Front Page Titles (by Subject) Chapter XV: That the Persuasion of the Truth of a Religion, which Education inspires, is not founded on a Corruption of Heart. - 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 XV: That the Persuasion of the Truth of a Religion, which Education inspires, is not founded on a Corruption of Heart. - 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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That the Persuasion of the Truth of a Religion, which Education inspires, is not founded on a Corruption of Heart.
This is a Point which to me seems worthy our Consideration. I don’t doubt but every reasonable Man, if he weighs it well, will allow, that the Children of Christians are not Christians at such a certain Age because their Fathers are so, but because they are bred up and instructed in the Christian Religion: and shou’d Christians and Turks, living in the same Town, make an exchange of their Children on the Breast, those of the Christians wou’d be certainly Mahometans, and those of the Turks Christians. From whence I draw this Conclusion, That not only the same Soul which becomes Christian by being united to the Foetus of a Christian, wou’d have become a Turk if it had lit a House or two shorter or farther off into a Turkish Family; but also that the same Soul which has bin ingrafted into Christianity by Baptism, wou’d infallibly become of the Jewish Religion, the Mahometan, Siamese, Chinese, &c. according as it were bred from its first Infancy among Jews or other Infidels. We sometimes see Hereticks and Orthodox live together in the same Buildings, with their Wives and Children, and distinct Familys apart. Cou’d it be suppos’d, that a Soul which was destin’d for the Foetus of an<629> Orthodox Mother, shou’d straggle, or missing its way ever so little, shou’d mistake one Chamber for another, it wou’d as certainly become Heretical; as another Soul, which went strait to its appointed place, to wit, into the Foetus of a Heretical Woman: so that according as it lights a Story higher or lower, at No. 3. or No. 4. the Man is either a Heretick or an Orthodox.
What are we to understand by all this, but that all the Souls, which God unites to human Bodys, wou’d be in the Party of the Orthodox, at the Age of ten or twelve, if none but the Orthodox had a hand in their Education? No body, I suppose, can deny this Consequence; but from hence it necessarily follows, that a Soul’s adhering for the first ten or twelve Years of Life to false Doctrines, in which it is instructed, proceeds not from its being corrupted, or infected by Original Sin. For since the Ground-Plot, in which the true Religion takes root, is numerically the same, in which the false Religion, if sown, wou’d take root too (this is the Result of my former Remarks) we must of necessity allow, either that the Soul embraces not the true Religion, but because it’s infected by Original Sin; or that it embraces not a false, inasmuch as it is infected with this same Sin. If you deny the latter Proposition to advance this,
The Soul becomes not tinctur’d with a false Religion, but because it contracts the stain of Original Sin from the moment of its Union with Matter:
Of necessity you must allow the following Proposition too;
The Soul becomes not tinctur’d with the true Religion, but because it contracts the stain of Original<630> Sin the moment of its Union with Matter.
Now ’twere the greatest Extravagance imaginable to advance this last Proposition, and yet it must of necessity follow if we admit the former: we must therefore reject both, and say, that the Soul receives all the Doctrines infus’d into it, as it is a spiritual Substance, susceptible by its Nature of all sorts of Ideas and Opinions, even as a Copper-plate receives all kind of Gravings indifferently: The Canons of the Council of Trent233 no less readily than those of the Synod of Dort. Original Sin234 has nothing to do here; it may very well be the Cause of our depraving those Notions which we suck in with the Milk; but it never is the Cause of our sucking in, or adopting ’em.
The better to comprehend this Truth, it will be proper to observe, that altho the Soul, by its Union with the Body, contracts an odious Leprosy, call’d Original Sin; yet it does not always act as affected with this contagious Distemper: for example, a Child who’s hungry, and desires Food, does not form this Desire, because he bears the Punishment of Adam’s Sin; much less can we impute to this Sin his drawing a just Consequence from any thing that he has heard, as Children will sometimes do at four or five Years of Age. Let no one go about to wrangle, on pretence of our not knowing what Children might do in the state which we have forfeited by the Fall of Adam; for don’t we find, in the History of the Passion of Jesus Christ, that he call’d for Drink when he was a thirst? A demonstrative Argument, that this sort of Desires are consistent with perfect Innocence, and<631> therefore that we don’t form ’em as infected with the Leprosy of Sin. Let’s say the same, by a much stronger Reason, of our believing honestly in our tender Age all that is told us concerning God. If we don’t deserve Praise on the score of it, because our Consent to these Instructions depends not on a free and reasonable Choice; neither do we deserve Blame for the very same Reason. It’s pure Chance, not with regard to God, but with regard to our selves, that we rather consent to the Truth than to a Falshood; and with the same natural Force wherewith the Mind embraces a Falshood, if it be presented to it, it wou’d have embrac’d the Truth if that had bin offer’d: just as the different Determination of Motion, according to the Remark of the new Philosophy,235 supposes not that the Motion it self is different; it being most certain, that a Body shall tend from East to West, and back again from West to East, with the very same quantity of Motion, if the meeting with some other Body changes its Determination.
