The GOSPEL TRUTH
The Pilgrim Church
by E. H. Broadbent
BEING SOME ACCOUNT OF THE CONTINUANCE-----
THROUGH SUCCEEDING CENTURIES----
OF CHURCHES PRACTISING THE PRINCIPLES TAUGHT----
AND EXEMPLIFIED IN ----
THE NEW TESTAMENT
Lollards, Hussites, The United Brethren
Wycliff--Peasant Revolt--Persecution in England--Sawtre, Badley, Cobham--Reading the Bible forbidden--Congregations--Huss--_i_ka--Tabor--Hussite wars--Utraquists--Jakoubek--Nikolaus--Cheltschizki--The Net of Faith--Rokycana, Gregor, Kunwald--Reichenau, Lhota--United Brethren--Lukas of Prague--News of German Reformation reaches Bohemia--John Augusta--Smalkald war--Persecution and emigration--George Israel and Poland--Return of brethren to Bohemia--Bohemian Charter--Battle of the White Mountain--Comenius.
Similar conditions to those which on the Continent led many to see the wrong of the practices of the prevailing Church, and, further, to question the doctrines which gave rise to them, operated also in England, where the derisive name of Lollard (babbler) was given to many earnest people who spoke of a better way. Political and economic wrongs were mixed with religious questions, specially in the earlier days of the movement, and it was the wealth and corruption of the clergy which were first attacked, but as time went on it was seen that doctrine was at the root of practice, and the former came to be the centre of conflict. It had not been the habit in England to persecute what was deemed heresy so violently as on the Continent, but early in the reign of Henry IV, at the beginning of the 15th century, the progress of Lollardry was such that the sovereign, in order to please the clerical party, introduced death by burning as its punishment.
[John Wycliff 1324-1384]
John Wycliff, the most eminent scholar in Oxford, became prominent in this conflict. His attacks on the corrupt practices of the Church drew him at first into the political struggle then so fiercely raging; but those who thought to use him as an important ally for their own purposes, fell from him as they came to see the consequences of the principles he taught, and he became the leader of those who sought deliverance in a return to Scripture and in the following of Christ. In his treatise, "The Kingdom of God" and in other writings, he shows that "the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only source of true religion," and that "the Scripture alone is truth". The doctrine he called "Dominion" established the fact of the personal relation and direct responsibility of each man to God. All authority, he taught, is from God, and all who exercise authority are responsible to God for the use of what He has committed to them.
Such doctrine, directly denying the prevailing ideas as to the irresponsible authority of Popes and Kings, and the necessity for the mediatory powers of the priesthood, aroused violent opposition, which was intensified when in 1381 Wycliff published his denial of the doctrine of Transubstantiation, thus striking at the root of that supposed miraculous power of the priests which had so long enabled them to dominate Christendom. Here his political supporters, and even his own University, forsook him.
But his most important work was that which gave the people of England access to the source of true doctrine. His translation of the Bible wrought a revolution in English thought and the English Bible has proved one of the most effectual powers for righteousness that the world has known. Writing and circulating popular tracts and organizing bands of travelling preachers, Wycliff found to be the most effective means of spreading the teachings of Scripture. So great was his influence that all the power of his bitter enemies could not accomplish more than to drive him from Oxford to his retreat in Lutterworth, which became a centre from which instruction and encouragement went out over the country.
[Authority of Scripture]
Among the scholastics in Wycliff's day the teachings of the Fathers, decisions of Councils and decrees of Popes, were considered, together with the Scriptures, as constituting authority in matters of religion, the last not holding a higher position than the others. Gradually, as he grew intimately acquainted with the Scriptures, Wycliff came to acknowledge their exclusive authority and to value the others only in so far as they were in agreement with the Scriptures. He saw a double source of Christian knowledge, reason and revelation, and found that these are not opposed to each other, but that reason, or natural light, has been weakened by the Fall, and therefore labours under a degree of imperfection, which God in His grace heals by imparting revealed knowledge through the Scriptures, and these, therefore, come to be apprehended as the exclusive authority.
The unconditional, binding authority of the Holy Scripture was the great truth to which Wycliff bore witness and which was attacked by his opponents, both sides recognizing how far reaching were the consequences involved. This he expounded in his book, "Of the Truth of Holy Scripture" (1378), in which he taught that the Bible is the Word of God or Will and Testament of the Father; God and His Word are one. Christ is the Author of Holy Scripture, which is His law, He Himself is in the Scriptures, to be ignorant of them is to be ignorant of Him. More detail would have made the Scriptures inapplicable to some circumstances, but being what they are, the Scriptures are applicable to all, and nothing impossible of observance is enjoined in them. The effects of Scripture show its Divine source and authority; the experience of the Church at large speaks for the sufficiency and efficacy of the Bible. By the observance of the pure law of Christ, without mixture of human tradition, the Church very rapidly grew, but since the admission of tradition into it the Church has steadily declined. Other forms of wisdom vanish away; the wisdom imparted by the Holy Spirit to the Apostles at Pentecost remains. Scripture is infallible; other teachers, even one so great as Augustine, are liable to lead into error. To place above Scripture and prefer to it, human traditions, doctrines, and ordinances, is nothing but an act of blind presumption. It is no justification of a doctrine that it contains, in a collateral way, much that is good and reasonable, for so is it even now with the behests and the whole life of the Devil himself, otherwise God would not suffer him to exercise such power. The history of the Church shows that departure from evangelical law and mixture of later tradition was at first slight and almost imperceptible, but as time went on the corruption grew ever ranker. As to the interpretation of Scripture, the theological doctors cannot have the power of interpretation for us, but the Holy Spirit teaches us the meaning of Scripture, as Christ opened the Scriptures to the Apostles. It would be dangerous for anyone to assume that he had the right meaning of Scripture by illumination of the Holy Spirit, but it is only by His enlightening that anyone can understand the Scriptures. No one can understand who is not enlightened by Christ. A devout, virtuous, and humble spirit is necessary. Scripture is to be interpreted by Scripture, so that the general tenor may be ascertained; tearing the Scriptures in pieces, as heretics do, is to be avoided.
First its primary and literal sense is to be taken, and then its further and figurative meanings. It is important to use right words; Paul was careful in the use of prepositions and adverbs. Christ is true man and true God, existing from all eternity, at His incarnation He united both natures in His one Person. His grandeur is incomparable as the only Mediator between God and men, the Centre of humanity, our one, only Head. The personal application of the salvation wrought by Christ is by conversion and sanctification; conversion is a turning away from sin and a believing appropriation of the saving grace of Christ, that is, repentance and faith. Repentance is necessary and must be fruitful.
Wycliff puts faith and sanctification together, and does not see faith apart from works. He viewed the Church not as the visible Catholic Church, or organized community of the hierarchy, but as Christ's Body and Bride, consisting of the whole number of the elect, having, in the visible world, only its temporary manifestation and pilgrimage; its home, origin, and end being in the invisible world, in Eternity. Salvation, he said, is not dependent on connection with the official Church or the mediation of the clergy. There is free, immediate access of all believers to the grace of God in Christ, and every believer is a priest. The ground of the Church, Wycliff taught, was the Divine election, and a man cannot have assurance of his own standing in grace, only an opinion, but a godly life is the evidence.
Summoned to appear before the Pope, he refused and said, "Christ during His life upon earth was of all men the poorest, casting from Him all worldly authority. I deduce from these premises, as a simple counsel of my own, that the Pope should surrender all temporal authority to the civil power and advise his clergy to do the same."
He died quietly in Lutterworth on the last day of the year 1384.
[Peasant Revolt 1377-1381]
The Peasant Revolt (1377--1381), which took place in the last years of Wycliff's life, hindered the religious revival at the time by uniting against it the nobility and clergy, who laid on those they called Wycliffites the blame for the excesses and losses of the insurrection. Although this was unjust, yet there is an undeniable and intimate connection between true Christianity and the deliverance of the oppressed. Christ declared at the outset of His ministry that He was sent "to preach the gospel to the poor ... to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised" (Luke 4.18). This fitly described the workers on the land at this time, and the coming among them of the Scriptures helped to awaken in them the sense that "God is no respecter of persons" (Acts 10. 34), and that their enslavement under their luxurious rulers was irreligious because it was unjust.
Wycliff's scholarly sermons, coming from the stately surroundings of Oxford, appealed to them less than the rough rhymes and open-air preaching of John Ball, one of themselves, crying out from amidst the misery in which they lived--"By what right are they whom we call lords greater folk than we? On what grounds have they deserved it? Why do they hold us in serfage? If we all came of the same father and mother, of Adam and Eve, how can they say or prove that they are better than we, if it be not that they make us gain for them by our toil what they spend in their pride?" His rhyme went everywhere--"When Adam delved and Eve span, Who was then the gentleman?" The revolt was crushed and iniquitous laws enacted to keep down the labourers on the land, but by slow and painful stages their liberties were gained, and the most potent influence in bringing this about was the effect of the Scriptures on the consciences of men.
