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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
The Blessedness of the Righteous
By Jean-Baptiste Massillon (1663–1742)
 
        
Translation of Joel Foote Bingham
  
  Massillon was especially noted for the appositeness and beauty of his exordiums; and one of his sermons of great repute owes its enormous fame to that peculiarity of the text and to the action of the first three minutes. Massillon used no gestures, properly so called: but in the words of the Abbé Maury, he had an eloquent eye; which, Sainte-Beuve has added, made for him the most beautiful of gestures. The sermon in question was that which he pronounced in the final obsequies for Louis XIV. He entered the pulpit with lowered eyes, as was his custom. At length, raising them, he swept them in silence over all that magnificent funeral pomp. Then he fixed them on the lofty catafalque, and slowly pronounced the words of his text, taken from the first chapter of Ecclesiastes, in the French version of the Vulgate: “I have become great; I have surpassed in glory all who have preceded me in Jerusalem.” After a long silence, and upon the excited expectation of the auditory, he began with the ever since famous words: “My brethren, God alone is great.”
  Perhaps this bewitching felicity was never more striking than in the exordium of his first sermon before the same Louis XIV., when, knowing that a reputation for austerity had preceded him, he made his début before that glittering earthy crowd in the following way, with the sermon on ‘The Blessedness of the Righteous.’

TEXT: “Blessed are they that mourn.”

SIRE: If the world were speaking here instead of Jesus Christ, no doubt it would not offer such language as this to your Majesty.  1
  “Blessed the Prince,” it would say to you, “who has never fought but to conquer; who has seen so many powers in arms against him, only to gain glory in granting them peace; who has always been equally greater than danger and greater than victory!  2
  “Blessed the Prince, who throughout the course of a long and flourishing reign has peacefully enjoyed the emoluments of his glory, the love of his subject peoples, the esteem of his enemies, the admiration of all the world, the advantage of his conquests, the magnificence of his works, the wisdom of his laws, the august hope of a numerous posterity; and who has nothing more to desire than long to preserve that which he possesses!”  3
  Thus the world would speak; but, Sire, Jesus does not speak like the world.  4
  “Blessed,” says he to you, “not he who is achieving the admiration of his age, but he who is making the world to come his principal concern, and who lives in contempt of himself, and of all that is passing away; because his is the kingdom of heaven.  5
  “Blessed, not he whose reign and whose acts history is going to immortalize in the remembrance of men, but he whose tears shall have effaced the story of his sins from the remembrance of God himself; because he will be eternally comforted.  6
  “Blessed, not he who shall have extended by new conquests the limits of his empire, but he who shall have confined his inclinations and passions within the limits of the law of God; because he will possess an estate more lasting than the empire of the whole world.  7
  “Blessed, not he who, raised by the acclamations of subject peoples above all the princes who have preceded him, peacefully enjoys his grandeur and his glory, but he who, not finding on the throne even anything worthy of his heart, seeks for perfect happiness here below only in virtue and in righteousness; because he will be satisfied.  8
  “Blessed, not he to whom men shall have given the glorious titles of ‘Great’ and ‘Invincible,’ but he to whom the unfortunate shall have given, before Jesus, the title of ‘Father’ and of ‘Merciful’; because he will be treated with mercy.  9
  “Blessed, in fine, not he who, being always arbiter of the destiny of his enemies, has more than once given peace to the earth, but he who has been able to give it to himself, and to banish from his heart the vices and inordinate affections which trouble the tranquillity of it; because he will be called a child of God.”  10
  These, Sire, are they whom Jesus calls blessed, and the Gospel does not know any other blessedness on earth than virtue and innocence.  11
 
 
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