His earliest education was commenced in his fifth year in the school of his native place: but such was his fondness for learning, application, and forwardness, that in his twelfth year, June 11, 1516, his father sent him to a grammar-school at Emmerich on the Rhine. There he continued three years, and made rapid advances, especially in his Latin studies.
Meanwhile his pecuniary resources were kept so straitened, that he was obliged to beg for a livelihood from one neighbour’s door to another with singing. This severe discipline his father exercised, not out of necessity, nor from covetousness, but (as he thought) to train his son to moderation in his own habits, and to sympathy with the sufferings of the poor. Nor was this hardship, connected as it was with the superstitious notions of his day, uncongenial with young Bullinger’s own temperament: rather he has left it on record, that he already purposed with himself to become after a few years a Carthusian monk, because it was the most strict of all the orders.
From Emmerich Bullinger was removed to the university of Cologne; and entered July 8, 1519, at the college Bursæ-Montis. There the works of the school-divines, and chiefly of Peter Lombard and Gratian, soon engrossed his attention; and, in the providence of God, were converted into instruments for detaching him from the religion of Rome.
For in this course of reading meeting with frequent extracts from the fathers, he felt an earnest desire quickened within him to peruse their entire writings. Accordingly, he solicited and obtained admission to a well-stored library of the Dominicans; and there studied with intense ardour several treatises of Chrysostom, Ambrose, Origen, and Augustine.
Simultaneously the earlier tracts of Luther, especially his “Babylonish Captivity” and treatise “On Christian Liberty,” with the “Loci Communes” of Melancthon, came into his hands. He procured for himself also a copy of the New Testament, and devoted days and nights to the perusal of it, with the aid of the Commentaries of Jerome. The result of these pursuits was, that Bullinger’s mind and heart opened gradually to the knowledge and reception of the gospel in its purity.*
*The Decades of Henry Bullinger: The Fifth Decade, (pp. vii–viii).