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    Chapter 11

    Zwingle opposes Human Tradition—Commotion during Lent—Truth triumphs amidst Opposition—The Bishop’s Deputies—Accusation before the Clergy and the Council—Appeal to the Great Council—The Coadjutor and Zwingle—Zwingle’s Reply—Decree of the Great Council—Posture of Affairs—Hoffman’s Attack

    Wounded in his feelings as a citizen, Zwingle devoted himself with fresh zeal to the preaching of the Gospel. His sermons increased in energy. “I will never cease laboring to restore the primitive unity of the Church of Christ,” said he. He began the year 1522 by showing the difference between the precepts of the Gospel and those of men. When the season of Lent came round, he preached with still greater vigor. After having laid the foundations of the new building, he was desirous of sweeping away the rubbish of the old. “For four years,” said he to the crowd assembled in the cathedral, “you have eagerly received the holy doctrine of the Gospel. Glowing with the fire of charity, fed with the sweets of the heavenly manna, it is impossible you can now find any saviour in the wretched nutriment of human traditions.” And then attacking the compulsory abstinence from meat at certain seasons, he exclaimed with his artless eloquence: “There are some who maintain that to eat meat is a fault, and even a great sin, although God has never forbidden it, and yet they think it not a crime to sell human flesh to the foreigner, and drag it to slaughter!” At this daring language the partisans of the military capitulations, who were present in the assembly, shuddered with indignation and anger, and vowed never to forget it.HRSCV2 290.1

    While Zwingle was preaching thus energetically, he still continued to say mass; he observed the established usages of the Church, and even abstained from meat on the appointed days. He was of opinion that the people should be enlightened previously. But there were some turbulent persons who did not act so prudently. Rubli, who had taken refuge at Zurich, permitted himself to be led astray by an extravagant zeal. The former curate of Saint Alban’s, a Bernese captain, and Conrad Huber, a member of the great council, were accustomed to meet at the house of the latter to eat meat on Friday and Saturday. On this they greatly prided themselves. The question of fasting engrossed every mind. An inhabitant of Lucerne having come to Zurich, said to one of his friends in this city: “You worthy confederates of Zurich are wrong in eating meat during Lent.”—The Zuricher replied: “You gentlemen of Lucerne, however, take the liberty to eat meat on the prohibited days.”—“We have purchased it from the pope.”—“And we, from the butcher If it be an affair of money, one is certainly as good as the other.” The council having received a complaint against the transgressors of the ecclesiastical ordinances, requested the opinion of the parish priest. Zwingle replied that the practice of eating meat every day was not blamable of itself; but that the people ought to abstain from doing it until a competent authority should have come to some decision on the matter. The other members of the clergy concurred in his sentiments.HRSCV2 290.2

    The enemies of the truth took advantage of this fortunate circumstance. Their influence was declining; the victory would remain with Zwingle, unless they made haste to strike some vigorous blow. They importuned the Bishop of Constance. “Zwingle,” exclaimed they, “is the destroyer and not the keeper of the Lord’s fold.”HRSCV2 290.3

    The ambitious Faber, Zwingle’s old friend, had just returned from Rome full of fresh zeal for the papacy. From the inspirations of this haughty city were destined to proceed the first religious troubles in Switzerland. A decisive struggle between the evangelical truth and the representatives of the Roman pontiff was now to take place. Truth acquires its chief strength in the attacks that are made upon it. It was under the shade of opposition and persecution that Christianity at its rise acquired the power that eventually overthrew all its enemies. At the epoch of its revival, which forms the subject of our history, it was the will of God to conduct His truth in like manner through these rugged paths. The priests then stood up, as in the days of the apostles, against the new doctrine. Without these attacks, it would probably have remained hidden and obscure in a few faithful souls. But God was watching the hour to manifest it to the world. Opposition opened new roads for it, launched it on a new career, and fixed the eyes of the nation upon it. This opposition was like a gust of wind, scattering the seeds to a distance, which would otherwise have remained lifeless on the spot where they had fallen. The tree, that was destined to shelter the people of Switzerland, had been deeply planted in her valleys, but storms were necessary to strengthen its roots and extend its branches. The partisans of the papacy, seeing the fire already smoldering in Zurich, rushed forward to extinguish it, but they only made the conflagration fiercer and more extensive.HRSCV2 290.4

