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OF THE TRUE RIGHTEOUS MAN AND OF THE TRUE CHRISTIAN. - 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 RIGHTEOUS MAN AND OF THE TRUE CHRISTIAN.
MEMBERS. To begin 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 see how each member should love itself, etc. . . .
If the feet and the hands had each a separate will they could only be in their order in submitting this separate will to the primary will which governs the whole body. Apart from that they are in disorder and misfortune, but in willing only the good of the body they find their own good.
Morality.—God having made the heavens and the earth, which cannot feel the happiness of their being, he has been pleased 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 admirable intelligence, of the care which nature has taken to infuse into them a mind, and to make them grow and endure. How happy would they be if they could see and feel it. But in order to this they must needs have intelligence to know it, and good will to consent to that of the universal soul. For if, having received intelligence, they used 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 general soul to which they belong, who loves them better than they love themselves.
To be a member, is to have neither life, being, nor movement save by the spirit of the body, and for the body; the separate member, seeing no longer the body to which it belongs, has only a waning 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 wills to constitute 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; fully aware that it is not a body, yet not seeing that it is a member of a body. Then when at last it arrives at the knowledge of self, it has returned as it were to its own home, and loves itself only for the body’s sake, bewailing that in the past it has gone astray.
It cannot by its nature love ought else, if not for itself and to subject it to self, since each thing loves itself above all. But in loving the body it loves itself, because it has no being but in it, by it, and for it. Qui adhæret Deounus spiritus est.
The body loves the hand, and the hand, if it had a will, should love itself in the same proportion as that in which it is loved by the soul. All love beyond this is unjust.
Adhærens 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.
The examples of the noble deaths of the Lacedæmonians and others scarce touch us, for what good do they 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 merited ours . There is nothing of this in the examples of the heathen; there is no bond between us. As we do not become rich by seeing a rich stranger, but by seeing a father or a husband who is so.
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 confusion for the past life, for having been useless to the body from which its whole life was derived, which would have reduced it to nothing if it had rejected it and separated it from itself, as it held itself apart from the body. What prayers for its preservation in the body, with what submission would it allow itself to be governed according to the will which rules the body, even to consent, if need be, that it should be cut off, or it would lose its character of member. For each member must be content to perish for the body, for which alone the whole exists.
To ensure the happiness of the members, they must have one will, and submit it to the body.
It is false that we are worthy of the love of others, it is unjust 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. But we are born with it; we are therefore born unjust, for all tends to self. This is contrary to all order. We should look to the general advantage, and the inclination to self is the beginning of all disorder, in war, in politics, in economy, and in man’s own body.
The will therefore is depraved. If the members of natural and civil communities tend towards the well-being of the body, the communities themselves should tend to the welfare of another more general body of which they are members. We should therefore look to the whole. We are therefore born unjust and depraved.
He who hates not in himself his self-love, and that instinct which leads him to make himself a God, is indeed blinded. All must see that nothing is so opposed to justice and truth. For it is false that we deserve this, and it is unjust and impossible to attain it, since all demand the same. Manifestly then injustice is innate in us, from which we cannot free ourselves, yet from which we ought to free ourselves.
But no religion has pointed out that this is a sin, or that we are born in it, or that we are bound to resist it, or has thought of offering us a cure.
It is unjust that any should attach themselves to me, even though they do it with pleasure, and voluntarily. I should deceive those in whom I aroused this desire, for I am not the final end of any, nor have I that which can satisfy them. Am I not about to die? And thus the object of their attachment will die. Thus as it would be blameworthy in me to cause a falsehood to be believed, though I should gently insinuate it, though it should be believed with pleasure, and though it should give me pleasure; in like manner it is blameworthy in me if I make myself beloved, and if I draw persons to attach themselves to me. I ought to warn those who are ready to consent to a lie, that they should not believe it, whatever advantage accrues to me from it; and in the same way that they should not attach themselves to me; for they ought to spend their life and their pains in pleasing God, or in seeking him.
Self-will never will be satisfied, though it should have power for 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.
To hate self, and to seek a truly lovable being to love, is therefore the true and only virtue, for we are hateful because of lust. But as we cannot love what is outside us, we must love a being which is in us, yet not ourselves, and that is true of each and all men. Now the universal Being is alone such. The Kingdom of God is within us; the universal good is within us, is our very selves, yet not ourselves.
If there be a god we ought to love him alone, and not the creatures of a day. The reasoning of the wicked in the Book of Wisdom is only founded on the non-existence of God. “Given that there is no God,” say they, “let us take delight in the creature. It is because there is nothing better.” But were there a God to love they would not have come to this conclusion, but to the contrary. And this is the conclusion of the wise: “There is a God, therefore we ought not to take delight in the creature.”
