« ForrigeFortsæt »
position, always considering, never determining, Pascal adduces such an abétir as advantageous for the religious conviction. The over-curious logical spirit must give way to the living intuition. It is just as when St. Paul, in allusion to a reason, refusing in its darkened wisdom to come to the truth, desires that the wise man may become a fool, in order that he may attain to true wisdom. One must live in religion-this is what Pascal means. When Aristotle maintains against Socrates and Plato, who call virtue a science, that this is indeed one view of it, but by no means all; it being further necessary, through the continuous direction of the will, to produce an ežs, and through this is to unite the ɑλoyov in the soul with the Opovnois-he expresses, in fact, just the same truth which Pascal here applies to the religious life.
Pascal is far from ascribing too much to the power of customthe formation of the eis. He is well aware that, in the same way, the false and bad may acquire influence over reason. • Custom it is,' he says (ii. 175), which makes so many Christians. The same thing makes Turks, pagans, tradesmen, soldiers,' &c. He only desires, in a similar manner, that what has been at first received, through a divine movement of the disposition, and enlightenment of the reason, should become a thing of the whole life. From the Christianity produced by these three combined forces, he distinguishes the Christianity of mere habit, which rests on no other foundation than that on which false religion equally rests, and is, therefore, readily shattered by the reaction of awakened thought and doubt. And, accordingly, we find this remarkable statement (i. 228). People, in general,
have the power of not thinking of that of which they do not wish to think.' 'Do not think only of the passages which relate to the Messiah,' said the Jew to his son. It is the same often with ourselves; and thus, in the case of many, are false religions perpetuated, and even the true one also. But there are those who have not the power to prevent themselves from thinking, but who, in fact, only think the more, the more they are forbidden to do so. These persons dismiss false religions, and no less the true, if they do not find their evidences solid.' Pascal here, at length indicates a stand-point, which, to the awakened freedom of thought and the excitement of scepticism, may form a point of transition from a mere unconscious Christianity of custom, either to unbelief or to a conscious living Christianity.
As we have seen, Pascal teaches that God must have revealed Himself to man in his inner being before he is able to find a divine revelation in all around him. All is designed to call forth in man at once a sense of his estrangement from God, and a desire after Him, in order that he may strive after reunion with Him, which
he can only obtain in Christ. Thus, that which prevents man finding God in nature is just a proof of the great truth presupposed by Christianity, a pointing as it were to Christ, in whom alone man can find both the practical and theoretical solution of all the problems of his own being, as of all existence. The longing after the highest good, kindled in man, is that which leads to Christ. 'It is well,' says Pascal (ii. 96), 'to be wearied in the vain search after the true good, that we may stretch out our arms to the Redeemer.' Whoever rests in the contemplation of nature is either led to the consequent denial of all supernaturalism, in other words, to atheism, or he reaches only the recognition of a great, powerful, and eternal first existence,' as Pascal defines Deism, an existence altogether external to man, separated from him by an infinite gap, without any living communion with, or personal relation to, him whatever, and thus affording the very least possible gratification to the religious feeling; which, on the contrary, desiderates a living personal relation to God, an intimate communion with Him, without which man is soon torn from the weak tie which, in Deism, may still unite him with the supernatural. The deep principle in man which urges him to recognize in Nature the revelation of an overruling God is by no means met and satisfied by such a mere external relation to Him. Pascal says (ii. 117), 'All who, abiding by nature, seek God without Christ either find no light which satisfies them, or make a religion for themselves without a mediator, and then fall either into atheism or deism-two things which the Christian religion almost equally abhors.' The contemplation of himself and of the world, Pascal means, should lead man to Christ as his Redeemer, and through Christ will he thenlearn to recognize and understand God everywhere. If the world existed,' he says in the same place, just for the purpose of leading man to the knowledge of God, his divinity would shine forth on all sides incontestably; but as the world exists only by and for Christ, and in order to lead men to the knowledge of their corruption, and their consequent need of redemption, so all testifies clearly of these two facts. The phenomena of Nature evince neither an entire exclusion nor a manifest presence of the Deity, but the presence of a God who yet conceals Himself. All bears this impress.' And so Pascal distinguishes between such a Deism and Christian Theism. The God of the Christian,' he says (ii. 116), 'is not merely the Author of geometrical truths and of elemental order, for this is the mere paganish view of the Deity; He is not merely the supreme Disposer of the lives and goods of men in order to give a happy succession of years to those who worship Him, for this is only the Jewish view; but the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of the Christian, is a God of love and of
consolation; a God who fills the heart and the soul which He possesses, who makes his people at once feel their own misery and His infinite compassion; who unites Himself with their very innermost being, replenishing it with humility, joy, confidence, and love, and rendering them incapable of desiring any other end but Himself.' "The God of the Christian,' he further says (ii. 354), 'is a God who makes the soul feel that He is its only good; that all its peace is in Him; that its only blessedness can be in loving Him, and who makes it at the same time abhor the obstacles which hinder it from loving Him with all its strength. Self-love and all lust which thus hinders it are insupportable to it. This gracious God makes it feel that such self-love is rooted in it, and that He himself can alone cure it.' With reference to the view which rests on the mere recognition of an absolute Cause, he says (ii. 115), on the contrary, Should a man be merely convinced that the relations of number are spiritual and eternal truths depending on a first Truth in whom they subsist, which he calls God, I would not consider him near salvation.'
