Pascal's Pensées were published pothumely
After publishing this essay it became instantly very important and of great influence on the way of thinking of the western European people in the next few hundred years. And still has not lost its importance in certain circles. (*)
translated by W. F. Trotter (2000)
857. Clearness, obscurity.- There would be too great darkness, if truth had not visible signs. This is a wonderful one, that it has always been preserved in one Church and one visible assembly of men. There would be too great clearness, if there were only one opinion in this Church. But in order to recognise what is true, one has only to look at what has always existed; for it is certain that truth has always existed, and that nothing false has always existed. 858. The history of the Church ought properly to be called the history of truth.
859. There is a pleasure in being in a ship beaten about by a storm, when we are sure that it will not founder. The persecutions which harass the Church are of this nature.
860. In addition to so many other signs of piety, they are also persecuted, which is the best sign of piety.
861. The Church is in an excellent state when it is sustained by God only.
862. The Church has always been attacked by opposite errors, but perhaps
never at the same time, as now. And if she suffer more because of the
multiplicity of errors, she derives this advantage from it, that they
destroy each other. She complains of both, but far more of the Calvinists,
because of the schism. It is certain that many of the two opposite sects
are deceived. They must be disillusioned. Faith embraces many truths which
seem to contradict each other. There is a time to laugh, and time to weep,
etc. Responde. Ne respondeas,* etc.
The shortest way, therefore, to prevent heresies is to instruct in all truths; and the surest way to refute them is to declare them all. For what will the heretics say? In order to know whether an opinion is a Father's...
863. All err the more dangerously, as they each follow a truth. Their fault is not in following a falsehood, but in not following another truth.
864. Truth is so obscure in these times, and falsehood so established, that, unless we love the truth, we cannot know it.
865. If there is ever a time in which we must make profession of two opposite truths, it is when we are reproached for omitting one. Therefore the Jesuits and Jansenists are wrong in concealing them, but the Jansenists more so, for the Jesuits have better made profession of the two.
866. Two kinds of people make things equal to one another, as feasts to working days, Christians to priests, all things among them, etc. And hence the one party conclude that what is then bad for priests is also so for Christians, and the other that what is not bad for Christians is lawful for priests.
867. If the ancient Church was in error, the Church is fallen. If she should be in error to-day, it is not the same thing; for she has always the superior maxim of tradition from the hand of the ancient Church; and so this submission and this conformity to the ancient Church prevail and correct all. But the ancient Church did not assume the future Church and did not consider her, as we assume and consider the ancient.
868. That which hinders us in comparing what formerly occurred in the Church with what we see there now is that we generally look upon Saint Athanasius, Saint Theresa, and the rest, as crowned with glory and acting towards us as gods. Now that time has cleared up things, it does so appear. But at the time when he was persecuted, this great saint was a man called Athanasius; and Saint Theresa was a nun. "Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are," says Saint James, to disabuse Christians of that false idea which makes us reject the example of the saints as disproportioned to our state. "They were saints," say we, "they are not like us." What then actually happened? Saint Athanasius was a man called Athanasius, accused of many crimes, condemned by such and such a council for such and such a crime. All the bishops assented to it, and finally the Pope. What said they to those who opposed this? That they disturbed the peace, that they created schism, etc. Zeal, light. Four kinds of persons: zeal without knowledge; knowledge without zeal; neither knowledge nor zeal; both zeal and knowledge. The first three condemned him. The last acquitted him, were excommunicated by the Church and yet saved the Church.
869. If Saint Augustine came at the present time and was as little authorised as his defenders, he would accomplish nothing. God directs His Church well, by having sent him before with authority.
870. God has not wanted to absolve without the Church. As she has part in the offence, He desires her to have part in the pardon. He associates her with this power, as kings their parliaments. But if she absolves or binds without God, she is no longer the Church. For, as in the case of parliament, even if the king have pardoned a man, it must be ratified; but if parliament ratifies without the king, or refuses to ratify on the order of the king, it is no longer the parliament of the king, but a rebellious assembly.
871. The Church, the Pope. Unity, plurality.- Considering the Church as a unity, the Pope, who is its head, is as the whole. Considering it as a plurality, the Pope is only a part of it. The Fathers have considered the Church now in the one way, now in the other. And thus they have spoken differently of the Pope. (Saint Cyprian: Sacerdos Dei.)* But in establishing one of these truths, they have not excluded the other. Plurality which is not reduced to unity is confusion; unity which does not depend on plurality is tyranny. There is scarcely any other country than France in which it is permissible to say that the Council is above the Pope. - * Epistle 63. "Priest of the Lord." -
872. The Pope is head. Who else is known of all? Who else is recognised by all, having power to insinuate himself into all the body, because he holds the principal shoot, which insinuates itself everywhere? How easy it was to make this degenerate into tyranny! That is why Christ has laid down for them this precept: Vos autem non sic.* - * Luke 22. 26. "But ye shall not be so." -
873. The Pope hates and fears the learned, who do not submit to him at will.
874. We must not judge of what the Pope is by some words of the Fathers- as the Greeks said in a council, important rules- but by the acts of the Church and the Fathers, and by the canons. Duo* aut tres.*(2) In unum. Unity and plurality. It is an error to exclude one of the two, as the papists do who exclude plurality, or the Huguenots who exclude unity. - * John 10. 30. "I and my father are one." *(2) John 5. 7. "And these three agree in one.
875. Would the Pope be dishonoured by having his knowledge from God and tradition; and is it not dishonouring him to separate him from this holy union?
876. God does not perform miracles in the ordinary conduct of His Church. It would be a strange miracle if infallibility existed in one man. But it appears so natural for it to reside in a multitude, since the conduct of God is hidden under nature, as in all His other works.
877. Kings dispose of their own power; but the Popes cannot dispose of theirs.
878. Summum jus, summa injuria.*
- * "The strictest law is the greatest injustice." Terrence, Heauton Timorumenus, iv. 5. 47; and Cicero, De officiis, i. 10. - The majority is the best way, because it is visible and has strength to make itself obeyed. Yet it is the opinion of the least able. If men could have done it, they would have placed might in the hands of justice. But as might does not allow itself to be managed as men want, because it is a palpable quality, whereas justice is a spiritual quality of which men dispose as they please, they have placed justice in the hands of might. And thus that is called just which men are forced to obey.
Hence comes the right of the sword, for the sword gives a true right. Otherwise we should see violence on one side and justice on the other (end of the twelfth Provincial Letter). Hence comes the injustice of the Fronde, which raises its alleged justice against power. It is not the same in the Church, for there is a true justice and no violence.
879. Injustice.- Jurisdiction is not given for the sake of the judge, but for that of the litigant. It is dangerous to tell this to the people. But the people have too much faith in you; it will not harm them and may serve you. It should, therefore, be made known. Pasce oves meas, not tuas.* You owe me pasturage. - * John 21. 17 "Feed my sheep." Not "yours." -
880. Men like certainty. They like the Pope to be infallible in faith, and grave doctors to be infallible in morals, so as to have certainty.
881. The Church teaches, and God inspires, both infallibly. The work of the Church is of use only as a preparation for grace or condemnation. What it does is enough for condemnation, not for inspiration.
882. Every time the Jesuits may impose upon the Pope, they will make all Christendom perjured. The Pope is very easily imposed upon, because of his occupations, and the confidence which he has in the Jesuits; and the Jesuits are very capable of imposing upon him by means of calumny.
883. The wretches who have obliged me to speak of the basis of religion.
884. Sinners purified without penitence; the righteous justified without love; all Christians without the grace of Jesus Christ; God without power over the will of men; a predestination without mystery; a redemption without certitude!
885. Any one is made a priest, who wants to be so, as under Jeroboam. It is a horrible thing that they propound to us the discipline of the Church of to-day as so good that it is made a crime to desire to change it. Formerly it was infallibly good, and it was thought that it could be changed without sin; and now, such as it is, we cannot wish it changed! It has indeed been permitted to change the custom of not making priests without such great circumspection that there were hardly any who were worthy; and it is not allowed to complain of the custom which makes so many who are unworthy!
886. Heretics.- Ezekiel. All the heathen, and also the Prophet, spoke evil of Israel. But the Israelites were so far from having the right to say to him, "You speak like the heathen," that he is most forcible upon this, that the heathen say the same as he.
