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think it just in them to require more esteem from us than they deserve; it is therefore unjust that we should deceive them desiring more esteem from them than we deserve.
Thus if they discover no more imperfections and vices in us than we really have, it is plain they do us no wrong, since it is not they who cause them; but rather they do us a service, since they help us to deliver ourselves from an evil, the ignorance of these imperfections. We ought not to be troubled that they know our faults and despise us, since it is but just they should know us as we are, and despise us if we are despicable.
Such are the sentiments which would arise in a heart full of equity and justice. What should we say then of our own heart, finding in it an wholly contrary disposition? For is it not true that we hate truth, and those who tell it us, and that we would wish them to have an erroneously favourable opinion of us, and to esteem us other than indeed we are?
One proof of this fills me with dismay. The Catholic religion does not oblige us to tell out our sins indiscriminately to all, it allows us to remain hidden from men in general, but she excepts one alone, to whom she commands us to open the very depths of our heart, and to show ourselves to him as we are. There is but this one man in the world whom she orders us to undeceive; she binds him to an inviolable secrecy, so that this knowledge is to him as though it were not. We can imagine nothing more charitable and more tender. Yet such is the corruption of man, that he finds even this law harsh, and it is one of the main reasons which has set a large portion of Europe in revolt against the Church.
How unjust and unreasonable is the human heart which finds it hard to be obliged to do in regard to one man what in some degree it were just to do to all men. For is it just that we should deceive them?
There are different degrees in this dislike to the truth, but it may be said that all have it in some degree, for it is inseparable from self-love. This false delicacy causes those who must needs reprove others to choose so many windings and modifications in order to avoid shocking them. They
must needs lessen our faults, seem to excuse them, mix praises with their blame, give evidences of affection and esteem. Yet this medicine is always bitter to self-love, which takes as little as it can, always with disgust, often with a secret anger against those who administer it.
Hence it happens, that if any desire our love, they avoid doing us a service which they know to be disagreeable; they treat us as we would wish to be treated: we hate the truth, and they hide it from us; we wish to be flattered, they flatter us; we love to be deceived, they deceive us.
Thus each degree of good fortune which raises us in the world removes us further from truth, because we fear most to wound those whose affection is most useful, and whose dislike is most dangerous. A prince may be the by-word of all Europe, yet he alone know nothing of it. I am not surprised; to speak the truth is useful to whom it is spoken, but disadvantageous to those who speak it, since it makes them hated. Now those who live with princes love their own interests more than that of the prince they serve, and thus they take care not to benefit him so as to do themselves a disservice.
This misfortune is, no doubt, greater and more common in the higher classes, but lesser men are not exempt from it, since there is always an interest in making men love us. Thus human life is but a perpetual illusion, an interchange of deceit and flattery. No one speaks of us in our presence as in our absence. The society of men is founded on this universal deceit : few friendships would last if every man knew what his friend said of him behind his back, though he then spoke in sincerity and without passion.
Man is then only disguise, falsehood, and hypocrisy, both in himself and with regard to others. He will not be told the truth, he avoids telling it to others, and all these tendencies, so far removed from justice and reason, have their natural roots in his heart.
PREFACE TO THE SECOND PART.
speak of those who have treated of this subject.
I wonder at the boldness with which these persons undertake to speak of God, in addressing their words to the irreligious. Their first chapter is to prove Divinity by the works of nature. I should not be astonished at their undertaking if they addressed their argument to the faithful, for it is certain that those who have a lively faith in their heart see at once that all that exists is none other than the work of the God whom they adore. But for those in whom this light is extinguished, and in whom we desire to revive it, men destitute of faith and grace who, seeking with all their light whatever they see in nature to lead them to this knowledge, find only clouds and darkness,to tell them they need only look at the smallest things which surround them in order to see God unveiled, to give them as the sole proof of this great and important subject, the course of the moon and planets, and to say that with such an argument we have accomplished the proof; is to give them ground for belief that the proofs of our Religion are very feeble. Indeed I see by reason and experience that nothing is more fitted to excite contempt.
Not after this fashion speaks the Scripture, which knows better than we the things of God. It says, on the contrary, that God is a God who hides himself, and that since nature became corrupt, he has left men in a blindness from which they can only escape by Jesus Christ, and except through him we are cut off from all communication with God. Nemo novit Patrem, nisi Filius, et cui voluerit Filius revelare.