Balthasar Hübmaier/Chapter 3




RETURNING from the disputation at Zürich committed to the work of reform, and full of the proverbial zeal of the new convert, Hübmaier set to work with energy to teach his townspeople the pure gospel. It was natural that he should attempt to apply the method that had been successful in Zürich, and accordingly one of his first steps was to invite all the clergy of the district to a disputation. As a preliminary, he drew up a series of theses, which appeared in print the following June, in this form:

"1. Faith alone makes us just before God.

"2. This faith is the knowledge of the mercy of God, which he manifested to us through the giving of his only begotten Son. Thereby are overthrown all sham Christians, who have only 'a historical faith' in God.

"3. This faith cannot remain dead, but must manifest itself toward God in thanksgiving, toward our fellow-men in works of brotherly love. Thereby are all ceremonies destroyed, tapers, psalms, holy-water.

"4. Only those works are good that God has commanded, and only those are evil that he has forbidden. Thereby fall fish, flesh, cowls, plates.

"5. The mass is no sacrifice, but a memorial of the death of Christ. Hence it may be offered as a sacrifice neither for the dead nor for the living. Thereby fall masses for souls and the like.

"6. When this memorial is celebrated, the death of our Lord should be preached in their mother tongue to believers. Thereby fall private masses.

"7. Images are good for nothing; wherefore such expense should be no longer wasted on images of wood and stone, but bestowed upon the living, needy images of God.

"8. Just as every Christian should believe and be baptised for himself, so it is his privilege to judge from the holy Scriptures if the bread and wine are rightly given him by his pastor.

"9. As Christ alone died for our sins and we are baptised in his name alone, so should we call upon him only as our mediator and intercessor. Thereby fall all pilgrimages.

"10. It is better to explain a single verse of a psalm in the vernacular of the people, than to sing five whole psalms in a foreign language not understood by the people. Thereby vanish matins, prime, tierce, nones, vespers, compline, and vigils.

"11. All doctrines not planted by God himself are profitless, condemned, and must be rooted up. Here

fall to the ground Aristotle, the Scholastics, as Thomas, Scotus, Bonaventura and Occam, and all teachers who in their origin are not from God.

"12. The hour is coming and is already here, in which no one will be considered a priest but he who preaches the word of God. Thereby fall the sayers of early mass, suffragists, requiemists, sayers of intercessory masses.

"13. It is the duty of church-members, to whom the pure word of God is clearly preached, to provide food and clothing for the ministers. Thereby go to the ground the courtiers, pensioners, incorporators, absentees, liars and dream-babblers.

"14, Whoso seeks purgatory, the trust of those whose god is the belly, seeks the grave of Moses—it will never be found.

"15. To forbid priests to marry and wink at their carnal lewdness is to release Barabbas and put Christ to death.

"16. To promise chastity in the strength of man is nothing else than to fly over the sea without wings.

"17. Whoso for worldly advantage denies or remains silent concerning the word of God, sells the blessing of God, as Esau sold his birthright, and will also be denied by Christ.

"18. Whoso does not earn his bread by the sweat of his brow is in condemnation, [and] is not worthy of the food that he eats. Herewith are all idlers condemned, whoever they may be."

Although the title-page of the four-page pamphlet in which these theses appeared informs us that they were "disputed at Waldshut by Dr. Balthasar Fridberger in 1524," there is reason to doubt whether such a disputation actually occurred, though doubtless the author expected a discussion when he sent the writing to press. There is no reason to doubt, however, that he proceeded to reduce the doctrine of the theses immediately to practice, with the consent of the people of Waldshut. One exception should be made to this statement, and it is an important one: the eighth thesis clearly implies the doctrine and practice with which the name of Hübmaier afterwards became inseparably associated, but this was clear neither to him nor to others at this time.

From various sources, mostly hostile, but in this case seemingly well informed, we learn that the actual religious reforms made in Waldshut during the early months of the year 1524 were about as follows: the services of the church were held in German, especially the sacrament of the Eucharist, which was administered in both kinds, the people being taught that they received only bread and wine as a memorial of Christ's death. Pictures and images were banished from the church, and in some cases at least burnt.[1] Tapers were banished from the altar, and the costly vestments, chalices, and jewelled ornaments were sold. The people were allowed to eat meat on Fridays, the observance of holy days was greatly abbreviated, and the rule of celibacy for the clergy was abrogated. In pursuance of this last reform, Hübmaier anticipated the acts of Luther and Zwingli by marrying the daughter of a burgher named Elizabeth Hügline, who with rare fidelity and bravery shared his later fortunes. The wedding was celebrated with a great feast, given by their townsmen in their honour.

