Short Papers on Church History — Chapter 40

The Reformation in Switzerland

In studying the history of the Reformation in Germany, and that of Switzerland, the heart is greatly refreshed in observing the perfect unity of the Spirit's operations in both countries. Nationally, politically, and socially, they were widely different. The great monarchical system of Germany, and the thirteen small republics of Switzerland were contrasts. In the former, the Reformation had to struggle with the imperial power, in the latter with the democratic. But, as if by concert, the great work of God's Spirit commenced in both places about the same time, and with precisely the same character of truth. This was clearly of God, and demonstrates the divine origin of the Reformation. "I began to preach the gospel," says Zwingle, "in the year of grace, 1516, that is to say, at a time when Luther's name had never been heard in this country. It is not from Luther that I learnt the doctrine of Christ, but from the word of God. If Luther preaches Christ, he does what I am doing; and that is all."

D'Aubigné is the only historian — so far as we know — who takes particular notice of this interesting fact in its divine aspect. And as he has now gone to his rest and his reward, it gives us unfeigned pleasure to bear testimony to the piety of the historian who could thus walk with God in the midst of his abundant labours. The ways of God in government as well as in grace are truly edifying if we study them in communion with Himself. But the most spiritual subjects will prove barren if He fills not our thoughts. Thus D'Aubigné writes, "Zwingle had no communication with Luther. There was, no doubt, a connecting link between these two men; but we must not look for it on earth; it was above. He who from heaven gave the truth to Luther, gave it to Zwingle also. Their bond of union was God."*

{*Vol. 2, p. 382.}

But although the Reformation in both places — and in other states of Europe — derived a striking unity from the One Spirit, the national features of each are not difficult to discern! In Germany the person of Luther, as of lofty stature, towers above all his fellow-reformers. He is seen, he is heard, he is prominent, everywhere and on all occasions. Nothing can be done, nothing can be settled without him. He is the acknowledged head of a party. But in Switzerland there was no such leader. It pleased God to reveal His truth, and to exercise many minds in different cantons at the same time. A number of noble names, resembling a republican senate, stood forth as champions of the faith; Justus, Wittenbach, Zwingle, Leo Juda, Capito, Haller, Farel, OEcolampadius, Oswald Myconius, and Calvin. But though none of them assumed the command, one name rises above all the others Ulric Zwingle.

As the great branch of the professing church, commonly called "The Reformed Churches," originated in the Swiss Reformation, it demands a careful and distinct notice, though comparatively brief. The church histories best known in the families of this country are Mosheim's and Milner's; but in neither is there any history of the Reformation in Switzerland. Mosheim, a Lutheran divine, almost ignores it: Milner merely remarks on some of the leading men in passing. But before we attempt to trace the history of the Reformation, it may be well to renew our acquaintance with the religious condition of Switzerland previously to that great moral revolution.

Christianity Introduced into Switzerland

Christianity was first introduced into that country of mountains and lakes, in the seventh century, by St. Gall, a native of Ireland, and a follower of the great abbot Columbanus.* After the death of Gallus or St. Gall, his disciples and other missionaries from Ireland continued to labour for the conversion of the Swiss, for the founding of monasteries, and for the propagation of the gospel. A Helvetian church was formed, strictly Romanist in its character, and yielding submission to papal power. About the middle of the eleventh century two hermits found their way from St. Gall to a distant valley on the lake of Zurich. By degrees the valley was peopled around their cells, and on an elevation of two thousand feet above the level of the lake, a church was built, and afterwards the village of Wildhaus. The bailiff or magistrate of this parish, about the end of the fifteenth century, was a man named Zwingle, the father of our Reformer. Thus we can trace the light of truth from Ireland to the continent, indeed throughout Europe and throughout Christendom.

{*See Short Papers, vol. 1, p. 499.}

The position of Switzerland, in the bosom of its own mountains, in the very heart of Europe, has been compared to a military school, through which the surrounding nations learnt to perfect themselves in the art of war. The reputation of the Swiss soldiers for courage and endurance, led to the ruinous habit of enlisting extensively in the service of foreign countries. Though strongly attached to their native mountains and their native liberty, the charms of foreign gold induced many to quit their Alpine pastures for the service of strangers.

