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fields for research and new ideals on every hand. When we
consider how thoroughly the Church entered into the life of
the men of that day, by means of her various ministrations, by her
influence over the secular authorities, and her fabulous wealth.



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THE RISE OF THE REFORMATION, 253

it is not surprising that she should have felt the change as
keenly as she did and borne such lasting traces of the subse-
quent struggle.

Before the advent of the Reformation, the Swiss people
were exceedingly well-disposed toward the head of the
Church. They were conspicuous amongst the nations for
their attachment to his person, and for their zeal in all ecclesi-
astical matters. Nor was this enthusiasm confined to the
Forest States, which might be said to have been too far
removed from the world to perceive the real corruption of
the Church, but even Zurich and Bern, the very centres of the
subsequent agitation, prided themselves upon their well-known
devotion to Rome. Indeed, had there been less religious zeal
and more indiflference in Switzerland, the Reformation would
not have left those deplorable scars upon the national life
which are still noticeable to-day.

Why was it that at least one-half of those to whom the
Pope had awarded the title of " Defenders of the Liberty of the
Church," should think themselves constrained to change from
partisans into adversaries of the Papal cause ?

In Switzerland, more than elsewhere, the Reformation was
affected by all manner of secular considerations, by political
questions and administrative jealousies, for, in spite of their
deeply religious temperament, the Swiss were very jealous of
any ecclesiastical interference in their political affairs. The
secular authorities in the various States were always seeking
to acquire control over the clergy in their midst, and to con-
fine them to purely ecclesiastical matters. This tendency
is seen in a number of ordinances passed by different
States, and in the famous Pfaffenbrief which concerned
the Federation at large. To this day the parishes of Canton
Uri, for example, distinctly Ultramontane though they be,
retain the right of electing their own priests, in accordance
with a decree of Pope Julius II. No doubt, therefore, the
readiness of certain portions of the Swiss people to take up
the ideas of the Reformation, must be ascribed in part to this



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254 THE RISE OF THE SWISS REPUBLIC.

desire of the secular authorities to exercise supervision over
ecclesiastical a£Fairs in their districts.

But there were also moral considerations. During the Italian
campaigns ,the governments of the Confederated States had
been in constant communication with Papal emissaries. In
the course of these negotiations they had become acquain-
ted with the worldly ambitions, the broken pledges, and the
intrigues of the Holy Father ; they were shocked to find his
conduct so inconsistent with his sacred functions. They had
supposed him engaged at most in a righteous struggle for his
spiritual supremacy, and now they found that he was pursuing
political plans, without regard to the rights and liberties of the
nations involved. But more than this, the Swiss mercenary
troops had penetrated far into the Papal States, and had not
been edified by what they saw and heard. They brought back
strange stories of the doings at Rome, of the corruption in
high places, and the general profligacy so much at variance
with the sanctity of the place. Returning to their homes,
they carried with them the vices and diseases they had con-
tracted in the P^pal service; they became idle vagabonds,
unwilling to work, and unfit to fulfil the duties of citizenship.
No wonder that a cry of indignation arose from the Confedera-
tion ; that honest men tried to put down the mercenary system,
and began to look upon the Papal emissaries^ who besieged
the authorities for fresh levies of riien, as the enemies of their
country.

The time came when all true patriots were constrained to
combat the influence of the Pope as fatal to the welfare of
their native land.

Thus was the traditional veneration of the Swiss undermined,
and their old-time allegiance loosened. When the public con-
science had been aroused by these evils, and public (pinion
had turned against Papal interference, then came the man who
should inaugurate the movement of religious emancipation.
But observe how the career of Ulrich Zwingli illustrates the
peculiar political character of the Reformation in Switzerland,



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THE RISE OF THE REFORMATION. 255

to which reference has been made above. Zwingli began his
work as a political reformer ; his first efforts were directed
against political abuses, and some of his noblest words were
spoken in the cause of a distinct national life, free from foreign
interference. It was not until he found all his exertions in
this field baffled by ecclesiastical intrigues, until he discovered
that the peculiar conditions, which then obtained in Christen-
dom, made it impossible to purify politics without first reform-
ing the Church, that he began to attack certain doctrines of
religion and to set up a theological system of his own.