In this work at Waldshut he ranged himself by the side of the other evangelical reformers. By all the writers of the day, friendly or hostile, he is now classed with Luther and Zwingli. In his general ideal of practical reform, as well as in the doctrines that he preached, he was in substantial agreement at this period with his fellow-workers. Owing doubtless to his closer proximity to Zwingli, he was more influenced by the Swiss reformer than by the German; and perhaps they had more in common in their method of interpreting the Scriptures. It required another year to make the differences that were from the first potential show themselves clearly in thought and action.

In the meantime, Hübmaier was to learn that the path of the reformer is by no means strewn with roses. His visit to Zürich had attracted the attention of the Austrian authorities, and his conduct after his return was closely scrutinised. Moreover, though he carried the people of Waldshut with him in his reforms, and to the last had their complete confidence and warm affection, he was not without opposition from the clergy. He would have easily surmounted this difficulty, however, had there been no interference from without. Interference there was, beginning early, increasing in vehemence, and at length bringing disaster upon him and his work.

Not long after his return from Zürich commissioners from Prince Ferdinand came to Waldshut, and summoned the mayor and council of the town to a meeting. Three charges were presented against them: (i) The city was disobedient to the Imperial and episcopal commands, in that they tolerated a Doctor who preached things opposed to the Emperor and bishop. This Doctor the Emperor would no longer suffer to remain in Waldshut. (2) The Doctor preached the gospel to his believers according to his own notions, and gave great scandal to the people and neighbourhood. (3) At the debate in Zürich, he gave himself out as a representative of the four cities and the Black Forest, a thing most distasteful to Emperor and princes, and injurious to the cities and Black Forest. Especially he had called himself "of Waldshut," which he had no right to do.

The mayor and council replied in substance: All the Imperial and episcopal mandates had been duly published; they were not aware that Hübmaier preached anything contrary to them—that was only a groundless report of his enemies. That he misinterpreted the gospel they did not know; they knew his intention to be to preach nothing but the unadulterated gospel. That he had preached this and nothing else, the dean and all the clergy of Waldshut would testify. That he had represented himself as a delegate of the four cities at Zürich there was no proof; they believed he had not done it, since he had conducted himself always so truly and honourably at Waldshut that they could believe no such thing of him. They added that it would be hard on Hübmaier to send him to Constance to the bishop. It would be better, they suggested, for the commissioners to hear the Doctor, then they could give a veracious report of all these things.

The commissioners were surprised and enraged at this firm answer. They replied that they had no authority to make such an inquiry, and demanded anew the immediate expulsion of the offending Doctor. To this the authorities would not consent, and with warnings of what might happen for such contumacy the commissioners went to make report to their master. From that time Ferdinand was the implacable enemy of Hübmaier, and sought his life; he was also determined to reduce Waldshut to obedience. Whatever the preacher said or did was made the subject of accusation by his enemies, of whom he had some in the town and many outside of it, both to the prince and to the bishop. It must be admitted that these accusations were not wholly malicious; Hübmaier was openly attempting
Waldshut, showing Old Tower and Hübmaier's church



to subvert the Catholic doctrines and practice,[2] and it is no wonder if those who still believed in the Catholic doctrine and practice should look upon his course with grief and even determine to stop him if they could.

There was an apparent respite from these troubles offered him by a new invitation from his old flock at Regensburg to visit them again. To their letter he returned the following response:

