Balthasar Hübmaier/Chapter 2
THE YEARS OF PREPARATION
GREAT obscurity envelops the early life of Hübmaier. Certain record remains of but one fact relating to his origin: he was born in Friedburg, an ancient town on the Ach, some five miles east of the city of Augsburg. He sometimes called himself, and was called by others, an Augsburger. More frequently he was known in his earlier years as Friedburger or Pacimontanus; later he is usually called by his surname of Hübmaier. The year of his birth can only be conjectured; it was probably 1480 or 1481.
Of his family we know absolutely nothing. It was evidently of peasant origin, as is witnessed by its meaning, "the farmer on the hill." From the circumstance that his parents lived in the town of Friedburg and were able to give their son more than the ordinary education of his day, it might be plausibly conjectured that they had risen to the artisan or small-merchant class. Yet, as there are not a few instances in the sixteenth century of sons of poor peasants obtaining a university education, little confidence can be placed in any such inference. That the family was of no importance may be more certainly inferred from the fact that no record of it remains, and that no trace of it is to be found to-day. It may perhaps be still further inferred that, as Hübmaier never visited his parents after he came of age, and never refers to them in his writings, they had died during the years of his education. In his case, however, silence means nothing, for he says singularly little about himself, only in two or three instances, hereafter to be cited, referring to anything in his past life, and then for apologetic reasons.
Everything in the character and life of Hübmaier goes to show that he received a careful religious training in his tender years. From the first he seems to have been inclined to piety and the service of God, and we shall not go astray if we attribute this inclination of heart to the influence of a Christian mother. As to his education, it was no doubt begun, according to the customs of the time, in some local school, but at an early age the lad was sent to the Latin school of Augsburg, then a famous institution for the training of boys. Of the Augsburg of Hübmaier's days there remain few traces except the cathedral, parts of which are of the tenth century. The most diligent search has failed to discover even a tradition as to the location of the school that he attended. That he made unusual progress in his studies and was already singled out as a boy of exceptional promise, is all that we now know of this part of his career.It is clear, however, either that he began his studies in preparation for the university somewhat later than was customary, or that they were frequently interrupted by poverty or illness. The former is the more probable, for there was little difficulty of a financial sort in the way of a bright boy's education in those days. Now there are scholarships and funds of various kinds to smooth the way of such; then, the Church was ever on the
THE UNIVERSITY OF INGOLSTADT, AS IT IS TODAY.
The first written record that we have of Hübmaier is his matriculation at the University of Freiburg, under date of May 1, 1503. In the matriculation book he is described as "Baldesar Hiebmayr de Augusta" i. e., from Augsburg. This university, established in 1456, was but little older and hardly more famous than the much nearer University of Ingolstadt, and why the more distant institution should have been sought is not easily conjectured. Here the usual studies of the period were pursued with ardour and success, until the taking of his Master's degree, probably in 1511. On the occasion of his taking a later degree an oration was delivered, according to the academic custom of those days, by his master. Dr. Eck, which gives us practically all that is known concerning this part of his life:
A LECTURE-ROOM (POSSIBLY HUBMAIER'S) IN THE OLD UNIVERSITY OF INGOLSTADT
This eulogy was returned with interest three years later, when Eck published the text of a disputation held by him at Bologna, for which occasion Hübmaier, like Silas Wegg, "dropped into poetry":
"O felix nimium felix Germania, quæ nunc
Doctiloquos gignis multisciosque viros.
Cleopatream priscus satis extulit umbram
Objicient doctum sæcula nostra virum.
Eckius is meus est Germano sydere natus
Illo nimirum Theutona terra nitet.
Theologus rarus, juris Sophiæque peritus
Sæpius in populum semina sacra serit.
Nodosam Logicen (si mavis) Rhetoris arma
Quæque mathematicus, Astronomusque docent
Quicquid habet Rhetor, Historia, culta poesis
Dispeream si non singula solus habet.
These verses, if they contain words that would have made Quintilian stare and gasp, have at least the merit of brevity, and are not much worse than the specimens that Eck's biographer gives us from the most famous scholars of that age.
From another source we learn more about the Schaffhausen episode of which Eck speaks: the official records of the city inform us that Baltisar Hubmer of Augsburg was a temporary resident of the town in 1507, and had taken the prescribed oath of obedience to the laws. Beyond this, little or nothing can be added to the words of Eck, Of Hübmaier's university career only one other detail can be supplied, and that is told us by himself, in one of his rare autobiographic passages. In his last known writing, he says that twenty years before, he held a disputation at Freiburg on the question whether it is allowable to increase the number of feast days, himself taking the negative. His enemies accused him in Zurich, in 1526, of stealing gowns while he was at Freiburg; it is possible there
CHURCH OF THE VIRGIN, INGOLSTADT.
was some escapade on which such a construction could be placed by an enemy, for students then were full of their pranks as now, but the high repute that he always maintained makes it certain that there could have been nothing more than this in the charge.
The most important fact regarding his course at Freiburg is that it brought Hübmaier under the influence of John Mayer, better known as Eck, a surname assumed because he was born in the Swabian town of that name. Though five or six years the junior of his pupil, Eck was farther advanced, having already gained fame for his scholastic and patristic learning, and still more for his readiness and skill in dialectics. He was, in addition, the more strenuous and masterful spirit; and had the two men remained in close connection we might have seen on the Catholic side during the Reformation struggle a pair closely approximating the characteristics and influence of Luther and Melanchthon on the Protestant side. Eck was at this time principal of Peacock Hall, one of the students' societies or Bursen, and it is morally certain that Hübmaier was a member of this body. It was the general custom of the universities of that day to give much attention to disputation, as a means of fixing acquirements in memory and making one's entire mental resources instantly responsive to any demand. So great a master of dialectics, so eager a disputant as Eck proved himself to be during his whole life, would certainly magnify this part of his work as a teacher. From many sources we learn that his students were constantly exercised in debating disputed questions in theology, and such exercises were more than grateful to Hübmaier. Here he imbibed that ardent love of religious controversy which all his life was quite as characteristic of him as love of the truth. All his writings show that he revelled in discussion for its own sake, though also without doubt as a means of eliciting truth.