Zwingli was a Reformer in the widest sense of the word.
He conceived his mission to be nothing less than the complete
political, religious, and moral regeneration of Switzerland; so
that whatever may be the reader's particular estimate of the
religious teachings which he introduced, no one can deny him
an honorable position amongst the great-hearted and fearless
seekers after the truth.

Ulrich Zwingli was bom in 1484, at the village of Wildhaus,
in the ancient County of Toggenburg, now forming part of the
Canton of St Gallen, A rude, wooden chAlet, blackened with
age, is still shown as the house where he first saw light.
His family were counted amongst the best in those parts, his
father being chief magistrate of the parish. He received an
education which was remarkable for its comprehensiveness.
At an early age, young Zwingli was sent to school in Basel and
Bern, from whence, showing especial aptitude for the study of
the ancient classics, he was allowed to perfect himself at the
University of Vienna. During his two-years* stay at this seat
of learning, he distinguished himself in the studies embraced
by the designation of the humanities, and by his talent for
eloquent debate. Returning to Switzerland, he accepted a posi-
tion as a Latin teacher, in the school of St. Martin, at Basel,
making the acquaintance of the famous Glareanus, at the Uni-
versity in that city, and of a certain Thomas Wyttenbach, of
Bienne, who seems to have been the first to direct his atten-
tion to theological studies. In 1506, in his twenty-second



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256 THE RISE OF THE SWISS REPUBLIC.

year, Zwingli was chosen parish priest of Glarus, and at the
outset of his ecclesiastical career, had a foretaste of the
corruption which obtained in the church ; for he found himself
obliged to pay one hundred florins to the holder of the living,
before he could take possession. During the ten years of his
sojourn at Glarus, Zwingli turned to his studies with renewed
zest. In his search after the truth, he not only drank deeply
of the wisdom of the ancients, making himself familiar with the
Greek and Latin authors, with the Bible, and with the Fathers
of the Church ; but he also kept up a correspondence with such
contemporary scholars as Glareanus, Mykonius, Vadianus, and
later with the great Erasmus himself. He was laying the
foundation of his education deep and broad.

But to the erudition of the closeted student he joined quali-
ties which savants generally lack. Zwingli was a true man
of the people, both in manner and speech, a believer in popu-
lar sovereignty, an out-and-out democrat. A great part of the
success which attended his sermons was due to his genial
mother-wit, born of his intimate participation in the life of the
humble people.

Nor was his activity confined to his parish. In the capa-
city of army chaplain, he twice accompanied contingents of
troops from Glarus, across the Alps into Italy. In fact, his
graphic account of the expedition to Pavia which he sent to
his friend Vadianus, is our principal authority for that event.
And to show how unshaken his allegiance to the Church still
was at this time, it will suffice to recall his expression when he
calls Rome "the common mother of all Christian Believers."
A few days before the disastrous battle of Marignano he
delivered a speech to the soldiery, warning them against the
consequences of the disorders which had broken out amongst
them. So prominent was the part he played in these Italian
campaigns, and so conspicuous his zeal in behalf of the Papal
cause, that the attention of the Pope was finally directed to
him, probably by Matthaus Schinner, the Swiss Cardinal.
The Papal Legate was sent to assure Zwingli of his master's



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THE RISE OF THE REFORMATION. 2B7

special favor, and to reward him by an appointment to the
grade of Papal Court Chaplain, with a yearly allowance, which
was extremely welcome to the poor parish priest. In this gift
we must not see any attempt on the part of the Pope to bribe
Zwingli into silence, for the latter had not yet begun to attack
the tenets of the Church. But in the light of his subsequent
career, one cannot help remarking the irony of the transaction,
especially when we take into consideration that Zwingli used
the money thus obtained for the purchase of books which were
to help him eventually to throw ofiP his allegiance to the Pope.

