Images de page

Maubrusson, and is celebrated, by the writers of the times, for her wit and dexterity in business. Thus the matter assumed a still more regular form, and much was expected from the acknowledged talents, learning, and moderation of the actors in it, and their patrons.

III. 2. The conferences between the Bishop of Neustadt and Molanus continued for 7 months, and ended in their agreeing on 12 articles, to serve for the basis of the discussion, on the terms of the reunion.

The Bishop of Neustadt communicated these articles to Bossuet. He seems to have approved of them generally, but to have thought, that some alteration in them was adviseable. This being mentioned to Molanus, he published his Cogitationes Privata, a profound and conciliating dissertation. Without entering into any discussion on the points in dispute between the churches, he suggested in it a kind of truce, during which, there should be ecclesiastical communion between them : the Lutherans were to acknowledge the Pope as the first of Bishops in order and dignity: the Church of Rome was to receive the Lutherans as her children, without exacting from them any retractation of their alledged errors, or any renunciation of the articles in their creed, condemned by the Council of Trent. The anathemas of that council were to be suspended, and a general council was to be convened, in which the Protestants were to have a deliberative voice : the sentence of that council was to be definitive, and, in the mean time, the members of each party were to treat the njembers of the other as brethren, whose errors, however great they might appear, were to be tolerated from motives of peace, and in consideration of their engagements to abandon them, if the council should pronounce against them. To show the probability of a final accommoda, tion, Molanus notices, in his Dissertation, several points, in which one party imputed to the other errors not justly chargeable on them ; several, on which they disputed merely for want of rightly understanding each other; and several, in which the dispute was of words only,

· It appears that the Bishop of Neustadt communicated this dissertation to Bossuet, and that Bossuet was delighted with the good sense, candour, and true spirit of conciliation, which it displayed. He frequently mentions, and always in terms of the highest praise, its author, in his letters. His own language was equally moderate and conciliating. “ The Council of Trent,' he says in one of his letters, “is our stay; but we : shall not use it to prejudice the cause. This would be to take for granted what is in dispute between us. We shall deal more fairly with our opponents. We shall make the council serve for a statement and explanation of our doctrines. Thus, we shall come to an explanation on those points, in which either of us imputes to the other, what he does not believe, and in which we dispute, only because we misconceive each other. This may lead us far; for the Abbot of Lokkum has actually conciliated the points so essential of Justification and the Eucharist : nothing is wanting in him, on that side, but that he should be avoveed. Why should we not hope to conclude in the same manner, disputes less difficult and of less importance ? Cela se peut pousser si avant, que M. l'Abbé de Lokkum a concilié actuellement les points si essentiels de la justification et du sacrifice de lEucharistie, et il ne lui manque de ce coté la, que de se faire avouer. Pourquoi ne pas espérer de finir par les mêmes moyens des disputes moins difficiles et moins importantes?

With these rational and conciliatory dispositions, Bossuet and Molanus proceeded. But, after this stage of the business, Molanus disappears, and Leibniz comes on the scene.

III. 3. A Letter, written by Bossuet to M. de Brinon, having been communicated by her to Leibniz, opened the correspondence between him and Bossuet. In that letter, Bossuet declared esplicitly, that the Church of Rome was ready to make concessions on points of discipline, and to explain doctrines, but would make no concession in respect to defined articles of faith ; and, in particular, would make no such concession, in respect to any which had been defined by the Council of Trent.

Leibniz's Letter to M. de Brinon, in answer to this communi: cation is very important. He expresses himself in these terms: “ The Bishop of Meaux says, Ist. That the Project delivered to the Bishop of Neustadt; does not appear to him quite sufficient; 2ndly. That it is, nevertheless, very useful, as every thing must have its beginning ; 3dly. That Rome will never relax from any point of doctrine, defined by the church, and cannot capitulate, in respect to any such article; 4thly. That the doctrine, defined in the Council of Trent, is received in and out of France by all Roman-catholics; 5thly. That satisfaction may be given to Protestants, in respect to certain points of disciplines or in the way of explanation, and that this had been already done in an useful manner, in some points, mentioned in the Project of the Bishop of Neustadt. These are the material propositions in the letter of the Biskop of Meaux, and I believe all these propositions true. Neither the Bishop of Neustadt, nor those who negotiated with them, make any opposition to them. There is nothing in them, which is not conformable to the sentiments of those persons. The third of them in particular, which might be thought an obstacle to these Projects of Accommodation, could not be unknown to them; one may even say, that they built on it.”