The translation of the Bible had its due effect, and great numbers of the people came to acknowledge it as the only guide for faith and conduct. Various views prevailed as to different points, but there was general agreement as to the authority of Scripture, and the ruling Church was denounced as apostate and idolatrous. It was said that two men could not be found together and one not be a Lollard or a Wycliffite, and that Scripture had "become a vulgar thing, and more open to lay folk and women that know how to read than it is wont to be to clerks themselves."
[ "Heretics" Burned in England]
The first to suffer at the stake after the law was enacted for burning heretics was William Sawtre (1401), a Norfolk rector. The House of Commons presented petitions to Henry IV praying for the diversion of the surplus revenues of the Church to useful purposes, and the modification of the laws against Lollards. His answer was to sign a warrant for burning Thomas Badly, a tailor of Evesham. This man, accused of denying transubstantiation, after giving a courageous defence of his belief before the Bishop of Worcester, was tried in St. Paul's Church before the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and many of the clergy and nobility, and was burnt at Smithfield.
[Sir John Oldcastle]
A leader among the Lollards was Sir John Oldcastle, Lord Cobham, a distinguished soldier. His castle of Cowling was a refuge for the travelling preachers, and meetings were held there, in spite of their being forbidden under severe penalties. Henry IV did not venture to interfere with him, but as soon as Henry V came to the throne he besieged and captured the castle and took its owner prisoner. He escaped from the Tower, however, and was able for some years to elude pursuit, though many others were taken and executed, including thirty-nine of the Lollard leaders. When Sir John was finally captured in Wales he was burnt, the first English nobleman to die for the faith.
After his death a law was passed that whoever read the Scriptures in English should forfeit land, chattels, goods and life, and be condemned as a heretic to God, an enemy to the crown, and a traitor to the kingdom; that he should not have any benefit of sanctuary; and that, if he continued obstinate, or relapsed after being pardoned, he should first be hanged for treason against the king, and then burned for heresy against God.
Yet the brethren, though driven into obscurity or exile, were not extinguished, and some congregations, even, continued to exist. They were most numerous in East Anglia and in London. Large churches were to be found in the neighbourhood of Beccles at the time of the accession of Henry VI (1422). Though the congregations were often broken up and re-formed, yet some were in continuous existence over considerable periods; some, for instance, in Buckinghamshire, for 60 or 70 years, which maintained fellowship with those in Norfolk and Suffolk and with others in other parts of the country. The Bishop of London, writing to Erasmus in 1523, said: "It is no question of some pernicious novelty, it is only that new arms are being added to the great band of Wycliffite heretics."
[Jerome of Prague ?-1416]
[John Huss 1369-1415]
One of the foreign students who listened to Wycliff in Oxford was Jerome of Prague. He returned to his own city full of zeal for the truths he had learned in England, and taught boldly that the Roman Church had fallen away from the doctrine of Christ and that every one who sought salvation must come back to the teachings of the Gospel. Among many on whose hearts such words fell with power was Jan Hus (John Huss), theological doctor and preacher in Prague, and confessor to the Queen of Bohemia. His sincere faith and striking abilities, with his eloquence and charm of manner, wrought mightily among people already prepared by the labours of the Waldenses who had been before him. He wrote and spoke in the Czech language, and the long rivalry between Teuton and Slav, represented in Bohemia by the Germans and the Czechs respectively, soon gave a political aspect to the movement, the German element supporting the Romish power, and the Czech the teachings of Wycliff.
[Council of Constance 1414-1418]
The Pope, through the Archbishop of Prague, excommunicated Huss and had Wycliff's writings publicly burned, but the king of Bohemia, the nobility, the University, and the majority of the people supported Huss and his teaching. At Constance, on the beautiful lake of that name, a Council was opened (1414), which lasted for three and a half years and drew together an extraordinary assemblage of ecclesiastical dignitaries and of the princes and rulers of the various states, besides a vast throng of people of all kinds. During this time the city was the scene of elaborate entertainments and of unabashed wickedness. There were then three rival Popes, and one object of the Council was to remedy the confusion and schisms which such a state of things implied. The three reigning Popes were dethroned and another chosen in their place, Martin V.
Another object of the Council was to combat the teachings associated with the names of Wycliff and Huss. Huss was invited to be present and the Emperor Sigismund gave him a safe conduct, assuring him of security from molestation if he would come. Relying on the Emperor's word, he came to Constance in time for the opening of the General Council, willing to use the opportunity of expounding the doctrines of Scripture before such a company. But, in spite of the Imperial promise, he was seized and cast into a foul dungeon on an island in the lake. To justify this action the Council promulgated a solemn decree (1415), claimed as a decision given by the Holy Spirit and infallible, for ever binding, that the Church is not bound to keep faith with a heretic.
Huss was subjected to every kind of persuasion and ill-treatment to induce him to retract what he had taught, namely that salvation is by grace, through faith, and apart from the works of the law, and that no title or position, however exalted, can make a man acceptable to God without godliness of life. With humility and a rare courage and ability, he steadfastly maintained that he was ready to retract anything he had taught provided it could be shown from Holy Scripture that he was wrong, but that he would withdraw nothing that he saw to be taught in the Word of God. Also he refused to retract opinions which he had never held, but which had been falsely attributed to him. The accusation of being "infected with the leprosy of the Waldenses" and of having preached Wycliffite doctrines shows that the unity of the truth held in these various circles was recognized by their enemies.
[Huss and Jerome Burnt]
After a solemn service of degradation Huss was burned on July 6, 1415. A fortnight before, he had written:"I am greatly consoled by that saying of Christ, 'Blessed are ye when men shall hate you' ... a good, nay the best of greetings, but difficult, I do not say to understand, but to live up to, for it bids us rejoice in these tribulations.... It is easy to read it aloud and expound it, but difficult to live out. Even that bravest Soldier, though He knew that He should rise again on the third day, after supper was depressed in spirit.... On this account the soldiers of Christ, looking to their leader, the King of Glory, have had a great fight. They have passed through fire and water, yet have not perished, but have received the crown of life, that glorious crown which the Lord, I firmly believe, will grant to me--to you also, earnest defenders of the truth, and to all who steadfastly love the Lord Jesus.... O most Holy Christ, draw me, weak as I am, after Thyself, for if Thou dost not draw us we cannot follow Thee. Strengthen my spirit, that it may be willing. If the flesh is weak, let Thy grace prevent us; come between and follow, for without Thee we cannot go for Thy sake to a cruel death. Give me a fearless heart, a right faith, a firm hope, a perfect love, that for Thy sake I may lay down my life with patience and joy. Amen. Written in prison, in chains, on the eve of St. John the Baptist."
Jerome of Prague soon followed the same fiery way, and the course of Hussite Bohemia was divided into three principal streams; those who fought; those who endeavoured to compromise, called Utraquists or Calixtines; and those who elected to suffer.
[The Hussite Wars]
The first, under the leadership of Jan Zizka carried on a vigorous and successful warfare. The little town of Tabor, on a steep hill in the heart of Bohemia, was a military and spiritual centre. In its market place may still be seen remains of the stone tables where tens of thousands of people met to celebrate the Lord's Supper, taking both the bread and the wine, which latter had been reserved by the Church of Rome for the use of her clergy only, and refused to the laity. The cup became the symbol of the Taborites. At the foot of Tabor hill is a pool, still called Jordan, where great numbers were baptized on the confession of their faith.
Zizka led not only the nobility but the nation. The free peasantry were affected by the common spirit of irresistible enthusiasm. Their agricultural implements were turned into formidable weapons, and _i_ka taught them to use their farm wagons both for transport and as movable entrenchments. The Pope raised crusades against them, but the invading armies were utterly routed and the Hussites penetrated and devastated all the surrounding countries, great excesses being committed on both sides.
[The Council of Basel 1453]
The Church was forced to make terms with the Hussites, and at the Council of Basle (1433) acknowledged their right to free preaching of the Word of God, to taking the Lord's Supper in both kinds, to abolishing the worldly possessions of the clergy, and to the rescinding of many oppressive laws. Yet wars continued, the country was exhausted and demoralized by its efforts, laws which enslaved the peasantry weakened the power of the nation, and (1434) at the battle of Lipan the Taborites were defeated. An agreement, the "Compacts of Basle", was made which divided the Bohemians. The Utraquists being the most favourable to the Roman Catholic Church, were acknowledged by the Pope as the National Church of Bohemia, the privilege of the use of the Cup was granted them, their leader, Rokycana, was made archbishop, and everything passed back again into the hands of Rome.