Therefore all that leads us to attach ourselves to the creature is evil, because it hinders us from serving God if we know him, and from seeking him if we know him not. Now we are full of lust. Therefore we are full of evil, therefore we should hate ourselves and all which urges us to attach ourselves to aught but God only.
That we must love one God only is a thing so plain, that no miracles are needed to prove it.
That is a good state of the Church in which it is upheld by God alone.
Two laws suffice to regulate the whole Christian republic better than all political laws.
Against those who trusting in the mercy of God live carelessly without doing good works.—As the two sources of our sins are pride and indolence, God has revealed to us two of his attributes for their cure, mercy and justice. The property of justice is to abase our pride, however holy may be our works, et non intres in judicium,etc.; and the property of mercy is to combat indolence by exciting to good works, according to that passage: “The goodness of God leads to repentance,” and that other of the Ninevites: “Let us do penance to see if peradventure he will pity us.” Thus mercy is so far from authorising slackness, that it is on the contrary the quality which formally assails it, so that instead of saying: “Were there not mercy in God, we must make every effort after virtue,” we should say, on the contrary, that because there is mercy in God we must make every effort.
The world exists for the exercise of mercy and judgment, not as if men were in it as they came from the hands of God, but as the enemies of God, to whom he gives by grace light enough to return, if they will seek him and follow him, and to punish them, if they refuse to seek him and follow him.
We implore the mercy of God, not that he may leave us in peace in our vices, but that he may free us from them.
There are but two kinds of men, the righteous, who believe themselves sinners, and sinners, who believe themselves righteous.
There are two kinds of men in each religion.—Among the heathen, worshippers of beasts, and the worshippers of the one God revealed by natural religion.
Among the Jews, the carnal and the spiritual, who were the Christians of the old law.
Among the Christians, those coarser ones, who are the Jews of the new law.
The carnal Jews looked for a carnal Messiah, and the coarser Christians believe that the Messiah has dispensed them from the love of God. True Jews and true Christians adore a Messiah who makes them love God.
Carnal Jews and the heathen have their miseries, and Christians also. There is no Redeemer for the heathen, for they do not even hope for one. There is no Redeemer for the Jews, who hope for him in vain. There is a Redeemer only for the Christians.
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, who have the body as their object.
Enquirers and men of science, who have mind for their object.
The wise, who have right for their object.
God must reign over all, and all men must be referred to him. In things of the flesh lust reigns especially, in men of intellect curiosity especially, in wisdom pride especially.
Not that a man may not boast of wealth or knowledge, but there is no room for pride, for in granting that a man is learned there will be no difficulty in proving to him that he is wrong to be proud. Pride finds its proper place in wisdom, for it cannot be granted to a man that he has made himself wise and that he is wrong to be proud of it. For that is just. Now God alone gives wisdom, and therefore qui gloriatur in Domino, glorietur.
All that is in the world is the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, or the pride of life; libido sentiendi,libido sciendi, libido dominandi.Woe to the accursed land which these three rivers of flame enkindle rather than moisten. Happy they who are on these rivers, not overwhelmed nor carried away, but immovably fixed upon the floods, not standing but seated, and on a firm and sure base, whence they rise not before the dawn; but where, having rested in peace, they stretch forth their hands to him who will lift them up, and cause them to stand firm and upright in the porches of the heavenly Jerusalem, where pride may no more assail nor cast them down; and who yet weep, not to see all those perishable things crumble which the torrents sweep away, but at the remembrance of their dear country, that heavenly Jerusalem, which they remember without ceasing while the days of their exile are prolonged.
The rivers of Babylon rush and fall and sweep away.
O holy Sion, where all is firm and nothing falls.
We must sit upon the floods, not under them or in them, but on them; not standing but seated, being seated to be humble, and above them in security. But in the porches of Jerusalem we shall stand.
Let us see if our pleasure is stable or transitory, if it pass away, it is a river of Babylon.
There are few true Christians, I say this even in regard to faith. There are many who believe, but from superstition. There are many who believe not, out of reckless living; few are between the two.
I do not include here those whose morality is true holiness, nor those whose belief springs from the heart.
It is not a rare thing to have to blame the world for too much docility, it is a vice as natural as unbelief, and as pernicious. Superstition.
