Short Papers on Church History — Chapter 41

The Leaders of the Reformation in Switzerland

Having rapidly traced the course of proceedings in the successive scenes of Zwingle's labours in the three cantons, Glaris, Schweitz, and Zurich, we will now pass on to other scenes and make ourselves acquainted with some of those devoted men whom God raised up and fitted for the same blessed work of His sovereign grace and power in Switzerland.

John Hausschein, which in Greek is OEcolampadius, was born in the year 1482 at Winsberg, in Franconia, about a year before Zwingle and Luther. He was descended from a respectable family which had come from Basle. His father at first destined him to business or the legal profession, but his pious mother desired to consecrate him to God and His church; and to this end she watched over him like Monica over Augustine. He was of a mild and peaceful disposition, of excellent character, and from early life he was distinguished above his contemporaries for his progress in learning. He was sent to Heidelberg and hence to Bologna where he studied jurisprudence; but as this study was contrary to his own inclination and the desire of his mother, his father was willing that he should devote himself to theology.

In accordance with the wish of his parents he commenced his ministry in his native place; but from an over-sensitive mind, he was persuaded that he was not qualified for such a charge, and in a short time left for Basle. He was appointed to the principal church there, and two years afterwards he was promoted by the University to the dignity of doctor in theology. He was a sincere Christian, an earnest and an eloquent preacher of Christ. He was greatly loved and admired by his hearers, not only for his public ministrations, but for his humility, meekness, and piety. Meanwhile he made such unusual proficiency in the three languages of religion as to attract the attention of Erasmus. Basle was then the great city of learning and of the printing press. "Erasmus was at this time engaged in preparing his first edition of the New Testament, and obtained the assistance of OEcolampadius in comparing the quotations from the Old Testament, which are found in the New, with the Hebrew original." OEcolampadius soon became enthusiastically attached to Erasmus, and might have suffered seriously in his soul from his ideas of a half-way Reformation; but the Lord in His good providence called him away for a time to the quiet retreat of his native place. Erasmus seems to have been equally fond of the youthful preacher. He thus acknowledges the important service he rendered him: "In this part I have received no little aid from the subsidiary labours of a man eminent not for his piety only, but for his knowledge of the three languages, which constitutes a true theologian. I mean John OEcolampadius; for I had not myself made sufficient progress in Hebrew to authorize me to pronounce on those passages."

From Basle he removed to Augsburg, having received an invitation from the canons of the cathedral church to become preacher there. Here he had the opportunity of preaching Christ to large numbers of the people, but again his timidity of mind pursued him and induced him to resign. Though a Christian, he had not found perfect rest for his soul in the finished work of Christ. Peace with God is the only remedy for such uneasy, restless souls. It gives stability and consistency to the mind even in the ordinary affairs of this life. We can look at things more calmly, weigh them up in the presence of God, and estimate them in the light which makes manifest the nature and reality of everything. "I have set the Lord always before me," says the psalmist, and what are the consequences? "He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved, my heart is glad, my glory rejoiceth." These are the unfailing consequences of having the Lord always before us as our one object: at our right hand, the place of strength; hence follow stability of mind, gladness of heart, always rejoicing. But like thousands more, and in all ages, OEcolampadius had not left the corrupt system in which he found himself. In place of ceasing to do evil, and then learning to do well (as exhorted in the Old Testament), or abhorring that which is evil, then cleaving to that which is good (as in the New Testament), he remained in Rome and vainly desired a purification of Romanism. Disappointed and despairing, as every sincere heart must be that tries to patch the old garment in place of accepting the new one, he threw himself into a monastery, proposing to spend his future days in retirement and study.

There he remained for nearly two years, and there he became acquainted, like Luther, with that monastic life which is the highest expression of the papal system. After leaving the cloister of Saint Bridget, he found a refuge in the castle of the celebrated Francis Sickingen, then the resort of so many learned men; after his death he returned to Basle, where he engaged in good earnest in the work of the Reformation, and where he spent the remainder of his days.

Leo Juda is represented by historians as a man of small stature, but of a heroic mind: as full of love for the poor, and of zeal against false doctrine; indeed, it was said of Leo Juda that whatever constitutes a good man was not only found but abounded in him. He was born in the year 1482, and was descended from a family of some rank in Alsace. After studying for a time at Schlestadt, he removed in 1505 to Basle, and there became the fellow-student of Zwingle under the excellent Wittenbach. His first pastoral charge, like OEcolampadius, was in his own province, but like him also he very soon left it and returned to Basle. Having preached for some time in the church of St. Theodore, he succeeded Zwingle at Einsidlen in 1518, and from thence he removed to Zurich in 1523, to occupy the station of pastor of Saint Peter's; and to become a true yoke-fellow to Zwingle in the work of the Reformation. Besides being an earnest preacher of the gospel, he was a diligent student of the writings of Reuchlin, Erasmus, and Luther. He translated into the German language a paraphrase of the New Testament by Erasmus; which was considered at the time of great importance, as scarcely any exposition of the scriptures in the vernacular tongue was then in circulation. He also employed his knowledge of the Hebrew in the production of valuable translations of the sacred writings into the German and Latin languages.

Conrad Kirsner, or Pellican, was also a native of Alsace and born in the year 1478. He was celebrated for his acquaintance with Hebrew and other oriental literature, which he consecrated to the illustration of divine truth. Much against the wishes of his friends he entered upon the monastic life at the age of sixteen. At the age of twenty-four, his learning and piety recommended him to the office of professor of theology at Basle; and two years afterwards he received the degree of doctor in divinity by a bull from the pope. He was taken ill at Milan on his way to Italy — where he was to be crowned with higher honours — but he returned to Basle, and was employed by the bishop to draw up a summary of the chief points of christian doctrine, directly from the sacred scriptures. His fame, influence, and honours rapidly advanced, but with them a great and salutary change of mind. He had now begun to distrust the reigning doctrines and figments of popery- indulgences, confessions, purgatory, and the pope's supremacy. The writings of Luther began at this time to be spread abroad; the ninety-five theses which that Reformer had published were put into his hand, with which he agreed in the main, but hoped that Luther would explain himself more fully. After this Pellican gradually prepared to renounce his monastic cowl, and his prospects of advancement; he laboured to disseminate the pure truth of God for some time at Basle, and in the year 1526 removed to Zurich, where he continued till his death in 1556.

