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The History of Protestantism

by 'James Aitken Wylie'

Book 11 — Protestantism in Switzerland From Its Establishment in Zurich (1525) to the Death of Zwingli (1531)

Chapter 7 — Arms — Negotiations — Peace

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Zurich Girds on the Sword — Mustering in the Popish Cantons — 4,000 Warriors March from Zurich — Encamp at Kappel — Halt — Negotiations, Peace — Zwingli Dislikes it — Zwingli's Labors — His Daily Life — His Dress, etc., Arrangement of his Time, His Occupations — Amusements Writings.

FIRST carne the startling news to the Swiss Reformers that the Five Cantons had struck a league with Austria. Next came the flash of Keyser's martyr-pile. This was succeeded by the clang of military preparations. Zurich saw there was not a moment to be lost. The council of the canton met; it was resolved to support, religious liberty, and put a stop to the beheadings and burnings which the Popish cantons ]had commenced. But to carry out this resolution they must gird on the sword. Zurich declared war. [1]

From Zug sounded forth the summons to arms on the other side. There was a mustering of warriors from all the valleys and mountains around. From the rich meadows of Uri, which the footsteps of Ten had made for ever historic; from that lovely strand where rise the ramparts of Lucerne, reflected on its noble lake, and shaded by the dark form of the cloud-capped Pilatus; from those valleys of Unterwalden, whose echoes are awakened by the avalanches of the Jungfrau; from the grassy plains of Schwitz on the east, armed men poured forth prepared to fight for the faith of their fathers, and to quench in blood the new religion which Zwingli and Zurich had introduced, and which was spreading like an infection over their country. The place of rendezvous was the deep valley where the waters of Zug, defended all round by mighty mountains, and covered by their shadows, lie so still and sluggish in their bed.

On the 9th of June, 4,000 picked soldiers, fully armed, and well furnished with artillery and provisions, under the command of Captain George Berguer, with Conrad Schmidt, Pastor of Kussnacht, as their chaplain, issued from the gates of Zurich, and set out to meet the foe. [2] The walls and towers were crowded with old men and women to witness their departure. Among them rode Zwingli, his halberd across his shoulder, [3] the same, it is said, he had carried at 1garignano. Anna, his wife, watched him from the ramparts as he rode slowly away. Crossing the Albis Alp, the army of Zurich encamped at Kappel, near the frontier of the canton of Zug.

It was nine of the evening when the Zurich warriors encamped at Kappel. Next morning, the 10th of June, they sent a herald at daybreak with a declaration of war to the army of the Five Cantons assembled at Zug. The message filled the little town with consternation. The sudden march of the Zurich army had taken it unawares and found it unprepared; its armed allies were not yet arrived; the women screamed; the men ran to and fro collecting what weapons they could, and dispatching messengers in hot haste to their Confederates for assistance.

In the camp of the Zurichers preparations were making to follow the herald who had carried the proclamation of hostilities to Zug. Had they gone forward the enemy must have come to terms without striking a blow. The van-guard of the Zurichers, marshaled by its commander William Toenig, was on the point of crossing the frontier. At that moment a horseman was observed spurring his steed uphill, and coming towards them with all the speed he could. It was Landamman Ebli of Glarus. "Halt!" he cried, "I come from our Confederates. They are armed, but they are willing to negotiate. I beg a few hours delay in hopes that an honorable peace may be made. Dear lords of Zurich, for God's sake prevent the shedding of blood, and the ruin of the Confederacy." The march of the Zurich warriors was suspended. [4]

Landamman Ebli was the friend of Zwingli. He was known to be an honorable man, well disposed towards the Gospel, and all enemy of the foreign service. All hailed his embassy as a forerunner of peace. Zwingli alone suspected a snake in the grass. He saw the campaign about to end without the loss of a single life; but this halt inspired him with melancholy and a presentiment of evil. As Ebli was turning round to return to Zug, Zwingli went up to him, and earnestly whispered into his ear the following words, "Godson Amman, [5] you will have to answer to God for this mediation. The enemy is in our power, and unarmed, therefore they give us fair words. You believe them and you mediate. Afterwards, when they are armed, they will fall upon us, and there will be none to mediate."

