S. Jackson has hit the nail on the head with this description of Zwingli’s rise to prominence:
1524 marked the completion of the break with the Old Church as far as Zurich was concerned. The changes were made deliberately and under orders from the City Council. They occasioned no revolt, although they were of the most radical description. It was made to appear that the changes came in consequence of the city authorities’ conviction of their scripturalness, and not because Zwingli had insisted upon them. Nor was a step taken without the approval beforehand of the thoughtful classes.
Zwingli and his fellow Reformers argued before the people the propriety of the changes about to be made. Then when a sufficient time had elapsed a public debate was held in the presence of the City Council, and then the Council ordered the changes. The consequence was the changes were made once for all, were fully comprehended, and gladly assented to.
By this course Zwingli proved his title to be called the Prudent Reformer. Granted that it was the clear-sightedness of the prayerful scholar rather than spiritual elevation which gave him the knowledge of the objectionable doctrines and practices of the Old Church, he showed true courage in opposing and removing them; granted that he was totally lacking in Luther’s flaming zeal, he accomplished a much more complete break with Rome; granted that he was no profound thinker like Calvin, he was much more easily comprehended and probably quite as correct. And in personal qualities he was superior to Luther and Calvin.
Men loved Zwingli, and followed him because they loved him. They knew that he spoke the truth in the breadth of a loving heart; that he broke with Rome because he loved the truth more than life, and loathed the whole miserable business of mediæval hair-splitting theology, lying pardons, swindling sacraments, the incubus of a Church which was primarily a huge money-making concern, ruled by a Pope no spiritual man had any respect for and served by a clergy who as a class were low-bred and low-lived, preached by monks whose private histories were unsavoury, and sanctified, forsooth, by nuns who were virgin only in name.
His heart made him protest. It could no longer be borne; the Church was pressing the life out of the poor people and sending them by millions to the bar of God without any knowledge of God’s Word, or any preparation for His service.
Zwingli became a Reformer, THE Reformer, because he loved the Church and despised what Rome had turned it into. He loathed what Rome had done to the Flock, so he did something about it, in a deliberate, measured, sensible, prayerful way.