Short Papers on Church History — Chapter 43

The General Progress of Reform

The Reformation in Switzerland had now been baptized in blood — the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. The adversary of the gospel had done his work — his cruel work; but it made all men thoughtful. The violence of the blow was felt by all classes throughout Switzerland. The power of Rome was weakened, the triumphs of the Reformation were accelerated. Even the heads of the Catholic cantons, notwithstanding their hatred against the Reformers, could not conceal from themselves, that the general corruption of manners, and the glaring immoralities of the clergy, rendered some reform absolutely indispensable. And seeing the indifference of the ecclesiastical authorities to all such matters, they resolved to provide for the wants of the church, and for the tranquillity of their common country. But the plan of the deputies was opposed by the whole clerical influence, and they had neither energy nor authority to press it. The future general council, so often demanded, so long promised, was again spoken of as the only hope of pacifying Christendom.

While these things were agitating the heads of the Catholic cantons, those favorable to the Reformation were drawing closer together. Zurich, Berne, Glaris, Schaffhausen, and Appenzell, formed an alliance for the more effectual spread of the truth, and for the protection of their rights and liberties. Such were the favorable results of the martyrdom of the Wriths. "Every time," says D'Aubigne, "that Rome erects a scaffold, and that heads roll upon it, the Reformation will exalt the holy word of God, and throw down some abuses. When Hottinger was executed, Zurich suppressed images, and now that the heads of the Wriths have fallen, Zurich will reply by the abolition of the mass."

Ever since the decision of the two conferences, the council of Zurich had been resolved to abolish the superstitious rites of the mass; but it was thought desirable to delay until the public mind should appear to be prepared for the change. The mass was therefore allowed to remain untouched after the removal of the images, but no priest was compelled to say it, nor any layman to hear it. It became generally neglected, and day by day it fell more and more into disrepute, so that the proper time for its total abolition seemed to have arrived.

The Abolition of the Mass

On the 11th of April, 1525, the pastors, Zwingle, Leo Juda, and Engelhardt, accompanied by Megander, chaplain of the hospital, and Myconius, preacher in the abbey church, presented themselves before the council, and recommended the immediate abolition of the sacrifice of the altar. One advocate alone presented himself to defend the established opinion. Engelhardt, formerly a doctor of pontifical law, explained the difference between the service in the Latin church, and the Eucharist according to the institution of Christ and the apostolic practice. All felt the solemnity and importance of the resolution which the council was called upon to take, and thought it well to adjourn the debate till the following day. And then, after some further conference between the divines and the senators, a decree was published to the following effect: "Henceforward, by the will of God, celebrate the Eucharist according to the institution of Christ, and the apostolic practice. Be it permitted to those infirm, and yet rude in faith, to continue the ancient practice for this time only. Let the mass be universally abolished, laid aside, and antiquated, so as not to be repeated even tomorrow." The altars were accordingly removed from the churches, and replaced by communion tables; the great body of the people communicated according to the new form; those who attended mass were even less numerous than the Reformers expected. Thus fell that mystery of iniquity, which had deeply impressed for centuries the feelings and the credulity of mankind. Mass had been celebrated in the Latin Church from an early period; but prostration at the elevation of the host, and other ceremonies, were of a later date.

The Celebration of the Lord's Supper

Zwingle, first of all, preached from the words, "It is the Lord's passover." After the conclusion of the sermon a table was covered with a white cloth, unleavened bread, and cups filled with wine, to recall the remembrance of the last supper of our Lord with His disciples. The minister then approached the table. The words of institution from the epistle to the Corinthians, and other portions were read aloud by the deacons. The crowd was so great, and the services so prolonged, that several ministers and deacons assisted. After prayer, and exhorting the people to self-examination, the minister lifted the bread, and, with a loud voice, repeated the institution of the Lord's supper. He then delivered the bread, and afterwards the cup, to the deacons, to present them to the people, and for the people to distribute them to each other. While the elements were passing round, one of the ministers read from the Gospel of St. John those ever fresh and ever blessed discourses, held by the Lord with His disciples, immediately following the feast of the passover, in chapter 13. After the supper the congregation all knelt down, and offered up their grateful adorations and thanksgivings; then hymns, full of the expression of love and praise to their Saviour and Lord, terminated this solemn and affecting scene — the first celebration of the Lord's supper by the Reformers in Switzerland. It occupied three days — Thursday in Passion Week, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday.

For the establishment of the good work in Zurich, and for the spread of the truth elsewhere, Zwingle, Leo Juda, and other learned men, published about this time, several useful works on the holy scriptures, such as the Pentateuch, and other historical books of the Old Testament, besides an able commentary on "True and False Religion."

We may now leave Zurich for a time. Having given a somewhat minute account of the work of God's Spirit there, we must be brief with the other places, as many fields still lie before us. Besides, there is a great similarity in the work in the different places.

The Reformation in Berne

Berne was one of the most influential states in the confederation; it numbered many powerful friends of the gospel, and many formidable adversaries. For the first few years after the appearance of Luther and Zwingle, a strong opposition was manifested to the new opinions. Nowhere was the struggle likely to be more severe. But under the evangelical preaching of Haller and Meyer the more violent prejudices began to soften down.

