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Part the First. - Pierre Bayle, A Philosophical Commentary on These Words of the Gospel, Luke 14.23, ‘Compel Them to Come In, That My House May Be Full’ 
A Philosophical Commentary on These Words of the Gospel, Luke 14.23, ‘Compel Them to Come In, That My House May Be Full’, edited, with an Introduction by John Kilcullen and Chandran Kukathas (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2005).
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<43>A Philosophical Commentary On these Words of the Gospel according to St. Luke, Chap. XIV. ver. 23.
Part the First.
That the Light of Nature, or the first Principles of Reason universally receiv’d, are the genuin and original Rule of all Interpretation of Scripture; especially in Matters of Practice and Morality.
I leave it to the Criticks and Divines to comment on this Text in their way, by comparing it with other Passages, by examining what goes before and what follows, by descanting on the Force of the Expressions in<44> the Original, the various Senses they are capable of, and which they actually bear in several places of Scripture. My design is to make a Commentary of an uncommon kind, built on Principles more general and more infallible than what a Skill in Languages, Criticism, or Common-place can afford. I shan’t even inquire, why Jesus Christ might make choice of the Expression Compel, how soft a Construction we are oblig’d to put on it, or whether there be Mysterys conceal’d under the Rind of the Expression; I shall content my self with overthrowing that literal Sense which Persecutors alledg.
To do this unanswerably, I shall go upon this single Principle of natural Reason; That all literal Construction, which carries an Obligation of committing Iniquity, is false. St. Austin gives this as a Rule and Criterion for discerning the figurative from the literal Sense.35Jesus Christ, says he, declares that unless we eat the Flesh of the Son of Man, we cannot be sav’d. This looks as if he commanded an Impiety; it’s therefore a Figure which enjoins our partaking of the Lord’s Death, and bearing in continual remembrance to our exceeding Benefit and Comfort the crucifying and wounding his Flesh for us. This is not the place to examine, whether these words prove St. Austin was not of the opinion of those of the Church of Rome, or whether he rightly applies his Rule: It’s enough, that he reasons on this fundamental Principle, this surest Key for understanding Scripture, That if by taking it in the literal Sense we oblige Men to commit Iniquity, or, that I may leave no room for an Equivoque, oblige ’em to commit Actions which the Light<45> of Nature, the Precepts of the Decalogue, or the Gospel Morality forbid; it’s to be taken for granted, that the Sense we give it is false, and that instead of a Divine Revelation, we impose our own Visions, Prejudices, and Passions on the People.
God forbid I shou’d have a thought of stretching the Rights of natural Reason; or of the Principles of Metaphysicks, to such a length as your Socinians, who pretend that all Sense given to Scripture, not agreeable to this Reason or to these Principles, is to be rejected; and who in virtue of this Maxim refuse to believe the Trinity and Incarnation. No, this I can’t come up to, without boundary and limitation. Yet I know there are Axioms against which the clearest and most express Letter of the Scriptures can avail nothing: as, That the Whole is greater than the Part; That if from equal things we take things equal, the remainder will be equal; That ’tis impossible Contradictorys shou’d be true; or, that the Accidents of a Subject shou’d subsist after the Destruction of the Subject. Shou’d the contrary be shewn a hundred times over from Scripture, shou’d a thousand times as many Miracles as those of Moses and the Apostles be wrought in confirmation of a Doctrine repugnant to these universal Principles of common Sense; Man, as his Facultys are made, cou’d not believe a tittle on’t, and wou’d sooner persuade himself either that the Scriptures spoke only by Contrarys, or only in Metaphors, or that these Miracles were wrought by the Power of the Devil, than that the Oracles of Reason were false in these Instances. This is such a Truth, that those of the Church of Rome, as much interested as they are to sacrifice their<46> Metaphysicks, and render all Principles of common Sense suspect, confess that neither Scripture, nor Church, nor Miracles, are of any force against the clear Light of Reason, against this Principle, for example, The Whole is greater than its Part. We may consult P. Valerien Magni, a famous Capucine, on this point, in the 8th and 9th Chapt. of the first Book of his Judgment concerning the Rule of Faith of Catholicks.36 And lest it be objected, that this is but one Doctor’s Opinion, and to avoid citing a vast number of other Catholick Authors, I shall take notice in general, that all the Controvertists of this side deny that Transubstantiation is repugnant to sound Philosophy; and frame a thousand Distinctions, a thousand Subtletys, to shew it does not overthrow the Principles of Metaphysicks. The Protestants, in like manner, will ne’er allow the Socinians, that the Trinity or Incarnation are contradictory Doctrines; they alledg and maintain that this cannot be prov’d upon ’em. Thus the whole Body of Divines, of what Party soever, after having cry’d up Revelation, the Meritoriousness of Faith, and Profoundness of Mysterys, till they are quite out of breath, come to pay their homage at last at the Footstool of the Throne of Reason, and acknowledg, tho they won’t speak out (but their Conduct is a Language expressive and eloquent enough) That Reason, speaking to us by the Axioms of natural Light, or metaphysical Truths, is the supreme Tribunal, and final Judg without Appeal of whatever’s propos’d to the human Mind. Let it ne’er then be pretended more, that Theology is the Queen, and Philosophy the Handmaid; for the Divines themselves<47> by their Conduct confess, that of the two they look on the latter as the Sovereign Mistress: and from hence proceed all those Efforts and Tortures of Wit and Invention, to avoid the Charge of running counter to strict Demonstration. Rather than expose themselves to such a Scandal, they’l shift the very Principles of Philosophy, discredit this or that System, according as they find their Account in it; by all these Proceedings plainly recognizing the Supremacy of Philosophy, and the indispensable Obligation they are under of making their court to it; they’d ne’er be at all this Pains to cultivate its good Graces, and keep parallel with its Laws, were they not of Opinion, that whatever Doctrine is not vouch’d, as I may say, confirm’d and register’d in the supreme Court of Reason and natural Light, stands on a very tottering and crazy Foundation.
If we inquire into the true reason hereof, ’tis this, that there being a distinct and spritely Light which enlightens all Men the moment they open the Eyes of their Attention, and which irresistibly convinces ’em of its Truth; we must conclude, it’s God himself, the essential Truth, who then most immediately illuminates ’em, and makes ’em perceive in his own Essence the Ideas of those eternal Truths contain’d in the first Principles of Reason, or in the common Notions of Metaphysicks. Now why shou’d he act thus with regard to these particular Truths; why reveal ’em at all times, in all Ages, and to all Nations of the Earth, provided they give but the least Attention, and without leaving ’em the liberty of suspending their Judgment: why I say, shou’d he thus deal with Mankind, but to give him a standing Rule<48> and Criterion for judging on all the Variety of other Objects, which are continually presenting, partly false, partly true, sometimes in a very obscure and confus’d, sometimes in a more clear and distinct manner? God, who foresaw that the Laws of the Union of the Soul and Body, wou’d not permit the special Union of the Soul with the Divine Essence (an Union which appears real to thinking and attentive Minds, tho perhaps not distinctly conceiv’d) to communicate all sorts of Truths with the clearest Evidence, and be a thorow Preservative against Error, was pleas’d to provide her an Expedient for infallibly distinguishing Truth from Falshood; and this Expedient is no other than the Light of Nature, or the general Principles of Metaphysicks, by which, if we examine the particular Doctrines occurring in moral Treatises, or deliver’d by our Teachers, we shall find, as by a Standard and original Rule, which are current and which counterfeit. Whence it follows, that we can never be assur’d of the truth of any thing farther than as agreable to that primitive and universal Light, which God diffuses in the Souls of Men, and which infallibly and irresistibly draws on their Assent the moment they lend their Attention. By this primitive and metaphysical Light we have discover’d the rightful Sense of infinite Passages of Scripture, which taken in the literal and popular Meaning of the Words, had led us into the lowest Conceptions imaginable of the Deity.
Once more I say, Heavens forbid I shou’d have a thought of straining this Principle to such a degree as the Socinians do: yet I can’t think, whatever Limitations it may admit with respect to<49> speculative Truths, that it ought or can have any with regard to those practical and universal Principles which concern Manners; my meaning is, that all moral Laws, without exception, ought to be regulated by that natural Idea of Equity, which, as well as metaphysical Light, enlightens every Man coming into the World. But as Passion and Prejudice do but too often obscure the Ideas of natural Equity, I shou’d advise all who have a mind effectually to retrieve ’em, to consider these Ideas in the general, and as abstracted from all private Interest, and from the Customs of their Country. For a fond and deeply-rooted Passion may possibly happen to persuade a Man, that an Action, which he dotes on as profitable and pleasant, is very agreeable to the Dictates of right Reason: The Power of Custom, and a turn given to the Understanding in the earliest Infancy, may happen to represent an Action as honest and seemly, which in it self is quite otherwise. To surmount both these Obstacles therefore, I cou’d advise whoever aims at preserving this natural Light, with respect to Morality, pure and unadulterate, to raise his Contemplations above the reach of private Interest, or the Custom of his Country, and to examine in general, Whether this or that Practice be just in it self; and whether, might the Question now be put for introducing it in a Country where it never was in vogue, and where it were left to our choice to admit or reject it; whether, I say, we shou’d find upon a sober Inquiry, that it’s reasonable enough to merit our Suffrage and Approbation? I fancy an Abstraction of this kind might effectually disperse a great many Mists which swim between the Eyes of our Understanding, and that<50> primitive universal Ray of Light which flows from the Divinity, discovering the general Principles of Equity to all Mankind, and being a standing Test of all Precepts, and particular Laws concerning Manners; not excepting even those which God has afterwards reveal’d in an extraordinary way, either by speaking immediately to Men, or by sending ’em inspir’d Prophets to declare his Will.
I am verily persuaded, that Almighty God, before ever he spoke by an external Voice to Adam, to make him sensible of his Duty, spoke to him inwardly in his Conscience, by giving him the vast and immense Idea of a Being sovereignly perfect, and printing on his Mind the eternal Laws of Just and Honest; so that Adam thought himself oblig’d to obey his Maker, not so much because of a certain Prohibition outwardly striking upon his Organs of Sense, as because that inward Light which enlighten’d his Conscience e’er God had utter’d himself, continually presented the Idea of his Duty, and of his Dependance on the Sovereign Being: Consequently it may be truly affirm’d, with regard even to Adam, that the reveal’d Truth was subordinate to the natural Light in him, and from thence was to receive its Sanction and Seal, its statutable Virtue, and Right to oblige as Law. And by the way, ’tis very probable, that had not the confus’d Sensations of Pleasure, excited in the Soul of our first Parent upon proposing the forbidden Fruit, drown’d the eternal Ideas of natural Equity (which must ever happen by reason of that essential Limitedness in created Spirits, rendring ’em incapable of immaterial Speculations, and of the lively and hurrying Sen-<51>sations of Pleasure at one and the same time). It is, I say, very probable he had never transgrest the Law of God; which ought to be a continual Warning to us, never to turn away our Eyes from that natural Light, let who will make Propositions to us of doing this thing or that with regard to Morality.
Shou’d a Casuist therefore come and inform us, he finds from the Scriptures, that ’tis a good and a holy Practice to curse our Enemys, and those who persecute the faithful; let’s forthwith turn our Eyes on natural Religion, strengthen’d and perfected by the Gospel, and we shall see by the bright shining of this interior Truth, which speaks to our Spirits without the Sound of Words, but which speaks most intelligibly to those who give Attention; we shall see, I say, that the pretended Scripture of this Casuist is only a bilious Vapor from his own Temperament and Constitution. In a word, ’twill afford us an Answer to the Example which the Psalmist furnishes him, to wit, that a particular Case where God interposes by a special Providence, is by no means the Light by which we must walk, and derogates not from the positive Command propos’d universally to all Mankind in the Gospel, of being meek and lowly in heart, and praying for those who persecute us; much less from that natural and eternal Law which discovers to all Men the Ideas of Honest, and which discover’d to so many Heathens, that ’twas a glorious part, and highly becoming the Dignity of human Nature, to forgive those who have offended us, and to return ’em Good for Evil.<52>
But that which is highly probable with regard to Adam in a state of Innocence, to wit, his discovering the Justice of God’s verbal Prohibition, by comparing it with his previous Idea of the Supreme Being, was become indispensably necessary after his Fall: for having experienc’d, that there were two kinds of Agents, which concern’d themselves in directing him what to do, ’twas absolutely necessary he shou’d have a Rule to judg by, for fear of confounding what God shou’d outwardly reveal to him, with the Suggestions or Inticements of the Devil disguis’d under the fairest Appearances. And this Rule cou’d be nothing else than natural Light, than the Conscience of Right and Wrong imprinted on the Souls of all Men; in a word, than that universal Reason which enlightens Spirits, and which is never wanting to those who attentively consult it, especially in those lucid Intervals when bodily Objects possess not the whole Capacity of the Soul, either by Images of their own, or by the Passions they excite in the Heart.
All the Dreams of old, all the Visions of the Patriarchs, all Discourses which strike the Sense as utter’d by God, all Appearances of Angels, all Miracles, every thing in general must have pass’d the Test of natural Light; otherwise how cou’d it appear, whether they proceeded from that evil Principle which had formerly seduc’d Adam, or from the great Creator of Heaven and Earth? ’Twas necessary, that God shou’d mark whatever came from him with some certain Character, bearing a Conformity with that interior Light which communicates it self immediately to all Spirits, or which at least shou’d not ap-<53>pear repugnant to it; and this once ascertain’d, all the particular Laws of a Moses suppose, or any other Prophet, were entertain’d with Pleasure, and as coming from God, altho they might have ordain’d things indifferent in their own nature.
Moses himself, we know, enjoin’d the Israelites on the part of God, not to believe every Worker of Miracles, nor every Prophet; but examine his Doctrines, and receive or reject ’em according as they were consonant or contrary to the Law which was given by God. There was this difference then between the Jews after the days of Moses and the antient Patriarchs, that these were oblig’d to compare the Revelations made to them with natural Light alone, those with the Light of Nature, and with the positive Law. For this positive Law, once vouch’d by the natural Light, acquir’d the Quality of a Rule and Criterion, in the same manner, as a Proposition in Geometry once demonstrated from incontestable Principles, becomes it self a Principle with regard to other Propositions. Now as there are certain Propositions, which one wou’d be easily inclin’d to admit, were they not attended with harsh and pernicious Consequences, but which are rejected with horror as soon as these Consequences appear; so that instead of saying, These Consequences are true because they arise from a true Principle; This Principle, say we, is false, because such false Consequences follow from it: So there are those, who without reluctance wou’d believe, that some things might have bin reveal’d by God, did they not consider the Consequences of ’em; but when they see what these things lead to, they conclude, they are not from God: and this Argument a posteriori<54> for them has the value of the strictest Demonstration.
Thus about the beginning of the Saracen Empire several Jews renounc’d their Religion, and dedicated themselves to the Pagan Philosophy,37 pretending they had discover’d in the ceremonial Law of Moses a world of unprofitable or absurd Precepts, which they perceiv’d not to be founded on any solid Reasons of their Institution or Prohibition, and thence concluding, that such a Law cou’d not be given by God. Their Consequence without doubt was fairly drawn, but they suppos’d amiss: They had not consider’d the incontestable Proofs which God himself had given of Moses’s Divine Mission, Proofs which will bear the strictest Trial at the Bar of the pure and living Ideas of natural Metaphysicks, in virtue of which each particular Law of Moses implicitly carrys a good Reason with it. Besides, they had not Strength enough or Compass of Judgment, to comprehend the drift of the ceremonial Laws, which, with regard to the Character of the Jewish Nation, and their Proneness to Idolatry, or as they were Figures and Types of the Gospel, were all founded on solid Reasons. Thus they were in an Error as to the point of Fact; and tho the Consequence follow’d justly and necessarily from their false Principle, they were wrong nevertheless. But by this example we see of what importance it is, that natural Light shou’d find nothing absurd in any thing propos’d as Revelation; for that which might otherwise appear most certainly reveal’d, will cease to appear so, when once found repugnant to that primitive, universal, and mother<55> Rule of judging, and of discerning Truth from Falshood, Good from Evil.
Every Philosophical attentive Mind clearly conceives, that this lively and distinct Light which waits on us at all Seasons, and in all Places, and which shews us, That the whole is greater than its part, that ’tis honest to be grateful to Benefactors, not to do to others what we wou’d not have done to our selves, to keep our Word, and to act by Conscience; he conceives, I say, very clearly, that this Light comes forth from God, and that this is natural Revelation: How then can he imagine, that God shou’d afterwards contradict himself, and blow hot and cold, by speaking to us outwardly himself, or sending his Messengers to teach us things directly repugnant to the common Notions of Reason? An Epicurean Philosopher reasons very justly, tho he applies his Principles badly, when he says, that since our Senses are the first Rule of Knowledg, and the original Inlet to Truth, it cannot be suppos’d they are subject to Error.38 He’s wrong in making the Report of the Senses the Rule and Touchstone of Truth; but this once suppos’d, he’s in the right to conclude, they ought to be the Judges of our Controversys, and decide in all our Doubts. If therefore the natural and metaphysical Light, if the general Principles of Sciences; if those primitive Ideas, which carry their own Conviction with ’em, have bin afforded us as a means to judg rightly upon things, and to serve as a Rule for our Decisions, they must of necessity be the Sovereign Judg, and we must submit to their Decisions in all Differences about obscure points of Knowledg: so that shou’d it enter into any one’s head to maintain, that<56> God has reveal’d a moral Precept directly contrary to the first Principles, we must deny it, and maintain in opposition to him, that he mistakes the Sense, and that ’tis much more reasonable to reject the Authority of his Criticisms and Grammar, than that of Reason. If we don’t fix here, farewel all Faith, according to the Remark of the good Father Valerian:*If any one will pretend, says he, that we must captivate our Understanding to the Obedience of Faith, so far as to call in question, or even to believe that Rule of judging which Nature has afforded us, false in some Instances; I affirm, he does by this very Attempt necessarily subvert the Faith, because it is absolutely impossible to believe, upon any Credit whatsoever, without a previous reasoning, which concludes, that the Person on whose Testimony we do believe, is neither deceiv’d himself nor deceives: which kind of reasoning, we see, is of no force, unless we admit that natural Rule of judging which has bin hitherto explain’d.
