Beausobre, Isaac

, an eminent Calvinist divine and ecclesiastical writer, was born at Niort in Upper Poitou, March 8, 1659, of a family originally of Provence, whose name was Bossart, which one of his ancestors changed to Beausobre, on taking refuge in Swisserland from the massacre of St. Bartholomew’s day. In his youth he had some favourable opportunities for rising in the world. M. de Vieuxfournaux, cousin-german to his father, strongly solicited him not to change his religion, but to study law, because in that case he had sufficient interest with Madame de Maintenon to recommend him to her, who would have made his 1 fortune. But as he probably foresaw that the sacrifice of his religion must ultimately be the consequence, in order to secure him patronage of this kind, he withstood his | relation’s solicitations, and pursued his original intention, that of qualifying himself for the church. Having finished his studies at Saumur, he was ordained, by imposition of hands, at the age of twenty-one, in the last synod of Loudon, and had a congregation intrusted to him, to whom he officiated for three or four years, during which he married Claude Louisa Arnaudeau, whose father was pastor of the church of Lusignan. The days of persecution approaching, M. de Beausobre’s church was shut up, and having been so rash, as to break it open, contrary to the orders of the court, he found it necessary to make his escape. At first he intended to have gone to England, but for some reasons, not mentioned in our authority, he preferred Holland, where he recommended himself to the favour of the princess of Orange, who appointed him chaplain to her daughter the princess of A nhalt-Dessau, and accordingly he went to Dessau in 1686. Here his situation was rendered peculiarly agreeable by the kindness of the princess, the esteem she conceived for, and the confidence she reposed in him‘ and here he appears to have applied himself to those studies, the produce of which appeared soon afterwards.

The first occasion of his becoming an author was the conduct of the duke of Saxe-Barby, who quitted the Lutheran communion, and printed a confession of his faith in 1688. A year after appeared, under the name of the theological faculty of Leipsic, a work in German, purporting to be “An inquiry into the motives which induced the duke of Saxe to separate from the Lutherans;” and a Latin translation of it having been submitted to M. Beausobre, he perceived its weakness, and conceived it an act of justice in behalf of the more moderate part of the Lutherans, to make a public declaration of the doctrines of the reformers. Accordingly this his first work was entitled “Defense de la doctrine des Reformes,” on the subjects of providence, predestination, grace, the Lord’s supper, &c. printed at Magdeburgh, 1693. In this, while he speaks favourably of the moderate writers among the Lutherans, he censures the others for their bigotry against the Calvinists, or against any who differ from them in the least degree. His work was extremely well received, although this edition is full of typographical errors.

In 1693, on the death of John-George II. prince of Anhalt-Dessau, he pronounced a funeral oration, which was printed at Berlin, 1695, 4tp, in the form of a “Sermon | Funcbrc,” the subject of which (John xvii. 3.) was pointed out by the prince himself. After residing eight years at Dessau, Beausobre, in 1694, removed to Berlin, where the refugees for the cause of religion, many of them his particular friends, had formed an asylum, and where he might enjoy the menus of educating his family. Here he passed the rest of his life, and exercised his ministry for the space of forty-six years, not only as one of the pastors appointed to supply the churches of the French refugees, but as chaplain to their majesties, an office he had the honour to fill until the death of the queen Sophia-Charlotte. He was besides, counsellor of the royal consistory, inspector of the French college, and a year before his death was appointed inspector of the French churches in Berlin, and of the other churches comprised within the inspection of that city. As every church had its separate pastor, Basnage belonged first to that of Ville-Neuve, but on the death of his friend Mr. Lenfant in 1728, he succeeded him in the church of Werder, where he officiated through the remainder of his life.

