Front Page Titles (by Subject) Chapter XI: An Answer to a third Disparity; which is, That in Criminal Trials, the Obscurity arises from the thing it self; whereas in those of Heresy, it proceeds from the Prepossession of the Judges. I answer, That even disinterested Judges, as the Chin - 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 XI: An Answer to a third Disparity; which is, That in Criminal Trials, the Obscurity arises from the thing it self; whereas in those of Heresy, it proceeds from the Prepossession of the Judges. I answer, That even disinterested Judges, as the Chin - 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 a third Disparity; which is, That in Criminal Trials, the Obscurity arises from the thing it self; whereas in those of Heresy, it proceeds from the Prepossession of the Judges. I answer, That even disinterested Judges, as the Chinese Philosophers for example, wou’d find our Controversys more intricate, and harder to be decided, than Civil or Criminal Causes.
I’ll allow those who propose this Disparity, which is very different from the Objection confuted in the ninth Chapter; that Prepossession is a mighty Obstacle in a Search after Truth. For it’s very certain, that where the Party is once possess’d in favor of an Opinion, he looks very graciously on all the Reasons brought to support it, and is as ready to despise those which support the contrary Opinion. It even<602> happens, that our Prepossessions, inspiring a Love for the Doctrines we embrace, and an Aversion to those which oppose, puts us upon studying, with Earnestness and Zeal, a thousand Reasons in their Justification; and turning these Reasons all manner of ways, to make ’em avail; upon framing Answers to the Objections of our Adversarys, and finding Flaws in all their Arguments in behalf of their own Opinions: Whence it comes to pass, that we are infinitely better acquainted with what we call our own best Reasonings, than with those in which they place their greatest Strength; whereby our own Cause appears to us clear and incontestable, while we look upon all that’s alledg’d o’their side, as so much vain Subtilty and Cavil.
This is most remarkably exemplify’d in Lawyers. Excepting some few, who love Cavil as they do their very Life, and who’l engage against their Consciences in any Cause, either out of Covetousness or mere Malice; they all fancy the Right is of their Side, and never speak of their Cause but as a Matter clear and incontestable, whereas they look on that of their Adversarys as destitute of any Color. The reason is, that they are continually turning their own Pretensions in their Heads, and all the Expedients which can offer for defending ’em, till the Object by continual thinking on it becomes so familiar, and so easy to be discuss’d, that they really find a World of Reasons for it, which no body living besides can descry. Now as they never think of the Reasons on the other side, but in a Spirit of answering and confuting ’em; they can’t perceive their Force; and believe,<603> the Judges will find ’em as weak as they do, if they design to act fairly. Mean time it often happens, that the Judges can’t see, either of one side or t’other, all that pretended Clearness in the Cause which the opposite Lawyers fancy; and therefore make each Party bate of their Pretensions: and it very rarely happens, that they who have lost the Cause, don’t accuse the Judges either of Partiality or Ignorance.
But tho I agree as to all these ill Effects of Prepossession, which lets us see, to the exceeding Scandal of Human Kind, that the most ridiculous sensless Sect in the World will pretend all the rest are in the most palpable Errors; and that the Truth of its own side is most apparent and obvious: yet I can’t think, but as there are sometimes Civil Causes, in which the Judges cannot clearly discern which side is right and which wrong; it is still more true that there are particular Controversys among Christians, which if submitted to the Decision of disinterested Persons, the Chinese Philosophers for example, wou’d puzzle ’em to such a degree, that they wou’d e’en abandon us to our Disputes; and perhaps do just what the Judges did before whom Protagoras a Sophist of Greece summon’d one of his Disciples: ’Twere needless relating the matter here, since it’s to be met with in all our Logicks, at the Chapter de Dilemmate.223
If I did not consider, that this were more a Philosophical than a Theological Treatise, I shou’d here say, that God from a secret, tho adorable Providence, hinders the Protestants sending Ministers into the Eastern World, to labor in the Conversion of Infidels; for to speak my<604> Thoughts freely, since the Pope’s Missionarys are before hand with ’em, it’s more expedient for Christianity to let ’em go on by themselves, and make some Christians there, such as they can make, than go thither to disclose the Shame and deplorable Lot of the Christian Religion, divided into a thousand Partys, who pull each other to pieces like so many wild Beasts. For what does any one think must be the consequence, if thro the Credit of the East-India Companys of London and Holland, our Ministers shou’d obtain Permission to sojourn in China, and to form Catechisms? Why this, that they must at first word let their Disciples know, they had bin wickedly abus’d, if told, that the Christian Religion allow’d Images: whereby they must presently understand, that the Romish Missionarys taught Doctrines which those of Holland condemn’d as abominable, which must equally expose both Partys to the publick Contempt; and make the Chinese hear neither, since they cou’d not turn Christians, without being damn’d in the Judgment of one Party of the Christians themselves.
A suppos’d Conference between the Ministers and Missionarys, in the Presence of the Chinese Philosophers.
The Ministers and Missionarys might possibly, upon this occasion, desire the Emperor of China, that he’d be pleas’d to name Judges, before whom they might fairly plead their Cause. And now (at least, unless Miracles step’d in to the Assistance of the Christian Religion) now were the time to hear it terribly hiss’d. For the first<605> thing the Ministers of Holland wou’d set forth to the Judges wou’d be, that the Book which all Christians call the Bible, is the Rule for determining those Differences between them and the Missionarys, for the debating of which they are now assembl’d. But the Missionarys wou’d presently represent on their part, that this Book is not the only Rule of Christians; and that besides this written Word of God, there’s another unwritten Rule, which must likewise be consulted; as the Episcopal Party in England, a Protestant Sect, does in some Respects allow. Here then we find our Gentlemen enter’d into a most nice Dispute about the* Rule for judging of all others; they never can get clear of it, without running down, one side Scripture, charging it with Obscurity, with Insufficiency, with being a Nose of Wax; the other Tradition, calling it the Bulwark of Ignorance, a Field of endless Contradiction and Darkness. The Dispute about the Authority of the Church must come next after: one Side alledges, that we don’t know the Scripture is Divine, but because the Church assures us so; the other maintains the contrary, that this is known, either by those Characters of Divinity which shine in the very Text, or by a particular Grace of God; and that moreover the knowing and discerning the true Church, depends on every private Person’s comparing the Doctrine of the Church with Scripture: which brings about all the Difficultys in examining Articles of Faith by<606> Peasants and Tradesmen. Six Sessions cou’d not well pass, before the Disputants came to Invective and personal Reproach; the Ministers wou’d twit the Jesuits with Ravillac’s Exploit, reckon up all their Conspiracys against our good Q. Elizabeth, the Gun-pouder Plot, &c. The Missionarys wou’d confront ’em with the Civil Wars of France, the formal Arraignment of Charles I and the beheading him on a Scaffold. Those again wou’d reply, that this was the Work only of a Fanatick Sect of Independents, had in detestation by all the true Reform’d; and these wou’d likewise say, That the Plots against Heretick Kings ought not to be charg’d on their whole Society: so the Controversy turns to a Dispute of Facts.
In what a Condition can we suppose the Chinese Judges by this time, they who are to decide upon these Differences? In a strange Puzzle no doubt. They cou’d not but think, what the Ministers observ’d about the uncertainty of Tradition, very reasonable: but when the opposite Side represented all the Inconveniencys which must needs attend the allowing every private Person a Right of examining Scripture, in order to judg whether the Sense which Councils give it be right, and without being oblig’d to stand by that Sense which has prevail’d all along for fifteen or sixteen hundred Years; then indeed the Arbitrators wou’d in all likelihood change Opinion: for all profane Religions look on it as a Principle of common Sense, that they who have the Superintendency of the Divine Worship, are the natural Judges and Interpreters of all Difficultys, either by themselves, or in conjunction with those who<607> govern the State; and that private Persons ought to acquiesce in their Decisions. I wou’d not be understood, as if I thought the Chinese right in making this Maxim their Rule; I only say, they wou’d in all probability govern themselves by it, and put it in ballance against all that the Ministers cou’d offer of greatest weight for their Cause. And there’s ground to believe, if they resolv’d to pass Judgment only on what appear’d to ’em very certain, that they wou’d drop their Commission, and intirely decline the determining this Dispute.
Some may perhaps tell me, that I make the Ministers very silly, in beginning with the Church of Rome on her strongest side, which undoubtedly lies in the Objections she makes against the Capacity we suppose in our Peasants, of sifting out the Truth in a boundless Ocean of Controversy: whereas she sticks by that Principle, which makes the Security of all Societys, Communitys, and Bodys Politick; to wit, that every particular Person ought to submit his own Judgment to that of the greater number, and especially of those who are intrusted with the Administration of Affairs. Let’s suppose then, the Ministers prudent enough to attack the Church of Rome by some weak side; and certainly that of Transubstantiation, and its Consequences, is one.
