It is the 16th of August 2020. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org, I'm Dan van Voorhis.
The year was 1794.
The French Revolution and its aftermath were vexing both France and the watching world. Democratic ideas and popular sovereignty were having a moment. But in Sweden… well, Sweden banned coffee in 1794. They had forbidden it several times in the 18th century, mainly on account of famed botanist Carl Linnaeus' claim that coffee caused senility and premature death.
Before the 1794 ban, King Gustav III disliked coffee and decided to prove that it was, in fact, unhealthy. He took a set of twins, one of whom had committed a crime, and forced the criminal brother to drink massive amounts of coffee while the brother had none. Gustav III was assassinated, presumably for other reasons, but the coffee/punishment experiment was also put to rest with the King. In 1794, it was re-banned not only on account of Linnaeus' studies and a royal distaste for the drink, but it was also seen as too cosmopolitan and foreign. After all, the French had developed a taste for it and look what it caused there.
Meanwhile, in the coffee mecca of Columbia, Antonio Nariño translated "the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen" into Spanish. The 1789 document was written by the Abbe Sieyes and the Marquis de Lafayette with input from Thomas Jefferson. The 19th-century democratic revolution in South America was on its way.
Back in France, the year 1794 saw the reign of terror claim tens of thousands of lives. However, a backlash against it took place in the French month of Thermidor, and soon Robespierre had his date with a guillotine. Part of Robespierre's unpopularity came with his decision to "de-Christianize" France. Of course, France has long had a troubled relationship with the "official church," whichever official church happened to be established at the time.
From the French Reformation to the Enlightenment and the Age of Revolutions, Christians of various stripes have been given special privileges, had those privileges taken away, been persecuted and chased away from their homelands. It was in the context of this ever-changing atmosphere that Jean-Henri Merle D'Augbine was born on this, the 16th of August, in 1794.
D'Augbine was the great-grandson of French Protestants who fled to Geneva during Protestant persecution in France. Jean-Henri would become one of the leading protestant church historians of his day and was a leading light for one of the more remarkable European revival movements in the 19th century.
Jean-Henri had entered the Academy of Geneva, hoping to follow in the footsteps of John Calvin. However, by the 19th century, the school had become a hotbed of dissenting theological views. Dismayed by its lack of connection to the Reformation, Jean Henri attended a home Bible study with the Scotsman Robert Haldane, who was traveling through Europe. The conservative Haldane and the conservative Genevans held each other in mutual respect, and Haldane wrote that in them, he saw "the cradle of the second Genevan Reformation." This was part of "Le Réveil," an almost American-style conservative theological revival that spread through parts of 19th century Europe.
D'Augbine was eventually ordained but decided to continue his travels and studies across Germany. It was in 1817 on the 300th anniversary of the Reformation that D'Augbine witnessed the attention given to the Reformers’ lives, but less attention was spent on their beliefs. This would inspire his massive tomes on the history of the Reformation of the sixteenth century and the history of the Reformation in Europe at the time of John Calvin. These histories were keen on the theological thought of the reformers more than on their impact socially. The chronicles were lauded for their attention to primary sources. While his works are no longer considered academically relevant, his work in its day helped to popularize Reformation history and thought as a discipline. D'Augbine would teach at an independent seminary in Geneva from 1831 until he died in 1872. Jean-Henri Merle D'Augbine, born on this the 16th of August, in 1794, was 78 years old.
The reading for today is a maxim from that giant of Swiss theologians. Karl Barth.
"No one can be saved – in virtue of what he can do. Everyone can be saved – in virtue of what God can do."
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 16th of August 2020 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. The show is produced by Gustav III's greatest Nightmare, Christopher Gillespie of Coffee By Gillespie. The show is written and read by Dan van Voorhis. You can catch us here every day. and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.