Lenfant, Jacques

Lenfant, Jacques a very noted French preacher and theologian, the son of Paul Lenfant, the Protestant minister of Chatillon-sur-Seine, was born at Bazoche, in Beaure, a district of the ancient province of Orleannois, in France, April 13, 1661. Intended for the same profession as his father, he was sent to prosecute his studies at Saumur; and during his residence at that university he lived with the learned Jacques Cassel, the professor of Hebrew, with whom he formed a friendship which continued during their lives. He completed his theological education at Geneva and Heidelberg, in which latter town he was admitted to the ministry of the Protestant Church in 1684. Soon after his ordination he obtained the appointment of minister of the French Church at Heidelberg, and chaplain to the dowager electress Palatine. The invasion of the Palatinate by the French troops, under marshal Turenne, compelled Lenfant to leave Heidelberg in 1688, and he settled at Berlin. The fear of meeting his countrymen arose from his having rendered himself obnoxious to the Jesuits by two letters which he had written against that society, and which are appended to his work, entitled A Preservative against a Reunion with the Church of Rome. Though the Protestant French church of that city had already a sufficient number of pastors attached to it, the reigning elector of Brandenburg, Frederick, afterwards king of Prussia, who knew Lenfant by reputation, appointed him to that church, where for upwards of thirty-nine years he performed duty. In 1707, on a visit to England, he preached before queen Anne, and it is said that he so pleased the queen that she desired him to enter the Church of England, and offered him the appointment as her chaplain. In 1710 he obtained the situation of chaplain to the king of Prussia, and councelor of the High Consistory. Lenfant was suddenly attacked with paralysis, while in the apparent enjoyment of perfect health, July 29, 1728, and died on the 7th of August following. His disposition is represented as having been extremely amiable, and his manner simple and modest. Of a reflective turn of mind, he spoke but little, and that little well. Though a most voluminous writer, he was fond of society, and opened himself without reserve to the confidence of his friends. As a preacher, his manner was pleasing and persuasive; the matter of his discourse was chiefly of a practical nature, and his eloquence was rather chaste than energetic. The style of his writing is elegant, though never florid; it has less force than that of Jurieu, and less eloquence than that of Saurin, but the French is purer, and the diction more refined. It is not certain whether he was the first to form the design of the Bibliotheque Germusnique, which was commenced in 1720, but he took a prominent part in its execution, and is the acknowledged author of the preface. Lenfant's first work, which appeared in 1683, was a review of one of Brueys, who, though a celebrated French dramatist, has written several theological works in defense of the Roman Catholic faith. In 1688 he published a translation of a selection from the letters of St. Cyprian; in 1690, a defense of the Heidelberg Catechism, which is generally annexed to his Preservative, etc., a work we have before alluded to; and in 1691, a Latin translation of the celebrated work of the pere Malebranche, La Recherche de la Verite. His history of the female pope Joan appeared in 1694: the arguments in it are drawn from the Latin dissertation on that subject of Spanheim. It is said, however, that in after life Lenfant discovered and acknowledged the absurdity of this fiction. See JOAN, POPE. In 1708 appeared his remarks on the Greek edition of the New Testament by Mill, which are in the Bibliotheque Choisie of Le Clerc, vol. 16. The following works afterwards appeared in succession: 1. Reflexions et Remarques sur la Dispute du Pere Martiany avec un Juif: — 2. Memoire Historique touchant la Coommuneion sur les deux especes:— 3. Critique des Remarques dit Pere Vavaseur; sur les Reflexions de Rapin touchant la Poetique: — 4. Reponse de Mons. Lenfant à Mozns. Dartis au sujet du Socinianisme. The above short works are to be found in the Nouvelle de la Republique des Lettres, a review to which Lenfant was a frequent contributor. In 1714 was published his learned and interesting Histoire du Concile de Constance (Amsterd. 1714, 2 vols. 4to; 1727, and an Engl. transl. Lond. 1730, 2 vols. 4to). Two years after he wrote an apology for this work, which had been severely attacked in the Journal de Trevoux. In 1718, in conjunction with Beausobre, he published a translation of the New Testament, with explanatory notes, and a long and most learned introduction. It is by this work (Le Nouv. Test. traduit en Francais sur l'original Grec, Amsterdam. 1718, 2 vols. 4to), perhaps that he is best known to English-speaking students. Among the most important of his other productions are Poggiana, or the Life, Character, and Maxims of the celebrated Florentine Writer Poggio (Amsterdam, 1720): — A Preventive against Reunion with the See of Rome, and Reasons for Separation from that See (Amsterdam, 1723), a work which continues to enjoy great popularity among Protestants: — Histoire du Concile de Pise, et de ce qui s'est passe de plus memorable dejpuis ce Concile jusqu'a celui de Constance, a learned and accurate work, written with sufficient impartiality (Amsterd. 1724, 2 vols. 4to): — a volume containing sixteen Sermons on different Texts of Scripture (1728): — a small volume of Remarks on Gisberts's Treatise on Pulpit Eloquence, a work which has greatly added to his already high reputation: — Histoire de la Guerre des Hussites et du Concile de Bâle (Amsterd. 1731, 2 vols. 4to), for which he had been many years collecting materials, and in the preparation of which, through the influence of the king of Prussia, he had access to the archives of the corporation of Basle. See English Cyclopaedia, s.v.; Hoefer, Nouv. Biog. Generale, 30:657; Biblioth. Germanique, 16:115 sq.

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