Front Page Titles (by Subject) Chapter V: An Answer to the first Disparity which may be alledg'd against my Examples; to wit, That Hereticks, in giving an Alms, do well, because they give it to those to whom God intended it shou'd be given; but do ill, in compelling to come in, because - 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 V: An Answer to the first Disparity which may be alledg’d against my Examples; to wit, That Hereticks, in giving an Alms, do well, because they give it to those to whom God intended it shou’d be given; but do ill, in compelling to come in, because - 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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An Answer to the first Disparity which may be alledg’d against my Examples; to wit, That Hereticks, in giving an Alms, do well, because they give it to those to whom God intended it shou’d be given; but do ill, in compelling to come in, because this Command relates only to those who are in Error. I here shew, by just Examples, that Heretick Judges wou’d obey God in punishing the Orthodox, if the Principle of Persecutors hold good.
I Fancy my Reader will be pleas’d at seeing this Objection, since he might very well expect, that in Imitation of my Brethren, the Gentlemen Authors, I wou’d content my self with proposing two plausible Examples, without ever taking notice of the strongest Exceptions, which might be offer’d against ’em. But he shall quickly see, that I don’t conceal the best sides of the Cause of my Adversarys. They may tell me very plausibly, that since the Persons, to whom Hereticks give an Alms, are in that rank of Men to which God in his Word has destin’d it; they obey the Law of God: but that as the Persons compel’d to come in, are not in the Circumstances of those whom God design’d shou’d be compel’d; we ought to conclude, that they don’t obey the Will of God in compelling them. This at first sight appears<555> somewhat perplexing: let’s see tho, whether it be really as knotty as it appears.
No one can reasonably contest this Maxim, that when God commands us to do such or such an Action to such or such of our Neighbors, he leaves us the liberty of examining, whether they are under the requisite Circumstances: For example, he commands us to relieve the Needy, to visit the Sick, to assist the Orphan; yet it is our part to examine, whether they, who say they are Needy, Sick, Orphans, are really such: and if, upon a diligent Enquiry, but at the same time subject to Error, we believe we have discover’d an Imposture in their Case; it’s certain, our Obligation of assisting ’em as such ceases. There are even Cases, in which our refusing to assist wou’d be no Sin, altho we shou’d be deceiv’d as to the matter of Fact. For shou’d the Confessor of a great Prince represent to him, that a Storm of Hail having laid fourty or fifty Parishes in his Country wast, ’twou’d be an Act of Charity to send some Relief to the ruin’d Peasants: we may suppose, that this Prince wou’d appoint Commissioners to inquire upon the spot into the Damage sustain’d; who betraying the Trust repos’d in ’em, shou’d, from a malicious Partiality, and respect of Persons, make their Report, that such or such a Parish had no need of Relief, having suffer’d little, and having good Stocks before-hand. The Fact may be false; yet it being impossible for the Prince to see every thing with his own Eyes, he may very innocently rely, as to the Distribution of his Charity, on another’s Preference and Choice of the Persons: Whence it will follow, that they, who are really needy, shall go unre-<556>liev’d; and they, who had sufficient before, run away with that which belong’d only to the Poor. Yet will any one pretend, that the Prince has herein disobey’d the Precept of relieving the Poor and Needy?
The Case is the same, as to a Widow with a great Charge of Children, who shou’d bring ’em day after day into Court, to move the Compassion of her Judges. It’s very lawful for Men in their Post to examine, whether this ben’t an Artifice or Cheat; and it might possibly happen, that the Plaintiffs in a Law-Suit with this Woman may have Credit enough to possess the Mind of the Judges against her, tho otherwise well-intention’d, but subject to surprize from an inseparable Infirmity of human Nature; to possess ’em, I say, with a thousand false Storys, as if this Widow liv’d at a topping rate in her own Country, was very rich, and had but few Children, insomuch that they may afterwards have no Consideration for her Circumstances or Charge of Children, nor consequently be as favorable to her as the Law of God requires. Wou’d they in this Case be answerable for any thing more, than their not having penetrated thro all the Clouds and Darkness industriously spread around ’em? On the whole, it’s a mistake to think, that in order to fulfil the Precept of Charity, those who are the Objects of it must of necessity be Needy or Orphans; it’s enough, if we believe ’em such: and shou’d they happen to be errand Cheats, yet Jesus Christ will accept of the Charity bestow’d on ’em for his sake, upon a Persuasion of their being really what they pretend, that is, Fatherless and Indigent.<557>
What now follows, will satisfy my Reader still more; I’m sensible he is not thorowly satisfy’d with what has bin yet offer’d. One of the most essential Obligations that Magistrates and Sovereigns lie under, is that of punishing the Guilty, and delivering the Innocent; He who justifys the Wicked, and he who condemneth the Righteous, are an Abomination to the Lord, saith the Scripture.204 Yet is it not for all this incontestable, that the= Laws of God, about punishing the Guilty, and acquitting Persons falsly accus’d, oblige not to punish precisely the Guilty, and acquit the Innocent; but only to punish those who shall appear to us Guilty, and absolve those who shall appear Innocent? All that the Judg is oblig’d to in this Case, is carefully to examine the Facts, and to endeavor, that they, who are in reality guilty or innocent, may appear so to him; but if after all his Endeavors, the Guilty cannot be convicted, nor the Innocence of the Accus’d made appear, I say, and say it over again, that he is not oblig’d to punish the Guilty, nor to discharge the Innocent from Prosecution.
