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Such are the precepts which Jesus Christ has given to men. to restrain in them the four principal passions; those passions, so powerful and so terrible that I may well call them here the four great springs which set the whole moral world into motion,
that the great author of christianity had in the duties which he prescribed, and in the end which he had in view, the design of overturning all the fundamental principles of the pagan virtues, and of establishing a religion directly contrary to all the false opinions which had been accredited and revered for the lapse of ages. The ancients ranked among their first virtues haughtiness, undaunted courage, implacable resentment,
“Impiger, iracundus, inexorabilis, acer."
Hic petit excidiis urbem, miserosque penates,
Ausi omnes immane nefas, a usoque potiti. Lib. vi. Æneid. Such is the portrait of the most illustrious heroes of antiquity drawn by their best poets. The virtues of a christian are precisely the reverse. Poverty in spirit, meekness, patience, pardon of injuries are recommended to him at every page of the gospel.
The imperious, the ambitious, the bold man was praised and admired, as likewise he who by hardships and dangers had succeeded in hoarding up riches, which he afterwards squandered away in luxuries, in magnificenre and debauchery; but all this is entirely opposite to the principles of christianity, which forbids all excessive eagerness for the acquirement of the goods of the world, all uneasiness about their preservation and the manner of enjoying them. “Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth. Be not solicitous saying, what shall we eat, or what shall we drink, or wherewith shall we be clothed for after all these things do the heathens seek.” Math. vi. 19, 31, 32.
The chief aim of the heathens was to render themselves immortal in the page of history. It was for this their poets sang, their heroes fought, their patriots died. Such were the motives which the pagan philosophers and legislators held forth in order to stimulate to great actions. Illusory motives if there were ever; for were even this reward worthy of our pursuit, who can be sure to obtain it? Of a hundred that are entiled to it, not one enjoys it. How many particular actions, Montague says, are buried in a battle? Of so many thousands of gallant men who have died sword in hand in France for these fifteen huim'red years back,
which are the envenomed sources of all the crimes men perpetrate, and of all the evils they suffer, and which have hitherto banished from the world innocence and peace, and with them all true happiness. To these precepts so holy and so salutary, Jesus Christ has moreover added some counsels which may be reduced to the nuinber of four, and of which I shall show the wisdom and usefulness after having explained them.
CCII. Counsels of Jesus Christ.
Against 'pride. Counsel of forsaking all honours and the glory of the world to embrace obscurity, humiliation and abjection. I find this counsel clearly expressed by the words of Christ, Luke xiv. 3. “When thou art invited to a wedding, sit not down in the highest place, but go and sit down in the lowest place.” “ Learn from me that I am meek and humble
there are not a hundred that have come to our knowledge. The remembrance not of the chiefs only, but also of the battles and of the victories themselves is buried in oblivion ; do we imagine that at every firing of the gun or at every hazard we run, a clerk is suddenly at our side to register it? Hundreds of clerks, however, may set it down in writing, whose commentaries will not last three days, and will be seen by nobody. The judgment of posterity varies according to the predominant maxims of the age. The same man, the same action is successively eulogized and censured according as new ideas, new principles, new foundations of public esteem prevail. We have seen in our days the Constantines, the Theodosiuses, the Charlemagnes treated as rogues and fools; whilst praises were prostituted to the Sardanapals, the Julians, the Cromwels. What reliance after that can you make on the glory which men hold forth to virtue? But what says on this subject the christian legislator to his disciples? • Blessed are you when men shall revile you and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for ny sake; rejoice and be exceeding glad, because your reward is very great in heaven.” Math. v, 11, 12. .
The spirit of the pagan morality is so different from that of the Son of God, that I feel no difficulty to advance that the most boasted virtues of paganism are more incompatible with, and more opposite to the spirit and views of Jesus Christ than its very vices. Why? Because the false glory which accompanied those real crimes, considered by them as virtues, precluded every return to conscience and repentance ; whilst on the other side the libertine and miscreapt carries at least in his soul a monitor, which at times brings him back to his right senses, viz: the remorse which follows crime considered as such.
of heart and you shall find rest for your souls." Math. xi. 29. and John xiii. 12. “ He said to them: know you what I have done to you? You call me Master and Lord : and you say well, for so I am. If I, then, being Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet.”
