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History of the Christian Church, Volume VIII: Modern Christianity. The Swiss Reformation.
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§ 8. Zwingli in Einsiedeln.


In 1516 Zwingli left Glarus on account of the intrigues of the French political party, which came into power after the victory of the French at Marignano (1515), and accepted a call to Einsiedeln, but kept his charge and expected to return; for the congregation was much attached to him, and promised to build him a new parsonage. He supplied the charge by a vicar, and drew his salary for two years, until he was called to Zurich, when he resigned.

Einsiedeln3131    Maria-Einsiedeln, Deiparae Virginia Eremus, Eremitarum Coenobium in Helvetiis, Notre-Dame-des-Eremites. is a village with a Benedictine convent in the Catholic canton Schwyz. It was then, and is to this day, a very famous resort of pilgrims to the shrine of a wonder-working black image of the Virgin Mary, which is supposed to have fallen from heaven. The number of annual pilgrims from Switzerland, Germany, France, and Italy exceeds a hundred thousand.

Here, then, was a large field of usefulness for a preacher. The convent library afforded special facilities for study.

Zwingli made considerable progress in his knowledge of the Scriptures and the Fathers. He read the annotations of Erasmus and the commentaries of Origen, Ambrose, Jerome, and Chrysostom. He made extracts on the margin of his copies of their works which are preserved in the libraries at Zurich. He seems to have esteemed Origen, Jerome, and Chrysostom more, and Augustin less, than Luther did; but he also refers frequently to Augustin in his writings.3232    Usteri has examined the marginal annotations in Zwingli’s patristic library, and gives the scanty results in his Initia Zwinglii, in "Studien und Kritiken," 1886, p. 681 sq. The Zwingli library was on exhibition at Zurich, Jan. 4-13, 1884, and a catalogue printed.

We have an interesting proof of his devotion to the Greek Testament in a MS. preserved in the city library at Zurich. In 1517 he copied with his own hand very neatly the Epistles of Paul and the Hebrews in a little book for constant and convenient use. The text is taken from the first edition of Erasmus, which appeared in March, 1516, and corrects some typographical errors. It is very legible and uniform, and betrays an experienced hand; the marginal notes, in Latin, from Erasmus and patristic commentators, are very small and almost illegible. On the last page he added the following note in Greek: —

"These Epistles were written at Einsiedeln of the blessed Mother of God by Huldreich Zwingli, a Swiss of Toggenburg, in the year one thousand five hundred and seventeen of the Incarnation, in the month of June.3333    Skirophorion,i.e. the 12th Attic month, answering to the latter part of June and the first part of July. Σκιροφόρια was the festival of Athena Σκιράς, celebrated in that month. The year (1517) refutes the error of several biographers, who date the MS. back to the period of Glarus. Besides, there was no printed copy of the Greek Testament before 1516. Happily ended."3434     The subscription (as I copied it, with its slight errors, in the Wasserkirche, Aug. 14, 1886) reads as follows:—
   Ταῦται αἱ Ἐπιστολαῖ [αὶ] γραφεῖσαι

   Ἐρήμου τῆς μακαρίας θεο-

   τόκου, παρὰ τῷ Ὑλδε-

   ρυχῳ Ζυγγλίῳ Δωγ-

   γίῳ ἑλβετίῳ, χιλιο-

   στῳ πεντακοσιόστῳ

   ἑπτὰ καὶ δεκάτῳ

   ἀπὸ τῆς θεογο-

   νίας , μηνὸς

   σκιῤῥοφορι-

   ωνος

   Ευτιχῶς [εὐτυχως]

