Without warning, the deadly plague (or great death as it was also known) swept into Zurich. Overwork had fatigued Zwingli and he was recovering his strength at a resort town known for its healing waters when he learned of the plague in Zurich. He hurried home and flew into action helping the sick as the plague swept through the city killing 2,500 people in its path. Not only did he minister to their physical needs, but more importantly, Zwingli preached the Gospel to the sick and comforted them with Christ’s promises.
Unfortunately, Zwingli himself became a victim of the plague. His friends feared that he would die and many tearful prayers were sent to heaven for his healing. Although stories of his death swirled around Switzerland, Zwingli – weak and sick – was convinced that his work was not done and that God would raise him up to preach again. Coming so close to death taught him just how fragile life is and he determined to seek more earnestly for eternal life. Jesus became real to Zwingli – not just a good man, but a real, living Saviour who was always ready to help him. From that time on, Zwingli was totally surrendered to God’s will for his life.
Zwingli and Myconius strengthened each other in the work of reform in Switzerland. But Myconius’s supervisor told him to return to Lucerne, the place of his birth and arranged a teaching position for Myconius. Myconius considered what he would do. Perhaps God would use him to establish the Gospel of peace in Lucerne. Seeing the hand of God in this call, Myconius left Zurich and the fellowship of his dear friend Zwingli. This was a blow to Zwingli, but the two friends wrote long letters encouraging each other to be faithful. They reminded each other that just as God was protecting Martin Luther in Germany, so God would protect His work in Switzerland.
God was also raising up other Reformers at this time. Capito, a friend of Zwingli’s began preaching with power from the Gospel of Matthew. The people were stirred and thronged his church. Capito’s success in bringing simple Bible truths to the people drew furious opposition from the priests and monks. So, when Capito was offered a place in the court of Albert Archbishop of Mentz in Germany, he accepted. (Albert is the one who had hired Tetzel to sell indulgences and it was the sale of indulgences that had stirred up Luther’s protest in that nation.) Hedio took Capito’s place and continued the work of reform. He leaned on God for help against those who attacked the truth – “these pestilent monsters” he called them.
But the devil is never happy when truth is marching forward. He brought to Zurich a most self-centred young man by the name of Conrad. This fellow will be a part of our story at a later time so we thought this a good time to introduce you to him.
Conrad was away at school in Paris, but came back to Zurich for his sister’s wedding. Perhaps the fact that he had been in trouble at school played a part in him staying at home after the wedding, and the following story will give you an idea of the type of person Conrad was. His good but unhappy mother had been very ill. When she recovered somewhat, this is part of a letter that he wrote to his brother-in-law: “My mother has recovered; she is again ruler of the house; she sleeps, rises, scolds, breakfasts, quarrels, dines, disputes, sups, and is always a trouble to us. She trots about, roasts and bakes, heaps and hoards, toils and wearies herself to death, and will soon bring on a relapse.” As we will see later, Conrad’s attacks didn’t stop with his mother. His unkind words were to also be aimed at those who were bringing heaven-sent reforms to Switzerland.
Zwingli however, grew kinder and more gentle as he was faced with stronger attacks from those who hated the reforms he was bringing into Zurich. In one of his letters to Myconius he wrote, “I will charm these stubborn men by kindness and friendliness, rather than trying to attack them with violent words or deeds.” Truly, God was molding His servant into a precious leader for Him.