Guillaume Farel (1489-1565)
You may have heard the name John Calvin. But many of you may not have heard the name Guillaume Farel. But, humanly speaking, without Guillaume Farel we may not have had a John Calvin to speak about.
Farel was an earlier Reformer who had already started a work in Geneva, Switzerland and had invited John Calvin to join him in the project. Invited might be a bit of a weak word. What Farel actually did was to “announce” to him that the will of God called Calvin to join the pastoral work in Geneva. I will let Farel’s words speak for themself. Here are Farel’s words to John Calvin:
“May God curse your studies if now in her great time of need you refuse your aid to the church.”
The date was in August in 1536 and John Calvin Joined Guillaume Farel to effect the work of reformation in Switzerland.
Born into a home that was marked by ignorance and superstition, his family was told, and believed, that Christians were worshippers of the devil and arrived at their meetings on broomsticks or on the backs of demons. Farel wrote concerning this that:
“My parents believed everything.”
Later Farel would write that his young mind was so corrupted:
“My mind became a temple of idols and a walking calendar of fast days”
In 1510 Farel entered Paris, where he came under the influence of theologian Jacques LaFevre. It was under this man’s teaching on Justification by Faith Alone that Farel was gloriously converted to Christ.
His ministry was marked by bold proclamation of the Gospel and actions that some might consider less than tactful. On one occasion Farel walked into a church in the middle of mass and took the host from the priest’s hand and gulped it down. To everyone’s amazement no judgment proceeded from God. The result of this bold action was that the priest was converted to Christ. Riots were often organized against him; he was beaten or pelted with stones. He was even exiled from his homeland. His reaction to this persecution is seen in his own words:
“I must be prepared to suffer death if I should teach anything contrary to the doctrine of Godliness. I should be most worthy of any punishment whatever if I should seduce anyone from the faith and doctrine of Christ.”
Farel wrote to one young man the following:
“Look for labour not for leisure … the field is open … but much reproach is to be endured. You must expect to meet with ingratitude in return for kindness and evil for good.”
It was said of Farel that he was completely devoted to the will of God. His own personal mission statement was simple: “Do what is right and let come what may.”
Theodore Beza described Farel’s preaching as “Like Thunder.”
French historian Michelet described Farel as the “Hero of the Battles of God.”
His enemies (and there were many) called him the “Rebel Prince.”
And one of his closest friends and colleagues, John Calvin, wrote of him: “My sound hearted brother and matchless friend.”
This fiery redhead, burdened for the French-speaking people of Switzerland, gave his life for the cause of Jesus Christ. Walking miles through the mountains of Switzerland to bring the gospel to these people.
On May 2, 1564, John Calvin wrote a letter (his last letter) to his friend asking to see him. Farel, at this time 75 years old, walked close to 75 miles to attend his dear friend on his death bed. One year later Guillaume Farel passed into the presence of the Lord he had loved and served.
Don Shidler in his biography of Farel (“Elijah of the Alps”) summarized Farel’s life and ministry so well and give us cause for pause as we consider our devotion and faith to the Lord:
“When things are desperate, then is the time for faith to rest in God, against all appearances against all that man can see.”
See You Sunday,