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Book 15 - Switzerland - Conquests (1526-1530)

A History of the Reformation in the 16th Century

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Book 15 – Switzerland – Conquests (1526-1530)

History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century: Book 15, Chapter 1

The Swiss Reformation is divided up into three sections, 1519-1526 in Zurich, 1526-1532 including Berne’s change, and in 1532 Geneva became the spotlight under Farel and later Calvin. Frenchmen like Lefevere, Farel and Calvin accomplished much of the Swiss Reformation. Of all the reformers in Switzerland, the most aggressive were the French, exemplified by men like Farel.

Farel entered Switzerland in 1526, by foot. He had left France under duress and presented himself as a schoolmaster until the time was ripe for him to become a reformer. He decided to press on towards Zwingli and not to immediately see Luther. He had read a work by Zwingli which he thought overpowered the German reformer, and so prayed that Zwingli would have a profound affect on Luther.

At Aigle he became a teacher and taught the children the doctrine of the evangelical faith. Soon after, a flock had been collected and he became the pastor. The Council of Berne commissioned him to teach the Bible to the townspeople of Aigle and it’s surrounding neighborhoods. Farel found immediate opposition by the bailiff of Aigle Jacques de Roverea. Later Natalis Galeotto, a theologian of the court of the Bishop there, would press him to recant. From the very beginning Farel was pressed by Romish doctrine to quit his teachings and submit. The bailiff in Aigle stirred the town, which subsequently stirred by the bishop to send his theologians after Farel. He was arrested and thrown in prison. He was soon after released since the charges against him were brought up by false reports, and yet in all this, Farel was not discouraged.

History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century: Book 15, Chapter 2

As mentioned earlier, Berne was the least of the Swiss cantons to tend towards reform. The council there had put a stop to the reform in 1523, but saw its mistake and turned to the more religiously based cities to receive help in ecclesiastical matters they were unaware of conducting. Zurich became a close city-friend of Berne, and the means by which it would be overthrown against the Reformation, was the cause of its change. Five cantons gathered together to confer against the Reformation and without Berne’s consent. This outraged the council, and in 1527 during the next election, many who were sympathetic to Reform were elected to the Great Council.

Haller was preaching in Berne and reforming it. Kolb, a young fiery preacher, came to assist the city as well. Some Anabaptists arrived dissuading the people against Haller because there were still idols in the land, and Haller met with them in order to stop the breakup and exodus of any Christians from the city; but this proved fruitless with the dissenters. This pressed the Berne council to come to a decision as to what authority would be followed: Rome (Austria’s lances) or the Bible? They came to the conclusion that no one could make any change in the city with his own private interpretation, but had to have the consent of all. Immediately people began to dispute with monks and priests on the authority of the Holy Word. A council was called at Berne. Mighty Catholic theologians came, and Haller was alone. Zwingli petitioned Zurich to come to his help, and they agreed, sending three hundred men along. The Diet at Berne convened and the Gospel prevailed overthrowing the Romish doctrines of images, the mass and other heresies. The Berne council published an edict in 1528 in favor of the Reformation.

History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century: Book 15, Chapter 3

Though the Council at Berne had sent an edict out demonstrating their allegiance to the Reformation, and the overthrow of the bishops in that city, the news still had to be spread and accepted by the people of the city. The people chose the Bible over the priests and bishops. They began cleansing the church from its idols and images and held fast to the Word of God over the Roman superstitions. Charity was demonstrated to the poor, and the Lord’s Supper was celebrated at Easter by evangelical doctrine.

The Reformation at Berne had triumphed, but it was not as thorough as one might have thought. The people of the valleys and mountains still held to the Catholic faith, only renouncing the mass because they thought they could be exempted from paying tithes to the church. In Hasli, an assembly of all the surrounding people there decided they wanted to bring back the mass and voted on it; the majority winning with forty voices. The pastor was expelled from the church (his name was Jaekli) and priests were brought in to serve. A peasant war was about to begin, as Germany had tasted once before.

