteries…  (London, 1644), pt. 2, Appendix, ‘Objection: David also…’, pp. 454-55

Guild, William – ch. 3, ‘Of the Head of the Church’, section 3, ‘That the Pope ought to be subject to the Civil Magistrate, without exemption, & all his inferior Clergy’  in The Old Roman Catholic as at First he was Taught by Paul, in opposition to the New Roman Catholic, as of latter he is taught by the Pope…  (Aberdeen, 1649), p. 43

Taylor, Jeremy – Question 4, ‘Whether the Eminency of the Spiritual Calling, & the Consequent Prelation of Spiritual Persons, can Exempt them from Secular Coercion, & make them Superior to Princes’  in Ductor Dubitantium, or, The Rule of Conscience in All her general measures serving as a great instrument for the determination of cases of conscience  (London, 1660), vol. 2, ch. 3, Rule 6, ‘The Supreme Civil Power has a Power of Coercion of every Person in the Whole Order Ecclesiastical’, pp. 188-91

Turretin, Francis – Question 27, ‘Are Ecclesiastical Persons Exempt from the Jurisdiction of & Subjection to the Civil Magistrate?  We Deny Against the Romanists’  in Institutes of Elenctic Theology  (P&R), vol. 3, 18th Topic, ‘The Church’, pp. 258-69

“VI.  (2) The question does not concern the privileges which, from the kindness and liberality of Christian rulers and princes, can be granted to the clergy, many of which it is evident have been granted by emperors.  Rather the question concerns the immunity which belongs to them by divine right.  (3) It is not inquired concerning the personal burdens which we acknowledge  ought not to be imposed, lest they should be a hindrance to the exercise of their ecclesiastical duties and detract in some way from either the dignity or the authority of the sacred office…  Leave out the case of extreme necessity, if the country is exposed to extreme danger.  But concerning real burdens, as to the property which they possess, not so much with respect to sacred and ecclesiastical property, which, consecrated to the church, is before free and safe from all pressure of tributes (although in a case of necessity, it may be subjected to an extraordinary tribute, as with respect to secular property acquired by them by purchase, inheritance, the rights of marriages and other means, from which ought to be paid to the magistrate what is owed).  For the property passes over with the burden upon it, ‘while burdens follow the property and its possessors whomsoever they are’…”



Fentiman, Travis – I. ‘The Relationship Between Church & State’ & II. ‘The State’s Authority for Good Over the Material Church in Civil Matters’  in The Civil Government’s Authority about Religion & the Church, Circa Sacra: An Extended Introduction & a Section from the English Presbyterians’ Divine Right  (ReformedBooksOnline, 2021), pp. 7-34; see also pp. 119-20 by the London presbyterian ministers.





Scotsmen  (1584)

‘A Discourse of the Injuries & Wrongs Used Against the Noblemen Distressed, since the Alteration at St. Andrews’  in David Calderwood, History of the Kirk of Scotland, vol. 4, p. 251

“And for the accusatioun objected against the ministry, where it
is said that they deny all civill jurisdiction of magistrates, as though they were not subject thereto, to this no better answer can be given than is comprehended in the act of parliament made at the instance of the said ministers concerning the obedience due to civill magistrates.

Moreover, who is ignorant that the Pope vindicates the immunity from civil magistrates to himself and his shavelings, taking to him power to depose and erect princes?  Which erroneous doctrine none has more worthily impugned nor the ministry of Scotland, as their auditors can witness.  And yet the affronted Papists are so impudent as to traduce the ministry with this antichristian heresy, invented and maintained in Rome.”


Zanchi, Giralamo

The Whole Body of Christian Religion (d. 1590; London, 1659)

ch. 25, ‘Of the Government of the Church-Militant’, doctrine 29, ‘That the goods of the Churches are not to be embezzled, but distributed to the support of Ministers & other godly uses’, pp. 339-340

“29. The church goods should not be wasted, but be bestowed on the maintenance of ministers, and other godly uses.

And whereas many goods have in times past, and yet in some places are given to churches, by the liberality of princes and other godly persons: we judge that if any church have such goods, great care is to be had that the same be not wasted nor converted into profane uses, and much less into sacriligious uses, nor feigned to be so converted: but to be only bestowed upon that purpose whereto they were given, even to a godly intent.”


ch. 26, ‘Of a Magistrate’, doctrine 6, ‘The Explication of this Opinion in Particulars’, pp. 367-8

“We believe therefore, the duty of a godly magistrate is…

Sixthly, to carry a special care to the goods of the church, that they may be bestowed on the right, that is on the true godly, uses; and that all necessary things be supplied to the Church and to the ministers thereof.”



