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History of the Christian Church, Volume VIII: Modern Christianity. The Swiss Reformation.
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§ 23. Church and State.


The Reformation of Zurich was substantially completed in 1525. It was brought about by the co-operation of the secular and spiritual powers. Zwingli aimed at a reformation of the whole religious, political, and social life of the people, on the basis and by the power of the Scriptures.119119    Bluntschli (Geschichte des schweizerischen Bundesrechtes, Stuttgart, 1875, 2d ed. I. 293 sq.): "Zwingli wur von Anfang an und durch sein ganzes Leben hindurch kaum viel weniger darauf bedacht, politisch einzugreifen als die Kirche zu reformiren. Während Luther mit ganzer Seele die Wiederbelebung und Reinigung des christlichen Glaubens anstrebte und sich ausschliesslich dieser Aufgabe widmete, wollte Zwingli nicht bloss Kirchen-, sondern zugleich auch Staatsmann sein. Indem sich Zwingli der kirchlichen Reformation in der Schweiz bemächtigte und diese von Zürich aus über die ganze Schweiz zu verbreiten trachtete, ging er zugleich mit Planen um, die Schweiz politisch umzugestalten."

The patriot, the good citizen, and the Christian were to him one and the same. He occupied the theocratic standpoint of the Old Testament. The preacher is a prophet: his duty is to instruct, to exhort, to comfort, to rebuke sin in high and low places, and to build up the kingdom of God; his weapon is the Word of God. The duty of the magistracy is to obey the gospel, to protect religion, to punish wickedness. Calvin took the same position in Geneva, and carried it out much more fully than Zwingli.

The bishop of Constance, to whose diocese Zurich belonged, opposed the Reformation; and so did the other bishops of Switzerland. Hence the civil magistracy assumed the episcopal rights and jurisdiction, under the spiritual guidance of the Reformers. It first was impartial, and commanded the preachers of the canton to teach the Word of God, and to be silent about the traditions of men (1520). Then it prohibited the violation of the Church fasts (1522), and punished the image-breakers, in the interest of law and order (1523). But soon afterwards it openly espoused the cause of reform in the disputation of 1523, and authorized the abolition of the old worship and the introduction of the new (1524 and 1525). It confiscated the property of the churches and convents, and took under its control the regulation of marriage, the care of the poor, and the education of the clergy. The Church was reduced legally to a state of dependence, though she was really the moving and inspiring power of the State, and was supported by public sentiment. In a republic the majority of the people rule, and the minority must submit. The only dissenters in Zurich were a small number of Romanists and Anabaptists, who were treated with the same disregard of the rights of conscience as the Protestants in Roman Catholic countries, only with a lesser degree of severity. The Reformers refused to others the right of protest which they claimed and exercised for themselves, and the civil magistracy visited the poor Anabaptists with capital punishment.

The example of Zurich was followed by the other cantons in which the Reformation triumphed. Each has its own ecclesiastical establishment, which claims spiritual jurisdiction over all the citizens of its territory. There is no national Reformed Church of Switzerland, with a centre of unity.

This state of things is the same as that in Protestant Germany, but differs from it as a republic differs from a monarchy. In both countries the bishops, under the command of the Pope, condemned Protestantism, and lost the control over their flock. The Reformers, who were mere presbyters, looked to the civil rulers for the maintenance of law and order. In Germany, after the Diet of Speier in 1526, the princes assumed the episcopal supervision, and regulated the Church in their own territories for good or evil. The people were passive, and could not even elect their own pastors. In Switzerland, we have instead a sort of democratic episcopate or republican Caesaropapacy, where the people hold the balance of power, and make and unmake their government.

In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries Church and State, professing the same religion, had common interests, and worked in essential harmony; but in modern times the mixed character, the religious indifferentism, the hostility and the despotism of the State, have loosened the connection, and provoked the organization of free churches in several cantons (Geneva, Vaud, Neuchatel), on the basis of self-support and self-government. The State must first and last be just, and either support all the religions of its citizens alike, or none. It owes the protection of law to all, within the limits of order and peace. But the Church has the right of self-government, and ought to be free of the control of politicians.120120    The government of the Protestant cantons of Switzerland tolerates and supports now, in the pulpit and the chair, all sorts of errors and heresies far worse than those for which the Anabaptists were drowned in the sixteenth century. In 1839 the magistracy of Zurich called the infidel Dr. Strauss to the chair of dogmatic theology in the university; but on that occasion the country people asserted their sovereignty, upset the rule of the radical party, and defeated its aim.

Among the ministers of the Reformation period, Zwingli, and, after his death, Bullinger, exercised a sort of episcopate in fact, though not in form; and their successors in the Great Minster stood at the head of the clergy of the canton. A similar position is occupied by the Antistes of Basle and the Antistes of Schaffhausen. They correspond to the Superintendents of the Lutheran churches in Germany.

Zwingli was the first among the Reformers who organized a regular synodical Church government. He provided for a synod composed of all ministers of the city and canton, two lay delegates of every parish, four members of the small and four members of the great council. This mixed body represented alike Church and State, the clergy and the laity. It was to meet twice a year, in spring and fall, in the city hall of Zurich, with power to superintend the doctrine and morals of the clergy, and to legislate on the internal affairs of the Church. The first meeting was held at Easter, 1528. Zwingli presided, and at his side was Leo Judae. The second meeting took place May 19, 1528. The proceedings show that the synod exercised strict discipline over the morals of the clergy and people, and censured intemperance, extravagance in dress, neglect of Church ordinances, etc.121121    Opera, III. B. 19 sqq.; Mörikofer, II. 121 sq.

But German Switzerland never went to such rigors of discipline as Geneva under the influence of Calvin.



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