As soon as Beausobre became settled at Berlin, he resumed his favourite studies, and particularly his “History of the Reformation,” which he carried down to the Augsburgh confession, and left it in manuscript. In this state it remained until 1784, when it was published at Berlin in 4 vols. 8v6. Its principal object is the origin and progress, of Lutheranism, in treating of which the author has availed himself of Seckendorfl’s history, but has added many vainable materials. It contains also very curious and ample details relative to the progress of the reformation in France and Swisserland; but it nevertheless is not free from objections, both on the score of impartiality and accuracy. In the mean time, the Prussian court having desired M. Beausobre and his friend M. Lenfant to prepare a translation of the New Testament, they shared the labour between them, M. Lenfant taking the Evangelists, Acts, Catholic epistles, and the Apocalypse, and M. Beausobre the epistles of St. Paul. The whole was published in 2 vols. 4to, Amst. 1718, with prefaces, notes, c. A second edition appeared in 1741, with considerable additions and corrections. Their “Introduction” was published separately at Cambridge (translated into English) in 1779; and Dr. Watson, bishop of Llandaff, who inserted it in the third volume of his “Theological Tracts,” pronounces it a work of extraordinary merit, the authors Laving left scarcely any togic | untouched, on which the voting student in divinity may he supposed to wunt information. Their only opponent, at the time of publication, was a Mr. Dartis, formerly a minister at Berlin, from which he had retired, and who published a pamphlet, to which Beausobre and Lenfant made separate replies. Beausobre was one of the principal members of a society of literary men of Berlin, who called them the “Anonymi,” and this connection led ’him to be a contributor to the “Bibliothcque Gcrmanique,” of which he was editor from vol. IV. to the time of his death, excepting vol. XL. One of the pieces he wrote for this journal was translated into English, and published at London, 1735, 8vo, under the title of “St. Jatzko, or a commentary on a passage in the plea for the Jesuits of Thorn/* But hii most celebrated work was his” Histoire critique de Mauicheisme,“Amst. 1734, 1739, 2 vols. 4to. Of the merit of this work it may, perhaps, be sufficient to give the opinion of a man of no religion, Gibbon, who says that” it is a treasure of ancient philosophy and theology. The learned historian spins, with incomparable art, the systematic thread of opinion, and transforms himself by turns into the person of a saint, a sage, or an heretic. Yet his refinement is sometimes excessive: he betrays an amiable partiality in favour of the weaker side, and while he guards against calumny, he does not allow sufficient scope for superstition and fanaticism,“things, or rather words, which Gibbon js accustomed to use without much meaning. The journalists of Trevoux having attacked this work, gave Mr. IjJeausobre an opportunity of showing his superiority in ecclesiastical history, by an answer published in the BibL Germanique, which perhaps is too long. He wrote also a curious preface to the” Memoirs of Frederick-Henry, prince of Orange,“Amst. 1733. These are all the works which appeared in the life-time of our author, but he left a great many manuscripts, dissertations on points of ecclesiastical history, and sermons, none of which, we believe, have been published, except the” History of the Reformation,“already noticed. M. Beausobre reached the period of old age, without experiencing much of its influence. He preached at the age of eighty with vigour and spirit. His last illness appears to have come on in October 1737, and although it had many favourable intermissions, he died June 5, 1738, in the full possession of his faculties and recollection, and universally regretted by his Hock, as well as | by the literary world. The most remarkable encomium bestowed on him, is that of the prince, afterwards Frederick king of Prussia, in a letter to Voltaire, published in the works of the latter.” We are -about to lose one of the greatest men of Germany. This is the famous M. de Beausobre, a man of honour and probity, of great genius, a taste exquisite and delicate, a great orator, learned in the history of the church and in general literature, an implacable enemy of the Jesuits, the best writer in Berlin, a man full of fire and vivacity, which eighty years of life have not chilled; has a little of the weakness of superstition, a fault common enowgh with people of his stamp, and is conscious enough of his abilities to be affected by applause. This loss is irreparable. We have no one who can replace M. de Beausobre; men of merit are rare, and when nature sows them they do not always come to maturity." The applause of such a man as Beausobre, from Frederick of Prussia to Voltaire, is a curiosity.

Beausobre left, by his first wife, two sons and a daughter, and by his second, whom he married in his seventieth year, two infant sons. His second son by the first marriage, Charles Louis Beausobre, was born at Dessau in 16^0, and became a pastor of a church at Berlin, where he died in 1753. He published “Discours sur le Nouv. Test.” as a sequel to that of Saurin; “Apologie des Protestans,” and contributed to the completion of his father’s History of the Reformation, which he did not, however, live to see published. 1