While these conflicts were going on, and while the Hussite successes were at their height, there were always some who, in matters of faith and testimony, did not rely on material force, but as they had learned from the Waldensian preachers earlier, continued to seek and find guidance in the Scriptures as to their church order and Gospel witness, to follow Christ in their willingness to suffer wrong and in putting their trust in God.
Prominent among these was Jakoubek, a colleague of Huss at the Prague University, who, as early as 1410, lecturing there, had contrasted the false, antichristian Church of Rome, with the true Church or communion of the saints, and exhorted all Christians to return to the primitive Church. Also Nikolaus, a German, who had been expelled from Dresden for heresy, and who was well acquainted with the Scriptures and with Church history, influenced the Taborites as he showed them what had been the teaching of the Apostles and the order of the early Church and how errors had gradually crept in. The question of the right of Christians to use the sword was much discussed in Prague. The Taborites considered that even though its use must do harm, yet the unavoidable necessity of defence obliged it. Under the force of circumstances it might also be right to attack and despoil the enemy. Before long Jakoubek found himself in direct opposition to the Taborites on this point. The most influential and able opponent of the use of war, even for defence, was Peter Cheltschizki, who, though in many ways in sympathy with the Taborites, was untiring in opposing them and Zizka in their appeal to arms.
Although the writings of the brethren were frequently burned with their authors, some escaped, among them a book by Peter Cheltschizki, entitled "The Net of Faith" written in 1440, which preserves much of their teaching and exercised a great influence. He writes:"Nothing else is sought in this book but that we, who come last, desire to see the first things and wish to return to them in so far as God enables us. We are like people who have come to a house that has been burnt down and try to find the original foundations. This is the more difficult in that the ruins are grown over with all sorts of growths, and many think that these growths are the foundation, and say, 'This is the foundation' and 'This is the way in which all must go,' and others repeat it after them. So that in the novelties that have grown up they think to have found the foundation, whereas they have found something quite different from, and contrary to, the true foundation. This makes the search more difficult, for if all said, 'the old foundation has been lost among the ruins', then many would begin to dig and search for it and really to begin a true work of building upon it, as Nehemiah and Zerubbabel did after the destruction of the temple. It is much more difficult now to restore the spiritual ruins, so long fallen down, and get back to the former state, for which no other foundation can be laid than Jesus Christ, from whom the many have wandered away and turned to other gods and made foundations of them." And again: "I do not say that everywhere where the Apostles preached all believed, but some, whom God had chosen; here more, there fewer.
"In the Apostles' times the churches of believers were named according to the towns, villages and districts, they were churches and assemblies of believers, of one faith. These churches were separated by the Apostles from the unbelievers. I do not pretend that the believers could, in a material, local sense, all be separated into a particular street of the town, rather, they were united in an association of faith and came together in local gatherings where they had fellowship with each other in spiritual things and in the Word of God. And in accordance with such association in faith and in spiritual things they were called churches of believers."
He relates how "in Basle in 1433 the Papal representative said that though there was much to praise in the early Church, yet it was very simple and poor, and as the temple followed the tabernacle, so the present beauty and glory of the Church has followed its first simplicity. Also many things unknown in the early Church are now made known." Cheltschizki's comment on this is: "The song would be good if it were not a lie."
He taught that the "great priest" (i.e., the Pope) dishonours the Saviour by taking to himself the Divine power to forgive sins, which God has reserved for Himself alone."God has borne witness that he Himself remits sins and blots out men's iniquities through Christ who died for the sins of men. As to this, the testimony of faith is that He is the Lamb of God who took away sins and forgives the world, possessing in Himself the unique right of forgiving sins, because He is Himself at once God and man. And on this account He died as a man for sins and gave Himself to God on the cross as an offering for sins. Thus God obtained by Him and His pains the forgiveness of the sins of the world. So He alone has the power and right to forgive men their sins.
"Therefore, the great priest, in utmost pomp with which he raises himself above all that is called God, as a robber has laid hands on these rights of Christ. He has instituted the pilgrimage to Rome through which sins are to be cleansed away. Therefore, drunken crowds run together from all lands, and he, the father of all evil, distributes his blessing from a high place to the crowds that they may have the forgiveness of all sins and deliverance from all judgement. He saves from hell and purgatory, and there is no reason why anyone should go there. Also he sends into all lands tickets, for money, which ensure deliverance from all sins and pains; they do not even need to take the trouble to come to him, they have only to send the money and all is forgiven them. What belongs to the Lord alone, this official has taken to himself, and he draws the praise which belongs to his Lord, and becomes rich through the sale of these things. What is left for Christ to do for us when His official frees us from all sins and judgement and can make us just and holy? It is only our sins that stand in the way of our salvation. If the great priest remits all these what shall the poor Lord Jesus do?
"Why does the world neglect Him so and does not seek salvation from Him? Simply on this account that the great priest overshadows Him with his majesty and makes Him darkness in the world, while he, the great priest, has a great name in the world and unexampled renown. So that the Lord Jesus, already crucified, is held up to the world's laughter, and the great priest only is in everyone's mouth, and the world seeks and finds salvation in him."
[The Community of Kunwald]
The Utraquist archbishop, Rokycana, preaching in the famous Tyn Church in Prague, eloquently commended Cheltschizki's teachings and denounced the evils in the Church of Rome. He did not, however, act upon what he preached. But many of his hearers determined to carry out the principles they had learned, and, gathering around a man of good report, named Gregory, known as the Patriarch, withdrew from Rokycana and founded (1457) a community in North East Bohemia, in the village of Kunwald, where was the castle of Lititz. Many joined them there, some, followers of Cheltschizki and some from Waldensian churches, also students from Prague, and others. Though maintaining a connection with the Utraquist Church they returned in many things to the teaching of Scripture and to the practice of the early churches. They had a Utraquist priest as pastor, but elected elders; there were also those among them who, after the old Waldensian custom, were called "the Perfect" and gave up the whole of their property. They were not long left in peace. In a few years the settlement at Kunwald was broken up, the Utraquist Church persecuting them as bitterly as the Roman Catholic had done; Gregory was imprisoned and tortured, one Jakob Hulava was burnt, and the brethren hid themselves in the mountains and forests. Yet their numbers increased, and gradually the persecution died down.
[The United Brethren]
In 1463, in the mountains of Reichenau, and again in 1467 at Lhota, there were general gatherings of brethren, at which many persons of rank and influence were present, where they considered afresh the principles of the Church. One of the first things they did was to baptize those present, for the baptism of believers by immersion was common to the Waldenses and to most of the brethren in different parts, though it had been interrupted by pressure of persecution. They also formally declared their separation from the Church of Rome. They called themselves Jednota Bratrskâ (Church of the Brotherhood), or Unitas Fratrum, the United Brethren.
They did not wish by this to found a new party or to separate in any way from the other numerous churches of brethren in many lands; but they hoped that their example might encourage them to make known more definitely their separation from the Roman Church system. Before the close of their meetings, nine men were chosen from among those present, of whom there were about sixty, and from these nine three were chosen by lot, and from these, one, Matthias of Kunwald, whom they sent to be ordained by the Waldensian bishop Stephen in Austria, thus marking their continued connection with the Waldensian brethren. They did not consider this ordination as essential, but desirable; they thought that the Roman Church at the time of Sylvester had lost any Apostolic succession there might ever have been, but that if any still existed it must have been among Cathars, Paulicians and Waldenses that it had been preserved.
They communicated their decisions to the Archbishop Rokycana; and when he, from the pulpit, denounced them, they wrote further, showing that their action was not the formation of something new, but a return to the true Church of the first Christians which had always been maintained among the Waldenses. Reproached that by their separation they condemned all outside their circle, and denied the possibility of salvation to them, they replied that they never held that true Christianity was bound to particular views and forms; that they recognized true Christians among those who did not belong to their assemblies, and counted it a sin on the part of the Church of Rome that it denied salvation to those who did not submit to the Pope.
A nephew of the Archbishop, who was among the brethren, wrote: "No one can say that we condemn and exclude all who remain obedient to the Romish Church.... That is by no means our persuasion.... As we do not exclude the elect in the Indian and Greek Churches, even so we do not condemn the elect among the Romans...."
They laid stress on holiness of life as taught by the Lord and the Apostles, helped by church discipline as shown in the Scriptures, but combined with the fullest liberty of conscience. Simplicity in living was commended; there should be no suffering through poverty among the brethren, the rich being ready in helping the poor.
