23. German Lutheran Establishment 24. Scandinavian Lutheranism 25. Calvin and Calvinism 26. Swiss Puritanism



§23. G

The Knight's War




A. Lutheran Inaugural (1521-32)








Knights’ War. Luther had accepted Sickingen’s support, but because of the elector’s opposition to the knights’ political aims, he was chary of his promises of approbation to their movement. Yet his words had been incentives to revolt: “Would it be a wonder if princes, nobles, and laymen were to knock pope, bishops, parsons, monks, on the head and drive them out of the land—not that I wish to incite the laity against the clergy.” The knights can be pardoned for not comprehending the pacific intent of this appeal, and Luther shares responsibility for Sickingen’s attack upon the archbishop of Trier in September, 1522, and the ensuing war of the knights upon prelates and princes. Although the rebel leaders made use of the religious issue, their purpose was chiefly political, their own voice in the state and formation of closer national unity. This was anathema to the magnates, who rallied to crush the revolt, which subsided after the deaths of Sickingen and Hutten during 1523.

Anabaptist rising. While Luther remained in retirement at Wartburg, translating the Bible and boasting of his courage in letters to disciples—and perhaps repressing pangs of conscience—some of these disciples were drawing the natural consequences from his teaching. On October 1, 1521, his adherents among the Augustinians had ceased to say Mass. The following Christmas, Carlstadt celebrated an improvised liturgy in which there were omissions in the canon of the Mass, and the laity were given the chalice after being assured that no previous sacramental confession was necessary. One of Luther’s most dishonest tactics before going to Worms had been to urge his followers to conceal their views from or even lie to their confessors while making their Easter confession; now the innovators were taking no more chances with the internal forum. In January, 1522, the rabble destroyed altars and statues in Wittenberg, and iconoclasm was soon in full swing elsewhere. The elector in alarm requested Luther to restore order. Descending from his “Patmos” at Wartburg, Luther moved forward to curb the innovators with the assurance: “Follow me; I was the first whom God set to work at this program; I have never failed in the past.” His influence proved sufficient to induce the majority of his followers to calm down and to set about inaugurating a liturgy and ministry in which all would be done “decently and in good order.”

More radical followers, however, men like Carlstadt, Münzer, Storch, and Pfeiffer, saw no reason for drawing a line in revolution. Though called “Anabaptists” because of their insistence upon rebaptism of those  [p. 153] baptized in infancy, their basic idea was to destroy everything not found in apostolic times as they conceived them. Thus they objected to Luther’s retention of certain traditional doctrines and practices, and were duly excommunicated by him. Münzer’s retort is the movement in brief: “We can cite Scripture as well as you, you pope of Wittenberg.”

Peasants’ Revolt. Already roused by Luther, now urged on by Anabaptist radicals, and smarting under their grievances against the magnates and feudal landlords, the peasants began to rise to sweep away all oppressive rulers. As late as April, 1525, Luther was urging them on with observations such as, “tyrants seldom die in their beds; they perish a bloody death.” But when the magnates came out to suppress the peasants, Luther, well aware of his obligations to the princely protectors of his sect, changed his tune. Just a month later, in May, 1525, he issued a tract entitled Against the Murderous Peasants in which he authorized the princes “to kill them as you would a mad dog.” The lords needed little urging; with heavy slaughter they repressed the uprising: perhaps as many as one hundred thousand peasants perished in Germany.

Parting of the ways. In several respects these years were decisive. The peasants never forgot Luther’s betrayal of their cause, and in his own generation Luther’s name was anathema to the German common man. But the princes were now securely in the saddle, and the peasant ex-monk was henceforth their obedient, if reluctant, servant. The same period (1524-25) witnessed Luther’s literary duel with the humanist patriarch, Erasmus. Hitherto the latter had approved of the reform aspects of Luther’s protests, but now he definitely broke with the innovators by writing his defense, De Libero Arbitrio. And Luther, who had thus far courted the esteemed humanist, struck back with his forthright, De Servo Arbitrio. This opened the eyes of any true humanist scholars to the irrational elements of the new movement with its naked denial of human reason and free will. Throughout Germany moderate men began to open their eyes as from a trance; a parting of the ways had begun. With exasperating and tragic slowness the sleeping giant of traditional Catholicity began to stir.


Government. At first Luther had wished a voluntary grouping of a “holy brotherhood knowing no restraint but charity, with a ministry without power.” Ministers were to be chosen and ordained by the congregation, which also might correct an erring clergyman. All were to preach the “pure Gospel,” which would necessarily ever agree with Luther’s since “his mouth is the mouth of Christ.” But after the Anabaptist anarchy had reduced this “evangelical freedom” to a mockery,  [p. 154] Luther was persuaded to give the secular rulers jurisdiction over the ministers and to permit the nomination of clerical superintendents, later termed “bishops.” Luther’s own visitation of 1527 introduced state control in place of the original congregational self-government, and along with other visitors named by the elector, he supervised preaching and finances. After encountering utter indifference and poverty, these visitors advised state subsidies to support ministers named by the elector. Finally in 1539 consistories nominated by the elector were given the supreme direction of the sect.

Ritual. Although Luther himself seems to have said Mass for the last time on the way to Augsburg in 1518, he had opposed Carlstadt’s radical liturgical changes in 1522. Doctrinally he would have the Real Presence at the communion alone. Externally he preserved certain features of the Mass to avoid exciting opposition among the common people, but he gave private instructions to his ministers to change the intention of the words of consecration, henceforth pronounced merely by way of narration. In private Luther avowed: “If I succeed in doing away with the Mass, I have completely conquered the pope.” He rejoiced also that “in indifferent matters our churches are so arranged that a layman .. . seeing our Mass, choir, organs, bells, chantries, etc., would surely say that it was a regular papist church.” To this end Latin was at first retained for the “Lord’s Supper,” but the offertory was omitted, the canon said aloud, the consecration merely recited, and the communion stressed as the most essential part. Lutheran services varied in different localities as to the prayers and vestments retained. The service was subordinated to preaching and catechizing, and even at Wittenberg most of the people left after the sermon was ended. Since the nobles and the burghers had appropriated most of the goods of the ancient Church, Lutheran ritual was necessarily drab.

Morality. Luther labored to augment his ranks by exhorting bishops and priests to take wives openly or secretly, by promoting “convent breaks,” and by inciting the mob against such institutions as remained loyal to the Church. Admitting himself that “his fervor was waning,” Luther was more given to levity, wine, gambling, female companionship, and ostentatious finery. The vulgarity of his sermons scandalized Humanists, who were no prudes. To put an end to the scandal that some of his earlier followers were taking at his conduct, Luther in June, 1525, had Bugenhagen perform a marriage ceremony for ex-friar Augustine and ex-nun Catherine. “Kathie” did much to make Luther “respectable,” staid, and home-loving—in a portion of his old religious house. But he often expressed a fear that the general standard of morality among his disciples might be “far worse than under popery.” [p. 155]


Expansion of Lutheran doctrines from the Saxon center proceeded rapidly. In 1525 Philip of Hesse had been won over, introduced Lutheranism into his dominions, and became the military bulwark of the sect. Shortly thereafter the dukes of Mecklenburg became Lutheran and in 1528 most of Brunswick, the Hanover of the future, was won, though Duke Henry IV (1509-67) held out for Catholicity until death. In 1525 the Hohenzollern grand master of the Teutonic Order apostatized with most of his religious. Though the other Hohenzollerns, Archbishop Albert and Elector Joachim I (1491-1535), still remained loyal, the latter’s son Joachim II apostatized soon after his accession and brought Brandenburg and Magdeburg into the Lutheran camp: Franz von Waldeck, prince-bishop of Münster, Minden, and Osnabrück, went over to the new doctrines. Not only had most of the north German states become Lutheran by Luther’s death (1546), but Duke Ulric of Würtemburg (1504-50) had introduced the new teachings into the otherwise Catholic “solid South.”

