Le Cène, Charles (DNB00)

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LE CÈNE, CHARLES (1647?–1703), Huguenot refugee, born 'about' 1647 at Caen, Normandy, of well-to-do parents, studied theology at Sedan from 1667 to 1669, and afterwards resided at the universities of Geneva (August 1669 to November 1670) and Saumur (1670 to March 1672). In 1672 he received ordination as a protestant minister at Caen, and 'shortly' after received a call to the church of Honfleur. While there he married a lady of some fortune, formed a considerable library, and began a new French translation of the Bible, at which he worked throughout his life. His ministry at Honfleur ceased by his own request on 2 Sept. 1682, and in the following year he officiated temporarily at Charenton. His settlement at Charenton was opposed on account of his Socinian tenets; but at the end of a year of temporary ministry he seems to have been granted a certificate attesting his orthodoxy. His son Michel (followed by Haag) states that he attempted to press his claim to remain permanently at Charenton, and carried the case from the consistory of Paris to the synod, before which the quarrel remained undecided at the date of the revocation of the edict of Nantes. Gousset (Considerations) is probably more accurate in asserting that Le Cène, after preaching at Charenton, failed to receive a call to Orleans, owing to the unsatisfactory testimony given him by the consistory. He certainly had adopted heterodox opinions concerning predestination (London Hug. Soc. iii. 33). At the date of the revocation of the edict of Nantes, like many other Huguenot ministers, he appears to have hastily journeyed to the Hague (22 Dec. 1685), and passed on to England. According to his son, he brought over his library and sufficient means to enable him to live comfortably and to assist his brethren.

Le Cène's son states that the only obstacle to his rapid preferment in the church of England was his own objection to re-ordination at the hands of the English bishops. There is no trace of any such objection on the part of Le Cène (cf. his Conversations sur divers matières de Religion, p. 218). On reaching London, he went at once to reside with Allix and other early friends and countrymen, who established a 'conformist' French congregation in Jewin Street, London, in 1686 (London Hug. Soc. i. 95). But the Huguenots in England were soon involved in bitter controversies on doctrinal questions, and Le Cène's Socinian views rendered him unpopular. 'In 1686 or 1687' Gousset heard him preach in London on Rom. x. 9, in a very unorthodox and 'Arminian' sense, and the congregation expressed great dissatisfaction. Before 1691 — the exact date is uncertain — Le Cène withdrew to Holland. 'Apres diverses années' (perhaps in 1699) he returned to England, and died in London in 1703. His son, Michel Charles, who on 30 Sept. 1699 was received as a member of the church at Amsterdam, followed him to London in December 1706, and remained in England till 1718.

Le Cène published: 1. 'De 1'Etat de l'Homme apres le Péché et de sa Predestination au Salut,' Amsterdam, 1684, 12mo. This work, of decidedly Arminian tendency, was announced in the 'Nouvelles de la République des Lettres' for July 1684. It bore no author's name, and was at first attributed to Allix, who had forwarded the manuscript from Paris to the Amsterdam printer (Bayle, Lettres, xlix. 1. liv.) 2. 'Entretiens sur diverses matieres de Théologie, où l'on examine particulièrement les Questions de la Grace Immediate, du franc-arbitre, du Péché Originel, de l'Incertitude de la Métaphysique, et de la Predestination.' Amsterdam, 1685, in 12mo. Bayle (Lettres, lvi.) identifies the author of the first part with Le Cène, and of the second with Le Clerc (Nouvelles de la République des Lettres, April 1685). 3. 'Conversations sur diverses matières de Religion, où l'on fait voir la tolérance que les Chrétiens de different sentimens doivent avoir les uns pour les autres et où l'on explique ce que l'Écriture Sainte nous dit des alliances de Dieu, de la Justification et de le certitude du salut, avec un Traité de la Liberté de Conscience dedié au Roi de France et a son conseil,' Philadelphia (Amsterdam), 1687. The first part is Le Cène's original work, and in it he shows an intimate knowledge of English divinity, frequently quoting the works of Chillingworth and others (see Des Maizeaux's note, Bayle, Lettres, lxxiii.) The second part is a translation of the Socinian Crellius's 'Junii Bruti Poloni Vindiciæ pro Religionis Libertate' (1637). In 1719 a fresh French translation of Crellius was printed anonymously in London. The author accused Le Cène of gross infidelity in his translation, and of printing the treatise without any acknowledgment of its derivation. 4. 'Projet d'une nouvelle version Françoise de la Bible.' Rotterdam, 1696, 8vo. This consists only of a first part. A second part was promised, and was first printed by Michel Le Cène in his edition of his father's Bible (1741). In 1702 an incomplete and unfair English translation by H. R. (probably Hilary Renaud), of the first part only, was printed in London, and its division by the translator into two parts has caused some bibliographical confusion. In 1729 a second edition of this translation appeared in London, with these errors uncorrected. Le Cène's 'Projet' criticises previous versions of the Bible, more especially the Geneva version, lays down rationalistic rules for translation, and applies them to a great number of disputed passages, taking occasion in many places to vent his own Socinian views (see chap, xiv.) It was fiercely attacked by Gousset, in his 'Considérations ... sur le Projet,' 1698, to which (according to Haas) Le Cène prepared a reply, no trace' of which exists. 5. 'La Sainte Bible, nouvelle version Françoise,' 1741, 2 vols. fol., published by Le Cène's son, Michel Charles, immediately on its appearance this work was denounced by the church of Utrecht, and referred to the synod of the Walloon churches, which met at Brille on 8 Sept. 1742, and after two days' deliberation was condemned as heretical and full of falsifications (cf. article xxix. of its proceedings). The synod appointed a committee to solicit from the grand pensionary of Holland the suppression of the book, but without success.

|['Avertissement au lecteur' prefixed to the 1741 Bible, containing a short Biography of Le Cène by his son; Jacques Gousset's Considerations Théologiques et Critiques sur de Projet d'une Nouvelle Version Françoise de la Bible, Amsterdam, 1698; Proceedings of the Huguenot Society of London; Weiss's Protestant Refugees; A Declaration of the opinion of the French Ministers (Brit. Mus. 1693, i.); Bayle's Letters; Nouvelles de la Republique des Lettres; Haag's La France Protestante; Treasury Papers, 1695–1702; Proceedings of the Synod of Brille; information kindly sent by W. N. Du Rieu, secretary of the Commission pour l'Histoire des Églises Wallonnes.]

W. A. S.