III. THE ZWINGLIAN REFORMATION

Almost unconsciously, but as a natural result of his unusual education, he had changed the character of the pastorate in his church. Before him the sermon had counted for little; Mass and communion had been nearly all the service; Zwingli made the sermon dominate the ritual. He became teacher as well as preacher; and as his confidence grew he drove home ever more forcefully his conviction that Christianity should be restored to its early simplicity of organization and worship. He was deeply stirred by Luther’s revolt and writings, and by Huss’s treatise On the Church. By 1520 he was publicly attacking monasticism, purgatory, and the invocation of saints; furthermore, he argued that the payment of tithes to the Church should be purely voluntary, as in Scripture. His bishop begged him to withdraw these statements; he persisted; and the cantonal council supported him by ordering all priests within its jurisdiction to preach only what they found in the Bible. In 1521 Zwingli persuaded the council to forbid the enlistment of Swiss soldiery by the French; a year later the prohibition was extended to all foreign powers; and when Cardinal Schinner continued to recruit Swiss troops for the pope, Zwingli pointed out to his congregation that the Cardinal wore a red hat not without reason, for “if it were wrung you would see the blood of your nearest kindred drip from its folds.”8 Finding no text in the Testament for the avoidance of meat in Lent, he allowed his parishioners to ignore the Church’s rules for Lenten fasts. The bishop of Constance protested; Zwingli answered him in a book, Archeteles (beginning and end), which predicted a universal rebellion against the Church, and advised the prelates to imitate Caesar, fold their garments about them, and die with grace and dignity. With ten other priests he petitioned the bishop to end clerical immorality by allowing sacerdotal marriage (1522). He was at this time keeping Anna Reinhard as his mistress or secret wife, In 1524 he publicly married her, a year before Luther’s marriage to Catherine von Bora.

This definite rupture with the Church was preceded by two disputations that recalled the Leipzig debate of Luther and Eck, and distantly echoed the Scholastic disputations of the medieval universities. As a semi-democratic republic, Switzerland was not shocked by Zwingli’s suggestion that the differences between his views and those of his conservative opponents should receive an open and impartial hearing. The Great Council of Zurich, blithely assuming theological jurisdiction, invited the bishops to send representatives. They came in force, and altogether some 600 persons gathered for the exciting contest in the city hall (January 25, 1523).

Zwingli offered to defend sixty-seven theses.

1. All who say that the Gospel is nothing without the approbation of the Church err.....

15. In the Gospel the whole truth is clearly contained.....

17. Christ is the one eternal high priest. Those who pretend to be high priests resist, yea, set aside, the honor and dignity of Christ.

18. Christ, Who offered Himself once on the cross, is the sufficient and perpetual sacrifice for the sins of all believers. Therefore the Mass is no sacrifice, but a commemoration of the one sacrifice of the cross.....

24. Christians are not bound to any works which Christ has not commanded. They may eat at all times all kinds of food.....

28. Whatsoever God permits and has not forbidden is right. Therefore marriage is becoming to all men.....

34. The spiritual power so called [the Church] has no foundation in the Holy Scriptures and the teaching of Christ.

35. But the secular power is confirmed by the teaching and example of Christ (Luke, ii, 5; Matt., xxii, 21)....

49. I know of no greater scandal than the prohibition of lawful marriage to priests, while they are permitted, on payment of a fine, to have concubines. Shame! (Pfui der Schande!) ...

57. The Holy Scripture knows nothing of a purgatory.....

66. All spiritual superiors should repent without delay, and set up the cross of Christ alone, or they will perish. The axe is laid to the root.9

Johann Faber, Vicar-General of the diocese of Constance, refused to discuss these propositions in detail, claiming that they should be laid before great universities or a general council of the Church. Zwingli thought this unnecessary; now that the New Testament was available in the vernaculars, all could have the Word of God to decide these issues; that was enough. The Council agreed; it declared Zwingli guiltless of heresy, and bade all Zurich clergymen to preach only what they could establish by Scripture. Here, as in Lutheran Germany, the state took over the Church.

