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d'Aguesseau and Joly de Fleury, they resisted the authority both of King and Pope, and when Louis died, in 1715, nothing was concluded.
The change at first was great in the new reign. Le Tellier and the Jesuits, who had been busily intriguing against the Regent, the Duke of Orleans, were exiled by his orders; the Cardinal de Noailles, d'Aguesseau, and Joly de Fleury, the consistent opponents of the Bull “ Unigenitus,” were appointed members of the “ Conseil de Conscience;” the Jansenists were set at liberty and recalled from exile; many admirable measures for the better government of the kingdom were inaugurated. But it was not to be expected that Philip of Orleans could long brook the austerity of Jansenist morality; nor, if in the midst of his frenzied debaucheries he could have tolerated it, would it have suited the ambition of the infamous Dubois that he should. This foul debauchee had contrived to get himself nominated Archbishop of Cambrai, and was now seeking to be made Cardinal. Encouraged by the Cardinal de Rohan and the Jesuit party, he pressed his suit upon Clement XI., who, to his honour. be it recorded, would not hear of it. But Clement's health was failing rapidly, and the usual in. trigues were afloat among the Cardinals. In this crisis, French money and French influence were lavished on behalf of Cardinal Conti; a written compact was made between him and the abbé de Tencin, Dubois's emissary, that, in the event of his election, Dubois should be made a Cardinal, on the understanding that he would exert himself to get the Bull registered. On the 4th of August, 1720, it was registered by the Great Council of the kingdom; but the Parliament of Paris, which was in exile at Pontoise, still held out. Finally the Cardinal de Noailles and d'Aguesseau, now Chancellor, wearied with incessant contention and constant intrigue, gave in; but even so, the Parliament did not yield without a struggle memorable for the answer made by M. Perellé to d’Aguesseau, who inquired of him whence he drew his arguments :-“Je les ai pris dans les plaidoyers du feu chancelier d'Aguesseau.” Early in 1721, Conti, under the title of Innocent XIII., became successor to Simon Peter ; and the infamous Dubois, three months later, was a Cardinal of the Church of Rome.
It might be wearisome to our readers to trace out in detail the subsequent history of these measures; suffice it to say, that throughout the whole reign of Louis XV. the pains and penalties inflicted on the Jansenist party were a fretting sore, irritating and alienating the minds of the middle classes, and arraying against the clergy all the enlightenment and almost all the piety of France, until, in an outburst of indignation, the Jesuits were suppressed in 1763. These atrocities, carried on
through two reigns in the midst of incessant religious bickerings, generated in France a horror not only of Catholicism, but of all positive religion whatsoever; the furious antipathy to the Church and to religion became gradually organized into a system hostile to all ideas of God and His Word, infecting all social and political principles, and extending even into the domain of science. The spirit of resistance and of innovation animating the Jansenists imparted fresh strength to all who were hostile to the abuses of existing institutions: their theories gave form and substance to the complaints evoked by national distress. It is a fearful crisis in the history of a people when the oppression of the righteous can be appealed to to palliate the excesses of the multitude; and cruelties, practised in the name of Jesus Christ by those who profess to be His servants, lead to His rejection by a nation.
In dismissing this curious chapter of history, we may notice several points of interest. One is, how unavailing are efforts to promote internal reformation in the Romish, as indeed in all fallen Churches. She never probably had more devoted adherents than the Jansenists wished to be. No amount of ill-treatment or of persecution could detach them from that unity of the Church, which tenet was to them a precious corner-stone of doctrine. The celebrated Proposition XCI. condemned at Rome was, “ Even the fear of unjust excommunication should never hinder us from the discharge of duty. Even when one seems to be banished from the Church by man's wickedness, you never quit it so long as you are united to God, to Christ, and to the Church itself by charity.” Their endeavour was to act only by and through the Church, while disseminating evangelical doctrine and promoting moral reform; but the effort was futile, and ended only in their own overthrow, and in the ruin of religion itself. Not one evil principle which they strove against was, or has been, surrendered by Rome; but more monstrous doctrines and more revolting superstitions have been superadded since.
Again, we may notice the essential importance, in all religious controversy, and indeed in all religious questions whatsoever, of direct recurrence to the Word of God, each one for himself. We do not say that the Jansenists would, if the Scriptures had said one thing and St. Augustine distinctly said another, have wilfully held by the opinion of their favourite doctor. But they habitually saw all they held through such testimony; it was interposed as a medium between them and truth. Instead of holding, as we do, that “Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation, so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man that it should be believed as an article of
the faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation;" and that even decrees of General Councils have “neither strength nor authority, unless they be taken out of Holy Scripture; they held that no one was to interpret Holy Scripture “otherwise than did Holy Mother Church, whose office it was to proclaim the true sense of the Word of God, or contrary to the unanimous consent of the Fathers.” Hence endless difficulties, and endless sources of error and confusion, for such earnest and devoted lovers of the truth.