There’s no manner of doubt, but that after they had play’d all their Batterys of Sense and Reason against this whimsical extravagant Doctrine, alledg’d a thousand excellent Arguments which Scripture furnishes, a thousand solid Answers to the Reasonings of the Papists; there’s no doubt, I say, but the Chinese Commissioners<608> wou’d find themselves powerfully dispos’d to adjudg ’em the Victory on this point, and to believe that the opposite side, to whom they wou’d however give the hearing, had not a word to say for themselves. But have a little Patience. They shall no sooner have heard the Missionarys represent, that their Adversarys renounce the most evident Principles of Reason, when they are to maintain the Mystery of the Trinity, the Incarnation, &c. against the Socinians; that our Senses ought not to carry it against an express Text of Scripture, those Senses which deceive us daily in the most obvious matters; in fine, that all Christians in general, from the days of Jesus Christ to the Calvinist Schism, had held the literal Sense of the words, This is my Body: They shall no sooner, I say, have heard out all this Plea, but they’l be at a strange loss which side to turn themselves; for if we suppose ’em to have ever so little Sense, they must comprehend, that if they who convers’d with the Apostles, who were immediately instructed by ’em, who receiv’d the Communion from their hands, had taken this Passage in the Strictness of the Letter, this is Presumption enough that the Apostles themselves understood ’em so: So that the Difficulty will soon be at an end, unless the Ministers stoutly deny the Fact.
But they do deny it, we’l suppose; and then what a new Forest of Discussion rises before ’em, at the sight of which it is probable the Judges may order the Partys to give in their Reasons in writing? The best thing the Catholicks cou’d do in this case, wou’d be to produce all that Port-Royal has publish’d against Mr. Claude.224 <609> For as there never was a Man, in the Catholick Party, of Mr. Arnaud’s Force in Polemicks; what he has written upon the Eucharist, is perhaps the best-manag’d Piece of Controversy that has yet appear’d. The Ministers wou’d oppose the Writings of the foresaid Mr. Claude; and as to the two* Volumes of Mr. Arnaud which remain unanswer’d, they might find Protestant Authors enough, who had furnish’d Answers to ’em before.
Now I maintain, that the subtlest Philosophers of the East wou’d utterly lose themselves in these tedious Controversys; in which there’s a deal of Barratry, and not one Objection which is not answer’d. Possibly they might tell the Missionarys, That tho all the Christians before Calvin might have taken the words, This is my Body, in the literal Sense, yet nothing more cou’d be concluded from it, than that the Apostles had understood ’em the same way; which they had no great reason to glory in, since they were a Company of simple illiterate Men, void of all the Improvements of Philosophy or the Sciences. But tho we shou’d suppose they made this Remark, it cou’d be of no service to the Calvinists, who own the Infallibility of the Apostles: consequently the Chinese Judges, who might alledg this, if appointed Judges in a Cause against all Christians in general, must be oblig’d to suppose the Infallibility of the Apostles as the Rule of their Judgment; it being a Principle common<610> to the Partys which had accepted ’em for Arbitrators of their Differences.
If any one shou’d wonder at my supposing the Chinese Judges at such a puzzle about this Point, I must desire him to take one thing of consequence along with him; which is, that this does not suppose that I my self find any difficulty in the Controversy about the Eucharist. I am clearly convinc’d that the figurative is the true Sense, and the Objections of the Catholicks give me no manner of Uneasiness. All the Reform’d are of the= same mind. The Lutherans and Romanists think on the other hand the literal Sense most true, and make no great matter of all our Objections. Undoubtedly Education in those who are deceiv’d, and Education together with Grace or without Grace in those who are not deceiv’d, is what produces these opposite firm Persuasions; whereupon it naturally follows, that the Reasons for the affirmative appear solid and convincing, those for the Negative mere Sophism, Cavil, and poor Stuff. Whatever it be, let us not imagine that Persons not engag’d or prejudic’d of either side, must relish our Reasonings, and those of our Adversarys, just as we our selves or as they do. Such Men wou’d never see in ours all that Evidence which we see in ’em, nor in those of the opposite side all that Weakness which we fancy in ’em. Neither wou’d they find in the Arguments of the Missionarys all that Force which these feel in ’em, nor in our Objections that want of Solidity which the Missionarys think they perceive in ’em. They wou’d certainly find Appearances of Right and Wrong, of Truth and of Falshood, of both sides: And this is what<611> wou’d puzzle, what wou’d hinder their giving a definitive Judgment, and make ’em desire to be deliver’d as soon as possible from such intricate Wrangles, as fearing they shou’d never be able to decide ’em aright.
Gentlemen Christian Convertists (wou’d they say to the contesting Partys) who come so very far to inform us that you are not agreed among your selves, we have not leisure enough to hear out all your Disputes; and since you have mention’d Socinians, Independants, an Episcopal Party, as so many other Sects among you, ’tis but reasonable that we hear them too: Write to ’em to send their Deputys hither; it may be they can help us to some Lights in this matter. In the mean time we fear you not; you can never gain over one Chinese, if you employ no other means than Reason, provided the Emperor forbids all his Subjects to receive the Christian Religion, unless from the hands of a Minister and Missionary, keeping a strict eye on one another.
I must say it then positively once more, that it’s much better we shou’d lie still, than go as far as China to become a Rock of Offence to the Infidels; who if they had a mind effectually to frustrate the Endeavors of the Convertists, who are already settled there, without any violence, ought to send over at their own charge and expence for Reform’d Missionarys, to set the Christians together by the ears. If much such another Stratagem had succeeded with the Cardinal of Lorain, who had slily concerted, by the advice of Baldouin, to invite some famous Lutheran Divines to the Conference at Poissy;225 he had mortify’d Theodore Beza by it, and his Collegues, much more than by all his own great Learning and<612> Eloquence, and that of the Flower and Cream of the Popish Chivalry, who disputed at this Conference, and yet did not gain an inch of ground of the Ministers. But Theodore Beza’s Good Fortune spar’d him the Confusion. The Lutheran Divines having touch’d the Sums before-hand which the Cardinal was to pay ’em, arriv’d a little late at Paris; and one of ’em dying presently of the Plague, the rest made what hast they cou’d home again, without proceeding a step farther to Poissy. Sic me servavit Apollo,226 might Theodore Beza then have said.
[223. ]See Aulus Gellius, The Attic Nights, V.x, Loeb Classical Library, vol. 1, pp. 406–9.
[* ]In a Conference at Ratisbon, in 1601, they spent fourteen Sessions on this single Point, without being able to come to any Resolution.
[224. ]Antoine Arnauld, La perpétuité de la foi de l’Eglise touchant l’Eucharistie défendue contre le livre du Sr Claude, ministre de Charenton (The perpetuity of the faith of the Church concerning the Eucharist, defended against the book of M. Claude, Minister of Charenton), 1669–74 (with Nicole and others, arguing that Catholic doctrine concerning the Eucharist could be traced back to the belief of the early Church); DHC, art. “Arnauld, Antoine.” Pierre Nicole, La Perpétuité de la foi de l’eglise catholique touchant l’eucharistie (The perpetuity of the faith of the Catholic Church concerning the Eucharist), short version 1664 (written by Nicole and Arnauld in controversy with Claude); La défense de l’Eglise (Defense of the Church), 1689 (a reply to Claude’s Défense de la Réformation; see above, p. 395, note 176); DHC, art. “Nicolle, Pierre.”
[* ]Mr. Lortie wrote against the first, but never answer’d to Mr. Arnaud’s Reply; and therefore these two Volumes are look’d upon as unanswer’d. [Possibly: André Lortie, Traité de la Sainte Cène, divisé en trois parties, où sont examinées les nouvelles subtilitez de Monsieur Arnaut, sur les paroles: Cecy est mon corps (Treatise on the Holy Supper, divided into three parts, in which are examined new subtleties of M. Arnauld on the words, “This is my body”), 1674.]
[225. ]See Joseph Lecler, op. cit., vol. 2, p. 55–67. “Poissy, Colloquy of” in The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Reformation, vol. 3, pp. 281–82. See DHC, art. “Baudouin, Francis,” rem. C; art. “Bèze, Théodore,” rem. H.
[226. ]Horace, Satires, I.ix.78: “Thus Apollo saved me!”