Digitized Correspondence

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From the Post Reformation Digital Library-

Somewhat old news, but anyone with an interest in e.g. Theodore Beza, Johannes Bogerman, Hugo Grotius, Sibrandus Lubbertus, Heinrich Bullinger, Gisbertus Voetius, Johannes Uytenbogaert, … should check out the ca. 300 letters digitized from the Free University Amsterdam’s Special Collections!


On the Prophetic Office, by Heinrich Bullinger

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schriftenHeinrich Bullinger’s book, On the Prophetic Office, was published 28 January, 1532.  Composed just months after the death of Zwingli, the book kicked off Bullinger’s massive literary production as new Pastor of the Great Minster in Zurich.  The book’s aim was to stabilize the Reformation in the city and canton and reaffirm Bullinger’s own commitment to that movement.

It is a fantastic literary work.  Beautifully written in the most pastoral tone, it guides Pastors who adhere to the Reformation in faith and practice.  What is a Prophet (and in Bullinger, and Zwingli, this also meant pastor)?  What is his task?  What are his tools?  What is his methodology?  How are erroneous teachings to be dealt with?

All of these questions are addressed.  (And, by the way, there’s a lovely modern German translation in this 7 volume edition published by TVZ, volume 1).

There’s also a fantastic essay in Peter Opitz’s edited volume ‘The Myth of the Reformation’, which addresses exactly the question of Bullinger’s view of the Pastoral Office:


Bullinger on the Pastoral Task

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We therefore, the interpreters of God’s holy word, and faithful ministers of the church of Christ, must have a diligent regard to keep the scriptures sound and perfect, and to teach the people of Christ the word of God sincerely; made plain, I mean, and not corrupted or darkened by foolish and wrong expositions of our own invention.   — Heinrich Bullinger

Bullinger: On The Sluggard

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bullinger54The Lord mislikes the yawning mouth and folded arms, the signs of sleep, which commonly follow the careless man, who doth neglect the state and condition of his house and family. But on the other side, the scripture commendeth highly faithful labourers, and good and painful people in work. Let us hear, I beseech you, the golden words of Solomon, the wisest among all men; who, where he blameth sluggards, saith: “Go to the emmet, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and learn to be wise. She hath no guide, nor overseer, nor ruler; and yet in the summer she provideth her meat, and gathereth her food in the harvest. How long wilt thou sleep, thou sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep? Yea, sleep on still a little, slumber a little, fold thine hands together yet a little, and take thine ease: and in the meanwhile shall poverty come upon thee like a traveller, and necessity like a weaponed man.”*

*H. Bullinger, The Decades of Henry Bullinger: The Third Decade. (T. Harding, Ed.) (pp. 32–33).

Bullinger’s ‘History of the Reformation’ and its Illustrations

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If you go here you can see various pages from Bullinger’s Reformationsgeschichte.  It’s a fantastic piece of work.  And, you can read the 3 volumes here:

Reformationsgeschichte (Beyel)
Vol. 1 (1838)
Vol. 2 (1838) GB
Vol. 3 (1840) GB

The first link above includes illustrations contained in the handwritten manuscript.  Here are just a few:

Heinrich Bullinger’s First Publication (of Many) In Zurich

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Von dem unverschampten Fräfel, ergerlichem verwyrren und unwarhafftem leeren der selbsgesandten Wiedertöuffern vier gespräch Bücher ([Zürich]1531).  A fitting work setting the tone for his tenure in Zurich.  A tenure characterized by the solidification and expansion of the Reformation commenced by Zwingli.  Give it a read today on this ‘Bullinger’s Election to Zurich Day.’


December 9, 1531 Was an Important Date in Reformation History

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On that date, Heinrich Bullinger was elected to be Zwingli’s replacement as the Antistes of the Grossmunster.  And he was the ideal replacement.

bullinger54After the disaster at Cappel, [Bullinger left Bremgarten and] removed to Zuerich, and was unanimously elected by the Council and the citizens preacher of the Great Minster, Dec. 9, 1531. It was rumored that Zwingli himself, in the presentiment of his death, had designated him as his successor. No better man could have been selected. It was of vital importance for the Swiss churches that the place of the Reformer should be filled by a man of the same spirit, but of greater moderation and self-restraint.

Bullinger now assumed the task of saving, purifying, and consolidating the life-work of Zwingli; and faithfully and successfully did he carry out this task. When he ascended the pulpit of the Great Minster in Dec. 23, 1531, many hearers thought that Zwingli had risen from the grave.  He took a firm stand for the Reformation, which was in danger of being abandoned by timid men in the Council. He kept free from interference with politics, which had proved ruinous to Zwingli. He established a more independent, though friendly relation between Church and State. He confined himself to his proper vocation as preacher and teacher.

