However, as mentioned earlier, Enlightened Christians could espouse very different political beliefs. Many wished to work in partnership with the state to promote their favourite reforms. In France, some evidence has been found of a reaction against Enlightened politics towards the end of the century. Fearful of the growing popularity of the secular Enlightenment, some Enlightened Catholics may have felt a need to sacralize the monarchy. At the same time, however, they appear to have become more sensitive to social issues. Emphasizing the social rather than political benefits of religion, they increasingly stressed Jesus' charity, egalitarianism and benevolence towards the poor. In the end, both abbes Gerard and Bergier advocated political absolutism. Gerard specifically attacked 'republican principles'44 that were said to be circulating in France. But he also exposed problems in the socio-political order, such as the endemic corruption at court, and he advocated a much greater concern for the plight of France's poor.
If additional research confirms that Christian sentimentalism was more prevalent and intense in France than elsewhere in Europe, it might invite us to consider the political implications of the Christian Enlightenment from another angle. Recently, historians like Sarah Maza and William Reddy have exposed an ominous side to sentimentalism. They have called attention to its manichaeism - its tendency to encourage stark moral judgements of others and, related to this, its promotion of a peculiar kind of political intransigence. Sentimentalism encouraged the idea that reasonings, discussions, negotiations, and proofs were less important than the purity of a sincere heart. It helped foster the notion that one man, by simply looking into his own heart, could find there the voice ofthe people, an idea that would have tragic consequences during the Terror.
Christian sentimentalism may very well have contributed to this way of thinking. Indeed, some of the pronouncements of Enlightened Christians are, in retrospect, quite disturbing. While the sermons of Laget speak glowingly of the 'sincere and undisguised communication between sensitive and pure hearts', they also refer to the existence of'bad men' in society who disguise their malignity with 'vain reasonings' and 'elegant speeches'. Such 'hypocrites' are a danger to society. God's gaze will penetrate into their hearts and punish them. Laget also intimates that hypocrites can be identified by the way they speak; presumably, they don't display the right kind of sentiments.45
Another troubling insight is provided by Jacques Necker, Genevan banker and finance minister to Louis XVI. Few people know that this Enlightened reformer wrote two apologetic works on the Christian religion: L'importance des opinions religieuses (1788) and Cours de moral religieuse (1800). Even fewer
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