It may not be amiss also to notice the fearful dangers resulting from religious discussions upon abstruse doctrinal questions and deep religious mysteries, when they pass out of the hands of professed theologians and devout men, and are bandied about indiscriminately in the mouths of the worldly and profane ; still more so when partisanship upon such questions becomes a passport to royal and political favour. We have a notable instance of such mischief in the recoil witnessed in the times of Charles II. after the Puritan ascendancy; and one still more deserving attention, because the results were more terrible, and have been more abiding, was the strife carried on between the Jesuits and the Jansenists. Many elements of mischief were at work in the latter case from which in England our forefathers were free, but still the amount of evil was great. We confess we view with no small dread the superficial and worldly tone of worldly and frivolous people on religious topics now-a-days. It seems an evil sign of the times to see and hear multitudes who are, by the worldliness of their livesand tempers, manifestly not led or taught by the Spirit of God, canvassing religious mysteries with blind and reckless zeal or scoffing contempt. Truth must of course be defended at all hazards, and error be controverted by all means. When such questions are mooted, they must be discussed and argued out, but the responsibility is great of those who agitate them. Offences must and will come, but it is “woe to the world because of them.”
The details already given preclude any lengthened comment on the work itself. It is, in many respects, very valuable, and will afford much comfort and instruction to the devout student of God's Holy Word. The reflections are usually brief, but pithy and full of unction, and in manifold instances very suggestive of what we may conceive with reverence to have been the mind of the Spirit of God. We would not needlessly undervalue critical labours on the New Testament; but when we have laboured through long notes, bristling with various readings and emendations and alterations more or less fanciful, we are constantly reminded of the story of the poet who spent days or weeks in separating a few grains of wheat from a bushel of chaff, and was rewarded by Apollo with the latter for his pains. It is with unspeakable relief we turn from such dry husks to a commentary like that of Quesnel, and have the consciousness that we are feeding upon the bread of life, not arguing about it. We may further notice in Quesnel how he endeavours to accept the Word of God in its plain and obvious meaning, and seeks to deduce the natural and necessary lessons from it. Though his utterances are not without their alloy of human error, and are marred in manifold instances by the false system in which he had been reared, there is constant evidence that a sanctified spirit is endeavouring to interpret the oracles of God for the benefit of his fellow-men. As speci. mens of his commentary we subjoin the following extracts.
On Matthew vi. 7, we have the following observation :
“Prayer requires the heart more than the tongue, sighs more than words, faith more than discourse. The eloquence of prayer consists in the fervency of desire, in the simplicity of faith, and in the earnestness and perseverance of charity. The multiplicity and choice of fine thoughts, studied and vehement gestures, and arrangement and polish of expression, are things which compose a mere human harangue, not an humble and Christian prayer. Our confidence ought to proceed from what God is able to do in us, not from that which we can say to God.”
On Matthew xiii. 8:
“The good ground is the good heart; none is such but through the mercy of God and the grace of Jesus Christ. It was a mercy peculiar to Thee, O Lord, to purchase at so dear a rate such barren and accursed ground, full of thorns and briers, and fit only to be burned, that Thou mightest make it a rich and blessed soil, fertile in every kind of good fruit. Blind and miserable is that man who attributes this work to himself, and gives not Thee the glory of it, O my Saviour !”
On Matt. xvi. 11:
“With how much difficulty do the sons of Adam apply their mind to heavenly things, and how hardly do they understand them ? God permits this dulness and inadvertency in the first pastors, that they may not forget that light and application are His gifts, that they may have compassion towards those who have not yet received them, and teach them to beg them of Him as matters of pure grace and favour.”
It must, however, carefully be borne in mind, and never lost sight of, that this Commentary is the production of a devoted follower of the Church of Rome. It has to be read throughout with this consciousness upon the mind. Readers must be warned that, in it, the primacy of St. Peter, unity with the Church of Rome as essential, relics, purgatory, the real presence in the Lord's Supper, constant recognition of directors and confessors, prayer for the dead, and similar doctrines of the Church of Rome, find their place, and are recognized as Christian verities. The writings of Quesnel are not therefore to be indiscriminately commended or circulated. Those whose senses are exercised, and who know how to choose what is good, and to refuse what is evil, can, as we have said, derive much profit and edification from them. They have met with high and just approval from Evangelical Christians, and those men of the most unquestioned eminence and discernment in spiritual things, who have rejoiced in the fulness of Christian charity, to discover so much excellence in the writings of a devout Romanist, and to recognize in him manifest traces of the mind which was in Christ Jesus. But as Christian Observers, we feel it a bounden duty, especially at this time, to warn against the errors, as well as to commend the excellencies, of Quesnel. Nine out of ten, we dare say, even of educated Englishmen have hardly heard of him, or are aware of the views he held. We can conceive that, in times such as the present, it might be even dangerous to put this commentary into the hands of young and inexperienced Christians, without putting them on their guard against serious Romish error.
In the absence, therefore, of the name of any responsible editor, we can only express our regret that the respectable publishers of this Commentary should have sent it forth without sufficient note or comment; we conceive that it should have been their duty to have intimated, in a preface however brief, that the author of it was a Romanist, and that Romish doctrines were inculcated throughout it, so that those into whose hands it fell might exercise their discretion, especially when “reading it aloud at family prayer.” The translation has been purged of one or two gross errors, such as relic worship, and the doctrine of purgatory, but more than enough remain behind; and on comparing it with the original, we have been puzzled sometimes to understand on what principle the omissions have been made. We should rejoice to see the future volumes of Quesnel so edited, and with such precautions, of course with sufficient warning and explanation of omissions, that they might prove a means of comfort and edification to the universal Church of Cbrist; not, as we fear this volume may prove, a source of danger from the Romish error pervading many of its most attractive and spiritual reflections upon Divine Truth.