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History of the Christian Church, Volume VIII: Modern Christianity. The Swiss Reformation.
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§ 45. Zwingli’s Last Theological Labors. His Confessions of Faith.


During these fruitless political negotiations Zwingli never lost sight of his spiritual vocation. He preached and wrote incessantly; he helped the reform movement in every direction; he attended synods at Frauenfeld (May, 1530), at St. Gall (December, 1530), and Toggenburg (April, 1531); he promoted the organization and discipline of the Reformed churches, and developed great activity as an author. Some of his most important theological works—a commentary on the prophecies of Isaiah and Jeremiah, his treatise on Divine Providence, and two Confessions of Faith—belong to the last two years of his life.

He embraced the opportunity offered by the Diet of Augsburg to send a printed Confession of Faith to Charles V., July 8, 1530.274274    Ratio Fidei, etc., printed in Opera, vol. IV. 3-18, and in Niemeyer’s Collectio Confessionum (1840), pp. 16-35. For an analysis see Schaff, Ch. Hist., vol. VI. 721-723, and A. Baur, Zwingli’s Theologie, II. 643 sqq. But it was treated with contempt, and not even laid before the Diet. Dr. Eck wrote a hasty reply, and denounced Zwingli as a man who did his best to destroy religion in Switzerland, and to incite the people to rebellion.275275    Zwingli sent an answer to the German princes assembled at Augsburg, dated Aug. 27, 1530. Opera, IV. 19-41. The Lutherans were anxious to conciliate the emperor, and repudiated all contact with Zwinglians and Anabaptists.276276    The Anabaptists are condemned (damnant) in Art. IX., the Zwinglians are disapproved (improbant) in Art. X., of the Augsburg Confession. See Melanchthon’s Judicium de Zwinglii doctrina, written at Augsburg, July 25, 1530, in "Corpus Reform," II. 222 sq.

A few months before his death (July, 1531) he wrote, at the request of his friend Maigret, the French ambassador at Zürich, a similar Confession addressed to King Francis I., to whom he had previously dedicated his "Commentary on the True and False Religion" (1524).277277    Christianae Fidei brevis et clara Expositio, in Zwingli’s Opera, vol. IV. 42-78, and in Niemeyer’s Collectio, pp. 36-77. For a summary, see Schaff, Creeds of Christendom, I. 368 sq., and Baur, l.c. II. 754-776. In this Confession he discusses some of the chief points of controversy,—God and his Worship, the Person of Christ, Purgatory, the Real Presence, the Virtue of the Sacraments, the Civil Power, Remission of Sin, Faith and Good Works, Eternal Life,—and added an Appendix on the Eucharist and the Mass. He explains apologetically and polemically his doctrinal position in distinction from the Romanists, Lutherans, and Anabaptists. He begins with God as the ultimate ground of faith and only object of worship, and closes with an exhortation to the king to give the gospel free course in his kingdom. In the section on Eternal Life he expresses more strongly than ever his confident hope of meeting in heaven not only the saints of the Old and the New Dispensation from Adam down to the Apostles, but also the good and true and noble men of all nations and generations.278278    "Deinde sperandum est fore ut videos sanctorum, prudentium, fidelium, constantium, fortium virtuosorum omnium, quicunque a condito mundo fuerunt, sodalitatem, coetum et contubernium. Hic duos Adamos, redemptum ac redemptorem: hic Abelum, Enochum, Noachum, Abrahamum,Isaacum, Judam, Mosen, Iosuam, Gedeonem, Samuelem, Pineam, Eliam, Elisaeum, Iesaiam ac deiparam Virginem de qua ille praecinuit, Davidem, Ezekiam, Josiam, Baptistam, Petrum, Paulum: hic Herculem, Theseum, Socratem, Aristidem, Antigonum, Numam, Camillum, Catones, Scipiones: hic Ludovicum pium antecessoresque tuos, Ludovicos, Philippos, Pipinos, et quotquot in fide hinc migrarunt maiores tuos videbis. Denique non fuit vir bonus, non erit mens sancta, non est fidelis anima, ab ipso mundi exordio usque ad eius consummationem, quem non sis isthic cum deo visurus. Quo spectaculo quid laetius, quid amoenius, quid denique honorificentius vel cogitari poterit? Aut quo iustius omnes animi vires intendimus quam ad huiuscemodi vitae lucrum?" (Opera, IV. 65.) The selection of examples might have been more judicious, or better be omitted altogether. It was this passage that so shocked Luther’s churchly feelings that he called Zwingli a heathen. Werke, XXXII. 399 sq. "Bossuet," says Michelet (X. 311), "cite ce passage pour en rire. Mais qui a un coeur le retiendra it jamais." There are few Protestant divines who would not agree with Zwingli as regards the salvation of unbaptized infants and pious heathen.

This liberal extension of Christ’s kingdom and Christ’s salvation beyond the limits of the visible Church, although directly opposed to the traditional belief of the necessity of water baptism for salvation, was not altogether new. Justin Martyr, Origen, and other Greek fathers saw in the scattered truths of the heathen poets and philosophers the traces of the pre-Christian revelation of the Logos, and in the philosophy of the Greeks a schoolmaster to lead them to Christ. The humanists of the school of Erasmus recognized a secondary inspiration in the classical writings, and felt tempted to pray: "Sancte Socrates, ora pro nobis." Zwingli was a humanist, but he had no sympathy with Pelagianism. On the contrary, as we have shown previously, he traced salvation to God’s sovereign grace, which is independent of ordinary means, and he first made a clear distinction between the visible and the invisible Church. He did not intend, as he has been often misunderstood, to assert the possibility of salvation without Christ. "Let no one think," he wrote to Urbanus Rhegius (a preacher at Augsburg), "that I lower Christ; for whoever comes to God comes to him through Christ .... The word, ’He who believeth not will be condemned,’ applies only to those who can hear the gospel, but not to children and heathen .... I openly confess that all infants are saved by Christ, since grace extends as far as sin. Whoever is born is saved by Christ from the curse of original sin. If he comes to the knowledge of the law and does the works of the law (Rom. 2:14, 26), he gives evidence of his election. As Christians we have great advantages by the knowledge of the gospel." He refers to the case of Cornelius, who was pious before his baptism; and to the teaching of Paul, who made the circumcision of the heart, and not the circumcision of the flesh, the criterion of the true Israelite (Rom. 2:28, 29).279279    Comp. the remarks on pp. 95 sqq., and Schweizer’s Centraldogmen, I. 94 sqq. and p. 131 sq.

The Confession to Francis I. was the last work of Zwingli. It was written three months before his death, and published five years later (1536) by Bullinger, who calls it his "swan song." The manuscript is preserved in the National Library of Paris, but it is doubtful whether the king of France ever saw it. Calvin dedicated to him his Institutes, with a most eloquent preface, but with no better success. Charles V. and Francis I. were as deaf to such appeals as the emperors of heathen Rome were to the Apologies of Justin Martyr and Tertullian. Had Francis listened to the Swiss Reformers, the history of France might have taken a different course.



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