Front Page Titles (by Subject) IX.: ST. AUSTIN'S WORDS - 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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IX.: 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
You are of opinion, that no one shou’d be compel’d to do well; but have you never read, that the Father of the Family commanded his Servants to compel all they met with to come in to the Feast? Han’t you seen with what Violence Saul was forc’d byJesus Christto acknowledg and embrace the Truth? … Don’t you know, that Shepherds sometimes make use of the Rod to force their Sheep into the fold? Don’t you know that Sarah, according to the Power committed to her, subdu’d the stubborn Spirit of her Servant by the harshest Treatment, not from any hatred she bore to Agar, since she lov’d her so far as to wish that Abraham wou’d make her a Mother, but purely to humble the Pride of her Heart? Now you can’t be igno-<397>rant, that Sarah and her Son Isaac are Figures of spiritual, and Agar and Ishmael of carnal things. Notwithstanding, tho the Scripture informs us that Sarah made Agar and Ishmael suffer a great deal; St. Paul does not stick to say, that ’twas Ishmael persecuted Isaac, to signify, that tho the Catholick Church endeavors to reclaim carnal Men by temporal Punishments, yet it is they persecute her, rather than she them.
There are four things to be consider’d in this Discourse. 1. The Words of the Parable, Compel ’em to come in. 2. The Violence which Jesus Christ exercis’d on St. Paul, taking away his Eye-sight, and throwing him on the Ground. 3. The Conduct of Shepherds sometimes to their Sheep. 4. The Conduct of Sarah towards her Servant Agar. I have said enough to the First of the four, in the former Parts of my Commentary. The second is sufficiently answer’d by what I have lately said,113 that God, being the first Mover as well as the Searcher of Hearts, seconds the Punishments he inflicts on us with the Efficacy of his Grace as often as he sees fit. He thought fit to manifest his Power particularly in the Conversion of St. Paul; he appear’d to him in Person, he flung him on the Ground; in a word, he conquer’d this Soul by a mighty Hand, and a stretch’d-out Arm. But does it hence follow, that Men ought to imitate this Method when they wou’d convert a Heretick? Let ’em in God’s Name, provided they have the Gift of turning the Heart, as the Al-<398>mighty may, at the same time that they afflict the Body; but as they are not thus qualify’d, they shou’d take care how they meddle in so nice an Affair. Punishments in the Hands of God himself, don’t always produce the Conversion of Sinners; they only serv’d to harden Pharaoh’s Heart, tho God manifested his Power on him in the most extraordinary manner. The Punishments he dispenses in an ordinary way, either by the Mediation of Men, or of other created Beings, operate very differently; they very rarely change Mens Opinions about the Worship of God: on the contrary, they rather make the better sort more zealous in their own Religion; for which reason there being such a Probability, that temporal Punishments shall ne’er persuade a Man of the Falseness of his Religion, but rather of his want of Zeal for it, nothing can be more absurd than proposing the Conduct of God in chastising his Children for their good, as a rule for Princes. Besides that if once we stick by this example, ’twill follow, that Princes may from time to time set fire to Fields of Corn, to the Hay and Vines, and Woods of their Subjects, and send their Officers thro all their Dominions to decimate the Children, and send away their Fathers and Mothers to the Mines and Gallys. For as God sometimes makes use of Pestilence and Famine, those Scourges of his Wrath, to express his Love towards his Children, in order to bring ’em to Repentance; so Kings, who are his Vicegerents on Earth, may by the advice of their Clergy do all I have said within their Dominions, out of stark Love and Kindness to their Subjects; and from a Prospect of making ’em<399> look home to themselves, and awake out of that Lethargy and Death of Sin in which they lie bury’d. Did Kings really do this, wou’d not they find their Justification ready drawn to their hands in St. Austin, and in the Examples of Emperors, who have shackl’d their Sectarys with Penal Laws; not, say they, from any hatred to their Persons, but out of pure Charity, and in hopes of converting ’em? It’s plain then, that the Result of this Doctrine of St. Austin is the turning all Morality into ridicule, since it offers Expedients for justifying the most criminal and the most extravagant Actions.
The Example of the Shepherds, who sometimes drive their Sheep into the Fold with Rods, is as unhappy as that of the frantick Person; for to make it of any weight, ’twere necessary that the counterpart of the Comparison shou’d relate to Creatures void of Liberty, and whose Conversion depended not essentially on a Consent of the Will. They alledg the constraining of Sheep into the Fold, to save ’em from the Thief or the Wolf; the Shepherd, who sees ’em refuse the Door, or not in a hurry to get in, acts very wisely in pressing ’em forward either with his Foot or with his Crook, and even dragging ’em in if there be need. Why is this Conduct wise in him? because it fulfils all the Dutys, and answers all the Ends the Shepherd can propose. His only aim is to save his Sheep from the Jaws of the Wolf, or any other outward Danger; and provided he can but get ’em into the Fold, the Work is done; the Sheep are safe whether they come in freely or by force. But the case is very different with regard to a Shep-<400>herd of Souls; he does not save ’em from the Power of the Devil, he does not heal ’em of the Scab, by transporting the Heretick into a certain House call’d Notre Dame, St. Peter’s, St. Paul’s, &c. or by sprinkling some Drops of Holy Water on his Face. This is not the thing which decides his Destiny; he must have a sense of his Errors, he must be willing to abjure ’em, and embrace wholesomer Doctrine: thus he may be rescu’d out of the Clutches of the Devil. But if these means be wanting, they may drag him with a Cord about his Neck at the Feet of the Altars, they may cram a hundred Hosts down his Throat, they may guide his Hand to sign a form of Abjuration; they may force him, on pain of the Boot, or of having his Flesh torn off with red-hot Pinchers, to declare a hundred times over, that he believes all the Church believes, and renounces Luther and Calvin: Still he’s in the suds as much as ever, notwithstanding all this Cookery; and what’s yet worse, of an Orthodox Christian, as he was in my Opinion before, he becomes a perfidious Hypocrite, and a Slave of the Devil, unless God in his Mercy recover him from his Fall. It’s prodigious to me that there shou’d be so many Men of good Sense in the Church of Rome, who can’t see the monstrous Absurdity of all these Similys.
