.Back to Chapter Two ..................... Back to Introduction
The witness of
SWITZERLAND - CATASTROPHE 1528-1531.
BOOK 16 CHAPTER 3
J. H. Merle D'Aubigne
(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.)
page 0638 paragraph 1 (of new chapter)
Conquests of Reform in Schaffhausen and Zurzack — Reform in Glaris — Today the Cowl, Tomorrow the Reverse — Italian Bailiwicks — The Monk of Como — Egidio's Hope for Italy — Call of the Monk of Locarno — Hopes of reforming Italy — The Monks of Wettingen — Abbey of Saint Gall — Kilian Kouffi — Saint Gall recovers its Liberty — The Reform in Soleure — Miracle of Saint Ours — Popery triumphs — The Grisons invaded by the Spaniards — Address of the Ministers to the Romish Cantons — God's Word the Means of Unity — Oecolampadius for Spiritual Influence — Autonomy of the Church.
page 0638 paragraph 2
Whenever a conqueror abandons himself to his triumph, in that very confidence he often finds destruction. Zurich and Zwingle were to exemplify this mournful lesson of history.
Taking advantage of the national peace, they redoubled their exertions for the triumph of the Gospel. This was a legitimate zeal, but it was not always wisely directed. To attain the unity of Switzerland by unity of faith was the object of the Zurichers; but they forgot that by desiring to force on a unity [push for it], it is broken to pieces, and that freedom is the only medium in which contrary elements can be dissolved, and a salutary union established.
While Rome aims at unity by anathemas, imprisonment, and the stake, Christian truth demands unity through liberty. And let us not fear that liberty, expanding each individuality beyond measure, will produce by this means an infinite multiplicity. While we urge every mind to attach itself to the Word of God, we give it up to a power capable of restoring its diverging opinions to a wholesome unity.
page 0638 paragraph 3
Zwingle at first signalised his victory by legitimate conquests. He advanced with courage. "His eye and his arm were every where."
"A few wretched mischief-makers," says Salat, a Romanist chronicler, "penetrating into the Five Cantons, troubled men's souls, distributed their frippery, scattered everywhere little poems, tracts, and testaments, and were continually repeating that the people ought not to believe the priests."
This was not all: while the Reform was destined to be confined around the lake of the Waldstettes to a few fruitless efforts, it made brilliant conquests among the cantons, - the allies and subjects of Switzerland; and all the blows there inflicted on the Papacy re-echoed among the lofty valleys of the primitive cantons, and filled them with affright. Nowhere had Popery shown itself more determined than in the Swiss mountains. A mixture of Romish despotism and Helvetian roughness existed there. Rome was resolved to conquer all Switzerland, and yet she beheld her most important positions successively wrested from her.
page 0638 paragraph 4
On the 29th September 1529, the citizens of Schaffhausen removed the "great God" from the cathedral, to the deep regret of a small number of devotees whom the Roman worship still counted in this city; then they abolished the mass, and stretched out their hands to Zurich and to Berne [to join the Protestants].
page 0638 paragraph 5
At Zurzack, near the confluence of the Rhine and the Aar, at the very moment when the priest of the place, a man devoted to the ancient/ worship, was preaching with zeal, a person named Tufel (devil), raising his head, observed to him: "Sir, you are heaping insults on good men, and loading the pope and the saints of the Roman calendar with honour; pray where do we find that in the Holy Scriptures?"
This question, put in a serious tone of voice, raised a sly smile on many faces, and the congregation with their eyes fixed on the pulpit awaited the reply. The priest in astonishment and at his wit's end, answered with a trembling voice: "Devil is thy name; thou actest like the devil, and thou art the devil! For this reason I will have nothing to do with thee." He then hastily left the pulpit, and ran away as if Satan had been behind him.