Abraham took nothing for himself , but only for his servants; so the just 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. The passions thus subdued are virtues. God himself attributes to himself avarice, jealousy, anger; and these are virtues as well as kindness, pity, constancy, which are also passions. We must treat them as slaves, and leaving to them their food hinder the soul from taking any of it. For when the passions gain the mastery they are vices, then they furnish nutriment to the soul, and the soul feeds on it and is poisoned.
The just man acts by faith in the smallest things; when he blames his servants, he wishes for their conversion by the spirit of God, and prays God to correct them; for he expects as much from God as from his own blame, and he prays God to bless his corrections. And so with all his other actions.
Of all that is in the world he takes part only in what is unpleasant, not in what is pleasant, He loves his neighbours, but his charity does not restrict itself within these bounds, but flows out to his enemies, and then to those of God.
This is common to ordinary life and that of the saints, that all endeavour after happiness, and differ only in the object in which they place it. Both call those their enemies who hinder them from attaining it.
We should judge of what is good or bad by the will of God, who cannot be either unjust or blind; and not by our own will, which is always full of malice and error.
Joh. viii. Multi credideruntin eum. Dicebat ergo Jesus: “Si manseritis . . . ., vere mihi discipuli eritis, et veritas liberabit vos.” Responderunt: Semen Abrahae sumus et nemini servimus unquam.
There is a great difference between disciples and true disciples. They are recognised by saying to 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.
“Might I but see a miracle,” men say, “I would become a Christian.” How can they be sure they would do that of which they are ignorant? Men imagine that conversion consists in making of the worship of God such a transaction and way of life as they picture to themselves. True conversion consists in the annihilation of self before that universal Being whom we have so often provoked, and who might with justice destroy us at any moment; in recognising that we can do nought without him, and have merited nothing from him but his wrath. It consists in knowing that there is unconquerable opposition between us and God, and that without a mediator there could be no communion with him.
With how little pride a Christian believes himself united to God, with how little abasement does he rank himself with the worms of earth. What a way is this to receive life and death, good and evil.
It is true there is difficulty in entering into a devout life, 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 by these conflicting efforts, but it would be most unjust to impute this violence to God, who draws us, instead of attributing it to the world, which holds us back. As a child which a mother tears from the robbers’ arms, in the anguish it suffers should love the loving and legitimate violence of her who procures its liberty, and detest only the imperious and tyrannical violence of those who retain it unjustly. The most cruel war which God can make against men in this life is to leave them without that war which he came to bring. “I came to bring war,” he says, and to inform them of this war, “I came to bring fire and the sword.” Before him the world lived in a false peace.
The exterior must be joined to the interior to obtain aught from God, that is to say, we must kneel, pray with the lips, etc., in order that proud man, who would not submit himself to God, should now be subject to the creature. To expect succour from these externals is superstition, to refuse to join them to interior acts is pride.
External works.—There is nothing so perilous as that which is pleasing to God and to man; for those conditions which are pleasing to God and man, have one side which is pleasing to God, and another which is pleasing to man; as the greatness of Saint Theresa. That which was pleasing to God was her profound humility under her revelations, what was pleasing to men was her light. And thus we torment ourselves to imitate her discourses, thus thinking to imitate her condition, and thereby to love what God loves, and to place ourselves in a state which God loves.
It is better not to fast, and be thereby humbled, than to fast and be puffed up therewith.
The Pharisee and the Publican.
What will memory avail me if it be alike hurtful and helpful, since 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 good out of evil, and because without God we bring evil out of good.
The hope which Christians have of possessing an infinite good is mingled with actual 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, and freedom from injustice, of which they possess somewhat.
None is so happy as a true Christian, none so reasonable, none so virtuous, none so amiable.
We remove ourselves from God only by removing ourselves from love.
Our prayers and our virtues are abomination before God if they are not the prayers and the virtues of Jesus Christ. And our sins will never be the object of the mercy, but of the justice of God, if they are are not those of Jesus Christ.
He has adopted our sins, and has admitted us into covenant with him, for virtues are his own, and sins are strange to him; while virtues are strange to us, and sins are our own.
Let us change the rule which we have hitherto adopted for judging what is good. We have had our own will as our rule in this respect, let us now take the will of God, all that he wills is good and right to us, all that he wills not is evil.
All that God allows not is forbidden; sins are forbidden by the general declaration that God has made, that he allows them not. Other things which he has left without general prohibition, and which for that reason are said to be permitted, are nevertheless not always permitted; for when God removes any one of them from us, and when, by the event, which is a manifestation of the will of God, it appears that God allows not that we should have a thing, that is then forbidden to us as sin, since the will of God is that we should not have one more than the other. There is this sole difference between these two things, that it is certain God will never allow sin, while it is not certain that he will never allow the other. But so long as God allows it not, we must look upon it as sin, so long as the absence of God’s will, which alone is all goodness and all justice, renders it unjust and evil.
