« PreviousContinue »
read, and certainly produced very The marshal, says Perrault, declined considerable effects. The eulogist of these tempting offers at the time, Bossuet, who wrote in 1704, above from an apprehension that his conthirty years after its publication, version might be liable to the charge scrupled not to affirm, in sufficiently of unworthy and self-interested moround terms, that it had proved the tives. We find, however, that only instrument of either commencing or a year elapsed before he got the completing every genuine conver- better of this objection, and grasion from Protestantism which had tified the ardent wishes of his nutaken place in France and the neigh- merous friends and admirers, by bouring countries since its publica- enlisting under the banners of the tion ;-a bold assertion, which, if Church of Rome. true, would make this book a greater It is indeed no wonder if Rome miracle than the Church of Rome was proud of her victory in this could ever boast of upon any other particular instance. Turenne had occasion! The friends of that church the character of being the greatest were indeed so sensible of its merits, general of his age, Condé scarcely that besides its receiving a great excepted ; and, in his social and number of particular recommenda- domestic relations, was every thing tions from divines of eminence and that was open, amiable, nobleinfluence, it was honoured with the minded, and generous. It should universal approbation of the Galli- not, therefore, be lightly affirmed can Church, in their convention of that either he or Dangeau was con1682; and, to set the seal of infalli- sciously insincere and hypocritical. bility to its pretensions, it was finally They had both probably brought crowned with the authoritative sanc- themselves to believe that the tion of his holiness the pope. Church of Rome opened the safest
The extraordinary success attend- road to heaven. But who that has ing the “Exposition," calls for a paid any attention to human nature, few remarks. * Notwithstanding the or to the deceitful operations of his respect due to the talents which own heart, can help suspecting that, could accomplish the conversion of unknown to themselves, they might such men as Dangeau and Turenne, have been secretly swayed by moit cannot be denied that both these tives of ambition and self-interest, conversions were accompanied by or that the prospect of temporal circumstances tending to excite advantage might have thrown at
suspicion concerning the least a preponderating weight into motives of the converts. Dangeau the balance of their theological gained high preferment in that reasonings ? The conversion of church to which he had become a Henry the Fourth of France approselyte. Turenne, as we learn pears to be a glaring instance of from Perrault's short notice of his self-deception, if not of wilful apolife, had a sufficient stimulus pre- stacy, from what he believed to be sented to his ambition, whether he the truth; and it is rather unforyielded to it or not. His change tunate for the credit of Popery, that of religion took place in 1668. On several similar instances are found the renewal of the war between among the number of her proseFrance and Spain the preceding lytes. year, he had been appointed marshal The Exposition is doubtless the general of the French armies. When work of an acute and powerful mind. he was at Toulouse, upon that oc- The writer of Bossuet's historical casion, the king gave him to un- eulogy observes, that it affords a derstand that still higher honours striking example of his dexterity would await him, provided only he in disentangling questions of the would renounce his Protestantism, most intricate nature ; in clearing and come over to the GallicanChurch. a subject from the false or unfavour, able glosses which have been put presents the Roman Catholic docupon it by an adversary; and in trine simplified as much as possipresenting it to the mind of the ble ; far indeed beyond what is posreader under its most simple and sible, according to a just represendisencumbered form. There is tation of that system. A tone of great some truth in this criticism ; but moderation pervades the whole what will it avail, if it can be shewn, work; and the snake lies deeply as doubtless it can, that these en- buried in the grass. It is too short cumbrances from which Bossuet at- to tire the most idle or impatient tempts to rid the Roman Catholic reader. It seems to dispatch every doctrine are in reality essential parts objection with such readiness and of that doctrine, and cannot justly facility that the superficial thinker be separated from it? He endea- is conjured, as it were, into a spirit vours, for example, to repel the of assent, before he is aware, whicharge of idolatry, as it exists under ther he is going. In short, a more its grossest form. In this, perhaps, plausible manual for gaining over he may be successful. But who can ill-informed or ordinary minds, was deny that there is a minor species never yet composed by the ingeof idolatry, which consists in wor- nuity of man. shipping a Divine Being through · Popery may be termed, in few the medium of pictures, shrines, words, a system of paganized Chrisand images, and which is plainly tianity. Every religious institution contrary to the spirit of the Second of Paganism had a tendency to Commandment?' Who can deny chain down the understandings of that the habit of prostration before its votaries to visible and corporeal such objects has a manifest ten- objects'; to distract their attention dency to preclude all worthy notions between a vast variety of such obof the Supreme Majesty of heaven, jects; and thus to keep their minds by degrading and sensualizing the from aspiring to just conceptions of views of the worshipper? Again; the Creator, and their hearts from he endeavours to remove objections rendering to Him the fear, love, to the invocation of angels and de- and homage which are His due. parted saints, by asking why this This was the general effect proshould be more liable to censure duced upon mankind, by all the than requests for the intercessory lying vanities of the Gentile world ; prayers of our fellow-Christians, their demi-gods, their deified hewhich, as all churches agree, are au- roes, their local and household thorised by the sacred oracles -a divinities, their