And here we shall find all the pompous Discourses of Roman Catholicks against the Way of Reason, and for the Authority of the Church, terminate in the end. Without thinking on’t, they only take a larger Circuit to come home at last to the very same point, which others make by a strait Course. These say plainly, and without going about the Bush, that we must keep to that Sense which appears to us the justest: But they tell us, we must have a care of that, because our own Lights may possibly deceive, and Reason is all Darkness and Illusion; we must therefore rest in the Judgment of the Church. What is this but coming a round way about to our own Rea-<57>son? For he who prefers the Judgment of the Church to his private Judgment, must not he do this in virtue of this reasoning, The Church has greater Lights than I, she’s therefore more to be believ’d than I?
Thus we see every one’s determin’d by his own private Lights; if he believe any thing as reveal’d, it’s because his good Sense, his natural Light, and his Reason inform him, that the Proofs of its Revelation are sufficient. But what will become of us, if every private Person must distrust his Reason as a dark and illusive Principle? Must not he in this Case distrust it, even when he says, The Church has greater Lights than I, she’s therefore more to be believ’d than I? Must not he be afraid, that his Reason is deceiv’d here, both as to the Principle and as to the Consequence he draws from it? What will become of this reasoning too? All that God says is true; he tells us by Moses, that he created the first Man, therefore this is true. If we had not a natural Light afforded us, as a sure and infallible Rule for judging upon every thing that can fall under Debate, not excepting even this Question, Whether such or such a thing is contain’d in Scripture; might not we have ground to doubt of the Major39 of this Argument before us, and consequently of the Conclusion? As this wou’d therefore introduce the most fearful Confusion, the most execrable Pyrrhonism imaginable, we must of necessity stand by this Principle, That all particular Doctrines, whether advanc’d as contain’d in Scripture, or propos’d in any other way, are false, if repugnant to the clear and distinct Notions of natural Light, especially if they relate to Morality.<58>
First Argument against the literal Sense of the Words, Compel ’em to come in, drawn from its Repugnancy to the distinctest Ideas of natural Light.
Having dispatch’d these Preliminary Remarks, which I thought fit to present my Reader, in a way of Universality; I come now to the particular Subject, and special Matter of my Commentary, on the Words of the Parable, Compel ’em to come in: and thus I reason.
The literal Sense of these Words is repugnant to the purest and most distinct Ideas of natural Reason.
It’s therefore false.
The Business now is only to prove the Antecedent; for I presume, the Consequence40 is sufficiently demonstrated in the foregoing Chapter. I say then,
I. That by the purest and most distinct Ideas of Reason, we find there is a Being sovereignly perfect, who rules over all things, who ought to be ador’d by Mankind, who approves certain Actions, and rewards ’em, and who disapproves and punishes others.
II. By the same way we understand, that the principal Adoration due to this supreme Being, consists in the Acts of the Mind; for if we conceive, that an earthly King wou’d not look on the falling down of a Statue in his Presence, either by chance, or by a violent Blast of Wind, as a homage to his Person, or on the Figure of Pup-<59>pets plac’d before him in a kneeling posture; by a much stronger reason ought we to believe, that God, who judges of all things by their real Worth, receives not as an Act of Worship and Submission what’s only perform’d to him in outward shew. We must grant then, that all external Acts of Religion, all our costliest Sacrifices, all our Expenses in erecting Temples and Altars, are approv’d by God only in proportion to the internal Acts of the Mind from whence they proceed.
III. Hence it plainly follows, that the Essence of Religion consists in the Judgments which our Understanding forms of God, and in those Motions of Reverence, of Fear and of Love, which the Will feels for him; insomuch that it’s possible a Man may fulfil his Duty towards God by this part alone, without the Exercise of any outward Act. But as Cases of this kind are rarely found, we shall chuse to say, that the inward Disposition, in which consists the Essence of Religion, is brought forth into outward Act by bodily Humiliations, and by sensible Expressions discovering that Honor which the Spirit pays to the Majesty of God. However it be, ’tis still true, that those Expressions in a Person void of all Feelings for God; I mean, who has neither the sutable Judgments, nor Motions of the Will with regard to God; are no more an Honoring or Adoration of God, than the Fall of a Statue, by a chance puff of Wind, is an Act of Homage from the Statue.
IV. It’s evident then, that the only reasonable way of inspiring Religion, is by producing in the Soul certain Judgments with relation to God,<60> and certain Motions of the Will. Now as Threats, Jails, Fines, Banishment, Cudgelling, Torturing, and in general whatever is comprehended under the literal signification of Compelling, are incapable of forming in the Soul those Judgments of the Will in relation to God, which constitute the Essence of Religion; it’s evident that this is a mistaken way of establishing a Religion, and consequently that Jesus Christ has not enjoin’d it.
I don’t deny but the ways of Constraint, over and above the outward Movements of the Body, which are the ordinary Signs of inward Religion, produce also in the Soul certain Judgments, and certain Motions of the Will: yet these same have no relation to God; they only regard the Authors of the Constraint. The Partys judg of ’em, that they are a sort of Men much to be dreaded, and they dread ’em indeed; but they who before were void of right Conceptions of the Divinity, and of that Reverence, and Love, and Fear, which are due to the supreme Being, acquire neither these Conceptions, nor these Motions of the Will, by the practice of the outward Signs of Religion, which the Methods of Constraint had extorted. They who before had form’d certain Judgments of God, and who believ’d that he ought to be worship’d only in one certain manner, opposite to that in favor of which the Violences are exercis’d; change no more than the others, as to their inward State towards God: Their new Sentiments do all terminate in a Dread of their Persecutors, and in a Desire of securing those temporal Goods, which they threaten to rob ’em of. Thus these Compulsions<61> do nothing for God: for as to the inward Acts they produce, these are by no means refer’d to him; and as for the outward Acts, ’tis manifest they can’t be consider’d as belonging to God, farther than as attended by those inward Dispositions of the Soul, wherein consists the Essence of Religion: Which has led me to sum up the whole Proof.
The Nature of Religion is, its being a certain Persuasion in the Soul with regard to God, which in the Will produces that Love, and Fear, and Reverence, which this supreme Being justly deserves, and in the Members of the Body Signs sutable to this Persuasion and this Disposition of the Will: insomuch that if these outward Signs exist without that interior State of the Soul which answers to ’em, or with such an inward State as is contrary to ’em; they are Acts of Hypocrisy and Falshood, or Impiety and Revolt against Conscience.
If therefore we wou’d act according to the nature of things, or according to that Order which right Reason, and the sovereign Reason of God himself does consult; we shou’d never make use of means for the propagating a Religion, which, incapable on one side of informing the Understanding, or imprinting the Love and Fear of God on the Heart; is most capable, on the other, of producing in the Members of the Body those external Acts, which are not infallible Indications of a religious Disposition of Soul, and which may be Signs directly opposite to the true inward Disposition.
Now so it is, that Violence is incapable on one hand of convincing the Judgment, or of<62> imprinting in the Heart the Fear or the Love of God; and most capable, on the other, of producing in our Members some outward Signs void of all inward Sincerity, or Signs perhaps of an interior Disposition most opposite to that which we really are in: that’s to say, external Acts which are Hypocrisy and Imposture, or a downright Revolt against Conscience.
’Tis notoriously then contrary to good Sense, to the Light of Nature, to the common Principles of Reason; in a word, to that primitive original Rule of distinguishing Truth from Falshood, Good from Evil; to exercise Violence for the inspiring a Religion into those who profess it not.
As the clear and distinct Ideas therefore we have of the Natures of certain things, convince us irresistibly, that God cou’d not make any Revelation repugnant to these things (for example, we are most thorowly assur’d, there cou’d be no such divine Revelation, as, That the Whole is less than its Part; That it’s honest to prefer Vice to Virtue; That one shou’d value his Dog more than his Parents, more than his Friends, or his Country; That to go by Sea from one Country to another, one must ride full-speed on a Post-horse; That to prepare the Ground for a plentiful Crop, the best way is never to turn it) it is evident that God has not commanded us in his Word to cudgel Men into a Religion, or use any other ways of Violence to make ’em embrace the Gospel; and therefore if we meet with any Passage in the Gospel which enjoins Compulsion, we must take it for granted, that it’s meant in a metaphorical,<63> and not in a literal Sense: just as if meeting with a Passage in the Scripture which commanded us to be very well skill’d in Languages, and in all other Facultys, without studying, we shou’d conclude that it ought to be understood in a Figure; We shou’d rather believe that the Passage was corrupted, or that we did not understand all the Senses of the Terms in the Original, or that ’twas a Mystery which concern’d not us, but another sort of Men perhaps which were to arise hereafter, and which shou’d not be made just as we are; or in short, that ’twas a Precept deliver’d after the manner of the Oriental Nations in Emblems, or under symbolical and enigmatical Images: We shou’d believe, I say, any thing of this kind, rather than persuade our selves that God, wise as he is, shou’d enjoin his Creatures of the Human kind, in a strict and literal sense, to be profoundly learned without studying.
The only thing to be alledg’d against what I offer, is this: They don’t pretend that Violence shou’d be exercis’d, as a direct and immediate means of establishing a Religion, but as a mediate and indirect means. That is, They agree with me that the proper and natural way of propagating Religion, is enlightning the Mind by sound Instructions, and purifying the Heart by inspiring it with a Love of God; but that to put this means in practice, it is sometimes necessary to force People, because without some degree of Violence they’l neither apply to be instructed, nor endeavor to deliver themselves from their Prejudices; that thus Constraint is<64> only made use of to remove Obstacles to Instruction: and these once remov’d, they employ the proper Methods, they re-enter into order, they instruct, they proceed by that primitive Light which I preach up as the sovereign Tribunal, or rather as the Commissary General, whose business it is to pass in review all Revelations, and discard those which want its Livery.
I shall adjourn the Confutation of this Exception to another place: ’Tis an ingenious Illusion, and a very handsom Chicane; but I promise my self to confute it so fully, that for the future it shall be made over to the Underspur-leathers, to those Missionarys of the Village, who never blush to produce the same Objections over and over, without taking the least notice of the Answers, which have ruin’d ’em to all intents and purposes.
Second Argument against the Literal Sense, drawn from its Opposition to the Spirit of the Gospel.
Before I propose my second Argument, I must desire my Reader to remember what I had laid down in the first Chapter;41That a positive Law, once vouch’d by natural Light, acquires the Force of a Rule or Criterion, in the same manner as a Proposition in Geometry, demonstrated by incontestable Principles, becomes it self a Principle with regard to other Propositions. The reason of my re-<65>peating this Remark is, that I am in this Chapter about to prove the Falshood of the literal Sense of the words, Compel ’em to come in, by shewing that it is contrary to the whole Tenor and Spirit of the Gospel. Were I to write a Commentary merely as a Divine, I shou’d not need to take the Argument higher; I shou’d o’ course suppose, that the Gospel is the first Rule of Manners, and that deviating from the Gospel-Morality is, without further proof, the being in a state of Iniquity: but writing as a Philosopher, I’m oblig’d to go back to the original and mother Rule, to wit, Reason or natural Light. I say then, that the Gospel being a Rule which has been verified by the purest Ideas of Reason, which are the primary and original Rule of all Truth and Rectitude; to sin against this Gospel, is sinning against the primary Rule it self, or which is the same thing, against that internal still Revelation, by which God discovers to all Men the very first Principles. I add this Consideration too, That the Gospel having more fully explain’d all the Dutys of Morality, and having carry’d the Idea of Honest farther than God had originally reveal’d by natural Religion, it follows, that every Action in a Christian, which is not agreeable to the Gospel, is more unjust and more enormous, than if simply contrary to Reason; for the more any Rule of Justice or Principle of Manners is open’d, explain’d, and enlarg’d, the more inexcusable is the Transgression. So that if Constraint in matters of Religion be found contrary to the Spirit of the Gospel, this will be a second Argument more forcible than the first, that this Constraint is unlawful, and opposite to the pri-<66>mary and original Rule of Equity and Reason.
But not to leave the least Rub in our way, let’s bestow one word or two upon a difficulty which here presents. They’l tell me that, by the Principle laid down in the first Chapter, the Gospel cou’d ne’er have bin receiv’d as a Divine Revelation; because if we compare its Precepts by my original Rule, they’l not be found agreeable to it: for nothing is more agreeable to natural Light than defending one’s self when assaulted, than revenging an Injury, than caring for the Body, &c. and yet nothing more opposite to the Gospel. Might we therefore conclude, that a Doctrine, pretended to be given from Heaven, was not divine, unless conformable to natural Light, the primary, perpetual, and universal Revelation of the Divinity to Mankind; we must reject the Doctrine of Jesus Christ as false, and the Gospel had not now bin a second standing Rule collated with the Original: and consequently, I shou’d prove nothing in my way, by proving that Compulsion is opposite to the Gospel-Morality.
I answer, that all the moral Precepts of the Gospel are such, as when weigh’d in the ballance of natural Religion, will certainly be acknowledg’d Sterling: And Jesus Christ having, over and above this, wrought a vast number of Miracles, so that only the Repugnancy of his Doctrine to some evident Truths of natural Revelation, cou’d give the least ground for doubting the Divinity of his Mission; we may rest intirely satisfy’d as to this point. The Miracles he wrought were in confirmation of a Doctrine, which, far from being opposite to the first No-<67>tices of Reason, and to the purest Principles of natural Equity, did really but perfect ’em, enlarge, unfold, and explain ’em; he spoke then on the part of God. Does not natural Light distinctly inform every Soul which attentively consults it, that God is just, that he loves Virtue, disapproves Vice, merits our utmost Regard and Obedience; That he’s the Source of our Felicity, and that ’tis to him we ought to apply our selves for every thing needful for us? Does not this Light inform all, who contemplate it duly, and who raise themselves above the sable Clouds with which the Passions and earthy Vapor of the Body overcast the Understanding, that ’tis honest and praise-worthy to forgive Enemys, to moderate our Resentments, and subdue our Passions? Whence shou’d all those shining Maxims flow, with which the Writings of Heathens abound, but from a natural Revelation of these things, communicated without respect of Persons to all Mankind? This being the case, ’twas easy to perceive that nothing cou’d be more reasonable, or more agreeable to Order, than enjoining Meekness of Heart, Forgiveness of Injurys, Mortification, and Charity. For our Reason clearly comprehending that God is the sovereign Good, relishes and approves those Maxims which unite us to him. Now nothing is more fitted to unite us to God than a Contempt of this World, and the Mortification of the Passions. Reason then finds the Gospel-Morality agreeable in every Instance to Order: And this Morality, far from inclining it to doubt whether the Miracles of Jesus Christ manifested his Divinity, becomes on the contrary a thorow Confirmation of<68> it. We can’t say so much of the Morality they claim to find in the words, Compel ’em to come in: For did, they import, Employ the Whip, Prisons, Tortures, to force those into the Christian Religion, who won’t freely come in; our Reason, our natural Religion might have ground to entertain the shreudest Suspicions, and look at Jesus Christ as an Emissary of Satan, coming under the fairest Appearances of a severe and spiritualiz’d Morality, and supported by mighty Prodigys, to infuse the deadliest Poison into the Hearts of Men, and to render the World a wild and never-changing Scene of Blood, and of the most execrable Tragedy. But let’s propose this second Argument in form.
Every Interpretation of Scripture, repugnant to the Spirit of the Gospel, must needs be false.
The literal Sense of the words, Compel ’em to come in, is directly repugnant to the Spirit of the Gospel.
The literal Sense therefore of these words must needs be false.
I may reasonably presume that the Major in this Argument needs no farther Proof: So I am only to prove the Minor.42
To this end I shall first observe, That the Excellency of the Gospel above the Law of Moses consists in this among other things, that it spiritualizes Man’s Nature, that it treats him more as a reasonable Creature, as arriv’d at a Maturity of Understanding, and no longer as a Child who stood in need of being amus’d by Shew and Ceremony, and outward Splendor, and wheedled from the Pagan Idolatry. From hence it follows, that the Gospel<69> most peculiarly requires we shou’d embrace it from a Principle of Reason; that its first and principal purpose is to enlighten the Understanding by its Truths, and afterwards attract our Zeal and Esteem; that it’s far from the Mind of the Gospel, that either the Fear of Men, or the Apprehension of temporal Misery, shou’d engage us to the outward Profession of it, when neither the Heart is touch’d, nor the Reason persuaded. It is not the mind of the Gospel then, that we shou’d force any one; this were treating Man as a Slave, and applying him like a brute Instrument, or mere Machine: As sometimes in handicraft servile Operations, where it’s no matter whether he work with a good will or no, provided he works; whereas, in the business of Religion, so far is it from being perform’d, when gone about with an ill will, that it were infinitely better to stand idle than to work by Force. Here the Heart must be in exercise, with a thorow Knowledg of the Cause; and the more any Religion requires the Heart, the Good-will, a Persuasion thorowly enlighten’d, and a reasonable Service, as the Gospel does, the farther it shou’d be from any kind of Constraint.
