The Little Company


Ulrich Zwinle & Martin Luther





     Though Zwingle was not present at the conference, his influence was felt. The secretaries were all chosen by the papists, and others were forbidden to take notes, on pain of death. Notwithstanding this, Zwingle received daily a faithful account of what was said at Baden. A student in attendance at the disputation, made a record each evening of the arguments that day presented. These papers two other students undertook to deliver, with the daily letters of Oecolampadius, to Zwingle at Zurich. The reformer answered, giving counsel and suggestions. His letters were written by night, and the students returned with them to Baden in the morning. To elude the vigilance of the guard stationed at the city gates, these messengers brought baskets of poultry on their heads, and they were permitted to pass without hindrance.   

   Thus Zwingle maintained the battle with his wily antagonists. “He has labored more,” said Myconius, “in meditating upon and watching the contest, and transmitting his advice to Baden, than he could have done by disputing in the midst of his enemies.”   

     The Romanists, flushed with anticipated triumph, had come to Baden attired in their richest robes, and glittering with jewels. They fared luxuriously, their tables spread with the most costly delicacies and the choicest wines. The burden of their ecclesiastical duties was lightened by gayety and reveling. In marked contrast appeared the reformers, who were looked upon by the people as little better than a company of beggars, and whose frugal fare kept them but short time at table. Oecolampadius’ landlord, taking occasion to watch him in his room, found him always engaged in study or at prayer, and, greatly wondering, reported that “the heretic was at least very pious.”    

     At the conference, “Eck haughtily ascended a pulpit superbly decorated, while the humble Oecolampadius, meanly clad, sat facing his adversary, upon a rudely constructed platform.” Eck's stentorian voice and unbounded assurance never failed him. His zeal was stimulated by the hope of gold as well as fame; for the defender of the faith was to be rewarded by a handsome fee. When better arguments failed, he had resort to insults, and even to oaths.    

     Oecolampadius, modest and self-distrustful, had shrunk from the combat, and he entered upon it with the solemn avowal, “I recognize no other rule of judgment than the Word of God.” Though gentle and courteous in demeanor, he proved himself able and unflinching. While the Romanists, according to their wont, appealed for authority to the customs of the church, the reformer adhered steadfastly to the Holy Scriptures. “In our Switzerland,” he said, “custom is of no force unless it be according to the constitution; now in all matters of faith, the Bible is our constitution.” 

GC88 182, 183