Front Page Titles (by Subject) HULDREICH ZWINGLI TO ALL THE MINISTERS OF THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST. - Selected Works of Huldrich Zwingli
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HULDREICH ZWINGLI TO ALL THE MINISTERS OF THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST. - Huldrych Zwingli, Selected Works of Huldrich Zwingli 
Selected Works of Huldrich Zwingli, (1484-1531) The Reformer of German Switzerland, translated for the First Time from the Originals, ed. Samuel Macauley Jackson (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1901).
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HULDREICH ZWINGLI TO ALL THE MINISTERS OF THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST.
Grace and peace from the Lord. It is an old saying, dear brethren, that success is the mother of evils, and this is profoundly true. For since even a little was conceded to the desires of certain ones through our idleness or blindness, these are now so incapable of limiting those desires that they prefer to perish themselves and to destroy others rather than give up what they have begun. An example of this is furnished during the life of Christ among men, and this is repeated now in our times when he has relit the torch of his word, doubtless though to our good. Then when he had not only endured the betrayer for so long a time, but also openly dissuaded or terrified him, the latter, so far from giving over the malicious design entered upon, of giving up master and parent, did not cease till he had placed the spirit in bonds.* So it is now, when the audacity of the Catabaptists has been suffered to proceed so far that they have conceived the hope of confounding all things; who are so untaught that by calling themselves by this name they would increase their estimation; so imprudent (while Christ would have the apostles prudent as serpents) that the confusion which alone they are eager for they suppose they will discover by means of their imprudence rather than find by any skill. This inauspicious race of men has so increased within a few years* that they now cause anxiety to certain cities.† And this in no other way than through unskilled and impious audacity. For while pious learning and discipline has no need of the ministry of hypocrisy (for it is sufficient unto itself through erudition, and by the very unaffected discipline of piety commends itself to others), yet men of this kind are so thoroughly ignorant of that which they boast they alone know (and), so pretend that from which they are farther distant than the hall of Pluto from the palace of Jove, that it is clear that they begin this web endowed with nothing but impious and untaught audacity. For as often as by the use of clear passages of Scripture they are driven to the point of having to say, I yield, straightway they talk about “the spirit” and deny Scripture. As if indeed the heavenly spirit were ignorant of the sense of Scripture which is written under its guidance or were anywhere inconsistent with itself. And if you rightly and modestly call in question their customs and institutions, even if you come as a suppliant and beg them to do nothing rashly, there is no abuse employed by the enemies of the Gospel these do not use, no threats they do not throw at you. What does all this mean, I ask, if it is not the sign of audacity and impious confidence? Since there is so rich a harvest of these—not men (for why must one call those men who have nothing but the human form?), but monsters of deceit—that now the good seed which the heavenly Father so lately sowed in his field must be on its guard, I beg this, that we watch, act, and not let the enemy overthrow us as we sleep. Let us judge soberly, lest we receive a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Let us labor, lest that evil that has arisen be attributed to our neglect. For there are, alas, not a few among us who are stricken and moved by every wind and novelty, just like the untaught rabble which embraces a thing the more quickly the more unknown it is. The Catabaptists speak in round tones of God, truth, the Word, light, spirit, holiness, flesh, falsehood, impiety, desire, demon, hell and all that kind of things, not only beautifully, but even grandly and finely, if only hypocrisy were more surely absent. If also you should investigate their life, at the first contact it seems innocent, divine, democratic, popular, nay, supermundane, for it is thought more noble than human even by those who think not illiberally of themselves. But when you have penetrated into the interior you find such a pest as it is shame even to mention. For it is not sufficient for them to abuse the Gospel for gain and to live at the expense of another, and to give themselves up to such base cunning for the sake of their belly, weaving plot out of plot, but they must not only assail, but even destroy, the faith of matrons and girls from whose husbands and parents they obtain hospitality. And not contented with all this, they refuse to pronounce and recognize as wicked the hand made bloody at St. Gall with a cruel parricide, so that you see without difficulty that the same thing is to be expected from their assemblages (which are both nocturnal and solitary), which once at Rome improperly idle matrons when they had gained possession of a certain paltry Greek perpetrated in their subterranean meetings. And although all those deeds are in part so wicked and unworthy of good men, in part so obscene and impure, and in part so monstrous and cruel, that they would hand this age down to posterity as infamous, even though there were no other calamity; nevertheless great as they are, they are insignificant in that they confined the