By the blessing of God on the labours of these devoted, earnest, and consistent men, the cause of truth prospered, and from an act of the government in 1523, we may conclude that the balance inclined to the side of the Reformation. It was decreed, "That as conflicting doctrines were delivered to the people and the preachers thundered against each other, they should all of them thenceforward preach the same gospel, namely, the doctrine revealed by God, and illustrated by the prophetic and apostolic writings; that they should propound nothing contrary to Holy Writ, whether on Luther's, or on any other authority, and avoid every discourse of a seditious tendency."

By this decision of the senate, the preaching of the gospel in all its fulness and simplicity was encouraged, and the word of God was established as the only standard of appeal in discussion, the only test of truth. Thus was the foundation surely laid of a true Reformation, and under the sanction of the government. But these advantages, intentional or unintentional, were sufficient to alarm the papists, and to drive them to their favorite weapons of intrigue, treachery, and violence. The two faithful witnesses in Berne, Haller and Meyer, must be silenced by fair means or foul. They were falsely accused, together with the famous Wittenbach, of having spoken to some nuns with the view of inducing them to leave their convent life, and were sentenced to banishment from Berne. But when the plot was discovered, the opposition on the part of the people was so great, that the matter was carried before the Great Council, which reversed the decision of the Smaller Council, and discharged the ministers, with an exhortation to confine themselves to their pulpits, and not to meddle with cloisters. This was all that these devoted men wanted — their pulpits. Thus the Reformation gained a fresh victory, and her enemies were covered with disgrace.

The Nuns of Konigsfeldt

A few months after this occurrence, the principles of the Reformation were greatly strengthened by the conversion of the nuns of Konigsfeldt. This was a wonderful triumph of the gospel. The monastery stood near the castle of Hapsburg, and was surrounded with all the magnificence of the Middle Ages. From the family of Hapsburg the imperial house of Austria sprang in the seventh century, and gave, in after years, many Emperors to Germany. Here the daughters of the nobles in Switzerland and Swabia used to take the veil. Beatrice of Laudenberg, sister to the bishop of Constance was one of the inmates. But the truth of God, which the bishop was seeking with all his power to suppress, was the means of the conversion of many of the nuns in this imperial monastery. The writings of Luther and Zwingle, and the holy scriptures, had found their way into this institution, and the saving change was accomplished. Nor need we wonder: God was working by His Holy Spirit, and the strongest prejudices and the greatest difficulties were overcome. The following letter, written by Margaret Watteville, a youthful nun and sister to the provost of Berne, will furnish a better idea of the fruits of the Reformation, and of the christian spirit that existed in those pious women, than any explanation we could give. She writes to Zwingle:

"May grace and peace in the Lord Jesus be given and multiplied towards you always by God our heavenly Father. Most learned, reverend, and dear sir, I entreat you to take in good part the letter I now address to you. The love which is in Christ constrains me to do so, especially since I have learnt that the doctrine of salvation is spreading day by day through your preaching of the word of God. For this reason I give praise to the everlasting God for enlightening us anew, and sending us by His Holy Spirit so many heralds of His blessed word; and at the same time I offer up my ardent prayers that He will clothe with His strength both you and all those who proclaim His glad tidings, and that, arming you against all the enemies of the truth, He will cause His divine word to grow in all men. Very learned sir, I venture to send your reverence this trifling mark of my affection: do not despise it; it is an offering of christian charity. If this electuary does you any good, and you should desire more, pray let me know; for it would be a great pleasure to me to do anything that was agreeable to you; and it is not I only who think thus, but all those who love the gospel in our convent at Konigsfeldt. They salute your reverence in Jesus Christ, and we all commend you without ceasing to His almighty protection. — Saturday before Loetare."

These pious ladies, believing that they could better serve the Lord outside than inside the walls of a convent, petitioned the government for permission to leave it. The council, in alarm at this strange proceeding, endeavoured to induce them to remain, promising that the discipline of the convent would be relaxed, and their allowance increased. "It is not the liberty of the flesh that we require," said they to the council, "it is the liberty of the Spirit." As they persisted in their petition, the government found it necessary at length to yield. And the decree which restored them to liberty contained a general provision for the liberation of all who, with the consent of their parents, might desire it. The convent gates were now thrown open, which greatly weakened the credit and power of Rome, and manifested the triumphs of the Reformation, for many of those ladies were in a short time honourably married.

The Conference at Baden

But although the principles of the Reformation were gaining ground rapidly, the Roman Catholic party was still very powerful and very active. A more decisive battle must be fought before victory can be declared.

Ever since the first conference held at Zurich, the bishop of Constance, or rather John Faber, his grand vicar, had been constantly deliberating by what means he could most effectually arrest the progress of the Reformation. Experience had proved that bishops' charges were little regarded; that writing books was hopeless, as the Reformers surpassed their adversaries in learning and talents; indeed, success seemed utterly hopeless unless the destruction of Zwingle could be accomplished. His popularity and influence were increasing day by day.

A political event which happened about this time yet further impressed upon the Romanists the necessity of some instant and vigorous measure. The battle of Pavia, fought between the French and the imperialists, threw a dark shadow over Switzerland, but shed a bright gleam on the wisdom, patriotism, and Christianity of Zwingle. More than ten thousand Swiss mercenaries had fought on that field so fatal to France. Between five and six thousand swelled the number of the slain, and five thousand were made prisoners. When these were released and sent home, their maimed and emaciated forms were like so many spectacles of horror wandering over the land, and were everywhere met by the wailings of the widows and the orphans of the slain. The people now remembered how often Zwingle had thundered against these foreign enlistments from the pulpit; and spoke of him as the truest patriot and their best friend.

The Romanists now saw that the general feeling was in favour of Zwingle, and that some means must be taken to check his growing influence. But how is this to be done? Who can solve the problem? We must go wisely to work. Jezebel, long in practice, came to their aid; and thus, we may say, she counselled. The first thing to be done is to induce Zwingle to leave Zurich. Of course he will come to the conference. Once out of the territory of that state, he would be in your power. You could seize him and burn him, and the death of the champion would be the death of the whole movement. The plan was approved, victory was certain. "The torrent once stemmed, the waters of heresy will retreat to the abyss whence they issued, and the 'everlasting hills' of the old faith, which the deluge threatened to overtop, will once more lift up their heads stable and majestic as ever." Faber communicated his plan to Dr. Eck, vice-chancellor of Ingolstadt who had acquired great reputation with his party by combating the opinions of Luther at Leipsic; and it was agreed that he should take charge of the plot.

This notorious and unscrupulous advocate of the papacy addressed a letter to the cantons, filled with invectives against Zwingle, and offering to convince him publicly of his errors, if they would furnish him with a favourable opportunity. "I am full of confidence," he said, "that I shall, with little trouble, maintain our old true christian faith and customs, against Zwingle, who has no doubt milked more cows than he has read books." A diet was at length fixed to be held at Baden — a Romish city, in May, 1526.

Zwingle and the other divines of Zurich were invited to attend, but the senate refused compliance. To send Zwingle to Baden, said the council, would be to send him not to dispute, but to die. There the blood of the Wriths was shed, and there the popish cantons were all-powerful: they had burned his books at Friburg and his effigy at Lucerne, and they were only thirsting to burn himself. Indeed the papal party took no pains to conceal their intentions towards Zwingle, whom they denounced in their public manifesto as a rebel, a heretic, and a perverter of scripture. With these threatenings before them, the council of Zurich decreed that Zwingle should not go to Baden. They also protested against the resolutions that might be taken by the diet, but offered Eck full security, if he would come and confer with the Reformer at Zurich. This offer was rejected, and the conference took place without the presence of Zwingle.

The Opening of the Diet

Faber, Eck, and Murner, accompanied by prelates, magistrates, and doctors, robed in garments of silk and damask, and adorned with chains, rings, and crosses, repaired to the church. OEcolampadius and Haller, two quiet timid men, were the only Reformers who appeared in the discussion. The same dogmas which had been replied to over and over again, were brought forward by Eck. The following are his seven propositions, as given by the learned and candid Roman Catholic historian, Du Pin. They will also place before the reader the figments of popery for which the papists were fighting, and for which they were ready to shed the blood, not only of their best citizens, but of the saints of God. 1. That the real body and blood of Christ are present in the sacrament of the altar. 2. That they are truly offered in the sacrifice of the mass for the living and the dead. 3. That we ought to call on the blessed Virgin and the saints, as our intercessors. 4. That the images of Jesus Christ, and His saints, ought not to be taken down. 5. That there is a purgatory after this life. 6. That infants are born in original sin. 7. That baptism takes away that sin.*

{*Du Pin, folio ed. vol. 3, p. 201; Hess, pp. 240-250.}

Eck alone spoke in defence of the popish doctrines; but the absence of Zwingle greatly disconcerted him, and nullified the chief object of the diet. "I thank God," wrote OEcolampadius to Zwingle, "that you are not here. The turn that matters take makes me clearly perceive that, had you been here, we should neither of us have escaped the stake. How impatiently they listen to me! but God will not forsake His glory, and that is all we seek." The assembly, being entirely governed by Eck, pronounced an excommunication against Zwingle and all his adherents, and particularly required of the senate of Basle to deprive OEcolampadius of his office, and to banish him. It also strictly prohibited the sale of the books of Luther and Zwingle, and forbade all innovations — all change in worship or doctrine, under severe penalties.

The papal party affected to make much of their victory at Baden, but victory was only in appearance. OEcolampadius was received with open arms at Basle, and Haller was retained in the exercise of his functions, notwithstanding the excommunications launched against him. The cantons of Zurich, Berne, Basle, and Schaffhausen, demanded permission to inspect the acts of the assembly, but they were not allowed to see them: on which account they refused all further concern with the official decision of the diet.

A dispute, which immediately followed on the return of Haller and the deputies from Baden, fairly tested the strength of both parties. For six months preceding the conference, the Reformer had suspended the celebration of mass in Berne. The smaller senate, influenced by the decrees of Baden, insisted on his restoring it. He firmly but respectfully refused, and appealed to the larger senate. They no doubt felt the difficulty of their position. Will they annul the generous edict of 1523, and confirm the persecuting mandate of 1526? The populace came to their help. The people, by whom Haller was much loved, assembled in multitudes, and expressed their determination not to be deprived of their christian pastor. The senate, yielding to the popular commotion, decreed: That he should resign his dignity, but continue in his ministerial functions, and that the celebration of mass should not be required of him. The day was evidently past for communities to be governed by papal edicts or alarmed by church censures. The strength of public feeling, embittered by religious strife, was far beyond their reach. The breach which separated the papal and the Protestant parties was widening day by day, and the spirit and position of each becoming more and more hostile.