[Lukas of Prague ?-1528]
As numbers increased changes took place, persons of education and position and of wealth became members, and the leadership passed out of the hands of the simpler brethren into those of men of wider education. Lukas of Prague was for forty years, until his death (1525), the most prominent and active man among them. He was a voluminous and effective writer, indeed, the works produced by the brethren at this time and their use of the printing press far exceeded what was done by the much more numerous Roman Catholic party. Hymn-writing and music flourished among them. It was no longer thought wrong to occupy positions of authority in the State, or to make honest profits in business beyond the supply of actual needs, and the objection to taking oaths ceased. Education was cultivated and the Brethren's schools came to be generally sought after. The doctrine of justification by faith was more clearly taught than before. Lukas also developed organization for the government of the Church, and introduced no little ritual into its formerly simple worship. Not all followed, a few held aloof, clinging to their old ways.
[Edict of St. James 1507]
After a time the Pope, Alexander VI, succeeded in persuading the King of Bohemia that the growing power of the Brethren endangered his throne, and in 1507 the Edict of St. James was issued requiring all to be attached to the Roman Catholic or to the Utraquist Church, or to leave the country. The Brethren were once more the objects of persecution, their meetings were closed, their books burned, and they themselves imprisoned, exiled, or put to cruel deaths. This lasted some years, during which time Lukas was indefatigable in comforting and encouraging his people, until he himself was captured and imprisoned. Gradually the good report of the Brethren wore down the persecution, some of their bitterest enemies died strange and sudden deaths, which made others fear to continue their work. The King of Bohemia himself died, and quarrels between the Roman Catholics and the Utraquists diverted their attention from the Brethren, who again began to enjoy quiet.
[The Bohemian Brethren and Luther]
At the same time news came from Germany of Luther's great doings at Wittenberg, and as soon as possible the Brethren sent representatives and put themselves in touch with the Reformers. Lukas, now liberated, had some doubts as he heard of what seemed to him the boisterous ways of Luther and the Wittenberg students, so different from the precise life he had introduced in the Brethren's Communities, where some rule ordered every act, but the Brethren generally hailed with enthusiasm such unexpected allies. Luther, for his part, was doubtful about the Brethren, but in 1520 he wrote to Spalatin: "Thus far I have, although unconsciously, proclaimed all that Huss preached and maintained; Johann Staupitz did unconsciously maintain the same--in a word, we are all Hussites, without having known it; Paul and Augustine themselves are Hussites--in the full sense of the word! Behold the horrible misery which came over us because we did not accept the Bohemian doctor for our leader...."
The next great leader of the United Brethren, John Augusta, who at thirty-two was made a bishop, and was recognised as their most capable guide, favoured the fullest co-operation with the Protestants in Germany. In 1526 the old Bohemian royal house came to an end, and the kingdom fell to the Roman Catholic family of Hapsburg, Ferdinand I adding it to his many other territories. Many of the Bohemian nobility had befriended, and some belonged to, the Brethren. Their help in giving them places of refuge on their estates in times of trouble had been invaluable. John Augusta made use of one of them, Konrad Krajek (who had built one of the principal centres of the Brethren at Jungbunzlau), in his negotiations with the new and very ill-disposed king. These negotiations were successful, and there followed a further time of prosperity.
[The League of Protestant Princes]
In 1546 war broke out between the Smalcald League, or League of the Protestant Princes of Germany, under the leadership of the Elector of Saxony, and the Emperor Charles V, brother of the King of Bohemia; the Protestant against the Roman Catholic powers. Ferdinand summoned the nobles and people of Bohemia to support him, as his subjects; the Elector of Saxony called on the United Brethren to aid in the struggle for the Protestant faith. Some of the most powerful of the Bohemian nobility belonged to the Brethren, who were very numerous and influential throughout the land. A meeting was held in the house of one of the nobles, and it was decided to fight on the Protestant side.
At the battle of Mühlberg (1547) the Protestants were defeated, Ferdinand returned to Prague victorious, and began the intended extirpation of the Brethren. Four of the nobles were publicly executed in Prague, the possessions of others were confiscated, meetings were closed, and an order was issued that any who refused to join the Roman Catholic or Utraquist Church must leave the country within six weeks.
[Exile of the Brethren]
Then began a great emigration. From all sides the exiles, with their long trails of wagons, followed the roads leading towards Poland. The people on the way sympathized with the wanderers, let them pass toll-free, fed and entertained them. They were refused permission to settle in Poland or Polish Prussia, and only after six months' travelling were they given a resting place in the city of Königsberg, in East Prussia, which was Lutheran. A young blacksmith among them, George Israel, a man of extraordinary vigour both of faith and of physical strength, overcame all obstacles and obtained for the Brethren a place in Poland, in the town of Ostrorog. Settling in Ostrorog, they made it a centre from which their work spread over the country. They not only preached the Gospel there, but did much to draw together the different sections of Protestants in the country.
In 1556, Ferdinand becoming Emperor, the throne of Bohemia passed to his son, Maximilian, and under his rule the Brethren were allowed to return, to rebuild their meeting-places, and resume their meetings. They had by no means all been rooted out of Bohemia, and soon their churches were re-established in Bohemia and Moravia, with Poland now added. John Augusta, long imprisoned, frequently tortured, eventually joined the Utraquist Church, believing that he could in this way bring about its union with the Brethren. Indeed, many of the Utraquists had become Protestants, and Bohemia and Moravia were for the most part Protestant countries.
[Efforts to Gain Liberty]
The chief leaders among the Brethren were two noblemen, Wenzel of Budowa, and Charles of _erotín. These had large estates, keeping almost regal state, and were godly men in whose households the reading of the Word and prayer had their important place. The country prospered, education became general. A Polish noble coming in 1571 to one of the settlements of the Brethren, said: "O immortal God, what joy was then kindled in my heart! Verily it seemed to me, when I observed and inquired about everything, that I was in the church of Ephesus or Thessalonica, or some other apostolic church; here I saw with my own eyes and heard with my own ears such things as we read in apostolic letters...."
From 1579 to 1593 the great work was accomplished of translating the Bible from the original tongues into the Czech language, and this "Kralitz Bible" is the basis of the translation still in use; it became the foundation of Czech literature.
It was the ambition of the nobles that the Church of the United Brethren should cease to be merely tolerated and liable at any time to renewed persecution; they aspired to making it the National Church of Bohemia. When (1603) the Emperor Rudolph II asked the Bohemian Diet, or Parliament, for money for his projected campaign against the Turks, Wenzel of Budowa demanded the repeal of the Edict of St. James, and that complete religious liberty should be given to the people. Only then would money be voted. The Protestant nobles of all shades supported him, and the people were enthusiastically on his side. The Emperor, between the Protestants and the Jesuits, promised and retracted repeatedly, and no progress was made. Then Wenzel called the nobles together, they collected men and supplies and swore to resort to force if their demands should not be granted. The Emperor yielded, signed the Bohemian Charter giving full religious liberty, and there was general rejoicing among the people. A Board of twenty-four "Defenders" was formed to attend to the proper carrying out of the terms of the Charter. All the Protestant parties and the United Brethren signed the general Bohemian National Protestant Confession.
In 1616 Ferdinand II became King of Bohemia. He was entirely under the influence of the Jesuits and though at his coronation he took an oath to observe the Charter, he began immediately to break it. His two principal ministers Martinitz and Slawata took forcible measures against the liberties of Protestants, and the attitude of the two religious parties towards each other became most threatening. The inevitable crisis was reached in connection with a quarrel about Church property. A church in possession of the Protestants was, by order of the King, seized and destroyed, whereupon the Defenders forced their way into the Royal Castle in Prague, where the King's Council was assembled. An angry altercation ended in Martinitz and Slawata being thrown out of the window, only a dung-heap which broke their sixty-foot fall saving them from serious harm. The Defenders raised an army, deposed King Ferdinand, and made Frederick, the Elector Palatine, son-in-law of James I of England, king. The Jesuits were expelled and the Roman Catholics mass was held up to derision.
[The Battle of the White Mountain]
The decisive battle between the two parties, the battle of the White Mountain, was fought (1620) on a hill outside Prague, and resulted in the complete defeat of the Defenders. On the 21st of June, 1621, in the Great Square in Prague on one side of which stands the Tyn Church, and on the other the Council House, 27 Protestant noblemen, including Wenzel of Budowa, were publicly beheaded. Each was offered his life on condition of accepting the Roman Catholic faith, and each refused it. Murder and violence of every kind were let loose on the land. Thirty-six thousand families left Bohemia and Moravia, the population of Bohemia being reduced from three millions to one. Thus, the Hussite religion and Bohemian independence disappeared together.
Over large parts of Europe the Thirty Years War had begun its devastating course.
