Front Page Titles (by Subject) XXXIII.: ST. AUSTIN'S WORDS Letter 164,148 to Emeritus. - 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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XXXIII.: ST. AUSTIN’S WORDS Letter 164,148 to Emeritus. - 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
If the Temporal Powers stretch forth their hand against Schismaticks, ’tis because they look on their Separation as an Evil, and that they are ordain’d by God for the Punishment of Evil-doers, according to that Saying of the Apostle, Whosoever therefore resisteth the Power, resisteth the Ordinance of God; and they that resist, shall receive to themselves Damnation: For Rulers are not a terror to Good-works, but to the Evil, &c. The whole Question then lies here, whether Schism be an Evil, and whether you have not made the Schism; for if so, you resist the Powers, not for any Good, but for Evil. But, say you, no one shou’d persecute even bad Christians. Allow they ought not; yet how can this secure ’em against the Powers ordain’d by God for the Punishment of Evil-doers? Can we cancel that Passage of St. Paul, which I have just now cited?
One can hardly imagine what St. Austin cou’d be thinking of, when he applies his Scripture so very wrong. Cou’d not he see, that he gave it a strain beyond what the Apostle ever dream’d of? For at his rate of quoting St. Paul, he makes him plainly affirm, that Subjects who conform not to the Prince’s Laws are wicked and worthy of Punishment, and Resisters of the Ordinance of God; the most impious Falshood that ever any one advanc’d! since it charges all the<480> Martyrs and Confessors with Rebellion against God, and a punishable Untowardness, and in general all the Christians of the primitive Church, and the Apostles in the first place, who obey’d not the Heathen Emperors forbidding by their Laws the Profession of Christianity. We must of necessity take up with this abominable Consequence, or own there are Limitations essentially understood in St. Paul’s words; such as except those Cases at least, wherein we can’t conform to the Prince’s Laws, without deeming it better to obey Man than to obey God. Now he who conforms to the Prince’s Laws, when persuaded in Conscience that God ordains the contrary, chuses to obey his Prince rather than God (there’s no cavilling against the Evidence of this Proposition, for those who weigh the Terms of it ever so little) consequently St. Paul must be understood to except all those Cases, wherein one is persuaded that God ordains the contrary of what Princes ordain. And so the Schismaticks, which St. Austin had to deal with, being within this case, the alledging this Passage of St. Paul cou’d be of no force against them, without proving, as it must if taken in this latitude, that one ought to be a Turk at Constantinople, an Arian under Constantius, a Pagan under Nero, a Protestant in Sweden, a Papist in Rome, &c.
If the temporal Powers stretch forth their hand against Schismaticks, ’tis because they look on their Separation as an Evil, and that they are ordain’d by God for the Punishment of Evil-doers. Let’s put this Argument of St. Austin’s in form.<481>
If it were* a Sin in Princes to stretch forth their hands against Schismaticks, ’twou’d be a Sin in ’em for this reason only; That they did not look upon Schism as an Evil, or that God had not ordain’d ’em for the Punishment of Evil-doers.
But they do look upon Schism as an Evil, and God has ordain’d ’em for the Punishment of Evil-doers.
Therefore it is not a Sin in ’em to stretch forth their hands against Schismaticks.
We now perceive how this formidable Syllogism shrinks to a wretched begging the Question; I persecute you justly, because I am Orthodox: and by the same rule I kill, I slander, I cheat, I betray you justly, because I am Orthodox.
Let’s suppose an Arian Bishop under Constantius reason the same way.
If it were an ill thing in the Emperor, to stretch forth his hand against those who hold the eternal Divinity of Jesus Christ, the reason must be, that he did not look on this Opinion as an Evil, and that God had not ordain’d him for the Punishment of Evil.
But he believes this Opinion Evil, and that God has ordain’d him for the Punishment of Evil.
Therefore it’s no ill thing in him to stretch forth his hand against the Patrons of this Opinion.
Suppose, I say, an Arian Bishop reason’d thus, what cou’d St. Austin say for himself? Nothing<482> but this, That Constantius look’d upon that as Evil which really was not so, and that God had not ordain’d him for the Punishment of that which is no Evil. Nor must he henceforward say a word more of the Passage from the Apostle, which he had cited as an invincible Argument. The whole Dispute for the future will turn upon the ground of the Separation: and if either convince t’other, well and good; if not, each must stand upon his own bottom, and serve God according to his own Principles. This Remark alone is sufficient to shew, that the Secular Power has no right to interpose in religious Differences, so far as to constrain any one to the Belief of this or that: The getting all contested Points stated and explain’d, is the most that Princes ought to do; or taking care, that the publick Peace is not disturb’d by the Differences in Opinion.
To return to the Arian Bishop’s Syllogism, I say that whoever wou’d effectually answer it, must deny that the Emperor, because he looks on a thing as evil, has a right to punish it, or to exercise that Authority which St. Paul speaks of, when he says, God has ordain’d the Powers which are, for the Punishment of Evil-doers. But the denying of this, puts St. Austin quite out of sorts, and lays him under a necessity of changing his first Proposition into this which follows; The Emperor stretches forth his hand against you, because your Separation is an Evil, and because God has ordain’d him for the Punishment of Evil. Now this is manifestly supposing the thing in question, because the Donatists maintain’d that their Separation was very just; and consequently St. Austin’s Argument amounts to no more than this,<483> You are wrong, and I am right; which the long Passage he has cited from St. Paul has undoubtedly nothing to do with, one way or other.
He well saw, that what he had bin all along urging amounted to no more, since he adds; The whole Question lies here, whether Schism ben’t an Evil, and whether you have not made the Schism. If this be all the Question, it ought to be decided by Reasoning; and if St. Austin offers Arguments of weight enough to convince the Donatists, there will be no more need of Fines or Prisons, they’l re-ingraft on the old Stock with all their heart. But if St. Austin’s Reasons convince ’em not, the Question and Contest will still subsist; and consequently ’twill be manifestly begging the Question, if St. Austin reasons at this rate:
You have committed an ill Action.
The Emperor is oblig’d to punish those who commit ill Actions.
Therefore the Emperor is oblig’d to punish you.
Now it’s absurd arguing upon a bare begging the Question,149 and much more absurd to inflict Punishments, banish, imprison, pill and pillage Folks on a bare begging the Question: consequently St. Austin’s Cause is stark naught in this part of it.
For since the whole Question, as he himself owns, amounts to this; Is Schism an Evil, and have the Donatists made the Schism? the Laws of good Order and right Reason require, that the Partys examine this Point, and dispute it fairly, before either condemns what either affirms or denies. What will be the issue of this Discussion or Dispute? Why one of these three things<484> must necessarily happen; either each Party will persist in its own Opinion; or one of ’em, convinc’d it’s in the wrong, will comply with what the other proposes; or, last of all, tho convinc’d of its Error, will yet obstinately refuse to change sides. If we suppose the Donatists, or any other Sect accus’d of Heresy, within the first Case, the Question and Ground of the Dispute is still on foot; and consequently St. Austin ought not to fly to the Prince’s Authority, because he can’t suppose the Right of his own side, but by manifestly begging the Question, and because there’s no common standing Rule between him and his Adversarys, by which he may justly pronounce ’em Evil-doers. If we suppose ’em under the second Circumstance, there’s no need of calling in the Secular Power against ’em. In the third Case we may very justly have recourse to the Authority of the Prince, provided we have a certain and undoubted knowledg of their persisting contrary to the Lights of their Conscience: but how shall we come by this Knowledg; we have not the Gift of searching the Heart, and we ought to suppose that a Man is not convinc’d of his Error as long as he protests he is not: and whatever Conjecture we may have to the contrary, we have no right to act by him according to our Conjectures, rather than according to his own Protestation. So that we can’t possibly imagine a Case, which, in pure Disputes about Religion, authorizes our arming the Secular Power against Schismaticks, and solliciting penal Laws.
