Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 14.djvu/254

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himself to the system of Descartes. He is said to have been strictly just and warmly benevolent, attending regularly and faithfully to his clerical duties, and at the end of each year giving what remained of his salary to the poor of his parish.

The following incident is recorded as illustrative of his character: "The lord of his village, M. de Touilly, having ill-treated some peasants, he refused to pray for him in his service. M. de Mailly, Archbishop of Rheims, before whom the case was brought, condemned him. But, the Sunday which followed this decision, the Abbot Meslier stood in his pulpit and complained of the sentence of the cardinal. 'This is,' said he, 'the general fate of the poor country priest; the archbishops, who are great lords, scorn them, and do not listen to them. Therefore, let us pray for the lord of this place. We will pray for Antoine de Touilly, that he may be converted, and granted the grace that he may not wrong the poor and despoil the orphans.' His lordship, who was present at this mortifying supplication, brought more complaints before the same archbishop, who ordered the curate Meslier to come to Douchey, where he ill-treated him with abusive language."

So there was nothing remarkable or unusual about the outward career of this country preacher that was not suitable to be immediately buried in oblivion. But he had been long and quietly at work in a way that was calculated to give interest and notoriety to his name after he had finally left the scene of his labors, where he died in the odor of sanctity. Meslier, it must be said, to the great scandal of his name, did not believe in the theology that he preached. But he lived in times in which men were not very powerfully solicited to express their independent opinions, and, as Meslier said he did not want to be burned alive on account of what he thought, he prudently followed the example of Copernicus and postponed publishing his real views till after he was out of the way. When Meslier was gone, there was found in his house a manuscript volume entitled "Common-Sense," written in his hand, and addressed as "My Testament" to his parishioners. The book was printed, and went through various editions in the eighteenth century, and it is this which is now revised and translated by Miss Knoop. Of its quality the reader can judge from a remark of Voltaire in a letter to D'Alembert, which is as follows: "They have printed in Holland the Testament of Jean Mesher; I trembled with horror in reading it. The testimony of a priest who, in dying, asks God's pardon for having taught Christianity, must be a great weight in the balance of liberals. I will send you a volume of this testament of the anti-Christ, because you desire to refute it."

We have not read this book, and are, therefore, unable to form a critical judgment of it; but Mr. James Parton writes to its translator concerning it as follows: "The work of the honest pastor, Jean Meslier, is the most curious and the most powerful thing of the kind which the last century produced. Thomas Paine's 'Age of Reason' is mere milk-and-water to it, and Voltaire's 'Philosophical Dictionary' is a basket of champagne compared with a cask of fourth-proof brandy. Paine and Voltaire had reserves, but Jean Meslier had none. He keeps nothing back; and yet, after all, the wonder is not that there should have been one priest who left that testimony at his death, but that all priests do not. True, there is a great deal more to be said about religion, which I believe to be an eternal necessity of human nature, but no man has uttered the negative side of the matter with so much candor and completeness as Jean Meslier. You have done a virtuous and humane act in translating his book so well."

The American Antiquarian: A Quarterly Journal devoted to early American History, Ethnology, and Archæology. Edited by Rev. Stephen D. Peet, Unionville, Ohio. Cleveland, Ohio: Published by Brooks, Schinkel & Co. Price, $2 a year, or 50 cents a number.

The rapid growth of the biological sciences, initiated by the publication of the "Origin of Species" nearly twenty years ago, has brought into especial prominence the great questions of the origin, antiquity, and development of man; and from subjects of theological speculation has transformed them into well-recognized problems of physical science. All the various lines