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liberty, made alike by all the reformers, which Eras-
mus did not appreciate, — an element which grew out
of the very situation of reform. In order to snatch
men from the servitude of the church it was necessary

to his commentaries on the books of Scripture, Werke^ ed. Walch ;
also in his Table-Talk, translated by Hazlitt, and in the fuller
edition of the Tischreden, by Bindseil. Compare, also, Michelet
and Hagenbach'siTistor^ of the Rrfarmatian,

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to bring them into bondage to God; the denial of
human liberty meant the profound conviction that
God Himself was acting and speaking in His human
agents, that they were under the spell of an Almighty
Spirit which they were powerless to resist. The con-
cession of human liberty, as in the Latin church, had
carried with it subjection to the power of an earthly
priesthood ; to assert the absolute subjection of the
will to God was to bring men into that servitude
which is perfect freedom.


The Reformation in Switzerland was independent of
the movement led by Luther ; it began earlier, it fol-
lowed a leader widely different in character from the
hero of Germany, it originated from another impetus
than that which impelled Germany to revolt, it was
based on a different principle and reached in theology
a different result. While Luther and Zwingle were
both indebted to the influence of mysticism, yet that
which can be traced only as latent in Luther's mind,
or may be implied but is not clearly stated in the
doctrine of justification by faith, — the idea of the
divine immanence, — was the fundamental principle
with Zwingle, giving unity and consistency to his life
as well as to his theology. Luther was roused to in-
dignation by the practice of indulgences, in which he
saw exposed for sale the free forgiveness of God ;
Zwingle was moved to action by the crowd who came
to worship the miracle-working Madonna at Einsie^
deln. The one was seeking to find a true basis for the
distinctively religious life, the other for a principle
that would harmonize man on all sides of his nature

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and in all departments of his activity with a divine
purpose in the creation.

The idea of Deity in Zwingle's thought is that of a
being whose indwelling life constitutes the essence and
the reality of all things, who is not only infinite wis-
dom but infinite love. The creation had its origin in
the divine love; humanity was called into existence
that it might rejoice in God ; all the grades and ranges
of existence are so many revelations of the divine ex-
istence which operates in and through them.^ The
divine action in the world is immediate, and even mir-
acles, as they are called, are not abrupt and sudden
interpositions, but fall within the lines of uniform and
all-pervading law. To Zwingle's mind the whole as-
pect of the world was in the highest sense miraculous,
and ordinary phenomena were more divine than events
which merely strike the imagination because of their
extraordinary or rare character.^ Man is born with
the capacity to know and to possess God. His spirit,
by its very nature, goes out to God. But it is not by
and in himself, as a being distinct from God, that man
can rise either to the knowledge of God or the true
knowledge of himself. Hence revelation becomes part
of the organic process of things — a living, actual,
present process, whose results are not exclusively re-

1 Numen enim ut a se ipso est, ita non est quicquam quod a se
ipso et non ab illo sit. Esse igitur rerum universarum esse nu-
minis est. Ut non sit frivola ea Philosophorum sententia, qui
dixerunt, omnia unum esse ; si recte modo illos capiamus, vide-
licet ita ut omnium esse numinis sit esse, et ab illo cunetis tribu-
atur es sustineatur. Quo fit ut ab illo nihil possit negligi. Quum
enim omnia ex illo et in illo sint, iam nihil aut ex illo aut in illo
esse potent, quod ab illo aut ignoretur aut contemnatur ; vetant
enim sapientia et bonitas. — Deprov, Dei, Op,, iv. 139.

« Op., iv. 129.

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corded in Scripture. In one sense the Bible is the
word of God, but in a higher sense the word of God is
a personal force stirring within the soul, speaking with
supreme authority, and constituting the standard by
which the written letter of the book is to be criticised
and judged,^ Hence Zwingle, more than others among
the reformers, recognized the traces of historic growth
in the different parts of Scripture. Luther's principle,
that the Bible is essentially the mirror of devout expe-
rience, misled him more than once into grave errors.
Zwingle approaches the book with no anxiety about
reconciling discrepancies. He expects to find there
things which belong to a lower as well as a higher
stage of spiritual development. But the word of God
has spoken not only in the Bible, but always and every-
where, wherever there is any knowledge of that which
is good and true. Heathen writers, like Plato and
Pliny and Seneca, have uttered the truth under the in-
spiration of the revealing word.

