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I.: ST. AUSTIN’S WORDS - 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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ST. AUSTIN’S WORDS
I am even much more a Lover of Peace now than when you knew me in my younger days at Carthage; but the Donatists being so very restless<372> as they are, I can’t but persuade my self, that it’s fit to restrain ’em by the Authority of the Powers ordain’d by God.
Here’s surely one of the scurviest Lead’s that ever was seen, and the most capable of begetting a Suspicion of St. Austin’s Honesty: for this plainly is talking like a Man who had a mind to hide the true state of the Question, who endeavor’d to change the Dice upon his Readers, who is loth to speak out; in fine, who wou’d stick at no Artifice to gain his point. Wou’d not a Body infer from the plain and obvious meaning of these words, that the Reason upon which St. Austin believ’d it lawful to call in the Secular Arm against Hereticks, was the Restlesness of their Temper tending to disturb the publick Peace? If so, ’twas unreasonable applying to the Prince against such of ’em as liv’d retir’d in their own Houses, and gave no manner of Disturbance; this is what might fairly be collected from the words before us; yet this was far from being St. Austin’s true Opinion: he was intirely for making Laws against all Hereticks, even the most meek and inoffensive, in hopes the smart of temporal Punishments might oblige ’em to come over into the Unity of the Church; and had he not bin of this Opinion, nothing wou’d be more needless or more pitiful than the Reasons which he here lays out with so much Pomp. It’s plain then he has made use of an artificial and fallacious Preamble, or, which to me seems much more probable, fallen into a thought the wrongest, and the most opposite in the World<373> to the Justness of one who knows how to write and reason solidly.
For did ever any one doubt, that it was the Duty of Princes to enact wholesom Laws against Hereticks who disturb the publick Peace, who are of a turbulent persecuting Spirit, and so forth? Did ever any one doubt, but the best Men may and ought to exhort Princes, who are slack in providing the proper Remedys, to restrain such Men by the Sword which God has given into their Hands? ’Tis the Duty of Princes to repress not only Hereticks of a factious, turbulent and restless Spirit, but those of the Orthodox Party too, who fall into the same Irregularitys. What does St. Austin mean then when he says, he thinks it very fitting to restrain by the Authority of the higher Powers, the Boldness of Hereticks in forcing the World, and oppressing their Neighbor? Was this the Point in question? Cou’d any one have the least ground to wonder at this Father’s being of such an Opinion? Is there any need of writing Apologys in defence of it? Nothing therefore cou’d be more foreign than the laying down such a Principle at the head of such a Work, in which the business in hand was to justify, not any Laws restraining the Insolences of the Donatists, but those directly and immediately enacted against their Errors; seeing they condemn’d ’em all indiscriminately to temporal Punishments, in case they persisted in their Opinions.
This the* Sieur Ferrand, one of the chief Ad-<374>vocates for Persecution, has own’d, and prov’d too by a Passage from St. Austin. He has shewn, That the Insolence of the Donatists was indeed the Source and first Occasion of the Imperial Laws against ’em; yet that there was another, and which one may call the next and immediate Cause, or to speak more properly the principal Motive which inclin’d Honorius to enact severe Laws against the Donatists, to wit, the Horror he had conceiv’d for their Heresy and Schism. The Proofs he alledges are very convincing: for he observes, that Honorius makes no mention of their Crueltys, that his Laws are general against all the Donatists; that he does not say, the Punishments ordain’d shall be inflicted unless they forbear their Violences; but on the contrary, declares he’s resolv’d to extinguish the Sect, to condemn ’em to these Punishments unless they return to the Catholick Church, and inflict ’em as oft as they exercise any Act of Worship in their own way. These Proofs, I say, are convincing, the thing speaks it self; for when the design is only to restrain the Insolences of any Set of Men, the Lawgiver contents himself with appointing Punishments for such as offend, and ne’er means to punish even those who refrain. What rare Management wou’d it be, if to put a stop to the circulating Lampoons and scandalous Libels, the Government shou’d appoint Punishments for those who religiously forbore, either reading or vending ’em; or if to check the mutinous temper of a County or Province, the Prince shou’d threaten to ravage it even when it kept within Duty, and the very Citys within such a District, which never had a hand in the Rebellion? I say further, that had the Emperors meant<375> no more than just restraining the Boldness of the Donatists, and the Fury of the Circoncellions,107 there had bin no need of enacting new Laws: there were Laws enough ready made to their hand, and known to every Magistrate of the Empire, against Robbers, Ruffians, against all in general who exercise any Violence on their fellow-Citizens. Nothing more was needful than giving the Judges a Charge to put the Laws in execution against the Circoncellions; as now in Italy it’s sufficient to bid the Magistrates proceed against the Banditti according to the rigor of the antient Laws in that case. For my part, shou’d a Revolution happen suddenly in France, I can’t think there wou’d be any need of enacting particular Laws against those Officers of Dragoons, who had plunder’d the Hugonots Houses: ’twere sufficient to look into the common Law-Books or Statute-Book, under the heads which relate to the punishing Robbers, or House-breakers; and in case they cou’d produce no Edict or Order of Court for sacking of Houses, they might legally be punish’d as Infringers of the most sacred Laws of Civil Society. So notorious is it, that every private Person, who does wrong to his Neighbor, who smites him, who robs him of his Goods, who forces him to Actions which he has an Abhorrence for, is ipso facto guilty of the Violation of the Fundamental Laws of the Commonwealth, and consequently obnoxious to Punishment, without any need of new Laws in his behalf. This wou’d be understood of course, tho there were no written Laws in a State; all Society essentially supposing a Disturber of the publick Peace, and whoever abuses his fellow-Citizen, justly punishable.<376>
