Short Papers on Church History — Chapter 42

The Results of the Disputations

The authorities, though convinced that neither the mass nor the use of images could be justified by the word of God, did not think it expedient to abolish by law either the one or the other at that moment. Zwingle prudently recommended great caution and moderation. "God knows," he said to the council, "that I am inclined to build up, and not to throw down. I am aware there are timid souls who ought to be conciliated. The people generally are not yet sufficiently enlightened to receive with unanimity such extensive alterations." The magistrates, following his advice, allowed every minister to say mass or decline it, as he thought proper; reserving to themselves the right of ordaining at a future time what they should judge proper.

During this delay, the friends of the Reformation petitioned the council to release the persons imprisoned for throwing down the crucifix. All were set at liberty with the exception of Hottinger, who, because of the leading part he had taken in the commotion, was banished for two years from the canton of Zurich. This slight sentence, contrary to the intentions of those who passed it, was soon followed by a violent and cruel death.

The First Martyr of the Swiss Reformation

In proportion as the cause of the Reformation advanced, the rage of its adversaries increased. At a diet held at Lucerne, in the month of January, 1524, all the cantons were represented with the exception of Zurich and Schaffhausen. The clergy present endeavoured to excite the council against the new doctrines and those who had promulgated them. Alarmed at what might be the consequences of the changes which were taking place at Zurich, they were determined to be silent spectators no longer. Through the influence of the partisans of Rome in the council, an edict was passed, "forbidding the people to preach, or to repeat any new or Lutheran doctrine in private or public, or to talk or dispute about such things in taverns or at feasts, that whatever laws the bishop of Constance enacted respecting religion should be observed; that everyone, whether man or woman, old or young, who saw or heard anything done, preached or spoken, contrary to this edict, should give immediate information of the same to the proper authorities." Thus was the snare laid, through the subtlety of Satan, for the feet of the Reformers; and, the council being national, it was spread over all Switzerland. Hottinger was the first to be caught in its toils.

When banished from Zurich, he repaired to the country of Baden, where he lived by the labour of his hands. He neither sought nor avoided occasions of speaking about his religion. When asked what the new doctrines were which the Zurich pastors preached, he frankly conversed on the subject. He was now narrowly watched, and reported to have said, "That Christ was sacrificed once for all Christians; and that by this one sacrifice, as St. Paul says, He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified; therefore the mass is no sacrifice; and that the invocation of saints and the adoration of images are contrary to the word of God." This was more than enough to condemn the unsuspecting man. He was denounced for his impiety to the grand bailiff, and very soon arrested. When questioned as to his religious belief, he did not conceal his convictions, and professed himself ready to justify what he had stated. He was convicted before the tribunal of having contravened an ordinance of the sovereign power, which forbade all discussions on the subject of religion. He was then removed to Lucerne, when he was condemned by the deputies of seven cantons to be beheaded.

When informed of his sentence, he calmly answered, "The will of the Lord be done! May He be pleased to pardon all who have contributed to my death...." "That will do," said one of his judges, "we do not sit here to listen to sermons; you can have your talk some other time." "He must have his head off this once," said another of his judges, "but if he should ever get it on again, we will then be of his religion." "To Jesus also it was said," he replied, "'Let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him.'" A monk presented a crucifix to his lips, but he put it from him, saying, "It is by faith that we must embrace Christ crucified in our hearts." He was greatly strengthened by the presence of the Lord when on his way to the place of execution. Many followed him in tears. "Weep not for me," he said, "I am on my way to eternal happiness." He preached the gospel to the people as one so near his end would, entreating them to look to the Lord Jesus Christ, in whom alone pardon and salvation could be found. His last words on the scaffold were, "Into Thy hands I commit my spirit, O my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." In a few moments he was absent from the body and present with the Lord.

The tranquillity, courage, and wisdom which Hottinger showed before his judges, and on his way to the scaffold, give him a high place among those who died for the cause of the Reformation. Calmly and firmly in his last moments he prayed for the mercy of God in favour of his judges, and that their eyes might be opened to the truth. Then turning to the people, he said, "If I have offended anyone among you, let him forgive me as I have forgiven my enemies. Pray to God to support my faith to the last moment. When I shall have undergone my sentence, your prayers will be useless to me."*

{*Hess, p. 168.}

The Blood of Hottinger Inflames the Zeal of the Papists

The council of Zurich had protested against the irregularity of its allies in the condemnation of a fellow citizen; but in place of listening to remonstrance, their persecuting zeal was evidently inflamed by the execution of Hottinger; for scarcely was the blood of that innocent man cold when the diet determined on more vigorous efforts to crush the Reformation itself. They immediately resolved that a deputation should be sent to Zurich, the seat of the mischief, calling upon the council and the citizens to renounce their new opinions.