It was in 1511, apparently, that Hübmaier received the master's degree, of which Eck makes mention in the words already quoted. According to the customs of the time, this degree in itself gave him the right to teach, but he seems in addition to have received a formal recognition as a member of the Freiburg faculty. Here he might have remained but for a quarrel that broke out between the university and Eck concerning the latter's salary. The pupil espoused his teacher's quarrel with more zeal than discretion, and the result was that both soon left the university. Eck received an appointment in the University of Ingolstadt, and his influence was sufficient to secure a position also for his devoted pupil and friend.
The University of Ingolstadt had been established in 1472 by Duke Lewis the Rich, and was already a famous institution. It became still more celebrated through Eck's connection with it, and by the end of the sixteenth century is said to have had four thousand students. The town is a small one, and though now one of the great fortresses of the southern frontier of the German Empire, is a place of slight commercial importance, and its population of about twenty thousand is little if any in excess of its mediæval size. Being thus outstripped in growth by other towns, it became less desirable as an educational centre, and since 1826 the university has been merged in that of Munich.
The original university building, however, is still standing, and the exterior has evidently suffered little alteration. It is in a quiet part of the town, a few squares distant from the chief market-place, where the old-fashioned horse-car deposits the visitor whom it has brought from the railway station, two miles away. The interior of the building is more modern than the outside, but the arrangement of the rooms is unchanged, and one easily believes the assurance that it has undergone only such refitting as was necessary to adapt it for its present purpose, a gymnasium or high school for boys. The Aula, where disputations were once held and degrees conferred, is now a museum and library; and in rooms where once echoed lectures and discussions on theology are now chemical and physical laboratories. The name of Eck is still remembered and honoured by the teachers, but that of Hübmaier is forgotten, and the mention of it is greeted with a stare.
On his first coming to Ingolstadt, Hübmaier was entitled, by virtue of his master's degree, to lecture only on philosophy, but he was speedily made a Doctor in Theology. On September 29, 1512, the degree was conferred, Dr. Eck presiding and delivering an oration De Sacerrima Theologia (Concerning
MEMORIAL TABLET TO DR. JOHN ECK, IN THE CHURCH OF THE VIRGIN, INGOLSTADT.
Most Holy Theology) which contains the already cited passage on the candidate's scholastic life. At about this time Hübmaier was also made university preacher and chaplain of the Church of the Virgin. This, the most interesting of the churches now found in Ingolstadt, had but recently been completed in his day. It is a fine old Gothic edifice, with two tall square towers; and the interior, apart from its interest as the place where Hübmaier preached, attracts those who wish to see the last resting-place of Eck. He died in Ingolstadt in 1543, and his body lies beneath a huge slab in a little chapel of the north aisle, above it a bronze tablet bearing his portrait and a suitable Latin inscription. The Church of the Virgin was the university church in the sixteenth century. The receiving of this important appointment warrants at least two inferences: that Hübmaier had been ordained to the priesthood some time before, and that he had already won some reputation as a preacher. The making of the appointment would otherwise be incomprehensible. Not even the influence of Eck would have induced the authorities to bestow a post so important upon a wholly untried man.
Hübmaier's various talents enabled him speedily to take a leading position at Ingolstadt, and he approved himself on trial as not only an eloquent lecturer and preacher, but a good man of affairs. At Easter, 1515, he was made vice-rector of the university. The rector at that time was the Margrave Friedrich von Brandenburg, but the rectorship of a nobleman must have been merely nominal and ornamental, and the real manager of the affairs of the university was Hübmaier. We have only one recorded incident of his administration of this office: an annalist of the city narrates that on one occasion he was fined ten ducats and confined to his house three days for releasing a student who had been imprisoned for assaulting a woman.
The growing fame of Hübmaier as a pulpit orator secured for him a call to Regensburg as chief preacher in the cathedral. The Danube with its tributaries was the great commercial highway of Southern Germany before railways were known; and Regensburg, or Ratisbon, situated at the confluence of the Danube and Regen, was then as now a much more important town than Ingolstadt. The cathedral, which was then nearing completion, is surpassed in spaciousness and beauty only by that of Strassburg among the cities of that region. We have no information as to the motives that induced Hübmaier to accept this call; he was doubtless ambitious, and the new position seemed to him one of greater influence, and a quicker road to promotion, than a chair of theology. Possibly he had become conscious that his vocation was that of preacher and agitator rather than teacher. The decision to leave Ingolstadt was, at any rate, the turning-point in his life. Hitherto he had been under the influence, not to say control, of a stronger nature than his own; henceforth he becomes independent, free to develop according to the laws of his own nature. One other thing is also clear: Ingolstadt parted with him unwillingly. In later years, when he had to defend himself against many aspersions, the university and town council gave him written testimonial of his innocence. During his residence there he had made many warm friends, some influential, — among them the Count Palatine John. He left Ingolstadt January 25, 1516, after labouring there three years and five months.
