The Life and Writings of Blaise Pascal

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The Life and Writings of Blaise Pascal  (1870) 
by George Joseph Gustave Masson

It was in the year 1639, and in cold, dreary February, that a large party assembled at the Hotel d'Aiguillon. Cardinal Eichelieu who was, as everybody very well knows, an enthusiastic patron of dramatic literature, and who, moreover, aspired to some reputation in poetry himself, had long wished to see a comedy performed by children. The Duchess d'Aiguillon, his niece, undertook to get up the whole affair; and it was in consequence of her endeavours, that the most distinguished society in Paris, the wits, the precieuses, and the constellations of the hotel de Kamhouillet, now crowded together in the noble apartments of her mansion.

A tragedy of Monsieur de Scudery's, and Monsieur de Montdory as manager and stage director, were attractions sufficient for the most fastidious; besides which, it had been confidently stated abroad that one of the principal parts in L'Amour tyrannique was to be performed by the young Jacqueline Pascal, a child of thirteen years of age, who had already gained a brilliant reputation by her extraordinary talents for poetry.

It is not our business to describe here the costumes and appearance of Madame d'Aiguillon's society—the lace, the diamonds, the feathers, the carefully pointed and pomatumed moustaches of the gentlemen, the trains of the ladies; vain, likewise, would it be to attempt to put upon the ions mots and jeux-d'esprits which were poured forth in all directions. We shall just say that the representation went off as well as could be desired, and Monsieur de Scudery declared himself perfectly satisfied.

The company was breaking up, however, and Richelieu had moved from his arm-chair, as if to leave the room, when the Duchess d'Aiguillon came forward towards her uncle, leading by the hand one of the young girls who had acted in the play. Two other children followed close behind, the elder sister and brother of Jacqueline; all three were so remarkable for their beauty and intelligent features, that the attention of the company was soon fixed upon them.

"My dear," said Richelieu, as he took on his knees Madame d'Aiguillon's young protegee, "You pleased m« very much indeed. But," continued he, seeing that the child wag sobbing, and that the tears trickled fast down her face, " what is the matter? Has anyone grieved or harmed yon this evening?"

"No one whatever, Monseigneur; and I only wished, with your gracious leave, to recite a few lines which I have composed for your Excellency."

The Cardinal readily consented to hear Jacqueline's poetry; she therefore, with no slight emotion, delivered a stanza, which has been preserved to us by the care of one of Pascal's editors, and of which the following is a literal translation:—

"Be not astonished, incomparable Armand, if I have ill-satisfied your ears and your eyes; my mind being agitated by fears, docs not allow my body the free use of voice and movement. But, if you would make me capable of pleasing you, call from his exile my miserable father; this is the favour which I desire at your hands. By caving an innocent man from imminent danger, you will restore to me freedom of mind and of body, of voice and of action."*

If we did not know bow jealous Richelieu was of the slightest thing which could be construed into an act of rebellion against the king's anthority; if we had not learnt from history that the main idea which actuated him during the course of his ministerial career was the realization of a monarchy in the strictest sense of the word, we might think that Etienne Pascal, the father of the young Jacqueline, had been guilty of some conspiracy, and that he had, perhaps, been induced to join one of those plots hatched against the prime minister, at various times, by the disaffection of the parliament, the hatred of the nobility, and the weak impatience of Louis XIII. But some trifling opposition to the claims of his Majesty's exchequer constituted the sole offence of this excellent man, and he was hiding himself to avoid the consequences of what would be now considered as the laudable exercise of a citizen's right of protesting. This exile, however, was not of long duration. We have seen the happy turn which Jacqueline's talents and ready wit gave to the family trials which had visited them. Etienne Pascal came home, and was very well received by the Cardinal, who bestowed upon him a government appointment.

Readers alone thoroughly conversant with the history of the seventeenth century in France, and who have ascertained the amount of corruption, of wickedness, of moral disease, existing at that time in all classes of society, can feel how refreshing it is to meet with a few characters which it is possible to admire without reserve, and which we can hold up as patterns of everything that is praiseworthy, and noble, and good. Whilst we hear of such personages as Ninon de Lenclos, Marion de Lorme and Bussy-Rabutin, we find in the most opposite direction Jacqueline, Qilberte and Blaise Pascal; whilst our forefathers have handed down to us La Rochefoucauld's distressing work, they have also bequeathed to us the "Provincial letters," and the "Pengees," the noblest monument, perhaps, raised by a modern thinker to the truths of Christianity.

But it is time to turn to Blaise Pascal, whom we find, when not yet thirteen years old, taking his place amongst the first mathematicians and philosophers of the seventeenth century. "Blaise Pascal," says M. Henry Rogers, "was born at Clermont in Auvergne, in the year 1623, and died in the year 1662, at the early age of thirty-nine. When we think of the achievements which he crowded into that brief space, and which have made his name famous to all generations, we may well exclaim with Corneille: "a, peine a-t-il vecu, quel nom il a laisse!"

It is not our intention here to analyse Pascal's labours as a mathematician; we shall not describe his celebrated arithmetical machine, nor examine those brilliant experiments in hydrostatics, which have placed him on the same rank with Boyle and Torricelli. We turn at once to the "Provincial Letters."

As early as the year 1646, Pascal, as well as his sister Jacqueline, had felt deep religious impressions. He had become a christian man, and, to use M. Carlyle's forcible language, he " believed in God, not on Sundays only, but on all days, in all places, and in all cases." These impressions, nevertheless, had gradually worn off, when a memorable escape from death in 1654, entirely separated him from the world; and be sought at length for solitude at Port Royal, already endeared to him by the residence there of his sister Jacqueline.

Whilst the political horizon was still very threatening, and the court of St. Germain was engaged alternately with Mazurin's intrigues, and the extraordinary pranks of the Queen of Sweden, the monastery of Port Royal was carrying on in the name of Gospel Christianity a spirited warfare against the Jesuits.

In a treatise entitled "de la Frequente communion," the celebrated Antoine Arnauld had opposed the dogmas of intrinsic virtue and effectual operation fthe opus operatumj, and insisted on the necessity of preparation for the solemnity of the Lord's supper, by faith and repentance. This was Boon followed by other publications on the doctrine of grace, derived mainly from the views of Saint Augustine. These drew forth ample but ineffective answers from the Jesuits, and rendered him the object of their relentless antipathy.

An eminent French historian has said that the book on "Frequent Communion" fell upon the Jesuits like a thunderbolt. If the reverend fathers recovered from the •hock, they certainly showed that they had been some

what tinged; and in the bitterness of their revenge they obtained from the Sorbonne, or theological board of the Paris University, the condemnation of certain obnoxious propositions supposed to be discoverable in Arnauld's works; these propositions were deduced, said the Jesuits, from those of Jansenius, which had been previously subjected to the Papal censure.

The following scene, as we find it given in contemporary accounts, strikes us as worthy, almost, of being compared with some of the raciest passages in the "Provincial Letters" themselves.

One day, at a meeting of the chief members of the Port Royal society, Arnauld was pressed to write. "Will you," said some one, "allow yourself to be condemned like a child, without answering anything?" He thereupon showed them n manuscript, which he read out before them all; but it was very coolly received. M. Arnauld, who did not care for praise, said, "1 see that you do not approve of my composition, and I believe that you are right." Then, turning towards M. Pascal, "But, you, sir, you ought to write something." M. Pascal wrote the first letter, and read it to them. M. Arnauld exclaimed, "This is excellent, this will take; you must get it printed." So it was. The event is well known; and they went on. M. Pascal, who had hired a house in Paris, took lodgings in an inn, at the sign of "King David," "rue des Poirees," in order to pursue his work. He assumed there another name j the place was quite opposite the college of Clermont (now College Louis le Grand). M. Perier, his brother-in-law, visiting the metropolis about that time, put up at the same inn, without giving the people to understand what relation he was to Pascal. The first Provincial letter had already created an intense sensation, when, one day, a Jesuit, the Pere de Fretat, a friend of the'Pascal family, called upon M. Perier, with another ecclesiastic belonging to the same order. After some conversation, the follower of Loyola began talking about the new and fearless champion of M. Arnauld and of Jansenism. "There is no doubt, said he to M. Perier, "but that M. Pascal is the author of those letters which are running all over Paris: you ought to tell him that, and to prevail upon him to discontinue, for fear of some unpleasant circumstances." "It is quite useless to do so," answered M. Perier. "M. Pascal will reply that he cannot prevent persons from suspecting whatever they please." "Well," replied P. de Fretat, as he left the room, "I give you fair warning, that's all."

M. Perier was very glad when the two priests went away, for there were on the bed about twenty copies of the seventh or eighth letter, which had been put there to dry j but the curtains were drawn, and the companion of the Pere de Fretat, although sitting quite close to the bed, had not observed the printed sheets. M. Perier went immediately to inform M. Pascal of what had just taken place. He was in the room above, and the Jesuits had no idea that their enemy stood so near.

It is laughable to picture these two men unconsciously brought within half a yard of their enemy's galling fire; and unless their olfactory system was very dull indeed, actually smelling the damp of a Jansenist printing press.

1656 will be for ever a memorable date in the history of French literature. That year Baw the publication, pamphlet-wise and successively, of those famous letters which were known under the title of Lettres de Louis de Montalte a. un provincial de ses amis, et aux peres Jesuites sur la morale et la politique de ces pores." The first six letters were a complete defence of Arnauld. His apologist had carried the war into the enemy's camp, and the rapid, humorous, familiar exposition of the eccentric principles of their doctors on moral questions had delighted the public, and covered with the rankling wounds of ridicule this hitherto invulnerable body. It was then that the controversy took an ample range, and Pascal once more showed the versatility of his power.

The titles of popular works are generally abridged in common use. Arnauld's book "De la Frequente Communion," was almost always called simply "La Frequente." Thus the "Lettres au Provincial" became "Les Provinciales." In the same way we have in England, Banyan's "Grace Abounding," and Baxter's "Saint's Best." Decided favourites alone are thus summarily dealt with. 'Even as a mere literary character, Louis de Montalte was appreciated by his contemporaries. "The Jesuits themselves," says Father Daniel, "do justice to Pascal." Perrault, who endeavoured to cry up modern, at the expense of ancient, writers, prefers the " Provincial Letters" to the Dialogues of Plato, Lucian, and Cicero. Madame de Sevigne cannot sufliciently express her admiration. The form under which Pascal's work was published gave rise to a thousand surmises, and exercised for some time all the gossipping dispositions of the Parisians. M. de Gomberville was suspected of being the obnoxious anthor, and Madame Duplessis-Guenegaud of having caused the letters to be read aloud in her drawing-room before a company of beaux-esprits. Cardinal Mazarin, it seems, laughed very much at the question proposed by Caramuel, whether it was lawful for Jesuits to kill Jansenists. Now, this question happens to be the very one discussed in the seventh letter which, as we have seen, was drying up. in all the glory of small pica under the unsuspecting eye of Father de Fre"tat.