True Christians nevertheless submit to folly, not because they respect folly, but the commandment of God, who for the punishment of men has put them in subjection to their follies. Omnis creatura subjecta est vanitati.Liberabitur. Thus Saint Thomas explains the passage in Saint James on giving place to the rich, that if they do it not in the sight of God the commandment of religion is set at naught.
All great amusements are dangerous to the Christian life, but among all those which the world has invented none is so much to be feared as the theatre. It is so natural and so delicate a representation of the passions that it moves them, and makes them spring up in our heart, above all that of love, principally when it is represented as very chaste and very honourable. For the more innocent it seems to innocent souls, the more are they capable of being touched by it; its violence pleases our self-love, which at once forms the desire of causing the same effects which we see so well represented, and at the same time we make for ourselves a conscience founded on the honour of the feelings which we see there. And this extinguishes the fear of pure souls which imagine there is no harm to purity in loving with a love which seems to them so moderate.
Thus we leave the theatre with our heart so full of all the beauty and tenderness of love, the soul and the mind so persuaded of its innocence, that we are fully prepared to receive its first impressions, or rather to seek occasion to let them be born in the heart of some one, in order that we may receive the same pleasures and the same sacrifices which we have seen so well depicted in the theatre.
The circumstances in which it is easist to live according to the world are those in which it is most difficult to live according to God, and vice versâ. Nothing is so difficult according to the world as the religious life; nothing is more easy according to God. Nothing is easier than to live in great office and great wealth according to the world; nothing is more difficult than to live in them according to God, and not to take part in them and love them.
Those who believe without having read the Old and New Testaments, do so because they have a saintly frame of mind, with which all that they hear of our religion agrees. They feel that a God has made them; their will is to love God only, their will is to hate themselves only. They feel that they have no power of themselves, that they are unable to come to God, and if God come not to them, they can have no communion with him. And they hear our religion declare that men must love God only, and hate self only, but that all being corrupt, and unfit for God, God made himself man to unite himself to us. No more is needed to convince men who have such a disposition and have a knowledge of their duty and of their incompetence.
Those whom we see to be Christians without the knowledge of the prophecies and evidences, are able to judge of their religion as well as those who have that knowledge. They judge of it by the heart, as others by the understanding. God himself inclines them to believe, and thus they are effectually persuaded.
I admit that one of those Christians who believe without proof is not perhaps qualified to convince an infidel who will say the same of himself; but those who know the proofs of religion can prove without difficulty that such a believer is truly inspired by God, though he cannot prove it himself.
For God having said by his prophets, who are beyond a doubt prophets, that in the reign of Jesus Christ he will spread his spirit abroad among all nations, that the young men and maidens and the children of the Church will prophesy, there is no doubt that the spirit of God is upon these, and not upon the others.
Wonder not to see simple souls believe without reasoning. God gives to them the love of him, and the hate of self, he inclines their heart to belief. No man will ever believe with true and saving faith if God incline not the heart, but each will believe as soon as he inclines it. And this is what David knew well: Inclina cor meum,Deus, in testimonia tua.
Romans iii. 27: Boasting is excluded, by what law? Of works no, but by that of faith. Therefore faith is not in our power, like the works of the law, and it is given us in another way.
Faith is a gift of God, do not suppose us to say it is a gift of reason. Other religions do not say this of their faith, they proffered only reason as a means of attaining to it, which after all does not lead to it.
Faith, it is true, says what the senses do not say, but not the contrary of what they perceive. It is above them, not contrary to them.
I am envious of those whom I see professing the true faith, but living and abusing a gift of which it seems to me I should make a very different use.
The law imposed what it did not bestow; grace bestows that which it imposes.
The law has not destroyed Nature, but has instructed it; grace has not destroyed the law, but has called it into action.
Faith received at baptism is the source of the whole life of the Christian and of the converted.
We make an idol of truth itself, for truth apart from charity is not God, it is his image and idol, which we must neither love nor adore; still less must we love and adore its opposite, which is falsehood.
Submission and use of reason, in which consists true Christianity.
The last process of reason is to recognise that there is an infinity of things which transcend it; it is but weak if it does not go so far as to know that.
And if natural things transcend it, what shall we say of the supernatural?
