Page images
PDF
EPUB

which governs cities and kingdoms. Here is a pretty god indeed ! O ridicolosissimo eroe !

“A little consoles us, because a little afflicts us."

“ The power of a man's virtue should not be measured by his special efforts, but by his ordinary doing."

“ The heart has its reasons which the reason is ignorant of.”

Pascal now comes to the refutation of the arguments of the Pyrrhonists, or those who are universal doubters and disbelievers in matters of faith. He undertakes to prove that “man, with philosophy alone, remains incomprehensible to himself ; he knows himself only by the mystery of the transmission of sin, and can find only by faith the true good and justice." On the “ Transmission of Sin," we quote a single paragraph, although the translation cannot do justice to the original :

[ocr errors]

Certainly nothing strikes 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."

Going on to the “marks by which we may know that a religion is true, and how the Christian religion carries in itself the proofs of its truth," and “that the Christian religion is the only one that makes man understand the contradiction of his misery and his greatness ; that the philosophic sects are unable to give this knowledge,” we have a collection of searching and far-sighted thoughts on the distinctive characteristics of Christianity, full of suggestions of the profoundest wisdom, leaving us only the regret that they could not have been elaborated according to the ability and intention of their author. He adverts to the history of the Jews, the types of the Old Testament, the prophecies of Christ, and the proofs of his divinity from his life and death, and the fact that “man can know God and himself only through Jesus Christ.” He touches on “miracles," “reason,

reason,” “grace," "faith,” “the church," “ different points of doctrine and morals ;" from the thoughts on which we must content ourselves with a very few extracts, assuring our readers that it is most difficult, amid such a mass of jewels, to make any satisfactory selection.

[ocr errors]

“ The God of Christians does not consist in a God simply author of geometric truths, and of the order of the elements ; this is the belief of pagans and epicurians. He does not consist simply in a God who watches providentially over the lives and goods of men, in order to give a happy course of years to those who worship him ; this is the belief of the Jews. But the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, the God of Christians, is a God of love and consolation; he is a God who fills the soul and heart that he possesses ; he is a God who makes them feel within them their misery, and his infinite mercy; who unites himself to their inmost soul; who fills it with humility, joy, confidence, and love; who renders them incapable of any end but him.”

“ The knowledge of God without that of our misery produces pride.. The knowledge of our misery without that of God, gives despair. The knowledge of Jesus Christ is intermediate, because we find therein God, and our misery."

“ There is pleasure in being on a vessel tossed by the storm when we are certain that we shall not perish. The persecutions which trouble the church are of this nature.”

“ There are only three sorts of persons : those who serve God, having found him; those who are employed in seeking him, not having found him ; those who live without seeking him or having found him. The first are reasonable and happy; the last are fools and unhappy; those of the middle class are unhappy and reasonable.”

“Solomon and Job have best known and spoken of the misery of man; the former is the most fortunate, the latter the most unfortunate; the one knowing the vanity of pleasures by experience, the other the reality of evils.”

“The law obligated to what it did not give. Grace gives that to which it does not obligate.”

Besides the “ Thoughts,” Mr. Wight has included in his volume Pascal's “ Letters” and “Opuscules.” The latter consist of short treatises on various subjects ; many of them fragmentary. The “ Letters” are mostly on religious subjects ; a part are addressed to members of his own family ; among them, one which is most interesting, on the death of his father; and several, written towards the close of Pascal's life, to Md’lle de Roannez, whose brother was Pascal's intimate friend, and who resided for some time at Port Royal. While there are many passages in them which are full of truth and beauty, it is nevertheless true, that, in the language of Cousin, “they paint to us

Pascal, no longer as in 1651, retaining the natural affections in the midst of a piety still rational, but Pascal, under the discipline of the Abbé Singlin, engaged in the sublime littlenesses of Port Royal, charmed, and almost puffed up, with the miracles of the holy thorn,' plunging every day deeper, and precipitating others into the extremes of an exaggerated devotion.”

Here are the indications of that melancholy asceticism which clouded the last years of Pascal's life. But we cannot help wondering at the magnitude of that genius which, under the trammels of education in a superstitious belief, and the pressure of continued and increasing ill-health, by the grace of God, enabled him to do so much for the upbuilding of a purer faith, and the overthrow of that corrupt system, many of whose pernicious teachings he so valiantly exposed and condemned. The Jesuits can never forgive him. He called “ The Inquisition and the Society (of Jesus) the two scourges of truth.” It matters not that, broken down by disease, his latter days did not fulfil the brilliant promise of total emancipation from superstition which earlier years had given. What 'he has written bears but few traces of popish error, which in comparison with the clear, farreaching spiritual tone of his writings in general, are not worthy to be mentioned. He has left a noble legacy to the church, and the church should revere his memory.

