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The witness of
BOOK 16 CHAPTER 5
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.)
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Diet of Arau — Helvetic Unity — Berne proposes to close the Markets — Opposition of Zurich — Proposition agreed to and published — Zwingle's War Sermon — Blockade of the Waldstettes — No Bread, no Wine, no Salt — Indignation of the Forest [Five] Cantons — The Roads blockaded — Processions — Cry of Despair — France tries to conciliate — Diet at Bremgarten — Hope — The Cantons inflexible — The Strength of Zurich broken — Discontent — Zwingle's false Position — Zwingle demands his Dismissal — The Council remonstrate — He remains — Zwingle at Bremgarten — Zwingle's Farewell to Bullinger — Zwingle's Agony — The Forest [Five?] Cantons reject all Conciliation — Frightful Omens — The Comet — Zwingle's Tranquillity.
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Zwingle's scheme with regard to the establishment of a new Helvetian [Swiss] constitution did not prevail in the diet of Arau. Perhaps it was thought better to see the result of the crisis. Perhaps a more Christian, a more federal view - the hope of procuring the unity of Switzerland by unity of faith - occupied men's minds more than the pre-eminence of the cities. In truth, if a certain number of cantons remained with the pope, the unity of the confederation was destroyed, it might be for ever. But if all the confederation was brought over to the same faith, the ancient/ Helvetic unity would be established on the strongest and surest foundation. Now was the time for acting - or never; and there must be no fear of employing a violent remedy to restore the whole body to health.
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Nevertheless, the [Protestant] allies shrank back at the thought of restoring religious liberty or political unity by means of arms; and to escape from the difficulties in which the confederation was placed, they sought a middle course between war and peace.
"There is no doubt," said the deputies from Berne, "that the behaviour of the cantons with regard to the Word of God fully authorises an armed intervention; but the perils that threaten us on the side of Italy and the empire - the danger of arousing the lion from his slumber - the general want and misery that afflict our people - the rich harvests that will soon cover our fields, and which the war would infallibly destroy - the great number of pious men among the Waldstettes, and whose innocent blood would flow along with that of the guilty: - all these motives enjoin us to leave the sword in the scabbard.
"Let us rather close our markets against the Five Cantons [use sanctions]; let us refuse them corn, salt, wine, steel, and iron; we shall thus impart authority to the friends of peace among them, and innocent blood with be spared." The meeting separated forthwith to carry this intermediate proposition to the different evangelical cantons; and on the 15th May again assembled at Zurich.
[Remember that the Romanists first proposed this method?]
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Convinced that the means apparently the most violent were nevertheless both the surest and the most humane, Zurich resisted the Bernese proposition with all its might. "By accepting this proposition," said they, "we sacrifice the advantages that we now possess, and we give the Five Cantons time to arm themselves, and to fall upon us first. Let us take care that the emperor does not then assail us on one side, while our ancient/ confederates attack us on the other; a just war is not in opposition to the Word of God; but this is contrary to it - taking the bread from the mouths of the innocent as well as the guilty; straitening by hunger the sick, the aged, pregnant women, children, and all who are deeply afflicted by the injustice of the Waldstettes.
"We should beware of exciting by this means the anger of the poor, and transforming into enemies many who at the present time are our friends and our brothers!"
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We must acknowledge that this language, which was Zwingle's, contained much truth.
But the other cantons, and Berne in particular, were immovable. "When we have once shed the blood of our brothers," said they, "we shall never be able to restore life to those who have lost it; while, from the moment the Waldstettes have given us satisfaction, we shall be able to put an end to all these severe measures. We are resolved not to begin the war."
There were no means of running counter to such a declaration. The Zurichers consented to refuse supplies to the Waldstettes; but it was with hearts full of anguish, as if they had foreseen all that this deplorable measure would cost them. It was agreed that the severe step that was now about to be taken should not be suspended except by common consent, and that, as it would create great exasperation, each one should hold himself prepared to repel the attacks of the enemy.
Zurich and Berne were commissioned to notify this determination to the Five Cantons; and Zurich, discharging its task with promptitude, immediately forwarded an order to every bailiwick to suspend all communication with the Waldstettes, commanding them at the same time to abstain from ill-usage and hostile language.