[Jan Amos Comenius 1592-c. 1670]
Jan Amos Comenius (b. 1592), known later the world over for his reform of education, is a heroic figure in this time of distress. He did not approve of the way in which the Brethren had engaged in politics and war. At the time of the great disaster he had only been three years settled as minister of the congregation of brethren at Fulneck in Moravia, and this place was sacked and destroyed by Spanish soldiers, compelling him to fly. He took refuge in the castle of Charles of _erotín, where he became leader of the band of refugees that gathered there. While there he wrote a book, "The Labyrinth of the World and the Paradise of the Heart" in which, in allegorical form, he taught that peace is not to be found in the world, but in the indwelling of Christ in the heart. Driven from _erotín, Comenius led the last band of fugitives from Moravia. He had lost everything. His wife and child died of the privations of the way. As they said farewell to their native land, he encouraged their faith to believe that God would preserve there a "hidden seed" which would afterwards grow and bear fruit.
At last a resting place was found at Lissa (Lesno) in Poland (1628), where Comenius became Director of the School, and from whence he visited England (1641), being invited to re-organize education there. The Civil War in England drove him to further journeys, in Sweden and elsewhere. In 1656 a defeat of the Swedes by the Poles resulted in the burning of the "heretics' nest" in Lissa by the Poles, and Comenius again lost everything, including MSS. he had prepared for publication, the fruit of years of labour. The Peace of Westphalia in 1648 had already destroyed the last hope of a re-establishment of the Bohemian Brethren, the Catholic and Protestant Powers alike refusing them any toleration. Under these circumstances of utter loss Comenius wrote, giving such counsel to the Brethren and to the world as exhibits the experience of the soul which continues to trust God when all earthly help has failed.
In Lissa in 1650 he wrote "The Testament of the Dying Mother" in which he counsels preachers of the Moravian Church left without any circle of fellowship, to accept invitations to minister the Word in Evangelical churches; not to flatter their hearers nor strengthen divisions, but to aim at kindling love and oneness of mind. He advised those of the "orphans" who were not preachers, if they found congregations where they were not forced to follow men but rather instructed to follow Christ, where they saw the truth of the Gospel of Jesus, to join them, to pray for their peace and to seek their growth and progress in that which is good, giving them a shining example, leading them in warmth and prayer, so that, from them at least the wrath of Almighty God which must come over Christendom might be averted.
Adding more general exhortation, he says:"Even you I cannot forget, dear sisters, evangelical churches; nor thee our mother from whom we sprang, Roman Church. Thou wast a mother to us but art become a ... vampire who sucks the children's blood. Therefore, I wish that in thy misery thou mightest be converted to repentance and forsake the Babylon of thy blasphemy.... To all Christian assemblies together I bequeath my longing for unity and reconciliation, for union in faith and in love, for the Unity of the Spirit. O may this spirit which the Father of spirits gave me from the beginning come over you so that you may long as utterly as I have done for the uniting and fellowship in the truth of Christianity of all those who call on the Name of Jesus in truth. May God bring you to the ground of what is essential and useful, as He taught me, that you may all come to see what you ought to be zealous for and what not, and how you should avoid all zeal that is without knowledge and does not further the progress of the Church, but rather tends to its destruction; and then, further, that you may see where flaming zeal is needful so that you may be happily zealous for the praise of God, even to the yielding of your lives. O that you might all be carried away by longing for the mercy of our God, the worthiness of Jesus and the delightful sweet inward gifts of the Holy Spirit, which are communicated through true faith, true love, and true hope in God. In this the nature of true Christianity is contained."
[Comenius Comforts the Exiles]
The "Voice of Mourning" was written in 1660 in Amsterdam, Comenius' last dwelling place, where he died ten years later. In it he says:"We hear that the Lord heals only the wounded, gives life only to the dead, and redeems from hell only those cast down into it (1 Sam. 2), then let us be willing for Him to do as He will with us, and if His will is first to wound us and slay us and cast us down into hell, let His will be done; meantime, we expect that without fail, here or in eternity, we shall be healed, made alive again, and brought to heaven! Even our Lord who had to endure a measureless painful, shameful, and sorrowful death, comforted Himself with this that the corn of wheat, if it does not die, remains alone, but if it dies brings forth a rich harvest. If, therefore, out of His wounds healing has sprung up, out of His death life, out of His hell heaven and salvation, why should not we, the little grains of corn, die according to the will of God? If the blood of the martyrs and also our blood shall be the seed of the Church for the increase later of those who fear God, ah, let us, weeping, scatter the precious seed that we may bring in the sheaves with rejoicing.
"God will not destroy without building again. He makes all things new. God knows what He is doing, we must trust Him to pull down and to build up as He will. He does not do these things for no purpose, something great lies hidden under it all. The whole Creation is subject to the will of God and we also, whether we understand what He does or not. He does not need our advice as to what He does."
When he was 77 years of age and his fame was established throughout Europe as having revolutionized in the best sense the spirit and methods of teaching, Comenius wrote the "One Thing Needful". He compares the world to a labyrinth, and shows that the way out is by leaving what is needless, and choosing the one thing needful--Christ.
He says:"The great number of teachers is the reason of the multitude of sects, for which we shall soon have no names left. Each church reckons itself as the true one, or at least as the purest, truest part of it, while among themselves they persecute each other with the bitterest hatred. No reconciliation is to be hoped for between them; they meet enmity with irreconcilable enmity. Out of the Bible they forge their different creeds; these are their fortresses and bulwarks behind which they entrench themselves and resist all attacks. I will not say that these confessions of faith--for that they are so we can admit in most cases--are bad in themselves. They become so, however, in that they feed the fire of enmity; only by putting them away altogether would it be possible to set to work on healing the wounds of the Church". "... To this labyrinth of sects and various confessions another belongs; the love of disputation.
"What is attained by it? Has a single learned strife ever been settled? Never. Their number has only been increased. Satan is the greatest sophist; he has never been overcome in a strife of words" ... "In Divine service the words of men are usually heard more than the Word of God. Each one chatters as he pleases, or kills time by learned disquisitions and disproving the views of others. Of the new birth and how a man must be changed into the likeness of Christ to become partaker of the Divine Nature (2 Peter 1. 4), scarcely anything is said. Of the power of the keys the Church has almost lost the power of binding, only the power of loosing remains.... The sacraments, given as symbols of unity, of love, and of our life in Christ, have been made the occasion of bitterest conflict, a cause of mutual hatred, a centre of sectarianism.
"In short, Christendom has become a labyrinth. The faith has been split into a thousand little parts and you are made a heretic if there is one of them you do not accept." ... "What can help? Only the one thing needful, return to Christ, looking to Christ as the only Leader, and walking in His footsteps, setting aside all other ways until we all reach the goal, and have come to the unity of the faith (Eph. 4.13). As the Heavenly Master built everything on the ground of the Scriptures so should we leave all particularities of our special confessions and be satisfied with the revealed Word of God which belongs to us all. With the Bible in our hand we should cry: I believe what God has revealed in this Book; I will obediently keep His commands; I hope for that which He has promised. Christians, give ear! There is only one Life, but Death comes to us in a thousand forms. There is only one Truth, but Error has a thousand forms. There is only one Christ, but a thousand Antichrists.... So thou knowest, O Christendom, what is the one thing needful. Either thou turnest back to Christ or thou goest to destruction like the Antichrist. If thou art wise and wilt live, follow the Leader of Life."
"But you, Christians, rejoice in your being caught up, ... hear the words of your Heavenly Leader, 'Come unto Me.' ... Answer with one voice, 'Even so, we come'."
"Foxe's Book of Martyrs" "A Short History of the English People" John Richard Green. "England in the Age of Wycliffe" George Macaulay Trevelyan.
"John Wycliff and his English Precursors" Lechler translated by Lorimer.
"The Dawn of the Reformation the Age of Hus" H. B. Workman M.A.
"John Huss and his Followers" Jan Herben (1926).
Ulrich von Richental. "Chronik des Konzils zu Konstanz" 1414-1418. Herausgegeben von Dr. Otto H. Brandt. R. Voigtl_nders Verlag in Leipzig mit 18 Nachbildungen nach der Aulendorfer Handschrift. (Voigit_nders Quellenbücher Bd. 48).
"Jahrbücher für Kultur und Geschichte der Slaven" N. F. Band v. Heft 1, 1929. E. Perfeckïj.
"Das Netz des Glaubens" by Peter Cheltschizki. translated from Old Czech into German by Dr. Karl Vogel. (Einhorn Verlag in Dachau bei München.)
"History of the Moravian Church" J. E. Hutton.
"Die Reformation und die _lteren Reformparteien" Dr. Ludwig Keller.
"Das Testament der Sterbenden Mutter" von J. A. Comenius. written in Bohemian, 1650 at Lissa. translated into German by Dora Petina in Leitmeritz. Monatsschriften der C. G. XVI Band, Heft 1. Herausgegeben von Ludwig Keller, Berlin. Weidmannsche Buchhandlung.
"Stimme der Trauer" von J. A. Comenius. Translated from Bohemian into German by Franz Slam_nik. Monatschriften der Comenius-Gesellschaft XVII Band, Heft 3. Herausgegeben von Ludwig Keller. Verlag von Eugen Diederichs, Jena, 1903.
