Viret, Peter

Viret, Peter a Swiss reformer, was born at Orbe, in the canton of Vaud, in 1511, and was educated and converted from Romanism at Paris. In 1531 Farel visited Orbe and ordained Viret, despite his unwillingness, to the ministry. In 1534 he became Farel's assistant at; Geneva. Thence he went to Neufchatel and Lausanne, In October, 1536, he defended certain theses promulgated by Farel in a public disputation, and thereby contributed to the improvement of the Church of Lausanne. In the following May he responded with a definitive confession of faith to his colleague Dr. Caroli's, charge of Arianism, and with such success that Caroli was dismissed from the pastorate and returned to Romanism. The activity of Viret was now applied in many different directions. He labored in Geneva after the overthrow of the Anti-Reform party until Calvin returned, improved the discipline of the Church at Lausanne, wrote a number of theological and catechetical works, and journeyed to distant points in the interests of the Reformation. In 1549 Beza was appointed professor at Lausanne, and became the friend of Viret. Differences began to make themselves felt, however. Viret was accused, in 1546, of holding to Bucer's view of the sacrament of the Lord's supper, and was not confirmed in his office until 1549. The Bernese government was dissatisfied with the predominance of Calvin's influence at Lausanne, and raised difficulties about the question of excommunication and then about predestination. In the end Viret was dismissed. He went to Geneva and became pastor. In 1561 he was called to Memes. In the following year he counseled the preachers assembled at Montpellier to submit when the Protestants were obliged to restore their churches to the Romanists, and subsequently visited that town for his health. He next accepted a call to Lyons, and lived there when, the Huguenots seized the city after the massacre of Vassy. After the peace of Amboise the mass was again established, but the Huguenots were allowed to continue their worship for a time. On Aug. 10, 1563, he presided over the fourth French National Synod. He developed an extraordinary degree of literary fertility. He was drawn into a dispute with Italian antitrinitarians and monks. In the period between 1563 and 1565 he published nine works, among them his chief production, Instruction Chrestienne en la Doctrine de la Lay et de l'Evangile, etc. (Geneva, 1564, 3 vols. fol.). The book is a noteworthy specimen of the literature of the Reformation, containing a complete system of morals and politics, and suggestive apologetics aimed against atheists and deists. It was written in dialogue form, like most of the works of Viret, and shows great classical and theological learning, a rich imagination, earnest piety, and keen wit; but it suffers from diffuseness and incorrectness, the results of the rapidity with which the author worked. In 1565 he was obliged to leave Lyons. He went to Orange, and thence to Jeanne d'Albret's newly erected Academy of Orthez. In 1569 he was made prisoner by the Catholics, but was soon liberated. He died at Orthez in 1571. He was brave and true in his adhesion to the evangelical Church, but nevertheless of a mild and peaceful temper. He did not develop the prevalent theology, but merely made it accessible to laymen and defended it against opponents. His works rank among the greatest rarities in literature. Viret's life is contained in. Leben d. Vites u. Begünder d. ref Kirche (Elberfeld, 1860), vol. 9. See Herzog, Real- Encyklop. s. V.

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