In accordance with this resolution an embassy was sent to Zurich on the 21st of March, 1524, in which all the cantons represented at Lucerne united, with the single exception of Schaffhausen. The deputies, in the most specious style of address, lamented that the unity of the ancient christian faith should be broken, and that universal sorrow should be occasioned by the unhappy changes which had lately been introduced: the delightful repose of church and state, transmitted from all antiquity, had been thus violently interrupted. "Confederates of Zurich," said the delegates, "join your efforts to ours; let us stifle this new faith; it had been well if this growing evil had been stopped in the beginning, and if, after the example of our ancestors, we had vindicated the honour of God, the blessed Virgin, and all the saints, at the expense of our lives and fortunes: the fruits of the doctrine of Luther are everywhere apparent in the menacing aspect of the people, who show themselves ripe for rebellion." Thus the deputation appealed to the Zurichers, and entreated them to dismiss Zwingle and Leo Juda, the instruments of communicating this contagion to the Swiss. That there were abuses in the ecclesiastical system, they readily admitted. "They were all oppressed by the pope, and his train of cardinals, bishops, and agents, who, by their usurpations, simony, and indulgences, exhausted the wealth of the country. They were willing to co-operate in any scheme for the correction of these evils and such as these; but the states in assembly could no longer endure the innovations which were sheltered and nourished by the Senate of Zurich."

Thus spoke the adversaries of the Reformation: and what reply can the council give to such fair speeches from so large a portion of the Helvetic body? The answer was immediate, firm, and noble. The death of Hottinger had not discouraged them, but rather raised their indignation against the states which had perpetrated it.

The Answer of Zurich to Lucerne

"We can make no concessions," said the Zurichers, "in what concerns the word of God. For five years past we have been listening to the sacred instructions of our ministers: at first their doctrine did seem new to us, as we had heard nothing of the like before. But when we understood and clearly perceived that this was its end and scope-to make manifest Jesus Christ as the author and finisher of our salvation; who died on the cross as the Saviour of mankind, and shed His precious blood to cleanse our sins away, who is now in heaven as the only Advocate and Mediator between God and man;-when we heard so salutary a message we could not refrain from embracing it with great eagerness." They then proceeded to reply at some length to the representations of the delegates, to expose the abuses of the Church of Rome, and to assert that all blessing to their souls and all harmony in the states must spring from obedience to the word of God. They reasserted that the single weapon for overthrowing the power, usurpations, and rapacity of the papists is the preaching of the pure word of God.

How interesting to the Christian reader of the present day to find that statesmen, warriors, and political bodies, so openly and with such wondrous faith, referred to the word of God in those times. It was their only standard of appeal and their sole rule in practice. It is too much taken for granted now that all are secretly governed by it, therefore there is no reference to it in our public assemblies. "There is nothing," said the senate in conclusion, "that we desire more ardently, than the universal prevalence of peace, nor will we in any respect violate our laws and treaties of alliance. But in this affair, which involves our eternal safety, we cannot act otherwise than we do, unless we should be first convicted of error. We therefore again exhort you, as we have already done, if you think our doctrine opposed to scripture, to point it out, and prove it against us; but we must entreat you not to delay the attempt beyond the close of the month of May; till that time we shall expect an answer from you and from the bishops, and from the university of Basle."

The Downfall of the Images

The appointed interval had elapsed, and as no reply was received from the Roman Catholic cantons, the council of Zurich determined to proceed in the work of Reformation. The decree for the demolition of images was passed in January, but the authorities were in no haste to have it executed. There is nothing more to be admired at this moment of our history, than the patient and considerate way in which this delicate matter was conducted by the magistrates. They delayed in the expectation that the work would be accomplished by the general consent, and not by the open violence, of the people.

At the request of the three pastors, Zwingle, Leo Juda, and Engelhardt, the council published an order to the effect that honour being due to God only, the images should be removed from all the churches of the canton, and their ornaments sold for the benefit of the poor; that the council prohibit all private persons from destroying any image, without public authority, except such as are their own property, that every separate church may destroy its images after a prescribed method; that those persons whose families had erected images in the churches must have them removed within a limited time, or they will be destroyed by public authority. By these prudent and moderate measures, of which Zwingle was the councillor, civil dissension was entirely avoided, and the work proceeded as if by the unanimous determination of the citizens.