Immediately the images were torn down, and the mass abolished. The Roman-catholics sought to console themselves by repeating every where: "At Zurzack it was the devil who introduced the Reformation."
page 0639 paragraph 1
The priests and warriors of the Forest Cantons beheld the overthrow of the Romish faith in countries that lay nearer to them. In the canton of Glaris, whence by the steep passes of the Klaus and the Pragel, the Reform might suddenly fall upon Uri and Schwytz, two men met face to face.
At Mollis, Fridolin Brunner who questioned himself every day by what means he could advance the cause of Christ, attacked the abuses of the Church with the energy of his friend Zwingle, and endeavoured to spread among the people, who were passionately fond of war, the peace and charity of the Gospel.
At Glaris, on the contrary, Valentine Tschudi studied with all the circumspection of his friend Erasmus to preserve a just medium between Rome and the Reform. And although, in consequence of Fridolin's preaching, the doctrines of purgatory, indulgences, meritorious works, and intercession of the saints, were looked at by the Glaronais as mere follies and fables, they still believed with Tschudi that the body and blood of Christ were substantially in the bread of the Lord's Supper.
page 0639 paragraph 2
At the same time a movement in opposition to the Reform was taking place in that high and savage valley, where the Linth, roaring at the foot of vast rocks with jagged crests - enormous citadels which seem built in the air, - bathes the villages of Schwanden and Ruti with its waters. The Roman-catholics, alarmed at the progress of the Gospel, and wishing to save these mountains at least, had scattered with liberal hands the money they derived from their foreign pensions; and from that time violent hostility divided old friends, and men who appeared to have been won over to the Gospel basely sought for a pretext to conceal a disgraceful flight.
"Peter and I," wrote Rasdorfer, pastor of Ruti, in despair, "are labouring in the vineyard, but alas! the grapes we gather are not employed for the sacrifice, and the very birds do not eat them. We fish, but after having toiled all night, we find that we have only caught leeches. Alas! we are casting pearls before dogs, and roses before swine!"
The spirit of revolt against the Gospel soon descended from these valleys with the noisy waters of the Linth as far as Glaris and Mollis. "The council, as if it had been composed only of silly women, shifted its sails every day;" said Rasdorfer: "one day it will have the cowl, on the next it will not." Glaris, like a leaf carried along on the bosom of one of its torrents, and which the waves and eddies drive in different directions, wavered, wheeled about, and was nearly swallowed up.
page 0639 paragraph 3
But this crisis came to an end: the Gospel suddenly regained strength, and on Easter Monday 1530, a general assembly of the people "put the mass and the altars to the vote." A powerful party that relied upon the Five Cantons vainly opposed the Reform. It was proclaimed, and its vanquished and disconcerted enemies were forced to content themselves, says Bullinger, with mysteriously concealing a few idols, which they reserved for better days.
page 0639 paragraph 4
In the meanwhile, the Reform advanced in the exterior Rhodes of Appenzell, and in the district of Sargans. But what most exasperated the cantons that remained faithful to the Romish doctrines, was to see it pass the Alps and appear in Italy, in those beautiful districts round Lake Maggiore, where, near the embouchure [river mouth] of the Maggia, within the walls of Locarno, in the midst of laurels, pomegranates, and cypresses, flourished the noble families of Orelli, Muralto, Magoria, and Duni, and where floated since 1512 the sovereign standard of the cantons.
"What!" said the Waldstettes, "is it not enough that Zurich and Zwingle infest Switzerland! They have the impudence to carry their pretended reform even into Italy, - even into the country of the pope!"
page 0639 paragraph 5
Great irregularities prevailed there among the clergy: "Whoever wishes to be damned must become a priest," was a common saying. But the Gospel succeeded in making its way even into that district.
A monk of Como, Egidio a Porta, who had taken the cowl in 1511, against the wishes of his family, struggled for years in the Augustine convent, and nowhere found peace for his soul. Motionless, environed [surrounded], as it appeared to him, with profound night, he cried aloud: "Lord, what wilt thou that I should do?" Erelong the monk of Como thought he heard these words in his heart: "Go to Ulrich Zwingle and he will tell thee."
