Section 7: Morality and DoctrineBlaise Pascal (1623-1662) - The Penses
“If I believe in God and life after death and you do not, and if there is no God, we both lose when we die. However, if there is a God, you still lose and I gain everything.”
All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end. The cause of some going to war, and of others avoiding it, is the same desire in both, attended with different views. The will never takes the least step but to this object. This is the motive of every action of every man, even of those who hang themselves.
And yet, after such a great number of years, no one without faith has reached the point to which all continually look. All complain, princes and subjects, noblemen and commoners, old and young, strong and weak, learned and ignorant, healthy and sick, of all countries, all times, all ages, and all conditions.
A trial so long, so continuous, and so uniform, should certainly convince us of our inability to reach the good by our own efforts. But example teaches us little. No resemblance is ever so perfect that there is not some slight difference; and hence we expect that our hope will not be deceived on this occasion as before. And thus, while the present never satisfies us, experience dupes us and, from misfortune to misfortune, leads us to death, their eternal crown.
What is it, then, that this desire and this inability proclaim to us, but that there was once in man a true happiness of which there now remain to him only the mark and empty trace, which he in vain tries to fill from all his surroundings, seeking from things absent the help he does not obtain in things present? But these are all inadequate, because the infinite abyss can only be filled by an infinite and immutable object, that is to say, only by God Himself. He only is our true good, and since we have forsaken him, it is a strange thing that there is nothing in nature which has not been serviceable in taking His place; the stars, the heavens, earth, the elements, plants, cabbages, leeks, animals, insects, calves, serpents, fever, pestilence, war, famine, vices, adultery, incest. And since man has lost the true good, everything can appear equally good to him, even his own destruction, though so opposed to God, to reason, and to the whole course of nature.
Some seek good in authority, others in scientific research, others in pleasure. Others, who are in fact nearer the truth, have considered it necessary that the universal good, which all men desire, should not consist in any of the particular things which can only be possessed by one man, and which, when shared, afflict their possessors more by the want of the part he has not than they please him by the possession of what he has. They have learned that the true good should be such as all can possess at once, without diminution and without envy, and which no one can lose against his will. And their reason is that this desire, being natural to man, since it is necessarily in all, and that it is impossible not to have it, they infer from it…
426. True nature being lost, everything becomes its own nature; as the true good being lost, everything becomes its own true good.
427. Man does not know in what rank to place himself. He has plainly gone astray and fallen from his true place without being able to find it again. He seeks it anxiously and unsuccessfully everywhere in impenetrable darkness.
428. If it is a sign of weakness to prove God by nature, do not despise Scripture; if it is a sign of strength to have known these contradictions, esteem Scripture.
429. The vileness of man in submitting himself to the brutes and in even worshipping them.
430. For Port-Royal. The beginning, after having explained the incomprehensibility. — The greatness and the wretchedness of man are so evident that the true religion must necessarily teach us both that there is in man some great source of greatness and a great source of wretchedness. It must then give us a reason for these astonishing contradictions.
In order to make man happy, it must prove to him that there is a God; that we ought to love Him; that our true happiness is to be in Him, and our sole evil to be separated from Him; it must recognise that we are full of darkness which hinders us from knowing and loving Him; and that thus, as our duties compel us to love God, and our lusts turn us away from Him, we are full of unrighteousness. It must give us an explanation of our opposition to God and to our own good. It must teach us the remedies for these infirmities and the means of obtaining these remedies. Let us, therefore, examine all the religions of the world and see if there be any other than the Christian which is sufficient for this purpose.
Shall it be that of the philosophers, who put forward, as the chief good, the good which is in ourselves? Is this the true good? Have they found the remedy for our ills? Is man’s pride cured by placing him on an equality with God? Have those who have made us equal to the brutes, or the Mohammedans who have offered us earthly pleasures as the chief good even in eternity, produced the remedy for our lusts? What religion, then, will teach us to cure pride and lust? What religion will, in fact, teach us our good, our duties, the weakness which turns us from them, the cause of this weakness, the remedies which can cure it, and the means of obtaining these remedies?
All other religions have not been able to do so. Let us see what the wisdom of God will do.
“Expect neither truth,” she says, “nor consolation from men. I am she who formed you, and who alone can teach you what you are. But you are now no longer in the state in which I formed you. I created man holy, innocent, perfect. I filled him with light and intelligence. I communicated to him my glory and my wonders. The eye of man saw then the majesty of God. He was not then in the darkness which blinds him, nor subject to mortality and the woes which afflict him. But he has not been able to sustain so great glory without falling into pride. He wanted to make himself his own centre and independent of my help. He withdrew himself from my rule; and, on his making himself equal to me by the desire of finding his happiness in himself, I abandoned him to himself. And setting in revolt the creatures that were subject to him, I made them his enemies; so that man is now become like the brutes and so estranged from me that there scarce remains to him a dim vision of his Author. So far has all his knowledge been extinguished or disturbed! The senses, independent of reason, and often the masters of reason, have led him into pursuit of pleasure. All creatures either torment or tempt him, and domineer over him, either subduing him by their strength, or fascinating him by their charms, a tyranny more awful and more imperious.
“Such is the state in which men now are. There remains to them some feeble instinct of the happiness of their former state; and they are plunged in the evils of their blindness and their lust, which have become their second nature.
“From this principle which I disclose to you, you can recognize the cause of those contradictions which have astonished all men and have divided them into parties holding so different views. Observe, now, all the feelings of greatness and glory which the experience of so many woes cannot stifle, and see if the cause of them must not be in another nature.
For Port-Royal to-morrow (Prosopopaea). — “It is in vain, O men, that you seek within yourselves the remedy for your ills. All your light can only reach the knowledge that not in yourselves will you find truth or good. The philosophers have promised you that, and you have been unable to do it. They neither know what is your true good, nor what is your true state. How could they have given remedies for your ills, when they did not even know them? Your chief maladies are pride, which takes you away from God, and lust, which binds you to earth; and they have done nothing else but cherish one or other of these diseases. If they gave you God as an end, it was only to administer to your pride; they made you think that you are by nature like Him and conformed to Him. And those who saw the absurdity of this claim put you on another precipice, by making you understand that your nature was like that of the brutes, and led you to seek your good in the lusts which are shared by the animals. This is not the way to cure you of your unrighteousness, which these wise men never knew. I alone can make you understand who you are….”
Adam, Jesus Christ.
If you are united to God, it is by grace, not by nature. If you are humbled, it is by penitence, not by nature.
Thus this double capacity…
You are not in the state of your creation.
As these two states are open, it is impossible for you not to recognise them. Follow your own feelings, observe yourselves, and see if you do not find the lively characteristics of these two natures. Could so many contradictions be found in a simple subject?
Incomprehensible. Not all that is incomprehensible ceases to exist. Infinite number. An infinite space equal to a finite.
Incredible that God should unite Himself to us. This consideration is drawn only from the sight of our vileness. But if you are quite sincere over it, follow it as far as I have done and recognise that we are indeed so vile that we are incapable in ourselves of knowing if His mercy cannot make us capable of Him. For I would know how this animal, who knows himself to be so weak, has the right to measure the mercy of God and set limits to it, suggested by his own fancy. He has so little knowledge of what God is that he does not know what he himself is, and, completely disturbed at the sight of his own state, dares to say that God cannot make him capable of communion with Him.
But I would ask him if God demands anything else from him than the knowledge and love of Him, and why, since his nature is capable of love and knowledge, he believes that God cannot make Himself known and loved by him. Doubtless he knows at least that he exists, and that he loves something. Therefore, if he sees anything in the darkness wherein he is, and if he finds some object of his love among the things on earth, why, if God impart to him some ray of His essence, will he not be capable of knowing and of loving Him in the manner in which it shall please Him to communicate Himself to us? There must, then, be certainly an intolerable presumption in arguments of this sort, although they seem founded on an apparent humility, which is neither sincere nor reasonable, if it does not make us admit that, not knowing of ourselves what we are, we can only learn it from God.
