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OF THE TRUE RELIGION AND ITS CHARACTERISTICS. - Blaise Pascal, The Thoughts of Blaise Pascal 
The Thoughts of Blaise Pascal, translated from the text of M. Auguste Molinier by C. Kegan Paul (London: George Bell and Sons, 1901).
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OF THE TRUE RELIGION AND ITS CHARACTERISTICS.
FOR Port Royal. The beginning, after having explained the incomprehensibility.—Since the greatness and the vileness of man are so evident, it is necessary that the true religion should declare both that there is in man some great principle of greatness, and a great principle of vileness.
It must therefore explain these astonishing contradictions.
In order to make man happy, it must show him that there is a God; that we ought to love him; that our true happiness is to be in him, 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 oblige us to love God, and our lusts turn us from him, we are full of injustice. It must explain to us our opposition to God and to our own good; it must teach us the remedies for these infirmities, and the means of obtaining them. We must therefore examine all the religions of the world from this point of view, and see if there be any other than the Christian which is sufficient for this end.
Shall it be that of the philosophers, who proposed as the only good the good which is in ourselves? Is this the true good? Have they found a remedy for our evils? Is the pride of man cured by equalling him with God? Have those who would level us to the brutes, or the Mahomedans who present us with pleasures of the world as the sole good, even in eternity, found any remedy for our lusts? What religion then will teach us to cure our pride and our lust? What religion will teach us our good, our duty, the infirmity which turns us from it, the cause of this infirmity, the remedies which can cure it, and the means of obtaining those remedies? All other religions have failed, let us see what the wisdom of God can do.
“Look neither for truth,” she says, “nor consolation from men. I am she who framed you, and who alone can teach you what you are. But you are not now in the state in which I framed you. I created man holy, innocent, perfect; I filled him with light and intelligence; I communicated to him my glory and my wondrous acts. The eye of man beheld then the majesty of God; he was not then in the darkness which blinds him, nor subject to death and the miseries which afflict him. But he could not bear so great a glory without falling into pride. He would make himself his own centre, and independent of my aid. He withdrew himself from my rule; and when he made himself equal to me by the desire of finding his happiness in himself, I gave him over to self. Then setting in revolt the creatures that were subject to him, I made them his enemies; so that man is now become like the beasts, and removed from me until there scarce remains to him a confused ray of his Creator, so far has all his knowledge become extinguished or disturbed. His senses, never the servants, and often the masters of reason, have carried him astray in pursuit of pleasure. All creatures either torment or tempt him; and have dominion over him, either as they subdue him by their strength, or as they melt him by their charms, a tyranny more terrible and more imperious.
“Such is the present state of man. There remains to him some feeble instinct of the happiness of his primitive nature, and he is plunged in the misery of his blindness and his lusts, which have become his second nature.
“From this principle which I have here laid open to you, you may discern the cause of those contradictions which, while they astonish all men, have divided them among such various opinions. Now mark all the movements of greatness and glory which the trials of so many miseries are unable to stifle, and see if the cause of them must not be in another nature . . .
For Port Royal to-morrow. Prosopopæa.—“It is in vain, O men, that you seek from yourselves the remedy for your miseries. All your light can only enable you to know that not in yourselves will you find truth or good. The Philosophers promised you these, but gave them not. They neither apprehend what is your true good nor what is . . .
“How could they then apply remedies to your diseases, since they did not even know them? Your chief maladies are pride, which alienates you from God, and lust, which binds you down to earth; and they do nought else but nourish one or the other of these disorders. If they presented God as your end it was only done to gratify your pride; by making you think that you are by nature like him and conformed to him. Those who saw the extravagance of such an assertion did but set you on an opposite precipice, by tempting you to believe that your nature was of a piece with that of the beasts, and by inclining you to seek your good in the lusts which are shared by brutes. This is not the way to cure you of your unrighteousness, which these sages never knew. I alone can teach you who you are . . .
“If you are united to God it is by grace, not by nature.
“If you are abased it is by penitence, not by nature. So this twofold capacity . . .
“You are not in the state wherein you were created.
“These two states being presented to you, you cannot but recognise them.
“Follow your own movements, observe yourselves, and see if you do not trace the lively characters of these two natures.
“Could so many contradictions be found in a subject that was simple?”
I do not mean that you should submit your belief to me without reason, neither do I aim at your subjection by tyranny. I do not aim at giving you a reason for everything. And to reconcile these contradictions, I wish to make you see by convincing proofs, those divine tokens in me, which will assure you who I am, and will verify my authority by wonders and proofs which you cannot reject; so that you may then have a reasonable belief in what I teach you, when you find no other ground for refusing it, but that you cannot know of yourselves whether it is true or not.
The true nature of man, his true good, true virtue and true religion are things of which the knowledge is inseparable.
After having understood the whole nature of man.—That a religion may be true, it must show knowledge of our nature. It must know its greatness and meanness, and the cause of both. What religion but the Christian has shown this knowledge?
The true religion teaches our duties; our weaknesses, pride, and lust; and the remedies, humility and mortification.
The true religion must teach greatness and misery; must lead to the esteem and despising of self; to love and to hate.
The note of true religion must be that it obliges man to love his God. This is very right, and yet no other religion than ours has thus commanded; ours has done so. It must also be cognizant of man’s lust and weakness; ours is so. It must have applied remedies for these defects; one is prayer. No other religion has asked of God the power to love and obey him.
If there be one only origin of all things, there must be one only end of all things; all by him, all for him. The true religion then must teach us to adore him only, and to love him only. But since we find ourselves unable to adore what we know not, or to love aught but ourselves, the same 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 has been repaired.
We are born so contrary to this love of God, and it is so necessary that we must be born sinful, or God would be unjust.
Every religion is false which as to its faith does not adore one God as origin of all things, and as to its morals does not love one sole God as the object of all things.
In every religion we must be sincere, true heathens, true Jews, true Christians.