Wolfgang Fabricus Koefflin, or Capito, was the son of an Alsatian senator. His mother was of noble family. He was born at Haguenau in the year 1478. Thus the province of Alsace has the honour of being the birthplace of three most distinguished men and zealous Reformers. Capito's own inclination was the church, but as his father had a strong dislike to the character of the clergy and the theology of the times, he applied himself to medicine; indeed he successively studied physics, divinity, and canon-law, and gained the degree of doctor in each; but after his father's death he confined himself to his original choice of the clerical profession.

His career may be briefly stated. He was professor of philosophy for a short time at Friburg, then preacher at Spires for three years; when on a visit to Heidelberg, he formed an acquaintance with OEcolampadius which was interrupted only by the death of the latter. In 1513 he found his way to Basle. On the invitation of the senate, he accepted the office of minister of the cathedral church of their city. Erasmus speaks of him as "a profound theologian, a man eminently skilled in the three languages, and of the utmost piety and sanctity." When settled at Basle, he persuaded his friend OEcolampadius to join him there. This was the dawn of the Reformation in that place. These two devoted men laboured abundantly in the gospel and in the ministry of the word. Much good seed was sown, which produced a rich harvest in the salvation of souls to the glory of God the Father.

For five years, ending with 1520, Capito had been happily engaged in expounding the scriptures, especially the Gospel of Matthew, to large congregations; and he thus announced, in that year, his progressive success: "Here matters are constantly improving. The theologians and monks are with us. A very large audience attends my lectures on Matthew. There are some indeed who threaten dreadful things against Luther, but the doctrine is too deeply rooted to be torn up by violence. Some accuse me of favouring Lutheranism; but I carefully conceal from them my inclination." This smooth state of things did not long continue. He was charged with the heresy of Luther; a conspiracy of priests and monks was formed against him; and, being at that time solicited by Albert, Archbishop of Mentz, to become his chancellor, he accepted the invitation and left the place. The people hearing of this were greatly excited, their indignation was roused against the priests and the monks, and a violent commotion broke out in the city.

The fame of Capito as a man of learning and piety was now so great, that Leo X., unsolicited, conferred on him a provostship. The Emperor, Charles V., raised him to the rank of a noble; and Albert, the first prince of the German Empire, gave him the appointment of ecclesiastical counsellor and chancellor. But these high positions and honours did not suit the spirit of his mind, the real desire of his heart; though at that time he little understood the great work for which the Lord was preparing him. Gradually, his eyes were opening to the discovery of the truth; the mass became offensive to his conscience, and he refused to celebrate it any more. After being about three years at the court of the cardinal archbishop, he resigned, and joined Bucer at Strasburg as a humble preacher of the gospel, where he continued till his death in 1541. This was the work in which his soul delighted. He began to urge the necessity of a reformation, and of vigorously prosecuting the work in dependence upon the living God. He and Pellican, as early as 1512, were of one mind as to the Lord's supper being a memorial or remembrance of Christ. This was long before the doctrine was taught publicly by the Swiss Reformers.

Caspar Hedio was a native of the Marquisate of Baden in Swabia. He was educated and graduated at Basle. He laboured long and successfully in the gospel, first at Mayence, and then at Strasburg. When Capito left Basle, Hedio was chosen as his successor. The papal party objected. "The truth stings," says the indefatigable preacher, "it is not safe now to wound tender ears by preaching it; but it matters not! Nothing shall make me swerve from the straight path." The monks redoubled their efforts. "He is Capito's disciple," they cried, and the general disturbance increased. "I shall be almost alone" wrote Hedio to Zwingle about this time, "left in my weakness to struggle with these pestilent monsters. Learning and Christianity are now between the hammer and the anvil. Luther has just been condemned by the Universities of Louvain and Cologne. If ever the church was in imminent danger, it is now." He seems to have retired some time after this to Strasburg, where his labours were less interrupted. He was a man of a mild and moderate temper.

Berthold Haller, the Reformer of Berne, was born at Aldingen in Wurtemberg, about the year 1492. He studied at Pforzheim, where Simmler was his teacher, and Melancthon his fellow student. The Bernese, who had been hostile to the new opinions, and incensed at Zurich for the countenance it had given to what they called Lutheranism, began to relax in their prejudices under the gentle but evangelical preaching of Berthold Haller. In the year 1520, he was appointed to a canonry and preachership in the cathedral. He was joined in his labours by Sebastian Meyer, a Franciscan, who had been a papist, but was now: a zealous preacher of the gospel of the grace of God. Haller was possessed of considerable learning and eloquence, and his powers as a preacher gained him great influence with the citizens. By the united efforts of these two Reformers, the state of religious feeling in a short time was such as to call for the interference of the government.

Naturally timid and diffident, he applied to Zwingle for counsel in his troubles, and confided to him all his trials, and Zwingle was well fitted to inspire him with courage. "My soul is overwhelmed," said he one day to Zwingle, "I cannot support such unjust treatment. I am determined to resign my pulpit and retire to Basle, to employ myself wholly, in Wittenbach's society, in the study of sacred learning." "Alas!" replied Zwingle, "And I too feel discouragement creep over me when I see myself unjustly assailed; but Christ awakens my conscience by the powerful stimulus of His threatenings and promises. He alarms me by saying, 'Whosoever shall be ashamed of Me before men, of him shall I be ashamed before My Father,' and He restores me to tranquillity by adding, 'Whosoever shall confess Me before men, him also will I confess before My Father.' Oh! My dear Berthold, take courage! Our names are written in imperishable characters in the annals of the citizens on high. I am ready to die for Christ.... Oh! that your fierce bear-cubs would hear the doctrine of Jesus Christ, then would they grow tame. But you must undertake this work with great gentleness, lest they should turn round furiously, and rend you in pieces." Berthold's courage greatly revived. The flame that burned so brightly in Zwingle's bosom rekindled that of Haller's. He preached with increasing zeal and power, and by the blessing of God, the pure gospel was restored to the republic of Berne whence it had so long been exiled.

