From:History of the Reformation: Of the Sixteenth CenturyFrom:Book 16. Switzerland - Catastrophe - 1528-1531
Conquests of Reform in Schaffhausen and Zurzack – Reform in Glaris – Today the Cowl, Tomorrow the Reverse – Italian Bailiwicks – The Monk Como – Egidio's Hope for Italy – Call of the Monk of Locarno – Hopes of Reforming Italy – The Monks of Wettingen – Abbey of Saint Gall – Kilian Kouffi – Saint Gall Recovers its Liberty – The Reform in Soleure – Miracle of Saint Ours – Popery Triumphs – The Grisons Invaded by the Spaniards – Address of the Ministers to the Romish Cantons – God's Word the Means of Unity – Oecolampadius for Spiritual Influence – Autonomy of the Church
WHENEVER a conqueror abandons himself to his triumph, in that very confidence he often finds destruction. Zurich and Zwingle were to exemplify this mournful lesson of history. Taking advantage of the national peace, they redoubled their exertions for the triumph of the Gospel. This was a legitimate zeal, but it was not always wisely directed. To attain the unity of Switzerland by unity of faith was the object of the Zurichers; but they forgot that by desiring to force on a unity, it is broken to pieces, and that freedom is the only medium in which contrary elements can be dissolved, and a salutary union established. While Rome aims at unity by anathemas, imprisonment, and the stake, Christian truth demands unity through liberty. And let us not fear that liberty, expanding each individuality beyond measure, will produce by this means an infinite multiplicity. While we urge every mind to attach itself to the Word of God, we give it up to a power capable of restoring its diverging opinions to a wholesome unity.
Zwingle at first signalized his victory by legitimate conquests. He advanced with courage. "His eye and his arm were everywhere." "A few wretched mischief-makers," says Salat, a Romanist chronicler, "penetrating into the Five Cantons, troubled men's souls, distributed their frippery, scattered everywhere little poems, tracts, and testaments, and were continually repeating that the people ought not to believe the priests." This was not all: while the Reform was destined to be confined around the lake of the Waldstettes to a few fruitless efforts, it made brilliant conquests among the cantons, -the allies and subjects of Switzerland; and all the blows there inflicted on the Papacy re-echoed among the lofty valleys of the primitive cantons, and filled them with affright. Nowhere had Popery shown itself more determined than in the Swiss mountains. A mixture of Romish despotism and Helvetian roughness existed there. Rome was resolved to conquer all Switzerland, and yet she beheld her most important positions successively wrestled from her.
On the 29th September 1529, the citizens of Schaffhausen removed the "great God" from the cathedral, to the deep regret of a small number of devotees whom the Roman worship still counted in this city; then they abolished the mass, and stretched out their hands to Zurich and to Berne.
At Zurzack, near the confluence of the Rhine and the Aar, at the moment when the priest of the place, a man devoted to the ancient worship, was preaching with zeal, a person named Tufel (devil), raising his head, observed to him: "Sir, you are heaping insults on good men, and loading the pope and the saints of the Roman calendar with honor; pray where do we find that in the Holy Scriptures?" This question, put in a serious tone of voice, raised a sly smile on many faces, and the congregation with their eyes fixed on the pulpit awaited the reply. The priest in astonishment and at his wit's end, answered with a trembling voice: "Devil is thy name; thou actest like the devil, and thou art the devil! For this reason I will have nothing to do with thee." He then hastily left the pulpit, and ran away as if Satan himself had been behind him. Immediately the images were torn down, and the mass abolished. The Roman Catholics sought to console themselves by repeating everywhere: "At Zurzack it was the devil who introduced the Reformation."
The priests and warriors of the Forest Cantons beheld the overthrow of the Romish faith in countries that lay nearer to them. In the canton of Glaris, whence by the steep passes of the Klaus and the Pragel, the Reform might suddenly fall upon Uri and Schwytz, two men met face to face. At Mollis, Fridolin Brunner who questioned himself every day by what means he could advance the cause of Christ, attacked the abuses of the Church with the energy of his friend Zwingle, and endeavored to spread among the people, who were passionately fond of war, the peace and charity of the Gospel. At Glaris, on the contrary, Valentine Tschudi studied with all the circumspection of his friend Erasmus to preserve a just medium between Rome and the Reform. And although, in consequence of Fridolin's preaching, the doctrines of purgatory, indulgences, meritorious works, and intercession of the saints, were looked at by the Glaronais as mere follies and fables, they still believed with Tschudi that the body and blood of Christ were substantially in the bread of the Lord's Supper.
At the same time a movement in opposition to the Reform was taking place in that high and savage valley, where the Linth, roaring at the foot of vast rocks with jagged crest-enormous citadels which seem built in the air, -bathes the villages of Schwanden and Ruti with its waters. The Roman Catholics, alarmed at the progress of the Gospel, and wishing to save these mountains at least, had scattered with liberal hands the money they derived from their foreign pensions; and from that time violent hostility divided old friends, and men who appeared to have been won over to the Gospel basely sought for a pretext to conceal a disgraceful flight. "Peter and I," wrote Rasdorfer, pastor of Ruti, in despair, "are laboring in the vineyard, but alas! the grapes we gather are not employed for the sacrifice, and the very birds do not eat them. We fish, but after having toiled all night, we find that we have only caught leeches. Alas! we are casting pearls before dogs, and roses before swine!" The spirit of revolt against the Gospel soon descended from these valleys with the noisy waters of the Linth as far as Glaris and Mollis. "The council, as if it had been composed only of silly women, shifted its sails every day," said Rasdorfer: "one day it will have the cowl, on the next it will not." Glaris, like a leaf carried along on the bosom of one of its torrents, and which the waves and eddies drive in different directions, wavered, wheeled about, and was nearly swallowed up.
But this crisis came to an end: the Gospel suddenly regained strength, and on Easter Monday 1530, a general assembly of the people "put the mass and the altars to the vote." A powerful party that relied upon the Five Cantons vainly opposed the Reform. It was proclaimed, and its vanquished and disconcerted enemies were forced to content themselves, says Bullinger, with mysteriously concealing a few idols, which they reserved for better days.
In the meanwhile, the Reform advanced in the exterior Rhodes ofAppenzell, and in the district of Sargans. But what most exasperated the cantons that remained faithful to the Romish doctrines, was to see it pass the Alps and appear in Italy, in those beautiful districts round Lake Maggiore, where, near the embouchure of the Maggia, within the walls of Locarno, in the midst of laurels, pomegranates, and cypresses, flourished the noble families of Orelli, Muralto, Magoria, and Duni, and where floated since 1512 the sovereign standard of the cantons. "What!" said the Waldstettes, "is it not enough that Zurich and Zwingle infest Switzerland! They have the impudence to carry their pretended reform even into Italy, -even into the country of the pope!”