At the same time he began at Einsiedeln to attack from the pulpit certain abuses and the sale of indulgences, when Samson crossed the Alps in August, 1518. He says that he began to preach the gospel before Luther’s name was known in Switzerland, adding, however, that at that time he depended too much on Jerome and other Fathers instead of the Scriptures. He told Cardinal Schinner in 1517 that popery had poor foundation in the Scriptures. Myconius, Bullinger, and Capito report, in substantial agreement, that Zwingli preached in Einsiedeln against abuses, and taught the people to worship Christ, and not the Virgin Mary. The inscription on the entrance gate of the convent, promising complete remission of sins, was taken down at his instance.3535    The inscription was, "Hic est plena remissio omnium peccatorum a culpa et a poena." But the sermon against the worship of saints, pilgrimages and vows, of which Bullinger speaks (I. 81), was preached later, in 1522, at the Feast of Angels, during a visit of Zwingli to Einsiedeln. See Pestalozzi, Leo Judae, p. 16, and Gieseler, III. i. p. 138. Beatus Rhenanus, in a letter of Dec. 6, 1518, applauds his attack upon Samson, the restorer of indulgences, and says that Zwingli preached to the people the purest philosophy of Christ from the fountain.3636    Opera, VII. A. 57: "Risimus abunde veniarum institorem [Bernh. Samson], quem in litteris tuis graphice depinxisti... ." Then he complains that most of the priests teach heathen and Jewish doctrines, but that Zwingli and his like "purissimam Christi philosophiam ex ipsis fontibus populo proponere, non Scoticis et Gabrielicis interpretationibus depravatam; sed ab Augustino, Ambrosio, Cypriano, Hieronymo, germane et sincere expositam." Rhenanus contrasts the Fathers with the Scholastics, Duns Scotus, and Gabriel Biel.

On the strength of these testimonies, many historians date the Swiss Reformation from 1516, one year before that of Luther, which began Oct. 31, 1517. But Zwingli’s preaching at Einsiedeln had no such consequences as Luther’s Theses. He was not yet ripe for his task, nor placed on the proper field of action. He was at that time simply an Erasmian or advanced liberal in the Roman Church, laboring for higher education rather than religious renovation, and had no idea of a separation. He enjoyed the full confidence of the abbot, the bishop of Constance, Cardinal Schinner, and even the Pope. At Schinner’s recommendation, he was offered an annual pension of fifty guilders from Rome as an encouragement in the pursuit of his studies, and he actually received it for about five years (from 1515 to 1520). Pucci, the papal nuncio at Zurich, in a letter dated Aug. 24, 1518, appointed him papal chaplain (Accolitus Capellanus), with all the privileges and honors of that position, assigning as the reason "his splendid virtues and merits," and promising even higher dignities.3737    See the letter of Anthonius Puccius to Zwingli in Opera, VII. A. 48 sq. The document of the appointment, with the signature and seal of the papal legate, dated Sept. 1, 1518, is kept in the city library at Zurich. He also offered to double his pension, and to give him in addition a canonry in Basle or Coire, on condition that he should promote the papal cause. Zwingli very properly declined the chaplaincy and the increase of salary, and declared frankly that he would never sacrifice a syllable of the truth for love of money; but he continued to receive the former pension of fifty guilders, which was urged upon him without condition, for the purchase of books. In 1520 he declined it altogether,—what he ought to have done long before.3838    Zwingli speaks of this pension very frankly and with deep regret in a letter to his brothers (1522), and in his Exposition of the Conclusions (1523). Werke, I. A. 86 and 354. Francis Zink, the papal chaplain at Einsiedeln, who paid the pension, was present at Zwingli’s interview with Pucci, and says, in a letter to the magistracy at Zurich (1521), that Zwingli could not well have lived without the pension, but felt very badly about it, and thought of returning to Einsiedeln.3939    Opera, VII. A. 179: "Ipse arbiter interfui, quum Domino Legato Pucci ingenue fassus est, ipsum pecuniae causa rebus Papae agendis non inserviturum," etc. Even as late as Jan. 23, 1523, Pope Adrian VI., unacquainted with the true state of things, wrote to Zwingli a kind and respectful letter, hoping to secure through him the influence of Zurich for the holy see.4040    Opera, VII. A. 266. The Pope addresses Zwingli "Dilecte fili," praises his "egregia virtus," assures him of his special confidence in him and his best wishes for him. At the same time the Pope wrote to Francis Zink to spare no effort to secure Zwingli for the papal interest; and Zink replied to Myconius, when asked what the Pope offered in return, "Omnia usque ad thronum papalem." Zwingli despised it all. Ibid. p. 266, note.



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