Lenfant, James

, a learned French writer in the eighteenth century, was born at Bazoches, in Beausse, April 13, 1661. He was son of Paul Lenfant, minister at Chatillon, who died at Marbourg, in June 1686. He studied divinity at Saumur, where he lodged at the house of James Cappel, professor of Hebrew, by whom he was always highly esteemed; and afterwards went to Geneva, to continue his studies there. Leaving Geneva towards the end of 1683, he went to Heidelberg, where he was ordained in August, 1684. He discharged the duties of his function there with great reputation as chaplain of the electress dowager of Palatine, and pastor in ordinary to the French church. The descent of the French into the Palatinate, | however, obliged him to depart from Heidelberg in 1688. Two letters which he had written against the Jesuits, and which are jnserted at the end of his “Preservatif,” ren r dered it somewhat hazardous to continue at the mercy of a society whose power was then in its plenitude. He left the Palatinate, therefore, in October 1688, with the consent of his church and superiors, and arrived at Berlin in November following. Though the French church of Berlin had already a sufficient number of ministers, the elector Frederic, afterwards king of Prussia, appointed Mr. Lenfant one of them, who began his functions on Easter-day, March the 21st, 1689, and continued them thirty-nine years and four months, and during this time added greatly to his reputation by his writings. His merit was so fully acknowledged, as to be rewarded with every mark of distinction suitable to his profession. He was preacher to the queen of Prussia, Charlotta-Sophia, who was eminent for her sense and extensive knowledge, and after her death he became chaplain to the king of Prussia. He was counsellor of the superior consistory, and member of the French council, which were formed to direct the general affairs of that nation. In 1710 he was chosen a member of the society for propagating the gospel established in England; and March the 2d, 1724, was elected member of the academy of sciences at Berlin. In 1707 he took a journey to Holland and England, where he had the honour to preach before queen Anne; and if he had thought proper to leave his church at Berlin, for which he had a great respect, he might have had a settlement at London, with the rank of chaplain to her majesty. In 1712, he went to Helmstad; in 1715 to Leipsic; and in 1725, to Breslaw, to search for rare books and manuscripts necessary for the histories which he was writing. In those excursions he was honoured with several valuable materials from the electress of Brunswic-Lunebourg, princess Palatine; the princess of Wales, afterwards Caroline queen of Great Britain; the count de Fleming; mons. Daguesseau, chancellor of France; and a great number of learned men, both protestants and papists, among the latter of whom was the abbé Bignon. It is not certain whether he first formed thedesign of the “Bibliotheque Germanique,” which began in 1720; or whether it was suggested to him by one of the society of learned men, which took the name of Anonymous; but they ordinarily met at his house, and he was a | frequent contributor to that journal. When the king of Poland was at Berlin, in the end of May and beginning of June 1728, Mr. Lenfant, we are told, dreamt that he was ordered to preach. He excused himself that he was not prepared; and not knowing what subject he should pitch upon, was directed to preach upon these words, Isaiah XxxtiiL 1. “Set thine house in order, for thou shalt die, and not live.” He related this dream to some of his friends, and although not a credulous man, it is thought to have made some impression on him, for he applied with additional vigour to finish his “History of the War of the Hussites and the Council of Basil.” On Sunday July the 25tn following, he had preached in his turn at his church; but on Thursday, July the 29th, he had a slight attack of the palsy, which was followed by one more violent, of which he died on the 7th of the next month, in his sixtyeighthyear. He was interred at Berlin, at the foot of the pulpit of the French church, where he ordinarily preached since 1715, when his Prussian majesty appointed particular ministers to every church, which before were served by the same ministers in their turns. His stature was a little below the common height. His eye was very lively anil penetrating. He did not talk much, but always well. Whenever any dispute arose in conversation, he spoke without any heat; a proper and delicate irony was the only weapon he made use of on such occasions. He loved company, and passed but few days without seeing some of his friends. He was a sincere friend, and remarkable for a disinterested and generous disposition. In preaching, his voice was good; his pronunciation distinct and varied; his style clear, grave, and elegant without affectation; and he entered into the true sense of a text with great force. His publications were numerous in divinity, ecclesiastical history, criticism, and polite literature. Those which are held in the highest estimation, are his Histories of the Councils of Pisa, Constance, and Basil, each in 2 vols. 4to. These are written with great ability and impartiality, and they abound with interesting facts and curious researches. Lenfant, in conjunction with M. Beausobre, published “The New Testament, translated from the original Greek into French,” in 2 vols. 4to, with notes, and a general preface, or introduction to the reading of the Holy Scriptures, useful for students in divinity. He is known also by his “De iuquirenda Veritate,” which is a | translation of Malebranche’s “Search after Truth” “The History of Pope Joan” “Poggiana or, the life, character,- opinions, c. of Poggio the Florentine, with the History of the Republic of Florence,” and the abovementioned “History of the Wars of the Hussites,Utrecht, 1731, 2 vols. in 4to, dedicated by his widow to the prince royal of Prussia. This was the last work in which our author was engaged. He had revised the copy of the first volume, and was reading over that of the second, when he was seized with the apoplexy. But for this it appears to have been his intention to continue his History to about 1460. To this History is added monsieur Beausobre’s “Dissertation upon the Adamites of Bohemia.1


Bibl. Germanique, vol. XVI. and XXI. Nieeron, vols. IX. and X. Ceo. Dict.