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§ 104. The Anabaptists and Mennonites.


I. On the Anabaptists.

The writings of Luther, Melanchthon, Zwingli, Calvin, Bullinger, and other Reformers and older divines against the Anabaptists are polemical.

H. W. Erbkam: Geschichte der Protest. Sekten im Zeitalter der Reformation. Hamburg und Gotha, 1848, pp. 479 sqq.

Cornelius: Geschichte des Münsterischen Aufruhrs. Leipz. 1856 and 1860, 2 vols.

Karl Hase: Das Reich der Wiedertäufer. Neue Propheten. 2d edition, Leipz. 1860.

Bouterweck: Zur Liter. und Geschichte der Wiedertäufer. Bonn, 1865.

Gerh. Uhlhorn: Die Wiedertäufer in Münster, in his Vermischte Vorträge. Stuttgart, 1875, pp. 193 sqq.

Comp. also Schreiber's Biography of Hübmaier, in his Taschenbuch f. Geschichte und Alterthum in Süddeutschland, 1839 and 1840.

II. On the Mennonites.

Menno Simons: Fundamentum, 1539, 1558, etc.; Opera, Amst. 1646, 4to; Opera omnia theologica, Amst. 1681, in 1 vol. fol. (Both editions in Dutch.)

Herm. Schyn: Historia Christianorum qui in Belgio fœderato Mennonitæ appellantur. Amst. 1723. The same in Dutch, with additions by Gerardus Maatschoen, Amst. 1743–1745, in 3 vols. 12mo. By the same: Histor. Mennonit. plenior Deductio. 1729.

S. Blaupot Ten Cate: Geschiedenis der Doopsgezinden. Amsterdam, 1839–47. 5 vols. 8vo.

Cramer: The Life of Menno Sim. Amst. 1837 (Dutch)

Harder: Leben Menno Simons. Königsberg, 1846.

Roosen: Menno Simons. Leipz. 1848.

Erbkam: Geschichte der Protest. Sekten, pp. 480, 571.

Gieseler: Kirchengeschichte, Vol. III. Part II. pp. 90 sqq.

Henke: Neuere Kirchengeschichte (herausgegeben von Dr. Gass). Halle, 1874, Vol. I. pp. 414 sqq.


The various branches of the Baptist family of Christians16121612   Mennonites, Calvinistic Baptists, Arminian Baptists, Dunkers, River Brethren, Seventh-Day Baptists, Six-Principle Baptists, Disciples or Campbellites. The last are very numerous in the West; they reject all creeds on principle. differ very widely, and have little or no connection except that they agree in rejecting infant baptism and in requiring a personal and voluntary 841profession of faith in Christ as a necessary condition of baptism. Most of them agree also in opposition to sprinkling, or any other mode of baptism but that by total immersion of the body in water. The largest and most respectable denomination of Baptists took its rise in the great religious commotion of England during the seventeenth century, and differed from the Puritans only in the doctrine of baptism and in the steadfast advocacy of religious freedom. But the Baptist movement began a century earlier on the Continent, and this first stage must at least be briefly noticed.


The early history of the Anabaptists exhibits a strange chaos of peaceful reforms and violent revolutions—separatism, mysticism, millenarianism, spiritualism, contempt of history, ascetic rigor, fanaticism, communism, and some novel speculations concerning the body of Christ as being directly created by God, and different from the flesh and blood of other men. An impartial history, with a careful critical sifting of these incongruous elements, is still a desideratum.

The modern Anabaptists16131613   Or Rebaptizers, so called by their opponents because they rebaptized those baptized in infancy, while they themselves denied the validity of infant baptism (some of them Catholic baptism in general), and regarded voluntary baptism in years of discretion as the only true baptism. The ancient Anabaptists or Rebaptizers, headed by Cyprian, denied the validity of heretical baptism, and carried the principle of Catholic exclusivism to a logical extreme, which the Roman Church has always rejected. figure prominently in the history of the Reformation, and meet us in Germany, Switzerland, Holland, and England. They were Protestant radicals, who rejected infant baptism as an invention of the Roman Antichrist, and aimed at a thorough reconstruction of the Church. They spread mostly among the laboring classes. Some of their preachers had no regular education, despised human learning, and relied on direct inspiration; but others were learned and eloquent men, as Grebel, Manz, Hetzer, Hübmaier, Denk, Röublin, and Rothmann. They were regarded as a set of dangerous fanatics, who could not be tolerated under a Christian government. Their supposed or real connection with the Peasant War, against the tyranny of landholders (1524), and with the bloody and disastrous excesses at Münster (1534), increased the opposition. Their doctrines were condemned in the Lutheran and Reformed 842Confessions. The Reformers, even the mildest among them (Melanchthon, Bucer, Bullinger, and Cranmer, as well as Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin), felt that their extermination was necessary for the salvation of the churchly Reformation and social order. And yet they must have known worthy men among them; Calvin himself married the widow of an Anabaptist pastor. Protestant and Roman Catholic magistrates vied with each other in cruelty against them, and put them to death by drowning, hanging, and burning.

