HÜBMAIER BECOMES AN ANABAPTIST
THE closing weeks of 1524 saw Zwingli in great perplexity, and the people of Zürich divided in sentiment. The reformation in that city was begun by the systematic exposition of the Scriptures, and from the first the principle was avowed that nothing was to be preached or practised which was not clearly taught in the word of God. It was inevitable that differences of judgment should arise over the practical application of this principle to the work of actual reform; and even when there was virtual agreement as to what should be done, there would still be room for disagreement as to the time and method of doing it. Every man is by temperament and training a radical or a conservative, and a party on the whole agreed in policy has always its Left and its Right wing. Zwingli had the experience common to all leaders: whatever he did or left undone, some were certain to accuse him of going too fast, while others would assert that he was going far too slow; to one he would seem to be destroying the very foundations of the faith, while another would complain of him as only a half-hearted reformer after all.
A radical wing or group gradually developed in the party of reform, and by the beginning of the year 1525 they were demanding with much insistence that Zwingli should adhere with more consistency to his avowed principle of conformity to the Scriptures, and should move more quickly in the direction of a complete reform of the Church. They demanded that he should "separate himself from the godless, and gather a pure church, a congregation of the church of God." The only church of which they could find mention in the New Testament was a congregation of true believers in Christ, and it seemed plain to them that conformity to the Scriptures required that the church of Zürich should be reorganised on that basis. They had also discovered not only that the baptism of infants is nowhere commanded in the New Testament, but that there is no clear case recorded there of the baptism of any but a believer on his personal profession of faith. The intimate connection of these things, and the bearings of them on their own conduct had not yet been apprehended by this radical group, but they were already quite clear as to what the Scriptures did and did not teach.
There was thus raised the weightiest question that arose for solution during the entire Reformation period—a question that goes deeper than any other, and has more momentous consequences than any other, according as one answer or the contrary is given. It was this question that became fundamental with this party, and held that position throughout the history of the Anabaptists. Anabaptism was but a necessary corollary from the answer given to the question, What, according to the Scriptures, is a church of Christ, and of whom should it be composed? The radicals could find but one answer: A church of Christ is a congregation of true believers, giving token that they have been born again of the Spirit of God by living in accordance with the precepts of their Lord. A church composed of the regenerate only was the ideal of this party, and they pressed upon Zwingli the adoption of this as his programme.
To Zwingli this seemed an impracticable ideal. His was an eminently practical mind, and he saw clearly what was likely to be successful and what would almost certainly fail. He had begun his work with the approval and support of the town council of Zurich; he reckoned the continuance of support by the council to be an absolute necessity to him, if he was to succeed; and he was certain that he could not carry the council with him in any such programme as that urged by the radicals. It is not necessary for any who, on the whole, agree with the radicals that to be right is even more important than to succeed, to question the sincerity of Zwingli in the course that he took. Though a zealous reformer and an ardent patriot,—or perhaps one should rather say, because he was both these,—he was not a radical; no policy of "Thorough" could under any circumstances have had his entire approval. And he was able to argue from the Scriptures against the radical position with an exegesis that was ingenious if not correct. He insisted that the tares should be allowed to grow together with the wheat, that the strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and the like.
The question of infant baptism seemed to Zwingli at first open to doubt. He avows that for a time his mind was not at rest on this question, and the like was true of his friend Œcolampadius. But when they saw later the practical bearings of the question, they convinced themselves without much trouble of the Scripturalness of the practice, and thereafter remained its firm advocates. This accounts for their friendly attitude towards Hübmaier and others when this question first began to be disputed, and it also accounts for other things to be related soon. It is absurd to attribute the rise of this question in Zürich to the agency of Thomas Münzer. Those who have conjectured, on the weak authority of Bullinger, that he instructed Grebel and others in this matter, would hardly be prepared to admit that Münzer inspired the doubts which at the same time disturbed Zwingli and Œcolampadius. It is not necessary to have recourse to any outside agency to explain this very simple matter. The Zürich people were studying the Scriptures attentively to learn what they taught, and no long study is needed to disclose the fact that infant baptism certainly does not lie on the surface of the New Testament writings.
Those who hold that the Swiss Anabaptists had derived their views from Münzer cannot have read attentively the letter written by Grebel, Mantz, and others, September 5, 1524, in which they request from him a statement of his ideas regarding baptism; and, after expounding their own doctrine at some length, go on to say:
"We believe ... that all children, who have not yet come to know the difference between good and evil ... are saved by the sufferings of Christ, the new Adam.... Also that infant baptism is a silly, blasphemous outrage, contrary to all Scripture. Since ... you have published your protestations against infant baptism, we hope you do not act against the eternal word, wisdom, and command of God, according to which only believers should be baptised, and that you baptise no children."
This is hardly the language of disciples to a master, and the whole letter is similar in tone. In a word, the writers roundly rebuke Münzer for his errors, especially singling out his teaching about the sword for reprobation. Grebel and the others had evidently learned that the teaching and practice of Münzer did not in all respects agree, and so far from looking up to him as one from whom they had learned something valuable, they take him to task as an erring brother.
This theory would probably never have been broached but for the fact that the name of Thomas Münzer was loaded with obloquy, on account of his doings in Mühlhausen during the rebellion of the peasants, and therefore to establish any sort of connection between him and the Anabaptists is to discredit the latter—which is a thing that many writers, from Bullinger to our own day, have busily attempted to do. It should also be borne in mind that Münzer was not himself an Anabaptist, though often incorrectly called by that name. Though he asserts in one of his tracts that infant baptism cannot be proved from Scripture, he never abandoned the practice, and his teaching on this subject was purely academic, and filled no large place in his horizon.
By this time Hübmaier had become thoroughly convinced, not only that the baptism of infants is contrary to Scripture, but that he ought to combat the practice. This we learn from a letter that he wrote to Œcolampadius, under date of January 16, 1525:
The last sentence seems to imply a purpose of publication, but, so far as is known, it was not fulfilled. On February 2nd, however, he did issue a leaflet entitled The Open Appeal of Balthazar of Friedherg to All Christian Believers, which shows the increasing firmness of his tone regarding the baptism of infants:
"Balthazar of Friedberg pledges himself, on the other hand, to prove that the baptism of infants is a work without any ground in the divine word, and that he will do this in German with plain, clear, simple Scriptures relating to baptism, without any addition.
