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Chapter VIII: Eighth Objection: Compulsion in the literal Sense is maliciously misrepresented, by supposing it authorizes Violences committed against the Truth. The Answer to this; by which it is prov’d, that the literal Sense does in reality authorize th - 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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Eighth Objection: Compulsion in the literal Sense is maliciously misrepresented, by supposing it authorizes Violences committed against the Truth. The Answer to this; by which it is prov’d, that the literal Sense does in reality authorize the stirring up Persecutions against the Cause of Truth, and that an erroneous Conscience has the same Rights as an enlighten’d Conscience.
It’s sometimes a disadvantage to Reason with People of shallow Understandings; for be their Intention ever so honest, they shall wrangle about a thousand things solidly prov’d, for want of comprehending the Force of an Argument. Whereas there is this satisfaction in having to deal with great Wits, if they be but sincere, that taking the stress of the Difficulty at first sight, they own they are struck with it, and avow the Justness of the Consequences objected against ’em: whereupon they presently put themselves in a posture of Defence, without amusing the Bar by Disputes upon<273> a thousand Incidents and accessory Distinctions, whether resulting from their Doctrine or no. Your Disputants of a lower form fly to a world of vain Shifts and Doubles, when prest upon the Consequences of the literal Sense; the reason is, that they have not a clear Notion of the Truth, or, if they have, are loth to give their Adversary the pleasure of owning they are convinc’d: but others more sincere and more penetrating answer immediately, That how just soever the Persecutions of the Orthodox against Sectarys be, Sectarys can never be justify’d in persecuting the Orthodox, altho they shou’d believe ’em to be in a false way, and look on themselves as the only Orthodox. Let’s see with what ground this can be said.
In order to confute it, I lay down this Position, That whatever a Conscience well directed allows us to do for the Advancement of Truth, an erroneous Conscience will warrant for advancing a suppos’d Truth. This Position I shall make out and illustrate.
I don’t believe any one will contest the Truth of this Principle, Whatever is done against the Dictates of Conscience is Sin; for it is so very evident, that Conscience is a Light dictating that such a thing is good or bad, that it is not probable any one will dispute the Definition. It is no less evident, that every reasonable Creature which judges upon any Action as good or bad, supposes there’s some Rule of the Seemliness and Turpitude of Actions; and if he’s not an Atheist, if he believe any Religion, he necessarily supposes this Rule and Law to be founded in the Nature of God; Whence I conclude it is the same thing<274> to say, My Conscience judges such an Action to be good or bad; and to say, My Conscience judges that such an Action is pleasing or displeasing to God. To me these Propositions seem allow’d by all the world, as much as any of the clearest Principles of Metaphysicks. This which follows is equally true; Whoever knows such an Action is evil and displeasing to God, and yet commits it, wilfully offends and disobeys God: And whoever wilfully offends and disobeys God, is necessarily guilty of Sin. In like manner this Proposition is evident, That whoever does a thing which his Conscience tells him is evil, or omits that which his Conscience tells him he ought to do, commits a Sin.
Such a Man does not only commit a Sin, but I further affirm, that all things being in other respects equal, his Sin is the heinousest that can be committed: for supposing an Equality in the outward Act, as in the Motion of the Hand which runs a Sword thro a man’s Body, and in the Act of the Will directing this Motion; supposing also an Equality in the passive Subject of this Action, that is, an equal Dignity in the Person slain: I say the Murder shall be a Sin so much the greater, as the degree of Knowledg that it is a criminal Act is greater. For which reason, if two Sons shou’d each kill his Father, precisely with all the same Circumstances, except that one had only a confus’d Knowledg of its being a Sin, the other a very distinct Sense of it, and actually reflected on the Enormity as he struck the Dagger into his Father’s Heart; this latter wou’d be guilty of a Sin incomparably more heinous, and more punishable in the sight<275> of God than the other. This, I think, is another Proposition which can’t be contested.
But I go still further, and say, that a Sin does not only become the greatest that can be in its kind, by being committed against the greatest degree of Knowledg, but also that of two Actions, one of which we call good, the other bad, the good being done against the Instincts of Conscience, is a greater Sin than the bad Action done from the Instincts of Conscience. I shall explain my self by an Example.
