Front Page Titles (by Subject) PROOFS OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION. - The Thoughts of Blaise Pascal
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PROOFS OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION. - 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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PROOFS OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION.
PROOFS of Religion.
Proof.—1. The Christian religion having established itself so strongly, yet so quietly, whilst contrary to nature.—2. The sanctity, the dignity, and the humility of a Christian soul.—3. The wonders of holy Scripture.—4. Jesus Christ in particular.—5. The apostles in particular.—6. Moses and the prophets in particular.—7. The Jewish people.—8. The prophecies.—9. Perpetuity. No religion has perpetuity.—10. The doctrine which explains all.—11. The sanctity of this law.—12. By the course of the world.
It is beyond doubt that after considering what is life and what is religion we cannot refuse to act on the inclination to follow it, if it comes into our heart, and it is certain there is no ground for jeering at those who follow it.
The general conduct of the world towards the Church.—God willing both to blind and enlighten.—The event having proved that these prophecies were divine, the remainder ought to be believed, and hence we see that the order of the world is on this manner.
The miracles of the creation and the deluge being forgotten, God sent the law and the miracles of Moses, the prophets who prophesied particular things, and to prepare an abiding miracle he prepares prophecies and their fulfilment. But as the prophecies might be suspected he wishes to make them beyond suspicion, etc.
. . . But even those who seem most opposed to the glory of religion are not in that respect useless for others. We draw from them the first argument, that here is something supernatural, for a blindness of that kind is not natural, and if their folly renders them so opposed to their own good, it will serve to guarantee others against it, by the horror of an example so deplorable, and a folly so worthy of compassion.
. . . Men revile what they do not understand. The Christian religion consists in two points. It is of equal moment to men to know them both, and equally dangerous to ignore either. And it is equally of God’s mercy that he has given marks of both.
Yet they take occasion to conclude that one of these points does not exist from that which is intended to make them certain of the other. Those sages who have said there is a God have been persecuted, the Jews were hated, and still more the Christians. They saw by the light of nature, that if there be a true religion on earth, the course of all things must tend to it as to a centre. And on this ground they venture to revile the Christian religion because they misunderstand it. They imagine that it consists simply in the adoration of a God conceived as great, powerful and eternal; which is in fact deism, almost as far removed from the Christian religion as atheism, its exact opposite. And hence they infer the falsehood of our religion, because they do not see that all things concur to the establishment of this point, that God does not manifest himself to man with all the evidence which is possible.
But let them conclude what they will against deism, they can conclude nothing on that account against the Christian religion, which properly consists in the mystery of the Redeemer, who, uniting in himself the two natures human and divine, has withdrawn men from the corruption of sin that he might in his divine person reconcile them to God.
True religion then teaches these two truths to men, that there is a God whom they are capable of knowing, and that there is such corruption in their nature as to render them unworthy of him. It is of equal importance to men that they should apprehend the one and the other of these points, and it is alike dangerous for man to know God without the knowledge of his own worthlessness, and to know his own worthlessness without the knowledge of the Redeemer who may deliver him from it. To apprehend the one without the other begets either the pride of philosophers, who knew God, but not their own wretchedness; or the despair of atheists, who know their own wretchedness, but not the Redeemer. And as it is alike necessary for man to know these two points, so it is alike of the mercy of God to have given us the knowledge. The Christian religion does this; it is in this that it consists. Let us herein examine the order of the world, and see if all things do not tend to establish these two main points of our Religion.
It is a remarkable fact that no canonical writer has ever employed nature to prove God. All tend to make him be believed. David, Solomon and others have never said: “There is no vacuum, therefore there is a God.” They must have been cleverer than the cleverest in after days who have all used this argument.
This is well worth considering.
If it be a mark of weakness to prove God by nature, despise not the Scripture for not doing so: if it be a mark of power to know these contradictions, value the Scriptures on that account.
What! Do you not say yourself that the sky and the birds prove God?—No.—And does not your religion say so?—No. For however it may be true in a sense for some souls to whom God has given this light, it is nevertheless false in regard to the majority.
Think you it is impossible that God is infinite, without parts?—Yes—I will then make you see something which is infinite and indivisible. A point moving everywhere with infinite swiftness, for it is in all places, and is whole and entire in each situation.
Perhaps this effect of nature, which seems to you impossible beforehand, may teach you to know that there may be others also which you know not as yet. Do not then draw this conclusion from your apprenticeship, that nothing remains for you to know, but rather that an infinity remains for you to know.
