Front Page Titles (by Subject) Chapter II: 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. - A Philosophical Commentary on These Words of the Gospel, Luke 14.23, 'Compel Them to Come In, That My House May Be Full'
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Chapter II: 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. - 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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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.
[40. ]Ibid. (“consequence,” “antecedent”).