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From Here to Forever

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    Disputation With Romanists

    Seeing how little had been accomplished by persecution in suppressing Luther's work in Germany, the Romanists decided they would hold a disputation with Zwingli. They would make sure of victory by choosing not only the place of combat but the judges that should decide between the disputants. And if they could once get Zwingli in their power, they would take care that he did not escape. This purpose, however, was carefully concealed.HF 114.1

    The disputation was appointed to be held at Baden. But the Council of Zurich, suspecting the designs of the papists and warned by the burning piles kindled in the papal cantons for confessors of the gospel, forbade their pastor to expose himself to this peril. To go to Baden, where the blood of martyrs for the truth had just been shed, was to go to certain death. Oecolampadius and Haller were chosen to represent the Reformers, while the famous Dr. Eck, supported by a host of learned doctors and prelates, was the champion of Rome.HF 114.2

    The secretaries were all chosen by the papists, and others were forbidden to take notes, on pain of death. Notwithstanding, a student in attendance at the disputation made a record each evening of the arguments that day presented. These papers two other students undertook to deliver, with the daily letters of Oecolampadius, to Zwingli at Zurich. The Reformer answered, giving counsel. To elude the vigilance of the guard at the city gates, these messengers brought baskets of poultry on their heads and were permitted to pass without hindrance.HF 114.3

    Zwingli “has labored more,” said Myconius, “by his meditations, his sleepless nights, and the advice which he transmitted to Baden, than he would have done by discussing in person in the midst of his enemies.”10D'Aubigne, bk. 11, ch. 13.HF 115.1

    The Romanists had come to Baden in their richest robes and glittering with jewels. They fared luxuriously, their tables spread with costly delicacies and choice wines. In marked contrast appeared the Reformers, whose frugal fare kept them but short time at table. Oecolampadius's landlord, taking occasion to watch him in his room, found him always in study or at prayer, and reported that the heretic was at least “very pious.”HF 115.2

    At the conference, “Eck haughtily ascended a pulpit splendidly decorated, while the humble Oecolampadius, meanly clothed, was forced to take his seat in front of his opponent on a rudely carved stool.” Eck's stentorian voice and unbounded assurance never failed him. The defender of the faith was to be rewarded by a handsome fee. When better arguments failed, he had resort to insults and even oaths.HF 115.3

    Oecolampadius, modest and self-distrustful, had shrunk from the combat. Though gentle and courteous in demeanor, he proved himself able and unflinching. The Reformer adhered steadfastly to the Scriptures. “Custom,” he said, “has no force in our Switzerland, unless it be according to the constitution; now, in matters of faith, the Bible is our constitution.”11Ibid., bk. 11, ch. 13.HF 115.4

    The calm, clear reasoning of the Reformer, so gently and modestly presented, appealed to minds that turned in disgust from Eck's boastful assumptions.HF 115.5

    The discussion continued eighteen days. The papists claimed the victory. Most of the deputies sided with Rome, and the diet pronounced the Reformers vanquished and declared that they, together with Zwingli, were cut off from the church. But the contest resulted in a strong impetus to the Protestant cause. Not long afterward the important cities of Bern and Basel declared for the Reformation.HF 115.6

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