CATHOLIC APOLOGETICA: |
These works have been placed online so that those of a Catholic as well as a Protestant and Gospel faith might become more familiar with the points of controversy, the resources and methods, the debate itself and the manner in which the Church and her theologians have historically managed the discourse in defense of tradition and Church law over the simple faith of the Gospel that was originally preached.
HOME > Library > Books > Conference of the Authority of the Church: held March 1st, 1679, Between James Benignus Bossuet and John Claude, Calvinist Minister at Charenton. Together with Reflections on a Treatise by M. Claude, by the Bishop (1842 Edition, Originally Published in 1682)
Conference of the Authority of the Church (Conférence avec le pasteur Claude):
held March 1st, 1679
James Benignus Bossuet, Bishop of Condom (afterwards of Meaux) and John Claude, Calvinist Minister at Charenton.
James Benignus Bossuet
French Roman Catholic Bishop of Condom (afterwards of Meaux), Court Preacher to Louis XIV of France, and Controversialist
HAIL & FIRE REPRINTS 2009
In no country is Protestantism more active than in the United States, in endeavoring to uphold its discordant principles, and consequently no where does the evil call for a more powerfully counteracting influence. The ablest controversial works for undeceiving our dissenting brethren, are those which point out the fallacies of the Protestant system, and expose its utter inconsistency with the plainest maxims of Christian morality. Among the works of this class, the "Conference between Bossuet and Claude" has always been considered of the highest merit and of surpassing interest; and it is now offered to the public, under the conviction that it will be found a most valuable accession to the polemical literature that is in circulation amongst us.
To the London Edition.
The seventeenth century is remarkable for the many conferences, polemical or conciliatory, held between divines of the Catholic and Protestant communions. Without attempting to furnish a complete list, we may mention that of Ratisbon in 1601, that of Neuburg in 1615, that of Thorn in 1645, which, from the benevolent object of its promoter, King Uladislas IV., who had at heart the reunion of the Lutherans and Calvinists with his own Church, obtained the name of the "Charitable" conference; and finally, another held some time after at Rheinfelt, by order of the Landgrave of Hesse, between Valerianus Magnus, a Capuchin, and Peter Habercorn, a Calvinist minister.
These controversial discussions, like those which had taken place in the preceding century, - at Leipsic (1519), between Eckius, chancellor of Ingolstadt, and Luther, with his associate Carlostadius; at Poissy (1561), between Beza and Peter Martyr, on the part of the Huguenots, and D'Espence, De Sainctes, and Lainez, on the Catholic side, - were conducted in public. Others were carried on in private or before a small company. The long continued consultation between the Lutheran Gerard Walther (more generally known under the name of Molanus), and Spinola bishop of Neustadt, deserves notice, on account of the overtures for conciliation to which it was the prelude, and the negotiations which were opened to that effect at the close of the seventeenth century.
Our own country had its conferences also, although these were chiefly polemical. Amongst the number may be mentioned those of Fisher with Dean White and Archbishop Laud, in the time of Charles I., and that between Andrew Pulton, a Scotch Jesuit, and Dr. Tenison, in the year 1687.
In none of these controversial encounters will the combatants appear to have been more equally matched, or the respective cause of the parties more keenly and skilfully maintained, than in that to which the reader is presently to be introduced. The ability of Bossuet, as a controvertist, is allowed on all hands; and although the celebrity of his adversary is not of the same extent, his works being read but little at the present day, no one can refuse him the praise of consummate address and energy. If ever the cause of the "Reformation" and its principles were brought to a fair test, it was at this celebrated CONFERENCE.
John Claude, the son of a Calvinist minister, was born in 1619, at Sauvetat, near Agen, in the south of France. After holding the theological chair at Nismes for eight years, he removed to the capital, and in 1666 was chosen minister of Charenton, a small town in its vicinity. He soon distinguished himself by elaborate controversial writings; and in 1679 held the conference with Bossuet. Upon the revocation of the edict of Nantes, in 1685, he withdrew to Holland, and died there in 1687.
Claude is described as a man of unimpeachable character and great sweetness of temper. His writings partake, it is true, of the acrimony which is an ordinary ingredient of controversy. But from this few works of that time were exempt. It is a happy but rare distinction which belongs to Bossuet, that he is earnest without being intemperate, and that his vehemence is without invective.
The following preface will acquaint the reader with the occasion of Bossuet's publishing his account of the conference. It may be proper to add some particulars not there mentioned, which serve to explain the history of the publication of the subjoined REFLECTIONS.
It will be seen that Bossuet declares in his preface - "Wherever M. Claude shall say that he did not acknowledge what I make him acknowledge in the recital of the Conference, I engage myself in a second conference to draw again from him the same acknowledgment; and wherever he shall say that he was not without an answer, I will, without any other argument than such as he has heard already, force him to answers so manifestly absurd, that every man of good sense shall acknowledge that to have been silent would have been better than to have made use of them. And lest it should be said (for in an affair that concerns the salvation of souls we must, as much as may be, obviate every objection), lest then, once more, it should be said that M. Claude became involved in these embarrassments by some untoward lapse, I, on the contrary, affirm that this advantage is so inherent to our cause, that there is no minister, no doctor, no man living, but must in the same manner sink under the like arguments. Whosoever will make trial of it, will see that this is no idle promise."
Bossuet did not intend this to pass as an idle flourish, but offered a serious challenge, and was very earnest that it should be accepted. He repeatedly pressed Claude to consent to a second meeting. This, however, Claude declined, alleging that it would be acting in defiance of the king's prohibition against such conferences. This alleged hindrance Bossuet undertook to remove, and obtained every necessary authorization for the purpose, in order to set Claude's mind at rest. He communicated the intelligence to him immediately through the Marquis De Ruvigny, a zealous Protestant nobleman. Claude, however, persisted in declining the meeting.
Disappointed in his endeavor to bring about a second conference, Bossuet gave more publicity to his narrative of that which had already taken place, and availed himself of the opportunity furnished by the Reflections he was called upon to make, in reference to Claude's account and manuscript answer, to resume questions that had been treated at the conference, and to elucidate and confirm what he had there advanced.
The Conference and the Reflections were published at Paris in the spring of 1682.
An English version was printed in London five years after, the only one that has hitherto appeared. Generally uncouth in its wording, often obscure, and sometimes incorrect, it required emendation of some sort in almost every line before it could be republished by the Catholic Institute. That emendation it has now received, and the work as at present issued will, upon comparison with its predecessor, be found to be almost a new translation. Most of the passages from the fathers cited or alluded to in the text have been given in the original language from the best editions, for the convenience of some readers; and for the benefit of others, to whom some elucidations might appear wanting, a few historical illustrations have been subjoined in an appendix.
MICHAELMAS DAY, 1841.
 See an interesting account of this amiable and zealous man in the Dublin Review for May, 1841.
"Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. ... Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness" 2 Thessalonians 2:3-10 KJV