The Catholic cantons, or those most firmly attached to the faith of their fathers, Lucerne, Uri, Schweitz, Unterwalden, and Zug, which are frequently spoken of as the five, perceiving the instability of Berne in the case of Haller, offered to the authorities to send deputies to assist in the maintenance of the old religion. This message, fortunately, offended the pride of Berne — a military state. The government replied: "That the embassy proposed was quite unnecessary, since the people of Berne were sufficient for the management of their own affairs, and the care of their religion was of all others most especially their own." They now revoked any engagement they had come under at Baden by their deputies, they confirmed the edict of 1523; and decreed that a public disputation should be held in their city during the winter following, for the final decision of the disputed questions.

The Great Conference at Berne

The bishops of Constance, Basle, Zion, and Lausanne together with all their most eminent theologians, were summoned to appear at this great conference, on pain of forfeiting such of their possessions as lay in the Bernese territory. They commanded all their own divines to be present, and stated that the holy scriptures would be the only standard of appeal. At the same time they published ten articles, to be maintained by the advocates of the Reformed churches, and to be the subject of the conference.

1. That the church of which Jesus Christ is the only Head sprang from the word of God, and subsists by the same word 2. That the church ought to observe no other laws, and is not subject to the traditions of men. 3. That the death of Christ on the cross is a sufficient expiation for the sins of the whole world, and they that seek salvation in any other way deny Jesus Christ. 4. That it cannot be proved by any testimony of scripture, that the body and blood of Jesus Christ is corporeally received in the sacrament. 5. That the sacrifice of the mass is opposed to scripture, and derogates from the sacrifice of Christ. 6. That Christ is the only intercessor and advocate for His people with God the Father. 7. That the existence of a purgatory cannot be proved from scripture; therefore, the prayers, ceremonies, and annual services for the dead are useless. 8. That the worship of images, statues, and pictures is contrary to the word of God. 9. That marriage is not forbidden to any order of men. 10. That all lewd persons ought to be put out of the communion of the church, as the scriptures teach us; for nothing is more unbecoming the order of priesthood than a lewd and unchaste celibacy.*

{*Waddington, vol. 2, pp. 327-336. Scott, vol. 3, pp. 1-25. D'Aubigne, vol. 4, pp. 361-385. Hess, pp. 250-258.}

Haller, the real author of the ten articles, naturally turned to Zwingle for help in their defence. "If you do not stretch out your hands to me," he wrote, "I fear all is over." The contest seemed unequal. On the one side the Roman hierarchy, with the sanction of ages, the prejudices of mankind, and backed by the authority of the civil power; and on the other side, Berthold Haller, a modest, timid preacher of the gospel. But the sword of the Spirit was invincible. Nevertheless the servant of the Lord had to prove, through deep exercise of soul, his own weakness and where his great strength lay. Zwingle, as well as OEcolampadius, promised his assistance. The decisive moment was at hand. The success of the Reformation throughout the whole of Switzerland was involved in the approaching assembly.

The Opposition of Rome

The Catholic party, apprehending the results of the conference, made great efforts to prevent it. They assembled at Lucerne, and strongly opposed the meeting, referring the Bernese to the disputation of Baden as having sufficiently decided the questions at issue. The Catholics of Germany also addressed a strong remonstrance to the government of Berne, dissuasive of the conference. "They implored them not to be seduced unto those novelties by the influence of a few foreigners, but to adhere to the religion of their fathers and forefathers, under the shadow of which they had achieved so many glorious victories, and extended so widely the boundaries of their dominions." To this plausible appeal the senate of Berne nobly replied: "That the religion of Christ that the salvation of souls, that the peace of the republic, were at stake; and that from a resolution thus grounded no reasons could possibly move them. " Other means of persuasion and intimidation were then attempted. The Friburgers even endeavoured to excite the people of Berne to rise against their rulers. Passports were refused to the evangelical ministers; and all persons were forbidden to pass through the territories of the Catholic cantons to the meeting. Nor did the Emperor suffer his numerous engagements to prevent his writing to the government of Berne urging them to change their mind and refer the whole question to a general council.

The reader must draw his own conclusions as to the motives of the Catholics in uniting all their energies to prevent the proposed assembly. They dreaded the light of plain scripture. Roman Catholicism can only exist in gross darkness as to the truth of God. But their remonstrances and menaces were all in vain. The senate was firm; and the evangelical principles had made such manifest progress among all classes of the inhabitants, that any attempt to arrest the cause of Reform would have immediately ended in a popular commotion and bloodshed.

The Opening of the Conference

On the 7th of January, 1528, the great conference was opened. None of the prelates, and very few of the higher powers who had been invited were present; yet a great number of ecclesiastics and learned men assembled from all parts of Switzerland and the surrounding countries. As many as a hundred evangelical teachers from Glaris, Schaffhausen, St. Gall, Constance, Ulm, Lindau, Isenach, Augsburg, Strasburg, and other places proceeded first to Zurich, in order to go in a body with Zwingle. But so suspicious were the Zurichers of papal treachery, and so anxious about the safety of their own Reformer, that the magistrates sent forward his party under a strong military escort.

More than three hundred and fifty ministers of the gospel were present at the disputation. Many of those worthy men deserve a place in our history for the Lord's sake; but we can only give the names of a few. Haller was supported by Zwingle, OEcolampadius, Capito, and Bucer, the flower of the Swiss and Strasburg Reformation, there were also Pellican, Bullinger, Blaurer, Hoffmeister, Megunder, Zingk, Schmidt, the burgomaster Reust, and Vadian, consul of St. Gall. On the side of the papacy the cause was left, says Waddington, "to the feeble protection of men without talents or learning, or any sort of reputation or authority, not comparable to Eck and Faber — Alexius Grad, Tregarius, Buchstab, Egidius — names which appear on no other occasion on the page of history. But the positions of Haller were defended with much solid erudition and great and practised talents." If we accept a few feeble attempts by the papal party to disturb the unanimity of the Reformers, there was no feature of any remarkable interest in the whole assembly at least to readers in our day.

The Regulations of the Conference

Four presidents were appointed, and that everything might be recorded with unimpeachable fidelity, four secretaries were chosen — two by each of the two parties — and sworn to give a faithful account of the proceedings. The meeting took place in the church of the Franciscans, and lasted from the 7th till the 28th of January. Two sessions were held daily, and each session was opened with prayer. Perfect freedom of debate was allowed to both parties, with this one condition, "That no proof should be admitted but from scripture, nor any explanation of the proofs which was not also supported by scripture — no judge being allowed but scripture explained by itself, that is, by the comparison of more obscure parts with those which are more clear." The ten theses composed by Haller were successively discussed. Zwingle, OEcolampadius, Capito, Bucer, and Haller defended them alternately with so much success, that a great majority of the clergy of Berne, together with the canons the prior and sub-prior of the Dominicans, signed the ten articles, declaring that they judged them in perfect accordance with the sacred scriptures. The presidents of the assembly then exhorted the magistrates to adopt such measures for the interest of religion as they should deem wise and practicable.

The Results of the Conference

The authorities proceeded immediately to act upon the advice of the presidents. The altars were removed from the churches, and the images were destroyed, yet without disorder or bloodshed. They published a decree, with the concurrence of the citizens, proclaiming the ten articles as the creed of all. They further, by this decree, deprived the four bishops of all spiritual jurisdiction within their territories, ordering the removal of all such rural deans as opposed the Reformation, and the abolition of the mass and images at Berne for ever. Thus was the downfall of the papacy throughout that extensive canton completely accomplished, and the idols which had reigned for twelve hundred years were overthrown and destroyed in one day!

When Constantine made the profession of Christianity a pathway to worldly preferment, his heathen soldiers and senators eagerly rushed into the church. But alas! they brought their idolatries with them. It was then that statues, images, paintings, pomps, festivals, vestments, and the demigods of paganism were introduced into the professing church; and all this, that she might enjoy the favour of princes. From the fourth till the sixteenth century, idolatry was supreme, and the word of God was degraded and rejected by the dominant church. But now we see a greater than Constantine — son of a herdsman in the valley of the Tockenburg — the humble pastor of Zurich; standing before us, through grace, as the noblest champion of the word of God, and the most uncompromising enemy of the Judaism and the paganism of Rome, that the sixteenth century has furnished us with. Luther was a great Reformer as to doctrine, but feeble as to idolatry; Zwingle was valiant in both. Here, all praise be to the God of all grace, and the power of His Holy Spirit, Zwingle restores the long banished Bible to its right place, and purifies the church of its inveterate abuses.

Before leaving Berne, he went to the cathedral, where twenty-five altars and a great many images had been thrown down, and finding his way through these "eloquent ruins," he ascended the pulpit in the midst of an immense crowd. In great emotion he said, "Victory has declared for the truth, but perseverance alone can complete the triumph. Christ persevered even until death. Stand fast, my brethren, in the liberty wherewith Christ has made you free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. Fear not! That God who has enlightened you, will enlighten your confederates also, and Switzerland, regenerated by the Holy Spirit, shall flourish in righteousness and peace."

The work was severely complete. "The citizens were commanded, without exception, to withdraw their obedience from the episcopal authorities; deacons, pastors, and all other ministers of the church, were absolved from their oaths of allegiance to the bishop; altars, images, and masses were abolished throughout the territory, together with the long list of pontifical observances and ceremonies, such as anniversaries of the saints, dedications of churches, the use of sacred vestments, fast-days and feast-days." The capital adopted the new form of worship, and in the space of a few months all the municipalities of the canton followed the example.

The Mercy of the Gospel

How seldom it has been our lot to witness a great victory celebrated by acts of mercy! Alas! this is a new thing in Christendom. It has never been so in the reign of Jezebel. Her disobedient children have either been drowned in blood or consumed in fire. But the principles of the papacy are essentially opposed to the mercy of the gospel. Fire and sword are the arguments of the one, love and mercy of the other.