887. The Jansenists are like the heretics in the reformation of morality; but you are like them in evil.
888. You are ignorant of the prophecies, if you do not know that all this must happen; princes, prophets, Pope, and even the priests. And yet the Church is to abide. By the grace of God we have not come to that. Woe to these priests! But we hope that God will bestow His mercy upon us that we shall not be of them. Saint Peter, Epistle ii: false prophets in the past, the image of future ones.
889.... So that if it is true, on the one hand, that some lax monks and some corrupt casuists, who are not members of the hierarchy, are steeped in these corruptions, it is, on the other hand, certain that the true pastors of the Church, who are the true guardians of the Divine Word, have preserved it unchangeably against the efforts of those who have attempted to destroy it. And thus true believers have no pretext to follow that laxity, which is only offered to them by the strange hands of these casuists, instead of the sound doctrine which is presented to them by the fatherly hands of their own pastors. And the ungodly and heretics have no ground for publishing these abuses as evidence of imperfection in the providence of God over His Church; since, the Church consisting properly in the body of the hierarchy, we are so far from being able to conclude from the present state of matters that God has abandoned her to corruption, that it has never been more apparent than at the present time that God visibly protects her from corruption. For if some of these men, who, by an extraordinary vocation, have made profession of withdrawing from the world and adopting the monks' dress, in order to live in a more perfect state than ordinary Christians, have fallen into excesses which horrify ordinary Christians, and have become to us what the false prophets were among the Jews; this is a private and personal misfortune, which must indeed be deplored, but from which nothing can be inferred against the care which God takes of His Church; since all these things are so clearly foretold, and it has been so long since announced that these temptations would arise from people of this kind; so that when we are well instructed, we see in this rather evidence of the care of God than of His forgetfulness in regard to us.
890. Tertullian: Nunquam Ecclesia reformabitur.* - * "The Church will never be reformed." -
891. Heretics, who take advantage of the doctrine of the Jesuits, must be made to know that it is not that of the Church, and that our divisions do not separate us from the altar.
892. If in differing we condemned, you would be right. Uniformity without diversity is useless to others; diversity without uniformity is ruinous for us. The one is harmful outwardly; the other inwardly.
893. By showing the truth, we cause it to be believed; but by showing the injustice of ministers, we do not correct it. Our mind is assured by a proof of falsehood; our purse is not made secure by proof of injustice.
894. Those who love the Church lament to see the corruption of morals; but laws at least exist. But these corrupt the laws. The model is damaged.
895. Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction. 896. It is in vain that the Church has established these words, anathemas, heresies, etc. They are used against her.
897. The servant knoweth not what his lord doeth, for the master tells him only the act and not the intention. And this is why he often obeys slavishly, and defeats the intention. But Jesus Christ has told us the object. And you defeat that object.
898. They cannot have perpetuity, and they seek universality; and therefore they make the whole Church corrupt, that they may be saints.
899. Against those who misuse passages of Scripture, and who pride themselves in finding one which seems to favour their error.- The chapter for Vespers, Passion Sunday, the prayer for the king. Explanation of these words: "He that is not with me is against me." And of these others: "He that is not against you is for you." A person who says: "I am neither for nor against"; we ought to reply to him...
900. He who will give the meaning of Scripture, and does not take it from Scripture, is an enemy of Scripture. (St. Augustine, Of Christian Doctrine.)
901. Humilibus dat gratiam;* an ideo non dedit humilitatem?*(2) Sui eum non receperunt; quotquot autem non receperunt,*(3) an non erant sui?*(4) - * Jas. 4. 6. "God giveth grace unto the humble." *(2) "But did he not give them humility?" *(3) John 1. 11-12. "The world knew him not; and his own received him not." *(4) "And were they not his?" -
902. "It must indeed be," says Feuillant, "that this is not so certain; for controversy indicates uncertainty (Saint Athanasius, Saint Chrysostom, morals, unbelievers)." The Jesuits have not made the truth uncertain, but they have made their own ungodliness certain.
Contradiction has always been permitted, in order to blind the wicked; for all that offends truth or love is evil. This is the true principle.
