Ulrich Zwingli – The man who reformed Switzerland and argued with Luther

On October 11, 1531 Ulrich Zwingli, the great reformer who changed Switzerland forever, died.

He belonged to the first generation of reformers. In him, great dissatisfaction with Rome crystallized into the Reformed Church. His father was a farmer and head master of the Wildhaus.” The family had a good income, which allowed Zwingli to get a good education and study to become a priest. He studied at the University of Vienna and in 1502 transferred to the University of Basel, where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1504 and a Master of Arts degree in 1506. He was strongly influenced by the humanistic aspirations of his teachers.

During his graduation from 1506 to 1516, Zwingli served faithfully as a papal parish priest, chaplain, and staunch Swiss patriot. His first parish was in Glarus. Because of his humanist sympathies, he interpreted Paul’s letters in the spirit of Platonism and Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, that is, he emphasized the ethical aspects of Christianity. The study of the theory of Erasmus of Rotterdam led him from scholastic theology to an independent study of the Bible. The patriotic spirit impelled him to condemn the mercenary service of Swiss youth, except that of the Pope. To support his son, his father gave him a generous annual salary. In 1513-1515, he left Glarus to join the mercenary army, where he worked as a chaplain.

The plague epidemic of 1519 and the influence of Luther views led him to the Reformation.

Zwingli first raised the flag of the Reformation when he declared that tithing by believers was not supported by Godly authority and that this tax was a voluntary act. This dealt a blow to the finances of the Roman system.

Zwingli or Luther

Ulrich Zwingli, born (1484) only a month and a half after Luther and similarly of a peasant family, began preaching at the same time as Luther and independently of him. Luther was brought up and educated in the spirit of the Middle Ages; Zwingli, on the other hand, was a prominent humanist and an admirer of Plato. For Luther, separation from the church caused great spiritual anguish; Zwingli’s paths diverged from the church without his noticing it himself, and in general there was less mysticism in him.

“When Luther preaches about Christ,” said Ulrich Zwingli, “he does the same as I do. He has led many more people to Christ than I have. But it doesn’t matter. I will proclaim no other name but the name of Christ; I am a warrior of the Gospel and Christ is my only Master. Luther and I have never corresponded. Why? That all may be convinced that the Spirit of God does not contradict itself, for we both preach the doctrines of Christ without having any agreement with the other, yet in perfect agreement.”

Both Luther and Zwingli, who both translated the Bible into German, brought that language into the service, but Zwingli went further than Luther in simplifying the service, completely eliminating images of saints (except crucifixes) and organs from churches.

Luther did not approve of many of Zwingl’s views, which led to a dispute between them. Its main theme was a different understanding of the Eucharist. Although Luther rejected the doctrine of transubstantiation, he recognized that the Eucharist is a sacrament in which Christ Himself is truly present and through which grace is proclaimed to the believer. Zwingli, on the contrary, taught that the Eucharist is merely a commemoration of the Saviour’s Last Supper, with no mystical meaning. There was no agreement between them, but Zwingli tearfully begged Luther to unite both creeds, since both recognized justification by faith; Luther, however, did not accept the outstretched hand and abruptly refused their alliance. He had more of the intolerance inherited from Catholicism; Zwingli, under the influence of a humanist education, was softer and more tolerant.

Max Lucado from “The Cure for the Common Life”:

“Ulrich Zwingli fought for unity in Europe during the Reformation. At some point, his relationship with Martin Luther became strained. Zwingli did not know what to do. He found the answer one morning while walking on a mountainside in Switzerland. He saw two goats walking towards each other along a narrow path, one of them going down the hill and the other going up the hill. The road was so narrow that the animals could not have passed each other. When the goats met, they both backed away and lowered their heads as if preparing to strike each other. But then something amazing happened. The goat that had climbed up the hill laid down. Another goat stepped over him. The first goat then stood up and continued its way up. Zwingli noticed that this goat, which was ready to bow lower down, was afterwards higher on the mountain.”