"I am quite conscious that I should have put myself again at the disposal of your wisdom, yet for my own safety it cannot be exactly on the Sunday after Easter [the time they had specified]. In the meantime so great plague and pursuit has befallen those who preach the divine, true and pure word, that I have not dared to venture. Further, I hear with great sadness how in your city of Regensburg more men preach vanity than the pure word of God. That makes my heart ache; for what does not flow forth from the living word is dead before God. Therefore says Christ, Search the Scriptures. He does not say, Follow the old customs — though I did nothing else when I was the first time with you. However, I did it ignorantly. Like others, I was blinded and possessed by the doctrine of men. Therefore I openly confess before God and all men, that I then became a Doctor and preached some years among you and elsewhere, and yet had not known the way unto eternal life. Within two years has Christ for the first time come into my heart to thrive. I have never dared to preach him so boldly as now, by the grace of God. I lament before God that I so long lay ill of this sickness. I pray him truly for pardon; I did this unwittingly, wherefore I write this. I wonder if your preachers now will say, I am now of another disposition than formerly, that I confess and condemn all doctrine and preaching, such as were mine among you and elsewhere, that is not grounded in the divine word. And if they cast at you the holy councils, believe it not; men will deceive you, as they have taunted us a year and a day, by promising to hold a council, but it does not appear. They know well that a single woman—such as the pious Christian woman, Argula von Stauff[3]—knows more of the divine word than such red-capped ones will ever see and lay hold of. Yield yourselves to God, trust him, build on his word, and he will not forsake you. Whether he gives a short life or a long, you will have eternal life yonder. And should men call you heretics, be joyful, for your reward will be great in heaven. The sophist-heads at once called us heretics, but since they make us heretics in their writings, they let the stone lie there. Fools along with us it appears are Nürnberg, Nördling, Augsburg, Ulm, Reutling, Konstanz, St. Gall, Appenzell, Zürich, Schaffhausen, Basel, Strassburg, Worms, Speier, Maintz, and almost the whole of the land of Saxony."[4]

For what reason Hübmaier declined the invitation from Regensburg we can only conjecture. He probably was unwilling to leave the work at Waldshut in this crisis, and if he sought merely his own personal safety and comfort, there is nothing to show that he would have been more secure in preaching evangelical doctrine at Regensburg than at Waldshut. The former motive seems, from all the evidence we have, to have been controlling. The people of his town, the flock for whom he had come to have a strong affection, were loyal to him under circumstances of great trial; it was not for him to desert them.

The effort to dislodge him from the city increased in strength and persistence. On April 13th the Austrian Government addressed a letter to the council of Waldshut, in which it was said: "It is understood that your Doctor and preacher in all his sermons holds forth the Lutheran doctrines, praises and defends them, buys Lutheran books and tracts, and brings them home among his people. Hence we would advise, with all earnestness, that within a month's time you expel the said Doctor and preacher from the city, and choose in his place another suitable and pious preacher, who does not hold Luther's condemned doctrines."[5] Not content with using the secular power against him, the enemies of Hübmaier also invoked the authority of his ecclesiastical superiors. He was accused to the Bishop of Constance, who had jurisdiction over the city of Waldshut, and this prelate wrote letters of remonstrance to the town authorities, rebuking them for tolerating the preaching of a Lutheran heretic, instead of hearing only one who would preach the "holy gospel." These having no effect, he summoned the offending preacher to Constance. This summons Hübmaier refused to obey, saying, as it is reported, "It was none of his duty to appear before that hypocrite.

As time passed, however, not only was there no relenting in the attitude of his opponents, but the pressure on Waldshut to abandon him to his fate became increasingly great, and it was at length evident that if the town persisted in upholding him the Austrian Government would resort to force to maintain its authority. As the one contention of that Government up to this time had been that the city should dismiss their heretical preacher, Hübmaier was brought to face the question whether he should not sacrifice himself for the sake of giving peace to the city. His townspeople would defend him to the last extremity, that was evident; but ought he to bring the horrors of war against Waldshut, when his withdrawal would remove the cause of controversy with Austria? We cannot wonder that he decided that it would be best for him to leave the city, at least for a time, and he evidently won the consent of his more influential friends to this course. On the 1st of September, 1524,[6] he left the town, three armed knights escorting him to the frontier, where some knights from Schaffhausen met him and conducted him to their city. These precautions not only indicate that the withdrawal was carefully planned, but that his friends considered Hübmaier to be in serious danger of capture en route.

If he thought to secure his own safety by thus retreating to Schaffhausen, he was still ignorant of the intensity of Austria's hatred. His choice of Schaffhausen as a refuge was plainly enough dictated by the fact that he had been domiciled there before, and had friends in the city. He probably counted on them to ensure him protection, and not without reason. For though the Austrian Government pursued him even here, and made repeated and almost threatening demands for his surrender, the council of Schaffhausen firmly refused to give him up. While the matter was still pending, Hübmaier addressed three letters to the council, in which he besought them to permit him to abide peaceably in their town. In the third and most elaborate of these letters, after setting forth at length reasons why his petition should be heard, he goes on:

"Why have I made so long a preface? Because I am called a disturber of the people, a stirrer-up of strife, a Lutheran, a heretic, and so forth, and the pious, honourable city of Waldshut because of my teaching is slandered high and low, which truly pains my heart. No
View of Schaffhausen


one could ever be more ready and willing than I am to give all men an account of my doctrine, as I have preached it these two years past. If I have taught only truth, why abuse me? If error, any man may set me in the right way with the spiritual word. As man I may very well err, but will be no heretic. I am conscious that in the whole two years past I have not preached a single letter that is not grounded in God's word. I herewith further pledge myself, where the necessity of this my defence presses me, here at Schaffhausen, I will before the court give and receive justice. Only one should not offer violence, either to me or to the pious city of Waldshut. Moreover, I beg you to permit neither me nor other Christian teachers to be urged and compelled, but hear me in the face of my opponents, who accuse me so shamefully. But should this prayer of mine find no hearing, which once I would not have expected of Turks, and I should be tortured by prison, rack, sword, fire, or water, or God otherwise withdraw from me his grace, so that I speak otherwise than now, then do I herewith protest and testify that I will suffer and die as a Christian."[7]

The plea found favour with the council, which returned but one answer to the numerous demands made for the surrender of this now notorious heretic. Nevertheless, it was a position of much uncertainty regarding the future in which Hübmaier found himself. Schaffhausen's attitude in this matter, though doubtless approved in secret by Zürich and Basel, and possibly one or two other cantons, aroused much indignation among the majority of the Swiss cantons, which were still Roman Catholic. It was an open question whether Schaffhausen would not be compelled to yield in the end, however unwillingly. In the meantime, Hübmaier could not be in the least in doubt as to his fate should the council finally decide to surrender him to his foes. It was while in this condition of peril and doubt that he composed one of his most characteristic tracts, "Concerning Heretics and Those who Burn Them." It is the earliest plea that has come down to us for complete toleration; and for this reason, as well as for its biographical value, it is herewith given in full:

