The New International Encyclopædia/Zwingli, Ulrich
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ZWINGLI, tsvĭng'lḗ, Ulrich or Huldreich (1484-1531). The leader of the Protestant Reformation in Switzerland. He was born at Wildhaus, in the Toggenburg Valley, where his father was the Ammann of the village, a man of substance, who gave his son the best available education. Zwingli was directed from an early stage to the liberal humanistic methods of study, and formed his taste and judgment in this enlightened school. He spent two years at the University of Vienna and then studied at Basel, where he took his bachelor's degree at twenty and his master's degree at twenty-two. In 1506 he was made parish priest at Glarus and held this place for ten years. Glarus was one of the most important centres for the recruiting of young men for the various armies of Europe, and Zwingli entered into this foreign service as a field chaplain. This experience gave him at once an intimate acquaintance with Swiss public life and a settled conviction that the service in foreign armies was ruining the character of his countrymen. He opposed it so vigorously that he roused the enmity of all those classes who were thriving on this industry and was compelled to leave Glarus. At Einsiedeln he found new opportunities for study and began to shape his views on the questions afterwards to be of most importance in the Reformation. His conclusions on these matters were reached quite independently and before Luther had begun to express himself publicly.
In comparison with other Reformation leaders Zwingli appears primarily as the man of plain common sense, repelled by the abuses of the Church, inclined to remove from the daily practice of religion whatever seemed to interfere with the purity of original Christianity as he understood it, but, on the other hand, steadily opposing every form of fanaticism. His feeling of identity with his people was intense and governed his action throughout his life. His first opportunity to express his views of reform came, as it did with Luther, on the preaching of an indulgence. It is characteristic of the popular character of the Swiss reform that Zwingli was requested by the Bishop of Constance to preach against the abuse, and he did it with such effect that the commissioner was obliged to leave the canton. In 1519 he accepted a call to become ‘priest of the people’ at the Gross-Münster in Zurich, a place of much importance, where his novel method of preaching according to the Scripture itself rather than according to formulas derived from the Fathers attracted the widest interest. Again he succeeded in driving out the Papal indulgence agent, and such was the dependence of the Papacy on the men of Switzerland for its troops that the Pope especially authorized them to send the offender back to Italy and did not attempt to renew this form of exaction in the cantons. Thus supported by the temporal authorities, Zwingli was enabled to continue his studies and to enlarge the circle of his connections in such ways as would best contribute to the advance of the ideas of the Reform. No thought of a permanent separation from Rome seems to have occurred to him as yet, but his language in regard to the Papal power and the usages of the Church became increasingly liberal. An exhortation to support the position of Luther, written in 1520, is probably his work, and may be regarded as the first open declaration of hostility to Rome. Instead of laying down certain general principles and bringing the issue directly on these, Zwingli began to suggest definite measures of reform, speaking of the diminution of tithes, the revision of the breviary, the folly of fasts, the evils of image-worship, and above all the right and duty of the priests to marry openly, rather than to live, as he frankly confessed he was himself doing, in secret concubinage. The Swiss Diet was slow to accept these suggestions, but they commended themselves at once to the great body of the people, and this approval was soon reflected in the action of the cantonal and general governments. Zwingli was easily the leader of the nation in religious matters, but he found himself warmly supported by the strongest elements among the men of learning everywhere except in the original Forest Cantons, where the devotion to the ancient faith and to the political practices that went with it remained practically unshaken.
As a theologian Zwingli did not make any pretense to special originality. He believed himself to be in substantial agreement with Luther, and accepted heartily the efforts of Philip of Hesse and others to bring about an effective alliance of the two movements. Unfortunately for this result, Luther had convinced himself that the Swiss were moving along the line which had led already to the social upheaval in Germany and to the extravagances of the Anabaptist Party. The famous conference at Marburg in 1529 between the leading theologians of the German and the Swiss parties failed, because, on the test question of the Eucharist, Luther refused to make any admission which might have seemed to commit him to a spiritual or figurative interpretation of the doctrine of the sacraments. Zwingli was not afraid to trust the common sense of men to make a sound use of their right of interpretation, so long as they should admit the supreme authority of Scripture. Moreover, he did not dread, as Luther did, the formation of alliances to strengthen the position of the reformed faith. He saw Switzerland surrounded by eager enemies who were doing all they could to foment the dissent between the Catholic Forest Cantons and the other members of the Confederation, and he felt that these two objects, the integrity of the Confederation and the reform of religion, must go hand in hand. It was on this account that, man of peace as he was, he threw himself with all his energy into the internal quarrel. Zurich became the active agent of the Confederation in combating the Forest Cantons, and Zwingli took the side of the war party. Twice, in 1529 and in 1531, bloody encounters ensued, the first time to the advantage of the Confederation, but the second time to their total defeat. Zwingli had supportcd his principles by his action and had gone into the campaign of Kappel (q.v.) as a fighting chaplain. His death on the field of battle, October 11, 1531, was the logical outcome of his teaching and was the seal of the permanent religious cleavage between the Catholic and the Protestant cantons.
The Life of Zwingli was written shortly after his death by his friend and associate, Myconius (ed. Neander, in Vitæ Quatuor Reformatorum, 1841). His complete works were published by Schuler and Schulthess (Zurich, 1828-61); a new edition is in progress. Consult the modern lives by Christoffel (Elberfeld, 1857); Mörikofer (Leipzig, 1867-69); Stähelin (Basel, 1895-97); Jackson (New York, 1901); Simpson (ib., 1902); also Thomas, Das Erkenntnisprincip bei Zwingli (Leipzig, 1902); Baur, Zwinglis Theologie (Halle, 1885-89); Finsler, Zwingli-Bibliographie (Zurich, 1897).