Oswald Myconius — to be distinguished from Frederick Myconius, the disciple of Luther — was a native of Lucerne, and born in 1488. He studied at Basle, where he became known to many learned men who then formed the circle of Erasmus, but more especially to Zwingle. He presided over the public school, first at Basle, then at Zurich, and afterwards in his native town of Lucerne. From the strong military spirit which prevailed in this canton, the preacher of the gospel of peace, who ventured to condemn the practice of foreign service, or who sought to restrain their warlike habits, was instantly met by the most determined and violent opposition. "He is a Lutheran," was the cry, "and Luther must be burned, and the schoolmaster with him." He was summoned to appear before the council, and forbidden to read Luther's works to his pupils, or ever to mention him before them, or even to think of them. "But what need has anyone to introduce Luther," he answered, "who has the Gospels and the writings of the New Testament to draw from?" His naturally gentle spirit was wounded and depressed: "Everyone is against me," he exclaimed, "assailed by so many tempests, whither shall I turn, or how shall I escape them? If Christ were not with me, I should long ago have fallen beneath their blows." In the year 1523, he was expelled from Lucerne, and after several changes he became the successor of OEcolampadius at Basle, both in his professorship and his pulpit; and continued in that situation till his death in 1552. He laboured much to disseminate the truth, and his services to the cause of reform were great and valuable.

Joachim Von Walt, or Vadian, was a distinguished layman, a native of St. Gall, where he was eight times raised to the consulate. He was intimately acquainted with almost every kind of learning; but at an early period his mind became affected by the great question of Reform, and, by the grace of God, he steadily, zealously, and with great wisdom and prudence promoted the cause of the Reformation. He more than once presided at the great public disputations by which the good work was so materially advanced in Switzerland.

Thomas and Andrew Blaurer were of a noble family at Constance, and both laboured early in the cause of the Reformation. The latter, in particular, is distinguished as the Reformer of his native city. This city, so famous in the history of papal persecution and christian stedfastness, was also favoured with the devoted labours of Sebastian Hoffmeister and John Wauner. They nobly maintained the doctrines of the Reformation in that celebrated city, though they suffered for so doing.*

{*The dates and facts of the foregoing sketches have been taken chiefly from Scott's History where the reader will find many details which we have omitted. Vol. 2, pp. 366-384.}

Reflections on the Dawning of the Swiss Reformation

Who could fail to see and adore the good providence and sovereign grace of God in this noble array of witnesses for Christ and His gospel! So many different men, in so many different places — as if by concert — all studying the same truths, from the same motives, with the same desires, and persuaded of the same results, and yet, for a time, without the knowledge of each other, and independently of the same character of movement in Germany. We have avoided bringing down the history of these pioneers to a later period than about 1520 — a year before the Diet of Worms — when the name and writings of Luther were beginning to find their way into other lands.

The attentive reader must have noticed that most of the leaders we have named were men of high character, of great learning and ability, with the most flattering prospects as to preferments and honours; all of which they willingly sacrificed that they might devote themselves entirely to the Lord Jesus Christ and the service of His gospel. And God — who never forgets to honour them that honour His Son — accepted the willing sacrifice, and consecrated their learning, talents, and character, to the accomplishment of His own great work. He made their moral weight to be felt by their most prejudiced enemies. Here it may be truly said, "The Lord gave the word; great was the company of those that published it." (Ps. 68:11) And it has been remarked, that these eminent men were like brethren dwelling together in unity; that they were all firm and faithful friends, even unto death; and not a discordant note was heard among them.

The heart of faith leaps with joy to see so manifestly the hand and power of God working for the glory of His Son, and the emancipation of His church from the thraldom of popery. There is nothing more wonderful in this world than the triumphs of truth when the Spirit of God is working. What have we before us now? As at the beginning, a few men, by the force of truth alone, engage to change the religious views, feelings, and ways of their contemporaries. The veneration of mankind for antiquity, for the religion of their ancestors, and a thousand different interests arise to arrest its progress; the kings of the earth and their armies, the pontiff and his emissaries, combine to oppose the new doctrines and to silence the witnesses by death: but this work is of no avail, unless it be to purify the motives and deepen the zeal of the Reformers. To the natural eye the obstacles must appear invincible; yet the cause of truth prevails, every obstacle is surmounted, and without any visible means, save the preaching of the word and prayer.

In proceeding with our history we shall see the truth of this. Whole nations, obedient to the voice of the Reformers, abandon the worship of their fathers, destroy their idols, and overthrow in one day the usages of many generations. That which at first appeared to be a dispute, only interesting to theologians, produced a great moral revolution, the influence of which extended over the civilized world.*

{*Preface, Life of Zwingle, by J.G. Hess. Translated by Lucy Aikin.}

Progress of the Reformation — Zurich

A.D. 1522

It was in the course of the year 1520 — as we have already seen — that the civil authorities of Zurich first interfered with the work of the Reformation. The effect produced upon the middle and lower classes by the preaching of Zwingle then began to display itself. In addition to the subject of Lent, which then came before the senate, through the edict of the bishop of Constance, Zwingle called the attention of the Zurichers to the gross licentiousness which prevailed in Switzerland through the celibacy of the clergy; and in a private letter to the bishop he entreated him not to promulgate any edict injurious to the gospel, nor any longer to tolerate fornication, nor to enforce the celibacy of the priesthood. "In some of the cantons the priests were required to keep concubines, and everywhere that practice was permitted for money." Instead, however, of listening to the needed and respectful remonstrance of the Reformer, the bishop began to persecute several of the clergy who were known to have embraced the new opinions. They were branded as Lutheran heretics, and denounced as holding opinions hostile to the See of Rome. Until this time the Swiss Reformers had not met with any public or systematic opposition: but now, the church implored the state to interfere and arrest their progress everywhere.

