Front Page Titles (by Subject) Chapter V: The Fifth Objection: Protestants can't reject the literal Sense of the Parable, without condemning the wisest Emperors and Fathers of the Church, and without condemning themselves; since they in some places don't tolerate other Religions, and h - 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 Fifth Objection: Protestants can’t reject the literal Sense of the Parable, without condemning the wisest Emperors and Fathers of the Church, and without condemning themselves; since they in some places don’t tolerate other Religions, and h - 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 Objection: Protestants can’t reject the literal Sense of the Parable, without condemning the wisest Emperors and Fathers of the Church, and without condemning themselves; since they in some places don’t tolerate other Religions, and have sometimes punish’d Hereticks with Death: Servetus for example. The Illusion they are under who make this Objection. Particular Reasons against tolerating Papists.
Ever since the Court of France has bin infatuated with the Spirit of Persecution, we have had the Lord knows how many Parasites, mercenary Scriblers, bigotted Flatterers, employ’d in compiling with the exactest care all the Laws publish’d of old by the Christian Emperors against Arians, Donatists, Manicheans, and other Sectarys; the Emperors, I say, egg’d on by the Zeal and Importunitys of their Clergy, and extol’d for it to the skys by some of<221> the Fathers of the Church; particularly St. Austin, who has written the Apology of Persecution with more Intenseness of Thought, than Tertullian that of the Christian Religion. We shall keep this Father’s Dole in reserve for him to another place. At present I shall only say a word or two in answer to what is objected from the Example of Constantine, Theodosius, Honorius, &c. that if their Actions were the Rule of Right, there’s no Crime but might be justify’d by it. So that it’s making a mock of Folks, when the Question being concerning a Point of moral Right, they come and alledg, that such an Emperor and such an Emperor has authoriz’d it. Quid tum? What’s this to the purpose? Is the way of the Court the Rule of Equity? Is this the School where we are to learn what is just and unjust? Is it not well known, that temporal Greatness is the chief End of Princes and their Counsellors, and that they sacrifice every other Consideration to their Interest, especially when Persons acted by an indiscreet Zeal bait it with Promises of earthly and celestial Glory? I shou’d think my time very ill bestow’d, shou’d I spend a quarter of an hour, in discussing the particular Reasons which mov’d these Emperors to publish very severe, and even sanguinary Laws, against the Sects of their times. The shortest way is saying, there’s no Consequence to be drawn from what they have done, to what right Reason requires shou’d be done, and that our Convertists will never be able to shew this Consequence. Had we the secret Historys of all their Courts, as we have that of Justinian’s; had we all the Remonstrances, and<222> all the Accounts which they call Libels, all that the Pagans and Sectarians had remark’d on their Conduct; we shou’d see ’em in a light that wou’d be none of the favorablest to them. But ’tis their good fortune, that we scarce have any Memoirs of them, but from the hands of Flatterers, or Persons prepossess’d in their favor. Yet there’s enough, did we duly weigh the Circumstances, to perceive that they little consulted the eternal Ideas of unalterable Order, but issu’d their Injunctions just as they came, according to occasions, and according to the Views of temporal Advantage which were suggested to ’em. Oh! but the Fathers have applauded their Zeal. Quid tum? Indeed! And what if they did? Were not the Fathers, as well as the Ecclesiasticks of these days, almost ever ready to make the present Advantage their measure of Right and Wrong? Is it not a scandal to Christianity, that the Fathers shou’d declaim with so prodigious force against the persecuting Pagans and Arians, and by and by praise with all their force the persecuting Emperors, and sollicit severe Edicts? ’Tis true, they made a great difference as to Words, for they wou’d by no means have the Rigors on their own side call’d Persecution; they laid up all the odious Names for the opposite Partys. But even this is ridiculous, and moves our Pity. The truth is, we ought never to mention the Maxims on which they reason’d in different conjunctures; it’s much better to hide their Weakness, and the little care they had taken to fix any general Principles; living as ’twere from hand to mouth, and arguing like Weather-cocks, sometimes on one side and some-<223>times on another, as time and occasion serv’d. Let’s stir this Matter no more, but content our selves with demanding from the Convertists a Proof of the Consequence76 of this Enthymeme.77
The Fathers applauded the Emperors who persecuted Hereticks:
Therefore the persecuting Hereticks is just and highly pleasing to God.
