Front Page Titles (by Subject) XX.: 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'
Return to Title Page for A Philosophical Commentary on These Words of the Gospel, Luke 14.23, ‘Compel Them to Come In, That My House May Be Full’
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
XX.: 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).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The copyright to this edition, in both print and electronic forms, is held by Liberty Fund, Inc.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
ST. AUSTIN’S WORDS
If there be any among us who abuse the Laws which the Emperors have enacted against you (Donatists) and who make ’em a handle for exercising their private Spite, instead of employing ’em as an instrument and means of Charity to rescue you from Error; we disapprove their Proceedings, and think of ’em with grief. Not that any Man can call this or that thing his Property, at least unless entitled to it by a divine Right, by the which all belongs to the Just; or by a Right founded on human Laws, and which depends on the Pleasure of the temporal Powers: so that you, for your parts, can call nothing your own, because not entitled to it, as being of the number of the Just, and because the Laws of the Emperors deprive you of all: consequently you can’t properly say, This thing is ours, and we have got it by our Industry; since it is written,* The Wealth of the<442> Sinner is laid up for the Just. Notwithstanding, when under color of these Laws men invade your Possessions, we disapprove the Practice, and it troubles us exceedingly. In like manner, we condemn all those who are mov’d more by Avarice than Zeal, to take from you, either the Funds for your Poor, or the Places of your Assemblys; tho you enjoy neither one nor t’other but under the Notion of the Church, and tho only the true Church ofJesus Christhas a true Right to these things.
This Passage contains Paradoxes so mysterious, so odious, and so absurd, that it will not be improper to range my Reflections on it in some kind of order.
I. I affirm then in the first place, That it’s a vain Excuse, and a pitiful palliative Remedy, to tell People persecuted and molested in their Persons and Estates, that we disapprove the Proceedings of those who abuse the Prince’s Laws; for beside, that tho no one strain’d or abus’d these Laws, the poor People under Persecution must be expos’d to a thousand Distresses, and the Authors no way disapprov’d by the Gentlemen Ecclesiasticks; so that the Persecuted have no such mighty Obligations to ’em, for their disapproving only the Abuse of these Laws: besides this, I say, is it not mocking the world, to sollicit Laws with Earnestness and Ardor, the Execution of which we know must inevitably be attended with a thousand Excesses; and then think to come off by saying with a grave Air, That we disapprove these Abuses? And if you really<443> disapprove ’em, why, wretched Men as you are, don’t you demand the proper Redress with the same Earnestness as you demanded the Laws themselves? Why are you the foremost in dissembling, in disowning these Abuses, in publishing thro a whole Kingdom, that there were none committed? This I thought fit to remark by the by, against those base mercenary Pens, who speak so soothingly of the late Dragoon-Conversions in France.
II. In the second place, Is it not an abominable Doctrine, tho veil’d with a big mysterious Air, that all belongs to the Godly by a Divine Right? What Nonsense is this? What, the Effects which a Jew has bought and paid down his Mony for, and which he has transported from Asia to Europe with a deal of hazard, and at a vast expence, don’t belong to him; no, it’s downright Robbery in him, and an Usurpation in prejudice of the Members of the true Church? It shou’d seem now quite contrary, that as Jesus Christ had not the common Privilege of Foxes and Fowls, which have Nests and Holes to lie down in, while he had not a place wherein to lay his head, his Members ought not to have had all the Good things of the World shar’d amongst them; yet by this Theology, no less chimerical than the Stoicks’ wise Man, a small Handful of Men, call’d Catholicks, are put in possession of all the Earth, and of all the Goods and Estates, movable and immovable, personal and real, of Jews, Turks, Pagans, and Sectarys. In good earnest these are strange Visions; and at the same time here’s a plain foundation laid for the Pretensions of the Pope over the Temporals of Kings;<444> for if every thing belongs to the Church by divine Right, the Monarchys and Principalitys of the Earth must o’ course fall to his share; and accordingly he may dispose of ’em in the old Continent, with the same Authority as in the new.
