Front Page Titles (by Subject) Chapter VI: 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. - 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 VI: 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. - 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 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.
[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.]