Alexander, Noel, In Latin Natalis

, a learned ecclesiastical writer of the 17th century, born at Roan in Normandy, Jan. 19, 1639. After finishing his studies at Roan, he entered into the order of Dominican friars, and was professed there in 1655. Soon after he went to Paris, to go through a course of philosophy and divinity in the great convent, where he so distinguished himself, that he was appointed to teach philosophy there, which he did for twelve years. This however did not so much engage his attention as to make him neglect preaching, which is the chief business of the order he professed. His sermons were elegant and solid: but as he had not that ease and fluency of speech requisite in a preacher, he soon forsook the pulpit; and his superiors being of opinion that he should apply himself wholly to the study of the scriptures and ecclesiastical history, he followed their advice, and was created a doctor of the Sorbonne in 1675. Mr. Colbert shewed him many marks of his esteem; and being determined to omit nothing to complete the education of his son, afterwards archbishop of Roan, he formed an assembly of the most learned persons, whose conferences upon, ecclesiastical history might be of advantage to him. Father Alexander was invited to this assembly, where he exerted himself with so much genius and ability, that he gained the particular friendship of young Colbert, who shewed him the utmost regard as long as he lived. These conferences gave rise to Alexander’s design of writing an ecclesiastical history; for, being desired to reduce what was material in these conferences to writing, he did it with so much accuracy, that the learned men who composed this assembly advised him to undertake a complete body of church-history. This he executed with great assiduity, collecting and digesting the materials himself, and writing | even the tables with his own hand. His first work is that wherein he endeavours to prove, against Ai. de Launoi, that St. Thomas Aquinas is the real author of the Sum, ascribed to him: it was printed in Paris 1675, in 8vo. The year following he published the first volume of a large work in Latin, upon the principal points of ecclesiastical history: this contains 26 volumes in 8vo. The first volume treats of the history of the first ages of the church, and relates the persecutions which it suffered, the succession of popes, the heresies which arose, the councils which condemned them, the writers in favour of Christianity, and the kings and emperors who reigned during the first century: to this are subjoined dissertations upon such points as have been the occasion of dispute in history, chronology, criticism, or doctrine. The history of the second century, with some dissertations, was published in two volumes in the year 1677. The third century came out in 1678; in this he treats largely of public penance, and examines into the origin and progress of the famous dispute between pope Stephen and St. Cyprian, concerning the rebaptizing of those who had been baptized by heretics; and he has added three dissertations, wherein he has collected what relates to the life, manners, errors, and Defenders of St. Cyprian. The history of the fourth century is so very extensive, that Alexander has found matter for three volumes and forty-five dissertations; they were printed at Paris in 1679. In the three following years he published his history of the fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth centuries; and that of the eleventh and twelfth centuries in 1683; in these volumes are several Dissertations against Mr. Daille; and in some of them he treats of the disputes between the princes and popes in. such a manner, that a decree from Rome was issued out Against his writings in 1684. However, he published the same year the history of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, in which he continued to defend the rights of kings against the pretensions of that court. He at last completed his work in 1686, by publishing four volumes, which contained the history of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Jn 1689 he published a work, in the same method, upon the Old Testament, in six volumes 8vo. In 1678 he published three dissertations: the first concerning the superiority of bishops over presbyters, against Blondel; the second concerning the celibacy of the clergy, and | reconciling the history of Paphnutius with the canon of the council of Nice; and the third concerning the Vulgate. The same year he printed a dissertation concerning sacramental confession, against Mr. Daille“, in 8vo. In 1682 he wrote an apology for his dissertation upon the Vulgate, against Claudius Frassen. He published likewise about this time, or some time before, three dissertations in defence of St. Thomas Aquinas; the first against Henschenius and Papebroch, to shew that the office of the holy sacrament was written by him; the second was in form of a dialogue between a Dominican and a Franciscan, to con fute the common opinion that Alexander of Hales was St. Thomas Aquinas’s master: and that the latter borrowed his” Secunda Secundse“from the former: the third is a panegyric upon Aquinas. In 1693 he published his” Theologia dogmatica,“in five books, or” Positive and Moral Divinity, according to the order of the catechism of the council of Trent.“This Latin work, consisting of ten octavo volumes, was printed at Paris and at Venice in 1698; in 1701 he added another volume; and they were all printed together at Paris, in two volumes folio, in 1703, with a collection of Latin letters, which had been printed separately. In 1703 he published tf A commentary upon the four Gospels,” in folio; and in 1710, he published another at Roan, upon St. Paul’s and the seven canonical epistles. He wrote also a commentary upon the prophets Jsaiah, Jeremiah, and Baruch, which was never printed. The following works are also enumerated by his biographers. 1. “Statuta facultatis artium Thomistiæe collegio Parisiensi fratrum prsedicatorum instituta,Paris, 1683, 12mo. 2. “Institutio concionatorum tripartita, seu praecepta et regula ad praedicatores informandos, cum ideis seu rudimentis concionum per totum annum.” 3. “Abre‘ge’ de la foy et de la morale de l‘eglise, tiree de l’ecriture sainte,Paris, 1676, 12rno. 4. “Eclaircissement des prétendues difficultés proposeés a mons. l’archevêque de Rouen, sur plusieurs points importans de la morale de Jesus Christ,1697, 12mo. 5. “A Letter to a Doctor of Sorbonne, upon the dispute concerning Probability, and the Errors of a Thesis in Divinity maintained by the Jesuits in their college at Lyons, the 26th of August,” printed at Mons, 1697, 12mo. 6. “A second letter upon the same subject,1697, 12mo. 7. “An apology for the Dominican Missionaries in China, or an Answer to a book | of father Tellier the Jesuit, entitled a Defence of the new Christians; and to an Explanation published by father Gobien, of the same society, concerning the honours which the Chinese pay to Confucius and to the dead,” printed at Cologn, 1699, 12mo. 8. “Documenta controversiarum missionariorum apostolicorum imperii Sinici de cultu praejiertim Confueii philosophi et progenitoruin defunctorum spectantia, ac apologiam Dominica norum missiones Sinicae ministrorum adversus Hr. Pp. le Tellier et le Gobien societatis Jesu confirmantia.” 9. “A Treatise on the conformity between the Chinese ceremonies and the Greek and Roman idolatry, in order to confirm the apology of the Dominican Missionaries in China,1700, 12 mo. Translated into Italian, and printed at Cologn, 8vo. He wrote likewise seven letters to the Jesuits Le Comte and Dez, upon the same subject. In 1706 he was made a provincial for the province ofParis. Towards the latter part of his life, he was afflicted with the loss of his sight, a most inexpressible misfortune to one whose whole pleasure was in study; yet he bore it with great patience and resignation. He died at Paris, merely of a decay of nature, August 21, 1724, in the 86th year of his age. His piety, humility, and disinterestedness rendered him the object of general esteem; and he was honoured with thfe friendship of the most learned prelates of France. His opinion was always considered as of great weight upon the most important subjects which were debated in the Sorbonne. He was likewise highly valued at Rome: the learned cardinals N orris and Aguirre distinguished him upon several occasions. 1

1 Gen. Dict. —Moreri. —Niceron, vol. Xxxhi. Necrolog. des plus celebres Defenseurs de Foi, vol. IV.- —Dict. Hist.orique.