Tag Archives: Philip Schaff

Melanchthon the Effeminate?

Here’s how Philip Schaff describes Melanchthon in a section of his history in which he compares him to Calvin:

Melanchthon was modest, gentle, sensitive, feminine, irenic, elastic, temporizing, always open to new light; Calvin, though by nature as modest, bashful, and irritable, was in principle and conviction firm, unyielding, fearless of consequences, and opposed to all compromises.

They differed also on minor points of doctrine and discipline. Melanchthon, from a conscientious love of truth and peace, and from regard for the demands of practical common sense, had independently changed his views on two important doctrines. He abandoned the Lutheran dogma of a corporal and ubiquitous presence in the eucharist, and approached the theory of Calvin; and he substituted for his earlier fatalistic view of a divine foreordination of evil as well as good the synergistic scheme which ascribes conversion to the co-operation of three causes: the Spirit of God, the Word of God, and the will of man. He conceded to man the freedom of either accepting or rejecting the Gospel salvation, yet without giving any merit to him for accepting the free gift; and on this point he dissented from Calvin’s more rigorous and logical system.

Melanchthon, to be sure, was of a gentle and sensitive spirit and he hated conflict.  He hated it.  But that hardly makes him ‘feminine’.  Rather, he was simply practical.  Students of history shouldn’t think for a moment of Melanchthon as a prancing princess.  He just wasn’t.


The Reformation Commentary on Scripture: Genesis 1-11

My copy arrived in the mail today so while I was thumbing through it I came to the timeline at the back of the volume.  I was more than a little surprised to discover there a tremendous error.  Here’s a photo of the snippet-

Note- it says that the first Anabaptists were beheaded (!) in Zurich (!!) in 1527 (!!!). None of those things are accurate. Philip Schaff relates the facts:

Six executions in all took place in Zurich between 1527 and 1532. Manz was the first victim. He was bound, carried to a boat, and thrown into the river Limmat near the lake, Jan. 5, 1527.

So the commentary has it wrong in the method of execution of the first Anabaptist victim of Zurich persecution. It also has it wrong to suggest any Anabaptist was beheaded in Zurich in the 1500’s. None were, as Schaff makes clear-

The last executions took place March 23, 1532, when Heinrich Karpfis and Hans Herzog were drowned. The foreigners were punished by exile, and met death in Roman Catholic countries.

In other Cantons, things were different-

Blaurock was scourged, expelled, and burnt, 1529, at Clausen in the Tyrol. Haetzer, who fell into carnal sins, was beheaded for adultery and bigamy at Constance, Feb. 24, 1529.

Take note- the first Anabaptist beheaded was Haetzer and he was beheaded not for being an Anabaptist but for being an adulterer and a bigamist. And that beheading took place in Constance, NOT Zurich.

Schaff continues-

Other Swiss cantons took the same measures against the Anabaptists as Zurich. In Zug, Lorenz Fuerst was drowned, Aug. 17, 1529.

It wasn’t until 1529, then, that an Anabaptist was beheaded for being an Anabaptist-

In Appenzell, Uliman and others were beheaded, and some women drowned. At Basle, Oecolampadius held several disputations with the Anabaptists, but without effect; whereupon the Council banished them, with the threat that they should be drowned if they returned (Nov. 13, 1530). The Council of Berne adopted the same course.

Christian Moser kindly informs me that the last Anabaptist executed in Zurich, in 1614, was one Hans Landis who was, in fact, beheaded.   He, it seems, was the only one to suffer that fate in the city and that not until the 17th century.

The new commentary will doubtless be excellent in many respects. In respect, however, of its correct date and place of at least this event, it has it altogether wrong. And I am compelled to point it out.

UPDATE:  Christian Moser’s comment about Landis prodded me to look further for information and I discovered an entire chapter on him in Urs B. Leu’s Die Zürcher Täufer 1525-1700.  It has been on my shelves for a while and I’ve read many of the essays in it, but not this one by Barbara Bötsch-Mauz, Täufer, Tod und Toleranz.  Der Umgang der Zürcher Obrigkeit mit dem Täuferlehrer Hans Landis.

Bullinger’s Resignation and Last Days

Kloster Kappel am Albis

Kloster Kappel am Albis

On the 2nd of August in 1575 Heinrich Bullinger resigned his position as Pastor of the Great Minster in Zurich.  He had served the City since 1531 when Zwingli had been viciously murdered by the Catholic troops at Kappel-am-Albis (where, incidentally, Bullinger had served the Church prior to his move to Zurich).  Unfortunately, Bullinger’s ‘retirement’ was short lived.  He died the same year.

Philip Schaff writes

His last days were clouded, like those of many faithful servants of God. The excess of work and care undermined his health. In 1562 he wrote to Fabricius at Coire: “I almost sink under the load of business and care, and feel so tired that I would ask the Lord to give me rest if it were not against his will.”

The pestilence of 1564 and 1565 brought him to the brink of the grave, and deprived him of his wife, three daughters, and his brother-in-law. He bore these heavy strokes with Christian resignation. In the same two fatal years he lost his dearest friends, Calvin, Blaurer, Gessner, Froschauer, Bibliander, Fabricius, Farel. He recovered, and was allowed to spend several more years in the service of Christ. His youngest daughter, Dorothea, took faithful and tender care of his health. He felt lonely and homesick, but continued to preach and to write with the aid of pastor Lavater, his colleague and son-in-law.

He preached his last sermon on Pentecost, 1575. He assembled, Aug. 26, all the pastors of the city and professors of theology around his sick-bed, assured them of his perseverance in the true apostolic and orthodox doctrine, recited the Apostles’ Creed, and exhorted them to purity of life, harmony among themselves, and obedience to the magistrates. He warned them against intemperance, envy, and hatred, thanked them for their kindness, assured them of his love, and closed with a prayer of thanksgiving and some verses of the hymns of Prudentius. Then he took each by the hand and took leave of them with tears, as Paul did from the elders at Ephesus.

A few weeks afterwards he died, after reciting several Psalms (51, 16, and 42), the Lord’s Prayer, and other prayers, peacefully, in the presence of his family, Sept. 17, 1575. He was buried in the Great Minster, at the side of his beloved wife and his dear friend, Peter Martyr. According to his wish, Rudolph Gwalter, Zwingli’s son-in-law and his [that is, Bullinger’s] adopted son, was unanimously elected his successor. Four of his successors were trained under his care and labored in his spirit.

Thinking About Calvin on the Anniversary of His Death

John Calvin departed this world on the 27th of May, 1564. Philip Schaff writes

… Calvin spent his last days in almost continual prayer, and in ejaculating comforting sentences of Scripture, mostly from the Psalms. He suffered at times excruciating pains. He was often heard to exclaim: “I mourn as a dove” (Isa. 38:14); “I was dumb, I opened not my mouth; because thou didst it” (Ps. 39:9); “Thou bruisest me, O Lord, but it is enough for me that it is thy hand.” His voice was broken by asthma, but his eyes remained bright, and his mind clear and strong to the last. He admitted all who wished to see him, but requested that they should rather pray for him than speak to him.

On the day of his death he spoke with less difficulty. He fell peacefully asleep with the setting sun towards eight o’clock, and entered into the rest of his Lord. “I had just left him,” says Beza, “a little before, and on receiving intimation from the servants, immediately hastened to him with one of the brethren. We found that he had already died, and so very calmly, without any convulsion of his feet or hands, that he did not even fetch a deeper sigh. He had remained perfectly sensible, and was not entirely deprived of utterance to his very last breath. Indeed, he looked much more like one sleeping than dead.”

He had lived fifty-four years, ten months, and seventeen days.

I’ve had reason to mention Calvin a good bit, so here’s a collection of posts for you to enjoy on this [yes, it’s already May 27th in Geneva], the anniversary of his death.

Theodore Beza: Why it’s Right to Punish Heretics

Here’s a fun fact from the history of the Church:

Theodore Beza, the faithful aid of Calvin, took up his pen against the anonymous sceptics of Basel [who had written a book on religious tolerance], and defended the right and duty of the Christian magistrate to punish heresy. His work appeared in September, 1554; that is, five months after the book of Martinus Bellius. It was Beza’s first published theological treatise (he was then thirty-five years of age).

The book has a polemic and an apologetic part. In the former, Beza tries to refute the principle of toleration; in the latter, to defend the conduct of Geneva [in the roasting of Servetus]. He contends that the toleration of error is indifference to truth, and that it destroys all order and discipline in the Church. Even the enforced unity of the papacy is much better than anarchy. Heresy is much worse than murder, because it destroys the soul. The spiritual power has nothing to do with temporal punishments; but it is the right and duty of the civil government, which is God’s servant, to see to it that he receives his full honor in the community.

Beza appeals to the laws of Moses and the acts of kings Asa and Josiah against blasphemers and false prophets. All Christian rulers have punished obstinate heretics. The oecumenical synods (from 325 to 787) were called and confirmed by emperors who punished the offenders. Whoever denies to the civil authority the right to restrain and punish pernicious errors against public worship undermines the authority of the Bible.

He cites in confirmation passages from Luther, Melanchthon, Urbanus Rhegius, Brenz, Bucer, Capito, Bullinger, Musculus, and the Church of Geneva.

He closes the argument as follows: “The duty of the civil authority in this matter is hedged about by these three regulations: (1) It must strictly confine itself to its own sphere, and not presume to define heresy; that belongs to the Church alone. (2) It must not pass judgment with regard to persons, advantages, and circumstances, but with pure regard to the honor of God. (3) It must proceed after quiet, regular examination of the heresy and mature consideration of all the circumstances, and inflict such punishment as will best secure the honor due to the divine Majesty and the peace and unity of the Church.”*

Theologians don’t think like Beza anymore, do they…

[* Philip Schaff’s History of the Christian Church].

Zwingli, Theological Education, and the Prophezei

Reformed theological education was born on the 19th of June, 1525 when Huldrych Zwingli and his co-workers established the ‘Prophezei’.  Zwingli and the others would meet with clerics and interested lay folk from the city and surrounding area early each morning and lecture on the Bible.

At the opening of each session, they prayed this prayer-

Omnipotens sempiterne et misericors Deus, cuius verbum est lucerna pedibus nostris et lumen semitarum nostrarum, aperi et illumina mentes nostras ut oracula tua pure et sancte intelligamus et in illud quod recte intellexerimus transformemur, quo maiestati tuae nulla ex parte displiceamus: per Jesum Christum dominum nostrum. Amen.

Of the Prophezei, Schaff notes

A theological college, called Carolinum, was established from the funds of the Great Minster, and opened June 19, 1525. It consisted of the collegium humanitatis, for the study of the ancient languages, philosophy and mathematics, and the Carolinum proper, for the study of the Holy Scriptures, which were explained in daily lectures, and popularized by the pastors for the benefit of the congregation. This was called prophesying (1 Cor. 14:1). Zwingli organized this school of the prophets, and explained in it several books of the Old Testament, according to the Septuagint. He recommended eminent scholars to professorships. Among the earliest teachers were Ceporin, Pellican, Myconius, Collin, Megander, and Bibliander. To Zwingli Zurich owes its theological and literary reputation. The Carolinum secured an educated ministry, and occupied an influential position in the development of theological science and literature till the nineteenth century, when it was superseded by the organization of a full university.