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History of the Christian Church

History of the Christian Church

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1882 Date first published in any edition
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New York, C. Scribner's sons

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History of the Christian church

Schaff, Philip

Church history. Reformation.

Wheaton, IL: Christian Classics Ethereal Library




Wendy Huang






BR145.S3 1882-1910


The Electronic Bible Society


Public Domain

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This volume constitutes the second part of


by Philip Schaff

It is included as Volume VIII in the 8-volume


Volume VII in this series, on the German

Reformation, constitutes the first part of

this 2-volume unit on he The History of the



of the




professor of church history in the union theological seminary

new york

Christianus sum: Christiani nihil a me alienum puto




This is a reproduction of the Third Edition, Revised


This volume concludes the history of the productive period of the Reformation, in which Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin were the chief actors. It follows the Protestant movement in German, Italian, and French Switzerland, to the close of the sixteenth century.

During the last year, the sixth-centenary of the oldest surviving Republic was celebrated with great patriotic enthusiasm. On the first day of August, in the year 1291, the freemen of Uri, Schwyz, and Unterwalden formed, in the name of the Lord "a perpetual alliance for the mutual protection of their persons, property, and liberty, against internal and external foes. On the same day, in 1891, the great event was commemorated in every village of Switzerland by the ringing of bells and the illumination of the mountains, while on the following day—a Sunday—thanksgiving services were held in every church, Catholic and Protestant. The chief festivities took place, from July 31 to Aug. 2, in the towns of Schwyz and Brunnen, and were attended by the Federal and Cantonal dignitaries, civil and military, and a vast assembly of spectators. The most interesting feature was a dramatic representation of the leading events in Swiss history—the sacred oaths of Schwyz, Brunnen, and Grütli, the poetic legend of William Tell, the heroic battles for liberty and independence against Austria, Burgundy, and France, the venerable figure of Nicolas von der Flue appearing as a peacemaker in the Diet at Stans, and the chief scenes of the Reformation, the Revolution, and the modern reconstruction. The drama, enacted in the open field in view of mountains and meadows and the lake of Luzern, is said to have equalled in interest and skill of execution the famous Passion Play of Oberammergau. Similar celebrations took place, not only in every city and village of Switzerland, but also in the Swiss colonies in foreign lands, notably in New York, on the 5th, 6th, and 7th of September.2ii

Between Switzerland and the United States there has always been a natural sympathy and friendship. Both aim to realize the idea of a government of freedom without license, and of authority without despotism; a government of law and order without a standing army; a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, under the sole headship of Almighty God.

At the time of the Reformation, Switzerland numbered as many Cantons (13) as our country originally numbered States, and the Swiss Diet was then a loose confederation representing only the Cantons and not the people, just as was our Continental Congress. But by the revision of the Constitution in 1848 and 1874, the Swiss Republic, following the example of our Constitution, was consolidated from a loose, aristocratic Confederacy of independent Cantons into a centralized federal State,3iiiwith a popular as well as a cantonal representation. In one respect the modern Swiss Constitution is even more democratic than that of the United States; for, by the Initiative and the Referendum, it gives to the people the right of proposing or rejecting national legislation.

But there is a still stronger bond of union between the two countries than that which rests on the affinity of political institutions. Zwingli and Calvin directed and determined the westward movement of the Reformation to France, Holland, England, and Scotland, and exerted, indirectly, a moulding influence upon the leading Evangelical Churches of America. George Bancroft, the American historian, who himself was not a Calvinist, derives the republican institutions of the United States from Calvinism through the medium of English Puritanism. A more recent writer, Douglas Campbell, of Scotch descent, derives them from Holland, which was still more under the influence of the Geneva Reformer than England. Calvinism breeds manly, independent, and earnest characters who fear God and nothing else, and favors political and religious freedom. The earliest and most influential settlers of the United States—the Puritans of England, the Presbyterians of Scotland and Ireland, the Huguenots of France, the Reformed from Holland and the Palatinate,—were Calvinists, and brought with them the Bible and the Reformed Confessions of Faith. Calvinism was the ruling theology of New England during the whole Colonial Period, and it still rules in great measure the theology of the Presbyterian, Congregational, and Baptist Churches.

In the study of the sources I have derived much benefit from the libraries of Switzerland, especially the Stadtbibliothek of Zürich, which contains the invaluable Simler collection and every important work relating to the Reformation in Switzerland. I take great pleasure in expressing my obligation to Dr. G. von Wyss, president, and Dr. Escher, librarian, for their courtesy and kindness on repeated visits to that library.