It is incomprehensible that there should be a God, and incomprehensible that there should not be; that there should be a soul in the body, and that we should have no soul; that the world should have been created, and that it should not, etc.; that original sin should be, and that it should not be.
If we choose to say that man is too little to merit communion with God, we must be indeed great to form a judgment on the subject.
The eternal is for ever, if he is at all.
But it impossible that God should ever be the end, if he is not the beginning. We look above, but lean upon the sand, and the earth will melt, and we shall fall whilst looking towards heaven.
Objection. The Scripture is plainly full of matters which were not dictated by the Holy Spirit.
Answer. Then they do no harm to faith.
Objection. But the Church has decided that all is of the Holy Spirit.
Answer. I answer two things: 1. That the Church has never so decided: 2. That if she should so decide it might be maintained.
My God! what trash is all this talk: “Has God made the world but to condemn it? will he ask so much of creatures so weak?” etc. Scepticism is the remedy for this evil, and will lower this vanity.
God has willed to redeem mankind and to open salvation to those who seek him. But men render themselves so unworthy of it, that it is just that God should refuse to some because of their hardness of heart what he grants to others out of a mercy not their due. Had it been his will to overcome the stubbornness of the most hardened, he could have rendered them unable to doubt the truth of his essence, in revealing himself manifestly to them as he will appear at the last day, amid thunderings and lightnings, and so great a convulsion of nature, that the dead will rise again, and the blindest shall see him.
Not thus willed he to appear in his gentle advent, because since so many men make themselves unworthy of his mercy, he willed to leave them deprived of the good which they refuse. It had not then been just that he should appear in a manner plainly divine, and wholly capable of convincing all men, but neither had it been just that he should come in so hidden a manner as not to be recognized by those who sincerely sought him. He has willed to reveal himself wholly to these, and thus willing to appear openly to those who seek him with their whole heart, and to hide himself from those who fly him with all their heart, he has so tempered the knowledge of himself as to give signs of himself visible to those who seek him, and obscure to those who seek him not.
There is enough light for those who wish earnestly to see, and enough obscurity for those of a contrary mind.
Therefore let men recognise the truth of religion in the very obscurity of religion, in the little light we have of it, and in our indifference to the knowledge of it.
The prophecies, the very miracles and proofs of our Religion, are not of such a nature that we can say they are absolutely convincing. But they are also of such a kind, that none can say that it is unreasonable to believe in them. Thus there is both evidence and obscurity to enlighten some and blind others: but the evidence is such that it surpasses or at least equals the evidence to the centrary, so that it is not reason which can determine us not to follow it, and therefore it can only be lust and malice of heart. And by this means there is evidence enough to condemn, and not enough to convince; so it appears in those who follow it, that it is grace and not reason which causes them to follow it; and in those who fly it, it is lust, not reason, which causes them to fly it.
Who can help admiring and embracing a religion which thoroughly knows that which we recognise more and more in proportion to our light?
That God has willed to hide himself.—If there were only one Religion, God would certainly be manifest, so also if there were no martyrs but in our own Religion.
God being thus hidden, every religion which does not say that God is hidden is not the true religion, and every religion which does not show the reason of it is unedifying. Our religion does all this: Vere tu es Deus absconditus.
Religion is so great a thing that it is right that those who will not take the trouble to seek if it be obscure should be deprived of it. Why then should any complain, if it be such as to be found by seeking?
The obscurity would be too great, if truth had not visible signs. This is a marvellous one, that it has always been preserved in a Church and a visible assembly. The clearness would be too great if there were only one opinion in this Church, but to recognise what is true is only to see what has always existed, for it is certain that truth has always existed, and that nothing false has been always in existence.
Recognise then the truth of religion even in the obscurity of religion, in the little light we have of it, and in the indifference we have to its knowledge.
God chooses rather to sway the will than the intellect. Perfect clearness would be useful to the intellect, but would harm the will. To humble pride.
Were there no obscurity man would not be sensible of his corruption; were there no light man would despair of remedy. Thus it is not only just, but useful for us, that God should be partly hidden and partly revealed, because it is equally dangerous for man to know God without the knowledge of his misery, and to know his misery without the knowledge of God.
If the mercy of God is so great that his teaching is salutary even when he hides himself, what great light may we not expect when he reveals himself?
We shall understand nothing of the works of God if we do not take it as a principle that he has willed to blind some and enlighten others.
What say the prophets of Jesus Christ? That he will be manifestly God? No: but that he is a God truly hidden, that he will be misunderstood; that none would think it was he; that he would be a stone of stumbling on which many would fall, etc. Let us no longer then be reproached with want of clearness, since we make profession of it.
