a natural need for an 'exterior cult' or church ceremonies.40 Replete with mysterious dogmas and elaborate rituals, the Christian religion was perfectly adapted to human nature. As Bergier further explained, 'you need spectacles to retain the attention of the people [attacher le peuple]'. A religion deprived of 'all ceremonial [appareil]' would simply not work. Such a religion would neither 'affect' nor 'instruct' anyone.41 Rituals were 'touching' and 'consoling'; thereby they responded to a deeply felt human need. Catholicism was 'sweet and compassionate';42 according to Gerard, it was also psychologically healing since it 'calmed the passions' and both 'sustained' and 'fortified' man's otherwise flighty character.43
More research is needed on this sentimentalist vein within the Christian Enlightenment before definite conclusions can be drawn about its currency and historical significance. We need to know how widespread it was in other parts of Europe. English and German Protestantism seem to have followed somewhat different trajectories from the one described here. The German Aufklärung, though receptive to both Scottish moral sense theory and the notion of religious sentiments, appears to have retained a more intellectual interpretation of faith, perhaps in reaction to what was perceived as a continuing Pietist threat. Similarly, Shaftesbury's English 'Christianizers' had to contend with Methodism and an often hostile reaction from the established church. Enlightened Protestants like William Warburton and Joseph Butler were horrified by what they saw as Wesleyan 'enthusiasm' and thus shied away from excessive appeals to feelings and emotions. Nevertheless, some scholars have found evidence of an 'affectionate religion' in England as well. More work is needed before its career in the eighteenth century can be evaluated. One thing is clear: throughout Europe and over the course of the long eighteenth century, the Christian Enlightenment was heavily influenced by the type of'enthusiasm' it saw itself as combating. Indeed its proponents often seem to have tried to use the language of one type of enthusiasm against the other.
Was this article helpful?