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no lions in the way. There is no Sylla or Charybdis to prevent us from safely embarking in the enterprise. Nothing but sloth, criminal sloth. This is all. Whether this will longer serve as an apology for the neglect of a plain practical duty, our readers may now be permitted to judge. The subject is before them. The undertaking is fairly proposed : nor is it too much to believe, that the great Master of assemblies is ready to smile upon the efforts of those who will faithfully engage in its accomplishment. And more than this, some portion of the work has been partially commenced. A kindling impulse is now felt in various portions of the land. Discussions have been afloat. Experiments have been made. And in all that has here been proposed, not a single item is found which has not the advantages that are to be derived from careful and repeated personal observation.
Provincial Letters; containing an Exposure of the Reason
ing and Morals of the Jesuits. By Blaise Pascal. Originally published under the name of Louis de Montalte. Translated from the French. First American edition. New York and Boston. 1828. Pp. 319. 12mo.
The works of Pascal, “that prodigy of parts," as he is called by Locke, belong to the treasury of literary and religious property, which can never become obsolete, and which pertains to every age. Among the writings of this wonderful man the Provincial Letters justly hold the highest place; as well from the intrinsic merits of the book, as from the events to which the production gave rise. “In these letters” says Voltaire " is concentrated every species of eloquence. There is not one word that, during a hundred years, has suffered the change which alters so frequently all living languages. To this work must be attributed the fixation of the French language. I have been informed by the bishop of Luçon, son of the celebrated Bussy, that Bos
suet, the bishop of Meaux, having been asked by him what work he should most desire to have written, if he had not produced his own, replied The Provincial Letters."* It is therefore with great satisfaction that we welcome this work of genius, in an English dress and an American edition, as eminently adapted to open the eyes of our countrymen to the insidious designs of that order, which appears to have selected the United States as the most promising field for its operations. Although the inimitable graces of style, and often the poignant severity of satire, must be lost in a translation, yet there is in this production a merit higher than the beauty of exquisite language or even the glow of impassioned eloquence; a ground-work of sacred truth and irresistible argument, which no version can impair. The form and outward grace may perish in the transfusion, but truth, like the gold which passes the furnace, remains unaltered in its essential excellence.
The controversies between the Jesuits on the one part, and the Jansenists and Dominicans on the other, may be said to have fairly commenced at the opening of the seventeenth century. The council of Trent had taken all practicable measures for the suppression of the Augustinian doctrines concerning grace and human ability, which were subsequently espoused by Jansenius and his followers. It was left for the order of Jesuits to urge still further this warfare against the truth. The leader in this controversy was Louis Molina, a Spanish Jesuit, who about the year 1588 had published a work in which he treated of the freedom of the will, the co-operation of man with divine grace and the decrees of God, and maintained the semi-Pelagian doctrines upon these heads. Upon all these points the Jansenists came forward in a body, taking shelter under the authority of Augustine.
A still more tempting mark for opposition, however, was held up in the casuistry of the Jesuits, which had now received its form, and become a subject of public disputation. In the mysterious assemblies of the order a system of morals had been framed, upon which we can hardly look without horror ; a mixture of equivocation, licentiousness and contempt for the divine law, which would seem too gross to have been
Sur le Siecle de Louis XIV.
tolerated even in the darkest age of paganism. The press teemed with elaborate works upon casuistic theology, in which every imaginable case of conscience was resolved, and we might add, every lust and wicked propensity made venial. That we do not err in attributing to the society of Jesus (for so they profanely styled themselves) the tenets which were avowed by individual casuists, will appear from the fact that it was contrary to the rules of the order that any work should be published without the licence of the superior. And as no age or nation has ever been inundated with such a multitude of ingenious, learned and voluminous works on morals, all marked with the appalling signature of the same lawless spirit, we cannot but view them as emanating from a great and united body, in unholy concert for the demolition of public virtue.
Here, in a christian land, by a body of men who almost mo. nopolized the instruction of youth, were taught principles so monstrous as to disgrace the church which gave them toleration. Here was promulgated the doctrine of probable opinions ; according to which, if but one authority could be found for a certain questionable act, there is that degree of probability that it is justifiable. “An opinion is called probable” says Escobar “when it is founded upon reasons of any consideration. Hence it is that sometimes a single doctor of eminence may render an opinion probable.” (Letler 5.) Nay, by some of their writers it was maintained, that one might proceed to act upon such an opinion, even when there was reason to fear that the authority might have erred; and of two probabilities the least might be chosen, although contrary to Scripture and to the conscience of the very man who acted upon it.