But under the good providence of God, the opposition which now arose in so many quarters was overruled for the deepening and the extension of the work. The controversies and the public disputations were eminently used in Switzerland for the furtherance of the Reformation. The wind of persecution but scattered the good seed of the kingdom, and caused it to take root all over the land. "The priests stood up," says the Swiss historian, "as in the days of the apostles, against the new doctrines. Without these attacks, it would probably have remained hidden and obscure in a few faithful souls. But God was watching the hour to manifest it to the world. Opposition opened new roads for it, launched it on a new career, and fixed the eyes of the nations upon it. The tree that was destined to shelter the people of Switzerland had been deeply planted in her valleys, but storms were necessary to strengthen its roots and extend its branches. The partisans of the papacy, seeing the fire already smouldering in Zurich, rushed forward to extinguish it, but they only made the conflagration fiercer and more extensive."*

{*D'Aubigné, vol. 2, p. 502.}

The Monks Conspire against Zwingle

In the year 1522, the new doctrines had made such progress at Zurich, as not only to cause the bishop but the senate considerable anxiety. The divisions and confusion that had prevailed for some time in the city were evidently on the increase. And the monks, encouraged by their superiors raised the accustomed cry of heresy, sedition, and infidelity. There were three orders of monks in the city — Dominicans, Franciscans, and Augustinians. These formed a conspiracy against Zwingle, and charged him before the magistrates with "incessantly attacking their orders, and exposing them in his discourses to the contempt and ridicule of the people." They petitioned the senate to silence the preacher, and to repeal the edict of 1520, or at least to allow them to draw their sermons from Aquinas and Scotus. The authorities not only refused the petition but renewed the order — "that nothing should be introduced into the pulpit which could not be clearly proved from the written word of God." The exasperated monks were no longer careful to conceal their intentions, but vowed, that if Zwingle did not restrain his hostilities, they would be driven to adopt more violent measures.

The bishop, about the same time, made his second and great appeal to the senate. He laid before that body many and heavy charges against Zwingle. A long exhortation was addressed to the clergy and magistrates of his diocese, and also to the provost and chapter of the city. These exhortations were accompanied by copies of the pope's bull, with the edict of Worms against Luther, and all were entrusted to three ecclesiastical deputies.

When Zwingle stood up and replied to the various accusations of the bishop, his adversaries were completely silenced. But he was so distressed, so grieved in spirit, by the presence of his accusers, who were once his intimate friends, and also by the general state of matters, that he respectfully requested that a public conference should be held, at which he might have an opportunity of defending himself and his doctrines. Meanwhile he employed his pen with all diligence that he might make more widely known the truths which he held and taught, and the errors and abuses against which he testified.

The Publications of Zwingle

In July, 1522, he addressed to the members of the Helvetic Confederation at large, a "Pious and Friendly Exhortation," entreating them "not to obstruct the preaching of the gospel, or discountenance the marriage of the clergy." "Fear nothing," he said to the heads of the cantons, "from granting us this liberty; there are certain signs by which everyone may know the truly evangelical preachers. He who, neglecting his own private interest, spares neither pains nor labour to cause the will of God to be known and revered, to bring back sinners to repentance, and give consolation to the afflicted, is undoubtedly in unison with Christ. But when you see teachers daily offering new saints to the veneration of the people, whose favour must be gained by offerings, and when the same teachers continually hold forth the extent of sacerdotal power, and the authority of the pope, you may believe that they think much more of their own profit, than of the care of the souls entrusted to them."

"If such men counsel you to put a stop to the preaching of the gospel by public decrees, shut your ears against their insinuations, and be certain that it is their aim to prevent any attacks from being made upon their benefices and honours; say that if this work cometh of men, it will perish of itself, but that if it cometh of God, in vain would all the powers of the earth league together against it."*

{*Hess, pp. 130-138.}

After explaining the nature of the gospel, and showing that all salutary doctrine is to be drawn from the scriptures alone, he touches on the immorality that prevailed among the ecclesiastics as one great prejudice to the cause of Christianity, he pleads most earnestly against the prohibition of marriage to the clergy — proving that it is a modern device, for the purpose of aggrandising the church, by breaking the ties which should attach the ministers of religion to the people, by rendering them strangers to the domestic affections, and thus concentrating all their zeal upon the interests of the particular body, or order, to which they belong, and the upholding of the papal system.

He addressed a similar remonstrance about the same time to the bishop of Constance; "in which," says Hess, "he conjured the bishop to put himself at the head of those who were labouring to accomplish a Reform in the church, and to permit to be demolished with precaution and prudence, what had been built up with temerity. " These two petitions were signed by Zwingle and other ten of the most zealous advocates of the Reformation in Switzerland.

The exhortation, or mandate, of the bishop to the chapter of Zurich, drew forth from Zwingle another work which he called his "Archeteles," a word which signifies "the beginning and the end;" it was a summary of the main points at issue between the Reformers and their adversaries. "This work," says Gerder, "exhibits a true picture of the Zwinglian Reformation — very different from what it has been represented by many writers." It obtained more celebrity than his previous pamphlets, and was highly esteemed, not only in Switzerland, but in foreign countries, as proving the author to be "mighty in the scriptures," and one who united an intrepid courage with true christian moderation.*

{*Scott's quotations from Gerdes, or Gerdesius, professor of divinity at Groningen, and from A. Ruchat, vol. 2, p. 406.}

While these things were taking place in connection with Zurich, the bishop, now distrusting his own power to repress the growing dissensions, appealed to the national assembly held at Baden, and claimed the interference of the entire Helvetic body for the execution of his decrees. But the seeds of the Reformation were springing up there as strongly as at Zurich, at least among the pastors, for they had come to the unanimous resolution of preaching no doctrine which they could not prove from scripture. "This appeal of the bishop," says Waddington, "ended in the persecution of a single and humble delinquent." One Urban Wyss, pastor of Visisbach in the County of Baden, boldly preached against the invocation of saints; he was seized and delivered over to the prelate; and a long imprisonment, which he endured at Constance, has distinguished him as the first of the Swiss Reformers who suffered for the truth's sake.

