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The witness of


in Protestantism


Introduction to

The Swiss Catastrophe

(Many long paragraphs have been modified for easier reading. The compilers of this site have added all the emphasis, as well as the entries in square brackets.)


This site contains a few chapters from an old book entitled, "The History of the Reformation of the Sixteenth Century", published in London in 1846 by J. H. Merle D' Aubigne. He was a Swiss Presbyterian minister, President of the Theological School of Geneva, and Vice-President of The Evangelical Society, and this English edition was personally revised and corrected by him.

He diligently researched the "The Swiss Catastrophe" as part of his larger work, and it is this subject which is dealt with here as a warning for modern Protestants.

At the time of this catastrophe the Swiss nation was made up of a number of republics joined together in a confederation, or united states, known as "cantons". Each canton (sometimes a city-state) ruled itself but co-operated with the others.

In his preface he wrote:

Page 0001 paragraph 1

The history of one of the greatest revolutions that has ever been accomplished in human affairs - of a mighty impulse communicated to the world three centuries ago, and whose influence is still visible on every side - and not the history of a mere [religious] party, is the object of my present undertaking.

The history of the Reformation is distinct from that of Protestantism.

In the former every thing bears the mark of a regeneration of the human race [an upward movement]- of a religious and social change emanating from God himself.

In the latter we too often witness a glaring degeneracy from first principles [a falling away], the struggles of parties, a sectarian [exclusve] spirit, and the traces of petty individualities.

The history of Protestantism may have an interest for Protestants only;

the history of the Reformation addresses itself to all Christians, or rather to all mankind....

Page 0001 paragraph 4

..... The Reformation is eminently distinguished from all the revolutions of antiquity, and from most of those of modern times.

Political changes - the consolidation or the overthrow of the power of the one or of the many - were the object of the latter [i.e. worldly revolutions].

The love of truth, of holiness, of immortality, was the simple yet mighty spring which set in motion that which I have to describe. It indicates a forward movement in human nature. In truth [in fact], man advances - he improves, whenever he aims at higher objects, and seeks for immaterial and imperishable blessings, instead of pursuing material, temporal, and earthly advantages.

The Reformation is one of the brightest days of this glorious progress. It is a guarantee that the new struggle, which is receiving its accomplishment under our own eyes, will terminate on the side of truth, in a purer, more spiritual, and still nobler triumph.

page 0001 paragraph 5

Primitive Christianity [the time of the apostles] and the Reformation are the two greatest revolutions in history. They were not limited to one nation only, as were the various political movements that history records; but their influence extended over many, and their effects are destined to be felt to the utmost limits of the world.

page 0001 paragraph 6

Primitive Christianity and the Reformation are one and the same revolution, brought about at different epochs and under different circumstances. Although not alike in their secondary features, they are identical in their primary and chief characteristics. [primary = God's leading; secondary = human activity].

One is a repetition of the other.


page 0002 paragraph 1

The former put an end to the old world; the latter began the new: between them lie the Middle Ages. One is the parent of the other; and although the daughter may in some instances bear marks of inferiority, she had characters that are peculiarly her own....


page 0002 paragraph 3

.... Had the Reformation been what many Romanists and Protestants of our days imagine it, - had it been that negative system of negative reason which, like a fretful child, rejects whatever is displeasing to it, and disowns the grand truths and leading ideas of universal Christianity, it would never have crossed the threshold of the schools, or been known beyond the narrow limits of the cloister or perhaps of the friar's cell.

But with Protestantism, as many understand the word, it [the Reformation] had no connection.

Far from being an emaciated, an enervated [impotent] body, it [the Reformation] rose up like a man full of strength and energy....

page 0002 paragraph 4

Two considerations will account for the suddenness and extent of this revolution. One must be sought in God; the other among men. The impulse was given by an invisible and mighty hand: the change accomplished was the work of Omnipotence. An impartial and attentive observer, who looks beyond the surface, must necessarily be led to this conclusion.

But as God works [obviously] by second causes [through humanity], another task remains for the historian. Many circumstances which have often passed unnoticed, gradually prepared the world for the great transformation of the sixteenth century, so that the human mind was ripe when the hour of its emancipation arrived.

page 0002 paragraph 5

It is the historian's duty to combine these two great elements in the picture he presents to his readers. This has been my endeavour in the following pages. I shall be easily understood so long as I am occupied in investigating the secondary causes [the human actions] that concurred in producing the revolution I have undertaken to describe.

Many perhaps will understand me less clearly, and will even be tempted to charge me with superstition, when I ascribe the completion of the work to God [the Primary cause]. It is a conviction, however, that I fondly cherish. These volumes, as well as the motto I have prefixed to them, lay down in the chief and foremost place this simple and pregnant principle:



page 0002 paragraph 9

.... But there is another source to which, above all, we must look for the intelligence, spirit, and life of past ages; and this source is Religion. History should live by that life which belongs to it, and that life is God. In history, God should be acknowledged and proclaimed. The history of the world should be set forth as the annals [records] of the government of the Sovereign King.



Thus he sets out for us the principle that any history of the world or church should be looked at as God sees it. The following verses are God's words to the Protestant movement.

Revelation 3:1-6

And to the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things says He that has the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know your works, that you have a name [among men] that you live, and are dead [in My sight].

Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found your works perfect before God. Remember therefore how you have received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore you shall not watch, I will come on you as a thief, and you shall not know what hour I will come upon you.

You have a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white: for they are worthy. He that overcomes [himself], the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before My Father, and before His angels.

He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

The following pages are placed here as a warning to all Protestant Christians as to what they can expect when they unite church and state. We all know how the Roman Catholic church prospered for many centuries under such an arrangement, but it is different with God's people. If they do the same, they will experience only difficulty and defeat.

The horrible details of history over a period of three and a half years are presented here in their fullness because this outcome is a reality and not a supposition!!

One important point to remember is that all this happened to the Swiss reformers under Zwingle, and not to the German church under Luther. The two leaders followed entirely different paths and therefore achieved entirely different results.

May God be able to go with you as you read this history.

On to Chapter One.

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To contact me: ron_pars@hotmail.com

Chapter One Two great lessons
Chapter Two Zwingle joins the army
Chapter Three The Reform does well
Chapter Four Zwingle’s plan of alliance
Chapter Five Sanctions on Catholics
Chapter Six The war begins
Chapter Seven The ambush
Chapter Eight The slaughter
Chapter Nine The end of the war
Chapter Ten The great lesson