Book 11 - Switzerland - Germany (1523-1527)

A History of the Reformation in the 16th Century

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Book 11 – Switzerland – Germany (1523-1527)

History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century: Book 11, Chapter 1

The Reformation was a unified movement in diversity. Though Luther and Zwingli had come to understand the basics of the Gospel message and the truth of justification, the manner in which they came upon such truths was not the same, though they discovered such truth at relatively the same time. Error would have raised its head if either reformer would have tended to an extreme, of unity or diversity. Instead, a proper balance between the two is what is essential in holding to sound doctrine. The Reformation restored liberty to the church expressed in its diversity. This is one of the characteristics of Protestantism, and also in it is extreme form, one of its dangers.

Zwingli was advancing in his studies and coming to a greater knowledge of Christ, where Luther has been freed from the bounds of monkery in Erfurth. However, the enemies that were rising up to surround Zwingli were many and he was becoming discouraged. Myconius had left and gone to Einsidlen replacing Juda, but God providentially brought Zwingli Leo Juda in Zurich. Juda was a forcible preacher and spoke out against the Augustinian friar who was preaching that men could satisfy the justice of God on their own. Juda corrected him and placed the people in an uproar. Zwingli sided with Juda and wrote up sixty-seven theses concerning the truth on this matter to present it before the council. Faber was present at this council, and Zwingli pressed into him, as well as some of the other doctors present, the truth of the satisfaction of Jesus Christ. Faber declined to debate and said he would wait for the Diet that should be scheduled in the next year. The council decided Zwingli should preach the Gospel openly without hindrance on this doctrine.

History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century: Book 11, Chapter 2

Rome had nothing to say to Zwingli at the Zurich council; their ignorance preceded them on this “new doctrine.” Afterwards, though, the plot thickened. Though they were attacking Luther out rightly and with harshness, they attacked Zwingli with gentleness. Even Adrian VI called Zwingli “his son” in a papal brief. Faber hated the fact that Adrian was lowering himself before the reformer. Every day, against Roman tyranny, the Gospel was making progress throughout the land.

Various lesser known and more fanatical men attempted to implement reforms, but in intemperate manners. Louis Hetzer wrote a treatise in German called The Judgment of God Against Images, and produced a great impression upon the people. A man named Claude Hottinger was so moved by the treatise that he saw himself as the destroyer of images, and counseled a miller to take down the large crucifix affixed on his land at Stadelhofen. Rome was outraged to the point that they thought all of religion would be overthrown. Zwingli did not condone his actions, and though they may be punished for not acting in accordance with permission from the magistrate, but he certainly did not think they were worthy of death, as Rome did. Other outbursts in this way emerged around Switzerland as a result of the Reformation, and such acts seems to add a burden to the work rather than a help.

History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century: Book 11, Chapter 3

The Council at Zurich decided to have a conference where the idea of images in the church should be discussed. The cantons were required to send ecclesiastical deputies to Zurich to partake. Nine hundred people gathered, and of those nine hundred three hundred and fifty were priests. However, higher delegates of Rome did not attend. Zwingli was allowed to speak. He relied on the doctrine of the Church as it was taught in the Bible, and not on the Church of Rome. Conrad Hoffmann, the same man who procured Zwingli’s position, defended the Pope in the absence of their deputies. However, Zwingli was far more articulate to defend the faith of the Christian people over the desires of the Roman church.

During the disputation many priests stood up to defend the use of images, but they did not use the Bible as their authority. Zwingli overpowered them with the Holy Scriptures every time. The pronouncement of the Council was to pull down every image in the city and rid Christendom of violating the commandments. Instead of running after idols, commander Schmidt said, Christians should find Jesus Christ in their hearts. From this time forward Zurich now rested on the Word of God instead of the dictates of the Pope.