I observe in the second place, that the principal Character of Jesus Christ, and, if I may say it, the reigning Qualitys of his Soul, were Humility, Meekness, and Patience: Learn of me, says he to his Disciples, for I am meek and lowly in heart. He’s compar’d to a Lamb led to the slaughter, which opens not its mouth: Blessed, says he, are the Meek, and the Peace-makers, and the Merciful. When he was revil’d, he revil’d not again, but committed himself to him who judgeth<70> right. He’l have us bless those who curse us, and pray for those who persecute us; and far from commanding his Followers to persecute Infidels, he won’t allow ’em to oppose their Persecutions, otherwise than by Flight: If they persecute you, says he, in one City, fly to another. He does not bid ’em stir up the People against the Magistrates, call to their aid the Citys which are in their interest, lay formal siege to that which had persecuted ’em, and compel ’em to believe: No, Go forth from thence, says he, and remove to another place. He does indeed, in another place, order ’em to protest in the Streets against those who should not hear ’em; but this is the utmost he allows, and after that commands ’em to depart. He likens himself to a Shepherd who goes before his Sheep; And they follow him, for they know his Voice. These words are very emphatical: He does not say that he drives the Flock before him with Rod or Whip, as forcing ’em into grounds against their will; no, he goes before ’em, and they follow him, because they know his Voice: which signifies his leaving ’em at full liberty to follow, if they know him, or go astray, if they know him not; and his accepting no other than a voluntary Obedience, preceded by and founded upon Knowledg.
He opposes his own Mission to that of Thieves and Robbers, who break into the Fold, to carry off the Sheep by force which don’t belong to ’em, and which know not their Voice. When he sees himself forsaken by the Multitude, he does not arm those Legions of Angels, which were always as it were in his pay, nor send ’em in pursuit of the Deserters, to bring ’em back<71> by force: far from it, he asks his very Apostles, who had not yet forsaken him, whether they had not a mind to do like the rest; And will ye also go away? to let ’em, as ’twere, understand that he was not for keeping any of ’em in his service against their inclination. When he ascends into Heaven, he commands his Apostles to go and convert all Nations; but then ’tis only by Teaching and by Baptizing: his Apostles follow’d the example of his Meekness, and they exhort us to be Followers of them and of their Master. One must transcribe almost the whole New Testament, to collect all the Proofs it affords us of that Gentleness and Long-suffering, which constitute the distinguishing and essential Character of the Gospel.
Let’s now sum up the Argument thus: The literal Sense of this Gospel-Text, Compel ’em to come in, is not only contrary to the Lights of natural Religion, which are the primary and original Rule of Equity, but also to the reigning and essential Spirit of the Gospel it self, and of its Author; for nothing can be more opposite to this Spirit, than Dungeons, Dragoons, Banishment, Pillage, Gallys, Inflictions, and Torture. Therefore this literal Sense is false.
I don’t think it possible to imagine any thing more impious, or more injurious to Jesus Christ, or more fatal in its Consequences, than his having given Christians a general Precept to make Conversions by Constraint. For besides that a Maxim so opposite to good Sense, to Reason, to the common Principles of Morality, might induce one to believe, that he who vents it speaks not on the part of the same God,<72> who has given another antecedent Revelation, quite different from this, by the Oracles of natural Light; on the part of God, I say, who is incapable of contradicting himself so grosly: Besides all this, what Notion must we form of the Gospel, if we find in it on one hand so many Precepts of Gentleness and Clemency, and on the other a general Order authorizing all the ways of Violence, all the Craft and Cruelty which Hell can inspire? Who cou’d forbear thinking it a very odd medly of contradictory Conceits, and that the Author had not got his Lesson by heart, or did not know his own mind? Or rather, who wou’d not suspect that he knew his Lesson but too well, and that the grand Enemy of Mankind seducing him, had borrow’d his Organs to introduce into the World the fearfullest Deluge of Misery and Desolation; and the better to succeed, had made him play his game under a counterfeit beguiling Moderation, on a sudden to let fly the terrible Sentence of compelling all Nations to profess Christianity? Into such Abysses do the infamous Patrons of the literal Sense plunge themselves; who better deserve the Title of Directors-General of the Slaughter-House and Shambles, than that of Interpreters of Scripture. A certain Father of the Oratory, by name Amelote, writing about the Differences of the Jansenists, has this Saying,*That were there in the Question of Fact concerning Jansenius, such an Evidence as there is by Sense, or by the first Principles of Reason, they whose Eyes were so far<73> enlighten’d might reasonably take umbrage at the Diligence and Faithfulness of the Pope and Bishops, and justly demand an express Revelation from those who wou’d oblige ’em to sacrifice their Opinion, and submit against Knowledg. And that Evidence which is founded on Sense, or on the first Principles, he calls an impregnable Post. From this Principle of his, I make bold to conclude, that the least a Man shou’d do to convince us of the literal Sense of the words, Compel ’em to come in, so opposite to the Lights of Reason and of the Gospel, wou’d be to prove, by a new and most evident Revelation, that he interprets this Passage aright. And yet I’m of opinion, that except in some special cases, in which God may dispense with his own Laws, we ought not to give heed to a Revelation of this kind, tho ever so evident and express. My meaning is, that shou’d a Prophet, working Miracles in confirmation of the literal Sense of the Text, draw it into a general Precept, no way limited by any particular Circumstance, as in the Case of Phineas; this very thing wou’d be ground enough to take him, with all his Miracles, for an Impostor.<74>
The Third Argument against the Literal Sense, drawn from its cancelling the Differences of Justice and Injustice, and its confounding Vertue and Vice, to the total Dissolution of Society.
But it’s amusing the Court, to dwell so long upon Proofs, which are only passably good, when compar’d with what we have to offer: Let’s strike home then, and henceforward cut at the very root of the literal Sense of the Parable.
That literal Sense of Scripture is necessarily false, which overturns all Morality, whether Human or Divine; which confounds Vertue and Vice, and thereby opens a door to all kind of Confusion.
Now this is what the literal Sense of the words, Compel ’em to come in, must do.
It’s therefore necessarily false.
The Major is so evident, that ’twere ridiculous to go about to prove it: let’s proceed then to the proof of the Minor, which at first sight looks like a Paradox.
I’m so fair as to allow the Convertists of France, that by supposing Jesus Christ to have enjoin’d the converting Men by force, they only obey’d the Will of God, in compelling the Reform’d, by quartering of Soldiers, by Prisons, and by other ways of Violence, to turn Catholicks; and consequently, that these Violences<75> were by no means criminal in them, but that they were very righteous doings. Yet I desire to ask ’em one Question, Whether the only Reason which renders these Actions good, is not their being perform’d for the Interest of the Church, and from a design of enlarging the Kingdom of Jesus Christ? I don’t think they’l deny me this: for shou’d they pretend, that a King so absolute as that of France may quarter Soldiers on whom he pleases, allow ’em such and such Libertys, take ’em off where the Party merits this distinction by signing a Formulary; and therefore that the reason why these Violences are not criminal, is their being lawful for a King in his own Dominions: Shou’d they, I say, pretend to give me this Answer, I think it were no hard matter to weather it.
For I shou’d ask ’em again, Whether, on a supposition that what the King of France now does, he did without any other reason, or from any other Motive or View, than just to divert himself by a capricious Exercise of his Power, it had not bin very unjust; and whether God might not most justly have punish’d him for it? I can’t conceive there’s a Man alive, either Flatterer or stupid enough to tell me, No: It follows then, that a King who vexes a Party of his Subjects at this rate, by giving their Goods to the Spoil, by forcing Children from their Parents, and Wives from their Husbands, by imprisoning some, and cloistering others; by demolishing their Houses, cutting down their Inclosures, and permitting the very Soldiers to abuse and buffet their Hosts; ought to have some other reason for his so doing, besides that of his<76> sovereign Will and good Pleasure: else all the World will condemn it, as an unjust and tyrannical Abuse of the Regal Power.
They’l tell me perhaps, that these Vexations are founded on one Party’s refusing to conform to the King’s Edicts: Now a King can justly punish such of his Subjects as conform not to his Edicts. But this Answer not only goes upon a false Supposition, to wit, that none were punish’d by quartering, except those who had not obey’d the Royal Edicts (because it’s certain this quartering preceded the Revocation of the Edict of Nants, or the time at least which this Edict allow’d for the Protestants to instruct themselves) but is likewise too indefinite to be satisfactory. For to render a Punishment just, which is inflicted for Non-compliance with a King’s Injunctions, it’s necessary these Injunctions be founded on some good reason: else a King might justly punish those of his Subjects who had not blue Eyes, a Roman Nose, and fair Hair, those who lik’d not certain Dishes, who lov’d not Hunting, Musick, Books, &c. He might punish ’em, I say, very justly, supposing he had publish’d his Orders before-hand, enjoining ’em to have blue Eyes within such a time, &c. and to take pleasure in Books, &c. But who sees not, that as these Injunctions are unreasonable, so the Punishment of the Transgressors wou’d be likewise unjust? And therefore to vex Subjects in a way of Justice, it is not sufficient to say in the general they have disobey’d Edicts; but it must be shewn in particular, that they have disobey’d Edicts which were just in themselves, or at<77> least such as cou’d not be disobey’d, but thro an unreasonable and perverse Neglect.
They’l tell me, the Edicts of Lewis XIV are all of this kind. I shan’t dispute it. But then they’l grant me, that the only Reason which render’d the treating his Subjects of the Reform’d Religion as he did, no Injustice, was his treating ’em so for the advantage of the Church of Rome, in his Judgment the only true Church in the World. This we must come to: and everything comes back to this Foundation, to wit, that the Methods in France against the Reform’d had bin unjust, if mov’d, not for any advantage of the true Religion, but to make ’em profess, for example, that they were persuaded the Earth turns round, that the Heat we ascribe to Fire is only a Sensation in the Soul, that such a Sauce is better than such a Sauce; but forasmuch as no Violence was exercis’d on the Hereticks, to make ’em acknowledg Truths of this kind, but only those Truths which are reveal’d to Christians, the Treatment they met with was very just, as being agreeable to the Command of Jesus Christ.
They’l add, that it’s abusing the Terms, to call this Treatment Persecution. Nothing is properly Persecution, but bearing hard on the Faithful. Violences exercis’d on Hereticks, are Acts of Kindness, Equity, Justice, and right Reason. Be it so: Let’s agree then, That what might be unjust, if consider’d as not being done in favor of the true Religion, becomes just by being done for the true Religion. This Maxim is most evidently contain’d in the words, Compel ’em to come in, supposing Jesus Christ meant ’em in a literal Sense; for they import, Smite, scourge, im-<78>prison, pillage, slay those who continue obstinate, rob ’em of their Wives and their Children; it’s all right, when done in favor of my Cause: In other Circumstances these might be Crimes of the blackest dye; but the Good resulting from ’em to my Church, expiates and sanctifies these Proceedings. Now this, I say, is the most abominable Doctrine that ever enter’d into the Heart of Man: And I question whether there be Spirits in Hell wicked enough to wish in good earnest, that Mankind shou’d be govern’d by such Maxims. So that to attribute ’em to the eternal Son of God, who came into the World only to bring Salvation, and to teach Men the most holy and most charitable Truths, is offering him the most outragious Affront and Injury imaginable. For,
Consider, I pray, what Horrors and Abominations trail after this execrable Morality; since all the Barriers which separate Vertue from Vice, being hereby remov’d, all Actions, be they ever so infamous, must become Acts of Piety and Religion, if tending to the Extinction of Heresy. So that shou’d a Heretick by his good Sense, by his Eloquence, and by his sober Life, confirm others in their Heresy, or persuade some among the Faithful that they are deceiv’d, presently assassinating, poisoning, blasting his Reputation by the wickedest Calumnys, and suborning false Witnesses to prove ’em upon him, is all fair play. People may shake their heads, and say, it’s hard and unjust; the Answer is ready: It might be so in other cases; but the Interest of the Church interfering, nothing is more just. Every one sees, without my entring into the hideous Detail, that there’s no kind of Crime which does not become<79> an Act of Religion; Judges might conscientiously give the most unjust Decrees against Hereticks; others rob ’em with impunity, break Faith with ’em in the most important Affairs, force away their Children, stir up false Witnesses against ’em, debauch their Daughters, in hopes the shame of a big Belly might humble ’em into the true Religion: In a word, they might insult and outrage ’em all manner of ways, and Violence and Fraud play by turns, in a prospect of wearying ’em out of their lives, and obliging ’em at last to change Religion; and all this while persuade themselves, that acting from this holy Motive, they committed no Injustice. Can any thing be more horrible!
Nor are they the only Party privileg’d by the Result of this fine Management: all others wou’d think themselves authoriz’d to take the same methods, because each Sect looks on it self as the only true Religion, or at least much the truest; and looking on all others as Enemys to God, or imperfect at best, imagine they shou’d do great service to Truth by bringing about their Conversion. I shan’t in this place examine, whether all have an equal Right, supposing only a sincere Persuasion in all to endeavor the Extirpation of what they believe false: but this at least is plain, that Jesus Christ must have foreseen how his Command might prompt all sort of Christians to exercise Violence on those who were out of their own Communion, which wou’d be an inexhaustible Source of Iniquity, and an Iliad of Miserys to those of the really true. Now it’s not to be conceiv’d, but a bare prospect of the many Mischiefs to which his express Command might <80> give birth, and for which it might be a very plausible Excuse, wou’d have hinder’d him from delivering it, tho he had not bin otherwise abundantly bar’d by the essential and inherent Injustice of Persecution on the score of Religion.
Tho I don’t design to enter into a Detail of the abominable Confusions which might spring from hence, that the most unjust Actions become just by their Subserviency to the Extirpation of Error; yet I can’t but observe this grand Inconveniency arising from it among others, That Kings and Sovereign Princes cou’d never be safe when their Subjects were of a different Persuasion. Their Subjects wou’d think themselves oblig’d in Conscience to depose and expel ’em, unless they abjur’d their Religion; and still believe it a very justifiable Action: for in fine, say they, the Gospel will have us Compel to come in; and accordingly we must compel our King to turn, we must refuse our Obedience till he conforms; and if he obstinately persists, we must depose, and confine him a while to a Cloyster. It may be, the sense of so many temporal Afflictions will incline his Heart to Instruction, and deliver him from his Prejudices: Be that as it will, we shall however promote the Interest of Religion, by dethroning a Prince who’s an Enemy to it, and placing one in his room who’l be a Father and Defender. This Circumstance suffices to render Actions Just, which without it wou’d be exceeding Criminal. Let’s depose therefore, or even put to Death our heretical King, because, tho an infernal Parricide, when perpetrated from any other Motive, it’s yet a good Work if done for the Interest of the true<81> Religion. Thus Sovereigns and Subjects might conscientiously persecute one another by turns; those compel their People of a different Religion by main force to abjure; and these, when they had the Power, do as much for their Prince: each in the mean time religiously obeying the Command of the Son of God. Shou’d not we be mightily oblig’d to Jesus Christ for taking our Nature upon him, and submitting to the Death of the Cross for our sakes, if by these three or four words, Compel to come in, he had depriv’d us of those small remains of natural Religion, which were sav’d from the Shipwreck of the first Man; if he had confounded the Natures of Vertue and Vice, and destroy’d the Boundarys which divide the two States, by making Murder, and Robbery, and Felony, and Tyranny, and Rebellion, and Calumny, and Perjury, and all Crimes generally, when practis’d against a heterodox Party, lose the Character of Evil, and become Vertues of a most necessary Obligation? The drift of which must be the dissolving all civil Societys, and consigning Men to Dens and Caves of the Earth, for fear of meeting with any of their own kind, the most dangerous Beasts in the Forest.
What’s very absurd in a great many Roman Catholicks, and particularly the French, is their insisting on one hand, that Jesus Christ has enjoin’d Constraint, and yet denying, that this Command extends to Kings, or that the Church has any Right to depose ’em.43 This is in the last degree pitiful. They are satisfy’d, that Kings, by virtue of this Passage, are authoriz’d by God to destroy their heretical Subjects, imprison, dragoon, hang, and burn ’em; but they won’t allow, that the same Passage gives<82> Subjects a right, whenever the Pope or a General Council shall judg it a proper Season, to drive out an heretical King, and set up an orthodox Person in his room. Where’s the sense of this? Wou’d they have Jesus Christ enjoin Constraint in all, excepting the single Case, where it may be of the greatest Advantage to the Church, by the Destruction of just one Man? For who sees not, that the Downfal of one heretical bigoted Monarch may prevent more Mischiefs to the opposite Religion, than the Ruin of a hundred thousand Peasants or Mechanicks? So that granting the words, Compel ’em to come in, did signify in general, strip, smite, imprison, hang, break upon the Wheel, till no one dare boggle at signing; I can’t see the reason of laughing at Suarez, Becan,44 and a great many more, for saying, that in the words, Feed my Sheep, there’s a Power imply’d of treating heretical Kings as Shepherds do Wolves, which they are to destroy, Omni modo quo possunt,45 to wit, the shortest way.
They’l tell me, God expresly declares, that ’tis by him Kings reign; and that resisting their Ordinances is resisting the Ordinance of God. And what then? Is it not as plain, that Murder, Calumny, Robbery, and Perjury, are expresly forbidden by God? Yet, if notwithstanding the Prohibition, these Actions become righteous, when perform’d for the Good of the Church; mayn’t we say the same of every other prohibited Action, not excepting even that of deposing Kings? And the truth is, these very Men, who express such an Abhorrence of deposing Principles, when their Kings are orthodox, contradict themselves in practice, when they happen to be<83> otherwise, as was seen with a witness in France, in the days of the League. So natural a Consequence is it of the literal Sense that I refute, and so necessary not to spare even Crown’d Heads, or any thing else upon Earth, when put into the Ballance with the Prosperity of the Church.
I wish my Readers wou’d weigh these Reasons a little; and I assure my self they’d be convinc’d, that a Command, which (as the World is made) must naturally be attended with such a horrible train of Impietys, and so total an Extinction of the first Principles of Equity, which are the eternal and immutable Rule, cou’d never proceed from the Mouth of him who is the essential Truth. That literal Sense therefore, which I contend against, is utterly false.
The Fourth Argument against the literal Sense, drawn from its giving Infidels a very plausible and very reasonable Pretence for not admitting Christians into their Dominions, and for dislodging ’em wherever they are settl’d among ’em.