Great irregularities prevailed there among the clergy: "Whoever wishes to be damned must become a priest," was a common saying. But the Gospel succeeded in making its way even into that district. A monk of Como, Egidio a Porta, who had taken the cowl in 1511, against the wishes of his family struggled for years in the Augustine convent, and nowhere found peace for his soul. Motionless, environed, as it appeared to him, with profound night, he cried aloud: "Lord, what wilt thou that I should do?" Erelong the monk of Como thought he heard these words in his heart: "Go to Ulrich Zwingle and he will tell thee." He rose trembling with emotion. "It is you," wrote he to Zwingle immediately, "but no! it is not you, it is God who, through you, will deliver me from the nets of the hunters." 'Translate the New Testament into Italian," replied Zwingle, "I will undertake to get it printed at Zurich." This is what the Reform did for Italy more than three centuries ago.
Egidio therefore remained. He commenced translating the Gospel; but at one time he had to beg for the convent, at another to repeat his "hours," and then to accompany one of the fathers on his journeys. Everything that surrounded him increased his distress. He saw his country reduced to the greatest misery by desolating wars, -men formerly rich, holding out their hands for alms, -crowds of women driven by want to the most shameful degradation. He imagined that a great political deliverance could alone bring about the religious independence of his fellow-countrymen.
On a sudden he thought that this happy hour was arrived. He perceived a band of Lutheran lansquenets descending the Alps. Their serried phalanxes, their threatening looks, were directed towards the banks of the Tiber. At their head marched Freundsberg, wearing a chain of gold around his neck, and saying: "If I reach Rome I will make use of it to hang the pope." "God wills to save us," wrote Egidio to Zwingle: "write to the constable; entreat him to deliver the people over whom he rules, -to take from the shaven crowns, whose God is their belly, the wealth which renders them so proud, -and to distribute it among the people who are dying of hunger. Then let each one preach without fear the pure Word of the Lord.-The strength of Antichrist is near its fall!”
Thus, about the end of 1526, Egidio had already dreamed of the Reformation of Italy. From that time his letters cease: the monk disappeared. There can be no doubt that the arm of Rome was able to reach him, and that, like so many others, he was plunged into the gloomy dungeon of some convent.
In the spring of 1530, a new epoch commenced for the Italian bailiwicks. Zurich appointed Jacques Werdmuller bailiff of Locarno; he was a grave man, respected by all, and who even in 1524 had kissed the feet of the pope; he had since then been won over to the Gospel, and had sat down at the feet of the Savior. "Go," said Zurich, "and bear yourself like a Christian, and in all that concerns the Word of God conform to the ordinances." Werdmuller met with nothing but darkness in every quarter. Yet, in the midst of this gloom, a feeble glimmering seemed to issue from a convent situated on the delightful shores of Lake Maggiore. Among the Carmelites at Locarno was a monk named Fontana, skilled in the Holy Scriptures, and animated with the same spirit that had enlightened the monk of Como. The doctrine of salvation, "without money and without price," which God proclaims in the Gospel, filled him with love and joy. "As long as I live," said he, I will preach upon the Epistles of St. Paul;" for it was particularly in these epistles that he had found the truth. Two monks, of whose names we are ignorant, shared his sentiments. Fontana wrote a letter "to all the Church of Christ in Germany," which was forwarded to Zwingle. We may imagine we hear that man of Macedonia, who appeared in a vision to Paul in the night, calling him to Europe, and saying, "Come over and help us. -"O, trusty and well-beloved of Christ Jesus," cried the monk of Locarno to Germany, "remember Lazarus, the beggar, in the Gospel-remember that humble Canaanitish woman, longing for the crumbs that fell from the Lord's table! hungry as David, I have recourse to the show-bread placed upon the altar. A poor traveler devoured by thirst, I rush to the springs of living water. Plunged in darkness, bathed in tears, we cry to you who know the mysteries of God to send us by the hands of the munificent J. Werdmuller all the writings of the divine Zwingle, of the famous Luther, of the skillful Melancthon, of the mild Oecolampadius, of the ingenious Pomeranus, of the learned Lambert, of the elegant Brentz, of the penetrating Bucer, of the studious Leo, of the vigilant Hutten, and of the other illustrious doctors, if there are any more. Excellent princes, pivots of the Church, our holy mother, make haste to deliver from the slavery of Babylon a city of Lombardy that has not yet known the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are but three who have combined together to fight on behalf of the truth; but it was beneath the blows of a small body of men, chosen by God, and not by the thousands of Gideon, that Midian fell. Who knows if, from a small spark, God may not cause a great conflagration?”
Thus three men on the banks of the Maggia hoped at that time to reform Italy. They uttered a call to which, for three centuries, the evangelical world has not replied. Zurich, however, in these days of its strength and of its faith, displayed a holy boldness, and dared extend her heretical arms beyond the Alps. Hence, Uri, Schwytz, Unterwalden, and all the Romanists of Switzerland gave vent to loud and terrible threats, swearing to arrest even in Zurich itself the course of these presumptuous invasions.
But the Zurichers did not confine themselves to this: they gave the confederates more serious cause of fear by waging incessant war against the convents, -those centers of ultramontane fanaticism. The extensive monastery of Wettingen, around which roll the waters of the Limmat, and which, by its proximity to Zurich, was exposed more than any other to the breath of reform, was in violent commotion. On the 23rd August 1529, a great change took place; the monks ceased to sing mass; they cut off each other's beards, not without shedding a few tears; they laid down their frocks and their hoods, and clothed themselves in becoming secular dresses. Then, in astonishment at this metamorphosis, they listened devoutly to the sermon which Sebastian Benli of Zurich came and preached to them, and erelong employed themselves in propagating the Gospel, and in singing psalms in German. Thus Wettingen fell into the current of that river which seemed to be everywhere reviving the confederation. The cloister, ceasing to be a house for gaming, gluttony, and drunkenness, was changed into a school. Two monks alone in all the monastery remained faithful to the cowl.
The commander of Mulinen, without troubling himself about the threats of the Romish cantons, earnestly pressed the commandery of St. John at Hitzkirch towards the Reformation. The question was put to the vote, and the majority declared in favor of the Word of God. "Ah!" said the commander, "I have been long pushing behind the chariot." On the 4th September the commandery was reformed. It was the same with that of Wadenswyl, with the convent of Pfeffers, and others besides. Even at Mury the majority declared for the Gospel; but the minority prevailed through the support of the Five Cantons. A new triumph, and one of greater value, was destined to indemnify the reform, and to raise the indignation of the Waldstettes to the highest pitch.
