Pascal: Pride, Sloth, & the Power of the Gospel

Pascal, the seventeenth-century philosopher and mathematician, considered pride and sloth the two sources of all vice.

“Without this divine knowledge what could men do,” Pascal wrote, “but either become elated by the inner feeling of their past greatness which still remains to them, or become despondent at the sight of their present weakness?”

Pascal answered this question in the following paragraph from his Pensées, French for “thoughts.” On this Labor Day, be reminded that only the Gospel can keep you out of the parallel ditches of pride and despair:

The Christian religion alone has been able to cure these two vices, not by expelling the one through means of the other according to the wisdom of the world, but by expelling both according to the simplicity of the Gospel.

For it teaches the righteous that it raises them even to a participation in divinity itself; that in this lofty state they still carry the source of all corruption, which renders them during all their life subject to error, misery, death and sin; and it proclaims to the most ungodly that they are capable of the grace of their Redeemer.

So making those tremble whom it justifies, and consoling those whom it condemns, religion so justly tempers fear with hope through that double capacity of grace and of sin, common to all, that it humbles infinitely more than reason alone can do, but without despair; and it exalts infinitely more than natural pride, but without inflating; thus making it evident that alone being exempt from error and vice, it alone fulfills the duty of instructing and correcting men.