Territorial System

Territorial System This title is applied to that theory of Church government which assumes that the ruler of a country possesses, by virtue of his sovereignty, the right to govern the Church, if Protestant, which has been established within his realm. The Middle Ages had witnessed a constant association of the Church with the State, which was at times carried so far as to include the one under the other as one of its parts. When the principles of the Jewish theocracy could be asserted, the Church would attempt to subject the State to its authority; but when a relapse into heathen principles took place, the State was ready to enforce the authority of the civil power over the religion of the land. When the reformatory movements of the 15th century had failed, the renewed agitation, of which Zwingli, Luther, etc., were the representatives, addressed itself to the princes and estates of the land. The sovereign powers of either party assumed the right to dictate the creed of their subjects. The Roman Catholic prince who became a Protestant sought to carry his country with him over to Protestantism; the Lutheran who passed over into the Reformed Church assumed to transfer his subjects also. The belief of the prince was to determine the creed of the land. The Peace of Westphalia ended this anomalous practice, but expressly recognized the sovereignty of the prince as the source of the jus reformandi. The dangerous character of the principle which derived all the rights belonging to an evangelical Church from the head of the State was soon recognized, and led to the development of the theory which is usually known as the episcopal system.

The territorial system was formulated at the close of the 17th century as a foil to that theory, finding its leading advocates in Christian Thomasius (q.v.) and his pupil Brenneisen (De Jure Principis circa Adiaphora [Halse, 1675], in Thomasius, Auserlesene deutsche Schriften, 1696, p. 76 sq.), and its principal opponent in Johann Benedikt Carpzov (q.v.). As formulated by Thomasius, the reigning prince possesses, as a natural right, the authority to regulate the ecclesiastical affairs of his country, and of banishing persons who disturb the peace of the Church. He may dismiss a preacher who dispenses false teachings, and may forbid the introduction of new confessions, etc.; but he cannot impose his own creed upon his subjects, nor finally determine in matters of religion. The theory found many supporters, jurists as well as theologians, among them J. H. Bohmer and Job. Jac. Moser (q.v.). It has been defended in quite recent times, in connection with their liturgical disputes, by Miller, Marheinecke, Augusti, and others. The collegial system deprived the territorial theory of every support; and the present tendency towards an entire separation between State and Church is wholly antagonistic to its prevalence. Both legislation and praxis have suffered from its influence to the present day.

On the entire subject, see Stahl, Kirchenverfassung nach Lehre u. Recht d. Protestanten, p. 22 sq.; Richter, Gesch. d. evang. Kirchenverfassung in Deutschland, p. 212 sq. — , Friedberg, De Finibus inter Ecclesiam et Civitatem, etc. (Lips. 1861); Lehmann, De Pace Religiosa, 1, 23; Nettelbladt, Observatt. Juris Ecclesiastici (Halse, 1783, 8vo); the works of Thomasius, Carpzov, etc.; Bohmer, Consilia et Decisiones, tom. 1, pars 1, respons. 15. — Herzog, Real-Encyklop. s.v. SEE CHURCH AND STATE; SEE COLLEGIAL SYSTEM.

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