    In the afternoon of the 7th of April 1522, three ecclesiastical deputies from the Bishop of Constance entered Zurich; two of them had an austere and angry look; the third appeared of milder disposition; they were Melchior Battli, the bishop’s coadjutor, Doctor Brendi, and John Vanner, preacher of the cathedral, an evangelical man, and who preserved silence during the whole of the business. It was already dark when Luti ran to Zwingle and said: “The bishop’s commissioners have arrived; some great blow is preparing; all the partisans of the old customs are stirring. A notary is summoning all the priests for an early meeting tomorrow in the hall of the chapter.”HRSCV2 290.5

    The assembly of the clergy accordingly took place on the following day, when the coadjutor rose and delivered a speech which his opponents described as haughty and violent; he studiously refrained, however, from uttering Zwingle’s name. A few priests, recently gained over to the Gospel, were thunderstruck; their pallid features, their silence, and their sighs betrayed their total loss of courage. Zwingle now stood up and answered in a manner that effectually silenced his adversaries. At Zurich, as in the other cantons, the most violent enemies of the new doctrine were to be found in the Smaller Council. The deputation, worsted before the clergy, laid their complaints before the magistrates; Zwingle was absent, and accordingly they had no reply to fear. The result appeared decisive. They were about to condemn the Gospel without its defender being heard. Never had the Reformation of Switzerland been in greater danger. It was on the point of being stifled in its cradle. The councilors who were friendly to Zwingle, then appealed to the jurisdiction of the Great Council; this was the only remaining chance of safety, and God made use of it to save the cause of the Gospel. The Two Hundred were convened. The partisans of the papacy made every exertion to prevent Zwingle’s admission; he struggled hard to obtain a hearing, knocking at every door, and leaving not a stone unturned, to use his own expression; but in vain! “It is impossible,” said the burgomasters; “the council has decided to the contrary.”—“Upon this,” says Zwingle, “I remained tranquil, and with deep sighs laid the matter before Him who heareth the groans of the captive, beseeching him to defend his Gospel.” The patient and submissive expectation of the servants of God has never deceived them.HRSCV2 291.1

    On the 9th of April, the Two Hundred met. “We desire to have our pastors here,” immediately said the friends of the Reformation who belonged to it. The Smaller Council resisted; but the Great Council decided that the pastors should be present at the accusation, and even reply if they thought fit. The deputies of Constance were first introduced, and next the three priests of Zurich; Zwingle, Engelhard, and the aged Roeschli.HRSCV2 291.2

    After these antagonists, thus brought face to face, had scrutinized each other’s appearance, the coadjutor stood up. “If his heart and head had only been equal to his voice,” says Zwingle, “he would have excelled Apollo and Orpheus in sweetness, and the Gracchi and Demosthenes in power.”HRSCV2 291.3

    “The civil constitution,” said this champion of the papacy, “and the christian faith itself are endangered. Men have recently appeared who teach novel, revolting, and seditious doctrines.” At the end of a long speech, he fixed his eyes on the assembled senators, and said, “Remain in the Church!—remain in the Church!—Out of it no one can be saved. Its ceremonies alone are capable of bringing the simple to a knowledge of salvation; and the shepherds of the flock have nothing more to do than explain their meaning to the people.”HRSCV2 291.4

    As soon as the coadjutor had finished his speech, he prepared to leave the council-room with his colleagues, when Zwingle said earnestly: “Most worthy coadjutor, and you, his companions, stay, I entreat you, until I have vindicated myself.”HRSCV2 291.5

    The Coadjutor.—“We have no commission to dispute with any one.”HRSCV2 291.6

    Zwingle.—“I have no wish to dispute, but to state fearlessly what I have been teaching up to this hour.”HRSCV2 291.7

    The Burgomaster Roust, addressing the deputation from Constance.—“I beseech you to listen to the reply the pastor desires to make.”HRSCV2 291.8

    The Coadjutor.—“I know too well the man I have to deal with. Ulrich Zwingle is too violent for any discussion to be held with him.”HRSCV2 291.9

    Zwingle.—“How long since has it been customary to accuse an innocent man with such violence, and then refuse to hear his defense? In the name of our common faith, of the baptism we have both received, of Christ the author of salvation and of life, listen to me. If you cannot as deputies, at least do so as Christians.”HRSCV2 291.10