According to Pascal, then, the true knowledge of God and of ourselves are intimately conjoined, so that man may become conscious at once of his originally kindred relation with God, and his estrangement from Him, and so may learn the means by which he may attain to a true knowledge of God, and communion with Him. The medium of both is the knowledge of Christ, as Him, through whom man can alone be freed from a state of divine estrangement, and again brought to find in God his highest good. Without Christ there can only be the two opposite extremes, self-exultation or despair. Christianity,' says Pascal (ii. 35, 36), 'equally teaches man these two truths-that there is a God whom he is capable of knowing, and of whom he is yet, from the corruption of his nature, unworthy. It is equally important for him to understand both these points. It is alike dangerous for man to know God without knowing his misery, or to know his misery without knowing the Redeemer, who alone can deliver him from it. Το know only one of these points constitutes either the pride of the philosophers who have known God without knowing their misery, or the despair of the atheists, who know their misery without knowing a Redeemer. And as it is thus equally necessary for man to know both these points, so it equally pleases God to make them known. This the Christian religion does. In this it consists. If we examine from this point of view the whole order of the world, we will see how all things serve to establish these two main points of that religion. And so likewise, he says (ii. 315), The knowledge of God, without the knowledge of our misery, produces pride; the knowledge of our misery without the knowledge of God pro
duces despair; the knowledge of Christ is the medium whereby we at once find God and our misery.' . . . 'In Christ have we a God whom we approach without pride, and before whom we bow without despair. The perfect reconcilement in Christianity of these opposite tendencies, which are to be found in human nature, is the great internal evidence of its truth. So Pascal says (ii. 314), "In their incapacity to discover the whole truth, men have either only recognized the dignity of human nature or its corruption. They have failed to see both together. And according as the one or other of these views have swayed them--as they have recognized only the excellence or the corruption of human nature, they have plunged into pride or despair. And hence the divers sects of the Stoics and Epicureans, the Dogmatists and Academicians. Christianity,' he says (ii. 136), ' can alone reconcile these discrepanciesalone cure both evils, pride and despair-not by expelling the one by the other according to the wisdom of this world, but by expelling both the one and the other by the simplicity of the Gospel. For it teaches the just that while it elevates them even to be partakers of the divine nature, they still carry with them, in this lofty state of elevation, the source of all that corruption which renders them, during life, subject to error, misery, sin, and death. At the same time it proclaims to the most impious, grace through a Redeemer. By thus at once giving occasion of trembling to those whom it justifies, and of consolation to those whom it condemns, it mixes with just measure fear and hope through the twofold capacity in all of grace and sin, so that it abases infinitely more than reason, yet without producing despair, and exalts infinitely more than natural pride, yet without puffing up.' In this relation, also, Pascal draws attention (ii. 316) to the fact that, whereas the notion of humility as a virtue was alien to the stand-point of the ancient world, it is in Christianity apprehended as self-resignation, self-humiliation seen in unison with the other virtues. Only Christianity,' he says, 'could unite things which have hitherto appeared so opposite. It alone has taught men that so far from humility being incompatible with the other virtues, without it all other virtues are only vices and defects.' With how little pride does a Christian believe himself united with God! with how little dejection does he compare himself to the worms of the earth!
Accordingly, Christ appears to Pascal as well the central point of all existence and religion as of the faith and life of the Gospel. Apart from him all the other doctrines of the Gospel lose their peculiar meaning. Christ,' he says (ii. 115), 'is the end and centre of all. Whoever knows Him knows the reason of all things. The erring fall into error by not seeing one of two things. We can know God without knowing our misery, and our misery without knowing
300 Pascal's Conception of the Essence of Christianity.
knowing God; but we cannot know Christ without knowing at once God and our misery. And therefore it is I would not venture to prove by natural argument the existence of God, or the Trinity, or the immortality of the soul, or anything of this nature, not only because I do not find myself able to discover in Nature anything sufficient to convince the hardened atheist, but, rather, because such a knowledge, without Christ, were sterile and useless.'
After the enlightened and comprehensive exhibition of Pascal's views in these lectures, and the eloquent and most interesting paper which appeared some time ago in a contemporary journal, it were superfluous to attempt any further defence of Pascal's truly philosophical character. And we believe we can have no better wish for the cause of a genuine philosophy than that the Thoughts' of Pascal, now for the first time published in an authentic and entire form, may be widely studied by all in our day whose minds are alive to the great and essential questions now so obviously stirring society on all sides.
Entertaining such an opinion of the worth of the Pensées, we were glad to observe the announcement of a translation of Faugère's edition, by George Pearce, Esq., 'Editor and Translator of the Provincial Letters. Our pleasure we own, however, has not been heightened by a partial examination of the first volume of this translation just published. Amid evidences of scholarship and taste, and of a hearty love of the subject, it is yet marked by a license and, in some places, an inaccuracy and diffuseness in rendering Pascal's exact statements, that we think quite unwarrantable, and, surely, in regard to such a writer as Pascal, generally so clear and simple, wholly unnecessary. And, for one of the most important of the extracts from letters addressed to Mademoiselle de Roannes, viz., that marked II., p. 57 of Faugère, we have sought in vain. Does its omission arise from carelessness or intention? In either case it seriously impairs the value of the translation.— TRANSLATOR.
Edinburgh Review, Jan. 1847.