Faber, Jacobus Stapulensis
Faber, Jacobus Stapulensis
(Favre, or Le Fevre d'Etaples Jacques), an eminent scholar, one of the most zealous of his age for the revival of ancient learning, was born about 1450 (1455?) at Staples, a village of Picardy. He was educated at the University of Paris, in which he studied mathematics, philosophy, and Snally theology. He studied Greek with Hermonymus of Sparta at Paris. In 1492 he traveled into Italy, and studied Aristotle at Florence, Rome, and Venice; and on his return to Paris lectured on Aristotle's writings, and translated a number of them into Latin. In 1507 he took up his abode in the! Benedictine abbey of St. Germain des Pres, with Briconnet, the abbot, who was his pupil and intimate friend. Here he, remained till 1520, engaged chiefly in Biblical studies, the first published fruit of which was his Psalterium Quintuplex, in five columns, Gallium, Romanum, Hebraicum, Vetus, Conciliatum (Par. 1509, fol). He wrote also Commentarius in
Psalmos, etc. (Paris, 1515): — Commantaries in Epist. Catholicos (Basil, 1527, fol.): — Commentarius in Quat. Evang. (Meld. 1522): — De Tribus Maydalenis (Par. 1531). He was suspected of Lutheranism, and the Parliament of Paris was about to proceed against him in 1521; but in 1523, Briconnet, now bishop of Meaux, mande him his general vicar, and he removed to Meaux. He was afterwards deprived of his doctors' degree, and compelled to retire to Guienne. Before this, at the request of the queen of Navarre, he had commenced a translation (from the Vulgate) of the N.T. into French, which appeared in 1523. This work was intended for common readers, and was soon widely scattered. "The effect of the dissemination of this version of the Word of God, which formed the basis for the subsequent translation of Robert Olivetanus, so important in the history of the progress of Protestantism in France, was at once visible. The copies were eagerly sought; the poor received the Gospel gratuitously when they could not even pay the small suan demanded, from the liberality of the good bishop. Briconnet introduced the French Scriptures into the churches of Meaux where the people listened to the lessons in an intelligible language and were delighted. An autograph letter, recently discovered among the rich treasures of the public library of Geneva, frone Lefevre to his absent pupil Farel, pictures to us the immediate results of the publication, and the glowing hopes of the reformer. He writes: 'Good God, with what joy do I exult when I perceive that the grace of the pure knowledge of Christ has already spread over a good part of Europe; and I hope that Christ is at length about to visit our France with this benediction. You can scarcely imagine with what ardor God is maving the minds of the simple in some places to embrace his Word since the books of the New Testament have been published in French; but you will justly lament that they have not been more emidely scattered among the people. Some enemies have endeavored, under cover of the authority of the Parliament, to hinder the work; but our most generous king has become in this matter the defender of the cause of Christ, declaring it to be his will that his kingdom shall hear the word of God without impediment in that; tongue which it understands. Now throughout our entire diocese, on feast-days and especially on Sunday, both the Epistle and thee Gospel are read to the people in their native tongue, and the parish priest adds a word of exhortation to the Epistle or Gospel, or both at his own discretion' (letter of Lefevre, dated Meaux, July 6, 1524, in the Bulletin de la Societe de l'Histoire du Protestantisme Francais, t. 11 , pages 212, 213)," cited by Baird, Methodist Quarterly Review, 1864, page 442.
Faber was not fitted for the strife and storm of the times, and to secure quiet, he lived for several years as librarian to the palace at Blois, where he prepared a French translation (from the Vulgate) of the O.T., which appeared in Antwerp in 1528 (4 volumes, 8vo). All his affinities, both fromn study and friendship, being emith the Reformation, his last years were embittered by the persecutions suffered by his friends, though be never left the Roaisan Church. But he "well deserved the name of the forerunner of the Reformation; for in 1512, five years before Luther posted his theses on the doors of the cathedral at Wittemberg, he published his Commentary on the Fpistles of St. Paul, which clearly proclaimed the insufficiency of works, and the necessity of faith, as the ground of justification for the sinner An affecting incident is told of his last hours. While sitting at the royal table, a few days before his death, Lefevre was observed to weep, whereupon queen Margaret complained of the sadness of one whose society she had sought for her own diversion, and asked the occasion of his sorrow. 'How can I minister to the joy of others, who am myself the greatest sinner upon earth?' was Lefevre's mournful and unexpected response. Pressed to explain himself, the old man, after admitting that through a long life he had maintained exemplary morality of conduct, exclaimed in words frequently interrupted by sobs: 'How shall I be able to stand at God's tribunal, As I have taught others the purity of the Gospel? Thousands have suffered and died in defense of the doctrine in which I instructed them; and I, unfaithful shepherd that I am, after reaching so advanced an age, when I ought to love nothing less than life, or rather to desire death, have basely avoided the martyr's crown, and betrayed the cause of my God!' The queen and the other persons who were present administered such consolation to the pious Lefevre as they could find, and shortly afterwards he died, relying, on the forgiveness of his Maker, leaving his library to his disciple, Gerard Roussel, and the rest of his scanty property to the poor. The truth of this story, which rests upon the authority of Hubert Thomas, counselor of state and secretary of the elector palatine, has been discredited by Bayle in his Critical Dictionary, and after him by Tabaraud in the Biographia Universale, and more lately by Haag, in his great work on French Protestant Biography. All rest their rejection of the story chiefly upon time entire silence of the Reformers, who might well be expected to notice so suggestive an occurrence, were it indeed authentic. But in this instance, as in so many others, it has been proved how unreliable are all such arguments. With singular good fortune, M. Jules Bonnet has recently discovered anmong the unexplored treasures of the Genevese public library a minute; in the handeriting of the reformer Farel, which demonstrates the truth of the circumstances described by Hubert Thomas. He writes 'Our master, Jacques Lefevre, of Etaples, when suffering from the disease by which he died, was for some days so greatly terrified by the judgment of God that he cried out that his fate was sealed. saying that he was eternally lost because he had not openly professed the truth of God. This complaint he continued to utter days and night. When Gerard Roussel admonished him to be of good courage and trust in Christ, he answered, "I am condemnend; I have concealed the truth which I ought to have professed and openly borne witness to." It was a fearful sight to see so pious an old man so distressed in mind and so overwhelmed by so great a dread of the judgment of God. At length, however, freed from his fears, he began to entertain a good hope in Christ' (published for the first time in the Bulletin de la Society de l'Histoire du Protestantisme Francais, t. 9 , pages 214, 215)." — Baird, in Methodist Quarterly Review, 1864, page 41. He died at Nearac in 1536 (1507?). A full account of his writings may be found in the Zeitschrift fur histor. Theol. (1852), parts 1, 2. — See also Graf, Essai sur la vie et les ecrits de Lefevre d'Etaples (Strasb. 1842); Hoefer, Noun. Biograph. Generale, 30:334 sq.; Haag, La France Protestanto; Herzog, Real-Encyklop. 4:310; — Krug, Handwsrterbuch d, Philos. 2:2 sq.; Dupin, Ecclesiastes History. 16th cent. page 436.