Zwingli did not allow himself to become overjoyed with victory, but continued to press the Reformation onward by moderation and wisdom. Certainly this was a victory for the Reformation, but the continued hand of moderation would be the steady guide to ultimate, long-lasting faithfulness to Christ. In all of this, Zwingli had another comrade return to him, Myconius, who had been dispelled from Lucerne.

History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century: Book 11, Chapter 4

Though Zurich had decided in favor of Protestantism, the Roman church had to respond in some selfish manner. They held a Diet in Lucerne where they drew up nineteen articles and had them approved in all of the states except Zurich. Hottinger received news of this while paying a visit to his friend John Schutz of Schneyssingen. He was testifying to the reality that the priests were interpreting Scripture wrongly, and as a result had a warrant out for his arrest. He traveled to the other side of the Rhine, but was arrested upon his return. The Diet at Lucerne determined Hottinger should be beheaded for being a heretic, and his head rolled upon the scaffold after giving glory to Christ.

After the death of Hottinger, the Diet decided that the heresy should be crushed in Zurich itself, since that is where it is spawning. The Diet sent legates to Zurich to petition the council to remove Zwingli, and any others who stood for this Reformation, from their positions. The Council wasted no time in defending them and pronounced that they would not do anything contrary to the Word of God.

The Council continued to enact reforms and gave an edict stating that all images and relics should be removed from the church. This is where the Reformed Church differed greatly with the Lutheran church. Luther would do anything God had not expressly forbidden in the Word of God in worship. Zwingli would not do anything not commanded or allowed by God as stated in the Holy Scripture. One was bound by the truth, the other was freed by the absence of a command. Zwingli, then, established the sovereignty of God over the worship of the Church. This was in direct opposition to both Roman worship and Lutheran worship, which, in some way, exalted man.

History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century: Book 11, Chapter 5

Rome began a ploy to persecute the citizens of the cantons who held to the new principles founded in the Reformation. Oexlin, a friend of Zwingli was arrested from his house in the dead of night and carried off. The pastor’s people and congregation desired to raise up arms to gain him back. Adrian and John, two priests who were preaching the Gospel in Stammheim, joined the crowd with halberds ready to fight. However, though they desired to help their pastor, the people became more of a riotous mob than a helpful congregation and began ransacking the convents and burning books, which John found distressed that Christians would act in such a manner. The next day, the Wirths, John, Adrian and their father, were arrested for both being part of the mob, and preaching the Word of Truth, and thrown into prison.

Zurich stepped into this and required the prisoners sent to Baden to stand trial as to whether they had done anything wrong at all. They arrived Friday evening, and were put to torture by the Roman delegates, attempting to gain a confession of their involvement in the pillaging at Ittingen. The more they stated they were innocent, the greater the torture became. They were sentenced to death by the Roman bailiff and their heads rolled on the scaffold not long afterwards.

The blood of the martyrs baptized Switzerland at the hand of the Roman tyranny yet again. The Wirth family was yet another testimony, to the realties and soundness of the Gospel and its advancement throughout the world. Their blood, along with others, marked the blessing of God on the building of the true Church against the false Rome.

History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century: Book 11, Chapter 6

The time had come to overthrow the Mass in Zurich. It was not fitting that such an overthrow should immediately happen after the destruction of relics and images, but now the time had become ripe, and Zwingli took the occasion to the Christian church straight on this important sacrament. The three pastors of the city, aided by Megander and Myconius, addressed the council and explained the realties behind the Lord’s Supper as a memorial. It would not actually be Christ’s body in the Mass that people were eating. Rather it remained a memorial concerning the death of Christ and what he had done for the Christian. Zwingli did not stop at leaving the decision solely up to the Council, but addressed the people of the city in his preaching. He preached this message from the pulpit and seemed to win everyone over to his point of view on the Supper. As a result of unanimity, the altars were replaced by the simple table touting bread and wine. The celebration of the Lord’s Supper was now something that filled the people with joy. Here we found people crowding around the table expressing themselves to one another in true Christian brotherhood. They partook of the Lord’s Supper together in harmony.

