Labadie, John

, a French enthusiast, was born at Bourg, in Guienne, Feb. 13, 1610; and, being sent to the Jesuits college at Bourdeaux at seven years of age, he made so quick a progress in his studies, that his masters resolved to take into their society a youth, who gave such promising hopes of being an honour to it. The spirit of piety, with which he was animated, brought him easily into their views; but, being opposed in this by his father, who was gentleman of the bedchamber to Lewis XIII. he could not then carry his design into execution. On his father’s death, however, he entered into the order; and, having finished his course of rhetoric and philosophy in three years, he took upon himself the office of a preacher before he was ordained priest. He continued among the Jesuits till 1639; when his frequent infirmities, and the desire he had of attaining to greater perfection, engaged him to quit that society, as he asserts, while others aver, that he was expelled for some singular notions, and for his hypocrisy. Whatever was the cause, he went immediately to Paris, where he preached with great zeal, and procured the friendship of father Gondren, general of the oratory; and Coumartin, bishop of Amiens, being present at one of his sermons, | was so much pleased, that he engaged him to settle in his diocese, and gave him acanonry in his cathedral-church.

He was no sooner fixed at Amiens, than he endeavoured to become a director of consciences, and presently saw himself at the head of a vast number of devotees; but it is said that his enthusiasm led him to practices more of a carnal than a spiritual nature; and that the discovery of some love-intrigues, in a nunnery, obliged him to seek a retreat elsewhere. For that purpose he chose first PortRoyal; but, as his doctrines or practices were not acceptable, his stay there was short. He therefore removed to Bazas, and afterwards to Toulouse, where M. de Montchal, archbishop of the city, gave him the direction of a convent of nuns; but here, likewise, the indecency of his familiarities with his pupils, under pretence of restoring the notions of primitive purity, and unsuspicious innocence, obliged the bishop, apprehending the consequences of such a converse, to disperse those who had been seduced into different convents, to be better instructed. Labadie endeavoured to inculcate the same practices elsewhere, but, despairing at length to make disciples any longer among the catholics, by whom he was by this time suspected and watched, he betook himself to the reformed, and resolved to try if he could not introduce among them the doctrine and practice of spirituality and mental prayer; with which view, he published three manuals, composed chiefly to set forth the excellence and necessity of that method. But an attempt which he is said to have made upon the chastity of mademoiselle Calonges lost him the esteem and protection of those very persons for whose use his books were particularly written.

Some time afterwards, an accusation was preferred at court against him, for raising a sedition respecting the corpse of a woman which the curate of Montauban thought proper to inter in the church-yard of the catholics, because she had changed her religion. Labadie denied the priest’s right to the corpse, and his party appeared in arms to dispute it. But the cause being brought before the court, it was there decided in favour of the catholics, and Labadie condemned to quit the church of Montauban as a seditious person. His banishment however caused a dangerous division. D’Arbussy, his colleague, was charged with promoting his condemnation, out of a spirit of jealousy. Two parties were formed in the town, almost wholly consisting | of the reformed. They proceeded to the last extremities, -though the chieftains of each party bore so bad a character as to be equally detested by all who had followed them. Labadie, thus driven out of Montauban, went to seek an asylum at Orange; but, not finding himself so safe there as he imagined, he withdrew privately to Geneva, in June 1659. In the mean time, his departure was much regretted at Orange, where he had imposed upon the people by his devout manner, and by his preaching; and he was not long at Geneva before he excited great commotions. Those that joined him built a large mansion, in which proper cells were provided for his most zealous followers; while the rest of the citizens, consulting how to get rid of him, contrived to procure him an invitation toMiddleburg, which was accepted; and accordingly he repaired thither in 166-6, and presently began to declare his opinions more explicitly than he had ever done before.