The rebellious people had attempted to overthrow the Reform that had taken place, and the council of Berne gathered an army to oppose the uprising. Five thousand men entered Hasli. Their guns were fired into the air, frightening the people, and the townsfolk who had started the uprising fell to their knees and begged for pardon before there was any great bloodshed.

History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century: Book 15, Chapter 4

Since Berne had reformed, its influence over the other cantons was influential. St. Gall had taken down their images and rid their churches of idols. In Glaris reform was more difficult, in that, since there was no official council, men were free to choose between the mass and the sermon of a Protestant church on their own. At Wesen the deputies used force and threatened the people, but many young men took the images on their own from the churches and even against the order, threw them into the fires to burn. In Appenzell a council was being held when Roman Catholics stormed the meeting. Ultimately the little canton divided into two sections, one being Roman and the other Reformed. In the Grisons religious liberty was proclaimed and they continued in the teachings of the Bible. In Schaffhausen, after a long deliberation where the people could not come to a decision, Zurich and Berne pressed them to do away with the images.

At the same time all these cities were in the midst of reform, the Gospel was also penetrating the various smaller cantons surrounding them, including towns and villages. Superstition was being overthrown by the Gospel. The doctors of the church were attacking the bishops, priests and the Pope, while the people were pursing the idols.

Basle had been undergoing reformation for six years under Oecolampadius. He went to Berne for the disputation, and upon return found opposition brewing. Three sectors hindered Oecolampadius in his reformation of the city: the aristocracy, the nobles and the university. However, it would be through the power of the middle class that the Christian world would continue to grow in the Gospel. The Gospel burst forth , and the city was cleansed of its idols and images.

History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century: Book 15, Chapter 5

Since Basle had cleansed the churches of images an idols and Reformation was sweeping through, the bishops there lied and attempted to subvert the people by causing them to think the Austrian army was on its way to destroy them. Both Protestants and Catholics raised up arms in order to fight. The senate of the city attempted to calm them, but the gathered masses would not put up with the idea of reinstating the mass if Catholics overran them. Oecolampadius preached the next day before a large crown and convinced them to stand down through a most eloquent sermon. A decision was made to have a public disputation after Pentecost, in order to resolve the matter. The Romanists rejected this, already knowing the city was evangelical, or moving in that direction, and they would lose.

A huge crowd gathered in the corner market to overthrow the Romans in the city. There was nothing the Romanists could do being sorely outnumbered. The senate gathered in order to put a stop to the tumult, but the people were far too many and too determined. They respected property, but destroyed all the images and idols in the Catholic Churches throughout the city. The people, not desiring that they become lackeys of the senate’s wishes, stormed the town hall and made their demands known to the senate. In that movement both the Reformation and a Democracy triumphed in Basle.

History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century: Book 15, Chapter 6

Farel received a commission to go to the cities of Lausanne and Morat to preach. He was given leave to do so as long as the respective governments of the area allowed him to preach with their consent. He arrived in Morat, preached, and by a general vote the people were in favor of the Pope, so he continued to Lausanne. Farel delivered a letter to the council from Berne and they were confused as to their course – would they appease the bishop, or would they appease Berne? Would they allow Farel to preach over and against the bishop, or would the cast off Berne’s letter? No one really wanted to deal with issue, and more or less swept it under the rug. Farel did not receive the consent here that he desired either so he continued on.

Farel entered Serriere and preached there. It was a small town outside of a Catholic city of Neufchatel that was governed by Joan of Hochberg. Some of the people who had fought along side of Berne in 1529 desired to hear the Gospel, while at the same time the Romish citizens were crying out that Farel was a heretic. The people who met Farel in Serriere asked him to come to town to preach, and he did. Monks gathered in the crowds while Farel preach in order to heckle the crowds to pull Farel down and kill him. Farel left for a time to preach in the villages of the Vully and returned to Neufchatel after the Gospel had sat there a while and stirred the people. Farel had been preaching in the streets and in the homes and decided, upon return, to preach in the church. Berne sent deputies to Neufchatel in order to aid Farel in the advance of the Gospel, and to protect him.

