Category Archives: Zwingli

Today with Zwingli: His Adversary, ‘That Cumæan Lion’

zurich1522“You should know that a certain Franciscan from France, whose name indeed was Franz, was here not many days since and had much conversation with me concerning the Scriptural basis for the doctrine of the adoration of the saints and their intercession for us. He was not able to convince me with the assistance of a single passage of Scripture that the saints do pray for us, as he had with a great deal of assurance boasted he should do. At last he went on to Basel [on 18 April, 1522] where he recounted the affair in an entirely different way from the reality—in fact he lied about it. So it seemed good to me to let you know about these things that you might not be ignorant of that Cumæan lion, if perchance he should ever turn your way.

“There followed within six days another strife with our brethren the preachers of the [different orders in Zurich, especially with the Augustinians]. Finally the burgomaster and the Council appointed for them three commissioners on whom this was enjoined—that Aquinas and the rest of the doctors of that class being put aside they should base their arguments alone upon those sacred writings which are contained in the Bible. This troubled those beasts so much that one brother, the father reader of the order of Preachers [i. e., the Dominicans] cut loose from us, and we wept—as one weeps when a cross-grained and rich stepmother has departed this life. Meanwhile there are those who threaten, but God will turn the evil upon His enemies.

“I suppose you have read the petition which some of us have addressed to the Bishop of Constance.… But I must return to Schuerer upstairs, where he is having some beer with several gentlemen and jokes will be in order.”*

* S.M. Jackson, Huldreich Zwingli: The Reformer of German Switzerland. p. 170–172.

Today With Zwingli

On 16 April, 1522 Huldrych Zwingli’s sermon titled Von Erkiesen und Freiheit der Speisen was published in Zurich at the printing house of Froschauer. It was a greatly expanded version of the actual sermon preached shortly after the Lenten Fast was broken, with his approval. Unlike Barth’s Romans, this book really did fall on the playground of the theologians like a bomb.

Zwingli’s point was simple- the Church wasn’t authorized to heft upon souls requirements foreign to the requirements of the Bible. Its tradition wasn’t superior to Scripture; Scripture takes precedence over tradition.

In his own words-

[They] had not so strong a belief in God, that they trusted alone in him and hoped alone in him, listened alone to his ordinances and will, but foolishly turned again to the devices of men, who, as though they desired to improve what had been neglected by God, said to themselves: “This day, this month, this time, wilt thou abstain from this or that,” and make thus ordinances, persuading themselves that he sins who does not keep them.

This abstaining I do not wish to condemn, if it occurs freely, to put the flesh under control, and if no self-confidence or vainglory, but rather humility, results. See, that is branding and injuring one’s own conscience capriciously, and is turning toward true idolatry…In a word, if you will fast, do so; if you do not wish to eat meat, eat it not; but leave Christians a free choice in the matter…

But when the practice of liberty offends your neighbour, you should not offend or vex him without cause; for when he perceives it, he will be offended no more, unless he is angry purposely. … But you are to instruct him as a friend in the belief, how all things are proper and free for him to eat.

Today With Zwingli: ‘No, I Won’t Be at Baden’

zwingli_writing_bullinger_RG2In a letter to the Council of Bern, dated April 16, 1526, Zwingli sets forth in detail his reasons for refusing to attend the disputation in their city. In substance they amount to this: (1) That under the circumstances the safe-conduct offered him would be absolutely worthless; and (2) there was not the slightest chance of his obtaining a fair hearing.

Although Zwingli was absent, from the seclusion of his study in Zurich he virtually superintended the discussion on the part of the Reformers. For weeks previous, he labored unceasingly outlining arguments for the use of those who would represent him in the conference. The gates of Baden were strongly guarded by sentinels during the session, but means were found of eluding their vigilance, and letters were regularly exchanged each day between Zwingli and Œcolampadius. Myconius declares that “Zwingli labored more by his meditations, his sleepless nights, and the advice which he transmitted to Baden, than he would have done by discussing in person in the midst of his enemies.”*

*S. Simpson, S.  Life of Ulrich Zwingli: The Swiss Patriot and Reformer (pp. 160–161). New York: Baker & Taylor Co.

