The Life of William Farel

The following history of God’s beloved servant, is meant to be nothing more than a simple story, suited for those who have not the time or the means to study larger and more learned histories.
Before I tell you the story of the servant of God, whose name you see at the beginning of this chapter, I would like to show you two pictures, that you may better understand what was the need for the work which God gave His servant to
You have now seen the two pictures. Those who heard the solemn warning of Paul could scarcely have imagined such things as these.
Near the town of Gap, in the south-eastern corner of France, there is a little hamlet, half buried in trees, and surrounded with green and flowery meadows. Above it rise the great Alps, with their snow-covered tops and wild precipices. The river Durance rushes down from
Chapter 4
William Farel’s father was not pleased at his son’s desire to study, but William gained his point. He first tried to find someone who could teach him Latin. In this he failed. His teachers proved very ignorant; they were probably the priests who lived in the neighborhood.
We will now return to William Farel, between whom and the popes there was this difference, that they were walking on the miry side, and he on the clean side, of the broad road that leadeth to destruction. Beware lest you should be walking on either!
But it was not from Master Faber—it was not from a learned doctor, that help was to come. All we know is, that some words were spoken which came as a ray of light from the glory above, shining down into William’s dark and troubled soul.
It must have been about the beginning of the year 1519 that Master Faber and William Farel were first brought into the fuller knowledge of the gospel of God. This was the beginning of a stormy time in the University of Paris.
William Farel, meanwhile was not only teaching boldly, but studying deeply. He read most, and very carefully, the blessed word of God. He also read the history of the church. He wished to find out, how it was that men had so wandered into the darkness—how
WILLIAM proceeds to say how the utter ruin of the church was brought about by the favor shown to it by the Roman Emperor Constantine. “The Christians,” he says, “having received these favors, fell into the snare of following and obeying those who thus favored them, instead of
You can well believe that as time went on the priests and doctors of the Paris University became more openly and bitterly the enemies of Master Faber and of Farel. Though they had the protection and favor of the Princess Margaret, and of the bishop
William Farel, with his voice of thunder, preached in the streets and markets, and wherever a room could be found. The people crowded to hear the new and blessed words; not how they were to give their money to the priests and monks, but how they were
Strange as it may seem, this time, when the gospel was so freely preached, so eagerly listened to, and by so many truly believed, was not, after all, a time of unmixed happiness to William Farel.
In the meantime a storm was brewing. The Franciscan monks began to complain loudly of the new teaching. It was a sad time for them, when money was spent in gospels which might otherwise have found its way into their pockets. They went to the {s
We must now return to William Farel. It was with a feeling of terror that his family heard of his being on his homeward road. The tidings of his strange doings at Paris and at Meaux had reached them long before. And now he was once more amongst them in
Several remarkable men were at that time living at Basle. This city, the chief university of Switzerland, was famous for its learning, and for the number of books which were then printed there. The man to whom all Europe looked up, as the head of the learned
In the spring of the year 1524 Farel left Basle to visit Zwingli, and other preachers of the gospel in German Switzerland. He was absent but a little while, but during that time his enemies at Basle made the most of their opportunity to stir
Montbéliard is a little town, now belonging to France, but at that time to the German Empire. A pretty little town in the valley of the Allan, now chiefly inhabited by watchmakers and cotton manufacturers. There is an old castle on a high hill, with ancient
All this, and much more of martyrdom, and persecution, was happening in France during the year 1525. Meanwhile, for the first three months of that sad year, William Farel, in the little town of Montbéliard, had been preaching and teaching unharmed. But though none were
This great sorrow was followed by a great joy. When October came, there arrived at Strasbourg no other than dear Master Faber himself! Gerard Roussel came with him, and other French friends who had fled likewise from the persecutions of Louise, Duprat, and Bédier. A good man,
A relic remains of those old autumn days, of which it is worth while to tell you. It happened in the year 1836 that the family papers belonging to an old French house were turned out of the ancient chests and cupboards in which they had been stored
A few days after writing this letter, Farel left Strasbourg. There was one part of the world where French was spoken, and where his message had not as yet been given. This country was the western division of Switzerland. It seemed to Farel that it was to these
To the south-east of the Lake of Geneva, not far from the river Rhone, is the village of Aigle. Close beside it the great waterfall, called the Grande Eau, dashes from the precipices at the entrance of a woody glen. All around are the great mountains, and
Thus was the Word of God taught, and in one village after another the light began to dawn, and men were turning to God. You may suppose that Satan would not let this work of God alone. Very soon he had stirred up a large party
It was about this time that a mendicant friar came to the villages around the Lake of Geneva. The mendicant friars were the followers of Francis of Assisi. Francis had commanded his monks to have no property, and to live by begging. These monks therefore roamed the country,
Farel returned to his labors. It was a work of patience, and, for the time, almost an unseen work. The priests, on the other hand, were everywhere to be seen and heard. Some came over from Savoy and from the southern provinces of Switzerland, to help their friends—the priests
When Farel had been at Aigle a little more than a year, he had the refreshment of a visit to Berne on a very remarkable occasion. The Council and the citizens of Berne held a meeting, in November, 1527, at which it was determined that a public disputation
On the 7th of February, the Council of Berne passed an edict that the Romish bishops should no longer have power or authority in the canton. “These four bishops,” they said, “know well how to shear their sheep but know not how to feed them.” The
But before I tell you of the last remarkable journey which Farel performed in that year, it is well to look back for a moment to the unhappy country which had refused his message, and driven him into exile. During the three years that had passed since Farel
We will now return to the Swiss valleys, where we left Farel in the month of November, 1529.