The appointed officers, consisting of twelve councillors, the three pastors, the city architect, masons, carpenters, and other necessary assistants, went into the various churches and, having closed the doors, took down the crosses, defaced the frescoes, whitewashed the walls, burned the pictures, and broke in pieces or otherwise destroyed every idol, to prevent their ever becoming again the objects of idolatrous worship. The country churches, following the example of the capital, displayed even greater zeal in destroying their ancient decorations and the objects of their recent adoration. Zwingle speaks with a little playfulness of a famous stone statue of the Virgin among the nuns in Altenbach, held in great reverence, and of much miraculous celebrity. The monks affirmed that it could never be removed from its place, or at least it could never be kept from its venerated station. It had been repeatedly taken away, firmly fixed and fastened elsewhere, and even locked up, but it always reappeared the following morning on its former basis. But alas! it failed to vindicate the prediction of the monks; it quietly submitted to be roughly removed, and returned no more to its ancient position. Thus the idol lost credit with the people.

"I rejoice, then," exclaims Zwingle, "and bid all others to rejoice with me, that this most iniquitous imposture was at length removed from the eyes of men, for, when this was once accomplished, all the other figments of popery were overthrown more easily. To God, through whose power and grace all this has been accomplished, be praise and glory for ever. Amen."

The Swiss and German Reformation

Here, in the presence of such a mighty work of God's Spirit, it may be well to pause for a moment and contemplate the difference between the two great leaders of the Reformation, the character of their principles and action, and the consequent results. The difference has often arrested us, and sometimes we have referred to it, and as D'Aubigné, the warm-hearted champion of Luther, has noticed the difference we refer to, we may draw attention to it the more freely.

That which completely ruled Zwingle's mind, and all his teaching and actings as a Reformer, was his supreme regard for the holy scriptures. All religious observances that could not be found in, or proved by, the word of God, he boldly maintained should be abolished. His Hebrew Bible and his Greek New Testament lay on the table before him in the halls of discussion, and he would own no standard but these. Luther's principle of dealing with the old religion was of a widely different character. He desired to maintain in the church all that was not directly or expressly contrary to the scriptures. This is by no means a safe or a sound principle. It might be difficult to prove that certain things are expressly forbidden in the word of God, though it might be still more difficult to prove that they had any place in scripture. Truth is definite and positive, this dogma is loose and uncertain.

Even D'Aubigné admits that Luther rose up against those who had violently broken the images in the churches of Wittemberg, while the idols fell in the temples of Zurich by Zwingle's own direction. The German Reformer wished to remain united to the Church of Rome, and would have been content to purify it of all that was opposed to the word of God. The Zurich Reformer passed over the middle ages entirely, and reckoned nothing of absolute authority that had been written or invented since the days of the apostles. Restoration to the primitive simplicity of the church was his idea of a Reformation. There was therefore greater completeness in the mind of Zwingle as a Reformer.

Primitive Christianity had been transformed in its early days by the self-righteousness of Judaism and the paganism of the Greeks into the confusion of Roman Catholicism. The Jewish element prevailed in that part of her doctrine which relates to man — to salvation by works of human merit, or to trading in the salvation of the souls of men, as by indulgences. The pagan element prevailed especially in that which relates to God — to the innumerable false gods of popery; to the long reign of images, symbols, and ceremonies; to the dethroning of the infinitely blessed and all gracious God. "The German Reformer proclaimed the great doctrine of justification by faith, and with it inflicted a death-blow on the self-righteousness of Rome. The Reformer of Switzerland unquestionably did the same; the inability of man to save himself forms the basis of the work of all the Reformers. But Zwingle did something more: he established the sovereign, universal, and exclusive supremacy of God, and thus inflicted a deadly blow on the pagan worship of Rome."*

{*D'Aubigné, vol. 3, pp. 356-359.}

The Marriage of Zwingle

Of the many innovations which were now introduced, none gave a greater scandal to the papal party than the marriage of the clergy. It was setting at defiance all ecclesiastical discipline, and by those who were naturally expected to be its guardians. To live, as if married, was overlooked, if not sanctioned, by the ecclesiastical authorities; but to marry was a mortal sin. Such was the morality of popery. But the Spirit of God was now working, and the eyes of many were being opened to the truth. One of the pastors in the city of Strasburg, who had been living like many others at that time, was led to see his sin and married immediately. The bishop, because it had been done publicly, could not overlook the offence, and caused a great stir to be made both in the church and in the senate. The time, however, was past for the bishop to have all his own way: numbers approved of the new doctrine, following the example of the pastor; and the magistrates refused to interfere.

