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A History of the Reformation (Vol. 1 of 2)

The principal church in Zwickau


The

movement to put these exhortations in practice began first among the clergy. Two priests in parishes near Wittenberg married; several monks left their cloisters and donned lay garments; Melanchthon and several of his students, in semi-public fashion, communicated in both kinds in the parish church on Michaelmas Day (Sept. 29th), 1521, and his example seems to have been followed by other companies.

Zwilling's fiery denunciations of the idolatry of the Mass stirred the commonalty of the town. On Christmas Eve (Dec. 24-25), 1521, a turbulent crowd invaded the parish church and the Church of All Saints. In the former they broke the lamps, threatened the priests, and in mockery of the worship of praise they sang folk-songs, one of which began: "There was a maid who lost a shoe"--so the indignant clergy complained to the Elector.(310)

Next day, Christmas, Carlstadt, who was archdeacon, conducted the service in All Saints' Church. He had doffed his clerical robes, and wore the ordinary dress of a layman. He preached and then dispensed the Lord's Supper in an "evangelical fashion." He read the usual service, but omitted everything which taught a propitiatory sacrifice; he did not elevate the Host; and he placed the Bread in the hands of every communicant, and gave the Cup into their hands. On the following Sundays and festival days the Sacrament of the Supper was dispensed in the same manner, and we are told that "hic

paene urbs et cuncta civitas communicavit sub utraque specie."

During the closing days of the year 1521, so full of excitement for the people of Wittenberg, three men, known in history as the _Zwickau Prophets_, came to the town (Dec. 27th). Zwickau, lying about sixty-four miles south of Wittenberg, was the centre of the weaving trade of Saxony, and contained a large artisan population. We have seen that movements of a religious-communistic kind had from time to time appeared among the German artisans and peasants since 1476. Nicolaus Storch, a weaver in Zwickau, proclaimed that he had visions of the Angel Gabriel, who had revealed to him: "Thou shalt sit with me on my throne." He began to preach. Thomas Muenzer, who had been appointed by the magistrates to be town preacher in St. Mary's, the principal church in Zwickau, praised his discourses, declaring that Storch expounded the Scriptures better than any priest. Some writers have traced the origin of this Zwickau movement to Hussite teachings. Muenzer allied himself with the extreme Hussites _after_ the movement had begun, and paid a visit to Bohemia, taking with him some of his intimates; but our sources of information, which are scanty, do not warrant any decided opinion about the origin of the outbreak in Zwickau. After some time Storch and others were forced to leave the town. Three of them went to Wittenberg--Storch himself, the seer of heavenly visions, another weaver, and Marcus Thomae Stubner, who had once been a pupil of Melanchthon, and was therefore able to introduce his companions to the Wittenberg circle of Reformers. Their arrival and addresses increased the excitement both in the town and in the University. Melanchthon welcomed his old pupil, and was impressed by the presence of a certain spiritual power in Stubner and in his companions. Some of their doctrines, however, especially their rejection of infant baptism, repelled him, and he gradually withdrew from their companionship.

Carlstadt took advantage of the strong excitement in Wittenberg to press on the townspeople and on the magistrates his scheme of reformation; and on Jan. 24th, 1522, the authorities of the town of Wittenberg published their famous ordinance.


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