Click to View

History of the Christian Church
Click to ViewMaster Index
Click to ViewPower Search

 Click to View










 § 53. Literature.


Supplementary to the literature in § 4, pp. 12 sqq.


I. Manuscript sources preserved in the City Library of Zürich, which was founded 1629, and contains c. 132,000 printed vols. and 3,500 MSS. See Salomon Vögelin: Geschichte der Wasserkirche und der Stadtbibliothek in Zürich. Zürich, 1848 (pp. 110 and 123). The Wasserkirche (capella aquatica) is traced back to Charles the Great. It contains also the remains of the lake dwellings. The bronze statue of Zwingli stands in front of it. The Thesaurus Hottingerianus, a collection of correspondence made by the theologian, J. H. Hottinger, 55 vols., embraces the whole Bullinger correspondence, which has been much used, but never published in full.—The Simler Collection of 196 vols. fol., with double index of 62 vols. fol., contains correspondence, proclamations, pamphlets, official mandates, and other documents, chronologically arranged, very legible, on good paper. Johann Jacob Simler (1716-1788), professor and inspector of the theological college, spent the leisure hours of his whole life in the collection of papers and documents relating to the history of Switzerland, especially of the Reformation. This unique collection was acquired by the government, and presented to the City Library in 1792. It has often been used, and, though partly depreciated by more recent discoveries, is still a treasure-house of information. The Bullinger correspondence is found in the volumes from a.d. 1531-1575.—Acta Ecclesiastica intermixtis politicis et politico-ecclesiasticis Manuscripta ex ipsis fontibus hausta in variis fol. Tomis chronologice pro administratione Antistitii Turicensis in ordinem redacta. 33 vols. fol. Beautifully written. Comes down to the administration of Antistes Joh. Jak. Hess (1795-1798). Tom I. extends from 1519-1531; tom. II. contains a biography of Bullinger, with his likeness, and the acts during his administration.—The State Archives of the City and Canton Zürich.

II. Printed works. Joh. Conr. Füsslin: Beyträge zur Erläuterung der KirchenReformationsgeschichten des Schweitzerlandes. Zürich, 1741-1753. 5  Parts. Contains important documents relating to the Reformation in Zürich and the Anabaptists, the disputation at Ilanz, etc.—Simler's Sammlung alter und neuer Urkunden. Zürich, 1760. 2 vols.—Joh. Jak. Hottinger (Prof. of Theol. and Canon of the Great Minster): Helvetische Kirchengeschichten vorstellend der Helvetiern ehemaliges Heidenthum, und durch die Gnade Gottes gefolgtes Christenthum, etc. Zürich, 1698-1729. 4 Theile 4°. 2d ed. 1737. A work of immense industry, in opposition to a Roman Catholic work of Caspar Lang (Einsiedeln, 1692). The third volume goes from 1616 to 1700, the fourth to 1728. Superseded by Wirz.—Ludwig Wirz: Helvetische Kirchengeschichte. Aus Joh. Jak. Hottingers älterem Werke und anderen Quellen neu bearbeitet.  Zürich, 1808-1819. 6 vols. The fifth volume is by Melchior Kirchhofer, who gives the later history of Zwingli from 1625, and the Reformation in the other Cantons.—Joh. Jak. Hottinger: Geschichte der Eidgenossen während der Zeiten der Kirchentrennung. Zürich, 1825 and 1829. 2 vols. This work forms vols. VI. and VII. of Joh. von Müller's and Robert Glutz Blotzheim's Geschichten Schweizerischer Eidgenossenschaft. The second volume (p. 446 sqq.) treats of the period of Bullinger, and is drawn in part from the Simler Collection and the Archives of Zürich. French translation by L. Vulliemin: Histoire des Suisses à l'époque de la Réformation. Paris et Zurich, 1833. 2 vols. G. R. Zimmermann (Pastor of the Fraumünster and Decan): Die Zürcher Kirche von der Reformation bis zum dritten Reformationsjubilüum (1519-1819) nach der Reihenfolge der Zürcherischen Antistes. Zürich, 1878 (pp. 414). On Bullinger, see pp. 36-73. Based upon the Acta Ecclesiastica quoted above.—Joh. Strickler's Actensammlung, previously noticed (p. 13), extends only to 1532.

On the Roman Catholic side comp. Archiv für die Schweiz. Reformationsgesch., noticed above, p. 13. The first volume (1868) contains Salat's Chronik down to 1534; the second (1872), 135 papal addresses to the Swiss Diet, mostly of the sixteenth century (from Martin V. to Clement VIII.), documents referring to 1531, Roman and Venetian sources on the Swiss Reformation, etc.; vol. III. (1876), a catalogue of books on Swiss history (7-98), and a number of documents from the Archives of Luzern and other cities, including three letters of King Francis I. to the Catholic Cantons, and an account of the immediate consequences of the War of Cappel by Werner Beyel, at that time secretary of the city of Zürich (pp. 641-680).


 § 54. Heinrich Bullinger. 1504-1575.


