Neff, Felix

Neff, Felix a philanthropic Swiss Protestant divine. was born in 1798 at a small village near Geneva. While yet a youth he enlisted as a soldier in the Genevese service, where his excellent conduct and superior qualifications soon procured him advancement. But he became obnoxious to his brother- officers by the unbending principles and the high-toned purity of his life, the result of the careful teachings of his widowed and pious mother. He was advised to leave the army for the pulpit, and finally resolving to follow this advice, he resigned his commission in 1819. He now offered himself for the work of a catechist or parish missionary, and labored for two years in that capacity in several of the Swiss cantons, and afterwards for six months at Grenoble. But when he desired to be ordained, he found that religious scruples prevented his connecting himself with the Established Church of Geneva, while from his being a foreigner he could not hope to receive ordination through the Protestant Church of France. He was therefore advised to repair to England, where he was ordained, May 19, 1823, in Mr. Clayton's chapel in the Poultry; and a few days afterwards left London to return to the scene of his former labors at Mens. However gratifying his reception among that attached people, his benevolent mind fixed on another place, in a wild and sequestered portion of the High Alps, as more urgently in need of his services. The consistory of the Protestant churches permitting, he entered on his pastoral charge in 1824. Thus this devoted minister, who might have enjoyed comfort and leisure in the beautiful and fertile vales of Languedoc, chose to settle in a poor and wildly extending Alpine district, comprising not less than seventeen isolated villages within a circuit of eighty miles. There was one part of his parish, the Val Fressinibre, where the inhabitants were so low socially, as well as uncivilized in the most common arts of life, as to be scarcely removed in many respects above the condition of barbarism. Neff perceived that his first step must be to supply the want of education, and, unable to pay a teacher, he joined the duties of a schoolmaster to those he already bore. Having at length succeeded in interesting the people in his efforts, he induced them to build. a school-house, he directing the workmen, and acting at once as architect and mason. But such excessive labor exhausted his constitution, and he died April 12, 1829, leaving a name entitled to be ranked among the best benefactors of his fellow- creatures. See Gilly, Memoirs of Neff; and of his Labors among the French Protestants of Dauphine, a Remnant of the Primitive Christians of Gaul (Lond. 1832, 8vo); Bost, Life of Felix Neff (Lond. 1855) ; Jamieson, Cyclop. of Relig. Biog. page 349; Darling, Cyclop. Bibliog. 2:2166; The London Quarterly Review, April 1833. (J.N.P.)

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