temples, auguries, plausible answer, if it were founded and oracles. After the establishin truth. But no passage of Scrip- ment of Christianity throughout ture warrants us in seeking the the Roman empire, much of the intercession of departed or incor- leaven of heathenism still prevailed. poreal spirits. And he forgets the Its spirit was gradually transfused difference which exists between into all the doctrines, institutions, simply desiring the prayers of our and ceremonies of our holy reliChristian brethren, and offering up gion; and, being powerfully aided acts of devotion to angelic or sainted by the general corruption of human intercessors. The former is merely nature, and by the ignorance and a pious request; the latter is genuine barbarism of those dark ages which worship-I briefly notice these followed the irruption of the norparticulars, as a specimen of Bos- thern conquerors, it succeeded suet's reasoning. Upon the whole, eventually in building up that far his treatise is well calculated to bric of superstitious and unscripcatch the unwary, but will produce tural theology which was at length little effect upon the well-informed, formally consecrated by the Counimpartial, and reflecting reader. It cil of Trent. About the same time,
however, the light of the Reforma- defects or errors, were at heart tion shone forth, exposing the de- sincere followers of Christ, and formities and corruptions which had savingly united to him as the great been for so many ages engrafted spiritual Head and Sovereign of his upon the purity of the primitive church? It is not for us to say how doctrine; while they who were con- far such individuals might be unvinced by that light found it no suspectingly fettered, in their adlonger possible to hold communion herence to the communion in which. with a church which pertinaciously they were educated, by respect for rejected it, and persecuted all who ecclesiastical authority, by their questioned the infallibility of her notions of Christian unity, and their decisions. Here then was a real sense of the dangers of open separaand sufficient cause for separation ; tion. Their errors-for errors, and and the reformed churches were serious errors, they doubtless were fully justified in opposing the anti- might probably be rather intellecscriptural doctrines, in abolishing tual than moral ; proceeding more the superstitious practices, and dis- from the force of early prepossesclaiming the pretended authority of sions than from the influence of Rome.
culpable timidity, or a wilful comWhile, however, we strenuously promise with the corrupters of assert the great cause of our inva- Scriptural doctrine. While, thereluable Protestant Reformation, and fore, we firmly maintain our own, never shrink from exposing, upon principles of separation from the every proper occasion, the errors and Church of Rome, let us beware of corruptions of the Church of Rome, pronouncing too harsh a judgment let us not bear too hard against all upon those who may have been the individual members of that com- separatists from her delusions in munion. There is a very material heart, though they could not see distinction to be drawn between the their way so clearly as to induce dogmas of a particular church, con- them to depart from her visible sidered with respect to its corporate communion. It is not to be denied authority, and the conduct of its that many errors may be compatible members as viewed in their private with the attainment of salvation, in capacity. There have been, pro- the case of those who are built upbably, at all times a considerable on the only true foundation of faith number of Christians in the Church and hope ; even upon that adorable of Rome who, without proceeding Redeemer in whom the several parts to the length of an open separation, of the Christian building, however have not failed to discover and la- apparently disunited, are all fitly ment its manifold abuses in practice, framed together, and, growing up an and to counteract them to the ut- holy temple in the Lord, are destined most of their power. Others again to rise hereafter into a glorious and may have supposed that an ortho- magnificent fabric, never to decay. dox construction could be given to In 1678, Bossuet had a conference some of its unscriptural tenets; with the celebrated John Claude, a construction in some degree Protestant minister of Charenton, satisfactory to their own ininds, at the house of Madame la Comtesse though not so to the apprehension de Roye. This conference was of the more enlightened Protestant. held for the spiritual benefit ot, Doubtless such characters were to Mademoiselle de Denas, and terbe met with before the Reformation; minated in making her a convert to and others have existed since that the Church of Rome. Bossuet took memorable era. And may we not down the discussion, and published charitably believe that such silent it four years afterwards, in 1682, remonstrants within the enclosure with an introduction, containing of Popery, notwithstanding many farther instructions for his new
proselyte, and some strong remarks Claude was not a man to consult on the account which Claude had his temporal interests in the choice published of this transaction. I am of his religion. He was exiled, not acquainted with this controversy, along with many other exemplary and therefore shall not attempt to Protestants, on the revocation of the adjust the balance of learning and Edict of Nantz ; when, having reability between the two combatants. tired to Holland, he died two years No Protestant will be in danger of afterwards. His end was, perhaps, thinking that Claude had really the accelerated by his grief at witnessing worst of the argument, though he the desolation of the French Protestfailed of actual success on the pre- ant Church. He left a son, Isaac sent occasion. The historian of Claude, minister of the Walloon Bossuet tells us, that the Protestant church, at the Hague, who published minister displayed all the subtilty several excellent works of his deand dexterity of a great master, in ceased father. John Claude will the art of making the worse appear be always known and admired for the better reason. But had his re- his valuable treatise on the componowned antagonist nothing of this sition of a sermon. talent? Bossuet is said to have About the year 1681, the educabeen naturally gifted