Raget Christoffel.

Zwingli : or, The rise of the Reformation in Switzerland. A life of the reformer, with some notices of his time and contemporaries online

. (page 36 of 49)
Online LibraryRaget ChristoffelZwingli : or, The rise of the Reformation in Switzerland. A life of the reformer, with some notices of his time and contemporaries → online text (page 36 of 49)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

an eel, to escape his opponent, and assuming a thousand forms
like a proteus ;f luit he was soon made to experience that he was
opposed to one who was not to be outdone by any such gymnas-
tic dexterity, and who was perfectly able to keep a firm hold of
the subject of examination, until it was more closely investigated.
Zwingli took up a pen and wrote down the arguments, objections,
and admissions of Melanchthon, so that he might not be able to
shift or change his ground. The latter admitted that we paiiake
of the body and blood of Christ spiritually, by believing on Him,
who hath given himself for us. He likewise admitted that in
John, chap, vi., the Lord speaks of corporeal eating, declaring it
to be profitless, the Capernaumites fancying they were to eat His
tlesh corporeally, and drink His blood corporeally. He farther
declared, that they, the Lutherans, did not hold the view that the
body and blood of the Saviour were received into the mouth in
any defined or gross manner, but that this body was truly par-
taken of, although in a manner hid from the sense of our
faculties. To this, the reply was made by

Zwingli : This hidden manner, however, cannot be proved by

Melanchthon: It is proved by the Lord saying, "This is my
body, this is my blood."

Z'wingli : The body of which the Lord speaks in these words
is, however, alone His real material body, which can only be in
one place, and not eveiywhere at the same time ; as Augustine
thus speaks of it.

Melanchthon : Although Augustine says it, I cannot accept it.

Zwingli: The Lord himself speaks thus, in reference to his
body, in the Gospel of John xvii. 11: "And now I am no

* Dr. Julius Miiller, in the tliird number of " Studies and Criticisms," year
1856, has admirably and most perspicuously developed the relation between the
efficiency of the Holy Ghost, and the means of grace in the Word. The result
of the investigations of this able divine very nearly agree with Zwingli's, although
he makes no reference to him.

t The relation is taken from a conlidential letter of Zwingli's to Vadian.


mure in the world;" and in other passages he propounds the
same truth.

Melanchthon : The words of Christ, " This is my body,"
are clear, and I adhere to them in their plain and simple

Zwingli : It is a false assumption that your interpretation gives
the clear sense of these words.

Not being able to come to an agreement on this point, they
both agreed to break oft' the coiilerence, which had already lasted
six hours, and which, at least, impressed Melanchthon with the
convicti(5n that Zwingli was not " the ignorant fanatic" he had
been often represented. In the conference betwixt Luther and
(Ecolampad, which lasted three hours, the former conducted him-
self in a manner which discovered so much obstinacy and pre-
sumption that (Ecolampad, on passing Zwingli, whispered into
his ear, " I have fallen on a second Dr. Eck."*

Tliese inten'icws being declared ended on the Friday evening,
Zwingli, confiding in the truth of his doctrine, and according
to the principle which he always conceived himself bound
to maintain, namely, that every Christian has the right and
liberty, in all matters of religion, to form his opinions for him-
self, according to the rule of God's Word, and under the guid-
ance of the Holy Spirit, expressed his desire that a public Dis-
putation should be held, to which every one who wished it should
have admission, and at which every one should be free to decide
for himself what opinion he should adopt. "While Luther, on the
other hand, held it neither to be expedient nor salutary that the
Disputation should be thrown open to every one, the landgrave
and liis councillors, in concurrence with Duke Ulrich, of Wir-
teraberg, decided this preliminary, to the effect that a select circle
only of nobles and deputies, with the principal men of learning,
especially of the Universities of Marburg and Wittcnljerg, slioukl
be present. There were accordingly but twenty-four auditors at
the commencement of the Disputation, which number, liowever,
was increa.sed in tlie course of it, and rose to between fifty and
sixty, on the arrival of Jolin Brenz, Osiander, and Agricola (of

• CEcolflmpnrl's remark had reference to Eck's coarse and arrogant demeanour
at the Baden Dijiputation. Certainly a heavy charffe against Luther, hut iinfor-
tiinatclv one that was too well merited.