Thus the Reformation, becoming imprudently mixed up with political combinations, marched from fault to fault; it pretended to preach the Gospel to the poor, and was now about to refuse them bread!
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On the Sunday following - it was Whitsunday - the resolution was published from the pulpits. Zwingle walked towards his, where an immense crowd was waiting for him. The piercing eye of this great man easily discovered the dangers of the measure in a political point of view, and his Christian heart deeply felt all its cruelty. His soul was overburdened, his eyes downcast.
If at this moment the true character of a minister of the Gospel had awoke within him; - if Zwingle with his powerful voice had called on the people to humiliation before God, to forgiveness of trespasses, and to prayer; safety might yet have dawned on "broken-hearted" Switzerland. But it was not so. More and more the Christian disappeared in the reformer, and the citizen alone remained; but in that character he soared far above all, and his policy was undoubtedly the most skilful.
He saw clearly that every delay might ruin Zurich; and after having made his way through the congregation, and closed the book of the Prince of Peace, he hesitated not to attack the resolution which he had just communicated to the people, and on the very festival of the Holy Ghost to preach war. "He who fears not to call his adversary a criminal," said he in his usual forcible language, "must be ready to follow the word with a blow. If he does not strike, he will be stricken.
"Men of Zurich! you deny food to the Five Cantons, as to evil doers; well! let the blow follow the threat, rather than reduce poor innocent creatures to starvation. If, by not taking the offensive, you appear to believe that there is not sufficient reason for punishing the Waldstettes, and yet you refuse them food and drink, you will force them by this line of conduct to take up arms, to raise their hands, and to inflict punishment upon you. This is the fate that awaits you."
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These words of the eloquent reformer moved the whole assembly. Zwingle's politic mind already so influenced and misled all the people, that there were few souls Christian enough to feel how strange it was, that on the very day when they were celebrating the outpouring of the Spirit of peace and love upon the Christian Church, the mouth of a minister of God should utter a provocation to war.
They looked at this sermon only in a political point of view: "It is a seditious discourse; it is an excitement to civil war!" said some. "No," replied others, "it is the language that the safety of the state requires!" All Zurich was agitated. "Zurich has too much fire," said Berne. "Berne has too much cunning," replied Zurich. Zwingle's gloomy prophecy was too soon to be fulfilled!
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No sooner had the reformed cantons communicated this pitiless decree to the Waldstettes than they hastened its execution; and Zurich showed the greatest strictness respecting it. Not only the markets of Zurich and of Berne, but also those of the free bailiwicks of St. Gall, of the Tockenburg, of the district of Sargans and of the valley of the Rhine, a country partly under the sovereignty of the Waldstettes, were shut against the Five Cantons.
A formidable power had suddenly encompassed with barrenness, famine, and death the noble founders of Helvetian liberty. Uri, Schwytz, Unterwalden, Zug, and Lucerne, were, as it seemed, in the midst of a vast desert. Their own subjects, at least they thought the communes that have taken the oath of allegiance to them, would range themselves on their side! But no; Bremgarten, and even Mellingen, refused all succour.
Their last hope was in Wesen and the Gastal. Neither Berne nor Zurich had any thing to do there; Schwytz and Glaris alone ruled over them; but the power of their enemies had penetrated every where. A majority of thirteen votes had declared in favour of Zurich at the landsgemeinde of Glaris; and Glaris closed the gates of Wesen and of the Gastal against Schwytz. In vain did Berne itself cry out: "How can you compel subjects to refuse supplies to their lords?" In vain did Schwytz raise its voice in indignation; Zurich immediately sent to Wesen - gunpowder and bullets.
It was upon Zurich, therefore, that fell all the odium [disgrace] of a measure which that city had at first so earnestly combated. At Arau, at Bremgarten, at Mellingen, in the free bailiwicks, were several carriages laden with provisions for the Waldstettes. They were stopped, unloaded, and upset: with them barricades were erected on the roads leading to Lucerne, Schwytz, and Zug.
