But the principles of the Reformed religion attracted him; he studied the Scriptures in their original languages, and the writings of the fathers and schoolmen. Unhappily his perverse and self-reliant spirit led him into grievous errors with regard to the doctrine of the Trinity. In vain the gentle Reformer Oecolampadius at Basle reasoned with him.
God will never strengthen the Papal abominations by letting me die now that Zwingli and Oecolampadius are just gone. Satan would no doubt like to have it so: he dogs my heels every moment; but not his will will be done, but the Lord's. The physician thought that apoplexy was imminent, and that if so, Luther could hardly recover.
He only wished to answer the Zurichers briefly and to the point, for he had written, he said, quite enough on the subject against Zwingli and Oecolampadius, and did not want to spoil the last years of his life with arrogant and idle chatter.
His said opinion is of such nature, that he thought it not necessary to be believed as an article of our faith that there is the very corporeal presence of Christ within the host and sacrament of the altar; and holdeth on this point much after the opinion of Oecolampadius. "And surely I myself sent for him three or four times to persuade him to leave that imagination.
Zwingli explained the word 'is' of our Lord, in His institution of the Sacrament, to mean 'signifies. Oecolampadius preferred the explanation that the bread was not the Body in the proper sense of the word, but a symbol of the Body. In point of fact, this was a distinction without a difference.
Oecolampadius at the same time published 'A fair Reply' to Luther's work. These were the writings of the Sacramentarians which reached Luther during the troublous time of the plague at Wittenberg, and filled him with the pain of which we heard him then complain.
When the form of the work had been decided upon a Greek text side by side with Erasmus' translation, and notes at the end two young scholars, Gerbell and Oecolampadius, were installed in charge of the book. For the Greek Erasmus had expected, he tells us, to find at Basle some manuscript which he could give to the printers without further trouble.
If not, by what right could he expect OEcolampadius or Zuinglius to recant their convictions respecting the Eucharist, or the Baptists theirs on Infant Baptism, to the same authority?
A zealous advocate of humanism, he had attempted, as early as 1503, to reform the clergy of his bishopric by means of synodal statutes, without much success; afterwards he had called scholars like Oecolampadius, Capito and Wimpfeling to Basle. That was before the great struggle began, which was soon to carry away Oecolampadius and Capito much further than the Bishop of Basle or Erasmus approved.
Oecolampadius placed James, Jude, Second Peter, Second and Third John and the Apocalypse along with the Apocryphal books, on a lower level than the other New Testament Scriptures. The great majority of the Reformers, however, speedily fixed upon that canon which we now receive, and their decision has not been seriously called in question since the sixteenth century.