Vol.XI No.VIII Pg.6
October 1974

Seeking Truth In 1514

Robert F. Turner

From History of the Reformation, by J. H. DAubigne (1847); we quote re. Ulrich Zwingli (1484 - 1531) and his regard for Scripture. Zwingli preached restoration instead of reformation. He is particularly known for teaching that in the Lords Supper the true body of Christ is present by the contemplation of faith, and not in essence or reality.

Zwingli went farther than merely acknowledging at this early period the grand principle of evangelical Christianity— the infallible authority of Holy Scriptures. He perceived moreover, how we should determine the sense of the Divine Word: They have a very mean idea of the Gospel, said he, who consider as frivolous, vain, and unjust, all that they imagine does not accord with their own reason. Men are not permitted to wrest the Gospel at pleasure that it may square with their own sentiments and interpretation. Zwingli turned his eyes to heaven, says his best friend, for he would have no other interpreter than the Holy Ghost himself.

Such, at the commencement of his career, was the man whom certain persons have not hesitated to represent as having desired to subject the Bible to human reason. Philosophy and divinity, said he, were always raising objections. At last I said to myself: I must neglect all these matters, and look for Gods will in his Word alone. I began (continues he) to earnestly entreat the Lord to grant me his light, and although I read the Scriptures only, they became clearer than if I had read the commentators. He compared Scripture with itself; explaining obscure passages by those that are clear. He soon knew the Bible thoroughly, and particularly the New Testament. When Zwingli thus turned towards Holy Scripture, Switzerland took its first step toward the Reformation. Accordingly, when he explained the Scriptures, every one felt that his teaching came from God, and not from man.

Zwingli did not, however, contemn the explanations of the most celebrated doctors: in after-years he studied Origen, Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine, and Chrysostom, but not as authorities. I study the doctors, said he, with the same end as when we ask a friend: How do you understand this passage? Holy Scripture, in his opinion, was the touchstone by which to test the holiest doctors themselves.

Zwinglis course was slow, but progressive. He did not arrive at the truth, like Luther, by those storms which impel the soul to run hastily to its harbour of refuge; he reached it by the peaceful influence of Scripture, whose power expands gradually in the heart.

Zwingli was not fully converted to God and to his Gospel until the earlier years of his residence at Zurich; yet the moment when, in 1514 or 1515, this strong man bent the knee before God, in prayer for the understanding of his Word, was that in which appeared the first glimmering rays of the bright day that after wards beamed upon him.