Front Page Titles (by Subject) Chapter I: General Considerations on St. Austin's Argument in defence of Persecution; shewing, That he offers nothing which may not be retorted, with equal force, upon the persecuted Orthodox. - 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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Chapter I: General Considerations on St. Austin’s Argument in defence of Persecution; shewing, That he offers nothing which may not be retorted, with equal force, upon the persecuted Orthodox. - 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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General Considerations on St. Austin’s Argument in defence of Persecution; shewing, That he offers nothing which may not be retorted, with equal force, upon the persecuted Orthodox.
Persuaded, as I always was, that the literal Sense of the Words, Compel ’em to come in, is indefensible, impious, and absurd; I did not doubt St. Austin’s defending it weakly enough, but never cou’d<538> imagine that he’d have help’d it out with so much fallacious Reasoning. Nor did I perceive this, till I was actually in confuting him; and I’m now more sensible than ever, that one’s struck with the false glare of a Paralogism when he reads over a Book only for an Amusement, infinitely more than when he sits down with a design to consider and answer it. I have a hundred times admir’d, while I was writing the third Part of my Commentary, how a Man cou’d have so much Wit as St. Austin, and yet reason so wretchedly; but I’m come at last to this, that nothing is more rare than a Justness of Judgment, and a sound logical Head. Every Age produces uncommon Genius’s, bright and pregnant Wits, who have a rapid Imagination, who express themselves with a deal of Eloquence, and have inexhaustible Sources for maintaining what they please: This was exactly St. Austin’s Character. But we find very few, who have a talent at taking the stress of a Difficulty, and who, when they go about to solve it, suffer not themselves to be dazled by Reasons, as they fancy, of their own finding; and which, far from a satisfactory Solution, are liable to be retorted, prove too much, are wide of the point, or subject to some defect or other of this kind. What wretched things are most of St. Austin’s Comparisons! He cou’d not perceive, that the Counterparts of his Parallels clash like a couple of Loadstones presented by their opposite Poles. This is a mighty Oversight, especially where the Point to be defended is destitute of all direct Proof, for otherwise the use of Comparisons is not blameworthy. Possibly I may often make use of ’em: but beside that they shall be always just, I’l take care not to bring ’em in,<539> till after I have fairly prov’d my Thesis from evident Principles. The Reader may see how they lie in my Commentary.
I have all along endeavor’d to keep close to St. Austin, I have follow’d him step by step, and verily think I have not left a place about him, that does not want a Plaister, which ’twill be a hard matter to find: But tho I had offer’d nothing more in answer, than that all his Reasons may equally be employ’d by Heretical Sects, who in the parts where they are uppermost shou’d persecute the Catholicks; this alone were enough to expose the Vanity of his Pretensions. For what more is requisite to convince any reasonable Person of the Vanity of ’em, than shewing that by only changing the Climate or Parallel, one may find twenty times, in the space of a year or two, the same Arguments true and false; true in the Countrys where the Orthodox persecute, and false in those where they are persecuted. Ask a Jesuit of England, whether supposing the Episcopal Party in that Kingdom have the right of their side, as they pretend, they do well to deny the Nonconformists198 Liberty of Conscience; and whether they might not very well defend themselves by alledging St. Austin’s Reasons? He’l answer you, No: That Conscience shou’d never be forc’d; that we ought only to inform it, and in all cases leave it under the Dominion of God. Cross the Seas, and come over into France, the Jesuits there will tell you quite the contrary: and if you alledg the fine Maxims which their Brethren o’ this side the Water alledg for the Immunitys of Conscience, they’l laugh at you. What will any unprejudic’d Person say to this? With-<540>out doubt he’l say, he never knew a People so void of common Sense as the Christians; because even in matters of Morality, in which they boast of vast Improvements beyond the rest of the World, they have not any one fix’d Rule or Principle, but explode in one place what they maintain in another. Once more, to use the Bishop of Meaux’s Words, let’s say, That if the forcing Conscience be a Good-work on the part of the Orthodox, the Christian Church is of all Societys on earth undoubtedly the most helpless, the most expos’d to incurable Divisions, the most abandon’d to the Caprice and Cruelty of indiscreet Zealots, and violent ambitious Spirits.199 It’s plain then, that since St. Austin cou’d not offer an Apology for Persecution without building on Principles authorizing all Heretick Persecutors as well as himself, without a possibility of destroying their Claim, but by appealing for a fair Discussion of the main Ground of the Differences (a Work of much time, and too too slow a Remedy for so imminent and so real an Evil as the Mischiefs of