This practice became a great national evil. Husbandry was neglected, families were bereaved of father and son, thousands who left never returned, and those who did were demoralized, so that the ancient simplicity of the people was gradually disappearing. But sad to relate — though recorded by all chroniclers that we know — the great foster-father of this national calamity was the Roman Pontiff. In his contentions with other nations he frequently found it necessary to solicit that help from the cantons, which his own subjects, either from a want of courage or fidelity, refused to give him. The  apostolic treasury supplied the sinews of war, and the poor but brave Swiss often determined the fortunes of the pope on the battle-field of northern Italy. The priests, stationed in various parts of Switzerland, were instructed to prepare the people for this form of obedience to the holy father. "The deluded mountaineers were taught, that it was a holy thing to gird their loins for battle, and a glorious martyrdom to fall in the service of the church." But such was the growing venality of the Swiss, that the highest bidders for their services were sure to obtain them: this led the pope to great liberality in the distribution of indulgences and benefices; which naturally resulted in the moral corruption and degradation of both priests and people. From this time, the intense reverence which the Swiss church had so long entertained for the See of Rome, rapidly diminished.

"At the commencement of the sixteenth century, the church of Rome had attained such a height of grandeur and power, that it seemed impossible that it should be disturbed. Especially in Switzerland any change of religion appeared hopeless, on account both of the strict alliance which existed with the pope, and of the extreme ignorance and corruption which prevailed. But it is in such circumstances that God is pleased to work, that all the glory may be given to Him. His righteousness could not permit Him longer to tolerate the frightful excess of disorder which reigned in the churches of Europe.... But God must have His true worshippers, who shall worship Him in spirit and in truth."*

{*Abraham Ruchat, of Lausanne, as quoted by Scott, vol. 2, p. 328; Gardner's Faiths of the World, vol. 2, p. 19.}

Such was the state of things in general as the new day began to dawn in the valleys of the Alps. Ulric Zwingle has been styled the apostle of the Swiss Reformation. He was no doubt the chief instrument in commencing and carrying on this great work, though some had been in the field before him. He was possessed of a strong and clear judgment, an ardent lover of the truth, earnest in its propagation, and animated with a noble zeal for the glory of God and the good of His church. In many things he was mistaken, as the best of the Lord's servants may be, but he is well-fitted to rank with such men as Luther and Calvin, or the most illustrious names in ecclesiastical history.

The Birth and Education of Zwingle

The family of the Zwingles was ancient, respectable, and at this time in great esteem in the county of Tockenburg — a small district of lofty mountains and narrow valleys, covered with wood and pasturage. Ulric was the third son; he had five brothers and a sister. He was born on New Year's day, 1484, in an obscure village on the lake of Zurich, which, from its mountainous situation, was called Wildhaus, or the Wildhouse.

The father and sons were chiefly engaged with their flocks and herds — the chief riches of the district. And beyond the narrow sphere of Tockenburg, Ulric might never have stepped, had not the promising dispositions of his childhood determined his father to consecrate him to the church. Before he was ten years of age he was placed under the care of his uncle, the dean of Wesen. His uncle gave such an account of his abilities to his father, that with his sanction and assistance he studied successfully at Basle, Berne, Vienna, and then again at Basle. From the remarkable progress which he made in his studies and the promising dispositions he displayed, he was a great favourite with all his masters. While at Berne, the Dominicans had remarked the beautiful voice of the young mountaineer, and hearing of his precocious understanding, prevailed upon him to come and reside in their convent. When the father heard of this step, he strongly expressed his disapproval and ordered his son forthwith to leave Berne and proceed to Vienna. The unsuspecting youth thus escaped from those monastic walls within which Luther suffered so much, and from the moral effects of which he suffered all his life.

During Zwingle's second visit to Basle, he studied theology under the justly celebrated Thomas Wittenbach. From this able theologian, who did not conceal from his pupils the errors of the church of Rome, Zwingle seems to have learnt, what Luther about the same time learnt from Staupitz, the great doctrine of justification by faith. "The hour is not far distant," said Wittenbach, "in which the scholastic theology will be set aside, and the old doctrines of the church revived." He assured those earnest young men who flocked around him "that the death of Christ was the only ransom for their souls." The warm heart of Zwingle drank in the truth, and like his master and some of his fellow-students eagerly rushed into the new field of conflict.*

{*D'Aubigné, vol. 2, p. 399; Waddington, vol. 2, p. 268; The Faiths of the World, vol. 2, p. 20.}

Here too, he formed some of his warmest friendships which continued through life and which death itself could not destroy. Leo Juda, the son of an Alsatian priest, and Capito, were now the intimate friends of Ulric. Like the mountaineers in general, and like his compeer, Luther Zwingle was a musician, and could play on several instruments: the lute, harp, violin, flute, dulcimer, and hunting horn, were familiar to him, and were often applied to in hours of heaviness, or as a relaxation from severer studies.