I don’t see why this Argument shou’d have any more weight with us now, than another of the same stamp, which will possibly be thus advanc’d a hundred years hence.
The Bishops of France, the Jesuits, and the Monks have extol’d the Methods by which Lewis XIV destroy’d Calvinism, as being perfectly holy and divine:
Therefore these Methods were perfectly divine and holy.
I can’t forbear representing, by one memorable Instance, to what an Excess the Fathers carry’d their unjust Prejudices.
There was a Village in the East call’d*Callicin, in which the Jews had a Synagogue, and the Valentinian Hereticks a Meeting-house. A Procession of Hermits passing by one day with their Votarys, happen’d to receive some Insult from these Villagers. Immediately the noise of it spread, and reach’d to the Bishop’s Ears, who stir’d up his People with such Success, that they immediately went along with the Hermits, and laid the Jewish Synagogue, and Heretick Conventicle in Ashes. This was a manifest Invasion of the<224> Prince’s Authority; for surely ’tis to him, or to his Lieutenants, that Bishops ought to have recourse for Reparation of Injurys, and not revenge themselves off-hand by Seditions stir’d up among a giddy Populace.
He who commanded in the East under Theodosius, understood his Duty, and was jealous enough of his Master’s Authority, not to fail giving an Account of all that pass’d; and the Emperor, upon notice of it, order’d the Bishop to rebuild the Synagogue at his own Expence, and the Incendiarys to be punish’d. Nothing cou’d be more equitable than this Decree, nor farther from excessive Severity; for in fine, the Conventicle and Synagogue had both stood in that place by the Prince’s Authority, and cou’d not be remov’d but by his Orders: and all popular Commotions are so much the more punishable, as those who foment ’em have not the least shadow of Right, or pretence for so doing; and such we may suppose Bishops, a Set of Men notoriously culpable, if they exhort not Christians to the forgiving of Injurys, and to all kinds of Moderation. But as gentle as this Punishment appears, the Eastern Bishops were delicate enough to find it insupportable; and as St. Ambrose was within reach of the Court, and a proper Person to represent their pretended Grievances, they charg’d him with this Affair. Matters not permitting St. Ambrose to go to Court in Person, he* wrote to Theodosius, and represented that his Decree had laid a Bishop under the necessity, either of disobeying his Prince,<225> or betraying his own Ministry, and tended to make him, either a Martyr or Prevaricator; that Julian the Apostate, having attempted to rebuild the Jewish Synagogues, Fire fell from Heaven on the Builders, and that could well happen again; that Maximus, some days before he was abandon’d by God, had issu’d the like Edict. In fine, St. Ambrose, after he had, in terms of Duty and Respect, exhorted the Prince to recal his Order, let him understand, that if his Letter had not the desir’d effect, he shou’d be oblig’d to remonstrate from the Pulpit. The Emperor made him no favorable Answer; and St. Ambrose, one day in his Sermon, to be as good as his word, address’d† himself to the Emperor as on the part of God, and lectur’d him pretty roundly. At which the too good and over-easy Emperor was not at all offended, but on the contrary, promis’d the Preacher, as he was descending from his Throne, that he wou’d give Orders to recal his Decree. Some of the Lords who were present insisted, that at least, to save the Honor of his Imperial Dignity, so unworthily affronted by the Rabble, he wou’d order the Hermits, who were Authors of this Riot, to be chastis’d; but St. Ambrose reprimanded ’em with such a Spirit, that they durst not say a word more of the Matter: so the Edict was revok’d.
This shews, that the Reign of Theodosius was perfectly Priestridden, and that he was deliver’d, bound hand and foot, to the Mercy of the Clergy; which cou’d not chuse but bring a Deluge of Woes upon the Nonconformists. Is not this a<226> strange thing, that a Man who passes for a Saint, shou’d have bin so violent an Advocate for a Seditious Bishop, and for all the Furys of a mutinous Rabble; and that he shou’d pretend ’twere better submit to death than give some Mony in obedience to the Emperor’s Order, for the rebuilding a Structure, demolish’d in open Contempt of the Emperor’s Authority? What wonder after this, that the Worship the Pagans paid their Divinitys, more majorum,78 shou’d be punish’d with death, and declar’d High-Treason, by this* same Emperor? Did the Pagan Emperors do more against the Christians? and if they spill’d more Blood than he, is it not because the Pagan Votarys had not the same Constancy as Christians, to maintain their Belief at the expence of their Lives?