I. Sources. Bullinger's printed works (stated to be 150 by Scheuchzer in "Bibliotheca Helvetica," Zürich, 1733). His manuscript letters (mostly Latin) in the "Thesaurus Hottingerianus" and the "Simler Collection" of the City Library at Zürich.—The second volume of the Acta Ecclesiastica, quoted in § 53.—The Zürich Letters or the Correspondence of several English Bishops and others with some of the Helvetian Reformers, chiefly from the Archives Of Zurich, translated and edited for the "Parker Society" by Dr. Robinson, Cambridge (University Press), 2d ed. 1846 (pp. 576).

II. Salomon Hess: Leben Bullinger's. Zürich, 1828-'29, 2 vols. Not very accurate.—*Carl Pestalozzi: Heinrich Bullinger. Leben und ausgewählte Schriften. Nach handschriftlichen und gleichzeitigen Quellen. Elberfeld, 1858. Extracts from his writings, pp. 505-622. Pestalozzi has faithfully used the written and printed sources in the Stadtbibliothek and Archives of Zürich.—R. Christoffel: H. Bullinger und seine Gattin. 1875.—Justus Heer: Bullinger, in Herzog2, II. 779-794. A good summary.

Older biographical sketches by Ludwig Lavater (1576), Josias Simler (1575), W. Stucki (1575), etc. Incidental information about Bullinger in Hagenbach and other works on the Swiss Reformation, and in Meyer's Die Gemeinde von Locarno, 1836, especially I. 198-216.


After the productive period of the Zwinglian Reformation, which embraced fifteen years, from 1516 to 1531, followed the period of preservation and consolidation under difficult circumstances. It required a man of firm faith, courage, moderation, patience, and endurance. Such a man was providentially equipped in the person of Heinrich Bullinger, the pupil, friend, and successor of Zwingli, and second Antistes of Zürich. He proved that the Reformation was a work of God, and, therefore, survived the apparent defeat at Cappel.

He was born July 18, 1504, at Bremgarten in Aargau, the youngest of five sons of Dean Bullinger, who lived, like many priests of those days, in illegitimate, yet tolerated, wedlock.304  The father resisted the sale of indulgences by Samson in 1518, and confessed, in his advanced age, from the pulpit, the doctrines of the Reformation (1529). In consequence of this act he lost his place. Young Henry was educated in the school of the Brethren of the Common Life at Emmerich, and in the University of Cologne. He studied scholastic and patristic theology. Luther's writings and Melanchthon's Loci led him to the study of the Bible and prepared him for a change.

He returned to Switzerland as Master of Arts, taught a school in the Cistercian Convent at Cappel from 1523 to 1529, and reformed the convent in agreement with the abbot, Wolfgang Joner. During that time he became acquainted with Zwingli, attended the Conference with the Anabaptists at Zürich, 1525, and the disputation at Bern, 1528. He married Anna Adlischweiler, a former nun, in 1529, who proved to be an excellent wife and helpmate. He accepted a call to Bremgarten as successor of his father.

After the disaster at Cappel, he removed to Zürich, and was unanimously elected by the Council and the citizens preacher of the Great Minster, Dec. 9, 1531. It was rumored that Zwingli himself, in the presentiment of his death, had designated him as his successor. No better man could have been selected. It was of vital importance for the Swiss churches that the place of the Reformer should be filled by a man of the same spirit, but of greater moderation and self-restraint.305

Bullinger now assumed the task of saving, purifying, and consolidating the life-work of Zwingli; and faithfully and successfully did he carry out this task. When he ascended the pulpit of the Great Minster in Dec. 23, 1531, many hearers thought that Zwingli had risen from the grave.306  He took a firm stand for the Reformation, which was in danger of being abandoned by timid men in the Council. He kept free from interference with politics, which had proved ruinous to Zwingli. He established a more independent, though friendly relation between Church and State. He confined himself to his proper vocation as preacher and teacher.

In the first years he preached six or seven times a week; after 1542 only twice, on Sundays and Fridays. He followed the plan of Zwingli in explaining whole books of the Scriptures from the pulpit. His sermons were simple, clear, and practical, and served as models for young preachers.

He was a most devoted pastor, dispensing counsel and comfort in every direction, and exposing even his life during the pestilence which several times visited Zürich. His house was open from morning till night to all who desired his help. He freely dispensed food, clothing, and money from his scanty income and contributions of friends, to widows and orphans, to strangers and exiles, not excluding persons of other creeds. He secured a decent pension for the widow of Zwingli, and educated two of his children with his own. He entertained persecuted brethren for weeks and months in his own house, or procured them places and means of travel.307

He paid great attention to education, as superintendent of the schools in Zürich. He filled the professorships in the Carolinum with able theologians, as Pellican, Bibliander, Peter Martyr. He secured a well-educated ministry. He prepared, in connection with Leo Judae, a book of church order, which was adopted by the Synod, Oct. 22, 1532, issued by authority of the burgomaster, the Small and the Great Council, and continued in force for nearly three hundred years. It provides the necessary rules for the examination, election, and duties of ministers (Predicanten) and deans (Decani), for semi-annual meetings of synods with clerical and lay representatives, and the power of discipline. The charges were divided into eight districts or chapters.308