"Now let a Bible fifty or a hundred years old be opened, as the right, orderly, and truthful judge between these two propositions; let it be read with prayerful, humble spirit, and then this disagreement will be decided according to the word of God, and finally settled. Then shall I be well content, for I shall always give God the glory, and permit his word to be the sole arbiter—to him will I surrender, to him have I devoted myself and my teaching. The truth is immortal."
From this time Hübmaier becomes the champion of the radicals, and it is this championship that brings him into speedy conflict with the Swiss reformers. They could have forgiven him his opinions regarding infant baptism, especially as he did not for a time insist on making his practice perfectly correspond with his theory. What they could not so easily forgive was the aid and comfort that he continually gave to their most troublesome opponents. Zwingli felt that his position was hard enough in Zürich without the interference of such men as the Waldshut preacher to encourage his opponents and make his task still harder. He would have been a remarkable man if he could have retained a friendly feeling for one who was thus giving him a great deal of trouble. Hübmaier did not intervene in person for a time, but through the press he made himself felt continually. Many of the Zürich radicals were men of learning and ability; some of them were possibly the superiors of Hübmaier in scholarship; but he had preeminently the gift of expression. We owe to his writings the better part of our knowledge concerning the teachings and motives of these men who for a few years played so active a part in the Reformation, and then succumbed to the relentless measures of persecution, only to be misunderstood and vilified for generations afterward.
It was through William Röublin, of Wytiken, that Hübmaier's practice was at length brought into harmony with his theory. Driven out of Züurich, Röublin made his way early in April, 1525, to Waldshut, where he was kindly received. He at once proceeded to expound the principles and practice of Anabaptism to Hübmaier, and found in him a ready hearer and a speedy convert. Of the principles the Waldshut pastor was already convinced; the practice seemed to him both logical and Scriptural. Such was his hold upon the people of Waldshut that a large part of them were at once ready to follow him. Röublin baptised Hübmaier and about sixty others, and on Easter day Hübmaier baptised over three hundred men out of a milk-pail filled with water from the well, brought into the church and placed on the font, which soon after was thrown into the Rhine as a papal relic. On Easter Monday the Lord's Supper was celebrated.
The movement towards Anabaptism did not stop with this extraordinary beginning, but went on with little-diminished rapidity. On Monday and Tuesday after Easter Hübmaier baptised from seventy to eighty others, and, on Tuesday, "gave them the bread of heaven and washed their feet." From this and certain other like references in contemporary chronicles, it should seem that the practice of feet-washing in connection with the Supper had been previously introduced at Waldshut, and was still retained. In the attempt to reproduce the exact order of the New Testament churches, there were certain to be some extravagances, resulting from a hasty and unwise literalism.
At about this time Conrad Grebel, one of the chief men of the Anabaptist movement in Switzerland, paid a brief visit to Waldshut, but it does not appear that there was any marked result. The visit is of significance mainly as showing that Hübmaier was now recognised as one of the Anabaptist leaders. Not only did he receive this recognition within the body, but from outside this was henceforth the place of honour or dishonour awarded him. On May 28th appeared Zwingli's tract On Baptism, Anabaptism, and Infant Baptism, and though Hübmaier is not definitely named in it as the adversary against whom it is chiefly aimed, it is plainly his position and his arguments that the Swiss reformer has in mind throughout.
Hübmaier was not the man to let such an opportunity for debate pass unimproved, and he accordingly prepared an answer under the title of The Christian Baptism of Believers, which he seems to have finished July 11th.
In the first chapter he treats of many kinds of baptism, and concludes that Christian baptism, in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is an open confession and testimony of inward faith and obedience, in which a man testifies that he is a sinful man and believes that Christ through his death has removed his sins. The next two chapters discuss the baptism of John, and contend against Zwingli's idea that it is the same as Christian baptism. If this were so, Hübmaier argues, infant baptism would be excluded, for all accounts agree that the order of John was: hearing of the word, repentance or conviction of sin, baptism, works. John baptised only those to whom he had first preached, who had therefore believed, confessed their sins, and promised amendment of life. Those who received the baptism of John were rebaptised by the apostle, and that is the true Anabaptism. Infant baptism, hitherto reckoned the true baptism, is no baptism, and it is a groundless complaint against us that we practice rebaptism. Baptism as practiced by the apostles was the remission of sins. Those who think children should be baptised as future believers make a mock of Christ's command, to teach all peoples and to baptise them then, not before. No one can tell what a child's will may be later; to baptise a child as a future believer is like hanging out a hoop as a sign of future wine. But now, says Hübmaier, they take a fresh hold and call infant baptism "a sign of beginning." Beginning of what? Of faith? that cannot be, for they have not heard the word, from which alone faith comes. Of a new life? That cannot well be, for the child knows not right from wrong. Let us say, then, it is a ceremony, as if the child had been received into an order. But as the monk's gown alone does not make the monk, so infant baptism makes nobody a Christian. If they say children are baptised on the faith of their parents or godfathers, no such baptism is found in the Bible. Christ says, he who himself believes and is baptised.
The fifth chapter treats of the baptism of Christ. In his teachings the true order is found to be: the word, hearing, faith, baptism, works. His command is, "Go, teach all peoples, and baptise them, etc." There is only this water-baptism, no other, in the Scripture. Since infants cannot be taught, they should not be baptised. Baptism alone does not wash away sins, but only the answer of a good conscience. In chapter six, the question is raised whether the baptism of infants is forbidden in the Bible. Yes, says Hübmaier, for it is commanded to baptise only believers. If the plea is valid that infant baptism is not forbidden, one might baptise his dog or ass, circumcise girls, bring young children to the Supper, and the like. If you say to baptise an ass is forbidden, because one may baptise only men, then baptise Jews and Turks; or if you say, one may baptise only believers, then why do you baptise children? A second question raised is, whether (as Zwingli had asserted) infants had been baptised ever since the days of the apostles. The first reply is, that even if this were true infant baptism would not be right. But Hübmaier finds evidence in papal documents that a thousand years earlier baptism was administered only twice a year, and then only to such as could repeat the Creed. Popes and councils, he contends, have corrupted the faith and practice of the Church. A third question is also discussed, are unbaptised children damned or saved? To this the reply is given, that God may through his grace save young children, because they do not know good from evil. But the author confesses that he is not ashamed to be ignorant of what God has not revealed.
