« Amyot Amyraut, Moise Anabaptists »

Amyraut, Moise

AMYRAUT, am´´î-rō´, MOÏSE (Lat. Moses Amyraldus): Calvinist theologian and preacher; b. at Bourgueil (27 m. w.s.w. of Tours), Touraine, 1596; d. at Saumur Jan. 8, 1664. He came of an influential family in Orleans, began the study of law at Poitiers, and received the degree of licentiate in 1616; but the reading of Calvin’s Institutio turned his mind to theology. This he studied eagerly at Saumur, under Cameron, to whom he was much attached. After serving as pastor for a short time at Saint-Aignan, he was called in 1626 to succeed Jean Daillé at Saumur, and soon became prominent. The national synod held at Charenton in 1631 chose him to lay its requests before Louis XIII., on which occasion his tactful bearing attracted the attention and won the respect of Richelieu. In 1633 he was appointed professor of theology at Saumur with De la Place and Cappel, and the three raised the institution into a flourishing condition, students being attracted to it from foreign countries, especially from Switzerland. Theological novelties in their teaching, however, soon stirred up opposition, which came to little in France; but in Switzerland, where the professors were less known, it reached such a pitch that students were withdrawn, and in 1675 the Helvetic Consensus was drawn up against the Saumur innovations. Amyraut was specially attacked because his teaching on grace and predestination seemed to depart from that of the Synod of Dort, by adding 161 a conditional universal grace to the unconditional particular.

Amyraut first published his ideas in his Traité de la prédestination (Saumur, 1634), which immediately caused great excitement. The controversy became so heated that the national synod at Alençon in 1637 had to take notice of it. Amyraut and his friend Testard were acquitted of heterodoxy, and silence was imposed on both sides. The attacks continued, however, and the question came again before the synod of Charenton in 1644-45, but with the same result. Amyraut bore himself so well under all these assaults that he succeeded in conciliating many of his opponents, even the venerable Du Moulin (1655). But at the synod of Loudun in 1659 (the last for which permission was obtained—partly through Amyraut’s influence—from the crown), fresh accusations were brought, this time including Daillé, the president of the synod, because he had defended what is called “Amyraldism.” This very synod, however, gave Amyraut the honorable commission to revise the order of discipline. In France the harmlessness of his teaching was generally recognized; and the controversy would soon have died out but for the continual agitation kept up abroad, especially in Holland and Switzerland.

Amyraut’s doctrine has been called “hypothetical universalism"; but the term is misleading, since it might be applied also to the Arminianism which he steadfastly opposed. His main proposition is this: God wills all men to be saved, on condition that they believe—a condition which they could well fulfil in the abstract, but which in fact, owing to inherited corruption, they stubbornly reject, so that this universal will for salvation actually saves no one. God also wills in particular to save a certain number of persons, and to pass over the others with this grace. The elect will be saved as inevitably as the others will be damned. The essential point, then, of Amyraldism is the combination of real particularism with a purely ideal universalism. Though still believing it as strongly as ever, Amyraut came to see that it made little practical difference, and did not press it in his last years, devoting himself rather to non-controversial studies, especially to his system of Christian morals (La morale chrestienne, 6 vols., Saumur, 1652-60). The read significance of Amyraut’s teaching lies in the fact that, while leaving unchanged the special doctrines of Calvinism, he brought to the front its ethical message and its points of universal human interest. See Calvinism.

(E. F. Karl Müller).

Bibliography: E. and É. Haag, La France Protestante, i. 72-80, Paris, 1846 (gives a complete list of his voluminous works); E. Saigey, in Revue de théologie, pp. 178 sqq., Paris, 1849; A. Schweizer, Tübinger theologische Jahrbücher, 1852, pp. 41 sqq., 155 sqq.

« Amyot Amyraut, Moise Anabaptists »
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