Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Bullinger’s Political Acumen

When Bullinger responded to the vitriolic attacks of Luther with the Zurich Confession he sent copies of the confession together with an accompanying letter to: the Council of Bern, the clergy of Bern, the clergy of Neuchatel, Bucer, Pfalzgraf Ottheinrich, Duke Ulrich of Wurttemburg, the town council of Frankfurt am Main. This letter displays Bullinger’s political acumen. The following is the text of the letter:

“It pains us greatly that Doctor Luther has written so forcefully against us, who are innocent, and has published this text. We regret in particular the damage which is done to simple Christians who are infuriated by this strife and in particular that we who preach one Lord Jesus Christ from one Gospel are drawn into a lengthy quarrel with one another over his holy sacrament and symbols. We greatly regret that the attempts by your Princely Grace and other pious Christian princes, estates, and cities, who have sought in both a friendly and peaceful manner to influence Doctor Luther, have been without success, so that after some years he has chosen to renew the battle. We Zurichers would rather have had peace and would have remained silent as we have done up until now, although we have perhaps been silent for longer than has been good for us. But the silence and patience we have demonstrated has only had the effect that in his last confession Luther has damned us as heretics and has insulted the faith and honour of our faithful ancestors, who were honourable Christian men, and our churches. Now that Luther’s writings have been printed, honour, duty, and our office demand that we reply. We have not done this for the Zurich church alone and without reference to our magistrates and the councilors, but rather we have acted with their knowledge and blessing, for all the faithful here are outraged by Luther’s appalling dishonouring of the living and the dead…. As our teaching is drawn closely from the first apostolic holy church, Dr Luther ought not to separate himself from us and provoke and unfounded split in the church.

As your princely grace is also mentioned in our reply – we wrote there of the Marburg Colloquy – we send you most humbly our answer and our confession with the earnest request that your grace kindly receive this text of your servants, and that further that you read it when time allows. We beseech you further that for the sake of God and his holy word you ensure that our confession and response and indeed all our other writings are not prohibited in your lands and that we who are innocent are not condemned, unheard, as heretics. Your honourable lords and superiors permit that in your towns, lands, villages, and countryside all of Luther’s books, as well as those of our other opponents, are sold and can be bought. We advise others to read these books. It is only right that both sides should be heard and that no one is suppressed without first having been read. We trust God and his clear eternal truth, that all the faithful will recognize that neither our churches nor we are damned people such as Dr Luther wishes to convince the whole world. God be merciful to him.”

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