Bonds Of Union Between The Reformed Churches in Switzerland And Elsewhere

Bonds Of Union Between The Reformed Churches in Switzerland And Elsewhere


The protracted efforts of Bucer to find a platform of union between the Swiss and the Lutheran churches proved abortive. The differences were too positive to be successfully wrapped up in the mist of ambiguous formulas, at least in an age which made so much account of dogmatic distinctions. But if union failed on that side, it was consummated in another direction, and the congregations which had been founded in Switzerland in the time of Zwingli, obtained recognition in a great sisterhood of churches, which bears in history the collective name of the Reformed Church, as distinguished from the Lutheran communions.


In the first place, the good understanding between Bullinger and Calvin paved the way for a bond of connection between the evangelical congregations in German and French Switzerland. If Bullinger did not prefer just the terms in which Calvin spoke of the Lord's Supper, he did not regard them as obnoxious, and therefore readily assented to his exposition of the subject as it appears in the Zurich Consensus, which was drawn up in 1549.


A more comprehensive bond of union was provided by Bullinger shortly after the death of Calvin. In the Second Helvetic Confession, which was published in 1566, he supplied a creed highly acceptable not only to the churches of Switzerland, but to the Reformed churches generally. Many of them, as those in France, Scotland, Poland, and Hungary, gave it their express sanction. Pestalozzi describes it as broad in its outlook, clear and simple in expression, pronounced in its rejection of Romish errors, mild in its attitude toward Lutheran peculiarities, and catholic in its appreciation for the historical continuity of the faith. 1 Heinrich Bullinger, pp. 420, 421. The Westminster Confession may be more massive, and may meet better the demands of scholastic rigor; but it is not so well adapted for prolonged use, not so near the proper standard for an œcumenical creed.


Another bond of association, rivalling in popularity the foregoing, was the Heidelberg Catechism, published at the instance of Frederic III. of the Palatinate, in 1563. "As a standard of public doctrine," says Schaff, "the Heidelberg Catechism is the most catholic and popular of all the Reformed symbols. The German Reformed Church acknowledges no other. The Calvinistic system is herein set forth with wise moderation, and without its sharp, angular points. This may be a defect in logic; but it is an advantage in religion, which is broader and deeper than logic." 1 Creeds of Christendom, I. 540.