Sämtliche schriften und briefe series I, volume 16
Deutsche Akademie der Wissenschaften (ed)
p 101

Date: 8/18 February 1699

Translated from the French

View this translation in PDF format (12k)

Back to home page

Search texts by keyword(s):

(For search strings, just type the words; don't use quotation marks)


[A I 16, p101]

     Madam de Brinon has written back to me; she admires Your Electoral Highness' letter as much as I do;1 she accepts that the bad actions practised by Roman Catholics are wrong, but she claims that their religion does not teach those actions Your Electoral Highness disapproves of. The problem is that the powers that be, and those who teach the religion to others, authorize them to some extent. She cites the late Mr Arnauld's Apology for the Catholics of England.2 I have seen this Apology, but it only concerns the most recent conspiracies ascribed to them, and does not justify them for the gunpowder plot, which is only too real. This is what I will say in my reply.3 And I will also say to her that in order to cleanse their religion of these bad practices of the spirit of perfection and of violence that reigns there under the pretext of zeal, their Church would have to openly disapprove of them, whereas it seems to do completely the opposite. Madam de Brinon returns again to the passage of St. Paul, who feared for his salvation,4 and claims that Your Electoral Highness has not replied to the authority of this Apostle, whose account should not - it is true - be challenged. But ultimately I do not think that there is a big difference on this point between our theologians and those on the side of Rome. For admittedly it is possible that a man who is presently in a good state can change to a worse one; and that one cannot vouch for one's own perseverance in the good.5 However it is also to be admitted that we can have as much confidence in God's goodness as we should have fear of his justice.


1. Leibniz is referring to Sophie's letter to de Brinon of 23 December 1698/2 January 1699. See Foucher de Careil, Œuvres (1860) II: 227-229 (2nd edition: 231-233).
2. Antoine Arnauld, Apologie pour les Catholiques (Liège, 1681-2).
3. Leibniz's reply was finally written more than 3 months later, on 15/25 May 1699. See A I 17, pp198-201. An English translation is available here.
4. Cf. 1 Corinthians 4.4: 'For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified; but he that judgeth me is the Lord.'
5. On this matter see Leibniz's essay 'On the certainty of salvation' in LGR 239-241.

© Lloyd Strickland 2007, 2009