I said I did not design to enter into a Detail of the mischievous Consequences which might follow from the Principle I confute; yet upon second thoughts I find it necessary to lay open a few of ’em, the better to discover the Horribleness and strange Enormity of the Command so<84> injuriously ascrib’d to the Son of God. ’Twere wronging the Cause of Truth wholly to decline this; I shall therefore touch upon certain Heads, which to me appear the most considerable. And thus I argue:
That literal Sense of Scripture which gives Infidels a just and reasonable ground for denying the Preachers of the Gospel, either Admittance, or an Abode in their Dominions, must needs be false.
Now the literal Sense of these words, Compel ’em to come in, gives Infidels this handle.
’Tis therefore false.
No one will dispute the Major: for where’s the sense of requiring on one hand, that all Men wou’d be converted to the Truth, and yet laying Obstacles in the way to render their Conversion impracticable? Wou’d not this be trifling cruelly with Mankind, and frustrating the ends of Providence, which aims at rendring Men inexcusable, unless they lay hold of the Opportunitys God is pleas’d to afford ’em?
Let’s therefore endeavor to prove the Minor.
Let us suppose for this purpose, that a Set of Missionarys from the Pope shou’d now for the first time present themselves in the great Empire of China to preach the Gospel, and that they were sincere enough to answer honestly to some Questions which might naturally be propos’d to ’em. At the same time I suppose a Principle, which, if rightly consider’d, can’t well be deny’d me, to wit, That every Man living, having experienc’d his own Proneness to Error, and that he sees, or fancys he sees, as Age comes on, the Falshood of a thousand things which had pass’d on him for true,<85> ought to be always dispos’d to hearken to those who offer’d him Instruction, even in Matters of Religion. I don’t except Christians out of this Rule; and I’m persuaded, shou’d a Fleet now arrive here from Terra Australis,46 with Persons aboard, who hearing we had entertain’d erroneous Opinions about the Nature and Worship of God, desir’d a Conference with us on these points, that it wou’d not be amiss to hear ’em out, not only as this might be a means of delivering them from the Errors we shou’d certainly think ’em in, but also because it is not impossible, that we shou’d benefit by their Knowledg; since we ought to entertain so vast and worthy an Idea of Almighty God, as to expect he will increase our Knowledg infinitely, and by an infinite Variety of Degrees and Methods. Now as we are all persuaded, that the People of Terra Australis wou’d be oblig’d to hear our Missionarys on their bare general Proposition of undeceiving ’em in matters of Religion, so we ought to think our selves under the same Obligation, with regard to Persons coming from Terra Australis: For the Obligation on their side cou’d not be bas’d on the Expectation that our Missionarys wou’d bring them the Truth, since I suppose ’em oblig’d to hear by virtue of a general Offer, antecedent to any proof of the Truth of the Matters to be preach’d, and before they had entertain’d the least Doubt of their own Opinions. I mean in this place, a distinct and determinate Doubt, not an implicit, unfixt, and general Mistrust, which seems inseparable from every Man, who has Sense enough to make these Reflections: I have firmly believ’d a thousand things in some part of my Life, which I am far from believing at present;<86> and what I now believe, a great many others I see of as good Sense as my self, believe not a tittle of: My Assent is often determin’d, not by Demonstrations which appear to me cou’d not be otherwise, and which appear so to others, but by Probabilitys which appear not such to other Men. If the People then of Terra Australis wou’d be oblig’d to give ear to our Missionarys, before any particular Prejudice had determin’d ’em to doubt of their antient Religion, or to dream, that these new Men were the Messengers of Truth; it’s plain their Obligation must be founded on a Principle obliging universally, to wit, a Duty in all of embracing all Occasions of enlarging their Knowledg, by examining those Reasons which may be offer’d against their own, or for the Opinions of others.
But not to perplex my Matter, let’s quit these Reflections: There’s no great need of Arguments to prove, that the Chinese wou’d be under an Obligation of hearing the Pope’s Missionarys. Let’s therefore represent both Partys in their first Conversation: We’l suppose, that the Emperor of China orders these good Fathers to appear before him in Council, and there desires in the first place to know, what mov’d ’em to undertake so long a Voyage. They’l answer without doubt, to preach the true Religion, which God himself had reveal’d by his only Son; and hereupon they’l tell him a thousand fine things of the Morality of Jesus Christ, of the Felicity he promises the Faithful, and of the Dishonor done to God by the Pagan Religions. Possibly this Prince might answer them as our King Ethelred answer’d the Monks sent by St. Gregory the Great, as Missionarys into this Country, That ’twas all very fine, provided<87> ’twere but true; and that he cou’d with all his heart give into it, if he found not more Certainty in what he had receiv’d from his Forefathers; that they who believ’d it true, might with his free leave make open Profession of it. But let us suppose the Chinese Council wise enough to put this hard Question to the Missionarys; What course do you take with those, who having heard your Sermons a hundred times over, can’t bring themselves to believe a word of what you say: and the Monks, sincere enough, as before suppos’d, to answer, We have a Command from our God, who was made Man, to compel the obstinate, that is, those, who after hearing our Doctrines shall refuse Baptism; and in consequence of this Command, whenever we have the Power in our hands, and when a greater Evil may not ensue, we are oblig’d in conscience to imprison the idolatrous Chinese, to bring ’em to Beggary, curry ’em with Cudgels into our Churches, hang some for an Example to others, force away their Children, give ’em up to the Discretion of the Soldiers, them, their Wives, and their Goods. If you doubt whether we are bound in conscience to do all this, lo here’s the Gospel, here’s the plain and express Precept, Compel ’em to come in; that is, make use of whatever Violence you deem most proper for surmounting the obstinate Oppositions of Men.
We may easily conceive, that this Sincerity, which I suppose in the Missionarys, is but a Chimera; however, I may be allow’d to make the Supposition, since it’s only to lead my Reader more commodiously to the point I drive at. Now what do we think wou’d the Privy-Council think and say upon this occasion? Either they<88> must be Counsellors void of common Sense and common Prudence and Thought, mere speaking Machines; or else they must advise the Emperor to order these Men immediately out of his Dominions, as profest publick Pests, and charge his Subjects at their peril never to admit ’em more: for who sees not that granting ’em a liberty to preach, is laying the foundation of a continual Butchery and Desolation in Town and Country? At first they wou’d do no more than preach, than instruct, wheedle, promise a Paradise, threaten a Hell; they’l gain over a great many of the People, and have their Followers in all the Citys and Ports of the Kingdom: but in time they’l come to downright Violence against those who persist in their old Religion, either by calling in a foreign Power, or by stirring up their new Disciples against ’em. Perhaps these won’t easily bear being ruffled in places where they are yet strong enough to defend themselves; so the Partys come to downright blows, they kill one another like so many Flys; and so many Christians as die in the Conflict, so many Martyrs in the Language of the Missionarys, provided they lose their lives in executing the express Command of Jesus Christ,Compel ’em to come in. Is there a Soul Popish or Monkish enough not to shiver at the thoughts of this dreadful Tragedy? Yet this is not all; the Emperor himself must soon or late have a lift, if he has not force enough to keep his Christian Subjects at bay. For,
As I have already observ’d, ’twere absurd to think Jesus Christ had enjoin’d Constraint with regard to an ordinary Burgher, a poor Peasant or Mechanick, whose Conversion is of little<89> importance to the enlarging the Borders of the Church; and not enjoin’d it with regard to Kings, whose Authority and Example is so useful for spreading a Religion. Therefore, the literal Sense that I reject once suppos’d, the first thing the Missionarys ought to do, after they had gain’d over a Party among the Chinese, considerable enough to be fear’d by the State, wou’d be to let the Emperor understand, that unless he turn’d Christian they shou’d obey him no longer, they’d do him all the mischief they cou’d, call in Crusades from the West to deprive him of his Crown, or chuse themselves another King, who shou’d be a faithful Son of the Church; and having increas’d their Numbers by the methods of Constraint, thrust him into a Cloister, or shut him in between four Walls all the days of his Life, unless he embrac’d their Religion. Nay, shou’d he bring an Army into the Field, to repel Force by Force; and having the good fortune to conquer his Christian Subjects, oblige ’em to take a new Oath of Fidelity, and promise to do no further Violence on anyone; yet he cou’d not rely upon this Oath or Treaty, because he must be sensible, that the Law of Christianity, since it makes Robbery, Murder, and Rebellion, all lawful when tending to the Interest of Religion, wou’d equally authorize the Violation of Promises and Oaths; so as he might justly apprehend, that the moment he withdrew his Armys, his Christian Subjects wou’d revolt anew, in contempt of all their Oaths, which, by a tacit Condition, they constantly postpone to the enlarging the Borders of the Church. Thus he must never expect to see himself or his Kingdom at peace, while there were<90> such Disturbers in its Bowels; whom nothing is strong enough to bind, and who judg every thing lawful, and even a Duty, provided it tends to the Interest of their Religion.
Consequently, all kind of Reasons engage him to order the Missionarys out of his Dominions after the first two hours Audience; and by this means he must with Reason and Justice continue for ever in his false Religion. A horrible Consequence! and which arising naturally from the literal Sense, shews it to be false, impious, and abominable.
I say, he may with Reason and Justice expel these Missionarys; because in the first place Reason and Justice require, that a Prince, who sees Strangers come into his Dominions, to preach up a new Religion, shou’d inform himself of the Nature of this Religion, and whether it reconciles the Fidelity which Subjects owe their Sovereign with their Duty to God: Consequently this Emperor of China ought to examine the Nature of their Doctrine in the very first Conversation, whether it be consistent with the publick Good, and with those fundamental Laws, which constitute the Happiness of Sovereigns and Subjects. I make no scruple to say, that a King who neglected this, wou’d sin against the eternal Laws of Justice, which require his watching for the publick Welfare of the People committed to his Charge.
Be this then agreed to, that he’s bound in Prudence and Justice, and as he tenders the publick Peace, to interrogate the Missionarys, as to their Proceedings against those they shou’d account obstinate. Now as he must at first dash discover a Principle in ’em which gives Horror, which is contrary to natural Equity, destructive of the<91> Peace of his Subjects, and dangerous to his Throne: as, I say, he must discover this before he is let into any such degree of Knowledg, as obliges a Man to embrace Christianity; ’tis plain, that of the two Obligations we may represent him under successively, one of endeavoring to preserve the publick Peace, the other of professing Christianity, the former precedes; and consequently, he most justly banishes the Christians out of his Dominions, and will never hear ’em more: Whereupon the second Obligation can never take place, because it’s a Contradiction that a Prince shou’d be oblig’d to turn Christian, before he’s instructed in the Christian Religion, or that he shou’d be instructed according to the ordinary course of things, without having several Conferences with Christians. Let’s remember this Maxim of a modern* Author, That not to be a Schismatick, it is not sufficient the Church we separate from be false, but there must in addition be a well-grounded Certainty of the Falseness of that Church. In like manner, that the Emperor of China might with Justice depart from his own Religion, ’tis not enough that he embraces the Christian, which is the true, but he must moreover be assur’d, by sound and well-weigh’d Informations, that it is the true; else his embracing it is only a Caprice, and an Act of Temerity, to which God can have no regard. It’s plain then, Christianity obliges only those who clearly perceive its Divinity, or those who have had opportunitys of being instructed. They therefore who have bin depriv’d of these Opportunitys, by being oblig’d to banish those who were<92> qualify’d to instruct ’em, are excusably out of the Pale. Whence we may more and more discover the Enormity of the literal Sense, from the fatal Consequences which flow from it.
I maintain in the second place, that this Emperor can’t reasonably be condemn’d for judging from this first Interview, that the Religion of these Missionarys is ridiculous and diabolical: Ridiculous, as being founded by an Author, who on one hand requires all Men to be humble, meek, patient, dispassionate, ready to forgive Injurys; and on the other hand, bids ’em drub, imprison, banish, whip, hang, give up as a Prey to the Soldiers, all those who won’t follow him. And Diabolical; because, besides its direct Repugnancy to the Lights of Reason, he must see that it authorizes all kind of Crimes, when committed for its own Advantag; allows no other Rule of Just and Unjust, but its own Loss and Gain; and tends to change the whole World into a dreadful Scene of Violence and Bloodshed.
Last of all, I affirm, that if this Emperor believes there’s a God, as it’s certain all the Pagans do, he’s oblig’d from a Principle of Conscience, the eternal Law and Rule antecedent to all Religions of positive Institution, to banish all Christians out of his Dominions. Thus I prove it. He must find by these Missionarys, that the forcing Men by Torture and Violence to the Profession of the Gospel, is one of the fundamental Laws of the Christian Religion, and one of the plainest and most express Commands of the Son of God. Now this method, humanly speaking, is inseparable from a world of Crimes and Trespasses against the first and most indispensable of<93> all Laws; and consequently of a blacker nature, and more provoking to God, than any Attempts against Christianity misunderstood. Every Prince then is in Conscience oblig’d to prevent the introducing such Maxims into his Dominions; and one can scarce think how God shou’d call ’em to account for not tolerating Christians, when they plainly perceive ’em to be a morally necessary Cause of an endless Complication of Crimes: for every one that fears God ought, with all his Authority, to prevent the Commission of Crimes; and what Crimes are there, which they ought to prevent with greater care, than religious Hypocrisys, Acts against the Instinct and Lights of Conscience? Now these the Maxims arising from the literal Sense do infallibly produce. Ordain Punishments for all who practise the Rites of any one Religion, and who refuse to practise those of another; expose ’em to the Violence of the Soldiery, buffet ’em, thrust ’em into noisom Dungeons, deprive ’em of Employments and Honors, condemn ’em to the Mines or Gallys, hang up those who are impertinent, load others with Favors and Rewards who renounce their Worship: you may depend upon’t, a great many will change, as to the outward Profession, from the Religion they esteem the best, and make profession of that which they are convinc’d is false. Acts of Hypocrisy and High Treason against the Divine Majesty, which is never so directly affronted, as when Men draw near to his Worship in a way which their Consciences, I mean even the most erroneous Consciences, represent as dishonorable to him. So that a Prince who wou’d prevent, as much as in him lies, the Depravation of his Subjects, and their<94> being guilty of that Sin, which of all Sins is the most provoking to Almighty God, and the most certainly Sin, shou’d take special care to purge his Dominions of all Christians of persecuting Principles.
Nor let any one pretend ’tis an Error of Fact in him; for absolutely, universally, and in the eternal Ideas we have of the Divinity, which are the primary, original, and infallible Rule of Rectitude, it’s a most crying Iniquity to pretend to turn Christian, when Conscience remonstrates that the Chinese Religion, which we outwardly abjure, is the best: And therefore this Emperor cou’d not avoid banishing these Missionarys, without exposing his Subjects to the almost insurmountable Temptation of committing the most heinous of all Sins, and hazarding his own Conscience. For as no one can be assur’d that a new Religion, now to be propos’d, shall appear to him true; and that a King once reduc’d to the Alternative either of losing his Crown, or of professing a Religion which he believes to be false, ought in reason to dread his sinking under the Temptation; his Love of Truth, and of the Deity shining upon his Conscience, altho he’s in an erroneous Belief, oblige him indispensably to prevent these Dangers, by the Expulsion of those who carry ’em about ’em, wherever they go, in that pretended Gospel-Rule of theirs, Compel ’em to come in.
I don’t think there needs any thing more in proof of the second Proposition of my Syllogism;47 for who sees not that a Prince who expels the Christian Missionarys, expels ’em with all the Reason and Justice in the world?<95>
1. Because his Kingly Office obliges him; Eternal and Immutable Order requiring that he shou’d keep off every thing which threatens Confusion, Civil Wars, Seditions, and Rebellion in his Dominions.
2. Because natural Religion, and all the Ideas of pure Morality oblige him; Eternal and Immutable Order requiring that all, but especially Kings, shou’d endeavor to avert whatever destroys the Boundarys of Vertue and Vice, and changes the most abominable Actions into Acts of Piety, when design’d to extend the Borders of Religion.
3. Because the Rights of Conscience, which are directly those of God himself, oblige him; Eternal and Immutable Order requiring, that he shou’d to the utmost of his power prevent all Conjunctures which bring Men into a near prospect, and into an almost unavoidable danger of betraying their Conscience and their God.
There’s no need, after what has bin said, of proving in particular, that any Pagan Prince, who shou’d find a Generation of Christians settled in his Dominions, either thro the Negligence of his Ancestors, or because he had conquer’d their Country, might justly expel ’em because of these pernicious Maxims.
