Front Page Titles (by Subject) Chapter IX: The eighth Argument against the literal Sense, drawn from its rendring the Complaints of the first Christians against their Pagan Persecutors all vain. - 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 IX: The eighth Argument against the literal Sense, drawn from its rendring the Complaints of the first Christians against their Pagan Persecutors all vain. - 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 eighth Argument against the literal Sense, drawn from its rendring the Complaints of the first Christians against their Pagan Persecutors all vain.
The Argument in the foregoing Chapter does not seem to me near so convincing as some of the rest, tho consider’d ad hominem,57 it might well silence those who talk only of Tradition, and the Rule of Prescription. However it has a close Connection with what I’m next to offer, and therefore I shall not be so long upon the principal Matter of this Argument as upon the Accessorys. Here goes then:
That literal Sense which renders the Complaints of the first Christians against their Pagan Persecutors vain, is false.
Now such is the literal Sense of the words, Compel ’em to come in.
It’s therefore false.
The Minor I prove in this manner. I’l suppose the primitive Christians had sent their Deputys to Court to present their Apology, and complain, how they were imprison’d, banish’d, expos’d to wild Beasts, tortur’d. I’ll suppose too, that the literal Sense in question was known to Pagans as well as Christians, both having read this Passage in the Gospel according to St. Luke, which the Pagans might have Copys of if they pleas’d. I’l<132> suppose in the third place, that some great Person, commission’d by the Emperor, had entred into a Conference with these Christian Deputys, and having heard out their Allegations, answer’d ’em, Gentlemen, what do you complain of? You are treated no worse than you wou’d treat us if you were in our place: you ought to approve our Prudence, and complain of the Season only, and not of us. This is our Day, we are the strongest side: common Prudence requires, that we shou’d lay hold of the Opportunity Fortune presents us of extinguishing a Sect, which strikes not only at our Temples and Gods, but at our very Lives and Consciences. Your God has commanded you to compel all that fall in your way to follow him; what then cou’d you do less, if you had the power in your hands, than put all those to death who cou’d not resolve on betraying the Lights of their Conscience to worship your crucify’d God? To this they must answer, if they have the least Sincerity, and be of the Principle which I confute: It’s true, my Lord, if we had the power in our hands, we shou’d not leave a Soul in the World unbaptiz’d; and herein wou’d appear our Charity and great Love towards our Neighbor: we believe all are eternally damn’d who are not of our Religion, ’twere very cruel then in us not to employ some means of Constraint. But still we shou’d not use those Methods which you Pagans make use of towards us; we shou’d only take care, that those, who did not turn, shou’d never carry any Cause in our Courts; we shou’d start strange Cavils upon ’em, hinder their religious Meetings; and if this did not make their Lives uneasy enough, we shou’d send Dragoons to quarter upon ’em, to eat ’em out of House and Home, and drub ’em into the Bargain: We shou’d hinder their flying into foreign Parts;<133> and if we found ’em fleeing, send ’em away to the Gallys: we shou’d put their Wives and Children under Sequestration; in a word, we shou’d leave ’em but this Alternative, either to pass their whole Life in the gloom of a Dungeon, or get themselves baptiz’d. But as to taking away their Lives, God forbid we shou’d be guilty of it: now and then perhaps a Soldier exceeding his Orders, might lay one of ’em on so as he shou’d never recover it; but this wou’d seldom happen, and be seldomer countenanc’d. It’s plain, that instead of poisoning this Answer, I couch it in the mildest and most moderate terms our Adversarys themselves can propose; since I form it upon the Plan of the present Persecution in France, the most regular in their Opinion, and the most Christian Scheme of Evangelick Compulsion, that ever yet was known. I was at liberty to regulate this Answer upon the Inquisition, upon the Crusades of St. Dominick, upon the Butcherys of Queen Mary, upon the Massacres of Cabrieres, of Merindol, and of the Valleys of Piemont; upon the Tortures under Francis I and Henry II and upon the Slaughter of St. Bartholomew: but I soften the matter as much as it will bear. Let’s see now what the Pagan Emperor’s Minister wou’d reply.
Upon my word, Gentlemen (says he without doubt) you are very admirable Folks; you reckon it a mighty piece of Charity, not to dispatch a Man all at once, but keep him in a lingring Torture all his Life, whether he resolve to rot in a Dungeon, or has the weakness to pretend he embraces what his Conscience tells him is a detestable Impiety. Go, go, Gentlemen; beside that this mock Charity wou’d scarce restrain you from the<134> Methods we take, that is, from inventing exquisite Torments when time and place requir’d (for your Master commands you only in general to constrain, and leaves it to your Discretion, to chuse the way; vexatious Prosecutions, and quartering of Soldiers, when you deem these properer than Massacres and the sharpest Deaths; and these again when you judg ’em more expedient than Fines, and Querks of Law, or Insults of the Soldiery) Beside this, I say, you are a parcel of merry Fellows to recommend your selves upon a politick Fetch, in not spilling the Blood of your Subjects, when the only Motive of sparing was, that you might not weaken your temporal Power by the loss of too many Lives; and at the same time boast you had done more without the Wheel or Gibbet, than others had ever done with ’em. Take it by which handle you please; we shan’t be Sots enough, if we have the Power to prevent it, to let you grow to a head, and put you in a condition of doing Mischief; resolve therefore to suffer: The Emperor, my Master, owes this Sacrifice to his own Repose, and to that of his Posterity, to whom you may one day become a Scourge.