Zwingle and His Brothers

As we mentioned in connection with the early days of our Reformer, that he had five brothers, it may be interesting to notice, that they were all alive at this period of his history, and, hearing such reports concerning Ulric's apostasy, they manifested great uneasiness about their brother, and wished to see and confer with him on the subject. Although their anxiety seems to have been more for the respectability of their family than for the salvation of his soul it gave him an opportunity of writing most fully and freely on the great subject of the gospel, and of expressing the deep christian feelings of his heart.

After expressing his most sincere affection for his brothers, and the deep interest he always feels in their welfare, he assures them that he will never cease to discharge faithfully and diligently the duties of a christian pastor, unmoved by the fear of the world or the powerful tyrants that rule in it. "With respect to myself," he says, "I am not at all solicitous; for I have long since committed myself and all that concerns me to the hands of God.... Be assured there is no kind of evil which can befall me, that I have not fully taken into my account, and that I am not prepared to meet. I know indeed that my strength is perfect weakness. I know also the power of those with whom I have undertaken to contend. But as St. Paul says concerning himself, I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.... But you 'What a disgrace would it be, and with what infamy would it brand our whole family, should you be brought to the stake as a heretic, or otherwise suffer an ignominious death? And what profit could result from it?' My dearest brothers, hear my answer, Christ the Saviour and Lord of all, whose soldier I am, hath said, 'Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake. Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven.' (Luke 6:22-23) Hence learn, that the more my name is branded with infamy in this world for the Lord's sake, the more will it be had in honour in the sight of God Himself .... Christ the Son of God condescended to shed His blood for our salvation: he, therefore, is a cowardly soldier of His, and unworthy the name, who would not willingly sacrifice his life for the glory of his commander, but rather, like one who, basely casting away his shield, contemplates disgraceful flight....

"You are my own brothers, and as such I acknowledge you; but if you will not be my brothers in Christ, I must grieve over you with the deepest pain and sorrow, for the word of the Lord requires us to forsake even father and mother if they would draw away our hearts from Him. Rely on the word of God with an unhesitating and assured mind. Carry all your sorrows and complaints to Christ, pour out your prayers before Him, seek from Him alone grace, peace, and the remission of your sins. Finally, be joined to Christ by such an intimate tie and bond of union, that He may be one with you, and you one with Him. God grant, that being received under His guardian care, you may be led by His Spirit, and under His teaching! Amen. I will never cease to be your faithful brother if only you will be the brethren of Christ. — At Zurich, in great haste, in the year of Christ, 1522."

These deep breathings of the innermost soul of Zwingle must command the grateful praise of every renewed heart to the God of all grace. What devotion to Christ, to His gospel, to His church, to his own relatives, to his country, to mankind! How evidently, how wonderfully, taught of God! His knowledge of the way of salvation, and his deeper entrance into the grand rest-giving truth of the believer's identification with Christ, fill our hearts with admiring delight. True, he did not understand deliverance through death from sin, Satan, and the world, as taught in Romans 6 and similar portions, nor could he have known the teaching of scripture on the subject of the church as the body of Christ, according to that word — "For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free, and have been all made to drink into one Spirit." (1 Cor. 12:13) But he understood that there was communion in grace and blessing through faith in Christ's precious sacrifice. Had he been more under "the power of His resurrection" he would have been less of what his biographers call "the christian patriot, the christian hero." Not that he would have loved his neighbour, his kindred, or mankind less, but he would have manifested his love more in accordance with the spirit of one who is not only dead, but risen in Christ, and joined unto the Lord by one Spirit — the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Like Luther he held that justification by faith alone is the key-stone of Christianity; though, evidently, he was less under the power of prejudice, and had a much broader view of divine truth than the Saxon Reformer, and a more elevated style of expressing it.

The Disputations at Zurich

In compliance with the request of Zwingle, already noticed, the senate of Zurich proclaimed a conference for the discussion, or the composing, of religious differences, to be held on January 29th, 1523. This was the first of those public disputations which, under the overruling providence of God, so rapidly advanced the progress of the Reformation. An invitation was given to all persons who had anything to allege against the chief pastor to come forward publicly and state their charges.

One noble stipulation, however, was announced by the senate — "that all appeals must be made to the scriptures, as the sole rule of judgment, and not to mere custom or the traditions of men." The clergy of the canton were invited, and the bishop was especially entreated to appear in person, or, if that were impossible, to send competent representatives.

That all parties might be well informed as to the subjects proposed for discussion, and that none might plead that they were taken by surprise, Zwingle published some time before, sixty-seven propositions, embodying the chief doctrines he had preached, and which he was prepared to maintain. These he had extensively distributed in good time.