"1. Heretics are those who wickedly oppose the Holy Scriptures, the first of whom was the devil, when he said to Eve, 'Ye shall not surely die' (Gen. iii., 4), together with his followers. 2. Those also are heretics who cast a veil over the Scriptures and interpret them otherwise than the Holy Spirit demands; as those who everywhere proclaim a concubine as a benefice, pasturing and ruling the church at Rome, and compelling us to believe this talk. 3. Those who are such one should overcome with holy knowledge, not angrily but softly, although the Holy Scriptures contain wrath. 4. But this wrath of the Scriptures is truly a spiritual fire and zeal of love, not burning without the word of God. 5. If they will not be taught by strong proofs or evangelic reasons, then let them be, and leave them to rage and be mad (Tit. iii., 2, 3), that those who are filthy may become more filthy still (Rev. xxii., 11). 6. The law that condemns heretics to the fire builds up both Zion in blood and Jerusalem in wickedness. 7. Therefore will they be taken away in sighs, for the judgments of God (whose right it is to judge) either convert or harden them, that the blind lead the blind and both the seduced and the seducer go from bad to worse. 8. This is the will of Christ who said, 'Let both grow together till the harvest, lest while ye gather up the tares ye root up also the wheat with them' (Matt. xiii., 29). 'For there must be also heresies among you, that they that are approved may be made manifest among you' (1 Cor. xi., 19). 9. Though they indeed experience this, yet they are not put away until Christ shall say to the reapers, 'Gather first the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them' (Matt, xiii., 30). 10. This word does not teach us idleness but a strife; for we should unceasingly contend, not with men but with their godless doctrine. 11. The unwatchful bishops are the cause of the heresies. 'When men slept, the enemy came' (Matt. xiii., 25). 12. Again, 'Blessed is the man who is a watcher at the door of the bridegroom's chamber' (Prov. viii.),[8] and neither sleeps nor 'sits in the seat of the scornful' (Ps. i., 1). 13. Hence it follows that the inquisitors are the greatest heretics of all, since, against the doctrine and example of Christ, they condemn heretics to fire, and before the time of harvest root up the wheat with the tares. 14. For Christ did not come to butcher, destroy and burn, but that those that live might live more abundantly (John x., 10). 15. We should pray and hope for repentance, as long as man lives in this misery. 16. A Turk or a heretic is not convinced by our act, either with the sword or with fire, but only with patience and prayer; and so we should await with patience the judgment of God. 17. If we do otherwise, God will treat our sword as stubble, and burning fire as mockery (Job. xli.). 18. So unholy and far off from evangelical doctrine is the whole order of preaching friars (of which variegated birds our Antony is one), that hitherto out of them alone the inquisitors have come. 19. If these only knew of what spirit they ought to be, they would not so shamelessly pervert God's word, nor so often cry, 'To the fire, to the fire!' (Luke ix., 54-56). 20. It is no excuse (as they chatter) that they give over the wicked to the secular power, for he who thus gives over sins more deeply (John xix., 11). 21. For each Christian has a sword against the wicked, which is the word of God (Eph. vi., 17), but not a sword against the malignant. 22. The secular power rightly and properly puts to death the criminals who injure the bodies of the defenceless (Rom. xiii., 3, 4). But he who is God's cannot injure any one, unless he first deserts the gospel. 23. Christ has shown us this clearly, saying, 'Fear not them that kill the body' (Matt. x., 28). 24. The [secular] power judges criminals, but not the godless who cannot injure either body or soul, but rather are a benefit; therefore God can in wisdom draw good from evil. 25. Faith which flows from the gospel fountain, lives only in contests, and the rougher they become, so much the greater becomes faith. 26. That every one has not been taught the gospel truth, is due to the bishops no less than to the common people—these that they have not cared for a better shepherd, the former that they have not performed their office properly. 27. If the blind lead the blind, according to the just judgment of God, they both fall together into the ditch (Matt. xv., 14). 28. Hence to burn heretics is in appearance to profess Christ (Tit. i., 10, 11), but in reality to deny him, and to be more monstrous than Jehoiakim, the king of Judah (Jer. xxxvi., 23). 29. If it is blasphemy to destroy a heretic, how much more is it to burn to ashes a faithful herald of the word of God, unconvicted, not arraigned by the truth. 30. The greatest deception of the people is a zeal for God that is unscripturally expended, the salvation of the soul, honour of the church, love of truth, good intention, use or custom, episcopal decrees, and the teaching of the reason that come by the natural light. For they are deadly arrows where they are not led and directed by the Scriptures. 31. We should not presume, led away by the deception of our own purpose, to do better or more securely than God has spoken by his own mouth. 32. Those who rely on their good intention and think to do better, are like Uzziah and Peter. The latter was called Satan by Christ (Matt. xvi., 23), but the former came to a wretched end (1 Chron, xiii., 10). 33. Elnathan, Delaiah and Gemariah acted wisely in withstanding Jehoiakim, the king of Judah, when he cast the book of Jehovah into the fire (Jer., xxxvi., 25). 34. But in that, after one book was burnt, Baruch by the express direction of Jeremiah, wrote another much better (Jer. xxxvi., 27-32), we see the just punishment of God on the unrighteous burning. For so it shall be that on those who fear the frost, a cold snow falls (Job. vi., 16?). 35. But we do not hold that it was unchristian to burn their numerous books of incantations, as the fact in the Acts of the Apostles shows (Acts xix., 19). It is a small thing to burn innocent paper, but to point out an error and to disprove it by Scripture, that is art. 36. Now it is clear to every one, even the blind, that a law to burn heretics is an invention of the devil. 'Truth is immortal.'"

The world was not ready for this doctrine in the year of our Lord 1524; indeed, now that a large part of the world has come to profess this same faith, those who really believe it are a lamentably small remnant. The old zeal for persecuting still survives, and often breaks out in utterly unconscious manifestations in the midst of every religious body. We do not really believe that the ark of God is safe unless our hand occasionally steadies it. We have no real confidence at bottom in the ability of the truth to conquer error in a fair field, and are impelled from time to time to lend our invaluable aid—always, of course, on the side of right and truth and justice.