The Rules of Probability won’t allow me to make the Deputys speak a word more; for after the Answer I have already made for ’em, there’s no likelihood they shou’d long be allow’d any kind of Liberty: however, that my Reader may the better comprehend what I aim at, I shall suppose a Reply on the Deputys part.
Pray pardon us, my Lord, if we yet presume to inform you, that our holy Doctrine has bin all along misrepresented to you by our Enemys; it’s<135> only by mere chance, and with the greatest regret in the world, that we shou’d proceed to rough Methods. We shou’d first endeavor by our Instructions to convince Men of the Truth; we shou’d employ all the sweetest and most endearing Arts: but if ’twere our misfortune to light upon perverse obstinate Spirits, who stood it out against all the Lights we cou’d furnish their Understandings; then indeed, tho much against the grain, and from a charitable Asperity, we shou’d be oblig’d to make ’em do that by force, which they wou’d not do voluntarily; and even have the Charity not to exact a Confession from ’em, that their signing was a downright force upon ’em. This were a Monument of Shame to themselves, and to their Children, and to us too; we shou’d rather oblige ’em to give under their hands, that ’twas their own voluntary Act and Deed. Besides, my Lord, it does not follow from our having a Right to constrain, that you have the same Right too: We speak in the Cause of Truth, and therefore are allow’d to exercise Violence on Delinquents; but false Religions have no such Privilege, such Methods in them wou’d be downright Barbarian Cruelty; in us it’s all Divine, being the Fruits of a holy Charity.
If I have broke the Rules of Probability, by supposing, that these Deputys wou’d be allow’d to reply, I shou’d do so much more by suggesting a Rejoinder on the High Commissioner’s part, or any other Answer than ordering ’em the Strapado by the hands of the common Beadle; saving notwithstanding, and reserving to the Gibbet or Amphitheatre all its Rights and Privileges, where no doubt they’d be expos’d on the very next occasion.<136> However, let’s suppose him phlegmatick enough not to fly into a Rage at such nonsense; let’s suppose this, I say, the better to lead the Reader to the design’d end. There’s no manner of doubt then but he wou’d tell ’em in this Case:
Good People, your Maxims have only this one Fault, that they are wrongfully apply’d; no Religion but that of my Master’s can talk at this rate, because it’s the only true Religion: I undertake on his part, that none but the obstinate among you shall be ill treated; get your selves instructed, and be converted; you shall find the Effects of his Clemency: otherwise you’l provoke him to your Ruin, and with Justice; whereas, shou’d you exercise any Violence against a Religion establish’d for so many Ages, you must be guilty of a crying Iniquity.
One that were an Enemy to all Persecution, and had any thing of a Talent in reasoning, might add as follows, addressing himself to these Deputys:
After all, what you say seems very odd to me, that your proceeding to Violence shou’d be purely accidental: For since your Master enjoins you to compel People by main Force, your business is, not only to enter those into your Religion whom you have fairly convinc’d, but those likewise who are convinc’d your Religion is false. Now, if your direct end concerns those, it must naturally and directly include all the means which lead to it, to wit, Force and Violence; and consequently, it is not by mere accident that you vex Men but by a necessary and natural Consequence of your Scheme.<137>
Perhaps there’s some room for a Cavil here, tho I’m persuaded the Reason is good at bottom; and from it I draw this new Argument against the literal Sense of the Parable:
If any thing cou’d excuse the Violences imply’d in the Command of making all Men Christians, ’twere saying, they are only accidentally included in it.
Now it’s false that they are included in it only by accident.
Nothing therefore can excuse ’em.
The Major is not evident enough to Understandings, which the Passions, and an unhappy Education in the Principles of a Religion, which properly speaking are only Nature in its corruptest state, lurking under the shew of God’s Worship; have miserably blur’d, and encompass’d with thick Darkness: let’s therefore endeavor to set it in the clearest light.