Bullinger's activity extended far beyond the limits of Zürich. He had a truly Catholic spirit, and stood in correspondence with all the Reformed Churches. Beza calls him "the common shepherd of all Christian Churches;" Pellican, "a man of God, endowed with the richest gifts of heaven for God's honor and the salvation of souls."  He received fugitive Protestants from Italy, France, England, and Germany with open arms, and made Zürich an asylum of religious liberty. He thus protected Celio Secondo Curione, Bernardino Occhino, and Peter Martyr, and the immigrants from Locarno, and aided in the organization of an Italian congregation in Zürich.309  Following the example of Zwingli and Calvin, he appealed twice to the king of France for toleration in behalf of the Huguenots. He dedicated to Henry II. his book on Christian Perfection (1551), and to Francis II. his Instruction in the Christian Religion (1559). He sent deputations to the French court for the protection of the Waldenses, and the Reformed congregation in Paris.

The extent of Bullinger's correspondence is astonishing. It embraces letters to and from all the distinguished Protestant divines of his age, as Calvin, Melanchthon, Bucer, Beza, Laski, Cranmer, Hooper, Jewel, and crowned heads who consulted him, as Henry VIII., Edward VI., of England, Queen Elizabeth, Henry II. of France, King Christian of Denmark, Philip of Hesse, and the Elector Frederick of the Palatinate.

Bullinger came into contact with the English Reformation from the time of Henry VIII. to the reign of Elizabeth, especially during the bloody reign of Mary, when many prominent exiles fled to Zürich, and found a fraternal reception under his hospitable roof. The correspondence of Hooper, Jewel, Sandys, Grindal, Parkhurst, Foxe, Cox, and other church dignitaries with Bullinger, Gwalter, Gessner, Simler, and Peter Martyr, is a noble monument of the spiritual harmony between the Reformed Churches of Switzerland and England in the Edwardian and Elizabethan era. Archbishop Cranmer invited Bullinger, together with Melanchthon, Calvin, and Bucer, to a conference in London, for the purpose of framing an evangelical union creed; and Calvin answered that for such a cause he would be willing to cross ten seas. Lady Jane Grey, who was beheaded in 1554, read Bullinger's works, translated his book on marriage into Greek, consulted him about Hebrew, and addressed him with filial affection and gratitude. Her three letters to him are still preserved in Zürich. Bishop Hooper of Gloucester, who had enjoyed his hospitality in 1547, addressed him shortly before his martyrdom in 1554, as his "revered father and guide," and the best friend he ever had, and recommended his wife and two children to his care. Bishop Jewel, in a letter of May 22, 1559, calls him his "father and much esteemed master in Christ," thanks him for his "courtesy and kindness," which he and his friends experienced during the whole period of their exile, and informs him that the restoration of the Reformed religion under Elizabeth was largely due to his own "letters and recommendations;" adding that the queen refused to be addressed as the head of the Church of England, feeling that such honor belongs to Christ alone, and not to any human being. Bullinger's death was lamented in England as a public calamity.310

Bullinger faithfully maintained the doctrine and discipline of the Reformed Church against the Roman Catholics and Lutherans with moderation and dignity. He never returned the abuse of fanatics, and when, in 1548, the Interim drove the Lutheran preachers from the Swabian cities, he received them hospitably, even those who had denounced the Reformed doctrines from the pulpit. He represents the German-Swiss type of the Reformed faith in substantial agreement with a moderate Calvinism. He gave a full exposition of his theological views in the Second Helvetic Confession.

His theory of the sacrament was higher than that of Zwingli. He laid more stress on the objective value of the institution. We recognize, he wrote to Faber, a mystery in the Lord's Supper; the bread is not common bread, but venerable, sacred, sacramental bread, the pledge of the spiritual real presence of Christ to those who believe. As the sun is in heaven, and yet virtually present on earth with his light and heat, so Christ sits in heaven, and yet efficaciously works in the hearts of all believers. When Luther, after Zwingli's death, warned Duke Albert of Prussia and the people of Frankfort not to tolerate the Zwinglians, Bullinger replied by sending to the duke a translation of Ratramnus' tract, De corpore et sanguine Domini, with a preface. He rejected the Wittenberg Concordia of 1536, because it concealed the Lutheran doctrine. He answered Luther's atrocious attack on the Zwinglians (1545) by a clear, strong, and temperate statement; but Luther died soon afterwards (1546) without retracting his charges. When Westphal renewed the unfortunate controversy (1552), Bullinger supported Calvin in defending the Reformed doctrine, but counselled moderation.311  He and Calvin brought about a complete agreement on the sacramental question in the Consensus Tigurinus, which was adopted in 1549 at Zürich, in the presence of some members of the Council, and afterwards received the approval of the other Swiss Reformed churches.312

