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Malan, Abraham Henri Caesar, d.d.,

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one of the most noted of Swiss Protestant divines of our day, was born at Geneva July 7, 1787. When but an infant of three years Malan exhibited great powers of intellectual superiority, and the hopes which he awaken(d while yet an inmate of the cradle by securing a prize for reading at the Geneva Academy were more than realized in his manhood and hoary age. The poverty of his parents induced him to turn aside from an intellectual career to which he so much inclined, and to enter the mercantile profession at eighteen, but he soon returned again to his former mode of life, and decided upon the ministry. In 1810 he was consecrated for this sacred work by the Venerable Compagnie, or Presbytery of Geneva, and he at once made a name for himself as a pulpit orator of unusual eloquence.

He was appointed preacher at the Geneva cathedral, and from the pulplit whence formerly the immortal Calvin had thundered forth the unalterable decrees of the Holy One. Malan now taught the Word of God in a most brilliant oratory. Unfortunately, however, the spiritual life built up by Calvin and his successors in the hearts of their forefathers had been suffered to die out, and in the hearts of the hearers of Malan, as well as in the heart of the preacher himself, there was a luke-warmness, aye a coldness, to all religion rationalism sat enthroned in the pulpit and the pew of Geneva, the forms of the Church founded by Calvin remained, but the spiritual life had departed. The young preacher endeavored to infuse the vitality of his own fervid spirit into the lifeless forms and the latitudinarian creed of the "Venerable Compagnie," but in vain; both the preacher and the auditor lacked that most essential element of a Christian life, the possession of the truly orthodox belief and trust in a divine Savior. In the midst of his despair Malan was brought under the influence of those noble-hearted Scotchmen, the Haldane brothers, and by them and our late Dr. John M. Mason (q.v.), and Matthias Bruen, was led to see the error of a faith built on a human Savior, and brought to acknowledge the divinity of Jesus the Christ. From this time forward Malan became a champion of the orthodox faith. The first opportunity to display his ability as a polemic he found against the Venerable Compagnie itself. This body had issued for circulation among the masses an edition of the N.T. in which all passages bearing on the divinity of Christ were so altered as to favor the Socinian belief; this translation Malan denounced with the most vehement eloquence, and from his pulpit expounded these self-same passages in the spirit of their intended declaration to the multitudes who crowded around him. (For a review of the Church at Geneva, see Hurst, Rationalism, chap. 18.)

By 1818 the rupture between him and the Church authorities of Geneva had become so great that reconciliation was an impossibility, and Malan was consequently dismissed from the Established Church. Besides his relation to the cathedral, Malan had been regent of the academy; in this post also he was now superseded by a divine of Socinian tendency. Not in the least daunted, he now followed the example of the Haldane brothers, and preached the truth wherever an opportunity would offer to address the multitudes and press forward the interests of Christ his master. No church accessible to him, he preached in his own house, for preach he would. The most eminent of Geneva's inhabitants gathered regularly, and by 1820 he was enabled to rear a church upon his own ground. He named it "The Testimonial Chapel" ("La Chapelle du Timoignage"). But not only was his tongue active in building up Christ's kingdom among men, to his pen also he gave no rest; now busy in the defense of Christ's divinity or the sovereignty of divine grace, tomorrow exposing and attacking Romish error, and next rushing forth in print to reach the masses by religious tracts, clear, simple, and practical. With these manifold duties upon him, he was yet far from content. He organized a school of theology, and himself became one of the instructors; founded a tract society, and a Magdalen asylum or penitentiary. He has also the honor to have been the first to introduce the Sabbath-school into Switzerland. Not even all this toil could prevent him in the least from fostering also a joy in the development of aesthetical talents which he possessed. As a sacred poet he will live as long as the language in which he wrote shall be known. He has been pronounced the French Dr. Watts. As a composer he likewise displayed unusual endowments, and as a painter and saulptor masters of art delighted to enjoy his friendship and counsel. Thorwaldsen was his intimate friend, and more than once entrusted him with the completion of his choicest groups. Surely a master mind was that of Malan's. With untiring industry maintaining his position in the pulpit almost to the last, he died at his native place, May 8,1864.

No better comment on such a life can be given than that by E. de Pressense: "Caesar Malan a ete un homme d'indomptable conviction; il a toujours suivi les impulsions de sa conscience sans hesitation" (Revue Chretienne, Aug. 5, 1869, p. 502). His appearance at the age of fifty is thus described by an American divine who had the pleasure of being his guest: "His personnel was noble and imposing; a little above the medium height, stout built, and, having something of a military bearing, he was still natural and easy in his manners. His broad shoulders supported a superb head; his open and lofty brow gave one an idea of his mental power; his eyes were full of intellect and fire, and at the same time his loving look won your heart; his fine mouth indicated an iron will, combined with great tenderness; a profusion of white hair fell upon his shoulders" (The Observer [N. Y.], April 22, 1869). The degree of D.D. was conferred on Malan by the University of Edinburgh. Of his works, many of which have appeared also in an English dress both in England and in the United States, the following deserve special mention, The Ch. of Rome (N.Y. 1844): Les Momiers sontils invisibles? (1828); his followers were called Memoirs: Les Chants de Sion (1826,12mo, and often), a collection of his hymns: Le Temoiqnage de Dieu (1833,8vo). See, besides the excellent article in the New Amer. Cyclop. 1864, p. 495, and Bost, Memoires du Reveil rel. des eglises protest. de la Suisse et de la France (see Index); the Life, Labors, and Writings of Caesar Malan, by one of his sors (1869, post 8vo). (J. H.W.)


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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Malan, Abraham Henri Caesar, d.d.,'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/tce/m/malan-abraham-henri-caesar-dd.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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