But what Answer shall we make for those Protestants, who won’t allow Liberty of Conscience to other Sects? This we are next to speak to.
I say then, that there are some Distinctions necessary to be premis’d: for either they won’t allow other Sects from abroad to come and settle among ’em; or if they spring up among themselves, they take care to prevent their Growth; or last of all, they disperse and expel ’em after they have bin form’d and establish’d. These different Circumstances excuse their Non-Toleration more or less: tho if we consider this matter impartially, and by that Light in which right Reason shews it, it cannot be absolutely excus’d unless in cases where it’s purely political, and indispensably necessary for the publick Safety of the<227> State. To explain my self.
Not to tolerate those who entertain certain particular Opinions in Matters of Religion, and who infuse ’em into others, implys certain Penaltys on those who infuse ’em, and that these Penaltys be ordain’d by the Authority of the Magistrate. To this end it were necessary that Princes shou’d have a Right of enjoining the Belief of certain things on their Subjects, and of restraining ’em to such a Conscience, rather than any other; since without such a Right it’s plain, they cou’d not impose Penaltys on those who had not the same Notions of things as they themselves have. Now if it appear, that they have no such Right, it follows, they can appoint no such Punishments; and yet all who are against the tolerating certain Sects impose Penaltys on ’em: they act therefore without any Justice or Reason, and consequently Non-Toleration is repugnant to Reason and Justice; since from what we have said before, it’s manifest, that those who enact Laws obliging Conscience, exceed their Power, and overstrain their Authority: whence it follows, that those Laws are actually null and void in themselves.
However, there is an Exception to be made, which manifestly arises from the Remarks laid down in another place,79 to wit, That Sovereigns, having an essential and unalienable Right of enacting Laws for the Preservation of the State and Society over which they are plac’d, may ordain, that all, without distinction, who endanger the publick Peace by Doctrines tending to Sedition, Rapine, Murder, Perjury, &c. be punish’d according to the Nature of their Crimes;<228> accordingly any Sect, which strikes at the Foundation of human Society, and bursts the Bands of the publick Peace and Amity, by exciting Seditions, by preaching up Rapine, Murder, Calumny, Perjury, deserves to be immediately cut off by the Sword of the Magistrate: but so long as the Principles of any Sect overthrow not those Laws which are the Foundation of the Security of Individuals; so long as they preach Submission to the Magistrate, and the chearful Paying of Taxes and Subsidys impos’d by him; and maintain, that no Man ought to be disturb’d in the Possession of his Right, or in the peaceable Enjoyment of his Goods, moveable or immoveable, of his Reputation, Life, &c. I don’t think there can be any just ground for vexing ’em on the score of their not obeying any particular Law enjoining such a certain Belief, or such a particular form of Divine Worship: for as I have already observ’d, a Magistrate, who enacts Laws of this kind, and enforces the Observation of ’em under pain of Death, Prison, Galley, &c. manifestly exceeds his Power.
If any one therefore wou’d know my Opinion in particular, concerning those Protestant States which allow but one Religion; I answer, That if they act purely from a regard to the suppos’d Falseness of the Opinions of other Religions, they are wrong; for who has requir’d this at their hands? Is Falshood to be overcome by any other Arms than those of Truth? Is not attacking Errors with a Cudgel, the same Absurdity as attacking Bastions with Syllogism and Harangue? Sovereigns therefore who wou’d discharge their Duty aright, ought not to send forth their Soldiers, their Hangmen, their Tipstaffs, their Life-<229>guard-men, their Pursuivants, against those who teach Doctrines different from their own; but slip their Divines, their Ministers, their Professors at ’em, and order ’em to endeavor with all their Might, the Confutation of the obnoxious Doctrines: but if these Means are not sufficient to silence their Adversarys, or bring ’em over to the Religion of the Country, they shou’d e’en let ’em be quiet, and for the rest, content themselves with their obeying the Municipal and Politickal Laws of the State. So much for what concerns those Doctrines which Protestants consider simply as false; this Falseness gives ’em not the least Right of treating their Subjects ill.