He rose trembling with emotion. "It is you," wrote he to Zwingle immediately, "but no! it is not you, it is God who, through you, will deliver me from the nets of the hunters." `Translate the New Testament into Italian," replied Zwingle, "I will undertake to get it printed at Zurich." This is what the Reform did for Italy more than three centuries ago.
page 0639 paragraph 6
Egidio therefore remained. He commenced translating the Gospel; but at one time he had to beg for the convent, at another to repeat his "hours" [prayers at certain times], and then to accompany one of the fathers on his journeys. Every thing that surrounded him increased his distress. He saw his country reduced to the greatest misery by desolating wars, - men formerly rich, holding out their hands for alms, - crowds of women driven by want to the most shameful degradation. He imagined that a great political deliverance could alone bring about the religious independence of his fellow-countrymen.
page 0640 paragraph 1
On a sudden he thought that this happy hour was arrived. He perceived a band of Lutheran lansquenets [soldiers] descending the Alps. Their serried phalanxes [orderly ranks], their threatening looks, were directed towards the banks of the Tiber. At their head marched Freundsberg, wearing a chain of gold around his neck, and saying: "If I reach Rome I will make use of it to hang the pope."
"God wills to save us," wrote Egidio to Zwingle: "write to the constable; entreat him to deliver the people over whom he rules, - to take from the shaven crowns, whose God is their belly, the wealth which renders them so proud, - and to distribute it among the people who are dying of hunger. Then let each one preach without fear the pure Word of the Lord. - The strength of Antichrist is near its fall!"
page 0640 paragraph 2
Thus, about the end of 1526, Egidio already dreamt of the Reformation of Italy. From that time his letters cease: the monk disappeared. There can be no doubt that the arm of Rome was able to reach him, and that, like so many others, he was plunged into the gloomy dungeon of some convent.
page 0640 paragraph 3
In the spring of 1530, a new epoch commenced for the Italian bailiwicks. Zurich appointed Jacques Werdmuller bailiff of Locarno; he was a grave man, respected by all, and who even in 1524 had kissed the feet of the pope; he had since then been won over to the Gospel, and had sat down at the feet of the Saviour.
"Go," said Zurich, "and bear yourself like a Christian, and in all that concerns the Word of God conform to the ordinances." Werdmuller met with nothing but darkness in every quarter. Yet, in the midst of this gloom, a feeble glimmering seemed to issue from a convent situated on the delightful shores of Lake Maggiore. Among the Carmelites at Locarno was a monk named Fontana, skilled in the Holy Scriptures, and animated with the same spirit that had enlightened the monk of Como. The doctrine of salvation, "without money and without price," which God proclaims in the Gospel, filled him with love and joy. "As long as I live," said he, "I will preach upon the Epistles of St. Paul;" for it was particularly in these epistles that he had found the truth.
Two monks, of whose names we are ignorant, shared his sentiments.
Fontana wrote a letter "to all the Church of Christ in Germany," which was forwarded to Zwingle. We may imagine we hear that man of Macedonia, who appeared in a vision to Paul in the night, calling him to Europe, and saying, "Come over and help us." - "O, trusty and well-beloved of Christ Jesus," cried the monk of Locarno to Germany, "remember Lazarus, the beggar, in the Gospel - remember that humble Canaanitish woman, longing for the crumbs that fell from the Lord's table! hungry as David, I have recourse to the shew-bread placed upon the altar. A poor traveller devoured by thirst, I rush to the springs of living water. Plunged in darkness, bathed in tears, we cry to you who know the mysteries of God to send us by the hands of the munificent J. Werdmuller all the writings of the divine Zwingle, of the famous Luther, of the skilful Melancthon, of the mild Oecolampadius, of the ingenious Pomeranus, of the learned Lambert, of the elegant Brentz, of the penetrating Bucer, of the studious Leo, of the vigilant Hutten, and of the other illustrious doctors, if there are any more.
