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S.A. Bent, comp. Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men. 1887.

Jacques Bossuet

  • [A French pulpit-orator and controversalist, born at Dijon, 1627; bishop of Condom, 1669; preceptor to the dauphin, 1670; bishop of Meaux, 1681; died 1704.]
  • No man is more easily deceived than he who hopes, for he aids in his own deceit.

  • The maxim, “Mundus vult decipi, ergo decipiatur” (The world wishes to be deceived, let it therefore be deceived), is ascribed by Zincgref, “German Apothegms,” to the papal legate Caraffa, afterwards Paul IV. Its German equivalent, “Die Welt will betrogen sein,” was already a common expression, which finds frequent quotation in Luther, and was in Goethe’s mind when he said, “Man is never deceived: he deceives himself.”
  • The princess had all the virtues with which hell is filled (toutes les vertus dont l’enfer est rempli).

  • Sermon on the death of Anne de Gonzaga de Cleves, Princess Palatine, 1684; who was converted at fifty-six, after a life of political and personal intrigue, during which she said that the greatest miracle would be her conversion to Christianity. The saying, “Hell is paved with good intentions,” quoted from Dr. Johnson by Boswell (“Life,” 1775), is referred in a note to George Herbert, “Hell is full of good meanings and wishes” (Jacula Prudentum, 1651, p. 11). The Germans have a proverb, “Der Weg zur Hölle ist mit guten Vorsätzen gepflastert,” and St. Francis de Sales attributes to St. Bernard, “Hell is full of good intentions and wills.”
  • Bossuet said of the retirement of Mme. de la Vallière to a convent, “The world itself makes us sick of the world.”
  • Well-meant ignorance is a grievous calamity in high places.

  • Goethe says, “Nothing is more terrible than active ignorance.”
  • The heart has reasons that reason does not understand.

  • A marginal note in a sermon on brotherly love contains the words, “We cannot love our neighbor without loving God” (On ne peut jamais aimer son prochain sans aimer Dieu).
  • When God intends to show that any work is only his, he lets helplessness and despair overpower us, and then he acts.