"My dear godfather," replied Ebli, "let us act for the best, and trust in God that all will be well." So saying he rode away.

In this new position of affairs, messengers were dispatched to Zurich for instructions, or rather advice, for it was a maxim in the policy of that canton that "wherever the banner waves, there is Zurich." Meanwhile the tents of the soldiers were spread on the hill-side, within a few paces of the sentinels of the Five Cantons. Every day a sermon was preached in the army, and prayers were offered at meals. Disorderly women, who followed the armies of that age in shoals, were sent away as soon as they appeared. Not an oath was heard. Cards and dice were not needed to beguile the time. Psalms, national hymns, and athletic exercises filled up the hours among the soldiers of the two armies. Animosity against one another expired with the halt. Going to the lines they chatted together, ate together, and, forgetting their quarrel, remembered only that they were Swiss. Zwingli sat alone in his tent, oppressed by a foreboding of evil.

Not that he wished to shed a drop of blood; it was his eagerness to escape

that dire necessity that made him grudge the days now passing idly by. All had gone as he anticipated up till this fatal halt. Austria was too seriously occupied with the Turks to aid the Popish cantons just at this moment; and had the answer sent back by Landamman Ebli been the unconditional acceptance of the terms of Zurich or battle, it was not to be doubted that the Five Cantons would have preferred the former. The opportunity now passing was not likely to return; and a heavy price would be exacted at a future day for the indolence of the present hour.

After a fortnight's negotiations between Zurich and the Five Cantons, a peace was patched up. [6] It was agreed that the Forest Cantons should abandon their alliance with Austria, that they should guarantee religious liberty to the extent of permitting the common parishes to decide by a majority of votes which religion they would profess, and that they should pay the expenses of the war. The warriors on both sides now struck their encampments and returned home, the Zurichers elate, the Romanists gloomy and sullen. The peace was in favor of Protestantism. But would it be lasting? This was the question that Zwingli had put to himself. When the army re-entered Zurich, he was observed, amid the acclamations that resounded on every side, to be depressed and melancholy. He felt that a golden opportunity had been lost of effectually curbing the bigotry and breaking the power of the Popish cantons, and that the peace had been conceded only to lull them asleep till their opponents were better prepared, when they would fall upon them and extinguish the Reform in blood. These presentiments were but too surely fulfilled.

This peace was due to the energy and patriotism of Zurich. Bern had contributed nothing to it; her warriors, who had often gone leith on a less noble quarrel, abode within their walls, when the men of Zurich were encamped on the slopes of the Albis, in presence of the foe. This want of firm union was, we apprehend, the main cause of the disastrous issue of Zwingli's plan. Had the four Reformed cantons — Basle, Zurich, Bern, and St. Gall — stood shoulder to shoulder, and presented an unbroken front, the Romanists of the mountains would hardly have dared to attack them. Division invited the blow under which Reformed Switzerland sank for awhile.

The Reformer of Zurich is as yet only in mid-life, taking the "three-score and tell" as our scale of reckoning, but already it begins to draw toward evening with him. The shadows of that violent death with which his career was to close, begin to gather round him. We shall pause, therefore, and look at the man as we see him, in the circle of his family, or at work in his study. He is dressed, as we should expect, with ancient Swiss simplicity.

He wears the wide coat of the canon, and on his head is the priest's hat, or "baretta." The kindness of his heart and the courage of his soul shine out and light up his face with the radiance of cheerfulness, humorous visitors, of all conditions, and on various errands, knock at his door, and are admitted into his presence. Now it is a bookseller, who comes to importune him to write something for an approaching book-fair; now it is a priest, who has been harshly used by his bishop, who craves his advice; now it is a brother pastor, who comes to ask help or sympathy; now it is a citizen or councilor, a friend from the country, who wishes to consul him on State affairs, or on private business. He receives all with genuine affability, listens with patience, and gives his answers in a few wise words. Sometimes, indeed, a sudden frown darkens his brow, and the lightning of his eye flashes forth, but it is at the discovery of meanness or hypocrisy. The storm, however, soon passes, and the light of an inward serenity and truthfulness again shines out and brightens his features.

