Front Page Titles (by Subject) Chapter XXIX: The surprizing Progress which the Doctrine of Compulsion has made in the World over many Centuries, tho so impious and detestable. Reflections on this. - 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 XXIX: The surprizing Progress which the Doctrine of Compulsion has made in the World over many Centuries, tho so impious and detestable. Reflections on this. - 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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The surprizing Progress which the Doctrine of Compulsion has made in the World over many Centuries, tho so impious and detestable. Reflections on this.
They who reflect with any attention on the Arguments I have made use of in the fourth Chapter of the first Part, and which I have touch’d upon in other places, particularly in these last foregoing Chapters,302 will stand amaz’d that the Doctrine of compelling Conscience shou’d ever be attributed to the Son of God; a Doctrine which, in a kind of poisonous Extract, contains in it all the Ferments, the Quintessence, and impregnate Seeds of all Sin and Iniquity, and which, as is said with much less reason of Predestination, is the very Spunge of all Religion: for it not only renders all the most sacred Rights of Humanity, Consanguinity, Affinity, Contract, and Gratitude, so many vain Fantoms, and Rebus’s with regard to those of a different Religion, but even with regard to those of the same Faith; since no sooner is a Catholick persuaded that a King, a Judg, a Bishop, a Priest, or any other Catholick, is in a Post which another might fill much more to the advantage of Religion, but he may attempt any thing against ’em without Sin; the Utility and Interest of the Church being the grand Rule of good and evil Actions.<744>
And what’s still more deplorable in this matter, is, That Princes who are but too well inclin’d already to follow no other Rule in their Actions than their worldly Grandeur, will make no scruple of it for the future: for it depends only on their holding that the Prosperity of their State and the Advantag of their Religion are inseparable, so that the Rule of their Ambition and that of Conscience becomes the same, and thus, whatever they undertake for advancing their own Greatness being able to redound to the Advantag and Propagation of their Religion, it will be perfectly conformable to that Rule of Equity which our Convertists lay down; which by a direct Consequence authorizes all the perfidious Ways and Violences of Princes, whether exercis’d on their own Catholick Subjects, or on the neighboring Catholick States, provided they are attended with success.
All these Consequences, together with a great Variety of other Arguments, which may be seen in my Commentary, compound such a Demonstration against the literal Sense of the Parable, that I’l defy all the Missionarys, who now are or ever shall go to China, to answer a Chinese Philosopher, who shou’d attack ’em with my Commentary in his hand (and how wou’d it be, if he were provided with a better Book on this Subject, which an abler Pen than mine might easily furnish him?) to answer him, I say, if he undertook to prove that Jesus Christ, had he design’d by this Parable to enjoin the crouding his Church by fair or by foul means, either did not know what he said, contradicted himself grosly, or was an errand Impostor: Absit verbo Blasphemia.303 Let’s hold then<745> by that wise Maxim of natural Religion, Quod tibi fieri non vis, alteri ne feceris;304 which he so earnestly recommends to his Disciples, Mat. 7. 12. in much the same words: What you wou’d that Men shou’d do unto you, that do ye also to them; for this is the Law and the Prophets, adds he: A remarkable Saying, which shews that this single Rule comprehends the Substance of all Christian Morality.
Since therefore it’s certain that no one wou’d have his Conscience forc’d, let’s firmly believe, that Jesus Christ never design’d that his Followers shou’d compel; because they cannot act thus, without doing that to another which they wou’d not have done to themselves. We are oblig’d to expound the Words of the Parable by this Rule.
But the great Subject of Wonder, is not that there shou’d be a Set of Men found to derive the Doctrine of Violence and Persecution from these words of the Gospel, Compel ’em to come in: It’s infinitely more amazing, that a Doctrine of this nature shou’d prevail to such a degree over the Christian World, that there shou’d not be one considerable Sect which does not maintain it vigorously, either in whole or in part. There are particular Persons here and there in every Christian Communion who inwardly condemn, or even publickly brand the Use of all violent Methods for making Men change their Religion; but I don’t know any, except the* Socinian<746> and Arminian Sects, who professedly teach that all other means for converting Hereticks or Infidels, but those of Instruction, are unwarrantable. And pray what are these two Sects? The first is scarce more visible than the Church of the Elect; the Socinians are blended imperceptibly with other Christians, and don’t make a visible Body apart, except in a very few Places of the World: and as for the Arminians, they are known only in some Towns of Holland. So that the Doctrine of Toleration is receiv’d only in a few dark Corners of Christianity, while that of Non-Toleration goes about every where, and is not asham’d to shew its face.