On his arrival at Regensburg he found an antiJewish movement in progress among the citizens, and he threw himself into the contest with ardour. In fact, he soon became the leader, and advocated his cause in the pulpit, in the street, in the marketplace, before the magistrates. There had been a strong anti-Jewish feeling in Regensburg for more than a generation, due in large part to the peculiar position occupied by the Jews in the city. They lived in one of the oldest parts of the town, surrounded by a wall, and enjoyed many special privileges. They were lodged in what we should now call tenement-houses,—high, narrow buildings,—beneath which were cellars and secret passages where they could hide from the officers of civil and religious courts. At times, when the persecution was severe, they dared not go outside their own region, and then opened only a little gate through which could be passed the necessaries of life and the pledges of Christians who wished loans. Sometimes at Easter even this loophole was closed for a week or more.
The Jewish quarter of Regensburg disappeared long ago so completely that no trace of it is now to be found; but the city of Augsburg contains a
THE CATHEDRAL, REGENSBURG.
HERE HÜBMAIER WAS CHIEF PREACHER, 1516—1520.
quarter that helps the modern traveller comprehend what it must have been. In Augsburg one of the most interesting sights is the "Fuggerei," a section of the town endowed in 1519 by John Jacob Fugger, the Rothschild of the sixteenth century, to furnish free homes for the poor. The Fuggerei is a little walled city within the city, the gates of which are shut at night; and in this quarter are fifty-three houses, of two and three stories each, still tenanted at a merely nominal rent by poor Roman Catholic citizens of Augsburg—for the Fuggers were good Catholics, and the trust has been faithfully administered, as the founder intended it should be. But the Fuggerei is a model city quarter—clean, quiet, and orderly, while the Jewish quarter of Regensburg, by all accounts, was dirty, noisy, and unsanitary.
Although the Regensburg Jews were hard pressed by taxes and exactions of every sort, by the Emperor, the Duke of Bavaria, the bishop of the diocese, the city,—and the city tax was higher for the Jews than for the burghers,—nevertheless, through their enterprise and system they had managed to get into their hands the principal part of the city's business, and the whole town and even the region about was in their debt. They had mortgages on many of the surrounding estates in their coffers. It was charged, probably with truth, that they were receivers of stolen goods, and the plate on their boards was often made of vessels taken from the altars of Christian churches. But their chief crime, no doubt, was that they were too rich. The people saw only too clearly that, while their affairs went from worse to worst, while the public finances became more and more embarrassed, while the trade and manufactures of the city more and more declined, the Jews continued to prosper. What was more natural than that they should lay the blame for all this on the Jews? The priests, therefore, found willing ears to listen to their denunciation of the usury of this people, and the citizens flocked to hear such sermons.
The Regensburg Jews were under the special protection of the House of Austria, and at the meeting of the Reichstag at Cologne in 1512 they appealed for protection against the constantly increasing persecutions. It was the Imperial policy to hold this movement in check, and accordingly the fanaticism that Hübmaier and others had aroused could not fail in time to bring the city into sharp collision with the Imperial Government. This actually happened in 1517. The first appeal of the Jews to the law was unavailing. Palgrave John, the administrator of the bishopric, threatened with excommunication any who should compel a Christian to pay usurious interest to a Jew. Papal confirmation of this decision was obtained, and Hübmaier preached from the pulpit: "We have brought a bull from Rome, the effect of which is to put under the bann every one who helps a Jew to his usurious interest." The Jews on their part obtained an Imperial mandate commanding the people of Regensburg to molest these people no further, and the next year, when the Reichstag met at Augsburg, the Jewish question was thoroughly discussed in a secret session.
Hübmaier was sent to Augsburg to defend the clergy, and the city also had its representative there. The presence of this hated preacher against their race roused the Jews to special efforts, and they did everything in their power to secure his expulsion. So well did they use their influence and money that an Imperial messenger was sent to Regensburg, demanding Hübmaier's recall. The messenger moreover bore a mandate that the administrator should not summon Jews before his court again; that the priests should cease preaching against them; and declared the papal bull, having been issued without the Emperor's consent, to be null and void. The council attempted to temporise, saying that Hübmaier was not at Augsburg as a representative of the city, but as a cleric, and therefore not under their jurisdiction. The Imperial messenger refused to accept this disclaimer; he replied that the council had the keys of the city, and if Hübmaier persisted in remaining at Augsburg, against their command, they could lock the gates against him. Reluctantly, we may presume, the city did as required.
The decision of the Reichstag was in favour of the Jews; a special court and judge were appointed to try their cases. Hübmaier in the meantime appears to have contumaciously remained at Augsburg, and he had some difficulty in obtaining permission to return. Only the intercession of powerful friends, and a pledge on his part that he would henceforth show greater moderation, made
INTERIOR OF THE REGENSBURG CATHEDRAL.
THE TOMB IN THE NAVE IS IN MEMORY OF BISHOP PHILIP WILLIAM, DUKE OF BAVARIA, AND WAS ERECTED IN 1598.
his peace with the Emperor and enabled him to return. It throws some light on his character at this time that he promised the city council on his arrival that he would do just the contrary, that he would not slacken his efforts against the Jews; while, as for his pledge to the Emperor, he said, the Church would hold him guiltless, and would defend him! It is true that this was the common morality of ecclesiastics in his day, though a less frank avowal of perfidy was usual.
It is difficult, from the facts we have at hand, to infer the motives that led Hübmaier to take so active and so discreditable a part in this agitation. It is extremely probable that he honestly shared the prejudices of his time against the Jews, and even believed that persecution of them was a mark of a good Christian. Even after he had become more enlightened as to the true spirit of the gospel, he expressed no regret for his course, but rather gives it tacit approval, though he by no means tells the whole story of his misdeeds. In 1526 he makes this allusion to the matter: "When I was preacher in Regensburg, I saw the great oppression that the population suffered from the Jews; I saw that ecclesiastical and secular statutes gave law and sentence against this. Then I said to the people from the pulpit, that they ought not to suffer in this wise for the future. But nobody repented, and all remained as before."
