SECTION IV. THE ANABAPTISTS
Their criticisms led, in January, 1525, to a public debate with Zwingli, as a consequence of which the cantonal authorities of Zurich ordered all children baptized — there had evidently been delay on the part of some parents — and in particular directed Grebel and Manz to cease from disputing,
and banished the priest of Wytikon, Wilhelm Roubli.3 To these men this seemed a command by an earthly power to act counter to the Word of\
God. They and some of their friends
1 B. J. Kidd, Documents Illustrative of the Continential Reformation, Oxford, 1911, p. 451.
2 Ibid., p. 452.
3 Ibid., pp. 453, 454.
gathered in a private house in Zollicon, near Zurich, on February 7, 1525, and there Manz, or Georg Blaurock, once a monk, instituted believers' baptism by sprinkling. A few weeks later a case of immersion occurred, and after Easter, Hubmaier was baptized in Waldshut by Roubli. 1
These acts constituted the groups separate communions. By their opponents they were nicknamed "Anabaptists," or rebaptizers. Really, since they denied the validity of their baptism in infancy, the name was inappropriate, and "Baptists" would be the truer designation; but as a title consecrated by long usage to a remarkable movement of the Reformation age, the more common name is convenient. The Zurich government, in March, 1526, ordered Anabaptists drowned, in hideous parody of their belief, and a few months later Manz thus suffered martyrdom.2 Zwingli opposed them with much bitterness, but with little success in winning them from their position.3
In Waldshut Hubmaier soon gathered a large Anabaptist community, and was even more successful in propagating his opinions by his pen. In his view the Bible is the sole law of the church, and according to the Scriptural test the proper order of Christian development is, preaching the Word, hearing, belief, baptism, works — the latter indicating a life lived with the Bible as its law. Waldshut, however, was soon involved in the peasant revolt — in how far through Hubmaier is doubtful — and shared the collapse of that movement. Hubmaier had to fly, and the city was once more Catholic. Imprisoned and tortured in Zurich, he fled to Moravia, where he propagated the Anabaptist movement with much success.
These persecutions had the effect of spreading the Anabaptist propaganda throughout Germany and the Netherlands. The movement soon assumed great proportions, especially among the lower classes, when the miserable failure of the peasant revolt had caused deep distrust of the Lutheran cause, now wholly associated with territorial princes and aristocratic city magistrates. In the still Catholic parts of the empire the Anabaptist propaganda practically superseded the Lutheran. On the other hand, Anabaptist rejection of princely control but strengthened the hostility of the Lutheran and Roman authorities. In February, 1527, a meeting of Anabaptist leaders was
1 Kidd, pp. 454, 455. 2 Ibid., p. 455. 3 Ibid., p. 456-458.
The Anabaptist ideal implied a self-governing congregation, independent of state or episcopal control, having the Bible as its law, and living a rather ascetic life of strict conformity to a literal interpretation of supposedly Biblical requirements. The sources of these opinions are still in dispute. By some the Anabaptists are regarded as the radicals of the Reformation period; by others as the fruit of new interest in Bible reading by the literal-minded; by still others as revivals of mediaeval anti-Roman sects. There is truth in all these theories. The Anabaptists themselves had no consciousness of connection with pre-Reformation movements; they made the Bible literally their law, but many of their characteristics are undoubtedly pre-Reformation. Such is their view of the Bible as a new law in church and state, through obedience to which God's favor is to be preserved. They had as little sympathy with Luther's conception of the Gospel as summed up in the forgiveness of sins, as with the Roman conception of salvation through the sacraments. Pre-Reformation is their ascetic view of the Christian life. So is their conception of the state as a concession to sin, and unworthy of the participation of a Christian hi its administration. Such, also, are their strong apocalyptic and mystical tendencies.
The views which have been indicated were those of the overwhelming majority of Anabaptists; but a radical movement attracts extremists, and there were not a few who went
Everywhere the hand of the authorities, Catholic and Evangelical, was heavy on the Anabaptists — though most Protestant territories used banishment rather than the death penalty. Their leaders were martyred. In 1527 Manz met death by drowning in Zurich, while Sattler was burned and his wife drowned near Rottenburg. The next year Hubmaier was burned in Vienna and his wife drowned. Blaurock was burned in the Tyrol in 1529. With these leaders perished great numbers of their followers. Yet the movement continued to spread, and by 1529 was exceedingly perilous for the Protestant cause, being looked upon by the Catholics as the legitimate outcome of revolt from Rome, dividing the forces of reform, and to the thinking of the Lutherans bringing the Evangelical cause into discredit. There can be no doubt that one important effect of the Anabaptist movement was to attach the Lutherans more strongly to the conception of prince and magistrate ruled territorial churches as the only guarantee of good order and of effective opposition to Rome.
[Williston Walker, A History of the Christian Church, 1918, pp. 366-369. — Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]