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

And Zwingli had wandered farthest from it


The

differences which separated the German Protestants were not wholly theological, although their doctrinal disputes were most in evidence.

? 3. Luther and Zwingli.

A movement for reformation, which owed little or nothing to Wittenberg, had been making rapid progress in Switzerland, and two of the strongest cantons, Zurich and Bern, had revolted from the Roman Church. Its leader, Huldreich Zwingli, was utterly unlike Luther in temperament, training, and environment.

He had never gone through the terrible spiritual conflicts which had marked Luther for life, and had made him the man that he was. No deep sense of personal sin had ever haunted him, to make his early manhood a burden to him. Long after he had become known as a Reformer, he was able to combine a strong sense of moral responsibility with some laxity in private life. Unlike both Luther and Calvin, he was not the type of man to be leader in a deeply spiritual revival.

He had been subjected to the influences of Humanism from his childhood. His uncle, Bartholomew Zwingli, parish priest at Wildhaus, and the dean of Wesen, under whose charge the boy was placed, had a strong sympathy for the New Learning, and the boy imbibed it. His young intellect was fed on Homer and Pindar and Cicero; and all his life he esteemed the great pagans of antiquity as highly

as he did any Christian saint. If it can be said that he bent before the dominating influence of any one man, it was Erasmus and not Luther who compelled him to admiration. He had for a teacher Thomas Wyttenbach, who was half Reformer and half disciple of Erasmus; and learned from him to study the Scriptures and the writings of such earlier Church Fathers as Origen, Jerome, and Chrysostom. Like many another Humanist north of the Alps, the mystical Christian Platonism of Pico della Mirandola had some influence on him. He had never studied the Scholastic Theology, and knew nothing of the spell it cast over men who had been trained in it. Of all the Reformers, Luther was the least removed from the mediaeval way of looking at religion, and Zwingli had wandered farthest from it.

His earliest ecclesiastical surroundings were also different from Luther's. He had never been taught in childhood to consider the Church to be the Pope's House, in which the Bishop of Rome was entitled to the reverence and obedience due to the house-father. In his land the people had been long accustomed to manage their own ecclesiastical affairs. The greater portion of Switzerland had known but little either of the benefits or disadvantages of mediaeval episcopal rule. Church property paid its share of the communal taxes, and even the monasteries and convents were liable to civil inspection. If a stray tourist at the present day wanders into the church which is called the Cathedral in that survival of ancient mediaeval republics, San Marino, he will find that the seats of the "consuls" of the little republic occupy the place where he expects to find the bishop's chair. The civil power asserted its supremacy over the ecclesiastical in most things in these small mediaeval republics. The Popes needed San Marino to be a thorn in the side of the Malatesta of Rimini, they hired most of their soldiers from the Swiss cantons, and therefore tolerated many things which they would not have permitted elsewhere.

The social environment of the Swiss Reformer was very different from that of Luther. He was a free Swiss who had listened in childhood to tales of the heroic fights of Morgarten, Sempach, Morat, and Nancy, and had imbibed the hereditary hatred of the House of Hapsburg. He had no fear of the "common man," Luther's bugbear after the Peasants' War. Orderly democratic life was the air he breathed, and what reverence Luther had for the Emperor "who protected poor people against the Turk," and for the lords of the soil, Zwingli paid to the civic fathers elected by a popular vote. When the German Reformer thought of Zwingli he was always muttering what Archbishop Parker said of John Knox--"God keep us from such visitations as Knockes hath attempted in Scotland; the people to be orderers of things!"(330)


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