The agitation against the Jews in Regensburg dragged until after the death of Emperor Maximilian. In the spring of 1519 they were driven out, and their synagogue was turned into a Christian chapel, dedicated "to the beauteous Mary" (zur Schönen Maria). Shortly after, miracles were said to be wrought at this shrine, great excitement arose, people began to make pilgrimages to this altar, and gifts poured in. It was decided to build a church, and the corner-stone was laid September 9th. On this, besides the name of the administrator and suffragan-bishop, appeared the name of Hübmaier, the first chaplain of the "beauteous Mary." On September 16th he gave to the council a list of fifty-four testimonies to the miracles wrought at this shrine. The fame of these rapidly extended through all the neighbouring district, and even farther, throughout Austria, Bohemia, and Moravia, and from everywhere came the throngs of pilgrims. Grave mischiefs and abuses accompanied these pilgrimages; all the population seemed to be affected. When they went through a town by night women crowded to see them, often in their nightclothes; by day men left their business and followed as if they, too, would go on pilgrimage, some with a hayfork in their hands, others with a scythe. The more sensible thought the people had all gone crazy. Impostors appeared, and at length the Regensburg council found itself compelled to adopt some measures of repression, or at least of control.
These pilgrimages aroused much attention and discussion in the whole Empire. As to Hübmaier's exact part in them there is almost nothing to warrant an inference. One of his biographers has accused him of fomenting the fanaticism, and says that good Catholics blamed him for his excessive zeal. Another says that he preached against the fanaticism and did what he could to moderate it. Neither seems to have any grounds for so positive assertion; all that is certain is that Hübmaier's attitude, so far as known, was favourable to the pilgrimages, since he professed a complete faith in the miracles, and has left no record of his disapproval.
In the year 1542, when the Reformation had extended to Bavaria, the chapel of the "beauteous Mary" became a Lutheran church. The statues, pictures, and relics that had been accumulated were removed and for the most part destroyed. The chapel was enlarged, and the new edifice became known as the Neupfarrkirche, which name it still bears. A few of the relics and pictures have been preserved, and among these the curious visitor may still see an old and much-dimmed oil painting, that shows the original chapel, with its altar and relics, and a crowd of adoring pilgrims kneeling before it.
The authorities of the city were not the only ones aroused to action by these pilgrimages.
THE MODERN NEUPFARRKIRCHE, REGENSBURG.
THE FARTHER PART, WITH THE TOWERS, IS PART OF HÜBMAIER'S CHAPEL ZUR SCHÖNEN MARIA.
burg was the home of one of the largest, richest, and most famous Dominican monasteries in Europe. It had been made famous by the lectures of Albertus Magnus, next to Thomas Aquinas the greatest of the mediæval scholastics. Though not formally a university, this had always been a celebrated school, and was still an important seat of learning. There were also two Benedictine abbeys: one originally founded by followers of Columban, and hence still known as the Schottenkirche; the other, St. Emmeram, founded in the seventh century, was also one of the oldest monastic establishments in Germany. These orders had for three centuries been the dominant religious force in Regensburg, and had for a still longer period been accustomed to absorb all the surplus wealth of the faithful. It was not to be reckoned that they would submit without a struggle to this sudden and startlingly successful rivalry of a new shrine and an upstart preacher belonging to none of the orders.
The great income of the chapel through the gifts of the pilgrims quickly roused the jealousy of the orders, especially of the Dominicans, and they began to attack the whole affair in their sermons. From the same cause, there began a strife in 1520 between the chapter of the cathedral and the city council over the patronage, which the city claimed, and its claim was confirmed by the court attorney of Nürnberg. Hübmaier undertook to play the part of mediator, and set forth in behalf of the chapter that before there was any thought of building the great church, offering-boxes had been placed under the pulpit in the cathedral and in the country churches, and liberal gifts for the building had been thus collected. It was evident therefore, that the new chapel had been erected not from the resources of the city, but from alms, and, this being the case, the council had no legal title to the patronage. In spite of the general esteem in which he was held among the citizens, this attempt at mediation was a failure. In consequence, the numerous grudges that were entertained against him among the clergy began to manifest themselves. He and his chapel were the object of their jealousy, and they preached against both with renewed vigour.
It may have been these troubles that decided the question of Hübmaier's longer stay in Regensburg. There is no ground whatever for the assertion of his biographer, Hoschek, that he had already become infected with heresy, and left in order that he might find a field where the Reformation was more likely to succeed than in Regensburg. So many circumstances conspire to negative this hypothesis, that it may be confidently pronounced unworthy of serious consideration. We know, both from his own testimony and from other sources, that he left Regensburg with the esteem of its citizens and the powerful friends that he had made. In 1526, replying to the charge of his enemies that he secretly ran away from the city, he said:
"How I departed from Ingolstadt and Regensburg know his serene highness, prince and lord John, Count Palatine and administrator at Regensburg, my especially gracious lord; also the most noble, honourable and wise captain, city treasurer and council of that city; also the university and the honourable council at Ingolstadt, all of whom gave me letters testifying my innocence of such invented and base untruths. Also William Wyeland, burgher and councilman at Regensburg, took me and my furniture on his iron-boat, and at midday starting from Regensburg brought me to Ulm. I was also exempted from all customs and tolls by reason of the letters of assistance which my gracious lord at Regensburg gave me." He might have added that the city gave him, in grateful recognition of his distinguished services, a parting gift of forty gulden. This of itself is sufficient proof that he departed with no odour of heresy or misdeed clinging to his garments. He left behind him the repute of being an unusually faithful and zealous son of the Church. It is indeed surprising that neither at this time, nor for some time later, does Hübmaier show any sympathy with the Reformation; not even do his words or acts betray the consciousness that any such movement was in progress. The final persecution of the Jews in Regensburg was coincident with the posting of Luther's theses, and the miracles and pilgrimages happened in the year of the Leipzig disputation. The old friendship between Eck and Hübmaier showed as yet no signs of fracture, and one would have thought this would have been sufficient to attract the latter's attention to a controversy in which his former master was taking so prominent a part. Perhaps his attention was attracted, perhaps he read what was printed on both sides of the controversy, but if so his own personal concerns so far absorbed his attention that no immediate result
DOMINICAN MONASTERY, REGENSBURG.
was produced, whatever effect might have followed later.