III. Yet even this destroys the Alternative which St. Austin proposes: for if every thing be suppos’d the Property of the Godly by a Divine Right, it follows that Princes cou’d not dispose of the Goods of the World in favor of the Profane and Ungodly, without the notorious Invasion of a Right vested in the Godly by the Donation of God. It’s false then, that what a Jew enjoys by his Prince’s Gift or Permission belongs properly to him: for the Prince’s Grant being only a Robbery or Pillage committed upon the Godly, renders not a Jew the rightful Possessor; and consequently St. Austin blunders inexcusably, when he allows there are two ways of becoming the lawful Possessor of an Estate, one when the Party is of the number of the Godly, the other when the Prince makes a Grant of it, or suffers the Party to enjoy it. All he cou’d in good reason allow, was, that the Godly not having force enough to put ’em in possession of all that belongs to ’em, permitted those Usurpers whom Princes had vested to enjoy the mean Profits. And are not the Jews now finely met with for their chimerical Pretensions, the Original and Model of those of St. Austin! Their Doctors maintain, that none but Israelites possess any thing rightfully, and that the Estates of all others are like a Common, which the next Comer may seize on, and become the lawful Possessor; they mean, provided he’s a Jew.<445>
IV. In the fourth place, Let’s not lose the benefit of this Father’s Talent at finding out Expedients: he’s for having all the Godly let their Rights sleep, and be so complaisant to their Princes, as not to take ill that they confirm that Partition, which has taken place in the World from Time immemorial. What will follow from hence? why this, That any Prince who destroys this Partition, without a very cogent Reason, is a Tyrant and a Robber. Every one will allow, that ’twere Robbery, strictly speaking, in a King, to take away a Merchant’s fine Stuffs and Silks, and not pay him the full value. I except one Case, where a whole Kingdom may be in danger, unless some particular Person’s Effects were seiz’d and made use of: But once more ’twill be granted me, that ’twere Robbery in a King to sweep away all the Mony out of the Bankers Shops, and all the Jewels from the Goldsmiths, for his own private use, or for his fancy, without ever making restitution. ’Twere Robbery likewise and Tyranny in him, to take away his Estate from John o’ Nokes or John o’ Stiles, to annex it to the Crown-Revenues, or bestow it upon Mistresses, Favorites, or Buffoons: ’Twere the same, shou’d he do the like upon the pretext of such a Disobedience, suppose, as this; to wit, That the Prince having enjoin’d by a solemn Edict, that all his Subjects shou’d be of such a Stature at such an Age, shou’d have blue Eyes, a hawk Nose, black Hair, shou’d love Musick, Hunting, Books, like such a Dish better than such a Dish, believe firmly that Snow is not white, nor Fire hot, in the sense of the Peripateticks, and that the Earth moves round the Sun, &c. several of<446> ’em shou’d not conform to his Will: I say then, that shou’d a Prince punish Disobediences of this nature by Confiscation, Fines, or by a general Change in the Settlements and Freeholds within his Dominions, he’d be a most unjust Tyrant, and might be said to rob his Subjects of their lawful and rightful Property. Whence it follows, as I have prov’d at large in another* place, that to the end a Disobedience be justly punishable by loss of Goods, it’s necessary the Law disobey’d be just; at least that it be of such a nature, that the disobeying can only proceed from Perverseness or inexcusable Neglect. Now as all Laws ordaining the Belief of this or that in the Worship of God, or of doing this or that in discharge of the Dutys of Religion, are not of this nature; for it’s manifest, that a Man persuaded he ought not to believe concerning God otherwise than he already believes, nor honor him otherwise than as he had bin taught to do in his Father’s House; and who, do what he will, finds himself irresistably convinc’d, that by believing or acting otherwise he must draw on himself eternal Damnation, disobeys not such a Law from inexcusable or unreasonable Neglect: it follows then, that a Prince who punishes a Disobedience to such Laws by Confiscations, Prisons, Banishment, makes a tyrannical use of the Power lodg’d in him; and consequently St. Austin has no ground for saying, that where a Man conforms not to his Prince’s Laws, condemning the Estates of those to his own use who won’t conform, he has no longer any Right vested in him, either to<447> what he enjoy’d by Descent, or to what he has acquir’d by the Sweat of his Brow. He ought at least to have added this