"Unum Necessarium" J. A. Comenius.
A Catechism--Brethren of the Common Life--Luther--Tetzel--The ninety-five theses at Wittenberg--The Papal Bull burnt--Diet of Worms--The Wartburg--Translation of the Bible--Efforts of Erasmus for compromise--Development of the Lutheran Church--Its reform and limitations--Staupitz remonstrates--Luther's choice between New Testament churches and National Church system--Loyola and the Counter Reformation.
The connection between the brethren in different countries is illustrated by the fact that the same catechism for the instruction of their children was used by the Waldenses in the valleys, in France, and in Italy, also by the various brethren in the German lands, and in Bohemia by the United Brethren. It was a small book and was published in Italian, French, German and Bohemian. Different editions are known, printed at intervals from 1498 to 1530.
[Brethren of the Common Life]
Closely connected with these brethren were the "Brethren of the Common Life" who in the 15th and early 16th centuries established a network of schools throughout the Netherlands and North-West Germany. Their founder was Gerhard Groote of Deventer, in Holland, who, in consultation with Jan van Rysbroeck, formed the brotherhood and established the first school, at Deventer. Groote expressed his principle of teaching when he said: "the root of study and the mirror of life must be in the first instance the Gospel of Christ." He thought that learning without piety was likely to be more of a curse than a blessing. The teaching was excellent, the school at Deventer under the famous schoolmaster Alexander Hegius had 2000 pupils. Thomas a Kempis, who afterwards wrote the "Imitation of Christ" went to school there; and Erasmus also was a pupil. The schools spread widely, Latin and some Greek were taught and the children learned to sing evangelical Latin hymns. Adult classes were carried on in which the Gospels were read in the language of the country. Money was earned by copying MSS. of the New Testament, and, later, by printing it. Tracts of the Brethren and of the Friends of God were multiplied. In this way a sound education was provided, based on the Holy Scriptures.
A hymnbook, published in Ulm in 1538, shows the provision made for praise and worship in the congregations of the brethren. The end of its long title states that it was for "the Christian Brotherhood, the Picards, until now considered as Unchristian and Heretics, used and sung daily to the honour of God."
[Martin Luther 1483-1546]
It was the Bible which had the first place in enlightening and developing Luther; he was helped by Staupitz also, and found in the writings of Tauler and some of the brethren, more Divine doctrine, he said, than in all the Universities and teachings of the schoolmen; nothing was sounder and corresponded more with the Gospel. He soon became active as a writer and his early pamphlets (1517-20) were written in the spirit of the brethren, showing how salvation is not through the intervention of the Church, but that every man has direct access to God and finds salvation through faith in Christ and obedience to His Word. He was laid hold of by the teaching of Scripture that salvation is of the grace of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, and not obtained by our own works. The ability and zeal with which Luther preached these truths not only awakened hope and expectation in the circles where they were already known, but also powerfully affected others who had hitherto been ignorant of them.
[Luther's Ninety-five Theses]
In 1517 a prominent salesman of Papal indulgences, Tetzel, showed a shamelessness and buffoonery in his business which, more perhaps than anything else, impressed on people its inherent charlatanry. When he came to Wittenberg, Luther, failing to arouse the Elector of Saxony to action, and encouraged by Stanpitz, himself nailed on the church door the Ninety-five Theses which set Europe in a blaze, as men realized that a voice had at last been raised to utter what most felt--that the whole system of indulgences was a fraud and had no place in the Gospel. A poor monk now faced and fought the whole vast Papal power; his "Address to the Nobility of the German Nation on the Liberty of the Christian Man" and his "Babylonian Captivity of the Church" appealed to all Europe. The Pope issued a Bull excommunicating him; he burnt it publicly at Wittenberg (1520).
[The Diet of Worms Jan.-May 1521]
Summoned to Worms before the Papal authorities, he braved all dangers and went, and none was able to harm him. When he left, his life being threatened, his friends carried him off secretly to a castle, the Wartburg, and let it be supposed that he was dead. There he translated the New Testament into German, following it later by the Old Testament. The effect of increased reading of the Scriptures, and that in a time when questions of religion were violently agitating masses of the population, was to change the whole aspect of Christendom. The dull hopelessness with which men had seen the ever-increasing corruption and rapacity of the Church, was exchanged for a vivid hope that now, at last, the time of revival had come, the time of a return to Apostolic, primitive Christianity; Christ Himself was seen afresh, revealed in the Scriptures as the Redeemer and immediate Saviour of sinners and the Way to God for suffering humanity.
With such radical divergence of view and interest, however, conflict was inevitable. Luther's following and band of sympathizers grew enormously, but the old system of the Roman Church was not to be changed without a struggle. There were some who, with Erasmus, hoped for compromise and peace, but the monks, who saw their position and privileges vanishing, were violent beyond measure, and the Papal authorities decided to use the old weapons of cursing and killing to crush the new movement, while Luther, leaving his early humility, grew to be as dogmatic as the Pope.
[Erasmus Speaks about Luther]
Political rivalries made the situation more dangerous. Oppression of the land workers led to the Peasants' War (1524-5), for which Luther and his party were blamed by the other side. A general conflagration threatened the nations. Erasmus wrote (1520): "I wish Luther ... would be quiet for a while ... what he says may be true, but there are times and seasons." Again, to Duke George of Saxony (1524):"When Luther first spoke the whole world applauded, and your Highness among the rest. Divines who are now his bitterest opponents were then on his side. Cardinals, even monks, encouraged him. He had taken up an excellent cause. He was attacking practices which every honest man condemned, and contending with a set of harpies, under whose tyranny Christendom was groaning. Who could then dream how far the movement would go? ... Luther himself never expected to produce such an effect. After his Theses had come out I persuaded him to go no further.... I was afraid of riots.... I cautioned him to be moderate....
"The Pope put out a Bull, the Emperor put out an Edict, and there were prisons, faggots and burnings. Yet all was in vain. The mischief only grew.... I did see, however, that the world was besotted with ritual. Scandalous monks were ensnaring and strangling consciences. Theology had become sophistry. Dogmatism had grown to madness, and, besides there were the unspeakable priests and Bishops and Roman officials.... I considered that it was a case for compromise and agreement.... Luther's patrons were stubborn and would not yield a step. The Catholic divines breathed only fire and fury.... I trust, I hope, that Luther will make a few concessions and that the Pope and princes may still consent to peace. May Christ's Dove come among us, or else Minerva's owl. Luther has administered an acrid dose to a diseased body. God grant it may prove salutary!"
Again (1525) he wrote "I regard Luther as a good man, raised up by Providence to correct the depravity of the age. Whence have all these troubles arisen? From the audacious and open immorality of the priesthood, from the arrogance of the theologians and the tyranny of the monks." He advised abolishing what was manifestly wrong but retaining all that could be kept without harm, exercising tolerance, allowing liberty of conscience, and he wrote, "Indulgences, with which the monks so long fooled the world, with the connivance of the theologians, are now exploded. Well, then, let those who have no faith in saints' merits, pray to Father, Son and Holy Ghost, imitate Christ in their lives, and leave those alone who do believe in saints.... Let men think as they please of purgatory, without quarrelling with others who do not think as they do.... Whether works justify or faith justifies matters little, since all allow that faith will not save without works."
The conflict was too bitter for such moderate counsels to prevail. They were few who saw any possibility of tolerance. The development of Luther himself under the influence of such extraordinary circumstances, in its turn influenced them. From having been a devoted Roman Catholic in his earlier years, he had by his meeting with Staupitz and occupation with the Scriptures been brought into sympathy with the Brethren and with the Mystics, but his conflict with the Romish clergy now drew him into close relations with a number of the German Princes; and this association, together with the returning influence of his old training, led him gradually to the formation of the Lutheran Church.
[Forming the Lutheran Church]
The stages of this development were marked by a drawing away from the old congregations of brethren and, side by side with the revival of much Scripture truth, an incorporation in the new Lutheran Church of much also that was taken over from the Romish system. Luther emphasized the teachings of the Apostle Paul more, those of the Gospels less, than the old churches of believers; he pressed the doctrine of justification by faith, without a sufficiency of the balancing truth of the following of Christ which was so prominent in their preaching. His teaching as to the absence of any freedom of will or choice in man, and of salvation as being solely by the grace of God, went so far as to lead to the neglect of right conduct as a part of the Gospel. Among the doctrines carried over from the Church of Rome was that of baptismal regeneration, and, with this, the general practice of baptising infants.