The Day Zwingli Took Over the Carolinum, and Laid the Foundation for the Greatest Institution of Theological Learning of the 16th Century

The Grossmunster and the Limmat

Head-master Niessli of the Carolinum, named after Charles the Great, who had granted letters for an ecclesiastical foundation, at Zurich, was removed by death and Zwingli was elected as his successor, April 14, 1525. This institution had declined as a gymnasium, with the churches of the city, on account of the idleness and corruption of the religious and educational leaders; hence Zwingli sought to reform the Carolinum as well as the churches, as a necessary part of the great work of the Reformation.

Accordingly, on the 19th of June, in the same year, he substituted for the choir-service what he called “prophecy,” according to 1 Cor. 14, thus engrafting upon the Carolinum a higher institution which transformed it into a remarkably practical school of theology, ancient languages, and elementary science. It is here that Zwingli accomplished his greatest work, as an educator.

The school was in session every week-day, Friday excepted, and was opened at 7 o’clock in the morning, in the summer, and at 8 o’clock, in the winter. A month’s vacation was granted three times a year. The course of study centered on the Bible. The first hour, i. e. the “prophecy” proper, was given to exegesis, with some elements of systematic and practical theology to meet the wants of the Reformation. The second hour consisted of a divine service, in which the people of the city took part with the students, among whom were also town-parsons, predicants, canons, and chaplains.

Here the same Scriptures were treated again, but so simplified that the people could understand them; and we may add that the students themselves not only obtained a clearer knowledge from this repetition but they also learned, in a most practical manner, how to present the truth in their future charges. Friday was market-day, and the people from the country came to hear the preaching, which was largely intended for their special benefit. The afternoon of each school-day was devoted to the study of the languages and elementary science.*

We will return, on 19 June, to a further examination of this important theological institution.

*Ulrich Zwingli, The Christian Education of Youth, trans. Alcide Reichenbach (Collegeville, PA: Thompson Brothers, 1899), 45–47.

On This Day, in Zurich, in 1525

The Council abolished the Catholic Mass in the Churches of Zurich.  As Zwingli wrote that same year

Nothing, therefore, of ours is to be added to the word of God, and nothing taken from His word by rashness of ours. To this some one might here object: “Yet many have found rest even in the word of man, and still do find it; for today the consciences of many are firmly persuaded that they will attain salvation if the Roman Pontiff absolve them, grant them indulgences, enroll them in heaven; if nuns and monks tell beads for them, and do masses, hours, and other things for them.” To this objection I answer that all such are either fools or hypocrites, for it must be the result of folly and ignorance if one thinks one’s self what one is not.


Today With Zwingli: The Abolition of the Mass

zwingli453S. Jackson reports

One more step remained to be taken and the church in Zurich would be completely emancipated from the Old Church, and that was to abolish entirely the mass. Cautiously, but without retrogression, Zwingli had for years steadily moved towards this goal. In 1524 he had won from the Council permission for the priests to dispense the bread and wine under both forms if they would. This, however, still maintained the connection with the old forms.

Judging that the time had come, and knowing that the friends of the ecclesiastical overturning were in decided majority in the Council of the Two Hundred, Zwingli and several other leaders appeared before the Council on Tuesday, April 11, 1525,—Tuesday of Holy Week,—and demanded the abolition of the mass and the substitution therefor of the Lord’s Supper as described by the evangelists and the Apostle Paul.

Opposition being made to the proposition, the Council delegated its debate with Zwingli to four of themselves, and their report being on Zwingli’s side, the Council ordered that the mass be abolished forthwith.

Consequently, on Thursday, April 13, 1525, the first evangelical communion service took place in the Great Minster, and according to Zwingli’s carefully thought out arrangement, which he had published April 6th.

A table covered with a clean linen cloth was set between the choir and the nave in the Great Minster. Upon it were the bread upon wooden platters and the wine in wooden beakers. The men and the women in the congregation were upon opposite sides of the middle aisle. Zwingli preached a sermon and offered prayer. The deacon read Paul’s account of the institution of the sacrament in 1 Cor., 11:20 sqq. Then Zwingli and his assistants and the congregation performed a liturgy, entirely without musical accompaniment in singing, but translated into the Swiss dialect from the Latin mass service, with the introduction of appropriate Scripture and the entire elimination of the transubstantiation teaching.