The Theses of Zwingle

As the theses of Zwingle may be considered the creed of the Swiss Reformers, it will be satisfactory to the reader, briefly to state the most important of these propositions

"That the gospel is the only rule of faith, and the assertion erroneous that it is nothing without the approbation of the Church of Rome; that Christ is the only head of the church; that all traditions are to be rejected; that the attempt of the clergy to justify their pomp, their riches, honours, and dignities, is the cause of the divisions in the church, that penances are the dictates of tradition alone, and do not avail to salvation; that the mass is not a sacrifice, but simply the commemoration of the sacrifice of Christ; that meats are indifferent; that God has not forbidden marriage to any class of Christians, and consequently it is wrong to interdict it to priests, whose celibacy has become the cause of great licentiousness of manners. To give absolution for money is to be guilty of simony; that God alone has power to forgive sins the word of God says nothing of purgatory. The assertion that grace is necessarily derived from receiving the sacraments is a doctrine of modern invention, that no person ought to be molested for his opinions, as it is for the magistrate to stop the progress of those which tend to disturb the public peace."*

{*Hess, p. 148.}

The Meeting at Zurich

At an early hour on the morning of the 29th, great numbers, say the chroniclers, thronged the hall of conference. All the clergy of the city and canton, with many others from distant parts, were present, and a numerous company of citizens scholars, men of rank, and other persons of various descriptions. The consul of the Republic, Mark Reust, a man of high character, opened the deliberations. He referred to the sixty-seven propositions of Zwingle, and called upon any who dissented from them to state their objections without fear. The grand-master of the episcopal court, and the vicar-general Faber, with several theologians were present as the bishop's representatives. All supposed that Faber would have attempted a confutation of Zwingle's theses, and a defence of the established system; but Faber knew his opponent too well, and refused to discuss any one of the articles. Zwingle pressed him to the disputation, but in vain. "I was not sent here to dispute," said Faber, "but to listen, besides, this is not the place for so great an argument; that it was more decorous to await the decision of a general council, which was the only legitimate tribunal in doctrinal matters and which would shortly be convoked; meanwhile, that he was commanded to offer his mediation for the removal of the differences which distracted the city."

Zwingle, who was urgent to have his doctrines subjected to the severest examination was deeply pained by the evasive courtier-like style of Faber. "What!" he exclaimed, standing in front of a table on which a Bible lay; "is not this vast and learned meeting as good as any council? We have only to defend the word of God." After making this appeal — which produced a solemn silence in the assembly — he addressed the meeting at some length. "He complained of the calumnious charges with which his doctrines were continually assailed; he challenged his slanderers to come forward on that public occasion, appointed for that express purpose, and discuss with him the articles in question." But the Reformer found, that those who were most prompt to accuse and defame him in secret preserved an obstinate silence in public. But he had an upright conscience, and he wished to give an account of his doctrine, publicly, before the senate of his country, before his diocesan, and before the whole church of God, and to hear whatever could be alleged against him — thankful to be corrected if he were in error, but prepared to maintain what he believed to be the truth of God.

Faber still refused to dispute with Zwingle before the great council, but promised to publish a written refutation of his errors.

As no other opponent appeared, the president then said, "If there be any one here who has anything to say against Zwingle or his doctrines, let him come forward." This was repeated three times, but as no one presented himself, the senate declared that the evangelical propositions had gained an undisputed triumph, and immediately published an edict to the following effect. "That since Master Ulric Zwingle had publicly and repeatedly challenged the adversaries of his doctrines to confute them by scriptural arguments, and since, notwithstanding, no one had undertaken to do so, he should continue to announce and preach the word of God, just as heretofore. Likewise that all other ministers of religion, whether resident in the city or country, should abstain from teaching any tenet which they could not prove from scripture; that they should refrain, too, from making charges of heresy and other scandalous allegations, on pain of severe punishment. "

On hearing the decree, Zwingle could not refrain from publicly expressing his heartfelt joy. "We give thanks to thee, O Lord, who willest that Thy most holy word should reign alike in heaven and on earth." Faber, on hearing this could not restrain his indignation. "The theses of Master Ulric," said he, "are contrary to the honour of the church and the doctrine of Christ, and I will prove it." "Do so," said Zwingle, "but I will have no other judge than the gospel."

Leo Juda, Hoffmann, Meyer, and others, endeavoured, as well as Zwingle, to draw the papal party into a discussion, but beyond the slightest skirmishing respecting the invocation of the saints, nothing passed between them.

The Effects of the Decree

The promulgation of this decree, according to Hess, gave a powerful impulse to the progress of the Reformation in Switzerland. And the effect of Zwingle's address in the hall was most favourable to himself and his doctrines. "His simplicity, firmness, and gentleness inspired his audience with great veneration, his eloquence and knowledge carried away those who were hesitating between the two parties and the silence of his adversaries, being regarded as a tacit proof of their weakness, served his cause almost as much as his own arguments. From this time the friends of Reform multiplied rapidly in all classes of society." Considering that the times were still papal, the decree was most just and reasonable. It ordained no pains, no penalties on religious grounds; Zwingle, and all the pastors, were merely to be protected in going on to preach the word of God as heretofore; and by that word the preachers were to stand or fall. A breach of the peace, or what directly tended to it, was to be punished by the authorities.

Faber, soon after the conference, writing to a friend at Mayence, expressed in the following terms his apprehensions of Zwingle: "I have no news for you, except that a second Luther has arisen at Zurich, who is the more dangerous, as he has an austerer people to deal with. Contend with him, whether I will or not, I must; I do it with the greatest reluctance, but I am compelled. You will presently learn this, when I publish my book to prove the mass to be a sacrifice."* But in proportion to the triumph of the Reformers and the confirmation of their principles, was the vexation and disappointment of their opponents. The most skilful advocates of the papacy had been silent before the great council of their country- The Two Hundred. They were evidently afraid to enter into debate with Zwingle. But unscrupulous Rome had other weapons. It is stated by the most reliable historians, that the pope's legate, Ennius, and the bishop of Constance employed emissaries to take the life of Zwingle, if the opportunity could be found without too great a risk. "Snares surround you on every side, " wrote a secret friend to Zwingle, "a deadly poison has been prepared to take away your life. I am your friend; you shall know me hereafter." "Leave Zwingle's house forthwith; a catastrophe is at hand," said another to a chaplain who lived with him. But the man of God was calm and peaceful, trusting in Him. "I fear my enemies," said he, "as a lofty rock fears the roaring waves, with the help of God." But though both the poison and the poignard failed to accomplish the foul deed, Rome had not exhausted her means; now she tries flattery.

