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In 1653* when the Prince of Condé deserted his country and retired to Belgium, Peyrere followed him. Some time afterwards he went to Amsterdam, and there procured the printing of his book, the Prae-Adamites. Upon his return from Holland he was sent by the Prince to Namur. Here he remained six months, when on Christmas, 1655, the bishop of the diocese published a censure of his book. Although the author was not named in the condemnation, yet Peyrere began to feel some apprehension for his personal safety, and hastened to place himself under the protection of his master.
While waiting letters at Brussels in February, 1656, thirty armed men rushed into his chamber and carried him off to the Tower of Turemberg. He was told that this was done by the authority of the great Vicar of the Archbishop of Mechlin, and soon the Vicar came to the Tower to see him, but was so berated by the indignant Peyrere that he did not show himself again. The Prince of Condé made, or appeared to make, great exertions to procure his release, but the Archduke Leopold professed to be unable to interfere, on the ground that Peyrere was a prisoner of the ecclesiastical power. At length after the somewhat sudden death of the Vicar, he was released on the condition that he should go to Rome, abjure his heresy, and submit himself to the Pope. He was well received by Alexander VII., who gave him, as was usual in such cases, into the charge of an ecclesiastic to help him weed out his errors and dress up his retraction. The Pope, it is said, offered to provide him
* He does not seem to have remained a long time in Denmark, and soon after his return to France he went, under the orders of Condé, a journey into Spain. Nothing is known in regard to the object of this journey and it would scarcely deserve mention except for a circumstance connected with it which he narrated at Rome to the Abbé Nicaise. He told the Abbé that during this journey he fell to thinking upon a proposition in Euclid, which so engrossed his thoughts and was pursued with such application that he became sick and was like to die. The anecdote possesses interest because it illustrates Peyrere's fondness for all kinds of curious problems. (See Niceron. Vol. XII, p. 71.)
† This, together with his petition [deprecatio] the Pope, was published at Rome in 1657, and afterwards at Frankfort in 1658, under the title, I. Peyrerii Epistola ad Philotimum, qua xoc ponit rationes propter quas ejuraverit sectam Calvini, etc. et Deprecatio I. Peyrerii ad papam Alexandrum VII, etc.
with a place, but he preferred to return to the great man whom he had served so long. In 1659, when Condé made his peace with the Court of France and returned to his native land, he appointed Peyrere his private librarian.
The salary attached to this post being very small, he afterwards obtained permission to retire to the Seminaire de Nôtre Dame des Vertus under the direction of the Fathers of the Oratory. Here he remained until his death, retaining the title of Librarian to the Prince, and drawing the little pension which had been assigned to him. His time was occupied in discussion with friends and in literary labor; but he published nothing except a new edition of the Apology for his conversion, and a collection of letters addressed to the Count de La Suze, urging that gentleman to embrace the Catholic faith. He supplied also copious notes for a new translation of the Holy Scriptures undertaken by the Abbé de Marolles. The printing of this version had proceeded through the twenty-second chapter of Leviticus, when d' Harlay, Archbishop of Paris, caused it to be examined by one William Martin, a converted Calvinist and a man of learning, who reported that it contained innumerable errors, and it was accordingly suppressed. So far as the notes were concerned, the world, doubtless, lost much that was curious, if not very much that was valuable. Peyrere died in his quiet retreat in the year 1676 at the age of eightytwo.
Having given this brief sketch of Peyrere's career, we now turn to the argument of the book, whose advent made so much stir. Peyrere founds his theory on that passage of the Scriptures, which has in all ages furnished matter for theological speculation, the fifth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans. The words of the thirteenth verse, "for until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there was no law,” is made the keystone of the argument. “The law,” in this passage, he contends, cannot mean the law given to Moses, but the law given to Adam. For the Apostle is speaking of the great transgression which brought sin and death into the world; and the law mentioned in the context is obviously related to that transgression. Law and transgression are correlative terms, so that the conditions which fix the one must determine also the other. The transgression of which the Apostle speaks was committed by Adam; but the law of Moses was given to the Jews and transgressed by the Jews alone. Hence the law is not that which was given to Moses, but that wbich was given to Adam; and it was by the transgression of this law that all man were made sinners and death passed upon the race. And this the Apostle directly confirms by the words: “Sin is not imputed where there is no law." "For," says Peyrere, “I cannot understand, by the most careful thinking, how it can be proved that sin was not imputed during the time which elapsed from Adam to Moses. Every event in that period shows that there was imputation of sin. Why did Cain fear when he had slain his brother, saying: 'My iniquity is to great for pardon.' Why should pardon be refused, if iniquity was not to be imputed to him? Why was Judah unwilling to stain his hands with the blood of his brother Joseph, or what was the stain which he feared, if it was not imputation? Abraham's faith was imputed to him for righteousness, and the imputation of faith presupposes the imputation of sin.” In this way the sacred history is made to afford proof that sin was imputed to man from Adam to Moses. But if sin was not imputed until the law, it follows that the law referred to by the Apostle is the law revealed to Adam. And this law, the grand primal law, or law of laws, is called, per excellentiam, the law.