Chapter seven gives advice as to how a Christian should regulate his life. It is the sum of a Christian life, says the author, that a man should alter and amend his living—hear the command of God, forsake his sins, live according to the rule of Christ, permit the working of God's Spirit in him and be thankful to God for his grace. Christ established a memorial of his death in his last Supper, so that we might not forget him. The bread is nothing else than bread, and the wine is as any other wine; yet is the bread the body of Christ, but only as a symbol, while the wine is the blood of Christ, but only as a memorial. As often as ye eat this bread (mark, he calls it bread, and it is bread), and drink this cup, that is wine (mark, it is wine that we drink), ye show forth the Lord's death till he come.
Though Zwingli was not named in this tractate, yet his teachings were so clearly singled out for criticism and refutation that there was no doubt in his mind, or in that of intelligent readers, as to the aim and purpose of the writing. The clear exposition of Scripture, the moderate tone, the skilful and racy way of putting things, convinced many readers that the teachings thus set forth were Scriptural and true. The best proof of the circulation and effect of the tract is the angry tone that now begins to creep into the private letters of the Swiss reformers when they have occasion to mention Hübmaier, and if a further proof were needed, the tartness of Zwingli's reply furnishes it. His tract was entitled A True, Thorough Reply to Dr. Balthasar's Little Book on Baptism, and the preface is dated November 5th. It contains little that is new, reiterating the arguments of his former treatise, with occasional attempts to meet the objections of his adversary. The tone is one of irritation, and though he writes "dear Balthasar" frequently, there is occasionally a betrayal of the fact that their friendly relations had been much strained. He especially complains that Hübmaier writes against him, without mentioning him by name, and says that this is wicked (böse) he would much rather have an opponent come out boldly and declare himself such. He presses again the objection that the Anabaptists are schismatics, and that their course will result in the division of the Church and the destruction of the standing order.
This was evidently the main reason for the determined opposition that Zwingli offered to the Anabaptists and their teachings. No doubt he was correct; and that such consequences impended was reason enough to his mind why the Anabaptists should be resisted, condemned, and punished. To many of the present day the same logic will be convincing; but there are many now, as there were then a few, who will insist on answering: Granted that you state the danger accurately, the question still remains, Ought not this to be risked? Should we not obey the Scriptures, no matter what the consequences promise to be?
The answer of Hübmaier, which concluded this controversy, though prepared at once, was not printed until the following year. It was entitled A Dialogue between Balthasar Hubmör of Friedberg and Master Ulrich Zwingli, of Zurich, on Infant Baptism. The Dialogue is a controversial device that has been much employed, but, one suspects, to very little purpose. It is a dangerously simple affair; the writer can conduct both sides of the controversy, make the arguments of his imaginary disputant as ridiculous and inconclusive as he pleases, and his own quite overwhelming. But the apparent victory thus gained is the most delusive of all dialectical triumphs, for it is open to his adversary to retort in the same way, and to win victories equally bloodless and equally indecisive. A mere tyro in rhetoric, theology, and all else can easily beat one who is not there to speak for himself. Hübmaier was rather fond of this form of controversial writing, however, which must be admitted to have the merit of interest for the reader, if it is skilfully done; and he had shortly before tried it in a dialogue on the same subject between himself and several adversaries at once, of whom the chief was Œcolampadius. As to literary form, this latter dialogue is the best of his work, and an extract will give a better impression regarding it than pages of description:
PORTRAIT STATUE OF ŒCOLAMPADIUS.
CLOISTER WALL OF THE CATHEDRAL, BASEL.
"Œc. What need is there of division for the sake of the water?
"Bal. It is not for the sake of the water, but for the high command, the baptism of Christ. Water is not baptism, as the making of idols is not mere stone and wood, but idolatry which by that is practised against the earnest command of God. (Ex. xx. , Deut. v. .)
"Wolfgang. Well, in baptism it is not your father's faith that is applied, but that of the Christian assembly.
"Bal. Some of you tell me of the faith of another, of father and mother, some of the faith of godfathers, some of the faith of the Church, and all of this is spoken without foundation in the Scriptures. For if infants are baptised on the faith of their father and mother, why is it forbidden to the father and mother to present their children for baptism? If it is in the faith of godfathers or of the Church, men may be saved by another's faith. All of which is contrary to the Scriptures, for, the just will live by his own faith. (Hab. ii. , Rom. i. .) He who himself believes and is baptised shall be saved, not he for whom one believes. (Mark xvi. .) Philip demanded the chamberlain's own faith. (Acts viii. .) The Christian Church is built on the confession of one's own faith. (Matt. xvi. .)
"Œc. I will show you a place in Tertullian, that baptism is not a bond.
"Bal. You tell me much of Tertullian, Origen, Cyprian, Augustine, councils, histories, and old customs. I am compelled to think you are in want of Scriptures. They will not come out of the quiver. Dear Œcolampadius, put together your Scriptures concerning infant baptism, as I have done with the Scriptures concerning the baptism of believers in my little book on baptism printed at Strassburg, and we will together weigh them and soon we will be at one. Do it. Don't forget it."