I affirm then, that Persecutions, directly and absolutely included in the means of converting Men, are wholly inexcusable: and this I prove from that Order which God has establish’d in the Operations of our Mind, whereby Knowledge precedes Love, and the Light of the Understanding all Acts of the Will. This Order appears to be a necessary and immutable Law: for we have no greater Evidence that two and two make four, than we have, that to act reasonably a Man must doubt of what appears to him doubtful, deny what appears to him evidently false, affirm what appears evidently true, love those things which appear to him good, and hate what appears evil. These things are so consonant to Order, that we all agree a Man acts rashly, and even commits<138> a Sin, when he swears a thing is so or so, which really is, but which he believes to be otherwise: and we can’t doubt but the Love even of Vertue wou’d be a Violation of this Order, in a Person sincerely persuaded ’twas evil, and forbidden by a lawful Authority. This being the Case, a Man is not justify’d to Order when he embraces the Gospel, unless previously convinc’d of its Truth: All Designs therefore and Means of making a Man embrace the Gospel, who is not persuaded of its Truth, swerve from the Rules and Course of that Eternal Order, which constitutes all the Rectitude and Justness of an Action. Now all Designs leading directly and point-blank to Violences on those who don’t freely convert to the Gospel, tend directly to make even those embrace it who were not persuaded of its Truth; every such Design therefore must swerve from the Rules and Course of Order, and consequently be naught. It’s plain, there can be no Intention of directly forcing a Man, without a direct Design of making him comply, even where he has a Repugnancy; it’s therefore plain, as I have already said, that whoever shou’d employ Force to get People to subscribe the Apostles Creed, and employ it as the direct Means to this End, must have a direct design of making even those subscribe who believ’d it false. And since this Design wou’d be manifestly against Order, it follows, that no Violence, directly included in the means of converting, can be lawful; and consequently, the only thing in excuse must be saying, that the Violence enters indirectly, and by accident, into the Scheme of converting. And thus I think the Major is clearly prov’d. Now for the Minor.<139>
I desire my Adversarys to answer me this Question; Whether the Design of travelling includes a Ship by it self, or by accident. They’l answer, without doubt, and very rightly, that a Ship is a thing purely accidental to Travelling. But if instead of keeping to the general Notion of Travelling, I descend to this particular Case, that such a one has a design to travel from France into England; won’t it then be true, with regard to this design, that a Ship is no longer a thing accidental, but a means naturally necessary? Let’s apply this to the Design of converting Mankind to the Christian Religion.
Either you have such a Design indefinitely and in general, or else you propose to your self some particular means. If you have only the Design at large, all particular Measures are accidental: but if you descend to the particular Design of making all the World Christians, either by fair or by foul means, it’s evident you directly and truly include Violence in your Design; because in case of Opposition, you are resolv’d to surmount it by Force. I grant your Violence is but a conditional Ingredient; that is, you wish you cou’d accomplish your Design by fair means, but still with this reserve, that if these won’t do, you’l proceed to foul. Hence I affirm, that Violence enters into your Design, not by mere Accident, but by a proper Choice and secondary Destination. For as they who dread the Sea wou’d be very glad there were no occasion for Ships, yet if they resolve to pass from France into England they directly and properly design to make use of a Ship; so he who’d be glad he cou’d convert Men by preaching only, may wish he may<140> never come to Violence: yet if he’s resolv’d to convert, even where preaching is in vain, he directly and properly wills Persecution. In a word, where we are intirely at liberty to pursue or to quit a Design, and it happens that we encounter certain Obstacles; it’s plain, that if we pursue it in this case, we shew that we properly will this Pursuit; and that all the means indispensably leading to it, are the proper matter of our Choice and Consent. They don’t therefore belong to such a Design by Accident, in that sense which this Term imports, when it’s pleaded in excuse of the Consequences of an Affair, or the Faults of a Person.
There’s no need of proving that Jesus Christ must come under the present case, since ’twas purely at his own election, whether he wou’d force People or no; nor to prove by a hundred Reasons, that the Man, who wou’d willingly bring about his Ends by one method preferably to all others, but is firmly resolv’d to attain ’em by another sort of means, if he fail in the first, does properly and culpably (if he be a free Agent, and the Matter sinful) will this other means. From whence it wou’d follow, that Violence is included in the Design of converting Men to the Gospel, directly, and by the Destination of Jesus Christ: so that his Intent must be constru’d thus; My will is, that Men be persuaded to believe the Gospel, and that they make profession of it; but if they are not to be fairly persuaded, I intend nevertheless they shall profess it. Now I affirm and maintain, that such a Design shocks the Eternal Law of Order, which is an indispensable Law to God himself; and consequently, that it is impossible Jesus Christ<141> cou’d have form’d it. All the Cavils that can possibly be started from the Distinction of being by accident, can’t prevent the Minor’s being demonstrated as fully as matters of this nature will bear. But be that how it will, the general Position in this Chapter seems to me sufficiently prov’d, to wit, That the Complaints and Remonstrances of Christians, who must have confess’d, that were they in the place of the Pagans, they shou’d hardly be behind-hand with ’em in Persecution, were vain and ridiculous.
[57. ]See Appendixes, “Bayle’s Use of Logic,” p. 580, note 3.