Zwingle, Pastor of Glaris

After having gone through his course of theology, and taken the degree of Master of Arts, he was chosen — the same year, A.D. 1506 — by the community of Glaris to be their pastor. There he remained for ten years, faithfully discharging his professional duties while diligently studying the Holy Scriptures. During this time he seems to have acquired in knowledge and experience the needed preparation for his future services to the Lord and to His church. "A most interesting manuscript," says one of his biographers, "still exists in the library of Zurich — a copy of all St. Paul's epistles in the original Greek, with numerous annotations from the principal fathers, which Zwingle wrote with his own hand, and then committed entire to memory." At the end of the MS. is written, "copied by Ulric Zwingle, 1514." He also studied the Latin classics, and collected from the writings of the fathers — especially from Origen, Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine, and Chrysostom — the doctrines and practices of the early church. "I study the doctors," he said, "not as authorities, but with the same end as when we ask a friend: How do you understand this passage?" The writings of Wycliffe and Huss he also knew, but like all students of his age, he devoured the writings of Erasmus as they successively appeared.

From this time, the ecclesiastical abuses which Rome had introduced became obvious to his mind; and, while expounding the scriptures from the pulpit, he faithfully and fearlessly exposed the innovations and corruptions of the Romish system. This was the dawn of the Reformation in Switzerland. Zwingle was maintaining the absolute authority of the truth of God and denouncing the falsehoods of Rome.

While thus engaged, he was obliged to leave his more sacred duties, and accompany the confederate army on an Italian expedition. Threatened by Francis I. who vowed to avenge in Italy the honour of the French name, the pope, in great consternation, entreated the cantons to come to his aid. It was then the custom in Switzerland for the Landamman, or chief magistrate of the canton, and the pastor of the parish to take the field with the troops on such campaigns. In the years 1513 and 1515, Zwingle was compelled to follow the banner of his parish to the plains of Italy. On the former of these occasions, the French were defeated by the confederates at Novara; and monks and priests proclaimed from their pulpits that the Swiss were the people of God, who avenged the bride of the Lord on her enemies. But, on the latter occasion he witnessed a signal defeat of his countrymen on the fatal field of Marignan. There, says history, the flower of the Helvetian youth perished. And Zwingle, who had been unable to prevent the great disaster, and overcome by his national feelings and patriotism, seized a sword and threw himself into the midst of danger. This was natural, and in those times it was considered noble, but it was not christian. He forgot for the moment that as a minister of Christ he should fight only with the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God. "For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal," says the apostle, "but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds; casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ." (2 Cor. 10:4-5)

Zwingle now felt more keenly than ever the necessity of reform in both church and state. He had seen the consequences of the practice long prevalent among his people, of letting out their soldiers to fight the battles of other nations, and to settle quarrels which did not belong to them. The sight of so many of his brave countrymen being slaughtered beyond the Alps in defence of a faithless and ambitious pope, filled him with indignation. He raised his voice against the practice; and, through his means, it was given up by several of the cantons. He also saw when in Italy, as Luther had seen, the pride and luxury of the prelates, the avarice and ignorance of the priests, and the licentiousness and dissipation of the monks. His future course was decided. He ascended the pulpit with a holier determination to preach the word of God more clearly, more fully, comparing scripture with scripture; and soon a fresh spirit of inquiry began to breathe on the mountains and in the valleys of Switzerland.

The question of priority between Zwingle and his Saxon ally, as to their aggressions on the papacy, has been raised by some historians. Both seem to have received the truth about the same time, especially the knowledge of salvation by grace through faith alone; but as a Reformer, Luther evidently was first in the field. When Zwingle was preaching the gospel in a comparatively quiet way, Luther was publicly raising the standard of truth against the dominion of error, and causing his voice to be heard in all parts of Christendom.