For the present, Zwingli's attention was directed toward the
political abuses which followed in the wake of the mercenary
system. Even a little place like Glarus was at that time the
rendezvous of intriguing ambassadors from the great powers,
who vied with each other in bribing the authorities to lend
them troops. Zwingli's outspoken condemnation of these
evils soon brought him into conflict with the ruling faction in
Glarus, and, although he had gathered about himself a band of
devoted parishioners, he determined to accept an invitation
which came to him from Einsiedeln, to act as Chaplain in the
monastery of that place. It seems almost like malicious fate
that the very place which was then, as it is now, the most
celebrated place of pilgrimage in Switzerland, should have
called the man who was later foremost in denouncing every-
thing which had to do with the veneration of saints.

It is never an easy matter to determine, with anything like
precision, the turning-point in a man*s life, but it would seem
that this period of cloistered retirement determined the partic-
ular bent which Zwingli's subsequent life should take. In his
hours of study in the monastery library he seems to have
turned his thoughts more and more upon religious matters, he
began to take the Bible as a text-book, and, applying to it the
same methods of research which he had learned in connection
with his studies of the Greek and Latin classics, he saw, for the
first time, how far the Church of his day had departed from
the simple word of the text. His sermons began to attract



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258 THE RISE OF THE SWISS REPUBLIC.

attention, and his reputation to spread abroad as a scholar and
Churchman of the newer school ; but, as yet, no word of his
betrayed any hostility toward the Church, of which he
remained a devoted follower. After two years at Einsiedeln,
he was elected Rector of the Minster (Grossmiinster), at
Zurich, where his career as a religious Reformer really began.



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CHAPTER II.

ZWINGLI IN ZURICH.

ON New Year's Day, 1519, Zwingli delivered his first ser-
mon in the Grossraiinster at Zurich, taking the simple
text of St Matthew's Gospel in his hand, and expounding it
verse by verse, chapter by chapter, before a deeply moved
congregation. He did not, as yet, denounce the practices of
the Church which were inconsistent with this rendering, but
left his hearers to form their own opinion in regard to these
matters. As usual he did not confine himself to religious
questions in his exhortations. He laid bare before the aston-
ished multitudes, which flocked to hear his impassioned ora-
tory, the political degradation into which they had sunk
through their own discord and through foreign interference.

Just at this time, his words acquired a special significance,
on account of the fact that Switzerland had once more been
suddenly drawn into the stream of international politics by the
struggle between Francis I., of France, and Charles I., of
Spain, for the vacant throne of the German Empire. Both
princes set a great value upon the support of the Swiss mer-
cenaries, and the usual flatteries and briberies were set in
motion, with the usual demoralizing results. Zwingli set his
face sternly against this procedure, and it was probably his
influence which kept Zurich from joining the twelve other
States in an alliance with Francis I. But later, as though
to complicate matters, the Pope, becoming embroiled in this
quarrel for the German throne, applied to Zurich for troops.
Cardinal Schinner, of course, was in favor of granting this
request, but Zwingli was for putting an end to all foreign

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260 THE RISE OF THE SWISS REPUBLIC.

enterprises, whatever their object might be. In the end his
protestations were overruled. Zurich sent troops into Italy,
which, after advancing successfully as far as Piacenza, were
recalled upon the death of the Pope. The twelve other States
of the Confederation reproached Zurich for her, isolated con-
duct, and taunted her with being too papistical, a reproach
.which seems singular enough in the light of subsequent
events. A terrible defeat at Bicocca of the troops of the
twelve States, in league with the French and fighting against
the German imperial troops, put an end to this last and disas-
trous participation of Switzerland in European politics.

While the defeat of Bicocca was still in everybody's minds,
and the sorrow and shame which it had occasioned still lay
like a pall upon the public mind of Switzerland, Zwingli broke
the humiliating silence by an impassioned appeal, addressed to
the Landsgemeinde of Schwiz, just then in session. After all
these years, his eloquent words still ring with the clear note of
patriotic exaltation and are stamped with the indelible mark of
greatness.

"Our forefathers," he wrote, "did not slay fellow Chris-
tians for pay, but fought for liberty only, that their bodies and
lives, their wives and children, might not be in miserable subjec-
tion to a wanton nobility. . . . Therefore God gave them
ever the victory and increased their honors and possessions. .

