« PreviousContinue »
which I imagine may be communicated with the greatest likelihood of being useful.
During my sojourn in Russia, as well as during all my other journeys, two thoughts, or rather sentiments, have never ceased to influence my heart, a love of France, which renders me severe in my judgments upon foreigners, and upon the French themselves, for passionate affections are never indulgent ; and a love of mankind. To find the balancing point between these two opposing objects of our affections here below, between the love of country and the love of fellow-men, is the vocation of every elevated mind. Religion alone can solve the problem: I do not flatter myself that I have attained it; but I can and ought to say that I have never ceased bending towards it all my efforts, without regard to the variations of fashion. With my religious ideas, I have passed through an unsympathising world; and now I see, not without a pleasurable surprise, these same ideas occupying the youthful minds of the new generation.
I am not one of those who view Christianity as a sacred veil that reason, in its illimitable progress, will one day tear away. Religion is veiled, but the veil is not religion: if Christianity mantles itself in symbols, it is not because its truth is obscure, but because it is too brightly dazzling, and because the eye is weak: as the vision becomes stronger, it will be able to pierce farther; and yet, nothing fundamental will be changed: the clouds are not spread over celestial objects, but over our earth.
Beyond the pale of Christianity, men remain in a state of isolation; or, if they unite, it is to form
political communities; in other words, to make war with fellow-men. Christianity alone has discovered the secret of free and pacific association, because it alone has shown to liberty in what it is that liberty consists. Christianity governs, and will yet more rigidly govern the earth, by the increasingly strict application of its divine morals to human transactions. Hitherto the Christian world has been more occupied with the mystic side of religion than with its political bearing. A new era commences for Christianity: perhaps our grandchildren will see the Gospel serving as the basis of public order.
But it would be impious to believe that this was the only end of the divine legislator; this is but his
Supernatural light cannot be acquired by the human race, except through the union of souls beyond and above the trammels of all temporal governments: a spiritual society, a society without limits: such is the hope such the future prospect of the world.
I hear it said that this object will be henceforward attainable without the aid of our religion; that Christianity, built on the ruinous foundation of original sin, has had its day; and that to accomplish his true vocation, misunderstood until now, man needs only to obey the laws of nature.
Ambitious men of a superior order of talent, who revive these old doctrines by eloquence ever new, are obliged to add, in order to be consistent, that good and evil exist only in the human mind; and that the man who creates these phantoms may also destroy them.
The pretended new proofs which they give do not
satisfy me; but were they clear as the day, what change would they effect in me? Man, whether fallen by sin, or standing as nature placed him, is a soldier forcibly enlisted at his birth, and never discharged until death; and, even then, the believing Christian only changes his bonds. A prisoner of God,
- labour and effort are the law of his life; cowardice appears to him like suicide, doubt is his torment, victory his hope, faith his repose, obedience his glory.
Such is man in all ages and in all countries; but such, above all, is man civilised by the religion of Jesus Christ. It may be said that good and evil are human inventions. But if the nature of man engender phantoms so obstinate, what is to save him from himself? and how is he to escape that malignant power of internal creation, of falsehood if you like, which exists and abides within him despite of himself and of you, and which has done so ever since the commencement of the world?
Unless you can substitute the peace of your conscience in place of the agitation of mine, you can do nothing for me...... Peace! No, however bold you may be, you would not dare to pretend to it!-and yet, peace is the right and the duty of the creature rationally endowed; for without peace he sinks below the brute: but,-O! mystery of mysteries! for you, for me, and for all this object will never be attained by ourselves: for whatever may be said, the whole realm of nature does not contain that which can give peace to a single soul.
Thus, could you force me to assent to all your audacious assertions, you would only have furnished me with new proofs of the need of a physician of souls
of a Redeemer, to cure the hallucinations of a creature so perverse, that it is incessantly and inevitably engendering within itself contest and contradiction, and which, by its very nature, flies from the repose it cannot dispense with, spreading around itself in the name of peace, war, with illusion, disorder and misfortune.
Now, the necessity of a Redeemer being once admitted, you must pardon me if I prefer addressing myself to Jesus Christ rather than to you!
Here we come to the root of the evil! Pride of intellect must be abased, and reason must own its insufficiency. As the source of reasoning dries up, that of feeling overflows: the soul becomes powerful so soon as she avows her want of strength; she no longer commands, she entreats; and man approaches near to his object when he falls upon his knees.
But when all shall be cast down, when all shall kiss the dust, who will remain erect upon earth? what power shall exist amid the ashes of the world? power which shall remain is a pontiff in a churc
If that church — daughter of Christ, and mother of Christianity — has seen revolt issue from her bosom, the fault was in her priests, for her priests are men. But she will recover her unity, because these men, frail though they be, are not the less direct successors of the apostles, ordained from age to age by bishops who themselves received, bishop from bishop, under the imposition of hands traced backwards up to Saint Peter and to Jesus Christ, the infusion of the Holy Spirit, with the requisite authority to communicate that grace to the regenerated world.
Suppose― for is not every thing possible to God? suppose that the human race shall wish to become sincerely Christian, will they in that case seek for Christianity in a book? No, they will apply to men who can explain that book. There must, then, always be an authority, even among the preachers of independence; and the authority which is chosen arbitrarily is not likely to equal that established for eighteen hundred centuries.
Will any believe that the Emperor of Russia is a better visible head of the church than the Bishop of Rome? The Russians have to believe so: but can they? Such is, however, the religious truth which they now preach to the Poles!
Would you, piquing yourself on consistency, obstinately reject all other authority but that of individual reason? This would be to perpetuate the war; because the government of reason nourishes pride, and pride engenders division. Alas! Christians little know the treasure they voluntarily deprived themselves of when they took it into their heads that people might have national churches! If all the churches in the world had become national, that is Protestant or schismatic, there would not now be any Christianity; there would be nothing but systems of theology subjected to human policy, which would modify them at its will, according to circumstances and localities.
To sum up: I am a Christian, because the destinies of man are not accomplished upon earth: I am a Catholic, because out of the Catholic church, Christianity becomes diluted and perishes.
After having surveyed the greater part of the