On the doctrine of Predestination, Bullinger did not go quite as far as Zwingli and Calvin, and kept within the infralapsarian scheme. He avoided to speak of the predestination of Adam's fall, because it seemed irreconcilable with the justice of the punishment of sin.313  The Consensus Genevensis (1552), which contains Calvin's rigorous view, was not signed by the pastors of Zürich. Theodor Bibliander, the father of biblical exegesis in Switzerland, and a forerunner of Arminianism, opposed it. He adhered to the semi-Pelagian theory of Erasmus, and was involved in a controversy with Peter Martyr, who was a strict Calvinist, and taught in Zürich since 1556. Bibliander was finally removed from his theological professorship (Feb. 8, 1560), but his salary was continued till his death (Nov. 26, 1564).314

On the subject of toleration and the punishment of heretics, Bullinger agreed with the prevailing theory, but favorably differed from the prevailing practice. He opposed the Anabaptists in his writings, as much as Zwingli, and, like Melanchthon, he approved of the unfortunate execution of Servetus, but he himself did not persecute. He tolerated Laelio Sozini, who quietly died at Zürich (1562), and Bernardino Occhino, who preached for some time to the Italian congregation in that city, but was deposed, without further punishment, for teaching Unitarian opinions and defending polygamy. In a book against the Roman Catholic Faber, Bullinger expresses the Christian and humane sentiment that no violence should be done to dissenters, and that faith is a free gift of God, which cannot be commanded or forbidden. He agreed with Zwingli's extension of salvation to all infants dying in infancy and to elect heathen; at all events, he nowhere dissents from these advanced views, and published with approbation Zwingli's last work, where they are most strongly expressed.315

Bullinger's house was a happy Christian home. He liked to play with his numerous children and grandchildren, and to write little verses for them at Christmas, like Luther.316

When his son Henry, in 1553, went to Strassburg, Wittenberg, and Vienna to prosecute his theological studies, be wrote down for him wise rules of conduct, of which the following are the most important: 1) Fear God at all times, and remember that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. 2) Humble yourself before God, and pray to him alone through Christ, our only Mediator and Advocate. 3) Believe firmly that God has done all for our salvation through his Son. 4) Pray above all things for strong faith active in love. 5) Pray that God may protect your good name and keep thee from sin, sickness, and bad company. 6) Pray for the fatherland, for your dear parents, benefactors, friends, and all men, for the spread of the Word of God; conclude always with the Lord's Prayer, and use also the beautiful hymn, Te Deum laudamus [which he ascribes to Ambrose and Augustin]. 7) Be reticent, be always more willing to hear than to speak, and do not meddle with things which you do not understand. 8) Study diligently Hebrew and Greek as well as Latin, history, philosophy, and the sciences, but especially the New Testament, and read daily three chapters in the Bible, beginning with Genesis. 9) Keep your body clean and unspotted, be neat in your dress, and avoid above all things intemperance in eating and drinking. 10) Let your conversation be decent, cheerful, moderate, and free from all uncharitableness.317  He recommended him to Melanchthon, and followed his studies with letters full of fatherly care and affection.318  He kept his parents with him till their death, the widow of Zwingli (d. 1538), and two of her children, whom he educated with his own. Notwithstanding his scanty income, he declined all presents, or sent them to the hospitals. The whole people revered the venerable minister of noble features and white patriarchal beard.

His last days were clouded, like those of many faithful servants of God. The excess of work and care undermined his health. In 1562 he wrote to Fabricius at Coire: "I almost sink under the load of business and care, and feel so tired that I would ask the Lord to give me rest if it were not against his will."  The pestilence of 1564 and 1565 brought him to the brink of the grave, and deprived him of his wife, three daughters, and his brother-in-law. He bore these heavy strokes with Christian resignation. In the same two fatal years he lost his dearest friends, Calvin, Blaurer, Gessner, Froschauer, Bibliander, Fabricius, Farel. He recovered, and was allowed to spend several more years in the service of Christ. His youngest daughter, Dorothea, took faithful and tender care of his health. He felt lonely and homesick, but continued to preach and to write with the aid of pastor Lavater, his colleague and son-in-law. He preached his last sermon on Pentecost, 1575. He assembled, Aug. 26, all the pastors of the city and professors of theology around his sick-bed, assured them of his perseverance in the true apostolic and orthodox doctrine, recited the Apostles' Creed, and exhorted them to purity of life, harmony among themselves, and obedience to the magistrates. He warned them against intemperance, envy, and hatred, thanked them for their kindness, assured them of his love, and closed with a prayer of thanksgiving and some verses of the hymns of Prudentius. Then he took each by the hand and took leave of them with tears, as Paul did from the elders at Ephesus. A few weeks afterwards he died, after reciting several Psalms (51, 16, and 42), the Lord's Prayer, and other prayers, peacefully, in the presence of his family, Sept. 17, 1575. He was buried in the Great Minster, at the side of his beloved wife and his dear friend, Peter Martyr. According to his wish, Rudolph Gwalter, Zwingli's son-in-law and his adopted son, was unanimously elected his successor. Four of his successors were trained under his care and labored in his spirit.