Zwingle at Einsidlen

In the autumn of 1516, Zwingle received an invitation from the governors of the Benedictine monastery of Einsidlen, in the canton of Schweitz, to be pastor and preacher in the church of the Virgo Eremitana — "Our Lady of the Hermitage." The hand of the Lord in bringing his servant to Einsidlen is very manifest. It was the grand resort of superstition for all Switzerland, for nearly all Christendom. "It may be called," says Ruchat, "the Ephesian Diana, or the Loretto of Switzerland." Legends of the most marvellous kind crowd its early history. Here the great Reformer was to have a nearer view of the idolatrous worship of Rome. The great object of attraction was an image of the virgin, carefully preserved in the monastery, and which had, it was said, the power of working miracles. Crowds of pilgrims flocked to Einsidlen from every part of Christendom, to pay their devotions and present their offerings.

Over the gate of this abbey the blasphemous inscription was engraver on a tablet, and supported by the figure of an angel, "Here a plenary remission of sins may be obtained." This delusion brought pilgrims from all quarters to merit this grace by their pilgrimage, at the festival of the virgin. "The church, the abbey, and all the valley were filled with her devout worshippers. But it was particularly at the great feast of 'the consecration of the angels' that the crowd thronged the Hermitage. Many thousand individuals of both sexes climbed in long files the slopes of the mountain leading to the oratory, singing hymns or counting their beads. Such was then, and is even to the present day, the scenes at 'our Lady of the Hermitage.' It is computed that not less than a hundred thousand poor deluded votaries visit this place yearly. Such is popery, even in the present hour, where it is dominant; and that in a free country, surrounded by an enlightened population, and within sight of Protestant establishments." *

{*Scott, vol. 2, p. 344. D'Aubigné, vol. 2, p. 426.}

After what we have said of the extraordinary sanctity of this monastery, the reader may be surprised to find that the abbot, Conrad of Rechburg, was the most celebrated huntsman and breeder of horses in the whole country. He was greatly averse to superstition, therefore he preferred his stud and the field to the Hermitage. When urged by the visitors of the convent on one occasion to celebrate the sacrifice of the mass, he replied, "If Jesus Christ is really present in the host, I am unworthy to look upon Him, much less to offer Him in sacrifice to the Father; and, if He is not there present, woe unto me if I present bread to the people as the object of their worship instead of God.... I can only cry with David, 'Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Thy loving kindness,' . . . 'and enter not into judgment with Thy servant. 'I desire to know nothing more."

The manager of the temporalities of the abbey, Baron Geroldseck, was a man of another order. He is represented as mild in character, sincere in piety, and a zealous patron of learning. His favorite habit was to invite learned men to his convent, and, influenced by the fame of Zwingle's learning and piety, he had invited him to accept the office of minister of the abbey church. In this seclusion the young Reformer enjoyed rest, leisure, the advantages of a library, and congenial friends. The eloquence of the new preacher and the character of the governor, drew a number of learned men to Einsidlen. He soon acquired the confidence of the admirers of Reuchlin and Erasmus, and contracted some of his most intimate and tender friendships. On this page of his history we find the names of Francis Zingk, Michael Sander, John OExlin, Capito and Hedio — men, whose names are famous in the history of the Reformation. But although he greatly enjoyed reading the scriptures, the fathers, Reuchlin and Erasmus, with these intelligent men, his real work was Reformation, and in as far as he then understood it, he honestly pursued it.

Zwingle and Reform at Einsidlen

He began with the governor. "Study the scriptures," said Zwingle to Geroldseck: "a time may soon come when Christians will not set great store either by St. Jerome or any other doctor, but solely by the word of God." He acted on the prophetic words of the Reformer himself, and also permitted the nuns in the convent to read the Bible in the vulgar tongue. And so great was his esteem and affection for Zwingle that he followed him to Zurich, and died with him on the field of Cappel, October 11, 1531. The hunting abbot, too, appears to have profited by the ministrations of the new preacher. He banished almost all superstitious observances from his abbey and died in 1526, confessing that he had confidence in nothing but the mercy of God. Zwingle's faithful and energetic preaching drew crowds to the abbey church, and made a great impression on their minds. He endeavoured to lead them away from the worship of images to faith in Christ, from human inventions and traditions to the pure doctrine of the gospel. "Seek the pardon of your sins," he cried, "not from the blessed Virgin, but in the merits and intercession of the Lord Jesus Christ."