Though Christians were now meeting in evangelical brotherhood around the table in Zurich, political strains caused Zwingli to jump towards his sword in other areas of Switzerland. Zwingli had a habit of picking up political agitation being the patriot he was, and he took to the sword, and political involvement, in order to remedy other evils around the state.

History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century: Book 11, Chapter 7

The Gospel struggled most intensely at Berne. Two parties rivaled one another for the sake of the Gospel. John Weingarten, Bartholomew may, his sons Wolfgang and Claudius, and his grandsons James and Benedict, were the family of Wattevilles who contending for the truth. Nicholas, James’s son who was siding with Rome at first, was exposed to the light of the Gospel and was converted. He held privileged positions as result of Rome, and now, armed with the Gospel, he was Rome’s enemy. One Watteville was head of state, and the other head of the church in the canton. Rome’s party was equally strong in the city. Thus, these two parties opposed one another for the fate of Berne.

The ministers of Berne underwent a political persecution to be deposed of their authority in the city, since Rome saw their presence as a threat, among whom were Bertrand Haller. The smaller council of the city desires to depose them, but Zurich would not allow this. The Great Council could not depose men who were preaching the Word of God, and the smaller council was overthrown in Berne. The ministers were allowed to continue their preaching, and the Reformation underwent a great victory in gaining Berne for the truth.

In the convent of the city, the abbess there Catherine of Waldburg wrote to Zwingli and sided with the freedom of the Reformation. The Watteville sisters who remained in the convent were allowed to leave to aid their family in the pressures of the Reformation. Berne found nuns leaving a nunnery difficult, but then allowed them their freedom in this regard, even raising their pay and abolishing fasting requirements.

History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century: Book 11, Chapter 8

In Basle Christopher of Utenheim, bishop of the city, desired to gather about him learned men. He called Wolfgang Capito and Oecolampadius to this court. Oecolampadius found Christopher delightful and attached himself to him. In 1517 Oecolampadius left for Weinsburg, his native home, where he found the city in disorder and profanity. In 1518 Oecolampadius was invited to Augsburg as their cathedral preacher, and was in favor of the Reformation under Zwingli. However, he believed he needed more time to study and entered into the monastery in 1520. At this time, Oecolampadius was neither reformed or following Rome. He remained two years in the monastery here in spiritual growth.

In 1522 Sickingen offered Oecolampadius asylum in Ebernburg, and during his stay at the monastery he wrote vehemently against Rome and their abuses. People in the city were shocked at his treatises. However, he felt confined at Ebernburg and left for Basle. He arrived there November 16, 1522. He preached in the pulpit there to a capacity crowd every time. His leaning and sermons stretched forth over the country in printed form, even into the hands of Luther who spoke to Melancthon about him daily.

Ulrich Hutten also followed Oecolampadius to Basle and dialogued with Erasmus, who lived there, as a former friend. However, their views were too different and Hutten too forceful. The city magistrate required him to leave and he went to Zurich and met with Zwingli. Through other circumstances he was forced to flee again and resided at the home of John Schnepp. He died August in 1523 with nothing but a pen in hand. The valiant noble and reformer was removed from the scene of history.

History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century: Book 11, Chapter 9

It was time for Luther and Erasmus to exchange blows. Though Luther desired Erasmus to unite with him against Rome, Erasmus was too timid in character to be a reformer. At first, Luther had made this known to Erasmus in a letter that if Erasmus would not write anything against him or the Reformation, he would not write against Erasmus. The letter by Luther struck Erasmus in the heart and caused him anger since Luther saw Erasmus as spineless. However, after much prodding by the Roman court, Erasmus, the peaceable man, took up his pen against Luther. He could not defend the abuses of the Catholic Church. What, then, would he write against the Reformer?

