Front Page Titles (by Subject) Chapter XVIII: A Discussion of three other Difficultys.First Difficulty. Knowing the Obliquity of the Motive, is not necessary towards denominating an Action evil. - 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 XVIII: A Discussion of three other Difficultys.First Difficulty. Knowing the Obliquity of the Motive, is not necessary towards denominating an Action evil. - 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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A Discussion of three other Difficultys.
You have all along argu’d, say they, that to make an Error become Sin, it is necessary not only that the Motive which leads to it be evil, but also that we know it to be evil.
But this is a false Supposition; for how many wicked Springs are there in the Heart of Man, which are utterly unknown to him? Who is it that knows himself thorowly enough, to spy out that hidden Poison which Self-love and natural Corruption mixes with all our Actions and Judgments?
I answer, that as nothing were more capriciously unjust, than to require that an Officer plac’d Centry at the Gate of a City to hinder the coming in of Man or Goods, or any visible thing, from places suspected of a Plague or Infection, shou’d likewise hinder the pestiferous Atoms which mix imperceptibly with the Air being brought in by a Blast of Wind; so it were notoriously unjust to require that the Soul shou’d defend it self not only against all sensible Temptations, but also from Enemys absolutely unknown to it, hidden Springs of Action, and blended Poisons, the Names, and Place of Abode,<661> and Qualitys of which are utterly unknown to it. To reduce all this then to something reasonable, we must say, that he who does not narrowly examine himself is a Bubble to his own Heart, and imagines he acts from a Love of God when he is principally mov’d by Self-love; but still it must be suppos’d that it’s no hard matter, if a Man will deal plainly with himself, to discover these pretended invisible Springs of Action. Certain it is, that a body may sift ’em out, may perceive, and may know ’em if he endeavor it with some degree of Application: but here’s what happens to a world of People; They find a deal of Satisfaction from the Testimony of a good Conscience, and find that this Satisfaction is so much the more comfortable, as they fancy they have acted intirely from a Motive of Religion and Piety. However they perceive that perhaps some human Considerations mix with it; and this Conjecture, which is far from groundless, disturbs their Peace of Mind. What’s to be done in this case? They won’t examine themselves too rigorously, for fear of discovering what can’t chuse but fill ’em with Confusion; so they suffer the Force of these corrupt Principles, these secret Passions, to grow upon ’em. But in reality they are not unperceivable: and if People don’t discover ’em clearly enough, ’tis because they are resolv’d, from Motives which they perceive are none of the most justifiable, to conceal ’em from themselves; and in this case the Ignorance or Error is not attended with a thorow Sincerity. So that my Doctrine suffers nothing by this Difficulty.<662>
Second Difficulty. If we were not Sinners, we shou’d not mistake Truth for Falshood, and contrariwise.
This second Attack is still weaker than the former; it imports, that Original Sin is the Original Cause of all the false Judgments which Men make.
But from hence it follows, that if Men had remain’d in a State of Innocence, they might have known the moment they were born that Colors don’t subsist in the Objects; and as soon as they saw the Sun rise and set, they cou’d infallibly have decided whether that turns round us, or whether the Earth turns round daily on its own Center; and so upon all the other Problems of Physicks: They had always most certainly declar’d the Truth, or they had religiously have forborn judging upon things which they did not certainly know; but neither is very probable. On the contrary, it’s very probable that the Angels themselves of the highest Order of Seraphims are ignorant of most of the Secrets of Nature, and don’t see a jot into the Questions of Continuity, or Motion in general, or into the Causes of the Velocity and Slowness of the Motion of certain Bodys, &c. And if Men in a State of Innocence had suspended their Judgments of things until they had a scientifick Certainty, ’tis probable they had bin Pyrrhonists upon most Questions of Physicks all their life long.249
But all this makes little against me, and I have already said enough to it in the ninth Chapter.250 What’s most perplexing in it to my Adversarys,<663> is, that their Objection proves too much; for either they prove nothing against me, or else they must mean, that since Man if he were not a Sinner wou’d never take Truth for Falshood, this is an Argument that he sins when he’s deceiv’d: A Consequence which I have already confuted in the foregoing Chapter,251 and which wou’d prove,
1. That a Man who is deceiv’d in judging that the Colors which he sees are really in the Objects, or that Lucretius’s Lines are finer than Virgil’s; or that there’s neither Void, nor imaginary Space, nor substantial Forms, or that there are; and so of all other Questions on which the Criticks and Philosophers are divided; commits a Sin.