It undoubtedly happens much oftner than it shou’d, that a Person, guilty of several heinous Crimes, Murder, Poisoning, Plundering, &c. being brought before his Judges, nothing can be alledg’d against him but Appearances or violent Presumptions, either that there are just Exceptions in Law to the Evidence against him, or because they are bought off by the Friends of the Accus’d, and prevail’d with to unsay or contradict themselves upon Re-examination. If the Accus’d has the Question205 given him, he has sometimes the strength to outbrave it, and not confess a tittle.<558> What must be done in this case? Must he be condemn’d? No, the Judg cannot exceed his Commission; he can’t condemn a Man to the Gallows upon any Presumptions, how violent soever: the Party must either confess his Crime, or be fairly convicted by Witnesses, of good Reputation, persisting and agreeing in their Evidence against him. Where these Circumstances are wanting, the greatest Malefactor upon Earth must be acquitted, and the Judg not wanting in the least to his Duty: consequently the Command of God, for punishing Malefactors, amounts to this; You shall punish those, who are convicted of the Crimes they stand charg’d with.
Let’s now consider the other Branch of the Judg’s Function, to wit, the acquitting the Innocent. Does this import, that a Person perfectly innocent of a Murder charg’d on him, but accus’d by several Witnesses, who play their Game admirably to the last, without contradicting one another in their Evidence, or faltering in the least, ought to be discharg’d? By no means; provided the Judg has had a sincere Will to discover the Truth of the Fact, and to the best of his Skill has endeavor’d to invalidate the Evidence, and set the Proofs of the Innocence of the Accus’d in the best light: he may sentence him to death without the fear of offending God; and if he did not, wou’d discharge his Duty very ill, since he is to judg secundum allegata & probata.206 The Supposition may be made, that the Presumption is against the Innocent accus’d, that the Judg gives him the Question, and that he is so sensible of Pain, that to get off at any rate he confesses the Fact. One might add, that<559> having produc’d Witnesses to prove his Alibi, the false Witnesses have more Firmness than they, and fairly outface ’em, or that secret Enemys engage ’em to declare, they were suborn’d to swear for the Accus’d (our Country affords but too many Examples of this kind). In all these Cases, it’s evident, an innocent Person may be sentenc’d to death without the least blame on the Judg’s part: consequently I have ground to conclude, that the Command of acquitting the Innocent is restrain’d to this Proposition; You shall acquit those, whose Innocence is clearly prov’d to you.
It’s plain then, that a Judg, who studys nothing more than the fulfilling the Law of God, may, without the least Violation of it, acquit the Guilty, and condemn the Innocent, provided always, that he acquit only such Malefactors as appear not guilty to him, and condemn only such innocent Persons as appear not innocent to him.
It is no less certain, that the Obligation of obeying God, as well with regard to this Law as to that of Almsgiving, of defending the Cause of the Fatherless and Widow, rises and falls, or stands still and remains suspended, according to the degrees of our Knowledg, concerning the Subjects upon which these Laws are to be exercis’d; I mean, even a mistaken Knowledg, but attended with Sincerity.
For the Magistrates or Governors, who shou’d turn out of their Hospitals, or even out of their Towns, in order to make ’em work, a certain number of Poor, whose Recovery and Fitness for Labor were certify’d by the Physician; wou’d not transgress the Precept of Almsgiving,<560> altho it shou’d happen, that the Physician were mistaken in some Cases, judging on such and such equivocal signs of Health, that such and such Beggars were thorowly recover’d. Much less wou’d they transgress, tho they maintain’d the merest Vagrants, while persuaded they were not able to earn their Living.
The Judg who, deceiv’d by fair Appearances, and by false Certificates, but carrying an Air of Probability, shou’d not shew a Widow with a great Charge of Children all the Favor she deserv’d, and which he certainly wou’d do, were he not prepossess’d against her, that she is a sly Hypocrite, who sues her Adversary at Law, only to run headlong to a second Marriage, with greater Advantages of Fortune: The Judg, I say, plac’d in such Circumstances, might in a great measure suspend the natural Obligation he is under, of being more indulgent to the Fatherless and Widow, than to any others. And on the contrary, this Obligation wou’d subsist in its full Force, if a Widow, who really liv’d in Splendor, shou’d find a way of persuading her Judg, by Certificates, and other Credentials, in appearance authentick, that her Innocence was oppress’d; insomuch as any Judg, who, under this Persuasion, shou’d shew favor to a Widow, in reality unworthy of it, wou’d nevertheless fulfil the Law: Whereas in the first case he might dispense with this Favor, without derogating from the Law, unless People will have him answerable for his not being infallible; which is a Pretension so ridiculous, that even those of the Church of Rome, who believe an Oecumenical Council, wherein the Bishop of Rome presides, either in Person, or by his Legats, in-<561>fallible in its Decisions of Faith, dare not, notwithstanding, attribute to it a Prerogative of never being surpriz’d, or impos’d on by false Informations; which is never constru’d a Disobedience in the Church, or a Deviation from the Law of God.
Now if the Obligation of giving an Alms, of protecting the Fatherless and Widow, supposes, as a necessary and fundamental Condition, a sincere Persuasion of the Partys being in reality Poor, Fatherless, and Widows; that of punishing the Guilty, and acquitting the Innocent, supposes this Knowledg much more: because, as I have already prov’d, where a Malefactor happens not to be legally convicted of his Crime, the Judg is ipso facto oblig’d to treat him as Innocent; as, on the contrary, he’s oblig’d to treat an innocent Person as a Malefactor, if he happen to be legally convicted of the Crimes he stands accus’d of.
I was willing to set this Matter in the clearest light, at the hazard of being thought verbose and given to Repetition, needless indeed for those who have a ready Apprehension; because here I find the true Decision of the Cause before us, and because ’twas necessary to make it obvious to those who are somewhat slower of Understanding. We shall now see the Application of my Examples.<562>
[204. ]Proverbs 17:15.
[205. ]The rack.
[206. ]“In accordance with the testimony and proofs.”