From Regensburg Hübmaier went to Waldshut, a little town in the Breisgau, on the Rhine, beautiful for situation but of no commercial significance. Its military importance was considerable, and might be again in certain contingencies, as it completely commands the Rhine, and could be held by a relatively small force. This living was part of the patronage of the convent of Königsfeld, in the canton of Aargau, and how the choice fell upon Hübmaier is not known. Nor is it easy to see how he came to choose such a field of labour in preference to Regensburg. The walls of Waldshut have been long since removed, and the town has spread somewhat beyond its ancient limits, but even now it must have a population considerably below four thousand, and a walk of ten minutes will take one from one end to the other of the "city." There seems to be but one church—the same that stood in Hübmaier's day and in which he preached—and it is apparently quite ample for the needs of the town.
Possibly the character of the people, rather than the size of the town, constituted the attraction for Hübmaier. They were thoroughly German in blood and speech, and had the characteristics of that people; but, in addition, their proximity to Switzerland and their dwelling among the mountains had given to them a passionate love of liberty. They were a strong, resolute, simple people, loyal to the House of Hapsburg and the religion of their fathers. They had no intention of being disloyal to prince or religion, as they had inherited the authority of both, and they had every intention of maintaining stoutly what they regarded as their own privileges and rights.
In such a town and among such a people Hübmaier began his work in the spring of 1521, and soon found himself quite at home among them. For two years he remained a zealous Catholic, continuing the observance of all the ancient practices, and even introducing new ceremonies. In great thunder-storms he stationed himself at the church door with the Host and blessed the clouds; at Easter and on other occasions, as when the Host was carried to the sick, he saw to it that everything was done with much pomp and state; he was particular that two communicants from the council should be present at the sacrament; to Mary and all the saints he paid great veneration.
But during these same two years a great change in his religious convictions was beginning, and perhaps these outward marks of zeal were only attempts on his part to confirm himself in a faith that was wavering. He was giving his leisure hours to the study of the Scriptures, in which, so far as we know, he was now beginning for the first time to take a real interest. How much he became absorbed in this study his letters prove. He devoted especial attention to the Pauline epistles, first reading the letter to the Romans, and then the letters to the Corinthians. There could be but one result of such study, and though we have no definite record of Hübmaier's conversion, his life from this time indicates that at about the end of the year 1522 he had come to see that the Catholic Church had departed, in doctrine and practice, from the teachings of the apostles; and he had also, in consequence of his study of the New Testament, come to a clear understanding of the gospel, and sought his personal salvation from Christ himself, and not from the Church and its sacraments.
A visit to Switzerland, in June, 1522, was an important factor in producing this change. He first journeyed to Basel, where he made the acquaintance of Busch, Glareanus, and Erasmus. He conferred with the latter on the doctrine of purgatory, and some dark places in the Gospel of John, but received little aid. He was not at all pleased with Erasmus, in fact, and said of him afterwards, "Erasmus speaks freely but writes cautiously." From Basel he went to (the Swiss) Freiburg. "I have found this quite other than its name implies," he writes; "it is not free but imprisoned, and rent with faction and narrowness." In Basel he noted that the cloisters were becoming more empty from day to day, and that the nuns were marrying. Switzerland was seething with disaffection to the old faith, and on the eve of a religious revolution. Hübmaier returned to Waldshut and plunged anew into the study of the Pauline epistles. At about this time
WALDSHUT AND THE RHINE.
also we find that he is reading some of the tracts of Luther that had been so widely scattered among the German people.
At this juncture of affairs, his friends at Regensburg recalled him to be preacher at the chapel of the "beauteous Mary." The old dispute between the chapter and the council had been compromised, through the intervention of the Duke of Bavaria. The bishop was to have spiritual jurisdiction over the church, and the right of confirmation and investiture of all foundations, besides an indemnity in ready money; on the other hand, the council had the patronage of the chapel and the management of its income. Hübmaier began his work there on Advent Sunday, 1522, and found the chapel well filled with both clergy and laity, especially the council, to his great pleasure. His salary was fixed at fifty gulden, besides thirty kreutzer for the weekday services. In return he was to sing or have sung three masses a week, preach as often as the provost required, have processions, and contribute of his means to the aid of pilgrims.
He began preaching from the Gospel of Luke and promised a course of sermons from that book. There is no doubt that he was now strongly inclining to the new doctrine and that his preaching was of the evangelical type, though he practised the rites of the Church. In a letter written at this time to a friend in Ulm, he says that Christ is preached in unadulterated fashion in Nürnberg, in spite of the opposition of Frederick of Austria and other princes, and adds: "Also among us in Bavaria is the gospel preached." But with him this return to Regensburg was an experiment, as is shown by the fact that he had taken care not to resign his pastorate at Waldshut, and had so provided himself a way of retreat. Inclined as he now was to the reformed doctrine, he could see little prospect of its progress in Bavaria; Waldshut offered a more hopeful field. Accordingly, before the close of his trial year, March 1, 1523, he gave up his position at Regensburg and returned to Waldshut. That he was still held in high esteem by the Regensburgers is shown by the fact that they presented him at his departure with fifteen gulden.