We call giving an Alms to a Beggar a good Action, and repulsing him with ill words an ill Action. Yet I maintain, that a Man who shou’d give a Beggar an Alms in certain circumstances, his Conscience suggesting that he ought not to give, and he acquiescing in the good or bad Judgment of his Conscience, wou’d be guilty of a worse Action, than he who sent away a Beggar with hard words in circumstances where his Conscience suggested, from Reasons which he judg’d well of, that he ought to turn him away with this ill usage. Mark well what I lay down; I don’t content my self with saying, that Conscience barely suggests either not to give an Alms, or to give hard Words; I add, that it passes a definitive Judgment in which we acquiesce; that is, we agree this Judgment is reasonable. ’Tis one thing to have Surmizes presented from Conscience, which we presently reject either as false or doubtful, and another thing to assent from our Judgment, and acquiesce in its Representations. To commit an Action under the bare Surmizes which Conscience suggests against it, without passing its definitive Sentence, is not<276> caeteris paribus so bad an Action, as doing it in contempt of that Sentence. And that it is possible to act in contempt of the last Judgment of Conscience, who that considers it will deny?
A Passenger looks at a Beggar; he sees he’s a Cheat, or an idle Fellow that might get an honest Livelihood if he wou’d work, a Sot who squanders all he gets: hereupon his Reason suggests, that he ought not to relieve him, that ’twere encouraging him in his Idleness, that ’twere better keep this Charity for a properer Object. In a word, this Reason, or if you’l rather call it Conscience, pronounces this Judgment, It’s a sin to give this Beggar an Alms. Yet after all, this very Person trifles with his own Conscience, and bestows his Charity on the Wretch, either that he is not us’d to govern himself by the Dictates of his Conscience, or out of mere Caprice, or mov’d by some pitiful posture of the Beggar, or because such a one’s passing by, or for any other like Consideration working on him at that moment. If Persons who have a thousand good Qualitys, Moral and Christian, are daily guilty of Fornication, tho Conscience pronounces it a Sin by a formal and definitive Judgment; shall we doubt but a Man may give an Alms in contempt of a fix’d Judgment of his Conscience that he ought not to give in such and such circumstances?
Let’s now compare the Action of this Giver of Alms, with that of another Man who sends a Beggar away because his Conscience tells him he is a Rogue, a Cheat, a Varlet, who is much likelier to be reclaim’d by ill usage, than by relieving him in his necessity; and I affirm, tho<277> we shou’d suppose each in an error as to fact, that the Action of the former is worse than that of the latter: and thus I prove it.
The Action of the former supposing an Error of Fact, includes these four Circumstances.
1. A Person who begs an Alms from real Necessity, and who fears God.
2. A Judgment of the Reason suggesting he’s a Rogue and a Cheat, either purely from his Looks, or because the Party mistakes him for another notoriously wicked Beggar.
3. A fix’d and definitive Sentence of Conscience, pronouncing it a thing displeasing to God to relieve such a Varlet, since it can only serve to confirm him in his Vices; whereas the exposing him to Want might possibly reclaim him.
4. The bestowing the Alms on this very Beggar.
Let’s now consider the Action of the other. We find likewise four Circumstances attending it, supposing an Error in Fact.
The three first Circumstances already laid down, which are common to both; and in the fourth place, the hard words with which he dismisses the Beggar.
To prove that the Action of the first is worse than that of the second, it will be sufficient if I make out these two things: (1.) That there is some degree of moral Goodness in the Action of the second, but not the least shadow of it in that of the first. (2.) That the Evil on that side is much less than on this.
As to the first of these Cases, I wou’d desire those who have a mind to dispute this Point, to shew me, wherein consists the moral Good-<278>ness of his Action, who in the mention’d Circumstances gives a poor Body an Alms. It can’t lie in the Judgment of his Reason, nor in that of his Conscience, which are both erroneous; it must lie then, if any such be, in the very Act of bestowing his Charity: but it’s plain, there’s not the least Dram of Goodness in this, because all who understand any thing of moral Actions are unanimously agreed, that giving an Alms, consider’d as it’s barely the conveying a Penny from the pocket into a Man’s hand, is no morally good Action; as is manifest from hence, that the Spring of a Machine accidentally jerking a piece of Gold into a Beggar’s cap wou’d be an Action void of the least grain of moral Goodness.
To the end that an Alms be a good Work, it’s absolutely necessary it be done by the direction of Reason and Conscience, representing it as a Duty. Now nothing of this occurs in the case in question: and therefore there’s not the least degree of moral Goodness in the Act.
We can’t say so of the second Act, because it’s allow’d on all hands, that all Homage paid to Conscience, all Submission to its Judgment and Sentence, is an instance of his Regard to the Eternal Law, and of his Reverence for the Divinity, whose Voice he recognizes at the Tribunal of his Conscience. In a word, he who performs any Action because he believes it well-pleasing to God, testifies in general, at least that he desires to please God, and to obey his Will. And the very Desire cannot be destitute of all moral Goodness.<279>
As to the second Case, I say that the Evil of his Action, who bestows an Alms in the foremention’d Circumstances, consists in this, that he spurns the fixt and definitive Sentence of his Conscience; and that the Evil of the other’s Action consists in his snubbing a poor Man. I maintain that this, in the present Circumstances, is a less Sin than the other.
For can a Man act contrary to the Dictates of his Conscience, without an intention of doing what he knows is displeasing to God? And is not this a Contempt of God, a Rebellion, upon Knowledg, Choice and Approbation, against his adorable Majesty? And willing a Sin acknowledg’d as such, willing a Transgression against God clearly and distinctly known, is it not the most crying Iniquity, and Malice, and Corruption of Heart?
’Tis quite otherwise with him who gives a Beggar hard words, taking him for an errand Mumper, and a Fellow that needs Reproof to bring him to good. The Evil he does, proceeds not from a Desire or fixt Purpose of doing evil, of disobeying God, of thwarting the Ideas of Rectitude, and trampling under foot immutable Order: It proceeds only from Ignorance, only from a wrong Choice of the Means and Manner of obeying God. He was under a mistaken Opinion, that this Beggar was unworthy of his Charity, and that Repulses and Disgrace were the likeliest means of reclaiming him. This was the Dictate of his Conscience, and he comply’d with it. The Evil which appears in this Slight of the poor Man, and which is not inconsistent with an actual Desire at the same time of obeying<280> the Law of God, is it to be compar’d with an Evil which actually excludes the Desire of pleasing God, and brings into its room an Act of known Disobedience?
I own the reviling our Neighbor is not only forbidden, and the grieving the Poor a very great Sin; but that we also suppose, the poor Man here abus’d and insulted is in fact one that fears God: I own it, yet still I maintain that this Man fearing God, not having bin insulted as such, seeing he was taken for a Vagabond, the Sin of the Person who insulted him must be resolv’d into a precipitate Judgment only, and a believing upon false appearances that this Beggar was a very ill Man. Now every one will allow, that not having temper to examine things duly, is a much more venial Sin than formally and actually willing to commit what the Party believes to be a Sin.
Some may complain, that I make very slight of the hard words given to this honest Man the Beggar. I answer, that hard words consider’d simply as consisting of articulate Sounds can’t make a Sinner; else we must say that the Bulrushes in the Fable, whose ruffle and murmur disclos’d poor Mi-das’s shame, were guilty of a Sin, if what they tell of ’em were true. We must say, a Pair of Organs committed a Sin, if by any Motion of the Air or Water it shou’d happen to form Sounds injurious to a Man’s Reputation, which is extremely absurd. Abusive Language from a Man in a raving Fever, or in a Tongue he does not understand, passes for nothing: It offends only in proportion to the Speaker’s known Intention of giving offence by<281> it; and if he be known to mistake one Man for another, the Affront lights on him who was in his intention, and not on him whom he address’d himself to by mistake. Let any one examine the Case as I have stated it, he’l find, that all the Evil of the Action is resolv’d into too great a facility of believing upon false Reasons, that the Beggar was the Person which he really was not.
As to the Good inhering in his Action who gives the Alms, an Action which after all relieves the Wants of a poor Servant of God, whereas harsh Language adds to his Sufferings, I don’t think it ought to be brought into the account; the rather, because it’s at best only a physical Good or Evil, which confers no moral Worth on Actions, farther than as it might possibly have enter’d into the Intention. For example, to refuse an Alms in Circumstances where the Party knows that the bestowing it will draw on numberless Advantages, by the Combination of various Causes and Effects, and the refusing it be follow’d by a long train of Calamitys on the Person who implores it; is much a greater Sin than refusing it in Circumstances where none of these Events are in the Party’s view. But it’s certain, that the good or evil Consequences of our Actions avail not in the sight of God towards justifying or condemning us, when we don’t act from a direct design of procuring these Consequences. It’s plain then, that all things conspire to resolve the Fault of him who revil’d the Beggar, into a simple lack of Examination and Attention; and consequently, that his refusal of the Charity, and his harsh words under these Circum-<282>stances, are a less evil Action, than the other’s bestowing an Alms. Which was the thing to be prov’d.
I add, that if when there’s an Error in the Conscience as well of him who governs himself by its Dictates, as of him who acts directly counter to ’em, the Action of the latter is worse than that of the former, tho otherwise it had bin good, and the other bad; by a much stronger reason ought this to be so, when there’s no Error in the Conscience of him who follows not its Dictates. To comprehend this, we need not go farther than the Example of our two Men, and only suppose that the Beggar who addresses himself to the first is really a Vagabond, a Drunkard, a Cheat, a Villain; and the Beggar, who addresses himself to the second, is a very honest Man. Let’s leave the Supposition in all other respects exactly as it was. What will follow? Why this; that the Judgment of the Reason and Conscience of the first is just and reasonable: and then our Adversarys themselves will judg that the bestowing his Charity on a very unworthy Object, and certainly known to be such, will be much more blamable than it was before, when suppos’d to fall to an honest Man’s lot.
But whither does all this long Preamble tend, these Turnings and Twistings of this Argument? To this; That an erroneous Conscience challenges all the same Prerogatives, Favors, and Assistances for an Error, as an Orthodox Conscience can challenge for the Truth. This appears somewhat far fetch’d; but I shall now make the Dependance and Connexion of these Doctrines appear.<283>
My Principles allow’d by all the World, or just now prov’d, are these:
1. That the Will of disobeying God is a Sin.
2. That the Will of disobeying the fixt and definitive Sentence of Conscience, is the same thing as willing to transgress the Law of God.
3. Consequently, that whatever is done against the Dictate of Conscience is a Sin.
4. That the greatest Turpitude of Sin, where things are in other respects equal, arises from the greatest Knowledg of the Fact’s being a Sin.
5. That an Action which wou’d be incontestably good (giving an Alms for example) if done by the direction of Conscience, becomes worse by being done against its direction, than another Action done according to the direction of Conscience, which wou’d be incontestably sinful (as reviling a poor Man for example) if not done by its direction.
6. That doing a thing which we call evil, from the Dictates of Conscience, tho in reality erroneous, renders this Action much less evil, than another Action of the nature of those which we call good, done against the Dictate of Conscience suppos’d to be truly inform’d.
From all these Principles I may reasonably conclude, that the first and most indispensable of all our Obligations, is that of never acting against the Instincts of Conscience; and that every Action done against the Lights of Conscience is essentially evil: So that as the Law of loving God can never be dispens’d with, because the hating God is an Act essentially evil; so the Law of<284> never violating the Lights of our Conscience is such as God himself can never dispense with; forasmuch as this were in reality indulging us in the Contempt or Hatred of himself, Acts intrinsecally and in their own nature criminal. There is therefore an eternal and immutable Law, obliging Man, upon pain of incurring the Guilt of the most heinous mortal Sin that can be committed, never to do any thing in violation and in despite of Conscience.
Hence it manifestly and demonstratively follows, if the eternal Law, or any positive Law of God requires that he who is convinc’d of the Truth shou’d employ Fire and Sword to establish it in the World; that all Men ought to employ Fire and Sword for the establishing their own Religion. I understand all those to whom this Law of God is reveal’d.
For the moment this Law of God were reveal’d, It’s my will that you employ Fire and Sword for the establishing the Truth, Conscience wou’d dictate to the several opposite Partys, that they ought to employ Fire and Sword for establishing that Religion which themselves profess; because they know no other Truth but this, nor any way of executing the Order of God, but that of acting for their own Religion; and must believe they acted in favor of Falshood, and consequently fall into a Transgression of the Divine Law, if they labor’d the Advancement of any Religion but their own. It’s plain then, that Conscience wou’d apply the Command of God, for the establishing the Truth, to each Party’s own Religion.
Now since, as I have already prov’d, the greatest of all Iniquitys is that of not following the<285> Lights of Conscience; and since Order immutable and the Law eternal indispensably require, that we shou’d above all things avoid the greatest of all Iniquitys, and all Acts essentially evil; it follows,
That by the first, the most inviolable and most indispensable of all our Obligations, each Person to whom God reveal’d the foresaid Law, ought to employ Fire and Sword for the establishing his own Religion; the Socinian for his, as well as the Calvinist, the Papist, the Nestorian, the Eutychian for theirs. For shou’d a Socinian, after such a general Law of God, stand with his Arms folded, and not employ those means for establishing the Truth which God had appointed, he must act against Conscience; and this, caeteris paribus, must be the greatest of all Sins: and every one is indispensably oblig’d above all things to avoid the greatest of Sins; then the Socinian wou’d be oblig’d indispensably to employ Fire and Sword for the propagation of his Doctrines; oblig’d, I say, in virtue of an eternal Law, which enjoins every reasonable Creature to fly Sin, and especially the greatest of Sins.
The better to make our Adversarys comprehend the Force of my Argument, I desire to know what they wou’d have a Socinian do, upon a plain and express Revelation with regard to him, as well as to the Orthodox, of such a Law as this; It is my will, that Fire and Sword be employ’d for the establishing the Truth. Wou’d they have him, when persuaded there’s no other Doctrine in matter of Religion true but that which he teaches, rest satisfy’d in the private Belief of it by himself or in his own Family, without em-<286>ploying the means Providence might put into his hands for extirpating the Religions, which he believ’d God had commanded him to destroy? But in this case he manifestly falls into a Contempt of the Law of God, and a Violation of his first and most essential Duty, which is a greater Sin than executing in behalf of Socinianism what he believ’d to be the Law of God: for here God wou’d find in his Soul a sincere regard to his Laws, and a desire of obeying him; whereas he must find quite the contrary Dispositions if he did not exert himself against the other Religions. This therefore wou’d be advising the Socinian to chuse between two States that which must render him most criminal in the sight of God. Now the very counselling this were a most wicked and abominable thought. It’s plain then, that as the Socinian must make a choice between these three things, either to establish his Heresy by Fire and Sword, or not give himself the least trouble about establishing it, or in the last place favor its Ruin; he must of necessity make choice of the first, to avoid either of the other two, as being much the more sinful.