But the case is not the same with regard to those Opinions which they look upon not only as false, but also as tending directly, and in the Nature of ’em, to the Disturbance of the State, and the endangering the Sovereign’s Authority: for as to all such Doctrines, I pronounce ’em unworthy of a Toleration; and for this Reason I think it but just, that all those States, which have shaken off the Yoke of Popery, shou’d make the most severe Laws against its Re-admission; and that those who have Papists still in their Bosom, shou’d keep ’em chain’d up like so many Lions or Leopards, that is, deprive ’em of the Power of doing Mischief, by the severest Penal Laws, and those duly put in Execution against ’em, that there may be no room for apprehending any thing from their restless Contrivances. Yet I shou’d never be for leaving ’em expos’d to Insults in their Persons, or for disturbing ’em in the Enjoyment of their Estates, or the private Exercise of their Religion, or for doing ’em any<230> Injustice in their Appeals to Law, or for hindring ’em to breed up their Children in their own Faith, or to retire with their Effects, and after the Sale of their Estates, as often and as many of ’em as pleas’d, to any other Country: much less for constraining ’em to assist at the Exercises of a Religion which their Consciences condemn’d, or recompensing those who did; this being properly the Part and Office of a tempting Demon, and tending to make all those who lov’d worldly Honors and Dignitys betray the Lights of Conscience. I shou’d be for a Law, excluding new Converts from all the Privileges and Favors of which they were made incapable by their former Religion; because thus we might be assur’d, that their Conversion proceeded purely from Conviction, and that they did not play the Hypocrites. But as the keeping this sort of Men to strict Discipline is only intended with regard to a temporal Good; I shou’d not disapprove, where there may be particular and weighty Reasons against having any jealousy, the granting ’em a greater Liberty, and even as great as the Interest of the State will permit: for, as I have already said, the Falseness of Opinions is not the true Rule of Toleration or Non-Toleration, but their Influence with regard to the publick Peace and Security.
If those of the Church of Rome will impartially consider it, they must allow, that I don’t here destroy what I had bin establishing thro-out this Commentary, against the Compulsion allegedly enjoin’d by Jesus Christ: for the Laws which I propose to be made against them, are not with a design of forcing ’em to<231> change Religion, but purely as a Precaution against all Attempts on their part; and to prevent their having it in their power to force the Conscience of their Fellow-Subjects, and even the Sovereign himself. I don’t pretend, by confuting the literal Sense of the words, Compel ’em to come in, to condemn Sovereigns, who for just causes may keep a strict Rein over some of their Subjects. I don’t blame the King or Republick of Poland for being upon their guard against the bold Attempts of the Cossacks, or the King of France for building Citadels and Forts in Citys which have bin subject to revolt. And therefore what I have bin saying just now cannot be turn’d upon my self, since that kind of Constraint which I allow against Papists in Protestant States does not affect their Consciences, nor has any other aim than to prevent their disturbing the State, which the Principles of their Religion directly lead to.
In effect, their Councils and their Popes having a thousand times approv’d Persecution, and injoin’d it on Princes upon the severest Penaltys; their Princes having exercis’d in all Ages all manner of barbarous Crueltys on Hereticks, or reputed Hereticks; and never having kept their Promises of letting ’em live in quiet, tho ratify’d by the solemnest Oaths, but breaking thro ’em without the least scruple, whenever they had a fit occasion: Their Bishops, the rest of their Clergy, and their Popes always egging ’em on to this Breach of Faith, and extolling and blessing ’em for it, as a most holy, most pious, and most divine Action; as may be seen in the Briefs of Innocent XI and his Harangue to a full Con-<232>sistory in praise of Lewis XIV and by infinite Panegyricks, with which the Pulpits ring all over France: In a word, it being the current and avow’d Doctrine of the Church of Rome, that Hereticks, of whom they form a more hideous Idea than of any Monster, may and ought to be punish’d, and compel’d to come in, according to the Command of Jesus Christ, which they expound literally, and never tolerated while there’s a possibility of preventing it. All these things, I say, rightly weigh’d, Prudence and common Sense require that we shou’d consider Papists as a Party of Men who look on all Government in the hands of Protestants with an evil eye, and with the sharpest regret; who omit no means to wriggle themselves into power, to recover the Churches and Benefices they were once possess’d of, and to extirpate what they call Heresy; which they think themselves oblig’d to, by the Command of Jesus Christ, and by the Spirit of their Church; a Spirit in their persuasion infallible. I pass over what the more devoted to the Pope pretend, that he has a power of absolving Subjects from their Oaths and Allegiance, and depriving Kings of their Dominions, and deposing ’em when not obsequious enough to the See of Rome; and content my self with insisting as before, and saying in one word, that Protestant Princes have the very same Reasons not to tolerate Papists, as an Emperor of China might have for banishing the Popish Missionarys, shou’d they frankly own that, as soon as they had the power in their hands, they’d force all People to receive Baptism. I have said so much of this in the fifth<233> Chapter of the first Part, that ’twill be enough to make an Application of it here to those of the Church of Rome; forasmuch as if they were sincere in the point, they must answer, to whoever shou’d ask ’em, in case they were uppermost, whether they wou’d grant Protestants a Toleration, that in truth they never wou’d, but oblige ’em to go to Mass by fair or by foul means. I shan’t here insist in particular upon another Remark, That whoever thinks it lawful to force Conscience, must by a natural Consequence believe the greatest Crimes become Acts of Piety in his hands, provided they tend to the destroying of Heresy: I insist not, I say, on this point here, and only desire my Reader to remember I have bin full enough on it elsewhere,80 and apply it to those of the Church of Rome. And now, to shorten this Article, I offer this one Argument, which deserves to be consider’d.
