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