Front Page Titles (by Subject) Chapter XXX: That the Spirit of Persecution has reign'd, generally speaking, more among the Orthodox, since Constantine's days, than among Hereticks. Proofs of this from the Conduct of the Arians. - 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 XXX: That the Spirit of Persecution has reign’d, generally speaking, more among the Orthodox, since Constantine’s days, than among Hereticks. Proofs of this from the Conduct of the Arians. - 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 Spirit of Persecution has reign’d, generally speaking, more among the Orthodox, since Constantine’s days, than among Hereticks. Proofs of this from the Conduct of the Arians.
I confine my self to the Consideration of the Arians,311 because the other Hereticks either had no Kings, or but very few of their own Sects; so that they were not in a condition to discover by the effect, whether the first fire of their Zeal being spent, they wou’d have follow’d the Maxims of Toleration. But the case of the Arians is different, they reign’d a long time in several parts of the World. Now as we have none of their Writings preserv’d to us, we can’t better judg of their Theory on the Article of Toleration, than by the Conduct of their Princes towards those of a different Religion. This is a sure way enough: for if once it appear, that these Princes tolerated other Sects, the Consequence will hold good, that the Arian Clergy were much more moderate than the Orthodox; it being scarce possible, that a King, press’d by his Clergy in season, and out of season, to extirpate Sects, shou’d long preserve a Spirit of Moderation, especially when made to understand, that his eternal Salvation, and the Tranquillity of his Kingdom depended on it, and that besides he shall acquire by it the greatest Glory a Monarch can aspire<755> to, and that nothing is properer for expiating the Irregularitys of Morals which he may have fallen into. These are the Brands with which the Faggot of Persecution is set a fire; and ’tis moreover an easy matter for Churchmen to impose on Kings in matters of Religion, and to represent to ’em as monstrous and abominable, whatever they have a mind shou’d be persecuted.
Kings, for the most part, are very ignorant in these points, and take up with popular Notions. However it be, let’s consider a little the Conduct of the Arians.
It can’t be deny’d in the main, but Hereticks have sometimes proceeded cruelly against those who remain’d united to the main Stock; but it must be own’d too, that the Orthodox were the Aggressors, for ’twas they implor’d the Secular Arm under Constantine against Arianism, before the Arians had exercis’d any Violence on them.
It’s true, Constantine did not go such lengths as perhaps they wou’d have had him; and towards the latter end of his Life, he was indulgent enough to the Followers of Arius: but his Son Constantius, a rank Arian, prompted by his natural Temper, and by the Resentment of the Arians, who no doubt remembred the Hardships which the Orthodox had endeavor’d to bring ’em under by the Secular Authority; and perhaps provok’d by the too little regard that the Catholick Party had shewn for his Commands, exercis’d great Violence on the Orthodox, as did also the Emperor Valens. But bating this, I don’t think it can be prov’d, that the Arians departed from the Gospel Spirit of Moderation so much as the Or-<756>thodox, or from that Toleration which is due to those who are not to be convinc’d by Argument: and this falls in with the foremention’d Motives of Scandal, for if some Party of Christians has retain’d any thing of a Spirit of Equity and Moderation, and avoided propagating it self, and growing by Violence and the Spoil of others, it is that which is look’d on as most corrupt in the Faith; whereas, they who pass for most Orthodox have all along oppress’d, by the temporal Power of their Princes, those whom Reason, corroborated by the Gospel, requires that we shou’d not bring in by any other way than that of brotherly Instruction.
I might prove this Moderation of the Arians by the Conduct of Theodorick, one of their* Kings, who, hearing that the Emperor Justin had depriv’d this Sect of their Churches in the East, sent Embassadors to him, and the Pope at the head of ’em, to let him know, he shou’d be oblig’d to make terrible Reprisals, unless a stop were put to the Persecution of the Arians. This was an Instance of great Moderation in a King sprung from a warlike and barbarous Nation, and who had never molested the Catholicks of his Dominions; to make use of the peaceable way of Embassage, and send him at the head of it, who of all the Orthodox Prelates was the likeliest to make it succeed, on the score of that great Veneration paid to the See of Rome in those days. A Prince who was a zealous Persecutor wou’d not have acted thus, he wou’d have snatch’d at the Occasion<757> of distressing his Subjects of the other Religion, and not hazarded the losing it by an Embassy of such a nature.
The Conversion of the Arians in Spain.