The time was approaching when Hübmaier was to experience the results of this breach with the Swiss reformers. The long controversy between Waldshut and the Austrian Government reached its crisis in the late autumn of 1525. The complete defeat of the insurgent peasants, and the settlement of some other internal troubles, left the Government free to turn its sole attention for a time to Waldshut, and it was evident that without external help the city could not stand out. But from the one available source of aid, the Swiss cities, Waldshut had cut itself off by its adherence to its favourite preacher. The only terms of peace offered by the Government of Ferdinand were that the city should return to the old faith, and surrender their pastor and eight of the leading citizens to the tender mercies of Austria. These terms were of course refused, and there was nothing left but an appeal to force. There had all along been a Catholic minority in the town, to whom the reforms introduced had been most obnoxious, and now they were emboldened to declare that they meant to surrender the city to the Austrians. Hübmaier felt that all was lost, and, with some of the more timid or more deeply compromised citizens, fled. The Austrian forces occupied the city December 5th, and on the 17th the Vicar-General of the Bishop of Constance, John Faber, entered the city and celebrated the mass. After an interregnum of two years or more, Waldshut was thus forcibly restored to the Catholic faith, and we hear no more of reformation there.
Hübmaier had been ill during these last trying weeks,—so ill that he described himself as sick unto death (ein todtkranker Mann),—and his departure was made in the utmost haste. As we know from a letter of Zwingli's, his wife accompanied him, and if we may accept another statement from the same source they were not ill provided with money. Why he should have chosen Zürich as a place of refuge it is not easy for us to guess, since in our ignorance of the motives that influenced him it seems now that this was the very last place that he would or should have chosen. Possibly he still relied on his former friendly relations with Zwingli, and did not yet comprehend how complete was the breach between them, nor know how deep was the resentment of the Swiss reformer. He must have known, or at any rate he very soon became aware, that the Zürich council had now adopted very severe measures against all Anabaptists, and especially those foreign to the canton, for every precaution of secrecy was taken by him and his friends.
About the middle of December he reached the city, and was given harbourage (contrary to law) by Henry Aberli, an Anabaptist preacher, and was by him taken to an inn called the Green Shield, kept by a widow named Bluntschli, who with her daughter Regula had been baptised by Aberli a week before. Here Hübmaier had been lodged but three or four days when his presence in the city became known and he was arrested by order of the council, on the ground, as Zwingli puts it, "that he was hatching out some monstrosity"—though of this there was not the slightest proof, then or afterwards.
Some time before this, Hübmaier had rather indiscreetly written letters to the Zürich council, in which he had challenged Zwingli to a debate on the subject of baptism, and declared that he would confute the Zürich preacher out of his own writings. The council now took him at his word and summoned him to meet Zwingli. There were present also a number of the Swiss leaders, including Engelhard, Leo Juda, Sebastian Hofmeister, and Megander. Both Hübmaier and Zwingli have left accounts of this debate and the subsequent proceedings. Not only are these difficult to reconcile, but it is not always easy to reconcile Zwingli with himself, as he has given two versions of the affair, differing in important particulars. In one letter he says: "I met the fellow and rendered him mute as a fish," but in the other he admits that Hübmaier had a good deal to say for himself and that the debate was protracted. Hübmaier, in the Dialogue already referred to, so conducts the debate as to make it appear that he won a triumphant victory—that Zwingli was the one "rendered mute as a fish." It is the old story; has there ever been a religious debate since the world was, in which both sides did not claim the victory?
But in this case we have also a quite impartial testimony from a contemporary chronicle. In the course of the debate Hübmaier attempted to make good his promise of confuting Zwingli out of his own mouth.
This was carrying the war into Africa, surely, and must have been most embarrassing to Zwingli, especially as it was not only true, but could be proved by witnesses as well as by his writings. Nevertheless, then as always, the council gave the victory to Zwingli.
The formal hearing seems to have been held January 13, 1526, when (according to Zwingli) the council took the ground that Hübmaier should either depart from the city or recant his doctrine. The official record represents him as declaring that he accepted the validity of infant baptism and promised thereafter to abstain from rebaptising. In the meantime (January 3rd) messengers had arrived from the Emperor and Ferdinand, demanding that Hübmaier be delivered to them for punishment, but twice the council had refused to grant this request. Zwingli boasts of this as an evidence of extreme liberality, and he is probably entitled to make much of the fact; but possibly it was not an exceptional liberality in this case, so much as the pursuance of the regular policy of the Swiss cantons. It may be conjectured that knowledge of these demands, and fear that he might be surrendered, had much to do with inducing Hübmaier to moderate his statements.
At this time he seems to have been treated with no direct violence, and all the circumstances confirm the statement of Zwingli that he made an offer, of his own will, to recant his former opinions, and did so in his own words, not in any formulæ prescribed by the council. It was arranged that he should publicly read this recantation in the Minster of Our Lady, which was duly accomplished, after which a sermon or address was delivered by Zwingli. Then, to the consternation of all, Hübmaier arose, recanted his recantation, and went on to attack infant baptism, and to defend the baptism of believers only. He was violently interrupted, hurried away, and thrown into prison, where he was treated with great rigour for a month. He complains of this in his Dialogue: "Me, a sick man, just risen from a death-bed, hunted, exiled, and having lost everything I possessed, they required through the executioner to teach another faith." His wife was also cast into prison, without so much as a hearing.
A considerable number of other Anabaptists were also arrested and all were imprisoned together in the Water-tower, where they were ordered by the council to be kept on bread and water until they recanted.
"The imprisoned [says Hübmaier] were told that they would be kept in the prison until their death if they did not recant, so that they would behold neither sun nor moon, and that all together, the living and the dead, should remain in that dark tower until no one remained alive, so that in this way all should die together, perishing and rotting by the stench."
It would be hard to believe that the people of Zürich would have tolerated such inhuman cruelty, or that the council were capable of inflicting it, if official records did not fully confirm these statements.
It was while suffering this confinement, and expecting the worst, that Hübmaier composed his Twelve Articles of Christian Belief, which he printed a year later at Nikolsburg. These articles are set forth in the form of a prayer—possibly a reminiscence of the Confessions of Augustine—and perhaps none of Hübmaier's writings is so characteristic of the spirit of the man. Their comparative brevity makes it possible to quote these articles in full:
"[2.] I believe also in Jesus Christ, thine only begotten Son, our Lord, that he for my sake has expiated before thee for this fall, and made peace between thee and me, a poor sinner, and by his obedience obtained again for me the heirship. Also he has, by his holy word sent, again given me power to become thy child in faith. I hope and trust him wholly that he will not let his saving and comforting name Jesus (for I believe he is Christ, true God and man) be lost on me, a miserable sinner, but that he will redeem me from all my sins.