London Ministers

Jus Divinum, the Divine Right of Church Government…  (1646, 1647, 1654; NY: Robert Martin & Co., 1844), pt. 2, ch. 9, section 1, ‘Of the Proper Receptacle & Distinct Subject of All this Power & Authority of Church Government… That the Political Magistrate is Not the Proper Subject of this Power’

“Papists exempt their clergy from the judgment of the civil power (though they be delinquents against it) and their [e]states, both civil and spiritual, from civil taxes, tributes, and penalties, both which [papal positions] we deny to ours, for:

(1) This is repugnant to the law of nature, that church officers and members, as parts and members of the commonwealth, should not be subject to the government of that commonwealth whereof they are parts.

(2) [This is] repugnant to the laws and practices of the Old Testament, under which we read of no such exemptions. Yea, we have instance of Abiathar the highpriest, who, for his partnership with Adonijah in his rebellion, was exiled by king Solomon, and so consequently deprived of the exercise of his office (1 Kings 2:26-27).

(3) [This is] inconsistent with our Savior’s example, who, as subject to the law, held himself obliged to pay tribute to avoid offence (Mt. 17:26), which was an active scandal; and He confesses Pilate’s power to condemn or release Him was given Him from above (John 19:11).

(4) And finally, [this is] contrary to the apostolical precepts, enjoining all to be subject to superior powers (Rom. 13:1-4; 1 Pet. 2:13-15).”


Samuel Rutherford

The Divine Right of Chuch Government…  (London, 1646), ch. 27, p. 615

“Answer [of Rutherford]:  It is a calumnious consequence: pastors and teachers will not be judged by the magistrate in things merely ecclesistical, to stand to his ecclesiastical decision, as if his lips, ex officio, should preserve knowledge; Therefore, pastors and doctors do exempt themselves from the lawful power of the magistrate in his civil judging by the sword; it is as if they would say, Churchmen refuse to submit to an usurped and unlawful power of the magistrate; Therefore, they refuse to submit to their lawful power.”


A Free Disputation...  (London, 1649), ch. 17, argument 11, pp. 227-8

“I am sure, the Reformed Churches and all our writers argue that as many as have souls, Popes, prelates and Roman clergy ought to be subject by this text [Rom. 13:1] to the good laws of the Christian emperors, and that all men, none excepted, neither clergy (as they call them) nor others, but are obliged by this Scripture and 1 Pet. 2 and Titus 3, to give obedience and subjection to all lawful magistrates, heathen and Christian, and to their laws, and to pay tribute and to be judged by them, whereas papists plead exemption to Churchmen…”



On Mt. 17:24-27, “Of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers?”  See also Rom. 13:1-7


Marlorat, Augustine – on Mt. 17, vv. 24-27, pp. 390-92  in A Catholic & Ecclesiastical Exposition of the Holy Gospel after St. Mathew, gathered out of all the singular & approved divines…  (London, 1570)  Here is a table of what his abbreviations mean.

Marlorat (1506-1562) was reformed.  His commentaries are particularly valuable as they are compendiums of block quotes from some of the best reformed divines of his day on the passages of that particular Biblical book.

* Ward, Richard – on Mt. 17, vv. 24-27, pp. 203-6  in Theological Questions, Dogmatic Observations & Evangelical Essays upon the Gospel St. Matthew…  (London [1640])

Ward (1601-1684) was educated at Cambridge, England and St. Andrews, Scotland, and was a reformed minister in London.

Dickson, David – on Mt. 17:24-27, pp. 230-31   in A Brief Exposition of the Evangel of Jesus Christ According to Matthew  (1651; Quinta Press, 2009)

Dickson (c.1583–1663) was a Scottish covenanter.



Edward Leigh

Annotations upon All the New Testament, Philological & Theological  (1650), on Mt. 17

“v. 26.  ‘Jesus says unto him, then are the children free’  As if He should say, ‘If I would stand on my privilege, as I am the Son of God, I am exempted,’ as a king’s son is not to perform that ordinary service which other men perform; it cannot be meant that the Jews were free, for Christ’s father and mother were taxed.”



Beza, Theodore – on Mt. 17:24-27  in Annotations on the New Testament of Jesus Christ our Lord… ([Geneva] 1598), p. 86

Cameron, John – on Mt. 17:24-27, pp. 45-48  in An Evangelical Ointment Box…  (d. 1625; Salmur, 1677)

“…the tribute which is here required of Christ and payed by Him was not that which belonged unto the magistrate, but (which by the prescript of the ceremonial law) was to be paid for the use of the sanctuary.  And therefore, this is no ground for non-payment of tribute to princes.  His grounds and arguments are solid and convincing…” – Richard Ward, p. 205




At the Reformation


Steven Wedgeworth, ‘Martin Bucer: The Ecumenical Reformer’, p. 3

“By 1525 a mandate was issued requiring all clergymen to become citizens in Strasbourg [where Bucer was], and the last of the Roman clergy left.  Strasbourg was an Evangelical city.”