But here it will be proper to obviate a Difficulty; to wit, that by a Disturber of the publick Peace we are not to understand those who are an accidental Cause of mighty Combustions and Revolutions in the world: for in this case Jesus Christ and his Apostles had bin justly reputed Disturbers of the State, as they attack’d the establish’d Religion, and set up Altar against Altar, whence infinite Disorders must of necessity have happen’d in human Society. I mean then by Disturbers of the publick Peace only those who scour the Country, plunder Villages and Towns, and rob upon the Highway; they who stir up Seditions in a City; they who smite and buffet their Neighbor, as soon as they have got an advantage of him; in a word, they who won’t suffer their Fellow-Citizens to live in the full and peaceable Enjoyment of all their Rights, Privileges, and Property. It’s evident on this foot, that neither Jesus Christ nor his Apostles were Disturbers of the publick Peace; for they contented themselves with shewing Men the Falseness of certain Opinions, and the Iniquity of certain Actions; they whom they converted became more dutiful and more obedient to the Laws of the Empire than ever, and therefore the progress of their new Doctrine cou’d not directly prejudice the State. ’Twas lawful for every one to continue Jew or Pagan if he pleas’d, nor were they who quitted Judaism or Paganism allow’d to misuse those who did not: Thus it was wholly in the World’s power to be as much at peace under these new Preachers as it was before; and consequently the Laws of the Emperors against ’em were unjustly founded.<377> From the same Principle it were easy to shew, that neither Wickliff, nor John Huss, nor Luther, nor Calvin, nor Zuinglius, ought to have bin treated as Disturbers of the publick Peace, tho they brought their Actions against Doctrines which had enjoy’d a long and profound Peace in the world: and unless it were prov’d, that they actually forc’d those to come in to ’em whom they found averse to a Reformation (in which case they had bin more detestable for their Character of Persecutors, than venerable for that of Reformers) the World cou’d have nothing to alledg against ’em upon this particular Article which concerns the publick Tranquillity.
The better to establish my Opinion, I observe, that we must never render a Doctrine odious which we believe false, by exposing it on such a side as is common to it, with that Doctrine which we believe true. Seeing Error therefore and Truth have this in common, that when they make their first appearance in a Country where People are settled in a contrary Religion, they equally occasion Stirs and Disturbances; ’twere absurd to maintain, that they who come to preach an erroneous Doctrine are punishable, for this reason only, that they endanger the Peace resulting before from an Uniformity of Worship and Opinion; because this Peace and Uniformity in a Country which had slumber’d in Error, had bin altogether as much endanger’d and disturb’d by sending Preachers of Truth and Righteousness among ’em: We must therefore equally acquit Truth and Error of the Consequences which accidentally attend ’em. Whence it appears, that<378> had the Donatists bin guilty of no other mischief than the making a Schism in the Church, which before was perfectly united, the Emperor’s treating ’em as Disturbers of the publick Peace had bin very ill founded, and so had their compelling ’em by violent methods to return into the bosom of the Church. All the Constraint these Emperors cou’d lawfully have exercis’d on the Donatists, was the punishing very severely such of ’em as oppress’d the Catholicks, or who reducing ’em to Beggary, extorted a feign’d Consent to receive a second Baptism. If their penal Laws had had no other view than the restraining Attempts so opposite to the Law of Nature and Nations, and destructive of the most sacred and inviolable Rights of human Society; St. Austin might not only have spar’d himself the trouble of an Apology to justify his Approbation of ’em, but wou’d really have bin very much to blame if he had not approv’d ’em. But as Mr. Ferrand has fully prov’d, the Laws of these Emperors had quite another view, and aim’d at constraining the Donatists to forsake their Sect, from the apprehensions of leading a miserable and melancholy Life. Now this is it, which is not only opposite to Christianity, but even to Reason and Humanity; insomuch as St. Austin’s undertaking the Defence of it is scandalous to the last degree. But let’s return to the Examination of the Letter.
[* ]Discours. Prelim. de sa Reponse a l’ Apologie pour la Reformation. [Louis Ferrand, Réponse à l’Apologie pour la réformation, pour les réformateurs et pour les réformez (Answer to the apology [by Jurieu] for the reformation, the reformers and the reformed), 1685.]
[107. ]The Circumcelliones (in our translation “Circoncellions”) were bands of Donatists who physically attacked Catholics, i.e. those who accepted the Roman view.