But I shall give another Instance of much greater Force. The Arian Goths, having conquer’d Spain towards the beginning of the fifth Century, were govern’d there by Kings of their own Religion till towards the latter end of the sixth. Yet when Recared, one of their Kings, resolving to change his Religion, had a design of making all his Subjects abjure with him, there were but seven or eight Arian Bishops found in the whole Kingdom, and five Lords; whereas the Catholick Bishops, who appear’d on this occasion in the third Council of Toledo, made up about three-score and ten.
This is an incontestable Argument, that the Catholick Bishops, who had bin settl’d in Spain at the time that the Goths conquer’d it, were suffer’d to continue there with their Churches and Flocks; which proves unanswerably, that the Arian Kings, under whom they liv’d for near two hundred Years, were none of the fiercest Persecutors: for had they ordain’d Confiscation, Banishment, Dragooning, Imprisonment, and other such like Punishments, for those Catholicks who refus’d to change Religion, with great Rewards for those who turn’d Arians; every one will agree, that they had not in less than a Century, left a Soul in their Dominions who had not profess’d Arianism.<758>
Here then we find a Succession of Kings, who for the most part granted their Subjects of a contrary Religion full Liberty of Conscience, and who did not believe, that any other way but that of Persuasion made sincere and faithful Converts. And this single Fact is of greater weight than all the little Flourishes of P. Maimbourg, and all that he wou’d fain make us believe, with the usual Blindness of his Prejudices, touching the Barbarity of these Arian Princes.
But see the Reverse of this Conduct in these Gothick Kings, as soon as they embrac’d Catholicism. Hermenegilde, Son of King Lewigilde, having bin taken by his Father into a share of the Government, had no sooner abjur’d his Heresy at the Sollicitations of the Princess his Wife, but he refus’d to obey his Father, not only as to his Command of returning to Arianism (so far a very commendable Disobedience no doubt) but also as to his Command of coming to Court; and as soon as he had acquainted his Father with this Resolution, he prepar’d for War, and enter’d into a Confederacy with the greatest Enemys of his Father’s Crown, faithfully supported by the Catholicks of the Kingdom. He had the Misfortune to be worsted in the War; and being forc’d to surrender himself, was clapt in Prison, and put to death by his Father’s Orders. We can’t refuse him the Praises of Martyrdom, because it lay in his own Breast to regain his Liberty and Crown by turning Arian; yet we must not, after the Example of St. Gregory the Great, extol him for this, without condemning him on the other hand, for rebelling against his Father: one Instance among many of the false Oratory of<759> several Ecclesiastical Writers, who praise those they are pleas’d with, and mention all the good things they have done, but suppress whatever they have done amiss. The Roman Martyrology at the 13th of April says, that Hermenegilde dy’d of Poison for the Catholick Faith; now this is false, he was poison’d for his Rebellion.
One might venture to say, without indulging ill-natur’d Conjectures, that had he liv’d he’d have labor’d in the Conversion of the Arians by a way of Authority, as his Brother Recared did, who, as soon as he mounted the Throne, apply’d himself intirely this way, and the better to compass his ends, practis’d the Reverse of the Latin Proverb, Ubi leonina pellis non satis est vulpina est addenda,312 as was lately practis’d in France: for as he had an artful insinuating way,313 he manag’d the chief Lords, and Persons in greatest Authority with the People and Army, so well, as to get their Word, that whenever he shou’d think fit to declare, they wou’d second him: ’Twere needless telling, he gain’d ’em by Caresses and Promises, that’s understood. When he had made sure of such a Party as was sufficient for the Attempt, he summon’d the Arian Bishops to Court, and declar’d to ’em, that he was resolv’d not to have two Communions in his Kingdom any longer, and therefore that they must prepare for a Dispute with the Catholick Bishops, and the conquer’d side, which ever it was, unite with the Conqueror. He himself assisted at the Disputes; and as he wish’d that the Catholicks might prevail, it is not to be doubted, but his Presence and Influence contributed very much to their Victory, much as the<760> Bias of Henry IV, I wou’d say, his Interest to be thought a good Convert, was a mighty Disadvantage to the Sieur du Plessis Mornay, in the Conference of Fountainbleau.314Recared not content to let the Catholicks dispute with that haughty and confident Air which the Presence of a King, whose kind Intentions they cou’d not be Strangers to, must needs have inspir’d, reckon’d up I don’t know how many Miracles which he himself had observ’d; and having stun’d these wretched Arians by so open a Partiality, declar’d for the Catholicks, and got himself publickly rebaptiz’d.
