William (Guillaume) Farel was born in Dauphiny in 1489. He was educated in Paris and was one of the first to make a public profession of the Gospel in France. When persecution arose against Protestants, we went to Switzerland, where he became acquainted with Zwingli, Œcolampadius and Hallerus. In 1524, he went to Basel where he engaged in public debates against the Popish theologians residing there. The masters of the local university were outraged and refused to allow the debates, until the senate imposed its authority over the university. Eventually, the bishop of Basel had Farel driven from the city.
He then went to Montpelier and other places, preaching the Gospel everywhere he went. He preached with amazing fervor and zeal. When he was in Metz, he preached in the Dominican monastery churchyard. The Dominican monks tried to drown out his voice by ringing the church bell. Farel kept on preaching outdoing the bell until he had finished his sermon.
In 1528 he went with Viret to Geneva where the planted the church and spread the Gospel. Calvin stayed in Geneva because of Farel. After what was intended to be a visit to the city, Farel protested that Calvin should not withhold his gifts from the Church in her hour of need. Calvin wished to return home and continue his studies, To this, Farel, like Elijah of old, thundered out this warning to Calvin: “You have no other ground for refusing my request than your love for study; but I tell you, in the name of Almighty God, that if you do not join me in the work of the ministry, God will punish you for preferring your pleasure to the Lord's service."
Though Farel had done so much for the Genevans, in 1553, they were ready to have him condemned to death. Farel then left for Neufchatel where he pastured the church there with great zeal and faithfulness.
When he heard of Calvin’s sickness, he rushed back to Geneva, though he was 70 years old. He outlived Calvin by a little over a year. He died in 1565. Farel was a man of incredible zeal and fervor. He was remarkably diligent and an astoundingly bold preacher. He was reported to have been so fervent in prayer that he carried his hearers to heaven with him.