“I do not mean that you should submit your belief to me without reason, and I do not aspire to overcome you by tyranny. In fact, I do not claim to give you a reason for everything. And to reconcile these contradictions, I intend to make you see clearly, by convincing proofs, those divine signs in me, which may convince you of what I am, and may gain authority for me by wonders and proofs which you cannot reject; so that you may then believe without… the things which I teach you, since you will find no other ground for rejecting them, except that you cannot know of yourselves if they are true or not.
“God has willed to redeem men and to open salvation to those who seek it. But men render themselves so unworthy of it that it is right that God should refuse to some, because of their obduracy, what He grants others from a compassion which is not due to them. If He had willed to overcome the obstinacy of the most hardened, He could have done so by revealing Himself so manifestly to them that they could not have doubted of the truth of His essence; as it will appear at the last day, with such thunders and such a convulsion of nature that the dead will rise again, and the blindest will see Him.
“It is not in this manner that He has willed to appear in His advent of mercy, because, as so many make themselves unworthy of His mercy, He has willed to leave them in the loss of the good which they do not want. It was not, then, right that He should appear in a manner manifestly divine, and completely capable of convincing all men; but it was also not right that He should come in so hidden a manner that He could not be known by those who should sincerely seek Him. He has willed to make himself quite recognisable by those; and thus, willing to appear openly to those who seek Him with all their heart, and to be hidden from those who flee from Him with all their heart, He so regulates the knowledge of Himself that He has given signs of Himself, visible to those who seek Him, and not to those who seek Him not. There is enough light for those who only desire to see, and enough obscurity for those who have a contrary disposition.”
431. No other religion has recognised that man is the most excellent creature. Some, which have quite recognised the reality of his excellence, have considered as mean and ungrateful the low opinions which men naturally have of themselves; and others, which have thoroughly recognised how real is this vileness, have treated with proud ridicule those feelings of greatness, which are equally natural to man.
“Lift your eyes to God,” say the first; “see Him whom you resemble and who has created you to worship Him. You can make yourselves like unto Him; wisdom will make you equal to Him, if you will follow it.” “Raise your heads, free men,” says Epictetus. And others say, “Bend your eyes to the earth, wretched worm that you are, and consider the brutes whose companion you are.”
What, then, will man become? Will he be equal to God or the brutes? What a frightful difference! What, then, shall we be? Who does not see from all this that man has gone astray, that he has fallen from his place, that he anxiously seeks it, that he cannot find it again? And who shall then direct him to it? The greatest men have failed.432. Scepticism is true; for, after all, men before Jesus Christ did not know where they were, nor whether they were great or small. And those who have said the one or the other knew nothing about it and guessed without reason and by chance. They also erred always in excluding the one or the other.
Quod ergo ignorantes, quaeritis, religio annuntiat vobis.[“What you seek without knowing, religion will announce to you.” Pascal misquotes Acts 17. 23. “Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.”]
433. After having understood the whole nature of man. — That a religion may be true, it must have knowledge of our nature. It ought to know its greatness and littleness, and the reason of both. What religion but the Christian has known this?
434. The chief arguments of the sceptics- I pass over the lesser ones- are that we have no certainty of the truth of these principles apart from faith and revelation, except in so far as we naturally perceive them in ourselves. Now this natural intuition is not a convincing proof of their truth; since, having no certainty, apart from faith, whether man was created by a good God, or by a wicked demon, or by chance, it is doubtful whether these principles given to us are true, or false, or uncertain, according to our origin. Again, no person is certain, apart from faith, whether he is awake or sleeps, seeing that during sleep we believe that we are awake as firmly as we do when we are awake; we believe that we see space, figure, and motion; we are aware of the passage of time, we measure it; and in fact we act as if we were awake. So that half of our life being passed in sleep, we have on our own admission no idea of truth, whatever we may imagine. As all our intuitions are, then, illusions, who knows whether the other half of our life, in which we think we are awake, is not another sleep a little different from the former, from which we awake when we suppose ourselves asleep?
And who doubts that, if we dreamt in company, and the dreams chanced to agree, which is common enough, and if we were always alone when awake, we should believe that matters were reversed? In short, as we often dream that we dream, heaping dream upon dream, may it not be that this half of our life, wherein we think ourselves awake, is itself only a dream on which the others are grafted, from which we wake at death, during which we have as few principles of truth and good as during natural sleep, these different thoughts which disturb us being perhaps only illusions like the flight of time and the vain fancies of our dreams?
These are the chief arguments on one side and the other.
I omit minor ones, such as the sceptical talk against the impressions of custom, education, manners, country and the like. Though these influence the majority of common folk, who dogmatise only on shallow foundations, they are upset by the least breath of the sceptics. We have only to see their books if we are not sufficiently convinced of this, and we shall very quickly become so, perhaps too much.
I notice the only strong point of the dogmatists, namely, that, speaking in good faith and sincerely, we cannot doubt natural principles. Against this the sceptics set up in one word the uncertainty of our origin, which includes that of our nature. The dogmatists have been trying to answer this objection ever since the world began.
So there is open war among men, in which each must take a part and side either with dogmatism or scepticism. For he who thinks to remain neutral is above all a sceptic. This neutrality is the essence of the sect; he who is not against them is essentially for them. In this appears their advantage. They are not for themselves; they are neutral, indifferent, in suspense as to all things, even themselves being no exception.
What, then, shall man do in this state? Shall he doubt everything? Shall he doubt whether he is awake, whether he is being pinched, or whether he is being burned? Shall he doubt whether he doubts? Shall he doubt whether he exists? We cannot go so far as that; and I lay it down as a fact that there never has been a real complete sceptic. Nature sustains our feeble reason and prevents it raving to this extent.
Shall he, then, say, on the contrary, that he certainly possesses truth– he who, when pressed ever so little, can show no title to it and is forced to let go his hold?
What a chimera, then, is man! What a novelty! What a monster, what a chaos, what a contradiction, what a prodigy! Judge of all things, imbecile worm of the earth; depositary of truth, a sink of uncertainty and error; the pride and refuse of the universe!
Who will unravel this tangle? Nature confutes the sceptics, and reason confutes the dogmatists. What, then, will you become, O men! who try to find out by your natural reason what is your true condition? You cannot avoid one of these sects, nor adhere to one of them.
Know then, proud man, what a paradox you are to yourself. Humble yourself, weak reason; be silent, foolish nature; learn that man infinitely transcends man, and learn from your Master your true condition, of which you are ignorant. Hear God.
For in fact, if man had never been corrupt, he would enjoy in his innocence both truth and happiness with assurance; and if man had always been corrupt, he would have no idea of truth or bliss. But, wretched as we are, and more so than if there were no greatness in our condition, we have an idea of happiness and can not reach it. We perceive an image of truth and possess only a lie. Incapable of absolute ignorance and of certain knowledge, we have thus been manifestly in a degree of perfection from which we have unhappily fallen.
It is, however, an astonishing thing that the mystery furthest removed from our knowledge, namely, that of the transmission of sin, should be a fact without which we can have no knowledge of ourselves. For it is beyond doubt that there is nothing which more shocks our reason than to say that the sin of the first man has rendered guilty those who, being so removed from this source, seem incapable of participation in it. This transmission does not only seem to us impossible, it seems also very unjust. For what is more contrary to the rules of our miserable justice than to damn eternally an infant incapable of will, for a sin wherein he seems to have so little a share that it was committed six thousand years before he was in existence? Certainly nothing offends us more rudely than this doctrine; and yet without this mystery, the most incomprehensible of all, we are incomprehensible to ourselves. The knot of our condition takes its twists and turns in this abyss, so that man is more inconceivable without this mystery than this mystery is inconceivable to man.
