Front Page Titles (by Subject) Chapter X: The Ninth and Last Argument against the Literal Sense, drawn from its tending to expose true Christians to continual Violences, without a possibility of alledging any thing to put a stop to 'em, but that which was the ground of the Contest betw - 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 X: The Ninth and Last Argument against the Literal Sense, drawn from its tending to expose true Christians to continual Violences, without a possibility of alledging any thing to put a stop to ’em, but that which was the ground of the Contest betw - 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 Ninth and Last Argument against the Literal Sense, drawn from its tending to expose true Christians to continual Violences, without a possibility of alledging any thing to put a stop to ’em, but that which was the ground of the Contest between the Persecutors and the Persecuted: And this, as ’tis but a wretched begging the Question, cou’d not prevent the World’s being a continual Scene of Blood.
We have already seen in two several places, to wit, in the fifth and the foregoing Chapters, the Mischiefs, which a Command of exercising Violence on those who refus’d to be converted, wou’d do to the true Religion: And it’s certain, that this alone, consider’d in gross and in the general, forms a very plausible Preju-<142>dice against it. For how is it to be imagin’d, that God shou’d enjoin his Church such a Practice, as must render all its Complaints in the midst of Oppression ridiculous, and give Princes and States a very just pretence for extinguishing it? Had St. Austin but remember’d his own excellent Lesson, in his Treatise de Genesi ad Literam, he had ne’er embroil’d himself, as he did, in defending the Cause of Persecutors; for there he tells us, that ’tis shameful, dangerous, and extremely indiscreet in a Christian, to speak of things according to the Principles of his Religion in the presence of Infidels, and in such a manner, that they can’t forbear laughing. How came he not to see that he shou’d expose himself to the Derision of Pagans, when he maintain’d that God had in his Holy Word authoriz’d Persecutions on the score of Religion? Certainly nothing’s more sensless than blaming those Actions in others which we canonize in our selves; nothing more absurd, than to take it ill, that a Prince, who believes the Pagan Religion true, and that God commands him to watch for the publick Welfare, shou’d not tolerate a Sect, which by its Principles must ravage the World, if once it had the Power. But that which is no more than a Prejudice, when consider’d in the gross, becomes a solid Argument, when we take the pains to unfold and examine it accurately. This is what we have partly endeavor’d to perform already in the two foremention’d Chapters, and what we shall continue to do in this, to the best of our power. Here then is our last Argument.<143>
That literal Sense, which tends to throw all the different Partys of Christians into a never-ceasing War, without admitting any possible Remedy to stop so great an Evil, but the Sentence which shall be pronounc’d upon the Cause of each at the last Day; cannot be the true Sense.
Now such is the literal Sense of the words, Compel ’em to come in.
It’s therefore not the true Sense.
The first Proposition seems to me evident enough of it self: for tho God has not spoke to us in his reveal’d Word after a manner perfectly fitted to prevent all Differences among Christians, yet we must believe, that if on one hand he has permitted Divisions in his Church, he has on the other provided a certain Rule, and certain Principles common to all, sufficient to keep the disagreeing Partys in some order, and prevent their worrying one another like so many wild Beasts. The obscure parts of Scripture are chiefly concerning speculative Points: Doctrines of Morality being more necessary for the Welfare of Societys, and for hindring the utter Extinction of the little Vertue that’s left, are propounded there much more intelligibly to all the World. But whether these be quite clear enough or no, to prevent their being wrested to a false Sense, and to ill Purposes; this at least is certain, that the Intention of the Holy Spirit must have bin holy, just, and innocent, and very far from giving a handle and plausible excuse for confounding the World. Now this is what cou’d not be affirm’d, were it true that Jesus Christ had given his Followers a Command to persecute.<144>
I pass over all the Disorders likely to happen in the World from the use which Infidels might make of seeing Christians authorize Violence: I won’t affirm, that they wou’d turn all the Arguments of Christians for the tormenting of those who differ from ’em in Opinion, upon themselves; I shan’t insist on this: I’l only consider what wou’d happen between Sect and Sect among Christians themselves. It’s plain, that if Jesus Christ had meant Persecution in a strict sense, and the constraining Men to sign a Formulary, when he exprest the words, Compel ’em to come in; the Orthodox Party wou’d have a Right of forcing the Erroneous as much as they judg’d convenient: There’s no doubt of this. But as each Party believes it self the Orthodox, it’s plain, if Jesus Christ had commanded Persecution, that each Sect wou’d think it self oblig’d to obey him by persecuting all the rest with the utmost rigor, till they constrain’d ’em to embrace their own Profession of Faith: And thus we shou’d see a continual War between People of the same Country, either in the Streets or in the open Field, or between Nations of different Opinions; so that Christianity wou’d be a mere Hell upon Earth to all who lov’d Peace, or who happen’d to be the weaker side.
