Jakob Abbadie

Jakob Abbadie (1654? - September 25, 1727 ), also known as Jacques or James Abbadie, Swiss Protestant divine and writer, was born at Nay in Béarn, France.

He studied at Sedan, Saumur and Puylaurens, with such success that he received the degree of doctor in theology at the age of seventeen.

After spending some years in Berlin as minister of a French Protestant church, where he had great success as a preacher, he accompanied Marshal Schomberg to England in 1688, and the following year became minister of the French church in the Savoy area of London.

His strong attachment to the cause of King William appears in his elaborate defence of the "Glorious Revolution" (Defense de la nation britannique, 1692) as well as in his history of the conspiracy of 1696 (Histoire de la grande conspiration d'Angleterre). The king promoted him to the deanery of Killaloe in Ireland.

Abbadie was a man of great ability and an eloquent preacher, but is best known by his religious treatises, several of which were translated from the original French into other languages and had a wide circulation throughout Europe. The most important of these are Traite de la verité de la religion chrétienne (1684); its continuation, Traité de la divinité de Jesus-Christ (1689); and L'Art de se connaitre soi-meme (1692). The latter work was translated into English as "The Art of knowing one-self" in 1695. The last 50 pages of this 274-page work deals with pride, which he divided into five branches: love of esteem, presumptuousness, vanity, ambition and arrogance. Jacques Abbadie, (or James), D.D. (1654?–1727), was dean of Killaloe, preacher, and published christian apologist.


Jacques Abbadie was born at Nay, Béarn, probably in 1654, although 1657 and 1658 have been given. There is some colour for the assertion of Samuel Smiles that he was "the scion of a distinguished Béarnese family"; although it is probable that the poverty of his parents would have excluded him from a learned career if some of the leading Protestants of the district had not charged themselves with the expenses of his education. This was commenced under M. Jean de la Placette, the minister of Nay, and prosecuted successively at Puylaurens, Saumur, and Sedan, where, as is generally said, he took the degree of D.D. at seventeen years of age. An obituary notice, however, which appeared in the Daily Courant for 5 October 1727, says: "He was not above twenty-two when he undertook of himself his admirable treatise on the “Truth of the Christian Religion”". A few years later he took, with vast applause, his degree of doctor in divinity in the university of Sedan, and about the same year he was sent for by his electoral highness, Frederick William, Elector of Brandenburg, to be minister of the French church at Berlin. The electoral summons found Abbadie at Paris, and it was conveyed through the Count d'Espense, who had been commissioned by his master to make the selection.

The congregation of refugees, small enough at first to be accommodated in an apartment of the Count d'Espense's residence, was augmented gradually by the zeal of the preacher, and by the increased emigration to Brandenburg, caused by the revocation of the edict of Nantes in 1685. The elector ordered the ancient chapel of his palace to be prepared for the congregation, and the services were frequently attended by the younger members of his family. Abbadie's arrival in Berlin has been variously assigned to the years 1680 and 1681. During seven or eight years he used his increasing favour with the elector to relieve the distress of the refugees from France, and especially from his native province of Béarn.

Among the earliest literary ventures of Abbadie were four Sermons sur divers Textes de l'Ecriture, 1680; Réflexions sur la Présence réelle du Corps de Jésus-Christ dans l'Eucharistie, 1685; and two highly adulatory addresses on persons in high stations, entitled respectively Panégyrique de Monseigneur l'Electeur de Brandebourg, 1684; and Panégyrique de Marie Stuart, Reine d'Angleterre, d'Ecosse, de France, et d'Irlande, de glorieuse et immortelle mémoire, décédée à Kensington le 28 décembre 1694, 1695, also published in England as A Panegyric on our late Sovereign Lady, 1695. These four productions, with other occasional sermons, were in 1760 republished collectively, in three volumes, at Amsterdam, and preceded by an Essai historique sur la Vie et les Ouvrages de M. Abbadie. The pamphlet on the Eucharist was also reprinted at Toulouse, in 1835, under the title of Quatre Lettres sur la Trans-substantiation, and appeared in an English translation, by Mr. John W. Hamersley, as the Chemical Change in the Eucharist, 1867.