Latin Articles


Bucer, Martin – ‘Ecclesiastical Immunity’, p. 141.a  on Mt. 17:24-27  in Continual Expositions of the Four Holy Evangelists, in which are Interspersed Pure Theological Common Places  (Herwagen, 1527; 1553)

Zepper, Wilhelm – Ecclesiastical Polity…  (1595; Herborn, 1607)

bk. 2, ch. 26, ‘Of the Economies, or the Procurators, of Ecclesiastical Goods’, pp. 625-36  ToC

pp. 780-85  in bk. 3, ‘On Ecclesiastical Government & its Grades’, ch. 13, ‘Of the harmony of the magistrate & minister in things pertaining to the polity & the ecclesiastical government’



Tilen, Daniel – 24. ‘Of the Immunity of Ecclesiastical Ministers’  in An Ordered Arrangement of Theological Disputations held in the Academy of Sedan  (1607, 1611), vol. 2, pp. 238-49

Hommius, Festus – sections 3-6  of Disputation 27, ‘Of Stipends & Immunities of Church Ministers’  in 70 Theological Disputations Against Papists  (Leiden, 1614), pp. 145-49

Table of Contents

Section 3, ‘Whether Ministers are Exempted by Divine Right from Burdens & Taxes of the Republic?’ [No]

Section 4, ‘Whether Christian Princes are Bound by Necessity to Exempt Ministers from the Burdens of the Republic?’ [No] & ‘Whether an Exemption, even Once, is able to be Revoked?’ [Yes]

Section 5, ‘Whether the Persons of the Ecclesiastical Ministers have been Exempted by Divine Law from the Jurisdiction of the Political Magistrate?’ [No]

Section 6, ‘Whether Ministers are under Magistrates in Causes Ecclesiastical?’ [Distinguishes antecedently vs. consequently circa sacra, in conscience vs. office, and in ordinary vs. extraordinary times] & ‘Whether they are Subservient in Causes Political?’ [Yes]

Chamier, Daniel – Panstratiae Catholicae, or a Body of the Controversies of Religion Against the Papists, vol. 5 (on the Church)  (Frankfurt, 1627-1629), bk. 4, ‘Of the Members of the Militant Church’

ch. 11, ‘The Immunity of the Clergy, or the Exemption of them, insofar as their Persons & Goods, & by which Right it is Pressed’, pp. 169-70

ch. 13, ‘The Regal Primacy which the Magistrate has in the Church is Asserted’, pp. 174-77

Buxtorf, Jr., Johann – Theological Theses on the Exemption of the Clergy  (Deckerus, 1649)

Voet, Gisbertus – ch. 11, ‘Of the Liberty of Exemption, or of Ecclesiastical Immunity’  in Pt. 1, Bk 4, ‘Of the External Adjuncts of Ecclesiastical Practices’ in Tract 1, ‘Of the Liberty, Immunity and Dignity of the Church’  in Ecclesiastical Politics  (Amsterdam: Johann a Waesberg, 1663-1676), vol. 2, pp. 580-83

Table of Contents

Section 1, Intro  580

Problem 1, ‘Whether and in what things an exemption is competent to the faithful, severally considered’  581  3 Conclusions & another Response

Problem 2, ‘Whether ecclesiastical persons, or clerics (as they are so called), with their families and domestics, and with all ecclesiastical goods and estates, and all other pious ones (so called), ones living in their house, paupers, lepers, etc., are exempt from the political jurisdiction, even from public offices and burdens, by the divine law?’  It is denied contra the Papists…  582

Problem 3, ‘What of the privileges of students…  which have been hitherto customarily named clerics in the Papacy without distinction?’  582

Problem 4, ‘Whether the whole body, or the ecclesiastical association, versus the infidels or heretics, may be furnished by certain privileges and exemptions by the faithful prince above all other civic associations?  It is affirmed.    582-3

Heidegger, Johann H. – Section 75, ‘The Clergy [of Antichrist] are Unjustly Exempted from the Power of Shearings [Taxes] from every Worldly Power’  in Locus 27, ‘Of the Government of the Church’  in The Marrow of Christian Theology: an Introductory Epitome of the Body of Theology  (Zurich, 1713), vol. 1, p. 370




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