"[3.] I believe and confess, my Lord Jesus Christ, that thou wast conceived by the Holy Spirit, without any human seed, born from Mary, the pure and ever chaste virgin, that thou mightest bring again to me and all believing men, and mightest obtain from thy Heavenly Father the grace of the Holy Spirit, which was withdrawn from me by reason of my sin. I believe and trust that the Holy Spirit has come in me, and the power of the Most High God has, as with Mary, overshadowed my soul; that I may conceive the new man, and so in thy living, indestructible word and in the Spirit, be born again and see the kingdom of God. For thou, Son of the living God, didst become man, in order that through thee we might become children of God.
"[4.] I believe and confess also that thou didst suffer under Pontius Pilate, wast crucified, dead and buried, and all that because of my sins, in order that thou mightest redeem and ransom me from the eternal cross, pangs, suffering and death, by thy cross, suffering, anguish and need, pangs and bitter death, as well as by the pouring out of thy rose-red blood, in which thy greatest and highest love to us poor men is recognised. For thou hast changed for us thy heavy cross into a light yoke, thy bitter sufferings into imperishable joys, and thy death in the midst of anger into eternal life. Therefore I will praise and thank thee, my gracious Lord Jesus Christ, for ever and ever.
"[5.] I believe also and confess, O Christ, who hast mercy on me, that thou didst in spirit go and preach the gospel to the spirits that were in prison, that is, to the holy patriarchs, and didst proclaim to them the new and joyous tidings, to wit, that thou according to the prophesying of the holy prophets wast become man, sufferedst pangs and death, hadst paid and satisfied for the sins of all men as they for a long time had desired with great earnestness, devotion and fervent zeal, and powerfully leddest them accordingly out of the prison; and on the third day, united together again spirit, soul and body in the grave, and like a strong and powerful conqueror of death, hell and the devil, didst rise again from the dead for our sakes, so that all who believe in thee should not perish but in thee overcome sin, death, hell and devils, and obtain eternal life as thy brother and co-heir.
"[6.] I believe also and confess, my Lord Jesus Christ, that thou after those forty days in which thou didst walk on the earth for a testimony of thy joyous resurrection, didst ascend into heaven and sit down at the right hand of thy Heavenly Father, in the same power, glory and praise with the Father, who hath given to thee all power over all his possessions, in heaven and on earth. There thou sittest, mighty and strong, to help all believers who set their trust, comfort and hope in thee, and cry to thee in all their needs. Thou also callest all those who are heavy laden to come unto thee and thou wilt give them rest. Therefore, O Christ, compassionate to me, there is no need to pray to thee in this place or that, neither in bread nor wine, for thou art found sitting at the right hand of thy Heavenly Father, as the holy Stephen saw thee and prayed to thee. It is also in vain to seek another advocate. Thou art and wilt be the only one. He who believeth otherwise is in error.
"[7.] I believe and confess also that thence thou wilt come to judge the quick and the dead on the day of the last judgment, which will be to all godly men a specially longed-for and joyous day. Then shall we see face to face our God and Saviour, in his great glory and majesty coming in the clouds of heaven. Then will be ended our fleshly, sinful and godless life. Then will each one receive the reward of his work; those who have done good will enter into eternal life, but those who have done evil into eternal fire. O my Lord Jesus Christ, shorten the days and come down to us! Yet give us grace and strength so to direct our lives in the meantime that we may be worthy to hear then with joy thy gracious and sweet voice, when thou wilt say, 'Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and ye gave me food, I was thirsty and ye gave me drink, I was a stranger and ye took me in, I was naked and ye clothed me, I was sick and ye visited me, I was in prison and ye came unto me. Verily I say to you, Whatsoever ye have done to one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done to me.' But the fearful and unbelieving, the excommunicated, unchaste, adulterers, drunkards, blasphemers, proud, envious, avaricious, robbers, bloodthirsty, sorcerers, idolaters, whoremongers, their part will be in the sea that burneth with fire and brimstone. From that deliver us at all times, O gracious and good Lord Jesus Christ.
"[8.] I believe also in the Holy Spirit, who proceedeth from the Father and the Son, and yet with them is the only and true God, who sanctifieth all things, and without him is nothing holy, in whom I set all my trust that he will teach me all truth, increase my faith and kindle the fire of love in my heart by his holy inspiration, and truly kindle it that it may burn in true, unfeigned and Christian love to God and my neighbour. For that I pray thee from the heart, my God, my Lord, my Comforter.
"[9.] I believe also and confess a holy Catholic Christian Church, which is the communion of saints, and a brotherhood of many pious and believing men, who unitedly confess one Lord, one God, one faith and one baptism; assembled, maintained and ruled on earth by the only living and divine word, altogether beautiful and without any spot, unerring, pure, without wrinkle and blameless. I also confess publicly that thou, my Lord Jesus Christ, by thy rose-red blood hast sanctified to thyself the Church, art her head and bridegroom, wilt also be with her to the end of the world. O my God, grant that I and all men believing in Christ may finally be found in this Church; also that we unitedly with her believe, teach and hold all that thou commandest us by thy word, and root out all things opposed that thou hast not planted; that we be not led into error by any views of men, institutions, or doctrine of the old Fathers, Popes, cardinals, universities, or old customs. O my Lord Jesus Christ, establish again the two bands, to wit, water-baptism and the Supper, with which thou hast externally girded and bound thy bride. For unless these two shall be again established and used according to thine institution and order, we have among us neither faith, love, church, oath, brotherly discipline, ban nor exclusion, without which things it will never be well in thy Church.
