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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
Dangers of a Questioning Mind
By François Fénelon (1651–1715)
From ‘Spiritual Letters’: Translation of H. L. Sidney Lear

HE who would fain satisfy himself perpetually that he is guided by reason, not by temper or passion, will only lose his time without ever coming to a satisfactory result; for he can never be certain that temper or passion in specious disguise are not moving him to do what he fancies himself doing from pure reason. It is God’s will to keep us in this obscurity even as to the natural order of things. How much more must we be content to forego evidence and uncertainty, when it is a question of the most delicate workings of grace, in the deep darkness of faith and supernatural things! This restless, obstinate search after an unattainable certainty is very evidently the work of nature, not of grace; you cannot be too much on your guard against it. It is a subtle inquiry which will take a hundred shapes. This craving for geometrical certainty is rooted in you by all your natural inclinations, by lifelong and interesting studies, by habits become second nature, and by a plausible desire to watch and guard against illusion. But an evangelic vigilance should never go so far as to disturb the heart’s peace, or to demand evidence as to the secret operations of grace which it pleases God to keep hidden beneath a veil. To speak frankly and unreservedly, you perfectly know that you ought to dread your excessive tendency to reason, even about all the common matters of every-day life. You ought to dread it much more when it meddles with those workings which are above reason, and which God conceals. One thing is quite certain; namely, that the more faithful you are in mortifying your intellectual tastes, your inquisitive philosophic research, your undue wisdom, forced speculations, and efforts to convince other men, the more you will mortify your real natural frailties, and therein promote the life of grace in you.  1

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