The elements were passed by the deacons through the congregation. This Eucharist service was repeated upon the two following days.*

On that remarkable day the Church returned, at least in Zurich, to its earliest practice – a practice long corrupted by the magical views of the supporters of the false doctrine of transsubstantiation.
*S. Jackson, (pp. 228–230).

Zwingli: On Statues and Paintings

ZwingliBullingerDevotionalBook2The notion that Zwingli despised art is as ridiculous and uninformed as the belief, still widespread, that he despised music.  Nothing was further from the truth.  What Zwingli despised was the exaltation of anything above God or even towards God.  Zwingli once remarked

Images which are misused for worship I do not count among ceremonies, but among the number of those things which are diametrically opposed to the Word of God. But those which do not serve for worship and in whose cases there exists no danger of future worship, I am so far from condemning that I acknowledge both painting and statuary as God’s gifts.

Don’t allow anti-Zwingli partisans and nitwits and uninformed angry Lutherans distort your understanding of the man.  Read him for yourself.

Zwingli on Those Who Will Only Do, If In Doing They Receive a Reward

Those who so persistently demand a reward for their works, and say that they will cease working the works of God if no reward awaits the works, have the souls of slaves. For slaves work for reward only, and lazy persons likewise. But they that have faith are untiring in the work of God, like the son of the house. — Huldrych Zwingli

Staring Over Zwingli’s Shoulder, April 2, 1520…

If you had been in Zurich on this date in 1520 and you were at Zwingli’s house, staring over his shoulder as he stood (yes, he stood) at his desk, you could have watched him write this letter to his friend Myconius-

Myconio Zuinglius S.

Accepi, optime Myconi, cum Hedionis tuas quoque literas, plenas earum, quas ad te quoque scripsit, rerum. Hoc autem die, quo has ad te damus, a Zasio, quas etiam ad te mittimus, accepimus literas (nam grandis omnino mihi cum isto viro intercessit amicicia). Velis itaque iuxta illa, quę pro Dorpio scribit, tu etiam epistolam ad illum scribere nobisque transmittere, ut, cum Vadiani quoque acceperimus, simul omnes dirigantur, ut homo, quemadmodum Zasius inquit, laudis cupidus videat Helvetios etiam sibi gratulari, quod ad partes meliores secessionem fecerit.

Ne vero hoc te consilium lateat, quod sibi a nobis datum tantopere commendat Zasius, scito in nupera quandoque illum epistola ad nos scripsisse, ita se animatum, ut adversus Lutherum de potestate pontificia non possit non scribere, quod is sacrorum canonum maiestatem (en tibi iurisperitum in factionem suam iuratum) floccifacere sit ausus etc.

Ego hominem non tantum dehortatus sum, verum, cum quadam tamen modestia, deterrui, iubens, ut vel hoc unicum spectaret, Lutherum, et si modestiam ipse quandoque desyderem in illo, pontifices tamen, si perpetuo pergant esse mali, sua traductione suorumque scelerum libera censura olim absterriturum ab illis verecundiamque incussurum. Huius, inquam, consilii gratiam habet Zasius.

Literas eius mox remittito, ut et ad Vadianum transeant. Quid tibi consultum volueris post Hedionis literas lectas, haud capio. Vale et gratiam habe filio missę ad nos papyri.

Salvus etiam sit cum parente, tua coniuge. Salvi pręterea sint Xilotectus, provisor, omnes tui.

Vale. Ex Tiguro 2da Aprilis anno MCCCCCXX.
Zasius sępe antehac ad nos scripsit et semper te cum Vadiano*
Myconio suo, amico carissimo.

Reading the correspondence of the Reformers is the best, the very best, way to learn who they were.  Zwingli, Calvin, Melanchthon, Luther, Oecolampadius, Bullinger… they’re all revealed in their letters.

* Unfortunately the correspondence with Zasius is lost.

Zwingli’s Warning Against Folly

An appropriate warning for folly day-

Zwingli optWhere persons assemble in social gatherings, every youth attending them should see to it that he go away morally benefited; so that he may not, as Socrates complains, always come home morally worse than he was before. He should therefore be watchful and diligent to follow the example of those who conduct themselves honorably and uprightly on social occasions; but, on the other hand, when he observes persons behaving themselves unbecomingly or shamefully, let him beware of imitating them.