Day after day the preaching went on. “I keep Farel here,” wrote James Wildermuth. “I make him preach in the houses, because I know that he can thus do good. It is true that I have to endure many threats in consequence, but I may well learn to
In the month of June Farel appeared again at Neuchâtel. Anthony Froment came with him. During the six months of his absence many more of the people of Neuchâtel had turned to the Lord. Farel began again to preach in the streets, and in private houses. But
It is not for us to judge how much of the energy of the flesh, how much of human excitement there was in that day’s work of which I have told you in the Cathedral of Neuchâtel. No doubt the instruments thus used by God were imperfect
I must now tell you a story of a day in the month of August that was past. The second capital of the little state of Neuchâtel was the small town of Valangin. This town had long been a stronghold of popery—more so, perhaps, than Neuchâtel had been—for it
But we must now return to William Farel at Neuchâtel. He was far from thinking that his work there was done when the images were broken and the mass was stopped. On the contrary, this had but cleared the way for the work that he had at heart. Having
Towards the frontier of France, amongst steep mountains and dark pine woods, lay the town of Orbe. This town belonged to the two cities of Berne and Friburg.
But these sermons were destined to come to a sudden and untimely end. Father Michael was one day describing “the new preachers.” He had just told his congregation that the priests and monks were mediators between God and man, and “friends of the
Meanwhile Father Michael was standing before the judges, whom the officers of Berne and Friburg had appointed to hear his defense. And the lord of Arnex, Elizabeth’s husband, stood by his side to plead his cause. At the entreaties of this gentleman the friar was
And had Farel’s sermons been useless? It had seemed in his case as though the seed had fallen upon the wayside, and the fowls of the air had devoured it.
It was just about this time that Farel, who had gone to preach at St. Blaise, near the lake of Neuchâtel, was attacked by a furious mob, and beaten till he was half dead. He arrived at Morat so ill and exhausted that he had to stay in {s
Do you remember Tavannes, where the idols had been broken? Since that time there had been a preacher of the gospel living there, called De Glautinis. This good man now came for a while to help Farel in a new expedition.
Thus in towns and villages throughout the country do we read of sinners being saved, and of numbers of men and women who were turned from their idols to the living and true God, Farel had this joy in the midst of his many sufferings—much to cheer
In the month of July of the next year, 1532, Farel returned afresh to the work at Granson. Several who had believed the gospel there, now wished to go forth as preachers, and Farel and some of the older preachers were anxious to know whether they were sufficiently
It was a joyful day to the people of the Waldensian valleys, when at last the pastors from Switzerland came in sight. They had had a long and dangerous journey through the enemy’s country. They had traveled along the loneliest of the mountain paths, avoiding towns and villages,
And now for the homeward journey! Farel did not intend to return by the way that he came. Leaving the shelter of the thick woods and the lonely mountain paths, he rode onwards to the place which had so long been laid upon his heart—the old city of Geneva.
But the two days at Geneva had by no means discouraged Farel. On the contrary, the thought of the hungry souls whom he had left behind, only strengthened his longing for the day when Geneva should “be taken for Christ.”
Thus ended Anthony’s visit, you will say.