The only thing to be alledg’d against me is, That the Emperor of China might want the Pretext I furnish him, because there’s no necessity of letting him know at first word that Jesus Christ had commanded Constraint. But beside that I have prevented this Objection, by shewing how he and his Council wou’d be guilty of a very criminal Neglect, if they did not ex-<96>amine these new Comers about the nature of their Religion with regard to Princes and Subjects who shou’d not comply; which Question once propos’d, our Missionarys must explain themselves roundly, or be a pack of Knaves: besides this, I say, who sees not ’tis confessing that the literal Sense of the Parable imports a Doctrine they are asham’d of, that ’tis tricking in Religion, and being guided in the preaching of the Gospel by the Spirit of Machiavel; the very thought of which gives horror, and were alone enough to make Christianity detested as an execrable Cheat? What, wou’d they think it fair to riggle themselves into the Kingdom of China under the appearances of great Moderation, and as so many Foxes, to turn Tygers and Lions in due time, and worry these good People whom they had bubbled by a shew of exceeding Charity and Meekness? No, this can never pass; nor wou’d any thing more effectually discredit the Morality of Jesus Christ, than supposing he had commanded his Disciples to use Violence when they might without danger to themselves, and in the mean time to beware babling, to keep it as a Mystery among themselves, which shou’d break out in due time, when they were manifestly the strongest side, and to hide it under the appearance of the perfectest Moderation and the most theatrical Patience, that no body shou’d have the least suspicion of the matter: like a Ruffian, who hides his Dagger in his sleeve, and strikes his Man only when he’s sure of the blow. For my part, if this be the case, I can’t see why the Christian Religion mayn’t justly be liken’d to one who raises himself step by step to the highest Dig-<97>nitys, like the Tartuffe in Moliere, by a Contempt of Injurys, by an Austerity of Life, by his Submission, by the most popular Civility; but when he has gain’d his point, throws off the mask all at once, and becomes the Scourge of Mankind by his Cruelty and tyrannical Insolence. If the Historian might liken the Roman Empire to Man in the several Stages of Life, who can hinder our carrying the comparison forward to the several States of Christianity? Its Infancy and early Youth were exercis’d in forcing its way thro all the Obstacles of Fortune; it acted the meek and the modest, the humble and the dutiful Subject, the charitable and the officious: and by these Virtues it struggled up from the lowest Cusp of Misery, ay marry, and rais’d it self to a pretty fair pitch: but having once fully compass’d its ends, it quitted its Hypocrisy, authoriz’d all the ways of Violence, and ravag’d all those who presum’d to oppose it; carrying Desolation far and wide by its Crusades, drenching the new World in Crueltys which give astonishment, and now at last endeavoring to act ’em over in that remnant of the Earth which it has not yet stain’d with Blood, China, Japan, Tartary, &c. We can’t stop the mouths of Infidels, or hinder their charging Christianity with these things, since they may find ’em in our Historys; and the Church of Rome, which has had the whip-hand for so many Ages past, can’t hinder the Sects which have separated, from laying all these Reproaches at her door. But if we can’t save Christianity from this Infamy, at least let us save the Honor of its Founder, and of his Laws; and not say, that all this was the consequence of his express Com-<98>mand to compel the World: Let’s rather say, that Mankind very rarely acting according to its Principles, Christians have happen’d not to act by theirs; and that they exercis’d Violences, at the same time that they preach’d Meekness. Thus we shall acquit our Religion at the expence of its Professors: but if we say that all the Violences which Popery has exercis’d, were the genuine and natural Consequence of that Precept of Jesus Christ,Compel ’em to come in; this will turn the Tables, and we shall save the Honor of Christians, at the expence of their Religion, and its adorable Founder. Now how abominable wou’d it be, to impute to Jesus Christ all the Crueltys of Popes, and of Princes, who have own’d him as Head of the Church? And yet there’s no avoiding this, if we admit the literal Sense of the Parable. All their Violences and Barbaritys must be so many reputed Acts of Piety, and of filial Obedience to the Son of God. We are constrain’d then to affirm, that the literal Sense is not only a false Interpretation of Scripture, but an execrable Impiety to boot.<99>
The Fifth Argument against the literal Sense, drawn from the Impossibility of putting it in execution without unavoidable Crimes. That it’s no Excuse to say, Hereticks are punish’d only because they disobey Edicts.
We have by this time partly seen how very odious this pretended Precept of Jesus Christ must needs render his Religion to all the World: I shall now, from what has bin said in the former Chapter, draw a new Argument in the matter before us.
All literal Sense of Scripture including an universal Command, which cannot be practis’d without a Complication of Crimes, must needs be false.
Now the literal Sense of the Words, Compel ’em to come in, is of this kind:
It’s therefore false.
The major Proposition carries its own Evidence; so that ’tis needless insisting on proof. Let’s proceed then to the second Proposition, tho there’s no need of dwelling long upon this, because ’tis partly clear’d already by the several Proofs advanc’d in the former Chapters, and that, properly speaking, it’s only a branch of my general Medium. It won’t trouble me, if I am accus’d of multiplying my Proofs without necessity; I’l rather bear this reproach, than leave several Faces of my general Argument shaded and in-<100>volv’d. ’Twill certainly have the greater force, if every Part is considered separately.
The greatest Patrons of Persecution will own, that the Order of Compelling has not bin committed to the discretion of every private Person: So that shou’d I reproach ’em with the sad Disorders which are apt to spring from their Principle thro popular Tumults, or thro the blind Zeal of a giddy Curate, or Portrieve of a Town, who as often as the maggot bites might raise the Mob upon all the Sectarys within his Jurisdiction; they’l tell me, they have quite a different Notion of the matter: Their Sense of it, they’l say, is, that Jesus Christ directs the Command only to those who have the power of the Sword in every Country, and who are entrusted with the Civil Authority, to whom the Spiritual Guides are to apply themselves, when ’tis expedient, to compel Hereticks. Let’s see then whether with this Limitation, which strikes off the whole Article of popular Fury, and private Violence at once, there still remains not a strange Complication of Crimes in the regular way, according to our Adversarys, of executing this Order of Jesus Christ. I shall even carry my Complaisance for ’em so far, as not to alledg those sanguinary wholesale Executions which History furnishes; but confine my self to that which they reckon the most orderly and most moderate of the kind, to wit, the present Persecution in France.
Good God! What Iniquity, what Crime has bin uncommitted in the course of this regular Persecution? How many Orders of Council, void of all Sincerity and good Faith? How many Decrees of Parliament contrary to the establish’d<101> Rules? How many Subornations of Witnesses? How many vexatious Prosecutions? Nor can it be pretended that these are personal Faults in those who have the Executive part, since they are the natural and unavoidable Consequences of the literal Sense they give to the Parable. In effect, this Sense importing, as they pretend, a general Right of Compelling, it’s left to the Discretion and Zeal of the Prince in each Country, to make choice of that method of Compulsion which to him seems properest. The method they begun with in France, was by Proceedings against the Ministers and Temples, and by Civil Actions against private Partys. Here’s a Choice founded upon the words of Jesus Christ: it follows then, that the ways devis’d for compelling under this Head, are Dependances on the first Choice; and if these be so far necessary, that without ’em there cou’d be no Compulsion, it’s plain they are the natural and regular Consequences of the Command of Jesus Christ, and not any personal Obliquity in him who executes the Command. For it’s plain, this Method had bin too gentle and unoperative, were the Rules of Equity and upright Dealing observ’d in the Courts of Law. And yet a compulsive Virtue in it being absolutely necessary to answer the Intention of the Command, ’twas consequently necessary to mingle all the Arts of Fraud and Collusion, that the temporal damage done the Protestants by the Wager of Law might constrain ’em to turn Catholicks.
Now what a train of Crimes besides hangs after this method, which we suppose chosen in execution of the Command of God? For can<102> any one doubt but this must raise a thousand Passions in the Souls of those who suffer, and in the Souls of those who are the Authors of their Sufferings? Must not this exasperate the Spirits of both sides, kindle a deadly Hatred to one another, force ’em to traduce and slander each other, and become mutually wickeder and worse Christians than they were before? Supposing Popery the true Religion, must not these Proceedings tempt the Hereticks, who suffer, to blaspheme it in their Heart, to detest it, and thereby bring ’em under a proximate Occasion of sinning and stiffning in their Heresy? Wou’d People but think a little of this, I persuade my self they’d agree that nothing tends more to the banishing from the Hearts of Men that Gospel-Peace of Heart, that Calm of the human Passions which is the surest Foundation of a Spirit of Piety, and the proper Soil of all Christian Vertues.
Yet this is nothing in comparison of that Deluge of Iniquity which in the issue overspread the Kingdom, when they proceeded to force the Protestants, by the quartering of Soldiers, to renounce their Religion. For on the one hand, what Insolences, what Outrages did not these Soldiers commit; and on the other, how much Hypocrisy, how much Profaneness were the Protestants guilty of who sign’d? What Intemperance, what Rapines, what Blasphemys did these Soldiers stick at; what Injurys and Crueltys to their Neighbor? Must we place the Disorders committed by ’em to the account of the Persecution or no? I wou’d fain know how a Confessor behaves himself, when a Dragoon confesses he has buffeted his Hugonot Landlord. If the Father<103> looks not on this as a Sin, he falls into the Absurdity I have spoke to sufficiently already, to wit, That an Action, which might be a Crime in any other case, ceases to be so, when committed against one of a false Religion, with a design of bringing him over to the true: An Absurdity, which opens a door to the fearfullest State ’tis possible to imagine. If the Confessor accounts it a Sin, as in reason he ought, it follows, that the late Persecution has necessarily and unavoidably oblig’d the Soldiers to commit an infinite number of Sins; since it was absolutely necessary to distress their Landlords either in Body or Goods, else there had bin no Constraint, nor had the Command of the Son of God bin obey’d. Whether the Dragoon confess the Injury he did his Neighbor or no, it’s all one; his Action is equally opposite to another Gospel-Command, of not doing wrong to our Neighbor.
The Question may possibly be here ask’d, Whether a Dragoon, in executing the Orders of his Prince, may not innocently drub his Landlord; as he might innocently have hang’d him, if duly appointed to be the Executioner? To this I answer, (1.) Be that how it will, still the Insolences of these Soldiers are Sins in him who authorizes ’em; so that the number of Crimes is still the same. In the second place, there’s as much certainty as we can have of any human thing, that all the Abuses and ill Treatment committed to the discretion of these Soldiers will become Sins in them, because they’l undoubtedly execute their Orders with pleasure, and even exceed ’em. A Hangman who executes a Criminal innocently, when he only acts in obedience to the<104> Sentence of Justice, sins manifestly against Charity and against his Duty towards his Neighbor, if he takes pleasure in performing his Office, if he be glad of the occasion, and studies how to aggravate the Sufferings of a dying Man: Accordingly, it is not to be doubted, but the Dragoon becomes exceeding criminal, by executing his Orders with joy, and with a thousand base inhuman Passions; whence it follows that all their Disorders are Sins not only in him who commands or permits ’em, but in themselves also. And yet these Disorders being necessary for compelling Hereticks to come in, it must likewise follow, according to our Doctors, that Jesus Christ has commanded a method of Constraint, which is necessarily attended with a Complication of infinite Sins. What flesh alive can forbear shivering, to hear such Doctrine?
But how much worse will it sound, if to the Villanys of the Soldiers we add in all the intermingled Frauds, both on the part of the Priests, and on that of the Persecuted? The Churchmen came and pretended they’d be satisfy’d with general Professions of Faith, and in reality admitted a great many to Abjuration upon these terms. Then they told a thousand lyes to those who stood it out either in Prison, or in the Cloisters, that such and such had actually sign’d; and shook the Constancy of several by these Wiles, who they found were to be influenc’d by the Examples of others. This was the common and general Cheat, together with that of promising Pensions, Grants, and Employments; which yet they never intended to perform, at least not to that value, or for so long a time as they made believe. But the poor<105> Persecuted were drawn into still a wickeder piece of Imposture, by outwardly renouncing a Religion, which in their Souls they were more firmly persuaded of than ever. What Groanings of Conscience succeeded hereupon? What Remorses, what Imbitterment of Life, what Distraction of Mind! sometimes how to save themselves by flying into foreign Countrys, at the hazard of begging their bread; then thinking, shou’d they escape themselves, they must leave their Children in the pit of Destruction! But with regard to the Church of Rome, what Profanations of its most august Sacraments has it bin guilty of? How edifying, where a Person refus’d to communicate in the Article of Death, to see ’em abuse his dead Body, for an Example to others? Isn’t it a pretty thing, to see the Body of the Son of God cram’d down Peoples throats who are unwilling to receive it; and that which is the Death of the Soul to him who is not duly prepar’d by Faith and Affections, serv’d upon those who they know have no Faith for it, and who they know are under an invincible inward Prepossession for what they reproach as Heresy? It’s plain it can’t be Zeal which prompts ’em to Actions of this nature, but pure Vanity, on finding themselves impos’d on, and after all their pains for the Triumphs of Popery, bubbled by sham Renunciations.
I can’t conceive how some Persons of good Understandings, who were his most Christian Majesty’s Accomplices in the design of letting loose his Dragoons to make the Hugonots abjure, have bin able to support the thought of that frightful Complication of Crimes, which must<106> necessarily arise in the execution. They are too clear-sighted not to have foreseen ’em; How then cou’d they take on themselves all the brutal Insolences of the Dragoons, all the Falshoods and Frauds the Missionarys must practise, all the Hypocrisys of those who might sink under the Temptation; the sacrilegious Communions, and Profanations of Sacraments which they must get over, all the Sighs and Groanings of tender Consciences, all the Yearnings of Bowels in those sequester’d from their Children and Habitations; in a word, all the Passions of Hatred, Resentment, Vanity, and Insult, respectively operating in the Persecutors and the Persecuted? To say, after all this, that Jesus Christ is the Author of a Design of this nature, and of a Compulsion tack’d to such a train of the blackest and foulest Crimes, is Blasphemy in the highest degree.
But here it will be proper to prevent Objections. 1. They’l tell me, they had not the Gift of foreseeing all these Consequences; and that Jesus Christ, who foresaw all the Mischiefs his Gospel has occasion’d, did nevertheless command his Apostles to preach it to all Nations. 2. That the great Benefits redounding to the true Church compensate for all these Disorders. 3. That Kings being supreme in their own Dominions, and having the executive Power in their own hands, may punish, as they see fit, all who slight or disobey their Injunctions; let the People beware then, and conform to their King’s Religion.
To the first Difficulty I answer, That tho Men indeed have no certain knowledg of the Future, yet the Conjectures they are able to make upon<107> some Cases, are attended with a moral Certainty sufficient to regulate their Designs and Actions; so that when Conjectures highly probable, and manifestly convincing, tell ’em they shall be the occasion of a great many Crimes, if they give such and such Orders, they are inexcusably guilty if they issue ’em. Now I maintain, that the Persecutors of France are in the present case: One must be downright stupid and ignorant of the most obvious matters, not to know that Soldiers quarter’d on the Hereticks, with Orders to teaze, and even ruin ’em, unless they renounc’d their Religion, must commit infinite Disorders and Violences, and force a world of poor People to yield; that is, to turn Hypocrites, and Profaners of the Mysterys. The Consequence being thus most apparent and morally unavoidable, they cou’d not act as they did, without partaking in the Iniquity: and had Jesus Christ commanded ’em to act so, he had oblig’d ’em to the Commission of it. It’s manifest then, they are in a most damnable Error, by believing he has commanded ’em to compel Hereticks to the Catholick Religion. No one will deny, that one of the Qualitys which renders the Devil so very odious in the sight of God, is that of a Tempter: he must therefore sin in a grievous manner, when he leads us into Temptation, tho he knows the Success of his Temptation no otherwise than by Conjecture. Accordingly he who from a bare Conjecture only knows he shall extort a great many false Abjurations thro a dread of Misery and an insolent Soldiery, is fairly in for the Character of a Tempter. The Mission of the Apostles to preach the Gospel, had nothing in’t of this<108> nature; they were only to teach, to instruct, and to persuade: and nothing’s more innocent than this. If their Preaching happen’d to set the World in flames, and occasion’d a thousand Disorders, ’twas intirely the World’s fault, the Gospel was only the accidental Cause. —It left all who wou’d not embrace it in the quiet Enjoyment of their Goods, Honors, Houses, Wives, and Children; and consequently never tempted ’em to Acts of Hypocrisy: It ne’er enjoin’d its Followers to tell a lye, to baptize the Obstinate; it only desir’d they wou’d instruct. It can’t therefore be justly charg’d with the Misdemeanors of Convertists, nor the Rage of the opposing Heathens. But ’tis quite otherwise in the case before us; the Convertists have had Orders to abuse Men, to spoil their Goods, tear away their Children, and thrust themselves into Prison, &c. Thus the Violences of Convertists are directly enjoin’d, and the Temptation of signing hypocritically put directly in their Way.
The second Difficulty scarce needs an Answer, after what has bin already said: For who sees not, if we once judg of the nature of an Action by the benefit which accrues to the Church, that we have no Boundarys left to separate Vertue and Vice; that Calumny, Murder, Adultery, and in general whatever can be conceiv’d most horrible, become pious Deeds when practis’d against Hereticks? In good truth, we have to deal with Men who have a clever knack this way; they have made all the Hereticks of France disappear in the turning of a hand. All the Crimes then of our Dragoons, all the Profanations of Sacraments, are finely juggled into good Works.<109> Scelera ipsa nefasque hac Mercede placent,48 was the saying of old to flatter Nero. How many French Men say the same in our days: Since all this long train of Crimes has purchas’d our invincible Monarch the Glory and Satisfaction of seeing only one Religion in his Dominions, ’tis all right, ’tis all just, and infinitely fit they shou’d have been committed; Scelera ipsa nefasque hac Mercede placent. It’s a Maxim of some standing in the Church of Rome, that by compelling the Fathers to turn Hypocrites, they make sure of their Children at least. Cursed, detestable Thought! and if this be right, pray why don’t they send their Corsairs in full Peace, to cruise for Children on the Coasts of England, Turkey, Greece, Holland, and Sweden? Why will they condemn those who compel’d the Jews to baptize their Children? Why not assassinate those Ministers, who by their Sermons obstruct the Church’s bringing in all the ignorant Peasantry? Oh, say they, this is not our way; we don’t intend to dye our hands in Blood; Prisons and Fines are the farthest we can go, we detest your Persecutors by Wheel and Gibbet. Good Creatures! and yet you are under a mighty Illusion; and I shall shew you in due time, that Compulsion of any kind once authoriz’d, there’s no fix’d point to stop at, no Center of rest, because the same Reasons which prove it lawful to imprison for matter of Heresy, prove much stronger, that a Man may be hang’d and drawn for it.
