« Rabaut, Jean Paul Rabaut, Paul Rabaut, Pierre »

Rabaut, Paul

RABAUT, PAUL: French Protestant reformer; b. at Bédarieux (20 m. n. of Béziers) Jan. 29, 1718; d. at Nîmes Sept. 25, 1794. He was the leader, associated with Antoine Court (q.v.), in the restoration of the Reformed Protestant Church of France. Coming of a pronounced Protestant family, he joined himself at the age of sixteen to the itinerant preacher Jean Bétrine, sharing with him all the dangers and vicissitudes to which the followers of his faith were subjected by the French government in the eighteenth century (1734–38). During this period he received thorough training not only in the fundamental principles of theology and pastoral activity, but also as a fearless witness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and was, on Apr. 30, 1738, proclaimed preacher by the Synod of Lower Languedoc, Nîmes and its vicinity becoming his field of labor. In 1739 he married Madeleine Gaidan of that city, who for forty-eight years shared with him the trials and tribulations of his career as "preacher of the Desert," bearing him eight children, of whom, however, only three sons survived. In 1740 he entered the theological seminary at Lausanne, founded by Court, to finish his studies in theology, his wife remaining at Nîmes. After a stay of but six months he returned and began his career which he zealously pursued in the face of the most cruel persecution, illustrated by the case of Jean Calas. This man was a respectable Protestant merchant of Toulouse, whose son, Marc-Antoine, in a fit of melancholy, hanged himself in his father's house. The Catholics spread the rumor that the son was about to embrace Roman Catholicism when the father slew him. The latter was seized, tried, and condemned to death on the wheel, and his body was burned, Mar. 9, 1672. The family property was confiscated, and the family in part fled to Geneva. The case was taken up by Voltaire and others, a reversal was secured, the family property was restored, and a pension granted the widow. This case is exceptional only in the fact that finally justice was done. Rabaut was small of stature, his personal appearance being in no way equal to the nobility and steadfastness of his soul and mind; but what he lacked in personality was compensated for by fidelity to his cause, bravery in the face of danger, and long-suffering in deprivation and affliction. The powerful influence which he exerted for well-nigh half a century on the history of the Reformed Protestant Church of France is largely accounted for by his undying devotion to his church and its followers, his unselfishness in the cause of others, his soundness of mind and doctrine, his coolness in danger, and his love for all humanity. For, though never officially appointed as the head of the Reformed Protestant Church of France, he earned the distinction of being the recognized leader in all matters of importance. He was vice-president of the General Synod of Aug. 18–21, 1744, and president of the National Synod of 1756. He seems to have led a charmed life, for, though hunted like a beast of prey and cornered again and again, he always managed to elude his would-be captors. While both he and his family suffered great hardships, he had the good fortune to see the triumph of the cause for which he had suffered so much and had given his all. On June 10, 1763, he led as moderator the disputations of the national synod. From that time until Oct. 6, 1785, he set himself the arduous task of reconstruction and rehabilitation of his beloved church, in which task he was ably assisted by his oldest son. On the above date the consistory of Nîmes fully reinstated him, restoring to him his title, together with full freedom of worship and the privileges and salary of a clergyman. Even his last years, however, were not untroubled, for, in 1794, about six months prior to his death, he was arrested and confined for several months in the citadel at Nimes, obtaining his liberty after the overthrow of Robespierre, July 27. However, the recent loss of his wife and his oldest son, together with his bodily feebleness, hastened his end. He died in the house in which for a considerable time prior to his end he had lived, and was buried, as was customary (there being as yet no cemeteries for Protestants), in the cellar thereof. It is said that the house still stands and is used as an orphanage. In the field of literature he did not leave a great deal, nor could more have been expected of him under such adverse circumstances. Besides a number of pamphlets, he wrote: Précis du catéchisme d’Ostervald, often reprinted; also two sermons: La Livrée de l’église Chrétienne, on Cant. iv. 4, and La Soif spirituelle, on John vii. 37.

(Eugen Lachenmann.)

Bibliography: The correspondence of Paul Rabaut, ed. A. Picheral-Dardier and C. Dardier, appeared in 4 vols., Paris, 1885–91. A brief life is prefixed to vol. i., 1885. Consult: J. P. de N., Notice biographique sur Paul Rabaut, Paris, 1808; M. Juillerat, Notice biographique sur Paul Rabaut, Paris, 1826; A. Coquerel, Hist. des églises du désert, 2 vols., Paris, 1841; L. G. Michaud, Biographie universelle, sub voce, 45 vols., Paris, 1843–65; A. Borrel, Biographie de Paul Rabaul . . . et ses trois fils, Nîmes, 1854; L. Bridel, Trois séances sur Paul Rabaul, Lausanne, 1859; É. and E. Haag, La France protestante, sub voce, 2d ed., Paris, 1877 sqq.; E. Hugues, Les Synodes du désert, 3 vols., Paris, 1885–86; idem, A. Court, Hist. de la restauration du protestantisme, 2 vols., Paris, 1872; T. Schott, in Deutsch-evangelische Blätter, Dec., 1893; idem, Die Kirche der Wüste, 1715–87, Halle, 1893; Lichtenberger, ESR, xi. 73–84 (covers the family).

« Rabaut, Jean Paul Rabaut, Paul Rabaut, Pierre »
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