We have not intended to estimate the general historic value of Pascal's life and writings in their influence upon his own, and especially the following age. What use the deadliest foes of Christianity, which it has ever encountered, made, in the days of the Encyclopedists, of this foremost champion of our faith, is one of the curious and very instructive lessons of the past a theme by no means as yet exhausted. But the title of this article indicates its specific purpose. We cannot conclude it better than by quoting one or two of Pascal's “Prayers for the Right Use of Sickness” — included in the “Opuscules.”

“ Grant, O my God! that I may adore in silence the order of Thy adorable providence in the direction of my life ; that this scourge may console me; and that having lived during peace in the bitterness of my sins, I may taste the heavenly sweets of Thy mercy during the salutary evils with which Thou afflictest me. But I perceive, my God, that my heart is so obdurate, and full of the thoughts, the cares,

[ocr errors]

the anxieties, and the attachments of the world, that sickness no more than health, nor discourses, nor books, nor Thy sacred Scriptures, nor Thy Gospel, nor Thy most holy mysteries, nor alms, nor fasts, nor mortifications, nor the use of sacraments, nor all my efforts, nor those of all the world together can do anything at all for the commencement of my conversion, if Thou dost not accompany all these things with an extraordinary assistance of Thy grace. It is for this that I address myself to Thee, all-powerful God, to ask of Thee a gift which all created things together cannot accord to me. To whom shall I

cry,

O Lord; to whom shall I have recourse, if not to Thee? Nothing that is less than God can fulfil my expectation. Open my heart, O Lord ; enter into the rebellious place which has been occupied by vices. They hold it in subjection. Enter into it as into the strong man's house; but first bind the strong and powerful enemy that has possession of it, and then take the treasures which are there. Lord, take my affections, which the world has stolen ; take this treasure Thyself, or rather retake it since it belongs to Thee as a tribute that I owe Thee, since Thy image is imprinted in it. The image of the world is so deeply engraven there that Thine is no longer to be recognized. Thou alone couldst create my soul; Thou alone canst create it anew; Thou alone couldst form Thy image; Thou alone canst reform and reimprint Thy effaced portrait ; that is, my Saviour, Jesus Christ, who is Thy image, and the expression of Thy substance."

“ Grant me the favor, Lord, to join Thy consolations to my sufferings, that I may suffer like a Christian. I ask not to be exempt from sorrow, for this is the recompense of the saints ; but I ask that I

may not be abandoned to the sorrows of nature without the consolations of Thy Spirit ; for this is the curse of the Jews and the heathen. I ask not to have a fulness of consolation without any suffering ; for this is the life of glory. Neither do I ask to be in the fulness of evils without consolation ; for this is the state of Judaism. But I ask, Lord, to feel at the same time, both the sorrows of nature for my sins, and the consolations of Thy Spirit, through Thy grace; for this is the true condition of Christianity. Let me not feel sorrow without consolation ; but let me feel sorrow and consolation together, that I may come at last to feel Thy consolation without any sorrow.”

“Let me henceforth desire health and life only to employ them and end them for Thee, with Thee, and in Thee. I ask of Thee neither health nor sickness, neither life nor death ; but that Thou wilt dispose of my health and my sickness, my life and my death, for Thy glory, for my salvation, and for the utility of Thy church, and of Thy saints, of whom I hope, by Thy grace, to form a part. Thou alone knowest VOL. II. —NO. VIII.

17

what is most expedient for me; Thou art the sovereign master ; do what Thou wilt. Give to me, take from me; but conform my will to Thine; and grant that in humble and perfect submission, and in holy confidence, I may be disposed to receive the orders of Thy eternal providence, and that I may adore alike all that comes to me from Thee.”

This last prayer is very similar, in thought and expression, to that of Fénélon, than which we do not know a finer specimen of devotion. We give it entire :

“Oh, my Lord ! I know not what I should ask of Thee. Thou only knowest what I need. Thou lovest me better than I can love myself.

“Give to me, Thy child, what is proper for me, whatever that may be. I dare not ask either comforts or crosses. I only present myself before Thee. I open my heart unto Thee. Behold the wants that I am ignorant of. Behold, and do according to Thy mercy. Smite or heal; depress or raise me up.

“I adore all Thy purposes without knowing them. I am silent. I offer myself in sacrifice. I abandon myself to Thee. Henceforth I have no will but to accomplish Thine.”

ARTICLE VII.

LONDON: PUBLIC INSTITUTIONS AND SOCIAL DAN

GERS.

[ocr errors]

You never told anybody, perhaps, that the strongest feeling awakened on your first arrival in the Great Metropolis was of disappointment. Yet such, in all likelihood, was the fact. It could hardly have been otherwise. There is no single object, or grouping of objects which the eye can scan, that begins to answer your conception of London — its vastness, or material

wealth and pomp, or historic grandeur, or dark, unfathomable mysteries — much less of all together. St. Paul's Cathedral cannot do it, nor Westminster Abbey, nor the Tower, nor the Parks, nor the Regent Street. What is St. Paul's to St. Peter's ;

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »