Born: Ju­ly 7, 1787, Ge­ne­va, Swit­zer­land.

Died: May 18, 1864, Van­dœuvres, Swit­zer­land.

Buried: Van­dœuvres, Swit­zer­land.



After com­plet­ing his edu­ca­tion, Ma­lan went to Mar­seilles, France, in­tend­ing to learn bu­si­ness.

But soon af­ter, he en­tered the Aca­de­my at Ge­ne­va, in pre­pa­ra­tion for the min­is­try, and he was ord­ained in 1810.


Expanded Biography

The fam­ily of Ma­lan trac­es its or­i­gin to the val­leys of Pied­mont. A branch of it set­tled at Mé­rin­dol, in Dau­phi­né, but was driv­en from France by the per­se­cu­tions that fol­lowed the Re­vo­ca­tion of the Edict of Nantes. Pi­erre Ma­lan, af­ter see­ing his sis­ter fall a vic­tim to per­se­cu­tion, left Mé­rin­dol (1714), and ar­rived at Ge­ne­va (1722).

Henri Ab­ra­ham Cés­ar Ma­lan was born at Ge­ne­va in 1787. Af­ter an edu­ca­tion at the Col­lege, he went to Mar­seilles, with the in­ten­tion of learn­ing bu­si­ness: but, soon af­ter, en­tered the Aca­de­my at Ge­ne­va, as a prep­a­ra­tion for the min­is­try, to which he was or­dained in 1810. He had been ap­point­ed one of the mas­ters at the Col­lege in the pre­vi­ous year.

The Na­tion­al Church of Ge­ne­va was at that time al­most Uni­ta­ri­an, and Ma­lan’s con­vic­tions were in ac­cord with it. But the great move­ment known as the Ré­veil, of which the first pro­ducts were the dis­si­dent church of Bourg de Four and at a lat­er date that found­ed by Ma­lan him­self, and which fin­al­ly im­bued the whole Swiss Church with its spi­rit, was si­lent­ly pre­par­ing its­elf.

The germ of the move­ment may be traced in the So­ci­é­té des Amis (1810), of which Em­pey­taz and A. Bost were lead­ers; and in Ma­lan’s in­de­pen­dent at­tain­ment to the doc­trines of the Di­vi­ni­ty of the Sav­iour and the free gifts of sal­va­tion through Him (1816).

But the hu­man agen­cy, which gave it force, and de­ter­mined its Cal­vin­is­tic di­rec­tion, was the vi­sit of Ro­bert Hal­dane (in the au­tumn of 1816), to whom not on­ly these pio­neers of the move­ment, but F. Mo­nod, E. Rieu, Guers, Gon­thi­er, Merle d’Au­bigné, and oth­ers, al­ways point­ed as their spi­rit­ual fa­ther.

Empeytaz and oth­ers sought to at­tain en­fran­chise­ment by the es­tab­lish­ment of the pe­tite Eglise of Bourg de Four. Ma­lan wished to re­form the na­tion­al Church from with­in: and a ser­mon at Ge­ne­va, which brought on him the ob­lo­quy of the pro­fes­sors and theo­lo­gians that com­posed his au­di­ence, and which Hal­dane char­ac­ter­ized as a re­pub­li­ca­tion of the Gos­pel, was his first ov­ert act (Jan. 19, 1817).

But the op­pos­ing forc­es were far too strong for him. The Ve­ne­ra­ble Com­pa­ny ex­clud­ed him from the pul­pits, and achieved his dis­mis­sal from his re­gent­ship at the Col­lege (1818).

In 1820 he built a cha­pel (Cha­pelle du Te­moign­age) in his gar­den, and ob­tained the li­cence of the State for it, as a sep­a­ra­tist place of wor­ship. In 1823 he was for­mal­ly de­prived of his sta­tus as a min­is­ter of the na­tion­al Church.

The se­ven years that suc­ceed­ed were the pal­my days of the li­ttle cha­pel. Stran­gers, es­pe­cial­ly from Eng­land, min­gled with the ov­er­flow­ing Swiss con­gre­ga­tion.

