Today With Zwingli: A Letter to The Good People of Appenzell

In various places Zwingli referred, nonchalantly, to Appenzell as a nest of Anabaptist activity.   Though not necessarily incorrect, the accusation got him in a bit of hot water (even though he had never, frankly, accused the government of the town of any Anabaptist sympathies).  So, in an attempt to clear things up, on 12 February 1526 he wrote:

huldrych-zwingli“Grace and peace from God to you, respected, honoured, wise, clement, gracious and beloved Masters: An exceedingly unfortunate affair has happened to me, in that I have been publicly accused before your worships of having reviled you in unseemly words and, be it said with all respect, of having called you heretics, my gracious rulers of the State.

I am so far from applying this name to you, that I should as soon think of calling heaven hell. For all my life I have thought and spoken of you in terms of praise and honour, gentlemen of Abtzell, as I do to-day, and, as God favours me, shall do to the end of my days.

But it happened not long ago when I was preaching against the Catabaptists that I used these words: ‘The Catabaptists are now doing so much mischief to the upright citizens of Abtzell and are showing so great insolence, that nothing could be more infamous.’ You see, gentle sirs, with what modesty I grieved on your account, because the turbulent Catabaptists caused you so much trouble. Indeed I suspect that the Catabaptists are the very people who have set this sermon against me in circulation among you, for they do many of those things which do not become true Christians.

Therefore, gentle and wise sirs, I beg most earnestly that you will have me exculpated before the whole community, and, if occasion arise, that you will have this letter read in public assembly.

Sir, I assure you in the name of God our Saviour, in these perilous times you have never been out of my thoughts and my solicitous anxiety; and if in any way I shall be able to serve you I will spare no pains to do so. In addition to the fact that I never use such terms even against my enemies, let me say that it never entered my mind to apply such insulting epithets to you, pious and wise sirs.

Sufficient of this. May God preserve you in safety, and may He put a curb on these unbridled falsehoods which are being scattered everywhere, which is an evidence of some great peril—and may He hold your worships and the whole state in the true faith of Christ! Take this letter of mine in good part, for I could not suffer that so base a falsehood against me should lie uncontradicted.”*

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*S.M. Jackson’s translation. The original German text follows for your enjoyment:

Gnad und frid von gott. Hochgeachte, ersame, wysen, gnädige, günstige lieben herren

Es kumpt mir eigenlich für, wie ich vor üwer wysheit offenlich gescholten sye, als ob ich uch, mine gnädigen herren gemeins lands, bescholten habe mit etwas ungeschickten worten und urloub vor üwer eer kätzer genempt hab, welchs als verr vor mir ist, als das ich geredt hab, die hell sye der himel. Ich hab all min läbtag herlich und erlich von uch minen herren von Abtzell geredt und gehalten, und noch hüt bi tag und, ob gott wil, bis in minen tod. Es hat sich aber in vergangner zyt begeben, do ich wider die widertöuffer gepredget, also geredt hab: “Die widertöuffer gebend ietz den biderben lúten zuo Abtzell so vil muey und arbeit ze schaffen und tribend so vil muotwillens, das ‘s ein spott ist”. Sehend, gnädigen herren, mit was zucht ich erbermd hab mit üwer wysheit gehebt, das úch die verwirrigen töuffer so vil unruowen gestattend. Aber ich zwyfel eigenlich, das mir die widertöuffer selb sölchen lümbden by úch ufgeblasen habind; dann sy tuond der dingen vil, die christenen warhaften menschen nit wol anstond. Hierumb, gnädige wyse herren, wellend mich umb gotzwillen vor gantzer gemeind verantwurt haben und, hatt es fuog, ouch disen brief vor gantzer gemeind vorlesen lassen; dann ich by gott, der üns alle erlöst hatt, sag, das ir mir uss miner sorg und angst in disen gevarlichen zyten nimmer kumend; und wo ich úch für andre yenen gedienen könd, wölt ich mich nit sparen. Darzuo hab ich minen fygenden all min tag nie sölichs zuogeredt, was wolt ich denn úch frommen wysen herren und ein gantze biderbe gemeind mit sölcher unghander red beladen? Nit me denn: sind gott bevolhen; der welle üns sölcher fräfnen lügen abhelffen, die allenthalb werdend fürggeben, das doch ein gwüss zeichen ist einer großen gevar, und üwer wisheit sampt gantzer gemeind in warem christenem glouben behalten. Derstond min schryben imm besten; dann ich sölchen unerberen lug nit hab mögen uff mir ligen lassen.

Geben z’ Zürich xij. tags Hornungs M.D.xxvj.

Üwer wysheit williger Huldrych Zuingli. Den frommen, fürsichtigen, ersamen, wysen amman, radt und gantzer gemeind zuo Abbtzell, sinen gnädigen, günstigen, lieben herren.