Front Page Titles (by Subject) XV.: 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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XV.: 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
There is not a Man among us, nor yet among you (Donatists) but approves the Laws of the Emperors against the Sacrifices of the Pagans; yet these Laws ordain much severer Punishments, and punish those with Death who are guilty of these Impietys: whereas in the Laws enacted against you, it’s visible they have study’d much more how to recover you from your Errors, than how to punish your Crimes.
’Twere a hard matter to reckon up all the Errors in point of Judgment, which occur in these words. Let’s remember that St. Austin had said not long before, 1. That the good Persecutors differ from the bad in this particular, that those keep within the Bounds of Moderation, these abandon themselves to Rage and Fury; those aiming only at the Health and Recovery of their Patients, have a care what they cut away; these aiming at his Destruction, ne’er mind where the Stroke lights: those have a design only upon the Gangrene, these against the Life. 2. That altho the Pro-<428>phets have slain the Wicked, as the Wicked have frequently slain the Prophets; and tho Nebuchodonosor Type of the different States of the Christian Church, denotes that Christians under believing Kings, shou’d inflict the same Punishments on the Wicked, as they inflicted on the Christians under unbelieving Kings; yet they mitigate the Severity, and use all possible Moderation: because among even those Christians, who suffer themselves to be seduc’d, it’s possible there may be some who are predestinated. Let’s think, I say, on this, and see how St. Austin will be able to reconcile it with what he says in this place, that all sort of Christians approve the Laws which punish Pagans with Death for exercising their Religion.
In the first place, What will become of this differencing Mark of ungodly Persecutors, that they strike at the Party’s Life, that they lay about ’em without Fear or Wit, and ne’er mind where they cut and slash; and this other distinguishing Mark of godly Persecutors, that they aim only at the Cure, that they only attack the Gangrene: what, I say, will become of these differencing Marks, if the good Persecutors, the Persecutors approv’d by St. Austin, and by the whole Body of Christians, put those to death without Mercy who adhere to Gentilism? In the second place, if the reason why they don’t exercise the whole of that Severity prefigur’d by Nebuchodonosor Type of the Christian Church persecuting, as also of the same Church persecuted, be, that even among those Christians, who are drawn away into Schism or Heresy, there are Sheep who shall soon or late return to the<429> Fold: if, I say, this be their reason for mitigating the Punishments, why shou’d they not mitigate ’em towards the Pagans? Is’t because there can be none of those predestin’d Souls among them; those Sheep which God has given to his Son, and which shall soon or late be brought home to the Fold? But this were strange Doctrine indeed; a Doctrine which must destroy all Endeavors in the Ministers of the Gospel of converting Infidels: For according to the System of Predestination, commonly ascrib’d to St. Austin, ’tis only for the sake of the Elect that the Gospel is preach’d to Mankind; so that its Ministers wou’d not preach it at all to a People, they were assur’d, had none of those predestin’d Souls among ’em. Now it’s plain, ’twas not impossible but Paganism might have had some of those Predestin’d; since ’tis to them principally, that the Apostles preach’d the Gospel: and what are we our selves, but the Posterity of those Pagans who were converted to the Gospel? Besides all which, St. Austin, in this very Letter confesses, that the Laws of the Emperors against Idolaters had converted great Numbers of the Pagans, and converted others daily.
It looks, says such a one, as if St. Austin made use of this Expression; It is not impossible, but that even among those Christians, who have suffer’d themselves to be seduc’d, there may be some Sheep ofJesus Christ; only to signify, that those Christians who forsake the Communion of the Church, are in a more deplorable state than the Pagans. This is what Divines generally pretend: They’l needs have it, that a Man, who having once known and profess’d the Truth, falls<430> afterwards away, is in much a worse condition than he, who having never heard of the Gospel, has likewise never made profession of it. And for this reason it is, that St. Austin ranks it in the number of things barely not impossible, that there shou’d be any of the Predestin’d in a Society of Schismaticks or Hereticks; but won’t speak of it as a thing very likely, or very reasonable, much less as certain. Now if this be a thing which at best is only not impossible, St. Austin must have believ’d it much more reasonable, that there shou’d be Sheep among the Pagans, who might one day come into the Fold, and to whom the Particle even, which he here makes use of, has a relation. But that such a one, who shou’d talk at this rate, wou’d talk too refin’d. St. Austin himself declares a little lower, that they look on the Donatists at a less distance from the Church than Idolaters, and that this is the reason of their punishing ’em less rigorously. But waving all these Subtiltys, who sees not that nothing can be more void of the Justness of a Man of good Sense, than saying on one hand what St. Austin remarks concerning the Character of ungodly Persecutors, and the Reasons for mitigating the Punishments of the Donatists; and on the other hand to approve all the Laws which condemn’d the Pagans to death, for sacrificing to their Gods, according to the immemorial Rites of their Ancestors.
