the Fifth Week of Lent
Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
the Helvetia of the Latins, is one of the smallest of the European states, lying between 45° 49' and 47° 50' N. lat., and 5° 55' and 10° 30' E. long., its extreme length from E. to W. being 210 miles, and its extreme breadth not far from 140 miles. It has an area of nearly 16,000 English miles, and is bounded north by Germany, from which it is separated by the Rhine and Lake Constance; on the east by Austria, the valley of the Rhine and the Rhaetian Alps being the dividing line between the two countries; on the south by Italy and France, and on the west by France. It is the most mountainous country in Europe, being covered throughout its entire extent by the Alps, which are grouped into several branches. The highest and best-known peaks of the Alps in Switzerland are Matterhorn, or Mont Cervin, Finster-Aarhorn, and Jungfrau. Mont Blanc was once included in the mountains of Switzerland; but at the close of the Franco-Italian war it was transferred to France. The principal lakes of Switzerland are Lake of Neufchatel, Lake of Geneva, Lake Thun, Lake Lucerne, Lake Zurich, and Lake of Constance. Its great rivers are the Rhine and the Rhone, with their many tributary streams. The glaciers are the great feeders of these streams and rivers, and are in themselves objects of great interest to the lover of nature. The climate of Switzerland is generally cold, as might be expected, the region of perpetual snow being more extensive than in any other mountain system in Europe. In the lowlands and valleys the temperature is warmer, and many of the productions which grow so luxuriantly in Italy are raised there. Agriculture furnishes the chief employment to the inhabitants of this country. There are some kinds of manufactures carried on which are productive, such as cotton, embroidery, and silk stuffs of various kinds. The Swiss also; pay great attention to the manufacture of watches, the annual production; in fine, of the cantons being not far from seventeen and a half millions of dollars.
I. History. — Our earliest knowledge of Switzerland carries us back to the time when the inhabitants were alluded to in Roman history as the Helvetia. In those early days, not far from a century before the commencement of the Christians era, they successfully resisted the attacks of the Romans. The Commentaries of Caesar give us interesting accounts of the attempts of the legions under his command to subdue these hardy dwellers of the mountains and valleys of Helvetia. After many years, by degrees, the Roman arms brought these proud-spirited foes into subjection, and for several centuries the conquerors held dominion over the country. Invasions from the northern tribes of Europe laid waste many sections of the land. These barbarians of the North were at last all brought under the power of the Franks, and Christianity became the prevailing faith. Without tracing the political history of Switzerland through the various phases through which it passed during several centuries, it may suffice to say that it became a federal republic in 1848, and the people are now living under a revised constitution, which was accepted by them in the spring of 1874. This constitution guarantees to the inhabitants of the twenty-five cantons into which Switzerland is divided those rights and immunities which are found in all properly constituted republics. All citizens are equal in the eye of the law. Privileges of place or birth have ceased. Absolute, liberty of conscience everywhere prevails. The press is free. The right of association is guaranteed, with the exception that the Jesuits and organizations kindred to them are forbidden. The capital of the confederated states is Berne.
II. Religion. — Christianity was first introduced into Switzerland about A.D. 610 by St. Gall, a native of Ireland and pupil of Columbian. He was one of twelve Irish monks who labored to disseminate Christianity throughout Europe. They first took up their residence at the head of Lake Zurich, and, burning with zeal, set fire to the pagan temples, casting the idols into the lake. Driven away by the inhabitants, they settled at Bregentz, but at the end of two years were banished from this place also, and all left for Italy except St. Gall, who was too ill to be removed. He repaired to a sequestered spot, and with a few adherents built the Monastery of St. Gall in the canton of the same name After his death, several of his scholars and monks from Ireland continued his work, until paganism lost its hold and Romanism was substituted in its place.
With reference to the Reformation, D'Aubigne says: "From 1519 to 1526 Zurich was the center of the Reformation, which was then entirely German, and was propagated in the eastern and northern parts of the confederation. Between 1526 and 1532 the movement was communicated from Berne; it was at once German and French, and extended to the center of Switzerland, from the gorges of the Jura to the deepest valleys of the Alps. In 1532 Geneva became the focus of the light and the Reformation, which was here essentially French, was established on the shores of the Leman Lake and gained strength in every quarter." The main instrument in commencing and carrying forward the work of Reformation in Switzerland was Ulric Zwingli (q.v.). In 1513 he commenced the study of the Greek language; and from 1516, when he began to expound the Word of God as preacher in the Abbey of Einsiedeln, Zwingli dates the Swiss Reformation. The influence of the pure faith was soon extensively felt, so that, by the year, 1522, we find Erasmus estimating "those" in the cantons "who abhorred the see of Rome" at about 200,000 persons. Gradually changes in the mode of worship were introduced. In 1523 we find the Council of Zurich requiring that "the pastors of Zurich should rest their discourses on the words of Scripture alone;" the abolition of images in churches soon followed; marriage was no longer prohibited to the clergy; and in 1525 the mass was superseded by the simple ordinance of the Lord's supper. In Appenzell the Reformation began, about 1521, in Schaffhausen- about the same time.