In effect, this is the favorite Doctrine of the Church of Rome, and practis’d by her in all places where she has the power in her hands. And the Protestants, who, to do ’em justice, have in a great measure pluckt out its sting, do nevertheless reduce it to practice where they are uppermost. It’s not many months since none but the Episcopal Party had a full Liberty of Conscience here. There are some of the Swiss Cantons who will tolerate no other Worship but the Calvinist, and who within our own memory have exercis’d great Violences on the Anabaptists; the Men in the World who best deserve a Toleration, since renouncing the Profession of Arms, and the Magistracy, from a Principle of Religion, there’s not the least danger of their rebelling, or interfering with those who sue for Posts in the Government: and as to their refusing the Oath of Allegiance, it is not that they are more averse to Government than other Subjects, but that they take the Precept against<747> swearing in the Strictness of the Letter, and believe themselves as much bound by their bare Word as others are by Oaths. The Lutherans in some Imperial Towns, where they are uppermost, don’t tolerate the Calvinists without reluctance; they are oblig’d to have their Meetings without the Walls (like People infected in the Lazarets) and sometimes their Churches are remov’d at a greater distance. The Queen of Denmark, who’s a Calvinist, is allow’d no more Ministers than are just necessary; to which we may add a few others who have bin allow’d the French Refugees of late years, and who are lookt on with an unkind eye by the Lutheran Pastors. The Dutchess of Zell, a Calvinist too, cou’d not obtain a Minister of her own Communion, till very lately: Not that the Duke her Husband was rigid in his own Principles, but that he was loth to disoblige his Clergy. The French Refugees in the Country of Wirtemberg were deny’d the Lutheran Sacrament, till they subscrib’d a Formulary, containing the Doctrine of Ubiquity, and the Communication of the other Propertys of the uncreated Word to the Humanity of Jesus Christ; as also that of the Real Presence, Oral Manducation, and the rejecting the Doctrine of particular Grace, and absolute Reprobation.305 The Calvinists might as soon obtain the free Exercise of their Religion in the Hereditary Countrys of the House of Austria, as in those of the Electorate of Saxony.
The Papists are not tolerated either in Sweden or Denmark; and as for the Greek Church under the Turkish Government, no matter what their Conduct is, because it depends not on them to<748> tolerate or compel any. The Greek Churches, where they have the power, as in Muscovy, tolerate no other Communion.
Nor is the spreading of this Doctrine over the whole face of Christianity, except the few Spots that I have spoke of, a thing of a late date: it has universally prevail’d ever since the Christians got the Power of the Sword into their hands, from Constantine the first Christian Emperor to Leopold, who now sits on the Imperial Throne. This has bin demonstrated so amply, so clearly, so exactly, and with so much care, by Lewis Thomassin a Father of the Oratory at Paris, in the two Volumes lately publish’d by him concerning the Unity of the Church;306 that a Man must put out his eyes, to have the least doubt on this head. He has prov’d the Perpetuity of the Faith of the Church307 as to this Doctrine from the Time of Constantine until the Present to such a degree of Evidence, that if the Jansenists cou’d have done as much on the Perpetuity of Faith concerning the Real Presence, I mean by Testimonys so free from all Equivoke and Exception, so irrefragable as those of P. Thomassin, there had not bin room left to offer a tittle against it.