What Luther learnt from his visit to Rome, Zwingle learnt from his residence at Einsidlen. His whole soul was stirred within him when he saw thousands of pilgrims from the most distant parts of Europe, coming there to merit the forgiveness of their sins by presenting their offerings to the patroness of the Hermitage. He did not hesitate between his conscience and his interests, or the interests of the monastery, but boldly raised his voice against the delusion. He struck at the very root of the evil, by proclaiming a free salvation through faith in Christ, without the merit of pilgrimages, indulgences, vows and penances. He appealed to the multitudes on two grand fundamental truths more especially — that God is the source of salvation, and that He is the same everywhere. "Do not imagine," said he from the pulpit, "that God is in this temple more than in any other part of creation. He is as ready to hear prayers at your own homes as at Einsidlen. Can long pilgrimages, offerings, images, the invocation of the Virgin, or of the saints, secure for you the grace of God? What avails the multitude of words with which we embody our prayers? What efficacy has a glossy cowl, a smooth shorn head, a long and flowing robe, or gold embroidered slippers? .... God looks on the heart, but, alas! our hearts are far from Him."

At the same time he preached the doctrine of reconciliation through faith in the precious sacrifice of Christ once offered on Calvary. "Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us; we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God. For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him." (2 Cor. 5:20-21)

The Effect of Zwingle's Preaching

Admiring friends might have given a somewhat embellished representation of Zwingle's discourses, but the effects produced, according to the record of the times, plainly prove his great power over the multitudes of pilgrims. "Language so unexpected produced impressions difficult to describe. Admiration and indignation were painted alternately on every face while Zwingle was preaching; and, when at length the orator had concluded his discourse, a confused murmur betrayed the deep emotions he had excited. Their expression was restrained at first by the holiness of the place; but, as soon as they could be freely vented, some, guided by prejudice or personal interest, declared themselves against this new doctrine; others felt a fresh light breaking in upon them, and applauded what they heard with transport.... Many," it is said, "were brought to Jesus, who was earnestly preached to them as the only Saviour of the lost; and many carried back with them the tapers and offerings which they had brought to present to the Virgin. The grand motto of the preacher to the pilgrims — 'Christ alone saves, and He saves everywhere,' was remembered by many, and carried to their homes. Often did whole bands, amazed at these reports, turn back without completing their pilgrimage, and Mary's worshippers diminished in number daily."*

{*Scott, vol. 2, p. 348. D'Aubigné, vol. 2, p. 428.}

But although Zwingle thus uncompromisingly attacked the superstitions of the crowd that surrounded him, his orthodoxy was still unsuspected by the papal party. They saw the power which such a man would have in a republican state, and their plan was to gain him; they had gained Erasmus by pensions and honours, why not Zwingle? Besides, the court of Rome was always politic enough to allow considerable latitude to eminent men, provided they recognized the supremacy of the pontiff. Just about this time — 1518 — Zwingle was flattered by the avowed estimation in which he was held by Pope Leo X., who sent him a diploma, constituting him a chaplain of the Holy See; and for two years after this he received his pension from Rome. Both Luther and Zwingle were long in learning that the Church of Rome could not be reformed, that it was corrupt, root and branch, and that the voice of God to His people always is, "Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues." When the Christian finds himself in a wrong position ecclesiastically, the first thing he has to do is to leave it, trusting the Lord for further light and future guidance. (Rev. 18:4; Isa. 1:16-17; Rom. 12:9)

Zwingle Removes to Zurich

After remaining nearly three years in Einsidlen, Zwingle received an invitation from the provost and canons of the cathedral church of Zurich to become their pastor and preacher. During his residence at Einsidlen he had become known to many persons of great consideration, and the number of his friends had greatly increased. But he had no friend more devoted than Oswald Myconius, master of the public school at Zurich, and in high esteem there for his piety, learning, and intelligence. In answer to this call, and the earnest entreaties of Myconius, Zwingle went to Zurich to talk over the matter, and weigh it well in the presence of the Lord. Some of the canons, fearing the effects of the innovating spirit of so bold a preacher, objected to his appointment. But his personal appearance, as well as his reputation, was in his favour. He was a man of the most graceful form and manners, his countenance agreeable beyond expression, mild and gentle in his general bearing pleasing in conversation, and celebrated throughout the whole country for his eloquence, seriousness, and discretion. He was elected by a large majority and removed to Zurich.