Proviso, that the Laws be such as the Subjects might in Conscience comply with. But this is what cannot be affirm’d of those Laws which relate to Religion, and which enjoin one Party of the Subjects to abjure what they believe to be the true and divine Faith. They therefore, who might disobey ’em, continue lawful and rightful Possessors of their Goods as much as they were before, nor can they be outed any fairer than those may be, who obey’d not their Prince enjoining to believe, that such a Sauce was better than such a Sauce, that Mr. Des Cartes had assign’d the true Cause of the Phenomena of the Loadstone, &c. or rather let’s say, they’d be outed with exactly the same Justice, as Naboth was turn’d out of his Inheritance.131
This Example carries something awful in it. Achab, as wicked a King as he was, wou’d come by Naboth’s Vineyard no otherwise than in a way of fair Bargain between Man and Man, that is, by Purchase or Exchange; and even offer’d the Proprietor a better Vineyard in another place, in case he lik’d that better than ready Mony. So far the Conduct of this King was perfectly reasonable; nor is it besides unfair in a Prince, who has built him a Seat for his Pleasure, to desire a larger Garden to it than ordinary, for which it seems Naboth’s Vineyard lay very commodiously: Yet this Man had not the least Complaisance for his King; he told him very drily, that he cou’d not part with the Inheritance of his Fathers; wherein, it’s pretended, he acted from Reasons<448> of Conscience, and from a fear of breaking some Precepts of Leviticus. Nothing less cou’d have clear’d him from the height of Brutality. Achab had no more to say, but left him, and took on heavily. His Queen, tho much the hardier Spirit of the two, yet durst not advise him to seize the Vineyard by his mere Authority; but got Naboth sentenc’d to death upon another pretext, to wit, that of blaspheming God and the King: and so the Vineyard fell to Achab. There’s no doubt, had the King, upon the refusal of the Proprietor to comply with his Proposal for an Exchange or fair Purchase, confiscated this Vineyard, but the Prophet Elias wou’d have censur’d it as a very unjust Action. An Example which serves to shew Princes, that they ought never to disturb any one in the possession of that Estate which he’s come honestly by, and which he’s entitled to by the municipal Laws, at least unless the urgent Occasions of the State require; but by no means as a Punishment on those who follow the Motions of their Conscience, without doing any injury to the Publick, or to their Fellow-Citizens.
There are very great Men who maintain, that Kings are so far from having a Right of alienating or transferring Estates at pleasure from one Family to another, or impoverishing those to enrich these, that they can’t justly lay even a Tax upon their People without their* Consent. Hear how the famous John Juvenal des Ursins,132 Archbishop of Rheims, speaks in a Remonstrance<449> to Charles VII. Whatever any body may tell you of your ordinary Power, you have no right at all to take away any thing of mine. What’s mine is not yours: In matters of Civil Justice you are indeed supreme, and the last Appeal is to you; you have your Domain, and every private Person has his. John†Gerson says, It’s an Abuse, to tell a King he has a right to make use of the Estates or Persons of his Subjects at discretion, without any farther pretence of the publick Good or Necessity, imposing Taxes as he thinks fit: for to do this without any other reason, were playing the Tyrant, and not the King. The Author of the Maxims, cited in the Margin, proves in the same place, That Princes not only sin grievously, when they don’t prevent, by all kind of means, the Rapines and Oppressions of the Soldiery; but also that they are in Conscience oblig’d to repair the Losses and Damage which their Subjects sustain by the Army. And truly, continues he, I wonder this Point shou’d be so much neglected, and that Confessors and Directors of Conscience shou’d have so much Complaisance; as in matters of such importance, and so very notorious, to be loth to grieve the Souls under their direction, by injoining the proper Penance. A fine Lecture, not only for the Molinist Confessors of Kings, but also for St. Austin, Molina’s Antipode!133 St. Austin, I say, who vends the most corrupt Morality that can be imagin’d, to wit, that whenever a Prince thinks fit to issue Edicts relating to Religion, and constraining the Conscience of the Subject by Fines and Confiscations, they who don’t obey forfeit all Right to their Estates and Inheritances;<450> which consequently may become as much a Prey to the Soldiers, if the Prince delivers it into their hands, as to any other.
