Page images
PDF
EPUB

parish. But the Glarians maintained successfully their right of independent choice, and Zuingli, now twenty-two years old, finally accepted the place.

On his journey home from Basle, Zuingli preached his first sermon at Rapperschweil, in the canton of Zurich, and on St. Michael's day of the same year read the mass, for the first time, to his own townsmen of Wildhaus, "holy orders" having been conferred upon him by the bishop of Constance, in whose diocese Glaris was situated. Toward the end of the year, he entered upon his duties at Glaris. The parish was large and required much industry as well as judgment in its management. The manner in which he devoted himself to his work is well described by his faithful biographer Myconius, and cannot be without interest to those entering on similar duties: “He becomes a priest! how entirely counter to the manner of most priests, he devoted himself unceasingly to study, especially the study of theology. He had not before rightly understood how much he needs to know, to whom the people look for instruction in divine truth. Not theological knowledge alone is requisite, but the power of ready and graceful elocution is necessary in order to minister acceptably and profitably to all. So zealously did he devote himself to these studies that no one for many years past can be compared with him, and no one, not even the best orator of our time, is so perfectly master of the art of speaking as he was. Yet he did not attempt to express himself in the manner of Cicero, nor in accordance with the rules of the ancients, but freely, naturally, in the manner which his age and the people of his care required. Thus he met with the same success among us that Tully did among his own countrymen."1

We cannot trace the course of Zuingli at Glaris without admiration of his practical wisdom and good sense and scholarly feeling; nor less can we fail to recognize the guiding hand of omnipotent wisdom. When we take into account the age in which he lived, and the work in which he was destined subsequently to engage, we can hardly see how he could have entered upon a course of study and labor, better suited to prepare him for his work. To many in our day, these years of his life may seem to have been wasted. He ought, they would say, to have cried aloud and spared not, the moment that the least glimmering of light met his eye. They in their sapience, forgetting that they may not have in their keeping all the wisdom that descendeth from on high, would have gone into the highways and byways and cried: "Ye serpents! ye generation of vipers!" "ye stiff-necked

1 Quoted in Schuler, S. 29, 30.

1851.]

Studies at Glaris.

575

and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost;" or directed their face toward Rome and expected that her walls would have fallen down before she had even been seven times encompassed, or the ram's horn sounded the seventh time. They would forsooth penetrate the papal palace and stun papal ears. But Zuingli thought not so, neither did the guiding hand of God thus direct. He felt the need of study, of close and protracted study. He must himself be sure of the ground on which he stood, before he attempted to drive others from their strong holds, albeit they were in the enemies' country.

His Theological, Biblical, and Classical Studies at Glaris.

Zuingli marked out a plan of study for himself, after he went to Glaris, and pursued it with iron diligence. The Bible he felt to be the source of all theological knowledge. He could not trust human speculations, unless he could trace them to their source in God's word. His work and his delight was, to study the Bible in the languages in which it was originally written. This was his daily, his untiring employment. He soon acquired the reputation of great knowledge of Scripture, and great skill in its interpretation. The assistants to Greek study, in those days, were few and unsatisfactory. He could procure the aid of no Grammar of any value, until his friend Glarianus obtained for him the "Isagoge of Chrysolaras," which we should think but an inadequate help. He found in Vadianus also, sympathy in his pursuits, to whom he wrote in 1513, that nothing but God should ever induce him to forego the study of the Greek language, not because he expected to acquire fame thereby, but from a love of divine learning. A manuscript copy in Greek, of the Apostle Paul's Epistles, with marginal notes and illustrations from Erasmus, Origen, Ambrose, Jerome, and others, by his hand, is yet to be seen in the Zurich library. This he undertook for the sake of familiarizing himself with these writings. He also, his biographer says,1 did the same with the rest of the books of the New Testament, and afterward proceeded with those of the Old Testament. He did this with no careless or vain-glorying spirit. For Myconius justly says of him: "Since he learned from Peter, that Scripture is not of private interpretation, he directed his eyes upward to heaven, seeking the Spirit for his teacher; supplicating in earnest prayer to be taught in what manner best to search out the sense of the Divine

1 Schuler, S. 31.

word." Yet he did not expect that prayer and pious desires would, as if by magic, give him directly all knowledge and understanding in interpreting Scripture. Too clear a head he had, and too strong sense, to be led away by any such imagination."

"Zuingli," says Hess, "thought it inexcusable in a man appointed to instruct his fellow Christians to rest upon the decision of others, on points that he might himself examine. He therefore followed the only method of discovering the true sense of an author, which consists in interpreting an obscure passage by a similar and clearer one; and an unusual word, by one more familiar - regard being had to time, place, the intention of the writer, and a number of other circumstances which modify and often change the signification of words." He always felt, that wisdom is the key by which to open the chambers of the Spirit. He did not, however, disregard the interpretations of others, but proved them by his own judgment, and reference to Scripture itself. He read the church fathers, and Erasmus, much, and made copious notes from them, as has been before intimated. He seems to have especially valued Augustin, with whose thorough knowledge of human nature, bold and clear thoughts, and impassioned eloquence, he fully sympathized, as well as in his dogmas in regard to faith and redemption in opposition to penances. Still, he called no man master. Our Lord Jesus Christ alone spoke the words of unerring truth. He felt, however, that it was not useless to the theologian to trace the manners and customs of the early Christians in the writings of the fathers to learn of their life and practices, in order to compare them, as well as their doctrines, with the church of his own time. Neither was he discouraged in tracing the history of the church through the scholastic ages. Although neither his taste or piety was particularly gratified, yet he would not lose the accurate knowledge, which could only thus be obtained, of the state of the church during those ages. Even the name of heretic did not terrify him. "In the midst of a field covered with noxious weeds," he said, "salutary herbs may sometimes be found." He accordingly read Ratram, a monk of the ninth century, on the Eucharist, Peter Waldus and John Huss upon the papal power, Wickliff against the invocation of saints and monastic vows, Picus of Mirandola, and others.

