Front Page Titles (by Subject) XII.: 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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XII.: 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
The Wicked have never left persecuting the Good, nor the Good the Wicked: but these act unjustly herein, and only to do mischief; those charitably, and so far as the necessity of correcting requires. … As the Wicked have slain the Prophets, so the Prophets have sometimes slain the Wicked; as the Jews were seen with Scourge in hand againstJesus Christ,soJesus Christwas= seen with Scourge in hand against the Jews. Men deliver’d the Apostles to the earthly Powers, and the Apostles deliver’d Men to the infernal Powers. What then ought we to consider in all these Examples? only this, which side acts for the Truth and Righteousness, and<417> which for Iniquity and a Lye; which acts only to destroy, and which to correct.
Here’s a rare Maxim of Morality indeed, the most detestable in its Consequences that e’er was broach’d: for provided you act in favor of the true Opinion, and have no other design than that of correcting your Neighbor, you may lawfully, as to any thing else, imitate the ways of the Wicked; and whereas these shall have committed a Sin, you shall have perform’d a heavenly Action. Accordingly let’s imagine two Persons, the one an Orthodox, and the other an Heterodox. The first sees a great Lord in the opposite Party, very zealous in its cause, and supporting it by his great Riches, his Credit, and good Sense. The second sees such another great Lord in the Orthodox Party. The first contrives how to ruin his great Lord, and starts so many scurvy Affairs upon him, that running the risk of his Honor and Estate, he has not the leisure to mind the Interests of his Party. All this while he has no intention of doing this great Lord the least mischief; he only wou’d prevent his Lordship’s doing any, and bring about his Conversion. Here’s an Action now fit to be canoniz’d, or at least perfectly innocent, if we judg of it by St. Austin’s Principles. It’s no matter if he ruins this honorable Person, by setting fire to his Barns, to his Mills, to his Castles, by poisoning his Cattel, and involving him in Law-Suits, which he’s sure to lose: All this is very fair, provided it’s from no other Intention than that of working on him to get himself instructed, and forsake<418> his Errors. Yet if the other acts against his great Orthodox Lord the same way, he’s a Villain and a Monster. And why so? Is it because he commits Actions repugnant to the Decalogue? No, but because he commits ’em with a design of doing prejudice to the Orthodox Party, and to his Orthodox Neighbor. This, without my mentioning it expresly, must appear to all the World to be a Confirmation of what I have so much urg’d against the literal Sense, at the fourth Chapter of the first Part;120 to wit, That it overthrows that holy and fundamental Barrier, which God has fix’d betwixt Virtue and Vice; and leaves us no other Character of Vertue than the Gain of those who follow certain Opinions, and no other Character of Vice than their Loss. I wou’d not willingly charge St. Austin with having seen this Consequence; but it is plainly contain’d in these Words: What then ought we to consider in all these Examples (that’s to say Murders, Scourgings, Captivity) only this; which side acts for the Truth and Righteousness, and which for Iniquity and a Lye; which acts only to destroy, and which to correct?