At Berne, we find that the great triumph of the truth was celebrated by public rejoicings and deeds of mercy. The magistrates opened the prison doors; two men condemned to death were pardoned; others who had been banished from the republic were recalled — her exiles returned to their homes. Thus charity followed in the footsteps of faith and victory. "A great cry resounded far and wide," writes Bullinger, "in one day Rome had fallen throughout the country, without treachery, violence, or seduction, by the strength of truth alone." The monks resigned their monasteries into the hands of the magistrates: the funds were appropriated for benevolent and educational purposes, and the religious houses were converted into schools and hospitals. And now we find the princely monastery of Konigsfeldt was also devoted to the same useful purposes. "If a king or Emperor," said the citizens, "in alliance with us, were to enter our city, would we not remit offences, and show favour to the poor? And now the King of kings, the Prince of peace, the Son of God, the Saviour of mankind, has visited us, and brings with Him the pardon of our sins, who only deserve eternal banishment from His presence. And can we better celebrate the advent of Him to our city than by forgiving those who have trespassed against us?"

In the same strain followed a moral and political regeneration, which was not among the least honourable or merciful accompaniments of the Reformation. All mercenary service to foreign powers was prohibited, and foreign pensions abolished.

At Easter the Lord's supper was celebrated for the first time according to the institution of the blessed Lord, and the practice of the apostles. As to Zurich, it was a time of great solemnity and deep interest. The citizens and their wives, in quiet sober dress, gathered round the table of the Lord, which recalled the ancient Swiss simplicity. The heads of the state, and the people mingled together, and each one felt that the Lord was present with them. "How can the adversaries of the word refuse to embrace the truth at last," said Hoffmeister, "seeing that God Himself renders it so striking a testimony?"

Thus was the Reformation established at Berne, and thus it has continued until the present day. If the disputation at Baden gave a temporary ascendancy to the papal party, it was more than counteracted at Berne. "The citizens of Constance, Schaffhausen, St. Gall, Glaris, Tockenburg, and other places, in which the struggle was till that time undecided, now boldly declared their adhesion to the Reformation, and gave the customary proofs of their evangelical zeal by abolishing images, altars, and the mass."*

{*For lengthy details of the great crisis, see Scott, vol. 3. He quotes from Bucer's account of the meeting, and from Munster's. He also quotes from Gerdes, Ruchat, and others. Du Pin, in apologizing for the absence of the four bishops, says, "that disputes about matters of faith ought not to be determined by scripture alone, because everyone would explain it according to his own humour .... that the law of God had provided another way to decide all doubts in religion, which is, to apply themselves to the pope, and acquiesce in his determination." Such is the blindness of Rome's most reasonable, learned, and devout members.}

The Reformation of Basle

According to all history, the triumphs of the gospel in Berne produced a most sensible effect on several cantons; but more especially on those where the Reformed doctrines had previously found an entrance. Indeed, some venture to say that all Switzerland was moved by the decided part which that powerful canton had taken in the Reform movement. "It gave new life," says Wylie, "to the Protestant cause in every part of the country. On the west, it opened the door for the entrance of the Protestant faith into French-speaking Switzerland. On the east, in German Helvetia, the movement, quickened by the impulse communicated from Berne, was consummated in those towns and villages, where for some time it had been in progress. From the Grisons, on the Italian frontier, to the borders of the Black Forest, where Basle is washed by the waters of the Rhine, the influence was felt, and the movement quickened. The great mountains in the centre of the land where the glaciers have their seat, and the great rivers their birthplace, were alone unmoved: yet not altogether unmoved, for the victory of Berne sent a thrill of surprise and horror through the Oberland."*

{*History of Protestantism, vol. 2, p. 70.}

But the Reformation of the learned city of Basle was the most important consequence of the decisive step of the warlike Berne. In importance, it was next to Zurich and Berne in the Swiss Confederacy. We have already spoken of Basle in connection with the early days of Zwingle and Leo Juda, when they sat at the feet of the famous Wittenbach — the first to sow the good seed of the gospel in Helvetia. Capito and Hedio successively watered that precious seed by their prayers, and the public expositions of the gospel of the grace of God. And these were followed in 1522 by a yet greater evangelist, OEcolampadius. And here too, the writings of Luther were printed by the famous Froben, and scattered over Switzerland and other lands.

The People in Advance of the Government

For about six years, the gospel had been faithfully preached by the meek and pious OEcolampadius; but with all his scholarly accomplishments, he was wanting in decision and courage. It has been said by some, that what Melancthon was to the dogmatic Luther, OEcolampadius was to the prompt and courageous Zwingle. But the middle classes had been so taught by their pastor, that they were more in favour of a change of religion than the ruling powers. "There was," says D'Aubigne, "a triple aristocracy — the superior clergy, the nobles, and the university — which checked the expansion of christian convictions." And these authorities, failing to discern the exact moment for concession to popular opinion, were compelled to yield to the demands of the citizens, and to act according to their dictation; that which ought to have been characterized as a peaceful Reformation, was accomplished (through the temporising of the magistrates) by a violent revolution.