To account for the literary success of the "Provincial Letters," we must glance at the intellectual state of France during the first half of the seventeeth century. Between the reforms accomplished by Malherbe and the more lasting one to which Boileau has affixed his name,

we find a brilliant but extravagant school of writers combining the wit of Marot and Regnier with the epicurean and sometimes profane style of Rabelais and Villon. Elevated thoughts vanish from poetry; clumsy innovations of the most objectionable prodnctions of the heathen muse satisfy men of taste; amidst drinking songs, amatory madrigals, and invocations to nature, French literature reminds us of those exaggerations which are the defects of the Flemish school of painting. Almost instantaneously, however, a double reaction takes place. Whilut Saint Amand, the Teniers of French poetry, writes an ode to cheese, and celebrates feeding, Corneille creates classical tragedy, Balzac and Voiture revolutionise the whole vocabulary. But the author of -' Le Cid" and "Les Horaces," although directing the national mind to the pure and refreshing streams of patriotism, was not a popular writer: dressed in the garb of Roman antiquity, he hardly seemed on a level with the crowd. Descartes who, about the same time, gave the final blow to scholastic philosophy, Was still less likely to excite any immediate influence on the general taste. It has been aptly remarked that the periods which follow civil wars are commonly characterised by a great falling off in the tone of literary doctrines, and we are entirely supported by facts when we maintain that the epoch which begins in England with the restoration of Charles II, corresponds exactly, as far as the intellectual aspect goes, with what may be called in France the Richelieu age of literature. Waller and Rochester find their parallels at the court of the Louvre; Dryden's name can be coupled to that of Corneille, Jeremy Taylor's controversial works suggest the eloquent, voluminous, and learned productions of the Jansenist school of divinity.

This interpretation of one literary era by another, must not make us forget that France was, towards the end of Richelieu's administration, reign, we might say. still expecting a master mind, who should embody in glowing language all the aspirations of the nation after liberty, order, and truth. The wars of the Fronde were a practical attempt on the part of the bourgeoisie to obtain those constitutional guarantees long before enjoyed in England; the Port-Royalists proclaimed in theology the principle of a badly-created Protestanism. But to Pascal was reserved the honour of popularising those universal feelings till then vaguely, indistinctly, manifesting themselves under different forms. To the mass of the French people it was comparatively a matter of very little moment, whether the right of remonstrating against arbitrary taxation should be exercised with or without certain restrictions; but it was of the highest importance that the minority should not be condemned beforehand, and by prejudiced judges. To the mass of the French people it did not much signify whether the four propositions condemned in Jansenius were likewise discoverable in Arnauld's works; but it did signify, aye, and will signify for ever, whether doctrines are to be encouraged or not, which uphold falsehood, ecclesiastical tyranny, theft, and murder itself.

In this appears Pascal's consummate skill. The first four "Provincial Letters" are devoted to the apology of Arnauld's tenets; but Louis de Montalte speedily shifts his ground, and abandoning discussions of a merely theological nature, he meets his opponents at a stand-point where the rightful indignation of offended mankind accompanies toid encourages him.

Here we also find an illustration of the nature and power of genuine eloquence. If eloquence consisted merely in the skilful putting together of words and sentences, Isocrates might perhaps claim the superiority over Demosthenes; Balzac would most certainly be placed ^before Pascal. But who has read either the orations of the Athenian sophist, or the political treatises of the French wit? Who, on the contrary, does not feel that the Philippics and the " Provincial Letters" owe their popularity to the fact that they embody those noble first principles of virtue and of patriotism which he himself cherishes? Eloquence belongs to the things themselves, not to the garb in which they attired.

The "Provincial Letters" may be considered as making two series; the former takes us down to the tenth epistle, and the latter.includes all the rest. The first two letters treat of sufficient grace and of proximate power; they denounce the political and time-serving entente cordiale which had been brought about between the Dominicans and the Jesuits. These really thought and openly asserted •that a Christian has always grace sufficient bestowed upon him to pray to God, and that he has moreover the proximate power of fulfilling God's holy will. The Dominicans, who followed the doctrine of Thomas Aquinas, did .not think so; like the Jansenits, and in conformity with Saint Augustine's teaching, they maintained that God gives to whomsoever he chooses both the grace sufficient and the proximate power. He is not obliged to bestow theso gifts upon all men, and in point of fact a relative small minority enjoys them,—that is to say, the elect, who are as brands plucked from the burning, and who constitute the true chnrch. Now, the scandal which the "Provincial Letters" were intended to expose, consisted in the monstrous fact that the Jesuists and the Dominicans, in spite of their wide doctrinal differences, had united together for the purpose of crushing the Jsnsenists, and of destroying Arnauld's authority. The evil of casuistry is the main point to stigmatise; and in order to do this with the greater effect, Pascal imagines a series of dialogues between himself and one of the luminaries of Jesuitism—a father whose naivete, combined with his intense zeal for the society, lead him to make the

most extraordinary admissions possible. Let us see how Pascal introduces his dramatis persona. We have the unsuspecting interpreter of the Casuists, in communication with an ostensible disciple, who, partly by ingenious suggestions, partly by assumed docility, elicits and encourages the indiscreet zeal of the well-meaning but simple father. Excited by so facile an auditor, the Jesuit developes with eager self-complacency all the principles of his school; fancies his hearer's admiration to rise with their increasing extravagances; and, by his praises, gives probability to that which would otherwise appear incredible. The dialogues of these two confidential interlocutors are pursued to considerable length; but the form assumed is Bo happy in itself, is carried out with such variety, and produces so complete an illusion, that it never wearies. We must now give a few quotations. Pascal starts forth with a view of consulting some eminent Jesuit on the perplexing difficulty of sufficient grace and of proximate power; he finds out an old friend of his who had enlisted under the banners of loyola, and proceeds to renew acquaintance with him.

"He received me with great cordiality, for he had always been attached to me j and after some general conversation, I took occasion, in reference to the present season, to ask him a few questions respecting fasting, with a view to draw him insensibly into the subject I desired. I complained that I experienced difficulty in enduring that exercise.*

"He began by exhorting me to the duty of forcing my inclinations; but, as I continued my complaints, he expressed concern for my case, and set himself to find excuses for me. He suggested several causes of the inconveniences I suffered, which, however, did not apply to mj own circumstances. At last it occurred to him to ask me whether 1 found any difficulty in sleeping without taking supper. 'Indeed 1 do, my father,' I replied, 'and for that reason I am often obliged both to take a collation at noon, and to sup in the evening.' 'I am glad to say I can find a way,' he answered, 'to relieve you, without any sin on your part. There—you may dispense with fasting. I do not wish, however, that you should take my word only for it; come into the library.' I went accordingly, and then, taking up a book, he said, 'here is my authority; and heaven knows how eminent a one it is. It is Escobar.' 'Who is Escobar?' I enquired. 'What! don't you know Escobar, a member of our society, who compiled that moral theology of twentyfour of our fathers, respecting which he makes, in the preface, an allegorical comparison to the Apocalypse, sealed with seven seals P And further he says, that our

  • The quotations arc taken from M. Pearce's trauslat. London, Secleys, 1817.

Saviour thus offers it sealed to the four living creatures, Suarez, Vasquez, Molina, Valentia, in presence of twentyfour Jesuits, representing the twenty-four Elders.' He then read the whole of this allegory, which he evidently considered very impressive, and conveying a striking proof of the excellence of the work. Then, finding the passage relating to fasts—' Here it is,' said he, tr. 1, ex. 13, N. 67, 'If a person cannot sleep without having eaten, is he obliged to fast? By no means. Are you not satisfied?' 'Not entirely,' I replied, 'for I find I can bear fasting, by taking a collation in the morning, and supping at night.' 'See what follows then,' he said; 'they have provided for all cases.' 'And suppose a person finds himself enabled to fast by taking only a collation in the morning, and supper at night?' Here is the answer: 'Still he is not bound to fast; no one is obliged to reverse the order of his meals.' 'Excellent reasoning!' I exclaimed. 'But tell me,' he continued, 'do you take much wine?' 'No,'I answered; 'I cannot bear much.' 'I asked the question,' said he, 'for the purpose of apprizing you, that you may lawfully drinK wine in the morning, and whenever you please, without violating your fast; and that is very supporting to the strength. This is decided in the same part, no. 75. 'May we, without breaking our fast, drink wine at any time we choose, and even in large quantities? Wo may, and even of hypocras.' 'I don't remember that hypocrasf' said I; 'I must put it down in my memoranda. But really this Escobar is an excellent person.' 'Every one likes him," said the father; 'he puts such striking queries. Look here, in the same piece, no. 38, 'If a person is doubtful whether he has reached twenty-one, is he bound to fast? No. But supposing 1 shall be twenty-one to-night, an hour after midnight, and to-morrow is fast-day, shall I be bound to fast to-morrow? No; you may eat as much as you like between midnight and one o'clock, as you are not twenty-one till then; and, thus, as you have a right to break the fast, you are not bound to keep it.' 'It is really very entertaining,' said I. 'Oh, there's no leaving it off when you have once begun to read it: I pass days and nights over it; I read nothing else.' The worthy father, in fact, seeing how it interested me, was delighted, and went on. 'Look at this passage of Filiutiui, one of the twenty-four Jesuits, vol. ii, tr. 29, p. 11, cap. 6, n. 143; 'if a person is exhausted, as, for instance, ad tTuequendam amicam, is he bound to fast? No. But if he has fatigued himself, expressly for the purpose of obtaining a dispensation from fasting, will he still be bound to fast? Though he may have formed a purpose of doing so, he will be under no such obligation.' 'There,' said he, 'now, you would not have believed this!' 'Indeed, my good father,' said T, 'I do not believe it now. What! is it no sin not to fast, when we are able to do so? Is it lawful for us to seek occasions to commit sin? or rather are we not bound to avoid them? Truly this is a very accommodating doctrine.' 'Not always,'he replied; 'it depends upon circumstances.' 'On what circumstances?' 'Oh! oh! he rejoined, 'then it is your opinion, that if we are exposed to inconvenience in avoiding such occasions, still we are bound to do so? That i» not, I assure you, the opinion ,of father Bauny, as you will see here at page 1084; 'absolution is not to be refused to those who continue in a proximate condition of sin, if it be such as they are unable to withdraw from, without bringing scandal upon themselves, or without sustaining personal inconvenience.' 'I am delighted to hear it, my good father; there is nothing more wanting, but to say, these occasions may be purposely and deliberately sought, since it is allowable not to avoid them.' 'That very thing is in some cases allowed,' rejoined he; 'the celebrated casuist Basil Ponce states this, and father Bauny confirms his opinion in his tract on Penitence, ix., 4, p. 94: 'We may seek occasions, directly, and of themselves, primo et per se, if the spiritual or temporal good of ourselves or our neighbour induces us to do so.'