I’m not ignorant, that the Reasons of the Catholicks were true at bottom, and those of the Arians false, but this was not the thing which caus’d the Change; for the King himself declar’d in the Council, that he brought ’em the Goths and Sueves ready converted, and that the Bishops had nothing more to do than just to instruct ’em, Catholicis eos dogmatibus instituere:315 which shews, they had, at the Sollicitation of the Persons gain’d over by the King, promis’d, without examining the two Religions, to do what his Majesty desir’d. I’m apt to think the Bishops did instruct ’em afterwards, and try’d the ways of Lenity as far as they wou’d go; but where these fail’d, Recared employ’d Force: whence I conclude, that the first steps he made were a Trial of the Fox’s Skill, and that my Application of the Proverb is just. Let’s hear Mariana, at the fifth Book, Chap. 14.316Recared, says he, upon changing his Religion, happen’d to meet with some Disturbances, as ’twas scarce possible but he shou’d; yet they did not last long, nor were they<761> considerable: And the Severity of the Punishments which he inflicted was not odious, because ’twas absolutely necessary; ’twas even popular, and applauded by the better sort, and by the common People.
These last words seem to me confus’d; for one does not readily know, whether he means, that the chastiz’d Arians themselves were they who applauded the Severity, or the opposite side only. If the first, that wou’d say much; if the latter, it’s saying nothing: for there are few Punishments which don’t please the common People, when only those whom they abhor as obstinate Hereticks suffer. However, we may see from this Passage of Mariana, how the Historians of Louis XIV will speak hereafter; they’l say, there was sometimes a necessity of using severe Methods for reducing the Hugonots, but that this did not last long, and was besides conducted with so much Wisdom, that all France admir’d the Hand which cou’d so divinely temper the weight of its mighty Power. I only paraphrase or comment on Mariana; the intelligent Reader will easily see what he wou’d be at, this Passage of him being one of those pieces where more is to be understood than seen. However it be, it’s plain enough from the unsuspect Testimony of this famous Historian, that Recared exercis’d the Severity of Punishment wherever there was a necessity. Had we the Writings of the Arians who disapprov’d this way of converting, we shou’d undoubtedly find in ’em a Detail of all the Violences exercis’d on the Sect; but we have none of their Books left, they have bin all burnt long enough ago. Now, as it never will be known from the Catholick Writers of<762> France, that the Hereticks were dragoon’d at such and such a rate, that they’l only mention in general, and in two or three Lines as Mariana does, that there was sometimes need of a little Severity, and that the Particulars of these Violences will never be preserv’d, but by the Pens of the persecuted Party; we have ground enough to believe, either that there was a very smart Persecution in Spain under Recared, or that the Arians were so effectually made to understand, that the King wou’d stick at no kind of vexatious Usage unless they freely comply’d, that they had not the Courage to expose themselves to the hazard. We shall see towards the latter end of this Chapter, whether we can reasonably suppose, that they understood the Truth at first.
I shall add this peremptory Reason, That since he employ’d Severity where ’twas found necessary, his Design was to convert his Heretick Subjects by Gentleness and Instruction if that wou’d do; but if not, to make ’em abjure by Force. Now this purpose in a Person firmly resolv’d to execute it in case of need, comprehends at least virtually all the Horrors, all the Crimes, and all the Sacrileges of the Doctrine of Compulsion set forth thro-out this Commentary. So that it’s of little Service towards justifying King Recared to say, that he did not long make use of Severity, of an odious Severity; it was not owing to his good Intentions, or to his Notions about the sound Doctrine of Toleration, but to the readiness of the Arians in escaping the Persecution which was preparing for ’em at the expence of their Profession. Consequently the Conversion of the Arians in Spain, without Cru-<763>elty and criminal Vexations, was purely accidental.
