Blaise Pascal (16231662). Letters. The Harvard Classics. 190914.
Letter from Pascal and His Sister Jacqueline to their Sister, Madame Perier
April 1, 1648.
WE do not know whether this letter will be interminable, like the rest, but we know that we would gladly write to you without end. We have here the letter of M. de Saint-Cyran, de la Vocation, lately published without approbation or privilege, which has shocked many. We are reading it; we will send it afterwards to you. We should be glad to know your opinion of it, and that of my father. It takes high ground.
We have several times begun to write to you, but I have been deterred from it by the example and the speeches, or, if you like, the rebuffs of which you know; but, since we have been enlightened upon the matter as much as possible, I believe that it is necessary to use some circumspection in it, and if there are occasions in which we ought not to speak of these things, we may now dispense with them; for we do not doubt each other, and as we are, as it were, mutually assured that we have, in all these discourses, nothing but the glory of God for our object, and scarcely any communication outside of ourselves, I do not see that we should have any scruple, so long as he shall give us these sentiments. If we add to these considerations that of the union which nature has made between us, and to this last that which grace has made, I think that, far from finding a prohibition, we shall find an obligation to it; for I find that our happiness has been so great in being united in the latter way that we ought to unite to acknowledge and to rejoice at it. For it must be confessed that it is properly since this time (which M. de Saint-Cyran wishes should be called the commencement of life), that we should consider ourselves as truly related, and that it has pleased God to join us in his new world by the spirit, as he had done in the terrestrial world by the flesh.
We beg you that there may not be a day in which you do not revolve this in memory, and often acknowledge the way which God has used in this conjunction, in which he has not only made us brothers of each other, but children of the same father; for you know that my father has foreseen us all, and, as it were, conceived us in this design. It is in this that we should marvel, that God has given us both the type and the reality of this union; for, as we have often said among ourselves, corporeal things are nothing but an image of spiritual, and God has represented invisible things in the visible. This thought is so general and so useful that we ought not to let much time pass without thinking of it with attention. We have discoursed particularly enough of the relation of these two sorts of things, for which reason we shall not speak of it here; for it is too long to write, and too beautiful not to have remained in your memory, and, what is more, is absolutely necessary according to my opinion. For, as our sins hold us wrapped in things corporeal and terrestrial, and as these are not only the penalty of our sins, but also the occasion of committing new ones, and the cause of the first, it is necessary that we should make use of the same position into which we have fallen to raise us from our overthrow. For this reason, we should use carefully the advantage which the goodness of God bestows upon us in having always before our eyes an image of the good that we have lost, and in surrounding us in the very captivity to which his justice has reduced us, with so many objects that serve to us as an ever-present lesson.
So that we should consider ourselves as criminals in a prison filled with images of their liberator, and instructions necessary to escape from their bondage; but it must be acknowledged that we cannot perceive these sacred characters without a supernatural light; for as all things speak of God to those who know him, and as they reveal him to all those who love him, these same things conceal him from all those who know him not. Thus it is seen, that in the darkness of the world men follow them in a brutal blindness, and cling to them, and make of them the final end of their desires, which they cannot do without sacrilege, for there is nothing but God that should be the final end, as he alone is the principle. For whatever resemblance created nature may have to its Creator, and although the most trifling things, and the smallest and the vilest portion of the world represent at least by their unity the perfect unity that is found only in God, we cannot legitimately bear to them sovereign respect, since there is nothing so abominable in the eyes of God and man as idolatry, because it renders to the creature the honor that is due to none but the Creator. The Scripture is full of the vengeance that God executes on all those who have been guilty of it, and the first commandment of the Decalogue, which includes all the rest, prohibits above everything the adoration of his images. But as he is much more jealous of our affections than our respect, it is evident that there is no crime more injurious or more detestable to him than to bestow sovereign love upon created thins, although they represent him.
This is why those to whom God has made known these great truths ought to use these images to enjoy that which they represent, and not remain eternally in that carnal and Judaical blindness which causes the type to be taken for the reality, And those whom God, by regeneration, has drawn freely from sin (which is the veritable nothingness, since it is opposed to God, who is the veritable being) to give them a place in his Church, which is his real temple, after having drawn them freely from nothingness to the point of their creation, in order to give them a place in the universe, have a double obligation to honor him and serve him; since as created beings they should remain in the order of created beings, and not profane the place that they fill, and as Christians they should aspire without ceasing to render themselves worthy to form part of the body of Jesus Christ. But as whilst the created things that compose the world acquit themselves of their obligation by remaining within a limited perfection, because the perfection of the world is also limited, the children of God should set no bounds to their purity and their perfection, because they form part of a body wholly divine, and infinitely perfect; as it is evident that Jesus Christ does not limit the commandment of perfection, and that he proposes it to us as a model wherein it exists infinite when he says: Be ye also perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect. Thus it is a very prejudicial and very common error among Christians, and even among those who make a profession of piety, to persuade themselves that there may be a degree of perfection in which they can be with assurance, and which it is not necessary to pass, since there is none at which it will not be wrong to stop, and from which we can only avoid falling by mounting still higher.