In the month of April, 1524, Zwingle availed himself of the privilege which he had so often claimed for all the priesthood. His nuptials with Anna Reinhart, widow of John Meyer, lord of Weiningen, in the county of Baden, were publicly proclaimed, thereby setting a good example to his brethren. Only two of several children survived him, Ulric who became a canon and archdeacon of Zurich, and Regula who was married to Rudolph Gaulter, a divine of eminence. The following year Luther was married to Catherine of Bora. These events gave occasion to great calumnies; but as Zwingle had not been a monk, or his bride a nun, the scandal was not so enormous as in the case of Luther and Catherine.

The Progress of Reform

The Lord greatly blessed the labours of the Reformers in Zurich at this time, and stayed the cruel hand of their enemies. The word of the Lord had found its right place in their hearts, and, through them, in the hearts of the people. And God never fails to bless the people or the nation that honours His word. It is ever the certain pathway to the richest blessings. He still says, "Them that honour Me I will honour." (1 Sam. 2:30)

The downfall of the images was immediately followed by the voluntary dissolution of the two most important religious institutions in Zurich. The first was that of an ancient and wealthy abbey, of royal foundation, known by the name of Frauen-Munster, and used for the reception of ladies of quality. It was distinguished not only by very high antiquity but also by various immunities and privileges, and the possession of splendid revenues. This extraordinary society of females exercised the sovereign right of coining all the money circulated, and of nominating the persons who should preside in the tribunals of justice. The lady-abbess, of her own accord, surrendered all the rights and possession of the institution into the hands of the government, on the understanding that the funds should be applied to pious and charitable purposes, with a due respect to vested rights. The abbess, Catherine Cimmern, retired on an honourable pension and soon after married. In consequence of this change, the city of Zurich, in the year 1526, for the first time coined money and established courts of justice in its own name.

The chapter of canons also, of which Zwingle was a member, after arranging with the government respecting their rights and revenues, followed the example of the opulent nuns. The few remaining monks of the three orders were collected into one monastery; the young to be taught some useful trade, the aged to end their days in peace.

The news of these triumphs of the word of God rapidly spread over the mountains and valleys of Switzerland. The Roman Catholic cantons were exasperated. Facts were distorted, falsehoods were circulated; diets were assembled unknown to the senate of Zurich, and the deputies of the cantons bound themselves never to permit the establishment of the new opinions in Switzerland.

Meanwhile the pontiffs were not indifferent spectators. Clement VII addressed a brief to the Helvetic republic generally, which he saluted with the most profuse expressions of respect and benevolence. He also addressed himself in the most flattering terms to all — lay and clerical — who had exerted themselves in support of the catholic faith. Their zeal was "more glorious than all the victories and military achievements of their brave country;" and he further exhorted them to persevere in their laudable course, until they had extirpated the "Lutheran doctrines" from the soil of Switzerland.

Animated by this artful address, and roused by the proceedings at Zurich, the ten cantons, which had not avowed the reformed faith, assembled at Zug, in the month of July, and sent a deputation to Zurich, Schaffhausen and Appenzel. The delegates were commissioned to acquaint these states with the firm resolve of the diet to crush the new doctrines; and to prosecute its adherents to the forfeiture of their goods, of their honours, and even of their lives. Zurich could not hear such threatenings without deep emotion; but she was ready with her usual reply: "In matters of faith the word of God alone must be obeyed." On receiving this answer, the Catholic cantons trembled with rage. Lucerne, Uri, Schweitz, Zug, Unterwalden, and Friburg, declared to the citizens of Zurich, that they would never again sit with them in diet unless they renounced their novel dogmas. The federal unity was thus broken by the partisans of Rome; and, in spite of their oaths and alliances, they determined to arrest the progress of truth by the sword of persecution.

The Weapons of Rome's Warfare

Matters now began to assume a more alarming aspect. An event soon occurred which increased the misunderstanding of the confederates, and gave Rome the opportunity of showing with what weapons she was prepared to fight for the ancient faith.