. . In our own wars we hav«e always been victorious, in
foreign ones often defeated." With great vigor and richness
of illustration, Zwingli then proceeded to describe the evil
results of the mercenary system ; he insisted upon the danger
of God's wrath, the necessary suppression of justice in times of
war, and the demoralization occasioned by the bribery of
foreigners ; he warned them against the introduction of new
vices, the sowing of discord and hatred amongst the Confeder-
ates, and finally predicted that, unless a change was made, the
Swiss would end by falling completely into the power of
foreigners. "Therefore," he cried in a closing appeal, with an
exaggeration of epithet which betrayed the strength of his



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ZWINGLI IN ZURICH. 261

feelings, ''I exhort you, pious, wise, true, beloved, and hon-
orable men of Schwiz, by the agony and salvation of Jesu^
Christ, our Lord, by the honor which Almighty God has
shown our pious forefathers, by the sweat and evil times they
endured for the sake of our freedom — beware of the pay of
foreign masters which would destroy us, and do this now,
while there is yet time, and do not follow those who say it
cannot be done ! "^

These ringing words had only a momentary effect upon the
Landsgemeinde of Schwiz. After passing resolutions against
the mercenary system, this body found it impossible to enforce
them, and things returned into the old ruts.

Rebuffed and beaten at every point, discouraged, and doubt-
less somewhat embittered by his repeated failures as a politi-
cal Reformer, Zwingli became more radical in his religious
teachings. He rejected the Papal pension, which had been
awarded to him for his services in the Italian campaign, and pre-
pared to denounce openly those practices which he conceived
to be at variance with Holy Writ. The opportunity for the
first attack came in 1522. Certain citizens of Zurich, having
reached the conclusion, from Zwingli's sermons, that they were
no longer under obligations to keep the Lenten fasts, had been
punished by the city authorities for this misdemeanor, accord-
ing to the unfortunate custom of secular interference in relig-
ious matters which characterized the age. Thereupon,
Zwingli took up their defence in public, in spite of the expos-
tulations which came from his ecclesiastical superior, the
Bishop of Constance, from the Canons of the Minster, and
the City Council. Communications passed between the City
Council and the Bishop, the former being desirous of a full
explanation as to the conduct to be observed in Church cere-
monies. The Bishop replied that, although certain customs
which were contrary to Holy Writ might have crept into com-
mon practice, they should still be observed, because a common
error must make them right. Zwingli, on his side, now boldly

^ Oechsli, W. QueOenbuch. p. 301.



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262 THE RISE OF THE SWISS REPUBLIC.

claimed the privilege of preaching the Gospel, and advocated
the marriage of priests. Finally, in order to test these and
other questions, which now arose on every hand, the City
Council of Zurich, in 1523, summoned the clergy of the state
to a public disputation.

On this occasion, Zwingli presented sixty-seven articles,
which he had drawn up for discussion, as representing the sum
of his teachings. Bible in hand, he developed with great skill
the arguments in favor of these articles, astounding his hearers
by the familiarity which he displayed with the text of the
Bible, a work at that time almost forgotten and unused. The
Bishop of Constance had sent his Vicar General to supervise
the discussion, and to act as arbitrator in the proceedings. At
first, he contented himself with denying the competence of this
assembly to determine questions of doctrine which ought to
come before a Council of all Christendom; but later, having
allowed himself to be enticed into arguing upon the articles of
themselves, he fell an easy prey to Zwingli's superior knowl-
edge of the JBible. Deeply moved by the brilliant manner in
which the Reformer had refuted the arguments directed
against his new teachings, the City Council decreed that the
clergy of the state should avoid everything which could not be
proved and demonstrated by the text of the Bible.

The first official step in the Swiss Reformation had now
been taken ; henceforth the successive stages of the movement
followed each other in uninterrupted sequence. In the same
year another convocation decreed the abolition of images.
Six months later, these were carefully removed from the
churches and public places. Then came the suppression of
the monasteries within the whole territory subject to Zurich,
provision being made for the inmates, and the buildings revert-
ing to the State, to be used henceforth as schools, poor-houses
and hospitals.