"' In truth,' 1 exclaimed, 'I seem in a dream when I find religious persons holding language like this! My good father, tell me now, can you conscientiously maintain such opinions?' 'No, indeed I do not,' he replied. 'Then you are speaking contrary to your conscience?' 'By no means; I say this, not according to my own conscience, but accordiug to the consciences of Ponce, and father Bauny; and surely we may follow such eminent men as these.'"

We have in this remarkable passage combined all tha solidity of a regular discussion and the humour of genuine comedy. The amusing candour of the Jesuit father adds to the enormity of the moral doctrine which he professes; and his statements are the more damning for the Society of Loyola, because they are not those of a mau who knows that he is advocating wickedness, and who rejoices at it, but of an unfortunate, weak-minded individual, engaged unconsciously in upholding the most criminal teaching. The clever Jansenist loses no opportunity of throwing him off his guard; sometimes he feigns astonishment, and the Jesuit thinking he has gained a convert, spontaneously reveals what a thorough politician would have kept secret. Here, an outburst of indignation leads our casuist to make his apology of Bauny and others stronger than ever. Now, we find Arnauld's champion praising the wisdom of certain maxims, and thus eliciting precepts more startling still. Elsewhere, a well-timed expression of doubt or ignorance is followed by explanations where Bothing is wanting. Pascal's art consists in his strictly keeping within the limits which separate comedy from buffoonery. He is an accurate painter; he knows how far to go, and the delightful scene he unfolds before us has all the illusion and the exact amount of dramatic interest which we might expect. See, too, how imperceptibly we hare been led from mere theological quibbles to the everlasting principles of morality, honour and virtue. Grace sufficient, proximate power, all those niceties in which divines and doctors of Sorbonne alone could be supposed to feel interest, have disappeared, and t we find ourselves face to face with the great dilemma:

TBTTTH or FALSEHOOD.

There is a French proverb which says: "on ne s'avise jamais de tout f and this proverb the Jesuits seem to have forgotten in the development of their curious system of morality. They had not guarded against the supposition that they might one day be brought to account for their doctrines before a court of law, and compelled strictly to answer for the delinquencies of their adherents. The story of John d'Alba, as related in the 6th Provincial Letter, illustrates this want of caution in the most amusing manner. "This John d'Alba," says Louis de Montalte, "being in service in the college of Clermont, rue Saint Jaeques, and not being satisfied with his wages, appropriated to himself certain property of the community, by way of compensation: tho superiors, on detecting hm, threw him into prison, on a charge of private robbery; and the prosecution came before the Chatelet on the 6th of April, 1647 (if my memory serves me right), for my informant stated all these things with great minuteness, otherwise I should hardly have believed them to be possible. The accused delinquent, on interrogation, admitted that he had taken some metal dishes from the monks; but maintained, for all that, he had eommitted no theft, quoting in his justification the doctrine in question of father Bauny, together with an extract from the writings of one of your Fathers, under whom he had studied cases of conscience, and which inculcated the same thing. On which M. de Montrouge, one of the leading members of the Cbatelet, delivered the following opinion: "That the accused ought not to be acquitted on the authority of writings containing doctrines illegal, pernicious, and opposed to all rules divine and human; the effect of which was to destroy the welfare of families, and authorize every domestic fraud. And • his sentence was, that this too implicit disciple should be flogged, before the college gates by the common executioner; and all the works of the Fathers, treating of larceny, should be burnt by the same hand; forbidding all persons at the same time, on pain of death, to teach, in future, any of the doctrines in question."

'While they were awaiting the sequel of this decision, which was much approved, circumstances occurred, which had the effect of postponing judgment upon the proceedings. In the meantime, however, the prisoner disappeared, no one knew how, and without restoring the dishes. This was the sum of my informant's statement; and he further told me that the judgment of M. de Montrouge is still in the registry of the Chatelet; and may be seen by uny one. The anecdote afforded ui much amusement."

"Amusement! What about?" said the Father; "what do you mean? I am speaking of the maxims of our casuists; I was going to give you those relating to the gentry, and you interrupt me by stories that have nothing to do with the matter." "I merely introduced the circumstance en passant," I replied, "to remind you of a point of some importance, which seems to have been overlooked in establishing your doctrine of probability." "What t" said he, "what could have been overlooked by so many able men who have all concurred in it?" "It is just this," I replied; "you have succeeded in placing those who adopt your doctrines quite at ease in regard to God, and their own consciences; for you maintain they run no risk in those respects, while they follow the opinions of a learned doctor; you have put them quite right with their confessors, for you make it compulsory on the priests to give absolution, in cases of the probable opinions in question, on pain of mortal sin: but you have not entirely secured them on the part of the temporal authorities; ill consequence of which they expose themselves to flogging and the gallows, in acting upon your probabilities: this is really a serious defect." "You are right there, I confess; I feel obliged to you for the suggestion," said the Father; "but it is because we have not the same power over the magistrates as over the confessors, which latter are obliged to report all cases of conscience to us: there we are absolute." "I understand you," I replied; "but if, on the other hand, you are judges of the confessors, are you not also confessors of the judges? Your powers are extensive; you should compel them to absolve all criminals whose offences have been committed on the strength of your probable opinions, upon pain of exclusion from the sacraments; lest this contempt and scandal should befall the doctrine in question, namely, that persons whom you have pronounced innocent in theory, should come to be flogged in practice. Unless this is done, how will you succeed in getting disciples?" "We must think of this," he said; "it is really important. I will propose the matter to our Father provincial."

This quotation leads us naturally to enquire into the principles upon which the Jesuits rested their theories. According to them, men were at liberty to do exactly as they pleased; every sin had its excuse, every dereliction of duty its apology; and if the noblest acts of heroism received their due mead of applause, on the other hand the grossest acts of wickedness could be explained away by a thousand various devices which left the conscience perfectly at ense. Only master the science of probabilism and you were beyond the shafts of the enemy. But what is probabilism? Here again we turn to Louis de Montalte and we have an explanation equally humourous and satisfactory.

"An opinion is termed 'probable,' when it is founded upon reasons entitled to a certain measure of consideration. Hence it may happen that a single authority of

eminence may render an opinion probable."

"Then," said I, "a single doctor may turn our consciences, at his own pleasure, and without fear of eonsequences?" "You need hot laugh," said he; "this is a doctrine not to be questioned." . . . . "My good Father," said I, frankly, "I cannot make anything of this rule of yours. Who will satisfy me that, with this licence which your Fathers assume, of examining matters by reason only, that which will appear certain to me, will bo so to others? So great is the diversity of opinion." "You don't see the point," interrupted the Father; "they are by no means without differences of opinion; but that is of no importance. We all know that they do not all hold the same sentiments; on the contrary, they scarcely ever agree: but it is all the better for that. There are few questions in which you will not find that one will say Yes; another, No; and in all these cases each of the two conflicting opinions has some degree of probability." . . . . "But, my Father," I said, " this must render a choice between the different views embarrassing." "Not in the least," he replied; "we have nothing to do but to follow that which agrees best with our own." "Bat suppose the other has the greater measure of probability?" "No matter," he replied. "And if the other should be the more sound?" "No matter still," rejoined the Father. . . . "Admirable! my good Father, your doctrine is most convenient. So, you may reply Yes or No, at your pleasure! It is impossible to estimate too highly such an advantage. I now see the use of the opposing opinions held by'your authorities on all subjects; for the one are always serviceable, and the other can never be injurious. If you don't find your account on the one side, you try the other, and are thus always secure." "It is very true," he replied; "and thus we can always say, with Diana, who had Father Bauny on his side, while Father Lugo was against him,

'Ssepc, premente Deo, fert Deus alter opem.'" "I understand you," said I; "but there is one difficulty to my mind; suppose, after consulting one of your doctors, and receiving from him a somewhat latitudinarian opinion, you were to fall in with another more severe in his views, and who would not give absolution without a change of opinion? Have you not given directions for a contingency?" "Can you doubt it," he replied; "they are compelled to absolve such penitents

s hold the probable opinions in question, on penalty of being guilty of mortal sin if they refuse." "Well, my good Father," I rejoined; "this is truly excellent! There is nothing now to fear. A confessor cannot dare to refuse! I did not know before, that you had the power to issue ordinances on pain of damnation. I supposed you were only able to take away sins; I did not imagine you had authority to make them also; but I now see there is no limit to your powers." "You do not express yourself properly," he replied; "we do not make sins, we only furnish the occasion for bringing them to light. I have several times observed that you are not a good scholastic. . . ."

And so the Jesuit father goes on, clearing every difficulty raised by his opponent, solving every problem, and all the time little suspecting that he is furnishing Pascal with the most formidable weapons against the society of Loyola. Moliere's Medecine malgre lui carried on the science of medicine in an altogether new and improved manner; he placed the heart on the right-hand side and the liver on the left; and he grounded his system of pathology upon—to say the least— an original view of anatomy. Thus it was with the Casuists. Their code of ethics differed toto coelo from what man had been accustomed to believe; their axioms were paradoxes, and if the administration of sublunary affairs had passed under their direction, society must soon have come to an end. An eminent critic, alluding to the extracts which Pascal gives from the works of the , Jesuit Fathers, remarks that religious sophistry more than anything else impairs 'the understanding. When a narrow-minded man endeavours to grapple with the questions relating to faith, to God, to the unseen world, instead of becoming greater, he sinks to a lower level than the one he occupied before; and if it is true that no science is calculated more than that of religion to elevate and expand our thoughts, it is equally certain that religion offers us to a far greater extent than any other system of knowledge, instances of puerility and mischievous stupidity amongst those who profess to do it exclusive service. Such were the Jesuits. At the same time we must acknowledge that they are not the only upholders of probabilism. The system, says M. Vinet, dates from the earliest epoch in the world's history; the art of interpretations, of mental restrictions, has been practised at all times by the most ignorant of mortals; and if the word Jesuit had really the meaning which the Jansenists themselves would have given to it, and which it is generally understood to imply, we might say, that the heart of man is naturally Jesuitical. What is probabilism, if it is not a particular epithet applied to the commonest thing in the world ?— the worship of public opinion, the preference given to authority over individual convictions, to persons over

ideas, to circumstances over the decrees of conscience? Impartiality is too often another name for probabilism. We pride ourselves on the equanimity with which wo appreciate ideas and views of the most conflicting character; we would not perhaps acknowledge that our sympathies are equally divided between both; but, in point of fact theories find us indifferent, and the weight of personal influence, friendship, or material advantage, is the only one which prevails with us. Is not this, we repeat, probabilism? When the tempter came near Adam and Eve, the name of probabilism did not exist, and yet his insinuation which brought about man's first disobedience was presented in the form of a probable opinion. We do not give this an excuse for Escobar, Molina, or Father Bauny; we merely want to free them from the responsibility of having invented the doctrine of probable opinions.