But what’s most ridiculous in all this, is, that the Oppress’d could have no just ground for the Reproaches and Complaints which yet they wou’d certainly make against the oppressing persecuting Party. For shou’d they say; It’s true,Jesus Christhas commanded his Disciples to persecute, but this gives no Right to you, who are a Heretick; the executing this Command belongs only<145> to us, who are the true Church: These wou’d answer, that they are agreed in the Principle, but not in the Application; and that they alone having the Truth undoubtedly of their side, have the sole Right to persecute. Whereby it’s plain the Persecuted cou’d not justly blame their Persecutors, either for imprisoning, or fining ’em, or taking away their Children, or letting the Dragoons loose on ’em, or for any other Violence; because instead of examining the Facts by any common Rule of Morality, to know whether just or no, they must begin from the bottom of their Controversys to find which Party is right, and which wrong, in their respective Confessions of Faith. Now this is a tedious business, as every one knows: We never see the end of such a Dispute; and no Judgment being to be pronounc’d upon the Violences in question, till the issue of the Dispute, and till a definitive Sentence upon their Controversys be pass’d, the Power must remain by a kind of Sequestration in the hands of the victorious Party: The suffering Party pining in the mean time, and spending it self in a fruitless Vye and Revye of its Controversys one by one, without having the wretched pleasure of saying, I’m unjustly us’d; but by supposing the thing in dispute, and saying, I am the true Church. To which the opposite will presently reply, You are not the true Church, therefore you are justly treated: you have not prov’d your Pretensions as yet, we still deny; forbear your Complaints then, till the Cause is decided.<146>
I can’t conceive a more melancholy State among Men, and at the same time more expos’d to the Mockery of all the Profane, of all Libertines, and even of all Mankind, than this. ’Tis pleasant enough, and very glorious to the Christian Name, to compare the Griefs of the Orthodox, and their Complaints against the Pagan and Arian Persecutions, with their Apologys for persecuting the Donatists. When one reflects on all this impartially, he’l find it amount to this rare Principle; I have the Truth on my side, therefore my Violences are good Works: Such a one is in an Error, therefore his Violences are criminal. To what purpose, pray, are all these Reasonings? Do they heal the Evils which Persecutors commit, or are they capable of making ’em enter into an Examination of the way they have bin bred in? Isn’t it absolutely necessary, in order to cure the Frenzy of a Zealot, who turns a whole Country upside down, and give him a Sense of his doings, to draw him out of his particular Controversys, and bring him to Principles which are common to both Partys, such as the Maxims of Morality, the Precepts of the Decalogue, of Jesus Christ and of his Apostles, concerning Justice, Charity, refraining from Theft, Murder, Injurys to our Neighbor, &c? This therefore were one great Inconvenience in the pretended Command of Jesus Christ, that it wou’d deprive Christians of their common Rule of judging whether an Action be good or evil. Nor wou’d it be a less Evil, that Christians of all Denominations might claim a Right by it of persecuting all who were not of their<147> own Communion; which must needs draw on a thousand Violences on one side, and a thousand Hypocrisys on the other. A third and main Inconvenience wou’d be, that Christians of all Sects might maintain, with like reason on their side, that their persecuting all other Christians is just; whence it wou’d follow, that persecuting the very Truth wou’d be a pious Action. For as the Precepts of honoring our Father and Mother, of not defiling our selves with the Lusts of the Flesh, of not killing, not robbing, of loving our Neighbour as our selves, loving God, and forgiving our Enemys, concern Arians, Nestorians, and Socinians, as much as they do the Reform’d, the Catholicks, and the very Flower of Predestination; so the Precept of Compelling may be said to be indifferently addrest to all Christians: or if you restrain it to the Orthodox only, why won’t you also limit the Command of being sober, chast, charitable, to them alone? Now if the Command of Compelling, in the literal Sense, be addrest to all who believe the Gospel; each Sect shou’d take it as addrest to themselves, and execute it in favor of the Tenets which they take for Gospel, in favor of that Religion they think the true; otherwise they formally disobey the Orders of their Creator: they therefore are oblig’d to persecute in duty to God. A new Proof of the Falsity of this Precept, since it implies God’s giving a Command, by the obeying of which the greatest part of Christians must be not only guilty of a Crime, but likewise of a direct Attempt to destroy the Truth. But we shall speak more<148> fully in another place to the Right which the Unorthodox may claim from the words of the Parable.
<149>A Philosophical Commentary On these Words of St. Luke, Chap. XVI. ver. 23.
The Second Part.
Containing a full Answer to all the Objections which may be rais’d against what has bin before demonstrated.