There remains a third Objection, the Common-place, and old beaten Argument of French Flatterers; a Set of Men, of whom we may say, without an overflowing of Gall, that a Spirit of servile<110> Flattery, unworthy a Christian, unworthy the vilest Eves-dropper under the ten or twelve first Roman Emperors, has infatuated to such a degree, that they are not in the least sensible of their giving all Europe new and daily occasions of turning ’em into ridicule. They fondle their Prince day and night with such Elogys as these; That he converts his Subjects by Methods of Love, and by the most manifest Justice of his Edicts. Wou’d you know the meaning of this? It is, that if any Rigor has bin exercis’d, ’twas only on those who had disobey’d his Majesty’s Edicts, particularly the Declaration made by the common Cryer, in every Town and Village, before Billets were distributed to the Dragoons, That the King for the future wou’d have but one Religion in his Kingdom, and wou’d let those, who comply’d not with his Intentions, feel the Effects of his Power. He had a right to punish ’em, say they, by Banishment, by Confiscation of Goods, by Loss of Liberty, by denying ’em the Exercise of any Trade or Calling, in case they persisted in their Heresy. They have persisted; Is it not very just then, that the Soldiers shou’d make ’em suffer the Penaltys incur’d by their Disobedience? This Objection deserves to be confuted, the rather, because many well-meaning People, Enemys to Persecution, as they suppose, and great Assertors of the Rights of Conscience, imagine, that tho Sovereigns can’t indeed punish those of their Subjects who are under the Power of a certain Belief, yet they may forbid ’em the publick Profession and Exercise of it under certain Penaltys; and if they still persist, punish ’em, not as tinctur’d with such or such Opinions, but as Infringers of the Laws. But<111> this is coming pitifully about by a long and vain Circuit, to strike against the same Rock which others steer directly upon. For,
If nothing cou’d denominate a Man a Persecutor, but his punishing Sectarys before a Law were enacted against ’em, the Sovereign might easily commit the cruellest Violences without coming in the least under the Notion of a Persecutor: The whole Mystery wou’d lie in forbearing a while, till an Edict were thunder’d out, enjoining ’em to assist, for example, at divine Service in such a certain Church, upon pain of the Gallows; and after a short Ceremony of this kind, then find out all those who had not assisted, and hang ’em for a parcel of Rebels. Now as ’twere mocking the World to pretend, this was not a Persecution strictly speaking; so it’s plain, that Edicts previously publish’d and promulgated, alter not the Case, nor hinder, but the Conscience is violated, and the Punishment inflicted unjust.
I cou’d wish these fulsom Scriblers wou’d read their own St. Thomas a little, or the Treatise of Human Faith, publish’d by the Jansenists.49 There they might find, in the 8th Ch. of the 1st Part, That a Law unjust in it self, is ipso facto null; nor partakes of the force of a Law, any farther than it’s agreeable to Justice ——— That it ought to be possible in the Nature of things, necessary, useful, regarding the Publick Good, and not any private Interest.50 For, as the same Authors tell us a little lower, Ecclesiastical Laws ought to respect the particular Welfare of those on whom they are impos’d; it not being allowable in the Church, to do private Persons any wrong, under a pretence of promoting the Good of the Publick. Whether all these Conditions<112> be requisite or no, and for my part I don’t think they always are, in order to a private Person’s submitting (for when the Question is concerning a temporal Interest only, a Man may act wisely in submitting to an unjust Law) I insist, according to the Remark already laid down, in Chap. IV,51 that to prove a Prince punishes his Subjects justly, ’tis not sufficient to alledg in general, they have disobey’d his Injunctions; but it must likewise appear, they might in Honor and Conscience comply. For shou’d a Prince, who was but a vile Poet, have a humor of enjoining all his Subjects by an Edict, to give under their hands, that they were verily persuaded, his Verses were incomparably fine, and this on pain of being condemn’d to Banishment; and shou’d several of his Subjects happen to be of such a stubborn Mold as Philoxenus, who cou’d ne’er be brought to praise Dionysius the Tyrant’s Poetry; wou’d any one think their Banishment just? Nevertheless, it’s founded on their disobeying an Edict. Wou’d any one think it reasonable to fine Folks for not believing, that the Earth turns round, that Colors don’t subsist in the Objects, that Beasts are mere Machines; supposing a previous Law, that all who believ’d not these three Articles, shou’d be fin’d in such a Sum? Or rather, wou’d any one think it just, that a King shou’d enjoin all his Subjects, under certain Penaltys, to love Books, Perfumes, Fish, certain Sauces, have blue Eyes, a brushy Beard, &c? Wou’d it not be down-right study’d Tyranny, to send Dragoons to live at discretion upon those who comply’d not with Edicts of this kind? It’s the grossest Stupidity then, or rather the most ridiculous Flattery, to<113> pretend, the Treatment the Reform’d met with was just, because they obey’d not a verbal Order, enjoining ’em, a little before the Billets were given out, to conform to the King’s Religion. For as to an Edict issu’d to this purpose, and authentickly notify’d, for my part, I know of none before the Dragoons were let loose upon one quarter of the Kingdom: and I have already observ’d, that the Edict of Revocation allow’d ’em a certain limited time to consider what to do; tho I know at the same time, ’twas one of the most grosly perfidious Cheats that e’er was put upon a People.
Since therefore, from the Subjects not conforming to the Sovereign’s Will, we are not universally to infer, that they justly suffer the Punishments with which he threaten’d the Delinquents; we ought to examine into the special Nature of the Laws disobey’d, when we wou’d discover, whether the Partys were justly expos’d to the Pillage and Discretion of the Soldiery. Now this Inquiry, if made, wou’d satisfy us, that the Laws, for the Non-observance of which it’s pretended, the French Protestants merited dragooning, are intrinsecally evil and unequitable; consequently the Punishments annex’d to ’em, and inflicted on those who obey’d ’em not, ipso facto and by their Nature unjust. This shift therefore will not serve to elude the force of my Argument, whereby I prove, that Jesus Christ cou’d not have enjoin’d Constraint; since this, as appears from the late Persecution in France, was impracticable without a Complication of Iniquity.
To shew in a few Words the Injustice of the verbal Declaration made the Protestants, that the King for the<114> future wou’d have but one Religion in his Kingdom, and that all who wou’d not conform to this his Pleasure, shou’d feel the Rigors of his Justice; to shew, I say, the Injustice of this Declaration, I might cite the Edict of Nants, and the many other solemn Promises to the same effect; but that these are only trifles in the Account of Kings: Solemn Assurances, Oaths, Edicts, are Makeshifts they must make use of on occasion, but brush thro ’em like so many Cobwebs, when once they have gain’d their point. I return to my primary and essential head of Argument.
All Law, enacted by a Person who has no right to enact it, and which exceeds his Power, is unjust; for, as Thomas Aquinas has it, To the end a Law be just, it’s requisite among other Conditions, That he who makes it have Authority so to do, and exceed not this Authority.52
Now so it is, that all Laws obliging to act against Conscience, are made by a Person, having no Authority to enact it, and who manifestly exceeds his Power.
Therefore every such Law is unjust.
To shew the truth of my second Proposition, I am only to say, that all the Power of Princes is deriv’d, either immediately from God, or else from Men, who enter into Society on certain Conditions.
If it be deriv’d from God, it’s plain, it can’t extend to the making Laws, which oblige the Subject to act against Conscience: for if so, it wou’d follow, that God cou’d confer a Power upon Man, of commanding to hate God; which is absurd, and necessarily impossible; the hatred<115> of God being an Act essentially wicked. If we examine this Matter ever so little, we shall find, that Conscience, with regard to each particular Man, is the Voice and Law of God in him, known and acknowledg’d as such by him, who carrys this Conscience about him: So that to violate this Conscience is essentially believing, that he violates the Law of God. Now to do any thing we esteem an Act of Disobedience to the Law of God, is essentially, either an Act of Hatred, or an Act of Contempt against God; and such an Act is essentially wicked, as all Mankind acknowledg. Commanding therefore to act against Conscience, and commanding to hate or contemn God, is one and the same thing; and consequently, God being uncapable of conferring a Power which shou’d enjoin the Hatred or Contempt of himself, it’s evident he cou’d not have confer’d a Power of commanding to act against Conscience.
For the same Reason it’s evident, that no Body of Men, who enter into Society, and deposite their Libertys in the hands of a Sovereign, ever meant to give him a Power over their Consciences; this were a Contradiction in terms: for unless we suppose the Partys to the original Contract errand Ideots or mad Men, we can’t think they shou’d ever entrust the Sovereign with a Power of enjoining ’em to hate God, or despise Laws, clearly and distinctly dictated to their Consciences, and engraven on the Tables of their Heart. And certain it is, that when any Body of Men engage for them and their Posterity to adhere to any particular Religion, they do this on a Supposition somewhat too lightly entertain’d, that they and their Posterity shall for ever<116> be under the Power of the same Conscience as guides ’em at present. For did they but reflect on the Changes which happen in the World, and on the different Sentiments which succeed one another in the human Mind, they ne’er wou’d engage farther than for Conscience in general, that is, promise for them and their Posterity, never to depart from that Religion they will deem best; but by no means confine their Covenant to this or that Article of Faith. For how are they sure, that what appears true to ’em to day, will appear so to themselves thirty Years hence, and much more to People of another Age? Such Engagements therefore are null and void in themselves, and exceed the Power of those who make ’em; no Man being able to engage himself for the future, much less others to believe what may not appear to ’em true. Princes therefore deriving no Power, either from God or Man, of enjoining their Subjects to act against Conscience; it’s plain, all Edicts publish’d by ’em to this effect, are null in themselves, a mere Abuse and Usurpation: and consequently, all Punishments appointed by virtue of ’em for Non-conformity, are unjust.
From hence I draw a new and demonstrative Argument against the literal Sense of the Parable; because, were this the genuin Sense, ’twou’d confer a Right upon Princes, of enacting Laws obliging their Subjects to the Profession of a Religion repugnant to the Lights of their Consciences; which were the same as giving Kings a Right of enacting Laws, enjoining the Hatred and Contempt of God. But as this were the most extravagant Impiety, it follows, that the words, Com-<117>pel ’em to come in, do not mean what is claim’d; because if they did, it wou’d above all be to Princes that they were address’d, to the end that they might first ordain severe Laws against all Differences in Religion, and afterwards inflict the Punishments appointed by these Laws.
I shall take another Opportunity to examine the Illusion they are under, who say, that Princes pretend not to enact Laws for making Men act against Conscience, but for recovering ’em from an erroneous Conscience by Threats and temporal Inflictions. But here I’l venture to affirm, that if they may justly do this, ’tis not by virtue of the Command in the Parable, but from Reasons of State, when it happens that any Sect is justly obnoxious, with regard to the publick Good: and in this case, if they believe their Disaffection proceeds from the Principles of their Religion, and find, that the proper and natural Methods of converting by friendly Conferences, by Books, and familiar Instructions, have no effect; they may very justly, if they conceive it expedient for the Peace of the State, oblige ’em to seek for Settlements elsewhere, and take their Goods and Familys fairly away with ’em. But to proceed as they did in France, where they wou’d neither suffer ’em to go out of the Kingdom, with or without their Substance, nor stay without the publick Exercise of their Religion, worshipping God after their own way in Chambers or Closets only; but reduce ’em to this Alternative, either of going openly to Mass, or being devour’d by Dragoons, and teaz’d to death by a thousand vexatious Devices: This, I say, is what can never be<118> justify’d, and what refines upon all the most extreme Violences we have any Accounts of.
I ask these Gentlemen, who tell us, that since the King of France only inflicts the Punishments he had fairly threatned on the Infringers of his Edicts, they ought not to tax him with Injustice, but own themselves guilty of Obstinacy and Disobedience to their lawful Prince; I ask ’em, I say, whether this ben’t maintaining, that Punishments are always justly inflicted, where the Party has disobey’d the Prince’s Injunctions. For if these Punishments were just in certain limited Cases only, their Answer wou’d be illusive, and bring us under the Perplexity of discussing whether the Punishments of the Hugonots in particular, be in the number of just Punishments; which wou’d only bring about the Dispute upon the main Question between us. If therefore they wou’d answer pertinently, they must lay it down as a general Position; and in this case, what will become of the Punishment of the Jewish Children, who were cast into the fiery Furnace? Must not we say, ’twas just? Were not they fairly warn’d and threaten’d by a Law, unless they kneel’d before the King’s Image? I ask these Gentlemen once more, what they wou’d think on’t, shou’d Lewis the Great make a Law for all his Subjects to kneel before the Statue, which the Duke de la Feuillade has lately erected him. I don’t here enter into the Conjectures of idle People, who talk, that if Affairs go on as they have done for fifteen or twenty years past, one of these three things must necessarily happen; either the Court of France will enjoin publick Worship to be paid this Statue; or shou’d the Court be coy, the People<119> will fall down before it of their own accord; or if these too shou’d be backward, the Clergy will lead the Dance by their Processions and Apostrophes from the Pulpit. What God pleases; for my part I’m too much employ’d at present to examine these airy Speculations on Futurity.
But shou’d this really happen, I mean; shou’d the King enjoin his Subjects to invoke this Statue, burn Incense, fall prostrate before it, on pain of a Fine at discretion, or corporal Punishment; I desire to know whether fining the Catholicks, who refus’d to comply (some I don’t doubt wou’d, especially of the Laity) were not very unjust, and the punishing ’em very criminal? Neither Maimbourg, nor Varillas, nor Ferrand, dare even at this day affirm the contrary.
We read of Basilides, Great Duke of Muscovy, that he enacted very hard Laws, and enforc’d ’em with capital Punishments: he commanded one of his Subjects to cross a River half frozen over; another to bury himself stark naked in the Snow; another to leap into a Fire of live Coals; a fourth to bring him a Glass of his Sweat in a cold frosty Morning, a thousand Fleas fairly counted, as many Frogs, and as many Nightingals. He was the wildest Tyrant upon Earth; yet if you consider it rightly, he did not enjoin things more<120> impossible than the believing this or that in matters of Religion, according as some Mens Minds are made. There are those who shou’d run you down with Sweat in a Bed of Snow, extract Wine and Oyl from their Skin and Bones, sooner than such or such an Affirmation from their Soul. I own the difficulty is not near so great as to the Hand and Mouth; for a Man may easily say with his Tongue, and sign with his Hand, that he believes so and so, and put his Body into all the Postures that the Convertist demands: But this is not what a King, who wou’d preserve any thing of the Substance of Religion, ought to demand. He shou’d not require ’em to say, or to sign any thing till the Soul were inwardly chang’d; this inward Change, these Affirmations and Negations of the Soul, are what a King, who enacts Laws for the Conversion of his Subjects, ought in the first place to enjoin. Now this, I say, is altogether as impossible, and even more so than the Sweat which the Great Duke of Muscovy demanded. For if we consider, that no one believes things but when they appear to him true, and that their appearing true depends not on the human Mind, any more than their appearing black or white depends on it; we must allow, that it’s easier to find Fleas and Sweat in Winter, than mentally to affirm this or that, when we have bin train’d up to see the Reasons which produce a Dissent, when we are accustom’d to hold the Negative from a Duty to God, and our Minds prepossest with a religious Shiness for all the Reasons which incline to the Affirmative. I’m not insensible, that the Mind suffers it self to be sometimes corrupted by the Heart; and that in things<121> of a dubious nature, the Passions and Affections win the Soul’s Assent, where perhaps she has but a confus’d View. Yet even thus it were a horrible Wickedness to desire, that a Man shou’d determine his Choice of a Religion by a cheat upon his own Understanding; which besides is scarce possible with regard to some particular Doctrines, which People are accustom’d to look upon as absurd and contradictory: for example, that a Man shou’d eat his God; that Rats and Mice shou’d sometimes eat him; that a human Body is in a thousand places at one and the same time, without occupying any space. In a word, as it depends not on our Passions to make Snow appear black; but it’s necessary to this end, either that it be tinctur’d black, or that we be plac’d in a certain Situation, and with a certain kind of Eyes, which might cause such Modifications in the Brain as black Objects usually do: so it’s necessary, in order to make us affirm what we formerly deny’d, that the Matter be render’d true with regard to us, which depends on a certain Proportion between the Objects and our Facultys, and is a Circumstance not always in our own power.
But now for a few Comparisons less invidious than those of Nebuchadnezzar and Basilides. What wou’d the World have said of Alphonso King of Castile, had he sent his Soldiers about thro all the Towns, and Boroughs, and Villages of his Kingdom, to declare ’twas his Royal Will and Pleasure, that all his People shou’d be of his Opinion as to the Number of the Heavens, the Epicycles, Cristalins, &c. and that whoever refus’d to subscribe his Belief of these things, shou’d<122> be ruin’d by the quartering of Soldiers? What wou’d the World have said, if Pope Adrian VI who lov’d Gudgeon,54 and whose Example had so vitiated the Tast of his Court, that this which was look’d on as a very ordinary Fish before, bore a topping price under his Pontificate, to the great laughter of the poor Fishermen; had bethought him of enjoining, not as he was Pope, but as Prince of the Ecclesiastical State, that every one for the future shou’d comply with his Tast, upon pain of Imprisonment, or Fine, or quartering of Soldiers? There’s no reasonable Man but must condemn this Conduct as ridiculous and tyrannical. Yet take it all together, and ’twou’d not be near so ridiculous as saying, in a Country of different Religions, We will and ordain, that every one declare he is from henceforward of the Court-Opinion in all matters of Religion, upon pain of Imprisonment or Confiscation of Goods: I say, this Order wou’d be more unreasonable than either of the former, because it is harder for a Protestant to believe that Jesus Christ is present in his human Nature on all the Altars of the Catholicks, than to believe Alphonso’s System; and easier to reconcile one’s Palat to certain Dishes, than the Understanding to certain Opinions, especially where there’s a Persuasion that these Opinions hazard a Man’s eternal Salvation.
Every honest Roman Catholick will own, if he reflect a little, that he cou’d much easier bring himself to relish the vilest Ragoos in Tartary, and believe all the Visions of Aristotle or Descartes, than believe it’s an Impiety to invoke the Saints; which yet he must be oblig’d to sub-<123>scribe here, if the Papists were treated among us as the Protestants are in France. Away then, away all ye wicked or sensless Divines, who pretend that Kings may command their Subjects to be of such or such a Religion. The most they can do, is commanding ’em to examine or inform themselves of a Religion; but ’twere as absurd commanding, that what appears true to them shou’d appear so to their Subjects, as commanding that their Features and Constitution shou’d be exactly alike. Grotius* cites two fine Passages from Origen and St. Chrysostom, shewing, that of all our Customs, there is not any so hard to be chang’d as those in favor of Religious Tenets. He likewise cites Galen in the same place, saying, No Itch so hard to be cur’d, as the Prejudice for a Sect.
