Bergier, Nicolas Sylvester

, a French writer of considerable note, was born at Darnay in Lorraine, December 31, 1718. In the career of promotion he was first curate of Flangebouche, a small village in Frunche-Comte, then professor of theology, principal of the college of Besai^on, a canon of the church of Paris, and confessor to the king’s aunts. Throughout life he was one of the most strenuous opponents of the modern philosophers of France. He acquired an early name by some essays on various literary subjects, to which the prizes were adjudged at Besanon and his reputation was considerably heightened by his very ingenious and plausible work, entitled “Elements primitifs des Langues, &c.Paris, 1764, 12mo. Soon after he published another, which was favourably received by the learned world, “Origine des Dieux du Pagunisme et | les sens des Fables decouvert, par une explication suivie des Poesies d’Hesiode,Paris, 1767, 2 vols. 12mo. When about the same time he found religion attacked in every quarter by a combination of men of talents in France, he determined to endeavour to counteract their schemes. With this view he wrote “La Certitude des Preuves du Christianisme,1768, 12mo, particularly directed against the “Examen critique des Apologistes de la religion Chretienne,” improperly attributed to Freret; and it was allowed to have been written with much sense, precision, and moderation. This work, which occasioned more friends and more enemies to Bergier than any other, passed through three editions in the same year, besides being translated into Italian and Spanish. Voltaire, to whom the popularity of any writings of this tendency must have been peculiarly unpleasant, affected to answer it in his “Conseils raisonables,” written with his usual art, but more remarkable for wit than argument. Bergier answered the “Conseils,” the only instance in which he noticed any of his adversaries in public. He had another more contemptible antagonist, the noted Anacharsis Cloots, who published what he, and perhaps no man else, would have called “Certitude des Preuves du Mahometisme.” About this time the clergy of France, sensible of Bergier’s services, gave him a pension of two thousand livres, and offered him some valuable benefices, but he would only accept of a canonry in Notre Dame, and it was even against his inclination that he was afterwards appointed confessor to the mesdames, the last king’s aunts. Free from ambition, modest and simple in dress and manners, he was desirous only of a retired life, and at Paris he lived as he had done in the country, in the midst of his books. This study produced, successively, 1. “Le Deisme refute par lui-meme,Paris, 1765, 1766, 1768, 2 vols. 12mo, an examination of the religious principle of Rousseau. 2. “Apologie de la Religion Chretienne contre l’auteur du Christianisme devoid,” (the baron Holbach) Paris, 1769, 2 vols. 12mo. 3. “Examen du Materialisme, ou refutation du systeme de la Nature,Paris, 1771, 2 vols. 12mo. 4. “Traite historique et dogmatique de la vraie Religion, &c.Paris, 1780, 12 vols. 12mo. This is, in some respect, a collection of the sentiments of the ablest writers against infidelity. 5. “Discours sur le Manage des Protestants,1787, 8vo. 6. “Observations surle Divorce,” ibid. 1790, 8vo. He also compiled a | thelogical dictionary, which makes a part of the “Encyclopedic methodique,” 3 vols. 4to. The abbé“Barruel says, that when this work was first undertaken, some deference was still paid to religion, and Bergier thought it incumbent on him to yield to the pressing solicitations of his friends, lest the part treating of religion should fall into the hands of its enemies, but in this they were deceived. Bergier, indeed, performed his task as might have been expected but in other parts of the work the compilers exceeded their predecessors in licentious sentiments, and at the same time availed themselves of the name of Bergier as a cloak. M. Barbier attributes to our author the sketch of Metaphysics inserted in the” Cours d‘etude de l’usage de l’Ecole militaire." In all his works there is a logical arrangement and precision, and the only objection the French critics have is to his style, which is sometimes rather diffuse. He died at Paris, April 9, 1790. He was a member of the academy of Besangon, and an associate of that of inscriptions and belleslettres. 1


Biog. Universelle.—Barruel’s Memoirs of Jacobinism, vol. I. p. 67.