Submission—We must know when to doubt, when to feel certain, when to submit. Who fails in this understands not the force of reason. There are those who offend against these three rules, either by accepting everything as evidence, for want of knowing what evidence is; or by doubting everything, for want of knowing when to submit; or by yielding in everything, for want of knowing when to use their judgment.
There are three means of belief; reason, habit, inspiration. The Christian religion, which only has reason, does not admit as her true children those who believe without inspiration; not that she excludes reason or habit, rather the contrary, but it is necessary to open the mind to proofs, to confirm ourselves by habit, and then to offer ourselves humbly to inspiration, which alone can produce a true and salutary effect. Ne evacuetur crux Christi.
There are two ways of urging the truths of our religion; one by the force of reason, the other by the authority of the speaker.
We use not the last, but the first. We do not say: “You must believe this, for the Scripture which says so is divine,” but we say: You must believe for such and such a reason, which are weak arguments, since reason bends itself to all.
If we submit all to reason our religion will have nothing in it mysterious or supernatural. If we violate the principles of reason, our religion will be absurd and ridiculous.
Saint Augustine. Reason would never submit if it did not judge that on some occasions submission is a duty.
It is then right that it should submit, when it judges that it ought to submit.
Piety is different from superstition.
To carry piety as far as superstition is to destroy it.
Heretics reproach us with this superstitious submission. This is to do that with which they reproach us.
There is nothing so conformable to reason as the disavowal of reason.
Two excesses: to exclude reason, and to admit reason only.
Superstition and lust. Scruples, evil desires, evil fear.
Fear, not such as arises from a belief in God, but that which springs from doubt whether he is or is not. True fear comes from faith, false fear from doubt. True fear is allied to hope, because it is born of faith, and because men hope in the God in whom they believe; false fear is allied to despair, because they fear the God in whom they do not believe. The one class fears to lose him, the other fears to find him.
A person said to me one day that when he came from confession he felt great joy and confidence. Another said to me that he was still fearful, whereupon I thought that these two together would make one good man, and that each was so far wanting in that he had not the feelings of the other. The same is often true in other matters.
The knowledge of God is very far from the love of him.
We are not wearied of eating and sleeping every day, because hunger and drowsiness are renewed; without that we should be weary of them. Thus without the hunger of spiritual things we grow weary of them. Hunger after righteousness, the eighth beatitude.
The conduct of God, who disposes all things gently, is to put religion into the mind by reason, and into the heart by grace. But to will to put it into the mind and heart by force and menace is not to put religion there, but terror, terrorem potius quam religionem.
[P. 238, l. 20.]Qui adhæret Deo. 1 ad Cor. v. 17. Qui autem adhæret Domino unus spiritus est.
[P. 238, l. 34.]because it has perhaps merited ours. See Bossuet’s Catechism. Qu’entendez vous par la Communion des Saints? J’entends principalment la participation qu’ont tous les fideles au fruit des bonnes æuvres les uns des autres.
[P. 241, l. 3.]Book of Wisdom. Ch. ii. 6. But the sense only, and not the words, is given.
[P. 241, l. 27.]et non intres in judicium. Ps. cxliii. 2.
[P. 241, l. 29.]The goodness of God. Rom. ii. 4.
[P. 241, l. 30.]Let us do penance. Jonah, iii. 9. But the sense only, not the words, is quoted.
[P. 243, l. 11.]qui gloriatur, in Domino glorietur. 1 ad Cor. i. 31.
[P. 243, l. 13.]libido sentiendi. From Jansenius, De statu naturæ lapsæ, ii. 8.
[P. 243, l. 14.]Woe to the accursed land. This and the following paragraphs are taken from Saint Augustine’s commentary on Ps. cxxxvii., Super flumina Babylonis.
[P. 244, l. 8.]Abraham took nothing for himself. Gen. xiv. 24.
[P. 244, l. 12.]Sub te erit appetitus tuus. Gen. iv. 7.
[P. 245, l. 4.]Multi crediderunt. Joh. viii. 30-33.
[P. 245, l. 27.]Comminutum cor. No doubt a misquotation of Ps. li. cor contritum et humiliatum, Deus, non despicies.
[P. 245, l. 28.]Albe vous a nommé. Corneille, Horace, act ii. sc. 3.
[P. 248, l. 12.]Omnis creatura subjecta est vanitati. Eccles. iii. 19, but the true reading is “cuncta subjacent vanitati.”
[P. 250, l. 8.]Inclina cor meum. Ps. cxix. 36.
[P. 251, l. 26.]Ne evacuetur crux Christi. 1 ad Cor. i. 17.