"Excellent princes, pivots of the Church, our holy mother, make haste to deliver from the slavery of Babylon a city of Lombardy that has not yet known the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are but three who have combined together to fight on behalf of the truth; but it was beneath the blows of a small body of men, chosen by God, and not by the thousands of Gideon, that Midian fell. Who knows if, from a small spark, God may not cause a great conflagration?"
page 0640 paragraph 4
Thus three men on the banks of the Maggia hoped at that time to reform Italy. They uttered a call to which, for three centuries, the evangelical world has not replied.
Zurich, however, in these days of its strength and of its faith, displayed a holy boldness, and dared extend her heretical arms beyond the Alps. Hence, Uri, Schwytz, Unterwalden, and all the Romanists of Switzerland gave vent to loud and terrible threats, swearing to arrest even in Zurich itself the course of these presumptuous invasions.
page 0640 paragraph 5
But the Zurichers did not confine themselves to this: they gave the confederates more serious cause of fear by waging incessant war against the convents, - those centres of ultramontane fanaticism [They believed in the centralised authority of the pope as oppsoed to local independence]. The extensive monastery of Wettingen, around which roll the waters of the Limmat, and which, by its proximity to Zurich, was exposed more than any other to the breath of reform, was in violent commotion.
On the 23rd August 1529, a great change took place; the monks ceased to sing mass; they cut off each other's beards, not without shedding a few tears; they laid down their frocks and their hoods, and clothed themselves in becoming secular dresses. Then, in astonishment at this metamorphosis, they listened devoutly to the sermon which Sebastian Benli of Zurich came and preached to them, and erelong employed themselves in propagating the Gospel, and in singing psalms in German.
Thus Wettingen fell into the current of that river which seemed to be every where reviving the confederation. The cloister, ceasing to be a house for gaming, gluttony, and drunkenness, was changed into a school. Two monks alone in all the monastery remained faithful to the cowl.
page 0641 paragraph 1
The commander of Mulinen, without troubling himself about the threats of the Romish cantons, earnestly pressed the commandery of St. John at Hitzkirch towards the Reformation. The question was put to the vote, and the majority declared in favour of the Word of God. "Ah!" said the commander, "I have been long pushing behind the chariot." On the 4th September the commandery was reformed.
It was the same with that of Wadenswyl, with the convent of Pfeffers, and others besides. Even at Mury the majority declared for the Gospel; but the minority prevailed through the support of the Five Cantons.
A new triumph, and one of greater value, was destined to indemnify the reform, and to raise the indignation of the Waldstettes [the Roman Catholics] to the highest pitch.
page 0641 paragraph 2
The Abbot of St. Gall, by his wealth, by the number of his subjects, and the influence which he exercised in Switzerland, was one of the most formidable adversaries of the Gospel. In 1529, therefore, at the moment when the army of Zurich took the field against the Five Cantons, the Abbot Francis of Geisberg, in alarm and at the brink of death, caused himself to be hastily removed into the strong castle of Rohrschach, not thinking himself secure except within its walls. Four days after this, the illustrious Vadian, burgomaster of St. Gall, entered the convent, and announced the intention of the people to resume the use of their cathedral church, and to remove the images. The monks were astonished at such audacity, and having in vain protested and cried for help, put their most precious effects in a place of safety, and fled to Einsidlen.
page 0641 paragraph 3
Among these was Kilian Kouffi, head-steward of the abbey, a cunning and active monk, and, like Zwingle, a native of the Tockenburg. Knowing how important it was to find a successor to the abbot, before the news of his death was bruited [spread] abroad, he came to an understanding with those who waited on the prelate; and the latter dying on Tuesday in Holy Week, the meals were carried as usual into his chamber, and with downcast eyes and low voice the attendants answered every inquiry about his health.
While this farce was going on round a dead body, the monks who had assembled at Einsidlen repaired in all haste to Rapperschwyl, in the territory of St. Gall, and there elected Kilian, who had so skilfully managed the affair. The new abbot went immediately to Rohrschach, and on Good Friday he there proclaimed his own election and the death of his predecessor.