"[10.] I believe and confess also the remission of sins, so that this Christian Church has received keys, command and power from thee, O Christ, to open the gates of heaven for the sinner as often as he repenteth and is sorry for his sin, and receive him again into the holy assembly of believers in Christ, like the lost son and the repentant Corinthian. But when he, after the threefold brotherly reproof, will not abstain from sin, I firmly believe that this Church also hath power to exclude him and to hold him as a publican and heathen. Here I believe and confess openly, my Lord Jesus Christ, that whomsoever the Christian Church on earth thus looseth, he is certainly loosed and released from his sins in heaven. Again, whomsoever the Church bindeth and casteth out of her assembly on earth, he is bound before God in heaven and excluded from the Catholic Christian Church (out of which is no salvation), since Christ himself while he was yet on earth, hung at her side, gave and ordained for his spouse and beloved bride both keys.
"[11.] I believe also and confess a resurrection of the flesh, yea, even the body with which I am now surrounded, though it may be eaten by worms, drowned, frozen, or burned. Yea, and though my temporal honour, goods, body and life be taken from me, yet will I, at the day of the joyous resurrection of my flesh, first truly receive the true honour which avails before God, goods that pass not away, a body incapable of suffering, made clear and immortal, and eternal life. O my Mediator, Lord Jesus Christ, strengthen and hold me in thy faith!
"[12.] I believe and confess also an eternal life which thou, my Lord and God, wilt give to thy faithful and elect after this suffering life; that thou wilt endow them with sure, clear and joyous beholding of thy divine countenance, and satisfy them in all their desires with eternal rest, eternal peace and eternal salvation, which joy, delight and bliss no man can express or conceive here on earth. For no eye hath seen, no ear hath heard, and never hath entered into man's heart what God hath prepared for those who love him."O holy God, O mighty God, O immortal God, that is my belief, which I confess with heart and mouth and have witnessed before the Church in water-baptism. Faithfully, graciously, keep me in that till my end, I pray thee. And though I be driven from it by human fear and terror, by tyranny, pangs, sword, fire or water, yet hereby I cry to thee, O my merciful Father: Raise me up again by the grace of thy Holy Spirit, and let me not depart in death without this faith. This I pray thee from the bottom of my heart, through Jesus Christ, thy best-beloved Son, our Lord and Saviour. For in thee, O Father, I hope; let me not be put to shame in eternity. Amen."
The affair has been put beyond the possibility of doubt, however, by the publication of a letter previously unknown:
"The next day, [says Zwingli,] he was thrust back into prison and tortured. It is clear the man had become a sport of demons, so he recanted not frankly as he had promised; nay, he said he entertained no other opinions than those taught by me, execrated the error and obstinacy of the Catabaptists, repeated this three times when stretched upon the rack, and bewailed his misery and the wrath of God which in this affair was so unkind."
By these gentle means he was "allured" (the grim pleasantry is Zwingli's) into making a more explicit recantation than before, which is still preserved in the archives of Zürich, and is believed by competent judges to be in his own handwriting. It bears no date, but is believed to belong to about the middle of March, and reads as follows:
"I Balthasar Huobmaier, of Fridberg, confess openly with this my handwriting, that I have not otherwise known or understood all Scriptures, which speak of water-baptism, than that one should first preach, after that believe, and thirdly be baptised, on which I have finally established myself. But now has been made known to me through Master Huldrich Zwingli the covenant of God made with Abraham and his seed, also circumcision as a covenant sign, which I could not disprove. Also it was put before me by others, as Master Leo [Juda], Doctor Bastian [Sebastian Hofmeister] and Miconien [Myconius], how love should be a judge and judger in all writings, which has gone very much to my heart; and also I have thought much of love, and have been finally moved to fall from my purpose, namely, that one should not baptise children, and that in the matter of rebaptism I have erred."2. For the rest, it comes to me that I am under accusation, as if I rejected government and say that a Christian cannot sit in government [or] hold office—in which violence and injustice is done to me. I have always and everywhere said that a Christian may well sit in government, and that the more Christian he is, the
FROM A MEZZOTINT BY R. HOUSTON.
"3. Again I am accused as if I would have made all things common, which yet I have not done, but I have called this a Christian community of goods: that when one have and see his neighbour suffer, he should give him alms, in order that the hungry, thirsty, naked and imprisoned may be helped; and that the more a man practice such works of mercy, the nearer he would be to the spirit of Christianity.
"4. So also to baptism I have added nothing, have not boasted any perception about it, neither have I been the first who suffered himself to be baptised, but many before me, even a quarter of a year. Some likewise suffered themselves to be baptised before me in Waldshut. Likewise also particularly have I baptised no one in the jurisdiction and districts of my Lords, the Zürich Council—which has been given out about me untruthfully.
"5. Again, likewise I have never said that I am without sin, or that I never could sin, but always and everywhere have I confessed that I am a poor sinner, conceived and born in sin, and shall always remain a sinner till death. May God not reckon to me such sin of mine, to eternal condemnation. Therefore, in such things as I am accused of, no one should boast of my name or use me as a cloak."6. Thirdly, since now Augustine and many others after him even in our times have erred in baptism, therefore I beseech your wisdom for God's sake, wherever I have herein embittered or injured anyone, that he may forgive me, as we desire that God should forgive us our sins. May your wisdom also be pleased to remember my great sickness, adversity, banishment and poverty, since I have no coat of my own to put on, thus unclad came I away. Also be pleased to remember the great wrath and fury which my adversaries have embraced against me, and be pleased therefore to look upon me in mercy for God's sake, that as much as lies in your wisdom I may not come or be delivered into the hands of my enemies, especially as I am an infirm man and in this infirm body cannot do without bodily care. So will I pray to God for your wisdom, and will never forget your Christian government my life long. Neither shall any evil be shown by me to your wisdom nor anybody else, either with words or works. This your wisdom may truly trust me."
Except for the first paragraph, this is not a recantation, but an apology. The first paragraph is a guarded admission that he had previously been in error respecting infant baptism and rebaptism—an admission that Hübmaier should never have made, and the making of which must considerably modify the admiration that otherwise may justly be entertained for his character and conduct. It is only just, however, to remind ourselves that fortitude in the endurance of excruciating pain is not the gift of every man. Let him who is quite certain that his own fortitude would not give way under torture, cast the first stone at such men as have yielded their convictions on the rack.