Here, in the very heart of the Romish church, it was established as a principle, that a good intention was sufficient to sanctify any action. By this we are to understand, that the purpose to sin is necessary to constitute any act a sinful act. He who commits a crime, is, according to this doctrine, exempt from guilt if he does not deliberately purpose to offend God; and unless a man at the moment of transgression should be thinking of the divine law, he cannot be said to violate that law. It was taught, moreover, that the slightest degree of sorrow for sin, the smallest measure of attrition, as the Romanists call it, would suffice to appease the wrath of God, even though it rose no higher than the
natural dread of misery. To this may be added their well known permission of equivocations, mental reservations, pious frauds and perjuries. For an ample exposure of these anti-christian tenets the reader is referred to the authorities cited by Pascal himself. (See also Heidegger, Historia Papatus, per: vii. § 283.)
In the imaginary conversation between the writer and a father of the order, the latter reveals the secrets of this easy method of avoiding all pangs of conscience; yet not without exciting the astonishment of his questioner.
“But father, in such cases it must be very embarrassing to know which to prefer.' 'O no, not at all; it is only to follow the one which is most agreeable to yourself.' • But what if the other opinion should be the most probable?' It does not signify.' But wbat if it should be the most sure? Still it does not signify ; only observe the explanation of father Emanuel Sa, of our society, in his Aphorisms de Dubio, p. 183 :-"A person may do what he conceives to be permitted by one probable opinion, although the contrary be more sure ; but the opinion of one grave doctor is sufficient.”. • But suppose an opinion is both less probable and less sure, is it permissible to follow it, rejecting that which is believed to be more probable and more sure? Yes, once more ; hear that great Jesuit Filiutius, Mor. Quæst. tr. 21. c. 4. n. 128. " It is allowable to follow the opinion which is less probable, though it be also less sure. This is the concurrent sentiment of modern authors.” Is not this explicit ?' ”—P. 77. * They (confessors) are obliged to absolve penitents who hold some probable opinions, upon pain of committing a mortal offence; so that they can never be at a loss. This is luminously stated by our fathers : amongst others, by father Bauny, tr. 4. De Pænit. q. 13, p. 93. “When the penitent” says he “ follows a probable opinion, the confessor must absolve him, although his opinion be contrary to that of the penitent.' • But, father, he does not affirm that it would be a mortal sin not to absolve him.'' How hasty you are! Hear, hear! he proceeds with this express conclusion : “ To refuse to absolve a penitent who acts conformably to a probable opinion, is a sin in its own nature mortal ;" and he quotes, in confirmation of this sentiment, three of our most distinguished divines, Suarez, tom. 4. dist. 32. sect. 5; Vasquez, Disp. 62. c. 7; and Sanchez, n. 29.””—P. 78.
There was still left, however, even in the bosom of the Romish church, enough of sound morality, and as we cannot but believe of genuine piety, to forbid the silent connivance at such abuse and perversion of all that is sacred. Jansenius became an opponent of the Jesuits, while he was a professor at Lyons; and when he afterwards was promoted
to the bishopric of Yvres, in Flanders, he continued his opposition. It was the study of Augustine's works which opened his eyes to the errors of the Romish theologians, and although he did not, like Luther, awake to a full sense of the corruption of the man of sin, he nevertheless defended the doctrines of grace with a zeal and constancy which might cause many protestants to blush. The book called Augustinus, a posthumous work of this great and good prelate, contained a defence of the doctrines of original sin, total depravity, the necessity of spiritual influences, and other fundamental doctrines of grace, upon almost the same principles with those which were maintained at Geneva; indeed, his followers found it no easy matter to exculpate themselves from the charge of Calvinism. In the year 1641 the book was proscribed by the inquisition at Rome. In 1643 Urban VIII. condemned it by a bull, and in 1653 Innocent X. condemned five propositions which the Jesuits professed to have extracted from the work. The great question now at issue was, whether the pope was competent to determine the fact that Jansenius had taught such doctrines as those which were condemned: the Jansenists professing to join in the condemnation, but denying that any such propositions were contained in the book Augustinus. In this controversy the Jesuits, as sworn defenders of the papal infallibility, and deadly enemies of Jansenius, took the highest ground known among papists, and contended that by the decision of the pope it became a matter of faith that the fact was as stated by him. On the other hand, the fathers of the Port Royal, a monastery of St Bernard, in a lonely vale near Paris, among whom were the celebrated Arnauld, Nicole, and Quesnel, espoused the cause of the Jansenists. It was at the instance, and with the aid of these men, that Pascal, under the feigned name of Montalte, composed and published the Provincial Letters.
The first of these letters bears date January 23, 1656; and was intended chiefly to expose to ridicule the intemperate debates which had originated in a caustic epistle of M. Arnauld to a doctor of the Sorbonne; but to the astonishment even of those who were in the secret, it became the most interesting topic of conversation throughout the whole city of Paris. Learned and unlearned men, all classes of society, found themselves attracted by the brevity, the naïveté, the gentle sarcasm, and the finished elegance of this anonymous