No, I am not a revered doctor, brother; no, all the knowledge
of this world has not found its abode in me. I have merely the science of
discerning truth from falsehood. And as I know nothing in the world so noble
and so beautiful as the holy fervour of genuine piety, so there is nothing,
I think, so odious as the whitewashed outside of a specious zeal; as those
downright imposters, those bigots whose sacrilegious and deceitful grimaces
impose on others with impunity, and who trifle as they like with all that
mankind holds sacred; those men who, wholly given to mercenary ends, trade
upon godliness, and would purchase honour and reputation at the cost of
hypocritical looks and affected groans; who, seized with strange ardour,
make use of the next world to secure their fortune in this; who, with great
affectation and many prayers, daily preach solitude and retirement while
they themselves live at Court; who know how to reconcile their zeal with
their vices; who are passionate, revengeful, faithless, full of deceit,
and who, to work the destruction of a fellow-man, insolently cover their
fierce resentment with the cause of Heaven. They are so much the more dangerous
in that they, in their bitter wrath, use against us those weapons which
men revere; and their anger, which everybody lauds, assassinates us with
a consecrated weapon. There are too many such mean hypocrites in the world;
but from them the truly pious are easy to distinguish. Our age offers us
abundant and glorious examples, my brother. Look at Ariston, look at Périande,
Oronte, Alcidamus, Polydore, and Clitandre. No one will refuse them this
title. They are no pretenders to virtue. You never see in them this unbearable
ostentation, and their piety is human and tractable. They never censure
the doings of others; they think there is too much pride in such censure;
and leaving lofty words to others, they only reprove our actions by their
own virtue. They do not trust to the appearance of evil, and are more inclined
to judge kindly of others. We find no cabals, no intrigues among them; all
their anxiety is to live a holy life. They never persecute the sinner, but
they hate the sin. They do not care to display for the interest of Heaven
a more ardent zeal than Heaven itself displays. These are people after my
own heart; it is thus we should live; this is the pattern for us to follow.
Tartuffe is not of this stamp, I know. You speak with the best intention
of his goodness, but I fear you are dazzled by false appearances.
Credits: Reprinted from The Dramatic Works of Molière, Vol. II.
Ed. Charles Heron Wall. London: George Bell & Sons, 1898.
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