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History of the Christian Church, Volume VII. Modern Christianity. The German Reformation.
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§ 95. The Reformation in Strassburg. Martin Bucer.


Joh. W. Baum: Capito und Butzer, Elberfeld, 1860 (partly from MSS. See a complete chronological list of Bucer’s works, pp. 577–611). W. Krafft: art. "Butzer" in Herzog’s Encykl.2, vol. III. 35–46 (abridged in Schaff-Herzog). Tim. W. Röhrich: Gesch. der Reformation in Elsass und besonders in Strassburg, Strassb. 1830–32, 3 vols. A. Erichson: L’Église française de Strasbourg au seizième siècle d’après des monuments inédits. Stasb. 1885. Max Lenz: Briefwechsel Landgraf Philipps mit Bucer, Leipzig, 1880 and 1887, 2 vols. Ad. Baum: Magistrat und Reformation in Strassburg. Strassb. 1887 (212 pages).


Strassburg, the capital of the Alsace, celebrated for its Gothic cathedral, university, and libraries, had been long before the Reformation the scene of the mystic revival preacher Tauler and the Friends of God. It was a thoroughly German city before Louis XIV. incorporated it with France (1681), and was re-conquered by Germany in 1870.

The Reformation began there in 1523. Zell, Bucer, Capito (Köpfel), Hedio (Heil), and for a few years Calvin also (1538 to 1541), labored there with great success. The magistrate abolished the mass, 1528, and favored the Protestant cause under the lead of Jacob Sturm, an enlightened patriot, who represented the city in all important transactions at home, in the Diet, and in conferences with the Romanists, till his death (1553). He urged the establishment of a Christian college, where classical learning and evangelical piety should be cultivated. His namesake, Johann Sturm, an eminent pedagogue, was called from Paris to preside over this college (1537), which grew into an academy, and ultimately into a university. Both were moderate men, and agreed with Capito and Bucer.754754    On Jacob Sturm see the monograph of H. Baumgarten, Strassburg. 1876. Of John Sturm (who died 1589, in his eighty-second year), there are several biographies, by C. Schmidt (in French, 1855), Rieth (1864), Kückelhahn (1872), and Zaar (1872). The church of Strassburg was much disturbed by the Peasants’ War, the Anabaptists, and still more by the unfortunate sacramental controversies.

The chief reformer of Strassburg was Martin Bucer (1491–1552).755755    Butzer in German, Bucerus in Latin. He was a native of Alsace, a Dominican monk, and ordained to the priesthood. He received a deep impression from Luther at the disputation in Heidelberg, 1518; obtained papal dispensation from his monastic vows (1521); left the Roman Church; found refuge in the castle of Francis of Sickingen; married a nun, and accepted a call to Strassburg in 1523.

Here he labored as minister for twenty-five years, and had a hand in many important movements connected with the Reformation. He attended the colloquy at Marburg (1529); wrote, with Capito, the Confessio Tetrapolitana (1530); brought about an artificial and short-lived armistice between Luther and Zwingli by the Wittenberg Concordia (1536); connived, unfortunately, at the bigamy of Philip of Hesse; and took a leading part, with Melanchthon, in the unsuccessful reformation of Archbishop Herrmann of Cologne (1542). Serious political troubles, and his resistance to the semi-popish Interim, made his stay in Strassburg dangerous, and at last impossible. Melanchthon in Wittenberg, Myconius in Basel, and Calvin in Geneva, offered him an asylum; but be accepted, with his younger colleague Fagius, a call of Cranmer to England (1549). He aided him in his reforms; was highly esteemed by the archbisbop and King Edward VI., and ended his labors as professor of theology in Cambridge. His bones were exhumed in the reign of Bloody Mary (1556), but his memory was honorably restored by Queen Elizabeth (1560).

Bucer figures largely in the history of his age as the third (next to Luther and Melanchthon) among the Reformers of Germany, as a learned theologian and diplomatist, and especially as a unionist and peacemaker between the Lutherans and Zwinglians. He forms also a connecting link between Germany and England, and exerted some influence in framing the Anglican standards of doctrine and worship. His motto was: "We believe in Christ, not in the church."756756    "Wir sind Christgläubig, nicht kirchgläubig."

He impressed his character upon the church of Strassburg, which occupied a middle ground between Wittenberg and Zürich, and gave shelter to Calvin and the Reformed refugees of France. Strict Lutheranism triumphed for a period, but his irenical catholicity revived in the practical pietism of Spener, who was likewise an Alsacian. In recent times the Strassburg professors, under the lead of Dr. Reuss, mediated between the Protestant theology of Germany and that of France, in both languages, and furnished the best edition of the works of John Calvin.



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