sentiment' would be more effective than 'useless arguments' against the unChristian arguments of people like Pierre Bayle.25 This is undoubtedly why he urged his younger colleague, Guillaume Laget, to translate Hutcheson.

Guillaume Laget (1710-70) was part of the next generation of Genevan-educated pastors who came of age around mid-century. Their sermons, published in the 1770s and 1780s show how deeply immersed they had become in the language of sentiment. The preface to Laget's published sermons tells us that as a young man, he not only translated Hutcheson at the behest of Vernet, but he also liked to read 'the very touching novels of Richardson' and advised his congregation to do the same. Laget, we are told, was a 'very sensitive [très sensible]' man. He 'moved' his congregation with his sermons.26

The preface to the sermons of Laget's colleague, Pierre Mouchon (173397), is equally illuminating. It speaks of Mouchon's great love of science and sensitivity to nature, which only made him love God more. We are told that when Rousseau's novels La Nouvelle Héloise and the Emile came out, this Calvinist preacher shared in the 'almost universal enthusiasm' that these novels provoked. Mouchon was 'smitten' by the 'eloquence and originality' of Rousseau.27 Whether one speaks of the sermons of Guillaume Laget, Pierre Mouchon, Daniel de Rochemont (1719-?), or Jacob Vernes (1728-91) -all Genevan-educated Calvinist preachers of considerable repute - one notes the change of tone that had occurred by mid-century. The Scriptures are now described not only as reasonable and intelligible to the thinking mind, but, more importantly, as beautiful and appealing to the sensitive heart. Sermons are composed with the express aim of stimulating the 'inner sentiments' of the reader. Good sermons are those that 'move' and 'transport' us.

It is not that these Enlightened pastors completely severed the connection between religion and reason. According to Daniel de Rochemont, for example, the Christian religion was a religion of'common sense'.28 But the point he was most anxious to make was that religion was in fact superior to reason and philosophy. What made religion superior was that it appealed not only to reason but also to 'sentiment'. And sentiment was a 'much more powerful force'. Reason and philosophy were 'cold'. In contrast, because it appealed to inner sentiment, religion conveyed 'warmth' as well as 'light'; it was both 'instructive' and 'moving'. In short, religion appealed to both the heart and the mind.29

Similarly, Jacob Vernes explained that reason often operates in a manner that is 'too cold' or 'too slow'. It was for this purpose that God had endowed man not just with reason but with 'secret instincts', 'active and powerful spurs' that propel human beings towards the good. God had given men 'sensitive hearts' and the capacity to feel an 'inner religious sentiment'.30

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment