Zwingli and Zwinglians

ZWINGLI, Ulrich (or Huldreich): (1484-1531), Swiss reformer.  Ordained priest in 1506, as pastor at Glarus he devoted himself largely to humanistic studies.  In 1516 he moved to Einsiedeln, where the pilgrimage abuses quickened his desire for reform.  In 1518 he was elected People’s Preacher at the Old Minster in Zurich.  The rupture with ecclesiastical authority came gradually.  The real beginning of the Reformation in Switzerland was Zwingli’s sermons commenting on the NT in 1519; they were followed by attacks on purgatory, invocation of saints, and monasticism.  His first Reformation tract appeared in 1522.  Johann Faber, sent to Zurich to deal with the situation, was silenced in a public disputation in 1523, when Zwingli upheld 67 theses.  The sole basis of truth was the Gospel; the authority of the Pope, the sacrifice of the Mass, times and seasons of fasting, and clerical celibacy were rejected.  The city council supported Zwingli and the Minster Chapter was made independent of episcopal control.  Zwingli then began to develop his characteristic theology (Zwinglianism).  In 1522 he still accepted a traditional view of the Eucharist, but by 1524 he upheld a purely symbolic interpretation.  In a series of writings against M. Luther from 1525 onwards he urged (against Luther’s doctrine of consubstantiation) that it is only the communicant’s faith that makes Christ present in the Eucharist; there is no question of any physical presence.  Zwingli also distinguished more clearly than Luther between the human and divine nature in Christ; he refused to admit the Lutheran distinction between the Law and the Gospel; and, unlike Luther, he believed that the magistrate had the right to legislate in religious matters.  The movement spread to other parts of Switzerland.  It met with resistance in the five Forest Cantons.  In 1531 they made a sudden attack on Zurich and Zwingli was killed in battle.

ZUINGLIANS: A branch of the Reformers, so called from Zuinglius, a celebrated Swiss divine.  He was a man of uncommon learning and wisdom, a good linguist, well acquainted with the holy Scriptures, and with the writings of the fathers.  Before Luther appeared to demand public regard, Zuinglius preached the Gospel of Christ, laying aside the superstitions and traditions of Rome. He drew the substance and proofs of his sermons from the Sacred Scriptures; and his success was extraordinary.  He commenced his spiritual labours in 1516, before the repeated issue of papal indulgences in Switzerland suggested fresh matter of complaint to his serious mind, and before the progress of inquiry had established other great Reformers in the design of breaking the chains of mental slavery.  The followers of Zuinglius differed from the Lutherans chiefly on the subject of the sacrament of the Lord’s supper.  They maintained that the bread and wine were only significations of the body and blood of Christ, whereas Lutherans held consubstantiation.

The Concise Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, Ed. Livingstone. Dr. E. A. 2006, entry “Zwingli, Ulrich (or Huldreich)” p. 651-652, pub. Oxford University Press.

Farrar, John, 1878, “An Ecclesiastical Dictionary, Explanatory of the History, Antiquities, Heresies, Sects, and Religious Denominations of the Christian Church”, entry “Zuinglians” p. 560, pub. Wesleyan Conference Office, London

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