Levin felt that it would be improper to enter upon a metaphysical discussion with the priest, and so he said in reply merely what was a direct answer to the question.
“I don’t know,” he said.
“You don’t know! Then how can you doubt that God created all?” the priest said, with good-humored perplexity.
“I don’t understand it at all,” said Levin, blushing, and feeling that his words were stupid, and that they could not be anything but stupid in such a position.
“Pray to God and beseech Him. Even the holy fathers had doubts, and prayed to God to strengthen their faith. The devil has great power, and we must resist him. Pray to God, beseech Him. Pray to God,” he repeated hurriedly.
The priest paused for some time, as though meditating.
“You’re about, I hear, to marry the daughter of my parishioner and son in the spirit, Prince Shtcherbatsky?” he resumed, with a smile. “An excellent young lady.”
“Yes,” answered Levin, blushing for the priest. “What does he want to ask me about this at confession for?” he thought.
And, as though answering his thought, the priest said to him:
“You are about to enter into holy matrimony, and God may bless you with offspring. Well, what sort of bringing-up can you give your babes if you do not overcome the temptation of the devil, enticing you to infidelity?” he said, with gentle reproachfulness. “If you love your child as a good father, you will not desire only wealth, luxury, honor for your infant; you will be anxious for his salvation, his spiritual enlightenment with the light of truth. Eh? What answer will you make him when the innocent babe asks you: ’Papa! who made all that enchants me in this world—the earth, the waters, the sun, the flowers, the grass?’ Can you say to him: ‘I don’t know’? You cannot but know, since the Lord God in His infinite mercy has revealed it to us. Or your child will ask you: ’What awaits me in the life beyond the tomb?’ What will you say to him when you know nothing? How will you answer him? Will you leave him to the allurements of the world and the devil? That’s not right,” he said, and he stopped, putting his head on one side and looking at Levin with his kindly, gentle eyes.
Levin made no answer this time, not because he did not want to enter upon a discussion with the priest, but because, so far, no one had ever asked him such questions, and when his babes did ask him those questions, it would be time enough to think about answering them.
“You are entering upon a time of life,” pursued the priest, “when you must choose your path and keep to it. Pray to God that He may in His mercy aid you and have mercy on you!” he concluded. “Our Lord and God, Jesus Christ, in the abundance and riches of His lovingkindness, forgives this child...” and, finishing the prayer of absolution, the priest blessed him and dismissed him.