Whence it seems that God, willing to render the difficulty of our existence unintelligible to ourselves, has concealed the knot so high, or, better speaking, so low, that we are quite incapable of reaching it; so that it is not by the proud exertions of our reason, but by the simple submissions of reason, that we can truly know ourselves.
These foundations, solidly established on the inviolable authority of religion, make us know that there are two truths of faith equally certain: the one, that man, in the state of creation, or in that of grace, is raised above all nature, made like unto God and sharing in His divinity; the other, that in the state of corruption and sin, he is fallen from this state and made like unto the beasts.
These two propositions are equally sound and certain. Scripture manifestly declares this to us, when it says in some places: Deliciae meae esse cum filiis hominum. [Prov. 8. 31. “And my delights were with the sons of men.”] Effundam spiritum meum super omnem carnem. [Joel 2. 28. “I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh.”] Dii estis, [Ps. 82 .6. “Ye are gods.”] etc.; and in other places, Omnis caro faenum. [Is. 40. 6. “All flesh is grass.”] Homo assimilatus est jumentis insipientibus, et similis factus est illis. [Ps. 49. 12,13. “He is like the beasts that perish; this their way is their folly.”] Dixi in corde meo de filiis hominum. [Eccles. 3. 18. “I said in mine heart concerning the estate of the sons of men.”]
Whence it clearly seems that man by grace is made like unto God, and a partaker in His divinity, and that without grace he is like unto the brute beasts.
435. Without this divine knowledge what could men do but either become elated by the inner feeling of their past greatness which still remains to them, or become despondent at the sight of their present weakness? For, not seeing the whole truth, they could not attain to perfect virtue. Some considering nature as incorrupt, others as incurable, they could not escape either pride or sloth, the two sources of all vice; since they cannot but either abandon themselves to it through cowardice, or escape it by pride. For if they knew the excellence of man, they were ignorant of his corruption; so that they easily avoided sloth, but fell into pride. And if they recognized the infirmity of nature, they were ignorant of its dignity; so that they could easily avoid vanity, but it was to fall into despair. Thence arise the different schools of the Stoics and Epicureans, the Dogmatists, Academicians, etc.
The Christian religion alone has been able to cure these two vices, not by expelling the one through means of the other according to the wisdom of the world, but by expelling both according to the simplicity of the Gospel. For it teaches the righteous that it raises them even to a participation in divinity itself; that in this lofty state they still carry the source of all corruption, which renders them during all their life subject to error, misery, death, and sin; and it proclaims to the most ungodly that they are capable of the grace of their Redeemer. So making those tremble whom it justifies, and consoling those whom it condemns, religion so justly tempers fear with hope through that double capacity of grace and of sin, common to all, that it humbles infinitely more than reason alone can do, but without despair; and it exalts infinitely more than natural pride, but without inflating; thus making it evident that alone being exempt from error and vice, it alone fulfils the duty of instructing and correcting men.
Who, then, can refuse to believe and adore this heavenly light? For is it not clearer than day that we perceive within ourselves ineffaceable marks of excellence? And is it not equally true that we experience every hour the results of our deplorable condition? What does this chaos and monstrous confusion proclaim to us but the truth of these two states, with a voice so powerful that it is impossible to resist it?
436. Weakness. — Every pursuit of men is to get wealth; and they cannot have a title to show that they possess it justly, for they have only that of human caprice; nor have they strength to hold it securely. It is the same with knowledge, for disease takes it away. We are incapable both of truth and goodness.
437. We desire truth, and find within ourselves only uncertainty.We seek happiness, and find only misery and death.
We cannot but desire truth and happiness, and are incapable of certainty or happiness. This desire is left to us, partly to punish us, partly to make us perceive wherefrom we are fallen.
438. If man is not made for God, why is he only happy in God? If man is made for God, why is he so opposed to God?
439. Nature corrupted.- Man does not act by reason, which constitutes his being.
440. The corruption of reason is shown by the existence of so many different and extravagant customs. It was necessary that truth should come, in order that man should no longer dwell within himself.
441. For myself, I confess that, so soon as the Christian religion reveals the principle that human nature is corrupt and fallen from God, that opens my eyes to see everywhere the mark of this truth: for nature is such that she testifies everywhere, both within man and without him, to a lost God and a corrupt nature.
442. Man’s true nature, his true good, true virtue, and true religion, are things of which the knowledge is inseparable.
443. Greatness, wretchedness. — The more light we have, the more greatness and the more baseness we discover in man. Ordinary men- those who are more educated: philosophers, they astonish ordinary men- Christians, they astonish philosophers.
Who will then be surprised to see that religion only makes us know profoundly what we already know in proportion to our light?
444. This religion taught to her children what men have only been able to discover by their greatest knowledge.
445. Original sin is foolishness to men, but it is admitted to be such. You must not, then, reproach me for the want of reason in this doctrine, since I admit it to be without reason. But this foolishness is wiser than all the wisdom of men, sapientius est hominibus. [I Cor. 1. 25 “The foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”] For without this, what can we say that man is? His whole state depends on this imperceptible point. And how should it be perceived by his reason, since it is a thing against reason, and since reason, far from finding it out by her own ways, is averse to it when it is presented to her?
446. Of original sin. Ample tradition of original sin according to the Jews.
On the saying in Genesis 8. 21: “The imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth.”
R. Moses Haddarschan: This evil leaven is placed in man from the time that he is formed.
Massechet Succa: This evil leaven has seven names in Scripture. It is called evil, the foreskin, uncleanness, an enemy, a scandal, a heart of stone, the north wind; all this signifies the malignity which is concealed and impressed in the heart of man.
Midrasch Tillim says the same thing and that God will deliver the good nature of man from the evil.
This malignity is renewed every day against man, as it is written, Psalm xxxvii. 32: “The wicked watcheth the righteous, and seeketh to slay him”; but God will not abandon him. This malignity tries the heart of man in this life and will accuse him in the other. All this is found in the Talmud.
Midrasch Tillim on Psalm 4. 4: “Stand in awe and sin not.” Stand in awe and be afraid of your lust, and it will not lead you into sin. And on Psalm 36. 1: “The wicked has said within his own heart: Let not the fear of God be before me.” That is to say that the malignity natural to man has said that to the wicked.
Midrasch el Kohelet: “Better is a poor and wise child than an old and foolish king who cannot foresee the future.” The child is virtue, and the king is the malignity of man. It is called king because all the members obey it, and old because it is in the human heart from infancy to old age, and foolish because it leads man in the way of [perdition], which he does not foresee. The same thing is in Midrasch Tillim.
Bereschist Rabba on Psalm 35. 10: “Lord, all my bones shall bless Thee, which deliverest the poor from the tyrant.” And is there a greater tyrant than the evil leaven? And on Proverbs 25. 21: “If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat.” That is to say, if the evil leaven hunger, give him the bread of wisdom of which it is spoken in Proverbs 9, and if he be thirsty, give him the water of which it is spoken in Isaiah 55.
Midrasch Tillim says the same thing, and that Scripture in that passage, speaking of the enemy, means the evil leaven; and that, in giving him that bread and that water, we heap coals of fire on his head.
Midrasch el Kohelet on Ecclesiastes 9. 14: “A great king besieged a little city.” This great king is the evil leaven; the great bulwarks built against it are temptations; and there has been found a poor wise man who has delivered it- that is to say, virtue.
And on Psalm 41. 1: “Blessed is he that considereth the poor.”
And on Psalm 78. 39: “The spirit passeth away, and cometh not again”; whence some have erroneously argued against the immortality of the soul. But the sense is that this spirit is the evil leaven, which accompanies man till death and will not return at the resurrection.
And on Psalm 103 the same thing.
And on Psalm 16.
Principles of Rabbinism: two Messiahs.
447. Will it be said that, as men have declared that righteousness has departed the earth, they therefore knew of original sin?– Nemo ante obitum beatus est [Ovid, Metamorphoses, iii. “No one is happy before death.”] — that is to say, they knew death to be the beginning of eternal and essential happiness?