Zwingli’s teaching

Zwingli began preaching in 1516, and in 1519 he became a canon of Zurich, where he immediately achieved fame. In 1522, he preached a sermon against fasting imposed by the Roman Church (“On Freedom of Choice of Food”), and in a letter to the Bishop of Constance he spoke out against priestly celibacy. He outlined his teaching with 67 theses, which was discussed on January 29, 1523. Public disputation in Zurich.

His teaching boiled down to the following:
The only source of faith is the Gospel.
The papacy, monasticism, celibacy of the clergy, the doctrine of purgatory, etc. has no basis in Scripture.
Spiritual authority also has no basis in the teaching of Christ and the church is the whole of all persons in the community, not just the clergy.
Sacraments acquire the meaning of simple pious rites.

This disputation, organized by the city council of Zurich, ended with the triumph of Zwingli over his opponent, vicar Faber, envoy of the bishop of Constance: the city council of Zurich accepted Zwingli’s teaching and independently managed the church affairs of the canton, instead of the bishop of Constance. The city council sided with Zwingli and a reorganization of worship was carried out in Zurich, which was soon adopted by some other cantons.

The Catholic mass and veneration of icons were abolished, the service was simplified; Latin was replaced by German; communion was given both ways; monasteries were converted into schools, asylums and hospitals, monastic property was secularized.

1524 Zwingli married Anna Meyer, a widow. 1525 he published his creed under the title “De vera et falsa religione”, which was similar to Luther’s teaching in most points, except for the question of the Eucharist. Alienating mysticism, Zwingli saw the Eucharist not as a sacrament, but as a memory of Christ’s atoning sacrifice. In addition, Luther preserved those dogmas and rituals that did not contradict Scripture, while Zwingli eliminated everything that was not directly confirmed in the Word of God. Finally, as regards the organization of the church, Zwingli, who was a bearer of the republican principle like the Swiss, laid the foundation for the rule of the presbyteries, but Luther, as the advocate of the princely authority, established the territorial church.

And finally…

As the ideas of the Reformation developed, noticeable changes took place in the lives of people in Zurich: the number of crimes decreased, harmony and order prevailed in society. “Peace has come to our city,” wrote Zwingli, “there is no strife, no hypocrisy, no envy, no strife. Where can such an agreement come from, if not from the Lord and our teaching, which gives us the fruit of peace and godliness?”

Zwingli’s teachings spread from Zurich to Bern, Basel, Schaffhausen, St. Gallen, Glarus and many free imperial cities in Germany. The forest cantons – Schwyz, Uri, Unterwalden, Lucerne – remained faithful to Catholicism. The hostile relations between Catholics and Zwingli’s followers became more and more acute.

Both sides prepared for the fight by making foreign alliances. In 1529, the struggle was postponed by a treaty concluded in the chapel, according to which each canton was given the right to organize church affairs as it saw fit. However, civil war soon broke out. On October 11, 1531 a battle took place on the Capelli plain between the Zürichians and the units of the Catholic cantons: the head of the Zürichians was defeated, Zwingli died.

His work was continued and strengthened by his friend Bullinger, who in 1536 edited the first creed of the Helvetians. — 1838.

A monument to Zwingli was erected in the chapel. Hence the name of the military priest – chaplain.

The last words of the dying Zwingli: “They can kill the body, but they cannot kill the soul,” were confirmed in his case. Ulrich Zwingli is the most popular among the Reformers after Martin Luther and John Knox. He sympathized with the common people. He spoke and wrote in their language. He took part in public affairs. He was a devoted pastor of the old and the young having compassion for them. He was a man of the people and a typical Swiss for the people, just as Luther was a typical German.

Source: Ulrich Tsvingli — человек корой реформировал Звезиратию и прорил с Лютером | Статьи на inVictory

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