A modern* Author, after having cited a great many Passages from St. Austin, shewing, that he<431> us’d all his Interest with the higher Powers to prevent their punishing Sectarys with death; says, That the Character of the most humane and the best-natur’d Man, can’t be deny’d him without Injustice. But it’s most certain it may, without any Injustice; seeing he openly approv’d the murdering such Pagans as wou’d persevere in the Religion of their Fathers. I say nothing of his approving a world of other Laws, which, tho they did not come up to the spilling of Blood, and to Death, were yet exceedingly hard, exposing to Infamy, Banishment, Confiscations, and Forfeiture of all the Privileges and Advantages of Society; but I must say, he reason’d not the most consequentially, and that there is not the least Justness or Consistency in his Principles. Better tho he shou’d be guilty of reasoning unconsequentially, than of carrying the Cruelty so high, as to demand the punishing Hereticks with death no less than Pagans. Be that how it will, one of the* Apologists of the modern Convertists has bin simple and unadvis’d enough to publish, that all the Maxims of Moderation, with regard to the converting Men, concern the Pagans only, and by no means those Christians who have rent the Unity of the Church; and at the same time to quote St. Austin, with regard to that Constraint which is to be made use of towards those in Error. The poor Man cou’d not see, that if he has reason of his side, St. Austin knows not what he says, and consequently his Authority in these matters deserves to be hiss’d; but that if<432> St. Austin has reason, he himself deserves to be hooted. St. Austin approves Violence with regard to Hereticks, and with regard to Pagans; but with regard to these he approves it even to death, as being farther off from the Church, whereas he won’t allow Hereticks to be punish’d to that Extremity: On the contrary, the Sieur Brueys pretends, that the Church ought to make use of no other means than Instruction and Persuasion with the Pagans, but may punish Hereticks as rebellious Children with death, over whom she has infinitely a greater Right than over Strangers and Infidels; without reckoning, adds he, that the Pagans keep off only because of the Incomprehensibility of the Church’s Doctrines, whereas Hereticks separate from pure Aversion.
What a strange Idea do the Clergy form of Lenity and Moderation? P. Thomassin extols the Gentleness and Lenity of St. Austin, as something very transcendent, because he wou’d not have People dye their Hands in the Blood of the Donatists, but only punish ’em smartly some other way: and it’s well known, that† St. Bernard, who passes for Meekness it self, approv’d the Zeal of a heady Rabble, who fell upon a parcel of Hereticks, and dispatch’d ’em out of the way. Approbamus zelum, sed factum non suademus; quia Fides suadenda est, non imponenda: We approve their Zeal, says he, but don’t advise the Practice; because Faith ought to be infus’d by Persuasion, and not by Constraint. The good Abbot had a<433> Sense on his Mind of the Truth and Holiness of this Maxim, yet cou’d not forbear praising the Zeal of those who violated it most barbarously; and he scarce utters this Maxim, when, as tho he had gone too great a length, he seems willing to recal his words: for he tells us in the very same breath, Quanquam melius proculdubio Gladio coercentur, illius videlicet, qui non sine causa Gladium portat, quam in suum errorem multos trajicere permittantur: Tho there’s no doubt but ’twere better restrain ’em with the Sword, of him, I mean, who bears not the Sword in vain, than suffer ’em to seduce many other Souls to their Errors. In another place* he says, ’twere better indeed overcome Hereticks by Reason; but if this won’t do, they ought to be banish’d or imprison’d. Are not these very illustrious Instances of a Spirit of Lenity and Moderation? Yet let’s rather wonder, that a Doctor bred up in the Romish Communion, tho naturally meek and tender-hearted, shou’d preserve the least Remains of Humanity, than that he shou’d mingle such Lessons of Injustice and Hard-dealing with his Clemency. A modern† Author has handl’d the Ecclesiastical Clemency as it deserves.
[* ]Thomassin de l’ Unitè de l’ Eglise, I Part. Ch. 1. [Louis Thomassin, Traité de l’unité de l’Eglise et des moyens que les princes chrestiens ont employez pour y faire rentrer aux qui en estoient séparez (Tract on the unity of the Church and the means Christian rulers have used to cause those who have separated from it to rejoin), 1693. Reviewed by Bayle, NRL, OD, p. 688.]
[* ]Le Sr. Brueys Reponse aux Plaint. [Réponse aux plaintes des Protestans contre les moyens que l’on employe en France pour les réunir à l’Eglise, où l’on réfute les calomnies qui sont contenuës dans le livre intitulé: La Politique du clergé de France, et dans les autres libelles de cette nature (Answer to the complaints of Protestants against the means being used in France to reunite them with the Church, refuting the calumnies contained in the book called “The policy of the French Clergy” [by Jurieu] and other libels of the kind), 1686. Reviewed by Bayle, NRL, OD, p. 611.]
[† ]Sermo. 66. in Cantic. [Migne, Patrologia Latina, vol. 183, col. 1101.]
[* ]Serm. 66. in Cantic. [Ibid. See DHC, art. “Bernard.”]
[† ]Nouvelles de la Repub. des Lettr. Fevr. 1686. Art. de Mr. Maimbourg. [Bayle, OD, vol. 1, pp. 493–98.]