Already a year of dearth had made provisions scarce in the Five Cantons; - already had a frightful epidemic, the Sweating Sickness, scattered every where despondency and death: but now the hand of man was joined to the hand of God; the evil increased, and the poor inhabitants of these mountains beheld unheard-of calamities approach with hasty steps. No more bread for their children - no more wine to revive their exhausted strength - no more salt for their flocks and herds! Every thing failed them that man requires for subsistence. One could not see such things, and be a man, without feeling his heart wrung.
In the confederate cities, and out of Switzerland [world opinion], numerous voices were raised against this implacable measure. What good can result from it? Did not St. Paul write to the Romans: "If thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head?" And when the magistrates wished to convince certain refractory communes of the utility of the measure: "We desire no religious war," cried they. "If the Waldstettes will not believe in God, let them stick to the devil!"
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But it was especially in the Five Cantons that earnest complaints were heard. The most pacific individuals, and even the secret partisans of the Reform, seeing famine invade their habitations, felt the deepest indignation. The enemies of Zurich skilfully took advantage of this disposition; they fostered these murmurs; and soon the cry of anger and distress re-echoed from all the mountains. In vain did Berne represent to the Waldstettes that it is more cruel to refuse men the nourishment of the soul than to cut off that of the body. "God," replied these mountaineers in their despair, "God causes the fruits of the earth to grow freely for all men!"
They were not content with groaning in their cottages, and venting their indignation in the councils; they filled all Switzerland with complaints and menaces. "They wish to employ famine to tear us from our ancient/ faith; they wish to deprive our wives and our children of bread, that they may take from us the liberty we derive from our forefathers. When did such things ever take place in the bosom of the confederation? Did we not see, in the last war, the confederates with arms in their hands, and who were ready to draw the sword, eating together from the same dish? They tear in pieces old friendships - they trample our ancient/ manners under foot - they violate treaties - they break alliances......We invoke the charters of our ancestors. Help! help!......Wise men of our people give us your advice, and all you who know how to handle the sling and the sword, come and maintain with us the sacred possessions for which our fathers, delivered from the yoke of the stranger, united their arms and their hearts."
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At the same time the Five Cantons sent into Alsace, Brisgau, and Swabia, to obtain salt, wine, and bread; but the administration of the cities was implacable; the orders were every where given and every where strictly executed. Zurich and the other allied cantons intercepted all communication, and sent back to Germany the supplies that had been forwarded to their brethren. The Five Cantons were like a vast fortress, all the issues from which are closely guarded by watchful sentinels.
The afflicted Waldstettes, on beholding themselves alone with famine between their lakes and their mountains, had recourse to the observances of their worship. All sports, dances, and every kind of amusement were interdicted; prayers were directed to be offered up; and long processions covered the roads to Einsidlen and other resorts of pilgrims. They assumed the belt, and staff, and arms of the brotherhood to which they each belonged; each man carried a chaplet in his hands, and repeated paternosters; the mountains and the valleys re-echoed with their plaintive hymns.
But the Waldstettes did still more: they grasped their swords - they sharpened the points of their halberds - they brandished their weapons in the direction of Zurich and of Berne, and exclaimed with rage: "They block up their roads, but we will open them with our right arms!"
No one replied to this cry of despair; but there is a just Judge in heaven to whom vengeance belongs, and who will soon reply in a terrible manner, by punishing those misguided persons, who, forgetful of Christian mercy, and making an impious mixture of political and religious matters, pretend to secure the triumph of the Gospel by famine and by armed men.
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Some attempts, however, were made to arrange matters; but these very efforts proved a great humiliation for Switzerland and for the Reform. It was not the ministers of the Gospel, it was France - more than once an occasion of discord to Switzerland - that offered to restore peace. Every proceeding calculated to increase its influence among the cantons was of service to its policy.
On the 14th May, Maigret and Dangertin (the latter of whom had received the Gospel truth, and consequently did not dare return to France), after some allusions to the spirit which Zurich had shown in this affair - a spirit little in accordance with the Gospel - said to the council: "The king our master has sent you two gentlemen to consult on the means of preserving concord among you. If war and tumult invade Switzerland, the whole society of the Helvetians will be destroyed, and whichever party is the conqueror, he will be as much ruined as the other."
Zurich having replied that if the Five Cantons would allow the free preaching of the Word of God, the reconciliation would be easy, the French secretly sounded the Waldstettes, whose answer was: "We will never permit the preaching of the Word of God, as the people of Zurich understand it."