There is apparent from one letter to another, in Pascal's chef d'amvre, a climax which reaches its height at the close of the work. Then Louis de Montalte, dropping the mask, turns round against the Jesuits, and in a series of solemn addresses, denounces to the whole world their crimes, their calumnies, and their antiChristian teaching.

"The fourteenth Provinciale," says Chancellor d'Aguesseau, "is a master-piece of eloquence comparable to the most admired remains of antiquity. I doubt whether the Philippics of Demosthenes and Cicero contain anything stronger or more perfect." "It was in Pascal's replies to the Society," M. Villemain observes, "that still preserving the form of letters, he rose with easy wing to the loftiest flights of eloquence, of reasoning, and of burning indignation. Who was ever tired of that exquisite passage, in which, after describing with matchless vigour the long nd deadly contest between violence and truth—' two powers,' he says, 'whose forces have hitherto remained but too nearly balanced'—he predicts, notwithstanding, the inevitable triumph of truth, 'because she is eternal and omnipotent as God himself.' Neither Demosthenes, Chrysostom, nor Bossuet, under the inspiration of applauding multitudes, ever produced anything more sublime than the concluding sentences of the Twelfth Provincial letter.

Pascal's intention was evidently to make an appeal to those classes of society which care little generally for mere theological argument. He meant to write for the million; and we have already seen that his endeavours met with the most signal success. But another Port-Royalist, Nicole, bethought himself of enabling the literati and divines throughout the whole of Europe to appreciate Montalte's wit, and to pronounce between Jansenism and falsehood. Under the pseudo-anonymous authorship of "Wilhelmus Wendrockius" a thick octavo* was issued

  • I have used the fourth edition, printed at Cologne in 1675.

from the press, containing Pascal's text, elegantly translated into latin, together with a variety of notes and a learned commentary. Wendrock's prceloquia, or preliminary disquisitions, are not the least interesting parts of his work. In the third, we have the whole history of the course followed by the Gallican clergy in the affair of the Jansenists. The fourth gives full particulars of an episode which marked the contest. It seems that the worthy inhabitants of Bordeaux knew, as yet, nothing of Pascal or Nicole, when the Jesuits, all powerful in the place, obtained from the King's council an order to the effect that the "Provincial letters" Bhould be burnt. The sentence, however, was not immediately carried into execution: the magistrates thought, most wisely, that before a censor condemns a book, he is bound to examine it carefully, and to form an impartial opinion of its contents. It soon struck the Jesuits that they had acted most imprudently in endeavouring to precipitate matters: their friends told them so, pointing out to them the necessity of keeping at least an outward conformity to the rules of equity. But it was too late; and the sole resource that remained was to bribe the judges, if possible, and to frighten them into a sentence of condemnation. All that talk and bustle about a few printed sheets could not but have occasioned some degree of sensation in Bordeaux. Thus came to pass precisely what the Jesuits had ardently wished to avoid. People resolved to judge for themselves; and all the copies of the "Provincial letters" which had found their way as far as Bordeaux, were speedily disposed of. Meanwhile the Jesuits pursued the attack in different ways. They published a pamphlet against Wendrock ; they threatened the judges with excommunication; they vainly endeavoured to get one of their own side among the theological examiners of the obnoxious book; they thundered from the pulpit against Pascal, Arnauld d'Andilly, Saint Cyran, etc.; even attributing to them the earthquake which had lately terrified the city of Bordeaux. The worthy councillors of the Parliament seem to have enjoyed more than one good joke at the expense of the reverend fathers. "One, in particular," says Wendrock, "applied to the parish priests, asking if it was true that those who defended Nicole were worthy of excommunication?" "Quite the reverse," was the general reply. "Well, we Burdigalensian senators," retorted the magistrate," are in a most woeful plight, if, wherever we turn, we must needs meet with the wrath of the Church."

The Bordeaux decision was quite favourable to the Port-Royal writers. But this partial triumph could not insure the complete success of Jansenism. In the year 1657, all the "Provincial letters" had already been condemned by the Pope, and burnt by the hands of the public executioner, in compliance with a degree of the Parliament of Aix, the same having been done also in Paris, by a degree of the Council of State, held coincidently with a Convocation of prelates and doctors. When the Latin translation was published, Montalte and Wendrock were examined by royal order, for which purpose a commission was appointed, of four of the most eminent bishops, and six learned doctors. They gave an opinion upon the two works, to the effect that the heresies condemned in Jansenius were openly maintained in them, and that they abounded in sentiments injurious to the Pope, the bishops, the sacred person of the King, the ministers, the faculty of Paris, and the religious orders; accordingly the works were remitted, by decree of the Council of State, to the Civil Lieutenant, to he hurned by the common executioner. The decree is dated the 23rd of September, 1660; the sentence of the lieutenant, the 8th of October; and both were carried into execution on the 14th of the same month.

Thus was accomplished what some thought the total annihilation of heresy and rebellion. With what success, let those explain, who, in all quarters, still see "Louis deMontalte" printed, edited, annotated, and commented upon.

After Stephen Pascal's death, in 1651, Jacqueline thought herself at liberty to follow her original idea of taking the veil; and it was not without a considerable degree of surprise that she found her brother opposing those views quite as strenuously as her father had done before. But the high-minded woman determined not to be thwarted in this important step; and she wrote to Blaise a letter, penned under the inspiration of passion and of obstinacy. She reminded him that he could not prevent her from secluding herself behind the cloisters of Port-Royal, and she invited him to honour with his presence the fatal ceremony which was to cut her off from the world. Jacqueline's epistle exhibits the working of a stern and indomitable character; it is Pierre Corneille, dressed in woman's clothes. She remained mistress of the field of battle, and, at the beginning of the year 1653, we see her turned into a nun, as Sister Sainte-Euphemie. Pascal himself soon followed her example, and 1654 is marked in the annals of Port-Royal by the conversion of the then popular Louis de Montalte. But it is curious to notice the extremes to which he was carried by his impetuous character. Even his sister was obliged to caution him against going too far, as is apparent from the following extract which we give as we have found it in M. Cousin's work :—

"I have been strongly congratulated for the great fervency of spirit which raises you so much above common things, as to make you include brooms under the head of superfluous furniture. It is necessary that you should be, at least for a few months, as clean as you are now

dirty. Persons will thus see that if you are, through humility, neglectful of your own interests, you are likewise happy in the humble care and vigilance of the person who waits upon you; after that, it will be equally glorious for you and edifying for others, to see you living in dirt, supposing, however, that this should be the more perfect state of the two, and I have my doubts about that, because Saint Bernard was not of the same opinion."

This extraordinary statement may well call forth a smile: it is another proof of what Pascal himself has so powerfully explained—the union of greatness and misery in man. The saying "no man is a hero for his valet-dechambre " seems in a certain sense applicable to all those who study in their deshabille popular characters, and such as have acted a conspicuous part in the history of humanity. But the common interpretation of this proverb rests on a mis-application of the word hero. If we rightly understood its purport, we should not be ashamed at finding a shade thrown over some parts of our favourite images, nor should we value the less the master-piece that has come from the furnace, because in it the precious metal is mixed with a necessary proportion of alloy.

Sister Sainte Euphemie soon became invested with some responsible duties at Port-Royal. She had to superintend the education of the young children, and she drew up a regulation, which contains very striking passages. M. Cousin has reprinted the whole document in his biographical account of Jacqueline, and it is well worth an attentive perusal. We cannot, however, stop now to analyse this long composition; but we shall pass on to notice the next important event in the history of PortRoyal and of the Pascal family. One of Madame Perier's daughters, consequently a niece of Jacqueline, had been troubled with a gathering on the eye, which likewise produced headaches. From it she was, as Port-Royal believed, miraculously cured by the application of a sacred relic, and Sister Sainte Euphemie immediately wrote to Madamo Perier a letter full of particulars on the subject.

This miracle, of course, is quite as authentic as the thawing of the blood of St. Januarius at Naples. The news quickly spread through Paris, and crowds came to see Mademoiselle Perier. The Jesuits had already attained the highest stage of power; and, by their influence at court, they were preparing the destruction of the Jansenists, their direst enemies. The prodigies accomplished by the holy thorn were not likely to check the sous of Loyola in the pursuit of revenge; but it was not till the year 1661 that the blow was struck. Every one has heard of the bulls published by the two Popes Innocent X. and Alexander VII. An assembly of court bishops in France drew up a declaration, which was subsequently made more valid still by the King's own signature, and which became obligatory to all eccleaiastical persons throughout France. This declaration contained two points: the former, to the effect that the five famous propositions on the subject of Divine grace were to be found in the "Augustinus" of Bishop Jansenius; the latter maintained the heretical character of these propositions. Believing, as they did, that the five propositions were, in substance, maintained by Jansenius, the solitaries of Port-Royal would have been guilty of an untruth had they subscribed to the Pope's declaration; on the other hand, if they refused, they were lost. In this dreadful situation, the thought of n compromise struck the firmest minds. A negociation was opened with the Archbishop of Paris, for the purpose of endeavouring to obtain from him a pastoral letter couched in moderate expressions. Several meetings took place amongst the Jansenists; Pascal and Domat deciding against all compliance contrary to Christian truth and sincerity, whilst Nicole and Arnauld wrote in favour of conditional obedience. The authority of Arnauld especially carried along with it the votes of the majority; Port-Royal had breathed its last!

We fancy we are reading the history of ancient heroes when we see how the ladies of this illustrious community met their doom. The prioress and the sub-prioress (Jacqueline Pascal) both gave the example of dutiful obedience to the orders received from Rome; but for Jacqueline it was a death-stroke. Three months after, she was lying in her grave. The struggle between duty and affection had been too powerful!

Pascal soon followed his sister. For the last four years his life had exhibited one continued series of bodily pains. His dying moments now approached. The most intense suffering never drew from him a murmur of impatience. The Scriptures, which had been his exhaustless study during his period of energy and vigour, were now, in his hours of weakness, the balm and the consolation of his spirit. His especial delight was in an unceasing repetition of that treasury of spiritual comfort, the 119th psalm, which forms the petites Heures of the Romish Church. An ecclesiastic, a.friend of his family, on paying him an occasional visit, returned from his chamber, exclaiming to his sorrowing relatives: "Be comforted! his God is inviting him to himself; great as I always thought him, never did he appear so great as now. Would I were in his place."