Persecution) or else to the Valley of Jehosaphat, when God at the last day shall declare which side is right and which wrong, in the Interpretation of his Oracles: It’s plain, I say, that St. Austin’s Apology being subject to all these terrible Inconveniences, drops o’ course. For to say, that Hereticks in this case wou’d misapply the Principles which were rightfully employ’d of his side, is telling, for example, a Troop of Dragoons ready to ravage a Protestant Town, to force all the People to Mass; Oh! Gentlemen, you little consider that the Violence exercis’d on your part, is as abominable in you who believe a false Religion, as it wou’d be good and<541> holy in us who believe the Truth. Forbear vexing us, at least till your Missionarys in Conference with our Ministers have explain’d to you these three or four huge Volumes of your own Bellarmin, and the Panstratie of our Chamier;200and afterwards plague and persecute us as much as you please, if you don’t find that we have reason of our side. Every one sees that such a Discourse, whether address’d to the Executive Power, or to the Ordainers of Persecution, must needs appear ridiculous, at least very useless; because these might reply upon ’em after this manner: Good People, since you are agreed that the Orthodox may justly employ the sharpest methods, you shou’d not think it strange that we, who are undoubtedly the Orthodox, persecute you who are wretched Hereticks. As to Bellarmin and Chamier, we are not now at leisure to hear ’em explain’d; this were drinking up the Ocean: You might die and perish in your Unbelief, before the Missionarys and Ministers cou’d dispatch a quarter part of the first Volume. You must therefore take your Resolution forthwith, with free leave however to complain that we treat you unjustly, if your Ministers hereafter happen to convince us they have the Truth of their side. The Justice of your Complaints depends wholly on the demonstrating this Point; so that while it’s actually in dispute, you only suppose the thing in question, when you complain you are unjustly treated. Is it possible St. Austin, with all the Fruitfulness of his Imagination, shou’d not have seen how extremely improbable it is, that God shou’d have left his Church destitute of any other Remonstrance, than that of praying their Persecutors to examine into a boundless Ocean of Controversys, so entangled with Cavil and Illusion, thro the Knavery and<542> false Zeal of Controvertists, that there’s no Patience but must be quite tir’d out with hearing and weighing the Answers, Replys, and Rejoinders of both Partys upon the minutest Point in contest? Is it, I say, to be conceiv’d that St. Austin shou’d think all those fine Maxims of Morality, Principles of Equity and upright Dealing, precious Relicks and inestimable Ruins of the Innocence of the first Man, render’d unserviceable to the Cause of true Religion; and that besides the Patience of its Martys, it ought not to claim any benefit (the better to convince the World of the injury done it) from those Rules of Justice and Humanity, which all Nations of the Earth, tho ever so little civiliz’d, have always respected? Now it is evident, the Church cou’d claim no benefit by ’em from the time she thought herself oblig’d to persecute the Heterodox, by virtue of the Precept, Compel ’em to come in; because beside that* she herself wou’d be oblig’d to dispense with these Maxims whene’er she persecuted, and to despise ’em when alledg’d by the Persecuted to move her Compassion, and therefore wou’d deserve to be hiss’d in her turn, if when the day of her own Persecution came she shou’d wish to use ’em: beside this, I say, is it not plain, that all Christian Sects wou’d believe they offended God, if in prejudice to Jesus Christ’s Command of compelling, they shou’d shew any regard for those Principles of Righteousness and<543> Humanity which right Reason inspires. Thus you see the Orthodox fairly and deservedly stript of the Protection of these Principles; and accordingly instead of saying, as Jesus Christ himself did, That he was not come to destroy the Law and the Prophets, but to fulfil ’em; we must affirm, if St. Austin be right, That Jesus Christ is come not only to destroy the Law and the Prophets, all the Precepts of the Decalogue, and the holiest Maxims scatter’d in the Psalms, in the Books of Solomon, &c. but likewise that natural Religion, those Irradiations of the Law eternal, those Illapses of unalterable Order, which have shone forth among all Nations, tho ever so little civiliz’d.
There’s no need of any thing further to destroy this wretched Apology of St. Austin, or that of any other Patron or Abettor of Persecution.
[198. ]Including Roman Catholics.
[199. ]See above, p. 334, note 129.
[200. ]Robert Bellarmine, Jesuit, De Controversiis christianae fidei adversus huius temporis haereticos (Concerning the controversies of Christian faith, against the heretics of the present time), 1586–89; Daniel Chamier, Calvinist minister, Panstratiae catholicae sive controversiarum de religione adversus pontificios corpus (Panstratiae catholicae or body of controversies concerning religion against the papists), 1626–30. See DHC, art. “Chamier, Daniel.”
[* ]We have prov’d in the fourth Chapter of the first Part of the Philosophical Commentary, and shall prove farther hereafter, that the Command of compelling wou’d overthrow all Morality. [See above, p. 86.]