Page:Balthasar Hübmaier.djvu/49

This page has been validated.
Anabaptists and the Reformation

was preserved in secret, even the due succession of its bishops being maintained, for more than a century. The close correspondence in doctrine and practice between Petrobrusians and Waldenses, between Waldenses and Anabaptists, even in the absence of definite documentary proofs, warrants the conclusion that in these successive sects we really study the history of a single evangelical movement, which, in various regions and under different names, has persisted without a break from the twelfth century (and perhaps earlier still) to the present day.

If such is the case, the Anabaptists of the sixteenth century are not so related to the Reformation as has generally been supposed. They are not, that is to say, an offshoot of the Reformation, though they might, indeed, be called its root, since they are both older and more primitive in practice. Among the "Reformers before the Reformation" whose labours deserve to be better recognised are those evangelical preachers who for centuries had been gradually leavening Central Europe with the truths of the gospel, and preparing the way for the great spiritual revolution to come. A history of their labours cannot indeed be written; material