Augsburg.)* The Landgrave's Chancellor, John Feige, oi^ened
the Disputation, in a speech, in which he exhorted the members
" that they should act, as had been done on like occasions, when
learned men came together, who had previously written some-
what sharply against each other, that is, they should banish from
their minds all ill-humour and bitterness of feeling. Whoever
should do this would, at the same tune, discharge his duty, and
obtain glory and commendation. Others, however, who disre-
garded unity, and who obstinately persisted in some notion once
adopted by them (the mother of all heresies), would thereby
afford indubitable evidence against themselves that the Holy
Spirit did not rule in their hearts." f The Landgrave, so simply
attired that no one could have taken him for a prince, took his
seat at the same table, at which Zwingii and CEcolampad, on the
one side, Luther and Melanchthon on the other, sat to decide
whether the Keformed Evangelical Church, resting on one basis
of faith, was henceforth to remain united, or wdiether it was to be
rent into two great parties. The poet Cordus, cried in name of
the Church to its here assembled leaders: "Puissant princes of
the Word, whom the august hero Philip has called to avert from
us schism, and to shew us the way of truth ; the imploring church
falls at your feet, drowned in tears, and conjures you, in Christ's
name, to set forward the good cause, that the world may recog-
nise in your resolutions the work of the Holy Ghost himself"
Before the Conference began, Luther took up a piece of chalk, and,
in large letters, he wi'ote upon the table the words, " This is my
body," with the object, doubtless, that, when arguments failed, he
might all the more firmly cling to the outward letter, since,
verily, he w^as resolved not to yield a hairbreadth."

The Conference began between Luther and CEcolampad, Luther
defending himself, in a long speech, against the imputation that
he, in any respect, agreed with the doctrine of the Supper held

* When Zwiiidi speaks only of twenty-four, and Brenz of tifty or sixty, as
being present, the ditference is reconciUible, on the ground that Zwingii speaks
of the number at tlie beginning, Brenz of that in the course, or at the end, of the
Disputation. Luther having written to Brenz not to come to Marburg, and the
l-Uter having written to Osiander, and others, dissuading them from making then-
appearance, they did not arrive in Marburg till a day and a-halt alter the Dis-
putation had begun.

I A very plain hint to Luther.


by his opponent.s ; he wa.s at variance with tlieiu here, and would
be for ever so, Christ himself having said, witli sufficient clear-
ness, "Take, eat, this is my body."* By the letter of these
words he would abide. If his adversaries had anything to
advocate against the truth he would hear it, and answer it.
(Ecolampad replied, after calling upon God for illumination, " It
is undeniable that, in the Word of God, figurative modes of
expression occur ; thus, for example, " John is Elias," " The rock
was Christ," " I am the vine." A similar figure is contained in
the words, " This is my body." Luther grants there are tropes in
the liible, but the latter passage is not one of these. He inquires :
Why should the spiritual partaking exclude the corporeal?

(Ecolampad : Christ teaches the Jews, John vi., who thought
Pie exacted from them the eating of His real body, and the drink-
ing of His real blood, that He was, in verity, eaten and drunk when
He was believed upon, for that His flesh profited nothing ! Now,
that which Christ rejected in John vi. He cannot well be sup-
posed to have admitted, or commanded, in the words of the Holy

Luther: The Jews thought they were to eat Christ like a piece
of " roasted pork." By the spiritual partaking, the corjjoreal is
not annulled.

(Ecolampad : To impute such a sense to the words of Scripture
is to give them a sense somewhat gross. That Christ is in the
bread is a notion, and no subject of faith; it is dangerous to
ascribe so much to the outward thin"-

Luther : If we, at God's command, raise a straw-halm, or a
horse-shoe, from the ground, it is a spiritual act. We must
regard Him who speaks, not that which is said. God speaks,
and miserable man must listen. God commands, the world has
to obey, and we all ought to kiss the Word, and not take upon
ourselves to look for arguments.

(Ecolampad: But of what use is the partaking l)y tlie mouth
when we have that by the Spirit ?

Luther: I do not concern myself as to what we require, I look
only at the words as they stand written: " This is my body." It
is to be believed and done unconditionally. It must be done. If

• Wlitch 13 given /or you, Luther, with good rea.son, always let drojj.


God were to command me to eat dung, I should do it, knowing
well that it would be wholesome for me.

