Schwebel, Johann (1)

Schwebel, Johann (1), an evangelical theologian and Reformer in the palatinate Zweibrucken, Rhenish Bavaria, was born in 1490 at Pforzheim, in Baden, and received his early education in the famous Latin school of that town, from which men like Capito Hedio, Grynaeus, Haller, etc., came forth. It is not known that Schwebel studied at any higher school. He entered the Order of the Holy Ghost while yet very young, and transferred to it the whole of his property, some part being afterwards returned to him through the intervention of the margrave Philip. In 1514 he was consecrated priest. He spent his time in studying the Scriptures and the writings of the fathers, and thus learned to know the perversions of doctrine and corruption of practice in the creed and worship of the Church; and his surroundings, as also the events of the time, aided to confirm the purpose he had formed of publicly antagonizing the evils be had found. The dispute of the Dominicans of Cologne with Reuchlin (q.v.) had united all the friends of classical and Biblical learning in an endeavor to combat scholasticism, monkish obscurantism, and the exaggerated demands of the Roman curia. Many reformatory spirits were then in Pforzheim or that vicinity; e.g. Gerbel, Capito, Pellican and Sebastian Mynster, Bucer, Oecolampadius, and Irenicus. Luther's Theses became known in 1517, and in the following year, April 25, Luther himself was at Heidelberg engaged in the famous disputation. Melancthon, too, wrote frequently to Schwebel from Wittenberg and sent him extracts from his lectures on Matthew and Romans (Cent. Epist. p. 3), etc.

Such influences served to prepare Schwebel for his reformatory career. He laid aside the garb of his order, and in 1519 became an evangelical preacher in his native town, but was speedily expelled by the margrave Philip. He fled to Franz von Sickingen, and sought, from the asylum furnished by that stanch defender of the Reformation, to influence his countrymen by means of letters. Towards the close of 1522 he published a work entitled Ermahnung zu dem Questionieren, abzustellen uberflussige Kosten, in which he censured the abuses connected with the collection of alms in the Romish Church, all intended to secure money to the clergy, from the pope to the lowest monk. He was permitted to return to Pforzheim, and on April 10, 1524, preached there on the theme of the "Good Shepherd." A small evangelical congregation was thus gathered, and was at this time placed under the pastoral care of Johann Unger, who had been tutor in the family of Melancthon and who remained its pastor until his death, in 1553 (Vierordt, De Johanne Ungero, Carolsr. 1844).

While Schwebel was present in the Castle of Sickingen that nobleman introduced the celebration of the mass in the German tongue, and Schwebel heartily approved of the innovation (Cent. Epist. p. 337). In 1524 he married, and, like other Reformers, was censured for that step, but defended himself in two treatises on marriage, and particularly the marriage of priests. Sickingen's unfortunate campaign against the elector of Treves and his allies (begun in September, 1522) necessitated the dismissal of his theological guests, and Schwebel went to Zweibrucken, where he became court preacher and superintendent of the churches of the duchy. He secured the confidence of his patron, the count palatine Louis 2, and found powerful co-laborers in the persons of Jacob Schorr and Jerome Bock, who belonged to the train of that prince. In 1524 Schwebel expounded Matthew, John, and Romans, though he afterwards preached usually on the pericope assigned to the day. His discourses were founded on the Epistle to the Romans. He taught that the chief elements of Christian doctrine are, (1) repentance (poententia); (2) justification by faith; (3) love to God and our neighbor; (4) the doctrine of sufferings (crux) as conservers of faith; (5) believing prayer in behalf of ourselves and others (ibid. p. 16). Elsewhere he says that works grow out of faith; man has free will, but only to evil naturally, and only by grace to good (Teutsche Schriften, 1, 81). He regards the sacraments as signs of the grace or the will of God towards us, and as symbols of love among Christians. The bread and wine in the supper become a spiritual food when received by faith.

Besides the German sermon, Schwebel introduced catechetical instruction covering the Decalogue, the Apostles' Creed, the Lord's Prayer, and the words of institution in the sacramental service; and he substituted the singing of German for Latin hymns. In 1529 he prepared a form of Church government, which was approved by Bucer (Cent. Epist. p. 133), and continued, in connection with the evangelical clergy of that region, to give attention to this subject for many years (Teutsche Schriften, p. 317, 379, etc.). For ten years Schwebel guided the Reformation in Zweibrucken alone. His health began to fail and his strength to decline, and in 1533 he attempted to resign his office, in which purpose he was strengthened by the troubles caused by an assistant named Georgius, who denied original sin and infant baptism, and disturbed the peace of the Church. He was, however, prevailed on to remain, and in that year Caspar Glaser and Michael Hilspach were called to his aid (comp. Croll, Hist. Scholae Hornb. p. 18, 19). Schwebel was prohibited by his official position from attending any of the larger conferences in which religious and ecclesiastical matters were discussed, but he maintained a steady correspondence with most of the Reformers, particularly Melancthon, Bucer, and Capito. His advice was sought with reference to the desired settlement of the sacramental difficulty, which was attempted in the Concord of Stuttgart in 1534, and sought to be confirmed by the Wittenberg Concord. The latter document was signed by Schwebel and his colleagues, but with the reservation implied in the words "Vidimus et legimus exemplar concordiae." He was essentially a man of peace, and not disposed to let usages and ceremonies cause divisions in the Church (see Cent. Epist. p. 297, 351). In few words, Schwebel occupied a position in dogmatics largely identical with that of Melanc-thon as represented in the Loci Communes and the Latin edition of his Articles of Visitation; and in Church organization he held to the Reformed system of a presbyterial and synodal constitution emanating from the congregation. If such organization was left uncompleted in his day, he had at least prepared the way for its ultimate consummation. He fell a victim to the plague when scarce fifty years of age, May 19, 1540, and his wife died two days later.

Schwebel's printed works are, Opera Theologicorum (pt. 1, Biponti, 1595, 8vo): — Centuria Epistolarum (ibid. 1597, 8vo): — Scripta Theologica, etc., a mere reprint of the two previous works, with preface omitted (ibid. 1605, 8vo): — Teutsche Schriften (Zweibruck. 1598): — Ermahnung zu d. Quest. abzustellen uberfluss Kosten (1522): — Sermon on the Good Shepherd (1524).

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