Zwingli, Or As It Is Often Latinized (Zuinglios, Ulrie Or Holdreieh), a Swiss reformer and patriot, born at Wildhaus, a mountain village of Toggenburg (now canton of St. Gall), Jan. 1, 1484, fell on the field of Kappel, Oct. 11,1531. His father, Ulric Zwingli, was a shepherd and bailiff of Wildhaus, and a brother of his father, Bartholomew Zwingli, was pastor there. As a child Ulric listened eagerly to the story of the oppression under which his native land had often suffered, and he learned patriotism among his earliest lessons. When he was ten years old he was sent to the St. Theodore school at Basel, and in 1497 to a classical school just opened at Bern by Wolflin (Lupulus), a distinguished scholar and poet. In 1499 he went to Vienna, where he studied philosophy in the university for two years, and then resumed his studies, especially scholastic theology, in the university of Basel, acting at the same time as teacher in the school of St. Martin. He was passionately fond of study, but cultivated also the lighter and more ornamental accomplishments, especially music. As early as his 18th year the study of the New Testament had awakened in his mind doubts in regard to many of the teachings of the church.
These were increased by the instructions of Thomas Wittenbach, a teacher of theology, who in 1505 came from Tubingen to Basel, and around whom Ulric and all the young students gathered. In 1506 he was ordained by the bishop of Constance, and the same year became pastor of the large parish of Glarus, not far from his birthplace. At this time the king of France, the duke of Milan, and the pope were seeking to draw the Swiss into the foreign military service. Zwingli's heart was aroused, and he labored with tongue and pen to urge his countrymen to recover and maintain their ancient honor. In 1510 he wrote his noted poetic fable, in which he represents the confederacy under the symbol of an ox led astray by artful cats, though warned by faithful dogs, by which means the ox lost his liberty. Twice during this time he was ordered by his government to accompany the troops of his canton in the Italian war. He first went with the confederate troops against Louis XII. of France; and two years later, when Francis I. undertook to reconquer the duchy of Milan, Charles of Austria (the future Charles V.) called upon the Swiss for help, and Zwingli accompanied the soldiers of Glarus through the campaign as chaplain.
They were defeated; and a few days after the battle of Marignano, in September, 1515, Zwingli delivered an address to the Swiss, exhorting them no more to expose their honor and their lives in so foolhardy a way. In 1516 the king of France again used money and flattery to enlist the confederates in his favor, and, in spite of Zwingli's efforts, succeeded even in Glarus, where the French party gained the ascendancy. Zwingli withdrew to Einsiedeln, where he accepted a' subordinate vicarship. During his ministry at Glarus he had diligently studied the New Testament in the original Greek, committing to memory the epistles of St. Paul, and advancing himself and his parishioners in its knowledge. At Einsiedeln he committed to memory the remaining portions of the New Testament, and afterward also portions of the Old. His opposition to several of the teachings and practices of the church grew daily more decided. The convent of Einsiedeln possessed an image of the Virgin of which miraculous stories were told, and over the convent gate was written: " Here the full forgiveness of all sins is to be obtained." The legends and the inscription stirred Zwingli to indignation. He preached Christ as the only sacrifice and ransom for sin.
To the pope's nuncio, who called him to account, he said: "With the help of God will I go on preaching the gospel, and this preaching will make Rome totter." His efforts were victorious. The governor caused the inscription to be blotted out from the gate, the relics which the pilgrims revered were buried, and the new doctrine prevailed. In the beginning the evangelical movements in Germany and Switzerland were entirely independent of each other. " I began," said Zwingli, "to preach the gospel in the year of grace 1516, that is, at a time when the name of Luther had never been heard among these countries. It was not from Luther that I learned the doctrine of Christ; it was from God's word. If Luther preaches Christ, he does as I do; that is all." A worthy priest on one occasion said to him: "Master Ulric, they tell me you have gone into the new error, and that you are a follower of Luther." "I am no Lutheran," said Zwingli, "for I understood Greek before I had heard the name of Luther;" intimating thereby that the study of the Greek Testament had taught him the necessity of a reformation.
D'Aubigne has correctly said: " Zwingli did not communicate with Luther. Doubtless there was a bond of communion between both these men; but we must seek it above this earth." In 1518 the cathedral church in Zurich became vacant, and on Dec. 11 Zwingli was elected to it, and henceforth Zurich became the centre of the reformation in Switzerland. On New Year's day, 1519, he entered the pulpit the first time, with an immense crowd before him. " To Christ," cried he, "to Christ will I lead you - to the source of salvation. His word is the only food I wish to furnish to your hearts and lives." He went on to expound the Gospel according to St. Matthew, chapter by chapter, and later the other Gospels, the Acts, and all the epistles in the same way. "The life of Christ," he said, " has been too long hidden from the people." He attacked with equal firmness the vices of all ranks and stations. On every Friday he explained the Psalms for the peasants who came in to market on that day. Here, as before at Glarus, next to his love for the gospel was his patriotic love for the fatherland.
He reproved all those who for flattery and money lent themselves as tools to foreign powers, charging them with selling their own flesh and blood. " The cardinal of Sion," he exclaimed, "who recruits for the pope, with right "wears a red hat and cloak; you need pnly wring them and you will behold the blood of your nearest kinsmen flowing from them!" Besides his love of country, the necessity of constantly opposing this mercenary tendency among the Swiss may explain the large element of patriotism which everywhere manifested itself in Zwingli's life and acts. Piety and patriotism were one life in him. His numerous labors at Zurich injuring his health, he repaired to the baths of Pfaffers; but hearing that the plague had broken out in Zurich, he hastened back to his flock. He was soon himself seized by the plague, and given up to die, but recovered, inspired with new devotion to his work. Flattery and indirect bribes, as several times before, were plied to divert him from his purposes. A cardinal and several nuncios proposed to raise his pension from 50 to 100 florins, on condition that he should preach no more against the pope. " We are not reproached," said he, "as apostates or as rebels, but flattered with high titles." In March, 1522, the outward church service was considerably altered, and some ceremonies were dropped.
The bishop stoutly resisted the change, but Zwingli triumphed in a discussion before the council. Combinations were formed against him, and a plot was even laid to take his life by poison. The council of Zurich placed a guard around his house every night. In the same year evangelical preaching, which had only been allowed, was enjoined. In July Zwingli drew up a petition to the bishop, signed by himself and ten friends of Zurich and Einsiedeln, asking that free way be opened through the cantons for the gospel, and that the law imposing celibacy upon the priests be abolished. This kindled a fire. Myconius, who favored it, was banished by the diet from the country. At Lucerne Zwingli was burned in effigy. With the hope of allaying the growing troubles, the magistrates of Zurich appointed a religious conference in January, 1523, at which pastors, curates, and preachers were invited to take an active part. Zwingli presented 67 theses for consideration. A second conference held in October of the same year ended in the complete triumph of the reformer and his friends. On April 2, 1524, Zwingli married Anna Reinhard, widow of a distinguished magistrate, who proved to him a pious and affectionate wife. A new trouble now arose.
The Anabaptists desired Zwingli to establish a community of only true believers, demanded the abolition of tithes, and insisted upon all kinds of freedom of the flesh under cloak of freedom of the spirit. They ran into such riot of fanatical excesses and crimes that they became dangerous to the state, and had to be dealt with by the civil authorities. Zwingli wrote his "Tract on Baptism" against their tenets. A public discussion was held with them; but the movement was wild, and continued for a long time to harass both church and state. In 1528 Zwingli was called to take part in the. disputation at Bern, where Haller was laboring in the cause of the reformation. He went accompanied by several German and Swiss theologians, and an escort of 300 men. The disputation continued through eighteen sessions. At the close ten articles favoring the reformation, drawn up by Haller, were subscribed by the majority of the clergy. In four months that entire canton was fraternally united with Zurich. Basel followed in January, 1529; psalms in German began to resound in the churches; and on April 1 public worship was arranged after the example of Zurich. St. Gall and Schaffhausen were also greatly moved.
To this part of Zwingli's life belongs the well known difference between the German and Swiss reformers on the subject of the Lord's supper. As early as 1527 pamphlets began to pass between them. Luther wrote violently and warmly; Zwingli replied calmly and coolly. Philip, landgrave of Hesse, in order to reconcile these differences and bring the reformers together, invited all the theologians of the differing parties to meet in friendly conference at Marburg. The conference was held Oct. 1-3, 1529; and it ended without full-reconciliation. At the close Zwingli was in tears, exclaiming: "Let us confess our union in all things in which we agree; and as for the rest, let us remember that we are brothers." " Yes, yes," exclaimed the landgrave, " you agree. Give, then, a testimony of unity, and recognize one another as brothers." " There is no one upon earth with whom I more desire to be united than with you," said Zwingli, approaching the Wittenberg doctors. (Ecolampadius and Bucer said the same. " Acknowledge them, acknowledge them as brothers," continued the landgrave. For a moment it seemed as if they would unite. Luther himself relates that Zwingli, bursting into tears, approached him, holding out his hand.
Luther rejected him, repeating over and over: "You have a different spirit from ours!" After some further consultation, terms of mutual peace and good will, if not of unity, were agreed upon, and they signed articles drawn up by Luther himself at the request of both parties, stating the points on which they had all agreed. Zwingli returned to Zurich Oct. 19, 1529, only to find new troubles in his fatherland. Between friends and foes of the reformation the lines had now been drawn. Three cities and cantons stood on one side, and five cantons on the other. The reformed free cities demanded: 1, that their calumniators should be duly punished; 2, that the poor people, who had been driven from house and home on account of their faith, should be permitted to return; 3, that the religious doctrines of one district should be tolerated in others. To these demands the five Catholic cantons, Schwytz, Uri, Unterwalden, Luoerne, and Zug, would not agree. The Zurichers resolved to obtain their rights by force. Zwingli favored prompt warfare. Bern also favored forcible measures, but recommended first merely a withdrawal of the means of subsistence from their opponents, a measure which only exasperated them. A treaty of peace, concluded at Kappel, June 25, 1529, did not long stand sacred.
Zwingli was filled with apprehension. Even Zurich was not free from internal dissensions. Discouraged, he proposed to withdraw from the city, but yielded to entreaty, and consented to remain. Ministers passing through the Catholic cantons were arrested, and one, Jacob Kaiser, was burned. To punish these acts, the reformed cantons cut off their supplies, whereupon the Catholics commenced hostilities. On Oct. 9, 1531, a company of soldiers from Lucerne passed over the borders and committed depredations. On the 10th vessels laden with soldiers sailed up the lake of Zug, and 8,000 men came to rendezvous in Zug. This took the Zurichers by surprise; but they gathered their forces, and Zwingli received orders to accompany the army as chaplain. He was discouraged, yet was not without faith. "Our cause," said he to his friends, "is a righteous one, but badly defended. It will cost me my life, and the life of many an upright man who wishes to restore to religion its original purity, and to his country its ancient morals. But God will not forsake his servants; he will help even when you believe all is lost. My confidence is in him alone. I submit myself to his will." The odds were great, 8,000 men against 1,900, and the conflict terrible.
After the battle had begun, the captain of arquebusiers proposed to await on the heights with the banner the arrival of the reinforcements that were coming from Zurich. Zwingli opposed this. He could not look on while his brethren were shot down in battle. "In the name of God," he exclaimed, "will I go to them, to die with them, or to aid in their deliverance." The Zurichers were brave, but too few; and their enemies prevailed. While stooping down to console a dying soldier, a stone hurled by the vigorous arm of a Waldstadter struck Zwingli on the head, and closed his lips. He rose again, when two blows upon the leg struck him down. Twice more he sprang up; but a fourth time he was thrust by a lance, when he staggered and fell beneath his wounds. Prowling over the field after the battle in search of plunder, two soldiers came near to the reformer without recognizing him. They asked him whether he desired a priest to confess. He could not speak, but gave the sign, " No." They told him that, as he could not speak, he should at least think in his heart of the mother of God, and call upon the saints. Zwingli shook his head, and kept his eyes fixed on heaven.
The soldiers, now infuriated, began to curse him, adding: " We doubt not you are one of the heretics of this city." A fire had been kindled near the spot; and one of the soldiers, curious to know who it was, turned Zwingli's face toward the light. Suddenly he dropped him surprised, saying: " I think it is Zwingli." At that moment Captain Fockinger, a mercenary from Unterwalden, drew near, having just heard the last words of the soldier. "Zwingli!" he exclaimed, "that vile heretic Zwingli! that rascal! that traitor!" Then raising his sword, he struck the dying reformer on the throat, exclaiming in a violent passion: "Die, obstinate heretic!" The body lay on the field over night. In the morning, at the demand of a mob, it was tried, formally condemned to be quartered for treason against the confederation, and then burned for heresy. The sentence was carried out by the executioner of Lucerne. The ashes were mingled with the ashes of swine, and the furious multitude, rushing upon the remains, flung them to the winds of heaven. - Zwingli has been censured for his confidence in the virtue of the civil arm.
He believed that the fatherland belonged to Christ and the church, and must be defended for their sake; and that Switzerland could only give itself to Christ so far and so long as it was free. He was a man of fine appearance, prepossessing manners, polite address, pleasing conversation, extensive and sound learning, and brilliant genius. He has been represented as having been, more than any other of the reformers, radical and revolutionary in his reformatory movements; but Dr. Ebrard, in his " History of the Doctrine of the Lord's Supper," shows that this charge " is no better than a pure fiction of fancy, or theological prejudice;" that Zwingli was fully as conservative as Luther, and much more so than Calvin, in the matter of doctrine and worship. (See Lord's Supper, and Reformed Church.) Among all his writings, Zwingli has left no symbol of faith, no system of positive theology. His 67 theses, like all his writings, are prevailingly polemical. Attempts have however been made to elaborate and systematize his divinity from his works. (See Dr. Eduard Zeller, Das theologische System ZwingWs dargestellt, Tubingen, 1853; and Sigwart, Ulrich Zwingli: der Character seiner Thteologie, Stuttgart and Hamburg, 1855.) A complete collection of his writings has been published in 8 vols. (Zurich, 1828). Of the numerous biographies of Zwingli may be mentioned Hottinger's Huldreich Zwingli und seine Zeit (Zurich, 1841), and Christoffel's Huldreich Zwingli's Leben und ausgewahlte Schriften, in Die Väter der reformirten Kirche (Elberfeld, 1857).