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that you are a calumniator? Not at all; even if you have been
"These ideas have occurred to me," said M. de Fénélon, “but
"Doubtless; it is one of the forms of the mania for delineations. Not that the preacher may not be allowed, within certain limits, to seek by this means to reanimate national or religious recollections in his hearers; but as soon as he exaggerates, he does more harm to religion in the minds of those who perceive it, than he can do good to those who do not perceive it."
"From all this, I perceive that the style of which we speak, is not necessarily bad in itself, but that it is in more danger of being abused, than most others. And in truth it is abused by almost all those who embrace it. If ambition be the subject, behold Alexander and Cæsar adduced; but these two men, are actual sluggards in comparison with the ambitious man such as I have often heard him described. Is avarice the subject? Immediately comes the portrait of the miser; but this miser is a species of monster like whom there have not perhaps existed twenty since the creation of the world.-Have you read Molière ?"
The prelate had a slight air of embarrassment.
"Come, you have read it," said the Marquis, smiling. "Well as I was about to say, Harpagon is a real prodigy in comparison with the miser whom Father Seraphim described to us one day, two or three years ago. And the court! and the courtiers! In vain did Monsieur de la Rouchefoucauld say all the evil of them that he knew, (and he knew them better than any one else ;) he never discovered the quarter of what I have heard asserted many a time by preachers freshly arrived from the provinces; and that at Versailles itself, before the king, before the whole court. Consequently I have never perceived that the courtiers were the least in the world offended at it. These thunderbolts passed over their heads; the most corrupted could say in all sincerity, that this did not touch them. In the delineation of virtues, I think exaggeration is less dangerous. Does not the
Evangelist say, 'Be ye perfect even as your Father in heaven is perfect? Now the hyperbole is evident.-To be perfect, as God is perfect! There would be madness not only in the idea that one was actually on the road to such a perfection, but even in the attempt to travel the road.
"And accordingly that is not what Jesus Christ asks. To propose God to us, as our model, is absolutely as if one should direct a traveller to walk directly towards the sun. Would he on that account fancy that there were any possibility of reaching that luminary? He would understand that it was question of a direction to be followed and not of a goal to be arrived at. But when a preacher sets to work to depict to me the life of a certain ideal Christian, whom I am commanded to resemble, it is no longer a direction only which he points out to me,—it is an end; instead of a reality to be contemplated, it is a fiction to be realized. From that moment, if the picture be ever so little too beautiful and too dazzling, I may indeed admire it as a picture, but I do not dream of imitating it."
"Upon the whole, then, which is it best to exaggerate? The delineation of good, or that of evil?”
"Neither the one nor the other. In exaggerating that of the evil to be avoided, you trace likenesses in which no one is willing to recognize himself;* in exaggerating that of the good to be attained, you only confirm the sinner in that fatal but comfortable idea, that he is too feeble to attain it, and that God will be less exacting than you."
"Have you not also remarked that the preachers who thunder the most against vice, are not generally the most zealous in branding it in their relations with society or the church? And never
* "There is already only too much evil in this world; and it is a great evil to exaggerate it. To paint men always bad, is inviting them to be BO."-VOLTAIRE. Supplement to the "Siècle de Louis XIV.”
theless, it seems to me, that a man deceives himself greatly, if he imagine himself to be exempt from his ministerial functions, because he may have exercised their duties unsparingly on public occasions. Two seasonable words often do more good than twenty of those sermons where each one is at liberty to take nothing."
"Alas! yes! but it requires more faith and courage to say those two words face to face with one single sinner, than from the pulpit, to rebuke two or three thousand persons, ready to listen to everything, on condition of forgetting it all."
"It does, in truth, require courage; above all,"-M. de Fénélon hesitated.
"Above all when this sinner," he resumed, "is"
"A king, you would say?"
“You have guessed; and particularly a king like ours, a kind of demigod.-Now Monsieur de Condom, you are going to think me very presuming; but it seems to me, that if I had the honor of being a priest, and of being permitted to approach his Majesty, I would not be silent in regard to the scandals of which we are witness."
"Is this a reproach, Monsieur de Fénélon ?"
"Do not force me to say yes. I must consider you as very thoroughly convinced of my esteem for you, to dare touch upon such a subject;. I who rebuked my nephew for having ventured to find blemishes in the talent of Father Bourdaloue, am much bolder to hint at any in your conduct.-Well, I must confess, at the sight of the irregularities which the king practises more and more openly, I have sometimes said to myself, 'Does Monsieur de Condom do his duty? Does he speak to the king? Has he tried-' I know very well, that you are not his confessor, but what matter? You will perhaps ask me why I have thought of you rather than so many others. Well, sir, if it is an injustice,
be proud of it; it is a proof that there is no one whom I consider as more capable than yourself of making the voice of religion sound authoritatively. But be sure that I am not the only one who has had this thought. Stay, here is a letter from Arnauld-"
"From Arnauld, the first man in the French church,-after you. There is first a page of praises. You shall read it presently-"
"As you please. But this, you will read."
Bossuet took the letter.
"There is however a verumtamen, a but"—wrote the patriarch of Port Royal,-" of which I fear much, that Monsieur de Condom will have to give account to God. It is that he has not had the courage to say anything to the king."
"Would he have done it himself?" said Bossuet, much more affected than he wished to appear. "I admire those who-"
He did not continue.
"Go on," said M. de Fénélon, coldly.
"I am wrong," resumed Bossuet, "I am wrong! I ask your pardon for it, I ask pardon of God," he added, sighing.
The marquis held out his hand to Bossuet. He grasped it. "Let me see; let me read this letter again. Give account to God! He is right. Ah! Monsieur de Fénélon! Do you think my conscience has never told me this?"
"And you have been able to keep silence !"
"Twenty times I have resolved to speak; twenty times my tongue has been powerless. All that I have been able to take upon me, has been from time to time to introduce subjects of conversation, which I hoped to be able to turn in this direction. But the king is ingenious. He is afraid of me. So long as I