    After firing her guns in the air, Rome was hastily retreating from the field of battle. The reformer wanted only to be heard, and the agents of the papacy thought of nothing but running away. A cause thus pleaded was already gained by one side and lost by the other. The Two Hundred could no longer contain their indignation; a murmur was heard in the assembly; again the burgomaster entreated the deputies to remain. Abashed and speechless, they returned to their places, when Zwingle said:—HRSCV2 291.11

    “The reverend coadjutor speaks of doctrines that are seditious and subversive of the civil laws. Let him learn that Zurich is more tranquil and more obedient to the laws than any other city of the Helvetians,—a circumstance which all good citizens ascribe to the Gospel. Is not Christianity the strongest bulwark of justice among a nation? What is the result of all ceremonies, but shamefully to disguise the features of Christ and of his disciples? Yes!—there is another way, besides these vain observances, to bring the unlearned people to the knowledge of the truth. It is that which Christ and his apostles followed the Gospel itself! Let us not fear that the people cannot understand it. He who believes, understands. The people can believe, they can therefore understand. This is a work of the Holy Ghost, and not of mere human reason. As for that matter, let him who is not satisfied with forty days, fast all the year if he pleases: it is a matter of indifference to me. All that I require is, that no one should be compelled to fast, and that for so trivial an observance the Zurichers should not be accused of withdrawing from the communion of Christians.”HRSCV2 292.1

    “I did not say that,” exclaimed the coadjutor.—“No,” said his colleague Dr. Brendi, “he did not say so.” But all the senate confirmed Zwingle’s assertion.HRSCV2 292.2

    “Excellent citizens,” continued the latter, “let not his charge alarm you! The foundation of the Church is that rock, that Christ, who gave Peter his name because he confessed him faithfully. In every nation whoever sincerely believes in the Lord Jesus is saved. It is out of this Church that no one can have everlasting life. To explain the Gospel and to follow it is our whole duty as ministers of Christ. Let those who live upon ceremonies undertake to explain them!” This was probing the wound to the quick.HRSCV2 292.3

    The coadjutor blushed and remained silent. The council of the Two Hundred then broke up. On the same day they came to the resolution that the pope and the cardinals should be requested to explain the controverted point, and that in the meanwhile the people should abstain from eating meat during Lent. This was leaving the matter in statu quo, and replying to the bishop by seeking to gain time.HRSCV2 292.4

    This discussion had forwarded the work of the Reformation. The champions of Rome and those of the new doctrine had met face to face, as it were, in the presence of the whole people; and the advantage had not remained on the side of the pope. This was the first skirmish in a campaign that promised to be long and severe, and alternated with many vicissitudes of mourning and joy. But the first success at the beginning of a contest gives courage to the whole army and intimidates the enemy. The Reformation had seized upon a ground from which it was never to be dislodged. If the council thought themselves still obliged to act with caution, the people loudly proclaimed the defeat of Rome. “Never,” said they in the exultation of the moment, “will she be able to rally her scattered and defeated troops.” “With the energy of St. Paul,” said they to Zwingle, “you have attacked these false apostles and their Ananiahs—those whited walls The satellites of Antichrist can never do more than gnash their teeth at you!” From the farthest parts of Germany came voices proclaiming him with joy—”the glory of reviving theology.”HRSCV2 292.5

    But at the same time the enemies of the Gospel were rallying their forces. There was no time to lose if they desired to suppress it; for it would soon be beyond the reach of their blows. Hoffman laid before the chapter a voluminous accusation against the reformer. “Suppose,” he said, “the priest could prove by witnesses what sins or what disorders had been committed by ecclesiastics in certain convents, streets, or taverns, he ought to name no one! Why would he have us understand (it is true I have scarcely ever heard of him myself) that he alone derives his doctrine from the fountain-head, and that others seek it only in kennels and puddles? Is it not impossible, considering the diversity of men’s minds, that every preacher should preach alike?”HRSCV2 292.6

    Zwingle answered this accusation in a full meeting of the chapter, scattering his adversaries’ charges, “as a bull with his horns tosses straw in the air.” The matter which had appeared so serious, ended in loud bursts of laughter at the canon’s expense. But Zwingle did not stop there; on the 16th of April he published a treatise on the free use of meats.HRSCV2 292.7

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