The law of God as revealed in Scripture or else-
where is not a series of arbitrary, external statutes, but
reveals the inmost divine nature, and the basis, there-
fore, of human morality lies in the inward sentiments
which determine action. The widest divergence in
Zwingle's views from the traditional opinions still re-
tained in the reformed church is seen in his view of
sin. He denied the doctrine of original sin as set forth
by Augustine, maintaining a position similar to that
of the Greek Fathers, Chrysostom and Theodore of
Mopsuestia, that misery but not guilt attaches to man
in consequence of the fall. Zwingle also makes an
effort to define more precisely the nature of sin, see-
ing in it a principle of disharmony which a divine in-

* De vera et falsa religione. Op., iii. 130, 288 ; also Op., iv. 85, 95.

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dwelling presence is working to overcome^ rather than
a successful revolt against the divine purpose. Sin is
even necessary as part of an educating process by
which man comes to know and follow the right, just
as justice could not be appreciated without the expe-
rience of injustice, or good be fully measured without
a sense of evil.^ Hence sin is best described as a state
of death in which man is unconscious of Grod and lives
only to himself. The law of God does not excite to
sin, but it reveals sin and shows how great is the bar-
rier it has raised between the soul and God. Christ
comes to remove this barrier, which prevents God and
the soul from flowing together like two streams in a
common life. Zwingle's thought with reference to
this aspect of the Saviour's work does not differ sub-
stantially from that of Luther. Christ delivers man
from the sense of condemnation by revealing not only
the divine justice and horror of sin, but also the divine
mercy and love. If Zwingle does not seem to lay
stress upon justification by faith, it is not because he
underrates its importance ; it is everywhere assumed as
true without need of discussion ; that which Zwingle
dwells upon is the divine character to be built up in
those who have made the beginning in the Christian
life. Faith, hope, and love are three qualities not to
be separated in Christian experience — the three con-
stituents of the divine life in man, which from first to
last is inspired and perfecte<} by the indwelling infi-
nite Spirit.

Zwingle seems to have shocked the religious senti-
ments of the German reformers not only by his clear
denial of the Latin view of original sin, but by his
conception of the salvabiliiy of the heathen, and his
* Op^t iv. 109.

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doctrine of the sacraments. In regard to the former
he expressed himself in a memorable passage in the
confession of his faith, sent shortly before his death to
the French king. " In the company of the redeemed,"
he said, " you will then see Hercules, Theseus, Socra-
tes, Aristides, Antigonus, Numa, Camillus, the Catos,
and the Scipios. In a word, not one good man, one
holy spirit, one faithful soul, whom you will not then
behold with God." ^ The Latin idea, that there was
no salvation outside of the church, lingered on with
the reformers long after they had rejected the view that
the church was identical with any one organization.
At a later time Bossuet selected this passage "for severe
animadversion in his "Variations of Protestantism,"
oblivious of the fact that Justin Martyr, an approved
saint of the early church, and so recognized in the
Latin calendar, had expressed himself in similar terms.
The controversy with Luther about the sacrament
of the Lord's Supper was one of the painful incidents
in the Reformation, if for no other reason, because Lu-
ther appears in the affair so far below his true self. It
was a case where the disputants failed to understand
each other, because neither fully understood himself.
Zwingle made the sacrament a memorial of the death
of Christ, and found in it as such a spiritual efficacy ;
to Luther's mind this seemed to empty the sacra-
ment of its significance ; he preferred to regard it as
charged with a divine presence, as containing the
actual body and blood of Christ. But Zwingle had
no necessity for confining to the eucharist a beneficent
presence with which the world was full, whose secret
shrine was in every faithful heart. If Zwingle seemed
to rob the sacrament of a real presence of Christ,
* Fidd ChristiancB ExposUio, Op,, iv. 65.

