« Bourdaloue, Louis Bourignon, de la Porte, Antoinette Bourne, Francis »

Bourignon, de la Porte, Antoinette

BOURIGNON, bū´´rî´´nyen´, DE LA PORTE, ANTOINETTE: Fanatical enthusiast; b. at Ryssel (Lille), then in the Spanish Netherlands, Jan. 13, 1616; d. at Franeker, Friesland, Oct. 30, 1680. She grew up neglected and solitary on account of a facial deformity, afterward removed by an operation, and came to love isolation and communion with God. For a time her older sister drew her into the world; but she shrank from marriage, and once thought she heard the voice of God asking her, "Canst thou find a lover more perfect than I?" She thought of becoming a Carmelite, but concluded that the true Christians were not to be found in the cloisters, and sought another way to leave the world. Her father tried to force a marriage upon her in 1636; she fled in a male disguise, and after many romantic adventures was brought home, but took refuge at Mons under the protection of the archbishop. When her plans for founding an ascetic community on a primitive model were hindered, she went to Liége and made another unsuccessful attempt. On her father's death she brought suit against her stepmother for his entire property and won it. Now she fell under the influence of a doubtful friend of mysticism, Jean de St. Saulieu, who induced her to take charge of a home for orphan girls (1653), which she put under the Augustinian rule and made cloistered (1658). Her rule there came to an untoward end in 1662, when she took flight under serious accusations of cruelty. She went first to Ghent and then to Mechlin, where she found an adherent in the superior of the Oratorians, Christian de Cort. Soon she developed a fantastical system, based on alleged revelations. As the "woman clothed with the sun" of the Apocalypse, she was to revive the teachings of the Gospel and gather her spiritual children around her into a communistic, priestless brotherhood; she was the second revelation of the Son of Man on earth.

The books which Antoinette now began to publish contain the bitterest condemnation of the Roman Catholic Church, reject infant baptism, and the Trinity was exchanged for a sacred triad of truth, mercy, and justice. She had dealings with the Jansenists, but rejected their teaching on predestination. In 1667, with De Cort, she went to Amsterdam and lived for a while in the happy exchange of views with the most various heretics and fanatics. The following years are occupied with the history of the attempt to find a home for her elect on the 241island of Nordstrand in the North Sea, which De Cort had discovered as the destined place. His financial troubles, which make up a large part of the story, ended only with his imprisonment at Amsterdam and his death in 1669. Antoinette, as his heir, was for several years more much occupied with courts of justice, not without danger of imprisonment, and went from Amsterdam to Haarlem, thence to Sleswick, and finally to Husum to be as near as possible to Nordstrand. Here she might have been left in peace if she would have given up her claims. But she set up a printing-press and carried on the liveliest literary controversy, until her press was confiscated by the government. So her story proceeds, amid quaint and vivid details too numerous to give here, until she is found at Hamburg in 1679 formally charged with sorcery by a former adherent, an eccentric colonel of artillery named La Coste. She fled to escape arrest, and remained in hiding until her death the next year. The points of her quietistic mysticism need no discussion; for herself the important one was her own position as bride of the Holy Ghost and channel of revelation. Though she was probably more of an adventuress than even an enthusiast or an insane woman, the solemn prophetic tone of her visions and divine messages continued for some time to attract readers who believed in her inspiration; but her community seems to have been entirely scattered at her death.

(G. Kawerau.)

Antoinette had many followers in Scotland, more, it is said, than in any other country. Prominent among them were the Rev. James Garden (1647–1726), who rose to be professor of divinity at King's College, Aberdeen, and was deprived in 1696 because he had refused to sign the Westminster Confession of Faith, and his younger brother, Rev. George Garden (1649–1733), who after being one of the ministers of St. Nicholas, the town parish of Aberdeen, was "laid aside" by the privy council in 1692 because he refused to pray for William and Mary and in 1701 was deposed from the ministry because he had advocated Bourignonianism in his book, An Apology for M. Antonia Bourignon (1699), a reply to books by his brother-in-law, the Rev. John Cockburn (1652–1729), entitled Bourignianism Detected; or, the Delusions and Errors of A. Bourignon and her Growing Sect. Narrative i. (London, 1698), Narrative ii. (1698), and A Letter to his Friend giving an account why the other Narratives about Bourignianism are not yet published, and answering some Reflections passed upon the first (1698).

The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in 1701, 1709, and 1710 passed deliverances against Bourignonians in which their views are thus described: I. They denied (1) the divine permission of sin and that divine vengeance and eternal damnation were inflicted upon it; (2) the decrees of election and reprobation; and (3) the doctrine of the divine foreknowledge. II. They asserted (1) that Christ had a twofold human nature, one produced of Adam before the woman was formed, and the other born of the Virgin Mary; (2) that in each soul before birth are a good and an evil spirit; (3) that the will is absolutely free, and there is in man some infinite quality which makes it possible for him to unite himself to God; (4) that Christ's nature was sinfully corrupt, so that by nature he was rebellious to the will of God; (5) that perfection may be attained in this life; and (6) that children are born in heaven.

Notwithstanding these deliverances, the views of Antoinette Bourignon continued to exist in Scotland and in 1711 Bourignonianism was put among the heresies which candidates for the ministry were required formally to disown when applying for ordination.

Bibliography: An edition of the works of Antoinette Bourignon was published in 19 vols., at Amsterdam, 1680–86. She wrote two accounts of her life: La Parole de Dieu, ou sa vie intérieure (1634–63), Mechlin, 1663; and La Vie extérieure (1616–61), Amsterdam, 1668. These were continued by her disciple, Pierre Poiret, in Sa vie continuée, reprise depuis sa naissance et suivie jusqu’à sa mort, appended to a later edition of the preceding. Her autobiography in Eng. transl. under the title The Light of the World; a Most True Relation of a Pilgrimess Travelling Towards Eternity, 3 parts, London, 1696, reprinted, ib. 1863; abridged, ib. 1786. Consult especially A. van der Linde, Antoinette Bourignon, Das Licht der Welt, Leyden, 1895 (cf. on this G. Kawerau, in GGA, 1895, pp. 428 sqq.).

« Bourdaloue, Louis Bourignon, de la Porte, Antoinette Bourne, Francis »
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