Essays of Montaigne: Repentance

Michel de Montaigne - The Complete Essays (Penguin Classics)
I just had an "aha" moment. I am almost done reading his essays. He just hit upon something about sin and repentance:

"I know no repentance, superficial, half-way, and ceremonious; it must sting me all over before I can call it so, and must prick my bowels as deeply and universally as God sees into me" (p. 917).

Screech says in the footnote:

 "Each man is, in God's sight, sinful (Romans 3:23; 5:12), and God is the scrutator cordium ((n.) One who scrutinizes; a close examiner or inquire), 'He who search all hearts' (1 Chron 28:9); 'He who searcheth the heart and knoweth the mind' (Romans 8:27); 'He that searcheth the reins and the heart" (Revelations 2:23)" (Michel de Montaigne - The Complete Essays (Penguin Classics, p. 917).

I lighted upon these words in the footnote and realized that all of Montaigne's words (and there are 1269 pages of his "thoughts") pale in comparison to just those few words I read of Scripture in this footnote. It was food for my soul, life to my weary mind!  If only Montaigne had retired to a life of studying Scriptures rather than writing down all his "thoughts."  They are RUBBISH compared to the Word of God!

Just sayin'!

So here is a reviewer from Library Thing (He read the "selections" version which is easier to haul around!):

If he had a more manageable name, there should be an equivalent to "Shakespearean" for Michel de Montaigne, and the label to refer to essayists of his level. As with Shakespearean, you have to pay attention lest the dense, meaningful sentences fly past. And frankly, there are times, and moods, when he's too dense for me to appreciate, or I'm too dense and have to put him aside.

Like another wonderful essayist, William Hazlitt, Montaigne often takes a circuitous path, following the associations of his fertile, discursive mind, to touch upon all manner of things before coming back to his point(s) with new, expanded insights. Or to bring up other, entirely unexpected points. Again, he requires an attentive reader, and one not looking for a point, but patiently waiting for the next rewarding chunk of writing to come, as it always does.

In a frame of mind to focus and leave the world and its distractions behind, Montaigne is particularly sharp. Take, for example, this (among so many other passages), from the essay "On Cruelty":

"Virtue demands a rough and thorny road: she wants either external difficulties to struggle against ... by means of which Fortune is pleased to break up the directness of her course for her, or else inward difficulties furnished by the disordered passions and imperfections of our condition."

And this, from "On Repenting," capturing his straightforward honesty and self-assurance, without any self-aggrandizing pride:

"I have hardly cause to blame anyone but myself for my failures or misfortunes, for in practice I rarely ask anyone for advice save to honor them formally; the exception is when I need learned instruction or knowledge of the facts. But in matters where only my judgment is involved, the arguments of others rarely serve to deflect me, though they may well support me; I listen to them graciously and courteously--to all of them. But as far as I can recall, I have never yet trusted any but my own."  )
7 vote   flagcopyedit52 | Feb 9, 2009 | 


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