Against sensuality. Coạnsel to renounce marriage, to consecrate oneself to the state of absolute and perpetual continency. We find in St. Math. xix. 12. this counsel proposed in figurative and enigmatical, but at the same time very intelligible language. St. Paul has explained it likewise, 1 Corvii. 25. “Concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord; but I give counsel, as having obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful: I think, therefore, that it is good for a man so to be,” and v. 38. “ Therefore both he that gives his virgin in marriage, doeth well: and he that giveth her not, doeth better."
Against Covetousness or the love of Riches. Counsel to renounce all property and all possessions in this world, to live, conformably to the example of Jesus Christ, in a state of strict poverty. I find this counsel in the reply which Jesus Christ made to a young man, who after having assured him, that he had always faithfully observed the commandments of God, asked him what was still wanting to him, “ If thou wilt be perfect,” said our Lord to him, “go, sell all thou hast, and give it to the poor, and thou shalt have a treasure in Heaven; and come and follow me.” Math. xix. 21...
Finally. Against Anger. Counsel not to defend ourselves against the violence and unjust undertakings of our fellowcreatures. “ You have heard, Jesus Christ says, Math. v. 38, that it hath been said, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, not to resist evil, but if any man strike thee on the right cheek, turn to him the other also; and if any man will go to law with thee and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall force thee to go one mile, go with him other two."
CCIII. Wisdom of the Counsels of Jesus Christ.
At first sight, I must confess, the counsels of Jesus Christ appear to me not a little harsh and frightful. What, say I to myself, must I then, in order to be a christian, renounce all joy, all pleasure, all satisfaction, divest myself of the most natural feelings, cease to be a man, and die as it were , before death ?
Such are the first thoughts that strike my mind at the sight of the counsels of Jesus Christ. But when, after having hushed the murmur of pride and of the passions, I come to examine these counsels with coolness and with an entire im. partiality, I discover in them the most profound wisdom, and I am forced to look upon them as the most beautiful part of the law of Jesus Christ.
For I observe first, that these four great means to combat the four principal passions, in order to acquire the perfection of the opposite virtues, are by no means commanded, but only counselled.
My second observation is that these counsels, even in the intention of Christ himself, are not designed but for a comparatively small number of persons. Why then, will you ask, did Christ give them? To answer this question, I examine first, what was the principal end which Christ proposed to himself in giving these counsels, and I see that it was to check more efficaciously the four passions of which we have spoken above. I then pass on to consider the genius of these passions, and I discover from what passes within me, from what takes place without me, and from what has happened in the world since it is inhabited by men, that these passions have two principal characteristics; they are at once seducing and tyrannical; they have an infinity of wiles, windings and subtleties to introduce themselves into the hearts of men, they have an infinity of means to maintain themselves in it; it is most easy to become their slave, and very difficult to shake of their yoke. I know that there is a medium between the extremity of vice and that of virtue ; for example, modesty in elevation keeps No. VII.
the medium between ambition and the love of abjection and contempt, sobriety between fasting and abstinence, and excess in eating and drinking, &c. &c.; but I know, likewise, that it is difficult for man to hit that medium in practice, and more difficult still to attach bimself constantly to it. It is, if I am allowed to use the comparison, like pretending to put himself and to keep himself in equilibrium upon one single point; it is not impossible, but he may try it a thousand times without success.
These principles being once supposed, it is self-evident to me that Christ, who no doubt knew as well as we the genius of these passions, intended to make the supreme virtue of man to consist in extreme humility, in extreme self-depial of the senses, in extreme disengagement from riches, in extreme patience, and extreme meekness. Why? Because it is only by throwing himself into the extremes of virtue, if I may speak so, that man can infallibly shun the extremes of the opposite vices, of extreme pride, extreme sensuality, extreme covetuousness, extreme anger. · It is more than clear to me that Christ in giving these counsels to men, showed to them the surest and most infallible means to secure their salvation, which, in the main, is their great and only affair, and for the success of which they can never undertake too much. · It is evident to me that these counsels, although but few persons, nay although nobody were to practise them, would be still beneficial to all men, because the sight of these counsels causes the force and importance of the precepts to be better felt, impresses with a greater fear to violate them, and with a greater zeal to fulfil them, and keeps in humble sentiments those whose virtue is too feeble to go beyond the fulfilment of the precepts. · It is, in fine, obvious to me, that the consideration of the counsels of Jesus Christ is a source of courage and comfort to those who, either through misfortune of their birth or by other causes, are under the necessity of practising the works which are the objects of such counsels, for the poor, for those