BLTC Press Titles


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Novalis Including Hymns to the Night

Novalis, George MacDonald, Thomas Carlyle


The Diplomatic Background of the War

Charles Seymour


Through the Looking Glass

Lewis Carroll


The Souls of Black Folk

W. E. B. DuBois


Zwingli

by Raget Christoffel

Excerpt:

1. Zwingli's Entrance On His Curacy, And First Field Of

Labour.

About the end of the year 1506, our young priest, who had now reached his twenty-second year, set out again from Wildhaus, and crossed the Ammon to Wesen, where he visited his paternal uncle. From Wesen he pursued his way along the banks of the Linth, by a path which here winds between high and rocky mountains, to the chief town of the canton of Glarus. One noble resolve filled the soul of the ardent youth as he journeyed on: "I will be true and upright before God in every situation of life in which the hand of the Lord may place me." "Hypocrisy and lying," he writes, as the result of his early reflections, "are worse than stealing. Man is by nothing brought so much to resemble God as by truth. Lying is the beginning of all evil. Glorious is the truth, full of majesty, commanding even the respect of the wicked." Zwingli was profoundly sensible that the servant of God in the cure of souls must apply himself unremittingly to serious study, if he would guard his soul against the inroads of a low worldlymindedness, and if he would proclaim the truth to his hearers with living conviction. "He became priest," writes his friend Myconius, "and devoted himself with his whole soul to the search after divine truth, for he was well aware how much he must know to whom the flock of Christ is entrusted." The Roman classics he continued to read with diligence, chiefly that they might be useful to him in his acquisition of truth, and in the development of his oratorical powers. As for truth itself, he went for it, and drew it with untiring industry, out of the perennial stream of God's Word, where it flows in unmixed purity and freshness. Although he only knew holy Scripture as yet in the Latin version, he passed among his fellow priests for one who had a profound knowledge of the Bible. He well knew, however, and felt deeply, how small was the title he had to such a distinction. The efforts of Zwingli were directed, in the first years of his priesthood, along with the investigation of truth, to the development of his powers as a public speaker. The great orators of antiquity, those masters of eloquence, whom he regarded as unrivalled, were ever present to him, and the desire burned within him to work, with the power of oratory, in Switzerland, and in the cause of divine truth, yet greater wonders than these had ever wrought by their spirit-stirring harangues in Greece or Rome. In his parochial labours he directed his first attention to the young and their training. Under his influence, a Latin school was founded at Glarus, the guidance of which, in his ardent love, as well for youth as for learning, he took into his own hands. A band of young men, from the first families of the land, who, but for Zwingli, had probably sunk into a state of intellectual and moral degradation, were won over to the cause of science and nobler aims. He took to himself his younger brother James, whose education he superintended with brotherly affection. As soon as his Latin pupils were ripe for the High School, he sent them away either to Vienna, where, at the university of that city, the friend of his youth, Vadian, had risen to the rank of professor and rector, or to Basle, where Glarean, his friend, taught the High School, the excellent man boarding the students himself, that he might the better watch over their education and morals. But wherever his pupils went, they bore engraved on their hearts the memory of their first master, and maintained with him an unbroken correspondence. "Thou ait to us like a guardian angel," so wrote Peter Tschudi from Paris to Zwingli, while his brother, iEgedius Tschudi, wrote to him, "Help, help me, that I may be recalled to thee, for nowhere do I like so well to dwell as near thyself." But with a still warmer affection, Valentine Tschudi, the cousin of these two young men, and Zwingli's successor at Glarus, clove to Zwingli . "Can I ever cease," thus wrote he, "to be grateful to thee for thy great benefits? On every occasion that I returned to my home, and lately, in an especial manner, when I was four days suffering under fever, and again, when I left my books behind me in Basle, and when in timidity I feared to be burdensome to thee, thou sentest to me to come to thee, gavest me thy books, thy help, thy services. Ah! the whole benevolence of thy soul overflowed to me, and it was not in any general way that the rich treasures of thy learning were placed at my disposal, but with a special regard to my peculiar circumstances and necessities."

In this manner Zwingli wrought, counteracting the baleful influences of the time, by raising the standard of education, and it was in reference to his labours in this direction that one who at that period occupied the position of a monarch in the world of letters, Erasmus of Rotterdam, wrote to him: "All hail! say I, to the Swiss people, whom I have always admired, whose intel-^ lectual and moral qualities yourself, and men such as yourself, are training."

But his other duties were not neglected. Zwingli, while thus engaged in fostering education and learning, filled the office of preacher and watcher of the souls of men with a conscientious fidelity, which awakened in the bosoms of many pious fathers in the Church, who were witnesses of the zeal and ability with which he discharged the duties of his curacy, sanguine hopes that an age of piety and virtue was about to dawn once more upon Switzerland . He himself writes afterwards, in reference to the feelings with which he discharged these duties, "Young as I was," says he, "the office of the priesthood filled me with greater fear than joy, for this was ever present to me, that the blood of the sheep who perished through any neglect or guilt of mine would be required at my hands."

2. The Great Temptations And Trials Of The Young Priest 'Of Glarus.

Having made ourselves acquainted with the disposition, studies, and aims of the youthful priest, we shall now cast a glance at the field of labour in which the providence of God had placed him, and where great dangers threatened him. His parish embraced nearly a third of the canton of Glarus. A gross licentiousness of manners, with that fiery, martial spirit and heroic courage which had well proved themselves in the Burgundian and Suabian wars, characterised his parishioners, as indeed almost the whole Swiss population of the time. The sexual relations were in such a state of disorder that infringements of the seventh commandment ceased any longer to be visited with ecclesiastical censure, a circumstance the less to be wondered at since the clergy themselves led the way in the almost universal depravity of manners. The priest, who held in respect the marriage vows, who shunned to seduce unsuspecting innocence, or to violate the chastity of the consecrated nun, could hold up his head even as a man of honour and virtue, although stained with the grossest sensuality; for, verily, had he not sworn to the bishop, at his consecration, to preserve his chastity only so far as this were possible to human weakness. "It is a dangerous thing," says Zwingli, "for a young priest to have access, through the sanctity of his office, to young women, be they married or virgins. Let straw be kept from fire. Give the priest a wife; he would then, like any other honest man, concern himself with the care of his household, his wife, his child, and other affairs, whereby he would be freed from many trials and temptations." Zwingli himself, as he writes to his friend Utinger, with the greatest candour, had formed the resolution to live in this regard, as well as in every other, a holy life before God; but, alas, not finding one fellowpriest to share his sentiments and his resolve, much less to serve to him as an example and a beacon, he fell too before the inroad of fleshly lusts, as he himself, with deep pain and remorse, confessed, for he would not appear better than he really was. Yet his fall neither violated the sanctity of the marriage bed, which was always sacred in his eyes, nor ensnared virgin innocence, nor created any other source of bitterness. By prayer and diligent study he succeeded in subduing this enemy too, after in faith he had laid hold on Him who is mighty to save even in the weakest .


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