That Party which, if uppermost, wou’d tolerate no other, and wou’d force Conscience, ought not to be tolerated.
Now such is the Church of Rome.
Therefore it ought not to be tolerated.
Nor let any one say, it follows from hence that Protestants cou’d not be entitled to a Toleration from the Church of Rome; nor pretend to prove it by saying, that on this very score, because the Protestants wou’d not tolerate her if they were uppermost, she is oblig’d not to tolerate them when it is her turn: let no one, I say, reason thus, because there is this material difference between her and us, that Non-Toleration on our part is depriv’d of that fearful Sting, that most odious and most criminal Quality<234> which it has from Popery, to wit, the forcing Conscience by the most violent Temptations into Acts of Hypocrisy and deadly Remorse; whereas Protestants allow People a liberty of removing with their Effects, or serving God privately in their own way. So that the Major of my Syllogism cannot be retorted, there being a Clause in it which concerns not Protestants. In the mean time I shall observe one thing, which is of weight against the literal Sense of the Precept.
That by an odd Counterstroke it furnishes a pretence of persecuting even against those who might naturally be most inclin’d to tolerate: for in effect, if Prudence, and even Religion require, that a Prince shou’d remove from his State any thing that might bring Persecution upon it, which must naturally draw on all the Horrors and Villanys set forth in the fifth Chapter of the first Part;81 the Church of Rome might justly suspect, that if Protestants were uppermost, they wou’d not grant her a Toleration: for fear then of coming under such a misfortune one day, she thinks her self oblig’d to prevent and crush them. So that this literal Sense cannot be embrac’d by either Party, but by a Counterstroke it sets the other upon Persecution, how great soever its natural Aversion might be to the thing. Whence it appears that this pretended Precept, Compel ’em to come in, by its natural Action and Re-action, must be a continual and insatiable Principle of Horrors and Abominations over the face of the Earth. An evident Argument it never was the Meaning or Intention of Jesus Christ.<235>
Yet if we judg equitably of things, we are oblig’d to say, that the fear of a Retaliation warrants not the Church of Rome’s anticipating the Persecution of Protestants: 1. Because, as I have already observ’d, Non-Toleration among them has lost its sting. 2. Because in the places where they are tolerated they behave themselves like good and faithful Subjects, having never taken up Arms till control’d in their Liberty of Conscience; which shou’d be a sufficient Security to their Governors, that they never will give ’em any disturbance, so long as they are allow’d to serve God in their own way. 3. Because in Countrys where the Government is Protestant, they treat Papists with a great deal of Tenderness, as long as they see ’em conform to the Laws of the Land, in any degree becoming good Subjects; in Holland, for example, and in the Dutchy of Cleves, and here in England under the late Reign. Whereas the Roman Catholick Princes and States persecute without end and without measure, either in effect or intention; so that when they don’t oppress their Subjects of a different Religion, it is not for want of Good-will, but because their Interest won’t permit. The House of Austria, Poland, Savoy, are pregnant Examples. France has bin the greatest Example of Toleration that the Church of Rome can shew; and how did this happen? Was it from any sense of Equity, or any regard to the Dictates of right Reason, which so clearly discover to us, and which had discover’d to so many of the antient Fathers of the Church, that no Man shou’d be forc’d in the Worship of God? No, Lewis XIV in his Preamble to the Edict of Re-<236>vocation, lets all Europe understand that he, his Father, and Grandfather, had all along a design of repealing that of Nantes, if other Affairs had not interven’d.82 He ought to know his own thoughts best; and as to what he says of his Father, ’tis probable enough, if the Protestants of the Kingdom had had as much patience under his Reign, as they have shewn of later years, he had left but little for his Successor to do. But as to Henry IV, he’l give us leave to believe he had no intentions of revoking the Edict of Nantes the next day after it was register’d by his own Orders or even during his Reign. He was naturally too honest a Man, and had bin too long of the true Religion, to fall in seven or eight years time into all the abominable Maxims and knavish Counsels, that a Confessor of the Society of Jesus is capable of suggesting.