Zurich and Glaris declared they would not recognise him, unless he could prove by the Holy Scriptures that a monkish life was in conformity with the Gospel. "We are ready to protect the house of God," said they; "and for this reason we require that it be consecrated anew to the Lord. But we do not forget that it is our duty also to protect the people. The free Church of Christ should raise its head in the bosom of a free people."
At the same time the ministers of St. Gall published forty-two theses, in which they asserted that convents were not "houses of God, but houses of the devil." The abbot, supported by Lucerne and Schwytz, which with Zurich and Glaris exercised sovereign power in St. Gall, replied that he could not dispute about rights which he held from popes and emperors.
The two natives of the Tockenburg, Zwingle and Kilian, were thus struggling around St. Gall, - the one claiming the people for the abbey, and the other the abbey for the people.
The army of Zurich having approached Wyl, Kilian seized upon the treasures and muniments [title deeds etc.] of the convent, and fled precipitately beyond the Rhine. As soon as peace was concluded, the crafty monk put on a secular dress, and crept mysteriously as far as Einsidlen, whence on a sudden he made all Switzerland re-echo with his cries.
Zurich in conjunction with Glaris replied by publishing a constitution, according to which a governor, "confirmed in the evangelical faith," should preside over the district, with a council of twelve members, while the election of pastors was left to the parishes. Not long afterwards, the abbot, expelled and a fugitive, while crossing a river near Bregentz, fell from his horse, got entangled in his frock, and was drowned. Of the two combatants from the Tockenburg, it was Zwingle who gained the victory.
page 0641 paragraph 4
The convent was put up to sale, and was purchased by the town of St. Gall, "with the exception," says Bullinger, "of a detached building, called Hell, where the monks were left who had not embraced the Reform."
The time having arrived when the governor sent by Zurich was to give place to one from Lucerne, the people of St. Gall called upon the latter to swear to their constitution. "A governor has never been known," replied he, "to make an oath to peasants; it is the peasants who should make oath to the governor!" Upon this he retired: the Zurich governor remained, and the indignation of the Five Cantons against Zurich, which so daringly assisted the people of St. Gall in recovering their ancient/ liberties, rose to the highest paroxysm of anger.
page 0642 paragraph 1
A few victories, however, consoled in some degree the partisans of Rome. Soleure was for a long time one of the most contested battle-fields. The citizens and the learned were in favour of Reform: the patricians and canons for Popery. Philip Grotz of Zug was preaching the Gospel there, and when the council desired to compel him to say mass, one hundred of the reformed appeared in the hall of assembly on the 13th September 1529, and with energy called for liberty of conscience. As Zurich and Berne supported this demand, their prayer was granted.
page 0642 paragraph 2
Upon this the most fanatical of the Roman-catholics, exasperated at the concession, closed the gates of the city, pointed the guns, and made a show of expelling the friends of the Reform. The council prepared to punish these agitators, when the reformed, willing to set an example of Christian moderation, declared they would forgive them. The Great Council then published throughout the canton that the dominion of conscience belonging to God alone, and faith being the free gift of His grace, each one might follow the religion which he thought best.
Thirty-four parishes declared for the Reformation, and only ten for the mass. Almost all the rural districts were in favour of the Gospel; but the majority in the city sided with the pope. Haller, whom the reformed of Soleure had sent for, arrived, and it was a day of triumph for them.
It was in the middle of winter: "Today," ironically observed one of the evangelical Christians, "the patron saint (St. Ours) will sweat!" And in truth - oh! wonderful! - drops of moisture fell from the holy image! It was simply a little holy water that had frozen and then thawed. But the Romanists would listen to no raillery [arguments] on so illustrious a prodigy [miracle], which may remind us of the blood of St. Januarius at Naples.
All the city resounded with piteous cries, - the bells were tolled, - a general procession moved through the streets, - and high mass was sung in honour of the heavenly prince who had shown in so marvellous a manner the pangs he felt for his dearly beloved. "It is the fat minister of Berne (Haller) who is the cause of the saint's alarm," said the devout old women. One of them declared that she would thrust a knife into his body; and certain Roman-catholics threatened to go to the Cordeliers' church and murder the pastors who preached there.