The village of Stamheim, situated on the frontiers of Thurgau was dependent upon Zurich, except for its criminal jurisdiction, which was vested in the bailiff of Thurgau. This village possessed a chapel dedicated to St. Anne, and enriched by the gifts of a multitude of pilgrims. But, not withstanding these great advantages to the inhabitants, they were inclined to abandon their idolatrous practices and gains, and embrace the principles of Reform. Stamheim was at that time governed by a vice-bailiff, named John Writh, a worthy man, and an earnest Reformer. He had two sons young priests, John and Adrian, who had been stationed there by the council of Zurich for the instruction of the people. Full of piety and courage, and zealous preachers of the gospel, the citizens were taught to regard the honours which were offered to the patroness of their village as dishonouring to God and contrary to His holy word, and having received the edict of the council of Zurich on the subject of images, they burned the votive pictures that attested the miracles of St. Anne, and removed the images which had been placed in the public situations of Stamheim.

For the moment the popular feeling was in favour of Reform, but there were many still who clung to their idols with a tenacity peculiar to idolatry, and murmured deeply for the blood of their destroyers. Such carried their complaints to the grand-bailiff of Thurgau, named Joseph Amberg. This unhappy man was at one time inclined to the opinions of Zwingle; but when a candidate for the office of grand-bailiff, in order to obtain the suffrages of his fellow citizens, all zealous Catholics, he promised to use his utmost power to suppress the new sect in Thurgau. He would gladly have seized and imprisoned the offenders, but Stamheim was beyond his jurisdiction. His violent hatred, however, of the bailiff Writh and his sons he took no pains to conceal, nor of his purpose to be avenged because of the dishonour done to the images.

The Illegal Arrest of OExlin

The evil genius of Rome came to the assistance of Amberg. He saw that the minds of men were in that state of excitement which indicates a readiness for tumult and violence. This was his snare and a fatal one it proved. OExlin, a great friend of Zwingle's, and the principal apostle of the Reformation in Thurgau, was arrested in the hope of stopping its progress. At midnight, on the 7th of July, 1524, the learned and pious minister of Burg was seized by the bailiff's soldiers and carried off, in defiance of his cries and in contempt of the privileges of his position. The inhabitants, hearing the disturbance, rushed into the streets, and the village soon became the scene of a frightful uproar, but their pastor was not rescued, the soldiers were off, and the night was dark. According to the custom of those times, the tocsin was rung — the alarmbell; and the inhabitants of the adjacent villages were soon on the move and inquiring of one another what was the matter.

When John Writh and his sons heard that their friend and brother had been violently carried off, they hastened to join the pursuers. But they were too late; the soldiers, hearing the alarm, redoubled their speed, and soon placed the river Thus between themselves and the pursuing party. Application was made to Amberg for the release of OExlin on bail, but their terms were refused. Unhappily, a number of unprincipled, turbulent spirits, who always make their appearance in such tumults, became unruly. They applied for some refreshment at the convent of Ittingen, but not content with what they received, they began to pillage and drank to excess. Writh and his sons did their utmost to restrain them, but without success. It was believed by the populace that the inmates had encouraged the tyranny of Amberg, and that they should be revenged on the monks of Ittingen. While revelling in the store-rooms and cellars, a fire broke out, and the monastery was burned to the ground.

The Wriths Falsely Accused

This was enough for the evil purposes of the adversary. The grand-bailiff, in giving an account to his government of the fatal event, blamed the inhabitants of Stein and Stamheim, and above all, the bailiff Writh and his sons, whom he accused of causing the tocsin to be sounded; of being the authors of the excesses committed at Ittingen; of having profaned the host, and burned the monastery.

In a few days the deputies of the cantons assembled at Zug. So great was their indignation, that they would have marched instantly with flying banners on Stein and Stamheim, and put the inhabitants to the sword. "If any one is guilty," said the deputies of Zurich with more reason, "he must be punished, but according to the laws of justice, and not by violence." They also represented to the deputies of the cantons, that the grand-bailiff had provoked the commotion by violating the privileges of the town of Stein in the illegal arrest of the pastor OExlin. In the meantime the Council of Zurich sent one of its members, with an escort of soldiers to Stamheim — whose subjects they were — to seize the persons accused. Several consulted their safety by flight; but Writh and his sons, who had returned before the monastery was burned, and were living quietly at Stamheim, refused to fly, depending upon their own innocence and the justice of their government. When the soldiers made their appearance, the worthy bailiff said to them, "My lords of Zurich might have spared themselves all this trouble. If they had sent a child, I should have obeyed their summons." The three Wriths, with their friend, Burchard Ruteman, bailiff of Nussbaum — a man of the same spirit — were taken prisoners, and carried to Zurich.