And here I think my self oblig’d to take notice of the Ingenuity of the Person who wrote of the Rights of the two Sovereigns,308 against what I had advanc’d concerning Toleration and Conscience. He owns, pag. 280. That Paganism had still subsisted, and three parts in four of Europe had bin Pagans at this day, if Constantine and his Successors had not employ’d their Authority to extinguish it. What he says of Paganism holds as true of Arianism, Manicheism, Monothelism,<749> Wicliffism, Albigeism, &c. And therefore I am surpriz’d, that a celebrated French Author,309 and who has the Reputation of great Skill in Antiquity, shou’d tell us in a Treatise of Controversy, publish’d by him about eight or nine years ago; That one must be very little skill’d in Ecclesiastical History, to be ignorant that in all the Differences with the Arians, the Eutychians, and other Hereticks, the Church employ’d only Exhortations, or Reasoning, or Councils, or other such-like Arms. But perhaps ’twill appear more surprizing, that after P. Thomassin had so clearly prov’d the contrary, the Author of the Seduction éludée,310 another French Writer, shou’d say, addressing himself to the Bishop of Meaux: I must tell you, my Lord, that in all History, as well antient as modern, all Ways of Violence exercis’d by Princes on the score of Religion, have never bin otherwise lookt upon than as Spectacles of Horror; and that the Names of these Princes are not mention’d to this day without execration. What, the Constantines, the Theodosius’s, the Honorius’s, the Marcians, the Justinians, who order’d the putting so many penal Laws in execution against Sectarys, and condemn’d those to death who continu’d in the Pagan Idolatry &c. or those who wou’d read or keep by ’em Heretical Books; Names not mention’d to this day without execration! How will he make this out? These two Authors agree moreover in saying, that Hereticks never establish’d themselves but by the Terrors of Death, by Fire and Sword; and the latter affirms this principally of the Arians. I refer ’em both to the following Chapter.<750>
The Scandal wou’d be less indeed, cou’d they prove that in reality the Names of those Princes who had establish’d the Truth by ways of Violence had bin always odious: But alas, to the Scandal of the Christian Name, the same Lewis Thomassin, who has so clearly demonstrated the Perpetuity of penal Laws against Sectarys, has prov’d with the same Evidence, that Councils, Bishops, or the most eminent Doctors, were they who always sollicited these Laws, or honor’d with Elogys, Acclamations, Benedictions, or most humble Addresses of Thanks, the Princes who had enacted those Laws, and put ’em vigorously in execution. So that we find in this matter a Combination of two or three Circumstances, which amount in truth to a Prodigy: One is, the enacting penal Laws against such as shou’d not have certain Opinions concerning the Truths of Religion, practis’d in every Corner of the Christian World, and reiterated as oft as occasion presented for above twelve hundred Years past.
Next, the exact and sometimes very bloody Execution of these same Laws on every occasion. And the last and most monstrous of all, is the Approbation of the two first by Prelates, Councils, Popes, and most of the individual Doctors.
I repeat it once more, This is what looks most monstrous in the whole Affair; for it’s no such wonder, that Christian Princes shou’d abuse their Power to the oppressing those Christians who differ’d from themselves in Worship or Opinion: They have so often abus’d it, to the involving their Subjects in most unjust, and sometimes most destructive Wars, and to the loading ’em with<751> Taxes and Imposts, that Persecution might very well be lookt on as an ordinary Failing in ’em. One might make a Genealogical Table with as little Interruption in the Lines, and with many more Branchings, of Princes, their Concubines, and their Bastards, as of them, their Queens, and their lawful Progeny; we are accustom’d to this, and don’t wonder at it: Why then shou’d we cry out on their Injustice against those who differ from ’em in Religion? But as we might justly deplore an universal Corruption, if we saw Divines and Pastors of Souls excite Princes to enter into unnecessary Wars, to lay heavy Taxes on their People, to carry on scandalous Gallantrys, bless ’em for these things, thank ’em publickly from the Pulpit, extol ’em in Harangues, in Epistles Dedicatory, &c. so is it the height of Iniquity and utmost Depravation, when the Depositarys of sound Doctrine, the most Venerable Part of the Christian Church, instantly sollicit unrighteous Laws, press the Execution of ’em, and load those with Thanks and Praises from the Chair of Truth, who grant and enforce ’em. Blindness and Flattery never carry’d it to such a height, with regard to the Adulterys and Concubinages of Crown’d Heads. The Church, the Priests, the Preachers, in the most complaisant Times, have contented themselves with keeping a respectful Silence; and undoubtedly Christianity must be suppos’d in a much more deprav’d State, if Murder, Rapine, Fornication, were publickly taught and recommended, than we can judg it to be from hence, that several Christians commit these Crimes. It’s therefore the excess and utmost strain of Iniquity and Blindness, when so<752> mad a Doctrine as that which authorizes the punishing those who from a Motive of Conscience refuse to sign a Formulary, spreads thro the Christian Church with the Approbation and Applause of almost all its Doctors; and is so thorowly establish’d, that one passes for little better than a Heretick, even in the Judgment of Protestants, if he speaks with some force for Toleration, as I have ventur’d to= do.