A few years previous to this fresh excitement in 1528, the senate issued an edict, "That there should be a uniformity in the religious worship, and that on some future day a public disputation should be held on the subject of the mass, and the question of its continuance decided by vote." By this decree, the council flattered themselves that they had laid the foundation of public peace; but, like all half measures in troublous times, it entirely failed of its object. Both the Roman Catholics and the Reformers continued to assail each other in public and private; but from the boldness and bitterness of the popish preachers, and their increasing violence, the citizens began to fear that they had their secret supporters among the leading men in the senate. This suspicion aroused the Protestants. They began to assemble in large numbers. But first of all they sent deputies to remind the senate of the obligation of their decree.

This was perfectly legal, and consistent with republican principles. But the friends of popery, who resided for the most part in Little Basle, which lay on the other bank of the Rhine, assembled in arms, and brandishing their swords and lances, endeavoured to obstruct the passage of the petitioners to the town hall. Meltinger, the burgomaster, and an intrepid leader of the papists, had great influence in the senate, and haughtily refused the petition. Meyer, who was also burgomaster, and an equally zealous friend of the Reformation, had with him the majority of the people. A collision became inevitable. "The fatal hour approaches," said OEcolampadius, "terrible for the enemies of God." Much debate ensued with no good results. The council affected to be neutral; trial was made of soft words, both parties were advised to retire to their homes; but it was too late: the tumult was gradually rising into a tempest. The deputies not only stood firm, but proceeded to demand "that those senators who encouraged the papal preachings, in contempt of the decree, and to the promotion of disorder and discord, should be deprived of their dignity." This, the senate altogether refused; and from this moment the agitation increased. Basle soon wore the appearance of a military camp, which an accidental blow might have changed into that of a battlefield.

Basle in a State of Siege

On the night of the 25th of December, the partisans of the bishop, alarmed at the appearance of affairs, met under arms, and raised the cry that an Austrian army was coming to their aid. This was the first formal departure from the legal course. The Protestants hearing this terrible cry, hastily arose from their beds, seized their arms, and repaired to the Gardeners' Hall, the rendezvous of their party. The news of what was going on in Basle brought many deputies from both Reformed and Catholic cantons, to express their sympathy and offer their mediation. But the Reformed citizens were anxiously awaiting the decision of the magistrates. Both parties remained under arms for several days and nights. All the gates of the city, except two, were closed; and strong guards were posted in every quarter. The senate continued its sittings; one edict after another was issued, but so temporising, that they increased rather than appeased the violence of the crisis. The Protestants, considering what was due to the glory of Christ, to public justice, and to the welfare of their posterity, repeated their remonstrances to the council, and demanded an immediate answer.

On the 8th of February, 1529, the senate replied, "That those senators whose removal was required should refrain from voting on religious questions, but should retain their seats and voices upon all others." The citizens began to fear from the delays required, and the half-measures proposed, that some evil design was thereby concealed, and that their liberties were in danger as well as their religion. This so incensed the citizens, that they took military possession of the gates and towers of the city, and demanded the removal of the suspected members without delay. However contrary such proceedings were, and ever must be, to the gospel of peace, we must bear in mind what the principles of a popular government are, what the education of those men had been, and that they were only emerging from the darkness of popery. But a merciful providence so overruled this great commotion that no blood was shed, though a great victory was gained.

For fifteen days the patience of the townspeople had been sorely tried by the halting policy of the council. Basle was on the eve of a civil war, and, what is worse, "a war of hearths." The senate was suspected of treachery. "The mass, the mass — or to arms! to arms!" was the Catholic cry, accompanied with a storm of insults, invectives, and sanguinary menaces. The Protestants replied, "No mass, no mass — not even a single one more: we will die sooner!" The senate was embarrassed. OEcolampadius retired to his pulpit, and preached meekness and patience with such unction that the people were melted to tears. Prayer was offered up to God that He would direct them to those measures that would be for His glory and the deliverance of His people from the superstitions of Rome. Sincerely believing that they were contending for their civil and religious liberties, they resolved not to yield. Twelve hundred men, all well armed, appeared before the senate house. "We must have your reply tonight," said they. It was nine of the evening. "Tomorrow," said the council, "we will give you an answer," and begged the citizens to retire in peace to their homes. "No eyes shall be closed tonight in Basle," was the substance of their reply. The Protestants resolved not to separate, and once more, and for the last time, they demanded the answer of the council that very night. The lords of Basle began to think they had trifled long enough; some concession must be made.

When near midnight they sent a messenger to say, "That all members of senate who were relatives of priests would be excluded from that body, and as to the rest of their demands, all things touching religion and policy would be regulated according to their wishes." This reply was so far satisfactory, but the citizens viewed it as little better than a further compromise, that their enemies might gain time; so they agreed not to separate nor to relax their vigilance.

The Idols Destroyed

While both parties were thus deliberating as to the future, an apparent accident speedily brought the whole matter to an issue. Those who had been appointed to patrol the streets, and to inspect all the posts in the city, entered the cathedral church of St. Peter. One of the men, urged by curiosity, opened a side door with his halberd, where a number of idols had been stowed away. One of them falling on the stone pavement was broken to pieces. The curiosity of the spectators was further moved by the sight of the fragments, and they began turning out the images one after another that were concealed in this closet. The floor was soon covered with heads, trunks, and broken limbs; the priests, who were not far off, raised a great outcry, and attempted resistance, but this only hastened the work of destruction. The rumour of a disturbance in the church flew rapidly through the city. Hundreds of armed burghers were immediately on the spot. The hour of religious fury had arrived. "Why should we spare the idols that light up the flames of discord?" cried the Protestants; and the cathedral was swept as by a hurricane. The altars were demolished, the pictures were torn down, the idols were overturned, and the fragments piled up, and set on fire in the public squares.