After a three weeks' imprisonment, they were brought up for examination. They acknowledged that they had gone out at the sound of the tocsin, and that they had followed the crowd to Ittingen; but they proved that, instead of exciting the peasants to disorder, they had endeavoured to dissuade them from it, and that they had returned home immediately they knew that the grand-bailiff refused to set OExlin at liberty. Nothing could be proved against them; they had only acted according to the republican principles of their country, in turning out at the sound of the alarm-bell. They were pronounced, after a full examination, to be entirely innocent.

The Assembly of Baden

These proceedings were communicated to the cantons then assembled at Baden, but they were not satisfied. Jezebel's thirst for blood had been whetted by having her prey so near her grasp, and she determined on lengthening her arm, and making it secure. Contrary to the established customs of the Confederation, she demanded the prisoners to be given up, in order to be judged at Baden. The Zurichers refused on the ground that to them belonged the right to judge their own subjects, and that the diet had no right over the persons accused. On hearing this, the deputies trembled with rage. "We will do ourselves justice," they exclaimed, "if the accused are not delivered up to us immediately, we will march our troops to Zurich and carry them off by force of arms." Knowing the state of feeling against Zurich because of Zwingle and the Reformation, and dreading the calamities of a civil war, the resolution of the Senate was shaken.

Unhappy moment for the honour of Zurich! "To yield to threats," said Zwingle, "to renounce your just rights when the life of a subject is at stake, is a criminal weakness, from which none but the most fatal consequences can be expected. If the persons accused were guilty, I should be far from wishing to save them from the sword of justice, but since they have been judged innocent, why deliver them up to a tribunal, determined beforehand to make the whole weight of its hatred against the Reformation fall upon their heads?" The whole town was in agitation; opinions were divided. At last it was supposed that a middle course had been found. The prisoners were to be delivered to the diet, on condition that they would only be examined with regard to the affair of Ittingen, and not as to their faith. The diet agreed to this, and on Friday, August 18th, the three Wriths and their friend, accompanied by four councillors of state, and several armed men, quitted Zurich.

"A deep concern," says the historian, "was felt by all the city at the prospect of the fate which awaited the two youths and their aged companions. Sobbing alone was heard as they passed along. What a mournful procession! exclaimed one. God will punish us for delivering them up, cried another. Let us pray Him to impart His grace to these poor prisoners, and to strengthen them in their faith." The churches were all filled. Zwingle and others lifted up their voices; and who, we may ask, did not bathe with their tears those first-fruits to God of the Reformation in Switzerland?

The Wriths and Ruteman Falsely Condemned

When the prisoners reached Baden, they were thrown into a dungeon. The form of an examination began the following day; the bailiff Writh was first brought in. The Catholics, acting upon their old motto, "that it is wrong to keep faith with heretics," immediately questioned the bailiff concerning the removal of the images at Stamheim, and other points affecting his religion. The deputies of Zurich protested, reminding the diet that this was a gross violation of the conditions on which the prisoners were allowed to appear. But expostulations were of no avail now. The Zurichers and their appeals were treated with derision. The prisoners were put to the torture, in the hope of extorting from them some confessions which might give a colour of justice to the sentence which was already determined to be pronounced upon them.

The most cruel tortures were inflicted on the father, without regard to his character or his age; but he persisted in declaring his innocence of the pillage and burning of Ittingen. From morning till noon they practised their cruelties on the old man. His pitiful cries to God to sustain and comfort him, only called forth the impiety of his tormentors. "Where is your Christ now?" said one of the deputies, "bid Him come to your relief." His intrepid son, John, was treated with still greater barbarity. But nothing could move his constancy in Christ. He seems to have triumphed in his sufferings, and gloried in his cross. Adrian was threatened with having his veins opened one after another, unless he made a confession of his guilt. But he could only confess to having preached the gospel of Christ, and been married. When wearied with their work of torture, they sent back the faithful confessors of Christ to a loathsome dungeon; their bodies well-nigh racked to pieces, themselves strong in the consciousness of their innocence, and sustained by the presence and power of their Lord and Master, Christ Jesus.