Those, however, who are grown up and have become bold and fixed in their habits are hardly able to restrain themselves in this manner; therefore my advice is, that the youth should attend public gatherings, for social purposes, all the more rarely. Should a youth perchance be led into the folly of others, he ought by all means to turn away from it and should come to himself at the earliest moment. His reason for thus withdrawing from such association will satisfy those persons who know that his desire is, always to be intent on doing what is noblest and best.

Fun Facts from Church History: When Zwingli Sends a Copy of His Latest Book…

The book [i.e., the Commentary on True and False Religion] came from the press at the end of March, 1525. Zwingli sent a copy to Vadian (March 31) and one to Christoph Schappeler at Memmingen. Ludwig Sigwyn, of Swabia, is known to have had a copy by August 23, 1525; it was probably a gift from the author. Thus the new publication served to propagate Zwinglian doctrine in South Germany. A German edition of 608 octavo pages, translated by Leo Jud, was published in 1526 by Froschauer at Zurich. Professor Walther Köhler, of the University of Zurich, translated part of the Commentary into German and incorporated it in his work, entitled, Ulrich Zwingli, eine Auswahl aus seinen Schriften, Zurich, 1918. — George Warren Richards, The Latin Works of Huldreich Zwingli, vol. 3.

Zwingli for The Day

Quote of the Day

ZwingliBullingerDevotionalBook2[The theologians of the Roman Church] did not rightly know man through and through and see how he is nothing but impurity and corruption and filth, so that even what he learns in its purity he puts forth corrupted. For even when through the heavenly Spirit we reach the point of delighting in that which the law commands, then the flesh is so rebellious that we accomplish no good thing.  — Huldrych Zwingli

The Home of the Redeemed

Zwingli writes, quite famously-

zwingli_schriftenI believe, then, that the souls of the faithful fly to heaven as soon as they leave the body, come into the presence of God, and rejoice forever. Here, most pious King, if you govern the state entrusted to you by God as David, Hezekiah, and Josiah did, you may hope to see first God Himself in His very substance, in His nature and with all His endowments and powers, and to enjoy all these, not sparingly but in full measure, not with the cloying effect that generally accompanies satiety, but with that agreeable completeness which involves no surfeiting, just as the rivers, that flow unceasingly into the sea and flow back through the depths of the earth, bring no loathing to mankind, but rather gain and joy, ever watering, gladdening and fostering new germs of life.

The good which we shall enjoy is infinite and the infinite cannot be exhausted; therefore no one can become surfeited with it, for it is ever new and yet the same. Then you may hope to see the whole company and assemblage of all the saints, the wise, the faithful, brave, and good who have lived since the world began. Here you will see the two Adams, the redeemed and the redeemer, Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Samuel, Phineas, Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, and the Virgin Mother of God of whom he prophesied, David, Hezekiah, Josiah, the Baptist, Peter, Paul; here too, Hercules, Theseus, Socrates, Aristides, Antigonus, Numa, Camillus, the Catos and Scipios; here Louis* the Pious, and your predecessors, the Louis, Philips, Pepins, and all your ancestors who have gone hence in faith.

In short there has not been a good man and will not be a holy heart or faithful soul from the beginning of the world to the end thereof that you will not see in heaven with God. And what can be imagined more glad, what more delightful, what, finally, more honorable than such a sight? To what can all our souls more justly bend all their strength than to the attainment of such a life? And may meantime the dreaming Catabaptists deservedly sleep in the regions below a sleep from which they will never wake. Their error comes from the fact that they do not know that with the Hebrews the word for sleeping is used for the word for dying, as is more frequently the case with Paul than there is any need of demonstrating at present.

Why Are there ‘Lutherans’ and ‘Calvinists’ and ‘Wesleyans’ But Not ‘Zwinglians’?

Because Zwingli taught his followers to exalt God alone.  A lesson the Lutherans and Calvinists and Wesleyans must have missed.

This is the fountainhead of my religion, to recognize God as the uncreated Creator of all things, who solely and alone has all things in His power and freely giveth us all things. They, therefore, overthrow this first foundation of faith, who attribute to the creature what is the Creator’s alone. For we confess in the creed that it is the Creator in whom we believe. It cannot, therefore, be the creature in whom we should put our trust. – Zwingli

Nor, it should be added, after whom we name ourselves.

