Farel, Guillaume one of the boldest pioneers of the Reformation in Switzerland and France, was born near Gap, in Dauphiny, in 1489. He studied at Paris with great success, and was for some time teacher in the college of cardinal Le Moine, to which post he was recommended by Lefevre d'Etaples. SEE FABER STAPULENSIS. At this period of his life he had no personal religious convictions; but yet, while devoured with a love of letters, he was zealous in the service of the Roman Catholic Church. But he was led, under the influence of Lefevre, to the study of the Scriptures. About 1521 he went to Meaux, at the invitation of Lefevre, and the bishop (Brimonnet, q.v.) gave him authority to preach. His mind was now fixed substantially in the Reformed doctrine, and he preached, perhaps, with more zeal than discretion; and in 1523, Briconnet, now becoming timid, sent away the ardent young preacher. He soon found it best to retire to Switzerland. At Basel, Febtruary 15, 1524, he sustained publicly thirteen theses on the chief points in controversy (Themata quaedam Latine et Germaniae praposita Basel, 1528). During his few months' stay at Basel he visited some of the Swiss cities, and made friends of Myconius, Haller, and Zwingle. At Basel, OEcolampadius was his warm friend, admiring his zeal and energy, but, at the same time, not unaware of his lack of discretion. Farel was soon involved in a dispute with Erasmus, whose "trimming" tendency was just the opposite of his own ardent and decided nature. He compared Erasmus to Balaarm; but the scholar soon proved too strong for the young reformer, who was compelled to leave Basel. In one of his later letters, Erasmus say's of him (Epist. page 798, ed. Lond.): "You have in your neighborhood the new er angelist Farel, than whom I never saw a man more false, more virulent, more seditious." But the abuse of Erasmus could not, in the long run, injure Farel. Towards the end of March 1524, Farel went to Strasburg, where he made the friendship of Bucer and Capito. Under the direction of OEcolampadius, he went to serve a newly-formed society at Montbeliard. Here he preached successfully, but yet with great violence. Once, on a procession day, he pulled out of the priest's hand the image of St. Anthony, and threw it from a bridge into the river; he narrowly escaped being torn to pieces by the mob. His friends became alarmed, and (Ecolampadius censured him for his imprudence, (see Correspondance des Reformateurs, Paris, 1866, 1:265). Leaving Montbeliard in the spring of 1525, he spent a short time at Basel, and the next year partly in Alsace and partly in Switzerland. In 1527 he went to Aigle, and in 1528, when Berne became Protestant, he extended his labors to all the territory connected with Berne. Under his labors, Aigle and Bex became Protestant in 1528-9; Morat and Neufchaltel in 1530; Orbe in 1531. His labors during these years were not only vast, but perilous; but the government of Berne gave him strong and steady support. In 1531 he was sent as a deputation (with A. Saunier) to the Waldensian Synod at Angrogne. He always retained great influence among the Waldenses.
