Front Page Titles (by Subject) Chapter IV: 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. - 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 IV: 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. - 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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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.
[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.”