The priests, trembling with fear, hastened to conceal themselves from public view. The senate came together in amazement, and attempted to interpose their authority, and appease the tumult; but it was too late. They had failed in the first requisite in the art of popular government — the wisdom to discern the right time to meet the popular demand. The citizens were long patient, but their determination gradually increased, and the senate was blinded by the influence of a small faction within it; and now they must listen to the haughty reply of the people. "We are doing in one hour that on which you have been deliberating for these three years, whether it should be done or not." While the iconoclasts respected all kinds of private property, no symbol of idolatry was spared. Under the blows of these zealous burghers, all the idols in all the churches fell, and were cast into the flames, so that they lighted up the darkness of the night, and warmed the chilly and excited crowds.

The people carried the day, the senate submitted. Twelve members — opposed to the Reformation — were dismissed to an honourable obscurity, and the demands of the citizens were granted. "They decreed, 1, That the citizens should vote in the election of the members of the two councils; 2, That from this day the idols and mass should be abolished in the city and the canton, and the churches provided with good ministers to preach the word of God; 3, That in all matters appertaining to religion and the commonwealth, two hundred and sixty of the members of the guilds should be admitted to deliberate with the senate."*

{*Wylie's History of Protestantism, vol. 2, p. 75.}

Such were the triumphs of these two eventful days. They had secured the establishment of the Reformed religion; and gained, what were in their estimation, great civil advantages, and all without shedding one drop of blood. The two objects, civil and religious, were generally combined in the Swiss Reformation. "The commencement of the Reformation in Basle," says Ruchat, "was not a little tumultuous, but its issue was happy, and all the troubles that arose about religion were terminated without injury to a single citizen in his life or goods." All the trades met on the 12th of February, and took the oath, guild by guild, of fidelity to the new order of things. The following Sunday the Reformed worship was introduced in all the churches of Basle, with the singing of the Psalms in German: and in the course of the week a general amnesty was proclaimed, covering all offences.

The Results of the Revolution

Everything was now changed in Basle. The leaders of the papal party, priests, scholars, and monks, prepared to leave it. Not however, from any fear of bodily harm, but from their dislike to the Protestant faith. Many of them were courteously entreated to remain; Erasmus especially-the most eminent person who withdrew from Basle at this time. In writing to his friend Pirkheimer, a little before his departure he says: "OEcolampadius made me the offer of his sincere friendship; which I accepted on condition that he would allow me to differ from him on certain points. He would have persuaded me not to leave Basle. I told him that it was with reluctance I quitted a city, which, on so many accounts, was highly agreeable to me; but that I could not longer support the odium to which a continuance there would expose me, as I should be thought to approve the public proceedings of the place." Soon after this friendly interview he took his departure and removed to Friburg. His salaries, his credit with the great, with the pope and the papal party, were in danger if he remained any longer in that polluted residence. But so prone was this great man of letters to sarcasm and jesting, that he could not restrain his wit against the superstition of his own party. "So many were the insults heaped upon the images and crucifixes," he says, "as to make it strange, that those holy saints, who had been wont to display such prodigies of power on very slight offences, should have refrained, in this important emergency, from the display of their miraculous energies."

New professors, to supply the place of Erasmus and others, were invited to fill the vacant chairs in the university, and in particular, Myconius, Phrygio, Munster, and Grynaeus. At the same time an ecclesiastical order, or confession of faith, was published, which is considered one of the most precious documents of this epoch.*

{*Scott, vol. 3, p. 40; Waddington, vol. 2, p. 321; D'Aubigne, vol. 4, p. 416.}

The Sacramental Dispute

About the period at which we have now arrived, one of the most grievous sources of discouragement to the Reformers, both in Germany and Switzerland, was the dispute which arose about the sacrament of the supper, commonly called the sacramentarian controversy. Luther, it will be remembered,* whom God used to raze to the ground almost every part of the Romish system, retained to the end of his days a superstitious reverence for a certain materialism in the supper which he called consubstantiation; that is, "he believed in the presence of the flesh and blood of Christ with, in, or under, the bread and wine." He did not believe like the Romanist, that the Lord's supper was a sacrifice, or that the body of Christ in the elements should be worshipped; but he maintained that the body was there, and received, not merely by faith, but corporeally by the communicant. Zwingle, on the other hand, was extremely simple in his views of the sacred supper. He maintained that its grand design was a memorial or commemoration. "This do in remembrance of Me." At the same time he affirmed that it can only be properly commemorated in faith. We show the Lord's death-His death for us, the blood shed by which our sins are washed away. We thus rest in faith upon His death as the sure ground of our eternal life, and joyfully feed on the rich spoils of accomplished redemption.

{*See details, pp. 781-790.}

"His precious blood was shed,
His body bruised for sin;
Remembering this, we break the bread,
And, thankful, drink the wine."

But as we have already described the conference of Marburg, we return and take up the thread of our history.