{*Waddington, vol. 2, p. 284.}

Soon after the decree was issued, Hadrian, who then filled the papal chair appeared to take no interest in the controversy at Zurich though he was thundering his anathemas in Saxony. He despatched a most flattering letter to Zwingle, called him "his beloved son," and assured him of "his special favour." "And what has the pope commissioned you to offer him?" said Myconius to the bearer of the papal brief. "Everything except the chair of St. Peter." Mitre, crosier, or cardinal's hat were at his will; but Rome was greatly mistaken with the Reformer of Zurich in this respect. All her proposals were unavailing. Even D'Aubigné admits, "that in Zwingle the Romish church had a still more uncompromising enemy than Luther." He had never been a monk; his conscience was less perplexed, his judgment less enthralled by popish dogmas, and altogether he cared less for the ceremonies of former ages than the Saxon Reformer. It was enough for his Swiss ally if any custom, however innocent in itself, were not warranted by scripture, he fell violently upon it. His jealous care for the dignity, sufficiency, and authority of scripture was remarkable. "The word of God," he used to say, "should stand alone." "Yet these convictions," it has been said, "were attained through fewer struggles, and burnt with less violence, than in the heart of Luther." This we can only see to be true in the case of one doctrine — justification by faith alone. All will readily admit, that although the Swiss Reformer believed this truth as sincerely as the Saxon, it never was to the former what it was to the latter. As a divine truth, it was the source of Luther's convictions, strength, comfort, vitality, and energy. The two men had been led of God by different paths, and were differently furnished for their great work.

The Zeal of Zwingle and Leo Juda

Notwithstanding the immense power and popularity which Zwingle gained by the result of the conference in January, he was in no haste to promote alterations. His great object was to instruct the people, remove their prejudices, and bring them to oneness of mind before recommending any great changes. He therefore devoted himself to the preaching of the word with greater zeal and boldness than ever, and he was ably assisted by his friend, Leo Juda, who had lately been elected a minister of Zurich. It is not certain that Faber's promised book on the mass ever appeared, but Zwingle produced one in the same year, "On the canon of the Mass," arguing with great force against that cornerstone of the papal system. About the same time a priest, named Louis Hetzer, published a treatise entitled, The Judgment of God against images, which produced a great sensation, and engrossed the thoughts of the people.

The citizens of Zurich were now become warm friends of the Reformation, and in their zeal some of the more ardent spirits expressed a determination to purge the city of idols. Outside the city gates stood a crucifix elaborately carved and richly ornamented. The superstition and idolatry to which this image gave rise, moved the people to give vent to their indignation. Some of the lower classes, having at their head an artisan named Nicholas Hottinger — "a worthy man," says Bullinger, "and well read in the holy scriptures" — assembled and ignominiously threw down this favorite idol. This daring and unlawful act spread dismay on every side. "They are guilty of sacrilege! they deserve to be put to death!" exclaimed the friends of Rome. The authorities were obliged to interfere, and caused the leaders of this outbreak to be apprehended; but when sentence was to be pronounced upon them, the council was divided. What some regarded as a crime worthy of death, others considered to be a good work, but done in a wrong way from inconsiderate zeal. During the debates upon this sentence, Zwingle maintained in public that the law of Moses expressly forbade images to be the objects of religious worship, and concluded that those who had pulled down the crucifix could not be accused of sacrilege; but he pronounced them deserving of punishment for open resistance to the authorities.

The language of Zwingle increased the embarrassment of the magistrates; the whole city was much divided; and the council again determined to submit the question to a discussion, in the meantime retaining the prisoners in custody.

Thus we see that, in the good providence of God, even such acts of insubordination by the rude undisciplined children of the Reformation, were the means of bringing to light not only the dark shades of popery, but the truth of God on subjects of vital importance, and of securing fresh triumphs and greater liberty to the Reformers.

The Second Disputation at Zurich

The 26th of October, 1523, was the day fixed for the second disputation; and the subjects to be discussed were — "whether the worship of images was authorized by the gospel, and whether the mass ought to be preserved or abolished." The assembly was much more numerous than the preceding; above nine hundred persons were present, from every part of Switzerland, including the grand council of Two Hundred, and about three hundred and fifty ecclesiastics. Invitations had been sent to the bishops of Constance, Coire, and Basle, to the university of the latter city, and to the twelve cantons, requesting them to send deputies to Zurich. But the bishops declined the invitation: the humiliation of their deputies in January was fresh in their mind, and they were not disposed to risk a second defeat. Only the towns of Schaffhausen and St. Gall sent delegates, and these, Vadian of St. Gall, and Hoffmann of Schaffhausen were chosen presidents. The edict of convocation having been read, and the object of the meeting stated, Zwingle and Leo Juda were requested to answer all who defended the worship of images and the mass as a sacrifice.

With a devotion and piety, ever prominent in the spirit of Zwingle, he proposed that the deliberations should be opened with prayer. He reminded the friends of the promise of Christ, that "where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them." (Matt. 18:20) After prayer, and a few words from the president, enjoining upon all who spoke to draw their argument only from scripture, Zwingle was desired to commence the proceedings.

Before speaking on the first proposition-the worship of images-he begged to offer a few remarks on the scriptural usage of the word church; since on that depended the right and authority of their present deliberations. He rejected the exorbitant claims of the church of Rome which asserted that nothing was valid in the whole christian world, but what was done with her sanction. According to his view, the term "the church," designated, first, the universal body of the faithful; secondly, any portion of that body meeting in the same province or city; such as the church of Ephesus, of Corinth, the churches of Galatia, or the church of Zurich. He denied that the term could be restricted to a convention, consisting of the pope, cardinals, bishops, and other ecclesiastics exclusively. His object was to overthrow the objections urged by the Roman Catholics against the authority of such assemblies as the present; and to show that every assembly, united together by faith in Christ, and by the gospel, as the only rule of faith and practice, possessed the perfect right to discuss and settle their affairs. Zwingle was thus withdrawing the church of Zurich from the jurisdiction of the bishop of Constance, and separating it from the Latin hierarchy.

