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" It is reason that makes us men, and yet it is a rare thing to find men truly reasonable, because self-love usually leads us astray from reason, drawing us insensibly into a thousand small yet dangerous injustices and wrongs. ... We condemn every little thing in our neighbours, and excuse ourselves in things that are great ; we want to sell very dear and buy very cheap; we desire that justice should be exercised in another's house, but mercy and connivance in our own; we would have everything we say taken in good part, but we are sensitive and touchy about what others say to us; we would have our neighbour sell us his property at the price we offer, but is it not more reasonable that he should keep his goods and leave us our money? We take it ill that he will not accommodate us, but has he not more reason to be offended that we should desire to incommode him ? ... We exact our own dues strictly, but we would have others lenient in demanding theirs ; we are punctilious in maintaining our own rank, but would have others humble and condescending ; we soon find fault with our neighbour, but none must find fault with us; what we do for others seems always very great, but what others do for us seems as nothing ... We have two weights-one to weigh to our advantage, and the other to weigh to the detriment of our neighbour, ... a greater to receive with and a less to deliver out withal. . . . Be fair and just in all your actions; put yourself always in your neighbour's place, and put him in yours, and you will judge rightly; imagine yourself the seller when you are buying, and the buyer when you are selling, and you will sell and buy justly. These injustices are trifling, and do not require us to make restitution, inasmuch as they only consist in taking rigorous advantage of the conditions in our favour ; yet we are bound to amend them, for they are great defects in reason and charity, and little better than cheating. Believe me, one loses nothing by being generous, noble and courteous, with a heart royal, just and reasonable. Therefore remember frequently to examine whether your heart is such towards your neighbour, as you would have his towards you, were you in his place; for this is the touchstone of true reason.” (Part iii, Ch. xxxvi.)
Francis de Sales was the author of several books besides the Introduction, the best known among them being one on the Love of God; but it is doubtful whether any of these other books of his is quite so precious as one that was written about him by his friend and disciple, Jean Pierre Camus, and is called The Spirit of St. Francis de Sales. Camus was bishop of a diocese close to that of Geneva, and he lived on terms of the greatest intimacy with Francis, for whom he had the utmost affection and reverence. Happily he was gifted with a Boswell-like memory, and he has given us one of the best lives of the saints ever written. Its title is very appropriate, for it is indeed the spirit of Francis, the singularly pure and wise and gracious spirit which breathes in the Introduction that we find in this delightful memoir. We get in this book many an illustration of Francis' skill as a director of souls. We find him dealing with all sorts and conditions of men and women, and for each of them he has the word in season. People came to him with their complaints and sorrows and sins, and they got the counsel they needed, though it was not always just what they expected, or liked at the moment. To Camus himself, who complained bitterly of a wrong which some one had done him, Francis said, “ Cannot you see God's will in that-how he permits the trial and makes use of man's wickedness to correct your faults and confirm your strength ? You delight in wearing a gold cross upon your breast, while you cannot bear the tiniest inward cross without striving to cast it out by murmuring ! And you would fain have me to believe you patient; just as if the real result of patience would be freedom from resentment and complaint.” (Part ii, Ch. v. 5.)
Francis thought it was well never to talk about oneself, either in praise or blame, save when really necessary, and even then with great reserve. Selfblame and self-praise spring from vanity, he used to say. “As to boasting, that,” he said, “is so purely ridiculous as to be condemned by all men, and words of self-depreciation, unless they are intensely sincere, and spring from a strong conviction of worthlessness, are a very refined form of vanity. He who utters them rarely believes them himself, or really wishes others to believe them; he only intends to be thought very humble ; and therein he is like an oarsman who turns his back to the point towards which he rows." (Part ii, Ch. vi. 3.)
He often, says Camus, took people at their word when they made humble speeches in his presence, sometimes indeed giving greater emphasis to such expressions, so as to bring those who uttered them to confusion. “ For instance,” says his biographer, “when I first became a bishop, he required of me, as I thought, too high a standard of perfection. “My dear father,' I said, you forget that I have but just left the world, and am
given the office of a teacher almost before becoming a disciple ! You treat me as if I were far advanced in holiness, and able to teach others, whereas I have hardly yet entered within the gate thereof.' 'Quite true,' he answered, “I probably realise all that even more than you do yourself. I look upon you as a brand snatched from the burning, and still smelling of smoke; but after all, you are now a bishop, and you must arouse your paternal feelings, and fix your eyes upon perfection. It will not do for you to be content to drink from your own cistern; you must impart its waters to others. God, reason, and your office alike demand it of you; you must not look behind unless you would become a statue. If you trust in yourself, you will never do anything, but if you trust in God, there is nothing you may not do. He delights in showing forth his strength in our weakness, his power in our helplessness, in confounding that which is by the things that are not. Mistrust of self is a very blessed thing, provided it is accompanied by trust in God, and the further you advance in the one, the more earnest the other will be. But all distrustful humility is a false humility.'"
On another occasion a lady who had been elected Superior of a convent declined the appointment with great professions of unworthiness. Francis reiterated all her assertions even more strongly than she herself, saying that “ doubtless she was but a poor creature, and all the sisters knew her incapacity, the narrowness of her mind, the weakness of her judgment, her want of manner, her numberless failings, and her lack of power to set a good example ; but that God perhaps allowed her election in order to correct these faults, now that she was to be placed in a responsible position before him as well as in the sight of men and angels. He reminded her that the community was not entrusted to her but to God, who often chooses the weak to confound the wise of this world, through the foolishness of the Cross. ... It was thus our dear father taught his children to avoid all such vain words as borrow the mask of humility and showed pride beneath a false lowliness.” (Part ii, Ch. vi. 10.)
Francis, we are told, was most gentle and compassionate, but there was a great deal of strength and vigour in his character too; like steel, which is stronger in proportion to the delicacy with which it is tempered. He could not bear people to be soft and indulgent to themselves, and always, says Camus, made war upon such tenderness when he came across it ; distinguishing however between weakness or infirmity and this tenderness of self. No one could be more compassionate to sinners, especially to such as fall through infirmity and without premeditation ; but he was always severe towards those who were indulgent to themselves, saying that such indulgence, whether bodily or mental, was as opposed to all true devotion as over-anxiety or hurry, both being evidences of self-love.
Francis had the love that desires to think no evil. To some one who asked him if it is wrong to entertain well-founded suspicions, he answered, “No; because to suspect is not to judge, only a step towards it. But we should be very careful not to be misled by false indications, and so to form hasty judgments; this is the rock upon which many a rash judgment splits.' To avoid this error, he had an excellent rule, namely, that if any action could be seen under a hundred different aspects,