Towards well-meaning ignorance he is compassionate and tender. In regard to his meals, his fare is simple. The dainties of his youth are the dainties of his manhood. Living in a city, with its luxuries at command, and sitting often at the table of its rich burghers, he prefers the milk and cheese which formed the staple of his diet when he lived among the shepherds of the Tockenburg. As to his pleasures they are not such as have a sting in them; they are those that delight the longest because the most natural and simple. His leisure - it is not much — is spent in the society of his accomplished and high-souled wife, in the education of his children, in conversation with his friends, and in music. In his college-days how often, as we have already seen, in company of his friend Leo Juda, did he awake the echoes of the valleys beside the romantic Basle with his voice or instrument! On the grander shores of the Zurcher-See he continued to cultivate the gift, as time served, with all the passion of an artist.

He is very methodical in his habits. His time is wisely divided, and none of it is frittered away by desultoriness or unpunctuality. Both in body and mind he is eminently healthy. Luther had even more than the joyous disposition of Zwingli, but not his robustness and almost uninterrupted good health. The Doctor of Wittemberg complained that "Satan tilted through his head," and at times, for weeks together, he was unable to work or write. Calvin was still more sickly. His "ten maladies" wore away his strength; but they had power over the body only; the spirit they did not approach to ruffle or weaken, and we stand amazed at the magnificence of the labors achieved in a frame so fragile and worn. But it was not so with

the Reformer of Zurich; he suffered loss neither of time nor of power from ill-health; and this, together with the skillful distribution of his time, enabled him to get through the manifold labors that were imposed upon him.

He rose early. The hours of morning he spent in prayer and the study of the Scriptures. At eight o'clock he repaired to the cathedral to preach, or to give the "Prophesying," or to the Professorial Hall, to deliver an exegesis from the Old and New Testaments alternately. At eleven he dined. After dinner, intermitting his labors, he spent the time in conversing with his family, or in receiving visitors, or walking in the open air. At two o'clock he resumed work, often devoting the afternoon to the study of the great writers and orators of Greece and Rome. Not till after supper does he again grant himself a respite from labor in the society of his family or friends. "Sometimes," says Christoffel, "he sups in those mediaeval society-houses or guild-rooms — as they still exist in many of the Swiss towns — in the company of his colleagues, the members of the council, and other respectable and enlightened friends of evangelical truth. The later hours of the evening, and even a part of the night itself, he employs in writing his many letters." If business is pressing, he can dispense with his night's rest. During the disputation at Baden, as we have seen, he received each night letters from Ecolampadius. He sat up all night to write his answer, which had to be sent off' before morning; and this continued all the while the conference was in session, so that, as Zwingli himself tells us, he was not in bed all the time — that is, six weeks. But, as Bullinger informs us, on other occasions he could take the necessary amount of sleep. Thus, with the careful distribution and economy of his time, combined with an iron constitution and a clear and powerful intellect, he was able to master the almost overwhelming amount of work which the Reformation laid upon him. [7]

He complained that the many demands on his time did not leave him leisure to elaborate and polish his productions. The storms and emergencies of his day compelled him to write, but did not leave him time to revise. Hence he is diffuse after an unusual manner: not in style, which has the terse vigor of the ancients; nor in thinking, which is at once clear and profound; but in a too great affluence of ideas. He modestly spoke of what came from his pen as sketches rather than books. Scripture he interpreted by Scripture, and thus, in addition to a naturally penetrating intellect, he enjoyed eminently the teaching of the Spirit, which is given through the Word. Zwingli sought in converse with his friends to improve his heart; he read the great works of antiquity to strengthen his intellect and refine his taste; he studied the Bible to nourish his piety and enlarge his knowledge of Divine truth. But a higher means of improvement did he employ — converse with God. "He strongly recommended prayer," says Bullinger, "and he himself prayed much daily." In this he resembled Luther and Calvin and all the great Reformers. What distinguished them from their fellows, even more than their great talents, was a certain serenity of soul, and a certain grandeur and strength of faith, and this they owed to prayer.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, October 31st, 2020
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30
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