Upon this the reformed rushed to that church and demanded a public discussion: two hundred of their adversaries posted themselves at the same time in the church of St. Ours and refused all inquiry. Neither of the two parties was willing to be the first to abandon the camp in which it was entrenched. The senate, wishing to clear the two churches thus in a manner transformed into citadels, announced that at Martinmas, i.e. nine months later, a public disputation should take place. But as the reformed found the delay too long, both parties remained for a whole week more under arms.
Commerce was interrupted, - the public offices were closed, - messengers ran to and fro, - arrangements were proposed; - but the people were so stiff-necked, that no one would give way. The city was in a state of siege. At last all were agreed about the discussion, and the ministers committed four theses to writing, which the canons immediately attempted to refute.
page 0642 paragraph 3
Nevertheless they judged it a still better plan to elude them. Nothing alarmed the Romanists so much as a disputation. "What need have we of any?" said they. "Do not the writings of the two parties declare their sentiments?" The conference was, therefore, put off until the following year. Many of the reformed, indignant at these delays, imprudently quitted the city; and the councils, charmed at this result, which they were far from expecting, hastily declared that the people should be free in the canton [country], but that in the city no one should attack the mass.
From that time the reformed were compelled every Sunday to leave Soleure and repair to the village of Zuchswyl to hear the Word of God. Thus Popery, defeated in so many places, triumphed in Soleure.
page 0642 paragraph 4
Zurich and the other reformed cantons attentively watched these successes of their adversaries, and lent a fearful ear to the threats of the Roman-catholics, who were continually announcing the intervention of the emperor; when on a sudden a report was heard that nine hundred [Roman Catholic] Spaniards had entered the Grisons; that they were led by the Chatelain of Musso, recently invested with the title of marquis by Charles the Fifth; that the chatelain's brother-in-law, Didier d'Embs, was also marching against the Swiss at the head of three thousand imperial lansquenets; and that the emperor himself was ready to support them with all his forces. The Grisons uttered a cry of alarm. The Waldstettes remained motionless; but all the reformed cantons assembled their troops, and eleven thousand men began their march.
The emperor and the Duke of Milan having soon after declared that they would not support the chatelain, this adventurer beheld his castle razed to the ground, and was compelled to retire to the banks of the Sesia giving guarantees of future tranquility; while the Swiss soldiers returned to their homes, fired with indignation against the Five Cantons, who by their inactivity had infringed the federal alliance.
"Our prompt and energetic resistance," said they, "has undoubtedly baffled their perfidious designs; but the reaction is only adjourned. Although the parchment of the Austrian alliance has been torn in pieces, the alliance itself still exists. The truth has freed us, but soon the imperial lansquenets will come and try to place us again under the yoke of slavery."
page 0643 paragraph 1
Thus in consequence of so many violent shocks, the two parties that divided Switzerland had attained the highest degree of irritation. The gulf that separated them widened daily. The clouds - the forerunners of the tempest - drove swiftly along the mountains, and gathered threateningly above the valleys. Under these circumstances Zwingle and his friends thought it their duty to raise their voices, and if possible to avert the storm. In like manner Nicholas de Flue had in former days thrown himself between the hostile parties.
page 0643 paragraph 2
On the 5th September 1530, the principal ministers of Zurich, Berne, Basle, and Strasburg, - Oecolampadius, Capito, Megander, Leo Juda, and Myconius, - were assembled at Zurich in Zwingle's house. Desirous of taking a solemn step with the Five Cantons, they drew up an address that was presented to the Confederates at the meeting of the diet at Baden.
However unfavourable the deputies were, as a body, to these heretical ministers, they nevertheless listened to this epistle, but not without signs of impatience and weariness.