His medical attendants, with an incompetence, which seemed common to the profession in France, in that day, flattered him and his friends that his symptoms were free from danger. But he himself knew the contrary. The soundness of judgment that distinguished him on every subject, extended to a clear insight into the character of bis own diseases. In the conviction of his advancing end, his only solicitude was to partake of the last offices directed by his Church for those in dying circumstances. This was for some time opposed, on the ground that the excitement of the services would too much exhaust his strength. His sufferings, however, still increasing, his sister took upon herself to procure the attendance of an ecclesiastic in his chamber, during the last night of his existence, and on his being seized with a violent convulsive fit, an interval of mitigated distress was embraced to administer to him extreme unction. His last words were expressive of his habitual humility and faith: "Forsake me not," he exclaimed, "O my God!" and, shortly after, he committed his spirit to his Redeemer. He died on the 19th of August, in the year 16(52, just two months after the completion of his thirty-ninth year.

II.

It is a pity that the late M. d'Israeli did not write a supplement to his "Calamities of Authors "; he might easily have met with cases tot illustration. The misfortunes of the author tribe are already sufficient to swell a few hundred octavo pages under the direction of any of his successors. Meanwhile, wo shall bring, in the present sketch, our mite towards the undertaking; and we can safely affirm that the history of Pascal's "Pensees" is capable, by itself, of proving a strong antidote against literary vanity.

For some time before his death, Pascal had been engaged in a work which, if completed, would have, no doubt, borne the stamp of the gifted author's genius. It was an apologetic composition, and destined to bring the truths of Christianity home to the minds of heretics, Jews, and infidels. But Pascal was already suffering from the most excruciating pains, when he applied himself to his last work; and he died, leaving behind him a mass of loose, unconnected MSS., which he would certainly have destroyed, rather than have allowed them to be published in the state in which they have been handed down to us. Pascal's relations and friends resolved, nevertheless, upon preparing an edition of these posthumous writings. But at that time the "Provincial Letters" were still fresh in the recollection of everybody, whilst the Jesuists, at last, had succeeded in becoming allpowerful at court. Pope Clement XI., besides, solicited by Louis XIV., had endeavoured to hush up the theological quarrels which had so long embittered the Jansenists and the Jesuits against each other. Only think, under such circumstances, of sending into the world a book on Christian ethics, bearing the name of Blaise Pascal! Without the greatest precautions, such an act was capable of stirring into a blaze the slumbering fire, and of raising all the fury aud malevolence of party ipirit.

Etienne l'erier (Pascal's nephew) in his prefatory

remarks to the editio princeps, describes to us the method followed by the compilers :—" Amidst this great number of thoughts, the clearest and the most finished have been selected; and we give them, such as they are, without any addition or alteration. The only difference is, that they were formerly unconnected, loose, and scattered confusedly here and there; whereas a kind of order reigns now throughout; fragments treating of similar subjects are ranged together under the same heads, whilst all the other thoughts, too obscure or too imperfect, have been suppressed."

Unfortunately Etienne Perier's declarations cannot safely be trusted, and we know for a certainty that his "without alteration or addition" must be considered as a gross mis-statement. Alas for the pruning and grafting propensities of the editorial committee! When the Periers found themselves in possession of a variety of loose papers, which had, as yet, received no arrangement, they called in the advice of various friends, of whom the leaders of Port-Royal were the chief. But, besides Nicole and Arnauld, the Duke de Roannez, whose admiration for Pascal had been so unbounded that he could not bear him out of his sight, together with the capricious Lomenie de Brienne, were associated with Etienne Perier in the preparation and arrangement of the MSS. Madame Perier's reverence for her brother made her as fearful of any alteration in what he had written, as Augustus could be of the insertion of new lines in the "iEneid," and her feelings were responded to by her son. But the circumstances of the times interfered with their intentions. The Jansenists were averse to any steps which should break that truce with their opponents which had been brought about under the auspices of Clement XI. Now, some of Pascal's fragments were mainly reflections upon the Jesuits. These, therefore, they curtailed in the most unsparing manner. Not contented with this, they altered innumerable passages, in which the force and meaning of the original suffered by this emendation. A long list of such cases is given by M. Cousin in his report. This work he produces authority for ascribing mainly to the Duke de Roannez. It is really laughable to imagine the heterogeneous character of a structure composed of Pascal's thoughts completed and prepared by the worthy editorial board over which Etienne Perier presided. It had been actually commenced, and "an amusing account has been left," says M. Rogers, " both of the progress the builders of Babel had made, and of the reasons for abandoning the design. At last," continues he, "it was resolved to reject that plan, because it was felt to be almost impossible to enter into the thoughts and plans of the author; and, above all, of an author who was no more ; and because it would not have been the work of M. Pascal, but a work altogether different—an owrage tout different! very different indeed! If this ndioe expression had been intended for irony, it would have been almost worthy of Pascal himself.

In the year 1770, poor Pascal fell from Charyhdis into Scylla, when Condorcet published a new edition of his remains. "While the original editors left out many passages from fear of the Jesuits, Condorcet, in his reprint, omitted many of the devout sentiments and expressions, under the influence of a totally different feeling. Infidelity, as well as superstition, has its bigots, who would be well pleased to have that index expurgatorim also."

One more catastrophe must be noticed in the annals of the Montalte MSS. It was the final stroke, or, if such simile be more appropriate, a coup de pinceau, combining the impudent alterations of the l)uke de Roannez and of Condorcet. The abbe Bossut (such was the name of the last reviser), published for the first time, in 1779, a complete collection of Pascal's works. His text contained very trifling additions from the original MSS.; he thought fit to use the pruning knife as unsparingly as his predecessors, not to say anything of the carelessness with which he studied the author's text. And yet Bossut was, down to the year 1S43, the grand authority for all booksellers who retailed Pascal's genius at three shillings or half a crown a volume. Lefavre, Didot, Renouard, one and all copied Bossut, unconscious of his mistakes, or perhaps not caring to correct them.

M. Cousin called, in 1842, the attention of the French Academy to the necessity of a new edition of Pascal's thoughts. He pointed out the different causes of the mutilations to which we have just alluded, and illustrated his remarks by a variety of examples. This was, however, only exhibiting the evil, as it were. To M. Faugere belongs the glory of having collected all the remains of Pascal's half-raised monument. What will seem perhaps more curious than the rest, the doomed antagonist of the Jesuits has been the cause of a literary feud between his modern champions. M. Cousin in part founds his theory on the fact that the first editors had tamed down some of the more startling statements of Pascal, and omitted others; and that a new edition would reveal the sceptic in his full dimensions. M. Faugere, on the contrary, endeavours to exhibit the Christian character of the author. He shows him condemning—not the use, but the abuse, of philosophy—and proclaiming everywhere the vanity of mere human knowledge. Hence a sort of sly warfare carried on between the two expositors of poor Pascal, This warfare is not without its deep import, and we recommend it to the reader's notice as a sign of the doubts and yearnings of the present time.

Yet the text of the " Pensees," even in its emendated form, furnishes us with no definite idea as to the appearance which the work would have assumed, if the author

had been spared to complete it. We see the quarry open, just as the architect left it; the rough, unpolished stones; the half-wrought fragments, and here and there a detached masterpiece, contrasting by its beauty with the imperfect state of the rest. Some persons object to the publishing of crude notes and hasty sketches, such as we find in the greater part of the volumes before us. Generally speaking, the plan is not advisable; but when an individual has been, as Pascal was, taken up and run down by all parties—when his works have been commented, vituperated, extolled, or explained by the Greeks and the Trojans in succession—it is certainly indispensable to have the whole case set perfectly clear, and to bring togetherallthe materials that can throw lightuponthe subject.

Pascal's book may be considered as the history of the soul's progress towards faith. He wishes to lead a man to religion; but having remarked how much our own will influences us, and how often our prejudices against religious truth arise from the circumstance that we do not know our own nature, he begins by a general consideration of ninn, compares him to the universe, and shows that whether we view the perishable or the imperishable part of his being, he is placed in the midst of infinitude.

We have our appointed position in the universe, but this is not peculiar to us; the characteristic feature in man is that he feels himself a stranger upon earth—that he is ever aspiring after some happiness which he cannot even conceive—that he is living in the past or in the future, never in the present—in fine, that hope and regret alternately make him miserable and claim him as their prey. How unaccountable, how strange, the sight we discover in the depths of our own hearts! The immoderate desire we feel for the esteem and the praise of others shows that we acknowledge the Divine principle dwelling within us. And yet, at the same time, we deceive ourselves to such an extent, that we are satisfied with putting on merely the external garb of those qualities by which we seek the applause and even the respect of our fellow-creatures.

If man is anxious for the esteem of man, he is no less earnest in his search after truth. And how many obstacles does he not meet with on this new ground! The force of opinion, the influence of disease, the senses, the imagination,—a thousand other causes acting either separately or together. On the subject of imagination, Pascal has some remarks which might be compared with more than one passage in M. Carlyle's Sartor Resartus. They contain a vehement exposition of the sham system already so wittily denounced by Agrippa d'Aubigne in his Aventures du haron de Fceneste. Our author draws a very good distinction between the customary obeisance due to a man's position in society, and the respect which we ought always to pay to virtue and to real worth. "Tour being

a Duke," says he, ," does not oblige me to esteem jou, but it compels me to take off my hat when I see you. If you are both a Duke and an honest man, I shall acknowledge, as I ought to do, the one and the other of these distinctions. I shall not refuse the ceremony which your quality as a Duke calls for, nor the esteem which you deserve as an honest man. But if you were a Duke, and yet worthless as far as character goes, I should still do you justice; for, whilst discharging towards you the outward duties which society has attached to your birth, I internally preserve, at the same time, the contempt deserved by the baseness of your mind."

There is nothing very extraordinary in this line of demarcation drawn by Pascal; but if we think for a moment of the state of society in the seventeenth century; how much haughtiness, how much vnnity there was on one side, and how much servility on the other, we shall be astonished to hear a writer attempting even to separate the inner man from his accessories and superfetations in the shape of swords, wigs, or badges. Such would not have been the opinion of M. de Benserade, or of that poor ecclesiastic who, preaching one day before the King, stated: "We must all die, my brethren;" then suddenly correcting himself at the idea of His Most Gracious Majesty, said: "My brethren, very nearly all of us must die."

And yet see how far Pascal is led by his distinction. He will soon conclude that all the external pomp and circumstance of power is nothing but trick, imposition, painted vanity. "The red gowns of our magistrates, the sable with which they wrap themselves up like so many cats, the palaces where they judge, the fleurs-de-lis—all that august apparel was quite necessary. If our physicians had not their black gowns and their mules, if our doctors had not their square caps and their robes four times too large, they never could have deceived the world."