448. Milton sees well that nature is corrupt and that men are averse to virtue; he does not know why they cannot fly higher.
449. Order. — After Corruption to say: “It is right that all those who are in that state should know it, both those who are content with it, and those who are not content with it; but it is not right that all should see Redemption.”
450. If we do not know ourselves to be full of pride, ambition, lust, weakness, misery, and injustice, we are indeed blind. And if, knowing this, we do not desire deliverance, what can we say of a man…?
What then, can we have but esteem for a religion which knows so well the defects of man, and desire for the truth of a religion which promises remedies so desirable?
451. All men naturally hate one another. They employ lust as far as possible in the service of the public weal. But this is only a pretnece and a false image of love; for at bottom it is only hate.
452. To pity the unfortunate is not contrary to lust. On the contrary, we can quite well give such evidence of friendship, and acquire the reputation of kindly feeling, without giving anything.
453. From lust men have found and extracted excellent rules of policy, morality, and justice; but in reality this vile root of man, this figmentum malum, is only covered, it is not taken away.
454. Injustice. — They have not found any other means of satisfying lust without doing injury to others.
455. Self is hateful. You, Milton, conceal it; you do not for that reason destroy it; you are, then, always hateful.
No; for in acting as we do to oblige everybody, we give no more occasion for hatred of us. That is true, if we only hated in Self the vexation which comes to us from it. But if I hate it because it is unjust and because it makes itself the centre of everything, I shall always hate it.
In a word, the Self has two qualities: it is unjust in itself since it makes itself the centre of everything; it is inconvenient to others since it would enslave them; for each Self is the enemy, and would like to be the tyrant of all others. You take away its inconvenience, but not its injustice, and so you do not render it lovable to those who hate injustice; you render it lovable only to the unjust, who do not any longer find in it an enemy. And thus you remain unjust and can please only the unjust.
456. It is a perverted judgement that makes every one place himself above the rest of the world, and prefer his own good, and the continuance of his own good fortune and life, to that of the rest of the world!
457. Each one is all in all to himself; for he being dead, all is dead to him. Hence it comes that each believes himself to be all in all to everybody. We must not judge of nature by ourselves, but by it.
458. “All that is in the world is the lust of the flesh, or the lust of the eyes, or the pride of life; libido sentiendi, libido sciendi, libido dominandi.” [I John 2. 16.] Wretched is the cursed land which these three rivers of fire enflame rather than water! Happy they who, on these rivers, are not overwhelmed nor carried away, but are immovably fixed, not standing but seated on a low and secure base, whence they do not rise before the light, but, having rested in peace, stretch out their hands to Him, who must lift them up, and make them stand upright and firm in the porches of the holy Jerusalem! There pride can no longer assail them nor cast them down; and yet they weep, not to see all those perishable things swept away by the torrents, but at the remembrance of their loved country, the heavenly Jerusalem, which they remember without ceasing during their prolonged exile.
459. The rivers of Babylon rush and fall and sweep away.
O holy Zion, where all is firm and nothing falls!
We must sit upon the waters, not under them or in them, but on them; and not standing but seated; being seated to be humble, and being above them to be secure. But we shall stand in the porches of Jerusalem.
Let us see if this pleasure is stable or transitory; if it pass away, it is a river of Babylon.
460. The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, pride, etc. — There are three orders of things: the flesh, the spirit, and the will. The carnal are the rich and kings; they have the body as their object. Inquirers and scientists; they have the mind as their object. The wise; they have righteousness as their object.
God must reign over all, and all men must be brought back to Him. In things of the flesh lust reigns specially; in intellectual matters, inquiry specially; in wisdom, pride specially. Not that a man cannot boast of wealth or knowledge, but it is not the place for pride; for in granting to a man that he is learned, it is easy to convince him that he is wrong to be proud. The proper place for pride is in wisdom, for it cannot be granted to a man that he has made himself wise, and that he is wrong to be proud; for that is right. Now God alone gives wisdom, and that is why Qui gloriatur, in Domino glorietur. [Cor. 1. 31. “He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”]
461. The three lusts have made three sects; and the philosophers have done no other thing than follow one of the three lusts.
462. Search for the true good. — Ordinary men place the good in fortune and external goods, or at least in amusement. Philosophers have shown the vanity of all this and have placed it where they could.
463. Philosophers. — They believe that God alone is worthy to be loved and admired; and they have desired to be loved and admired of men and do not know their own corruption. If they feel full of feelings of love and admiration and find therein their chief delight, very well, let them think themselves good. But if they find themselves averse to Him, if they have no inclination but the desire to establish themselves in the esteem of men, and if their whole perfection consists only in making men- but without constraint- find their happiness in loving them, I declare that this perfection is horrible. What! they have known God and have not desired solely that men should love Him, but that men should stop short at them! They have wanted to be the object of the voluntary delight of men.
464. Philosophers. — We are full of things which take us out of ourselves.
Our instinct makes us feel that we must seek our happiness outside ourselves. Our passions impel us outside, even when no objects present themselves to excite them. External objects tempt us of themselves, and call to us, even when we are not thinking of them. And thus philosophers have said in vain: “Retire within yourselves, you will find your good there.” We do not believe them, and those who believe them are the most empty and the most foolish.
465. The Stoics say, “Retire within yourselves; it is there you will find your rest.”
And that is not true.Happiness is neither without us nor within us. It is in God, both without us and within us.
466. Had Epictetus seen the way perfectly, he would have said to men, “You follow a wrong road”; he shows that there is another, but he does not lead to it. It is the way of willing what God wills. Jesus Christ alone leads to it: Via, veritas. [John 14. 6. “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”] The vices of Zeno himself.
467. The reason of effects. — Epictetus. Those who say, “You have a headache”; this is not the same thing. We are assured of health, and not of justice; and in fact his own was nonsense.
And yet he believed it demonstrable, when he said, “It is either in our power or it is not.” But he did not perceive that it is not in our power to regulate the heart, and he was wrong to infer from this the fact that there were some Christians.
468. No other religion has proposed to men to hate themselves. No other religion, then, can please those who hate themselves, and who seek a Being truly lovable. And these, if they had never heard of the religion of a God humiliated, would embrace it at once.
469. I feel that I might not have been; for the Ego consists in my thoughts. Therefore I, who think, would not have been, if my mother had been killed before I had life. I am not, then, a necessary being. In the same way I am not eternal or infinite; but I see plainly that there exists in nature a necessary Being, eternal and infinite.
470. “Had I seen a miracle,” say men, “I should become converted.” How can they be sure they would do a thing of the nature of which they are ignorant? They imagine that this conversion consists in a worship of God which is like commerce, and in a communion such as they picture to themselves. True religion consists in annihilating self before that Universal Being, whom we have so often provoked, and who can justly destroy us at any time; in recognising that we can do nothing without Him, and have deserved nothing from Him but His displeasure. It consists in knowing that there is an unconquerable opposition between us and God, and that without a mediator there can be no communion with Him.
471. It is unjust that men should attach themselves to me, even though they do it with pleasure and voluntarily. I should deceive those in whom I had created this desire; for I am not the end of any, and I have not the wherewithal to satisfy them. Am I not about to die? And thus the object of their attachment will die. Therefore, as I would be blamable in causing a falsehood to be believed, though I should employ gentle persuasion, though it should be believed with pleasure, and though it should give me pleasure; even so I am blamable in making myself loved and if I attract persons to attach themselves to me. I ought to warn those who are ready to consent to a lie that they ought not to believe it, whatever advantage comes to me from it; and likewise that they ought not to attach themselves to me; for they ought to spend their life and their care in pleasing God, or in seeking Him.
472. Self-will will never be satisfied, though it should have command of all it would; but we are satisfied from the moment we renounce it. Without it we cannot be discontented; with it we cannot be content.
473. Let us imagine a body full of thinking members.
474. Members. To commence with that. — To regulate the love which we owe to ourselves, we must imagine a body full of thinking members, for we are members of the whole, and must see how each member should love itself, etc….
