Huldrych Ulrich Zwingli was a leader of the Reformation in Switzerland, born during a time of emerging Swiss patriotism and increasing criticism of the Swiss mercenary system. He attended the University of Vienna and the University of Basel, a scholarly center of Renaissance humanism. He continued his studies while he served as a pastor in Glarus and later in Einsiedeln, where he was influenced by the writings of Erasmus.
Huldrych Ulrich Zwingli
Through the service of their mercenary troops in Italy, the Swiss had become acquainted with the absorption of the papacy in luxury and in political ambitions. During the fifteenth century, the Swiss had gradually limited the authority of the church and had brought the clergy under the jurisdiction of the secular courts. The need for ecclesiastical reform was generally recognized.
The Swiss revolt from Rome, centering in the German-speaking cantons, was carried on under Ulrich Zwingli (14841531), simultaneously with that of Luther in Germany. Zwingli was more of a humanist and more radical than Luther.
Luther, indeed, called him a pagan because of his fondness for the classics and his liberal attitude on the doctrine of original sin, He was also more interested in politics and less in theology than Luther. Indeed, his zeal in the Reformation was intimately connected with his interest in the welfare of his native land.
The Swiss Reformation involved a contest between the reforming party, which favored democracy in government and which wished to prevent the corruption of morals and patriotism that resulted from foreign influence, and an oligarchy which clung to the system of mercenary service and the papal pensions they derived from it. The party of Zwingli was contending for a national reform on a religious foundation.
The Reformation in Switzerland was effected through the agency of the established governmental assemblies, and by their actions the ideas of Zwingli were put into legal form, Accordingly, Zwingli upheld the right of the community to regulate its religious as well as its civil life. In this way church and state were merged into a single system, controlled by its political agencies. The necessity of obedience to the established authority and the right of the state to put down heresies were insisted upon.
Zwingli’s own city, Zurich, persecuted the An a baptists for interpreting the Scriptures according to their ideas. On the other hand, Zwingli opposed the efforts of those cantons that retained the old faith from exercising similar authority, and lost his life in attempting to prevent the Catholic cantons from enforcing their religious views upon his followers.
The democratic political atmosphere of Switzerland and the ideas of the ancient classic writers led Zwingli to adopt different ideas of political organization from those of Luther and Melanchthon. Instead of a divine right monarchy, receiving passive obedience from his subjects, Zwingli conceived of a Christian commonwealth in which the faithful. should cooperate in establishing and administering the civil authority. A democratic state imbued with the social spirit of primitive Christianity was Zwingli’s political ideal.