While reviving the teaching of Scripture as to individual salvation by faith in Christ Jesus and His perfect work, Luther did not go on to accept the New Testament teaching as to the churches, separate from the world, yet maintained in it as witnesses to it of the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ; he adopted the Roman Catholic system of parishes, with their clerical administration of a world considered as Christianized. Having a number of rulers on his side, he maintained the principle of the union of Church and State, and accepted the sword of the State as the proper means of converting or punishing those who dissented from the new ecclesiastical authority. It was at the Diet, or Council, of Speyer (1529) that the Reform party presented the protest to the Roman Catholic representatives, from which the name Protestant came to be applied to the Reformers. The League of Smalcald in 1531, bound together nine Princes and eleven free cities as Protestant Powers.
[Protests of Staupitz]
In view of Luther's development, Staupitz warned him: "Christ help us that we may come at last to live according to the Gospel which now sounds in our ears and which many have on their lips, for I see that multitudes misuse the Gospel to give liberty to the flesh. Let my entreaty affect you, for I was once the pioneer of holy evangelical teaching."
In finally declaring the divergence of his way from that which Luther was taking, he contrasts nominal Christians with real Christians, and writes:"It is the fashion now to separate faith from evangelical life, as though it were possible to have real faith in Christ and yet remain unlike Him in life. Oh, cunning of the foe! Oh, misleading of the people! Hear the speech of fools: Whoever believes in Christ requires no works. Listen to the saying of truth: Let him who serves Me follow Me. The evil spirit tells his fleshly Christians that a man is justified without works and that Paul preached this. This is false. He did indeed speak against those legal works and outward observances in which, through fear, men put their trust for salvation, and he strove against them as useless and leading to condemnation, but he never thought evil or did anything but praise those works which are the fruits of faith and love and obedience to the heavenly commandments, and he proclaimed and preached their necessity in all his epistles."
Luther taught: "Learn from St. Paul that the Gospel teaches of Christ that He came, not to give a new law by which we should walk, but that He might give Himself an offering for the sins of the whole world." The old churches had always taught that a true Christian was one who, having received the life of Christ by faith, constantly desired and endeavoured, by the help of His indwelling life, to walk according to His example and word.
Luther by his mighty strokes hewed a way through long consecrated privileges and abuses, so that reform became possible. He revealed Christ to countless sinners as the Saviour to whom each one was invited to come, without intervention of priest or saint or church or sacrament, not on account of any goodness in himself, but as a sinner in all his needs, to find in Christ, through faith in Him, perfect salvation, founded in the perfect work of the Son of God. Instead, however, of continuing in the way of the Word, Luther then built up a church, in which some abuses were reformed, but which in many respects was a reproduction of the old system. Multitudes who looked to him for guidance accepted that form in which he moulded the Lutheran Church; many, seeing that he did not continue in the way of return to the Scriptures which they had hoped for, remained where they were, in the Roman Catholic Church, and the hopes awakened among the brethren gradually faded away as they saw themselves placed between two ecclesiastical systems, each of which was ready to enforce conformity in matters of conscience -- by the sword.
[The National Church System]
Luther had seen the Divine pattern for the churches, and it was not without an inward struggle that he abandoned the New Testament teaching of independent assemblies of real believers, in favour of the National or State Church system which outward circumstances pressed upon him. The irreconcilable difference between these two ideals was the essential ground of conflict. Baptism and the Lord's Supper took on such importance in the fight only because in the true Church they mark the gulf dividing the Church from the world, whereas in a National Church they are used to bridge it, infant baptism and the general administration of the Lord's Supper doing away with the necessity for personal faith in the recipients.
Moreover, the powers arrogated to a priesthood alone competent to perform these rites bring the nation under a domination in matters of faith and conscience, which, when working in unison with the State, or civil Government, make free churches impossible, and religion a matter of nationality. Such a National Church is very comprehensive. It can include a great variety of views. It can take in unbelievers, and condone much wickedness, and can allow even its clergy to express disbelief in the Scriptures; but, if it has power to prevent it, it will not tolerate those who baptize believers, or who take the Lord's Supper among themselves as disciples of Christ; because these things strike at the foundations of its character as a national church, though it is not the rites themselves which are the fundamental cause of difference, but the Church question.
With unprecedented power and courage Luther had brought to light the Scripture truths as to the individual salvation of the sinner by faith, but failed when he might have shown the way to a return to Scripture in all things, including its teaching as to the Church. He had taught: "I say it a hundred thousand times, God will have no forced service." "No one can or ought to be forced to believe." In 1526 he had written:"The right kind of evangelical order cannot be exhibited among all sorts of people, but those who are seriously determined to be Christians and confess the Gospel with hand and mouth, must enrol themselves by name and meet apart, in one house, for prayer, for reading, to baptize, to take the Sacrament, and exercise other Christian works. With such order it would be possible for those who did not behave in a Christian manner to be known, reproved, restored, or excluded, according to the rule of Christ (Matt. 18. 15). Here also they could, in common, subscribe alms, which would be willingly given and distributed among the poor, according to the example of Paul (2 Cor. 9. 1-12). Here it would not be necessary to have much or fine singing. Here a short and simple way of baptism and the Sacrament could be practised, and all would be according to the Word and in love. But I cannot yet order and establish such an assembly, for I have not yet the right people for it. If, however, it should come about that I must do it, and am driven to it, I will willingly do my part. In the meantime I will call, excite, preach, help, forward it, until the Christians take the Word so in earnest that they will themselves find how to do it and continue in it."
Yet Luther knew that the "right people" were there; people whom he described as "true, pious, holy children of God." After much hesitation he came at last to oppose any attempt to put into practice what he had so excellently portrayed. He did not, however, as did many of his followers, look upon the Lutheran Church as being the best possible form of religion that could be devised; he described it as "provisional", as the "outer court," and not the "Sanctuary" and he did not cease to exhort and warn the people. He said:"If we look aright at what people now do who reckon themselves as Evangelical and know how to talk much about Christ, there is nothing behind it. Most of them deceive themselves. The number of those who began with us and had pleasure in our teaching was ten times greater, now not a tenth part of them remains steadfast. They learn indeed to speak words, as a parrot repeats what people say, but their hearts do not experience them; they remain just as they are, they neither taste nor feel how true and faithful God is. They boast much of the Gospel and at first seek it earnestly, yet afterwards nothing remains; for they do what they like, follow their lusts, become worse than they were before and are much more undisciplined and presumptuous ... than other people, for peasants, citizens, nobles, all are more covetous and undisciplined than they were under the Papacy." "Ah, Lord God, if we only practised this doctrine aright, Thou shouldest see, that where now a thousand go to the Sacrament scarcely a hundred of them would go. Then the horrible sins would be less with which the Pope with his hellish law has flooded the world: then at last we should come to be a Christian assembly, where now we are almost utter heathen with the name of Christian; then we could separate from ourselves those of whom we know by their works that they never believed and never had life, a thing that now is impossible to us."
Once the new Church was put under the power of the State it could not be altered, but Luther never pretended that the churches which he had established were ordered after the pattern of the Scriptures. While Melanchthon spoke of the Protestant Princes as "chief members of the Church", Luther called them "makeshift Bishops" and frequently expressed his regret for the lost liberty of the Christian man and independence of the Christian congregations that had once been his aim.
[Ignatius Loyola c. 1491-1556]
At the time when Luther burnt the Pope's Bull and the Reformation began its course, another man was preparing himself for the work which was to be the chief means of checking the progress of Protestantism, and of organizing the counter-Reformation which won back to the Church of Rome large districts where the movement of Reform had already prevailed.
Ignatius Loyola, of noble Spanish ancestry, was born in 1491, became a page at the court of Ferdinand and Isabella, and then a soldier, distinguished from the first by his intrepid courage, but a wound which he received when he was thirty years of age, and which made him permanently lame, changed the whole course of his life.
During the long illness following his wound he read some of the books of the Mystics and became passionately desirous of being delivered from the lusts of his former life and of doing great things, not now for military glory in the service of an earthly king, but for God and as a soldier of Jesus Christ. "Show me O Lord" he prayed, "where I can find Thee: I will follow like a dog, if I can only learn the way of salvation." After long conflict he yielded himself to God, found peace in the assurance that his sins were forgiven, and was delivered from the power of carnal desire. At the famous monastery of Montserrat, among the mountain peaks which look as though leaping flames had suddenly been turned to stone, after a night's watch and confession, Loyola hung up his weapons before the ancient wooden image of the Virgin and dedicated himself to her service and that of Christ, gave away his very clothes, and, taking the rough garb of a pilgrim, limped to the neighbouring Dominican monastery of Manresa. There he not only followed the methods of self-examination common to the Mystics, but set himself to note with minute exactness all that he observed in himself, meditations, visions, and also outward postures and positions, to find out which were most favourable to the development of spiritual ecstasies. There he wrote a great part of his book, "Spiritual Exercises" which was afterwards to have so powerful an influence.