Here Zwingle paused; and an invitation was given to all who had anything to object to his positions, to come forward and express their sentiments without fear. The Reformers sought publicity, and feared not fair discussion. One Conrad Hoffmann, a canon of Zurich, attempted a reply, but as he spoke only of the authority of the pope's bull, the Emperor's edict, the canons, and the impropriety of all such discussions, without any reference to scripture, he was given to understand that he was not observing the rule of the assembly. The prior of the Augustinians, a famous preacher, and much attached to the ancient orthodoxy, confessed that he could not refute the propositions of Zwingle, unless he were allowed to have recourse to the canon law. Zwingle immediately referred to a passage in the canon law, which showed that the scriptures alone were to be relied upon. The monk thus silenced, resumed his seat, muttering to himself, "The pope has decided: I abide by his decisions, and leave others to argue."

Leo Juda, to whom was entrusted the subject of the images, addressed the assembly at some length, proving from the scriptures, "that images are forbidden by the word of God; and that Christians ought not to make them, set them up, or pay them any homage." On the second day of the Conference, Zwingle introduced the subject of the mass, showing from the words of the institution, and from other portions of the New Testament, that the mass is not a sacrifice, that no one man can offer to God a sacrifice for another; and that the mode of celebrating the Eucharist in the church of Rome is quite different from the institution of the Saviour. The few feeble attempts that were made to sustain the established practice and doctrine, were immediately confuted by the two champions of the Reformation, to the entire satisfaction of the Council.

The Word of God Prevails

A deep and salutary impression was produced on the assembly. "Until this hour," exclaimed Schmidt, the commander of Kussnacht, "ye have all gone after idols. The dwellers in the plains have run to the mountains, and those of the mountains have gone to the plains; the French to Germany, and the Germans to France. Now ye know whither ye ought to go. God has combined all things in Christ. Ye noble citizens of Zurich, go to the true source; and may Christ at length re-enter your territory, and there resume His ancient empire." The aged warrior, Reust, turning to the Council, gravely said, though in military language, "Now, then . . . . let us grasp the sword of God's word, and may the Lord prosper His work." With such expressions of sympathy Zwingle was completely overcome. "God is with us," he said, with deep feeling, "He will defend His own cause. Let us go forward in the name of the Lord." Here his emotion was too great for utterance; he burst into tears, and many mingled their tears with his.

Thus the colloquy ended; it lasted three days; it was decisive in favour of the Reformation. The victory was undisputed. The presidents rose; Vadian of St. Gall, speaking on behalf of those who had presided with him, observed, "that no definite sentence was to be pronounced as the decision of the meeting. They had heard the testimony of God's word in support of the two propositions, and likewise what could be urged against them; each person must judge for himself what was the conclusion to be formed, and must follow the dictates of his own conscience." Reust joined in the exhortation, and "entreated all present to take the word of God for their only guide, and to follow it, fearing nothing." The meeting then closed.

Reflections on the Character of the Conference

All who know something of the value of the word of God, must reflect with supreme satisfaction on the rule by which these disputations were governed. We can never be too thankful for such an appreciation of the holy scriptures. In this respect Zwingle did a great and a noble work. He restored the Bible to its true place, and the people to their true privileges. Perfect freedom of discussion was allowed to both parties, with this stipulation-"that all arguments were to be derived directly from scripture, the sole standard of judgment; that all merely verbal disputes, and vain contentious subtleties, were to be instantly repressed." And this, let us bear in mind, this noble assertion of the authority and sufficiency of scripture was publicly made at a time when nearly all classes were only beginning to hear of the errors of popery, and of the character, if not of the existence, of the Bible. Many of the priests even had never seen one, and scarcely any of them had read it.

It required more than the commanding presence of Zwingle-more than his brilliant talents, his high cultivation, his natural eloquence, to maintain such a position. Nothing less than faith in the living God, and in the divine presence, could have sustained him at such a moment. Mere cleverness and superstition could then give, as they can give now, a thousand reasons why the dogmas of the papacy should be held supreme; but faith did then-as it must now-assail the whole system of popery as the imposture of Satan, and in direct opposition to the truth of God. In the face of nine hundred members of the Roman Catholic church, lay and clerical, Zwingle, Leo Juda, and others maintained, that the pure word of God, which should be in the hands of the people, was the only standard of faith and morals, and that all the time-honoured customs and traditions of Romanism, though sanctioned by the credulity of ages, and backed by the display of worldly power, were the mere inventions of priestcraft, and ruinous to the souls of men.

This was bold work, and at such a time; but when Christ has His right place in the heart, His strength is made perfect in our weakness. The word of God, we know, is the sword of the Spirit, by which all questions should be settled, and to which alone all Christians should appeal. One line of scripture far out weighs ten thousand reasons. But how far, we may ask, is this rule observed by Christians in the present day? Where shall we find such inflexible adherence to the plain truth of God? We know not where to look for it. But we hear on all sides of questions being raised as to the plenary inspiration of the scriptures; and that, as it is capable of various interpretations by the learned, it cannot be appealed to as decisive. Hence the invention of creeds and confessions as the bulwarks of the church in place of the word and power of God. Such alas! alas! is the growing infidelity of our own day, which will tend to the increase of Romanism, and to the final apostasy of Christendom. Meanwhile let all who love the Lord hold fast His word as unchanged and unchangeable. Thou, Lord, hath "magnified Thy word above all Thy name." And it still holds true, that, "them that honour Me I will honour, and they that despise Me shall be lightly esteemed." The Lord give us grace to honour His name by faithfully keeping His word, and, like the Master, be able to say as to all our religious observances, "Thus saith the Lord" .... "It is written," "it is written." (Rev. 3:8; Ps. 138:2; 1 Sam. 2:30; Matt. 4)