Viel, Charles Maria De

, a learned converted Jew, of Metz in Lorrain, was originally educated in that religion, the rites and customs of which, it appears by his writings, he well understood; but by perusing the prophetical parts of the Old Testament, and comparing them | with the New, he became convinced that Christ was the true Messiah, and embraced Christianity, according to the Roman Catholic form. His abilities recommended him to considerable promotion, and to the degree of D. D. from one of the French universities. In 1672 he published a “Commentary on the Gospels of St. Mark and St. Luke,” in which, besides a literal exposition of the text, collected from the monuments of the ancients, he took an opportunity to defend the doctrines of the church of Rome, which so advanced his reputation, that he was requested to write against the protestants, and much was expected from a man of his learning and an able reasoner. This, however, only led to another change; for, in examining the controversies between the papists and protestants, he became satisfied that truth was on the side of the latter. France was of course no longer a safe residence, and he immediately went to Holland, abjured the errors of popery, and soon after came over to England. Here he became acquainted with Stillingfleet, Sharp, Tillotson, Patrick, Lloyd, and other eminent English divines, and particularly with Compton bishop of London. Under this patronage, he was admitted into orders in the English church, and became chaplain to a nobleman, and tutor to his children.

In 1673 he revised his Commentary on St. Matthew and Mark, omitting what was in favour of the Romish church, and improving it in other respects. In 1679 he published his literal “Explication of Solomon’s Song,” dedicated to sir Joseph Williamson. This was so well received, that many of the most eminent of the clergy of England, and of the foreign reformed churches, encouraged him to proceed to a farther translation of the sacred writings. Accordingly in 1680 he published his “Literal Exposition of the minor Prophets.” But his principles were still unsettled, and meeting, in the bishop of London’s library, to which he had at all times access, with the writings of the English baptists, he became convinced that there was no foundation for infant baptism, and leaving the church, joined a small baptist congregation in Gracechurch-street, where he was publicly baptised. This is said to have lost him all his powerful friends, except Tillotson, who still preserved a respect for his talents. He now published an “Exposition of the Acts of the Apostles” in English, in which he endeavoured to defend his baptist sentiments. He preached also among that sect, but was not very popular, as he could | not speak English fluently. His flock, however, raised him a salary, which he enjoyed till his death. He also practised physic for his maintenance. He is supposed to have died about the commencement of the last century.

There was another Lewis de Compiegne de Viel, also a converted Jew, and born at Metz, who published many learned pieces, particularly in 1679, in Hebrew, with a Latin version by himself, “Catechismus Judaeorum in disputatione & dialogo magistri & discipuli, scriptus a R. Abrahamo Jagel, monte Silicis onu^o,” with a dedication to Dr. Compton, bishop of London: this book was reprinted at Franeker, in 1690, in 8vo. He gave the public likewise a Latin translation of, and notes upon, rabbi Moses Maimonides’s book “De $acrificiis,” and his tract “De Consecratione & de Ratione irjtercalandi,” and Abarbanel’s “Exordium sive proo3mium in Leviticum,” printed at London, in 1683, in 4to. H,e had published also at Paris, in 1678, the eighth book of Maimonicles “De cultu divino,” with a Latin version, just before he left France, where he was the king’s interpreter for the Oriental languages. He was born a Jew, but afterwards embraced the Popish religion, which he at last renounced for the Protestant, and entered into the communion of the Church of England, whither he retired about 1679. 1


Crosby’s Hist. of the Baptists—Birch’s Life of Tillotson.