In 1524 Erasmus finished and published The Dissertation on the Freedom of the Will. It was a hefty blow for Erasmus and against the Reformation, or the faction, as he called it. It was a treatise sustaining the free will of man over a foundational doctrine of the Reformation, the depravity of man’s soul. Luther knew he had to answer this scholar, but did not do so until 1525.

Luther wrote the Bondage of the Will in response to Erasmus’ Diatribe. He defended the grace of God over and against the free will of man. Erasmus was overthrown. Luther responded to every argument and then laid forth the evangelical doctrines of God’s grace which rescues man from the depravities of his own fallen nature. Erasmus replied again in his work Hyperaspistes, but only railed against Luther as purporting blasphemies and barbarisms.

History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century: Book 11, Chapter 10

The Reformation set itself against three enemies: rationalism – making religious knowledge simply proceed from good reasoning, Romanism – having such knowledge come down from the Pope, and Mysticism – where it was derived from the inner light of man. The Reformation, on the other hand, set itself to place the Word of God back upon the throne of religious authority, and opposed all three of these false positions.

The Anabaptists who had bothered Luther, and were extinguished by his return to Wittenberg, reappeared in Switzerland to bother Zwingli and the Reformers there. Felix Manz and Conrad Grebel desired Zwingli to join them and their cause. The reformer refused and they began petitioning and preaching before the people. Being rejected by Zwingli, Conrad Grebel joined with Rubli and Louis Herzer, and they received him with great eagerness. They decided to create an independent church, dissenting from the establish church of the reformers, and said their church would be made up of believers only. They rejected infant baptism as heretical, and saw no warrant for it in the New Testament. Zwingli attempted to intercede and convince them of their grievous error and sin. However, the negotiations were not helpful and the men did not listen to Zwingli’s counsel. The Zurich counsel stepped in and allowed the Anabaptists to have a hearing, since they continually stated they remained unheard. The Anabaptists did not simply keep to explaining infant baptism; rather, they also desired to disassociate the state with the church. They desired to overthrow the civil order. They were overthrown by the council and told to leave. They, in turn, did not. Mantz was arrested and cast in the river and drowned. Later, the Roman church caught Blaurock and he was burnt alive.

History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century: Book 11, Chapter 11

Though Baptism was a great stir with Zwingli and the Anabaptists, the greater doctrinal problem arose with Luther over the Lord’s Supper. Luther simply modified what he did not like about the Roman doctrine of the Mass, though he claims he abolished it. He modified transubstantiation to consubstantiation. Here was the argument over the corporeal presence of Christ in the supper itself. Was Jesus Christ present and eaten in the wafer?

Zwingli was more affected by the historical church and its position on the Supper in the writings of Wycliffe, Ratram and Peter Waldo. Though Luther had been given the chance to read Wessel and his position, which was more akin to Zwingli’s he had passed the opportunity by. Luther sent two visiting brothers from the Netherlands, Rhodius and Sagarus, to Switzerland. They went to Zurich to meet Zwingli, and immediately turned the conversation to the Lord’s Supper. Wessel’s writing made a deep impression on the Zwingli, but Zwingli also turned the two men from the errors of Christ’s manducation. However, according to Melancthon, Zwingli confessed his view of the Lord’s Supper sprung from Erasmus more than they did Wessel.

The dispute between Zwingli and Luther on this topic took its first form in the various treatises they wrote explaining their views. Others also jumped into the mix, and Luther’s friend Pomeranus, attacked Zwingli for holding heretical views. Oecolampadius wrote to Zwingli to enforce their position together, which caused a great stir both in Germany and Switzerland. Luther and Melancthon, and Zwingli and Oecolampadius were now set against one another on this issue.