2. That a Judg who acquits a Person in reality guilty, but against whom there has not bin sufficient Evidence; or who condemns a Person innocent in reality, but who has bin convicted according to due Course of Law; violates the Law of God concerning the punishing the Guilty, and acquitting the Innocent.
3. That a Physician who following the Rules of his Art, and the best Lights his Experience furnishes him, prescribes his Patient a Potion that kills him, is guilty of Murder.
4. That a Woman, who deceiv’d by the Resemblance of Persons, and a thousand other Circumstances, mistakes another Man for her Husband, is guilty of Adultery.
5. That a Child sprung from his Mother’s adulterous Embraces, of which neither her Husband nor he have the least suspicion, who comes in for Heir to her Husband, is guilty of Fraud and Usurpation.<664>
6. That a Lunatick, a Demoniack, a Frantick Person, a Woman who has had so strong a Love-Potion given her, that she’s deflower’d without her perceiving it, commit as many Sins as they suffer or act things contrary to the Law of God.
7. Last of all, that there wou’d be no such thing in the Universe, which yet has bin acknowledg’d by all Casuists, Lawyers, and Philosophers, as invincible Ignorance, which renders Actions involuntary, and excuses at the Tribunal of God and Man.
For concerning all these Errors and Actions I might say, as my Adversarys do, that one wou’d not fall into ’em if he were not a Sinner; and conclude as they conclude. But this is a Doctrine so sensless and extravagant, that the bare shewing it is enough to make any one drop this second Difficulty, who shou’d ever have thought it worth the proposing.
They have only one poor Evasion now left; to wit, That in Matters Civil and Philosophical Error has nothing that favors our corrupt Nature; so that if we prefer it to the Truth, ’tis not from any corrupt Principle: But that in matters of Religion the Case is otherwise; the Truth there combats our Vices, the Error favors ’em, and therefore we refuse to believe that what is true is Truth from a Principle of Corruption and Concupiscence, and are carry’d to judg that Error is the Truth from the same Principle.
This I shall have a great many things to say to, when I come to examine252 the eleventh Chapter of the Treatise of the Rights of the two Sovereigns. At present I shall content my self with these three Remarks.<665>
First, It’s false that Errors in matters of Religion are for the most part more favorable to a Corruption of Heart than Truths; for we shall find, if we consider this matter, that false Religions are much more encumber’d with burdensom Observances and painful Superstitions than the true. We shall find, that almost all the Heads of Sects have drawn Crouds of Followers after ’em, purely by preaching a severe Morality, and by crying out against the Remissness of the Church. It’s even true, that they who in the last Age restor’d the pure Worship of God in the West, ow’d their Success chiefly to a Reformation of Manners, which they insisted on with a wonderful Zeal; and ’tis very probable they had had still greater Successes, if their Enemys had not fram’d a pretence for running ’em down as a sensual Generation, on their declaiming with an astonishing Force against Lent, Vows of Celibacy, and other Institutions which in reality are grievous to Flesh and Blood. Whence one may infer, that let Man be ever so corrupt, he’s generally speaking more inclin’d to believe a thing comes from God, when it does not flatter his natural Inclinations, than when it gratifies ’em.
My second Remark is, That in what Communion soever we place the purest Orthodoxy, still there will be Sects which will reproach it, as disapproving certain Doctrines only because they are too severe. Thus when Tertullian became a Heretick, he reproach’d the Catholicks, as if from too great a Love for the World and the Flesh they had condemn’d the Abstinences and the Xerophagys of the Montanists.253 Might not the Jews tell those who turn’d Christians, that<666> Judaism appear’d to ’em false, only because it impos’d too hard a Yoke of Ceremonys, grievous and disagreeable to Nature; and Christianity true, because it destroy’d this heavy Yoke? But this had bin a poor Cavil in the Jews, because the new Christians were no sooner deliver’d from this petty Servitude, but they enter’d upon much a heavier, to wit, that of continual Persecutions, and the Practice of the pure Gospel-Morality.
