Merle Daubigne, Jean Henri, Dd
Merle D'aubigne, Jean Henri, D.D., one of the illustrious characters of the Church of the 19th century, the popular historian of the most prominent event of modern times the great Reformation of the 16th century -was born at the village of Eaux Vives, on Lake Leman, in the canton of Geneva, Switzerland, Aug. 16,1794. He was the descendant of celebrated French Protestants. His first French ancestor to leave the native-soil was his great-grandfather, John Lewis Merle, who quitted his home at Nismes after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes (1685), and found a refuge in the home of Switzerland's greatest character- John Calvin. In 1743 Francis, son of John Lewis, married Elizabeth D'Aubigne, daughter of the celebrated French Protestant nobleman, and direct descendant of the noted chevalier Theodore Agrippa d'Aubigne, the grandfather of Madame de MAINTENON SEE MAINTENON (q.v.). According to French usage, the family name of Elizabeth's illustrious ancestry was appended to the family name of her own offspring. One of these was her son, And Robert (born in 1755, murdered in 1799), the father of this subject, and of two other sons who now figure in American mercantile life one of them has been for many years a resident of Brooklyn, L. I.; the other a resident of New Orleans.
Jean Henri was educated in the Academy, or, as it is more commonly called, the University of Geneva. Determined to enter the ministry, he inaugurated his theological course at his alma mater. While engaged in his studies, under the leadership of a faculty decidedly rationalistic in tendency, he fell in with the Haldanes, and was led to dedicate himself to Christ as a faithful and devoted servant. In his' own account of his conversion, Dr. d'Aubigne states that his professor of divinity disbelieved the doctrine of the Trinity, and that, instead of the Bible, "St. Seneca and St. Plato were the two saints whose writings he held up for admiration." The pupil followed the master throughout. He was chairman of a meeting of students who protested most vehemently, in a public document, against " the odious aggression" of a pamphlet entitled" "Considerations upon the Divinity of Jesus Christ," by Henri Empeytaz, which was addressed to them, and had produced a great excitement. "But Soon," he continues, "I met Robert Haldane, and heard him read from-an English Bible a chapter from Romans about the natural corruption of many doctrine of which I had never before heard. In fact, I was quite astonished to hear of man being corrupt by nature. I remember saying to Mr. Haldane, 'Now I see that doctrine in the Bible.' 'Yes,' he replied; 'but do you see it in your heart?' That was but a simple question, yet-it came home to my conscience. It was the Sword of the Spirit; and from that time I saw that my heart was corrupted, and knew from the Word of God that I can be saved by grace alone. So that, if Geneva gave something to Scotland at the time of the Reformation-if she communicated light to John Knox Geneva has received something from Scotland in return in the blessed exertions of Robert Haldane." SEE HALDANE; SEE MALAN.
Upon the completion of his theological course at Geneva, Merle d'Aubignd went abroad and studied at the universities of Leipsic and Berlin. In the last-named place he attended the lectures of the " father of modern Church history," Neander. On his way to Berlin he had passed through Eisenach, and visited the castle of Wartburg, made famous by Luther's sojourn. It was in this spot that he first conceived the purpose of writing the " History of the Reformation." His stay at Berlin and association with the immortal Neander, only confirmed the purpose, and he rested not until the work was in the possession of the world. In 1817 he was ordained to preach, and became the pastor of an interesting French Protestant Church at Hamburg., There he labored diligently for his people and his God for some five years, when he was invited to Brussels, by the late king himself, as pastor of a newly-formed French conglegation. He rapidly rose in favor and distinction, and enjoyed the position of president of the Consistory of the French and German Protestant churches of the Belgian capital. :In 1830, the revolution delivering the country from Protestant rule and Dutch authority, all persons friendly to the king of Holland were regarded as enemies of the Belgians, and Merle d'Aubigne, fearing for his life, determined to return to his native country. The pious "Switzers" were actively canvassing at this time for the establishment of an independent theological school a training place for the ministry of the orthodox churches. His arrival gave a new impetus to the project, and resulted in the formation of the " Evangelical Society" in 1831, and the founding of the long-desired seminary. Merle was appointed professor of Church history, and intrusted with the. management of the school, a position which he continued to hold for the remainder of his life, adorning it by his piety, learning, and eloquence, and sanctified by the divine blessing upon his ever-memorable labors. His associates in the school were Gaussen, celebrated as the author of a work on "Inspiration," Pilet, and La Harpe. Though possessed of an ample fortune, Dr. Merle d'Aubigne lived a life of laborious activity. At seventy-eight he was still vigorous, and went to bed on Sunday night, October 20, after partaking of the sacrament, and subsequent devotions. with no sense of pain or illness. Like Dr. Chalmers, whom in some points he may be said to have resembled, he was found to have died quietly in his room at night, and to have been some hours dead before his family knew their loss. His death occurred on Oct. 21,1872, at Geneva. Upon his country's loss, the Christian Intelligencer (Oct. 24, 1872) thus comments in a beautifully-written obituary of our subject: "Not since the impressive death-scene of John Calvin, which took place 308 years ago, has Geneva been called to mourn over the loss of a more illustrious citizen and minister of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Free Church, of which he was founder, pastor, professor which differs from the Established Church in having no connection with the State government partakes largely of the nature of Calvinistic Methodism. But the man himself was broader and greater than any sect. His beautiful tribute to the memory of Calvin is his own most appropriate epitaph: 'He was not a Genevan; he was not a Swiss; he was of the City of God."' Henry Baylies, in a short report of "An Evening with D'Aubigne" (Zion's Herald, Nov. 14,1872), has furnished a description of Merle's appearance of late years: "D'Aubigne stood, I should say, full six feet, rather more than less; was large, but not corpulent. His face was long, not full, and smooth, I think. His iron-gray locks were combed back, exposing a high forehead; his eyebrows were heavy and black. His features and expression were somewhat severe, and marked, as if he had inherited the spirit and fought the battles of the old Scotch Covenanters. He conversed in English with tolerable readiness. His health was then feeble, but he was hopeful of improvement."
