Textes inédits tome 1
Gaston Grua (ed)
Date: 3 April 1696
Translated from the French
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MIND, BODY AND SOUL
FREE WILL AND NECESSITY
POLITICS, LAW AND ETHICS
LEIBNIZ TO ???: "EXTRACT FROM A LETTER TO ONE OF MY FRIENDS"
I have just read, at last, the wonderful book by the late Mr Pufendorf on the controversies, and I find in it many excellent thoughts, worthy of the reputation of the author. If there are sentiments here and there that I would not want to follow entirely, that should not detract from the credit that the book deserves; in profound and difficult matters, the cleverest man in the world is liable to fall short sometimes. I have a tendency to believe that the opinions of the Reformers, in the manner that they are taught today in the German universities, particularly as regards predestination, are very excusable. And I said and wrote more than 20 years ago that the schism that there is between the Evangelicals and the Reformers could and should be removed. It seems that it is the opinion of Mr Pufendorf himself that the differences over Holy Communion are not sufficiently important to merit a separation. And the moderation that he displays on that subject very much merits being praised. And although he dwells more on the article of predestination, by which he seems to believe that the Reformers attack the foundations of faith, I nevertheless find that what they say about it could just as easily be interpreted favourably. And apart from certain expressions, the harshness of which ought to be softened, and which can also be found in Luther's excellent work de Servo Arbitrio,1 the rest appears to me to be quite acceptable or at least very excusable.
When one says with us that election comes about from fide praevisa,2 which is to say that God chooses those whom he foresees persevering in living faith, one speaks the truth. But this does not say enough, because this very faith is a gift that God does not give to all. It is correct to say that God offers it to all men and that all do not receive it; but as all the good in us comes from God, it must be considered that the will to receive what God offers us is itself a gift from God.
Thus everything boils down to grace, pure and simple, as Saint Augustine well understood.
I remain in agreement that one must certainly not imagine in God an absolute good pleasure, without any reason, ubi stet pro ratione voluntas,3 and if some Reformers have had this idea of God then they were wrong, for it is contrary to the wisdom of God to act without reason. Thus it must be held as certain that there are reasons which have prompted God to bestow his graces in such a way that they have [Gr p376] had a full effect in some and no effect in others. But these reasons should not be sought in our good qualities (namely faith or works) which are themselves gifts from God, but in the harmony of the universe or in those altitudo divitiarum4 of which St. Paul spoke.5 It is sufficient that we know in general that God chooses the best, in accordance with what the perfection of the universe demands; although the detail be incomprehensible to us in this life.
But I do not know how I became involved, without realising it, in this profound discussion, which men could have done without; but since questions de fato6 have been a thorny subject for so many centuries, and for so many nations, one cannot always avoid examining them in order to reduce their difficulty.
1. On the bondage of the will (1525).
2. 'foreseen faith'.
3. 'where the will stands in place of reason'.
4. 'depths of riches'.
5. Romans 11.33.
6. 'about fate'
© Lloyd Strickland 2004
With gratitude to Elizabeth Vinestock for advice and suggestions.