The Sixth Argument against the literal Sense, drawn from its depriving the Christian Religion of a main Objection against the Truth of Mahometism.
This Chapter shall be much shorter than the foregoing, because a certain Doctor of the Sorbon, call’d Mr. Dirois, has lately wrote a Treatise intitled, Proofs and Prejudices in favor of the Christian Religion:55 wherein he fully shews the Falsity of all idolatrous Religions, and of the<124> Mahometan in particular, from their extorting Professions by main force, and from their being built upon persecuting Principles: to which he opposes the Manner in which Christianity was establish’d: gentle, peacable, bloodi’d by Persecution suffer’d, not inflict’d. ’Tis by this Topick we baffle all the Cavils of Libertines, when we urge the mighty Progress of the Christian Religion, and its spreading far and wide in so short a time, as a Proof of its Divinity. They answer, That this, if a good Argument in any Case, will be as strong on the side of the Mahometan, as the Christian Religion: since it’s well known that Mahometism over-spread numberless Countrys in a small space of time. But this, we reply, is not so strange, because Mahomet and his Followers employ’d Constraint; whereas Christianity prevail’d and triumph’d by Sufferings, in spite of Violence and Artifice, and all Endeavors to extinguish it. There’s nothing in all this Dispute that is not very reasonable and convincing on the side of Christians: but if once it be prov’d that Jesus Christ has injoin’d Constraint, nothing will be weaker than our making it an Objection against Mahometism. Whence I argue thus:
That literal Sense which deprives the Christian Religion of one of its strongest Arguments against false Religions, is false.
The literal Sense of these words, Compel ’em to come in, does this.
Therefore it’s false.
What have you to say against the Violences of Pagans and Saracens? Dare you reproach ’em, as Mr. Dirois does, That a forc’d Adoration, an<125> evident Hypocrisy, a Worship notoriously against Conscience, and purely to please Men, were the Characters of Piety and Religion among them? Will you tell ’em, That their Gods, and their Worshippers demanded no more Religion than just what might serve to destroy the true, since they were as well satisfy’d with a forc’d as with a sincere Adoration? But can’t you see they’l laugh at you, and send you home to France for an Answer to your Charge? Don’t you see they’l reply upon you, that they do no more than Jesus Christ himself has expresly commanded; and instead of allowing that his first Disciples are more to be admir’d than those of Mahomet, tell you quite contrary, that these discharg’d their Duty much more faithfully, having trifled away none of their time, but immediately fallen to the short and effectual way appointed by God? They’l tell you, the Christians of the three first Centurys were either Contemners of the Orders of Jesus Christ, or a pack of Poltrons, who had not a Spirit to execute his Commands; or Simpletons, who knew not the hundredth part of their own Power: Whereas the Mahometans took their Orders right from the first hint, and executed ’em gallantly; very zealous in the Execution of a Law, which can’t but be very just, since we are oblig’d to own ’twas deliver’d by Jesus Christ. And as to the swift Progress of their Religion; if on one hand we diminish the Merit of it on account of their great earthly Power, they’l enhance it on the other, by saying, that God gave a visible Blessing to that Zeal and Courage which they manifested, without loss of time, in propagating the Divine Religion of his Prophet, by<126> methods which we our selves revere as holy, and expresly enjoin’d by God.
The seventh Argument against the literal Sense, drawn from its being unknown to the Fathers of the three first Centurys.
This Argument might be binding upon those of the Church of Rome, were they Men of fixt Principles: But alas, they are not, they are Proteus’s, who get loose by a thousand slippery tricks, and under all kind of Forms, when one thinks he has ’em fastest. They’l teach us in all other Instances, that where a Dispute arises concerning the Sense of any Scripture-Passage, we must consult Tradition, and hold by the Sense of the Fathers: So that let any Exposition of Scripture be ever so reasonable, yet if it be new, they’l tell us it’s not worth a straw, it comes too late, and there’s Prescription against it. To reason upon this Principle, all Arguments for Persecution drawn from the Gospel, in the days of Theodosius and St. Augustin, ought to be rejected; because ’twas giving the Gospel a Sense intirely new, which came too late, and which there was Prescription against. But our Adversarys are not to be stun’d with such Trifles; they’l say, the Authority of the Fathers is valid, not where themselves happen to differ about any point of Doctrine, but where they unanimously agree: And for this Reason, the great<127> Lights of the fourth Century not falling in with some former Opinions concerning Persecution, the more antient Fathers are not a sufficient Authority for the Doctrine I maintain. When we press ’em by saying, that all the Fathers are not agreed in any one point, they wriggle themselves out by some other Loop-hole, and are not asham’d to maintain the literal Sense; tho by their own Confession, the unanimous Consent of the Fathers, that indispensable mark of Truth, be wanting. However, this shall not hinder my going on with my Argument in the following manner.
It is not probable, had Jesus Christ ordain’d the making Christians by force, that the Fathers of the three first Centurys had constantly reason’d, as Men verily persuaded, that all Constraint is inconsistent with the Nature of Religion: for with regard to all points of Gospel-Morality, or as to any Precept, or Counsel (call it so) of Jesus Christ, none were fitter to know the Sense of the Scriptures than they; and shou’d God have conceal’d from ’em the meaning of a Precept of this importance, so far as to let ’em run on in false Reasonings, and in a Supposition of its being impious, there’s no Christian but might justly be shock’d and scandaliz’d at their Ignorance. Once more then, I say, it’s manifestly against Reason, against all the Appearances of Truth, that Jesus Christ shou’d enjoin compelling the Jews and the Gentiles to Baptism; and yet the Apostles either not comprehend him, or if they did, not caution their chief Disciples to be reserv’d in condemning Violences, lest by condemning ’em in general, they shou’d advance<128> an Heterodoxy, and directly contradict Jesus Christ, at least put Arms into the hands of those whom the Christians might one day use violence to, and give ’em a handle for crying out upon the shameful difference between the Christianity of the first, and that of the latter days. This was the least cou’d be expected from the Apostles and their first Disciples, the trustiest Depositarys of Tradition: If it was not seasonable or prudent to execute the Order of Jesus Christ in those earlier days, by compelling to come in; at least they shou’d have hinted, that a Day wou’d come, when this might be very piously practis’d, and in the mean time beware branding this Doctrine with the Character of Falshood. Yet this the Fathers have done in the strongest terms, and even in the fourth Century, when the Arians first began to persecute. This alone, says St. Athanasius, is a plain Argument, that they have neither Piety nor the Fear of God before their Eyes. ’Tis the Nature of Piety not to constrain, but to persuade; after the Example ofJ. Christ,who constraining none,left it to every one’s Discretion, whether they wou’d follow him or no. For the Devil’s part, as he has not the force of Truth on his side, he comes about with Sledges and Iron Crows to burst open the Doors of those who are to receive him: but so meek is our Lord and Saviour, that tho he teaches in such a Stile as this, If any one will come after me; He that will be my Disciple; yet he compels none; knocking only at the Door, and saying, My Sister, my Spouse, open unto me; and entring when it’s open’d, and departing if they tarry and are unwilling to receive him: for it is not (mark well these words, ye Gentlemen of the Council of Conscience to Lewis XIV most Chris-<129>tian King of France and Navarre) withSwordandSpear,nor withSoldiersand arm’dForce,thatTruthis to be propagated, but byCounseland sweetPersuasion.56 Isn’t this the plainest Proof, that the Apostles knew nothing of this pretended Mystery of Persecution, contain’d in the Parable; and that Jesus Christ intended, not only that it shou’d be unknown to the first Ages of Christianity, but condemn’d also and stigmatiz’d as a cruel and diabolical Impiety? which wou’d look very absurd, if at the same time he had enjoin’d Persecution. For how can we conceive, that he shou’d suffer a Point of Morality of such Consequence to be traduc’d and anathematiz’d by the holiest and purest part of Christianity for some Ages together; and these Anathema’s intended to refute the Enemys of Truth, by showing, that Jesus Christ taught his Disciples to constrain no one? They said so much not only before the Christian Emperors made use of Violence, but for a long time after. Our venerable*Bede speaking of King Ethelred, in whose Reign St. Gregory Pope of Rome mission’d the Monk Augustin, with some others, to convert our Island, mentions expresly, that this King being converted to the Christian Faith, constrain’d none of his Subjects to follow his Example, and only distinguish’d those by his Favors, who<130> became Christians; having learn’d, says he, from his Doctors and Instruments of his Salvation, that the Service ofJesus Christought to be voluntary, and not constrain’d. This Notion, to wit, that Jesus Christ has ordain’d only Instruction, Persuasion, a voluntary Service, and by no means Violence, is so deeply engrav’d in our Minds, that we vend it as indubitable, whenever there is not an actual design of flattering, or not provoking Princes who persecute, or when the justifying Persecutions is not the present Subject of one’s Book. In France there are Treatises daily printed, in which this Notion is plainly exprest, which renders the Popish Writers of that Kingdom extremely ridiculous; because sometimes in the very Books where they say it’s lawful to compel, having in view the Dragoonerys for forcing the Protestants, they drop unawares, that the Gospel is a Law of Meekness and Gentleness, which accepts no Offerings but what are voluntary: the Reason is, that they forget for that moment their principal Theme of palliating and flattering, and so long the Notions of the Heart and Understanding take place. Add to this, that they deny their King has made use of Violence, which is in some measure acknowledging the Falsity of the literal Sense.
I don’t cite those Passages of the Fathers, which condemn in the general all manner of Persecution and Violence on the score of Religion: they are notorious to all the World. Grotius has collected a good many; and even the mercenary French Apologists for Persecution can’t dissemble these Authoritys of the Fathers, as may be seen in a Book written by one Ferrand, a Barister at Law among ’em.<131>
The eighth Argument against the literal Sense, drawn from its rendring the Complaints of the first Christians against their Pagan Persecutors all vain.
The Argument in the foregoing Chapter does not seem to me near so convincing as some of the rest, tho consider’d ad hominem,57 it might well silence those who talk only of Tradition, and the Rule of Prescription. However it has a close Connection with what I’m next to offer, and therefore I shall not be so long upon the principal Matter of this Argument as upon the Accessorys. Here goes then:
That literal Sense which renders the Complaints of the first Christians against their Pagan Persecutors vain, is false.
Now such is the literal Sense of the words, Compel ’em to come in.
It’s therefore false.
The Minor I prove in this manner. I’l suppose the primitive Christians had sent their Deputys to Court to present their Apology, and complain, how they were imprison’d, banish’d, expos’d to wild Beasts, tortur’d. I’ll suppose too, that the literal Sense in question was known to Pagans as well as Christians, both having read this Passage in the Gospel according to St. Luke, which the Pagans might have Copys of if they pleas’d. I’l<132> suppose in the third place, that some great Person, commission’d by the Emperor, had entred into a Conference with these Christian Deputys, and having heard out their Allegations, answer’d ’em, Gentlemen, what do you complain of? You are treated no worse than you wou’d treat us if you were in our place: you ought to approve our Prudence, and complain of the Season only, and not of us. This is our Day, we are the strongest side: common Prudence requires, that we shou’d lay hold of the Opportunity Fortune presents us of extinguishing a Sect, which strikes not only at our Temples and Gods, but at our very Lives and Consciences. Your God has commanded you to compel all that fall in your way to follow him; what then cou’d you do less, if you had the power in your hands, than put all those to death who cou’d not resolve on betraying the Lights of their Conscience to worship your crucify’d God? To this they must answer, if they have the least Sincerity, and be of the Principle which I confute: It’s true, my Lord, if we had the power in our hands, we shou’d not leave a Soul in the World unbaptiz’d; and herein wou’d appear our Charity and great Love towards our Neighbor: we believe all are eternally damn’d who are not of our Religion, ’twere very cruel then in us not to employ some means of Constraint. But still we shou’d not use those Methods which you Pagans make use of towards us; we shou’d only take care, that those, who did not turn, shou’d never carry any Cause in our Courts; we shou’d start strange Cavils upon ’em, hinder their religious Meetings; and if this did not make their Lives uneasy enough, we shou’d send Dragoons to quarter upon ’em, to eat ’em out of House and Home, and drub ’em into the Bargain: We shou’d hinder their flying into foreign Parts;<133> and if we found ’em fleeing, send ’em away to the Gallys: we shou’d put their Wives and Children under Sequestration; in a word, we shou’d leave ’em but this Alternative, either to pass their whole Life in the gloom of a Dungeon, or get themselves baptiz’d. But as to taking away their Lives, God forbid we shou’d be guilty of it: now and then perhaps a Soldier exceeding his Orders, might lay one of ’em on so as he shou’d never recover it; but this wou’d seldom happen, and be seldomer countenanc’d. It’s plain, that instead of poisoning this Answer, I couch it in the mildest and most moderate terms our Adversarys themselves can propose; since I form it upon the Plan of the present Persecution in France, the most regular in their Opinion, and the most Christian Scheme of Evangelick Compulsion, that ever yet was known. I was at liberty to regulate this Answer upon the Inquisition, upon the Crusades of St. Dominick, upon the Butcherys of Queen Mary, upon the Massacres of Cabrieres, of Merindol, and of the Valleys of Piemont; upon the Tortures under Francis I and Henry II and upon the Slaughter of St. Bartholomew: but I soften the matter as much as it will bear. Let’s see now what the Pagan Emperor’s Minister wou’d reply.
Upon my word, Gentlemen (says he without doubt) you are very admirable Folks; you reckon it a mighty piece of Charity, not to dispatch a Man all at once, but keep him in a lingring Torture all his Life, whether he resolve to rot in a Dungeon, or has the weakness to pretend he embraces what his Conscience tells him is a detestable Impiety. Go, go, Gentlemen; beside that this mock Charity wou’d scarce restrain you from the<134> Methods we take, that is, from inventing exquisite Torments when time and place requir’d (for your Master commands you only in general to constrain, and leaves it to your Discretion, to chuse the way; vexatious Prosecutions, and quartering of Soldiers, when you deem these properer than Massacres and the sharpest Deaths; and these again when you judg ’em more expedient than Fines, and Querks of Law, or Insults of the Soldiery) Beside this, I say, you are a parcel of merry Fellows to recommend your selves upon a politick Fetch, in not spilling the Blood of your Subjects, when the only Motive of sparing was, that you might not weaken your temporal Power by the loss of too many Lives; and at the same time boast you had done more without the Wheel or Gibbet, than others had ever done with ’em. Take it by which handle you please; we shan’t be Sots enough, if we have the Power to prevent it, to let you grow to a head, and put you in a condition of doing Mischief; resolve therefore to suffer: The Emperor, my Master, owes this Sacrifice to his own Repose, and to that of his Posterity, to whom you may one day become a Scourge.
The Rules of Probability won’t allow me to make the Deputys speak a word more; for after the Answer I have already made for ’em, there’s no likelihood they shou’d long be allow’d any kind of Liberty: however, that my Reader may the better comprehend what I aim at, I shall suppose a Reply on the Deputys part.
Pray pardon us, my Lord, if we yet presume to inform you, that our holy Doctrine has bin all along misrepresented to you by our Enemys; it’s<135> only by mere chance, and with the greatest regret in the world, that we shou’d proceed to rough Methods. We shou’d first endeavor by our Instructions to convince Men of the Truth; we shou’d employ all the sweetest and most endearing Arts: but if ’twere our misfortune to light upon perverse obstinate Spirits, who stood it out against all the Lights we cou’d furnish their Understandings; then indeed, tho much against the grain, and from a charitable Asperity, we shou’d be oblig’d to make ’em do that by force, which they wou’d not do voluntarily; and even have the Charity not to exact a Confession from ’em, that their signing was a downright force upon ’em. This were a Monument of Shame to themselves, and to their Children, and to us too; we shou’d rather oblige ’em to give under their hands, that ’twas their own voluntary Act and Deed. Besides, my Lord, it does not follow from our having a Right to constrain, that you have the same Right too: We speak in the Cause of Truth, and therefore are allow’d to exercise Violence on Delinquents; but false Religions have no such Privilege, such Methods in them wou’d be downright Barbarian Cruelty; in us it’s all Divine, being the Fruits of a holy Charity.
If I have broke the Rules of Probability, by supposing, that these Deputys wou’d be allow’d to reply, I shou’d do so much more by suggesting a Rejoinder on the High Commissioner’s part, or any other Answer than ordering ’em the Strapado by the hands of the common Beadle; saving notwithstanding, and reserving to the Gibbet or Amphitheatre all its Rights and Privileges, where no doubt they’d be expos’d on the very next occasion.<136> However, let’s suppose him phlegmatick enough not to fly into a Rage at such nonsense; let’s suppose this, I say, the better to lead the Reader to the design’d end. There’s no manner of doubt then but he wou’d tell ’em in this Case:
Good People, your Maxims have only this one Fault, that they are wrongfully apply’d; no Religion but that of my Master’s can talk at this rate, because it’s the only true Religion: I undertake on his part, that none but the obstinate among you shall be ill treated; get your selves instructed, and be converted; you shall find the Effects of his Clemency: otherwise you’l provoke him to your Ruin, and with Justice; whereas, shou’d you exercise any Violence against a Religion establish’d for so many Ages, you must be guilty of a crying Iniquity.
One that were an Enemy to all Persecution, and had any thing of a Talent in reasoning, might add as follows, addressing himself to these Deputys:
After all, what you say seems very odd to me, that your proceeding to Violence shou’d be purely accidental: For since your Master enjoins you to compel People by main Force, your business is, not only to enter those into your Religion whom you have fairly convinc’d, but those likewise who are convinc’d your Religion is false. Now, if your direct end concerns those, it must naturally and directly include all the means which lead to it, to wit, Force and Violence; and consequently, it is not by mere accident that you vex Men but by a necessary and natural Consequence of your Scheme.<137>
Perhaps there’s some room for a Cavil here, tho I’m persuaded the Reason is good at bottom; and from it I draw this new Argument against the literal Sense of the Parable:
If any thing cou’d excuse the Violences imply’d in the Command of making all Men Christians, ’twere saying, they are only accidentally included in it.