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Luther seemed to rob the world itself of such a pres-
ence, just as the Latin church had done when she lost
the idea of the immanence of Christ in humanity, and
made the sacraments channels for the conveyance of
grace from His remote abode. The controversy illus-
trates the inevitable confusion of thought in the age
of the Reformation, but it also shows how Zwingle had
revolutionized theology from its basis, while Luther re-
mained divided in his allegiance between two systems,
one of which claimed the devotion of his life, while
the other held him bound by the sacred associations of
religious sentiment. So long as Luther did not for-
mally recognize the immanence of the essential Christ
as the redeeming force in human life, there was a want
in his thought, which his doctrine of the eucharist was
an attempt to supply. It was creditable to Zwingle
that he still wished to maintain Christian fellowship
with Luther, despite their difference of opinion. It
was characteristic of Luther, that although the hour
was full of danger, he would make no compromise of
his convictions for the sake of advantage. The words
of Luther to Zwingle when the discussion was over,
"You have a different spirit than we," — Ihr haht
einen andern Geist denn wir^ — were true in a deeper
sense than either of the antagonists were aware.^
It would seem as if the great ecclesiastical reaction,

1 Wilson, Bampton Lectures, 1851, on the Communion of Saints,
points out the bearings of Zwingle's theology on the deeper prob-
lems of the Christian life and its relation to Christian psychology ;
Sporri, Zwingli-Studieny traces his theological views to one com-
mon principle, — that the material symbol is inadequate to the
expression of spiritual ideas and relationships. Dorner, Hist, of
Prot. Theol,, compares Zwingle with Luther and Calvin, and ex-
pounds these three distinct types of theology to which the Refor-
mation gave birth.

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led by the followers of Loyola, might have been ren-
dered powerless to injure the work of the Keforma-
tion could the views of Zwingle have been generally
received. But he was so far in advr^nce of his age
that his teaching produced no immediate influence.
It remains only as a monument to the workings of the
Christian mind at a rare moment when it shone forth
in all the richness of its native endowment, in a cre-
ative epoch when its powers were stimulated and ex-
alted as if by special communion with its divine source
in God, when for a time there was no restraint upon
its action in thought or utterance. Zwingle was not
merely misunderstood ; he was hardly imderstood at
all, or, so far as his meaning was comprehended, it
was regarded with distrust, if not with derision. Un-
der happier circumstances than those which followed
the Reformation, his death upon the battle-field of
Cappel might have seemed a bright example of martyr-
dom for the truth ; as it was, it appeared rather as a
gloomy warning, — a penalty for mixing up his re-
ligious profession with the political affairs of the state.
Zwingle made little or no distinction between the
church and the state; his ideal was the common-
wealth in which the Christian was simk in the citizen,
after the model of that higher state of which it is
written that our citizenship is in heaven. He lived
long enough to see that his dream was not soon to be
realized. In his last years, he fell back for support
and comfort upon that higher view of the Christian
revelation which regards it as finding its natural ex-
pression in the human reason; he consoled himself
with the vision of the divine reason, the word of God,
which speaks always and everywhere to human souls,
— the only pledge for the fulfillment of the Christian

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anticipation, — that the kingdoms of this world shall
become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ.


In considering the influence of Calvin upon theol-
ogy, it is important to remember that he was French
as to his nationality. The character of his mind is
not that of the Germanic races, whether in Germany
or England. He had the tendency of his nation to
adhere relentlessly to abstract principles ; he made no
allowance for the utterance of the consciousness in
man, sacrificing without a struggle that large part of
our nature, where spirit and sentiment appear in a
living combination. It is certainly interesting to note
how the French influence, which was destined to dom-
inate the literature, the art, and the morals of both
Germany and England during the seventeenth cen-
tury and on into the eighteenth before it was thrown
ofif, should have been anticipated in theology by Cal-
vin in the sixteenth century, and that French theology
should have maintained an ascendency in Protestant
Christendom for two centuries before Germany shook
herself free from foreign control.

Calvin was born in 1509, the interval of a genera-
tion elapsing between the commencement of his work
and that of Luther and Zwingle. When he appeared
as a reformer, the first glow of enthusiasm and zeal
which characterized the earlier generation had begun
to die away, and in its place had come timidity and
distrust, a tendency to compromise truth in the inter-
est of quiet and order. There was no longer the dis-
position to seek for truth at aU hazards, or to put faith
in that which was true as that which must conduce to

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the highest well-being of society. Melancthon, who
best represents this mood of the Keformation, was a
timid, or, as Luther said, a pusillanimous spirit, capa-
ble of seeing two sides of a question, or enough to
weaken his allegiance to truth, but not capable of see-
ing all around and through it. With him it was not
so much what was true as what would be useful in
maintaining social and ecclesiastical order. His com-
pliance was so great that there seemed no limit to the
concessions he was inclined to make to this end. Even
the doctrine of justification by faith he thought might
be modified so as to include works, in order to avoid
the abuses to which it was exposed ; it was better to
allow man a little freedom than to make him alto-
gether dependent upon God's action ; there might be
no harm in restoring the old cultus, with its rich and
tender associations.^ Luther stood firm to the truth as
it had been revealed to him. But his last days were
full of sadness ; he seemed to lose hope for the world,
and at times longed to be delivered from the impend-
ing evil. The fearful strain which he had undergone
in leading the revolt from the papacy may have been
too much for his constitution. The situation was in-
deed a trying one. As in the case of Moses when he
led the Israelites out of Egypt, the crossing of the sea
was a light task, because of the spiritual exhilaration
attendant upon the consciousness of a Divine presence ;
but the real trial came afterwards when the people
had no fixed home, no laws with the sacred associa-

^ Although Melancthon fills a considerable place in the theol*
ogy of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, he has no special
interest or importance for the larger process of theological de-
velopment, and is therefore omitted in this account of theology
in the age of the Reformation.

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tions of ages, when the customs which bind a people
together had not yet grown up.

It had been one of the inevitable effects of the Bef-
ormation that it caused a profound unsettlement of
the human mind, even in those by whose faith it had
been accomplished. Speculation about the foundations
of religion or morality or human government is always
attended with danger ; the great mass of men take
these things for granted, and any event which leads
them to think that the institutions of life are not as di-
vinely fixed as the everlasting hills, is sure to precipi-
tate in its train the wildest disorder. The Protestant
Eeformation had served, as it were, to discover " the
foundations of the round world." As men glanced at
the process by which the order of things had grown
up and been maintained, it seemed as though any-
thing might be changed, as though the hour had come
for the reconstruction of society as well as the church.
Communism and polygamy were preached as the basis
of a new civilization ; so-called prophets traveled about
proclaiming themselves in possession of new revelar
tions, throwing discredit upon adherence to the Bible
as a vile servility to the letter. Under such circum-
stances, the claims of order became more pressing
than inquiry after truth. No one ever misread his
age more than Servetus when he took for granted that
the reformers were engaged in a process of free theo-
logical investigation, and would welcome the aid of
any who could throw a new light upon the interpre-
tations of old doctrines. Calvin stood for order and
discipline as the primary requisites of his time. He
became the founder of a church whose value as an ally
in promoting these ends was recognized far and wide,
— an organization which rivaled the church of Rome

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in its discipline as well as in its power of adaptation
to different nationalities. Its cosmopolitan character,
in comparison with the organization of the church in
England or in Germany, is seen in the fact that it
became the ecclesiastical polity of Scotland and the
Netherlands, of the Puritans in England, the Hugue-
nots in France, of a large part of Germany, as well as
Switzerland where it originated.

Calvin held that the church consisted of the elect,
and like all the reformers asserted the invisible aspect
of a body which could only be known to Grod. But he
was far more interested in the visible church than in
the invisible, and devoted a large part of his '^ Insti-
tutes " to delineating its constitution and its discipline.
That feature of discipline, as it is called, which the
Church of England did not retain, which the Lutheran
church also dropped, assumed in the church organized
by Calvin a prominence as marked as it had possessed
in the old ecclesiastical order. But it was retained at
the expense of sacrificing the idea which Luther and
Zwingle and others had maintained — that the clergy
were the representatives of the congregation and
gained the sanction of their office from the approval
and choice of the body. Neither Luther nor Zwingle
had attached importance to ordination as conveying
any gift from a source away and apart from the peo-
ple. But in Calvin's system, as in the mediaeval, the
clergy are the delegates of a remote sovereign, separ
rate from the people, endowed by the Holy Spirit with
the gifts and the powers of their high office. In other
words, Calvin retained substantially the Latin idea of
the church with some necessary modifications, intend-
ing that the reformed clergy should take the place of
the Latin hierarchy, with supreme authority over the

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congregation. The duty of the state, in its relation to
the church, as in the Middle Ages, was to sustain the
action of the clergy by the sword.

Calvin's system of church organization and dis-
cipline may be studied apart from his peculiar theol-
ogy. In the seventeenth century in England, under
the regime of Cromwell, the Independents or Congre-
gationalists discarded the former for a more demo-
cratic constitution, while still retaining his system of
doctrine. His labors as an ecclesiastical administrator
were not so enduring as his work as a theologian. In
this direction he so impressed himself upon Protest&nt
Christendom that his influence still lives, even in ec-
clesiastical circles which believe themselves emanci-
pated from any traces of his spirit.

Calvin's theology is drawn, or professes to be drawn,
exclusively from Scripture. The Bible, as he defined
and understood it, is the comer-stone of his system.
He had no respect for Luther's view of Scripture as
the mirror of the religious experience of humanity,
nor for Zwingle's view of a " word of God " in the
soul by which man judges the value of the written
word. He denied the position of the Latin church,
that the Bible was given and attested by the authority
of the hierarchy, or the continuous existence of the
episcopate. According to Calvin, God reveals Himself
to man through the book by the power of the Holy
Spirit. Man was incapable of knowing himself or
knowing God, except by this revelation. Revelation,
as given in the book, is a communication from God to
man, supematurally imparted, apart from the action
of the consciousness or reason ; Calvin speaks at times
of the human writer as an amanuensis only of the
Spirit. He does not, therefore, presume to criticise

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the canon or its formation ; the Bible is received as
one whole, as it has come down through the ages.
There is no other revelation except that which God
made to the Jewish people through the Old Testament,
and to the Christian world through the New. God
may have given light enough to the heathen to secure
their condemnation, but that is all.^ The revelation
which God makes of Himself in the Bible may not
disclose to us the inmost character of Deity; there
is in reason no ground for believing that it does so ;
God only reveals what He designs that man should
know and practice. The God who is thus revealed is
a being outside of the frame- work of the universe, who
called the world into existence by the power of His
will. Calvin positively rejected the doctrine of the
divine immanence. When he spoke of that " dog of
a Lucretius" who mingles God and nature, he may
have also had Zwingle in his mind. In order to sep-
arate more completely between God and man, he inter-
posed ranks of mediators, the ministers of the divine
will in nature, or in the process of redemption, —
angels as ministers of the good, and demons as instru-
ments of evil. Satan is the supreme agent in the
hand of God for accomplishing evil; it is he that
secures the punishment of the reprobate and dis-
ciplines the elect* According to the prologue of the
Book of Job which Calvin read as veritable history,
Satan has a knowledge of the mind of God, and
though an evil spirit, he never thwarts, but always
fulfills, the divine purpose. Why there should be evil
in the world it is as presumptuous to inquire as why
there should be a world at all, but there is no evil
which does not redound to the glory of God. The fate
^ ^ Institutes, ii. c. 2.

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of Adam was not an unforeseen catastrophe ; it had

Online LibraryAlexander Viets Griswold AllenThe continuity of Christian thought: a study of modern theology in the light ... → online text (page 23 of 35)