A Conversation between my Lord d’Aubigny, and M. de St. Evremond


Having one day related to my Lord d’Aubigny1 the Conversation I had with Father Canaye; "It is but reason," said he, "that you should meet with as much frankness among us, as you have done among the Jesuits. Do but take the trouble to hear me speak, and I don’t doubt but you’ll find me as honourable and sincere, as the reverend Father you mention.

"I must acquaint you, in the first place, that we have, amongst us, very great Wits, who propagate Jansenism by their Writings; vain Sophisters, who, to credit themselves by being Jansenists, entertain continual Disputes in private houses; and wise and cunning persons, who prudently govern both the other. You’ll find in the first a great knowledge, a competent deal of honesty, often too much heat, and sometimes some animosity. There is in the second, a great deal of obstinacy and self-conceit : those that are least usesul, fortify the Party by their numbers; and the most considerable raise its credit by their quality. As for the Politicians, they employ every one according to his talent; and govern the whole machine, by springs unknown to those very persons who are acted by them.

"Those who preach, or write upon GRACE, and treat that celebrated and so long debated question; those who place the Council above the Pope, oppose his Infallibility, and thwart the great pretensions of the Court of Rome, are persuaded of what they say : tho capable to change their opinion, if the Jesuits should one day think fit to alter theirs. Our Directors do not much regard the Doctrine : their principal aim is to set up one Society against the other; to secure for them a Party in the Church; and out of a Party in the Church, a Cabal at Court. They introduce a reformation into a Monastery, without reforming themselves : they extol penance without practising it : they cause some persons, who endeavour to distinguish themselves by being singular, to diet on Herbs, whilst they live as well as those that have the most delicate palates. Nevertheless, our Directors, such as I represent them, do Jansenism more service by their Directions, than our best Writers by their fine Books.

"Our preservation is owing to a wise and prudent management : and, if I mistake not, should ever M. de Believre, M. de Legue, and M. du Gué-Bagnols, fail us, there will happen a great change in Jansenism. The reason of it is, because our opinions will have much ado to subsist by themselves : for they put an eternal constraint upon Nature; take off from Religion what’s comfortable in it, and put in its place Fear, Pain, and Despair. The Jansenists, endeavouring to make all men Saints, do not find ten in a whole Kingdom, to make such Christians as they would have them. Christianity is divine : but they are Men that embrace it; and therefore we must, by all means, calculate every thing for human capacities. Too austere a Philosophy makes few wise men; too rigorous Politicks, few good subjects; too hard a Religion, few religious Persons whose devotion is of long continuance. Nothing can be lasting, which does not suit with Nature. GRACE, of which we talk so much, suits it self with it : for God makes use of the docility of our minds, and of the tenderness of our hearts, to make himself belov’d. ’Tis certain, that too rigid Divines raise a greater aversion against themselves, than against sins. The penance they preach up, makes people prefer the easiness of continuing in vice, before the difficulties that attend the getting out of it.

"The other extreme appears to me equally vicious. If I hate morose people, who make a sin of every thing, I hate no less those easy and complaisant Teachers, who make a sin of nothing; who countenance the depravation of nature; and become secret favourers of immorality. The Gospel, in their hands, is more indulgent than Morals; and Religion, when manag’d by them, does not so strongly oppose vice, as Reason does. I love learned honest men, who make a sound judgment of our actions; who seriously exhort us to the good : and, as far as in them lies, dissuade us from the bad. I would have them know the true difference of things, by a just and nice discernment; I would have them distinguish a Passion, from the effect of it; a Design, from the execution; Vice, from Crime; Pleasures, from Vice : I would have them excuse our frailties, and condemn our disorders; I would not have them confound light, simple, and natural appetites, with wicked and perverse inclinations : in a word, I am for Christian Morals, neither severe, nor remiss."


1. Lewis Steuart, Lord d’Aubigny, Uncle to the Duke of Richmond and Lenox, Lord Almoner to Queen Catherine. See M. de St. Evremond’s Life, under the years 1662 and 1665.