So much for Toleration, with regard to those of the Romish Communion. Let’s now proceed to that which Protestants are oblig’d to allow those of other Religions, whose only Ambition is Liberty of Conscience, and whose Principles are not destructive of the municipal and politickal Laws. And with regard to these, I shan’t spare to say, that those States which refuse ’em a Toleration do very ill; but their Iniquity varying according to the degrees of more or less, it’s fit we shou’d consider it with regard to the following Rule, or fixt point of Liberty: That it is the Duty of Superiors to use their utmost endeavors, by lively and solid Remonstrances, to undeceive those who are in error; yet to leave ’em the full liberty of declaring for their own Opinions, and serving God according to the Dictates of their Conscience,<237> if they have not the good fortune to convince ’em: neither laying before ’em any Snare or Temptation of worldly Punishment in case they persist, nor Reward if they abjure. Here we find the fixt indivisible Point of true Liberty of Conscience; and so far as any one swerves more or less from this Point, so far he more or less reduces Tolerance. For any thing further, I don’t think the having publick Churches, or walking in Processions thro the streets, essential to Liberty in Religion. This may contribute to the outward Pomp, or melius esse; but the ends of Religion are sufficiently answer’d, if they be allow’d to assemble to perform divine Service, and to argue modestly in behalf of their own Persuasion, and against the opposite Doctrine, as occasion requires.
The first step of Variation from this Rule might happen, shou’d we suppose the People of any Country, perfectly united in the Profession of one and the same Religion, enact this as a fundamental Law, That no Person of a different Religion shou’d ever be suffer’d to come in or sojourn among ’em, or vend his Opinions within their borders. This Law seems very reasonable and innocent at first sight, yet it is not without its Inconveniences: for supposing such a Law in force among the Gauls, in Spain, Arabia or Persia, upon the first preaching of the Gospel; the Apostles, and their Disciples, had bin excluded by virtue of it: and shou’d they declare in the open streets that ’twas better to obey God than Men, and to preach his Gospel rather than conform to the Laws of the Land, they had bin punish’d as seditious Persons, and Infringers of the Laws of the State. This had bin unjust, and<238> the Law consequently unjust. Such a Law excludes the Preachers of Truth, as well as those of false Doctrines: Shou’d all the Pagan and Mahometan Countrys at this time enact such a Law, how shou’d we send forth Missionarys with any hopes of Success? Let’s agree then, that a true Liberty of Conscience is inconsistent with such a Law, especially when put in execution against those who shou’d run the hazard, and come into a Country, in spite of such a Prohibition, with a design to convert it.