The sources on the Reformation in French Switzerland are now made fully accessible by the new critical edition of Calvin’s works, by Herminjard’s collection of the correspondence of the French-speaking Reformers (not yet completed), and by the publications of the documentary history of Geneva during the period of Calvin’s labors, including the registers of the Council and of the Consistory.

I have freely quoted from Calvin’s works and letters, which give us the best insight into his mind and heart. I have consulted also his chief biographers,—French, German, and English: his enthusiastic admirers,—Beza, Henry, Stähelin, Bungener, and Merle D’Aubigné; his virulent detractors—Bolsec, Galiffe, and Audin; and his impartial critics,—Dyer, and Kampschulte. Dr. Henry’s work (1844) was the first adequate biography of the great Reformer, and is still unsurpassed as a rich collection of authentic materials, although not well arranged and digested.4iv Dr. Merle D’Aubigné’s "History of the Reformation" comes down only to 1542. Thomas H. Dyer, LL. D, the author of the "History, of Modern Europe," from the fall of Constantinople to 1871, and other historical works, has written the first able and readable "Life of Calvin" in the English language, which is drawn chiefly from Calvin’s correspondence, from Ruchat, Henry, and, in the Servetus chapter, from Mosheim and Trechsel, and is, on the whole, accurate and fair, but cold and unsympathetic. The admirable work of Professor Kampschulte is based on a thorough mastery of the sources, but it is unfortunately incomplete, and goes only as far as 1542. The materials for a second and third volume were placed after his death (December, 1872) into the hands of Professor Cornelius of Munich, who, however, has so far only written a few sections. His admiration for Calvin’s genius and pure character (see p. 205) presents an interesting parallel to Döllinger’s eloquent tribute to Luther (quoted in vol. VI. 741), and is all the more valuable as he dissented from Calvin’s theology and church polity; for he was an Old Catholic and intimate friend of Reusch and Döllinger.5v

The sole aim of the historian ought to be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

I have dedicated this volume to my countrymen and oldest surviving friends in Switzerland, Dr. Georg von Wyss of Zürich and Dr. Fréderic Godet of Neuchâtel. The one represents German, the other French Switzerland. Both are well known; the one for his historical, the other for his exegetical works. They have followed the preparation of this book with sympathetic interest, and done me the favor of revising the proof-sheets.6vi

I feel much encouraged by the kind reception of my Church History at home and abroad. The first three volumes have been freely translated into Chinese by the Rev. D. Z. Sheffield (a missionary of the American Board), and into Hindostani by the Rev. Robert Stewart (of the Presbyterian Mission of Sialkot).

I have made considerable progress in the fifth volume, which will complete the history of the Middle Ages. It was delayed till I could make another visit to Rome and Florence, and study more fully the Renaissance, which preceded the Reformation. Two or three more volumes will be necessary to bring the history down to the present time, according to the original plan. But how many works remain unfinished in this world! Ars longa, vita brevis.

June, 1892.


The above Preface was ready for the printer, and the book nearly finished, when, on the 15th of July last, I was suddenly interrupted by a stroke of paralysis at Lake Mohonk (where I spent the summer); but, in the good providence of God, my health has been nearly restored. My experience is recorded in the 103d Psalm of thanksgiving and praise.

I regret that I could not elaborate chs. XVII. and XVIII., especially the influence of Calvin upon the Reformed Churches of Europe and America (§§ 162 and 163), as fully as I wished. My friend, the Rev. Samuel Macauley Jackson, who happened to be with me when I was taken sick, aided me in the last chapter, on Beza, for which he was well prepared by previous studies. I had at first intended to add a history of the French Reformation, but this would make the volume too large and delay the publication. I have added, however, in an appendix, a list of literature which I prepared some time ago in the Library of the Society of the History of French Protestantism at Paris, and brought down to date. Most of the books are in my possession.

I may congratulate myself that, notwithstanding this serious interruption, I am enabled to publish the history of the Reformation of my native land before the close of the fiftieth anniversary of my academic teaching, which I began in December, 1842, in the University of Berlin, when my beloved teacher, Neander, was in the prime of his usefulness. A year afterwards, I received, at his and Tholuck’s recommendation, a call to a theological professorship from the Synod of the German Reformed Church in the United States, and I have never regretted accepting it. For it is a great privilege to labor, however humbly, for the kingdom of Christ in America, which celebrates in this month, with the whole civilized world, the fourth centennial of its discovery.

Thankful for the past, I look hopefully to the future.

Philip Schaff.

Union Theological Seminary

New York, October 12, 1892.


The first edition (of 1500 copies) being exhausted, I have examined the volume and corrected a number of typographical errors, mostly in the French words of the last chapters. There was no occasion for other improvements.

P. S.

August 9, 1893.









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