On taking up his work anew at Waldshut, Hübmaier almost from the first gave decisive proofs of his change of religious convictions. In a month after his return we find him in active communication with the Swiss reformers. He visited Zürich and conferred with Zwingli on various subjects, especially on the baptism of infants, of which he had been able to find no trace in the New Testament. From Zurich he went to St. Gall, and made the acquaintance of Joachim Watt, known as Vadianus. He had established for himself the reputation of an evangelical preacher, and was asked to preach. This he did several times, to the great pleasure and edification of the people. It was on his return to Waldshut that he seems to have made known his change of views and begun to introduce innovations.
It first becomes clear, however, that he has broken forever with the old faith from the part that he took in the second religious disputation at Zürich, held by order of the Government in the council hall, October 26-28, 1523. This discussion had been forced on Zwingli and the council by the more radical members of the reforming party at Zürich, who wished for an immediate and thorough-going reformation of religion, on the basis of the Holy Scriptures. Zwingli was till then in sympathy with the aims of this radical clement, so far as they had been formulated and were understood by him, but it was his opinion that they were too precipitate in action and were inclined to press the work of reformation too rapidly. So far, however, the difference was concerning methods rather than principles, nor did the discussion develop a more serious difference than this.
The questions discussed at this gathering were the use of images and the celebration of the mass, two of the three days being given chiefly to the first subject. On the first day, after Zwingli, Leo, and others had quite fully discussed the matter,—all being agreed in principle that images are contrary to the gospel order, but Zwingli counselling moderation in action,—Hübmaier spoke as follows:
"He who is the omnipotent and eternal God has commanded us, through his servant Moses, thus: 'If thou meet thine enemy's ox or ass going astray, thou shalt surely bring it back to him again. If thou see the ass of him that hateth thee lying under his burden, thou shalt forbear to leave him, thou shalt surely release it with him' [Ex. xxiii., 4, 5.]. And Christ admonishes us to
the same effect: 'Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a well, and will not straightway draw him up on a Sabbath day?' [Luke xiv., 5]. And much more we ought to pity that man who has gone astray in those things that pertain to his salvation, or who has fallen into some deep ditch of error, so that our labours may release him and bring him back. And it is as clear as day that for ages infinite errors and abuses have been brought into the Christian Church by Satan, who never rests; for he is certainly concerned with the business of images and the mass. I can only praise, therefore, the most reverend council of this ancient town, which ordered that this friendly gathering should be held to discuss these matters, so that the sharp differences of many concerning religion might be adjusted in a friendly way and without any disturbance. That surely cannot be done in a more fitting way, than by hearing passages from both Testaments produced in the midst of us. For in all disputes concerning faith and religion, the Scripture alone, proceeding from the mouth of God, ought to be our level and rule. For the Lord Himself has put that judge on the throne: 'And in a controversy they shall stand to judge: according to my judgments shall they judge it' (Ezek. xliv., 24). Wherefore the Lord has ordered that the Scriptures shall be searched, and commanded that we hear Moses and the prophets; for he will not receive the testimony of man. Christ has said the same, likewise Paul and all the apostles. For, however often they had to contend against Satan or men evidently wicked, they pressed upon such the Scriptures, as the most fitting judge of every controversy, and by means of these alone they won the victory. For the Scripture is the sole light and is a true lantern, by whose light all the fictions of
the human mind may be discovered and all darkness be dispelled. The prophet David testifies to this in the saying, 'Thy word is a lamp to my feet' [Ps. cxix., 105]. And Christ Jesus warns us that we should take the lamp of that saving word in our hands, that, when the bridegroom comes, we may enter with him to the eternal marriage feast. Wherefore also, those errors that have sprung up concerning images and the mass should be examined and corrected by the sole rule of the word of God. Moreover, whatever shall be founded on this will endure forever; for the word of God is eternal and immortal."
On the second day he spoke somewhat more at length and in less general terms against images:
"That images ought never to be made or retained was sufficiently proved yesterday from the holy Testaments. And for my part, I wish none had ever been brought into a church of Christians. For what Ex. xx., 4, says, is as clear and plain as it is valid and incontrovertible. For by two eloquent laws it is forbidden not merely to worship images, but even to make them. What is written in Deut. v., 6 sq. is even plainer, for there in three commands God removes and overthrows everything of the kind: 'I am the Lord thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.' Secondly, 'Thou shalt not make unto thee a graven image, the likeness of any form that is in the heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.' Thirdly, 'Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them nor serve them; for I, the Lord thy God, am a jealous God, etc.' Whence he orders them to burn with fire and curse him who makes such
things. And all the people shall answer and say Amen (Deut. xxvii., 15). I will add another two-horned argument that will easily overturn images. To have images is either commanded or it is not commanded. If it is commanded, let the Scriptures be produced and at once all strife will be ended. But if it was never commanded that we have them, they are certainly of no use. For whatever God does not teach, either by his word or his works, is altogether vain and useless. For as God alone is good so it follows that what is good comes from God alone. He that has said other than this charges falsehood against God the Father, Christ the Son, and the holy Paul. God the Father: 'What thing soever I command you, that shall ye observe to do: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it' [Deut. xii., 32]. Christ the Son: 'Every plant which my heavenly Father planted not shall be rooted up' [Matt, xv., 13]. Paul: 'Whatsoever is not of faith is sin' [Rom. xiv., 23]. Another thing also follows these. One thing or the other must be granted: images are either useful or useless to the Church. But if they are of no use, what are they for, I pray? But if they are of some profit, shall we say that God has proclaimed less than the truth when he teaches in Is. xliv., 9, that they are profitable for nothing? In view of these things, it is blasphemy if we teach that images call, move, and draw our souls to piety. For it is Christ who calls the sinner, who moves him to what is good, invites him to the heavenly marriage feast; God the Father draws those who come to Christ. Since then images, O woe! have at some time been brought into the Church, there is need of great care and prudent
consideration lest any one be made to stumble and the general peace of believers be disturbed. For up to the present there are many who hold firmly to images. It is fitting, therefore, to quote diligently to such the word of God from both Testaments, and to place it before people's eyes. For so it will exert its own force and potency, so that all images will soon fall down. For it is impossible that, if the word of God be preached, it should not bring forth fruit in the place where God has sent it (Is. lv., 10, 11). Paul said this at Athens and many other places, as the Acts bear witness. Therefore, if this be done, individual believers will learn that images are of no value, and so it will come to pass that by common consent of the whole Church, without any trouble, it will be ordered that images be removed. And then it will be said that the word of God has accomplished the very thing for which it was sent."