The Abbot of St. Gall, by his wealth, by the number of his subjects, and the influence which he exercised in Switzerland, was one of the most formidable adversaries of the Gospel. In 1529, therefore, at the moment when the army of Zurich took the field against the Five Cantons, the Abbot Francis of Geisberg, in alarm and at the brink of death, caused himself to be hastily removed into the strong castle of Rohrschach, not thinking himself secure except within its walls. Four days after this, the illustrious Vadian, burgomaster of St. Gall, entered the convent, and announced the intention of the people to resume the use of their cathedral church, and to remove the images. The monks were astonished at such audacity, and having in vain protested and cried for help, put their most precious effects in a place of safety, and fled to Einsidlen.
Among these was Kilian Kouffi, head-steward of the abbey, a cunning and active monk, and, like Zwingle, a native of the Tockenburg. Knowing how important it was to find a successor to the abbot, before the news of his death was bruited abroad, he came to an understanding with those who waited on the prelate; and the latter dying on Tuesday in Holy Week, the meals were carried as usual into his chamber, and with downcast eyes and low voice the attendants answered every inquiry about his health. While this farce was going on round a dead body, the monks who had assembled at Einsidlen repaired in all haste to Rapperschwyl, in the territory of St. Gall, and there elected Kilian, who had so skillfully managed the affair. The new abbot went immediately to Rohrschach, and on Good Friday he there proclaimed his own election and the death of his predecessor. Zurich and Glaris declared they would not recognize him, unless he could prove by the Holy Scriptures that a monkish life was in conformity with the Gospel. "We are ready to protect the house of God," said they; "and for this reason we require that it be consecrated anew to the Lord. But we do not forget that it is our duty also to protect the people. The free Church of Christ should raise its head in the bosom of a free people." At the same time the ministers of St. Gall published forty-two theses, in which they asserted that convents were not "houses of God, but houses of the devil." The abbot, supported by Lucerne and Schwytz, which with Zurich and Glaris exercised sovereign power in St. Gall, replied that he could not dispute about rights which he held from kings and emperors. The two natives of the Tockenburg, Zwingle and Kilian, were thus struggling around St. Gall, -the one claiming the people for the abbey, and the other the abbey for the people. The army of Zurich having approached Wyl, Kilian seized upon the treasures and muniments of the convent, and fled precipitately beyond the Rhine. As soon as peace was concluded, the crafty monk put on a secular dress, and crept mysteriously as far as Einsidlen, whence on a sudden he made all Switzerland re-echo with his cries. Zurich in conjunction with Glaris replied by publishing a constitution, according to which a governor, "confirmed in the evangelical faith," should preside over the district, with a council of twelve members, while the election of pastors was left to the parishes. Not long afterward, the abbot, expelled and a fugitive, while crossing a river near Bregentz, fell from his horse, got entangled in his frock, and was drowned. Of the two combatants from the Tockenburg, it was Zwingle who gained the victory.
The convent was put up to sale, and was purchased by the town of St. Gall, "with the exception," says Bullinger, "of a detached building, called Hell, where the monks were left who had not embraced the Reform." The time having arrived when the governor sent by Zurich was to give place to one from Lucerne, the people of St. Gall called upon the latter to swear to their constitution. "A governor has never been known," replied he, "to make an oath to peasants; it is the peasants who should make oath to the governor!" Upon this he retired: the Zurich governor remained, and the indignation of the Five Cantons against Zurich, which so daringly assisted the people of St. Gall in recovering their ancient liberties, rose to the highest paroxysm of anger.
A few victories, however, consoled in some degree the partisans of Rome. Soleure was for a long time one of the most contested battle-fields. The citizens and the learned were in favor of Reform: the patricians and canons for Popery. Philip Grotz of Zug was preaching the Gospel there, and the council desiring to compel him to say mass, one hundred of the reformed appeared in the hall of assembly on the 13th September 1529, and with energy called for liberty of conscience. As Zurich and Berne supported this demand, their prayer was granted.
Upon this the most fanatical of the Roman Catholics, exasperated at the concession, closed the gates of the city, pointed the guns, and made a show of expelling the friends of the Reform. The council prepared to punish these agitators, when the reformed, willing to set an example of Christian moderation, declared they would forgive them. The Great Council then published throughout the canton that the dominion of conscience belonging to God alone, and faith being the free gift of His grace, each one might follow the religion which he thought best. Thirty-four parishes declared for the Reformation, and only two for the mass. Almost all the rural districts were in favor of the Gospel, but the majority in the city sided with the pope. Haller, whom the reformed of Soleure had sent for, arrived, and it was a day of triumph for them. It was in the middle of winter: "Today," ironically observed one of the evangelical Christians, "the patron saint (St. Ours) will sweat!" And in truth-oh! wonderful!-drops of moisture fell from the holy image! It was simply a little holy water that had frozen and then thawed. But the Romanists would listen to no raillery on so illustrious a prodigy, which may remind us of the blood of St. Januarius at Naples. All the city resounded with piteous cries, -the bells were tolled,-a general procession moved through the streets,-and high mass was sung in honor of the heavenly prince who had shown in so marvelous a manner the pangs he felt for his dearly beloved. "It is the fat minister of Berne (Haller) who is the cause of the saint's alarm," said the devout old woman. One of them declared that she would thrust a knife into his body; and certain Roman Catholics threatened to go to the Cordeliers' church and murder the pastors who preached there. Upon this the reformed rushed to that church and demanded a public discussion: two hundred of their adversaries posted themselves at the same time in the church of St. Ours and refused all inquiry. Neither of the two parties was willing to be the first to abandon the camp in which it was entrenched. The senate, wishing to clear the two churches thus in a manner transformed into citadels, announced that at Martinmas, i.e. nine months later, a public disputation should take place. But as the reformed found the delay too long, both parties remained for a whole week more under arms. Commerce was interrupted, -the public offices were closed,-messengers ran to and fro,-arrangements were proposed;-but the people were so stiff-necked, that no one would give way. The city was in a state of siege. At last all were agreed about the discussion, and the ministers committed four theses to writing, which the canons immediately attempted to refute.
Nevertheless they judged it a still better plan to elude them. Nothing alarmed the Romanists so much as a disputation. "What need have we of any?" said they. "Do not the writings of the two parties declare their sentiments?" The conference was, therefore, put off until the following year. Many of the reformed, indignant at these delays, imprudently quitted the city; and the councils, charmed at this result, which they were far from expecting, hastily declared that the people should be free in the canton, but that in the city no one should attack the mass. From that time the reformed were compelled every Sunday to leave Soleure and repair to the village of Zuchswyl to hear the Word of God. Thus Popery, defeated in so many places, triumphed in Soleure.