Zwingli now took part in the dialogue. He began by admi-
nistering a sharp rebuke to Luther for his declaration at the very
outset of the debate, that he was resolved not to depart from the
opinion he had formed ; for, in this manner, all farther instruction
out of the Scriptures was rendered impossible. Scripture must
always be interpreted by Scripture. Were we to adhere to the
letter of the text we must conclude that Christ had full brothers.
The sentences of Holy Scripture are not dark or enigmatical, like
the oracular responses of the demons, but they are clear and
plain, if we only compare the one mth the other. He then went
into a more minute exposition of the section in John vi., and
drew from it the conclusion : " If the Lord here expressly testifies
that His flesh profiteth nothing in the corporeal partaking of it,
He certainly would neither have enjoined upon His disciples, nor
upon us, in the Supper, the doing of a profitless thing, that is, the
corporeal eating of His body. To this He says : ' When ye shall
see the Son of man ascend to where he was before,' from which
they might conclude that they are not to eat really, or corporeally,
of His flesh."

Luther : In the gospel, "brother" signifies a cousin, or a rela-
tion. The words of institution cannot be so explained. Christ
says, " This is my body," and it must be so. Wlien Christ says,
" the flesh profiteth nothing," He is not speaking of His own but
of our flesh.

Zwingli : The soul is nourished by the Spirit, not by the flesh.

Luther : The body is eaten by the mouth, the soul does not
partake of it corporeally.

Ziuingli : It is then a food of the body and not of the souL

Luther: I have said, and say it again, the body is not corpo-
really eaten into our body, and will reserve it, whether the soiil
also eats it.

Zwingli : You say this, however, without being able to prove it
by Scripture. Besides, you first denied that the soul eats the
body, and now you will have it reserved.

Luther: Your whole object is to catch me in my words.

Zwingli: No ; but you speak of things that contradict each
other, and it is necessary to point out the truth.


Luther: 1 abide by the words of Christ, "This is my body."
They are the words of God. If the Lord were to set before me
wooden apples, and command me to eat them, I should eat them,
knowing tlioy would be wliolesome for me, and I dare not ask '

Zwingli now proved, by various passages of Scripture, that the
sign is often put for the thing signified, and that the words of
the Sacrament especially are to be so explained. He censured
Luther for employing so silly an example as that of the wooden
apples. Such illustrations were not in place. We know that
God neither commands us to eat wooden apples nor dung as His
body. The Word of God reveals to us His holy will; it is light,
not darkness. God sets before us nothing incomprehensible, if
if we wiU but only rightly understand His Word. Hence, if one
passage is not clear to us, we must compare it with others, and.
in this manner, investigate into the sense. Thus the Virgin
Marj^ asked, Luke i. 34, "How shall this be?" and the angel
answered her question. In the same manner the disciples asked,
John \\. 52, "How can tliis man give us His flesh to eat?" A\Tiy
shoidd not we also endeavour to discover, from Scripture, how
the words of the Holy Supper are to be understood? They have,
however, been interpreted by Christ himself, who shewed in what
manner His flesh was to be eaten, and His blood drunk.

^ Luther : We are not to examine whether is may be taken for
si<inifies, for so w^e fall into inter pretising ; but we are to take
the words in their simple sense, " This is my body." From
thence, pointing at the words written before him, the devil himself
cannot pull me. Wlien I enter into subtle inquiries about their
meaning, I lose my faith and become a fool, ^^^lerefore, crive
glorj' to God, and take and believe the simple plain letters as
they stand.

Zivingli: 1 exhort you likewise to give God the glory, by
departing from the false inteq^retation you have i)ut upon the
words of Scripture, by an assumption of the very thing to be
proven, petitio principii. AMiere is your major proposition,
(that the words bear this sense,) proved ? We shall not so readily
let the passage in the sixth chapter of John slip out of our hands,
as it throws a steady light upon the point in disjnitc, and shows
us distinctly how in truth and verity we are to eat's flesh


and drink His blood. Come, doctor, you must sing us another
song than this, for this won't do.

Luther : You are becoming personal.

Z'wingli : I ask you, Doctor, if Christ did not mean here to
correct the misunderstanding of the Jews, who fancied they were
to eat His real flesh and drink His real blood ?

Luther : Mr Zwingii, you mean to take me by surprise ; the
passage has nothing to do here.

Zwingii: Certainly the passage has to do here, and breaks
your neck, Doctor.

Luther: Not so boastful, remember you are not in Switzerland
now, but in Hesse, wdiere necks are not so easily broken.

Zwingii: In Switzerland there is law and justice, as well as
elsewhere, and no man's neck is broken there for naught. I have
only made use of a common phrase, when I employed this ex-
pression to the effect that your case was gone, that you could do
nothing but submit, seeing that the words of Christ in tlie sixth
chapter of John totally overthrow your doctrine.

