Front Page Titles (by Subject) Chapter XIII: An Answer to the fourth Disparity; which is, That when a Judg is deceiv'd in a Cause of Heresy, he is guilty in the sight of God; because the Error in this Case proceeds from a Principle of Corruption, which perverts the Will: an Evil not in - 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:
Chapter XIII: An Answer to the fourth Disparity; which is, That when a Judg is deceiv’d in a Cause of Heresy, he is guilty in the sight of God; because the Error in this Case proceeds from a Principle of Corruption, which perverts the Will: an Evil not in - 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.
An Answer to the fourth Disparity; which is, That when a Judg is deceiv’d in a Cause of Heresy, he is guilty in the sight of God; because the Error in this Case proceeds from a Principle of Corruption, which perverts the Will: an Evil not incident to a Judg, who is deceiv’d in Trials for Murder or Adultery. I shew, that were this the Case, each Sect wou’d be oblig’d to believe, that those of other opposite Sects never pray’d for the Assistance of God’s Spirit to direct ’em in reading his Holy Word.
As this is the nicest part of the whole Dispute, I have defer’d giving my Reader a Word of Advice till now; which may serve, if need be, for what has bin said already, but is especially necessary with regard to what remains to be said.
A Preliminary Observation, which the Reader is desir’d to remember in due time and place.
I don’t properly consider, in what I advance in my Answers to the Disparitys of my Adversarys, any other Errors than those of Heterodox Christians; I’m concern’d no further. Notwithstanding, as I may sometimes happen to make use of Expressions of a more extensive and ge-<618>neral nature, or which however may appear somewhat dark and confus’d, I must desire my Reader always to understand my Terms by the following Propositions, and to explain ’em by this precise Declaration of my own Opinion.
1. That no Error in Religion, of what nature soever we suppose it, is a Sin when purely involuntary.
2. That the same degree and kind of Ignorance suffices to render an Error, be it of what nature it will, involuntary, as suffices to render human Actions involuntary, in the sense that we find this matter explain’d in all the moral Treatises of our scholastick Philosophers. See Heerebord in particular, a Professor in the College of Leyden.229
3. That a great many Men live and die, after they have arriv’d at an Age in which they might and ought to have made use of their Judgments, in very strange Errors in Religion, but involuntary by that kind of Ignorance which excuses; and in this case the Error is properly an Error of Sincerity.
4. That a great many others live and die, after they have arriv’d to the same Maturity of Age, in Errors which cannot be call’d involuntary unless in an improper sense, inasmuch as they don’t proceed from that kind of Ignorance which excuses, but from an affected Ignorance springing from a Principle formally evil. This is properly an Error of Insincerity.
5. That Men may make various Conjectures more or less probable, and sometimes almost to a degree of Certainty, concerning those who err in this last manner; yet that none but<619> God alone can know and affirm it positively.
Let’s now return to the Subject of the Chapter, and examine this new Retreat, which I suppose my Adversarys may fly to, when convinc’d of the Nullity of the Evasion, which has bin render’d altogether useless to ’em in the ninth Chapter. They’l tell us, that he who is in an Error persists in it from an evil Principle, because he never makes use of the means of Information which lie ready to his hand; whereby his Error becomes a wilful Sin: just as the Ignorance of a Scholar is acounted voluntary, tho he has ever so great a desire of being learned; if on the one hand he knows that ’tis absolutely necessary to study in order to become learned, and on the other hand is idle and refuses to study. But what are those means of Information which lie ready at hand? One Party answers, that it’s giving heed to what that Church has defin’d, which has Universality and Antiquity of its side, and an uninterrupted Succession of Bishops ever since the Apostles days, adhering to the Apostolical Chair of St. Peter. Others tell us, that it’s reading the Word of God with a teachable Mind, and a sincere Desire of finding that Light which its Author has diffus’d in it; recommending one’s self to God while he reads; praying to him for that Wisdom from on high, which he never refuses to those who ask in Faith; not stifling those Rays of heavenly Light which this Holy Word darts thro the Souls of its Readers, from any Love or Fondness for preconceiv’d Opinions: but guiding our selves by ’em as by a Lamp shining in<620> a dark place. Let’s first examine* the last of these two Answers.
One must be utterly void of all Sense of Religion, to doubt that what is propos’d in this last Answer is every Man’s Duty, and a means highly pleasing to God; but on the other hand, they who suppose that all those Christians who don’t surmount their Errors, act counter to this method, run themselves into very frightful Consequences.
