JANSENISTS, in church history, a sect of the Roman Catholics in France, who follow the opinions of Jansenius, bishop of Ypres, and doctor of divinity of the Universities of Louvain and Douay, in relation to grace and predestination.
In the year 1640, the two universities just mentioned, and particularly Father Molina and Father Leonard Celsus, thought fit to condemn the opinions of the Jesuits on grace and free-will. This hav ing set the controversy on foot, Jansenius opposed to the doctrine of the Jesuits the sentiments of St. Augustine, and wrote a treatise on grace, which he entitled Au gustinus. This treatise was attacked by the Jesuits, who accused Jansenius of maintaining dangerous and heretical opi nions; and afterwards, in 1642, obtained of Pope Urban V111. a formal condemna tion of the treatise wrote by Jansenius : when the partisans of Jansenius gave out that this bull was spurious, and composed by a person entirely devoted to the Jesuits. After the death of Urban VIII. the affair of Jansenism began to be more warmly controverted, and gave birth to an infinite number of polemical writings concerning grace ; and what occasioned some mirth, was the titles which each party gave to their writings: one writer published "The Torch of St. Augustin," another found
" Snuffers for St. Augustin's Torch," and Father Vernon formed " A Gag for the Jansenists," &c. In the year 1650, sixty eight bishops of France subscribed aletter to pope Innocent X. to obtain an inquiry into, and condemnation of, the five follow ing propositions, extracted from Janseni us's Augustinus : 1. Some of God's com mandments are impossible to be observed by the righteous, even though they en deavour with all their power to accom plish them. 2. In the state of corrupted nature, we are incapable of resisting in ward grace. 3. Merit and demerit, in a state of corrupted nature, does not depend on a liberty which excludes necessity, but on a liberty which excludes constraint. 4. The semipelagians admitted the neces sity of an inward preventing grace for the performance of each particular act, even for the beginning of faith, but they were heretics in maintaining that this grace was of such a nature that the will of man was able either to resist or obey it. 5. It is semipelagianism to say, that Jesus Christ died, or shed his blood, for all mankind, in general.