Viret, Peter

, an able assistant in the reformation, was born at Orbe, a little town in the canton of Berne, in 1511. He studied at Paris, and became acquainted there with Farel, whose fellow-labourer he afterwards was in establishing the reformation in some towns of Swisserland. He went with him to Geneva in 1534, and seconded him with great vigour in every thing necessary to be done for the abolition of popery. The city of Lausanne having embraced the reformation in 1536, it was thought proper that Peter Viret should exercise the ministerial function there, and he soon gained the affection and esteem of the inhabitants. This appears from the reluctance, with which they were brought to consent that he should go to the church of Geneva for six months, during Calvin’s absence at the conference at Worms in 1541, and afterwards at Ratisbon. During that time Viret became so useful and | popular, that Calvin, being restored to his flock, was extremely desirous of having him for his colleague; but could not prevail on him, as he was determined to return to Lausanne, where he remained until the French reformed churches overcame his repugnance, and prevailed with him to go to the church at Lyons, where in the midst of the civil wars, and the plague which followed, he and his colleagues continued to preach and to propagate the doctrines of the reformation with equal courage, prudence, and success.

Their tranquillity was at length disturbed by an edict of Charles IX. artfully procured by the Jesuits, which forbad the French churches from having any preachers who were not natives of France. Viret then, in 1563, retired to Orange, whence the pious Jeanne D’Albret, queen of Navarre, invited him to Beam. He preached also some time at Ortez, and died in that country in 1571, in the sixtieth year of his age. He had always been of a weakly constitution, and his health had been much injured by two attempts on his life by the enemies of the reformation, once when he was nearly poisoned at Geneva, and a second time when he received a stab from a knife, and was left for dead. He was a man of a meek and gentle disposition^ but of such winning eloquence, that many of his hearers conceived a kind of attachment to him, although they did not subscribe to his doctrines. Of the three great contemporaries in the church of Geneva, Calvin, Farel, and Viret, it was said that Calvin was admired for his profound erudition, Farel for his zeal and warmth, and Viret for his persuasive eloquence. Viret also, in his writings at least, had a happy talent in turning the superstitions he opposed into ridicule, and this he did with such effect that Dupin and other catholic biographers of later date cannot forgive him.

His works are very numerous, and regard principally the points in dispute between the reformed and the Romish church. They are written, some in French and some in Latin, and the form of dialogue seems to have been a favourite with him. During queen Elizabeth’s time, the most popular writings of the foreign reformers were translated into English, and this compliment we find paid to nine of Viret’s publications, the titles of which may be seen in Ames. From the list of his whole works given by Niceron, we may notice, 1. “De origine, continuatione, usu, auctohtate, atque prasstantia ministerii verbi Dei et | Sacramentorum; et de controversiis ea de re in Christiano orbe, hoc praesertim sasculo excitatis, ac de eorum componendorum ratione, libri octodecini,Geneva, 1554, folio. 2. “Instruction Chretienne en la doctrine de la loi et de l’evangile, &c.” ibid. 1564, folio. 1


Melchior Adam. Eezae Icones. Gen. Dict.