Another fruit of the stay at Schaffhausen was due to a controversy that had broken out between his old teacher and friend, John Eck, and his new friends, the Swiss reformers, especially Zwingli. Thirsting for the fray, Hübmaier prepared a series of theses which were printed in Zürich the following November, in both German and Latin, the latter edition having the title: "Fundamental articles, which Baldazar, the fly of Fridberg, brother in Christ of Huldrych Zwingli, has proposed to John Eck, the elephant of Ingolstadt, for masterly examination." These articles are of special interest, as showing the relations that obtained at this time between the author and the Zürich leader:

"1. Every Christian must give to him who demands it an account of his hope and also of his faith.

"2. For only him who fearlessly confesses Christ before men will he also confess before his Father.

"3. With the heart one believes unto righteousness, but with the mouth he makes confession unto salvation.

"4. When you have not faith, how can you understand this: 'I have believed, therefore have I spoken'? How will you believe him whom you have not heard?

"5. The decision, which of two holds the right opinion, belongs to the church, which is conceived in the word of God and born in faith.

"6. For the sake of order and to avert strife, three or four men may be chosen by the church, as once Peter and Paul, Barnabas and James.

"7. The apostles of Christ held councils, not to settle the doctrine of faith, but to maintain unity among the brethren.

"8. Their decision appears according to the 'level' of the Scripture.

"9. It searches, therefore, the divine Scripture, not papal dogmas nor councils, nor Fathers, nor schools, for the word of Christ will judge all things.

"10. Those only should be judges who are taught and inspired by God.

"11. They are such when they put away worldly passion and search the Bible.

"12. That is, they are not to contend with unspiritual verbosity, even to hoarseness, but to explain the dark places of the Scripture by the clear.

"13. Those who do that are blessed.

"14. And to them one should hearken.

"15. Their judgment will be sanctioned by the silence of the multitude.

"16. The church should be heard in things relating to strife and brotherly love; but in disagreement regarding the faith the Scripture is the only standard.

"17. It may well be that all men should especially teach, so that every one may learn and all receive comfort.

"18. Therefore has God given to the prophet the spirit of truth-speaking, and he is a teacher not of strife but of peace.

"19. He guards them also against false prophets; they mislead with flattering words the hearts of the innocent, after they receive from the Pope twelve times a hundred ducats.

"20. Beware of them, they are sons of hell.

"21. In this conflict, every one must teach equipped with the armour of the Holy Spirit.

"22. And the women must be silent and learn at home of their husbands.

"23. But if the men through fear have turned to women, then must these do men's deeds, like Deborah, and Argula of our own time.

"24. The judges should therefore be true theologians, not 'invested and provided with cowls,' but such as wear, according to the divine injunction, the 'breast-plate' of Aaron.

"25. The learned therefore are to hear; the learned are they who daily read the book of the law, and have Moses and the prophets.

"26. They who do not read this book ought not to be judges.

"Where now is this wise man, this Biblical scholar? Where is the disputer of this world? Is it Eck? Let him come to us, that renowned Hercules, from Ingolstadt. If I do not deceive myself, he will be taken with a 'herculean' sickness, he will suffer danger in the 'fray of the faith.' If he comes, we will praise him."

To this challenge, of course, Eck paid not the slightest attention—indeed, there is nothing to show that he ever saw it. The value of the document consists solely in the light that it throws on Hübmaier's opinions and connections. It has not always been correctly interpreted; it is reading the author's subsequent history into the articles to see in them doctrine "entirely in the direction of the Anabaptists."[9] The principle that the Scripture is to be the arbiter of all questions, the sole rule of faith and practice, did, indeed, become later the fundamental contention of the Anabaptist party; but it was at this time also the fundamental avowal of the Swiss reformers, and had been such from the first. It was upon this basis that the first Zürich disputation was conducted, and in all their writings Zwingli and Œcolampadius had been setting it forth as the corner-stone of their reformation. Luther, too, up to this time had been advocating the same principle with all the vigour of his voice and pen. It had not yet been shown that the reformers would be unwilling to follow this principle to all lengths. It was their ultimate refusal to do this, their partial surrender again to the tradition they had so vigorously repudiated, that led to the division of the reforming party and developed the minority radical group, to whom the name "Anabaptist" was
The Munster, or chief church of Schaffhausen


generally given. There is nothing in the above theses, fairly interpreted in the light of contemporary events, that foreshadows any serious difference of opinion between Hübmaier and Zwingli.