Zwingli’s Narrow Escape from the Plague and his March 27, 1520 Relapse

Zwingli fell victim toward the end of September, and was very sick. By November he was able to write again. But his recovery was slow. On November 30th, he complains that the disease had left his memory weakened, his spirits reduced, so that his mind wandered when preaching, and after preaching he felt thoroughly exhausted. On December 31st, he reported himself as well again, and that the last ulcer caused by the malady had healed. But his rejoicing was premature, as on March 27, 1520, he complains that he had eaten and drunk many drugs to get rid of his fever, and still his head was weak, although he was daily growing better.*

Thankfully he recovered fully. Meritoriously, though he was urged to do so, he never abandoned the city to preserve himself as so many of the Papist clerics had. When he was completely well he wrote this song:

I. At the Beginning of the Illness

Help, Lord God, help
In this trouble!
I think, Death is at the door.
Stand before?1 me, Christ;
For Thou hast overcome him!
To Thee I cry:
If it is Thy will,
Take out the dart,
Which wounds me!
Nor lets me have an hour’s
Rest or repose!
Will’st Thou however
That Death take me
In the midst of my days,
So let it be!
Do what Thou wilt;
Me nothing lacks.
Thy vessel am I;
To make or break altogether.
For, if Thou takest away
My spirit
From this earth,
Thou dost it, that it? may not grow worse,
Nor spot
The pious lives and ways of others.

II. In the Midst of his Illness

Console me, Lord God, console me!
The illness increases,
Pain and fear seize
My soul and body.
Come to me then,
With Thy grace, O my only consolation!
It? will surely save
Everyone, who
His heart’s desire
And hope sets
On Thee, and who besides
Despises all gain and loss.
Now all is up.
My tongue is dumb,
It cannot speak a word.
My senses are all blighted.
Therefore is it time
That Thou my fight
Conductest hereafter;
Since I am not
So strong, that I
Can bravely
Make resistance
To the Devil’s wiles and treacherous hand.
Still will my spirit
Constantly abide by Thee, however he rages.

III. During Convalescence

Sound, Lord God, sound!
I think, I am
Perhaps with greater anguish,
Already coming back.
Than would now have
Yes, if it please Thee,
That no spark of sin
Since I came
Rule me longer on earth,
Then my lips must
Thy praise and teaching
The spite and boasting
Bespeak more
Of this world
Than ever before,
However it may go,
In simplicity and with no danger.
Although I must
The punishment of death
Sometime endure
Perhaps with greater anguish,
Than would now have
Happened, Lord!
Since I came
So near?;
So will I still
The spite and boasting
Of this world
Bear joyfully for the sake of the reward.
By Thy help,
Without which nothing can be perfect.

*S. Jackson, Huldreich Zwingli: The Reformer of German Switzerland (1484–1531) (pp. 131–132).

The Four Theologians Who Have Influenced Me Most

Zwingli: The Providence of God in a Nutshell

“He disposes of his vessels, that is to say, us men, as he wills. He chooses one to be fit for his purposes and use; the other he does not will. He can make his creatures whole or break them, as he wills. The understanding of free will which we have taken from the heathen makes us ascribe to ourselves what God has done in us, not acknowledging his almighty providence” — (Z II 179-20-180.29).

Zwingli’s Friend Urbanus

urbanusThe reformer Urbanus Rhegius (Koenig) was born in 1490 at Langenargen, near Lindau. He studied at Freiburg and at Ingolstadt. At the latter place he became professor of poetry and rhetoric. In the year 1520, he became cathedral preacher at Augsburg, where he accepted the principles of the Reformation. In 1530, he was called as superintendent to Celle and as such was the reformer of the Duchy of Luncburg. He died March 23, 1541. His works appeared in 1562 at Nuremberg, four volumes in German, three volumes in Latin. His biography was written by Heimbuerger (Gotha, 1851) and by Uhlhorn (Elberfeld, 1861).

Quote of the Day

zwingli834…  Since the universe must come from something else, we are brought, whether we will or no, to the one and only source of all things [i.e., God, our Creator], from which everything runs forth as if from the starting place of a race course.– Huldrych Zwingli