In the first years he preached six or seven times a week; after 1542 only twice, on Sundays and Fridays. He followed the plan of Zwingli in explaining whole books of the Scriptures from the pulpit. His sermons were simple, clear, and practical, and served as models for young preachers.

He was a most devoted pastor, dispensing counsel and comfort in every direction, and exposing even his life during the pestilence which several times visited Zuerich. His house was open from morning till night to all who desired his help. He freely dispensed food, clothing, and money from his scanty income and contributions of friends, to widows and orphans, to strangers and exiles, not excluding persons of other creeds. He secured a decent pension for the widow of Zwingli, and educated two of his children with his own. He entertained persecuted brethren for weeks and months in his own house, or procured them places and means of travel.

He paid great attention to education, as superintendent of the schools in Zuerich. He filled the professorships in the Carolinum with able theologians, as Pellican, Bibliander, Peter Martyr. He secured a well-educated ministry. He prepared, in connection with Leo Judae, a book of church order, which was adopted by the Synod, Oct. 22, 1532, issued by authority of the burgomaster, the Small and the Great Council, and continued in force for nearly three hundred years. It provides the necessary rules for the examination, election, and duties of ministers (Predicanten) and deans (Decani), for semi-annual meetings of synods with clerical and lay representatives, and the power of discipline. The charges were divided into eight districts or chapters.*

And much, much more.  And it all began on the 9th of December, 1531.

* P. Schaff, History of the Christian Church.


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We shall be Christians glorified together with Christ, blessed in God, rejoicing with perpetual pleasure always in the sight of God, and evermore giving thanks to God. For he cannot choose but be merry always and thankful, who, being once in danger and fear of death, is now made secure in immortality. -  Heinrich Bullinger

This Day in Church History: Bullinger’s Letter to Werner Steiner

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For your Reformation(s) day reading pleasure, a snippet from the longest serving of all the Reformers- Heinrich Bullinger:

Bremgarten, 31. Oktober 1530

— — — qui a , si pollicitationem suam stultam et incogitatam aut vino inscripsisset  aut remisisset, posteaquam cerneret voti atrocitatem, minus peccasset et venia dignus erat; nunc vero cum atrocem etiam pollicitationem opere, iam non nescius quid ageret, crudeliter perficit, scelus etiam designavit.

Verum equidem esse fateor id omnino opere complendum esse, quod semel voveris, idem enim suadet veritatis honestas et decus, mendatii item et inconstantiae infamia, sed si interim votum eiusmodi sit, ut opere perfectum in nephas non abeat aut infamiam inurat. Quod si aut infamat aut scelus est, praestat quidem verbis tantum peccasse, quam male sana facta malis iungere verbis.

Habemus autem huius rei typum in sacris fortissimum illum et prudentissimum Hebreorum imperatorem Iephthae. Is enim deo vovebat parricidium, sed nescius, quod rem usqueadeo funestam voveret. At ubi depraehendit, an non prudentius et melius egisset, si a parricidio sibi temperasset? Nemo negat, cum etiam losephus Judaeus alias factum Iephthae plurimum accuset , quod eius sacrifitium sive votum deo non fuerit charum neque legitimum, quin et apud omnes ecclesiasticos inolevit Iephthae quidem in vovendo fuisse stultum, sed in solvendo etiam impium. Notissima enim omnibus est ista Hieronymi sententia . Hic vero audi, quam constanter in voto pergat Iephthae: «Aperui», inquit, «os meum ad dominum, et aliud facere non potero» [Ri 11,35]. Sic enim sibi persuaserat nullo alio argumento nisi quod vovisset, non secus atque tu iam iam obiecisti te omnino vovisse, unde etiam incunctanter preastandum sit. Interim rectius fecisset Iephthae, si hoc, quod per votum fecit, non fecisset. Iccirco velimus nolimus conditionem admittunt haec legis verba: Quicquid voveris verbo, facto adimplebis ; hanc videlicet: si iuste, sancte et legitime voveris. Neque enim frustra additur: «Si voveris domino deo tuo»[Dtn 23,21]. Nam quod impium est vel illegitimum, deo gratum non est, ergo votum non est; proinde melius fuerit ab impio facto abstinere, quam stulta verba seu vota impie perficere.*

Bullinger wrote over 10,000 letters… just, wow. He was, by far, the most influential theologian in Europe for the last half of the 16th century. His reach extended to every corner of the continent and the British Isles. Indeed, when the Swiss were trying to come to some agreement concerning the Lord’s Supper it was Calvin who asked for Bullinger’s advice and who visited Zurich to consult the great man.

Bullinger, whose work has, besides the Decades and a few small tracts, never been translated, wrote so much instructive material (328 titles) that it’s high time he receive the recognition his life and work deserve.
*Bullinger- Briefwechsel
Copyright: Uni Zürich Theologische Fakultät
Band 1, p. 200