The next that we learn of Hübmaier is his sudden return to Waldshut on the 29th of October.[10] He had probably become more than ever doubtful of his continuance in safety at Schaffhausen, but it had also become perfectly evident that his leaving Waldshut had accomplished nothing. So far from bringing peace to the city, his going away had apparently increased its trouble with the Austrian Government. At first the demand had been only that the heretic preacher should be expelled, but, after he had voluntarily withdrawn, other concessions were demanded. The negotiations were long and tiresome, and it would be profitless for our purposes to go into their details. It is enough to say that the people of Waldshut speedily learned from Austria that before they would be left in peace they must return fully to the Catholic religion and submit to whatever other exactions that Government chose to impose. The truth is, that the city was in a condition of political as well as religious unrest and revolt; of this Austria was fully conscious, and was determined to reduce the town to submission. On the other hand, the citizens desired such liberties and immunities as the neighbouring Swiss towns possessed, such as were enjoyed by the free cities of the Empire, and they would be satisfied with nothing less. But as Austria was determined to grant nothing of the kind, it is evident that here were all the conditions of an irrepressible conflict, the issue of which could only be decided finally by the sword.

The strife seemed an unequal one—on the one side all the power of Austria, on the other, this small town. But Waldshut knew that she did not stand alone. The fact that she had entered on a reformation similar in spirit and method to that of Zürich gained for her the warm sympathy of that town, as well as of several other Swiss cities. For prudential reasons, this sympathy might not take the form of openly aiding a rebellion against Austria, but secret aid was doubtless promised and was certainly given. On several occasions when Austria menaced Waldshut with an armed force, men from Zürich came to her aid and caused the invaders to retire.

But there was a special reason just now for Austrian forbearance towards Waldshut, and for the triumphant return of the favourite preacher thither. Hans Muller and his band of insurgent peasants were in the immediate vicinity of the town, and had more or less fraternised with the citizens, and the Austrian Government was trembling at the possible consequence of this uprising. Archduke Ferdinand, with his usual treachery, was instructing his officers and governors to temporise with the peasants until he could collect a sufficient military force to crush them; in the meantime, it was evident that he could do nothing against Waldshut.

It is not easy to determine exactly what were the relations between Hübmaier and this movement. His enemies busied themselves afterwards in making all sorts of charges against him, some of which are contrary to documentary evidence and others absurd in themselves. He confessed under torture at Vienna in 1528 that he had revised and commented on the peasants' articles, which were sent him from the camp for the purpose. The statement would imply a certain amount of sympathy with the general purposes of the uprising, and would at the same time restrict his actual connection with it to very narrow limits. It is now tolerably certain that those who credited him with the original composition of the articles were astray.[11] All that we know of Hübmaier's life, and the general tenor of his writings, alike point to the conclusion that he was, first of all, a preacher of the gospel, and that his interest in political and social reforms was slight in comparison with his zeal to teach men the true religion of Christ, as he understood it. To him the gospel was the one remedy for all the ills of man. It would not only save men from God's wrath and condemnation, but save them from sin. It would not merely fit men for heaven, but for their life upon earth. Consequently, while he no doubt believed the cause of the peasants to be just, and wished them well, and even gave them his more or less open approval, he was not the man to become their leader, like Münzer, to whom the gospel came to mean social reform far more than individual regeneration.

How does this attitude of Waldshut and of Hübmaier agree with his later assertions that the only grievance of Austria against the town and him was on account of the gospel?

"With us neither tax nor tithes has ever been spoken against with the least word, but it has been sought to force us from the word of God by violence and against all right. That has been our only complaint. Here I defy all men on earth and all devils in hell, that there was no other occasion against Waldshut but alone, alone, alone the word of God. God grant that they may acknowledge it, and illumine those who denied us before the prince [Ferdinand]. As I now speak I could prove to the prince when he was at Breisach in Breisgau. Those in Waldshut proffered this orally and in writing to the prince. Also to other princes and lords who were there personally, and especially to the Christian town of Constance, in which the last diet was held, those from Waldshut publicly promised that they would to the prince and all others do all things as they were done before, as their forefathers have done; and much more, they offered to pour out their body, life, honour, goods, and blood for the sake of the honourable house of Austria; and if there were a stone at Waldshut ten fathoms deep under the earth which was not good Austrian, they would scratch it out with their nails and cast it into the Rhine. They have always been the first to pay to the prince their obedience and tribute, but have ever asked with weeping eyes for God's sake that they be allowed the simple, pure, clean word of God.