Let’s endeavor to give ’em one on our part, which may help ’em to a juster Idea of this matter. Shou’d I see a Man standing at my door in a heavy Shower, and from a sense of pity shou’d desire to shelter him from the Rain or Storm, I might make use of one of these two means; either I might invite him civilly into my House, and pray<401> him to sit down, or if I were stronger than he, I might pull him in by the Shoulder. Both these means are equally good with respect to the propos’d end, to wit, the preventing this Man’s being wet to the Skin: it signifys very little how he comes under my Roof, whether freely or by force; for whether he comes in of his own mere Motion, or upon a civil Invitation, or whether he be pull’d in by main force, he is equally shelter’d from the Rain by one way as much as t’other. I own, were the case exactly the same as to our being sav’d from Hell, the Convertists might justify their forcible Methods; for if the getting under the Roof of a Church were sufficient to this end, ’twere not a pin matter whether the Party came in of his own accord, or whether he were thrust in by head and shoulders: and in this case the best way wou’d be to have a Set of the brawniest Street-Porters in town always at ready hand, to seize Hereticks the moment they appear’d in the streets, and heave ’em away upon their backs into the next Church; nay, burst open their doors with Petards if need were, and take ’em out of their Beds piping hot into the next Church or Chappel. But by ill luck for our Gentlemen Convertists, they are not quite so extravagant, nor so much out of their Senses, as to say, this is all that’s requisite to the saving a Soul: They confess, that the Heretick’s consent to his being brought over from one Communion to another is so necessary, that without it not a step can be made towards saving him. And if so, how absurd is it to compare the Violence done a Man who falls<402> into the Fire or Water, and whom we drag out by the very hair of the head, without the least scruple, with the Violences exercis’d on a Calvinist, by holding a Dagger to his Throat, or quartering a hundred Dragoons on him till he abjure his Religion: this, I say is extremely absurd, not only because it’s naturally to be suppos’d, that a Man who falls into the Fire or Water desires nothing more than to be sav’d at any Price whatsoever; but also because the danger is of such a nature, that his consent is no way necessary in order to the preserving him from it: the Man is equally preserv’d, tho drag’d out against his Will and in spite of him.
But to shew the Impertinence of those who pretend, People are extremely oblig’d to ’em for tearing ’em from a Communion in which they were bred and born, and which they believe much the best, tho the Convertists think it stark naught; I must desire ’em to imagine a Man enjoin’d by his Father Confessor to stand two hours by the Clock at such a door, in a soaking Shower of Rain, and this by way of Penance. If the Master of the House, not content to invite him in, shou’d send out his Footmen to pull him in by head and shoulders, wou’d he do him a Kindness pray, or a Pleasure in this? It’s plain he wou’d not; but on the contrary, do him a very ill Office by interrupting his Devotion: Invitum qui servat idem facit occidenti. The case is the same with regard to those violent Convertists who tear Men from the Exercises of their own Religion. I’m tempted to think, that the cursed Maxims of these Quacks of Conscience spring in-<403>tirely from this ridiculous Opinion, that in order to be intitl’d to the Grace of God, one must be indispensably matriculated in such a certain Communion, and that this is all that’s requisite. In consequence whereof they deal by Hereticks just as Men do with their Cattel when they wou’d save ’em from a storm of Rain or Hail, and with regard to whom it’s all one, whether they go into the Hovel or Stable of themselves, or whether they are drub’d in with a Wattle.
As to St. Austin’s Conceit about Sarah, and her Maid-servant Agar, for my part I think it can serve no other purpose than exposing Scripture to the Railerys of the Profane. For in fine, if, in the way St. Austin intends, Sarah be a Type of the Children of God, and Agar a Type of the Children of the World, what will follow, but that the Children of God may constrain the Children of the World to seek for Refuge in Desarts, unable to bear the Rigor of their Discipline; and yet the Children of the World shall be they who persecute the Children of God. Was ever any thing in Farce or Droll more a Bull than this? I say nothing of St. Austin’s unaccountable mistake in representing, purely to make out the Wedlock of Charity and Persecution; Sarah as treating Agar in a very harsh manner, and at the same time loving her with so much tenderness, as even to desire she shou’d share her Husband’s Bed. The Scripture represents this matter quite otherwise;114 nor does it speak of Sarah’s ill humor to Agar, till the latter finding her self big with Child, grew saucy upon’t, and slighted her Mistress.<404>
[113. ]See above, p. 302.
[114. ]See Genesis, c. 16.