-

It will readily be seen that Zuingli in practice had adopted the

1 Calvin and the Swiss Reformation, p. 6.

3 Annotationes in Nov. Test., p. 283.

4 His work had been formally condemned.

2 P. 15.

1851.]

Method of Study.

577

dogmas of the Reformation. In his private study he rigidly adhered to the very principles of biblical interpretation which at this day distinguish Protestants from Catholics. He maintained that all understanding and explanation of the Bible, with the use of all external and internal means, under the guidance of the reason, free from all authority, must be drawn from itself. It must be explained by itself. It required no sanction of church councils or papal bulls. At a later time, he says to Eck, "Who was judge when our Lord and Saviour put the Sadducees and Pharisees to silence, so that they could no longer gainsay him? Or who was judge when Paul everywhere in the synagogue shut the mouths of his opposers! Was it not the truth, which contains its sanction in itself?1 The independence and self-reliance of Zuingli, too, early exhibited itself. "In the writings of the faithful, I notice the weeds," he says, "in those of heretics, the elements of good, and everywhere I find the one and the other." The thought and feeling with which he read any author was, that "the right is from God, the wrong to be discarded."

It might be supposed that Zuingli with such an extended course of theological and biblical study marked out and rigidly pursued, in addition to parish duties, could have found little time for communion with the masters of antiquity, who in previous years had been so constantly his companions. But it was not so. Schuler says: "Zuingli's free love for all truth, beauty and goodness led him to those rich fountains which God has opened for the culture of man in the master works of the Greeks and Romans. He united continual study of the classics with that of the Holy Scriptures; for he found even in them a revelation of God to man. From them he explained many Scripture phrases and ideas; by them he learned to make historical allusions with skill; they formed his style of writing, but especially of speaking; they furnished him with ideals of higher excellence, and presented the most noble of the human race crowned with undying honor. This brought every desire for the great and noble which was in his character into life, power and action; the superiority of these writings kept him from self-gratulation and vanity; and finally they served to this man who was eloquent by nature, physically beautiful, warm-hearted and joyous as a guide in friendly, courteous and winning intercourse."

He made, it should seem, extensive collections of classical passages that were illustrative of history. His remarks upon particular authors and the use he made of them, as given for substance by Schuler, Hottinger.

1 Schuler, S. 25.

2

are worthy of notice, and show not only his estimation of, but also the benefits received from them: "Plato," he says, "drank from a divine fountain." In admiring Plato's power, brilliancy and sublimity, he did not forget the acuteness, clearness and learning of Aristotle, whom he preferred in some respects. He made use of many of Cicero's definitions, as of religion, law, etc., and adopted as his own some of his philosophical tenets. "By the mouth of Cato," he says, "God spake to the Romans. Pindar is the prince of poets. He has a true, pure, holy, noble, uncorrupted soul. Every expression that he uses, if in itself common, he elevates. One can neither add to him or take away without injury. In him we find a worthy, elevated picture of the ancient world, which he presents us in living, brilliant colors before our sight. How fruitful his invention and yet how pure and chaste his language! How rich his imagery! What a treasury of apothegms! He excites to virtue; he unites with commendation the most delicate rebukes. His poetry flows on like a clear stream; everything in it is redolent of learning, is gentle, pure, sincere, antique, acute, elevated, attractive, far seeing-perfect! So loftily and reverently does he speak of the gods, that we easily see that he designates under that term the one divine, heavenly power. No Greek writer aids so much as he in the interpretation of the Bible, especially the Psalms and Job, which rival him in poetic beauty." And he adds what we think will meet with a response from every true scholar of the present day: "I do not trouble myself about those croakers, to whom purity is impure, who think that no heathen poet should be read. I do not exhort to the reading of every poet- but I do advise the perusal of this one as an explainer of the Scriptures. Antiquity (and indeed every age) has its peculiarities which can be understood only by a familiar acquaintance with the ancients, and therein Pindar is the best model. God grant that you who are familiar with the truth through the heathen poets, may understand that contained among the Hebrews and indeed among all nations."1

Zuingli as Pastor at Glaris.

We have seen Zuingli in his study; we will now inquire concerning his ministrations to the inhabitants of Glaris. He did not dwell upon the abuses of the church or its ministers. He did not at first inveigh against the pope or his emissaries; but he confined himself mainly to the doctrines which he found from personal examination to be con

1 S. 39-41.

« PreviousContinue »