The Gift of Victor Hugo

The Gift of Victor Hugo

French poet and novelist, Victor Hugo was born on this day, 1802. He is best known in English because of his novels, Les Misérables and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame.

We have little hope that his spiritual pilgrimage led him to Christ and heaven. But in the providence of God, and by the grace he scatters so liberally among his adversaries, Hugo was brilliant in his blindness. The imago dei and the remnants of his Christian roots break forth—to the praise of his Maker.

There are reasons Les Misérables is a classic. Put your eye to the pinpricks of light in these excerpts.

  • A cannonball travels two thousand miles an hour; light travels two hundred thousand miles a second. Such is the superiority of Jesus Christ over Napoleon.
  • Liberation is not deliverance. A convict may leave prison behind but not his sentence.
  • The supreme happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved; loved for ourselves—say rather, loved in spite of ourselves.
  • Old age has no hold on the geniuses of the ideal; for the Dantes and the Michelangelos, to grow older is to grow greater; for the Hannibals and the Bonapartes, is it to diminish?
  • He had nothing in his favor except that he was a drunkard.
  • We bow to the man who kneels. A faith is a necessity to man. Woe to him who believes in nothing. A man is not idle because he is absorbed in thought. There is a visible labor and there is an invisible labor. To meditate is to labor; to think is to act.
  • Laughter is sunshine; it chases winter from the human face.
  • They ridiculed the century, which did away with the need to understand it.
  • Skepticism, that dry rot of the intellect, had not left one entire idea in his mind.
  • Life, misfortunes, isolation, abandonment, poverty, are battlefields that have their heroes; obscure heroes, sometimes greater than the illustrious heroes.
  • Despair is surrounded by fragile walls, which all open into vice or crime.

John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books.