Augsburg Confession. This congeries of state churches had at first no official doctrine, though their protests against the imperial ban gave them the negative appellation of “Protestants.” When the emperor, prior to a new attempt at enforcing the ban through the Augsburg Diet of 1530, made another attempt at reconciliation, Luther delegated the conciliatory Melanchthon to draw up a statement of their teachings. The resulting Augsburg Confession contained twenty-one articles and became the official Lutheran creed, although Melanchthon, in some cases with Luther’s connivance, and in others on his own initiative, concealed many Lutheran tenets under ambiguous phrases. Thus Melanchthon went so far as to declare: “We have no dogmas which differ from the Roman Church; . . . we reverence the authority of the pope of Rome.” Luther, to do him justice, did not believe this, but he permitted his disciple and envoy to publish it, remarking: “When once we have evaded the peril and are at peace, then we can easily atone for our tricks.” But such theological “tricks” did not deceive Cardinal Campeggio and Johann Eck, who advised the emperor to reject the Augsburg Confession for the heresy it really was.

The Schmalkaldic League, long urged by Luther, was formed in December, 1530, after the failure of the Augsburg Confession to avert imperial prosecution. Lutheran fortunes were now entrusted to the military power of the Lutheran princes, thus completing the last phase of sectarian evolution into a state-dominated religion. But “states’ rights” still prevented the emperor from securing sufficient assistance from the [p. 156] Catholic princes to enforce the ban, and the complications of the Turkish advance obliged him to conclude the Truce of Nuremburg on July 1, 1532. This suspended the ban against Lutheranism until a forthcoming general council, thereby permitting the new sect still more time to entrench itself in Germany. Though the pretense was still kept up that Lutherans were merely disaffected Catholics whose grievances would eventually be settled by an international conference, in fact they had become a new sect irrevocably separated from Rome in organization and doctrine.

B. Lutheran Survival (1532-55)

(1) RELIGIOUS TRUCE (1532-41)

Papal overtures. Clement VII sustained imperial policy to the extent of promising (1533) a “free and universal council” to Luther’s protector, Elector John Frederick of Saxony (1532-47). In 1535 Paul III sent the legate Vergerio to interview Luther at Wittenberg regarding participation in this council. The envoy had no success, and himself later apostatized to Lutheranism. In 1536 a papal invitation to attend the proposed council at Mantua was rejected by the Schmalkald princes at Luther’s insistence. Though a few Lutherans did appear eventually for a short time at Trent, they came only to argue and disrupt proceedings. Luther had gotten beyond appeals to a council, and the breach was not to be closed.

Lutheran divisions, however, imperilled the movement. Though attempts were made to unite with the new Protestant communities of Zwinglianism and Calvinism in Switzerland, Luther’s opposition prevented accord. Yet the negotiations induced Melanchthon and other Lutherans to accept teachings at variance with Luther’s. Melanchthon’s “Synergism” virtually repudiated Lutheran determinism, and his “Crypto-Calvinism” rejected impanation for symbolism—though he avoided any frank contradiction of Luther during his lifetime. Agricola claimed that the Decalogue contradicted fiducial faith and need not be observed; Osiander modified the doctrine on justification. Luther was usually able to discipline or outshout his adversaries in public, but only the need of presenting a common front against the Catholics kept irreconcilable controversies from developing. After Luther’s death in February, 1546, many of his cherished beliefs were repudiated so that Flaccius, his last uncompromising disciple, died in exile in 1575. Luther was thus almost the last Lutheran.

(2) RELIGIOUS WAR (1541-53)

Lutheran offensive. As the Schmalkaldic League won recruits, it became bolder. In 1541 the Lutherans seized Halle and Naumburg, and  [p. 157] Hermann von Wied, the archbishop of Cologne, secretly declared his sympathy with them. In 1542 the League expelled the Catholic Duke Henry from Brunswick. In these and other seizures, the spoils went to the lay protectors over Luther’s pleas for his ministers and for the poor. Quite disillusioned, Luther died not long after, apparently from apoplexy during the night.

Imperial chastisement. In June, 1546, the emperor at last invoked the Edict of Worms and within a year was the master of Germany. The League was declared dissolved. Elector John Frederick was deposed, to be replaced by the hypocritical convert to Catholicity, his cousin Maurice. Philip of Hesse was imprisoned, and Hermann von Wied forced to resign Cologne. Cowed Lutheran rebels made their submission and professed willingness to accept the forthcoming Tridentine decrees. Charles V’s impatience with the delay of Paul III in implementing this pledge ruined what chance of reconciliation existed after the imperial victory. The imperial Interim of Augsburg (1548) permitting Lutherans a married clergy and lay reception of the chalice, angered the Catholics without appeasing the Lutherans.

Lutheran rebellion followed quickly on the treason of Maurice of Saxony in 1551. In March, 1552, Maurice and the revived League almost captured the emperor and put to flight the second period of Trent Aided by Henry II of France, the Lutheran leaders regained their possessions and threatened to become masters of Germany in their turn. But Charles was as great in adversity as he had been imprudent in prosperity; fighting doggedly, he prevented the collapse of Catholic Germany. In July, 1552, he concluded a truce to gain time, but his brother Ferdinand exceeded instructions by negotiating for a definitive peace. Maurice’s death in 1553 removed an obstacle to a settlement, and the emperor’s mounting illness resigned him to the inevitable. Ferdinand was therefore empowered to arrange the affairs of the realm that he was soon to rule.


The Peace of Augsburg, ratified by King Ferdinand on September 25, 1555, marked the definitive establishment of Lutheranism in Germany. Its principal provisions were: 1) Religious peace: Catholics and Lutherans were henceforth to settle their differences by arbitration rather than by arms. For this purpose the imperial court was to be composed of an equal number of Catholic and of Lutheran members when treating of cases bearing upon religion. 2) Qualified toleration: Lutherans, but not other Protestants, were to enjoy toleration in those territories where the lord or civic authorities should declare Lutheranism the state religion. Any Catholic residents would be allowed to emigrate. This was, [p. 158] indeed, the consecration of the unsound principle of mitts regio, Otis religio. Yet at the time it favored Catholics more than Lutherans, for Lutheranism was making such strides in Germany that three-fourths of the population were reported as disaffected. Whereas the Lutheran lands constituted a solid bloc, Lutheran enclaves existed in Catholic states. After the revival of the Counter-Reformation, however, the numerical balance was restored and the principle worked against the Catholics. An exception to this provision was the ecclesiasticum reservatum, which provided that any prince-bishop who might apostatize would be obliged to resign his see, retaining merely his personal and not his ecclesiastical property. Lutheran violation of this clause would become one of the causes of the Thirty Years’ War which finally disrupted the Augsburg settlement in 1618. 3) Condonation of confiscation of property seized by Lutherans from the Catholic Church prior to the Passau Truce, August, 1552, was granted. In the weakened state of Catholic forces, this concession was almost unavoidable.

Conclusion. Luther had, then, failed to win Germany entirely for Protestantism, nor had the Church succeeded in suppressing his revolt. Germany was to remain permanently divided in religion to the great detriment of national unity. The Peace of Augsburg, moreover, was a portent of the final result of the whole Protestant Revolution: a Europe divided in religion and politics emerged. The Catholic Church had not fallen; shaken, she was to awake, “like a strong man awaking from sleep,” to true and lasting reform. But the greatest society that the world had yet known, Medieval Catholic Christendom, was mortally wounded. Gone were the days of unity on first principles; coming were centuries of division and doubt, even among well-meaning men.






 Lund Cathedral, Sweden




A. The Danish Monarchy (1513-1648)








The Union of Kalmar, effected in 1397 by Margaret Valdemarsdatter, had joined the three Scandinavian kingdoms under Danish hegemony. Norway and Iceland continued under Danish rule until the nineteenth century, but Sweden-Finland, although formally part of the Union until 1523, was already manifesting a separatist tendency. For the most part the Union had been favorable to ecclesiastical interests insofar as it gave leadership to a superior Danish culture and discipline, but this opened the way for accusations of lack of national patriotism against Swedish and Norwegian clerics.

King Christian II (1481-1559) succeeded his amiable and indulgent father Hans in 1513. Christian was a strong-willed, unscrupulous ruler who sought to make himself absolute over the two estates of prelates [p. 159] and nobles who restricted the royal power. Before marrying Isabella (1501-26), a sister of Emperor Charles V, Christian had taken a Norge-Dutch mistress, Duiveke Willems. Throughout his reign the king remained under the fantastic domination of his mother-not-in-law, Sigbrit Willems. Sigbrit, a shrewd Dutchwoman who had emigrated to Bergen, had remarkable insight into commerce and finance, and influenced Christian to counteract prelatial and lordly prestige by favoring the middle class.

Anticlericalism. Though held in check for a time by the worthy Archbishop Gunnarsson of Lund, the king interfered in the Church after that prelate’s death in 1519. During four years he intruded five clerics into the primatial see. Archbishop Jörgen Skotberg (1520-32), the only one of these nominees who received papal confirmation, was in exile from 1521. Next the king promulgated new edicts regulating clerical property and subjecting episcopal jurisdiction to the crown. Although apparently not a Lutheran, the king was willing to make use of some of the Lutheran criticisms of the hierarchy to enforce his demands. When Archbishop Skotberg brought the royal policy to the attention of Pope Leo X, the latter sent a nuncio, Arcimboldo, to collect indulgence donations and mediate between Christian II and his Swedish subjects who were then defying his authority. On a charge that the nuncio had favored the Swedes in the negotiations, the king confiscated the collection. About 1521 also, the king, whose mother Christina was a sister of Luther’s protector, Frederick of Saxony, invited the Lutheran Martin Reinhard to enter the faculty of Copenhagen University. Despite episcopal protests, Reinhard and others were allowed freedom to proselytize. Christian seems, however, merely to have intended to frighten the prelates into acquiescing in confiscation of church goods. But when on Sigbrit’s advice, he promulgated in 1522 an absolutist code of regulations, all of the lords, both spiritual and temporal, revolted to halt application to Denmark of the general European tendency to Absolutism. Christian II was deposed, and the nobility replaced him with his uncle, Frederick, duke of Schleswig-Holstein. At the same time, as will be noted presently, Gustavus Vasa, the Swedish regent, seized the opportunity to assert Sweden’s independence of the Kalmar Union.


King Frederick I (1523-33) had been supported by the prelates as well as the nobles, and took the traditional coronation oath to support the Church and to repress heresy. But whereas Christian II was but a humanistic anticlerical, Frederick was already a secret Lutheran. Before long he violated his pledges on the pretext that they did not include toleration of “abuses.” He invited an apostate Benedictine, Hans  [p. 160] Tausen (1494-1561), from Wittenberg to conduct the reform. At first secretly, but after 1526 openly, Tausen proclaimed Lutheran ideas at Copenhagen. Other Lutheran preachers were active at Malmo, and Christian Pederson prepared a Lutheran version of the Bible in Danish.

Odensee schism. In August, 1527, the king summoned the Diet to Odensee to regulate religious affairs. He had already secured the lay lords’ support by restricting confiscation to ecclesiastical lands. The ensuing Ordinance of Odensee: (1) transferred confirmation of bishops from the Holy See to the crown; (2) permitted clerical marriage; (3) granted royal protection alike to Catholic and to Lutheran preachers; (4) proclaimed complete freedom of conscience. The hierarchy, their primate still in exile, could not vote down this legislation. Intimidated and self-seeking, they protested but feebly against what amounted to schism for the Catholic Church in Denmark.

Lutheran propaganda simultaneously was vigorously pushed forward. During 1529 the king arranged a debate between the Catholics and the Lutherans at Copenhagen. Since no Danish bishop nor theologian came forward, the Catholics in Denmark invited Johann Eck to defend their cause. Eck, his hands full in Germany, substituted Friar Stagefyr from Cologne. Whereas the German champion could not speak Danish and the Lutherans refused to employ Latin, the debate was called off. But when Stagefyr presented a written defense of the Catholic position based on the Fathers and the councils, Frederick arbitrarily decided in favor of the Lutherans, who the following year issued a Confessio Hansica as if it were the official Danish cult. When the king died in 1533, there could be no doubt that the court was Lutheran, the bishops servile schismatics, and the vast majority of the populace Catholic.

Civil war. The Catholics now prepared to make their last stand. A new archbishop, Thorben Bilde, had succeeded to Lund on Skotberg’s resignation in 1532. In October, 1531, the deposed Christian II, prompted by the emperor, attempted to regain his throne with Catholic support, but was captured in July, 1532. Nonetheless the Catholics preferred him to Frederick’s son Christian (III), who had been an avowed Lutheran since 1521. Recalling that the throne was elective, the Catholics rejected him and rallied to Count Christopher of Oldenburg, cousin and agent of Christian II. The count captured Copenhagen in 1534 and held it for two years with the aid of the clergy and burghers. But the nobles for the most part accepted Christian III as king and with help from Gustavus Vasa of Sweden took Copenhagen on July 29, 1536. Christian III was soon master of Denmark, while Norwegian resistance collapsed in 1537 with the flight of Archbishop Olaf Engelbertsson of Trondjem. [p. 161]


Christian III (1534-58) at once proceeded to destroy the Catholic Church in his dominions. Having won aristocratic support by promises of a share in the spoils, the king had all the bishops arrested on August 20, 1536. The prelates were offered their freedom and a small pension on condition of resigning their sees and treasuries into royal keeping and of promising to offer no further resistance to religious change. The bishops, most of them nominees of Frederick I, purchased their liberty on these terms, with the exception of Bishop Rönnow of Röskilde, who accordingly was kept imprisoned until his death in 1544. But Archbishop Bilde of Lund soon showed repentance by fleeing abroad; he died in 1553 as the last survivor of the Danish Catholic hierarchy. In 1537 Luther’s right-hand man, Bugenhagen, was invited to supervise the establishment of Lutheranism. He crowned Christian III and prepared a plan of organization.

Official change. In 1539 a new Diet of Odensee gave official sanction to Bugenhagen’s program. Lutheran teachings were imposed and the episcopal hierarchy replaced by superintendents, later called “bishops.” The former term, however, more accurately describes their merely disciplinary functions. Priests who refused to introduce the new religion were deprived of their parishes, and all monasteries were suppressed. Since some of the clergy and laity continued to oppose the new regime, subsequent diets in 1544 and 1546 took rigorous measures. The remaining ecclesiastical property was confiscated, all Catholic priests exiled under pain of death in case of return, and all Catholic laymen deprived of the right to hold office or to transmit property to their heirs. Thereafter the external vestiges of Catholicity disappeared from Denmark until 1849.

In Norway and Iceland, introduction of Lutheranism encountered somewhat more opposition and greater force had to be employed. Two bishops were imprisoned and many monks chose exile to apostasy. In Iceland, Bishop John Aresson of Holum held out with popular backing until 1551 when he was executed and Lutheranism introduced.

Years of shadow. Doubtless many laymen died in the Faith in Denmark, Norway, and Iceland, but priestly ministration almost ceased. Though the nunciature of Cologne and later that of Brussels were charged with providing missionaries, governmental vigilance at the ports made their introduction almost impossible. A Dominican actually got into Norway, but was deported within a month. More completely than elsewhere, the Faith died out and its modest revival in the nineteenth century seems to have come from foreign contacts, e.g., Catholic [p. 162] embassies or travelers. By the end of Christian III’s reign native Catholicity was being stifled. Christian IV (1588-1648), like his father Frederick II (1558-88), was a less savage persecutor simply because the Catholic generation had died out and conformity had become general. By retaining many external vestiges of Catholic liturgy, the adherence of younger generations was more easily won. Christian IV intervened, though unsuccessfully, on behalf of the German Lutherans during the Thirty Years’ War. When Father Lüpke, after a thousand governmental obstacles, was allowed into Denmark in 1841, he found but 865 Catholics in the entire country.

B. The Swedish Monarchy (1512-1654)


The issue. Sweden was an undeveloped country scarcely emerged from the Dark Ages. The nobility would brook little control, least of all from a foreign king, and there remained a large class of independent freemen. Society was almost exclusively agrarian, for all trade was in the hands of the Danes or of the Hanseatic League. The Union of Kalmar was not popular, and the Danish monarchs usually neglected their Swedish subjects, allowing native regents to act for them. Thus, from 1470 to 1520 Sweden was practically administered most of the time by the native Sture family. When Christian II (1513-23) resolved to assert his royal supremacy throughout the Kalmar Union, the regent in Sweden was Sten Sture II (1512-20) . The leader of the royalist, and therefore in Swedish eyes unpatriotic, party was Gustav Trolle, archbishop of Upsala since 1515. This prelate also had a private quarrel with the regent, and when the latter arrested him, the archbishop appealed to pope and king. For such action he was branded as a traitor by the Swedish Diet, and declared deposed in 1517. Upon being informed of the action of the nationalist party, Pope Leo X excommunicated Sten Sture.

Revolt. King Christian gladly offered to act as executor of the papal censure. Though the Swedes repulsed Danish invasions during 1516 and 1517, the king was victorious at the Battle of Asunden Lake (frozen) during January, 1520, and the regent died of his wounds. Sture’s widow defended Stockholm until November when she surrendered on promise of amnesty. But the king was in a vengeful mood and on the advice of the liberated Archbishop Trolle insisted upon reprisals. Between November 8 and 10, 1520, the Danish occupation forces perpetrated a massacre in which two bishops and ninety nobles were slain. Then leaving Archbishop Trolle as his deputy, the king returned to Denmark. Under the circumstances, the prelate was the last [p. 163] man to conciliate the Swedes to the new regime, for rightly or wrongly, they believed him the author of their recent misfortunes. In 1521 Gustavus Vasa, whose father had been killed in the Stockholm massacre, was proclaimed regent and renewed the rebellion. During June, 1523, he captured Stockholm, declared the Union of Kalmar dissolved, and was proclaimed king of Sweden. Scandinavian unity was for all practical purposes at an end, for Christian II was deposed during the same year and his successors made no serious effort to reassert their claims, although Swedish-Danish enmity endured for a long time afterwards.


Gustavus Vasa (1523-60) had to pay the expenses of the war and discharge a debt to the Hanseatic League which had furnished the ships. The thrifty and individualistic freemen and peasants were exceedingly loath to vote taxes; the country was poor; and hence the new king’s thoughts turned toward ecclesiastical property. As a refugee in Germany, Gustavus had examined, if not adopted, Lutheran ideas. Though at first professing Catholicity, he did insist upon the deposition of Archbishop Trolle and “other unworthy bishops,” and confiscated much church property. Pope Clement VII not only refused his assent to Trolle’s removal, but named an Italian to the Swedish see of Skara. Gustavus Vasa, a coarse brutal man of great physical strength and little learning, had Luther’s manners with the pride of a Swedish nobleman. In anger, he turned to the new religion.

Lutheran introduction. Gustavus invited Lutheran preachers to Sweden, staged the usual arbitrary debates, and promptly awarded the verdict to the Lutheran protagonists. His aides were Olaus Petersson, an alumnus of Wittenberg, and Lars Andersson, apostate archdeacon of Upsala. In 1527 the king presented his financial needs to the Diet of Westeraes and under threat of resignation extorted from the assembly endorsement of confiscation of “surplus” ecclesiastical goods. But royal visitors began to take what they pleased, and Bishops Magnus Knut and Peter Jakobsson were put to death for resisting. Then in 1529 the Diet of Odebro formally established a national church with a hierarchy subordinate to the crown, a vernacular liturgy, and a married clergy. No explicit doctrinal statement appeared until 1593, and liturgical rites were only gradually modified. Yet high clerical offices were filled exclusively by Lutherans and Lutheran tenets were everywhere insinuated. Gustavus made it clear that the new National Church was his creature, for both of his high aides, Petersson and Andersson, were fined and deposed for criticism. When the king died in 1560, he was master of all that he surveyed in Church and state. [p. 164]


Eric “XIV” (1560-68), Gustavus’s eldest son, was induced by Denis Beurre, a disciple of Calvin, to promote the religion of Geneva. This innovation was stoutly resisted by the Lutheran clergy, and other tyrannical acts raised opposition. Finally the king, who had become mentally deranged, was replaced by his younger brother John.

John III (1568-92), Gustavus’s second son, now succeeded. He had married the Polish Catholic princess, Catherine Jagellon, who had stipulated that she be permitted a Catholic chaplain. The latter, Father Herbst, S.J., interested the king in Catholic doctrine. Without as yet adopting Catholicity, King John began gradually to retrace his father’s steps: the liturgy became somewhat “High Anglican,” disguised Jesuits were admitted to Sweden, and in 1571 bishops were installed with a Catholic ritual. Negotiations were begun with the Holy See in the course of which the king demanded for Sweden Mass in the vernacular, a married clergy, and lay communion under both species. These concessions Pope Gregory XIII refused, though promising discussions went on for several years. But after the queen’s death (1583), John III began to veer from Catholicity under the influence of his second and Lutheran wife, Guneila Bjelke. He remained, however, of a “high church” persuasion until his death in 1592.


Karl of Soedermanland, Gustavus’s third son, now assumed the regancy for John’s Catholic son, Sigismund, then absent in Poland, to whose throne he had been elected in 1587. The duke-regent promptly abolished King John’s innovations and imposed an uncompromising Lutheran regime. All of the hierarchy, including John’s nominees, yielded. Though King Sigismund returned to Sweden in 1593, he discovered that Lutheranism was so entrenched that he was powerless to effect a change. Until 1598 he bided his time, and then brought an army from Poland with which he won a few successes. But when it became clear that Catholicity could not be re-established save through a severe and dubious civil conflict, Sigismund permitted a referendum. The Swedish Diet of Jonköping of January, 1599, declared that Sigismund might retain his crown on condition of adopting Lutheranism. Sigismund retorted: “I do not value an earthly crown so highly as to give a heavenly one in exchange for it.” He retired once more to Poland, and Karl was successively declared regent and king. He inaugurated a bigoted regime that denied the remaining Catholics civil and religious rights until 1860—indeed, not before 1952 were all disabilities removed. [p. 165]

Gustavus II Adolphus (1611-32) , Karl’s son, continued this policy and also inaugurated an aggressive foreign policy. Ambition as much as zeal for Protestantism led him to intervene on the Protestant side in the German Thirty Years’ War. His participation proved disastrous for the Catholic cause until he was killed at the battle of Lützen in 1632.

Catholic atavism. The Protestant champion’s daughter, Queen Christina (1632-54), proved to be a curious throwback to Sweden’s religious past. Under alien Catholic influences, among them the philosopher René Descartes, she gained a knowledge of and attraction for Catholicity. Aware that she could not profess this religion on the Swedish throne, this eccentric and strong-willed, but entirely sincere princess resigned the crown. Until her death at Rome in 1689, she remained a steadfast, if meddlesome, convert.









A. Calvinist Antecedents







Jean Cauvin (1509-64) was to prove the second most influential of the heresiarchs. Though at first indebted to Luther, Calvin presents a decided contrast to him. Luther was a coarse German peasant, for all his education; Calvin, a cultured French bourgeois. Luther was of violent, sanguine temperament, rash, eloquent, with a certain crude humor; Calvin was calm, phlegmatic, cautious, a cold classical reasoner, and practically without humor. Though intellectually brilliant, Luther scorned logic and research to become an active popular leader. Calvin, on the other hand, was a rigorous logician who exerted his influence by writing and instructing smaller groups. With none of Luther’s pseudo-mystic enthusiasm or demagogy, Calvin was nonetheless to impress his ideas more firmly on the movement that he initiated than Luther had done on his.

Family troubles. Calvin’s parents were Gerard Cauvin, lawyer, and Jeanne LeFranc, who gave birth to her son Jean on July 10, 1509, at Noyon, Picardy. Jean’s mother is known to have led her son to various shrines, but as she died when he was still young, her influence may have been secondary. His father, however, was more intent on his son’s material than his spiritual welfare. The senior Cauvin and Jean’s elder brother Charles were fiscal procurators of the see of Noyon, and became involved in financial difficulties with the cathedral chapter. In the course of this dispute they were excommunicated and eventually denied ecclesiastical burial. Such domestic tragedies could scarcely have failed to embitter Jean Cauvin against ecclesiastical authority.

Education. Before these troubles had commenced, however, Calvin had profited by the patronage of the local lord, DeHangest, to receive [p. 166] benefices that financed his education. Though never in major orders, Calvin between 1521 and 1534 enjoyed the revenues of a chaplaincy and a parish. From 1523 to 1527 he pursued the arts course at the University of Paris; from 1527 to 1531 at his sire’s insistence he studied law at Bourges-Orléans where he received a licentiate in the latter year. After his father’s death in that year, Calvin followed his own bent to study theology. George Cop, royal physician and humanist enthusiast, was one of his patrons, and his Hebrew professor, François Vatable, was a member of the liberal cenacle of Meaux. At Bourges, Calvin’s Greek professor, Melchior Wolmar, is known to have been a Lutheran. As a student, Calvin seemed to his companions reserved, timid, studious, and austere. Charges against his morality are probably due to partisan polemics; all through his life Calvin exhibited a puritanical self-righteousness—his classmates had nicknamed him “the accusative case.”




Conversion. Even Calvin’s intimate aides were apparently uncertain when he imbibed Lutheranism, though Theodore Beza is plausible in his ascribing this to Calvin’s cousin, Pierre d’Olivetan, who had studied at Strasburg under the Lutherans Bucer and Capito. Calvin himself never manifested much outward fervor, but his regulated exterior may have concealed suppressed sensibility: “The more I considered myself, the more my conscience was pricked with sharp darts, so that I retained but one consolation, which was to deceive myself by forgetting about me.” About 1529 he reports a sort of “conversion”: “I was obliged to study law. No matter how diligently I tried to apply myself to this subject, God’s hidden providence always directed me toward another way. . . . Once I had gained a knowledge and taste for true piety, I was immediately inspired with a keen longing for it, so that without deserting other studies, I pursued them with less attention.” Among initiates, “true piety” often indicated Lutheranism in a sixteenth-century context. Such tendencies must have been accentuated when Calvin returned to Paris, although no heresy is manifest in his commentary on Seneca’s De Clementia which appeared in 1532. Its would-be reconciliation of Christianity and Stoicism, however, does reveal the latitudinarianism of the Cenacle of Meaux, which had Lutheran connections.

Manifestation. Calvin first revealed his new opinions, so far as is known, on All Saints’ Day, November 1, 1533, by collaborating with Nicholas Cop, his patron’s son, in the latter’s inaugural address as the new rector of the University of Paris. This discourse seems to have attempted to combine the most daring texts from Erasmus with the least offensive of Luther, probably with an intention of insinuating that their authors were in basic accord. Two Lutheran tenets were stressed: [p. 167]

opposition between the Gospel (of Luther) and the Law (of the Church);

and substitution of justification by faith alone for good works.

Calvin, Cop and a group meeting at the house of Etienne de la Forge may have been encouraged by the patronage of the king’s sister, Queen Margaret of Navarre. But this time they had gone too far. King, parlement and university were instantly aroused to indignation and alarm. Many suspects were arrested and La Forge was burned at the stake in 1535. Cop, pleading clerical immunity, resigned and retired to Switzerland. After some months as a fugitive in France, Calvin followed him to Basle early in 1535.

Culmination. From this asylum, Calvin hurled defiance at King Francis I in August, 1535, rebuking him for proscribing Protestant teaching without examining it. The better to enlighten the royal mind, Calvin drew up a methodical statement of the new teachings, which he published in Latin at Basle in May, 1536. The essential points of his own doctrine are to be found in these Institutes of the Christian Religion, later revised and translated, as well as put into execution at Geneva. Calvin’s career as a religious innovator will be treated subsequently; here it seems sufficient to note that after short sojourns in Italy and France, he settled at Geneva. He married Idelette De Bure, the widow of an Anabaptist minister. She died in 1549, having borne Calvin one child who died in infancy. Thereafter, constantly studying, lecturing, and preaching, Calvin would find his entire life work in Calvinism.




B. Calvinist Doctrine







Introduction. Calvin built upon Lutheranism. With Luther, Calvin held for extrinsic imputed justification independently of good works: “We explain justification as an acceptance . . . and make it consist in remission of sins and imputation of the righteousness of Christ.” But whereas Luther wished men to be sure of their justification, Calvin went further to insist that they must also be certain of their salvation. Hence, he based his teaching upon two principles, inadmissibility of grace and absolute predestinarianism.

Inadmissibility of grace. For Calvin, as for Luther, grace is something external gained by faith and not by the sacraments, which are merely external signs. Grace once conferred, he maintained, could not be lost, since the Holy Spirit, once received by faith, is received once and for all. The authority for this and many other assertions is ultimately nothing else than the infallibility of John Calvin, for “God has condescended to reveal to me what is good and what is evil.” Yet Calvin did invoke Scripture in support for his argument. According to him, the text, “Anyone who comes to Me I will not cast out,” means that [p. 168] anyone who arrives at justification by the imputed merits of Christ remains justified forever. He contended, moreover, that since “every tree not planted by My Father shall be rooted out,” then every soul planted by the Father in justice must remain fixed always.

Absolute predestinarianism. Calvin also held that God by an eternal and immutable decree positively saves or destroys souls. He wills Adam’s sin at least externally; by a curious sotto voce He would also will against it—for there is for Calvin no distinction between causing and permitting moral evil. His only explanation is that God’s honor requires this, so that in the case of sinners He may reveal His glory in their damnation. Everything, in Calvin’s view, depends upon an eternal divine decree whereby

“God foreordains what shall be the fate of each individual. Since all are not created for one and the same end, some will have everlasting joy, while others undergo an endless suffering. Insofar as man is created for the enjoyment of the one or the suffering of the other, he may be said to be thereby predestined to life or to death.”

Moral consequences. This predestination in Calvin’s teaching was quite independent of any human exertion or co-operation, for “the will is so wholly vitiated and depraved that it is incapable of producing anything but evil.” For fallen man, therefore, the question is not how he can obtain forgiveness and remission of his sins, but rather how “though unworthy and unrighteous, we may yet be considered righteous.” Through faith each one does not “receive” God’s favor—which is all that Calvin means by grace—but instead he “perceives” that he already has it. This, however, in no way prevents the predestined person from sinning constantly. The only remedy for this distressing situation is complete abandonment to the confidence that God will not exact the full rigor of the death sentence to which the predestined are liable at every moment.12

12 A. Baudrillart, “Calvin,” Dictionnaire de Theologie, IV, 1422; E. Vacandard, “Calvin,” Dictionnaire de Connaissance Religieuse, I, 1031.





General teaching. This doctrine left little efficacy for the Christian sacraments. For Calvin, a sacrament had no intrinsic virtue; rather, a sacrament is added like a seal to a document, not to give force to the promise, but only to ratify in regard to us, so that we may esteem it more certain.” Sacraments were thus reduced to mere symbols, supernumerary reassurances enabling the predestined to “perceive” more clearly that they had already been saved by faith.

Baptism remained in Calvin’s view a means of increasing faith and of signifying purification. If a man sins after he has been baptized, [p. 169] remembrance of this sign will renew his confidence, for baptism “is not effaced by subsequent sins.” Rather, its value depends upon the believer’s faith. It should, however, be received early as a “sign of our regeneration and spiritual birth.”

The Lord’s Supper is in Calvin’s teaching only a method of confessing one’s faith, an assurance that “the body of Our Savior Jesus Christ has been so delivered for us once that now and forever He is ours.” Zwingli had already declared that the Real Presence “exists in the thoughts of the contemplative mind.” Modifying this opinion slightly under Bucer’s influence, Calvin eventually taught that though the bread and wine are not changed into the Body and Blood of Christ by the words of consecration, yet at the communion a divine power emanated from Christ’s Body in heaven into the believer’s soul. Though he sometimes described this power as “substantial,” Calvin certainly repudiated the Catholic doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist. Weekly communion of this sort was advised to reawaken faith, but Calvin claimed that the Mass dishonored the “unique” sacrifice of Christ on the Cross.

False sacraments,” in Calvin’s opinion, were

confirmation, a useless rite invented by the bishops;

auricular confession, which was “pestilential and pernicious for the Church”;

 extreme unction, “a mockery,” since cures ceased with the apostles;

holy orders, “a damnable sacrilege” inasmuch as Christ is the only priest;

and marriage, instituted indeed by God, but not a Christian sacrament.




The true Church,

Calvin held, is to be discovered by these marks:

“Wherever we see the word of God purely preached and heard, and the sacraments administered according to Christ’s institution, there without doubt is the Church.”

 Long concealed by Satan, this true Church had now been rediscovered by John Calvin. It is the society of the predestined elect, and hence excommunication is necessary to free it from sinners, lest “it be contaminated by rotten members.” As for the Church of Rome, it is “Babylon.”

The Bible is the rule of faith, to be interpreted literally and not allegorically. The only tradition that may throw light upon it is primitive:

the Apostles’ Creed,

St. Paul,

and the first councils.

But “Calvin withdraws from the faithful the free interpretation of Scripture; he himself was able, as Luther and Melanchthon, to interpret the Bible according to his conscience—or dialectic—but once tradition was restored [by Calvin] it could not again be discussed.” 13 Calvin was as sure as Luther [p. 170] of the correctness of his interpretation: “I speak by the Master’s mouth.” He had profited by Luther’s experiences with the Anabaptists to curb the exercise of private interpretation of the Bible.

13. Pierre Jourda, Histoire de l’Église (Paris: Bloud and Gay, 1950), XVI, 213-14.

The ministry.

Calvin’s sacramental theory eliminated any notion of a sacrificial priesthood. His clergy were to be but “ministers of the word,” that is, preachers of the Bible as interpreted by Calvin. But whereas Luther had but vague notions of a ministry, Calvin definitely, if inconsistently, held to a divinely established clerical state. In keeping with his predestinarian doctrine, he held that his ministers were called by God through the voice of the congregation. Though Lutherans eventually admitted bishops in the sense of superintendents, Calvin held store only by a “presbytery” or college of elders, assisted by deacons.

The new theocracy.

All this made for an aristocratic religion and a local theocracy, familiar to Americans from the history of New England. While Lutheranism succumbed to state control, Calvinism sought to dominate the state. In either case Church and state became practically identified, but in Calvinism it remained the former which was the leading partner. The Geneva Consistory, although never attaining to the international sway of the medieval papal theocracy, did retain the extreme curialist views of direct power of spiritual authority over temporal society. Thus was erected a “Protestant Rome,” even a “welfare church,” designed in virtue of its predestinarian tenets to provide for men “from the cradle to beyond the grave.” Where this proved impossible to establish, Calvinism opposed royal absolutism, and tended to ally itself with parliamentary democracy. In practice, despite Calvin’s original objectives, there was founded a sort of worldly-wise church, composed of staid, industrious, and eminently respectable citizens, prone to be a little too smug regarding the foibles of lesser mortals.




Moral activism.

“Behind western democracy there lies the spiritual world of Calvinism and the Free Church which is . . . completely different in its political and social outlook from the world of Lutheranism. . . . There is in the teaching of Calvin the same pessimism with regard to human nature and human will, the same other-worldliness and the same exaltation of divine power and even arbitrariness that is to be found in Luther. Nevertheless all these conceptions were transformed by the intense spirit of moral activism which characterized Calvin and Calvinism. The genius of Calvin was that of an organizer and legislator, severe, logical, and inflexible in purpose, and consequently it was he and not Luther who inspired Protestantism with the will to dominate the world and to change society and culture. Hence, though Calvinism has [p. 171] always been regarded as the antithesis of Catholicism to a far greater extent than Lutheranism, it stands much nearer to Catholicism in its conception of the relation of Church and state and in its assertion of the independence and supremacy of the spiritual power . . .


 ‘But these theocratic claims were not hierarchic and impersonal as in the medieval Church; they were based on an intense individualism deriving from the certainty of election and the duty of the individual Christian to co-operate in realizing the divine purpose against a sinful and hostile world. Thus Calvinism is at once aristocratic and democratic; aristocratic inasmuch as the ‘saints’ were an elect minority chosen from the mass of fallen humanity and infinitely superior to the children of this world; but democratic in that each was directly responsible to God who is no respecter of persons.” 14

14. Christopher Dawson, Judgment of the Nations (New York: Sheed & Ward, 1942), pp. 44-46.




§26. SWISS





A. The Swiss Environment









The territory occupied by modern Switzerland, once the Carolingian Empire broke up, was divided between the German tribal duchies of Swabia and Burgundy. Though both were eventually incorporated into the German revival of the Holy Roman Empire, Burgundy rapidly dissolved into petty states owing scant allegiance to any temporal superior. Swabia, however, became the patrimony of the Hohenstaufen from 1080 to 1268. After this family mounted the imperial throne in 1138, wider interests claimed its attention so that the Swabians enjoyed a large amount of liberty. When the Hohenstaufen fell, Rudolf von Habsburg, count of Alsace, raised a claim to the ducal dignity in Swabia. In so doing he came into conflict with the three “Forest Cantons”: Schwyzstill the German name for Switzerland—Uri, and Unterwalden, situated on the Swabian side of the Lake of Lucerne. They countered Rudolf’s claims with a privilege granted them in 1231 by Emperor Frederick II which made them immediately subject to the empire—no great concession so long as the Duke of Swabia was himself emperor.


Habsburg ambitions to subject this tiny Swiss Confederation to their rule were the source of prolonged but intermittent conflict. Rudolf’s election to the imperial throne in 1273 diverted his attention from Swiss affairs. His son Albert, prior to his own imperial election, revived his father’s plans. Against him the Forest Cantons made a defensive league [p. 172] which proved the nucleus of an extension of the nascent Confederation. Albert’s choice as emperor turned his concern elsewhere before a decision had been reached on Habsburg overlordship. During the fourteenth century while the Habsburgs struggled for permanent possession of the imperial crown, the Cantons purchased privileges of autonomy from emperors of rival families. About 1330 Lucerne on the Burgundian side of the lake revolted against the Habsburgs to join the Confederation. This and other accessions greatly increased the strength of this loose association. Decisive Habsburg action became urgent and in 1386 Duke Leopold of Austria made an all-out attack on Swiss home rule. But he met defeat and death at the battle of Sempach, and by treaty (1389) the Habsburgs deemed it expedient to renounce their feudal claims to Swiss lands and acknowledge that they were indeed immediately subject to the imperial government. The Confederation defended and confirmed this autonomous status until the Treaty of Westphalia (1648) recognized its full independence of the German Empire. The Swiss successfully defended their position against Duke Charles of Burgundy, who suffered Leopold’s fate in 1477. By 1513 the Confederation was therefore practically a sovereign state, and had acquired most of its present territory, except the city of Geneva.



B. Zwinglian Prelude








Ulric Zwingli (1484-1531) was the son of a yeoman of the Canton of St. Gall near Constance. After study in the classics and theology at Vienna and Basle, he was ordained priest in 1504 and became pastor of Glarus. Through the favor of the papal legate, he was able to continue his studies, which he punctuated with periods of service as chaplain to the Swiss mercenaries in Italy. Later he aroused considerable popular sympathy by opposing Swiss enlistment as foreign mercenaries, though personally he profited by his service to the extent of a papal pension. He also took considerable interest in Humanism, corresponded with Erasmus, and put his not insignificant talents to the writing of political tracts, anti-French and propapal. These terminated in 1516 when a pro-French party gained control in Glarus. He removed to Einsiedeln where he later claimed to have anticipated Luther in preaching a new doctrine. If this be so, it was not generally known, for he continued to draw his papal pension until 1517, and was named papal chamberlain in 1518, and remained on cordial terms with Cardinal Matthias Schirmer. His revolutionary career cannot be publicly traced before his arrival at Zurich in 1519 to campaign for clerical reform—with good reason, it seems, for he had been forced to resign his Einsiedeln curacy for notorious immorality. [p. 173]

Zwingli apparently struggled early in life with sexual temptation. By his own admission he broke his vow of chastity [while serving as a parish priest] on several occasions and often spoke of the shame that overshadowed his life. In fact, his appointment to the church in Zurich in 1519 was challenged based on rumors that he had seduced the daughter of an influential citizen. As it turned out, this "lady" had seduced many in Zurich, Zwingli among them. The charge of immorality was finally dropped when it was discovered that Zwingli's only rival for the post openly lived with several mistresses and had six illegitimate children! Zwingli himself lived with a widow, Anna Reinhart, and finally married her in 1524 shortly before the birth of their child.

Sam Storms, Ph,D., Protestant Pastor


Zwinglianism was a more radical type of Protestantism than Luther’s. Zwingli indeed agreed with Luther in his travesty of Augustinian doctrine: human nature had been so vitiated by Adam’s sin that man is no longer free to resist sin, and therefore fatalistically subject to God’s control. But whereas Luther argued from Quietism and frowned on Humanism, Zwingli manifested a rationalistic spirit verging on Pantheism: “Everything is in God, everything which exists is God, and nothing exists which is not God. The Lord is merciful to whomever He wishes to show mercy, and hardens the heart of him whom He wishes to destroy. There is only one thing in this world, namely, the invincible will of God.” Even more exclusively than Luther, Zwingli insisted on the Bible alone as the source of faith. On this ground he would not tolerate the statues, images, and altars that Luther permitted. Declaring the sacraments to be mere symbols, and repudiating the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, Zwingli encouraged a violent iconoclasm which reduced the Mass to a reading from the Bible, a sermon, and distribution of bread from a plain table.

Luther, who retained much of the Catholic liturgy, repudiated Zwingli: “I look upon Zwingli with all his teaching as unchristian.”

The Following is adapted from: The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, ed. Cross, Livingstone; (OUP, 1983).

cf. The Marburg Colloquy of (1529). The meeting convened by Philip of Hesse with a view to achieving unity between the Lutherans and Zwinglians. It met in the castle at Marburg-on-the-Lahn on 1–4 Oct. 1529, with M. Luther and P. Melanchthon on the one side, and U. Zwingli, J. Oecolampadius, and M. Bucer on the other. It is usually thought that complete accord was reached on 14 of the 15 ‘Marburg Articles’ drawn up by Luther and that the conference failed solely because of Zwingli’s refusal to accept the Lutheran doctrine of the Eucharist (consubstantiation) contained in the remaining article. Some historians, however, consider that the agreement on the 14 articles was only apparent. Luther revised the Marburg articles shortly after the conference; in this form, as the ‘Articles of Schwabach’, they were the first Lutheran credal statement and a precursor of the Augsburg Confession of 1530.

But Zwingli won over two prominent Lutherans, Carlstadt and Johann Heussgen, alias Oecolampadius.