Merle d'Aubigne as an Author. — The duties incumbent upon a professor of theology are so varied, especially at Geneva, where the influences, as in most large European cities, are decidedly rationalistic, that the manner in which D'Aubigne discharged his duty towards his pupils was of itself sufficient to entitle him to the very highest regards on the part of all followers of Jesus the Christ. The task, however, which D'Aubigne had set for himself at Eisenach, the writing of a history of the great Reformation, was the one that mainly occupied him; and while a most devoted pastor and a truly laborious professor, he yet found time for the completion of a work that has immortalized the name of its author. His Histoire de la Reformation au Seizieme Siecle (Paris, 1835-53, 5 vols. 8vo) 'gained for him literally a world-wide reputation. His warm, devotional manner made him singularly popular as a preacher and speaker, and threw a charmover his hearers; His vigorous Protestantism, and his belief in the special providential mission of the evangelical forms of Protestant Christianity, made his history almost a manifesto of Protestantism. His style is brilliant, and generally. clear, and, as was said of him by one of. the most eminent of the English reviewers, " He wrote for time, and his writings will endure for eternity." The sale of this work was immense. More than 200,000 copies were sold in France alone; while the English translation has circulated in more than 300,000 copies in Great Britain and the United States. In Germany also the work proved an immense success. But while the fascinations of its style, as well as the transcendent interest and importance of its matter, captivated the people, there are many scholars who 'have taken exception to his "one-sidedness," and have declared it uncritical and unscholarly. One of the latest writers on the subject, Prof. Fisher, of Yale, 'actually ignores D'Aubigne as an authority, and refuses to place him by the side of such men as Gieseler and Ranke. This we think a great injustice to D'Aubigne. We do not ourselves believe that he has done anything more than popularize the great Protestant story; but to ignore him who may be said to have been virtually the first to write the history of the Reformation is a shortcoming to be regretted. See Preface to Fisher, The Reformation (N. Y. 1873, 8vo); and compare Baird, D'Aubigne and his Writings, with a Sketch of the Life of the Author (NY. 1846, 12mo), p. 20. Says the writer in the Christian Intelligencer, whom we have already had occasion to quote: "It is impossible to estimate the far-reaching influence of this work in reproducing the characters, scenes, and struggles of the Reformation times, and in its strong hold upon the popular mind. We are well aware of the critical ordeal which it has passed through among the scholars of Europe, and that its scientific value is not rated so high as that of histories written for learned men. But as a book for the people it has no rival, either in its immense circulation, or in its acknowledged power in behalf of the great principles of the Protestant Reformation. The work is, moreover, the bright and best reflection of its gifted author's genius, learning, and grace. Brilliant in style, picturesque in description, sententious, fill of striking thoughts and powerful word-painting, it also glows with his profound love for the dear old faith, and with burning zeal against the corruptions and iniquities of the great apostasy of Rome. In no other book in our language do Luther and Erasmus, Melancthon, Farel, Calvin, Tetzel, and Dr. Eck, the great emperor and the greater elector, Leo X, and other characters, so live and move, and act in all their personal traits and historical deeds." In 1862 he supplemented his great work by the publication of The History of the Reformation in Europe in the Time of Calvin, the fourth volume of which was published in 1868. The other works of M. d'Aubigne, although less widely celebrated, are in their way scarcely inferior to his greatly-renowned production. They are: Le Lutheranismne et la Reforme (Paris, 1844):-Le Protecteur, ou -la Republique d'Angleterre aux Jours de Cromwell (ibid. 1848, 8vo): rendered into English, and largely circulated under the title, "The Protector, or the English Republic in the Days of Cromwell," a thoughtful and admirably written review of the rule of the Puritan dictator. It is based upon Carlyle's famous monogram on the Protector, and was expressly designed as an exhibit of that "Protestantism which in Cromwell's mind was far above his own person" Germany, England, and Scotland, or Recollections of a Swiss Minister (London, 1848, 8vo), a work that showed great powers of observation and clearness of expression:-Three Centuries of Struggling in Scotland, or Two Kings and Two Kingdoms (Paris, 1850, 18mo): a brief if we may so style it in which are presented the main features of the Scottish Reformation: L'Ancien. et le Ministre (1856):-and Character of the Reformer and the Reformation of Geneva (1862, 8vo). M. Merle d'Aubigne has also contributed largely to periodical publications, the most noted of his papers being a series on the Archives of Christianity. See, besides the writers already quoted, La France Protestante, ou vies des Protestants Francais (1853); Charles de Remusat, Melanges de Litterature et Philosophie; Vapereau, Dict. des Contemporains, sv.; Hoefer, Nouv. Biog. Genrale, s.v.; Brit. and For. Evang. Revelation 1843, 101 sq.; New-Englander, 4:344; Harper's Magazine, 1872, Nov. (J. H W.)