contumely within human bounds, as compared with these which they are guilty of against the piety that regards both Christ and public morals. They deny that Christ himself perfected forever his saints in his one offering of himself. But what is this but drawing from heaven God’s Son who sits at the right hand of the Father? And when they have cast him from his kingdom, in whose name, pray, shall they be baptized? Does not the whole New Testament tend to this, that we should learn that Christ is our successful sacrifice and redemption? Out of what books do the Catabaptists draw their doctrine? When therefore they thoroughly deny the sum of the New Testament, do we not see them using catabaptism, not to the glory of God or with the good of their consciences, but as a pretext for seditions, confusion and tumult, which things alone they hatch out? With folly does he boast the baptism of Christ who denies Christ. It is to no purpose that they say after the manner of the Jews (some of whom we know do this) that Christ was a great prophet or a man of God, but not the Son of God, for he can be neither a prophet nor a man of God who brings a lie to wretched mortals—in which (lies) they abound to more than a sufficiency. But Christ asserted that he was the Son of God; on account of this he died; he therefore could not have lied when he said he was God’s Son if he was a true prophet or a man of God. How is it that the apostles baptized in Jesus’ name when he had given them the formula, “In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit?’ Jesus must be equal, nay, the same as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. For John, great as he was, and prophet and man of God, did not baptize in his own name. In brief, then, when they clearly deny that Christ is by nature the Son of God, it is through evil design that they rage about baptism, and not for zeal’s sake. Morals they corrupted in the following manner: No matter what crime they are caught in committing, even in the very act (for in their church so unstained shameful deeds, adultery, parricide, perjury, theft, evil, guile, and about all crimes there are anywhere, are more common than among those whom they call for contumely “the flesh and the devil.” I tell the truth, I lie not; there is none of these that I cannot abundantly prove if the occasion demands)—In whatsoever sin they are taken, I say, they escape in no other way than: I have not sinned, for I am no longer in the flesh, but in the spirit; I am dead to the flesh, and the flesh to me. Do they not betray what they are by this reply? For how can they who are led by the Spirit of God and are sons of God allure to adultery a matron’s chastity? With what face offer insult to a simple little maiden! What an insult to God is this! What a handle this for those who would already have given themselves from the lust of the flesh to all vice if shame alone had not opposed! Will not the homicide share with the rake and adulterer, when accused, the formula, “I am now of the Spirit; the wrong done here is not mine, but is of the flesh.” What shame, pray, will be left us? What regard for modesty? For they do not reply with the same mind as do we ordinarily who trust in Christ. For we frankly confess: I have sinned, I will correct the error, I will flee through Christ to the mercy of God, from this I will never fall. For they do not refer to Christ; they have put off all shame, and what will he correct who denies that he has fallen? O, the crime, the audacity, the impudence! What swine of the school of Epicurus ever thus philosophized? Or what difference is there between right and wrong, O heaven, between holy and crime-laden, man and beast? If you take away shame from humanity, have you not admitted to the theatre all obscenity, have you not eliminated law, corrupted morals? You are not ashamed at slaughter, adultery, harlotry; you are more a beast than the wolf, lion or horse, which have some shame. Against this class of men we must be on constant watch, all our forces and machines must be brought, my brethren, and the more because they rage so in their hypocrisy and perfidy. They excel in this Empusa, Proteus, the chameleon, or Tarandus,* or whatever is inconstant. By this they assert that the papal party will bring them aid—this openly. They assail far more sharply than do the Romanists all who stand by Christ, by which they evince to what purpose they spare those whom they so anxiously flatter. But all our material cannot and must not be sought elsewhere than from the armory of the Old and the New Testament. Do thou, Father of lights, illumine their darkness, that they may see their error, and as thou wilt sometime do, eliminate this error from the Church quickly, we pray! But thou, whosoever thou art, who boastest in the name or ministry of the Most High God or of the gospel of His Son, consider what and whence these matters are which we allege, and laying passion aside furnish the herb of truth. Farewell!
Zurich, July 31, 1527.
[* ]I. e., died by the halter; allusion to the death of Judas.
[* ]Since 1523.
[† ]Waldshut, Zurich, St. Gall, Schaffhausen, Basel, Coire, Constance, Strassburg, Worms, Ulm.
[* ]Empusa was a spectre of huge size, having one leg of brass and one like that of an ass, sent out by Hecate to frighten travelers. It ate human flesh. It sometimes appeared as a beautiful young woman. Proteus was the Old Man of the Sea, who rose at noonday from the flood, came on land and fell asleep among the rocks. If any one could catch him there and hold on to him, notwithstanding his efforts to escape by changing his form, he would be able to learn from him the future with infallible accuracy. Tarandus was a horned animal of Northern lands, perhaps the reindeer.