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

Slight compared with that of Luther


in his pure-hearted and solemnly sympathetic way had referred to these clerical marriages in his _Address to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation_ (1520).

"We see," he says, "how the priesthood is fallen, and how many a poor priest is encumbered with a woman and children, and burdened in his conscience, and no man does anything to help him, though he might very well be helped.... I will not conceal my honest counsel, nor withhold comfort from that unhappy crowd, who now live in trouble with wife and children, and remain in shame, with a heavy conscience, hearing their wife called a priest's harlot and the children bastards.... I say that these two (who are minded in their hearts to live together always in conjugal fidelity) are surely married before God."

He had never succumbed to the temptations of the flesh, and had kept his body and soul pure; and for that very reason he could sympathise with and help by his sympathy those who had fallen. Zwingli, on the other hand, had deliberately contracted this illicit alliance after he had committed himself to the work of a Reformer. The action remains a permanent blot on his character, and places him on a different level from Luther and from Calvin. It has been already noted that Zwingli had always an intellectual rather than a spiritual appreciation of the need of reformation,--that he was much more of a Humanist

than either Luther or Calvin,--but what is remarkable is that we have distinct evidence that the need of personal piety had impressed itself on him during these years, and that he passed through a religious crisis, slight compared with that of Luther, but real so far as it went. He fell ill of the plague (Sept.-Nov. 1519), and the vision of death and recovery drew from him some hymns of resignation and thanksgiving.[17] The death of his brother Andrew (Nov. 1520) seems to have been the real turning-point in his inward spiritual experience, and his letters and writings are evidence of its reality and permanence. Perhaps the judgment which a contemporary and friend, Martin Bucer, passed ought to content us:

"When I read your letter to Capito, that you had made public announcement of your marriage, I was almost beside myself in my satisfaction. For it was the one thing I desired for you.... I never believed you were unmarried after the time when you indicated to the Bishop of Constance in that tract that you desired this gift. But as I considered the fact that you were thought to be a fornicator by some, and by others held to have little faith in Christ, I could not understand why you concealed it so long, and that the fact was not declared openly, and with candour and diligence. I could not doubt that you were led into this course by considerations which could not be put aside by a conscientious man. However that may be, I triumph in the fact that now you have come up in all things to the apostolic definition."[18]

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