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PREFACE TO THE AMERICAN EDITION.
THERE is only one way of accounting for the remarkable fact, that no edition of this work should, up to this period, have been issued from the American press. QUESNEL, if known at all, is known simply as having been a minister of the Roman Catholic Church; and Protestants have stood aloof from his commentary without examining it. Had they looked into its history, and that of its author, they would have learned that it brought down upon his head the anathemas of the Vatican; and that it was against these very "Notes" the famous Bull “UNIGENITUS”* was directed. In that Bull, one hundred and one propositions, for the most part of an eminently scriptural and evangelical character, are deduced from this work, and condemned as heretical. This fact should be sufficient to commend it to the attention of enlightened Protestants.
QUESNEL, it is true, could never throw off entirely the effects of his early training. To certain Romish errors he adhered to the last; and these disfigure, more or less, the original editions of his Notes. A large portion of the obnoxious passages were omitted in the English edition of the work; but a careful revision has brought to light a considerable number which had been overlooked. These have been expunged. To this point, indeed, the editor's task has been chiefly restricted—the cancelling of Romish errors-which must have impeded the circulation of the volumes and limited their usefulness. As regards the merits of the work, eminent authorities have pro* See Appendix to Volume II.
PREFACE TO THE AMERICAN EDITION.
nounced it the best practical commentary on the Evangelists extant. It is not, however, a "Commentary" in the usual signification of that term. It is neither a critical nor a popular " Exposition," but a collection of "Moral Reflections on each verse" of the Gospels. In this view it is unrivalled-a repository of original, striking, spiritual meditations, the absence of which could be supplied by no other work in our language. "We have nothing (says Bishop Wilson) in practical divinity so sweet, so spiritual, so interior as to the real life of grace—so rich, so copious, so original. We have nothing that extols the grace of God, and abases and lowers man, so entirely. We lessen not the value of our various admirable comments on the New Testament; they have each their particular excellencies. But none of them supersedes QUESNEL; none can supply that thorough insight into the world, the evil of sin, the life of faith and prayer, which he possesses."
In illustration of these topics the reader is referred to the copious and discriminating "Introduction" by Dr. Wilson. Meanwhile, the work is submitted to the public with the confidence, that it will speedily become, with very many Christians, of different names and sects, their favourite HAND-BOOK on the Gospels, and, through the blessing of God, an efficient help to their growth in grace, and their true spiritual enjoyment. HENRY A. BOARDMAN.
PHILADELPHIA, July 3, 1855.
THE following work is on all accounts deserving of peculiar attention. The author himself was a remarkable person, the book is of the highest value in its particular line, and the controversy connected with it is fruitful of the most important instruction. We propose to notice briefly the life and sentiments of the author; to review the chief excellencies and defects of his "Reflections ;" and to give some account of the edition of them now presented.
I. Our present subject is curious and edifying: a man in the depths of a corrupt religion asserting the doctrines of the grace of Christ; connecting this with a most penetrating view of the spiritual communion of the soul with the Saviour, by the grace of the Holy Ghost; maintaining this religion during a long life; writing a book which excited the enmity of the church to which he belonged, which drew upon the author a long-continued persecution of the bitterest character, which yet has made its way, during one hundred and fifty years, into every part of Christendom, and which stands at this moment unrivalled in its particular class-a book which has, in its general strain, all the unction and interior piety of the purest Protestant writers, though it is mingled and debased in other parts with many gross theological errors.
Such an author, and such a work, warrant, require, demand notice, in a day like the present.
PASQUIER QUESNEL was born at Paris, July 14, 1634. His grandfather was a native of Scotland, but whether a Roman Catholic or not, does not appear. His father was most probably of that persuasion; and our Pasquier, after being educated at the University of Paris, entered into the Religious Congregation of the Oratoire, in 1657. He devoted himself, from his earliest years, to the study of the sacred Scriptures and of the fathers of the church—a combination most dangerous in a Roman Catholic student, because he connects them with the notions of tradition and authoritative comment. He began soon to compose books of piety, chiefly for the use of the young people intrusted to his care. It was in this course that he was led to write the first portion of those Reflections
which, thirty years afterward, kindled so ardent a controversy. One or two persons of distinction, having been much delighted with them, encouraged him to extend his notes to the whole of the Gospels, for at first they comprehended only some portions of our Lord's life; and they thus gradually swelled into a very important work, which gave a character to the age in which it appeared. It was in 1671 that the first edition was published, under the sanction of the then Bishop of Chalonssur-Marne ; for it was not uncommon for persons of that station, if men of piety, to authorize and circulate works of devotion, with the sufferance of their superiors, so long as the peculiar tenets of the Roman Catholic church were intermingled, and no great stir was excited about the evangelical truths which they contained.