Which brings me to my last Remark. There’s no Christian Sect which does not know for certain Truth, that the Gospel forbids Revenge, coveting our Neighbor’s Goods, his Wife, or his Daughter; that it commands us to love our Enemys, to pray for those who persecute us, to live soberly, chastly, humbly, and religiously. These are Truths which grate corrupt Nature, and are much harder to be practis’d than the Abstinences of Pythagoras or Montanus; these are what lie heavier upon our Hearts than the most sublime speculative Mysterys. Whence comes it then, if the Objection of my Adversarys hold, that the most extravagant Hereticks, who refuse to believe these Mysterys, believe firmly all these other Truths so hard to Flesh and Blood? There’s no answering this, but by giving up the second Difficulty, and by owning that if these same Hereticks had bin educated in the Belief of these Mysterys, as they have bin in a Belief of the Precepts of Gospel-Morality, or if they found these Mysterys as clearly reveal’d in Scripture as the moral Dutys, that they wou’d believe one as firmly as the other. And ’tis a very strange thing, that they will have Men reject certain Doctrines as false from Sensuality and<667> Corruption, who yet admit several others as true, which expose ’em to a thousand Miserys and Persecutions, as I have shewn in the fourteenth Chapter.254
Let ’em turn then as many ways as they please, the pretended dependance of false Opinions on the Malice of our corrupt Nature, either as set forth in the ninth Chapter, or in the thirteenth and following,255 or as urg’d here; they shall never be able to offer any thing whereon to form a good general Reason. I don’t deny, but Errors in particular Persons proceed from a corrupt ground of Heart; but who can detect and single out these particular Persons? And who dare deny, if he think better of it, but they are incomparably a smaller number than the others?
I refer my Readers to what I have remark’d in my Commentary, Chap. 10. pag. 266. and the following.
Third Difficulty. St. Paul in the fifth Chapter to the Galatians, reckons Heresys among the Works of the Flesh, which damn those who commit ’em.
This third Difficulty is of greater weight than the other two, yet it’s far from being beyond a satisfactory Answer.
I shan’t insist in this place, that when Jesus Christ reckons up the evil Works which proceed from the Heart, such as* Adultery, Fornication, Murder, &c. he does not mention Heresys, for this wou’d prove nothing: as well because<668> St. Mark introduces the Son of God giving a longer Catalogue of this kind than St. Matthew, whence one may infer, that if the latter had omitted some, the former might likewise have omitted others; as because St. Paul’s affirming any thing is a sufficient Authority, tho he were the only inspir’d Writer who did affirm it. Let’s proceed therefore to some more solid Remark on this matter.
I say then, that the Term which St. Paul here makes use of, is extremely equivocal, and one might write a Book on the different Fates of this Word, and the different Significations it has born, as well among the Greeks as among the Romans, Pagan and Christian. The Scripture does not always make use of it in an ill Sense; sometimes indeed it does, and this alone were enough to render the Notion of it hard to be determin’d or fixt to a nicety. This being the Case, who can bar my saying, that by Heresy in the cited Passage, St. Paul understands the Attempt of a Person, who, to make himself Head of a Party, and to gratify a restless, turbulent, and ambitious Humor, sows Discord in the Church, and rends its Unity; his Conscience at the same time telling him, that the Doctrines he opposes are good, at least very tolerable; or who’s induc’d to doubt ’em from mere Vanity, and a desire of distinguishing himself, and contradicting some great and holy Doctor of the Church, for whom he had conceiv’d an extreme Prejudice or Jealousy? I own, and all the World will be of my mind in this point, that Heresy thus understood, is a Sin which cries for Vengeance, and deserves Hell-fire.<669>
One might maintain with great probability, that St. Paul has an Eye in this place only to the Authors of Schisms and Divisions, and to those who oppose the current Doctrine, not from any Zeal for the Truth, or a Reformation, but purely to make a Sect apart. Such Men very rarely act from a sincere Principle, and seldom prefer the Instincts of Conscience to those of Ambition, Jealousy, Spleen, or some other criminal Passion, which they themselves know to be wicked, and which they dare not avow. Sometimes too they who declare for their Party, act more from personal Feelings, Family Quarrels, Jealousy, Vanity, than any godly design of advancing wholesom Doctrine. It may even happen, that they who have Reason at bottom to cry out against the current Doctrines, are tempted to separate from the main Stock by corrupt Motives; and tho they may be Instruments of good, by erecting an Orthodox Communion, are nevertheless extremely wicked, and altogether as inexcusable as the Heads of a Heterodox Sect. Be that how it will, the Heresys St. Paul here speaks of, are, in my Opinion, an Attempt to advance particular Doctrines, and form a Party in the Church, proceeding from a Spirit of Pride, Contradiction, Jealousy, &c. and not from any Zeal for the House of God.