The writings of Bullinger are very numerous, mostly doctrinal and practical, adapted to the times, but of little permanent value. Scheuchzer numbers one hundred and fifty printed books of his. The Zürich City Library contains about one hundred, exclusive of translations and new editions. Many are extant only in manuscript. He wrote Latin commentaries on the New Testament (except the Apocalypse), numerous sermons on Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, the Apocalypse. His Decades (five series of ten sermons each on the Decalogue, the Apostles' Creed, and the Sacraments) were much esteemed and used in Holland and England. His work on the justifying grace of God was highly prized by Melanchthon. His History of the Swiss Reformation, written by his own hand, in two folio volumes, has been published in 1838-'40, in three volumes. His most important doctrinal work is the Second Helvetic Confession, which acquired symbolical authority.319


 § 55. Antistes Breitinger (1575-1645).


In the same year in which Bullinger died (1575), Johann Jakob Breitinger was born, who became his worthy successor as Antistes of Zürich (1613-1645).320  He called him a saint, and followed his example. He was one of the most eminent Reformed divines of his age. Thoroughly trained in the universities of Herborn, Marburg, Franeker, Heidelberg, and Basel, he gained the esteem and affection of his fellow-citizens as teacher, preacher, and devoted pastor. During the fearful pestilence of 1611 he visited the sick from morning till night at the risk of his life.

He attended as one of the Swiss delegates the Synod of Dort (1618 and 1619). He was deeply impressed with the learning, wisdom, and piety of that body, and fully agreed with its unjust and intolerant treatment of the Arminians.321  On his return (May 21, 1619) he was welcomed by sixty-four Zürichers, who rode to the borders of the Rhine to meet him. Yet, with all his firmness of conviction, he was opposed to confessional polemics in an intensely polemic age, and admired the good traits in other churches and sects, even the Jesuits. He combined with strict orthodoxy a cheerful temper, a generous heart, and active piety. He had an open ear for appeals from the poor and the numerous sufferers in the murder of the Valtellina (1620) and during the Thirty Years' War. At his request, hospitals and orphan houses were founded and collections raised, which in the Minster alone, during eight years (1618-1628), exceeded fifty thousand pounds. He was in every way a model pastor, model churchman, and model statesman. Although be towered high above his colleagues, he disarmed envy and jealousy by his kindliness and Christian humility. Altogether he shines next to Zwingli and Bullinger as the most influential and useful Antistes of the Reformed Church of Zürich.322


 § 56. Oswald Myconius, Antistes of Basel.


I. Correspondence between Myconius and Zwingli in Zwingli's Opera, vols. VII. and VIII. (28 letters of the former and 20 of the latter).—Correspondence with Bullinger in the Simler Collection.—Antiqu. Gernl., I. The Chronicle of Fridolin Ryff, ed. by W. Vischer (son), in the Basler Chroniken (vol. 1, Leipzig, 1872), extends from 1514 to 1541.

II. Melchior Kirchofer (of Schaffhausen): Oswald Myconius, Antistes der Baslerischen Kirche. Zürich, 1813 (pp. 387). Still very serviceable.—R. Hagenbach: Joh. Oecolampad und Oswald Myronius, die Reformatoren Basels. Elberfeld, 1859 (pp. 309-462). Also his Geschichte der ersten Basler Confession. Basel, 1828.—B. Riggenbach, in Herzog2, X. 403-405.


Oswald Myconius (1488-1552),323 a native of Luzern, an intimate friend of Zwingli, and successor of Oecolampadius, was to the Church of Basel what Bullinger was to the Church of Zürich,—a faithful preserver of the Reformed religion, but in a less difficult position and more limited sphere of usefulness. He spent his earlier life as classical teacher in Basel, Zürich, Luzern, Einsiedeln, and again in Zürich. His pupil, Thomas Plater, speaks highly of his teaching ability and success. Erasmus honored him with his friendship before he fell out with the Reformation.324

After the death of Zwingli and Oecolampadius, he moved to Basel as pastor of St. Alban (Dec. 22, 1531), and was elected Antistes or chief pastor of the Church of that city, and professor of New Testament exegesis in the university (August, 1532). He was not ordained, and had no academic degree, and refused to take one because Christ had forbidden his disciples to be called Rabbi (Matt. 23:8).325  He carried out the views of Oecolampadius on discipline, and maintained the independence of the Church in its relation to the State and the university. He had to suffer much opposition from Carlstadt, who, by his recommendation, became professor of theology in Basel (1534), and ended there his restless life (1541). He took special interest in the higher and lower schools. He showed hospitality to the numerous Protestants from France who, like Farel and Calvin, sought a temporary refuge in Basel. The English martyrologist, John Foxe, fled from the Marian persecution to Basel, finished and published there the first edition of his Book of Martyrs (1554).