History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century: Book 15, Chapter 7

In Valangrin, a town not far from Neufchatel, Farel made his way to the church there and entered the pulpit during the “Our Lady of August” festival. It was a city overwhelmed by Romish doctrines. The mass was beginning and Farel decided he would preach the Gospel. At the same time the priest was invoking the mass, Farel was preaching Jesus Christ. Madam de Vergy, who was on the terrace of the church, cried out that Farel and his companion should be drowned. Farel and Boyve were dragged by the mob to the bridge and never was Farel closer to being killed. Before he and Boyve were thrown in, a stranger walking the path asked what these priests were doing, and encouraged them not to kill the only means they may have towards hearing the Gospel. Amazingly they were not thrown in the river and brought to Madam de Vergy’s castle where they were instructed to bow before her. They disobeyed this saying they only worship the Lord God. They were thrown in to the dungeon. When the townspeople came to claim them in anger, the Madam did not refuse their release and let them go.

The people prayed that the cantons would give up the mass. The work that Farel had accomplished in preaching was working, for the Word of God does not return void of its purpose. Farel returned to Neufchatel to preach one of the most effective sermons he ever preached. The people, deeply affected, stormed the city and removed the idols from it. They exchanged the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the wretched heresies that had long captivated them in ignorance.

History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century: Book 15, Chapter 8

The governor of Neufchatel did not lose all hope and desired to overthrow the reforms that were being executed by the people. The governor’s desire to have the city vote as to whether reform should continue the canton or not. The people gathered at the castle for a definite vote. The fate to the city of Neufchatel was now in their hands. George de Rive stood among the crowd in the castle and addressed them, explaining that the mass has been abominated by those tearing down images in the church and they should restore them. Berne was in favor of the reform, and the priests were afraid that the speech had not overturned too many people. The people wanted the vote to go on, and the governor and priests wanted it delayed that the emotional high would wear off and they may, with the turning of a few votes, gain the favor.

The church was made ready for the votes, though the tattered insides and destroyed images lined in the hall. Both parties, the reformed and the Catholic, moved in the church and began the voting on ballots in silence. The votes were finished, counted and proclaimed. The outcome was in favor of the Reformation and forever silenced the papacy in the city of Neufchatel. Farel had not appeared in all of this, and left it to the people to decide for themselves concerning the Word of God.

By various steps the Reformation took hold of the city. The churches were cleansed of anything Roman, and a large marble slab was brought in to house the elements of the Lord’s Supper in simplicity. The preaching of Farel in this city and canton was a victory for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century: Book 15, Chapter 9

A convention was drawn together under the guidance of Berne to determine whether the other cities around Neufchatel should also be subject to the same vote and rule of Neufchatel. Would these other cities and towns be deprived of the Word of God? This seemed to alarm George and he called for the magistrates in all the surrounding districts to keep allegiance to their governess. A “counter-revolution” was seized and the day of its restitution was Christmas. Berne sent representatives to Neufchatel and stated that if any uprising should take place, Berne would come to the aid of the city of reformation. The plot was discovered and quickly dissolved.

Farel continued his itinerant preaching by going though Valangin and preaching in the church there, though he was heckled, and then after moving through preaching in the South, headed north to St. Blaise. The priests agitated the crowds there and they attacked Farel and he was severely beaten though escaped with his life. At the report of this the people of Neufchatel were angered. They raced into the church there and deposed the images by force.

Valangin still acquired its images, but that would not last long. Anthony Marcourt had been given the pastorate of Neufchatel, and with a few friends went to Valangin to preach. Unfortunately, the people went far beyond a peaceable change. They stormed the church, stirred by the preaching, and utterly destroyed everything there, including the glass windows. They continued throughout the town causing the people to flee their own homes. Though the Reformation was attained there, it was attained in a more destructive and forceful manner that does not characterize its spiritual reality.

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