The discussion of the third day related exclusively to the mass—a subject also discussed somewhat on the afternoon of the second day. This came home to all the participants and aroused great interest, as was manifest in the exceptionally lively debate. Zwingli was cautious in his statements, for while he repudiated the idea of actual sacrifice in connection with the mass, he seemed to admit that the eucharist might be a representation of Christ's sacrifice, though not a repetition. Hübmaier spoke again, making this contribution to the discussion:
"Although there are still several abuses left in the mass (which I prefer to call Christ's Testament, or the memorial of his death) this will certainly be seen to be the chief cause of all these: that we celebrate mass as a sacrifice. But, to mention that about which my mind is employed (though I am always ready to be taught better), I cannot announce it in any other way than Zwingli and Leo have done—by saying that the mass is no sacrifice, but rather a publishing of Christ's Testament, in which is celebrated the memorial of his death, through which he no doubt offered himself once for all on the altar of the cross and cannot be offered again. And whoever celebrates mass otherwise, undertakes to seal a document not yet written. The reason that moves me to say this is found in Matt, xxvi., Luke xxii., Mark xiv., I Cor, xi., Hebrews vii. and ix. Christ says, 'This do,' but not 'This offer.' Whence it follows, first, that the mass, if it is held to be a sacrifice, profits neither living nor dead. For as I cannot believe for another, so it is not permitted me to celebrate mass for another; since truly this was instituted by Christ as a sign, in which the faith of believers is confirmed.
"Secondly, since the body and blood of Christ are seals and tokens of Christ's words that it is customary to recite in the mass, priests ought to use and proclaim nothing but the pure and clear word of God, of which these are signs. Whoever celebrates the mass otherwise errs from the truth.
"Thirdly, he who does not proclaim the word of God does not celebrate the mass. Christ acknowledges the same, and Paul, his disciple: 'This do in remembrance of me.' 'As often as ye do this, ye do show forth the Lord's death.' Therefore it is necessary either
that Christ yield his declaration, or our conclusion is true.
"Fourthly, the mass should be read in Latin to the Latins, in French to the French, and in German to the Germans. For there can be no doubt but that Christ used a language at the supper with his disciples that could be understood by all of them. And likewise when the mass is celebrated, it is ridiculous to recite Latin words to a German who knows nothing of the Latin language. What else is this than to hide the Lord whom we ought to proclaim? Paul wishes so to speak in the Church as to be understood by all, and he would rather speak five words with the understanding than thousands in an unknown tongue (I Cor. xiv., 19).
"Fifthly, he who undertakes to celebrate mass truly ought to feed not only himself, but also others hungering and thirsting in spirit, and that under both kinds. Christ taught this by both word and deed (Matt, xxvi., 27). Whoever therefore shall teach otherwise and administer otherwise, insolently violates Christ's Testament. This even an angel from heaven has no right to do, still less a man (Gal. i., 8).
"These, brethren, are my opinions concerning images and the mass, which I have learned from the Holy Scriptures. But if there is any error in them, I pray and beseech you, by Jesus Christ our only Saviour, and the day of his last judgment, to condescend to set me right through the Holy Scriptures in a fraternal and Christian manner. I can err, for I am a man, but I cannot be a heretic, for I am willing to be taught better by anybody. And if any one will teach me better, I acknowledge that I shall owe him great thanks; I will confess the error, and in accordance with the decision of the divine word I will
gladly and willingly, with greatest obedience, submit myself to you and follow you most carefully, as followers of Christ. I have spoken. It is yours to judge me and set me right. I will pray Christ to give you his grace for this purpose."
The decision of the Zürich council was studiously moderate—far too moderate to satisfy the radical reformers, who now began to distrust Zwingli and to draw away from him. The removal of the images was not ordered, and as for the mass, each priest was left to do as he liked, celebrate it or not, according to his own conscience and understanding of the word of God—in short, the council wished to let matters drift a while longer before taking vigorous action.
On the whole, in these addresses Hübmaier shows himself to be in agreement with the radical party that was now fast developing in Zürich. His views are more like those of Conrad Grebel, the spokesman of this party, than Zwingli's; yet his attitude is not one of antagonism to the Zürich leader. But it is evident that his views have undergone a great transformation since his coming to Waldshut—he is now an evangelical, in the fullest significance of the term. Once for all he has taken his stand on the principle that for him the voice of Scripture is the only voice of authority, and consequently the only voice that he will obey.
A careful reading of the account of the disputation confirms the idea that Zwingli did not at any time differ so much in doctrine from Grebel and Hübmaier, as in policy. He was in favour of proceeding slowly with the reform in Zürich, for many reasons. He had no objection to the radical programme as an ultimate goal,—he only objected to the attempt to realise it at once. He was probably calculating carefully just how fast the council could be persuaded to go, and just what changes the Zürich people would approve. The difference between them lay in the sphere of politics rather than in the domain of theology, but this the radicals could not see.