The Landgrave here interfered, saying to Luther, " I hope my
learned friend the Doctor will not take ill what has been said."
If Luther had but reflected on his usual threat, " we shall bring
the villain to the gallows," he would have perceived that he had
no great reason to complain of Zwingli's expression.

It being now exactly noon, the Conference adjourned till after
dinner. In the afternoon, Zwingii read the following extract
from Luther's Sermon on the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John,
" Christ himself says the flesh profiteth nothing, and again, my
flesh gives life, how do we reconcile this? The Spirit reconciles it.
Christ means that the corporeal eating of His flesh profits nothing,
nothing profits hut the faith that He has given His flesh for me,
and shed his blood for me. If I believe that Christ is the true
Son of God, that He hath descended from heaven, shed His blood
for me, saved me, made me righteous and alive from the dead, I
have enough." Melanchthon had explained this passage in a
similar way.

Luther: I make no inquiry how Melanchthon and myself
formerly explained this passage. Prove to me that when Christ
says " This is my body," it is not his body. I take my stand
and abide, and not without grounds, by the words " this is my


body," hut yet I do nut the less acknowledge that Christ'.s
IS in heaven, and also in the Sacrament. I am not concerned as
to Its being against reason and against nature, if it be not a.-ainst
faith. "

Zivingli: This statement, however, undoulitedly contravenes
the articles of faith, " He hath ascended to heaven," &c. &c. If
Christ's body be in lu^aven, how can it at the same time be in tlie
breacW Gods Word teaches us that Christ was in all points
made like unto His brethren, H(>b. ii. 17. His body then cannot
at the same time be in dillerent places, because this is contrarv to
the nature of a real body.

Luthev: If He hath been in all respects like to us, then He has
had a will' and black eyes. I have said it before, and say it
again : I will have nothing to do with the Mathematical

Zwingli: I am not speaking of the Mathematica, but of the
^^ ord of God. He then, in order to show that Christ, although
of Divine nature, had taken upon Him the form of a servant and
been made like to us, cited in the Greek text the passage from
Philip, ii. 7.

Luther: Let Greek alone, quote it in Latin or in German.
Ziumgli: Excuse me ; during the last twelve vears, I have only
made of the Greek Xew Te.staraent. If Christ then has been
made like to us, this is to be understood of His human nature
Accordingly, His body, like everv- other human bodv, is finite.
Luther : I admit that Christ's body is finite.
Zwingli : If it is finite, it is also limited,* and can only be at
one and the same time in one place, that is in heaven, and not in
the bread But now you teach that the body of Christ is exovy-
where present.

Luther: You always seek to entrap me. If I speak of the
body of Christ. I will not have it that one speak or think of a
I)lace ; / u'ill not have it at all.

Zwingli : ^^^lat sort of language is this ? Are we onl v to have
^\•hat you will, Doctor ?

♦ T^mher coul.l never comprehend that the two i,lea<=. finite ( fi„itum) nnrl
limited (circumscriptum) were synonymous, and he would never admit that what
IS finite ,s necessarily limited. He hence involved himself in a confusion of ideas
from which he could only save himself by his boldly setting all consequences at



Luther : The schoolmen have also maintained that a finite
body can be in several places at once. The universe is a body,
and yet it cannot be said that it is in any definite place.

Zwingli: It ill becomes you, Doctor, to have recourse to the
onions and flesh-pots of Egypt, to the Sophists ; I, for my part,
pay no regard to the Sophists. If you say that the universe is
nowhere, I beg all intelligent men to test the truth of this asser-
tion ; you were, however, to make good that the body of Christ
was at one and the same time in more than one place.

Luther: Christ says, "this is my body." Now the Sacrament
is dispensed in many places at once, in wdiich one partakes not
only of bread, but of the true body of Christ, hence Christ's body
is in many places at once.

