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§ 11. Zwingli’s Public Labors and Private Studies.

Zwingli began his duties in Zurich on his thirty-sixth birthday (Jan. 1, 1519) by a sermon on the genealogy of Christ, and announced that on the next day (which was a Sunday) he would begin a series of expository discourses on the first Gospel. From Matthew he proceeded to the Acts, the Pauline and Catholic Epistles; so that in four years he completed the homiletical exposition of the whole New Testament except the Apocalypse (which he did not regard as an apostolic book). In the services during the week he preached on the Psalms. He prepared himself carefully from the original text. He probably used for his first course Chrysostom’s famous Homilies on Matthew. With the Greek he was already familiar since his sojourn in Glarus. The Hebrew he learned from a pupil of Reuchlin who had come to Zurich. His copy of Reuchlin’s Rudimenta Hebraica is marked with many notes from his hand.4848    He wrote to Myconius in 1522: "Statui proximis diebus in manus resumere literas Hebraicas; nam futuro Decembri ... Psalmos praelegam." Opera, VII. 145.

His sermons, as far as published, are characterized, as Hagenbach says, "by spiritual sobriety and manly solidity." They are plain, practical, and impressive, and more ethical than doctrinal.

He made it his chief object "to preach Christ from the fountain," and "to insert the pure Christ into the hearts."4949    Christum ex fontibus praedicare, purum Christum animis inserere. Comp. his letter to Myconius (1520), Opera, VII. 142 sqq. He would preach nothing but what he could prove from the Scriptures, as the only rule of Christian faith and practice. This is a reformatory idea; for the aim of the Reformation was to reopen the fountain of the New Testament to the whole people, and to renew the life of the Church by the power of the primitive gospel. By his method of preaching on entire books he could give his congregation a more complete idea of the life of Christ and the way of salvation than by confining himself to detached sections. He did not at first attack the Roman Church, but only the sins of the human heart; he refuted errors by the statement of truth.5050    He did not elaborate his discourses on Matthew for publication, but we have fragmentary reports from the year 1525. See the extracts in Mörikofer I. 57-63. His sermons gained him great popularity in Zurich. The people said, "Such preaching was never heard before." Two prominent citizens, who were disgusted with the insipid legendary discourses of priests and monks, declared after hearing his first sermon, "This is a genuine preacher of the truth, a Moses who will deliver the people from bondage." They became his constant hearers and devoted friends.

Zwingli was also a devoted pastor, cheerful, kind, hospitable and benevolent. He took great interest in young men, and helped them to an education. He was, as Bullinger says, a fine-looking man, of more than middle size, with a florid complexion, and an agreeable, melodious voice, which, though not strong, went to the heart. We have no portrait from his lifetime; he had no Lucas Kranach near him, like Luther; all his pictures are copies of the large oil painting of Hans Asper in the city library at Zurich, which was made after his death, and is rather hard and wooden.5151    See Asper’s portrait on p. 16, and the description of the Zwingli pictures in Mörikofer, I. 345, and in the pamphlet, Zwingli-Ausstellung, Zurich, January, 1884.

Zwingli continued his studies in Zurich and enlarged his library, with the help of his friends Glareanus and Beatus Rhenanus, who sent him books from Basle, the Swiss headquarters of literature. He did not neglect his favorite classics, and read, as Bullinger says, Aristotle, Plato, Thucydides, Homer, Horace, Sallust, and Seneca. But his chief attention was now given to the Scriptures and the patristic commentaries.

In the meantime Luther’s reform was shaking the whole Church, and strengthened and deepened his evangelical convictions in a general way, although he had formed them independently. Some of Luther’s books were reprinted in Basle in 1519, and sent to Zwingli by Rhenanus. Lutheran ideas were in the air, and found attentive ears in Switzerland. He could not escape their influence. The eucharistic controversy produced an alienation; but he never lost his great respect for Luther and his extraordinary services to the Church.5252    In Zwingli’s library are few works of Luther, and they have no annotations. (Usteri, l.c., p. 716.) His noble tribute to Luther is quoted in this History, vol. VI. 668.

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