The modern Catholick Writers can’t disown this, if they think on what they themselves remark, That the Arians had no Zeal for their own Religion, and that this was the Reason of their quitting it by shoals. The little Reluctance, says one of ’em,*with which People quit all these false Religions, is a Mark of their Falshood, and of the Impossibility of having a true Zeal for ’em: Truth alone is strong and eternal, a Lye dies away almost of it self. The Resistance the Arians made was so short and faint, that one might judg from this alone, that they strove for a Lye, and not for the Truth, which only is capable of engaging reasonable Minds, and inspiring ’em with Constancy. Another† mentioning an Arian Embassador, who pray’d Gregory of Tours not to speak ill of the Arians, since the Visigoths did not speak ill of the Catholicks; the Visigoths, adds he, who have a saying, That in passing between a Pagan Temple and a Christian Church, it’s no Sin to bow before one, and before the other; presently subjoins this Reflexion, So natural is it for Heresy to inspire by little and little an Indifference in Religion, and so certain, that whoever forsakes the true runs a risk of having no Religion at all.
I wish these Gentlemen wou’d reconcile all these fine Maxims with what so many others of their Brethren, and they themselves, have undoubtedly often advanc’d, That Pertinaciousness is the Character of Heresy. Father Simon has<764> taken it for the Lemma of a Book which he has lately publish’d against our Mr. Smith.317 If I were not loth to make a Digression, how easily cou’d I expose the Extravagance of this vile little Aphorism! and how heartily cou’d I second the Blow which the small Pamphlet, France intirely Catholick, has struck so home at the Convertists, pag. 22.318 But this is not so much the Business in this place.
Another Comparison between Catholick and Arian Princes.
Let us therefore make one Remark on somewhat better grounds, and in a matter of Fact; to wit, That the Arians having subdu’d or possess’d several Provinces of the Roman Empire, under the name of Visigoths, Ostrogoths, Burgundians, Vandals, Lombards, never disturb’d the Catholicks in these Provinces, nor hinder’d their continuing and multiplying in ’em; as appears from hence, that at the very time, when either the Emperors recover’d these Provinces, or the Arian Princes chang’d Religion, there were always found Catholick Churches in ’em ready form’d, and in a good number. On the contrary, as soon as the Emperor had recover’d these Provinces, or the Princes themselves abjur’d, there was scarce an Arian to be heard of. I say then, that none but those who are blinded by childish Prejudices, in which Historians of the same stamp entertain your half-witted silly Readers; I maintain, I say, there’s only this sort, but must conclude, from a Fact so notorious, that the Arians, generally speaking, were more moderate, and more<765> tolerating than the Catholicks, and less capable of having recourse to the impious methods of coactive Authority, to make what they call Conversions.
And in effect, who can reconcile persecuting Cruelty with that Indifference for Religion with which they are charg’d?
Why can’t we see, that if they sometimes pillag’d the Monasterys, and exercis’d other Violences on the Catholicks, ’twas more from a Spirit of War and Plunder, which drew their Fathers from the extremest Peak of the North to ravage the Roman Empire, than from a Spirit of Conversion. This is evident from hence, that the Lombards converted from Arianism, made as frequent Incursions into the Territorys of Rome, and plunder’d all before ’em as much as when they were Arians.
An Answer to some Difficultys.
Methinks I hear some body tell me, that instead of wondering as I do, that none but the Hereticks in all Ages shou’d be moderate and forbear Constraint, I ought rather to acknowledg in it the Wonders of the Power of God, who has inspir’d Hereticks with Moderation, and the Orthodox with coactive Principles, the better to propagate and preserve the Truth. But for my part, I own, this sort of Miracles are above my Comprehension; and if we will suppose particular Volitions in God, or miraculous Operations in favor of his Church, I think leaving Hereticks to violate all the Laws of Equity and righteous dealing, yet without their being capable<766> of hurting the Cause of Truth, were more agreeable to the Divine Nature than putting the Orthodox in this unfortunate Predicament, and bringing the Good of the Church out of their most unrighteous Practices.
There’s no eluding the Consequence which I had drawn before from a reported historical Fact, by saying, that a Lye gains no ground by Persecution; whereas Truth extinguishes the Followers of a Lye if it ruffle ’em ever so little. For to say nothing of the Jews, proof against all the Attempts that have bin made upon ’em at several times, is it not well known, that the Irish and the Vaudois of Piedmont, one or other of which must be Followers of a Lye, are yet so tenacious, that it’s impossible to purge the Place of their Opinions, unless you put ’em every Mother’s Child to death, or transport and blend ’em with other Nations? Add to this, that there being several Examples of true Churches which have sunk under Persecution, no one can universally affirm, either that persecuted Falshood is easily destroy’d, or that persecuted Truth is never overcome. What we may venture to say in general is, I think, this, That a Church which subsists under Princes of a different Religion has not bin violently persecuted; and that a Church, which vanishes all at once under a Prince of a different Religion, sinks under Constraint; whereby the Arian Kings will still carry it from the Catholick, in point of Equity and Moderation.