It seems difficult to deny, that, in this stage of the business, much liad been gained to the cause of reunion. The parties were come to a complete understanding on the important articles of Justification, and the Eucharist; and it was admitted, both by Leibniz and Molanus, that, in their view of the concern, an accommodation might be effected between the Roman-catholic and Lutheran churches, though the former retained all her defined doctrines, and, in particular, all her doctrines defined by the Council of Trent. The question then was, what should be done in respect to the remaining articles in difference between the churches ? It is to be wished, that it had been left to Bossuet and Molanus to settle them, in the way of amicable explanation, in which they had settled the two important articles, which we have mentioned. It is evident, from the pas

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

sages, which we have cited from Bossuet, that it was his wishi, that the business should proceed on that plan, and that he had hopes of its success. Unfortunately, the business took another direction : Leibniz proclaimed, that after every possible explanation should be given, the Lutheran church would still retain some articles, contrary to the defined doctrines of the Church of Rome, and anathematized by the Council of Trent. To remove the final effect of this objection, Leibniz held out Molanus's first project, that the Lutherans should express a general acquiescence in the authority of the church, and promise obedience to the decisions of a General Council, to be called for the purpose of pronouncing on these points; and that, in consequence of these advances on their part, the anathemas of the Council of Trent should be suspended, and the Lutherans received, provisionally, within the pale of the Catholic Church, To bring over Bossuet to this plan, he exerted great eloquence, and displayed no common learning.

III. 4. But the eloquence and learning of Leibniz were without effect. In language, equally temperate and firm, Bossuet adhered to his text, that in matters of discipline, or any other matter, distinct from faith, the Church of Rome would show the utmost indulgence to the Lutherans, but that, on articles of faith, and specifically, on those propounded by the Council of Trent, there could be no compromise. This, however, he confined to articles of faith alone : and even on articles of faith, he wished to consult the feelings of Protestants, as much as possible. He offered them every fair explanation of the tenets of the council; he required from them no retractation of their own tenets : “Molanus,” he says, “ will not allow retractation to be mentioned. It may be dispensed with ; it will be sufficient that the parties acknowledge the truth, by way of declaration or explanation. To this, the symbolical books give a clear opening, as appears by the passages, which have been produced from them, and will appear, by other passages, which may be produced from them.”

If Bossuet was thus considerate in what regarded faith, it will easily be supposed, how indulgent his sentiments were, in

respect to all, that merely regarded discipline. A complete confession of faith being once obtained from the Lutherans, he was willing to allow them, if they required it, communion under both kinds ; that their Bishops should retain their Sees; and that where there was no Bishop, and the whole body of the people was Protestant, under the care of a superintendant, that superintendant should be consecrated their Bishop; that, where there was a Catholic Bishop and a considerable part of the diocese was Lutheran, the superintendant should be consecrated priest, and invested with rank and office; that the Lutheran Ministers should be consecrated priests; that provision should be made for their support; that such of their bishops and ministers as were married, might retain their wives, and that the consciences of those, who held possessions of the church, should be quieted, except in respect to hospitals, whose possessions he thought could not conscientiously be withheld from the poor objects of their foundations; and that every other arrangement should be made by the church and state which would be agreeable to the feelings and prejudices of their new brethren.

Such were the advances made by Bossuet; and much discussion on them took place between him and Leibniz. They continued ten years. They are very learned, and a scholar will read them with delight; but, unfortunately, they rather retarded than promoted their object. The real business ended, when Molanus quitted the scene. We shall close this article, with the following extract from the last letter but one, written by Bossuet, on the subject. It is addressed to Leibniz, and bears date the 12th August, 1701, ten years after his first letter on it was written. .

« Among the divines of the Confession of Augsbourgh, I always placed M. Molanus in the first rank, as a man, whose learning, candour and moderation made him one of the persons, the most capable I have known, of advancing the NOBLE PROJECT OF REUNION. In a letter, which I wrote to him some years ago, by the Count Balati, I assured him, that, if


« PrécédentContinuer »