His peculiar tenets were these: 1. He believed that God could and would deceive, and that he had sometimes actually done it. 2. He held the holy scriptures not to be absolutely necessary to salvation, since the Holy Spirit acted immediately upon the soul, and gave it new degrees of revelation; and, when once struck with that divine light, it was able to draw such consequences as would lead to a perfect knowledge of the truth. 3. Though he did not deny the lawfulness of infant-baptism, yet he maintained that it ought to be deferred to riper years. 4. He put this difference between the old and new covenant: The first he said was carnal, loaded with ceremonies, attended with temporal blessings, and open to the wicked as well as the good, provided they were descendants of Abraham; whereas the new covenant admitted only spiritual persons, who were freed thereby from the law, from its curse, and from its ceremonies, and put into a state of perfect liberty. 5. He held the observation of the sabbath to be an indifferent thing; maintaining, that in God’s account all days were alike. 6. He distinguished the church into the degenerate and regenerate; and held, that Christ would come and reign a thousand years upon earth, and actually convert both Jews, Gentiles, and Christians, to the truth. 7. He maintained the eucharist to be nothing more than a bare commemoration of Christ’s death; and that, though the signs were nothing in themselves, yet Christ was received therein spiritually by the worthy communicant. 8. He | taught, that the contemplative life was a state of grace and of divine union in this world, the fullness of perfection, and the summit of the Christian mountain, elevated to that height, that it touched the clouds, and reached up very near to heaven. 9. That a person whose heart was perfectly content and calm, was almost in possession of God, discoursed familiarly with him, and saw every thing in him: that he took all things here below with indifference, beholding the world beneath him, and whatever passed therein; its mutability not touching him; all the storms, to which the world is subject, forming themselves under his feet, just as rain and hail form themselves under the tops of mountains, leaving upon the summit a constant calm and quietude. 10. That this state was to be obtained by an entire self-denial, mortification of the senses, and their objects, and by the exercise of mental prayer.

It is evident that some of these opinions are not peculiar to Labadie, and that others of them are rather wildly expressed than erroneous in themselves; but ^it is equally evident that they are inconsistent one with another, and that in order to be a Labadist, a man must be as great an enthusiast as the founder himself. It was, however, owing to this practice of spirituality, accompanied with an apparent severity of manners, that Labadie acquired a very great authority in a little time. Those who charged him with hypocrisy were looked on as worldlings, sold to the present life; while his followers were esteemed as so many saints. Even mademoiselle Schurman, so famous in the republic of letters, was persuaded, that she chose the better part, in, putting herself under his directions; she became one of the most ardent chiefs of his sect, and had the power to bring over to her way of thinking Elizabeth, princess Palatine, who opened an asylum to all the wandering and fugitive disciples of that preacher, esteemed it an honour to collect what she called the true church, and declared her happiness in being delivered from a masked Christianity, with which she had till then been deceived. She extolled Labadie to the skies. He was the man, she said, who talked to the heart, and it is this kind of talking, wh ch means no more than an influence on weak minds, through the medium of the passions, which has promoted religious impo ture in all ages.

The followers of Labadie, who were now distinguished by the title of Labadists, became so numerous, and so | many persons of each sex abandoned the reformed to close with them, that the French church in the United Provinces set themselves in earnest to stop the desertion, which was daily increasing. But Labadie, perceiving their designs against him, aimed to ward off the blow, by turning it upon them. Mr. de Wolzogue, professor and minister of the Walloon church at Utrecht, had lately published a piece, several passages of which had given great offence to the protestants *. Labadie therefore took this opportunity to accuse him of heterodoxy, in the name of the Walloon church at Middleburgh, to a synod which was held at Naerden. But, upon hearing the matter, Wolzogue was unanimously declared orthodox, the church of Middleburg censured, and Labadie condemned to make a public confession before the synod, and in the presence of Wolzogue, that he had been to blame in bringing the accusation, by which he had done him an injury. This judgment reaching the ears of Labadie, he resolved not to hear it pronounced and, lest it should be signified to him, he withdrew privately from Naerden and, returning to Middleburgh, raised such a spirit against the synod in his church as even threatened no less than a formal schism. Several synods endeavoured, by their decrees, to cut up the mischief by the root but in some of these Labadie refused to appear he disputed the authority of others, and appealed from the definitive sentences which they pronounced against him. At length commissaries were nominated by the synod, to determine the affair at Middleburgh, but they had no sooner arrived than the people rose against them, possessed themselves of the assemblyhouse, and locked the church-doors to keep them out. The magistrates supported Labadie, and the estates of the province contented themselves with proposing an accommodation; which being haughtily rejected by Labadie, the states were so provoked, that they confirmed the sentence passed by the commissaries, by which he was forbidden to preach, &c. And because Labadie exclaimed loudly against being condemned without a hearing, the decision of the synod to be held at Dort was sent to him, summon^