"You are aware, gracious lords, that concord increases the power of states, and that discord overthrows them. You are yourselves a proof of the first of these truths. Setting out from a small beginning, you have, by a good understanding one with another, arrived at a great end. May God condescend to prevent you also from giving a striking proof of the second!
"Whence comes disunion, if not from selfishness? and how can we destroy this fatal passion, except by receiving from God the love of the common weal? For this reason we conjure you to allow the Word of God to be freely preached among you, as did your pious ancestors. When has there ever existed a government, even among the heathens, which saw not that the hand of God alone upholds a nation? Do not two drops of quicksilver unite so soon as you remove that which separates them? Away then with that which separates you from our cities, that is, the absence of the Word of God; and immediately the Almighty will unite us, as our fathers were united. Then placed in your mountains, as in the centre of Christendom, you will be an example to it, its protection and its refuge; and after having passed through this vale of tears, being the terror of the wicked and the consolation of the faithful, you will at last be established in eternal happiness."
page 0643 paragraph 3
Thus frankly did these men of God address their brothers, the Waldstettes [the Roman Catholics]. But their voice was not attended to. "The ministers' sermon is rather long," said some of the deputies yawning and stretching their arms, while others pretended to find in it new cause of complaint against the cities.
page 0643 paragraph 4
This proceeding of the ministers was useless: the Waldstettes rejected the Word of God, which they had been entreated to admit; they rejected the hands that were extended towards them in the name of Jesus Christ. They called for the pope and not for the Gospel. All hope of reconciliation appeared lost.
page 0643 paragraph 5
Some persons, however, had at that time a glimpse of what might have saved Switzerland and the Reformation, — the autonomy (self-government) of the Church, and its independence of political interests.
Had they been wise enough to decline the secular power to secure the triumph of the Gospel, it is probable that harmony might have been gradually established in the Helvetic cantons, and that the Gospel would have conquered by its Divine strength. The power of the Word of God presented chances of success that were not afforded by pikes and muskets. The energy of faith, the influence of charity, would have proved a securer protection to Christians against the burning piles of the Waldstettes than diplomatists and men-at-arms.
None of the reformers understood this so clearly as Oecolampadius. His handsome countenance, the serenity of his features, the mild expression of his eyes, his long and venerable beard, the spirituality of his expression, and a certain dignity that inspired confidence and respect, gave him rather the air of an apostle than of a reformer. It was the power of the inner word that he particularly extolled; perhaps he even went too far in spiritualism. But, however that may be, if any man could have saved Reform from the misfortunes that were about to befall it - that man was he. In separating from the Papacy, he desired not to set up the magistracy in its stead. "The magistrate who should take away from the churches the authority that belongs to them," wrote he to Zwingle, "would be more intolerable than Antichrist himself (i.e. the pope)." —
"The hand of the magistrate strikes with the sword, but the hand of Christ heals. Christ has not said, - If thy brother will not hear thee, tell it to the magistrate, but — tell it to the Church. The functions of the State are distinct from those of the Church. The State is free to do many things which the purity of the Gospel condemns."
Oecolampadius saw how important it was that his convictions should prevail among the reformed. This man, so mild and so spiritual, feared not to stand forth boldly in defence of doctrines then so novel. He expounded them before a synodal [church] assembly, and next developed them before the senate of Basle.
It is a strange circumstance that these ideas, for a moment at least, were acceptable to Zwingle; but they displeased an assembly of the brethren to whom he communicated them; the politic Bucer above all feared that this independence of the Church would in some measure check the exercise of the civil power.
The exertions of Oecolampadius to constitute the Church were not, however, entirely unsuccessful. In February 1531, a diet of four reformed cantons (Basle, Zurich, Berne, and St. Gall), was held at Basle, in which it was agreed, that whenever any difficulty should arise with regard to doctrine or worship, an assembly of divines and laymen should be convoked, which should examine what the Word of God said on the matter. This resolution, by giving greater unity to the renovated Church, gave it also fresh strength.
On to Chapter Four.
If you would like to spread this knowledge
feel free to make a link between your page and this site.
To contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org