475. If the feet and the hands had a will of their own, they could only be in their order in submitting this particular will to the primary will which governs the whole body. Apart from that, they are in disorder and mischief; but in willing only the good of the body, they accomplish their own good.
476. We must love God only and hate self only.
If the foot had always been ignorant that it belonged to the body, and that there was a body on which it depended, if it had only had the knowledge and the love of self, and if it came to know that it belonged to a body on which it depended, what regret, what shame for its past life, for having been useless to the body which inspired its life, which would have annihilated it if it had rejected it and separated it from itself, as it kept itself apart from the body! What prayers for its preservation in it! And with what submission would it allow itself to be governed by the will which rules the body, even to consenting, if necessary, to be cut off, or it would lose its character as member! For every member must be quite willing to perish for the body, for which alone the whole is.
477. It is false that we are worthy of the love of others; it is unfair that we should desire it. If we were born reasonable and impartial, knowing ourselves and others, we should not give this bias to our will. However, we are born with it; therefore born unjust, for all tends to self. This is contrary to all order. We must consider the general good; and the propensity to self is the beginning of all disorder, in war, in politics, in economy, and in the particular body of man. The will is therefore depraved.
If the members of natural and civil communities tend towards the weal of the body, the communities themselves ought to look to another more general body of which they are members. We ought, therefore, to look to the whole. We are, therefore, born unjust and depraved.
478. When we want to think of God, is there nothing which turns us away, and tempts us to think of something else? All this is bad, and is born in us.
479. If there is a God, we must love Him only and not the creatures of a day. The reasoning of the ungodly in the Book of Wisdom is only based upon the nonexistence of God. “On that supposition,” say they, “let us take delight in the creatures.” That is the worst that can happen. But if there were a God to love, they would not have come to this conclusion, but to quite the contrary. And this is the conclusion of the wise: “There is a God; let us therefore not take delight in the creatures.”
Therefore all that incites us to attach ourselves to the creatures is bad; since it prevents us from serving God if we know Him, or from seeking Him if we know Him not. Now we are full of lust. Therefore we are full of evil; therefore we ought to hate ourselves and all that excited us to attach ourselves to any other object than God only.
480. To make the members happy, they must have one will and submit it to the body.
481. The examples of the noble deaths of the Lacedaemonians and others scarce touch us. For what good is it to us? But the example of the death of the martyrs touches us; for they are “our members.” We have a common tie with them. Their resolution can form ours, not only by example, but because it has perhaps deserved ours. There is nothing of this in the examples of the heathen. We have no tie with them; as we do not become rich by seeing a stranger who is so, but in fact by seeing a father or a husband who is so.
482. Morality. — God having made the heavens and the earth, which do not feel the happiness of their being, He has willed to make beings who should know it, and who should compose a body of thinking members. For our members do not feel the happiness of their union, of their wonderful intelligence, of the care which has been taken to infuse into them minds, and to make them grow and endure. How happy they would be if they saw and felt it! But for this they would need to have intelligence to know it, and good-will to consent to that of the universal soul. But if, having received intelligence, they employed it to retain nourishment for themselves without allowing it to pass to the other members, they would be not only unjust, but also miserable, and would hate rather than love themselves; their blessedness, as well as their duty, consisting in their consent to the guidance of the whole soul to which they belong, which loves them better than they love themselves.
483. To be a member is to have neither life, being, nor movement, except through the spirit of the body, and for the body.
The separate member, seeing no longer the body to which it belongs, has only a perishing and dying existence. Yet it believes it is a whole, and, seeing not the body on which it depends, it believes it depends only on self and desires to make itself both centre and body. But not having in itself a principle of life, it only goes astray and is astonished in the uncertainty of its being; perceiving in fact that it is not a body, and still not seeing that it is a member of a body. In short, when it comes to know itself, it has returned, as it were, to its own home, and loves itself only for the body. It deplores its past wanderings.
It cannot by its nature love any other thing, except for itself and to subject it to self, because each thing loves itself more than all. But, in loving the body, it loves itself, because it only exists in it, by it, and for it. Qui adhaeret Deo unus spiritus est.[I Cor. 6. 17. “But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.”]
The body loves the hand; and the hand, if it had a will, should love itself in the same way as it is loved by the soul. All love which goes beyond this is unfair.
Adhaerens Deo unus spiritus est. We love ourselves, because we are members of Jesus Christ. We love Jesus Christ, because He is the body of which we are members. All is one, one is in the other, like the Three Persons.
484. Two laws suffice to rule the whole Christian Republic better than all the laws of statecraft.
485. The true and only virtue, then, is to hate self (for we are hateful on account of lust) and to seek a truly lovable being to love. But as we cannot love what is outside ourselves, we must love a being who is in us and is not ourselves; and that is true of each and all men. Now, only the Universal Being is such. The kingdom of God is within us; the universal good is within us, is ourselves- and not ourselves.
486. The dignity of man in his innocence consisted in using and having dominion over the creatures, but now in separating himself from them and subjecting himself to them.
487. Every religion is false which, as to its faith, does not worship one God as the origin of everything and which, as to its morality, does not love one only God as the object of everything.
488…. But it is impossible that God should ever be the end, if He is not the beginning. We lift our eyes on high, but lean upon the sand; and the earth will dissolve, and we shall fall whilst looking at the heavens.
489. If there is one sole source of everything, there is one sole end of everything; everything through Him, everything for Him. The true religion, then, must teach us to worship Him only, and to love Him only. But as we find ourselves unable to worship what we know not, and to love any other object but ourselves, the religion which instructs us in these duties must instruct us also of this inability, and teach us also the remedies for it. It teaches us that by one man all was lost, and the bond broken between God and us, and that by one man the bond is renewed.
We are born so averse to this love of God, and it is so necessary, that we must be born guilty, or God would be unjust.
490. Men, not being accustomed to form merit, but only to recompense it where they find it formed, judge of God by themselves.
491. The true religion must have as a characteristic the obligation to love God. This is very just, and yet no other religion has commanded this; ours has done so. It must also be aware of human lust and weakness; ours is so. It must have adduced remedies for this; one is prayer. No other religion has asked of God to love and follow Him.
492. He who hates not in himself his self-love, and that instinct which leads him to make himself God, is indeed blinded. Who does not see that there is nothing so opposed to justice and truth? For it is false that we deserve this, and it is unfair and impossible to attain it, since all demand the same thing. It is, then, a manifest injustice which is innate in us, of which we cannot get rid, and of which we must get rid.
Yet no religion has indicated that this was a sin; or that we were born in it; or that we were obliged to resist it; or has thought of giving us remedies for it.
493. The true religion teaches our duties; our weaknesses, pride, and lust; and the remedies, humility and mortification.
494. The true religion must teach greatness and misery; must lead to the esteem and contempt of self, to love and to hate.
495. If it is an extraordinary blindness to live without investigating what we are, it is a terrible one to live an evil life, while believing in God.
496. Experience makes us see an enormous difference between piety and goodness.
497. Against those who, trusting to the mercy of God, live heedlessly, without doing good works. — As the two sources of our sins are pride and sloth, God has revealed to us two of His attributes to cure them, mercy and justice. The property of justice is to humble pride, however holy may be our works, et non intres injudicium, etc.; and the property of mercy is to combat sloth by exhorting to good works, according to that passage: “The goodness of God leadeth to repentance, and that other of the Ninevites: “Let us do penance to see if peradventure He will pity us.” And thus mercy is so far from authorising slackness that it is on the contrary the quality which formally attacks it; so that instead of saying, “If there were no mercy in God we should have to make every kind of effort after virtue,” we must say, on the contrary, that it is because there is mercy in God that we must make every kind of effort.