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These more or less interested exertions of the foreigners having failed, a general diet became the only chance of safety that remained for Switzerland. One was accordingly convoked at Bremgarten. It was opened in presence of deputies from France, from the Duke of Milan, from the Countess of Neufchatel, from the Grisons, Valais, Thurgovia, and the district of Sargans; and met on five different occasions, - on the 14th and 20th June, on the 9th July, and the 10th and 23rd August. The chronicler Bullinger, who was pastor of Bremgarten, delivered an oration at the opening, in which he earnestly exhorted the confederates to union and peace.
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A gleam of hope for a moment cheered Switzerland. The blockade had become less strict; friendship and good neighbourhood had prevailed in many places over the decrees of the state. Unusual roads had been opened across the wildest mountains to convey supplies to the Waldstettes. Provisions were concealed in bales of merchandise; and while Lucerne imprisoned and tortured its own citizens, who were found with the pamphlets of the Zurichers, Berne punished but slightly the peasants who had been discovered bearing food for Unterwalden and Lucerne; and Glaris shut its eyes on the frequent violation of its orders. The voice of charity, that had been momentarily stifled, pleaded with fresh energy the cause of their confederates before the reformed cantons.
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But the Five Cantons were inflexible. "We will not listen to any proposition before the raising of the blockade," said they. "We will not raise it," replied Berne and Zurich, "before the Gospel is allowed to be freely preached, not only in the common bailiwicks, but also in the Five Cantons." This was undoubtedly going too far, even according to the natural law and the principles of the confederation. The councils of Zurich might consider it their duty to have recourse to war for maintaining liberty of conscience in the common bailiwicks; but it was unjust - it was a usurpation, to constrain the Five Cantons in a matter that concerned their own territory.
Nevertheless the mediators succeeded, not without much trouble, in drawing up a plan of conciliation that seemed to harmonise with the wishes of both parties. The conference was broken up, and this project was hastily transmitted to the different states for their ratification.
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The diet met again a few days after; but the Five Cantons persisted in their demand, without yielding in any one point. In vain did Zurich and Berne represent to them, that, by persecuting the reformed, the cantons violated the treaty of peace; in vain did the mediators exhaust their strength in warnings and entreaties. The parties appeared at one time to approximate, and then on a sudden they were more distant and more irritated than ever.
The Waldstettes at last broke up the third conference by declaring, that far from opposing the evangelical truth, they would maintain it, as it had been taught by the Redeemer, by his holy apostles, by the four doctors, and by their holy mother, the Church - a declaration that seemed a bitter irony to the deputies from Zurich and Berne. Nevertheless Berne, turning towards Zurich as they were separating, observed: "Beware of too much violence, even should they attack you!"
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This exhortation was unnecessary. The strength of Zurich had passed away. The first appearance of the Reformation and of the reformers had been greeted with joy. The people, who groaned under a twofold slavery, believed they saw the dawn of liberty. But their minds, abandoned for ages to superstition and ignorance, being unable immediately to realise the hopes they had conceived, a spirit of discontent soon spread among the masses.
The change by which Zwingle, ceasing to be a man of the Gospel, became the man of the State, took away from the people the enthusiasm necessary to resist the terrible attacks they would have to sustain. The enemies of the Reform had a fair chance against it so soon as its friends abandoned the position that gave them strength. Besides, Christians could not have recourse to famine and to war to secure the triumph of the Gospel, without their consciences becoming troubled. The Zurichers "walked not in the Spirit, but in the flesh; now, the works of the flesh are hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions." The danger without was increasing, while within, hope, union, and courage were far from being augmented: men saw on the contrary the gradual disappearance of that harmony and lively faith which had been the strength of the Reform.
The Reformation had grasped the sword, and that very sword pierced its heart.
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Occasions of discord were multiplied in Zurich. By the advice of Zwingle, the number of nobles was diminished in the two councils, because of their opposition to the Gospel; and this measure spread discontent among the most honourable families of the canton.
