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Letter XVI.—Explanation of Apparent Despair.

To Mother Louise-Françoise de Rosen (1735). Explanation of apparent despair.


My dear Sister,

One must never take the extreme expressions made use of by orthodox writers quite rigidly, but enter into the meaning and thought of the authors. One ought, without doubt, to prevent good souls from making use of expressions, coolly and with premeditation, which seem to savour of despair; but it would be unjust to condemn those who, driven almost out of their senses by the violence of their trials, speak and act as if they had no hope of eternal happiness. It does not do to feel scandalised 374at their language, nor to imagine it actuated by a real despair. It is really rather a feeling of confidence hidden in the depths of the soul which makes them speak thus; just as criminals have been sometimes known to present themselves before their sovereign with a rope round their neck saying that they gave themselves up to all the severity of his justice. Do you imagine that it was despair that made them speak in this way? or was it not rather an excess of confidence in the prince’s goodness? And, as a rule, they obtain their pardon by the excess of their sorrow, repentance, and confidence. Will God then be less good with regard to souls who abandon themselves to Him for time and for eternity? Will He take literally expressions which, in the main, only signify transports of abandonment and confidence? It is for want of a just appreciation of these ideas that you thought it necessary to erase similar expressions in the book “Interior Christian.” For my part when I find such expressions in good authors’ books, far from being scandalised, I feel much edified. I admire the strength of abandonment and discover an excess of confidence, so much the more meritorious as it is less perceptible, in a soul which utters these sentiments in a moment of excitement. These extraordinary states are, in the order of grace, what miracles are in the order of nature. They raise the soul above ordinary laws, but without destroying them. Far from appearing to me contrary to the wisdom of God, they make me admire His power.

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