It’s undoubtedly a great Scandal to those who exercise their Reason, to find that such a Doctrine as this; The Truths of Religion ought to be planted in the Understanding and Heart of Man by means of Instruction, and none compel’d by main Force to the Profession of what their Consciences don’t approve: it’s, I say, a very great Scandal, that such a Doctrine, agreeable to the Lights of common Sense, to the most refin’d Reason, to the Spirit of the Gospel, to the Sense of the Christian Church for the three first Centurys, shou’d be so intirely worn off over the whole face of Christianity, that it is no where now to be found except in a very few small Sects, some of which are abhor’d by all other Christians, and others consider’d as Schismaticks, with regard even to Protestants, and lookt on with a very ill eye.
The Scandal enhances, when we consider all the Horrors of that Doctrine which has bin adopted in its room.
As also when we consider, that they who have detected so many other Falshoods of the Church of Rome, shou’d see nothing of the* Enormity of this. They judg’d very right, that she acted un-<753>justly in persecuting them, but not that themselves did ill in compelling others; and this was indeed retaining all the Falshood of the Doctrine.
Might not we justly apprehend, that this Scandal may make some Men doubt, 1. Whether God has not once more rejected his chosen People (for the Promises made to the Jews of an everlasting Covenant were no less express than those of the Gospel.) 2. Whether the Christian Religion, over and above its part in the general Providence, is still govern’d and specially protected by a Head sitting at the Right Hand of God; which Head is endu’d with infinite Wisdom, and Goodness, and Power. 3. Whether these small Sects, who have retain’d the Doctrine in question, may not be as happy with regard to other parts of the Faith of the first Ages, as with regard to this Article. This was the Point which shou’d have expir’d last: Since therefore it has not subsisted among those who have given themselves over to violent ways, who can ensure us that they have not stifled several other Truths? 4. Whether, let the worst come to the worst, these Sects so run down on the score of their speculative Heresys, are not at least as good as those who boast themselves Orthodox, even tho we allow their Pretensions; considering that their Doctrine of compelling is a Heresy in Morality, a practical and most pestilential Heresy, and which, with the Crimes it produces, does more than ballance any mere speculative Falshood.<754>
[302. ]See above, Part I, Chapter 4, p. 86ff., especially p. 88; Part II, Chapter 3, p. 161; Part III, Chapter 12, p. 318; Part IV, Chapters 26–28, p. 542ff.
[303. ]“May there be no blasphemy in the word[s],” i.e. in speaking of Jesus Christ as possibly an impostor, etc.
[304. ]“Do not do to another what you do not wish done to you.”
[* ]One might add the very small Sect of Quakers and the Anabaptists; but beside that they scarce write any thing, this latter Sect will readily join with the Arminians.
[305. ]Apparently the Formula of Concord (1577); for text see http://www.bookofconcord.org/fc-ep.html.
[306. ]See above, p. 328, note.
[307. ]This is an allusion to the work of Nicole and Arnauld on the perpetuity of faith in the Real Presence, above, p. 460, note 224: if their argument proves the orthodoxy of that doctrine, Thomassin’s proves the orthodoxy of the doctrine of persecution (an argumentum ad hominem).
[308. ]Jurieu; see above, p. 386, note 164.
[309. ]Not identified.
[310. ]Séduction eludée was reviewed by Bayle, NRL, OD, vol. 2, p. 741. La Séduction éludée, ou Lettres de M. l’évêque de Meaux [J.-B. Bossuet] à un de ses diocésains [Pierre de Vrillac] qui s’est sauvé de la persécution avec les réponses qui y ont esté faites et dont la principale est demeurée sans réplique (Seduction eluded, or letters of Bishop Bossuet to a resident of his diocese who was saved from persecution, together with answers that have been made, the main one of which has remained without reply). This book is attributed to Jean Rou in Bibliothèque Nationale catalogue.
[* ]The Proof of this is to be seen in Chap. 31.