Having God, the spiritual life has a firm base and an invincible hope. The vapors of earth may indeed for a moment obscure the sky. One while fogs hang about the ground; another while clouds send forth the thunder-bolt; but, above the regions of darkness and of tempest, the eye of faith contemplates the eternal azure in its unchanging calm. Life has its sorrows for all; but it is not only endurable, it is blessed, when in view of the instability of all things, in view of evil, of injustice, and of suffering, there can breathe from the depths of the soul to the eternal, the Holy One, the Comforter, those words of patience in life and of joy in death: My God! Take God away, and life is decapitated. Even this comparison is not sufficient; life, rather, becomes like to a man who should have lost at once both his head and his heart. The immense subject which opens before us falls into an easy and natural division: we will fix our attention successively upon the individual and upon society.
Man thinks, he feels, and he wills: these are the three great functions of the spiritual life. Let us inquire what, without God, would become, first, of thought, which is the instrument of all knowledge; next; of the conscience, which is the law of the will; then of the heart, which is the organ of the feelings. We will begin with thought.
Let us go back to the origin of modern philosophy. The labors of Descartes will make us acquainted, under the form clearest for us, with a current of lofty thoughts which does honor to ancient civilization, and which has come down to us through the writings of Plato and St. Augustine. We have seen that Descartes deceived himself, when he thought to separate himself altogether from tradition, and forgot the while how intimately men’s minds are bound together in a common possession of truth. He was mistaken, because he confounded the idea, natural to the human mind, of an infinite reason, with the full idea of the Creator; so attributing to the efforts of his own philosophy that gift of truth which he had received from the Christian tradition. But, having so far recognized his error, listen now to this great man, and judge if he were again mistaken in those thoughts of his which I am about to reproduce to you.
Descartes strives hard to doubt of all things, persuaded that truth will resist his efforts, and come forth triumphant from the trial. He doubts of what he has heard in the schools: his masters may have led him into error. He doubts of the evidence of his senses: his senses deceive him in the visions of the night; what if he were always dreaming, and if his waking hours were but another sleep with other dreams! He will doubt even of the certainty of reason: what if the reason were a warped and broken instrument? Reason is only worth what its cause may be worth. If man is the child of chance,