But it is the greatest injustice to make the Anabaptists as such responsible for the extravagances that led to the tragedy at Münster. Their original and final tendencies were orderly and peaceful. They disowned the wild fanaticism of Thomas Münzer, John Bockelsohn, and Knipperdolling. They were opposed to war and violence. They were the crude harbingers and martyrs of some truths which have germinated in other ages. They upheld the necessity of discipline and congregational organization on the basis of personal faith in Christ, instead of carnal descent and parochial boundaries. They attacked the doctrine of the eternal damnation of unbaptized infants, and the equally horrible doctrine of persecution. Balthasar Hübmaier (Hübmör, or, as he was called by a Latin name, Pacimontanus), the ablest and most learned among the Anabaptists, a pupil of Dr. Eck (Luther's opponent), and for some time Professor of Catholic Theology at Ingolstadt, then a zealous and eloquent Protestant preacher, was perhaps the first who taught the principle of universal religious liberty, on the ground that Christ came not to kill and to burn, but to save, and condemned the employment of force in his kingdom. He held that those only are heretics who willfully and wickedly oppose the holy Scriptures; and even these ought to be treated by no other than moral means of persuasion and instruction.16141614   Von Ketzern und ihren Verbrennern. A very rare book. He was burned at the stake in Vienna, March 10,1528, and died with pious joy; his wife, who encouraged him in his martyr spirit, was three days afterwards drowned in the Danube.


Menno Simons, a converted Roman Catholic priest, collected the scattered remnant of the Anabaptists into a well-organized, peaceful, 843and industrious community in Holland and on the borders of Germany (1536). He gave them a strict system of discipline, and endeavored to revive the idea of a pure apostolic congregation consisting of true believers unmixed with the world. He labored in constant peril of life with untiring patience till his death, Jan. 13, 1561. 'For eighteen years,' he says, 'with my poor feeble wife and little children, has it behooved me to bear great and various anxieties, sufferings, griefs, afflictions, miseries, and persecutions, and in every place to find a bare existence, in fear and danger of my life. While some preachers are reclining on their soft beds and downy pillows, we oft are hidden in the caves of the earth; while they are celebrating the nuptial or natal days of their children with feasts and pipes, and rejoicing with the timbrel and the harp, we are looking anxiously about, fearing the barking of the dogs, lest persecutors should be suddenly at the door; while they are saluted by all around as doctors, masters, lords, we are compelled to hear ourselves called Anabaptists, ale-house preachers, seducers, heretics, and to be hailed in the devil's name. In a word, while they for their ministry are remunerated with annual stipends and prosperous days, our wages are the fire, the sword, the death.'16151615   Schyn, Plenior Deduct, p. 133 (quoted in Introd. to Baptist Tracts on Liberty of Conscience, p. lxxxii.).

His followers were called Mennonites after his death.16161616   Or Doopsgezinden, i.e., Dippers. In Menno's writings they are called Gemeente Gods, ellendige, weerloze Christenen, broeders, etc., but never Mennonites, See Gieseler, Vol. III. Pt. II. p. 92. They acquired at last toleration, first in Holland from Prince William of Orange, 1572, and full liberty in 1626. They spread to the Palatinate, Switzerland, Eastern Prussia, and by emigration to South Russia, Pennsylvania, and other parts of North America. Quite recently several hundred families left their Russian settlements for America because the privilege of exemption from military service was withdrawn. They are a small, quiet, peaceful, industrious, and moral community, like the Quakers. Their historian, Schyn, labors to show that they have no connection whatever with the fanatical and revolutionary Anabaptists of Münster.

The Mennonites were divided during the lifetime of Menno into two parties on questions of discipline: 1, the 'coarse' Mennonites (die Groben), or Waterlanders, who were more numerous, and flourished in 844the Waterland district of North Holland; 2, the 'refined' Mennonites (die Feinen), who were chiefly Flemings, Frieslanders, and Germans. The latter adhered to the strict discipline of the founder.

The Mennonites acknowledge 'the Confession of Waterland,' which was drawn up by two of their preachers, John Ris (Haus de Rys) and Lubbert Gerardi (Gerritsz), in the Dutch language.16171617   Schyn gives a Latin translation, in his Historia Mennonitarum, pp. 172–220, under the title, Præcipuorum Christianæ fidei Articulorum brevis Confessio adornata a Joanne Risio et Lubberto Gerardi. He calls it also Mennonitarum Confessio, or Formula Consensus inter Waterlandos. He says the confessions of the other branches of the Mennonites agree with it in all fundamental articles. Winer (Compar. Darstellung, etc., pp. 24, 25), gives a list of Mennonite Confessions and Catechisms.

It consists of forty Articles, and teaches, besides the common doctrines of Protestant orthodoxy, the peculiar views of this community. It rejects oaths (Art. XXXVIII., on the ground of Matt. v. 37 and James v. 10), war (XVIII.), and secular office-holding, because it is not commanded by Christ and is inconsistent with true Christian character; but it enjoins obedience to the civil magistrate as a divine appointment wherever it does not contradict the Word of God and interfere with the dictates of conscience (XXXVII.). The Church consists of the faithful and regenerate men scattered over the earth, under Christ the Lord and King (XXIV.). Infant baptism is rejected as unscriptural (XXXI.); but the Mennonites differ from other Baptists by sprinkling.16181618   One branch of them, the Collegiants or Rhynsburgers, held, however, to the necessity of immersion. They have recently become extinct, having had among them some men of distinction. On the Lord's Supper they agree with Zwingli. They admit hereditary sin, but deny its guilt (Art. IV.). They hold to conditional election and universal redemption.16191619    Art. VII. derives sin exclusively from the will of man, and teaches that God predestinated and created all men for salvation (omnes decrevit et creavit ad salutem), that he provided the remedy for all, that Christ died for all, and saves all who believe and persevere.    [Note.—McGlothlin gives as the earliest Anabaptist articles of the sixteenth century two brief Swiss statements of 1527 which bear solely on practical questions. Two of the teachings inculcate communism and that the Lord's Supper be celebrated 'as often as the brethren come together.' The articles of the Moravian Anabaptists forbade the Lord's Supper to persons having property.—Ed.] But during the Arminian controversy a portion sided with the strict Calvinists. They reject also law-suits, revenge, every kind of violence, and worldly amusements. In many respects they are the forerunners of the Quakers quite as much as of the English and American Baptists.

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