One can hardly here avoid thinking of some Maxims of loose Morality, condemn’d by the Court of Rome, under the present Papacy; and truly St. Austin’s Distinction is not a jot better than that of these wicked Casuists, who teach, 1. That one may, without the guilt of mortal Sin, be sorry and repine at the Life of another, provided he carrys it with Decency and due Moderation; and even rejoice at his death, desire and wish for it by a Wish which has no effects, provided this proceeds not from any prejudice to his Person, but from a<419> Prospect of some temporal Advantage to himself. 2. That it is lawful to wish the death of one’s Father by a positive Wish, not as an evil to the Father, but as an advantage to him who wishes, and as it lets him into the Possession of a fair Estate. 3. That it’s lawful for a Son to rejoice even in a Parricide committed by him when drunk, if upon the misfortune of killing his Father he succeeds to great Hoards and a noble Estate.121 These Casuists, we see, make so great a difference between two Persons who rejoice at the death of their Fathers, or even at Parricide if committed in drink; that one’s innocent, if his Joy proceeds not from any motive of Hatred to his Father, but from a Love for himself; and the other sinful, where his Joy is founded on the evil befaln his Father. Is this very much worse than the difference St. Austin makes between two Persecutors: one of which, gives his Neighbor a hundred Strokes of a Cudgel, with a mischievous design; the other lays him on as many, not to do him a Mischief, but purely with a design to convert him? Must not we, to reason consequentially, say in like manner, that of two Men, each of which kills his Neighbor, one from a Principle of Malice, the other to deliver him from Want; the first is guilty of a Sin, and the second not? Or rather, to avoid all Cavil by putting one case more, must not we maintain, that of two Men who kill’d each his Neighbor, one out of a personal dislike; the other, because seeing him in a State of Grace, just after confessing and receiving the Sacrament, he considers, that dying in such a State his Neighbor must go strait to Heaven, and that if he liv’d any longer he might possibly relapse and<420> die in his Sins: must not we, I say, maintain, that the first is guilty, and the second innocent; and consequently, that ’twere a pious and charitable part in the Priest, to knock his Penitent on the head, as soon as he has absolv’d and given him the Sacrament, provided he does not act from any Malice or Rancor, but purely to make sure of his Predestination, by delivering him from the Temptations of the World, which he might afterwards sink under, and possibly not rise again by Repentance. Upon the same Principle, a Nurse or Maid-servant, who strangl’d or over-laid all the Children in her Care, not from any Ill-nature or Cruelty to the Children, but o’ purpose to send ’em infallibly to Heaven, at an Age in which they have not yet forfeited the Benefits of Baptism; wou’d perform a good Action. So that St. Austin’s Distinction over-throws all Morality, and makes the Decalogue the Sport of our Distinctions, our Intentions, and our Caprices.
Two Sons wish the Death of their Fathers; they are therefore sinful and wicked. I deny the consequence, says any one who’l go upon St. Austin’s Distinction: One of ’em wishes the death of his Father, because he is a Pillar of the Orthodox Party, or because he bears a strict hand upon his Son; this is a wicked Child: The other wishes it, because his Father favors Hereticks, or because he wou’d have his Father enjoy the Felicitys of Heaven, which are incomparably beyond those of the present Life; here’s a good and an innocent Child.
Two Men kill each of ’em a Passenger; they are therefore each guilty of a Crime. Hold there,<421> may any one say on St. Austin’s Foundation, not so fast; we must examine, whether they have kill’d in behalf of the Truth, or in behalf of Heresy, to hurt or to reclaim their Neighbor. For if one has kill’d a Passenger, who was an Enemy to the Truth, or purely with a design of delivering him from a languishing Distemper, which might hang upon him for several Years, he has done well; but if the other has kill’d a Passenger, who was a Promoter of sound Religion, or from any personal Malice, he is guilty of a Crime.
Two Men have taken a Purse on the Highway; they are therefore a couple of Robbers, and deserve to be hang’d. I deny the consequence, may any one still insist, I distinguish: for if they have taken it from any of the Orthodox, such especially as freely contribute to carry on the Interest of the Party, or with a design of vexing those they took it from, I allow they are punishable; but if they have stript a Heretick, who was going to see his Lawyer or Attorny in a Law-suit against an Orthodox, which now happens to be lost for want of a Fee, they have perform’d a Good-work: or if they have not taken it out of any Ill-will to the Owner, but on the contrary to ease him of the Burden; or in hopes, by this Disaster, to make him retrench his superfluous Expences, and abate his Vanity.
Thus one might elude all the Dutys which the Law of God prescribes; and before we cou’d say, that a Man taken in a flagrant Adultery were guilty of a Sin, it ought to be known, whether he had bin induc’d to this, not to satisfy his own brutal Lust, but to assuage a craving Ap-<422>petite in the Woman, and assist the Husband to fulfil the too weighty Functions of his Duty to such a Wife: for shou’d it appear, that he had acted not from any formal Intention of prejudicing either the Wife or Husband, or from his own sensual Inclinations, but purely to correct a craving Constitution, and for the common Benefit of the marry’d Couple, ’twere a truly Christian Act of Charity in him.