But as these very Men may impose on others by an orderly outward Behavior, and a mighty Appearance of Zeal; defend their Opinions with a deal of Eloquence, and specious Reasoning, and give the contrary Doctrines an odious turn: ’tis very possible, that many of their Followers may act from a sincere Principle; and ’tis very evi-<670>dent, their Posterity may, as I have shewn already in this Commentary. Thus the very same Opinions may be those Heresys which St. Paul speaks of, and may not. In those who broach ’em from Motives which they know to be sinful, they shall; and they shall not in those who hold ’em only because they sincerely believe ’em true.
I might confirm this Explication by that famous Passage of St. Paul to his Disciple Titus, where he exhortes him to avoid a Man who is a Heretick after the first and second Admonition; Knowing, says he, that he who is such, is subverted and sinneth, being condemn’d by his own Judgment.256
Words, which shew as clear as Noon-day, that the Character of Heresys damnable and sinful, according to St. Paul, is the resisting the Truth, known as such by the very Person who broaches the Heresy; and consequently, that those who err from a sincere Principle come not under the Charge of Heresy. But I think I have another kind of Argument at hand, which perhaps may be more convincing than any Inferences or Observations from this Passage, in the last Chapter of the Epistle to Titus.
It’s certain, that St. Paul, in that Passage of the Epistle to the Galatians, does not speak worse of Heresys, than of Murder, Adultery, Theft, Poisoning, Drunkenness; he says of all these, and of a great many more, that they are Works of the Flesh, and that they who commit such things, shall not inherit the Kingdom of God. Does not common Sense, and natural Light inform us, supposing the Real Presence were the Truth, that they who believe it not upon a Persuasion of its being a Falshood, injurious to Jesus Christ,<671> are not guilty of a greater Sin than they who commit Murder, who poison, rob, or defile their Neighbor’s Wife? There’s no Foundation then, either in Scripture or Reason, for believing, that Heresy is a much greater Sin than Murder, Adultery, Robbery; and consequently I have ground to say, that whatever is necessary to render the three last Actions sinful, is likewise necessary to render Heresy sinful; and that what excuses with regard to the three, ought also to acquit with regard to the fourth.
Now, is it not true, that Murder, Adultery, Robbery, &c. cease to be Sins, when committed involuntarily, that’s to say, when the Party is ignorant that he kills, commits Adultery, or robs? This can’t be deny’d, because it’s allow’d by all the World, 1. That a Physician, who does his Endeavors to recover his Patient, and who nevertheless prescribes him Remedys which are the Cause of his Death, is not guilty of a Sin; nor a Judg, who sentences a Man, innocent indeed but convicted by due course of Law, to the Gallows; nor one, who in hunting shoots into a Thicket, where he believes he hears some wild Beast stir, and kills a poor Creature, who had bin hiding there from his Creditors or the Bailiffs. 2. That a Woman who, honestly deceiv’d by the Resemblance, takes a wrong Man for her Husband, or one that her Husband himself introduces into her Bed while she is asleep, commits no Sin. 3. That a Person who possesses himself of the Estate of his reputed Father, in prejudice of the true Children or Relatives, sins not. 4. That a Servant who fills his Master a Glass of poison’d Wine (which he knows nothing of) and drinks of the<672> Bottle himself, is neither his Master’s Murderer, nor his own. 5. Last of all, that a Man, who calling for a Glass of Wine or Ale to quench his Thirst, receives a Glass of some Potion, which makes him drunk and mad, is not answerable for what Mischief he does in his Madness, as he wou’d be if he had known the Nature of the Potion.
It’s a constant Truth then, that the greatest Sins, when involuntary, cease to be such, and that an honest Ignorance renders ’em involuntary, as we have it very justly explain’d in all our Courses of Philosophy.257 Heresy therefore has the same Privilege, for no Reason can be assign’d why it shou’d not; and consequently those Heresys, which are Works of the Flesh, and which exclude from Heaven, ought to be attended with a knowledg of their being evil Works, as well as Murder, Adultery, Robbery, otherwise they’l become innocent as well as these.
’Tis impossible for my Adversarys to get clear of this, but by denying there are any sincere Heticks, or which is all one, by maintaining, that when People err in points of Faith, ’tis because they have maliciously refus’d Instruction. But besides what has bin urg’d already in this matter,258 who sees not how absurd it is to imagine, that ’tis in the power of a Lapland Boor, converted to Christianity by a Swedish Minister, to discover, in spite of all this Minister’s Reasons, the Falshood of Consubstantiation, and become intractable on this head, after he had fairly submitted to that of the Trinity? ’Twou’d undoubtedly be a mighty source of Tranquillity, and Peace of Heart and Conscience to the Boor, that he had follow’d his own Lights in this single<673> point, rather than those of his Minister, whom he had follow’d in all the rest.