498. It is true there is difficulty in entering into godliness. But this difficulty does not arise from the religion which begins in us, but from the irreligion which is still there. If our senses were not opposed to penitence, and if our corruption were not opposed to the purity of God, there would be nothing in this painful to us. We suffer only in proportion as the vice which is natural to us resists supernatural grace. Our heart feels torn asunder between these opposed efforts. But it would be very unfair to impute this violence to God, who is drawing us on, instead of to the world, which is holding us back. It is as a child, which a mother tears from the arms of robbers, in the pain it suffers, should love the loving and legitimate violence of her who procures its liberty, and detest only the impetuous and tyrannical violence of those who detain it unjustly. The most cruel war which God can make with men in this life is to leave them without that war which He came to bring. “I came to send war,” He says, “and to teach them of this war. I came to bring fire and the sword.” Before Him the world lived in this false peace.
499. External works. — There nothing so perilous as what pleases God and man. For those states, which please God and man, have one property which pleases God, and another which pleases men; as the greatness of Saint Teresa. What pleased God was her deep humility in the midst of her revelations; what pleased men was her light. And so we torment ourselves to imitate her discourses, thinking to imitate her conditions, and not so much to love what God loves and to put ourselves in the state which God loves.
It is better not to fast, and be thereby humbled, than to fast and be self-satisfied therewith. The Pharisee and the Publican.
What use will memory be to me, if it can alike hurt and help me, and all depends upon the blessing of God, who gives only to things done for Him, according to His rules and in His ways, the manner being thus as important as the thing and perhaps more; since God can bring forth good out of evil, and without God we bring forth evil out of good?
500. The meaning of the words, good and evil.
501. First step: to be blamed for doing evil, and praised for doing good.
Second step: to be neither praised nor blamed.
502. Abraham took nothing for himself, but only for his servants. So the righteous man takes for himself nothing of the world, nor of the applause of the world, but only for his passions, which he uses as their master, saying to the one, “Go,” and to another, “Come.” Sub te erit appetitus tuus. [Gen. 4. 7. “Unto thee shall be his desire.”] The passions thus subdued are virtues. Even God attributes to Himself avarice, jealousy, anger; and these are virtues as well as kindness, pity, constancy, which are also passions. We must employ them as slaves, and, leaving to them their food, prevent the soul from taking any of it, For, when the passions become masters, they are vices; and they give their nutriment to the soul, and the soul nourishes itself upon it and is poisoned.
503. Philosophers have consecrated the vices by placing them in God Himself. Christians have consecrated the virtues.
504. The just man acts by faith in the least things; when he reproves his servants, he desires their conversion by the Spirit of God, and prays God to correct them; and he expects as much from God as from his own reproofs, and prays God to bless his corrections. And so in all his other actions he proceeds with the Spirit of God; and his actions deceive us by reason of the… or suspension of the Spirit of God in him; and he repents in his affliction.
505. All things can be deadly to us, even the things made to serve us; as in nature walls can kill us, and stairs can kill us, if we do not walk circumspectly.
The least movement affects all nature; the entire sea changes because of a rock. Thus, in grace, the least action affects everything by its consequences; therefore everything is important.
In each action we must look beyond the action at our past, present, and future state, and at others whom it affects, and see the relations of all those things. And then we shall be very cautious.
506. Let God not impute to us our sins, that is to say, all the consequences and results of our sins, which are dreadful, even those of the smallest faults, if we wish to follow them out mercilessly!
507. The spirit of grace; the hardness of the heart; external circumstances.
508. Grace is indeed needed to turn a man into a saint; and he who doubts it does not know what a saint or a man is.
509. Philosophers. — A fine thing to cry to a man who does not know himself, that he should come of himself to God! And a fine thing to say so to a man who does know himself!
510. Man is not worthy of God, but he is not incapable of being made worthy.
It is unworthy of God to unite Himself to wretched man; but it is not unworthy of God to pull him out of his misery.
511. If we would say that man is too insignificant to deserve communion with God, we must indeed be very great to judge of it.
512. It is, in peculiar phraseology, wholly the body of Jesus Christ, but it cannot be said to be the whole body of Jesus Christ. The union of two things without change does not enable us to say that one becomes the other; the soul thus being united to the body, the fire to the timber, without change. But change is necessary to make the form of the one become the form of the other; thus the union of the Word to man. Because my body without my soul would not make the body of a man; therefore my soul united to any matter whatsoever will make my body. It does not distinguish the necessary condition from the sufficient condition; the union is necessary, but not sufficient. The left arm is not the right.
Impenetrability is a property of matter.
Identity de numero in regard to the same time requires the identity of matter.
Thus if God united my soul to a body in China, the same body, idem numero would be in China.
The same river which runs there is idem numero as that which runs at the same time in China.
513. Why God has established prayer.
1. To communicate to His creatures the dignity of causality.
2. To teach us from whom our virtue comes.
3. To make us deserve other virtues by work.
(But to keep His own pre-eminence, He grants prayer to whom He pleases.)
Objection: But we believe that we hold prayer of ourselves.
This is absurd; for since, though having faith, we cannot have virtues, how should we have faith? Is there a greater distance between infidelity and faith than between faith and virtue?
Merit. This word is ambiguous.
Meruit habere Redemptorem. [Office for Holy Saturday. “Which won for us a Saviour.”]
Meruit tam sacra membra tangere. [Office for Good Friday. “Which won for us God’s hallowed members to embrace.”]
Digno tam sacra membra tangere. [Hymn Vexilla regis. “Worthy God’s hallowed members to embrace.”]
Non sum dignus. [Luke 7. 6 “I am not worthy.”]
Qui manducat indignus.[I Cor. 11. 29. “Who eateth unworthily.”]Dignus est accipere. [Rev. 4. 11. “Thou art worthy to receive.”]
Dignare me.[Office of the Holy Virgin. “Make me worthy.”]
God is only bound according to His promises. He has promised to grant justice to prayers; He has never promised prayer only to the children of promise.
Saint Augustine has distinctly said that strength would be taken away from the righteous. But it is by chance that he said it; for it might have happened that the occasion of saying it did not present itself. But his principles make us see that, when the occasion for it presented itself, it was impossible that he should not say it, or that he should say anything to the contrary. It is then rather that he was forced to say it, when the occasion presented itself, than that he said it, when the occasion presented itself, the one being of necessity, the other of chance. But the two are all that we can ask.
514. “Work out your own salvation with fear.”
Proofs of prayer. Petenti dabitur.[Matthew, 7. 7, “Ask and it shall be given you.”]
Therefore it is in our power to ask. On the other hand, there is God. So it is not in our power, since the obtaining of (the grace) to pray to Him is not in our power. For since salvation is not in us, and the obtaining of such grace is from Him, prayer is not in our power.
The righteous man should then hope no more in God, for he ought not to hope, but to strive to obtain what he wants.
Let us conclude then that, since man is now unrighteous since the first sin, and God is unwilling that he should thereby not be estranged from Him, it is only by a first effect that he is not estranged.
Therefore, those who depart from God have not this first effect without which they are not estranged from God, and those who do not depart from God have this first effect. Therefore, those whom we have seen possessed for some time of grace by this first effect, cease to pray, for want of this first effect.
Then God abandons the first in this sense.
515. The elect will be ignorant of their virtues, and the outcast of the greatness of their sins: “Lord, when saw we Thee an hungered, thirsty”? etc.
516. Romans 3. 27. Boasting is excluded. By what law? Of works? Nay, but by faith. Then faith is not within our power like the deeds of the law, and it is given to us in another way.
517. Comfort yourselves. It is not from yourselves that you should expect grace; but, on the contrary, it is in expecting nothing from yourselves that you must hope for it.
518. Every condition, and even the martyrs, have to fear, according to Scripture. The greatest pain of purgatory is the uncertainty of the judgement. Deus absconditus.[Is. 45. 15.]
