The world exists for the exercise of mercy and judgment, not as if men were placed in it, out of the hands of God, but as hostile to God; and to them He grants, by grace, sufficient light, that they may return to Him, if they desire to seek and follow Him; and also that they may not, if they refuse to seek or follow Him.
If there were only one religion, God would indeed be manifest. The same would be the case, if there were no martyrs but in our religion. God being thus hidden, every religion which does not affirm that God is hidden, is not true; and every religion which does not give the reason of it, is not instructive. Our religion does all this.
If there were no obscurity, man would not be sensible of his corruption; if there were no light, man would not hope for a remedy. Thus, it is not only fair, but advantageous to us, that God be partly hidden and partly revealed; since it is equally dangerous to man to know God without knowing his own wretchedness, and to know his own wretchedness without knowing God.
This religion, so great in miracles, saints, learned and great witnesses, martyrs, established kings like David, and Isaiah, a prince of the blood, and so great in science, after having displayed all her miracles and all her wisdom, rejects all this, and declares that she has neither wisdom nor signs, but only the cross and foolishness.
For those, who, by these signs and that wisdom, have deserved your belief, and who have proved to you their character, declare to you that nothing of all this can change you, and render you capable of knowing and loving God, but the power of the foolishness of the cross without wisdom and signs, and not the signs without this power. Thus our religion is foolish in respect to the effective cause, and wise in respect to the wisdom which prepares it.
Our religion is wise and foolish. Wise, because it is the most learned, and the most founded on miracles, prophecies, &c. Foolish, because it is not all this which makes us belong to it. This makes us indeed condemn those who do not belong to it; but it does not cause belief in those who do belong to it. It is the cross that makes them believe. And so Saint Paul, who came with wisdom and signs, says that he has come neither with wisdom nor with signs; for he came to convert. But those who come only to convince, can say that they come with wisdom and with signs.