Having settled this question of interpretation, Peyrere is prepared to define the periods of time which the language of the passage clearly implies: the first, before the law: the second, after the law. The first is described in the words, “ for until the law, sin was in the world,” etc.; but the law here mentioned is the law given to Adam, and consequently the time referred to is a period prior to the creation of Adam. During this period, according to the testimony of the Apostle, there was sin in the world; for there was sin even to the law, though there was no imputation of sin. It must be admitted, therefore, that men existed before Adam, who indeed sinned,
"sed qui non peccavissent imputative,” because sin was not imputed before the law.
To this conclusion the language of the Apostle logically leads, although contrary to the common opinion and the orthodox interpretation. Peyrere anticipated the horror with which many would receive it; but he claims, that just as the succession of day and night has not been affected by the Copernican theory of astronomy, so the doctrine that there were men before Adam practically changes nothing in the Christian faith. The fundamental fact of this faith is that men are counted guilty in Adam, but righteous in Christ. As it was not necessary that Christ should be the last of the race in order to rescue it from sin, so it was not requisite that Adam should be the first member of the series of beings on which he brought condemnation.
Peyrere then proceeds to show that the view he propounds is confirmed by the fourteenth verse: “Death reigned even over those who had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression." He maintains that these words cannot be applied, as many theologians assert, to the infant descendants of Adam. For the similitude here spoken of may be either a natural or a spiritual similitude. The latter, or spiritual similitude, is the creature of imputation, so that all to whom Adam's sin has been imputed are so far forth like him, and are properly described as having sinned after his similitude. Natural similitude is of two kinds : geometrical, which exists between bodies alike in figure and having the same propor. tions: and physical, a similitude of propagation, which arises in the order of nature between parents and their offspring. Now, that the infant descendants of Adam sinned after the spiritual similitude of his transgression, is obvious from the very terms of the definition above given. And this is equally true in case of the other meanings of the word. Thus the infant Seth, begotten in the likeness of Adam, was endowed with understanding, reason and will, after the similitude of the understanding, reason and will possessed by the adult Adam; so that the infant Seth performed every mental act after the similitude of the corresponding mental act of the adult Adam, Again, the infant Seth was similar to the adult Adam, just as one circle is similar to another; for the parts and functions of the infant Seth were like in kind and proportions to the corresponding parts and functions of the adult Adam, each to each ; so that the ratio of the parts of the one to the corresponding parts of the other was as the whole Seth to the whole Adam. In every sense, therefore, of the term similitude, infants are properly said to sin after the similitude of the sin of Adam ; after the similitude or proportion of the sin, not the sinful act itself. This infants could not commit; and if they could, they would sin, not after the similitude, but the actual sin, of Adam. It is plain, therefore, that all who sinned not after the similitude of Adam's transgression must have lived before him.
Peyrere claims that his hypothesis reconciles faith with right reason, which does not allow us to believe that this globe has existed only for a period at which Hesiod computes half the lifetime of a crow. By this theory, the sacred history is more easily harmonized with itself, while it is made to agree in a wonderful manner with the records and monuments of the ancient Greeks, Chaldeans and Egyptians. The origin of the Mexicans whom Columbus discovered, and of other strange nations, brought to light by distant voyagers, becomes an easy problem. They existed before Adam, and their creation is described in the first chapter of Genesis.
To the objector who should quote the words of Paul, “God made all men of one blood,” Peyrere replies that this language does not mean that all men sprang from Adam. Its meaning is simply, that all men are made of the same materials, and upon the same model; as Elihu says to Job: "I also am formed out of the clay.” And that the Apostle did not intend to refer all men to a common progenitor, is plain from another expression in the same discourse, “ We are the offspring of God,” not, we are the offspring of Adam. For he is addressing the Gentile Athenians, and, accordingly, he refers not to the particular creation of Adam, but to the original creation of the race, wherein God made men after his own image, so that by virtue of this image all men may be described as the offspring of God.