On the doctrine of the Eucharist, Myconius, like Calvin after him, occupied a middle ground between Zwingli and Luther. He aided Bucer in his union movement which resulted in the adoption of the Wittenberg Concordia and a temporary conciliation of Luther with the Swiss (1536). He was suspected by the Zürichers of leaning too much to the Lutheran side, but he never admitted the corporal presence and oral manducation; he simply emphasized more than Zwingli the spiritual real presence and fruition of the body and blood of Christ. He thought that Luther and Zwingli had misunderstood each other.326

Myconius matured, on the basis of a draft of Oecolampadius, the First Basel Confession of Faith, which was adopted by the magistracy, Jan. 21, 1534, and also by the neighboring city of Mühlhausen.327  It is very simple, and consists of twelve Articles, on God (the trinity), man, providence, Christ, the Church and sacraments, the Lord's Supper, the ban, the civil government, faith and good works, the last judgment, feasts, fasts, and celibacy, and the Anabaptists (condemning their views on infant baptism, the oath, and civil government). It is written in Swiss-German, with marginal Scripture references and notes. It claims no infallibility or binding authority, and concludes with the words: "We submit this our confession to the judgment of the divine Scriptures, and are always ready, if we can be better informed from them, very thankfully to obey God and his holy Word."

This Confession was superseded by maturer statements of the Reformed faith, but retained a semi-symbolical authority in the Church of Basel, as a venerable historical document.

Myconius wrote the first biography of Zwingli in twelve, short chapters (1532).328  His other writings are not important.329

One of his most influential successors was Lukas Gernler, who presided as Antistes over the Church of Basel from 1656 to 1675. He formulated the scholastic system of Calvinism, with many subtle definitions and distinctions, in a Syllabus of 588 Theses. In connection with John Henry Heidegger of Zürich and the elder Turretin of Geneva, he prepared the Helvetic Consensus Formula, the last and the most rigid of Calvinistic symbols (1675). He was the last representative of strict Calvinistic orthodoxy in Basel. He combined with an intolerant creed a benevolent heart, and induced the magistracy of Basel to found an orphan asylum. The famous Hebrew and Talmudic scholars, John Buxtorf (1564-1629), his son, John (1599-1664), and his grandson, John Jacob (1645-1704), who adorned the university of Basel in the seventeenth century, fully agreed with the doctrinal position of Gernler, and defended even the rabbinical tradition of the literal inspiration of the Masoretic text against Louis Cappel, who attacked it with great learning (1650).330


 § 57. The Helvetic Confessions of Faith.


Niemeyer: Collectio Confess. (Hall. 1840), pp. 105-122 (Conf. Helv. prior, German and Latin), and 462-536 (Conf. Helv. posterior).—Schaff: Creeds of Christendom (New York, 6th ed. 1890), vol. I. 388-420 (history); III. 211-307 (First and Second Helv. Conf.), 831-909 (Second Helv. Conf. in English). Other literature quoted by Schaff, I. 385 and 399.


Bullinger and Myconius authoritatively formulated the doctrines of the Reformed Churches in Switzerland, and impressed upon them a strongly evangelical character, without the scholastic subtleties of a later period.

The Sixty-seven Conclusions and the two private Confessions of Zwingli (to Charles V., and Francis I.) were not intended to be used as public creeds, and never received the sanction of the Church. The Ten Theses of Bern (1528), the First Confession of Basel (1534), the Zürich Consensus (1549), and the Geneva Consensus (1552) were official documents, but had only local authority in the cities where they originated. But the First and Second Helvetic Confessions were adopted by the Swiss and other Churches, and kept their place as symbolical books for nearly three hundred years. They represent the Zwinglian type of doctrine modified and matured. They approach the Calvinistic system, without its logical rigor.

I. The First Helvetic Confession, 1536. It is also called the Second Basel Confession, to distinguish it from the First Basel Confession of 1534. It was made in Basel, but not for Basel alone. It owes its origin partly to the renewed efforts of the Strassburg Reformers, Bucer and Capito, to bring about a union between the Lutherans and the Zwinglians, and partly to the papal promise of convening a General Council. A number of Swiss divines were delegated by the magistrates of Zürich, Bern, Basel, Schaffhausen, St. Gall, Mühlhausen, and Biel, to a conference in the Augustinian convent at Basel, Jan. 30, 1536. Bucer and Capito also appeared on behalf of Strassburg. Bullinger, Myconius, Grynaeus, Leo Judae, and Megander were selected as a commission to draw up a Confession of the faith of the Helvetic Churches, which might be used at the proposed General Council. It was examined and signed by all the clerical and lay delegates, February, 1536, and first published in Latin. Leo Judae prepared the German translation, which is fuller than the Latin text, and of equal authority.

Luther, to whom a copy was sent through Bucer, unexpectedly expressed, in two remarkable letters,331 his satisfaction with the earnest Christian character of this document, and promised to do all he could to promote union and harmony with the Swiss. He was then under the hopeful impressions of the "Wittenberg Concordia," which Bucer had brought about by his elastic diplomacy, May, 1536, but which proved, after all, a hollow peace, and could not be honestly signed by the Swiss. Luther himself made a new and most intemperate attack on the Zwinglians (1545), a year before his death.

