Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Merle D'Aubigne's History of the Reformation in the Time of Calvin

If you liked The History of the Reformation in the Sixteenth Century, you'll be as excited as I was at finding out that there is a sequel, and a long sequel at that(8 Volumes). "The History of the Reformation in the Time of Calvin". The sad thing is that Merle D'Aubigne didn't live long enough to finish it. But he did get a lot done. In this history, we'll return to France, Germany, Switzerland and visit some new places, including: England, Scotland, Italy, Spain and Geneva.

What do you think of when you think of Geneva in connection with the Reformation? Calvin? The Geneva Bible? What about a fight for a Republic based on a constitution? That is where D'aubigne begins this work. Calvin isn't even at Geneva yet, nor has it been reformed. There is an evil bishop trying to gain control over the Republic, and there are disputes between the liberals and conservatives about giving up their liberties. If you find the History of the American Revolution interesting, then you might find this fight of Genevese to keep their political liberties interesting. In the midst of this violent political struggle in Geneva, the Gospel beings to enter and do its work among the people. Calvin doesn't come for quite a while, and even when he does, he his ejected from the city only to return later.

"What was the soul of the Reformation ? Truly, salvation by faith in Christ, who died to save - truly, the renewal of the heart by the word and the Spirit of God. But side by side with these supreme elements, that are found in all the Reformations, we meet with the secondary elements that have existed in one country and not in another. What we discover at Geneva may possibly deserve to fix the attention of men in our own days: the characteristic of the Genevese Reform is liberty.

If the empire of Charles V. Was the largest theatre in modern history, Geneva was the smallest. In the one case we have a vast empire, in the other a microscopical republic. But the smallness of the theatre serves to bring out more prominently the greatness of the actions: only superficial minds turn with contempt form a sublime drama because the stage is narrow and the representation void of pomp. To study great things in the small is one of the most useful exercises. What I have in view - and this is my apology - is not to describe a petty city of the Alps, for that would not be worth the labor; but to study in that city a history which is in the main a reflection of Europe, - of its sufferings, its struggles, its aspirations, its political liberties, and its religious transformations...

It is in this small republic that we find men remarkable for their devotion to liberty, for their attachment to law, for the boldness of their thoughts, the firmness of their character, and the strength of their energy. In the sixteenth century, after a repose of some hundreds of years, humanity having recovered its powers, like a field that had long lain fallow, displayed almost everywhere the marvels of the most luxuriant vegetation. Geneva is indeed the smallest theatre of this extraordinary fermentation; but it was not the least in heroism and grandeur, and on that ground alone it deserves attention."

We will also reencounter William Farel and follow him in his perilous mission to preach the Gospel in Switzerland and thence to Geneva. We'll meet again with Marguerite De Navarre, and see her struggle with trying to support the preaching of the Gospel and yet please her brother the King of France at the same time. As D'Aubigne points out in contrasting Calvin and Marguerite, "while Calvin desires truth in the Church above all things, Margaret clings to the preservation of its unity, and thus becomes a noble representative of a system still lauded by some protestants - to reform the Church without breaking it up: a specious system, impossible to be realized." You'll be taken back in time to the beginnings of the preaching of the Gospel in England, Ireland and Scotland. And then go back to the Sixteenth century and see the King of England, his troubles with divorcing his wife Catherine, marrying Anne, her subsequent execution, the break with the Catholic Church...etc. D'aubigne will peak in at Luther and Melanchthon here and there too.

All in all it is just as good as his former work, and introduces more obscure, yet interesting, characters I had never heard of before.

Here are the links to the free versions:  Volume 1  Volume 2  Volume 3  Volume 4  Volume 5  Volume 6  Volume 7  Volume 8

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