If our imagination leads us often astray in our enquiries after truth, it is also unquestionable that speculation on what are generally called metaphysical principles is productive of little practical good. We may pass from unconscious to conscious ignorance, but such is the whole course of our intellectual progress; and within the circumference of this narrow circle, the most learned of mankind are compelled to move. True philosophers, therefore, laugh at philosophy; and if Aristotle and Plato deserved the name of philosophers, it was more from the practical wisdom they exemplified during their life, than in consequence of their metaphysical schemes. Human reason alone is an imperfect and blunted instrument; if truth is to enter within us, it is by another gate than that of mere argumentation.

We have here the key to that scepticism which has so often, ever since the publication of the "Pensees," been brought forward either as a reproach or as an encomium in the consideration of Pascal's character. Montaigne's essays, we know, were the favourite book of the author of the Provincial letters, and, to use the happy expression of a German commentator, Pascal climbed upon the shoulders of the Gascon gentilhomme, in order to reach the hand of faith. Both wished to pull down dogmatism; both would prove to man that he cannot find in his own unaided intellect the true criterion of certitude. But here the parallel ceases. Montaigne seems to introduce us into a curious castle full of winding staircases, mysterious galleries, and gloomy passages; holding in his hand a faint, glimmering light, he guides us on, till, coming to the midst of the old mansion, to the centre of the maze, he blows the candle out with a grin, and leaves us to grope for our way as best we can. In Pascal's castle, the galleries are as mysterious, the staircases as winding, the passages as gloomy: but our guide is trustworthy; he acquaints us with the peculiarities of the place; then, after having shown to us that the glimmering light which he has taken from the hands of Montaigne is of no service to us, he suddenly brings to our assistance the splendour of Divine Revelation.

The disproportion between man and the universe is another, and an important obstacle to our search after truth; on one side the infinitude of greatness meets us; on the other we find the infinitude of smallness, neither of which can be thoroughly investigated by human reason. "Let man, then, raise his views above the petty objects which surround him, and contemplate the entire expanse of nature, in all its majestic perfections; let him gaze upon that dazzling orb, suspended, from the commencement of time, in mid-heaven, like the gorgeous lamp of the universe; let him consider this our earth as but a minute point, in comparison with the mighty circle which that luminary describes; and then let him remember with astonishment that this prodigious orbit itself is again nothing more than the minutest speck, in comparison with that which the circling firmament of the constellations embraces!"

"But if the evidence of the sight is here arrested, let imagination pass beyond its limits; she will grow weary in conceiving—sooner than nature in furnishing— matter for her apprehension. The whole visible world is but one imperceptible atom in the ample bosom of nature. Thought is here baffled. We may swell, as we will, our conceptions beyond all imaginable space; we produce only atoms, instead of the mighty realities around us. We find a sphere of infinite extent, whose centre is in every part—its circumference in none! Behold, then, herein the plainest proof of the omnipotence of Jehovah,— that our imagination is lost and overwhelmed in the contemplation of these His stupendous works!"

"Now, let man look into himself, and consider what he is, in comparison with universal being: let him regard himself as cast forth upon this obscure province of nature; and then, from the petty nook on which he is placed,— for so I call this invisiDle world—let him learn to form a just estimate of the earth, of its kingdoms, of its cities, of himself!"

"What is man in the scale of infinitude t"

"Now, to show him another prodigy not less astonishing, let him consider the extent to which his knowledge can penetrate in objects the most minute. Take the smallest of worms: see in its petty body a multitude of parts infinitely smaller,—the limbs with their joints, the veins in the midst of those limbs, the blood in those veins, the various humours in the blood, the globules composing the humours, the vapours in the globules. Subdividing these again, let him strain the force of his conceptions, and make the lowest particle that he can imagine the subject of investigation: he will suppose, perhaps, that he has arrived at the extreme of minuteness in nature. I will discover to him a further abyss of wonders. He will see delineated, not only the visible universe, but all that he can conceive of the immensity of nature, in the compass of this concentration of an atom. There will be found in it an infinity of systems, each with its firmament, its planets, its earth, all bearing the same proportion to each other as in the visible world: in this earth, the infiuite variety of animal existence; and, last of all, the very worms we have bsen describing; in which will be discovered all that was furnished by the first which we made the subject of examination; and in them, again, will be found continually the things that have been already enumerated, without cessation, and without end. Thus will the spectator be lost in mysteries, as astonishing by their minuteness, as the former were by their magnitude. For who will withhold his admiration, to find this body of ours, which before seemed an imperceptible speck in the midst of the universe, and that universe again imperceptible in the bosom of infinitude,—to see it now become a Colossus, a world, an infinitude itself, in the comparison of the nullity to which we have been striving in vain to discover?

"Whoever pursues such contemplations as these will tremble as he considers himself thus suspended, by the appointment of nature, between these two abysses of infinite magnitude, and of nothingness; curiosity will yield to admiration; and he will end by a silent contemplation of these profound mysteries, rather than by wearying himself in presumptuous investigations."*

But in addition to the sources of error just described, we must not forget that our knowledge is altogether of a

relative nature; if we knew the whole, we should as a matter of necessity know its parts, and vice versa; hence we are led to conclude that we are acquainted with neither the one nor the other. We are left hesitating between the two infinitudes of greatness and of nothingness; in like manner, we feel puzzled by the conflicting claims of the world and of the body. The impressions we receive from each are constantly mis-appreciated by us, and their results misunderstood.

Besides, however, the desire for knowledge, which is one of the distinctive elements of our nature, we have also a longing after happiness,—longing never satisfied here below, and therefore furnishing an irresistible proof of our immortality. And here let us at once make an important distinction. There are two kinds of happiness, the one disinterested, the other selfish; the one springing from ourselves, the other borrowed, as an adventitious quality, from the things which surround us. With respect to the latter form of happiness, the objective one, Pascal is a pessimist, or rather he thinks it below his notice. Happiness, for him, W another word for content; in this sense it is an essential part of the order established by God, and its absence proves our fallen condition. Dis^ quietude, Pascal remarks, characterizes man, wherever he is. Happy or unhappy, joyful or miserable, still he is restless, and his principal pursuit seems to be that of driving as far away as possible the society of his own thoughts.

"When I have set myself sometimes to ruminate upon the various agitations in which men pass their lives, and the perils and toils to which they expose themselves, in Courts or in war; whence arise so many conflicts, such clash of passions, such daring and often criminal enterprizes; I have said to myself that all the misery of man springs from one source alone, which is, that he cannot endure to sit tranquilly at home, and be at rest. But when I pondered more deeply upon the matter, and after observing the more obvious causes, endeavoured to discover the deeper reasons of these disquietudes among men, I found one paramount over all—namely, the evil inseparable from our natural and mortal condition; which, when maturely considered, it will be found that nothing can effectually remedy. This is the reason why men are Bo enamoured of bustle and movement: hence it is that a prison presents to the mind such terrors: hence, that the pleasures of solitude are so incomprehensible. And it is, in fact, the main source of felicity in the condition of princes, that those about them are incessantly employed for their amusement, and busied to procure them variety in their pleasures. They have a secret instinct, urging them to occupation and amusement in external objects, which is the effect of a perpetual feeling of unhappiness; and they have another secret instinct,- the remains of our primitive greatness by nature,—which tells them that

happiness is the fruit of repose, rather than of excitement. From these two opposing impulses results a confusion of purpose, which is concealed in the deep recesses of the spirit; prompting men to seek repose by means of agitation; and suggesting that the hitherto unfound satisfaction will yet be discovered, if, after a few intervening difficulties shall have been surmounted, they can but succeed in reaching through them the haven of repose. In this way it is that the whole of life is spent. Repose is sought by the mastery of obstacles; and when these are mastered, the repose becomes oppressive. The mind then fall back upon the ills which are actually felt, or those which are threatened. And if immunity from all these were really experienced, ennui would force its secret entrances into the spirit, and pervade and envenom it in every part. Were man happy, his joy would increase in proportion as his amusement lessened, as is the case with the Saints, and with God. The only thing that dissipates our misery is amusement; yet this is the main source of our misery."*

Pascal next has a few remarks on what we may call objective happiness, namely, that which comes to us from without, from the circumstances amidst which we are placed. Men, he says, have not even the idea of what true happiness is, although they are constantly in quest of it; and the most accomplished philosophers give us very little information on the subject.

"All men are seeking happiness: to this there is no exception. Different as may be the means employed, they all pursue the same end. That which urges one man to the battle-field, and leads another to remain at home in peace, is the same desire in both, acting by different tendencies. The will of man takes not a step in any direction, but for this purpose. It is the motive of every action of every man in the world,—not excepting even him whose fancy it is to hang himself. Notwithstanding all this, however, there has never existed a being since the world was created, who, without religious belief, has attained this object, to which all are perpetually aspiring. All are unhappy :—princes, subjects; nobles, commons; young and old; powerful and weak; the wise and the ignorant; the healthy and the sick ; the inhabitants of all countries, and men of all ages, all times, and all conditions.

"An experience so long, so constant, and so uniform, might well convince us of our inability to attain to happiness by any efforts of our own: but example teaches in vain. It never runs so entirely parallel with our own case as to preclude some slight and subtle differences; and thus it is that we now indulge the hope that our own efforts will not be equally abortive with those of

  • Pearcc, p.p. 30—38.

others. Tims, while the present never satisfies, experience is constantly deceiving us; and we are led on from one sorrow to another, till Death fills up the eternal measure of our evils.

"Some seek happiness in high stations; others in the gratification of curiosity and science; others in voluptuousness; others, again, and they were nearer to their aim—have helieved that this universal good, the pursuit of every one, should not consist in any of those particular objects which can only be possessed by an individual; and which, when participated in by others, occasion to their owner more disturbance from the want of that part which he does not possess, than satisfaction from what is allotted to him. They have perceived that their happiness ought to consist in that which all may possess at once, without liability to decay, and exempt from mutual envy; and which none should be capable of losing, if desirous to retain it."*

Man, therefore, discovers in himself neither the key of true knowledge nor that of real happiness; let us see whether he realizes, at all events, the idea of justice which God has implanted in his breast as well as the two other principles we have just examined. The word exists; we speak of justice, and consequently we admit that there is a thing, a fact which corresponds to it; but we remain satisfied with an abstraction, an idea floating around us, and assuming nowhere a visible shape. We know what justice means, but we are completely unsettled as to what we should designate by the epithetsjwsi and unjust. The signification of these adjectives varies according to times and climates. "Three degress of latitude," says Pascal, "reverse a whole system of jurisprudence, a difference of one meridian decides the question of truth or falsehood. After the lapse of a few years, fundamental laws are overthrown. Right has its epochs: the entry of Saturn into Leo marks the commencement of a crime. 0 happy code, which is bounded by the course of a river! Truth on one side of the Pyrenees, error on the other."f

From this extreme diversity our author concludes that there is no science of justice. We speak often of natural principles, but "what are onr natural principles, but those of custom ?"{ It is not without reason that man appeals to nature; the word nature exists, and therefore the corresponding fact exists also, as in the case of justice; but we have lost our true nature, and custom has taken its place. "Custom is a second nature which destroys the first. Why is not custom natural? I »ra very much afraid that this kind of nature is only an original custom, in the same way as custom is a second nature." The impossibility of arriving at evident principles, at

  • Pearce, p.p. 120—123.