The sacramentarian controversy between Luther and Zwingli, and their respective followers, was detrimental to the cause of truth in both Germany and Switzerland aid in the latter, as well as in the former, the rise of the Anabaptist body was both a source of injury and reproach. In the year 1527 Berne became professedly a Reformed canton, and for mutual security allied itself, in1529, with the canton of Zurich. In 1530, at the Dict of Augsburg, when the Lutheran Confession was presented, the Swiss divines presented another drawn up by Bucer, known, from the four towns it represented namely, Constance, Strasbulrg, Lindau, and Meiningenias the Tetrapolitan Confession. The two confessions only differed as to the sense in which Christ was understood to be really present in the Lord's supper. At this time, also, Zwingli individually presented a confession, to which we find Eck replying. The five Romish cantons, having made ample preliminary preparations, determined by force of arms to check the further progress of Reformed principles in the confederation. The French sympathies of Zwingli, and his hostility to CharlesV, deprived the Protestant cantons of German support in the approaching conflict. The Protestant cantons formed a confederacy, and by a resolution adopted at Aarau, May 12, 1531, instituted a strict blockade of the five cantons. Goaded on by the consequent famine and its attendant miseries, these last determined on war, and entered the field on Oct. 6 of the same year, the first engagement, taking place at Cappel, proving most disastrous to Zurich and fatal to Zwingli. The Reformation now took the direction of Geneva, its opinions being first proclaimed by William Farel about 1532.
He was banished, but was succeeded by Anthony Fromment, who soon shared the same fate. The following year they were recalled, and the bishops fled. In 1535 the Council of the city proclaimed their adherence to the Reformed faith. The following year witnessed the arrival of John Calvin, and on July 20, 1539, the citizens abjured popery and professed Protestantism. Prior to this, a reaction of the popish and conservative elements in the State led to such dissensions and opposition that Calvin and Farel were banished, but, at the earnest entreaty of the: citizens, the former returned in 1541. Whatever difference of opinion there may be with reference to the theological views of the great Genevan Reformer, there can be none as to his intellectual ability, and his wonderful organizing and executive power. His legal training (in early life he had studied law) qualified him to frame a civil code for Geneva, the good effects of which were apparent in the improved state of public morals. "Through his influence," says Hase, "Geneva became a republic firmly established, governed by an oligarchy, pervaded by an ecclesiastical spirit, and renowned in the history of the world. Thither resorted all who during that age were persecuted for their faith, and it became the acknowledged center of a Reformed Church." (See CALVIN).
For some years after the death of Calvin (1564), the religious history of Switzerland is closely identified with that of the Catholic reaction from the Reformation. Hopes which had been cherished with regard to the rapid progress of a purer form of Christianity in Germany and France and Switzerland were doomed to be disappointed. For many years the Roman Catholic power in the last of these countries seemed to have the predominance. Towards the close of the 17th century, the strife between the two great religious parties, the papists and the Protestants, began to assume a more open character, and in 1703 the Catholic and the Protestant cantons took up arms against each other A civil war was carried on for several years. At last, in 1712, a fierce battle was fought at Villmergen, and victory was on the side of the Protestants. The Catholics were completely routed, and two thousand of their number were left dead on the battle- field. (See REFORMATION).
At present, a majority of all the inhabitants of Switzerland are Protestants. In eleven of the cantons the Catholics outnumber the Protestants, although the ecclesiastical government is in a certain sense under the control of the cantonal government. The pope has attempted to do certain things in the regulation of the affairs of those over whom he claims to exercise jurisdiction, but his acts have been declared illegal by the civil authorities, and they are null and void. The "Old Catholics" have obtained possession of several parish churches in three or four of the cantons. The present constitution of Switzerland grants complete and absolute liberty of conscience and of creed. No one can incur any penalties whatsoever on account of his religious opinions. No one is bound to contribute to the expenses of a Church to which he does not belong. Free worship is guaranteed, civil marriage is compulsory, and subsequent religious service is optional. The cantons have the right to maintain peace and order between different religious communities, and to prevent encroachments of ecclesiastical authorities upon the rights of citizens. Bishops must receive the approval of the federal government. Liberty of press, petition, and association is guaranteed; but Jesuits; and all religious orders and associations which are affiliated to them, are prohibited. Of late years much evangelizing work has been done by the Presbyterians, Baptists, and Methodists. In 1849, the Methodist Episcopal Church organized the "Germany and Switzerland Mission," which in 1856 was constituted the German Mission Conference, with Switzerland as one of its districts. The following are its statistics for 1889: Number-of preachers, 25; local preachers, 5; Church members, 4846; probationers, 906; Sunday-schools, 186; Sunday-school scholars, 13,398; churches, 28; value of churches, $1,018,435. There is also a Methodist book establishment at Mremen and a theological school at Frankfort-on-the-Main. See 3Memoires et Documents publigs par la Societi d'Histoire et d'Archeologie de Geneve (Geneva, 1841-47. 5 vols.); Wilson, Hist. of Switzerland, in Lardner's Cabinet Cyclopcedia; Gailleur, La Suisse (ibid. 1855-56, 2 vols. 4to); Inglis, Switzerland (Lond. 1840, 8vo); Shaw, History of Switzerland (N. Y. 1875).
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Switzerland'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tce/​s/switzerland.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.