The First Helvetic Confession is the earliest Reformed Creed that has acquired a national authority. It consists of 27 articles, is fuller than the First Confession of Basel, but not so full as the Second Helvetic Confession, by which it was afterwards superseded. The doctrine of the sacraments and of the Lord's Supper is essentially Zwinglian, yet emphasizes the significance of the sacramental signs and the real spiritual presence of Christ, who gives his body and blood—that is, himself—to believers, so that he more and more lives in them, and they in him.

Bullinger and Leo Judae wished to add a caution against the binding authority of this or any other confession that might interfere with the supreme authority of the Word of God and with Christian liberty. They had a correct feeling of a difference between a confession of doctrine which may be improved from time to time with the progress of religious knowledge, and a rule of faith which remains unchanged. A confession of the Church has relative authority as norma normata, and depends upon its agreement with the Holy Scriptures, which have absolute authority as norma normans.

II. The Second Helvetic Confession, 1566. This is far more important than the first, and obtained authority beyond the limits of Switzerland. In the intervening thirty years Calvin had developed his theological system, and the Council of Trent had formulated the modern Roman creed. Bullinger prepared this Confession in 1562 for his private use, as a testimony of the faith in which he had lived and wished to die. Two years afterwards, during the raging of the pestilence, he elaborated it more fully, in the daily expectation of death, and added it to his last will and testament, which was to be delivered to the magistracy of Zürich after his decease.

But events in Germany gave to this private creed a public character. The pious elector of the Palatinate, Frederick III., being threatened by the Lutherans with exclusion from the treaty of peace on account of his secession to the Reformed Church and the publication of the Heidelberg Catechism (1563), requested Bullinger in 1565 to prepare a full and clear exposition of the Reformed faith, that he might answer the charges of heresy and dissension so constantly brought against the same. Bullinger sent him a manuscript copy of his confession. The Elector was so much pleased with it that he desired to have it translated and published in Latin and German before the Imperial Diet, which was to assemble at Augsburg in 1566 and to act on his alleged apostasy,

In the meantime the Swiss felt the need of such a Confession as a closer bond of union. The First Helvetic Confession was deemed too short, and the Zürich Consensus of 1549 and the Geneva Consensus of 1552 treated only two articles, namely, the Lord's Supper and predestination. Conferences were held, and Beza came in person to Zürich to take part in the work. Bullinger freely consented to a few changes, and prepared also the German version. Geneva, Bern, Schaffhausen, Biel, the Grisons, St. Gall, and Mühlhausen expressed their agreement. Basel alone, which had its own confession, declined for a long time, but ultimately acceded.

The new Confession was published at Zürich, March 12, 1566, in both languages, at public expense, and was forwarded to the Elector of the Palatinate and to Philip of Hesse. A French translation appeared soon afterwards in Geneva under the care of Beza.

In the same year the Elector Frederick made such a manly and noble defence of his faith before the Diet at Augsburg, that even his Lutheran opponents were filled with admiration for his piety, and thought no longer of impeaching him for heresy.

The Helvetic Confession is the most widely adopted, and hence the most authoritative of all the Continental Reformed symbols, with the exception of the Heidelberg Catechism. It was sanctioned in Zürich and the Palatinate (1566), Neuchâtel (1568), by the Reformed Churches of France (at the Synod of La Rochelle, 1571), Hungary (at the Synod of Debreczin, 1567), and Poland (1571 and 1578). It was well received also in Holland, England, and Scotland as a sound statement of the Reformed faith. It was translated not only into German, French, and English, but also into Dutch, Magyar, Polish, Italian, Arabic, and Turkish. In Austria and Bohemia the Reformed or Calvinists are officially called "the Church of the Helvetic Confession," "the Lutherans, the Church of the Augsburg Confession."



* Schaff, Philip, History of the Christian Church, (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.) 1997. This material has been carefully compared, corrected¸ and emended (according to the 1910 edition of Charles Scribner's Sons) by The Electronic Bible Society, Dallas, TX, 1998.

304  The bishop of Constance allowed priests to keep concubines for an annual tribute of four Rhenish guilders, called the Hurensold. See Christoffel, Zwingli, II. 337, and Pestalozzi, p. 5.

305  Pestalozzi, p. 25: "Zwingli und Bullinger—welche Verschiedenheit! Zwingli's rasches, feuriges Temperament, Bullinger's Ruhe und Gelassenheit; Zwingli's schneidender, stechender Witz, Bullinger's einlässliche Gründlichkeit; daher auch Zwingli's Kürze, Bullinger's Ausführlichkeit in den meisten seiner Arbeiten. Wie geeignet zur gegenseitigen Ergänzung!"