A second step of Variation from this Rule wou’d be; if, together with the above-mention’d Prohibition, another Law shou’d be enacted, forbidding any Inmate or Native of the Country to innovate in matters of Religion, on pain of Banishment. It’s evident, the enacting such a Law is forging Chains for Conscience; because, shou’d a Man, upon examining his Religion, find, or fancy he finds something amiss in it; shou’d he be convinc’d in his Judgment, that it were fit to teach so and so, to reform such and such Abuses, he shall be restrain’d by the fear of Banishment, and his Conscience undergo a conflict between the Love of his Country and that of Truth; and if bound to the former by prevailing Considerations, he’s in a fair way of playing the Hypocrite. I own, he’s much to blame if he does not chuse to run the hazard of Banishment rather than stifle the Motions of his Conscience; but still it’s a hardship upon the Man: And as such a Law might have occasion’d the banishing a Roman, or a Gaul, in the days of the Apostles, who in his Travels abroad, or by Epistles at home, had bin instructed in the Gospel;<239> it’s plain, that in such a case it had bin very unjust; and is no less so now, with regard to an Indian, Turk, or Moor, who having bin instructed in Christianity by the same means, shou’d have a desire of preaching it in his own Country. Sure I am, that if any one considers the Mind of Man, and his Attainments in Knowledg, and compares ’em with the Historys of former times, he shall plainly see, that there’s no one so persuaded of the Truth of what he believes, but may have ground to think he may alter his Opinion as to some matters; and therefore we shou’d never refuse to hear those who have any thing new to propose: for how know we, but it may still be better than what we have hitherto sincerely believ’d the best? This has often happen’d before: The Indians, who hear a New-comer speak of Jesus Christ, and change their antient Belief for what this new Man tells ’em, find their account in it: The Jews and Gentiles, who embrac’d the new Doctrines of the Apostles, were infinitely satisfy’d in ’em: They who hearken’d to Luther and Calvin, and were converted to their Opinions, thought themselves happy in so doing. And can we, after so many Examples, imagine it’s impossible at this day, that any one shou’d teach us things profitable to Salvation? This, on the whole, shews that all Laws restraining any further Inquiry or Progress in Knowledg, human and divine, are violent. What wou’d have become of us, if such Laws had bin duly put in execution for two or three thousand years past?
The third degree of Variation happens, when a Law is enacted, ordaining, that whatever Per-<240>son, whether a Stranger or born in the Land, teaches any thing contrary to the establish’d Religion of the State, shall be oblig’d to retract, and declare publickly, that he believes as the rest of the Country do, upon pain of Fire, Wheel, digging in the Mines, Galley, dark and noisom Dungeon, &c. Here we find the last and highest degree of Violence; but with this discretion, that to know whether Punishment by Fire be worse than that by Galley or Dungeon, we must consult the Temper of the Patient: for there be those who wou’d much rather get off by a quarter of an hour’s smart Pain, than tug at an Oar for thirty or forty years together; which however hinders not but Death in the ordinary gradation of Punishments exceeds Prison and perpetual Galley.
From hence it follows, that Non-Toleration on the part of Protestants is a Variation from the Rule only in the lowest and nearest degree; since the utmost Punishment they inflict on a Subject who turns Papist, does not exceed Banishment: and as for a Stranger, who may be surpriz’d in the clandestine Exercise of some Religious Function, if he be punish’d with Death, ’tis not so much on the score of Religion, as on that of his being a Fryar or Monk in masquerade, and a Presumption that he’s come to burn, poison, play the Spy, or carry on some hellish Conspiracy; of which there have bin a hundred Examples.
But, say they, the Punishment of Servetus83 is demonstration that Protestants will carry Persecution as high as Papists. I answer, very far from it: The Punishment of Servetus, and of a very small number besides of the same stamp,<241> erring in the most fundamental Points of the Christian Religion, is look’d on at this day as a horrid Blot upon the earlier days of the Reformation, the sad and deplorable Remains of Popery: and I make no doubt, were there such another Process before the Magistrates of Geneva at this day, but they wou’d be very cautious of coming to such extremitys.
[76. ]See Appendixes, “Bayle’s Use of Logic,” p. 580 (“consequence”).
[77. ]Ibid. (“enthymeme”).
[* ]Paulin in vita Ambros. [Migne, Patrologia Latina, vol. 14, col. 34, cap. 22.]
[* ]Ambros. Ep. 29. [Migne, Patrologia Latina, vol. 16, col. 1101, epistula XL.]
[† ]Vide Paulin. in vita Ambros. [Migne, Patrologia Latina, vol. 14, col. 35, cap. 23.]
[78. ]“In the ancestral way.”
[* ]Leg. 12. de pag. Cod. Theo. [Theodosian Code, XVI, 10, 12, ed. Mommsen, Berlin, 1962, p. 900; tr. C. Pharr, New York, 1952, p. 473.]
[79. ]See above, p. 180.
[80. ]See above, p. 88.
[81. ]See above, Part I, Chapter 5, pp. 103–107.
[82. ]For the text of the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, see http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1685revocation.html.
[83. ]John Calvin had Michael Servetus tried as a heretic and burnt at the stake in 1553 for denying the doctrine of the Trinity. See Joseph Lecler, Toleration and the Reformation, translated T. L. Westow (London: Longmans, 1960), vol. 1, pp. 325–32.