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Learn how and when to remove this template message Bossuet became a Master of Arts in He became a deacon in During this period, he preached his first sermons. He held his second thesis sorbonica on November 9, Then, in preparation for the priesthood , he spent the next two years in retirement under the spiritual direction of Vincent de Paul.
A few weeks later, he defended his brilliant doctoral work and became a Doctor of Divinity. To reconcile the Protestants with the Roman Catholic Church became the great object of his dreams; and for this purpose, he began to train himself carefully for the pulpit, an all-important centre of influence in a land where political assemblies were unknown and novels and newspapers scarcely born.
His youthful imagination was unbridled, and his ideas ran easily into a kind of paradoxical subtlety, redolent of the divinity school. He also gained political experience through his participation in the local Assembly of the Three Orders.
As a result, he received the honorific title of "Counselor and Preacher to the King". Early career in Paris[ edit ] In , St. Vincent de Paul convinced Bossuet to move to Paris and give himself entirely to preaching. Having very stern ideas of the dignity of a priest, Bossuet refused to descend to the usual devices for arousing popular interest.
He never drew satirical pictures like his great rival Louis Bourdaloue. He would not write out his discourses in full, much less learn them off by heart: of the two hundred printed in his works, all but a fraction are rough drafts.
He never needed to strain for effect; his genius struck out at a single blow the thought, the feeling and the word. What he said of Martin Luther applies peculiarly to himself: he could fling his fury into theses and thus unite the dry light of argument with the fire and heat of passion. The Oraison, as its name betokened, stood midway between the sermon proper and what would nowadays be called a biographical sketch.
At least that was what Bossuet made it; for on this field, he stood not merely first, but alone. Bossuet served as his tutor — The choice was scarcely fortunate. Bossuet unbent as far as he could, but his genius was by no means fitted to enter into the feelings of a child; and the dauphin was a cross, ungainly, sullen lad. Probably no one was happier than the tutor when his charge turned sixteen and was married off to a Bavarian princess.
Still, the nine years at court were by no means wasted. The three books fit into each other. Then, too, the veil of Holy Scripture enabled him to speak out more boldly than court etiquette would have otherwise allowed, to remind the son of Louis XIV that kings have duties as well as rights.
The object of his books is to provide authority with a rational basis. Philosophy proves that God exists and that He shapes and governs the course of human affairs. History shows that this governance is, for the most part, indirect, exercised through certain venerable corporations, as well civil and ecclesiastical, all of which demand implicit obedience as the immediate representatives of God.
Thus all revolt, whether civil or religious, is a direct defiance of the Almighty. The France of his youth had known the misery of divided counsels and civil war; the France of his manhood, brought together under an absolute sovereign, had suddenly shot up into a splendour only comparable with ancient Rome.
Why not, then, strain every nerve to hold innovation at bay and prolong that splendour for all time? He totally ignores the history of Islam and Asia ; on Greece and Rome , he only touched insofar as they formed part of the Praeparatio Evangelica.
Yet his Discours is far more than a theological pamphlet. It is His will that every great change should have its roots in the ages that went before it.
Bossuet, accordingly, made a heroic attempt to grapple with origins and causes, and in this way, his book deserves its place as one of the very first of philosophic histories. Bossuet therefore attempted to steer a middle course.
In , before the general Assembly of the French Clergy , he preached a great sermon on the unity of the Church and made it a magnificent plea for compromise. As Louis XIV insisted on his clergy making an anti-papal declaration , Bossuet got leave to draw it up and made it as moderate as he could, and when the Pope declared it null and void, he set to work on a gigantic Defensio Cleri Gallicani, only published after his death.
Ever since the early days at Metz , he had been busy with schemes for uniting the Huguenots to the Catholic Church. In , he converted Turenne ; in , he published an Exposition de la foi catholique "Exposition of the Catholic Faith" , so moderate in tone that adversaries were driven to accuse him of having fraudulently watered down the Catholic dogmas to suit Protestant taste. Few writers could have made the Justification controversy interesting or even intelligible.
His argument is simple enough. Without rules, an organized society cannot hold together, and rules require an authorized interpreter. The Protestant churches had thrown over this interpreter; and Bossuet had small trouble in showing that, the longer they lived, the more they varied on increasingly important points.
Between and , Bossuet corresponded with Leibniz with a view to reunion, but negotiations broke down precisely at this point. Leibniz thought his countrymen might accept individual Roman doctrines, but he flatly refused to guarantee that they would necessarily believe tomorrow what they believe today.
We prefer, he said, a church eternally variable and for ever moving forwards. Under a veil of politely ironic circumlocutions, such as did not deceive the Bishop of Meaux, he claimed his right to interpret the Bible like any other book. Bossuet denounced him again and again; Simon told his friends he would wait until the old fellow was no more.
Another Oratorian proved more dangerous still. Simon had endangered miracles by applying to them lay rules of evidence, but Malebranche abrogated miracles altogether. It was blasphemous, he argued, to suppose that the Author of nature would violate the law He had Himself established. His approval of the revocation of the Edict of Nantes stopped far short of approving dragonnades within his Diocese of Meaux, but now his patience was waning.
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