One summer day Zurich had a visitor. A tall, thin monk dressed in a plain gray robe rode into the city on his little donkey and asked to be taken to Zwingli. He brought with him a letter from Zwingli’s good friend Berthold Haller. Haller explained that this monk, Francis Lambert, had been boldly preaching from the Bible for five years in his native France. When some of Luther’s books were discovered in his cell, Lambert had immediately fled the wrath of his superiors to Geneva and then made his way to Lausanne.
Praying to Mary
Zwingli welcomed Lambert and invited him to give four sermons in his church. The first three sermons presented the errors of the Romish Church, but in the fourth sermon he defended praying to Mary and the saints rather than to God alone. From his seat in the church, Zwingli’s strong voice was heard challenging the monk, “Brother, you are mistaken.”
The enemies of the Reformation were delighted to see division between the two men and encouraged Lambert to demand a public discussion. At the appointed time Zwingli took out his Greek and Latin Testaments and began a four-hour Bible study. When the presentation was done, Lambert stood and told the interested onlookers that from now on he would direct his prayers to God alone.
Celibacy of Priests
One of Rome’s worst teachings was that priests could not marry. When a married man wanted to become a priest, he was forced to leave his wife and family because priests were forced to take a vow of celibacy. The vow of celibacy was seen as a holy devotion to God, but often it made priests liars and adulterers. Although a man may have left his wife and children to become a priest, once a priest, he was permitted to take another woman into his home to be his “housekeeper.” But the common people knew that often the woman lived with the priest as his wife.
Zwingli and other reformers showed that the Bible describes a faithful bishop as a husband and father, not as a single man. The reformers understood that God had sanctified marriage and made it holy. Many of the reformers who were once priests or monks showed their displeasure with this false teaching by marrying faithful, godly women.
Zwingli chose the widow Anna Reinhardt, Gerold’s mother, to marry. He loved young Gerold as a son and it was natural that his attention was drawn to the boy’s pious, modest, and caring mother. But, it was here that Zwingli made a mistake. Rather than let everyone know about his marriage, Zwingli hid the news from the people. He no doubt was afraid that the news might weaken his influence in the church, but instead he lessened the influence of the Scriptures in his listeners’ lives. Unfortunately, even great men at times can make mistakes.