Excursus on the Spelling of Hübmaier's Name
It is no easy matter to decide how the name of the subject of this biography should be spelled. He lived in an age when men had only vague ideas of orthography, especially in the matter of proper names. The oldest known form of the name is in the matriculation book of the University of Freiburg, where it is entered under date of May 1, 1503, as Baldesar Hiebmayr. The Christian name is spelled by contemporaries Balthazar Baldazar, Baldasar, Baltassar, and even Walthausar, while of the surname one finds not fewer than twenty spellings, namely, Hubmär, Huebmär, Huebmaier, Huebmer, Hubmejer, Hubemör, Hubmör, Huebmör, Hubmaier, Höebmöer, Hüebmör, Hüebmär, Hübmör, Hubmeyer, Hubmoyer, Huebmayr, Hiebmaier, Hubmer, Hübmer, Hubmair—to say nothing of such forms as Hilcmerus, Isubmarus, etc.
This ought not to surprise us, since it is well-known that there are more than threescore ways of spelling the name Shakespeare. Generally speaking, the principle should no doubt be recognised that a man knows best how to spell and pronounce his own name. But what are we to do if he knows how to spell it in several ways? Such is the case with the man with whom we have to do. In the only existing autograph (so far as known), which is preserved in the archives at Schaffhausen, and bears date of 1524, his signature is Baldasar Hüebmör. In his printed works he later adopted for the first name the spelling Balthasar, and as to that all are now practically agreed. During the last two years of his life he published seventeen tracts that are now in existence, and on the pages of thirteen of these he prints his name Huebmör, or Hübmör, essentially the same spelling.
Examination of the variant spellings shows that they are all attempts, more or less careful, to represent the same sounds. There is no real question as to how the name sounded in the ears of contemporaries. The first syllable is so frequently spelled Hieb, Hüb, or Hueb, as to leave no doubt that the vowel sound was that of ü, and the cases of variation are easily explicable on the theory that the umlaut was often carelessly dropped. The first syllable cannot possibly have sounded as Hoob. The vowel sound in the second syllable was obscure, and as it fell upon different ears might be represented almost equally well by mayr, meyer, maier, mör, or mär.
On the whole, therefore, the spelling Hübmaier seems to come nearest to reproducing the true sounds in accordance with modern usage.
- Hübmaier = Hübel (provincial for Hügel) meier.
- It was the custom in Hübmaier's day for bright students to give private lectures to their fellows, repeating the substance of what the professor had taught. Such a course was called a Repetorium, and the lecturer was a Repetitor. The custom has its analogue in the "quiz" classes in the medical schools of the present day. At the present time a Repetitor in a German university corresponds pretty nearly to a tutor in an American college.
- Hoschek gives (p. 120) a somewhat different version of Hübmaier's praise of theology: "Her alone have I chosen, her before all others have I selected, and for her will I prepare a cell in my heart." But for the original see Wiedemann, Dr. Johann Eck, Regensburg, 1865, p. 451.
- This reference to his father's poverty might be taken in itself to negative the above-mentioned conjecture regarding Hübmaier's family, but some sudden reverse might have overtaken a man hitherto prosperous.
- Wiedemann, Dr. Johann Eck, pp. 462, 463, The lines may be rather freely englished thus: "O happy, too happy Germany, that now producest men of so great eloquence and learning! Antiquity brought forth beauty as her choicest product, our age presents the scholar. My Eck, sprung from the stars, is surely the bright ornament of this German land. A rare theologian, skilled in law and wisdom, he often sows the good seed among the people. A knotty logician, a master of sentences, whatever mathematician or astronomer teaches, all that orator, historian, or poet knows—I'll be hanged if this single man does not know it all!"
- Loserth, p. 15, note 4.
- Hoschek says (i., 120) that, by the influence of Eck, Hübmaier himself was elected superintendent of Peacock Hall, but this appears to be an error. Cf. Loserth, p. 16.
- From his examination while in prison at Zürich, Egli, Actensammlung zur Geschichte der Zürcher Reformation, S. 432.
- Loserth, p. 25.
- Hoschek, i., 123.
- The photograph from which the illustration of the Neupfarrkirche is made shows from the east side the church as it now exists. This end of the church, with its apse, is comparatively new; the original chapel is the western part, from the line of the two towers, which are little altered. A transverse aisle separates the new portion of the interior from the old, and a gallery has been built in recent times within the latter. It would hardly be possible for any building to undergo a greater transformation than this chapel of the "beauteous Mary" shows—only the western walls and towers remain in substantially the former condition.
- Hoschek, i., 122.
- Hübmaier, Ein kurze Entschuldigung, Nikolsburg, 1526. Op. 13.
- Loserth (p. 25) conjectures that he secured the place through the favour of the Count Palatine; Hoschek (i., 123) is sure that the intercession of the Swiss reformers obtained it for him. Against the latter supposition the known facts are decisive: it was certainly not until after his settlement at Waldshut that the acquaintance between Hübmaier and the Swiss leaders began, as we shall presently see.
- Egli, Actensammlung, No. 911.
- A special resolution of the council makes mention of this pledge of their friendship. Cf. Loserth, p. 21.
- Hübmaier, or his reporter, has combined Deut. vii., 5, with the passage cited by him.
- For the text of the decree, which was dated November 17th, see Egli, Actensammlung, p. 173, No. 436; cf. Füsslin, Beytrüge, ii., 43-46.
- The full account of this second disputation may be found in Zwingli's Op. i., 481 sq.