"The councillors of the prince gave this answer at Constance: 'It shall not be done at all. If that were allowed them, it would be the same as if one fire were put out and others lighted. Other cities afterwards would desire the same.' I know all those who gave this answer, but I will not now indicate them. The messengers of the cities of Zürich, Basel, and Schaffhausen were present at this answer."[12]

This was, no doubt, the manner in which the question always presented itself to the mind of Hübmaier; to him the great question, the sole question, was the preaching of a pure gospel. But there is considerable evidence at hand, which need not be given here in detail, to show that this was not the matter uppermost in the minds of Waldshut citizens generally, nor does this statement of the matter agree with the idea that the Austrian
Portrait of Oecolampadius



Government had of the things at issue. Religious reform was, indeed, one thing that Austria understood to be demanded by Waldshut, and which she was resolute in refusing to concede; but she had other grievances against the city, that might be summed up in the one word, "contumacy."

Thus affairs remained for months with little change: Austria threatening and occasionally making demonstrations of attack; Waldshut stubbornly resisting, and relying not in vain on her secret allies for continuous moral support and occasional active though unofficial assistance. The relations between Hübmaier and the Swiss reformers during this period were close and warm. He was known not to believe in the Scripturalness of infant baptism, but the reformers themselves were at this time by no means strenuous in maintaining this point, and such difference of opinion as there might have been did not interrupt their friendly intercourse. In one of his pamphlets, as we have seen, Hübmaier describes himself as "brother of Huldrych Zwingli," and Zwingli, Œcolampadius and the other Swiss leaders had only words of sympathy and praise for him. But all this was speedily to change.

  1. That Hübmaier was no fanatical iconoclast we know from Faber, who informs us that after the catastrophe at Waldshut there were found a costly and beautiful Joachim, besides a vesper picture and a Sebastian. Quoted by Loserth, p. 44.
  2. For example, his sermon on April l0th, in which he said, on the text "I am the good shepherd": "Those who do not enter in by the door and are thieves and robbers are those pastors who preach the legends, untruths, and dreams of the monks, [and] withhold the gospel from the people, which is the true soul-murder."
  3. Of Argula von Grumbach, born Freiin (baroness) von Stauff, little is known save what may be gathered from several references to her in Hübmaier's writings, and a single entry in the Chronicles of Regensburg. She was evidently a pious woman of high rank, well read in the Scriptures, and an ardent promoter of the new evangelical doctrine. She rebuked the Regensburg council for their lukewarmness in the work of reformation, though Cardinal Campeggio praised them highly for their course.
  4. Written April 4th. Quoted by Loserth, p. 41.
  5. Loserth, p. 42.
  6. Hoschek says August 16th, but this is an error of computation, as Loserth shows, p. 48.
  7. Dated September 9th. and quoted by Loserth, p. 51.
  8. Hübmaier's quotations of Scripture are usually very accurate, and his references can almost always be easily identified, though, as the verse divisions had not then been made, he refers only to chapters. But there is nothing in Prov. viii. in the least corresponding to the above words. Had they not been given as a verbatim quotation, they might have been received as an allusion to some text like Matt. ix., 15, or John iii., 29. As it is, they are an insoluble puzzle. The reference to Job, under Article 34, is also puzzling.
  9. Hoschek, i., 146.
  10. A contemporary chronicle quoted by Loserth (p. 70) says that he was received with extravagant manifestations of joy, being greeted with drums, pipes, and horns, "just as if he were an Emperor," The council, according to Faber, looked with little sympathy on this demonstration, but the people welcomed him. The reception ended with a feast in the market-house, in which the Swiss contingent participated. Further alterations in public worship were now made. Hübmaier himself reassumed his office of chief pastor and preacher, and his salary was fixed at two hundred gulden (Egli, Actensammlung, No. 911). He did not hesitate, also, to take his part, like any other citizen, in the defence of the town, and bespoke armour, an arquebus, and a broadsword, that he might keep his watch at the gate.
  11. See Bax, The Peasants' War in Germany, p. 75 sq., London, 1889. For the opposite view, Stern, Ueber die zwölf Artikel der Bauern, esp. p. 89 sq.
  12. A Short Apology of Dr. Balthasar Huebmor of Fridberg, Op. 13.