519. John 8.Multi crediderunt in eum. Dicebat ergo Jesus: “Si manseritis…VERE mei discipuli eritis, et VERITAS LIBERABIT VOS.”Responderunt: “Semen Abrahae sumus, et nemini servimus unquam.” [John 8. 30-33. “Many believed on him. Then Jesus said: ‘If ye continue… then ye are my disciples indeed, and the truth shall make you free.’ They answered him: ‘We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man.'”]
There is a great difference between disciples and true disciples. We recognise them by telling them that the truth will make them free; for if they answer that they are free and that it is in their power to come out of slavery to the devil, they are indeed disciples, but not true disciples.
520. The law has not destroyed nature, but has instructed it; grace has not destroyed the law, but has made it act. Faith received at baptism is the source of the whole life of Christians and of the converted.
521. Grace will always be in the world, and nature also; so that the former is in some sort natural. And thus there will always be Pelagians, and always Catholics, and always strife; because the first birth makes the one, and the grace of the second birth the other.
522. The law imposed what it did not give. Grace gives what it imposes.
523. All faith consists in Jesus Christ and in Adam, and all morality in lust and in grace.
524. There is no doctrine more appropriate to man than this, which teaches him his double capacity of receiving and of losing grace, because of the double peril to which he is exposed, of despair or of pride.
525. The philosophers did not prescribe feelings suitable to the two states.
They inspired feelings of pure greatness, and that is not man’s state.
They inspired feelings of pure littleness, and that is not man’s state.
There must be feelings of humility, not from nature, but from penitence, not to rest in them, but to go on to greatness. There must be feelings of greatness, not from merit, but from grace, and after having passed through humiliation.
526. Misery induces despair, pride induces presumption. The Incarnation shows man the greatness of his misery by the greatness of the remedy which he required.
527. The knowledge of God without that of man’s misery causes pride. The knowledge of man’s misery without that of God causes despair. The knowledge of Jesus Christ constitutes the middle course, because in Him we find both God and our misery.
528. Jesus Christ is a God whom we approach without pride and before whom we humble ourselves without despair.
529…. Not a degradation which renders us incapable of good, nor a holiness exempt from evil.
530. A person told me one day that on coming from confession he felt great joy and confidence. Another told me that he remained in fear. Whereupon I thought that these two together would make one good man, and that each was wanting in that he had not the feeling of the other. The same often happens in other things.
531. He who knows the will of his master will be beaten with more blows, because of the power he has by his knowledge. Qui justus est, justificetur adhuc, [Rev. 22. 11. “He that is righteous, let him be righteous still.”] because of the power he has by justice. From him who has received most, will the greatest reckoning be demanded, because of the power he has by this help.
532. Scripture has provided passages of consolation and of warning for all conditions.
Nature seems to have done the same thing by her two infinities, natural and moral; for we shall always have the higher and the lower, the more clever and the less clever, the most exalted and the meanest, in order to humble our pride and exalt our humility.
533. Comminutum cor (Saint Paul) This is the Christian character. Alba has named you, I know you no more (Corneille). That is the inhuman character. The human character is the opposite.
534. There are only two kinds of men: the righteous who believe themselves sinners; the rest, sinners, who believe themselves righteous.
535. We owe a great debt to those who point out faults. For they mortify us. They teach us that we have been despised. They do not prevent our being so in the future; for we have many other faults for which we may be despised. They prepare for us the exercise of correction and freedom from fault.
536. Man is so made that by continually telling him he is a fool he believes it, and by continually telling it to himself he makes himself believe it. For man holds an inward talk with his self alone, which it behoves him to regulate well: Corrumpunt bonos mores colloquia prava. [I Cor. 15. 33. “Evil communications corrupt good manners.”] We must keep silent as much as possible and talk with ourselves only of God, whom we know to be true; and thus we convince ourselves of the truth.
537. Christianity is strange. It bids man recognise that he is vile, even abominable, and bids him desire to be like God. Without such a counterpoise, this dignity would make him horribly vain, or this humiliation would make him terribly abject.
538. With how little pride does a Christian believe himself united to God! With how little humiliation does he place himself on a level with the worms of earth!
A glorious manner to welcome life and death, good and evil!
539. What difference in point of obedience is there between a soldier and a Carthusian monk? For both are equally under obedience and dependent, both engaged in equally painful exercises. But the soldier always hopes to command and never attains this, for even captains and princes are ever slaves and dependants; still he ever hopes and ever works to attain this. Whereas the Carthusian monk makes a vow to be always dependent. So they do not differ in their perpetual thraldom, in which both of them always exist, but in the hope, which one always has, and the other never.
540. The hope which Christians have of possessing an infinite good is mingled with real enjoyment as well as with fear; for it is not as with those who should hope for a kingdom, of which they, being subjects, would have nothing; but they hope for holiness, for freedom from injustice, and they have something of this.
541. None is so happy as a true Christian, nor so reasonable, virtuous, or amiable.
542. The Christian religion alone makes man altogether lovable and happy. In honesty, we cannot perhaps be altogether lovable and happy.
543. Preface. — The metaphysical proofs of God are so remote from the reasoning of men, and so complicated, that they make little impression; and if they should be of service to some, it would be only during the moment that they see such demonstration; but an hour afterwards they fear they have been mistaken.
Quod curiositate cognoverunt superbia amiserunt.[“What they have found by their curiosity, they have lost by their pride.” Quod curiositate invenerunt, superbia perdiderunt. St. Augustine, Sermon cxli.]
This is the result of the knowledge of God obtained without Jesus Christ; it is communion without a mediator with the God whom they have known without a mediator. Whereas those who have known God by a mediator know their own wretchedness.
544. The God of the Christians is a God who makes the soul feel that He is her only good, that her only rest is in Him, that her only delight is in loving Him; and who makes her at the same time abhor the obstacles which keep her back and prevent her from loving God with all her strength. Self-love and lust, which hinder us, are unbearable to her. Thus God makes her feel that she has this root of self-love which destroys her, and which He alone can cure.
545. Jesus Christ did nothing but teach men that they loved themselves, that they were slaves, blind, sick, wretched, and sinners; that He must deliver them, enlighten, bless, and heal them; that this would be effected by hating self, and by following Him through suffering and the death on the cross.
546. Without Jesus Christ man must be in vice and misery; with Jesus Christ man is free from vice and misery; in Him is all our virtue and all our happiness. Apart from Him there is but vice, misery, darkness, death, despair.
547. We know God only by Jesus Christ. Without this mediator, all communion with God is taken away; through Jesus Christ we know God. All those who have claimed to know God, and to prove Him without Jesus Christ, have had only weak proofs. But in proof of Jesus Christ we have the prophecies, which are solid and palpable proofs. And these prophecies, being accomplished and proved true by the event, mark the certainty of these truths and, therefore, the divinity of Christ. In Him, then, and through Him, we know God. Apart from Him, and without the Scripture, without original sin, without a necessary mediator promised and come, we cannot absolutely prove God, nor teach right doctrine and right morality. But through Jesus Christ, and in Jesus Christ, we prove God, and teach morality and doctrine. Jesus Christ is, then, the true God of men.
But we know at the same time our wretchedness; for this God is none other than the Saviour of our wretchedness. So we can only know God well by knowing our iniquities. Therefore those who have known God, without knowing their wretchedness, have not glorified Him, but have glorified themselves. Quia… non cognovit per sapientiam… placuit Deo per stultitiam praedicationis salvos facere.[I Cor. 1. 21. “Which… by wisdom knew not… it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.”]
548. Not only do we know God by Jesus Christ alone, but we know ourselves only by Jesus Christ. We know life and death only through Jesus Christ. Apart from Jesus Christ, we do not know what is our life, nor our death, nor God, nor ourselves.
Thus without the Scripture, which has Jesus Christ alone for its object, we know nothing, and see only darkness and confusion in the nature of God and in our own nature.