V. But in the fifth place, Who can forbear admiring this Father’s Application of Scripture-Passages, as if Solomon, in foreshewing that the Riches of the Wicked shou’d not long abide in their Familys, but become the Possession of the Righteous, had meant this in a way of Seizure and arbitrary Confiscation? Does not every one see, that all these fine Sentences of Scripture relate not to those who err in matters of Religion, but to those who are guilty of Immoralitys; else what had become of all the Riches out of the Borders of Judea, since no one abroad was in the true Religion, to whom, according to the Principles of these Convertists, they ought to be bestow’d. What Godly were there in Persia, in Greece, in Italy, &c. to possess the Wealth which the Ungodly in these Countrys had heap’d up? It’s a mere Chimera then, to appropriate to what they call Orthodoxy, that which is promis’d only to Uprightness and Honest-dealing. Is it that there’s no sound Morality out of the Pale of that Society which St. Austin believes the Orthodox? Another Chimera! We believe the Papists in an Error, and they believe the same of us; yet they and we wou’d be errand Fools to fancy, they, that there were no vertuous People among us, and we, that there are none among them.
VI. In the sixth place, Let’s admire St. Austin’s Good-nature: He approves with all his heart the Laws which deprive the Donatists of their Estates, and disapproves the Proceedings of the Catho-<451>licks who seize upon these Estates. This is pleasant enough, to blame him who executes, and praise him who enjoins the Execution of the Law.
VII. What he says in the last place, That the Churches of the Donatists, and the Funds for the Maintenance of their Sick and Poor, belong’d to the true Church, is so wretched, that I scorn to confute it. Is not there a Right of Nature and Nations for founding Hospitals; is it not a necessary Emanation of all Society, and an inseparable Appanage of incorporated Humanity? May not every State, Kingdom, Commonwealth, consecrate certain Sums for the Subsistence of their indigent Poor, and of all other Poor; and certain Places for celebrating the Ceremonys of Religion: and must these Endowments belong o’ course to the Christian Religion? What, do all the Mosks of Constantinople belong to the Christians? And had they power enough to seize ’em in spite of the Turks, might and ought they to do it, together with all the Revenues of the Mahometan Religion? In good truth, this is rendring Christianity justly odious; and on such Maxims as these, Infidels ought to look on the Christian Missionarys only as so many Spys, thrusting in to prepare the way for an Attempt on their temporal Possessions, upon a persuasion that all the rest of Mankind are Usurpers, who with-hold their Birthright from ’em, tho they very often have not as much as heard that there are Christians in the world.<452>
[* ]Prov. 13.22.
[* ]Chap. 6. of the first Part, p. 110, &c.
[131. ]1 Kings 21.
[* ]See a Book entitled, Recueil des Maximes veritables & importantes pour l’Institution du Roi, ch. 11. [Claude Joly, Recueil de maximes véritables et importantes pour l’institution du roi contre la fausse et pernicieuse politique du cardinal Mazarin, prétendu surintendant de l’éducation de Sa Majesté (Collection of true and important maxims for the instruction of the king, against the false and pernicious policy of Cardinal Mazarin, self-styled supervisor of his majesty’s education), 1652.]
[132. ]Jean Juvenal des Ursins, ecclesiastic and writer of the fifteenth century. Passage not found.
[† ]Contra Adul. Prin. confid. 6. [Joannes Gerson, Opera omnia, ed. Du Pin, Antwerp, 1706, vol. 4, col. 623.]
[133. ]On Molina and Augustine see Appendixes, “Grace, Original Sin, Predestination,” pp. 585–87.