For if they be Calvinists, they must suppose that no Papist, who dies in his Religion, had ever read the Scriptures but with an intractable perverse Disposition of Mind; not desiring to find out the Truth, but seeking all pretences for strengthening his old Prejudices; never imploring the Assistance of God’s Spirit to render his reading profitable, but industriously stifling all Motions and Beginnings of Instruction afforded him by perusing this Divine Book. Now what madness were it to say, that for so many Ages together, in which Christianity and the Church of Rome were in a manner but one and the same thing, at least while it was much the most numerous and the most flourishing Part of the Christian Church, there shou’d never be either Priest, or Prelate, or Monk, who died in his Errors, that had not all along read the Scriptures in that extravagant Disposition of Mind which has bin just now describ’d? Yet this is what we can’t avoid affirming upon the Supposition which I now examine, and accordingly concluding, that any Man who had pray’d earnestly to God for his en-<621>lightning Grace, and perus’d his Holy Word with a teachable Mind, and a sincere Desire of being instructed; must have discover’d the Falseness of Monastick Vows, of Celibacy, of Fasts, Invocation of Saints, Images, Relicks, Real Presence, &c. From whence it follows, that whoever did not perceive these to be Errors, must never have pray’d to God to make his reading and perusing the Scriptures profitable to Salvation. So here’s the whole Eastern, as well as the Roman Church, in the same predicament.
Nor will the Lutherans come off a jot better than they; for according to this Supposition we must maintain, that not only all the Lutheran Clergy, but the Laity also, have ever read the Scriptures, and still read ’em, with an untractable stubborn Disposition, obstinately resolv’d never to depart from what they have once taken up, never recommending themselves in Prayer to the Grace of the Holy Spirit; and so on. This of necessity must be their case: For very far from being corrected, during the space of above 150 years, from their prodigious Error of Consubstantiation,230 not less absurd, or but very little less than that of Transubstantiation, they have departed from several Truths which Luther had establish’d, to build up in their room the Doctrine of Free-will, with its Consequences. Now how can any one conceive, that for above an Age and a half past, during which the Lutherans have bin possess’d of intire Kingdoms and Provinces, with fine Colleges and famous Universitys, there shou’d never be one Minister or Professor among those numbers who have written upon<622> the Scriptures, no devout Woman, or honest House-holder, among such multitudes as read a Chapter in the Bible every day of their life, who had read the Word with an honest Heart and a sincere Intention, and after having recommended himself in Prayer to God? What a monstrous Supposition is here?
But the Calvinists themselves must not expect a more favorable Lot. For according to the foremention’d Supposition, the Greek, the Romish Church and the Lutheran, will all agree in condemning them as having never read the Scriptures but in a proud opiniater Disposition, without any previous devout Prayer, to draw down a Blessing upon their reading. They’l make this Judgment in a more particular manner on the famous Synod of Dort;231 because, far from profiting by those Hints and Gleams of Light, which the Arminians furnish’d the Calvinists for discovering some part of that which the three fore-mention’d Churches call their Error, this Synod confirm’d it by an authentick Decree. Must not they likewise on this Supposition conclude, that all the Members of this Synod consulted the Scriptures without the least sincere Intention, and that the Prayers they offer’d up to God at every Session were but as a sounding Brass and a tinkling Cimbal?232
Let’s beware then giving into an Hypothesis so unreasonable; for beside what has bin already said, it must draw each Party into a belief, that its own Members have obtain’d of God either by their Prayers, or by the holy Dispositions with which they have read the Bible, the true Sense of the contested Passages. We, for example,<623> ought to believe that all the Reform’d have obtain’d by these means the Knowledg of all the Truths which distinguish us from Roman Catholicks, Lutherans, Arminians, Socinians. But how cou’d we have the face to say this, while there are so many wicked Wretches among us, void of Piety and Vertue, who yet are as much persuaded of these Truths as the most righteous Men?
All that can with any reason be said in this matter, is assuredly this; That the imperious Force of Education is what has given the Wicked in our Communion a Persuasion of these salutary Truths: And shall not the same Power avail to the persuading a Roman Catholick and a Lutheran of the Truths which they hold? Will any one dispute, if Education can fix a very wicked Man in a Belief of the Truth, but it may fix a very sincere Man in the Belief of a Lye? Why always recur then to the Malice of the Heart, as the Principle of all Error; why pretend, that no one continues in Error, but because he does not read the Scriptures with Humility, Sincerity, and the requisite Devotion?
I pass over this farther convincing Argument against my Adversarys, to wit, That if the Roman Catholicks and Lutherans persisted in their Errors for want of perusing the Scriptures duly, it wou’d follow, that they read the Word of God with the proper Dispositions for finding out the true Sense, and with the Dispositions which hinder the finding it, almost in the same breath: because they may almost in the same breath light upon Passages proving the Trinity and Incarnation, and on those wherein the Eucharist is men-<624>tion’d; and thus take the Sense of the first right, and of the latter wrong. Can any one say, that their Intention is not equally good with regard to both?
[229. ]Adriaan Heereboord (1614–59), Dutch Cartesian. The reference is perhaps to his Meletemata philosophica, 1665. On the ignorance that makes actions involuntary, see Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, 1–2, q. 6, a. 8, and q. 76, a. 2–4.
[* ]The first Answer is examin’d in Chap. 16.
[230. ]See Appendixes, “The Eucharist,” p. 589.
[231. ]On the Arminians and the Synod of Dort see Appendixes, “Grace, Original Sin, Predestination,” p. 588.
[232. ]1 Corinthians 13:1.