[Jesuits--The "Society of Jesus"]
The quest of the Mystics for immediate communion with God, without priestly or other intervention, constantly brought them into conflict with the priests. Suspected of being of this mind, Loyola was more than once imprisoned by the Inquisition and by the Dominicans, but was always able to show them that he was not what they thought and to obtain release. Indeed, although at first so strongly affected by the writings of the Mystics, Loyola evolved a system which was the very contrary of their teaching. Instead of seeking experiences of direct communion with Christ, he placed each member of his Society under the guidance of a man, his confessor, to whom he was pledged to make known the most intimate secrets of his life and to yield implicit obedience. The plan was that of a soldier, each one was subject to the will of one above him, and even the highest was controlled by those appointed to observe every act and judge every motive.
In the course of years of study and travel, of teaching and charitable activities, during which there were unavailing efforts to get to Jerusalem, and also interviews with the Pope, that company gradually gathered round Loyola, which was organized by him as the "Company of Jesus" in Paris in 1534. He and six others, including Francis Xavier, took vows of poverty and chastity and of missionary activity, and in 1540 the Pope recognized the "Society of Jesus", to which the name of "Jesuit" was first given by Calvin and others, its opponents. The careful choice and the long and special training of its members, during which they were taught entire submission of their own will to that of their superiors, made of them a weapon by which not only was the Reformation checked, but a "Counter Reformation" was organized which regained for Rome much that she had lost.
The Society worked consistently and skilfully for reaction. Its rapid growth in power and its unscrupulous methods raised many enemies against it even in the Church of Rome, as well as in various countries where its interference not only in religious, but also in civil matters, was resented. Its history was a stormy one. At times it rose to the point of entirely dominating the policy of a nation; then it would be driven out and forbidden altogether--only to return when circumstances once more became favourable.
The attempt of Hermann von Wied, Archbishop Elector of Cologne, to bring about a Catholic Reformation and a reconciliation with the Reformers, was frustrated by Canisius, the able representative whom the Society had won in Germany, while in countless instances movements of reform were repressed or rendered nugatory and the dominion of Rome strengthened, by its activities. Diligent and devoted members went out as missionaries and brought the form of religion which they represented, to the heathen peoples of India, China, and America.
"A History of the Reformation" Thos. M. Lindsay. (T. & T. Clark Edinburgh. 1906-7. 2 Vols.)
"Die Reformation und die älteren Reform Parteien" Dr. Ludwig Keller.
"Life and Letters of Erasmus" J. A. Froude.
"A History of the Reformation" Thomas M. Lindsay M. A., D. D.
"Encyclopaedia Britannica" Article, Loyola.
The name Anabaptist--Not a new sect--Rapid increase--Legislation against them--Balthazer Hubmeyer--Circle of brethren in Basle--Activities and martyrdom of Hubmeyer and his wife--Hans Denck--Balance of truth--Parties--M. Sattler--Persecution increases--Landgraf Philip of Hessen--Protest of Odenbach--Zwingli--Persecution in Switzerland--Grebel, Manz, Blaurock--Kirschner--Persecution in Austria--Chronicles of the Anabaptists in Austria Hungary--Ferocity of Ferdinand--Huter--Mändl and his companions--Communities--Münster--The Kingdom of the New Zion--Distorted use of events in Münster to calumniate the brethren--Disciples of Christ treated as He was--Menno Simon--Pilgram Marbeck and his book--Sectarianism--Persecution in West Germany--Hermann Archbishop of Cologne attempts reform--Schwenckfeld.
About 1524, in Germany, many of the churches of brethren, such as had existed from the earliest times, and in many lands, repeated what had been done at Lhota in 1467; they declared their independence as congregations of believers and their determination to observe and to carry out as churches the teachings of Scripture. As formerly at Lhota, so now on these occasions those present who had not yet as believers received baptism by immersion were baptized. This gave rise to a new name, a name which they themselves repudiated, for it was attached to them as an offensive epithet in order to convey the impression that they had founded a new sect; the new name was Anabaptist (baptized again). As time went on this name was applied also to certain violent people of Communistic practices and principles subversive of order and morality. With these the brethren had no sort of connection; but by branding them with the same name, those who persecuted the brethren obtained an appearance of justification, as though they were suppressing dangerous disorder. As in earlier times the literature of the Christians had been destroyed, and their histories written by their enemies, so in the 16th century the same thing was done again, and in view of the unbridled violence of language common at that time in religious controversy, it is more than ever necessary to search out whatever remains of their own writings and records.
In the report of the Council of the Archbishop of Cologne about the "Anabaptist movement", to the Emperor Charles V, it is said that the Anabaptists call themselves "true Christians", that they desire community of goods, "which has been the way of Anabaptists for more than a thousand years, as the old histories and imperial laws testify." At the dissolution of the Parliament at Speyer it was stated that the "new sect of the Anabaptists" had already been condemned many hundred years ago and "by common law forbidden." It is a fact that for more than twelve centuries baptism in the way taught and described in the New Testament had been made an offence against the law, punishable by death.
The general reviving stirred by the Renaissance brought many of the assemblies of believers who had been driven into hiding by persecution to show themselves again. An ecclesiastical edict issued in Lyons against one of the brethren said, "Out of the ashes of Waldo many new shoots arise and it is necessary to impose a severe and heavy punishment as an example." Many believers emerged, too, from the Swiss valleys; they called each other brethren and sisters, and were well aware that they were not founding anything new, but were continuing the testimony of those who for centuries had been persecuted as "heretics", as the records of their martyrs showed.
In Switzerland the refuge of persecuted believers was mostly in the mountains, while in Germany it was frequently in the powerful shelter afforded by the Trade Guilds. The time of the Reformation brought out here also many hidden brethren, who, joining themselves to the existing churches, and forming fresh ones, quickly grew to such numbers and developed such activity as alarmed the State Churches, Roman Catholic and Lutheran. A sympathetic observer, not one of themselves, wrote of them that in 1526 a new party arose, which spread so quickly that their doctrine soon permeated the whole country and they obtained a great following; many who were sincere of heart and zealous toward God, joined them. They seemed to teach nothing but love, faith, and the Cross, showed themselves patient and humble in many sufferings, broke bread with each other as a sign of unity and love, and faithfully helped one another. They held together and increased so rapidly that the world was afraid they might cause revolution, but they were always found to be guiltless of such thoughts, though in many places they were tyrannically treated.
[Balthazar Hubmeyer c. 1480-1527]
Although the brethren were careful to take the Word as their guide and would not willingly come under the domination of man, they thankfully recognized as elders and overseers in the different churches the men among them who had those gifts of the Spirit which fitted them to be guides. Among them at this time Dr. Balthazar Hubmeyer was pre-eminent. After a brilliant career as a student at the Freiburg University and as Professor of Theology at Ingoldstadt, he was appointed (1516) preacher at the cathedral at Regensburg, where his preaching attracted crowds of hearers. Three years later he moved to Waldshut, and while there experienced a spiritual change, accepting Luther's teaching, and came also to be looked upon as being influenced by "Bohemian heresy", that is, the teaching of the assemblies of brethren in Bohemia. His Invitation to Brethren, of 11th Jan., 1524, requests those interested to meet at his house, with their Bibles. He explains that the object of the meeting is that they might be helped together by acquaintance with the Word of God to continue to feed Christ's lambs, and reminds them that it was a custom from the times of the Apostles that those who were called to minister the Divine Word should meet together and collect Christian counsel for dealing with matters of difficulty concerning the Faith.
A number of questions were suggested which they were earnestly and affectionately exhorted to consider in the light of the Scriptures, and he promised that according to his ability, he would provide them with a brotherly meal at his own expense. He expressed his own thoughts and teachings thus: "the holy universal Christian Church is a fellowship of the saints and a brotherhood of many pious and believing men who with one accord honour one Lord, one God, one faith and one baptism." It is, he said, "the assembly of all Christian men on earth wherever they may be in the whole circle of the world"; or again, "a separated communion of a number of men that believe in Christ", and explained,--"there are two churches, which in fact cover each other, the general and the local church, ... the local church is a part of the general Church which includes all men who show that they are Christians." As to community of goods, he said it consists in our always helping those brethren who are in need, for what we have is not our own but is entrusted to us as stewards for God. He considered that on account of sin the power of the sword had been committed to earthly Governments, and that therefore it was to be submitted to in the fear of God. Such gatherings were frequently held in Basle, where Hubmeyer and his friends zealously searched the Holy Scriptures and considered the questions brought before them.
Basle was a great centre of spiritual activity. The printers were not afraid to issue books branded as heretical, and from their presses such works as those of Marsiglio of Padua and of John Wycliff went out into the world. Brethren of striking gift and ability were among those who met with Hubmeyer for the consideration of Scripture. