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Chapter XI: The Result from what has bin prov’d in the two foregoing Chapters; and a Confutation of the literal Sense, let the worst come to the worst. - 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 Result from what has bin prov’d in the two foregoing Chapters; and a Confutation of the literal Sense, let the worst come to the worst.
I Enter’d upon this tedious and very abstruse Question about the Rights of Conscience, on purpose to cut off Persecutors from all their starting Holes, when ask’d, whether they themselves wou’d take it well that others shou’d persecute them. They answer, ’Twere very unjust, because they teach the real Truth, and upon this account have an incommunicable Privilege of<362> persecuting and vexing Hereticks. ’Twas necessary to sound this Answer to the bottom, and destroy all the Cavils that can be offer’d in its defence, which is the reason of my dwelling so long upon it. Let us now briefly sum up the Truths which we think have bin made out.
The Conclusion we draw from the whole is, That if God had commanded the Professors of Truth to persecute the Professors of a Lye, these apprehending this Command as directed to themselves, wou’d be oblig’d in Conscience to persecute the Professors of Truth, wou’d be guilty of an Offence if they did not, and be acquitted in the sight of God, provided their Ignorance were neither malicious nor affected.
This manifestly shews, that the Doctrine of Persecutors, founded on the words Compel ’em to come in, opens a door to a thousand dreadful Confusions, in which the Party of Truth must suffer most, and this without any just ground of Complaint.
But let us suppose, that the Right of persecuting belong’d in reality to the Orthodox alone; let us suppose, that the true Church has indeed that Privilege, which some wild Phanaticks have boasted of, to wit, that the most criminal Actions are allowable, and cease to be Sins when committed by her; let us suppose, that the false Churches when they use the Law of Retaliation, are really in the wrong; yet what will she gain by this? Nothing more than the comfort of saying, That we shall see at the Day of Judgment which was right and which wrong. Now as this is a Remedy, which can’t obstruct that dismal Torrent of Calamitys which must overwhelm<363> the World, if all those who believe themselves the true Church persecuted the rest; ’tis plain, it’s a most ridiculous Conceit, that only the Orthodox are allow’d to persecute, since the very Supposition is enough to oblige each Sect to turn Persecutress, each believing it self the only true and pure Religion. The persecuted Religions might talk as long as they pleas’d, and say they are the only Party of Truth, and that God will declare as much when he comes at the last day to judg the World; the others will answer, That then will be the time they shall find their Confusion, and the Justice of persecuting ’em upon Earth, and the tyrannical Injustice with which when uppermost they durst persecute other Religions. Thus the Complaints of each persecuted tormented Party must be resolv’d into a long and tedious Debate, upon the Controversys which divide ’em; and the uppermost during the Discussion must persecute freely, which as every one sees and feels can only present the Image of the most fearful and lamentable Desolation. Whence we ought to conclude, That tho there were really grounds for interpreting the Parable in the literal Sense, yet ’twere better not, for fear of occasioning such a State of Misery in the World. ’Tis a Right which ought to lie for ever dormant, nor any Proceedings be grounded upon it, which are not warrantable in all Mankind.
I here intended to examine the Reasons which St. Austin has display’d with a great deal of Pomp and Industry, in defence of Persecution; but as this Commentary is too bulky already, having grown under my Pen much faster than I imagin’d, I must adjourn this part to a particular<365> Treatise on this Doctrine of St. Austin’s. I hope I shall be able to take in the whole in a few words, having by the way already enervated most of the Paralogisms and little Maxims of this great Bishop of Hippo.
<367>A Philosophical Commentaryon These Words of the Gospel, Luke XIV. 23.
Compel them to come in, that my House may be full.
The Second Volume.
Remarks on those Letters of St. Austin which are usually alledg’d for the compelling of Hereticks, and particularly to justify the late Persecution in France.
A Supplement, proving, That Hereticks have as much Right to persecute the Orthodox, as the Orthodox them.
Translated from the French of Mr. Bayle, Author of the Great Critical and Historical Dictionary.
LONDON, Printed by J. Darby in Bartholomew-Close, and sold
by J. Morphew near Stationers-Hall. 1708.
<369>A Philosophical Commentary
Those letters of St. Austin, which contain an Apology for the compelling of Hereticks.
As in the Entrance of the first Part of this Commentary I said,103 I wou’d not dwell on any particular Circumstances of the Text which I design’d to give a Comment on, but confute the literal Sense consider’d in it self, and attack it upon general Principles: so in the Entrance on this Third Part I think fit to signify, that I shall have no regard to any particular Circumstances of St. Austin, of the Donatists, of the Century, or the Country in which they liv’d;104 but endeavor, from the most general Heads of Proof, to shew, that St. Austin’s Reasons, consider’d in themselves, and abstracted from all their disparaging Circumstances, are nevertheless false. It’s nothing to me if St. Austin was formerly of Opinion, that no one ought to be constrain’d in matters of Religion; or if he chang’d his Opinion purely upon seeing the Successes of the Imperial Laws<370> in bringing in Hereticks, which is one of the wretchedest ways of Reasoning that can be imagin’d; it being just the same as saying, Such a Man has heap’d up much Riches, therefore he has employ’d only lawful Means. Nor does it concern me, that St. Austin was of such or such a Spirit, of such or such a Character; nor yet, that the Donatists were a ridiculous Set of Men who separated from the Church upon mere trifles. My design is to examine St. Austin’s Reasons as if they were drop’d from the Clouds, without regard to Persons or Partys; tho I shou’d rather incline to defend so great a Man against those who accuse him of Insincerity and Unfairness in this Dispute. I am quite of another Opinion, and believe verily he spoke as he thought: but being a well-meaning Man, and carry’d away by an overardent Zeal, he readily caught at any thing that seem’d to support his Prejudices, and believ’d he did God good Service by finding out Arguments at any expence for what he believ’d to be the Truth. He had a great share of Intelligence, but he had more Zeal; and so much as he indulg’d his Zeal (now he indulg’d it very freely) so much he fell away from solid Reasoning, and from the purest Lights of true Philosophy. This is the real state of his Case: a Spirit of Devotion and Zeal is undoubtedly a great Blessing, but ’tis sometimes at the expence of the Reason and Judgment; the Party grows credulous, he takes up with the wretchedest Sophisms, provided they advance his Cause; he paints out the Errors of his Adversarys in the frightfullest colors: and if he be of a hot Spirit withal, what ground can he stand upon, what Efforts will he not make to<371> wrest Scripture, Tradition, and all sort of Principles? He’l find his own account in all, he’l strain all; in short, he’l mar all. I don’t think ever any one made a juster Judgment of St. Austin than one P. Adam a Jesuit, let P. Norris say what he please to the contrary in his Vindiciae Augustinianae.105 But as I said before, it’s nothing to me, whether St. Austin was this or that; my business is to examine his Arguments abstractedly from all Prejudices. Let’s begin then and examine the two Letters of this Father, lately printed by themselves, according to the last French Version, by the Archbishop of Paris’s Orders, with a Preface at the head of ’em, part of which we have already confuted in the Preliminary Discourse; the whole is entitl’d, The Conformity of the Conduct of the Church of France for reuniting the Protestants, with that of the Church of Africk for reuniting the Donatists to the Catholick Church.106 The first of these two Letters is the 93d of the new Edition, and the 48th of the old, written in the Year 408. to Vincentius, a Donatist Bishop, in answer to one from him, expressing his Surprize at the Inconstancy of this Father; who having formerly bin of Opinion, that it was not lawful to employ the Secular Arm against Hereticks, nor any other means besides the Word of God and sound Reason, had chang’d from white to black on this important Point. Let’s hear St. Austin’s first Remark.
[103. ]See above, p. 65.
[104. ]During the persecutions of Christians under the Emperor Diocletian some Christian clergy had surrendered their sacred books, the Bible, to the persecutors, who burnt them. After the persecution ended the North African province of the Church was divided by a controversy between those who had handed over the Bible and those who had not. The followers of Donatus held that clergy who were traditores (“handers over”) could not validly baptize or ordain. This view was rejected by the Roman Church as heresy, on the argument that the sacraments of baptism and ordination are effective by Christ’s power, independently of the character of the human minister. Augustine (in our translation called “St. Austin”) argued that the Catholics were justified in applying to the Roman Emperor to repress the Donatists by force. The emperors Constantine (d. 337) and Honorius (d. 423) did issue edicts against the Donatists, which were enforced by Roman officials in North Africa. Augustine had earlier held that religious dissenters should not be coerced (“A man cannot believe unless he is willing”), but he changed his mind when converted Donatists said they were glad to have been coerced. See Joseph Lecler, op. cit., vol. 1, pp. 53–59.
[105. ]Henry Noris, Vindiciae Augustinianae, quibus S. Doctoris scripta adversus Pelagianos ac Semipelagianos a recentiorum censuris asseruntur (Augustinian Vindications, by which the holy Doctor’s [Augustine’s] writings against the Pelagians and Semipelagians are freed from the censures of recent writers), 1675. For Adam see The Catholic Encyclopaedia, http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01134d.htm.
[106. ]See above, p. 41, note. Bayle quotes extracts only, sometimes without indicating omissions, and sometimes paraphrases. In the modern numbering the Letters of St. Augustine he comments on are: 93, 185, 87, 105, 173, 89. All of these except 105 are available in translation at http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1102.htm. They are all translated by Sister Wilfrid Parsons for The Fathers of the Church (Washington: Catholic University of America Press, 1955–), vols. 18 and 30.