Now it’s false that they are included in it only by accident.
Nothing therefore can excuse ’em.
The Major is not evident enough to Understandings, which the Passions, and an unhappy Education in the Principles of a Religion, which properly speaking are only Nature in its corruptest state, lurking under the shew of God’s Worship; have miserably blur’d, and encompass’d with thick Darkness: let’s therefore endeavor to set it in the clearest light.
I affirm then, that Persecutions, directly and absolutely included in the means of converting Men, are wholly inexcusable: and this I prove from that Order which God has establish’d in the Operations of our Mind, whereby Knowledge precedes Love, and the Light of the Understanding all Acts of the Will. This Order appears to be a necessary and immutable Law: for we have no greater Evidence that two and two make four, than we have, that to act reasonably a Man must doubt of what appears to him doubtful, deny what appears to him evidently false, affirm what appears evidently true, love those things which appear to him good, and hate what appears evil. These things are so consonant to Order, that we all agree a Man acts rashly, and even commits<138> a Sin, when he swears a thing is so or so, which really is, but which he believes to be otherwise: and we can’t doubt but the Love even of Vertue wou’d be a Violation of this Order, in a Person sincerely persuaded ’twas evil, and forbidden by a lawful Authority. This being the Case, a Man is not justify’d to Order when he embraces the Gospel, unless previously convinc’d of its Truth: All Designs therefore and Means of making a Man embrace the Gospel, who is not persuaded of its Truth, swerve from the Rules and Course of that Eternal Order, which constitutes all the Rectitude and Justness of an Action. Now all Designs leading directly and point-blank to Violences on those who don’t freely convert to the Gospel, tend directly to make even those embrace it who were not persuaded of its Truth; every such Design therefore must swerve from the Rules and Course of Order, and consequently be naught. It’s plain, there can be no Intention of directly forcing a Man, without a direct Design of making him comply, even where he has a Repugnancy; it’s therefore plain, as I have already said, that whoever shou’d employ Force to get People to subscribe the Apostles Creed, and employ it as the direct Means to this End, must have a direct design of making even those subscribe who believ’d it false. And since this Design wou’d be manifestly against Order, it follows, that no Violence, directly included in the means of converting, can be lawful; and consequently, the only thing in excuse must be saying, that the Violence enters indirectly, and by accident, into the Scheme of converting. And thus I think the Major is clearly prov’d. Now for the Minor.<139>
I desire my Adversarys to answer me this Question; Whether the Design of travelling includes a Ship by it self, or by accident. They’l answer, without doubt, and very rightly, that a Ship is a thing purely accidental to Travelling. But if instead of keeping to the general Notion of Travelling, I descend to this particular Case, that such a one has a design to travel from France into England; won’t it then be true, with regard to this design, that a Ship is no longer a thing accidental, but a means naturally necessary? Let’s apply this to the Design of converting Mankind to the Christian Religion.
Either you have such a Design indefinitely and in general, or else you propose to your self some particular means. If you have only the Design at large, all particular Measures are accidental: but if you descend to the particular Design of making all the World Christians, either by fair or by foul means, it’s evident you directly and truly include Violence in your Design; because in case of Opposition, you are resolv’d to surmount it by Force. I grant your Violence is but a conditional Ingredient; that is, you wish you cou’d accomplish your Design by fair means, but still with this reserve, that if these won’t do, you’l proceed to foul. Hence I affirm, that Violence enters into your Design, not by mere Accident, but by a proper Choice and secondary Destination. For as they who dread the Sea wou’d be very glad there were no occasion for Ships, yet if they resolve to pass from France into England they directly and properly design to make use of a Ship; so he who’d be glad he cou’d convert Men by preaching only, may wish he may<140> never come to Violence: yet if he’s resolv’d to convert, even where preaching is in vain, he directly and properly wills Persecution. In a word, where we are intirely at liberty to pursue or to quit a Design, and it happens that we encounter certain Obstacles; it’s plain, that if we pursue it in this case, we shew that we properly will this Pursuit; and that all the means indispensably leading to it, are the proper matter of our Choice and Consent. They don’t therefore belong to such a Design by Accident, in that sense which this Term imports, when it’s pleaded in excuse of the Consequences of an Affair, or the Faults of a Person.
There’s no need of proving that Jesus Christ must come under the present case, since ’twas purely at his own election, whether he wou’d force People or no; nor to prove by a hundred Reasons, that the Man, who wou’d willingly bring about his Ends by one method preferably to all others, but is firmly resolv’d to attain ’em by another sort of means, if he fail in the first, does properly and culpably (if he be a free Agent, and the Matter sinful) will this other means. From whence it wou’d follow, that Violence is included in the Design of converting Men to the Gospel, directly, and by the Destination of Jesus Christ: so that his Intent must be constru’d thus; My will is, that Men be persuaded to believe the Gospel, and that they make profession of it; but if they are not to be fairly persuaded, I intend nevertheless they shall profess it. Now I affirm and maintain, that such a Design shocks the Eternal Law of Order, which is an indispensable Law to God himself; and consequently, that it is impossible Jesus Christ<141> cou’d have form’d it. All the Cavils that can possibly be started from the Distinction of being by accident, can’t prevent the Minor’s being demonstrated as fully as matters of this nature will bear. But be that how it will, the general Position in this Chapter seems to me sufficiently prov’d, to wit, That the Complaints and Remonstrances of Christians, who must have confess’d, that were they in the place of the Pagans, they shou’d hardly be behind-hand with ’em in Persecution, were vain and ridiculous.
The Ninth and Last Argument against the Literal Sense, drawn from its tending to expose true Christians to continual Violences, without a possibility of alledging any thing to put a stop to ’em, but that which was the ground of the Contest between the Persecutors and the Persecuted: And this, as ’tis but a wretched begging the Question, cou’d not prevent the World’s being a continual Scene of Blood.
We have already seen in two several places, to wit, in the fifth and the foregoing Chapters, the Mischiefs, which a Command of exercising Violence on those who refus’d to be converted, wou’d do to the true Religion: And it’s certain, that this alone, consider’d in gross and in the general, forms a very plausible Preju-<142>dice against it. For how is it to be imagin’d, that God shou’d enjoin his Church such a Practice, as must render all its Complaints in the midst of Oppression ridiculous, and give Princes and States a very just pretence for extinguishing it? Had St. Austin but remember’d his own excellent Lesson, in his Treatise de Genesi ad Literam, he had ne’er embroil’d himself, as he did, in defending the Cause of Persecutors; for there he tells us, that ’tis shameful, dangerous, and extremely indiscreet in a Christian, to speak of things according to the Principles of his Religion in the presence of Infidels, and in such a manner, that they can’t forbear laughing. How came he not to see that he shou’d expose himself to the Derision of Pagans, when he maintain’d that God had in his Holy Word authoriz’d Persecutions on the score of Religion? Certainly nothing’s more sensless than blaming those Actions in others which we canonize in our selves; nothing more absurd, than to take it ill, that a Prince, who believes the Pagan Religion true, and that God commands him to watch for the publick Welfare, shou’d not tolerate a Sect, which by its Principles must ravage the World, if once it had the Power. But that which is no more than a Prejudice, when consider’d in the gross, becomes a solid Argument, when we take the pains to unfold and examine it accurately. This is what we have partly endeavor’d to perform already in the two foremention’d Chapters, and what we shall continue to do in this, to the best of our power. Here then is our last Argument.<143>
That literal Sense, which tends to throw all the different Partys of Christians into a never-ceasing War, without admitting any possible Remedy to stop so great an Evil, but the Sentence which shall be pronounc’d upon the Cause of each at the last Day; cannot be the true Sense.
Now such is the literal Sense of the words, Compel ’em to come in.
It’s therefore not the true Sense.
The first Proposition seems to me evident enough of it self: for tho God has not spoke to us in his reveal’d Word after a manner perfectly fitted to prevent all Differences among Christians, yet we must believe, that if on one hand he has permitted Divisions in his Church, he has on the other provided a certain Rule, and certain Principles common to all, sufficient to keep the disagreeing Partys in some order, and prevent their worrying one another like so many wild Beasts. The obscure parts of Scripture are chiefly concerning speculative Points: Doctrines of Morality being more necessary for the Welfare of Societys, and for hindring the utter Extinction of the little Vertue that’s left, are propounded there much more intelligibly to all the World. But whether these be quite clear enough or no, to prevent their being wrested to a false Sense, and to ill Purposes; this at least is certain, that the Intention of the Holy Spirit must have bin holy, just, and innocent, and very far from giving a handle and plausible excuse for confounding the World. Now this is what cou’d not be affirm’d, were it true that Jesus Christ had given his Followers a Command to persecute.<144>
I pass over all the Disorders likely to happen in the World from the use which Infidels might make of seeing Christians authorize Violence: I won’t affirm, that they wou’d turn all the Arguments of Christians for the tormenting of those who differ from ’em in Opinion, upon themselves; I shan’t insist on this: I’l only consider what wou’d happen between Sect and Sect among Christians themselves. It’s plain, that if Jesus Christ had meant Persecution in a strict sense, and the constraining Men to sign a Formulary, when he exprest the words, Compel ’em to come in; the Orthodox Party wou’d have a Right of forcing the Erroneous as much as they judg’d convenient: There’s no doubt of this. But as each Party believes it self the Orthodox, it’s plain, if Jesus Christ had commanded Persecution, that each Sect wou’d think it self oblig’d to obey him by persecuting all the rest with the utmost rigor, till they constrain’d ’em to embrace their own Profession of Faith: And thus we shou’d see a continual War between People of the same Country, either in the Streets or in the open Field, or between Nations of different Opinions; so that Christianity wou’d be a mere Hell upon Earth to all who lov’d Peace, or who happen’d to be the weaker side.
But what’s most ridiculous in all this, is, that the Oppress’d could have no just ground for the Reproaches and Complaints which yet they wou’d certainly make against the oppressing persecuting Party. For shou’d they say; It’s true,Jesus Christhas commanded his Disciples to persecute, but this gives no Right to you, who are a Heretick; the executing this Command belongs only<145> to us, who are the true Church: These wou’d answer, that they are agreed in the Principle, but not in the Application; and that they alone having the Truth undoubtedly of their side, have the sole Right to persecute. Whereby it’s plain the Persecuted cou’d not justly blame their Persecutors, either for imprisoning, or fining ’em, or taking away their Children, or letting the Dragoons loose on ’em, or for any other Violence; because instead of examining the Facts by any common Rule of Morality, to know whether just or no, they must begin from the bottom of their Controversys to find which Party is right, and which wrong, in their respective Confessions of Faith. Now this is a tedious business, as every one knows: We never see the end of such a Dispute; and no Judgment being to be pronounc’d upon the Violences in question, till the issue of the Dispute, and till a definitive Sentence upon their Controversys be pass’d, the Power must remain by a kind of Sequestration in the hands of the victorious Party: The suffering Party pining in the mean time, and spending it self in a fruitless Vye and Revye of its Controversys one by one, without having the wretched pleasure of saying, I’m unjustly us’d; but by supposing the thing in dispute, and saying, I am the true Church. To which the opposite will presently reply, You are not the true Church, therefore you are justly treated: you have not prov’d your Pretensions as yet, we still deny; forbear your Complaints then, till the Cause is decided.<146>
I can’t conceive a more melancholy State among Men, and at the same time more expos’d to the Mockery of all the Profane, of all Libertines, and even of all Mankind, than this. ’Tis pleasant enough, and very glorious to the Christian Name, to compare the Griefs of the Orthodox, and their Complaints against the Pagan and Arian Persecutions, with their Apologys for persecuting the Donatists. When one reflects on all this impartially, he’l find it amount to this rare Principle; I have the Truth on my side, therefore my Violences are good Works: Such a one is in an Error, therefore his Violences are criminal. To what purpose, pray, are all these Reasonings? Do they heal the Evils which Persecutors commit, or are they capable of making ’em enter into an Examination of the way they have bin bred in? Isn’t it absolutely necessary, in order to cure the Frenzy of a Zealot, who turns a whole Country upside down, and give him a Sense of his doings, to draw him out of his particular Controversys, and bring him to Principles which are common to both Partys, such as the Maxims of Morality, the Precepts of the Decalogue, of Jesus Christ and of his Apostles, concerning Justice, Charity, refraining from Theft, Murder, Injurys to our Neighbor, &c? This therefore were one great Inconvenience in the pretended Command of Jesus Christ, that it wou’d deprive Christians of their common Rule of judging whether an Action be good or evil. Nor wou’d it be a less Evil, that Christians of all Denominations might claim a Right by it of persecuting all who were not of their<147> own Communion; which must needs draw on a thousand Violences on one side, and a thousand Hypocrisys on the other. A third and main Inconvenience wou’d be, that Christians of all Sects might maintain, with like reason on their side, that their persecuting all other Christians is just; whence it wou’d follow, that persecuting the very Truth wou’d be a pious Action. For as the Precepts of honoring our Father and Mother, of not defiling our selves with the Lusts of the Flesh, of not killing, not robbing, of loving our Neighbour as our selves, loving God, and forgiving our Enemys, concern Arians, Nestorians, and Socinians, as much as they do the Reform’d, the Catholicks, and the very Flower of Predestination; so the Precept of Compelling may be said to be indifferently addrest to all Christians: or if you restrain it to the Orthodox only, why won’t you also limit the Command of being sober, chast, charitable, to them alone? Now if the Command of Compelling, in the literal Sense, be addrest to all who believe the Gospel; each Sect shou’d take it as addrest to themselves, and execute it in favor of the Tenets which they take for Gospel, in favor of that Religion they think the true; otherwise they formally disobey the Orders of their Creator: they therefore are oblig’d to persecute in duty to God. A new Proof of the Falsity of this Precept, since it implies God’s giving a Command, by the obeying of which the greatest part of Christians must be not only guilty of a Crime, but likewise of a direct Attempt to destroy the Truth. But we shall speak more<148> fully in another place to the Right which the Unorthodox may claim from the words of the Parable.
[35. ]Augustine, De doctrina Christiana, book 3. [Author’s note in the French edition. See III.xvi.24, Migne, Patrologia Latina, vol. 34, col. 74.]
[36. ]Valerianus Magnus, Judicium de catholicorum regula credendi (Prague, 1641).
[37. ]William of Paris, De legibus. [Author’s note in the French edition. Guilielmi Alverni Opera omnia (Paris, 1674), vol. 1, p. 24b.]
[38. ]Lucretius, book 4. [Author’s note in the French edition. Lucretius, De rerum natura, IV, 469–521.]
[* ]Ubi supra. [See p. 67.]
[39. ]See Appendixes, “Bayle’s Use of Logic,” p. 580 (“syllogism”).
[40. ]Ibid. (“consequence,” “antecedent”).
[41. ]See above, p. 72.
[42. ]See Appendixes, “Bayle’s Use of Logic,” p. 580 (“syllogism”).
[* ]See his Treatise of Human Faith, p. 1. c. 17. [Not found.]
[43. ]This was the opinion of the Gallicans. See Appendixes, p. 590, “Church and State.”
[44. ]Francisco Suarez, S.J., possibly: Defensio fidei Catholicae et apostolicae adversus Anglicanae sectae errors (Defence of the Catholic and apostolic faith against the errors of the Anglican sect), 1613. Martin Becan, S.J., possibly: Manuale Controversiarum (Manual of controversies), 1623. The Jesuits were “ultramontanes.”
[45. ]“In whatever way they can.”
[46. ]Terra Australis, the South Land, the then undiscovered continent on the opposite side of the globe from Europe, was the setting for various imaginary travel books. See Bayle, DHC, art. “Sadeur.”
[* ]Nichole, Pret. Ref. convaincus. [Pierre Nicole, Les prétendus Réformés convaincus de schisme (The self-styled Reformed convicted of schism), 1684.]
[47. ]See Appendixes, “Bayle’s Use of Logic,” p. 580 (“syllogism”).
[48. ]Lucan, Civil War, I.38: “Even such crimes and such guilt are not too high a price to pay.” Translated J.= D. Duff, Loeb Classical Library, 1977, p. 5.
[49. ]Pierre Nicole, De la Foi humaine, 1664.
[50. ]Cf. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, 1–2, q. 95, a. 3 and q. 96, a. 4 (http://www.ccel.org/a/aquinas/summa/home.html).
[51. ]See above, p. 87.
[52. ]Cf. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, 1–2, q. 90, a. 3.
[53. ]Horace, Odes III.xxix.29; “With wise purpose does the god bury in the shades of night the future’s outcome, and laughs if mortals be anxious beyond due limits. Remember to settle with tranquil heart the problem of the hour! All else is borne along like some river.” Translated C.= E. Bennet, Horace. The Odes and Epodes, Loeb Classical Library, 1978, p. 275.
[54. ]Jovius, De piscibus. [Author’s note in the French edition. Probably: Paulus Jovius, De romanis piscibus libellus, 1531.]
[* ]De Jure Belli & Pac. l. 1. cap. 20. art. 50. [Hugo Grotius, De jure belli ac pacis (Concerning the law of war and peace), 1631.]
[55. ]See above, p. 52, note.
[56. ]Athanasius, Epistula ad solitarios. [Author’s note in the French edition. Athanasius, History of the Arians (formerly called “letter to the solitaries”), Part IV, ch. 33, in Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, ed. Schaff and Wace, series 2 (Oxford: Parker, 1890), vol. 4, p. 281.]
[* ]Ut nullum tamen cogeret ad Christianismum, sed tantummodo credentes arctiori dilectione quasi concives Regni coelestis amplecteretur, didicerat enim a doctoribus auctoribus suae salutis servitium Christi voluntarium non coactitium debere esse. Bed. l. 1. c. 26. [Bede, Historical Works, Loeb Classical Library, vol. 1, p. 114.]
[57. ]See Appendixes, “Bayle’s Use of Logic,” p. 580, note 3.