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

And Zwingli became very unpopular


The

matter was felt to be serious, and the Council, after full debate, passed an ordinance which was meant to be a compromise. It was to the effect that although the New Testament makes no rule on the subject, fasting in Lent is a very ancient custom, and must not be set aside until dealt with by authority, and that the priests of the three parishes of Zurich were to dissuade the people from all violation of the ordinance.

The Bishop of Constance thereupon interfered, and sent a Commission, consisting of his suffragan and two others, to investigate and report. They met the Small Council, and in a long address insisted that the Church had authority in such matters, and that the usages it commanded must be obeyed. Zwingli appeared before the Great Council, and, in spite of the efforts of the Commission to keep him silent, argued in defence of liberty of conscience. In the end the Council resolved to abide by its compromise, but asked the Bishop of Constance to hold a Synod of his clergy and come to a resolution upon the matter which would be in accordance with the law of Christ. This resolution of the Council really set aside the episcopal authority, and was a revolt against the Roman Church.

Political affairs favoured the rebellion. At the Swiss Diet held at Luzern (May 1521), the cantons, in spite of the vehement remonstrances of Zurich, made a treaty with France, and allowed the French king to recruit a force of

16,000 Swiss mercenaries. Zurich, true to its protest, refused to allow recruiting within its lands. Its citizens chafed at the loss of money and the separation from the other cantons, and Zwingli became very unpopular. He had now made up his mind that the whole system of pensions and mercenary service was wrong, and had resigned his own papal pension. Just then the Pope asked Zurich, which supplied him with half of his bodyguard, for a force of soldiers to be used in defence of his States, promising that they would not be used to fight the French, among whose troops were many Swiss mercenaries from other cantons. The Council refused. Nevertheless, six thousand Zurichers set out to join the papal army. The Council recalled them, and after some adventures, in one of which they narrowly escaped fighting with the Swiss mercenaries in the service of France, they returned home. This expedition, which brought neither money nor honour to the Zurichers, turned the tide of popular feeling, and the Council forbade all foreign service. When the long connection between Zurich and the Papacy is considered, this decree was virtually a breach between the city and the Pope. It made the path of the Reformation much easier (Jan. 1522), and Zwingli's open break with the Papacy was only a matter of time.

It came with the publication of the _Archeteles_ (August 1522), a book hastily written, like all Zwingli's works, which contained a defence of all that he had done, and a programme, ecclesiastical and political, for the future. The book increased the zeal of Zwingli's opponents. His sermons were often interrupted by monks and others instigated by them. The burgomaster was compelled to interfere in order to maintain the peace of the town. He issued an order on his own authority, without any appeal to the Bishop of Constance, that the pure Word of God was to be preached. At an assembly of the country clergy of the canton, the same decision was reached; and town and clergy were ready to move along the path of reformation. Shortly before this (July 2nd), Zwingli and ten other priests petitioned the bishop to permit his clergy to contract legal marriages. The document had no practical effect, save to show the gradual advance of ideas. It disclosed the condition of things that sacerdotal celibacy had produced in Switzerland.


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