Zwingli was not a man of half measures ; he meditated noth-
ing short of a complete overthrow of the existing ecclesiastical
forms and the substitution of a new system based upon the



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ZWINGLI IN ZURICH. 263

simple word of God. Having reached the conclusion that the
celebration of the Mass, as then practiced, was contrary to
that authority, he did not rest until it was swept away, and the
so-called reformed communion introduced.

Great severity was exercised against the Catholics who per-
sisted in clinging to their own service. At first, they were
allowed to go outside of Zurich territory to perform their
devotions, but finally, even this scant privilege was withdrawn
from them.

History repeats itself. The reaction is equal to the original
impulse. The greater the injustices under which one genera-
tion labors, the greater the excesses of the triumphant popu-
lace in the next. It seems to be the common fate of all
reformers to overbalance themselves as soon as they have
reached the climax of their activity. Like Savanarola, like
many another religious enthusiast, Zwingli had started with a
noble aspiration after freedom, and a holy abhorrence of the
existing order. He ended by erecting a theocratic system, no
whit less tryannical than the hierarchy he had overturned.
The world, in the sixteenth century, was not ripe for freedom of
thought, toward which we are rapidly making in the nine-
teenth. One doctrine was supposed to have the upper hand in
those days, and all the others were obliged to remain in abey-
ance. Zwingli conceived himself to be inspired like the pro-
phets of the Old Testament, to preach a new saying to a
corrupt generation. He imagined himself the spiritual head
and adviser of a theocratic state, in which religion and politics
should both conform to the precepts of the Bible, and thus
become identical.



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CHAPTER III.

THE GROWTH OF THE REFORMATION.

FROM Ziirich the new teachings spread to the other states
of the Swiss Confederation, to meet there with varying
fortunes. In some, they were welcomed by a population, eager
for religious innovations; in others, they gave rise to long-
protracted, confessional struggles; and in others again, they
encountered so determined an opposition that they were
unable to gain even momentary footing. In St. Gallen, the
influence of Zwingli's friend, Joachim von Watt, better known
under his Latinized name of Vadianus, was paramount. This
eminent scholar, having been appointed Biirgermeister, carried
his state completely over to the cause of the Reformation. In
the Thurgau, in Glarus, and Graubiinden, the efforts of the
new teachers were more and more successful. In Basel, the
two parties were pretty evenly divided. The strife was espe-
cially bitter in proportion to the importance of that city as the
seat of a university and the home of a printing-press. The
great Dutch theologian, Erasmus^ who had made Basel his
place of residence, although advocating greater freedom from
tradition, recoiled from the practical reforms which the new
teachings enjoined; his fastidious taste as a student was
shocked at the essentially popular turn which the movement
began to take, and his influence was Anally cast against the
progress of the Reformation.

In Bern, the new teachings had many obstacles to surmount,
but in the end were triumphant through the ceaseless activity
of enthusiastic partisans. The real leader was Berchtold Hat
ler, but bis efforts were strongly seconded by a certain Nicho-

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THE GROWTH OF THE REFORMATION^ 266

las Manuel, who satirized the abuses of the Church and the
vices of the clergy in stinging verses.

The authorities of Fribourg and Solothum promptly stamped
out the first manifestations of the Reformation within their
districts, while, in the Forest States, the new doctrines were
viewed with abhorrence. In truth, the simple mountaineers,
far removed from the demoralizing influences of the world,
were at a loss to understand the necessity for a change, or to
appreciate the significance of the movement. It seemed to
them to be a wanton attack, not only upon their religious faith,
but also upon the memory of their ancestors. The whole
course of their glorious history, every act of their forefathers,
was inextricably interwoven with the doctrines of their relig-
ion. Every patriotic feast was crowned with a religious obser-
vance, on every battle-field stood a chapel to which they made
solemn pilgrimages at stated times. They could not conceive
of a change in their religious habits which did not desecrate
the past and imperil the future. They were unfortunately
also influenced by purely worldly considerations, questions of
financial and political interests. The Forest States were, tp
a great extent, dependent upon the mercenary system as an
opening for their young men ; they counted as much upon the



Online LibraryWilliam Denison McCrackanThe rise of the Swiss republic: A history → online text (page 20 of 32)