The bailiff's wife, Hannah Writh, and the mother of the two young priests, hastened to Baden, carrying an infant child in her arms, to implore the mercy of the judges. With floods of tears she pleaded for mercy to her husband and her sons; she pleaded her large family, her husband's past services to the state and his country; but all in vain. Her entreaties, such as only a wife and a mother could pour forth instead of softening the judges, irritated them more and more, and betrayed that Satanic hatred to the truth which was the real cause of all their cruelties. One of the judges, the deputy for Zug, was led in the providence of God to give the most wonderful testimony to the character of Writh, and the treachery of his judges. "You know the bailiff Writh," said a friend of the distressed wife to him. "I do," he replied, "I have been twice bailiff of Thurgau, I never knew a more innocent, upright, and hospitable man than John Writh. His house was open to all who stood in need of his assistance, in fact, his house was a convent, an inn, and a hospital; and I cannot imagine what demon can have drawn him into this tumult. If he had plundered, robbed, or even murdered, I would willingly have made every exertion to obtain his pardon; but seeing he has burned the image of the blessed St. Anne, the mother of the Virgin, he must die; there can be no mercy shown him." The court broke up, the deputies returned to their cantons, the prisoners to their cells, and did not meet again till that day month.

The Martyrdom of The Wriths and Ruteman

At length those dreary four weeks passed away, and the deputies assembled to deliberate on the sentence. In solemn mockery of all justice, and with closed doors, the sentence of death was passed on the bailiff Writh; on his son John — who was the strongest in the faith, and who had led away others and on the bailiff Ruteman. Adrian — it may have been to color over the cruelty and injustice of this sentence — was given back to his mother's tears with a show of mercy.

The officers proceeded to the tower to bring the prisoners into court. On hearing the sentence, Adrian burst into tears. His father calmly embraced the brief interval, to exact from him a promise, that he would never, in any way, attempt to avenge their death. "My brother," said John to Adrian, "the cross of Christ must always follow His word. Do not then weep, my brother; resume your courage, preach the gospel of Christ, be constant in the cause of Christ. I can render thanks to my Lord this day, that He has honoured me by calling me to suffer and die for His truth. Blessed be His holy name for ever! His holy will be done!"

They were next conducted to the scaffold. The sufferings of these faithful men from their long detention in unwholesome dungeons, and from the tortures that were inflicted on them, made death a welcome messenger of peace. But that noble son — to be remembered with admiration and gratitude for ever — whose heart was filled with the tenderest anxiety for his father, sought in every way to comfort and sustain him. Floods of tears fell from all spectators, as he embraced his father, and bade him farewell on the scaffold. "My dearly beloved father, henceforward you shall be no longer my father, nor I your son. We are brethren in Christ Jesus, for the love of whom we are about to die. But we are going to Him who is our Father, and the Father of all the faithful; and in His presence we shall enjoy eternal life. Let us fear nothing!" "Amen," replied the father, "may God be glorified, my dearly beloved son and brother in Christ." The bailiff Ruteman prayed in silence.

All three knelt down together in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ; and in another moment their heads fell on the scaffold, and their happy souls had found their home and rest in the blooming paradise of God.

The crowd gave loud utterance to their lamentations. The two bailiffs left twenty-two children, and forty-five grandchildren. Hannah had brought up a large family in the fear of the Lord, and was greatly respected for her virtues throughout the whole district. But she had not yet drained the cup of her bitter anguish. She was condemned to pay twelve crowns to the executioner who had beheaded her husband and her son. Let the reader note the refined barbarity, the ignoble littleness, the cowardly persecution, the wanton cruelty, that delights in lacerating an already sorely wounded woman's heart. "O my soul, come not thou into their secret; unto their assembly, mine honour, be not thou united." (Gen. 49:6)

Adrian Writh was released, with orders to make a public confession of his crime at Einsidlen; but he escaped to Zurich, where he found an asylum, became pastor of Altorf, and was the father of the celebrated Rudolph or Ralph, Hospinian, author of the Sacramentarian history. OExlin was released, after having been put to the torture at Lucerne. He likewise found a refuge in the canton of Zurich, and became a pastor there.*

{*For more lengthy details, see Life of Zwingle, by Hess, 178-194. D'Aubigné, vol. 2, chap. 5. Scott, vol. 2, pp. 494-501.}