On the first day of January, 1519, being his thirty-fifth birthday, Zwingle entered upon his new office. The divine Master had been educating His servant during his residence at the Hermitage for this central sphere of labour. He who had chosen the new university of Wittemberg for the Saxon Reformer, selected for the Swiss the cathedral church of Zurich. The Lord was overruling all things for the good of His church and the progress of the Reformation. The city of Zurich was regarded as the head of the Confederation. Here the Reformer would be in communication with the most intelligent and energetic people in Switzerland, and still more with all the cantons that collected around this ancient and powerful state. The new and earnest style of Zwingle's preaching attracted great crowds to the church, and produced a strong impression on their minds. Soon after his arrival he was reminded by the administrator of the temporalities that he must make every exertion to collect the revenues of the chapter, and to exhort the faithful, both from the pulpit and the confessional, to pay all tithes and dues, and to show by their offerings their affection for the church. But Zwingle was happily delivered from the spirit of the rapacious priests, and bent all his energies in another direction.

Zwingle and the Gospel

Before accepting the office, he had stipulated that he should not be confined in his preaching to the lessons publicly read, or to certain passages appropriated to the festivals and different Sundays in the year; but that he should be allowed to explain every part of the Bible. He saw that the habit of preaching from a few detached portions year after year necessarily limits the people's knowledge of the word of God. He commenced with the Gospel of St. Matthew. "The life of Christ," said he to the Chapter, "has been too long hidden from the people. I shall preach upon the whole of the Gospel of St. Matthew, chapter after chapter, according to the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, without human commentaries, drawing solely from the fountain of scripture, sounding its depths, comparing one passage with another, and seeking for understanding by constant and earnest prayer. It is to God's glory, to the praise of His only Son, to the real salvation of souls, and to their edification in the true faith, that I shall consecrate my ministry." Thus did Zwingle nobly abandon the exclusive use of the mere scraps of the Gospels which had been the textbook of the papal preachers since the time of Charlemagne.

Language so novel, so bold, but obviously so consistent for a minister of the New Testament, made a deep impression on the college of canons. "This way of preaching," exclaimed some, "is an innovation; one innovation will lead to another; and where shall we stop?" "It is not a new manner," replied Zwingle, "it is the old custom. Call to mind the homilies of Chrysostom on St. Matthew, and of Augustine on St. John." Unlike Luther, he did not shock men's minds by his rough and stormy replies; he was mild and courteous in his intercourse with the heads of the church. But in the pulpit — his own province — he proclaimed the glad tidings of salvation with unmeasured heart and voice, and thundered against the abuses of the times. He everywhere enforced the necessity of an undivided and unreserved adherence to the written word of God as the only standard of faith and duty. And so great was the impression which he had made on the Zurichers, that in little more than a year after his settlement there, the Supreme Council published an edict, enjoining all preachers and persons having the care of souls, to teach nothing which they could not prove from the scriptures, and to pass over in silence the mere "doctrines and ordinances of men."

Like a John the Baptist, he called most earnestly upon all classes to repent. He attacked the prevailing errors and vices among his people — idleness, intemperance, luxury, the oppression of the poor, and foreign services. "He spared no one in the pulpit," says Myconius, "neither pope, prelates, Emperor, kings, dukes, princes, lords, nor even the confederates themselves. Never had they heard a man speak with such authority. All the strength and all the delight of his heart was in God; and accordingly he exhorted all the city of Zurich to trust solely in Him." His labours were attended with the most encouraging success. At the close of his first year he could reckon upon as many as two thousand persons who had embraced his opinions, and professed to be converted to the gospel which he preached. There we leave them. God will judge the heart. But what a moment for Zurich, for the souls of men! The Lord who is Head over all things to His church, was sustaining and protecting His servant, and His Spirit was at work in the hearts and consciences of the people.

Such was God's chief instrument in the work of Reformation in Switzerland. His rejection of the errors of the papal system and his experience of the power of truth, was produced and sustained solely by the instrumentality of the New Testament, which he diligently perused with earnest prayer for the teaching of the Holy Spirit. From day-break until ten o'clock he used to read, write, and translate. After dinner he listened to those who required his advice, he then would walk out and visit his flock. He resumed his studies in the afternoon; took a short walk after supper, and then wrote his letters, which often occupied him till midnight. He always worked standing, and never permitted himself to be disturbed except for some important matter."*

{*See D'Aubigné, vol. 2, p. 450. Scott, vol. 2, p. 355. Universal History, vol. 7, p. 73.}