To leave my Adversarys no kind of Subterfuge, I must desire ’em to give me a good Reason why the Saracens, when they invaded Africk, shou’d extinguish Christianity to such a<767> degree, that there are not the least Footsteps of it remaining on these Coasts, where ’twas formerly so flourishing: Why, if the Vandals, when they invaded the same Country, had exercis’d the same Violence on the Catholicks as the Saracens did soon after, they might not as well have extinguish’d Catholicism. They ought in all Reason to have compleated its Ruin much sooner than the Disciples of Mahomet cou’d have done, because the Passage is incomparably longer from the Catholick Faith to Mahometism than to Arianism. The only good Reason then that can be assign’d is, that the Vandals persecuted in Measure, and by Intervals.
One may even say, that that which next under God preserv’d Christianity in the first Ages, was the Pagan Emperors persecuting it only by fits, and sometimes more violently in one Country than another, after which came long Periods of Calm; so that they who had a mind, might find Retreats till the Storm was over. The Emperors had generally one Rival or other to deal with, some Revolt or Sedition to pacify, and too much other business upon their hands to make the Extirpation of a Sect their principal Care. The Empire chang’d Masters frequently: besides, that they and their Ministers were but Novices in comparison of the Christian Princes, who have apply’d themselves to the extinguishing Sects; had those had the managing of what Decius and Dioclesian undertook, they had in all probability done the Work.
For it’s a Folly to pretend, for example, that Recared, or the Bishops of his time, gave the Arians such evident and palpable Demonstrations of the Falshood of their Tenets, that they quitted<768> their Heresy unanimously and of their own motion. The Consubstantiality of the Word, a Trinity of Persons in the Unity of the Divine Nature, are not so clearly conceiv’d as the Unity of God, the Incommunicability of his Essence, the Identity of Natures and Persons: consequently when a Man has bin bred up to believe these last Articles as most worthy of God, for the first twenty years of his Life, and to reject the others as destructive of the Divine Nature, it’s a hard matter to reconcile him to the Belief of ’em be they ever so true. He might be apt to think, that ’twere hazarding his Salvation too much, to acquiesce in Proofs which his Reason cannot comprehend. It’s very improbable then, that the whole Body of Arians throout a Kingdom were converted by Argument and Persuasion.
It’s much more likely they comply’d, because they were not the most zealous People in the World for their own Opinions; but it must be own’d too, that they had a prospect of temporal Detriment, if they persisted obstinately in their own way, and consequently were made to understand, that they must do that by force which they refus’d to do by fair means: for let one’s Indifference for his own Religion be ever so great, he’l scarce change when he has the full liberty to live and die in it.<769>
[311. ]See Appendixes, “Trinity and Incarnation,” p. 584.
[* ]See Maimb. Hist. de l’ Arr. l. 10. [See Louis Maimbourg, Histoire de l’Arianisme (History of Arianism), 1673.]
[312. ]Plutarch, Lysander, VII.4: “Where the lion’s skin will not reach, it must be patched out with the fox’s”; translated Bernadotte Perrin, Loeb Classical Library, p. 251.
[313. ]One can gather this from Maimbourg’s narration, History of the Arians, book xi. [Author’s note in the French edition. See above, p. 561, note.]
[314. ]This was the debate on 2 April 1600 between Duplessis-Mornay and du Perron. See “Duplessis-Mornay, Philippe,” in The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Reformation, vol. 2, pp. 11–13.
[315. ]“To instruct them in Catholic doctrines.”
[316. ]Probably: Juan de Mariana, Historiae de rebus Hispaniae libri XX, 1592 and later editions. See DHC, art. “Mariana,” rem. D.
[* ]Thomassin de l’ Unité de l’ Eg. par. 1. p. 448. [It does not seem that his discourse strikes all the papist peoples who reformed themselves during the last century (Author’s note in the French edition). See above, p. 328, note.]
[† ]Maimb. Hist. de l’ Arr. l. 11. [See above, p. 561, note.]
[317. ]Probably: Richard Simon, Créance de l’Eglise orientale sur la transubstantiation avec une reponse aux nouvelles objections de M. Smith (Belief of the Eastern Church on transubstantiation, with an answer to new objections from Mr Smith), 1687.
[318. ]Bayle, OD, vol. 2, p. 339b.