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History of the Christian Church, Volume VIII: Modern Christianity. The Swiss Reformation.
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§ 52. Zwingli. Redivivus.


The last words of the dying Zwingli, "They may kill the body, but cannot kill the soul," have been verified in his case. His body was buried with his errors and defects, but his spirit still lives; and his liberal views on infant salvation, and the extent of God’s saving grace beyond the limits of the visible Church, which gave so much offence in his age, even to the Reformers, have become almost articles of faith in evangelical Christendom.

Ulrich Zwingli is, next to Martin Luther and John Knox, the most popular among the Reformers.299299    The German volksthümlich expresses the idea better than popular. He moved in sympathy with the common people; he spoke and wrote their language; he took part in their public affairs; he was a faithful pastor of the old and young, and imbedded himself in their affections; while Erasmus, Melanchthon, Oecolampadius, Calvin, Beza, and Cranmer stood aloof from the masses. He was a man of the people and for the people, a typical Swiss; as Luther was a typical German. Both fairly represented the virtues and faults of their nation. Both were the best hated as well as the best loved men of their age, according to the faith which divided, and still divides, their countrymen.

Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli have been honored by a fourth centennial commemoration of their birth,—the one in 1883, the other in 1884. Such honor is almost without a precedent, at least in the history of theology.300300    I say "almost." In 1880, five hundred years after the completion of Wiclif’s English Bible, his memory was celebrated throughout the English-speaking Protestant world in five continents. The sixth centenary of Dante’s birth was celebrated in 1865 in Florence and all Italy. The last divine whose centennial birthday was observed is Neander, the Church historian. An eloquent commemorative oration was delivered on that occasion by Dr. Harnack, his successor, in the Aula of the University of Berlin, Jan. 17, 1889.

The Zwingli festival was not merely an echo of the Luther festival, but was observed throughout the Reformed churches of Europe and America with genuine enthusiasm, and gave rise to an extensive Zwingli literature. It is in keeping with the generous Christian spirit which the Swiss Reformer showed towards the German Reformer at Marburg, that many Reformed churches in Switzerland, as well as elsewhere, heartily united in the preceding jubilee of Luther, forgetting the bitter controversies of the sixteenth century, and remembering gratefully his great services to the cause of truth and liberty.301301    See the literature on the Zwingli centennial in § 5, pp. 17 sq. and the literature of the Luther celebration in vol. VI. 104 sq. and 730.

In the following year (Aug. 25, 1885), a bronze statue was erected to Zwingli at Zürich in front of the Wasserkirche and City Library, beneath the minster where be preached. It represents the Reformer as a manly figure, looking trustfully up to heaven, with the Bible in one hand and the sword in the other,—a combination true to history. Dr. Alexander Schweizer, one of the ablest Swiss divines (d. July 3, 1888), whose last public service was the Zwingli oration in the University, Jan. 7, 1884, protested against the sword, and left the committee on the monument. Dr. Konrad Ferdinand Meyer, the poet of the occasion, changed the sword of Zwingli, with poetic ingenuity, into the sword of Vokinger, by which he was slain.302302    "Hier das Schwert in meiner Hand
   Ist das Schwert, das mich erschlug."
Antistes Finsler, in his oration, gave the sword a double meaning, as in the case of Paul, who is likewise represented with the sword, namely, the sword by which he was slain, and the sword of the spirit with which he still is fighting; while at the same time it distinguishes Zwingli from Luther, and shows him as the patriot and statesman.

The whole celebration—the orderly enthusiasm of the people, the festive addresses of representative men of Church and State, the illumination of the city and the villages around the beautiful lake—bore eloquent witness to the fact that Zwingli has impressed his image indelibly upon the memory of German Switzerland. Although his descendants are at present about equally divided between orthodox conservatives and rationalistic "reformers" (as they call themselves), they forgot their quarrels on that day, and cordially united in tributes to the abiding merits of him who, whatever were his faults, has emancipated the greater part of Switzerland from the tyranny of popery, and led them to the fresh fountain of the teaching and example of Christ.303303    See an account of that memorable celebration (which I witnessed myself) in Erinnerungsblätter zur Einweihung des Zwingli-Denkmals in Zürich. Herausqegeben vom Denkmal-Komite. In 2 parts, Zürich, 1885. The chief address was made by Antistes Finsler, the twenty-second successor of Zwingli. A part of the celebration was a dramatic representation of Zwingli’s death (a historic tragedy by Charlotte Birch-Pfeiffer), and a banquet in the Tonhalle-Pavilion, where addresses were delivered by delegates from different Cantons. Zwingli’s poem, "Herr, nun heb den Wagen selbst," was sung with great spirit by the Concordia. The Swiss poet, Dr. Meyer, wrote the Festcantate. The statue was made by Natter, a Roman Catholic sculptor of Vienna, who attended the unveiling. A significant fact.




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