That the Love of what appears true, without its being so, is not a Love of Falshood.
What deceives the World most in this matter, and I’m amaz’d People shou’d be so generally carry’d away by a mere childish Illusion, is, Their supposing as a thing incontestable, that the adhering to a Doctrine, false in it self, but in appearance true, and embrac’d purely on account of its appearing so, is an Act, not of Love for the Truth, but of Love for Falshood. What a stupid Judgment is this, and how very far from just? This Adherence, in the Circumstances I have suppos’d, is as much a Love for Truth, as an Adherence to the truest Doctrine. They’l oblige me (and therefore, to provoke those who think they are able, I defy ’em too) to shew me a difference (I’l be satisfy’d with any, be it ever so little) between this Adherence to Error, and adhering to the Truth, as to the moral part.
Who ever doubted, that a Man, extremely fond of antient Medals, but a bad Judg, and who, having purchas’d a great many false ones, which yet he thinks true, is ravish’d at the thoughts of his possessing such a Treasure; has as great a Passion for antient Medals as another equally fond of such things, but who has Skill enough to collect none but the true? There’s a vast difference between the two Men in point of Judgment and Capacity, but none at all as to their Passion for antient Medals.<674>
What shall we say of two Men, who being to chuse the beautifullest among several Sisters, shou’d pitch, one upon the eldest, the other on the youngest, each imagining he had chosen the Beauty; tho the youngest, in the Judgment of the World, is but so so, and the eldest perfectly handsom? Can any one pretend, strictly speaking, that these two Men differ, not only in their Fancy, but also in their Love of Beauty in general? Is it not on the contrary plain, that both are equally Admirers of it, and that the younger Sister’s Lover adores Beauty as much as the elder Sister’s; and that were Beauty a reasonable Being, it wou’d owe as much good Will to one as to t’other, on account of the Homage paid by each, equally her faithful and devoted Servants?
Have People never consider’d this old Maxim, There’s no Love without Knowledg, Nullum volitum quin praecognitum, as plain as Noon-day? If People reflected on it, wou’d they say, that a Heretick loves a Lye; he who does not perceive the least shadow of Falshood in the Religion he loves, and which he loves under no other Notion or Idea but that of true? Can he love a Falsity that he does not know? Truth then is what he believes he beholds in the Opinions which he loves, and not the Falshood of ’em, which he’s perfectly blind to. In a word, he who wou’d talk in a Philosophical Strictness, must say, that the Center of Love, or its direct and immediate Object, is always that Quality which determines our Love, whether it subsist really outside us, or only in our own Idea.
In like manner ’twere absurd to say, that a Roman Catholick, who shou’d write against the Real Presence, and going up and down like a<675> Knight-errand, shou’d act the part of a Hugonot Convertist, lov’d the Truth. I suppose him a Man of that kidney as to love only forbidden Pleasure, and perverse enough to be pleas’d with the figurative Sense, purely because he believes it false. He must, on this Supposition, love a thing in reality true; yet the central Point, and proper Object of his Love, wou’d be only Falshood. Bonitas voluntatis a solo pendet objecto, as Thom. Aquin. has very justly said, quaest. 9. art. 2.259 Now the Logicians teach, when they treat of the first Operation of the Understanding, that it is never false, not even when it represents to us a Dog as a Wolf, because its Object then is not the Dog, which reflects the Rays of Light to our Eyes, but the Wolf in our Imagination.
[249. ]See Appendixes, “Philosophical Controversies,” p. 591.
[250. ]See above, p. 438.
[251. ]See above, p. 486.
[252. ]Not found in the work as published. See above, p. 390, note 168.
[253. ]Tertullian joined the Montanist sect. The Montanists advocated strict fasting and abstension from wine (xerophagy). See Tertullian, On Fasting. In Opposition to the Psychics,Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. A. Roberts and J. Donaldson (Edinburgh: Clark, 1867–97), vol. 4, p. 102ff.
[254. ]See above, p. 471.
[255. ]See above, pp. 436, 495.
[* ]St. Mar. ch. 7. v. 21. St. Mat. ch. 15. v. 19.
[256. ]Titus 3:10–11.
[257. ]See above, p. 467, note 229.
[258. ]See above, p. 467.
[259. ]“The goodness of the will depends on its object alone.” Reference incorrect. It should be to Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, 1–2, q. 19, a. 2.