+ Pearce, p. 126. X Pearce. p. 132.

axioms recognized by everybody, being thus established; it follows that the only universal rules of conduct are those of the country in which we live, for ordinary matters, and those of the majority in all others; that is to say, in all the cases which the law cannot anticipate, the accidental fact of a majority will have force of law, and law will do the rest. Now, what can that law he but force? "No doubt," says Pascal, "equality of benefits (that is to say, equality of social advantages) is just; hut as it is not possible that force should ohey justice, it has come to pass that justice has been obedient to force: as justice could not be invested with power, power has been rendered just, and thus justice and force form a coalition; and peace, the supreme good, is preserved between them."*

This last passage leads us to conclude that if the idea of justice is naturally unknown to man, as far as our will is concerned we are still more opposed to it. VVhere conscience yields, selfishness never does. Accordingly, in order to have a starting point, it has been necessary to identify force with right, and this conclusion has been universally adopted by a kind of tacit agreement. "What an excellent idea it was," says Pascal ironically, "to distinguish men by exterior rather than by internal qualities! Which of us two shall pass first? Who stall yield to the other? The more clever? But I am as clever as he is. We shall have to fight on that subject. Ke has four men-servants, and I have only one; that can be seen, you need only count; I must yield, and if I dispute, I am nothinz but a fool. By this means we have preserved peace, which is the greatest of all blessings."

And elsewhere, he adds:—"The most unrcasonab'e things in the world become the most reasonable on account of the corruption of mankind. What is there less reasonable than to choose the eldest son of a Queen to govern us? You do not appoint as the pilot of a ship him whose biith is the noblest; that would he ridiculous and unjust. But because men are corrupt and always will he so, the rule in this case becomes reasonable and just. For whom shall we appoint? The most virtuous? The most accomplished? Here we aro at once engaged in endless controversies. Each one thinks himself the most virtuous, the most accomplished. Let us then attach this quality to something beyond the reach of dispute. The eldest son of thb king is there, and about his position as such there can be no possible dispute. Reason cannot do better, for civil war is the greatest of all evils."

We see, now, what is the substratum of Pascal's political system, and we think immediately of the theory propounded by another philosopher, with whom the author of the Pensees would have felt ashamed to be classed, we mean Hobbes. For Hobbes, as well as for Pascal, force is the great principle of politics; but according to the views entertained by the French thinker, it is only man in his unregenerated state who adopts so monstrous a system; religion coines to the rescue, opens his eyes, teaches him better things; in the system of Hobbes, on the contrary, the idea of force as the essence of political society, is the fundamental one, and religion comes in only as a kind of device more or less cunningly introduced for the purpose of giving to despotism its sanction and its guarantee.*

From the considerations we have just now presented we could, without any further preface, pass on to conclude man's misery; but this fact is already sufficiently established by the previous remarks, and it now remains that we should, on the other side of the account, strike out the balance of man's greatness. This Pascal docs in a chapter which can never be too much admired. In the very depth of his misery man is great because he does not confound his misery with himself, because he will not stoop down to a level with that misery; in short, because he will be great. "Notwithstanding the contemplation of all the miseries with which we are surrounded, touching us so intimately, there is in us an irrepressible instinct which seems to raise us above them."f What do I say? Man is great, not only because he knows he is great, but also because he feels he is wretched. "As misery results from greatness, and yet greatness is shown in that very misery, some have inferred the existence of the misery still more strongly from regarding the greatness to be the proof of it; and others, inferring yet more forcibly the greatness, inasmuch as they have deemed it proved by the misery, all that the one class has advanced in support of the greatness has but furnished arguments to the other in proof of the misery, since a descent seems the greater in proportion to the previous elevation. Thus they argue conversely, and oppose each other's views in a perpetual circle; each feeling that in proportion as men are enlightened, they see in themselves both greatness and misery. In a word, man knows that he is miserable. He is miserable in being so; but he is great in knowing it."!

  • We may remark, en passant, that however different from each other as to their conclusions, all true philosophers have taken as their starting- point man's original corruption and his wickedness by nature. It is said that Frederic the Great, King of Prussia, answered one day to the metaphysician Sulzer, who was praising the innate goodness of man; "Don't believe it; you, messieurs les savants, can know nothing about it. But take the word of one who has been for thirty years practising king-craft; it is a wicked race."— In ]806 Napoleon wrote to his brother Jerome: 'Men are low, servile, amenable to force alone.'"

t Pearee, p. 81.

j Pearce, pp, 82—83,

The essence of greatness in man, therefore, is knowledge. But knowledge is thought, and thought, however tainted by sin we may suppose it, is, after all, the constitutive element, the substratum of our greatness. Thought is often foolish, often ridiculous, but it is thought, and as such is superior to everything else. "Man is but a reed,"—the feeblest of created things,—but one possessing thought. It needs not that the universe should arm itself to crush him. A breath, a drop of water suffices for his destruction. But were the whole universe thus to rise against him, man is greater than it, because he knowB that he dies; and though the universe should thus be his destroyer, it is unconscious of its power. All our dignity, then, consists in thought. Thence is our real elevation: not in space, which we cannot fill; not in duration, which is nothing. Let us aim to think well; That is the source of all true morality.*

This last word, so unexpected, comes to us as a flash of lightning. Morality, then, is higher than thought, and the dignity of thought is essentially dependent upon the close alliance it maintains with morality.

We are conscious, then, of our original greatness, because we feel the weight of our present misery. If we had always lived in a, state of wretchedness, we could not appreciate the degradation under which we are suffering. "Who is unhappy at not being a king, except one who has been deposed? Was Paulus Emilius unhappy at being no longer consul? On the contrary, every one saw he was happy in having held the office, because the condition of holding it was that it should not be perpetual. Perseus, on the other hand, was so unhappy at ceasing to be a king, because the office was a permanent one, that it was thought strange that he could endure existence." All these miseries—that is to say, all the miseries arising from a feeling that the threefold longings of man's heart are not satisfied—prove his greatness. They are the miseries of a man of high birth, the miseries peculiar to a deposed Sovereign."f

"Let man now hold himself at his true worth. Let him regard himself with complacency, as possessing a nature capable of good; with aversion, on account of the unworthiness mingled with it. Let him despise himself for the abortiveness of his powers; but moderate bis contempt in consideration of their original greatness. How can it be otherwise than that disesteem and admiration should thus alternate in him? He is capable of knowing truth and attaining to happiness; but he possesses neither truth, constancy, nor peace."!

If man does not possess truth, where will he apply for it p Amongst the philosophers three sects present themselves, claiming a hearing, and deserving a certain amount of attention. Pascal objects to the Stoics that they know merely the greatness of man; and to the Epicureans, that they are acquainted only with his wretchedness. "The one," says he, "have aimed to teach men to extinguish passion and to become gods; the others, to renounce the rule of reason, and become brute beasts." The Pyrrhonists or sceptics then come forward, and command a hearing. This is one of the most striking parts in the whole Pensees, and, in order to understand it well, we must endeavour to realize that extraordinary mixture of contempt and of fear which appears to have prevailed in Pascal's mind when he endeavoured to grapple with the subject. The beginning leads us to suppose that contempt will be the tone of the whole morceau.

"I propose to note down my thoughts without regular sequence, and yet not perhaps confusedly or without method: it is, in fact, the true method which I adopt, and that which will assist my design by its apparent disorder. I should confer too much, however, upon my subject, were I to treat it with regularity, because 1 mean to show that regularity or method is a thing of which it is, in itself, incapable."*

The starting point, the argument of the whole chapter is thus given by Pascal:—

"Nothing is more strange in the nature of man than the contradictions he exhibits in all things. He is formed to discover truth; he ardently desires and diligently seeks it; yet, when he tries to grasp it, so dazzled is he and confounded, that you at once believe him to be in error. This has given rise to the two sects of Pyrrhonists and dogmatists,—the one of which would take from man all knowledge of truth, whilst the other aims to assure him of it; but both of them deal in such inconclusive reasonings, that they increase his confusion and embarrassment, whilst all the time he possesses no other light to guide him than that of unassisted nature."f

Scepticism and dogmatism cannot destroy one another; the latter is strong because it has on its side nature and a kind of internal necessity; the former triumphs through the logical weakness of its rival, but through that alone: "We labour," says Pascal, "under an impotency of furnishing conclusive proofs of things, which is invincible to dogmatism. We have an innate idea of truth, which is invincible to all Pyrrhonism." Our author then concludes that truth remains with the Pyrrhonists, and he goes on at some length, constituting himself the advocate or apologist of Pyrrhonism, and reproducing the principal arguments that have, at various times, been brought

forward on its behalf. "I place my finger," he continues, upon one position only of the dogmatists, which is that, speaking with truth and sincerity, it is impossible to have any doubt of natural principles. To which the Pyrrhonists simply oppose the uncertainty of our origin, which includes that of our nature. To this the dogmatists have still to make an effectual reply, and will have as long as the world lasts."[1]

But we now answer: if reason is on the side of the Pyrrhonists, nature is against them. "Shall man doubt of everything ?—Doubt whether he is awake, whether he is pricked with a pin, or burnt with a hot iron? Shall he doubt that he doubts? Doubt that he exists? We cannot go so far as this: and thus I assert that there has never been such a thing as real, perfect scepticism. Nature comes to the aid of reason in her weakness, and does not suffer her to fall into extravagancies so palpable."

We have here already a kind of refutation of Pyrrhonism; but Pascal goes farther, and he finds the sceptics guilty of begging the question. They defy human reason to prove the first principles, when, in point of fact, human reason never undertook such a task. It would be as fair to maintain that man neither suffers nor feels pleasure, because he can give no demonstrations of his pains or his enjoyments. How far back soever we may go, we shall at last discover elementary truths which are beyond the reach of argumentation, and these truths are the facts revealed to us by the heart. The heart is no dialectician, yet it is perfectly qualified to be a source of knowledge, and we do not see why sceptics should refuse to admit its conclusions.

"We acquire a knowledge of truth," says Pascal, "not only by the force of reason, but by our feelings; it is through these that we know first principles, and it is these which reason vainly attempts to combat, seeing she has, in fact, nothing to do with them. The sceptics, who make this their only object, spend their labours uselessly in it. We know that here we are not deceived, however incapable we may be of establishing our positions by reason: this inability proves nothing more than the inability of reason,— not, as our opponents pretend, the uncertainty of our knowledge. Our knowledgo of first principles, such as that there is time, space, movement, numbers, is as strong as any of those revelations which we derive from reason. It is upon these attestations of feeling and instinct that reason must rest, and by them all her deductions must be supported. Our senses tell us that there are three dimensions in space, and that numbers are infinite; and reason afterwards demonstrates that there are no two square numbers the one of which is double the other. Principles are felt; propositions are believed; and in both we arrive at certainty, though by different paths. And it is equally absurd for reason to require the heart to furnish the proof of its first principles before they can be admitted, as for the heart to require of reason a feeling of all its own propositions before they should be received.

"This kind of imperfection ought then only to have the effect of inculcating humility upon the reasoning powers, in their pretensions to apprehend all things; but not to invalidate our certainty of conviction, as if reason alone could be our instructress. Would to God that we could, on the contrary, dispense with her aid altogether, and attain to a universal knowledge by instinct and feeling alone! But nature has denied us this boon, and, indeed, furnished us with very little information arising from this source; every other kind of science is to be acquired by reasoning alone."*

We have here, it strikes me, the final conclusions of Pascal on this important subject. He is not the exclusive champion of human reason; yet, on the other hand, he will have nothing to do with the extravagance of Pyrrhonism. Doubt prevails amongst us, it is true; not as one of the normal qualities of our moral existence, but as a disease, as a plague-spot which requires a cure. It stands forth as a proof of our natural corruption, and it would suffice alone to demonstrate the truth of man's original fall. From the position he thus assumes, Pascal addresses his fellow-creatures, addresses himself, in strains of eloquence which have never been surpassed.

"Learn, then, O proud being, the paradox which you are to yourself! Humble yourself, vain reason! be silent, weak nature! Know how man infinitely surpasses man; receive from your Great Master that secret of your true condition, of which you are so ignorant! Listen to the words of God!

"For, truly, if man had never fallen he would, in his innocence, have enjoyed all the certainty that happiness and truth could confer. On the other hand, had he never been otherwise than fallen, he could have had no conception at all of truth or happiness. But such is our misfortune,—and it is so much the greater on account of the original dignity of pur condition,—we have an idea of happiness, yet we are unable to realize it; we form conceptions of truth, but possess only falsehood: incapable alike of absolute ignorance or of certain knowledge, we exhibit evidence of the perfection we once possessed, in the very depth of our unhappy fall!"

It is evident, then, that philosophy is of no avail to us, as for the settling of the problems connected with our eternal destiny; Pascal turns next to what is called natural religion, and there he finds the same insufficiency. For we need only state the difficulty in the following manner to see at once the absolute futility of a system of religion which discards revealed truth. Either man knows himself or he does not; "Now, if he does not, how absurditis," Pascal remarks, "totell him to attain unto God by his own efforts! and if he does, how absurd likewise!" Pride will keep him back in the former case, and discouragement in the latter. We have here, therefore, a first and a very strong argument against natural religion. We may add, however, that the proofs of the existence of God, both physical and metaphysical, which are made so much of by certain writers, are extremely weak, and that they produce very little effect upon those for whose benefit they seem especially intended. To begin with, let us take the physical proofs, implying a kind of optimism founded upon the order of nature: "I should feel no surprise," says Pascal, " at this mode of proceeding, if the arguments were addressed to believers; for it is certain that those whose hearts are influenced by a lively faith plainly perceive that all things around them are the work ofthat God whom they adore. As to those.on the other hand, in whom this illumination is extinguished, and in whom, yet, it is wished to revive its guiding light,— persons destitute both of faith and of grace; who, making every effort to discover, amidst the works of nature, something which may direct them to the knowledge of a God, find therein, nevertheless, nothing but clouds and darkness,— to tell such persons that they have but to contemplate the simplest of the objects around them, and they will plainly discover in them a Divine hand; to refer them for proof, on this grand and momentous theme, to the revolutions of the moon or the planets; and then to fancy that the sum of the evidences on which their belief is to rest incomplete ;—All this is only calculated, as reason and experience have both taught me, to awaken a suspicion that the proofs on which our religion is supported are miserably weak; and instead of inspiring reverence for her high revelations, tends rather to bring them into contempt."*

The metaphysical evidences are held quite as unfavourably by Pascal.

"They are so subtle," he says, "and so remote from men's comprehensions, that they carry little weight with them: and even if some persons are convinced by them, it is only temporarily; an hour after they will be afraid they are labouring under a delusion."t

Revelation, then, is our only trustworthy guide through life, and it is from Christianity that we must seek the solution of the problem of man's destiny.

We must not prolong any further our walk through the magnificent ruins which are called Pascal's Pensees, and which, if completed, would have formed one of the noblest contributions to modern apologetic literature. It remains that we should notice some of the critiques attemped by the infidels and atheists of the last century. Voltaire, of course, suggests himself in the first rank as Pascal's chief adversary, and we shall take him, therefore, as the representative of the rest. It is much to the honour of the author of the Pensees that the arch-philosopher of the eighteenth century should have considered him as the most correct expounder of Christianity. Bossuet was the type of state-religion, of formalism, of that kind of via media which, under the protection of the crown, keeps at equal distance from unbelief, and from what is called fanaticism or misplaced enthusiasm. Fenelon represented a modification of Christianity which, with very little difficulty, might lead to something very far from true Christian orthodoxy. But with Pascal the case was totally different; there was Christianity itself, in its severest form, conceding nothing to either worldly politica or to metaphysical speculation. Pascal was the Btronghold, the bulwark of a system which Voltaire had undertaken to destroy, and against which he employed every hour, every minute of his busy life. Crush the wretch was his motto, and crush all those who, like Pascal, espouse the cause of the wretch and make it their own. In a letter addressed to a friend of his, Voltaire said . "would yon advise me toadd (to the Lettres Philosophiaues) a few detached reflexions directed against Pascal's thoughts V I have for a long time entertained the desire of wrestling with this giant. There is no warrior so thoroughly armed who is completely invulnerable; and I confess to you that if, notwithstanding my weakness, I could deal a few blows at that conqueror of so many minds, it I could break the yoke under which he has kept them prisoners, I would almost venture to say with Lucretius:—

Quare supcrstitio pedibus subjecta vieissim
Obteritur, non cx£equat victoria eaMo.

Voltaire, in his controversy, endeavours to simplify the question as much as possible; he begins by introducing tuperstitio instead of relligio in his quotation from Lucretius, in order to deceive the public and to make them believe that his object is merely to expose and condemn false or exaggerated views of Christianity. He then puts the question: what is man? and he who, whilst attacking Leibnitz, turns optimism into ridicule, believes, when grappling with Pascal, that everything in this world is for the best. What is man? an animal just as much as a lion, an eagle, or a worm, with organs a little superior to those of the rest, and a somewhat larger share of happiness. Why then should he be in the state of despair and of misery which Pascal describes in such gloomy colours? Why should he be constantly and irremediably wretched? "At for me," he continues, "when I look at either London or Paris, I see no reason for that misery which M. Pascal talks of; I behold a city which in no wise resembles a desert island; it is peopled, opulent, governed by good laws, and its inhabitants are as happy as human nature can be. What wise man is there who will be full of discouragement, because he does not know the nature of his thoughts, and because he is acquainted with only a few of the attributes of matter?"

The sum of Voltaire's argumentation may be stated as follows: 1st, the fact that Christianity explains the problem of human nature does not prove its heavenly origin; 2nd, human nature.does not really contain that duplicity, those contradictory elements which compel us to apply to revelation for the only appropriate solution. But, with respect to the latter assertion, it is easy to refute the infidel's sophism, and we need do nothing more than appeal to everybody's experience. You describe to us the happiness enjoyed in a large city like London or Paris by those whoso life is spent without reflection, without any serious consideration of the problem of humanity. It is true that they are governed by wise laws, and that, in addition to the gifts of nature, they share in the blessings of the society to which they belong. But their original condition is not the less miserable for all that; they are like the inhabitants of a sumptuous palace, who spending their days in a ceaseless round of diversions and entertainments, would not be aware that the magnificent building in which they reside is undermined, and that, when they least expect it, an explosion will take place, consigning them to everlasting destruction. These wretched people, threatened by the most awful of all calamities, are not the less to he pitied, because they are unconscious of the fate which awaits them; and, in like manner, the citizens of Paris, London, Berlin, or Rome are not the less wretched because they know not to what extremity they are hurrying. Men may, amidst an unceasing round of excitement, succeed in stifling for a time the sense of misery which is at the bottom of every heart; but a day must come when we awake to a true sense of our position, and if we suppose that our view of things as they are lasts only for a moment, that is quite enough to refute Voltaire's assertion.

Respecting the question of the Divine origin of Christianity, we should merely ascertain whether any school of philosophy has ever succeeded in explaining, with the help of reason alone, the different elements of our nature, and the motives of our actions. Voltaire indulged in many ridiculous jokes about Pascal's well-known remarks on charity. "The infinite difference," our philosopher says, " between the body and the mind is a figure of the infinitely more infinite difference between the mind and charity. This is beyond comprehension. . . . Everything that is merely physical,—the firmament, the starry heaven, the earth and its royalties,—all is valueless compared with the lowest order of intelligence; for intelligence possesses a knowledge of all these things and of itself also: but mere physical substance knows nothing. All physical substances, all the intelligence of man, and everything which they can produce, bear no comparison with the least movement of charity; the region of charity is one infinitely above them. All bodily substances put together could not originate the simplest thought: it is an impossibility; their natures are wholly different. All bodily substances and all human intellect put together could not give birth to a single movement of charity; that too is an impossibity, for the nature of charity is superhuman."

Voltaire called all this nonsense, and he had no words strong enough to denounce the galimatias of what we consider one of the most striking passages in the whole Pensees. But this very fact alone would suffice, we think, to prove the truth of Christianity. Saint Paul, writing to the Corinthians, says: "the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them because they are spiritually discerned" (I. II. 14). Does not this verse account wonderfully for Voltaire's want of appreciation of Christian charity? The great boast of the infidels in every age is that they have replaced human nature in its proper position, and restored to it its true dignity; but we ask confidently whether the truth is not rather on the side of those who, like Pascal, paint in the gloomiest colours man's state since the fall, only that they may the more forcibly and with the greater earnestness disclose to us the glorious prospect of man's restoration to his pristine dignity through the merits of the Son of God. The final question resolves itself into the following terms: "Do we, whatever our circumstances are here below, feel satisfied? Do we feel as if this world was our restingplace? No; for to quote the well-known couplet Ta modern French poet who, more than any of his contemporaries perhaps, has experienced all the vicissitudes of earthly fortune:—

Borne dans sa nature, infini dans ses vieux,
L'homme est un Dieu tombe qui se souvieut des cieux.

  1. Pcarce, p. 103. t Pearce, p. 104.
This work published before January 1, 1923 is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.