Zivingli : This does not follow from the words of Christ, the
sense of which we are here investigating. You ever assume
that your understanding of these words, which we declare to be
an erroneous and false one, is the right and infallible one, and
proceeding from this false assumption, you avail yourself of the
sophism of reasoning in a circle. Instead of which, your proper
business is to prove and establish your understanding of
these words to be the true and right one. That the body of
Christ, however, is limited or circumscribed like our own, and
consequently, can only be at one time in one place, is a doctrine
taught us by the Fathers. Thus Fulgentius* says : " The Son of
God has taken upon himself the quality of real humanity, and
yet not less that of real divinity. Born of His mother in time
He is yet from all eternity, in virtue of the Godhead which He
has from the Father. Born of man. He is man, and bound to a
definite place ; as He emanates from the Father, He is God,
and consequently omnipresent. In His human nature. He was
when on earth absent from heaven, and He left the earth when
He ascended to heaven : in His divine nature. He abode in heaven
when He descended, nor did He leave the earth when He ascended."
You, however, dear Doctor, have written ere now, " Every thing
is full of the body of Christ," and " if Christ had not suffered in
His divine nature. He were not my Eedeemer."

* Fulgentius, Bishop of Ruspe (died 533), made himself chieflj- known by his
defence of the Aiigustinian doctrine of predestination and election.


Luther: Fulovntius is not hciv speaking of the Supper.
-Moreover he calls the Supper a .sacrifice too, ajid yet it is


Zwingli: Fulgent ius is here speaking of tlie qnalities of
( 'hrist's humanity, and maintains that it necessarily follows that
as man He can only be corporeally present in one place. If that
is true in respect of Christ's humanity in general, it is likewise
true of His presence in the Supper. Wlxan Fulgentius, however,
terms the Sujiper a sacrifice, he does it in the same sense as
Augustine, who calls it a sacrifice as he himself explains his
meaning, because it is a commemoration of tlie once offered
sacrifice of Christ.

Luther, after a few struggles, was obliged to admit this,
but fell immediately into his old habit of reasoning in the
'•ircle. and drew tlie conclusion that Christ's body may be in
many places at once, because He says, " this is my body," conse-
(luently He is now there in the bread.

Zwingli quickly rejoining: Is He there in the bread ? then
there is surely in one place. Methinks, Doctor, I have you.

Luther : As God will, let Him be in one place or not, I leave
that with God ; to me it is enough, and I abide by it, tlmt He
says, " This is my body."

Zwhujli: It is evident to every one that you argue from a
false a.ssumption, that 3-ou describe a reasoning in a circle, and
that you thus, intrenched in your own opinion, obstinately close
your eyes against all instniction from the Word of God.' Tliis
is but a miserable spite on your part. Doctor. In like manner
might some wilful disputant misinterpret the words of our Lord
to his mother, " Woman, l)ehold thy son," persist in repeating
them, and, despite all remonstrances, never cease cn-ing, No, no,
you must take the words of Christ as they stand, and hold simply
by tliem, " Woman, l)eliold thy son." Would lie achieve aught
else here, but a miserable perversion of the words of ? "it
is just what you are doing. Doctor. The holy Augustine writes :
" We dare n..t believe that Christ in human form is ever^-wliere
present, we dare not, to establish His divinity, abstract the realitu
from His body. Christ as God is omnipresent, yet by reason of
His true body He is in one ])lnre. in heaven."


Luther : Augustine is not here speaking of the Sacrament.
The body of Christ in the Supper is not as in one pLace.

Zwingli declining to reason any farther with an opponent
who withdrew himself from every species of close and consecutive
argument, and who overleapt with such wonderful audacity the
manifold contradictions into which he plunged, CEcolampad now
took it upon him to answ^er Luther. In reply to Luther's last
assertion, which had been already thoroughly disproved by
Zwinsli, and which was in direct contradiction to his own former
admissions, CEcolampad observed : " If the body of Christ is not
locally in the Supper, then it is not there as a real body, for, as
is well known, it belongs to the essence of a body to be in one
definite place. Let us examine, in all friendshij), what kind of
presence this is of the body of Christ."

Luther: You will not bring me a single step farther. If you
have Fulgentius and Augustine on your side, we have the rest
of the Fathers.

CEcolampad: Please name these Fathers, and quote the pas-
sages you refer to. We trust we shall be able to prove to you
that they are of our opinion.

Luther: We decline naming them. Augustine wrote the pas-
sage you have quoted in his youth, it is moreover very unintel-
ligible. Besides, I do not concern myself as to what the Fathers
teach on this head, but I abide by the w^ords of Christ. (Here
he pointed again to the words written in chalk upon the table,
" This is my body.") See, so they run. You have not driven us

Online LibraryRaget ChristoffelZwingli : or, The rise of the Reformation in Switzerland. A life of the reformer, with some notices of his time and contemporaries → online text (page 36 of 49)