Zwingle and the Sale of Indulgences

In the month of August, 1518, the bull of Pope Leo X. for the sale of indulgences throughout Christendom, was published in Switzerland. One Bernardin Samson, a Franciscan monk of Milan, to whom the pope gave his commission crossed the Italian Alps with his long procession of attendants. He executed the disgraceful traffic entrusted to him by "his holiness," with the same blasphemous pretensions, and the same clamorous effrontery as the notorious Tetzel of Germany. Zwingle was at that time pastor of the Hermitage, and fearlessly testified against the imposture and against the personal conduct of Samson. Through the opposition thus offered by our Reformer, Samson had little success within the Canton of Schweitz. He thence proceeded to Zug, Lucerne, and Unterwalden, where he had many purchasers. But being chiefly poor people, they could not give more than a few pence for an indulgence. This did not suit Samson's money chest, and he prepared to proceed. "After crossing," says the Genevese historian — whose pardonable love for his native land leads him to embrace every opportunity to speak of its grandeur — "after crossing fertile mountains and rich valleys, skirting the everlasting snows of the Oberland, and displaying their Romish merchandise in these most beautiful portions of Switzerland they arrived in the neighbourhood of Berne."

Here Samson was received with some reluctance, but eventually he succeeded in gaining admission. He entered the town with a splendid retinue, under banners displaying jointly the arms of the pope and of the cantons. He set up his stall in St. Vincent's church, and began to bawl out his indulgences, varying in price from a few pence to the sum of five hundred ducats. "Here," said he to the rich, "are indulgences on parchment for a crown." "There," said he to the poor, "are absolutions on common paper for two batz" — three halfpence. Such were the shameless impositions which the emissaries of the Romish church were permitted, and even commissioned by the pope himself, to practise upon the pitiable ignorance of its credulous devotees.

From Baden, where his traffic was turned into ridicule by the wits, he entered the diocese of the bishop of Constance. Acting solely on the authority of the pontifical bulls, he omitted to present his credentials to the bishop or to ask his sanction. The bishop was offended at this disrespectful conduct, and immediately directed Zwingle as the chief pastor of Zurich, and the other pastors of his diocese to exclude the stranger from their churches. The bishop was not sorry to have so good a reason for rejecting the intruder. He was regarded as invading the rights of bishop, parish priest, and confessor; for they were left short of their dues by this exciting trade.

In obedience to this mandate, Henry Bullinger, rural dean of Bremgarten, and father of the illustrious Reformer of the same name, refused to receive the pope's agent. After a severe altercation which ended in the excommunication of the dean, Samson proceeded to Zurich. Meanwhile Zwingle had been engaged for about two months — seeing the enemy gradually approaching — in arousing the indignation of the people against the pope's pardons. He knew in his own soul, and on the authority of scripture, the sweetness of God's forgiveness, through faith in the precious sacrifice of Christ. Like Luther he often trembled because of his sinfulness, but he found in the grace of the Lord Jesus a deliverance from all his fears. "When Satan would frighten me," he said, "by crying out, You have not done this or that which God commands' forthwith the gentle voice of the gospel consoles me by saying, That thou canst not do — and certainly thou canst do nothing — Christ has done perfectly. Yes, when my heart is troubled because of my helplessness and the weakness of my flesh, my spirit is revived at the sound of the glad tidings, Christ is thy sanctification! Christ is thy righteousness! Christ is thy salvation! Thou art nothing, thou canst do nothing! Christ is the Alpha and Omega; Christ is the first and the last, Christ is all things; He can do all things. All created things will forsake and deceive thee, but Christ, the holy and righteous One, will receive and justify thee.... Yes!" exclaimed the enlightened, the happy, the humble, but firm Reformer, "Yes! it is Christ who is our righteousness, and the righteousness of all those who shall ever appear justified before the throne of God."

In the knowledge, enjoyment, and proclamation of such soul-emancipating truths, the Zurichers in general were prepared to shut their gates against the impostor. When he reached the suburbs, a deputation was appointed to meet him outside the walls, who informed him that he would be allowed to retire unmolested, on condition of his revoking the excommunication of Bullinger. The legate, seeing the strong feeling that was against him, speedily obeyed and retired. Slowly he moved off with a wagon drawn by three horses, and laden with the money that his falsehoods had drained from the poor, he turned towards Italy and repassed the mountains. The diet immediately addressed a strong remonstrance to the pope, in which they denounced the disgraceful conduct of his legate, and recommended his holiness to recall him. Leo replied in about two months — April, 1519 — with mildness and address. His experience of the Saxon revolution no doubt led him to hope that by timely concessions he might prevent a second in the Swiss cantons.