Quesnel continually added to his Reflections during the rest of his life. He embraced the Acts of the Apostles, and the Epistles in his plan, besides enriching, by more than one-half, the original notes. His last years were dedicated to the preparation of a still more enlarged edition, with much new matter, which was published in 1727.* Nearly sixty years were thus employed more or less upon this pleasing and elevated task; another proof, among a thousand, that nothing really excellent is the fruit of haste. When you come to understand the real facts, you discover that the books which last, which form eras in theology, which go out with a large measure of the Divine blessing, are the result of much prayer and meditation, of thoughts often revolved and matured by degrees. Thus new and important lights irradiate the mind, the proximate ideas are suggested by time and occasion, errors and excrescences are detected, topics assume a new face and consistency, prayer brings down the influences of grace, all the powers of the mind are brought to bear upon the inquiry, and something is produced for the honour of God and the permanent welfare of his church.
One great work is commonly as much as one man produces; and this the result of unexpected incident, rather than of express intention, in the first instance. Pascal left his Thoughts-Bacon, his Novum Organum-Butler, his Analogy-Leighton, his Peter-Scott, his Commentary-Cecil, his Remains-Quesnel, his Reflections,-a life having been, in each case, devoted to the particular inquiry; and the form, and magnitude, and importance of each work having been least of all in the first intentions of the writers. Pride conceives great designs, and accomplishes little: humility dreads the promise of difficult undertakings, and accomplishes much.
Quesnel's sentiments on religion were now becoming known, as his book spread. His talents, his elegant style, his brilliancy of imagina
* Eight years after his death. None of the earlier editions are complete.
tion, were acknowledged. His deep and penetrating piety was not immediately understood. His whole life seems to have been dedicated to the love of his crucified Saviour. The fall and total corruption of our nature, the distinct necessity of grace for the production of any thing really good, the grateful adoration of the purposes and will of God toward his elect,―these formed the foundation of Quesnel's religious principles. They were not held merely as doctrines; they were insisted on, felt, followed out into their consequences. A deep and tender humility appears in his spirit, a deadness of affection as to the world, a perception of joy and peace in the spiritual life, a faith full of childlike simplicity and repose of soul on the grace and power of Christ; a minute conscientiousness in the application of his principles to his whole conduct, a skill in detecting false motives, a bold and uncompromising courage in speaking truth,-these were the fruits of the great scriptural principles which he had imbibed.
Mixed, however, with these sound and elevated principles and habits were many great errors and superstitions, flowing from his education in the bosom of the apostate church. His study of the fathers, instead of being confined to a fair and scriptural consultation of their writings, was cramped by his reliance on them as authoritative guides. They warped his judgment, instead of assisting it. The doctrine of justification was confounded with that of sanctification; and though both were bottomed upon grace in the most decisive manner, yet so wide a departure from the statements of Scripture, could not but have an unfavourable influence upon the whole tenor of his religion. Thus, like Pascal, Nicole, Arnauld, St. Cyran, and the other great names of the same school, the highest order of excellence on capital points was combined with some glaring errors. Deep spirituality of mind, unaffected humility, holy love to the divine Saviour, a simple repose on the grace of the Holy Spirit, a life of devoted and courageous obedience, were associated with much uncommanded prostration of the understanding to human authority, many dangerous superstitions, and much uncharitable condemnation of Protestants.
What an inconsistent creature is man! and, at the same time, what a powerful principle is the divine grace which can raise him, notwithstanding many errors, to such an elevated point of holy love! What force can one principle, well followed out, acquire over the whole character! With what charity should we judge of the persons of individuals, in the most corrupt churches, while we still contend against those churches for the faith as once delivered unto the saints! And let Protestants look to themselves: we may have a beam in our own eye, which prevents our clear discernment, when we attempt to pluck out the mote from an eye like that of Quesnel. Probably our pride of