In effect, which way cou’d he excuse himself in the sight of God, if after this suppos’d Command, he shou’d sit down in a slothful Indifference, and not be concern’d whether his Religion spread or no? Is this what I commanded you? might God say to him; don’t you openly contemn my Authority, and become guilty of the sinful Indifference, of counting it much at one, whether you be in my Favor or Displeasure, since you won’t make the least step towards obeying what Conscience tells you I have requir’d at your hands? Reproaches much more harsh wou’d<287> still be more just, if he openly favor’d the Ruin of his own Religion; and no such Reproaches cou’d be made him if he wag’d War with all other Sects: God cou’d reproach him with nothing more in this case, than his having made a wrong Choice of the Object for which he had given him Orders to contend; the Justice of these Reproaches cou’d not obstruct God’s seeing a sincere Desire in his Soul (I suppose him a Socinian from a sincere Principle) of obeying him, a regard to Order, a homage paid to the Divine Majesty. It’s therefore a matter as incontestable, that the first of these three Demeanors in the Socinians, is the least Evil of all, as that a Master, who order’d his Servants to destroy all the Wolves on his Estate, wou’d think those less to be blam’d, who instead of the Wolves kill’d all the Foxes, either because they mistook one word for another, or, having forgot the Order, fancy’d he meant the Foxes; be the Reason what it will, he wou’d think ’em less in blame, than those who shou’d never disturb Wolves, or who took the way to preserve ’em, and multiply the Breed. I go further, and say, that a reasonable Master, who shou’d certainly know, that those Servants of his, who preserv’d the Breed of Wolves, were fully persuaded in their Hearts, that he had given ’em Orders to destroy ’em, wou’d think himself more affronted by their Disobedience, than by that of another Party of his Servants, who without any Malice or Design, but purely thro forgetfulness or involuntary mistake of Orders, shou’d destroy all the Rabbets and Hares instead of the Wolves.<288>
Be the Brain of the French Convertists ever so much turn’d, I can’t forbear thinking, but there are some among ’em, who have reason enough left to agree to what I am now going to offer. That
If once it be suppos’d, that God has clearly and distinctly reveal’d a Law to Christians in general, obliging ’em to exterminate all false Religions by Fire and Sword; a Socinian, who lets the other Sects of Christianity live in quiet, who does not bestir himself to establish his own Religion, or perhaps favors those who are supplanting it, and establishing a different Sect with all their might, cannot be excus’d in his Conduct but upon one or other of the following Reasons: Either because he believes the Law in question ought not to be understood in the strictness of the Letter, but has a mystical Meaning which all the World is not oblig’d to dive into; or because he thinks, that the Execution of this Law does not belong to him; or because he is not over-certain, that Socinianism is the true Doctrine; or last of all, because believing any Religion good enough, it’s equal to him which is uppermost: he’l for his part look on and let things work, resolv’d to be a Prey to the Conqueror; or perhaps favors one side, tho very opposite to Socinianism, that he may enter the Lists with a better Grace, when this has got the day. These, in my opinion, are all the ways that can be thought on for disculpating a Socinian, who is tardy in propagating his own Religion, after God had reveal’d the suppos’d Law; and consequently he must be wholly inexcusable, or exceedingly criminal, if he maintain’d this Neutrality, or if<289> he prejudic’d his own Sect, while persuaded, 1. That God enjoins propagating the Truth by Fire and Sword; 2. That Socinianism is the Truth.
Supposing him under this double Persuasion, he is inexcusably criminal if he does not persecute all other Sects; he is much more so if he favors any: he can neither forbear acting for his own Sect, nor lend his Assistance to a different Sect, without falling into a Sin against Conscience, of all Sins the most heinous. He is therefore indispensably oblig’d, by the eternal Laws of Order, to avoid this most heinous Sin, by persecuting other Christians according to the Dictates of his Conscience.
Now if once it be made appear, that a Right of persecuting, and extirpating Heresys by Fire and Sword, be common, from an indispensable Necessity founded in the Nature of things, to all Religions inform’d of this Law of God, as well as to the true; it’s plain, that all the other Rights and Privileges of Truth must be common to all kind of Sects, whether true or false. Accordingly no sooner will it be prov’d, that God requires the true Religion shou’d be inflam’d with an ardent Charity for the Conversion of the false, that she employ all her Pains, her Books, her Sermons, her Censures, her Caresses, her good Examples, her Presents, &c. for the Reunion of those astray, but presently the false Religions must fall into the same Methods of Conversion; for each Church believing it self the only true, it’s impossible it shou’d apprehend, that God commands the true Church to act so and so, without believing it self oblig’d to do the same:<290> and if each Sect thinks it self in Conscience oblig’d to this, it wou’d be infinitely worse in ’em to refrain, or act quite contrary, than execute the Command, be it of what nature it will. For unalterable Order requires, that we shou’d avoid what we know is a heinous Sin, to do that which we know is a good Action, and which at worse, if it be a Sin, must be of a less heinous nature than the other; then every Church is indispensably oblig’d, and has an inalienable right of practising all that she knows God enjoins on the true Church.