* A piece came out in 1666, enti- versus Exercitatorem," &c. 1667; but

tied, " Philosophia s. scripturoe inter- he was so unfortunate in some unguarded

pres, exercitatio paradoxa." This was expressions, as to be more inveighed

thought a pernicious book, and re- against than the book he endeavoured

futed by Wolzogue, in a piece, enti- to refute, tied, " De Scripturarum Interprete | ading him to appear there. Labadie was deposed by this synod, and cut off from all hopes of mercy on any other condition, except that of thorough repentance, of which he never gave any proofs. On the contrary, he procured a crowd of devotees to attend him to Middleburgh, where they broke open the church-doors; which done, he preached, and distributed the eucharist to such as followed him. The burgo- masters, apprehensive of consequences, sent him an order to quit the town and the boundaries of their jurisdiction. He obeyed the order, and withdrew to Ter-Veer, a neighbouring town, where he had some zealous partisans, among the rich merchants and traders, who had settled, and drawn a large share of commerce thither. They received him joyfully, and procured him a protection from the magistrates. However, the states of Zealand, being resolved to drive him from this fort, made an order to expel him the province. The magistrates of Ter-Veer took his part against the states, alledging three reasons in his favour: first, that he lived peaceably in their town, and had done nothing worthy of banishment secondly, that it was enough to interdict him from preaching in public and lastly, that they had reason to apprehend danger from the populace, who would not quietly be deprived of so edifying a person. The province was obliged to have recourse to the prince of Orange, who was marquis of Ter-Veer; and who ordered Labadie to submit, forbidding at the same time any of the inhabitants to harbour him.

In this exigence, he resumed the attempt he had vainly made before, of associating with madam Bourignon in Noordstrand; but not thinking him refined enough in the mystic theology to become her colleague, nor supple enough to be put in the number of her disciples, she rejected his overtures; and now he formed a little settlement betwixt Utrecht and Amsterdam, where he set up a printingpress, and published many of his works. Here the number of his followers increased, and would have grown very lar^e, had he not been betrayed by some deserters, who, publishing the history of his private life, and manner of teac hing, took care to inform the public of the familiarities he took with his female pupils, under pretence of uniting them more closely to God. From this retreat he sent his apostles through the great towns in Holland, in order to make proselytes, especially in the richest houses; but, | not being able to secure any residence where he might be set above the fear of want, he went to Erfurt; and, being driven thence by the wars, was obliged to retire to Altena in Holstein, where a violent colic carried him off, 1674, in his 64th year. He died in the arms of mademoiselle Schurman, who, as a faithful companion, constantly attended him wherever he went. This is the most generally received account of his death; yet others tell us, that he went to Wievaert, a lordship of Frizeland, belonging to the house of Sommersdyck; where four ladies, sisters of that family, provided him a retreat, and formed a small church, called “The Church of Jesus Christ retired from the World.” His works are numerous, amounting to upwards of thirty articles, but surely not worthy to be recorded. 1

1

Niceron, vols. XVIII. and XX. —Chaufepie. Mosheim. Gen. Dict.See Index in vol X.