Bayle writes somewhat like Socrates and Protagoras. His writing about epistemological issues of true and false conscience remind me of Socrates discoursing on true and false opinion. Europeans however arise from a different traditional political, socially, economically and ecclesiastically than Americans, so it is interesting and useful to learn a little about the matters historically that were of concern to Europeans and why they developed a lack of religious faith.
Europeans generally have an inquisitorial or magisterial system of justice. religious courts had an inquisitorial system as well. Those are virtually alien to the point of being unknown in the United States. America never had a theocratic condition and no American since the foundation of the United States had a royal master over them. So it is possible to nearly entirely forget or even never to be aware of such evils and issues. Americans had no cause for losing faith conflated with a desire to overthrow ecclesiastical courts or theocratic totalitarian powers.
Bayle though writes quite intriguingly. I suppose in his day it was quite meaningful and even dangerous to do that. I tend to view Jesus Christ and God as pure and perfect beings with a divine economy and a mission of improving the animals that are always in rebellion and incapable of being good all the time because of original sin.
Original sin is the thermodynamic physical condition that happened to mankind after the fall. Mankind aged and Eve gave childbirth. Sure there were probably existing evolved humans in-the-world populating the Middle East already when A and E were thrown out of Eden. Eden was guarded by four cherubim at the point of each of four dimensions.
Bayle presents quite a legalistic argument in Philosophical Commentary, II, 9. he use the word magistrate numerous times. Before the printing press most of mankind was illiterate. Their fidelity was to local rulers, kings and the religion they sanctioned for the people. Though Jesus Christ brought a new covenant to mankind that would write the laws of God on human hearts, the world and Europeans generally tended to have traditional feudalistic societies overlain with careerists working the religion of the state. God’s grace foreknew all that would happen and created a kingdom of God that would slowly evolve after the first century apocalyptic end of the old covenant, the Temple worship at Jerusalem, crucifixion of The Lord and destruction of Jerusalem. Mankind takes a long time to understand and only slow uses reason well enough to begin to understand faith as a spiritual, individual relationship between an individual and Jesus Christ. Only slowly will a priesthood of believers evolve to replace the traditional hierarchical church structures that reflect royal orders with subjects conformable to the will of the monarch in war and peace.
The impostor and the wife’s relationship to the impostor is not an allegory of a false Lord to his bride. It is about individuals living in a neo-legalistic setting making decisions in a paradigm very like a Jew might have had in trying to live by the law before the era of Jesus . Questions arise about the accountability for an individual acting on his conscience yet possibly acting in error. One may think about Bayle’s questions as like those of act and rule based utilitarianism with a context of faith wherein the greatest good is in following the will of God, whose divine will and divine economy are complete perfection beyond the understanding of mankind.
If democracy can evolve to improve its ad hoc and modular formations for regulating mass social affairs it would be comparable to Christianity evolving a priesthood of believers structure that is largely egalitarian though quite effective and proving the gospel, services and goods for the church.
People resist good sense and instead tend to accumulate material and work chop jobs on social reason. In the Bible book of I Samuel the Jews demanded a king. God wanted them to be more or less democratic with spiritual guides such as Samuel, yet the demand a king. God gave them Saul for a king. The meeting of Saul and the Jews looking for a king was marvelous. Saul’s father Kish lost an ass and sent Saul out to look for it. And he found it with the Jews who were looking for a king; an exemplary transition.
I Samuel 8 KJV; “4 Then all the leaders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. 5 They told him, “You’re old, and your sons aren’t following your example. Now appoint a king to judge us so that we will be like all the other nations.”
6 But Samuel considered it wrong for them to request a king to judge them. So Samuel prayed to the Lord. 7 The Lord told Samuel, “Listen to everything the people are saying to you. They haven’t rejected you; they’ve rejected me. 8 They’re doing just what they’ve done since I took them out of Egypt—leaving me and serving other gods. 9 Listen to them now, but be sure to warn them and tell them about the rights of a king.””
Bayle is also somewhat before his time (nearly four hundred years) on improbable social changes. The magistrate that is the U.S. Supreme Court made Bayle’s paradigm come true.”
Bayle-“But what! say they in the fifth place, wou’d he have us suffer Men to preach up Sodomy, Adultery, and Murder, as Actions praise-worthy and holy? And if they pretend that Conscience and a Zeal for the Truth had mov’d ’em to undeceive the World in these points, must not the Magistrate restrain ’em? I answer, this Objection smells strong of the Cavil; and there’s so little danger of this Case’s ever happening, that the Difficulty founded upon it deserves not to be consider’d.”