Zurich and the other reformed cantons attentively watched these successes of their adversaries, and lent a fearful ear to the threats of the Roman Catholics, who were continually announcing the intervention of the emperor; when on a sudden a report was heard that nine hundred Spaniards had entered the Grisons; that they were led by the Chatelain of Musso, recently invested with the title of marquis by Charles the Fifth; that the Chatelain's brother-in-law, Didier d'Embs, was also marching against the Swiss at the head of three thousand imperial lansquenets; and that the emperor himself was ready to support them with all his forces. The Grisons uttered a cry of alarm. The Waldstettes remained motionless; but all the reformed cantons assembled their troops, and eleven thousand men began their march. The emperor and the Duke of Milan having soon after declared that they would not support the chatelain, this adventurer beheld his castle rased to the ground, and was compelled to retire to the banks of the Sesia giving guarantees of future tranquility; while the Swiss soldiers returned to their homes, fired with indignation against the Five Cantons, who by their inactivity had infringed the federal alliance. "Our prompt and energetic resistance," said they, "has undoubtedly baffled their perfidious designs; but the reaction is only adjourned. Although the parchment of the Austrian alliance has been tom in pieces, the alliance itself still exists. The truth has freed us, but soon the imperial lansquenets will come and try to place us again under the yoke of slavery.”
Thus in consequence of so many violent shocks, the two parties that divided Switzerland had attained the highest degree of irritation. The gulf that separated them widened daily. The clouds-the forerunners of the tempest-drove swiftly along the mountains, and gathered threateningly above the valleys. Under these circumstances Zwingle and his friends thought it their duty to raise their voices, and if possible to avert the storm. In like manner Nicholas de Flue had in former days thrown himself between the hostile parties.
On the 5th September 1530, the principal ministers of Zurich, Berne, Basle, and Strasburg,-Oecolampadius, Capito, Megander, Leo Juda, and Myconius,- were assembled at Zurich in Zwingle's house. Desirous of taking a solemn step with the Five Cantons, they drew up an address that was presented to the Confederates at the meeting of the diet at Baden. However unfavorable the deputies were, as a body, to these heretical ministers, they nevertheless listened to this epistle, but not without signs of impatience and weariness. "You are aware, gracious lords, that concord increases the power of states, and that discord overthrows them. You are yourselves a proof of the first of these truths. Setting out from a small beginning, you have, by a good understanding one with another, arrived at a great end. May God condescend to prevent you also from giving a striking proof of the second! Whence comes disunion, if not from selfishness? and how can we destroy this fatal passion, except by receiving from God the love of the common weal? For this reason we conjure you to allow the Word of God to be freely preached among you, as did your pious ancestors. When has there ever existed a government, even among the heathens, which saw not that the hand of God alone upholds a nation? Do not two drops of quicksilver unite so soon as you remove that which separates them? Away then with that which separates you from our cities, that is, the absence of the Word of God; and immediately the Almighty will unite us, as our fathers were united. Then placed in your mountains, as in the center of Christendom, you will be an example to it, its protection and its refuge; and after having passed through this vale of tears, being the terror of the wicked and the consolation of the faithful, you will at last be established in eternal happiness.”
Thus frankly did these men of God address their brothers, the Waldstettes. But their voice was not attended to. "The ministers sermon is rather long," said some of the deputies yawning and stretching their arms, while others pretended to find in it new cause of complaint against the cities.
This proceeding of the ministers was useless: the Waldstettes rejected the Word of God, which they had been entreated to admit; they rejected the hands that were extended towards them in the name of Jesus Christ. They called for the pope and not for the Gospel. All hope of reconciliation appeared lost.
Some persons, however, had at that time a glimpse of what might have saved Switzerland and the Reformation, -the autonomy (self-government) of the Church, and its independence of political interests. Had they been wise enough to decline the secular power to secure the triumph of the Gospel, it is probable that harmony might have been gradually established in the Helvetic cantons, and that the Gospel would have conquered by its Divine strength. The power of the Word of God presented chances of success that were not afforded by pikes and muskets. The energy of faith, the influence of charity, would have proved a securer protection to Christians against the burning piles of the Waldstettes than diplomatists and men-at-arms. None of the reformers understood this so clearly as Oecolampadius. His handsome countenance, the serenity of his features, the mild expression of his eyes, his long and venerable beard, the spirituality of his expression, a certain dignity that inspired confidence and respect, gave him rather the air of an apostle than of a reformer. It was the power of the inner word that he particularly extolled; perhaps he even went too far in spiritualism. But, however that may be, if any man could have saved Reform from the misfortunes that were about to befall it-that man was he. In separating from the Papacy, he desired not to set up the magistracy in its stead. "The magistrate who should take away from the churches the authority that belongs to them," wrote he to Zwingle, "would be more intolerable than Antichrist himself (i.e. the pope)." -"The hand of the magistrate strikes with the sword, but the hand of Christ heals. Christ has not said, -If thy brother will not hear thee, tell it to the magistrate, but-tell it to the Church. The functions of the State are distinct from those of the Church. The State is free to do many things which the purity of the Gospel condemns." Oecolampadius saw how important it was that his convictions should prevail among the reformed. This man, so mild and so spiritual, feared not to stand forth boldly in defense of doctrines then so novel. He expounded them before a synodal assembly, and next developed them before the senate of Basle. It is a strange circumstance that these ideas, for a moment at least, were acceptable to Zwingle; but they displeased an assembly of the brethren to whom he communicated them; the politic Bucer above all feared that this independence of the Church would in some measure check the exercise of the civil power. The exertions of Oecolampadius to constitute the Church were not, however, entirely unsuccessful. In February 1531, a diet of four reformed cantons (Basle, Zurich, Berne, and St. Gall), was held at Basle, in which it was agreed, that whenever any difficulty should arise with regard to doctrine or worship, an assembly of divines and laymen should be convoked, which should examine what the Word of God said on the matter. This resolution, by giving greater unity to the renovated Church, gave it also fresh strength.
From:History of the Reformation: Of the Sixteenth CenturyFrom:Book 16. Switzerland - Catastrophe - 1528-1531
Zwingle and the Christian State – Zwingle's Double Part – Zwingle and Luther in Relation to Politics – Philip of Hesse and the Free Cities – Projected Union Between Zwingle and Luther – Zwingle's Political Action – Project of Alliance Against the Emperor – Zwingle Advocates Active Resistance – He Destines the Imperial Crown for Philip – Faults of the Reformation – Embassy to Venice – Giddiness of the Reformation – Projected Alliance with France – Zwingle's Plan of Alliance – Approaching Ruin – Slanders in the Five Cantons – Violence – Mysterious Paper – Berne and Basle Vote for Peace – General Diet at Baden – Evangelical Diet at Zurich – Political Reformation of Switzerland – Activity of Zurich
BUT it was too late to tread in this path which would have prevented so many disasters. The Reformation had already entered with all her sails set upon the stormy ocean of politics, and terrible misfortunes were gathering over her. The impulse communicated to the Reform came from another than Oecolampadius. Zwingle's proud and piercing eyes, -his harsh features,-his bold step,-all proclaimed in him a resolute mind and the man of action. Nurtured in the exploits of the heroes of antiquity, he threw himself, to save Reform, in the footsteps of Demosthenes and Cato, rather than in those of St. John and St. Paul. His prompt and penetrating looks were turned to the right and to the left,-to the cabinets of kings and the councils of the people, while they should have been directed solely to God. We have already seen, that as early as 1527, Zwingle, observing how all the powers were rising against the Reformation, had conceived the plan of a co-burghery or Christian State, which should unite all the friends of the Word of God in one holy and powerful league. This was so much the easier as Zwingle's reformation had won over Strasburg, Augsburg, Ulm, Reutlingen, Lindau, Memmingen, and other towns of Upper Germany. Constance in December 1527, Berne in June 1528, St. Gall in November of the same year, Bienne in January 1529, Mulhausen in February, Basle in March, Schaffhausen in September, and Strasburg in December, entered into this alliance. This political phasis of Zwingle's character is in the eyes of some persons his highest claim to glory; we do not hesitate to acknowledge it as his greatest fault. The reformer, deserting the paths of the apostles, allowed himself to be led astray by the perverse example of Popery. The primitive Church never opposed their persecutors but with the sentiments derived from the Gospel of peace. Faith was the only sword by which it vanquished the mighty ones of the earth. Zwingle felt clearly that by entering into the ways of worldly politicians, he was leaving those of a minister of Christ; he therefore sought to justify himself. "No doubt, it is not by human strength," said he, "it is by the strength of God alone that the Word of the Lord should be upheld. But God often makes use of men as instruments to succor men. Let us therefore unite, and from the sources of the Rhine to Strasburg let us form but one people and one alliance.”
Zwingle played two parts at once-he was a reformer and a magistrate. But these are two characters that ought not more to be united than those of a minster and of a soldier. We will not altogether blame the soldiers and the magistrates; in forming leagues and drawing the sword, even for the sake of religion, they act according to their point of view, although it is not the same as ours; but we must decidedly blame the Christian minister who becomes a diplomatist or a general.
In October 1529, as we have already observed, Zwingle repaired to Marburg, whither he had been invited by Philip of Hesse; and while neither of them had been able to come to an understanding with Luther, the landgrave and the Swiss reformer, animated by the same bold and enterprising spirit, soon agreed together.
The two reformers differed not less in their political than in their religious system. Luther, brought up in the cloister and in monastic submission, was imbued in youth with the writings of the fathers of the Church; Zwingle, on the other hand, reared in the midst of Swiss liberty, had, during those early years which decide the course of all the rest, imbibed the history of the ancient republics. Thus, while Luther was in favor of a passive obedience, Zwingle advocated resistance against tyrants.
These two men were the faithful representatives of their respective nations. In the north of Germany, the princes and nobility were the essential part of the nation, and the people-strangers to all political liberty-had only to obey. Thus, at the epoch of the Reformation they were content to follow the voice of their doctors and chiefs. In Switzerland, in the south of Germany, and on the Rhine, on the contrary, many cities, after long and violent struggles, had won civil liberty; and hence we find in almost every place the people taking a decided part in the Reform of the Church. There was good in this; but evil was close at hand. The reformers, themselves men of the people, who dared not act upon princes, might be tempted to hurry away the people. It was easier for the Reformation to unite with republics than with kings. This facility nearly proved its ruin. The Gospel was thus to learn that its alliance is in heaven.
There was, however, one prince with whom the reformed party of the free states desired to be in union: this was Philip of Hesse. It was he who in great measure prompted Zwingle's warlike projects. Zwingle desired to make him some return, and to introduce his new friend into the evangelical league. But Berne, watchful to avert anything that might irritate the emperor and its ancient confederates, rejected this proposal, and thus excited a lively discontent in the "Christian State."-"What!" cried they, "do the Bernese refuse an alliance that would be honorable for us, acceptable to Jesus Christ, and terrible to our adversaries?"-"The Bear," said the high-spirited Zwingle, "is jealous of the Lion (Zurich); but there will be an end to all these artifices, and victory will remain with the bold." It would appear, indeed, according to a letter in cipher, that the Bernese at last sided with Zwingle, requiring only that this alliance with a prince of the empire should not be made public.
Still Oecolampadius had not given way, and his meekness contended, although modestly, with the boldness of his impetuous friend. He was convinced that faith was destined to triumph only by the cordial union of all believers. A valuable relief occurred to reanimate his exertions. The deputies of the Christian co-burghery having assembled at Basle in 1530, the envoys from Strasburg endeavored to reconcile Luther and Zwingle. Oecolampadius wrote to Zwingle on the subject, begging him to hasten to Basle, and not show himself too unyielding. "To say that the body and blood of Christ are really in the Lord's Supper, may appear to many too hard an expression," said he, "but is it not softened, when it is added-spiritually and not bodily?"
Zwingle was immovable. "It is to flatter Luther that you hold such language, and not to defend the truth. Edere est credere." Nevertheless there were men present at the meeting, who were resolved upon energetic measures. Brotherly love was on the eve of triumphing: peace was to be obtained by union. The Elector of Saxony himself proposed a concord of all evangelical Christians, to which the Swiss cities were invited by the landgrave to accede. A report spread that Luther and Zwingle were about to make the same confession of faith. Zwingle, calling to mind the early professions of the Saxon reformer, said one day at table before many witnesses, that Luther would not think so erroneously about the Eucharist, if he were not misled by Melancthon. The union of the whole of the Reformation seemed about to be concluded: it would have vanquished by its own weapons. But Luther soon proved that Zwingle was mistaken in his expectations. He required a written engagement by which Zwingle and Oecolampadius should adhere to his sentiments, and the negotiations were broken off in consequence. Concord having failed, there remained nothing but war. Oecolampadius must be silent, and Zwingle must act.
