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History of the Christian Church, Volume VIII: Modern Christianity. The Swiss Reformation.
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§ 44. Between the Wars. Political Plains of Zwingli.


The effect of the first Peace of Cappel was favorable to the cause of the Reformation. It had now full legal recognition, and made progress in the Cantons and in the common territories. But the peace did not last long. The progress emboldened the Protestants, and embittered the Catholics.

The last two years of Zwingli were full of anxiety, but also full of important labors. He contemplated a political reconstruction of Switzerland, and a vast European league for the protection and promotion of Protestant interests.

He attended the theological Colloquy at Marburg (Sept. 29 to Oct. 3, 1529) in the hope of bringing about a union with the German Lutherans against the common foe at Rome. But Luther refused his hand of fellowship, and would not tolerate a theory of the Lord’s Supper which he regarded as a dangerous heresy.270270    See vol. VI. 629-653.

While at Marburg, Zwingli made the personal acquaintance of the Landgraf, Philip of Hesse, and the fugitive Duke Ulrich of Würtemberg, who admired him, and sympathized with his theology as far as they understood it, but cared still more for their personal and political interests. He conceived with them the bold idea of a politico-ecclesiastical alliance of Protestant states and cities for the protection of religious liberty against the combined forces of the papacy and the empire which threatened that liberty. Charles V. had made peace with Clement VII., June 29, 1529, and crossed the Alps in May, 1530, on his way to the Diet of Augsburg, offering to the Protestants bread with one hand, but concealing a stone in the other. Zwingli carried on a secret correspondence with Philip of Hesse from April 22, 1529, till Sept. 10, 1531.271271    See vol. VI. 633 sq., and Max Lenz, Zwingli und Landgraf Philipp, three articles in Brieger’s "Zeitschrift für Kirchengeschichte," 1879. He saw in the Roman empire the natural ally of the Roman papacy, and would not have lamented its overthrow.272272    "Quid Germaniae cum Roma?" he wrote to Conrad Som of Ulm in 1529 (Opera, VIII. 388). He reminded him of the German verse:—
   "Papstthum und Kaiserthum

   Die sind beide von Rom."
Being a republican Swiss, he did not share in the loyal reverence of the monarchical Germans for their emperor. But all he could reasonably aim at was to curb the dangerous power of the emperor by strengthening the Protestant alliance. Further he did not go.273273    "Von irgend einem Anschlag gegen den Kaiser," says Mörikofer, II. 299, "war auch gar nie und von keiner Seite die Rede." Janssen, Geschichte des deutschen Volkes, III. 218 sq., unjustly charges Zwingli and Zürich with preaching open rebellion against the emperor, and attempting to replace him by the ambitious Landgraf of Hesse.

He tried to draw into this alliance the republic of Venice and the kingdom of France, but failed. These powers were jealous of the grasping ambition of the house of Habsburg, but had no sympathy with evangelical reform. Francis I. was persecuting the Protestants at that very time in his own country.

It is dangerous to involve religion in entangling political alliances. Christ and the Apostles kept aloof from secular complications, and confined themselves to preaching the ethics of politics. Zwingli, with the best intentions, overstepped the line of his proper calling, and was doomed to bitter disappointment. Even Philip of Hesse, who pushed him into this net, grew cool, and joined the Lutheran League of Smalcald (1530), which would have nothing to do with the Protestants of Switzerland.



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