306  "Talem concionem detonavit," wrote Myconius to Schenck, "ut multi putarent Zwinglium non defunctum, sed ad Phoenicis modum renatum esse." Hottinger, Helv. K. Gesch. III. 28.

307  See the beautiful description of Pestalozzi, pp. 153 sqq.

308  There are copies of several editions of this book in the City Library at Zürich, of 1532, 1535, 1563, etc. It is also printed in Simler's Sammlung alter und neuer Urkunden, I. 25-73.

309  See above, p. 155, and the works of Meyer and Mörikofer quoted there.

310  See the letters of Barlow to Simler (Bullinger's son-in-law), and Bishop Cox to Gwalter, in Zürich Letters, pp. 494 and 496.

311  Apologetica Defensio, etc., February, 1556.

312  Schaff, Creeds of Christendom, I. 471 sqq., and the literature there quoted.

313  In the Second Helvetic Confession, ch. VIII., he dismisses the curious questions,"whether God would have Adam fall, or whether he forced him to fall, or why he did not hinder his fall, and such like," and says that it is sufficient to know that God did forbid our first parents to eat of the fruit, and punished them for disobedience.

314  A fuller statement in Schaff, Creeds, I. 474 sqq., and especially Schweizer, Central-dogmen, I. 139, 258-292.

315  See above, p. 177 sq.

316  Some of these verses are still remembered in Switzerland. Specimens in Pestalozzi, 315 sqq.

317  Pestalozzi, 588 sqq.

318  The letters, pp. 695-617, are quite interesting. Henry became pastor at Zollikon, and afterwards of St. Peter at Zürich. He married a daughter of Gwalter, who was a granddaughter of Zwingli.

319  Extracts from Bullinger's Works are given by Pestalozzi, 505-622.

320  The immediate successors of Bullinger were Gwalter, Zwingli's son-in-law (1575-1586), Lavater (1585-1586), Stumpf (1582-1592), Leemann (1592-1613).

321  Comp. Schweizer, Centraldogmen, II. 26, 116 sq., 140 sq., 143.

322  J. C. Mörikofer (author of the Life of Zwingli), Johann Jakob Breitinger Leipzig, 1873. Karl Meyer, in Herzog2, II. 597.

323  His proper name was Geisshüssler. He is to be distinguished from Friedrich Myconius (Mecum), who was a friend of Luther and superintendent of Gotha (d. 1546).

324  ln a letter of Oct. 5, 1532, Erasmus called Myconius a "homo ineptus et quondam ludimagister frigidus." Epist. 1233. See Hagenbach. Oekol. tend Mycon., p. 329 sq. and 339, where he remarks: "Und doch hatte Erasmus diesen Einfaltspinsel von Schulmeister früher seines Umgangs gewürdigt und ihn vor Vielen ausgezeichnet! Aber der grämliche Mann war jetzt gegen alles erbittert, was mit der von ihm verkannten und gehassten Reformation in Verbindung stand und glaubte sich, vom alten Ruhme seines Namens zehrend, berechtigt, seinem Unwillen jeden beliebigen Ausdruck zu geben."

325  Hagenbach (341): "Myconius hatte keine kirchliche Ordination erhalten, noch viel weniger etwas von dem was man einen akademischen Grad nennt. Er war weder Baccalaureus, noch Licentiat, noch Magister, noch Doctor geworden." Luther was proud to be a doctor of divinity; but Melanchthon and Zwingli were satisfied with their M. A. Calvin, like Myconius, was never ordained, as far as we know, although he was intended for the priesthood.

326  Hagenbach (359): "Was Zwingli verneint hatte, das verneinte auch er [Myconius] fortwährend. Nie hätte er zugegeben, dass Leib und Blut Christi ihrer leiblichen Substanz nach in den Elementen des Abendmahls vorhanden seien; nie zugegeben, dass sie auch von den Ungläubigen genossen werden. Was dagegen Zwingli mehr zugegeben, als in den Vordergrund gestellt hatte, den geistlichen Genuss durch den Glauben, das hob er mit Nachdruck hervor. Mit gutem Gewissen glaubte er in den Fusstapfen seines Meisters fortzuwandeln, der so redlich und tapfer in Marburg die Hand zum Frieden geboten hatte."

327  Bekanthnuss unseres heyl. christenlichen Gloubens, wie es die Kylch von Basel haldt; also called Confessio Mühlhusana. In Niemeyer's Collectio Confess., 78-84; and in Hagenbach's biography at the end, pp. 465-476. Comp. also his History of that Confession, and Schaff, Creeds, I. 387 sq.

328  It was reprinted at Berlin, 1841, in VitæQuatuor Reformatorum, with a Preface of Neander.

329  See extracts in Hagenbach's biography, pp. 387-462.

330  See Schaff, Creeds of Christendom, I. 477 sqq.

331  One to Jacob Meyer, burgomaster of Basel, Feb. 17, 1537, one to the Swiss Reformed Cantons, Dec. 1, 1537, in De Wette's ed., vol. V. 54 sqq. and 83 sqq.

Click Your Choice