But I can’t well comprehend what St. Austin means in this place, when he says, That allowing<485> no one ought to persecute even the worst Christians, yet this cou’d be no Protection to them against the Powers ordain’d by God for the Punishment of Evil-doers. To me it looks like a Contradiction: for if bad Christians shou’d not be persecuted, this is a strong Reason in their favor against those Princes who wou’d bring ’em to Punishments from which they are exempted; I mean such Punishments as the Powers ordain’d by God may inflict on Evil-doers. But to pass over this want of Consistency in our Author, I shall only observe, that Christians who are no otherwise bad than as they believe and mistake certain false Doctrines for Divine Revelation, are not to be reckon’d among those Evil-doers, for the Punishment of whom Princes have receiv’d the Sword from God. This Sword concerns only such as are guilty of Crimes, and of violating the politickal Laws of the State, Murderers, Robbers, False Witnesses, Adulterers, &c.
This Passage of St. Austin is, I suppose, the Fountain from whence the Bishop of Meaux has drawn his Query to one of his Diocesans; Tell me, says he, in what place of Scripture do you find Hereticks and Schismaticks excepted out of the number of those Evil-doers, against whom St. Paul tells us, God himself has armed the Princes?150 There was no need of an Exemption: for it’s plain to any one who consults the Genius of the Gospel, that this sort of Evil-doers ought not to be treated like the rest. What they do, they do with an intention of serving God more perfectly, and of avoiding what they think displeasing to him; they therefore ought only to be undeceiv’d and better inform’d: and none but Brutes and<486> Savage Natures, or stupidly blinded by senseless Prepossessions, can have the cruelty to punish Misdemeanors committed involuntarily, or from such an intention. Beside, that all the Arguments which I have urg’d at large in my Commentary on the words, Compel ’em to come in, are so many demonstrative Proofs, that God design’d not to arm Princes with the avenging Sword, Gladio Ultore, against Errors of Conscience.
And here I can’t but call to mind a Passage of St. Paul, which I have elsewhere151 made my use of; Do good unto all, but especially to those who are of the Houshold of Faith: and I maintain it’s a sufficient Answer to the Bishop of Meaux’s Query. For it’s plain, this Precept of the Apostle concerns all Christians, and consequently Sovereigns; and that by it Princes are oblig’d to do good unto others beside the Houshold of Faith, otherwise ’twere absurd to bid ’em do good especially to the Houshold of Faith: but if from the time that one ceases to be of the Houshold of Faith, he commences an Evil-doer of that kind which human Justice is oblig’d to pursue, and for the Punishment of whom Princes have receiv’d the Sword from God; it’s as plain, against the Precept of the Apostle, that they can do good to none but those of the Houshold of Faith. Whence we infer, that the Apostle design’d they shou’d make an essential difference between their Nonconformist Subjects; and Murderers, Robbers, False Witnesses, Adulterers, and all other Disturbers of the publick Tranquillity, on whom God won’t have Magistrates exercise any other good than that of punishing their Crimes. So that this single Passage of St. Paul is demonstration that<487> God exempts Hereticks and Schismaticks, demeaning themselves civilly otherwise, and living according to the Laws of the Land, out of the number of those Evil-doers, whose Punishment is enjoin’d on Princes upon their receiving the Sword from God.
[148. ]In the modern numbering, Letter 87.
[* ]That no one may suspect this Argument is not put into due form, the Reader is desir’d to consult the Logick of Port-Royal, Part 3, Chap. 12. [Antoine Arnauld and Pierre Nicole, Art de penser, ou logique (The art of thinking, or Logic), 1659.]
[149. ]See Appendixes, “Bayle’s Use of Logic,” p. 580 (“petitio principii”).
[150. ]See above, p. 334, note 129.
[151. ]See above, p. 254.