549. It is not only impossible but useless to know God without Jesus Christ. They have not departed from Him, but approached; they have not humbled themselves, but…
Quo quisque optimus est, pessimus, si hoc ipsum, quod optimus est, adscribat sibi.[St. Bernard, Sermones in Cantica Canticorum, lxxxiv. “The better one is, the worse one becomes, if one attributes the cause of this goodness to one’s self.”]
550. I love poverty because He loved it. I love riches because they afford me the means of helping the very poor. I keep faith with everybody; I do not render evil to those who wrong me, but I wish them a lot like mine, in which I receive neither evil nor good from men. I try to be just, true, sincere, and faithful to all men; I have a tender heart for those to whom God has more closely united me; and whether I am alone, or seen of men, I do all my actions in the sight of God, who must judge of them, and to whom I have consecrated them all.
These are my sentiments; and every day of my life I bless my Redeemer, who has implanted them in me, and who, of a man full of weakness, of miseries, of lust, of pride, and of ambition, has made a man free from all these evils by the power of His grace, to which all the glory of it is due, as of myself I have only misery and error.
551. Dignior plagis quam osculis non timeo quia amo. [Ibid. “Meriting blows more than kisses, I fear not, because I love.”]
552. The Sepulchre of Jesus Christ. — Jesus Christ was dead, but seen on the Cross. He was dead, and hidden in the Sepulchre.
Jesus Christ was buried by the saints alone.
Jesus Christ wrought no miracle at the Sepulchre.
Only the saints entered it.
It is there, not on the Cross, that Jesus Christ takes a new life.
It is the last mystery of the Passion and the Redemption.
Jesus Christ had nowhere to rest on earth but in the Sepulchre. His enemies only ceased to persecute Him at the Sepulchre.
553. The Mystery of Jesus. — Jesus suffers in His passions the torments which men inflict upon Him; but in His agony He suffers the torments which He inflicts on himself; turbare semetipsum.[John 11. 33. Et turbarit seipsum. “And he troubled himself.”] This is a suffering from no human, but an almighty hand, for He must be almighty to bear it.
Jesus seeks some comfort at least in His three dearest friends, and they are asleep. He prays them to bear with Him for a little, and they leave Him with entire indifference, having so little compassion that it could not prevent their sleeping even for a moment. And thus Jesus was left alone to the wrath of God.
Jesus is alone on the earth, without any one not only to feel and share His suffering, but even to know of it; He and Heaven were alone in that knowledge.
Jesus is in a garden, not of delight as the first Adam, where he lost himself and the whole human race, but in one of agony, where He saved himself and the whole human race.
He suffers this affliction and this desertion in the horror of night.
I believe that Jesus never complained but on this single occasion; but then He complained as if he could no longer bear His extreme suffering. “My soul is sorrowful, even unto death.”
Jesus seeks companionship and comfort from men. This is the sole occasion in all His life, as it seems to me. But He receives it not, for His disciples are asleep. Jesus will be in agony even to the end of the world. We must not sleep during that time.
Jesus, in the midst of this universal desertion, including that of His own friends chosen to watch with Him, finding them asleep, is vexed because of the danger to which they expose, not Him, but themselves; He cautions them for their own safety and their own good, with a sincere tenderness for them during their ingratitude, and warns them that the spirit is willing and the flesh weak.
Jesus, finding them still asleep, without being restrained by any consideration for themselves or for Him, has the kindness not to waken them and leaves them in repose.
Jesus prays, uncertain of the will of His Father, and fears death; but, when He knows it, He goes forward to offer Himself to death. Eamus. [Matt. 26. 46. “Let us be going.”] Processit (John).[18.2. “Jesus went forth.”]
Jesus asked of men and was not heard.
Jesus, while His disciples slept, wrought their salvation. He has wrought that of each of the righteous while they slept, both in their nothingness before their birth, and in their sins after their birth.
He prays only once that the cup pass away, and then with submission; and twice that it come if necessary.
Jesus is weary.
Jesus, seeing all His friends asleep and all His enemies wakeful, commits Himself entirely to His Father.
Jesus does not regard in Judas his enmity, but the order of God, which He loves and admits, since He calls him friend.
Jesus tears Himself away from His disciples to enter into His agony; we must tear ourselves away from our nearest and dearest to imitate Him.
Jesus being in agony and in the greatest affliction, let us pray longer.
We implore the mercy of God, not that He may leave us at peace in our vices, that He may deliver us from them.
If God gave us masters by His own hand, oh! how necessary for us to obey them with a good heart! Necessity and events follow infallibly.
“Console thyself, thou wouldst not seek Me, if thou hadst not found Me.
“I thought of thee in Mine agony, I have sweated such drops of blood for thee.
“It is tempting Me rather than proving thyself, to think if thou wouldst do such and such a thing on an occasion which has not happened; I shall act in thee if it occur.
“Let thyself be guided by My rules; see how well I have led the Virgin and the saints who have let Me act in them.
“The Father loves all that I do.
“Dost thou wish that it always cost Me the blood of My humanity, without thy shedding tears?
“Thy conversion is My affair; fear not, and pray with confidence as for Me.
“I am present with thee by My Word in Scripture, by My Spirit in the Church and by inspiration, by My power in the priests, by My prayer in the faithful.
“Physicians will not heal thee, for thou wilt die at last. But it is I who heal thee and make the body immortal.
“Suffer bodily chains and servitude, I deliver thee at present only from spiritual servitude.
“I am more a friend to thee than such and such an one, for I have done for thee more then they; they would not have suffered what I have suffered from thee, and they would not have died for thee as I have done in the time of thine infidelities and cruelties, and as I am ready to do, and do, among My elect and at the Holy Sacrament.”
“If thou knewest thy sins, thou wouldst lose heart.”
I shall lose it then, Lord, for on Thy assurance I believe their malice.
“No, for I, by whom thou learnest, can heal thee of them, and what I say to thee is a sign that I will heal thee. In proportion to thy expiation of them, thou wilt know them, and it will be said to thee: ‘Behold thy sins are forgiven thee.’ Repent, then, for thy hidden sins, and for the secret malice of those which thou knowest.”
Lord, I give Thee all.
“I love thee more ardently than thou hast loved thine abominations, ut immundus pro luto.
“To Me be the glory, not to thee, worm of the earth.
“Ask thy confessor, when My own words are to thee occasion of evil, vanity, or curiosity.”
I see in me depths of pride, curiosity, and lust. There is no relation between me and God, nor Jesus Christ the Righteous. But He has been made sin for me; all Thy scourges are fallen upon Him. He is more abominable than I, and, far from abhorring me, He holds Himself honoured that I go to Him and succour Him.
But He has healed Himself, and still more so will He heal me.
I must add my wounds to His, and join myself to Him; and He will save me in saving Himself. But this must not be postponed to the future.
Eritis sicut dii scientes bonum et malum. [Gen. 3. 5. “Ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.”] Each one creates his god, when judging, “This is good or bad”; and men mourn or rejoice too much at events.
Do little things as though they were great, because of the majesty of Jesus Christ who does them in us and who lives our life; and do the greatest things as though they were little and easy, because of His omnipotence.
554. It seems to me that Jesus Christ only allowed His wounds to be touched after His resurrection: Noli me tangere. [John 20. 17. “Touch me not.”] We must unite ourselves only to His sufferings.
At the Last Supper He gave Himself in communion as about to die; to the disciples at Emmaus as risen from the dead; to the whole Church as ascended into heaven.
555. “Compare not thyself with others, but with Me. If thou dost not find Me in those with whom thou comparest thyself, thou comparest thyself to one who is abominable. If thou findest Me in them, compare thyself to Me. But whom wilt thou compare? Thyself, or Me in thee? If it is thyself, it is one who is abominable. If it is I, thou comparest Me to Myself. Now I am God in all.
“I speak to thee, and often counsel thee, because thy director cannot speak to thee, for I do not want thee to lack a guide.
“And perhaps I do so at his prayers, and thus he leads thee without thy seeing it. Thou wouldst not seek Me, if thou didst not possess Me.
“Be not therefore troubled.”