In 1532, on his return from the Waldensian meeting, he came to Geneva, then full of religious strife. His first preaching was private, but it was too successful to be kept secret and he was sumnmoned before the episcopal council, at the time trembling for its authority, and therefore the more likely to be severe. The meeting with the council was a scene of bitter recriminations, and when Farel was leaving it a gun was fired at him. He coolly remarked, "Your shots do not terrify me." But he was forced to quit Geneva for the time, and sent Froment and Olivetan to continue the work there. In 1533 he returned to Geneva, where the Reformation was gaining ground. Farel's situation here was full of trial and peril, but his courage and devotion admirably fitted him for his task. The triumph came August 27, 1535, when the city council, by an edict, formally proclaimed the adhesion of Geneva to the Reformation. Farel was full of toil and anxiety in organizing the Reformed discipline and worship, is which he was assisted especially by Viret (q.v.). In 1536, Calvin stopped at Geneva to visit the Reformers. Farel urged him to stay, and, on Calvin's refusal, thus addressed him: "I declare, in the name of God, that if you do not assist us in this work of the Lord, the Lord will punish you for following your own interest rather than his call." Calvin, struck with this denunciation, submitted, and was appointed preacher and professor. SEE CALVIN. From that time on Farel's labors were closely united eith those of Calvin. The confession of faith drawn up by Farel, with Calvin's counsel, was approved by the people in July, 1537. The same year the Council of Geneva conferred on Farel the honor of a burgess of the city, in token of their respect and gratitude. But the popular will was not prepared for the severe discipline of the Reformers, and in a short time the people, under the direction of a faction, met im a public assembly and expelled Farel and Calvin from the place (April 1538). Farel went to Neufchatel, emhere the Church was in a state of disorder, in consequence of the troubles occasioned by the severity of the Reformed discipline. He dealt with offenders severely; even a lady of noble birth did not escape. She had left her husband; Farel urged her to return to him and on her refusal rebuked the scandal and its authors publicly from the pulpit. A great strife arose, and the people emere on the point of expelling Farel; but at last his energy overcame the factious party, and the council by vote, in 1542, proclaimed his triumph. In that year he returned to Geneva, and went thence to Metz, to organize the Reformed Church. He preached first in the Dominican cemetery, amid the ringing of the convent bells purposely to drown his voice. Thousands afterwards flocked to hear him. Once, when a Franciscan was preaching Mariolatry, Farel contradicted him, and nearly fell a victim to the fury of the mob, especially of the women. On October 2, 1542, the city council forbade his preaching in the city, and he retired to the neighboring town of Montigny, and afterwards to Gorze, where the count of Furstemberg took him and his friends under his protection. On March 25, 1543, an armed band fell upon the evangelicals while celebrating the Easter communion. Many were killed and wounded; among the latter was Farel, who took refuge in the castle. He escaped in disguise, and went to Strasburg, where he remained a flew months. He then visited his old friends in Neufchatel and Geneva. Here he approved the execution of Servetus (q.v.). In 1557 he was sent, with Beza, to the Protestant princes of Germanmy, to implore their aid for the Waldenses, and on his return he went to preach the Refornation among the Jura Mountains. At sixty-nine he married a young wife, very much to Calvin's disgust, who spoke of him under the circumstances as our poor brother (povre frere). In 1560 he visited his native Dauphiny, established a Reformed Chureh at Grenoble, and passed several months at Gap, preaching against Rome with all the vehemence of his youth. On November 24, 1561, he was thrown into prison, but was rescued by his friends, who took him from the rampart in a basket. In 1564 he paid a visit to the dying Calvin, and then passed some months with his old flock at Metz. He returned to Neufchaetel worn out with fatigue, and died there September 13, 1565.
Farel was an ardent, impulsive man, a missionary rather than an organizer, an iconoclast rather than a theologian. His gifts admirably supphemented those of Calvin. Beza (Life of Calvin) says of Farel that in his preaching "he excelled in a certain sublimity so that none could hear his thunders without trembling." Among his writings are Sommaire; brieve declaration d'aillcuns lieux fort necessaires a un chacum Chretien, etc. (many editions; reprinted in 1865, along with Du vray usage: see below): — De Oratione Dominica (1524, 8vo), afterwards in French, enlarged (Gene's. 1543, 12mo): — Traite du Purgatoire (1543, 12mo): — La Glaive de l'Esprit (against Libertines; Genev. 1550): Du vray usage de ha croix de J. C. (Genev. 1560, 8vo; new ed., with other letters and writings of Farel, Neufchautel, 1865, 8vo): — Traite de la Cene (1555). There are several lives of Farel: Ancillon, Vie de Guill. Farel (Amst. 1691); Kirchhofer, Leben Farel (Zurich, 1833, 2 volumes); translated, Kirchhofer's Life of Farel (Lond. 1837, sm. 8vo); Blackburn, Life of Farel (Phila. Presb. Board). See also Schmidt, Etudes sur Farel (Strasb. 1834); Haag, La France Protestante, vol. iv; Bayle, Dictionnare, s. vr.; Hoefer, Nouv. Biog. Generale, 17:103; Cosrespondance des Reformateurs dans les Pays de langue Francaise (Paris, 1866, tom. 1).