The millers and bakers were placed under certain regulations, which the dearth rendered necessary, and a great part of the townspeople attributed this proceeding to the sermons of the reformer, and became irritated against him. Rodolph Lavater, bailiff of Kibourg, was appointed captain-general, and the officers who were of longer standing than he were offended. Many who had been formerly the most distinguished by their zeal for the Reform, now openly opposed the cause they had supported.
The ardour with which the ministers of peace demanded war spread in every quarter a smothered dissatisfaction, and many persons gave vent to their indignation.
This unnatural confusion of Church and State, which had corrupted Christianity after the age of Constantine, was hurrying on the ruin of the Reformation.
The majority of the Great Council, ever ready to adopt important and salutary resolutions, was destroyed. The old magistrates, who were still at the head of affairs, allowed themselves to be carried away by feelings of jealousy against men whose non-official influence prevailed over theirs. All those who hated the doctrine of the Gospel, whether from love of the world or from love to the pope, boldly raised their heads in Zurich. The partisans of the monks, the friends of foreign service, the malcontents of every class, coalesced [joined together] in pointing out Zwingle as the author of all the sufferings of the people.
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Zwingle was heart-broken. He saw that Zurich and the Reformation were hastening to their ruin, and he could not check them. How could he do so, since, without suspecting it, he had been the principal accomplice in these disasters? What was to be done? Should the pilot remain in the ship which he is no longer permitted to save?
There was but one means of safety for Zurich and for Zwingle. He should have retired from the political stage, and fallen back on that kingdom which is not of this world; he should, like Moses, have kept his hands and his heart night and day raised towards heaven, and energetically preached repentance, faith, and peace.
But religious and political matters were united in the mind of this great man by such old and dear ties, that it was impossible for him to distinguish their line of separation. This confusion had become his dominant idea; the Christian and the citizen were for him one and the same character; and hence it resulted, that all resources of the state - even cannons and arquebuses [early rifles] - were to be placed at the service of the Truth. When one peculiar idea thus seizes upon a man, we see a false conscience formed within him, which approves of many things condemned by the Word of the Lord.
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This was now Zwingle's condition. War appeared to him legitimate and desirable; and if that was refused, he had only to withdraw from public life: he was for every thing or nothing.
He therefore, on the 26th July, appeared before the Great Council with dimmed eyes and disconsolate heart: "For eleven years," said he, "I have been preaching the Gospel among you, and have warned you faithfully and paternally of the woes that are hanging over you; but no attention has been paid to my words; the friends of foreign alliances, the enemies of the Gospel, are elected to the Council, and while you refuse to follow my advice, I am made responsible for every misfortune. I cannot accept such a position, and I ask for my dismissal." The reformer retired bathed in tears.
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The council shuddered as they heard these words. All the old feelings of respect which they had so long entertained for Zwingle were revived; to lose him now was to ruin Zurich. The burgomaster and the other magistrates received orders to persuade him to recall his fatal resolution.
The conference took place on the same day; Zwingle asked time for consideration. For three days and three nights he sought the road that he should follow.
Seeing the dark storm that was gathering from every quarter, he considered whether he ought to quit Zurich and seek refuge on the lofty hills of the Tockenburg, where he had been reared, at a time when his country and his Church were on the point of being assailed and beaten down by their enemies, like corn by the hail-storm. He groaned and cried to the Lord. He would have put away the cup of bitterness that was presented to his soul, but could not gather up the resolution. At length the sacrifice was accomplished, and the victim was placed shuddering upon the altar. Three days after the first conference, Zwingle reappeared in the council: "I will stay with you," said he, "and I will labour for the public safety - until death!"
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From this moment he displayed new zeal. On the one hand, he endeavoured to revive harmony and courage in Zurich; on the other, he set about arousing and exciting the allied cities to increase and concentrate all the forces of the Reformation. Faithful to the political vocation he imagined to have received from God himself - persuaded that it was in the doubts and want of energy of the Bernese that he must look for the cause of all the evil, the reformer repaired to Bremgarten with Collins and Steiner, during the fourth conference of the diet, although he incurred great danger in the attempt.