Some of the Huguenots, it is true, took part with Anthony, for no better reason than that they hoped the preaching would in time rid them of the priests. But very many had really been turned from darkness to light, and from the power of
In the meantime, the priests became more active than before. One of them, called Claude Pelliez, gave notice that he would preach against the heretics in the large church of which he was the vicar. The church was crowded by the papists. And several of the gospellers went to
The Huguenots were not as well satisfied. Now that Anthony’s preaching was forbidden, they were the more determined to hear it. In the case of some of them, it was no doubt a real desire to hear the gospel, which made them take up Anthony’s cause so warmly.
The priests had triumphed! They had got rid of Farel—and now, three months later, of Anthony Froment. And in the place of Froment, they had the Grey Friar. Crowds had gone to his preaching during Advent, and they might expect the same now. Crowds did go. But
But the priests had learned, by sad experience, not to be too sure of victory when they had got rid of one of their enemies. Another might spring up at any moment, and they could only hope for a quiet life if they could kill or banish,
The day following, the council of Geneva published some decrees, which were read aloud in the streets. They were meant to satisfy both parties, and to some extent they did so; but the Catholics, though they considered that on the whole they had gained a victory, were ill
On the 4th of May the priests determined to make a great display of their power. That day was the feast of the Holy Winding-sheet. If you had wished to know what was the holy winding-sheet, the priests would tell you as follows: When the Lord
You can now have some idea what sort of people were the Huguenots of Geneva; and you can understand that there was by the time the bishop left, far more real faith and light amongst them, than at the time when William Farel first came to
Father Furbity and the priests were in great spirits when the “two Mahometans” were gone. Sunday, December 21, was the Feast of S. Thomas of Canterbury. Father Furbity preached a sermon on that day, of which Sister Jane gives us the following notes:-
It is refreshing to turn from man to God, from the foolishness which is poured out from the mouth of fools (such as by nature we all are) to the rivers of living water that flow forth from the heart that believes in Jesus. Let
At the time that Farel was writing thus, another servant of the Lord was truly “taking with both hands the blessing prepared for those who suffer for Jesus.” Alexander, who had been driven from Geneva, had gone to preach the gospel at
The Bishop of Geneva had not ceased to think of his deserted flock. But he thought of it as the wolf thinks, not as the shepherd. One night, in July, the chief magistrate, who was just gone to bed, was roused up by his
“When things seem desperate,” said William Farel, “then is the time for faith to rest in God, against all appearances, against all that man can see.
Yes, William Farel could pity them, could pray for them, and could love them. It may be well here to read a letter he wrote about this, to a Roman Catholic of Geneva, probably one of the Bernard family. It may be a word in season for you, too. For
It was during this winter that a stranger was observed at the gospel meetings. She attended them diligently. After a while she told our friend, Claude Bernard, that she had been obliged to leave France because she had become a gospeller. She had come to take
During the summer of 1535 we read of constant preaching, not only in houses, but in the churches. The citizens carried Farel to preach in one church after another, and at last in the cathedral itself. We read also of the breaking of the images by the
The enemies of Geneva were preparing to strike their last blow. The Emperor Charles V was up in arms. He had called upon the popish cantons of eastern Switzerland to go to the help of his brother-in-law, the Duke of Savoy. The duke could also count
Meanwhile Farel prayed and preached, and Baudichon, who was in the neighborhood of Berne, was looking around for someone who would take up the cause of the persecuted city. “Believe me,” he wrote to the Council of Geneva, “God will deliver us from the hand of our enemies.
It was during the spring of that year, amidst the joy of the liberated city, that some sad tidings reached William Farel. Master Faber was dead! It was not wonderful, for he was nearly ninety years old—some say nearly a hundred—but it was none the less
There was much to be done at Geneva during that spring. All had to be put on a new footing. The schools were to be put into good working order. The habits and ways of the people were in need of a great change for the better.
Meanwhile Farel found his hands more than full. Not only had he the city of Geneva laid upon his heart, but in many other places was his presence needed. Christopher Fabri, who was fighting the Lord’s battles at Thonon, entreated his help. For awhile he went there, but
You will remember how many times William Farel had made vain attempts to get an entrance into Lausanne. The old city, with its proud bishop and its grand cathedral, its army of bigoted priests and ignorant monks, had again and again closed its gates against the
Perhaps you expect now to hear of the happy days of Geneva—of a time of rest, and peace, and sunshine. The duke and the bishop, the monks, the nuns, and the priests have all passed away like a dream. The gospel is preached, the
It was towards the end of April, 1538, that the two preachers were driven forth.
The next remarkable event in Farel’s history is one you would least expect to hear of. At the age of sixty-nine he married one of his country—women, who had fled from France and taken refuge at Neuchâtel. Her name was Mary Torel.
"From the brightness of the glory,