The Provincial Letters, by Blaise Pascal

Letter X

Paris, August 2, 1656

SIR,

I have not come yet to the policy of the Society, but shall first introduce you to one of its leading principles. I refer to the palliatives which they have applied to confession, and which are unquestionably the best of all the schemes they have fallen upon to “attract all and repel none.” It is absolutely necessary to know something of this before going any further; and, accordingly, the monk judged it expedient to give me some instructions on the point, nearly as follows:

“From what I have already stated,” he observed, “you may judge of the success with which our doctors have laboured to discover, in their wisdom, that a great many things, formerly regarded as forbidden, are innocent and allowable; but as there are some sins for which one can find no excuse, and for which there is no remedy but confession, it became necessary to alleviate, by the methods I am now going to mention, the difficulties attending that practice. Thus, having shown you, in our previous conversations, how we relieve people from troublesome scruples of conscience by showing them that what they believed to be sinful was indeed quite innocent, I proceed now to illustrate our convenient plan for expiating what is really sinful, which is effected by making confession as easy a process as it was formerly a painful one.”

“And how do you manage that, father?”

“Why,” said he, “it is by those admirable subtleties which are peculiar to our Company, and have been styled by our fathers in Flanders, in The Image of the First Century, ‘the pious finesse, the holy artifice of devotion — piam et religiosam calliditatem, et pietatis solertiam.’ By the aid of these inventions, as they remark in the same place, ‘crimes may be expiated nowadays alacrius — with more zeal and alacrity than they were committed in former days, and a great many people may be washed from their stains almost as cleverly as they contracted them — plurimi vix citius maculas contrahunt quam eluunt.’”

“Pray, then, father, do teach me some of these most salutary lessons of finesse.”

“We have a good number of them, answered the monk; “for there are a great many irksome things about confession, and for each of these we have devised a palliative. The chief difficulties connected with this ordinance are the shame of confessing certain sins, the trouble of specifying the circumstances of others, the penance exacted for them, the resolution against relapsing into them, the avoidance of the proximate occasions of sins, and the regret for having committed them. I hope to convince you to-day that it is now possible to get over all this with hardly any trouble at all; such is the care we have taken to allay the bitterness and nauseousness of this very necessary medicine. For, to begin with the difficulty of confessing certain sins, you are aware it is of importance often to keep in the good graces of one’s confessor; now, must it not be extremely convenient to be permitted, as you are by our doctors, particularly Escobar and Suarez, ‘to have two confessors, one for the mortal sins and another for the venial, in order to maintain a fair character with your ordinary confessor — uti bonam famam apud ordinarium tueatur — provided you do not take occasion from thence to indulge in mortal sin?’ This is followed by another ingenious contrivance for confessing a sin, even to the ordinary confessor, without his perceiving that it was committed since the last confession, which is, ‘to make a general confession, and huddle this last sin in a lump among the rest which we confess.’ And I am sure you will own that the following decision of Father Bauny goes far to alleviate the shame which one must feel in confessing his relapses, namely, ‘that, except in certain cases, which rarely occur, the confessor is not entitled to ask his penitent if the sin of which he accuses himself is an habitual one, nor is the latter obliged to answer such a question; because the confessor has no right to subject his penitent to the shame of disclosing his frequent relapses.’”

“Indeed, father! I might as well say that a physician has no right to ask his patient if it is long since he had the fever. Do not sins assume quite a different aspect according to circumstances? and should it not be the object of a genuine penitent to discover the whole state of his conscience to his confessor, with the same sincerity and open-heartedness as if he were speaking to Jesus Christ himself, whose place the priest occupies? If so, how far is he from realizing such a disposition who, by concealing the frequency of his relapses, conceals the aggravations of his offence!”

I saw that this puzzled the worthy monk, for he attempted to elude rather than resolve the difficulty by turning my attention to another of their rules, which only goes to establish a fresh abuse, instead of justifying in the least the decision of Father Bauny; a decision which, in my opinion, is one of the most pernicious of their maxims, and calculated to encourage profligate men to continue in their evil habits.

“I grant you,” replied the father, “that habit aggravates the malignity of a sin, but it does not alter its nature; and that is the reason why we do not insist on people confessing it, according to the rule laid down by our fathers, and quoted by Escobar, ‘that one is only obliged to confess the circumstances that alter the species of the sin, and not those that aggravate it.’ Proceeding on this rule, Father Granados says, ‘that if one has eaten flesh in Lent, all he needs to do is to confess that he has broken the fast, without specifying whether it was by eating flesh, or by taking two fish meals.’ And, according to Reginald, ‘a sorcerer who has employed the diabolical art is not obliged to reveal that circumstance; it is enough to say that he has dealt in magic, without expressing whether it was by palmistry or by a paction with the devil.’ Fagundez, again, has decided that ‘rape is not a circumstance which one is bound to reveal, if the woman give her consent.’ All this is quoted by Escobar, with many other very curious decisions as to these circumstances, which you may consult at your leisure.”

“These ‘artifices of devotion’ are vastly convenient in their way,” I observed.

“And yet,” said the father, “notwithstanding all that, they would go for nothing, sir, unless we had proceeded to mollify penance, which, more than anything else, deters people from confession. Now, however, the most squeamish have nothing to dread from it, after what we have advanced in our theses of the College of Clermont, where we hold that, if the confessor imposes a suitable penance, and the penitent be unwilling to submit himself to it, the latter may go home, ‘waiving both the penance and the absolution.’ Or, as Escobar says, in giving the Practice of our Society, ‘if the penitent declare his willingness to have his penance remitted to the next world, and to suffer in purgatory all the pains due to him, the confessor may, for the honour of the sacrament, impose a very light penance on him, particularly if he has reason to believe that this penitent would object to a heavier one.’”

“I really think,” said I, “that, if that is the case, we ought no longer to call confession the sacrament of penance.”

“You are wrong,” he replied; “for we always administer something in the way of penance, for the form’s sake.”

“But, father, do you suppose that a man is worthy of receiving absolution when he will submit to nothing painful to expiate his offences? And, in these circumstances, ought you not to retain rather than remit their sins? Are you not aware of the extent of your ministry, and that you have the power of binding and loosing? Do you imagine that you are at liberty to give absolution indifferently to all who ask it, and without ascertaining beforehand if Jesus Christ looses in heaven those whom you loose on earth?”

“What!” cried the father, “do you suppose that we do not know that ‘the confessor (as one remarks) ought to sit in judgement on the disposition of his penitent, both because he is bound not to dispense the sacraments to the unworthy, Jesus Christ having enjoined him to be a faithful steward and not give that which is holy unto dogs; and because he is a judge, and it is the duty of a judge to give righteous judgement, by loosing the worthy and binding the unworthy, and he ought not to absolve those whom Jesus Christ condemns.’

“Whose words are these, father?”

“They are the words of our father Filiutius,” he replied.

“You astonish me,” said I; “I took them to be a quotation from one of the fathers of the Church. At all events, sir, that passage ought to make an impression on the confessors, and render them very circumspect in the dispensation of this sacrament, to ascertain whether the regret of their penitents is sufficient, and whether their promises of future amendment are worthy of credit.”

“That is not such a difficult matter,” replied the father; “Filiutius had more sense than to leave confessors in that dilemma, and accordingly he suggests an easy way of getting out of it, in the words immediately following: ‘The confessor may easily set his mind at rest as to the disposition of his penitent; for, if he fail to give sufficient evidence of sorrow, the confessor has only to ask him if he does not detest the sin in his heart, and, if he answers that he does, he is bound to believe it. The same thing may be said of resolutions as to the future, unless the case involves an obligation to restitution, or to avoid some proximate occasion of sin.’”

“As to that passage, father, I can easily believe that it is Filiutius’ own.”

“You are mistaken though,” said the father, “for he has extracted it, word for word, from Suarez.”

“But, father, that last passage from Filiutius overturns what he had laid down in the former. For confessors can no longer be said to sit as judges on the disposition of their penitents, if they are bound to take it simply upon their word, in the absence of all satisfying signs of contrition. Are the professions made on such occasions so infallible, that no other sign is needed? I question much if experience has taught your fathers that all who make fair promises are remarkable for keeping them; I am mistaken if they have not often found the reverse.”

“No matter,” replied the monk; “confessors are bound to believe them for all that; for Father Bauny, who has probed this question to the bottom, has concluded ‘that at whatever time those who have fallen into frequent relapses, without giving evidence of amendment, present themselves before a confessor, expressing their regret for the past, and a good purpose for the future, he is bound to believe them on their simple averment, although there may be reason to presume that such resolution only came from the teeth outwards. Nay,’ says he, ‘though they should indulge subsequently to greater excess than ever in the same delinquencies, still, in my opinion, they may receive absolution.’ There now! that, I am sure, should silence you.”

“But, father,” said I, “you impose a great hardship, I think, on the confessors, by thus obliging them to believe the very reverse of what they see.”

“You don’t understand it,” returned he; “all that is meant is that they are obliged to act and absolve as if they believed that their penitents would be true to their engagements, though, in point of fact, they believe no such thing. This is explained, immediately afterwards, by Suarez and Filiutius. After having said that ‘the priest is bound to believe the penitent on his word,’ they add: ‘It is not necessary that the confessor should be convinced that the good resolution of his penitent will be carried into effect, nor even that he should judge it probable; it is enough that he thinks the person has at the time the design in general, though he may very shortly after relapse. Such is the doctrine of all our authors — ita docent omnes autores.’ Will you presume to doubt what has been taught by our authors?”

“But, sir, what then becomes of what Father Petau himself is obliged to own, in the preface to his Public Penance, ‘that the holy fathers, doctors, and councils of the Church agree in holding it as a settled point that the penance preparatory to the eucharist must be genuine, constant, resolute, and not languid and sluggish, or subject to after-thoughts and relapses?’”

“Don’t you observe,” replied the monk, “that Father Petau is speaking of the ancient Church? But all that is now so little in season, to use a common saying of our doctors, that, according to Father Bauny, the reverse is the only true view of the matter. ‘There are some,’ says he, ‘who maintain that absolution ought to be refused to those who fall frequently into the same sin, more especially if, after being often absolved, they evince no signs of amendment; and others hold the opposite view. But the only true opinion is that they ought not to be refused absolution; and, though they should be nothing the better of all the advice given them, though they should have broken all their promises to lead new lives, and been at no trouble to purify themselves, still it is of no consequence; whatever may be said to the contrary, the true opinion which ought to be followed is that even in all these cases, they ought to be absolved.’ And again: ‘Absolution ought neither to be denied nor delayed in the case of those who live in habitual sins against the law of God, of nature, and of the Church, although there should be no apparent prospect of future amendment — etsi emendationis futurae nulla spes appareat.’”

“But, father, this certainty of always getting absolution may induce sinners —”

“I know what you mean,” interrupted the Jesuit; “but listen to Father Bauny, Q. 15: ‘Absolution may be given even to him who candidly avows that the hope of being absolved induced him to sin with more freedom than he would otherwise have done.’ And Father Caussin, defending this proposition, says ‘that, were this not true, confession would be interdicted to the greater part of mankind; and the only resource left poor sinners would be a branch and a rope.’”

“O father, how these maxims of yours will draw people to your confessionals!”

“Yes, he replied, “you would hardly believe what numbers are in the habit of frequenting them; ‘we are absolutely oppressed and overwhelmed, so to speak, under the crowd of our penitents — penitentium numero obruimur’— as is said in The Image of the First Century.”

“I could suggest a very simple method,” said I, “to escape from this inconvenient pressure. You have only to oblige sinners to avoid the proximate occasions of sin; that single expedient would afford you relief at once.”

“We have no wish for such a relief,” rejoined the monk; “quite the reverse; for, as is observed in the same book, ‘the great end of our Society is to labor to establish the virtues, to wage war on the vices, and to save a great number of souls.’ Now, as there are very few souls inclined to quit the proximate occasions of sin, we have been obliged to define what a proximate occasion is. ‘That cannot be called a proximate occasion,’ says Escobar, ‘where one sins but rarely, or on a sudden transport — say three or four times a year’; or, as Father Bauny has it, once or twice in a month.’ Again, asks this author, ‘what is to be done in the case of masters and servants, or cousins, who, living under the same roof, are by this occasion tempted to sin?’”

“They ought to be separated,” said I.

“That is what he says, too, ‘if their relapses be very frequent: but if the parties offend rarely, and cannot be separated without trouble and loss, they may, according to Suarez and other authors, be absolved, provided they promise to sin no more, and are truly sorry for what is past.’”

This required no explanation, for he had already informed me with what sort of evidence of contrition the confessor was bound to rest satisfied.

“And Father Bauny,” continued the monk, “permits those who are involved in the proximate occasions of sin, ‘to remain as they are, when they cannot avoid them without becoming the common talk of the world, or subjecting themselves to inconvenience.’ ‘A priest,’ he remarks in another work, ‘may and ought to absolve a woman who is guilty of living with a paramour, if she cannot put him away honourably, or has some reason for keeping him — si non potest honeste ejicere, aut habeat aliquam causam retinendi — provided she promises to act more virtuously for the future.’”

“Well, father,” cried I, “you have certainly succeeded in relaxing the obligation of avoiding the occasions of sin to a very comfortable extent, by dispensing with the duty as soon as it becomes inconvenient; but I should think your fathers will at least allow it be binding when there is no difficulty in the way of its performance?”

“Yes,” said the father, “though even then the rule is not without exceptions. For Father Bauny says, in the same place, ‘that any one may frequent profligate houses, with the view of converting their unfortunate inmates, though the probability should be that he fall into sin, having often experienced before that he has yielded to their fascinations. Some doctors do not approve of this opinion, and hold that no man may voluntarily put his salvation in peril to succour his neighbor; yet I decidedly embrace the opinion which they controvert.’”

“A novel sort of preachers these, father! But where does Father Bauny find any ground for investing them with such a mission?”

“It is upon one of his own principles,” he replied, “which he announces in the same place after Basil Ponce. I mentioned it to you before, and I presume you have not forgotten it. It is, ‘that one may seek an occasion of sin, directly and expressly — primo et per se — to promote the temporal or spiritual good of himself or his neighbour.’”

On hearing these passages, I felt so horrified that I was on the point of breaking out; but, being resolved to hear him to an end, I restrained myself, and merely inquired: “How, father, does this doctrine comport with that of the Gospel, which binds us to ‘pluck out the right eye,’ and ‘cut off the right hand,’ when they ‘offend,’ or prove prejudicial to salvation? And how can you suppose that the man who wilfully indulges in the occasions of sins, sincerely hates sin? Is it not evident, on the contrary, that he has never been properly touched with a sense of it, and that he has not yet experienced that genuine conversion of heart, which makes a man love God as much as he formerly loved the creature?”

“Indeed!” cried he, “do you call that genuine contrition? It seems you do not know that, as Father Pintereau says, ‘all our fathers teach, with one accord, that it is an error, and almost a heresy, to hold that contrition is necessary; or that attrition alone, induced by the sole motive, the fear of the pains of hell, which excludes a disposition to offend, is not sufficient with the sacrament?’”

“What, father! do you mean to say that it is almost an article of faith that attrition, induced merely by fear of punishment, is sufficient with the sacrament? That idea, I think, is peculiar to your fathers; for those other doctors who hold that attrition is sufficient along with the sacrament, always take care to show that it must be accompanied with some love to God at least. It appears to me, moreover, that even your own authors did not always consider this doctrine of yours so certain. Your Father Suarez, for instance, speaks of it thus: ‘Although it is a probable opinion that attrition is sufficient with the sacrament, yet it is not certain, and it may be false — non est certa, et potest esse falsa. And, if it is false, attrition is not sufficient to save a man; and he that dies knowingly in this state, wilfully exposes himself to the grave peril of eternal damnation. For this opinion is neither very ancient nor very common — nec valde antiqua, nec multum communis.’ Sanchez was not more prepared to hold it as infallible when he said in his Summary that ‘the sick man and his confessor, who content themselves at the hour of death with attrition and the sacrament, are both chargeable with mortal sin, on account of the great risk of damnation to which the penitent would be exposed, if the opinion that attrition is sufficient with the sacrament should not turn out to be true. Comitolus, too, says that ‘we should not be too sure that attrition suffices with the sacrament.’”

Here the worthy father interrupted me. “What!” he cried, “you read our authors then, it seems? That is all very well; but it would be still better were you never to read them without the precaution of having one of us beside you. Do you not see, now, that, from having read them alone, you have concluded, in your simplicity, that these passages bear hard on those who have more lately supported our doctrine of attrition? Whereas it might be shown that nothing could set them off to greater advantage. Only think what a triumph it is for our fathers of the present day to have succeeded in disseminating their opinion in such short time, and to such an extent that, with the exception of theologians, nobody almost would ever suppose but that our modern views on this subject had been the uniform belief of the faithful in all ages! So that, in fact, when you have shown, from our fathers themselves, that, a few years ago, ‘this opinion was not certain,’ you have only succeeded in giving our modern authors the whole merit of its establishment!

“Accordingly,” he continued, “our cordial friend Diana, to gratify us, no doubt, has recounted the various steps by which the opinion reached its present position. ‘In former days, the ancient schoolmen maintained that contrition was necessary as soon as one had committed a mortal sin; since then, however, it has been thought that it is not binding except on festival days; afterwards, only when some great calamity threatened the people; others, again, that it ought not to be long delayed at the approach of death. But our fathers, Hurtado and Vasquez, have ably refuted all these opinions and established that one is not bound to contrition unless he cannot be absolved in any other way, or at the point of death!’ But, to continue the wonderful progress of this doctrine, I might add, what our fathers, Fagundez, Granados, and Escobar, have decided, ‘that contrition is not necessary even at death; because,’ say they, ‘if attrition with the sacrament did not suffice at death, it would follow that attrition would not be sufficient with the sacrament. And the learned Hurtado, cited by Diana and Escobar, goes still further; for he asks: ‘Is that sorrow for sin which flows solely from apprehension of its temporal consequences, such as having lost health or money, sufficient? We must distinguish. If the evil is not regarded as sent by the hand of God, such a sorrow does not suffice; but if the evil is viewed as sent by God, as, in fact, all evil, says Diana, except sin, comes from him, that kind of sorrow is sufficient.’ Our Father Lamy holds the same doctrine.”

“You surprise me, father; for I see nothing in all that attrition of which you speak but what is natural; and in this way a sinner may render himself worthy of absolution without supernatural grace at all. Now everybody knows that this is a heresy condemned by the Council.”

“I should have thought with you,” he replied; “and yet it seems this must not be the case, for the fathers of our College of Clermont have maintained (in their Theses of the 23rd May and 6th June 1644) ‘that attrition may be holy and sufficient for the sacrament, although it may not be supernatural’; and (in that of August 1643) ‘that attrition, though merely natural, is sufficient for the sacrament, provided it is honest.’ I do not see what more could be said on the subject, unless we choose to subjoin an inference, which may be easily drawn from these principles, namely, that contrition, so far from being necessary to the sacrament, is rather prejudicial to it, inasmuch as, by washing away sins of itself, it would leave nothing for the sacrament to do at all. That is, indeed, exactly what the celebrated Jesuit Father Valencia remarks. (Book iv, disp.7, q.8, p.4.) ‘Contrition,’ says he, ‘is by no means necessary in order to obtain the principal benefit of the sacrament; on the contrary, it is rather an obstacle in the way of it — imo obstat potius quominus effectus sequatur.’ Nobody could well desire more to be said in commendation of attrition.”

“I believe that, father, said I; “but you must allow me to tell you my opinion, and to show you to what a dreadful length this doctrine leads. When you say that ‘attrition, induced by the mere dread of punishment,’ is sufficient, with the sacrament, to justify sinners, does it not follow that a person may always expiate his sins in this way, and thus be saved without ever having loved God all his lifetime? Would your fathers venture to hold that?”

“I perceive,” replied the monk, “from the strain of your remarks, that you need some information on the doctrine of our fathers regarding the love of God. This is the last feature of their morality, and the most important of all. You must have learned something of it from the passages about contrition which I have quoted to you. But here are others still more definite on the point of love to God — Don’t interrupt me, now; for it is of importance to notice the connection. Attend to Escobar, who reports the different opinions of our authors, in his Practice of the Love of God according to our Society. The question is: ‘When is one obliged to have an actual affection for God?’ Suarez says it is enough if one loves Him before being articulo mortis — at the point of death — without determining the exact time. Vasquez, that it is sufficient even at the very point of death. Others, when one has received baptism. Others, again, when one is bound to exercise contrition. And others, on festival days. But our father, Castro Palao, combats all these opinions, and with good reason — merito. Hurtado de Mendoza insists that we are obliged to love God once a year; and that we ought to regard it as a great favour that we are not bound to do it oftener. But our Father Coninck thinks that we are bound to it only once in three or four years; Henriquez, once in five years; and Filiutius says that it is probable that we are not strictly bound to it even once in five years. How often, then, do you ask? Why, he refers it to the judgement of the judicious.”

I took no notice of all this badinage, in which the ingenuity of man seems to be sporting, in the height of insolence, with the love of God.

“But,” pursued the monk, “our Father Antony Sirmond surpasses all on this point, in his admirable book, The Defence of Virtue, where, as he tells the reader, ‘he speaks French in France,’ as follows: ‘St. Thomas says that we are obliged to love God as soon as we come to the use of reason: that is rather too soon! Scotus says every Sunday; pray, for what reason? Others say when we are sorely tempted: yes, if there be no other way of escaping the temptation. Scotus says when we have received a benefit from God: good, in the way of thanking Him for it. Others say at death: rather late! As little do I think it binding at the reception of any sacrament: attrition in such cases is quite enough, along with confession, if convenient. Suarez says that it is binding at some time or another; but at what time? — he leaves you to judge of that for yourself — he does not know; and what that doctor did not know I know not who should know.’ In short, he concludes that we are not strictly bound to more than to keep the other commandments, without any affection for God, and without giving Him our hearts, provided that we do not hate Him. To prove this is the sole object of his second treatise. You will find it in every page; more especially where he says: ‘God, in commanding us to love Him, is satisfied with our obeying Him in his other commandments. If God had said: “Whatever obedience thou yieldest me, if thy heart is not given to me, I will destroy thee!” would such a motive, think you, be well fitted to promote the end which God must, and only can, have in view? Hence it is said that we shall love God by doing His will, as if we loved Him with affection, as if the motive in this case was real charity. If that is really our motive, so much the better; if not, still we are strictly fulfilling the commandment of love, by having its works, so that (such is the goodness of God!) we are commanded, not so much to love Him, as not to hate Him.’

“Such is the way in which our doctors have discharged men from the painful obligation of actually loving God. And this doctrine is so advantageous that our Fathers Annat, Pintereau, Le Moine, and Antony Sirmond himself, have strenuously defended it when it has been attacked. You have only to consult their answers to the Moral Theology. That of Father Pintereau, in particular, will enable you to form some idea of the value of this dispensation, from the price which he tells us that it cost, which is no less than the blood of Jesus Christ. This crowns the whole. It appears, that this dispensation from the painful obligation to love God, is the privilege of the Evangelical law, in opposition to the Judaical. ‘It was reasonable,’ he says, ‘that, under the law of grace in the New Testament, God should relieve us from that troublesome and arduous obligation which existed under the law of bondage, to exercise an act of perfect contrition, in order to be justified; and that the place of this should be supplied by the sacraments, instituted in aid of an easier disposition. Otherwise, indeed, Christians, who are the children, would have no greater facility in gaining the good graces of their Father than the Jews, who were the slaves, had in obtaining the mercy of their Lord and Master.’”

“O father!” cried I; “no patience can stand this any longer. It is impossible to listen without horror to the sentiments I have just heard.”

“They are not my sentiments,” said the monk.

“I grant it, sir,” said I; “but you feel no aversion to them; and, so far from detesting the authors of these maxims, you hold them in esteem. Are you not afraid that your consent may involve you in a participation of their guilt? and are you not aware that St. Paul judges worthy of death, not only the authors of evil things, but also ‘those who have pleasure in them that do them?’ Was it not enough to have permitted men to indulge in so many forbidden things under the covert of your palliations? Was it necessary to go still further and hold out a bribe to them to commit even those crimes which you found it impossible to excuse, by offering them an easy and certain absolution; and for this purpose nullifying the power of the priests, and obliging them, more as slaves than as judges, to absolve the most inveterate sinners — without any amendment of life, without any sign of contrition except promises a hundred times broken, without penance ‘unless they choose to accept of it’, and without abandoning the occasions of their vices, ‘if they should thereby be put to any inconvenience?’

“But your doctors have gone even beyond this; and the license which they have assumed to tamper with the most holy rules of Christian conduct amounts to a total subversion of the law of God. They violate ‘the great commandment on which hang all the law and the prophets’; they strike at the very heart of piety; they rob it of the spirit that giveth life; they hold that to love God is not necessary to salvation; and go so far as to maintain that ‘this dispensation from loving God is the privilege which Jesus Christ has introduced into the world!’ This, sir, is the very climax of impiety. The price of the blood of Jesus Christ paid to obtain us a dispensation from loving Him! Before the incarnation, it seems men were obliged to love God; but since ‘God has so loved the world as to give His only begotten Son,’ the world, redeemed by him, is released from loving Him! Strange divinity of our days — to dare to take off the ‘anathema’ which St. Paul denounces on those ‘that love not the Lord Jesus!’ To cancel the sentence of St. John: ‘He that loveth not, abideth in death!’ and that of Jesus Christ himself: ‘He that loveth me not keepeth not my precepts!’ and thus to render those worthy of enjoying God through eternity who never loved God all their life! Behold the Mystery of Iniquity fulfilled! Open your eyes at length, my dear father, and if the other aberrations of your casuists have made no impression on you, let these last, by their very extravagance, compel you to abandon them. This is what I desire from the bottom of my heart, for your own sake and for the sake of your doctors; and my prayer to God is that He would vouchsafe to convince them how false the light must be that has guided them to such precipices; and that He would fill their hearts with that love of Himself from which they have dared to give man a dispensation!”

After some remarks of this nature, I took my leave of the monk, and I see no great likelihood of my repeating my visits to him. This, however, need not occasion you any regret; for, should it be necessary to continue these communications on their maxims, I have studied their books sufficiently to tell you as much of their morality, and more, perhaps, of their policy, than he could have done himself. I am, &c.

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