History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century: Book 11, Chapter 12

Zwingli had much to contend with in three areas: the rationalism of Erasmus, Rome’s man made traditions, and the fanatics’ new doctrines surrounding mysticism. Upon arriving at Tockenberg he was faced with dealing with all three. Two men appeared in the town debating over whether Zwingli was a heretic or not. Zwingli’s uncle heard of it and arose to put a stop to it and have them recant. Many of the town followed him over, but the men scuttled off to Schwytz on horseback before anything could be done. The government of Schwytz wrote a letter to the people of Tockenberg threatening them for this disturbance, but Zwingli intervened and encouraged the council there not to listen to the false accusations against him.

As a result of the uproar that this caused, a meeting was held in Ilantz for a public disputation. Hofmeister and Amman of Zurich were present, in order to keep the peace upon the Holy Word while toting their Greek and Hebrew Bibles. The commander of the town, who was also the moderator of the council, silenced the schoolmaster of Coire who desired to uphold the Romish doctrine. He was asked about Elijah and John the Baptist and whether or not John was Elijah, as Christ called him. The schoolmaster saw where this was going and replied affirmatively, and then the commander asked him why John then denied the claim. The schoolmaster was silenced and the hall of people laughed. Seven priests on that day were converted to the evangelical doctrine of the Supper based on that same reasoning, and liberty was proclaimed for the people on this doctrine and the Mass abolished in several churches.

History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century: Book 11, Chapter 13

Faber and those holding to the Romish doctrines had the support of the forest cantons. They desired Berne to reject the Gospel of the Reformers and overthrow the work already accomplished there. A new mandate of 1526 was written up and Berne’s council said it would uphold this new mandate, overthrowing the evangelical one that had been given in 1523. Rome needed to have a powerful council in a city that was mainly Romish for it’s authority. They decided in their Great Council at Zurich, the Roman council there, to send Dr. Eck to Baden on May 16th. The cantons surrounding Baden were the most loyal to the Pope, and would have looked unfavorably on the Reformation as whole.

The council of Baden summoned Zwingli to come and dispute under safe-conduct, but his brother in law, Leonard Tremp, wrote him from Berne expressing concern on his safe arrival, and that they would not honor such a safe conduct. Zwingli did go against such advice. Oecolampadius and Haller were present and they took up arms to debate Eck for eighteen days. Oecolampadius argued so mildly, patriarchal and courageously that those on the Romish side wished they had him as an ally. He pressed Eck so hard that all Eck could do was fall back on his knowledge of the Fathers. Haller also debated Eck on a number of issues. The discussions surrounded images, the Supper, invocation of the saints, purgatory. Zwingli also took a large part in the debates. It is said that the Roman doctors argued the loudest, but with the weakest arguments. In any case, charges were still brought up against the Reformers by the Roman Church.

History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century: Book 11, Chapter 14

The outcome of this conference at Baden affected Oecolampadius first. Oecolampadius returned to Basle reluctantly, but after arriving preached with more fervor and zeal than he had before, though many in the city opposed him. Similar results for Haller appeared at Berne where the small council there pressed him to celebrate the Mass. Haller spoke to them with emotion and many of the council were affected. They deprived him of his canonry but made him preacher of the city. Haller’s most vehement enemies quit the city and renounced their citizenship seeing it was turning towards the Reformation.

Baden, Berne and Basle were not the only cites affected by the conference. Priests in St. Gall removed images and relics from the churches, and at Mulhausen the Gospel was proclaimed with liberty. Zwingli, giving praise to God for seeing what real triumphs came from the conference, and was exceedingly pleased with the outcomes of the Gospel in these cities.

Zurich had been left out of the Diet by the Romish cantons desired to hold a Diet in Zurich itself in order to gain a greater footing on political and religious matters across the whole country. It convened in 1527, and the deputies from Berne, Basle, Schaffhausen, Appenzell, and St. Gall attended it. They desired nothing more than to uphold the Word of God. The deputies who attended, vowed to take these considerations surrounding the faithfulness to the Word into great consideration back in their respective cites and cantons.

Bible Verse:

“I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless,” (Gen. 17:1).

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