Zurich became the Zwinglian center after the founder opened a course of sermons on New Year’s Day, 1519. During 1521 he was cited to Rome, for his initial attack on the indulgence preaching of Bernardino Sanson had gone on to a demand for the Bible as the sole source of faith. Sustained by the city council, Zwingli not only defied the papal authority but took his mistress Anne Reinhardt openly as his concubine. Along with other clerical renegades he now denounced celibacy as impossible. In January, 1523, the city council gave official approval to Zwingli’s teachings, and by 1525 all external signs of Catholicity had been destroyed in Zurich and the movement threatened to spread.


The Forest Cantons had preserved much of their primitive simplicity and were shocked by these innovations. As Zwinglianism extended its influence from Zurich, the Catholics formed a league which soon embraced seven cantons. Johann Eck was invited to challenge Zwingli to debate. Eck arrived, and though Zwingli did not enter the lists, routed Oecolampadius. But the Zwinglians had passed the debating stage; they now sought to impose their views by a military alliance. Against this chiefly urban group, the Catholic stronghold lay in the rural areas. These called upon the Austrian Habsburgs for assistance. At first the Zwinglians [p. 174] confined themselves to harassing the convoys of arms and supplies sent by Ferdinand of Austria, but in October, 1531, they essayed battle. The Catholics, however, were victorious and Zwingli himself was killed. The resulting Peace of Kappel provided that henceforth each canton might preserve liberty of worship without interference from without. The Swiss version of cujus regio, ejus religio remained substantially unaltered down to the French Revolution.


Heinrich Bullinger (1504-75), Zwingli’s son-in-law and successor, after vainly attempting to reach doctrinal accord with the Lutherans, turned toward Calvinism. From 1543 his writings show strong Calvinist influence and by 1566 Zwinglianism was absorbed by the newer religion.

C. Swiss Calvinist Establishment


Geneva was an ancient city admirably situated on the lake of that name. Originally part of Burgundy, it had come under the domination of the Savoyard dynasty which installed its members or protégés in the bishopric of Geneva which enjoyed as well the temporal lordship of the town. Bishop Pierre de la Baume (1523-44) had inherited a conflict with the commune about temporal jurisdiction which prepared the way for religious revolt. Against Savoyard domination a group of Genevan patriots, known as “Libertines,” had formed, and these sought support from the Swiss Confederation in their contest. The Zwinglians took advantage of this dispute to introduce various preachers, among whom Guillaume Farel (1489-1565) became the moving spirit. In 1532 he appeared in Geneva and induced the town council to enjoin the “pure Gospel.” Catholic resistance led to riots, but after the bishop had interdicted Protestant worship, Farel seized a Franciscan chapel in January, 1534, and fought back. The bishop was soon forced to leave the town for Annecy and to invoke Savoyard assistance. The Libertines then threw in their lot with the Zwinglians and the combined forces defeated the Savoyards in 1536. The situation, however, was still critical when Calvin chanced by during August, 1536.


Inaugural. Calvin had merely contemplated an overnight stop in Geneva, but claims that Farel “by a frightful adjuration” insisted that he join the new regime. Soon Calvin and Farel were inaugurating an all-pervading dictatorship designed at first to crush the vestiges of Catholic sentiment, and later to realize the somber ideal of a community of the predestined. At their bidding the Council in January, 1537, passed the  [p. 175] Ordonnance which prescribed that though the “Lord’s Supper” should be held but four times a year, Sunday must be strictly observed. Congregational singing and reading of the catechism were to be engaged in by all inhabitants at specified times and places under the supervision of the superintendents of the twenty-six Genevan wards.

Libertine opposition. The Libertines after all had revolted originally to secure temporal independence from the bishop, and the new regime was more than even Protestants had bargained for. Their party won a majority in the city council during 1538 and exiled Calvin and Farel. Until 1541 Calvin resided at Strasburg. In his absence Catholic efforts to regain control of Geneva again divided the Libertines. When these warring factions seemed incapable of preventing a return to the old regime, substantial citizens decided to recall Calvin as the only leader capable of enforcing unity of action.

Calvinist victory. John Calvin accordingly returned on November 20, 1541, and an obedient council reimposed his regulations with some revisions. Calvin ruthlessly stamped out libertine fondness for relics and images, shrines and pilgrimages. Geneva reverted to the Old Testament, patriarchal names being imposed in baptism. The Libertines continued to be an obstructionist minority until 1555 when death or exile had reduced their numbers. Between 1546 and 1564 in a town of twenty thousand there were fifty-eight executions, seventy-three sentences of exile, and nine hundred of imprisonment. The Protestant population was increased by refugees, but these too had to conform to Genevan orthodoxy. Michael Servetus, fleeing the dread Spanish Inquisition, was burned at the stake at Geneva in 1553 for his Trinitarian heresy. Thomas Lieber, styled Erastus, an irreconcilable Zwinglian, objected to Calvinist appeals to the power of excommunication, and proposed subjection to secular authority. These “Erastian” views remained anathema at Geneva, but later found favor in England.

Organization. The definitive Calvinist system of 1541-64 called for four classes of officials: 1) The pastors were the chief ministers, headed by Calvin. They constituted an autocratic “presbytery” of the visible establishment “outside of which,” Calvin affirmed, “there is no salvation.” 2) The “ancients” or elders were “to watch over the lives of all individuals, and amiably to admonish those who defaulted in anything or led disorderly lives. . . . They were to be stationed in every quarter of the city, so that nothing could escape their eyes.” Twelve of these lay elders joined the chief pastors in the Consistory, which was a tribunal of censorship that might punish by death idolatry, blasphemy, adultery, and heresy, and meted out severe penalties for dancing, gluttony, extravagance, etc. It also licensed five taverns—all owned by predestined Calvinists—to have exclusive charge of the dispensing of spirits for approved [p. 176] reasons. 3) The doctors were teachers and catechists. 4) The deacons took care of the poor, sick, and aged.


The Academy, later known as the University of Geneva, was founded by Calvin and Theodore Beza (1519-1605) in 1558. It became in time the Holy Office, central seminary, missionary nucleus and center of learning for the Calvinist movement in Europe. It served as the mecca for Calvinists in other lands, and from it proceeded the ministers who spread Calvinism abroad. By reason of the Academy, there came to be “Huguenots” in France, “Dutch Reformed” in Holland, “Presbyterians” in Scotland, and “Puritans” in England and New England. Beza was especially occupied in editing versions of the Scripture and promoting apologetic history, in which his inaccuracy and bias has since become patent even to non-Catholics. Beza made strenuous efforts to win over Queen Catherine de’ Medici in France, but was rebuffed in a conference with the Tridentine theologian, Jaime Laynez. St. Francis de Sales, before his promotion to the see of Geneva—in exile—secretly visited the town several times, and had three fruitless interviews with Beza.

Later history. The puritanical dictatorship was most evident in Calvin’s lifetime. But Beza, his successor as Calvinist patriarch, was the last who might so be described, for at the opening of the seventeenth century the Arminian disputes in Holland, which challenged the fundamental predestinarian teaching of Calvin, began. At Geneva the rule of the elders continued until Church and state were separated in 1906. Long before, however, Rationalism and Indifferentism had so destroyed respect for the predestined elite that the town protested the Calvinist tercentenary in 1864.


23. German Lutheran Establishment 24. Scandinavian Lutheranism 25. Calvin and Calvinism 26. Swiss Puritanism



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