Is it not very strange, that our Gentlemen Convertists, who so clearly perceive the abominable Absurdity of these Consequences, and the necessary Connexion between those Principles and them; shou’d notwithstanding be eternally telling us, That smiting, imprisoning, pillaging, and vexing a poor Christian, are good Works, provided the Party acts not from any personal Malice, but purely to recover ’em from their Errors? Confess then, say I to ’em, that the same Discipline, how repugnant soever to the Decalogue, shall be warrantable in order to reclaim a Coquet, or rich Beau; such as, seizing their Revenues and Equipage, taking away their best Clothes and Jewels, fleaing or mangling their fine Faces, enlanguishing and weakning ’em by poisonous Potions, provided it be done from a Motive of Charity; or, which is all one in this place, with a design of recovering ’em from their evil Courses.
I might here take notice of St. Austin’s Inaccuracy, in making use of the general and indefinite Terms of annoying and correcting, to denote the different Characters which distinguish the good Persecutors from the bad. For what, pray, does he mean by this? Does he mean, that<423> the good Persecutors persecute only to work Hereticks to an Abjuration of their Errors; whereas the purpose of your wicked Persecutors is to ruin and grieve their Neighbor: Or does he mean, that the pious Persecutors punish in Measure and Moderation; whereas your wicked Persecutors put to death those whom they persecute. If we are to take his Terms in the first sense, ’twill follow, according to him, that Hereticks who persecute the Orthodox don’t act with a design of making ’em change Opinion, and abjure what to these Hereticks appears a capital Error. Now this is manifestly false: for, not to mention the very Pagans, who put a stop to all violent Proceedings against those who pretended to renounce the Jewish or the Christian Religion; is it not well known, that the Arians, and all others in general, whom the Church of Rome brands as Hereticks, never did exercise any Violence on other Sects, but with a design of obliging ’em to embrace their own? If he understands ’em in the second sense, he’s mistaken again, because it’s plain, not only that there are Persecutors of that Stamp which he calls good, that is, which he believes Orthodox, who inflict death; but also because the Heterodox Persecutors most commonly content themselves with Punishments, as moderate as those of the other Class of Persecutors. So that upon the whole, I can see but one reasonable meaning in these Words of St. Austin, to wit, That the end of the Heterodox Persecutors, being constantly that of bringing Men over to an Error; and the end of the Orthodox Persecutors, the bringing ’em to the Truth; these promote only<424> the Advantage, those the Damage of such as they persecute. But this again is characterizing things amiss, and pointing principally at what is only accidental in ’em. It’s purely by accident, that Persecutors who are themselves in error do any prejudice, or that those who are Orthodox do good: each Party have equally a design of delivering his Neighbor from what they deem amiss, and of instructing him in what they believe the Truth. So as we can’t justly say, That the first have a design of prejudicing their Neighbor; their declar’d purpose being manifestly, that of saving him from Hell: and if it happen, that by turning an Orthodox, they put him in the strait way to Hell, it’s purely accidental, and wholly beside their Intention. They are both then upon an equal foot with regard to the Intention; and if sometimes the success of the Orthodox Party’s Persecutions, be better than that of the Heterodox, ’tis purely by accident, and for the most part tends only to make the State of the Persecuted worse, by leading to Hypocrisy and Sins against Conscience. So that, strictly speaking, the Character which St. Austin proposes for distinguishing the good from the bad Persecutions, amounts only to this; that the Orthodox Persecutors persecute for Orthodoxy, and the Heterodox for Heterodoxy: a ridiculous Tautology, of no manner of Service for coming at the Knowledge of that which is under Enquiry!
[120. ]See above, p. 86.
[121. ]See Denzinger, Enchiridion Symbolorum, Rome, edn. 31, 1957, p. 370, nos. 13–15.