But, it is said, there are obscurities.—And without that, no one would have stumbled at Jesus Christ, which is one of the formal announcements of the prophets: Excæca . . .
Instead of complaining that God is hidden, you will give him thanks for having revealed so much of himself; and you will give him thanks again for not having revealed himself to the proudly wise, who are unworthy to know so holy a God.
Two sorts of persons know: those whose heart is humble, and who love lowliness, whatever their order of intellect, whether high or low, and those who have understanding enough to see the truth, whatever opposition they may feel to it.
I may well love total darkness, but if God keep me in a state of semi-obscurity, this partial darkness is unpleasant to me, and because I do not see in it the advantages of total darkness it pleases me not. This is a fault, and a proof that I am making an idol of darkness apart from God’s order. Now his order alone is to be worshipped.
Did the world exist to instruct man concerning God, his divinity would shine out incontestably from every part of it, but as it exists only by Jesus Christ, and for Jesus Christ, and to instruct men concerning their corruption and their redemption, proofs of these two truths start up everywhere.
What is seen does not denote either the total exclusion or the manifest presence of divinity, but the presence of a God who hides himself. All bears this character.
Had nought of God ever appeared, this eternal deprivation would have been equivocal, and might as well be interpreted of the total absence of divinity, as of man’s unworthiness to know him; but by occasional and not continual appearances he has taken away all ambiguity. If he have appeared once, he is for ever, and thus it must be concluded both that there is a God, and that men are unworthy of him.
God, that he may reserve to himself alone the right to instruct us and that he may render the difficulty of our being unintelligible to us, has hidden the knot so high, or rather so low, that we cannot reach it. So that it is not by the efforts of our reason, but by the simple submission of our reason, that we can truly know ourselves.
Wisdom sends us to childhood: nisi efficiaminisicut parvuli.
“A miracle,” says one, “would strengthen my faith.” He says so when he does not see one. Reasons seen from afar seem to limit our view, but as we reach them we begin to see beyond. Nothing stops the activity of our spirit. There is no rule, we say, which has not its exception, no truth so general, but that there is a side on which it is lacking. If it be not absolutely universal, we have a pretext for applying the exception to the matter in hand, and for saying: This is not always true, hence there are cases in which it is not so. It only remains to show that this is one of them. And we must be very awkward or unlucky if we do not find one some day.
Infinite wisdom and wisdom of Religion.
Contradiction is a bad mark of truth.
Much that is certain is contradicted.
Much that is false passes without contradiction.
Contradiction is not a mark of falsehood, nor the want of contradiction a mark of truth.
There is a pleasure in being in a vessel beaten about by a storm, provided we are certain it will not founder. The persecutions which try the Church are of this kind.
The history of the Church should rightly be called the history of truth.
Those who find difficulties of belief seek an excuse in the unbelief of the Jews. “If it was so clear,” say they, “why did not the Jews believe?” And they almost wish the Jews had believed, that they might not be deterred by the example of their refusal. But their very unbelief is the foundation of our faith. We should be much less disposed to believe if they were on our side. We should then have a far more ample pretext. This is the wonderful point, to have made the Jews great lovers of the things foretold, and great enemies of their accomplishment.
What could the Jews, his enemies, do? Receiving him they give proof of him by that reception, for then the Messiah is acknowledged by those to whom was committed the expectation of his coming; rejecting him they prove his truth by that rejection.
On the fact that the Christian Religion does not stand alone.—This is so far from being a reason against believing it the true one that, on the contrary, it proves it to be so.
Those who love not the truth take as a pretext that it is contested, and that a multitude deny it; and thus their error comes from this alone, that they love neither truth nor charity. So they are without excuse.
The wicked who profess to follow reason, ought to be extremely strong in reason.
What then do they say?
Do we not see, say they, beasts live and die like men, and Turks like Christians? They have their ceremonies, their prophets, their doctors, their saints, their religious, as well as we, etc. But how is this contrary to the Scripture? Does it not say all this?
If you care but little to know the truth, here is enough for your peace, but if you desire to know it with your whole heart, this is not enough, look to the details. This would suffice for a question in philosophy, but not here, where your all is concerned. And yet, after a slight meditation of this kind, we shall go off to amuse ourselves, etc. We should acquaint ourselves with this religion; even if it does not disclose the reason for such obscurity, it will perhaps teach it to us.
If God had permitted one only Religion, it would have been too easily recognised. But when we look at it near we can easily see the true through the confusion.
[P. 208, l. 23.]Excæca. Is. vi. 10.
[P. 209, l. 27.]nisi efficiamini. Matt. xviii. 3.