We don’t therefore, as the Objection which I examine in this Chapter wou’d insinuate, maliciously render the literal Sense of the Parable odious, by supposing it wou’d authorize Persecutions mov’d by the false Religions against the true; this, I say, is no false or artificial Supposition, but the true State of the case, as I have fully made appear.
I shall add one Remark more. That if a Religion, persecuted in a Country where it was weakest, shou’d ask her Persecutors, why they employ such violent Methods; and these answer, because God enjoins the true Religion to extirpate Heresy quocunque modo:90 if, I say, by making this Answer, they shou’d happen to persuade the Persecuted that there really was such a Command, what wou’d follow? Why this same persecuted Church, finding it self the strongest in another place, might very well say to that Communion which had tormented it in the Country where ’twas uppermost, You have taught me one Lesson that I did not know before, I am oblig’d to you for it; you have shewn me from the Scriptures, that God<291> enjoins the faithful to distress false Communions; I shall therefore fall to persecuting you, seeing I am the true Church, and you Idolaters and false Christians, &c. It’s very plain, that the stronger the Arguments be which Persecutors bring to prove that God enjoins Constraint, the smarter Rods they furnish their Adversarys to scourge themselves in another place. Each Party will engross the Proofs, the Command, the Rights of Truth; and authorize its Proceedings by every thing which the really true Religion can offer in its own behalf.
From whence I infer anew, that it’s impossible God shou’d allow the Truth’s doing any thing to establish it self, which is not just, and does not belong by common Right to all Mankind: for in the present Combinations, and Situation of things, there’s an unavoidable Necessity, that all Means which are permitted to Truth against Error, shou’d be lawful in Error against Truth; and hence, by the same Ordinance dispensing with the general Rule in favor of the true Religion, Crime becomes necessary, and a total Confusion ensues.
The only Starting-hole now left our Adversarys is saying, that they allow the false Religions, by an Abuse and criminal Usurpation, may appropriate to themselves what solely belongs to the true Church; but there will always remain this difference between ’em, that the true Religion constrains with Justice and lawful Authority, but the rest wickedly and without a Right. This we shall speak to in the 10th Chapter.
But before I make an end of this, I shall answer an Objection from a very common Topick. You did not, they’l tell me, make a fair Enumeration<292> of ways and means, when you said, the Socinian had but one of three Choices to make. There’s a fourth, and that the only good one, which is changing to the Truth; and then he may follow the Instincts of his Conscience with Impunity. This I confess is the better part; but as it cannot be chosen except on one condition, I maintain, that so long as this condition is wanting, he must necessarily chuse among the other three. The Condition I speak of needs not being explain’d. All the World is satisfy’d that it is this, that the Party know the Truth to be the Truth: every Heretick accepts the Truth, provided he knows it, and as soon as he knows it, but not otherwise nor sooner; for so long as it appears to him a hideous Grotesque of Falshood and Lye, so long he is not to admit, he is to fly and detest it. The first thing therefore a Heretick shou’d be desir’d to do, is, to search after Truth, and not opinionatively pretend he has found it. But if he answer, that he has searched as much as possible, that all his Inquirys have ended, in making him see more and more, that the Truth is on his own side; and shou’d he watch day and night, that he never shou’d believe any other thing, but what’s already firmly ingrafted in his Soul, to be the reveal’d Truth; ’twere ridiculous telling him to beware following the Lights of his Conscience, and think of Conversion. Every one ought to set apart some Portion of his time for Instruction, and even be always ready to renounce what he had believ’d most true, if it be made appear to him false: but after all one can’t be a Sceptick or Pyrrhonist in Religion all his Life long, he must fix upon some Principles, and act according to ’em; and whether he’s determin’d to true or<293> false, ’tis equally evident, that he ought to exercise Acts of Vertue and Love towards God, and shun that capital Offence of acting against Conscience. Whence it appears, that a Socinian, who has done his utmost Endeavors towards discovering the Truth, is limited in his Choice to one of the three things I propos’d. Sending him back eternally to the fourth, means, that he shou’d spend his whole Life in mere Speculation, without ever consulting his Conscience to act according to its Lights. Now this of all Absurditys were surely the greatest.
[90. ]“In whatever way.”