Most priests—their salaries being now guaranteed by the state—accepted the Council’s order. Many of them married, baptized in the vernacular, neglected the Mass, and abandoned the veneration of images. A band of enthusiasts began indiscriminately to destroy pictures and statues in the churches of Zurich. Disturbed by the spread of violence, Zwingli arranged a second disputation (October 26, 1523), which was attended by 550 laymen and 350 clergymen. The outcome was an order of the Council that a committee including Zwingli should prepare a booklet of doctrinal instruction for the people, and that meanwhile all violence should cease. Zwingli rapidly composed Eine kurze Christliche Einleitung, which was sent to all the clergy of the canton. The Catholic hierarchy protested, and the Diet of the Confederation, meeting at Lucerne (January 26, 1524), seconded the protest, at the same time pledging itself to ecclesiastical reform. The Council ignored the protests.

Zwingli formulated his doctrine more amply in two Latin treatises: De vera et falsa religione (1525) and Ratio fidei (1530). He accepted the basic theology of the Church—a triune God, the Fall of Adam and Eve, the Incarnation, Virgin Birth, and Atonement; but he interpreted “original sin” not as a taint of guilt inherited from our “first parents,” but as an unsocial tendency inherent in the nature of man.10 He agreed with Luther that man can never earn salvation by good works, but must believe in the redeeming efficacy of Christ’s sacrificial death. He agreed with Luther and Calvin on predestination: every event, and therefore every individual’s eternal fate, has been foreseen by God, and must occur as so foreseen. But God has fated for damnation only those who reject the Gospel offered them. All children (of Christian parents) who die in infancy are saved, even if unbaptized, for they were too young to sin. Hell is real, but purgatory is “a figment .... a lucrative business for its authors”; Scripture knows nothing of it.11 The sacraments are not miraculous vehicles, but useful symbols, of divine grace. Auricular confession is unnecessary; no priest—only God—can forgive sin; but it is often beneficial to confide our spiritual troubles to a priest.12 The Lord’s Supper is no actual eating of the body of Christ, but a symbol of the union of the soul with God, and of the individual with the Christian community.

Zwingli kept the Eucharist as part of the Reformed service, and administered it in both bread and wine, but he offered it only four times a year. In that occasional celebration much of the Mass was retained, but it was recited in Swiss German by congregation and priest. During the remainder of the year the Mass was replaced by the sermon; the appeal of ritual to the senses and the imagination was subordinated to the appeal of discourse to the mind—a rash gamble on popular intelligence and the stability of ideas. Since an infallible Bible had now to substitute for an infallible Church as a guide to doctrine and conduct, Luther’s German translation of the New Testament was adapted to the Swiss German dialect, and a corps of scholars and divines, led by the saintly Leo Jud, was commissioned to prepare a German version of the entire Bible. This was published by Christian Froschauer at Zurich in 1534, four years before Luther’s better version appeared.

In faithful obedience to the Second Commandment, and signalizing the return of Protestant Christianity to its early Jewish traditions, the Zurich Council ordered the removal of all religious images, relics, and ornaments from the churches of the city; even the organs were banished, and the immense interior of the Grossmünster was left dismally bare, as it is today. Some of the images were absurd enough, some lent themselves so readily to superstition as to merit destruction; but some were sufficiently beautiful to make Zwingli’s successor, Heinrich Bullinger, mourn their loss. Zwingli himself had a tolerant attitude toward images that were not worshiped as wonder-working idols,13 but he condoned the demolition as a reproof to idolatry.14 Village churches in the canton were allowed to keep their images if a majority of the congregation so desired. Catholics retained some civic rights, but were ineligible to public office. Attendance at Mass was punishable by a fine; eating fish instead of meat on Friday was forbidden by law.15Monasteries and nunneries (with one exception) were closed or turned into hospitals or schools; monks and nuns emerged from the cloister into marriage. Saints’ days were abolished, and pilgrimages, holy water, and Masses for the dead disappeared. Though not all these changes were consummated by 1524, yet the Reformation was by that time far more advanced in Zwingli and Zurich than in Luther and Wittenberg; Luther then was still a celibate monk, and still said Mass.

In November 1524, Zurich formed a Privy Council (Heimliche Rath) of six members to prepare settlements of urgent or delicate problems of government. Between Zwingli and this Council a working compromise took form: he surrendered to it the regulation of ecclesiastical as well as secular affairs, and in both fields it followed his lead. Church and state in Zurich became one organization, of which Zwingli was unofficial head, and in which the Bible was accepted (like the Koran in Islam) as the first source and final test of law. In Zwingli, as later in Calvin, the Old Testament ideal of the prophet guiding the state was realized.

So quickly and completely successful in Zurich, Zwingli turned an acquisitive eye upon the Catholic cantons, and wondered whether all Switzerland might not be won to the new form of the old faith.

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