It is certain that Hübmaier himself was deeply repentant in after years for this error. In his Short Apology (Op. 13) he says:
"I may err—I am a man—but a heretic I cannot be, because I ask constantly for instruction in the word of God. But never has any one come to me and pointed out a single word, but one single man and his followers —against his own previous preaching, word and print, whose name I spare for the sake of God's word—who against common justice and appeal in behalf of his own government, the confederacy, and also the Emperor, by capture, imprisonment, sufferings and the hangman, tried to teach me the faith. But faith is a work of God and not of the heretics' tower, in which one sees neither sun nor moon, and lives on nothing but water and bread. But God be praised, who delivered me from this den of lions, where dead and living men lay side by side and perished. O God, pardon me my weakness. It is good for me (as David says) that thou hast humbled me."
Having obtained this recantation, such as it was and by such methods, the council decreed that Hübmaier should depart immediately from the country. It was in fear of such a decision that the closing paragraph of the document was written. Zwingli tells us that he and his friends interceded with the council, that this order should not be executed, since it would put Hübmaier in great peril, both from the other Swiss authorities and from the Emperor. Accordingly, he was suffered to remain for a time, under close surveillance, no doubt, until a favourable opportunity offered for sending him away so quietly that even the citizens of Zürich did not know of his departure. He made his way first to Constance, thence to Augsburg, and then, by what means we do not know, to Nikolsburg, in Moravia, where he seems to have arrived not later than July, 1526. His brief visit by the way at Augsburg is chiefly noteworthy for his meeting there, for the first time, John Denck, whom he is supposed then and there to have won over to Anabaptism.
Excursus on the Act of Baptism among the Anabaptists
The baptism by Hübmaier of three hundred from a milkpail, according to the statement of a contemporary record, naturally suggests an inquiry as to the method of administering baptism practised by the Anabaptists. Affusion was evidently the method on this occasion, and there is no good reason to suppose that Hübmaier ever changed his practice. His clearest reference to the subject is contained in his tract On the Christian Baptism of Believers, in which he says: "To baptise in water is to pour outward water over the confessor of his sins, in accordance with the divine command, and to inscribe him in the number of sinners upon his own confession and acknowledgment." The first baptism among the Swiss Anabaptists was that of George Blaurock by Conrad Grebel, and it is said that Blaurock fell on his knees and Grebel baptised him—evidently an affusion or aspersion. The next recorded baptisms were performed by Blaurock and Mantz, and in each case it is said that it was done from a dipper or basin (Egli, Actensammlung, pp. 282–284). These baptisms all occurred in late January or early February, 1525. But a few weeks later Conrad Grebel, at least, had obtained clearer light upon the subject. A contemporary chronicler : "Wolfgang Uoliman [or Uliman, a native of St. Gall, and afterwards active among the Anabaptists there] met Conrad Grebel on the way to Schaffhausen, and in his company [or, by him, bei ihnen] was so highly instructed in Anabaptism that he would not be simply poured upon with water from a dish but entirely naked was pressed down and covered over in the Rhine." (Kessler, Sabbata, i., 262.) This is not merely a statement that Grebel immersed Uliman, which would be important, but also a testimony that, according to the writer's belief, such immersion was the result of complete instruction in Anabaptism—in other words, that immersion was the usual practice of the well-instructed Anabaptists.
This baptism of Uliman was before March 1, 1525. On Palm Sunday Grebel baptised a large number of people from St. Gall in the Sitter River—the only place near the city well adapted for immersion, and some two miles from the town. It would be silly to maintain that the people walked that distance to be sprinkled. This must be taken, therefore, as confirmation of the view that immersion was fast replacing affusion among the Swiss Anabaptists. The action of the Zürich Council on March 7, 1526, in making drowning the penalty of contumacious persistence in Anabaptism (Egli, Actensammlung, No. 936) shows a grim determination to "make the punishment fit the crime," which would be meaningless if immersion were not a general practice in the sect. That this is a correct interpretation of the decree, the words of Zwingli in his Refutation of the Tricks of the Catabaptists, sufficiently testify: "After that conference (the tenth, with the others, public or private) the most honourable senate [council] decreed that he should be drowned who rebaptised another"—the exact words are, aquis mergere, qui merserit baptismo eum qui prius emerserat. (Zwingli, Op., iii., 364.) That the Swiss Anabaptists began with the practice of affusion, but soon generally adopted immersion, seems therefore to be the most probable conclusion from all the facts accessible.
Elsewhere we find definite proofs of immersion only among the Anabaptists of Augsburg, and in Poland, where the practice was introduced in 1575. It has been conjectured that Swiss Anabaptists fled to Poland and were influential in securing the adoption of immersion there, but documentary proof of this is wholly lacking. A conjecture rather more probable is that the Anabaptists of Poland, having before their eyes the practice of the Greek Church, which has never known any baptism other than immersion, were influenced by this example. The later Anabaptists known as Mennonites seem to have consistently practised affusion from the first—at least there is no case known to the contrary, except the congregation at Rhynsburg, which began to practice immersion in 1620.
- Bullinger, Reformationsgeschichte, i., 224. Cf. Zwingli, Op., II., i., 372; Egli, Wiedertäufer, p. 10 sq.
- The name "Anabaptist" is not applied to the radical party here or elsewhere before they actually adopted the practice of rebaptism. It is believed that considerable confusion is avoided by maintaining carefully this distinction.
- "For the error also misled me for several years, so that I thought it would be much better to baptise children first when they had come to a good age." Vom Touff, vom Widertouff, und vom Kindertouff, Zwingli, Op. II., i., 245. "Although I know, as the Fathers show, that infants have been baptised occasionally from the earliest times, still it was not so universal a custom as it is now, but the common practice was, as soon as they arrived at the age of reason, to form them into classes for instruction in the word of salvation (hence they were called catechumens, i. e., persons under instruction). And after a firm faith had been implanted in their hearts and they had confessed the same with their mouth, then they were baptised. I could wish that this custom of giving instruction were revived to-day, viz., since the children are baptised so young, their religious instruction might begin as soon as they come to sufficient understanding. Otherwise they suffer a great and ruinous disadvantage, if they are not as well religiously instructed after baptism as the children of the ancients were before baptism, as sermons to them still preserved show."--Quoted by Jackson, Huldreich Zwingli, p. 243.
