Blaise Pascal (16231662). Letters. The Harvard Classics. 190914.
Fragment of a Letter to M. Perier
YOU give me pleasure by sending me all the details of your controversies, and chiefly because you are interested therein; for I imagine that you do not imitate our controversialists of this country, who avail themselves so badly, at least so it seems to me, of the advantage which God offers them of suffering something for the establishment of his truths. For, if this were for the establishment of their truths, they would not act differently; and it seems that they are ignorant that the same Providence that has inspired some with light, has refused it to others; and it seems that in laboring to persuade them of it they are serving another God than the one who permits the obstacles that oppose their progress. They think to render service to God by murmuring against the hindrances, as if this were another power that should excite their piety, and another that should give vigor to those who oppose them.
This is what comes of self-will. When we wish by our own efforts that something shall succeed, we become irritated with obstacles, because we feel in these hindrances that the motive that makes us act has not placed them there, and we find things in them which the self-will that makes us act has not formed there.
But when God inspires our actions, we never feel any thing outside that does not come from the same principle that causes us to act; there is no opposition in the motive that impels us; the same motive power which leads us to act, leads others to resist us, or permits them at least; so that as we find no difference in this, and as it is not our own will that combats external events, but the same will that produces the good and permits the evil, this uniformity does not trouble the peace of the soul, and is one of the best tokens that we are acting by the will of God, since it is much more certain that God permits the evil, however great it may be, than that God causes the good in us (and not some secret motive), however great it may appear to us; so that in order really to perceive whether it is God that makes us act, it is much better to test ourselves by our deportment without than by our motives within, since if we only examine ourselves within, although we may find nothing but good there, we cannot assure ourselves that this good comes truly from God. But when we examine ourselves without, that is when we consider whether we suffer external hindrances with patience, this signifies that there is a uniformity of will between the motive power that inspires our passions and the one that permits the resistance to them; and as there is no doubt that it is God who permits the one, we have a right humbly to hope that it is God who produces the other.
But what! we act as if it were our mission to make truth triumph whilst it is only our mission to combat for it. The desire to conquer is so natural that when it is covered by the desire of making the truth triumph, we often take the one for the other, and think that we are seeking the glory of God when in truth we are seeking our own. It seems to me that the way in which we support these hindrances is the surest token of it, for in fine if we wish only the order established by God, it is certain that we wish the triumph of his justice as much as that of his mercy, and that when it does not come of our negligence, we shall be in an equal mood, whether the truth be known or whether it be combated, since in the one the mercy of God triumphs, and in the other, his justice.
Pater juste, mundus te non cognovit. Righteous father, the world has not known thee. Upon which St. Augustine says that it is through his justice that the world has not known him. Let us pray, labor, and rejoice evermore, as St. Paul says.
If you had reproved me in my first faults, I should not have been guilty of this, and should have been moderate. But I shall not suppress this any more than the other; you can suppress it yourself if you wish. I could not refrain, so angry am I against those who insist absolutely that the truth shall be believed when they demonstrate it, which Jesus Christ did not do in his created humanity. It is a mockery, and it seems to me treating I am grieved on account of the malady of M. de Laporte. I assure you that I honor him with all my heart. I, etc.