He arrived secretly by night, and having entered the house of his friend and disciple, Bullinger, he invited the deputies of Berne (J. J. de Watteville and Im Hag) to meet him there with the greatest secrecy, and prayed them in the most solemn tone earnestly to reflect upon the dangers of the Reform. "I fear," said he, "that in consequence of our unbelief this business will not succeed. By refusing supplies to the Five Cantons, we have begun a work that will be fatal to us. What is to be done? Withdraw the prohibition? The cantons will then be more insolent and haughty than ever. Enforce it? They will take the offensive, and if their attack succeed you will behold our fields red with the blood of the believers, the doctrine of truth cast down, the Church of Christ laid waste, all social relations overthrown, our adversaries more hardened and irritated against the Gospel, and crowds of priests and monks again filling our rural districts, streets, and temples......And yet," added Zwingle, after a few instants of emotion and silence, "that also will have an end."
The Bernese were filled with agitation by the solemn voice of the reformer. "We see," replied they, "all that is to be feared for our common cause, and we will employ every care to prevent such great disasters." - "I who write these things was present and heard them," adds Bullinger.
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It was feared that if the presence of Zwingle at Bremgarten became known to the deputies of the Five Cantons, they would not restrain their violence. During this nocturnal conference three of the town-councillors were stationed as sentinels in front of Bullinger's house. Before daybreak, the reformer and his two friends, accompanied by Bullinger and the three councillors, passed through the deserted streets leading to the gate on the road to Zurich.
Three different times Zwingle took leave of Bullinger, who was erelong to be his successor. His mind was filled with a presentiment of his approaching death; he could not tear himself from that young friend whose face he was never to see again; he blessed him amidst floods of tears. "O my dear Henry!" said he, "may God protect you! Be faithful to our Lord Jesus Christ and to his Church."
At length they separated; out at that very moment, says Bullinger, a mysterious personage, clad in a robe as white as snow, suddenly appeared, and after frightening the soldiers who guarded the gate, plunged suddenly into the water, and vanished. Bullinger, Zwingle, and their friends did not perceive it; Bullinger himself sought for it all around, but to no purpose; still the sentinels persisted in the reality of this frightful apparition. Bullinger greatly agitated returned in darkness and in silence to his house. His mind involuntarily compared the departure of Zwingle and the white phantom; and he shuddered at the frightful omen which the thought of the spectre impressed upon his mind.
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Sufferings of another kind pursued Zwingle to Zurich. He had thought that by consenting to remain at the head of affairs, he would recover all his ancient/ influence. But he was deceived: the people desired to see him there, and yet they would not follow him. The Zurichers daily became more and more indisposed towards the war which they had at first demanded, and identified themselves with the passive system of Berne. Zwingle remained for some time stupefied and motionless before this inert mass, which his most vigorous exertions could not move.
But soon discovering in every quarter of the horizon the prophetic signs, precursors of the storm about to burst upon the ship of which he was the pilot, he uttered cries of anguish, and showed the signal of distress. "I see," exclaimed he one day to the people from the pulpit, whither he had gone to give utterance to his gloomy forebodings, - "I see that the most faithful warnings cannot save you; you will not punish the pensioners of the foreigner......They have too firm a support among us! A chain is prepared - behold it entire - it unrolls link after link, - soon will they bind me to it, and more than one pious Zuricher with me......It is against me they are enraged! I am ready; I submit to the Lord's will. But these people shall never be my masters......As for thee, O Zurich, they will give thee thy reward; they will strike thee on the head. Thou willest it. Thou refusest to punish them; well! it is they who will punish thee. But God will not the less preserve his Word, and their haughtiness shall come to an end."
Such was Zwingle's cry of agony; but the immobility of death alone replied. The hearts of the Zurichers were so hardened that the sharpest arrows of the reformer could not pierce them, and they fell at his feet blunted and useless.
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But events were pressing on, which justified all his fears. The Five Cantons had rejected every proposition that had been made to them. "Why do you talk of punishing a few wrongs?" they had replied to the mediators; "it is a question of quite another kind. Do you not require that we should receive back among us the heretics whom we have banished, and tolerate no other priests than those who preach conformably to the Word of God? We know what that means. No - no - we will not abandon the religion of our fathers; and if we must see our wives and our children deprived of food, our hands will know how to conquer what is refused to us: to that we pledge our bodies - our goods - our lives." It was with this threatening language that the deputies quitted the diet of Bremgarten. They had proudly shaken the folds of their mantles, and war had fallen from them.