903. All religions and sects in the world have had natural reason for a guide. Christians alone have been constrained to take their rules from without themselves, and to acquaint themselves with those which Jesus Christ bequeathed to men of old to be handed down to true believers. This constraint wearies these good Fathers. They desire, like other people, to have liberty to follow their own imaginations. It is in vain that we cry to them, as the prophets said to the Jews of old: "Enter into the Church; acquaint yourselves with the precepts which the men of old left to her, and follow those paths." They have answered like the Jews: "We will not walk in them; but we will follow the thoughts of our hearts"; and they have said, "We will be as the other nations."
904. They make a rule of exception. Have the men of old given absolution before penance? Do this as exceptional. But of the exception you make a rule without exception, so that you do not even want the rule to be exceptional.
905. On confessions and absolutions without signs of regret.
God regards only the inward; the Church judges only by the outward. God absolves as soon as He sees penitence in the heart; the Church when she sees it in works. God will make a Church pure within, which confounds, by its inward and entirely spiritual holiness, the inward impiety of proud sages and Pharisees; and the Church will make an assembly of men whose external manners are so pure as to confound the manners of the heathen. If there are hypocrites among them, but so well disguised that she does not discover their venom, she tolerates them; for, though they are not accepted of God, whom they cannot deceive, they are of men, whom they do deceive. And thus she is not dishonoured by their conduct, which appears holy. But you want the Church to judge neither of the inward, because that belongs to God alone, nor of the outward, because God dwells only upon the inward; and thus, taking away from her all choice of men, you retain in the Church the most dissolute and those who dishonour her so greatly that the synagogues of the Jews and sects of philosophers would have banished them as unworthy and have abhorred them as impious.
906. The easiest conditions to live in according to the world are the most difficult to live in according to God, and vice versa. Nothing is so difficult according to the world as the religious life; nothing is easier than to live it according to God. Nothing is easier, according to the world, than to live in high office and great wealth; nothing is more difficult than to live in them according to God, and without acquiring an interest in them and a liking for them.
907. The casuists submit the decision to the corrupt reason, and the choice of decisions to the corrupt will, in order that all that is corrupt in the nature of man may contribute to his conduct.
908. But is it probable that probability gives assurance? Difference between rest and security of conscience. Nothing gives certainty but truth; nothing gives rest but the sincere search for truth.
909. The whole society itself of their casuists cannot give assurance to a conscience in error, and that is why it is important to choose good guides. Thus they will be doubly culpable, both in having followed ways which they should not have followed, and in having listened to teachers to whom they should not have listened.
910. Can it be anything but compliance with the world which makes you find things probable? Will you make us believe that it is truth and that, if duelling were not the fashion, you would find it probable that they might fight, considering the matter in itself.?
911. Must we kill to prevent there being any wicked? This is to make both parties wicked instead of one. Vince in bono malum.* (Saint Augustine.) -
* Rom. 12. 2 "But overcome evil with good." -
912. Universal.- Ethics and language are special, but universal sciences.
913. Probability.- Each one can employ it; no one can take it away.
914. They allow lust to act, and check scruples; whereas they should do the contrary.
915. Montalte.- Lax opinions please men so much, that it is strange that theirs displease. It is because they have exceeded all bounds. Again, there are many people who see the truth, and who cannot attain to it; but there are few who do not know that the purity of religion is opposed to our corruptions. It is absurd to say that an eternal recompense is offered to the morality of Escobar.
916. Probability.- They have some true principles; but they misuse them. Now, the abuse of truth ought to be as much punished as the introduction of falsehood. As if there were two hells, one for sins against love, the other for those against justice!
917. Probability.- The earnestness of the saints in seeking the truth was useless, if the probable is trustworthy. The fear of the saints who have always followed the surest way. (Saint Theresa having always followed her confessor.) 918. Take away probability, and you can no longer please the world; give probability, and you can no longer displease it.
919. These are the effects of the sins of the peoples and of the Jesuits. The great have wished to be flattered. The Jesuits have wished to be loved by the great. They have all been worthy to be abandoned to the spirit of lying, the one party to deceive, the others to be deceived. They have been avaricious, ambitious, voluptuous. Coacervabunt tibi magistros.* Worthy disciples of such masters, they have sought flatterers, and have found them. - * II Tim. 4. 3. "Shall they heap to themselves teachers." -
920. If they do not renounce their doctrine of probability, their good maxims are as little holy as the bad, for they are founded on human authority; and thus, if they are more just, they will be more reasonable, but not more holy. They take after the wild stem on which they are grafted.
If what I say does not serve to enlighten you, it will be of use to the people. If these are silent, the stones will speak. Silence is the greatest persecution; the saints were never silent. It is true that a call is necessary; but it is not from the decrees of the Council that we must learn whether we are called, it is from the necessity of speaking. Now, after Rome has spoken, and we think that she has condemned the truth, and that they have written it, and after the books which have said the contrary are censured; we must cry out so much the louder, the more unjustly we are censured, and the more violently they would stifle speech, until there come a Pope who hears both parties, and who consults antiquity to do justice. So the good Popes will find the Church still in outcry. The Inquisition and the Society are the two scourges of the truth. Why do you not accuse them of Arianism? For, though they have said that Jesus Christ is God, perhaps they mean by it not the natural interpretation, but, as it is said, Dii estis.*
If my Letters are condemned at Rome, that which I condemn in them is condemned in heaven. Ad tuum, Domine Jesu, tribunal appello.*(2) - * Ps. 81. 6. "Ye are gods." *(2) "To your tribunal, Lord Jesus, I call."
You yourselves are corruptible.
I feared that I had written ill, seeing myself condemned; but the example of so many pious writings makes me believe the contrary. It is no longer allowable to write well, so corrupt or ignorant is the Inquisition! "It is better to obey God than men." I fear nothing; I hope for nothing. It is not so with the bishops. Port-Royal fears, and it is bad policy to disperse them; for they will fear no longer and will cause greater fear. I do not even fear your like censures, if they are not founded on those of tradition. Do you censure all? What! Even my respect? No. Say then what, or you will do nothing, if you do not point out the evil, and why it is evil. And this is what they will have great difficulty in doing. Probability.- They have given a ridiculous explanation of certitude; for, after having established that all their ways are sure, they have no longer called that sure which leads to heaven without danger of not arriving there by it, but that which leads there without danger of going out of that road.
921.... The saints indulge in subtleties in order to think themselves criminals and impeach their better actions. And these indulge in subtleties in order to excuse the most wicked.
The heathen sages erected a structure equally fine outside, but upon a bad foundation; and the devil deceived men by this apparent resemblance based upon the most different foundation. Man never had so good a cause as I; and others have never furnished so good a capture as you... The more they point out weakness in my person, the more they authorise my cause. You say that I am a heretic. Is that lawful? And if you do not fear that men do justice, do you not fear that God does justice? You will feel the force of the truth, and you will yield to it...
There is something supernatural in such a blindness. Digna necessitas.* Mentiris impudentissime.*(2) Doctrina sua noscetur vir...*(3) - * Wisd. of Sol. 19. 4. "Doom which they deserved." *(2) "Most impudent Liars." See Provincial Letter xvi. *(3) Prov. 12. 8. "A man shall be commended according to his wisdom." - False piety, a double sin. I am alone against thirty thousand. No. Protect you, the court; protect, you, deception; let me protect the truth. It is all my strength. If I lose it, I am undone. I shall not lack accusations, and persecutions. But I possess the truth, and we shall see who will take it away. I do not need to defend religion, but you do not need to defend error and injustice. Let God, out of His compassion, having no regard to the evil which is in me, and having regard to the good which is in you, grant us all grace that truth may not be overcome in my hands, and that falsehood...
922. Probable.- Let us see if we seek God sincerely, by comparison of the things which we love. It is probable that this food will not poison me. It is probable that I shall not lose my action by not prosecuting it...
923. It is not absolution only which remits sins by the sacrament of penance, but contrition, which is not real if it does not seek the sacrament.
924. People who do not keep their word, without faith, without honour, without truth, deceitful in heart, deceitful in speech; for which that amphibious animal in fable was once reproached, which held itself in a doubtful position between the fish and the birds... It is important to kings and princes to be considered pious; therefore they must confess themselves to you.
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