Philosophical Dictionary, by Voltaire

MISSION.

It is far from our object in this article to reflect upon the zeal of our missionaries, or the truth of our religion; these are sufficiently known in Christian Europe, and duly respected.

My object is merely to make some remarks on the very curious and edifying letters of the reverend fathers, the Jesuits, who are not equally respectable. Scarcely do they arrive in India before they commence preaching, convert millions of Indians, and perform millions of miracles. Far be it from me to contradict their assertions. We all know how easy it must be for a Biscayan, a Bergamask, or a Norman to learn the Indian language in a few days, and preach like an Indian.

With regard to miracles, nothing is more easy than to perform them at a distance of six thousand leagues, since so many have been performed at Paris, in the parish of St. Médard. The sufficing grace of the Molinists could undoubtedly operate on the banks of the Ganges, as well as the efficacious grace of the Jansenists on those of the river of the Gobelins. We have, however, said so much already about miracles that we shall pursue the subject no further.

A reverend father Jesuit arrived in the course of the past year at Delhi, at the court of the great Mogul. He was not a man profoundly skilled in mathematics, or highly gifted in mind, who had come to correct the calendar, or to establish his fortune, but one of those poor, honest, zealous Jesuits, one of those soldiers who are despatched on particular duty by their general, and who obey orders without reasoning about them.

M. Andrais, my factor, asked him what his business might be at Delhi. He replied that he had orders from the reverend father Ricci to deliver the Great Mogul from the paws of the devil, and convert his whole court.

the jesuit.

I have already baptized twenty infants in the street, without their knowing anything at all about the matter, by throwing a few drops of water upon their heads. They are now just so many angels, provided they are happy enough to die directly. I cured a poor old woman of the megrims by making the sign of the cross behind her. I hope in a short time to convert the Mahometans of the court and the Gentoos among the people. You will see in Delhi, Agra, and Benares, as many good Catholics, adorers of the Virgin Mary, as you now do idolaters, adoring the devil.

m. andrais.

You think then, my worthy father, that the inhabitants of these countries adore idols and the devil?

the jesuit.

Undoubtedly, as they are not of my religion.

m. andrais.

Very well. But when there are as many Catholics in India as idolaters, are you not afraid that they will fight against one another; that blood will flow for a long period, and the whole country be a scene of pillage and devastation? This has happened in every country in which you have obtained a footing hitherto.

the jesuit.

You make one pause for a moment; but nothing could happen better than that which you suggest as being so probable. The slaughtered Catholics would go to paradise — to the garden — and the Gentoos to the everlasting fire of hell created for them from all eternity, according to the great mercy of God, and for His great glory; for God is exceedingly glorious.

m. andrais.

But suppose that you should be informed against, and punished at the whipping post?

the jesuit.

That would also be for His glory. However, I conjure you to keep my secret, and save me from the honor and happiness of martyrdom.

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