"The Helvetic Diet," says D'Aubigné, "showed more resolution than the German. That was because neither bishops nor cardinals had a seat in it. And hence the pope, deprived of these supporters, acted more mildly towards Switzerland than towards Germany. But the affair of the indulgences, which played so important a part in the German, was merely an episode in the Swiss Reformation."

The Rising Storm

The zeal of Zwingle, in assailing and expelling the vendors of indulgences from the diocese of the bishop of Constance, was much applauded by that prelate. And John Faber, his vicar, then the warm friend of Zwingle, wrote to him in terms of kindness and esteem, exhorting him "resolutely to prosecute what he had auspiciously begun, and promising him the bishop's support." Encouraged by such commendations, and in the hope that the bishop was disposed to further the work which lay so near his heart, he invited him both by public and private solicitations, to give his support to the evangelical truth, and to permit the free preaching of the gospel throughout his diocese. "I failed not," says Zwingle "with all reverence and humility, publicly and privately, by written addresses to urge him to countenance the light of the gospel, which he now saw bursting forth so that no human power could avail to stifle or suppress it." But the Reformer soon found that a change had taken place in the mind of the bishop and his vicar since the indulgence seller had left the country. "They," he adds, "who had lately excited me by their reiterated exhortations, now deigned me no answer beyond these public and official documents, yet the vicar in the first instance, expressly assured me, both by word of mouth and by letter, that his bishop could no longer endure the insolence and unjust arrogance of the Roman Pontiff."

John Faber — whom we have seen at Augsburg, in association with Eck and Cochlaeus — after this break with Zwingle, became one of the most persevering enemies of the Reformation. The Reformer, from the commencement of his ministry at Zurich, had laboured unweariedly to instruct the people in the meaning, object, and character of the gospel and at the same time to impress upon them the importance of being guided in all their religious duties by the scriptures of truth only. "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works." (2 Tim. 3:16-17) Nothing can be a "good work" for the performance of which, scripture gives us no information. Such views and such teaching Zwingle had soon to prove could not long be approved by the dignitaries of the papa; hierarchy. But by the blessing of God, from this time henceforward, he was to place all his hopes and expectations on a surer foundation. Antonio Pucci, the pope's legate, endeavoured to seduce him but in vain. "He conferred with me four times," says Zwingle, "and made me many splendid promises, but I told him that from that time forward I should devote myself, by the divine grace, to the preaching of the word, as the effectual means of shaking the power of the papacy."

Thus prepared to proceed inflexibly on his course, he resigned in the year 1520 a pension which he received from Rome for the purchase of books, and as chaplain of the holy see. "Formerly," he says, "I thought myself permitted to enjoy the liberality of the pope, so long as I could maintain with a pure and pious conscience his religion and his doctrines, but after the knowledge of the Son had grown up in me, I renounced for ever both the pontiff and his presents."

The effects of Zwingle's preaching upon the minds of the people, and the influence of his presence in Zurich, were first displayed about this time. Many of the ceremonies of the Roman church were disregarded and fell into disuse. The fast of Lent, which had hitherto been kept with the utmost strictness, was neglected by the townspeople. The civil authorities became alarmed, and on the complaint of several priests some were thrown into prison. The people maintained that in their liberty as Christians they had given up such distinctions of meats. The bishop of Constance, hearing of the unsettled state of things, instantly issued an edict against the innovations and the innovators, exhorting the people by his agents to remain stedfast to the church, at least till after the decision of the council — the usual salvo. The monks, who had been ordered by an edict of the senate, to preach the word of God only, were confounded. Most of them had never read it. This decree became the signal for the most violent opposition from every order of monks and priests. Plots began to be formed against the head pastor of Zurich; his life was threatened. Sometimes it was considered necessary to place a patrol in the street to protect the Reformer and his friends.

Zwingle now saw the storm gathering in all quarters and well he knew against whom its fury would be directed. But this only aroused his zeal, and led him to write pamphlets in vindication of the truth and his friends, and to send them broadcast over the land. The principles of the Reformation now made such progress throughout Switzerland, that Erasmus, in a letter which he wrote in 1522 to the president of the court of Mechlin declared, that "the spirit of Reform had so much increased in the Helvetic confederacy that there were two hundred thousand who abhorred the See of Rome, and are to a great extent adherents of Luther."

Seeing that the work of Reformation is thus hopefully commencing in other parts of the Helvetic republic, we may here pause for a little, and briefly notice some of these positions, and some of the principal men with whom we shall become better acquainted as we proceed.