Book Review: The Life of William Farel by Francis Bevan

 •  2 min. read  •  grade level: 10
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William Farel was born in southern France in 1489, just six years after the birth of Martin Luther in Germany. While both men were destined to become mighty servants of God during the time of the reformation, Farel was largely unknown.
Francis Bevan has used many reliable historic sources—including Farel’s own writings and letters—to author this excellent account. In reading her book, it seems apparent that Farel had a clearer and deeper grasp of the truths of God’s Word than many of the better-known reformers.
Farel’s spiritual insight is evidenced in his comment, “Nothing is to be added, nothing to be diminished from that which God has said. His holy and perfect Word is to be kept pure and entire. The Apostle Paul says... that all Scripture is written by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine.... If all could receive this pure truth and give to Christ that honor which belongs to Him, and if the old fathers had, in every single matter, kept to that rule, there would have been no need now to write against evil doctrine and to have such trouble to weed out of the hearts of men such things.”
Of the early church fathers he says, “These holy men were greatly admired for their wisdom and goodness, but for all that they... sinned grievously, in ordering things [in the church] which are not in the Word of God they acted without the commandment of Jesus Christ.”
John Calvin, another mightily used servant of God during the reformation, was a close friend of William Farel. But while Calvin, Martin Luther and others were gaining much public notoriety, Farel was content to serve his Lord, unnoticed and unappreciated by most of the people of his day.
An account recorded near the end of this book gives a striking insight into Farel’s devotedness to the Lord Jesus. “Farel’s faded and tattered suit of clothing told the tale of his hardship and poverty. The council of Geneva ordered that a new suit be given to him. But Farel, desiring to be independent of the council and of all men in order that he might freely speak his mind to them respectfully refused the suit [which was then given to Calvin]. The honors of this world even the religious world had no value or importance to him who lived to serve his Lord and Master.”
Farel tasted severe persecution through much of his life. When 60 years of age, as he was breaking bread with 300 other believers, a group of armed men attacked and severely wounded him. It was some time before he again was able to move about.
He only sought to be a servant, saying, “It is not wealth, honor or the pleasure of this world that are set before us, but to serve the Lord, and that alone.”