- Weak because of Bullinger's strong prejudice against Anabaptists and his readiness to record anything to their discredit. Reformationsgeschichte, i., 224, 237; followed by Egli, Widerläufer, p. 19; Loserth, Hübmaier, p. 73, and others. On the other hand, the circumstantial narrative of Kessler is quite inconsistent with this theory. Sabbata, i., 265 sq. Hübmaier opposed the baptism of infants as early as May, 1523, and the earliest time that can with probability be assigned for his meeting with Münzer is after September, 1524, as we know from a letter of Münzer's to Œcolampadius.—Siedemann, Thomas Münzer, p. 136 sq.; cf. Jackson, Huldreich Zwingli, p. 243, n.
- On the practice of Münzer regarding the baptism of infants, see his statement to Œcolampadius in Herzog's biography, i., 302. It did not differ much from that of Hübmaier before Roublin's visit and the definite adoption of Anabaptism—a point to which Münzer never came.
- Cornelius, Gesch. des Münsterischen Aufruhrs, ii., 240 sq.
- Zwingli, Op. II., i., 338.
- Loserth, p. 76.
- This we know from Hübmaier himself. Egli, Actensammlung, p. 431.
- Zwingli, Op. II., i., 230-303. No translation of this work into English has yet been published.
- Hoschek is clearly wrong in making June 6th the date of publication for this book, for Hübmaier himself announces its coming appearance in a letter to the Zürich council, dated June 10th, in which he begs that Zwingli will consent to debate the question with him. "If I err," he says, "I will gladly retract. If master Ulrich errs, he should not be ashamed to forsake his error, for the truth will ultimately conquer him."
- Zwingli, Op., II., i., 343-369.
- Op. 10. This Dialogue gives internal evidence of having been rewritten after the author's actual dispute with Zwingli (see p. 126). An extensive extract from it is given in Burrage's Anabaptists in Switzerland, pp. 148-152. Hübmaier claims that the words of Zwingli are taken from his published writings. Occasionally the attack is pretty severe, as in this case: "You said in opposition to Faber that all truth is clearly revealed in the word of God. If, now, infant baptism is a truth, show us the Scripture in which it is found. If you do not, the vicar will complain that you have used against him a sword that you now lay aside."
- The disputants were supposed to be, besides Hübmaier and Œcolampadius, Thomas, an Augustinian reader, Jacob Immelen, and Wolfgang Weissenburger.
- Hübmaier could not be expected to foresee that modern textual criticism would cut the ground from under this argument by pronouncing this verse an interpolation.
- Kessler, Sabbata, i., 350; Egli, Actensammlung, No. 911.
- "When he went away [from Zürich] he so worked on these good men's feelings that they gave him ten gold pieces. And yet either he or his wife had more gold than they had silver. . . . I see in him (I trust I am mistaken) nothing more than an immoderate thirst for money and notoriety." Jackson, Huldreich Zwingli, p. 256. With this compare the statement of Hübmaier himself in his recantation, p. 138 sq. In this issue of veracity, it seems most probable that Hübmaier spoke the truth, and Zwingli a slander.
- They were fined for this: Aberli fifteen pounds for disobedience of the council's previous mandates, and five pounds in addition for each person baptised by him. The widow and her daughter were fined five pounds each. Egli, Actensammlung, No. 910.
- Hübmaier, in the Dialogue already cited. Zwingli's account is in two letters, one to his friend Capito, bearing date of January 1, 1526, the other addressed to Peter Gynoræus, dated August 31, 1526. They are printed in full, in an English translation, in Jackson's Huldreich Zwingli, p. 249 sq. The originals are in Staehelin's Briefe aus der Reformationzeit, p. 20, and Zwingli, Op., VII., i., 536.
- Füsslin, Beyträge p. 1, n. 54, pp. 252, 253. In one of his tracts on baptism Hübmaier also asserts that he had similar confessions, in their own handwriting, from other Swiss leaders. Œcolampadius said: "Thus far we have found no passage in the Scriptures that would move us to confess the baptism of infants." Leo Juda: "We have no plain word of God about the baptism of infants." Sebastian Hofmeister: "For the sake of the truth we have not been ashamed to confess publicly before the Council in Schaffhausen that our brother Zwingli is erring from the right way, and is not proceeding according to the gospel, if he determines that little children should be baptised. I have certainly not allowed myself to be compelled to baptise my children, and therefore you do what is exactly Christian when you introduce again now the true baptism of Christ that had been so long neglected." He quotes Capito and Bucer to similar effect. Hoschek, ii., 133 sq.
- Egli, Actensammlung, p. 431.
- Egli, Actensammlung, Nos. 934, 936, 937, 1338.
- This translation was made by the Rev. Professor Howard Osgood, D.D., of the Rochester Theological Seminary, but some changes have been made by the author of this biography, who therefore takes full responsibility for it, while thus making his acknowledgment of indebtedness to his former teacher and present much-valued friend.
- Quoted by Loserth, Beilage, No. 10.
- The callousness with which Zwingli records this treatment of his former friend is striking. There are other similar cases in his writings. For the letter, see Jackson, Huldreich Zwingli, p. 250.
- Stachelin (Huldreich Zwingli, i., 516) differs from Egli in holding that this is the original recantation of December or January, not the final document. It seems plain that Egli's view is sustained by the closing paragraph and its appeal for help, which was not likely to have been inserted in the first document. The original text is given in Egli's Actensammlung, No. 940.
- From a letter of Œcolampadius it would appear that he stopped also for a time in the Austrian city of Steyer. A visit to Regensburg, as asserted by some, is possible; but Hoschek (i., 559) confounds with this visit (if it occurred) the circumstances, already narrated, of Hübmaier's first leaving that city.