And in truth from that hour Zwingle advanced more and more along that fatal path into which he was led by his character, his patriotism, and his early habits. Stunned by so many violent shocks, attacked by his enemies and by his brethren, he staggered, and his head grew dizzy. From this period the reformer almost entirely disappears, and we see in his place the politician, the great citizen, who beholding a formidable coalition preparing its chains for every nation, stands up energetically against it. The emperor had just formed a close alliance with the pope. If his deadly schemes were not opposed it would be all over, in Zwingle's opinion, with the Reformation, with religious and political liberty, and even with the confederation itself. "The emperor," said he, "is stirring up friend against friend, enemy against enemy: and then he endeavors to raise out of this confusion the glory of the Papacy, and, above all, his own power. He excites the Chatelain of Musso against the Grisons-Duke George of Saxony against Duke John-the Bishop of Constance against the city-the Duke of Savoy against Berne-the Five Cantons against Zurich-and the bishops of the Rhine against the landgrave; then, when the confusion shall have become general, he will fall upon Germany, will offer himself as a mediator, and ensnare princes and cities by fine speeches, until he has them all under his feet. Alas! what discord, what disasters, under the pretense of re-establishing the empire and restoring religion!" " Zwingle went farther. The reformer of a small town in Switzerland, rising to the most astonishing political conceptions, called for a European alliance against such fatal designs. The son of a peasant of the Tockenburg held up his head against the heir of so many crowns. "That man must either be a traitor or a coward," wrote he to a senator of Constance, "who is content to stretch and yawn, when he ought to be collecting men and arms on every side, to convince the emperor that in vain he strives to re-establish the Romish faith, to enslave the free cities, and to subdue the Helvetians. He showed us only six months ago how he would proceed. Today he will take one city in hand, tomorrow another; and so, step by step, until they are all reduced. Then their arms will be taken away, their treasures, their machines of war, and all their power.... Arouse Lindau and all your neighbors; if they do not awake, public liberty will perish under the pretext of religion. We must place no confidence in the friendship of tyrants. Demosthenes teaches us that there is nothing so hateful in their eyes as τεν τον πολεον ελευδεξιαν. The emperor with one hand offers us bread, but in the other he conceals a stone. And a few months later Zwingle wrote to his friends in Constance: "Be bold; fear not the schemes of Charles. The razor will cut him who is sharpening it."
Away, then, with delay! Should they wait until Charles the Fifth claimed the ancient castle of Hapsburg? The papacy and the empire, it was said at Zurich, are so confounded together, that one cannot exist or perish without the other. Whoever rejects Popery should reject the empire, and whoever rejects the emperor should reject the pope.
It appears that Zwingle's thoughts even went beyond a simple resistance. When once the Gospel had ceased to be his principal study, there was nothing that could arrest him. "A single individual," said he, "must not take it into his head to dethrone a tyrant; this would be a revolt, and the kingdom of God commands peace, righteousness, and joy. But if a whole people with common accord, or if the majority at least, rejects him, without committing any excess, it is God himself who acts." Charles V was at that time a tyrant in Zwingle's eyes; and the reformer hoped that Europe, awakening at length from its long slumber, would be the hand of God to hurl him from his throne.
Never since the time of Demosthenes and of the two Gatos had the world seen a more energetic resistance to the power of its oppressors. Zwingle in a political point of view is one of the greatest characters of modern times: we must pay him this honor, which is, perhaps, for a minister of God, the greatest reproach. Everything was prepared in his mind to bring about a revolution that would have changed the history of Europe. He knew what he desired to substitute in place of the power he wished to overthrow. He had already cast his eyes upon the prince who was to wear the imperial crown instead of Charles. It was his friend the landgrave. "Most gracious prince," wrote he on the 2nd November 1529, "if I write to you as a child to a father, it is because I hope that God has chosen you for great events... I dare think, but I dare not speak of them ... However, we must bell the cat at last.... All that I can do with my feeble means to manifest the truth, to save the universal Church, to augment your power and the power of those who love God-with God's help, I will do." Thus was this great man led astray. It is the will of God that there be spots even in those who shine brightest in the eyes of the world, and that only one upon earth shall say-"Which of you convinceth me of sin?" We are now viewing the faults of the Reformation: they arise from the union of religion with politics. I could not take upon myself to pass them by; the recollection of the errors of our predecessors is perhaps the most useful legacy they have bequeathed to us.
It appears that already at Marburg Zwingle and the landgrave had drawn out the first sketch of a general alliance against Charles V. The landgrave had undertaken to bring over the princes, Zwingle the free cities of Southern Germany and Switzerland. He went still further, and formed a plan of gaining over to this league the republics of Italy-the powerful Venice at least-that she might detain the emperor beyond the Alps, and prevent him from leading all his forces into Germany. Zwingle, who had earnestly pleaded against all foreign alliances, and proclaimed on so many occasions that the only ally of the Swiss should be the arm of the Almighty, began now to look around for what he had condemned, and thus prepared the way for the terrible judgment that was about to strike his family, his country, and his Church.
He had hardly returned from Marburg, and had made no official communication to the Great Council, when he obtained from the senate the nomination of an ambassador to Venice. Great men, after their first success, easily imagine that they can do everything. It was not a statesman who was charged with this mission, but one of Zwingle's friends, who had accompanied him into Germany, to the court of the future chief of the new empire-the Greek professor, Rodolph Collins, a bold and skillful man, and who knew Italian. Thus the Reform stretched its hands to the Doge and the Procurator of St. Marc. The Bible was not enough for it-it must have the Golden Book: never did a greater humiliation befall God's work. The opinion which Protestants then entertained of Venice may, however, partly excuse Zwingle. There was in that city more independence of the pope, more freedom of thought, than in all the rest of Italy. Luther himself about this time wrote to Gabriel Zwilling, pastor at Torgau: "With what joy do I learn what you write to me concerning the Venetians. God be praised and glorified, for that they have received his Word!"
Collins was admitted, on the 26th December, to an audience with the doge and senate, who looked with an air of astonishment at this schoolmaster, this strange ambassador, without attendants, and without parade. They could not even understand his credentials, in so singular a style were they drawn up, and Collins was forced to explain their meaning. "I am come to you," said he, "in the name of the council of Zurich and of the cities of the Christian co-burghery-free cities like Venice, and to which common interests should unite you. The power of the emperor is formidable to republics; he is aiming at a universal monarchy in Europe; if he succeeds, all the free states will perish. We must therefore check him.." The doge replied that the republic had just concluded an alliance with the emperor, and betrayed the distrust that so mysterious a mission excited in the Venetian senate. But afterward, in a private conference, the doge, wishing to preserve a retreat on both sides, added, that Venice gratefully received the message from Zurich, and that a Venetian regiment, armed and paid by the republic itself, should be always ready to support the evangelical Swiss. The chancellor, covered with his purple robe, attended Collins to the door, and, at the very gates of the ducal palace, confirmed the promise of support. The moment the Reformation passed the magnificent porticos of St. Marc it was seized with giddiness; it could but stagger onwards to the abyss. They dismissed poor Collins by placing in his hands a present of twenty crowns. The rumor of these negotiations soon spread abroad, and the less suspicious, Capito for example, shook their heads, and could see in this pretended agreement nothing but the accustomed perfidy of Venice.
This was not enough. The cause of the Reform was fated to drink the cup of degradation to the very dregs. Zwingle, seeing that his adversaries in the empire increased daily in numbers and in power, gradually lost his ancient aversion for France; and, although there was now a greater obstacle than before between him and Francis L-the blood of his brethren shed by that monarch,-he showed himself favorably disposed to a union that he had once so forcibly condemned.
Lambert Maigret, a French general, who appears to have had some leaning to the Gospel-which is a slight excuse for Zwingle-entered into correspondence with the reformer, giving him to understand that the secret designs of Charles V called for an alliance between the King of France and the Swiss republics. "Apply yourself," said this diplomatist to him in 1530, "to a work so agreeable to our Creator, and which, by God's grace, will be very easy to your mightiness." Zwingle was at first astonished at these overtures. "The King of France," thought he, "cannot know which way to turn." Twice he took no heed of this prayer; but the envoy of Francis I insisted that the reformer should communicate to him a plan of alliance. At the third attempt of the ambassador, the simple child of the Tockenburg mountains could no longer resist his advances. If Charles V must fall, it cannot be without French assistance; and why should not the Reformation contract an alliance with Francis I, the object of which would be to establish a power in the empire that should in its turn oblige the king to tolerate the Reform in his own dominion? Everything seemed to meet the wishes of Zwingle; the fall of the tyrant was at hand, and he would drag the pope along with him. He communicated the general's overtures to the secret council, and Collins set out, commissioned to bear the required project to the French ambassador. "In ancient times," it ran, "no kings or people ever resisted the Roman empire with such firmness as those of France and Switzerland. Let us not degenerate from the virtues of our ancestors. His most Christian Majesty-all whose wishes are that the purity of the Gospel may remain undefiled-engages therefore to conclude an alliance with the Christian co-burghery that shall be in accordance with the Divine law, and that shall be submitted to the censure of the evangelical theologians of Switzerland." Then followed an outline of the different articles of the treaty.
Lanzerant, another of the king's envoys, replied the same day (27th February) to this astonishing project of alliance about to be concluded between the reformed Swiss and the persecutor of the French reformed, under reserve of the censure of the theologians... This was not what France desired: it was Lombardy, and not the Gospel that the king wanted. For that purpose, he needed the support of all the Swiss. But an alliance which ranged the Roman Catholic cantons against him, would not suit him. Being satisfied, therefore, for the present with knowing the sentiments of Zurich, the French envoys began to look coolly upon the reformer's scheme. "The matters you have submitted to us are admirably drawn up," said Lanzerant to the Swiss commissioner, "but I can scarcely understand them, no doubt because of the weakness of my mind... We must not put any seed into the ground, unless the soil be properly prepared for it.”
Thus, the Reform acquired nothing but shame from these propositions. Since it had forgotten these precepts of the Word of God: "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers”! how could it fail to meet with striking reverses? Already, Zwingle's friends began to abandon him. The landgrave, who had pushed him into this diplomatic career, drew towards Luther, and sought to check the Swiss reformer, particularly after this saying of Erasmus had sounded in the ears of the great: "They ask us to open our gates, crying aloud-the Gospel! the Gospel! Raise the cloak, and under its mysterious folds you will find-democracy.”
While the Reform, by its culpable proceedings, was calling down the chastisement of Heaven, the Five Cantons, that were to be the instruments of its punishment, accelerated with their might those fatal days of anger and of vengeance. They were irritated at the progress of the Gospel throughout the confederation, while the peace they had signed became every day more irksome to them. "We shall have no repose," said they, "until we have broken these bonds and regained our former liberty." A general diet was convoked at Baden for the 8th January 1531. The Five Cantons then declared that if justice was not done to their grievances, particularly with respect to the abbey of St. Gall, they would no more appear in diet. "Confederates of Glaris, Schaffhausen, Friburg, Soleure, and Appenzell," cried they, "aid us in making our ancient alliances respected, or we will ourselves contrive the means of checking this guilty violence; and may the Holy Trinity assist us in this work!"
They did not confine themselves to threats. The treaty of peace had expressly forbidden all insulting language-"for fear," it said, "that by insults and calumnies, discord should again be excited, and greater troubles than the former should arise." Thus was concealed in the treaty itself the spark whence the conflagration was to proceed. In fact, to restrain the rude tongues of the Waldstettes was impossible. Two Zurichers, the aged prior Ravensbuhler, and the pensioner Gaspard Godli, who had been compelled to renounce, the one his convent, and the other his pension, especially aroused the anger of the people against their native city. They used to say everywhere in these valleys, and with impunity, that the Zurichers were heretics; that there was not one of them who did not indulge in unnatural sins, and who was not a robber at the very least, that Zwingle was a thief, a murderer, and an arch-heretic; and that, on one occasion at Paris (where he had never been), he had committed a horrible offense, in which Leo Juda had been his pander. "I shall have no rest," said a pensioner, "until I have thrust my sword up to the hilt in the heart of this impious wretch." Old commanders of troops, who were feared by all on account of their unruly character; the satellites who followed in their train; insolent young people, sons of the first persons in the state, who thought everything lawful against miserable preachers and their stupid flocks; priests inflamed with hatred, and treading in the footsteps of these old captains and giddy young men, who seemed to take the pulpit of a church for the bench of a pot-house: all poured torrents of insults on the Reform and its adherents. "The townspeople," exclaimed with one accord these drunken soldiers and fanatic priests, "are heretics, soul-stealers, conscience-slayers, and Zwingle-that horrible man, who commits infamous sins-is the Lutheran God.”
They went still further. Passing from words to deeds, the Five Cantons persecuted the poor people among them who loved the Word of God, flung them into prison, imposed fines upon them, brutally tormented them, and mercilessly expelled them from their country. The people of Schwytz did even worse. Not fearing to announce their sinister designs, they appeared at a landsgemeinde wearing pine-branches in their hats, in sign of war, and no one opposed them. "The Abbot of St. Gall," said they, "is a prince of the empire, and holds his investiture from the emperor. Do they imagine that Charles V will not avenge him?"-"Have not these heretics," said others, "dared to form a Christian fraternity, as if old Switzerland was a heathen country?" Secret councils were continually held in one place or another. New alliances were sought with the Valais, the pope, and the emperor -blamable alliances, no doubt, but such as they might at least justify by the proverb: "Birds of a feather go together;" which Zurich and Venice could not say.
The Valaisans at first refused their support: they preferred remaining neuter; but on a sudden their fanaticism was inflamed. A sheet of paper was found on an altar-such at least was the report circulated in their valleys-in which Zurich and Berne were accused of preaching that to commit an offense against nature is a smaller crime than to hear mass! Who had placed this mysterious paper on the altar? Came it from man? Did it fall from heaven?... They know not; but however that might be, it was copied, circulated, and read everywhere; and the effects of this fable, invented by some villain, says Zwingle, was such that Valais immediately granted the support it had at first refused. The Waldstettes, proud of their strength, then closed their ranks; their fierce eyes menaced the heretical cantons; and the winds bore from their mountains to their neighbors of the towns a formidable clang of arms.
At the sight of these alarming manifestations the evangelical cities were in commotion. They first assembled at Basle in February 1531, then at Zurich in March. "What is to be done?" said the deputies from Zurich, after setting forth their grievances; "how can we punish these infamous calumnies, and force these threatening arms to fall?"-"We understand," replied Berne, "that you would have recourse to violence; but think of these secret and formidable alliances that are forming with the pope, the emperor, the King of France, with so many princes, in a word with all the priests' party, to accelerate our ruin; -think on the innocence of so many pious souls in the Five Cantons, who deplore these perfidious machinations;-think how easy it is to begin a war, but that no one can tell when it will end." Sad foreboding! which a catastrophe, beyond all human foresight, accomplished but too soon. "Let us therefore send a deputation to the Five Cantons," continued Berne; "let us call upon them to punish these infamous calumnies in accordance with the treaty; and if they refuse, let us break off all intercourse with them."-"What will be the use of this mission?" asked Basle. "Do we not know the brutality of this people? And is it not to be feared that the rough treatment to which our deputies will be exposed, may make the matter worse? Let us rather convoke a general diet." Schaffhausen and St. Gall having concurred in this opinion, Berne summoned a diet at Baden for the 10th April, at which deputies from all the cantons were assembled.
Many of the principal men among the Waldstettes disapproved of the violence of the retired soldiers and of the monks. They saw that these continually repeated insults would injure their cause. "The insults of which you complain," said they to the diet, "afflict us no less than you. We shall know how to punish them, and we have already done so. But there are violent men on both sides. The other day a man of Basle having met on the highroad a person who was coming from Berne, and having learned that he was going to Lucerne: -To go from Berne to Lucerne,' exclaimed he, 'is passing from a father to an arrant knave!'" The mediating cantons invited the two parties to banish every cause of discord.
But the war of the Chatelain of Musso having then broken out, Zwingle and Zurich, who saw in it the first act of a vast conspiracy, destined to stifle the Reform in every place, called their allies together. "We must waver no longer," said Zwingle; "the rupture of the alliance on the part of the Five Cantons, and the unheard-of insults with which they load us, impose upon us the obligation of marching against our enemies, before the emperor, who is still detained by the Turks, shall have expelled the landgrave, seized upon Strasburg, and subjugated even ourselves." All the blood of the ancient Swiss seemed to boil in the man's veins; and while Uri, Schwytz, and Unterwalden basely kissed the hand of Austria, this Zuricher-the greatest Helvetian of the age-faithful to the memory of old Switzerland, but not so to holier traditions, followed in the glorious steps of Stauffacher and Winkelried.
The warlike tone of Zurich alarmed its confederates. Basle proposed a summons, and then, in case of refusal, the rupture of the alliance. Schaffhausen and St. Gall were frightened even at this step: "The mountaineers, so proud, indomitable, and exasperated," said they, "will accept with joy the dissolution of the confederation, and then shall we be more advanced?" Such was the posture of affairs, when, to the great astonishment of all, deputies from Uri and Schwytz made their appearance. They were coldly received; the cup of honor was not offered to them; and they had to walk, according to their own account, in the midst of the insulting cries of the people. They unsuccessfully endeavored to excuse their conduct. "We have long been waiting,”
was the cold reply of the diet, "to see your actions and your words agree." The men of Schwytz and of Uri returned in sadness to their homes; and the assembly broke up, full of sorrow and distress.
Zwingle beheld with pain the deputies of the evangelical towns separating without having come to any decision. He no longer desired only a reformation of the Church; he wished for a transformation in the confederacy; and it was this latter reform that he now was preaching from the pulpit, according to what we learn from Bullinger. He was not the only person who desired it. For a long time the inhabitants of the most populous and powerful towns of Switzerland had complained that the Waldstettes, whose contingent of men and money was much below theirs, had an equal share in the deliberations of the diet, and in the fruits of their victories. This had been the cause of division after the Burgundian war. The Five Cantons, by means of their adherents, had the majority. Now Zwingle thought that the reins of Switzerland should be placed in the hands of the great cities, and, above all, in those of the powerful cantons of Berne and Zurich. New times, in his opinion, called for new forms. It was not sufficient to dismiss from every public office the pensioners of foreign princes, and substitute pious men in their place; the federal compact must be remodeled, and settled upon a more equitable basis. A national constituent assembly would doubtless have responded to his wishes. These discourses, which were rather those of a tribune of the people than of a minister of Jesus Christ, hastened on the terrible catastrophe.
And indeed the animated words of the patriot reformer passed from the church where they had been delivered into the councils and the halls of the guilds, into the streets and the fields. The burning words that fell from this man's lips kindled the hearts of his fellow-citizens. The electric spark, escaping with noise and commotion, was felt even in the most distant cottage. The ancient traditions of wisdom and prudence seemed forgotten. Public opinion declared itself energetically. On the 29th and 30th April, a number of horsemen rode hastily out of Zurich; they were envoys from the council, commissioned to remind all the allied cities of the encroachment of the Five Cantons, and to call for a prompt and definitive decision. Reaching their several destinations, the messengers recapitulated the grievances. "Take care," said they in conclusion; "great dangers are impending over all of us. The emperor and King Ferdinand are making vast preparations; they are about to enter Switzerland with large sums of money, and with a numerous army.”
Zurich joined actions to words. This state, being resolved to make every exertion to establish the free preaching of the Gospel in those bailiwicks where it shared the sovereignty with the Roman Catholic cantons, desired to interfere by force wherever negotiations could not prevail. The federal rights, it must be confessed, were trampled under foot at St. Gall, in Thurgovia, in the Rheinthal; and Zurich substituted arbitrary decisions in their place, that excited the indignation of the Waldstettes to the highest degree. Thus the number of enemies to the Reform kept increasing; the tone of the Five Cantons became daily more threatening, and the inhabitants of the canton of Zurich, whom their business called into the mountains, were loaded with insults, and sometimes badly treated. These violent proceedings excited in turn the anger of the reformed cantons. Zwingle traversed Thurgovia, St. Gall, and the Tockenburg, everywhere organizing synods, taking part in their proceedings, and preaching before excited and enthusiastic crowds. In all parts he met with confidence and respect. At St. Gall an immense crowd assembled under his windows, and a concert of voices and instruments expressed the public gratitude in harmonious songs. "Let us not abandon ourselves," he repeated continually, "and all will go well." It was resolved that a meeting should be held at Arau on the 12th May, to deliberate on a posture of affairs that daily became more critical. This meeting was to be the beginning of sorrows.