But (in 1830), a se­ces­sion to Bourg de Four, and then the foun­da­tion of the Or­a­toire and the So­ci­é­té Évan­gél­ique, which in 1849 ab­sorbed the con­gre­ga­tion of Bourg de Four un­der the ti­tle of the Église Évan­gél­ique, thinned more and more the num­ber of his ad­her­ents.

His burn­ing zeal for the con­ver­sion of souls found a larg­er outl­et in long tours of ev­an­gel­iz­a­tion, sub­si­dized by re­li­gious friends, in his own land and Bel­gium and France, and al­so in Scot­land and Eng­land, where he had friends among ma­ny re­li­gious bo­dies, and where he preached to large con­gre­ga­tions.

The dis­ting­uish­ing char­ac­ter­istic of these tours was his deal­ing with in­di­vid­u­als. On the steam­boat or the dil­i­gence, in the moun­tain walk, at the ho­tel, no op­por­tun­i­ty was lost. On one oc­ca­sion an old man whom he vis­it­ed drew from un­der his pil­low a co­py of his great hymn­book, Chants de Si­on, 1841, and told him how he had prayed to see the au­thor of it be­fore he died.

It is as the orig­in­at­or of the mo­dern hymn move­ment in the French Re­formed Church that Ma­lan’s fame can­not per­ish. The spi­rit of his hymns is per­pe­tu­at­ed in the anal­y­sis of Chris­tian ex­pe­ri­ence, the ne­ver-wear­ied de­lin­e­a­tion of the hopes and fears, the joys and sor­rows of the be­liev­er’s soul, which are still the sta­ple of French Pro­test­ant hymns.

To this was ad­ded, in Ma­lan him­self, a marked di­dac­tic tone, ne­ces­si­tat­ed by the great strug­gle of the Ré­veil for Ev­an­ge­li­cal doc­trine; and an em­pha­tic Cal­vin­ism, ex­press­ing it­self with all the des­pon­den­cy of New­ton and Cow­per, but, in con­trast with them, in bright as­sura­nce, peace and glad­ness. French cri­ti­cism has pro­nounced his hymns un­e­qual, and full of li­ter­ary de­fects; but their un­af­fect­ed fresh­ness and fer­vent sin­cer­i­ty are un­i­ver­sal­ly al­lowed…

Besides his hymns Ma­lan pro­duced num­ber­less tracts and pamph­lets on the ques­tions in dis­pute be­tween the Na­tion­al and Ev­an­ge­li­cal Church­es and the Church of Rome, as well as ar­ti­cles in the Re­cord and in Am­er­ican re­views. He was a man of var­ied ac­quire­ments. His hymns were set to his own me­lo­dies.

He was an ar­tist, a me­chan­ic: his lit­tle work­shop had its forge, its car­pen­ter’s bench, its print­ing press. To the end of his life his strong Cal­vin­ism, and his dread of mere ex­te­rnal un­ion in church gov­ern­ment, kept him dis­tinct from all move­ments of church com­pre­hen­sion, though free­ly join­ing in com­mun­ion with all the se­ctions of Ev­an­ge­li­cal thought in Ge­ne­va and Scot­land.

At one time there seemed a pros­pect of his ev­en re­join­ing the na­tion­al Church, which had driv­en him from her. One of his great­est joys was the meet­ing of the Ev­an­ge­li­cal Al­li­ance at Ge­ne­va (1861). He left no sect; one of his lat­est or­ders was the dem­o­li­tion of his de­cayed cha­pel, in which he had preached for 43 years.

He died…leav­ing a num­er­ous fa­mi­ly, one of whom, the Rev. S. C. Ma­lan, D.D., some­time Vi­car of Broad­wind­sor, is well known as a lin­guist and a theo­lo­gian of the Eng­lish Church…About a do­zen of his hymns ap­pear in a tran­slat­ed form in the Friend­ly Vis­it­or for 1826.

Julian, pp. 711–12