with a courage tion of the royal pupil was comand confidence, which, together pleted to the general satisfaction with his learning and acuteness, of the nation. Upon this occasion, rendered him almost irresistible in it was the wish of Lewis to give regular debate. He was an intel- Bossuet the opportunity of resuming lectual fencer, admirable in watch- his episcopal function, without reing his opportunities, and prepared moving him to too great a distance equally to ward or strike. Is it from the court, where he might still wonderful, if a man of such learning, be of eminent service as an adviser acuteness, and address should have to the young prince. He was therebeen frequently victorious? The fore promoted, in 1681, to the bipower was not in the sword, but in shoprick of Meaux, a city almost the arm that wielded it. As a very in the neighbourhood of Paris. striking illustration of this fact, we Soon after, the marriage of the dauread that the gentlemen of Port phin took place, when fresh honours Royal had used their best endeavour were conferred upon him. He was to promote the conversion of Mar- invested with the office of principal shal Turenne, and had presented him almoner to Madame la Dauphine. with a piece of controversial theo- This, however, was an employment logy, which the lady of the marshal which appears to have been no way prevailed upon Claude to answer, incompatible with the proper superand which proved the source of pro- intendence of his diocese. The tracted hostilities between the Ca- short distance of Meaux enabled tholics and Protestants of France. him to be there frequently; and But the attempts of the Port Royal thus he retained his connexion with gentlemen appear to have been the court, without being under the fruitless. It was not until Bossuet necessity of removing from the flock came forward with his Exposition, entrusted to his care. aided perhaps by a more powerful He certainly did honour to the ally than argument, that Turenne king's choice, by his punctuality, surrendered his religion; and he, zeal, and diligence, in the discharge who had never been conquered in of his episcopal duties. Few prethe field of battle suffered himself lates appear to have more adorned to be worsted in the schools of theo- their sacred function in these partilogical debate.
culars. Even when at Versailles or Whatever Turenne or others Paris he was still on the borders of might bę, the learned and able his diocese. But neither of these splendid seats of royalty could re- tion of the scorner and the infidel tain him long. He was continually, witness the well-known anecdote of says a lively French writer, stealing Lord Peterboro' and Fenelon. A away to Meaux, and always quitted good bishop can do much by his that place with regret. He preached direct authority, but far more still often, framed a number of regula- by his influence and example. His tions for the better government of opinions, his advice, his reproofs, his his diocese, and composed cate- commendations, whether publicly chisms, with other books of devotion, or privately communicated, all defor the use of his people. He was rive a peculiar force from the united assiduous in his pastoral visitations, sacredness and dignity of his office; during which he not only admo- a force unfelt, in an equal degree, nished his clergy, but administered under any other relation of social alms and religious instruction to life. With regard to moral influthe poor. He refused no labour, ence-I speak not of any other and disdained no condescension, for even a respectable sovereign is perthe purpose of doing good; and was haps inferior to an exemplary bishop. no less happy in the act of explaining The secular rank and importance the doctrines of the church to the of the prelacy, which flowed as common people, than dexterous in a natural consequence from church defending them against the attacks establishments in Christian countries, of the Protestant ministers. have doubtless brought with them
Such is the account given of him some advantages. They have served by his contemporaries; and, after to keep alive in governments a conmaking every allowance for the co- cern for the support and general intelouring of friendship and admiration, rests of religion. They have brought we can hardly doubt the substantial the great in contact with a class of truth of this representation. That individuals whose influence, notBossuet was animated with an ar- withstanding some unhappy excepdent zeal for upholding and propa- tions, has proved, upon the whole, gating the faith of Rome can never of a highly beneficial tendency in be disputed : nor is it less certain the repression of scandalous excesses, that he was gifted with such physical even where it has failed of advancing and mental powers as rendered him true piety and virtue. And, since the one of the most active, industrious, mass of mankind have always been, and efficient men of his own or any and always will be, greatly governed other age.
by appearances, episcopal honours Amidst the various important have conferred a credit and dignity stations of civilised society, it would upon the clerical profession, which be difficult to point out one ofgreater have contributed, under particular usefulness than that of a Christian circumstances, to increase its effibishop who combines judgment ciency, and promote the design of its and ability with zeal and devoted appointment. But, with all these adness in the performance of his high vantages it must be confessed that duties. There are situations of the secular importance of bishops is more extensive influence; but it a circumstance attended with some may be justly doubted whether there very considerable evils. It is apt to be any in which so much evil may engender a worldly spirit, and it exbe prevented, and so much good poses its possessors to many temptaaccomplished, in proportion to the tions; especially the pride of rank, allotted sphere of exertion. There and the love of profit, ease, pleasure, is an irresistible feeling of reverence and power. It tends to give them a attached to the episcopal character, disrelish for the more humble, painful, when properly sustained, which be- and laborious duties of their calling. longs not to any other, and which The pastoral tenderness and simplikas extorted the reluctant admira- city of the episcopal character, so