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Entered according to act of Congress, in the year 1846, by
BAKER & SCRIBNER, in the Clerk's office of the District Court of the United States for the Southern District of
DEC 17 1919
REV. ROBERT BAIRD, D.D.
In compliance with the request of many friends, who desire to know something of the family, life, character, and literary labors of the Rev. Dr. MERLE D'AUBIGNE, author of the celebrated
“History of the Reformation in the Sixteenth Century," I furinish the brief memoir which follows.
John Henry Merle (or, as he is called in England and this country, Merle d'Aubigné) was born in the city of Geneva, in the year 1794. Consequently he is a little more than forty> eight years of age.
Although a Swiss by birth, Dr. Merle is of French origin. His family, like that of many of the inhabitants of Geneva, is descended from Huguenot ancestors, who were compelled to leave their native country because of their religion, and to take refuge in a city upon which one of their countrymen, John Calvin, had been the instrument, under God, of conferring the blessings of the Reformation.
The great-grandfather of the Rev. Dr. Merle d'Aubigné, op , his paternal side, was John Lewis Merle, of Nismes. About the epoch of the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes (1685), this worthy man, who was a sincere Protestant, fled from his country, and took refuge in Switzerland, in order to enjoy the religious liberty which France, under the rule of Louis XIV., denied him.
His son, Francis Merle, married, in the year 1743, Elizabeth, the daughter of a Protestant nobleman, residing in Geneva, whose name was George d'Aubigné. Agreeably to a usage which exists at Geneva, and, I believe, in many other portions of Switzerland, by which a gentleman adds the name of his wife to
his own, in order to distinguish him from other persons of the same name, Mr. Francis Merle appended that of d'Aubigné to his own, and was known as Francis Merle d'Aubigné. Since his day, the family have retained the name of Merle d'Aubigné. At least this was the case with the son of Francis Merle,—the father of our author,-as well as with our author himself.
George d'Aubigné, just mentioned, whose daughter Elizabeth became the wife of Francis Merle, was a descendant of Theodore Agrippa d'Aubigné, who left France, in the year 1620, on account of religious persecution. This Theodore Agrippa d'Aubigné was no common man. The old chroniclers call him un Calviniste zélé, si oneques il en fut; "a zealous Calvinist, if there ever was one. He bought the domain of Lods, near Geneva, on which he built the Château of Crest, which still remains. The old Huguenot warrior handled the pen and the lyre as well as the sword; and his Tragiques, a poem full of life and genius, drew a vivid picture of the court of the imbecile Henry III. of France, and his infamous mother, Catharine de Medici. His Histoire Universelle de la fin du 16me Siècle had the honor of being publicly burnt at Paris, in the year 1620, by order of Louis XIII. He wrote also the Confession de Saucy, and several other works. It is related of him, that, at the age of eight years, he knew well both the Latin and the Greek languages. At the age of fourteen, he went to Geneva, to finish his studies in the “ Academy," or University, of that city. Having completed his course in that Institution, he returned to France; whence, as has been stated, he was compelled to fly, in the year 1620. Upon establishing himself at Geneva, he became allied, by marriage, with the families of the Burlamachi and Calandrini, two of the most honorable families in that city, both of Italian origin; for Geneva was a “ City of refuge” to persecuted and exiled Protestants of Italy as well as of France.
Francis Merle d’Aubigné had many children, one of whom, Amié Robert Merle d'Aubigné, was born in 1755, and was the father of three sons; the oldest and the youngest of whom are respectable merchants in this country—the former in New York, and the latter in New Orleans--and the second is the Rev. Dr. Merle d'Aubigné, the subject of this notice. Amié Robert
Merle d'Aubigné had a strong desire in his early years to consecrate his life wholly to the service of his God; and his parents allowed him to pursue the studies requisite for the right discharge of the office of the ministry of the gospel. But on his father's death, his uncle and guardian, “ par un caprice qui fit le malheur de ma jeunesse''* (as he says in his memoir, written for his oldest son, William), caused him to give up his studies and embrace other pursuits.
The end of this excellent man was truly tragical and deplorable. In the year 1799 he went on an important commercial mission, to Constantinople and Vienna. On his return from the latter city to Geneva, through Switzerland, in the autumn of that year, he was met on the road, near Zurich, by the savage and infuriated hordes of Russians, who had been recently defeated by the French forces under the command of Massena, and by them was cruelly murdered !
His widow, who is still living in Geneva, in a vigorous old age, devoted all the energies of an active and enlightened mind to the care of her fatherless children ; aud now daily thanks God for having supplied her with the means of giving them a liberal education.
The preceding paragraphs will suffice to give the reader some knowledge of the ancestors of the subject of this biographical sketch.
The Rev. Dr. Merle d'Aubigné was educated in the “ Academy”-or, as it is more commonly called by strangers, the University of his native city, After having completed the course of studies in the Faculties of Letters and Philosophy, he entered that of Theology. I am not certain as to the time when he finished his preparations for the ministry ; but believe that it was about the
1816. The Theological Faculty in the Academy of Geneva, when Dr. Merle d'Aubigné was a student, was wholly Socinian in its character. Whatever were the shades of difference in regard to doctrine, which prevailed among its professors, they all agreed in rejecting the proper divinity of the Saviour and of the Holy Spirit, salvation through the expiatory death and intercession of
* Through a caprice which rendered my youth miserable.
the former, and regeneration and sanctification by the influences of the latter. With these cardinal doctrines of the Gospel, others which are considered by all Evangelical Christians to be fundamental in the system of their Faith, were also renounced. Alas, the same state of things exists at this day, in the School which Calvin founded, and in which that great man, as well as Beza, Francis Turrettin, Pictet, and other renowned men taught the youth, who gathered around them, the glorious doctrines of the Gospel and the Reformation.
It was under such instruction that Dr. Merle pursued his studies for the sacred ministry. But it pleased God to send a faithful servant to Geneva about the time that he was completing his theological training. This was Mr. Haldane, of Edinburgh, a wealthy and zealous Christian, who still protracts a long and useful life, which has been spent in the service of his Master. This excellent man, deploring the errors which prevailed in the theological department of the Academy, endeavored to do what he could, during the sojourn of a winter, to counteract them. For this purpose, he invited a number of young men to his rooms in the hotel in which he lodged, and there, by means of an interpreter at first, he endeavored to teach them the glorious Gospel. In doing this, he commented on the Epistle to the Romans, at much length. God blessed his efforts to the salvation of some ten or twelve of them.
Seldom has it happened that an equal number of young men have been converted about the same time, and in one place, who have been called to perform so important a part in building up the kingdom of Christ. One of these men was the excellent Felix Neff, of blessed memory. Another was the late Henry Pyt. The greater part of them, however, still live to adorn and bless the Church in France and Switzerland. But none of them have become more celebrated than the subject of this notice.
Not long after his ordination, Dr. Merle set out for Germany, where he spent a number of months, chiefly at Berlin. On his way to that city, he passed through Eisenach, and visited the Castle of Warburg, in the vicinity, famous for the retreat, if not properly the imprisonment, of Luther. It was whilst gazing at the walls of the room which the great Reformer had occupied,