Abbadie's residence at Berlin was varied by several visits which he paid to Holland in 1684, 1686, and 1688, chiefly for the purpose of superintending the printing of several of his works. One of the most important of them he had already contemplated at Paris; it bore the title of Traité de la Vérité de la Religion chrétienne, 1684. The book went through a vast number of editions and was translated into several languages, an English version, by Henry Lussan, appearing in 1694. Completed by a third volume, the Traité de la Divinité de Nôtre Seigneur Jésus-Christ, it appeared at Rotterdam, 1689. An English translation, entitled A Sovereign Antidote against Arian Poyson, appeared in London, 1719, and again ‘revised, corrected, and, in a few places, abridged, by Abraham Booth,’ under the title of The Deity of Jesus Christ essential to the Christian Religion, 1777. The entire apology for Christianity formed by the three volumes of the Traité, which combated severally the heresies of atheism, deism, and Socinianism, was received with unanimous praise by Protestants and Catholics. Abbadie continued to occupy his pastorate at Berlin until the death of the great elector, which took place 29 April 1688. He then accepted the invitation of Marshal Schomberg to accompany him to Holland and England, and in the autumn of 1689 he went to Ireland with the marshal. It was in the Irish camp that Abbadie commenced one of his most successful works, which was published at Rotterdam in 1692, as L'Art de se connoître soi-même; ou, La Recherche des Sources de la Morale, and went through many editions and amplifications. Translations of this work into other languages include a popular English version by the Rev. Thomas Woodcock, The Art of Knowing One-self, 1694.

After the battle of the Boyne, Abbadie repaired to London, where he was presently appointed minister of the French church in the Savoy, which had been founded about the year 1641. Abbadie subsequently published a revised version of the French translation of the English liturgy used at this church, with an epistle dedicatory to George I. He was often appointed to deliver occasional discourses, both in London and Dublin, but his want of facility in English prevented his preferment in England, and also excluded him from the deanery of St. Patrick's, Dublin, to which William III wished to promote him. Abbadie's health suffered from devotion to his duties in the Savoy, and from the climate of this country. He therefore settled in Ireland, and in 1699 the deanery of Killaloe was conferred upon him by the king, whose special favour he had attracted by a spirited vindication of the Revolution of 1688, Défense de la Nation Britannique, 1693, written in answer to Pierre Bayle's Avis important aux Réfugiés, 1690, and by the funeral oration on Queen Mary. Abbadie had also written, at the request of the king, Histoire de la dernière Conspiration d'Angleterre, 1696, which was reprinted in Holland and translated into English, and for which the Earl of Portland and Secretary Sir William Trumbull placed original documents at the author's disposal. It was this work, now extremely scarce, that chiefly helped Abbadie's preferment. After its production, "his majesty sent him to Ireland, with an order to the lords justices to confer upon him some dignity in the church, which order was complied with by his promotion to the deanery of Killalow" (Daily Courant, 5 October 1727).

The remainder of Abbadie's life was spent in writing, preaching, and in the performance—not too sedulous, for he was frequently absent from his benefice—of the ordinary duties of his office, varied by visits to England and to Holland, where most of his books were printed. Amongst his productions of this period the principal was entitled La Vérité de la Religion Chrétienne Réformée, 1717, a controversial treatise which in its four parts attacks the characteristic doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church; it was translated into English, for the use of the Roman Catholics of his diocese of Dromore, by Dr. Ralph Lambert, afterwards bishop of Meath. The work was completed in 1723 in Le Triomphe de la Providence et de la Religion; ou, l'Ouverture des sept Seaux par le Fils de Dieu, où l'on trouvera la première partie de l'Apocalypse clairement expliquée par ce qu'il y a de plus connu dans l'Histoire et de moins contesté dans la Parole de Dieu. Avec une nouvelle et très-sensible Démonstration de la Vérité de la Religion Chrétienne. Abbadie visited Holland to see La Vérité through the press; and afterwards stayed more than three years at Amsterdam, 1720–23, during the preparation of Le Triomphe and other works. He returned to Ireland in 1723. Abbadie's income as dean of Killaloe was so small that he could not afford a literary amanuensis; and Hugh Boulter, archbishop of Armagh, having appealed in vain to Lord Carteret, the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, on Abbadie's behalf, gave him a letter of introduction to Dr. Edmund Gibson, bishop of London, and Abbadie left Ireland. He established himself at Marylebone, where he devoted much time and care to the revision of his printed works for a complete edition in four volumes, in which were also to be included two unpublished treatises, Nouvelle Manière de prouver l'Immortalité de l'Ame, and Notes sur le Commentaire philosophique de M. Bayle. Relying upon a remarkable memory, he put off writing until copy was demanded by the printer. These two treatises were thus unfinished, and no trace of them could be found after his death. He died at his lodgings at Marylebone on Monday, 25 September 1727, in aged 74.


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