This brings to my Mind another Remark of the same Philosophy, to wit, That all Motion impress’d by God on Matter, tends by its first Destination, constantly in a strait Line; so that if it ever describes a circular or curve Line, ’tis only because of invincible Obstacles, which it meets with: whence it follows, that the same Force which produces Motion in a strait Line, produces that in an oblique also; and that the same Motion, which is oblique, had bin actually strait, if it had not met with some unsurmountable Obstacle. Here’s a faithful Representation<632> of what happens to our own Souls. They receive a continual Impression which carrys ’em by its first Destination directly towards Truth; but a thousand particular Circumstances hinder their moving by this strait Line, and cast ’em off by one side or other, a thousand different ways. Yet it’s still the same Force, the same Impression, the same Tendency towards Truth which moves ’em; as is plain from hence, that our Souls never entertain any Opinion unless cloth’d in the Robes and Colors of Truth. The Devil may play all his Engines long enough, he shall never be able to get Error receiv’d into our Souls as Error; they are incorruptible and infallible in this respect, and utterly incapable of adopting any Opinion which presents as false. But here’s what happens; this Force, and this Motion towards Truth, is, by those who train us up, determin’d sometimes to the right hand, and sometimes to the left, according as they tell us, that here or there lies the way which leads to the End that all Men naturally incline to. They are not therefore two different Impressions or Motions, distinct in Nature, which carry us, one to Truth, the other to Error; this latter is only the first Motion turn’d out of its own natural course, and determin’d anew by the Opposition of a kind of reflective Bodys, to wit Education, and the Pedagogy of a School-Master or Mistress. Let’s beware then flying at every turn to the stain of Original Sin, and I don’t know what Corruption of the Will; Is this the Cause of our being born in the House of a Heretick, or any such Miscreant, rather than in that of a faithful Child of God?<633>
But to give the common Readers, as well as Philosophers, a Comparison within their Sphere, let’s suppose a great Monarch pitches on a Gentleman, whose Fidelity, Activity and Diligence, he has often experienc’d, to carry a Message of Consequence, and which requires the utmost dispatch, to another great Prince. This Courier remembring his Master had hinted to him, that Expedition’s all in all, that in mora periculum;236 and born on the Wings of Zeal for his Service, rides night and day, changes Horses as oft as possible, and gets the best Guides he can, to lead him by all the shortest ways: If it happen unfortunately, that an ignorant or roguish Guide puts him in a wrong Road, and that following it with all his Ardor and Zeal, he loses himself, and the faster he rides the farther he goes from the City whither he was bound; will any one say, that the Speed and Dispatch, with which he follow’d this wrong Road, was owing to a Principle different from that which carry’d him on before in the right Road? One must be an errand Fool to imagin, there’s the least difference in the Principle, Obedience and Fidelity on one hand, Rebellion and Perfidiousness on the other; or not to see, that his moving in the wrong Road, is only a Continuation of his Motion in the right, and that his Speed in one as well as t’other, proceeds wholly from Fidelity, and a Zeal for his Master. The Application of this to Children is very obvious: for who sees not, that if a Child, bred by his Father in the Orthodox way, and who has felt a great Zeal for Truth, fall at nine or ten Years old into the hands of a Heretical Tutor, who persuades him that the way of Truth lies not as he has bin told, but quite con-<634>trary; who sees not, I say, if this Child proceeds in this new Path, which his Tutor puts him in; with the same Ardor and Zeal as before in the true, that these are not two Actions different in Kind, and proceeding from a different Principle, but a Continuation of that Motion which first carry’d him towards the Truth?
Consequently so far is corrupt Nature from influencing our Zeal for an Error before we come to a full use of our Free-will; for Error, I say, recommended to us as heavenly Truth; that on the contrary, this Zeal can proceed from nothing else than the Remains of Good in our Nature ever since the Fall of Adam, to wit, an invincible and irresistible Determination toward Truth in general, a Determination which suffers not the Soul to adhere to any thing which appears false. Can any one deny, but this is a very excellent Perfection? I own, the being subject, as we are, to mistake Truth for Falshood, is a great Infirmity; yet this never happens but when we are deceiv’d by a superior Power, as is that of Education, till such a certain Age: we love that which appears to us Truth, we love it only because it appears such, and reject it for no other reason than that it appears to us an Error, and a Lye. But the Corruption of our Heart begins then to work in us, when the Soul, persuaded that a Doctrine comes from God, does notwithstanding reject it, and regulate its Actions on quite another Model. Then the Disorder is great indeed, whether the Doctrine we reject be in reality true, or whether it be false: nor wou’d it be a less Sin in us to labor in propagating Orthodoxy, while firmly persuaded of its being<635> a Heresy, than having no regard for a Heresy, while firmly believing it to be the Truth.
[233. ]The Council of Trent (1545–63) defined Catholic orthodoxy against teachings of the Protestant reformers.
[234. ]See Appendixes, “Grace, Original Sin, Predestination,” p. 588.
[235. ]On the “new philosophy” see Appendixes, “Philosophical Controversies,” p. 595.
[236. ]“There is danger in delay.”