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The terror was general, and the alarmed citizens beheld every where frightful portents, terrific signs, apparently foreboding the most horrible events. It was not only the white phantom that had appeared at Bremgarten at Zwingle's side; the most fearful omens, passing from mouth to mouth, filled the people with the gloomiest presentiments.
The history of these phenomena, however strange it may appear, characterizes the period of which we write [They were normal in those days]. We do not create the times: it is our simple duty to paint them as they really were.
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On the 26th July, a widow chancing to be alone before her house, in the village of Castelenschloss, suddenly beholds a frightful spectacle - blood springing from the earth all around her. She rushes in alarm into the cottage......but, oh horrible! blood is flowing every where - from the wainscot and from the stones; - it falls in a stream from a basin on a shelf, and even the child's cradle overflows with it. The woman imagines that the invisible hand of an assassin has been at work, and rushes in distraction out of doors, crying murder! murder!
The villagers and the monks of a neighbouring convent assemble at the noise - they partly succeed in effacing the bloody stains; but a little later in the day, the other inhabitants of the house, sitting down in terror to eat their evening meal under the projecting eaves, suddenly discover blood bubbling up in a pond - blood flowing from the loft - blood covering all the walls of the house. Blood - blood - every where blood!
The bailiff of Schenkenberg and the pastor of Dalheim arrive - inquire into the matter - and immediately report it to the lords of Berne and to Zwingle.
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Scarcely had this horrible recital - the particulars of which are faithfully preserved in Latin and in German - filled all minds with the idea of a horrible butchery, than in the western quarter of the heavens there appeared a frightful comet, whose immense train of a pale yellow colour turned towards the south. At the time of its setting, this apparition shone in the sky like the fire of a furnace.
One night - on the 15th August as it would appear - Zwingle and George Muller, formerly abbot of Wettingen, being together in the cemetery of the cathedral, both fixed their eyes upon this terrific meteor. "This ominous globe," said Zwingle, "is come to light the path that leads to my grave. It will be at the cost of my life and of many good men with me. Although I am rather shortsighted, I foresee great calamities in the future. The truth and the Church will mourn; but Christ will never forsake us."
It was not only at Zurich that this flaming star spread consternation. Vadian being one night on an eminence in the neighbourhood of St. Gall, surrounded by his friends and disciples, after having explained to them the names of the stars and the miracles of the Creator, stopped before this comet, which denounced the anger of God; and the famous Theophrastus declared that it foreboded not only great bloodshed, but most especially the death of learned and illustrious men. This mysterious phenomenon prolonged its frightful visitation until the 3rd September.
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When once the noise of these omens was spread abroad, men could no longer contain themselves. Their imaginations were excited; they heaped fright upon fright: each place had its terrors. Two banners waving in the clouds had been seen on the mountain of the Brunig; at Zug a buckler [shield] had appeared in the heavens; on the banks of the Reuss, reiterated explosions were heard during the night; on the lake of the Four Cantons, ships with aerial combatants careered about in every direction. War - war; - blood - blood! - these were the general cries.
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In the midst of all this agitation, Zwingle alone seemed tranquil. He rejected none of these presentiments, but contemplated them with calmness. "A heart that fears God," said he, "cares not for the threats of the world. To forward the designs of God, whatever may happen, - this is his task. A carrier who has a long road to go must make up his mind to wear his waggon and his gear during the journey. If he carry his merchandise to the appointed spot, that is enough for him.
"We are the waggon and the gear of God. There is not one of the articles that is not worn, twisted, or broken; but our great Driver will not the less accomplish by our means his vast designs. Is it not to those who fall upon the field of battle that the noblest crown belongs? Take courage, then, in the midst of all these dangers, through which the cause of Jesus Christ must pass. Be of good cheer! although we should never here below see its triumphs with our own eyes. The Judge of the combat beholds us, and it is he who confers the crown. Others will enjoy upon earth the fruits of our labours; while we, already in heaven, shall enjoy an eternal reward."
page 0657 paragraph 4
Thus spoke Zwingle, as he advanced calmly towards the threatening noise of the tempest, which, by its repeated flashes and sudden explosions, foreboded death.
On to Chapter Six.
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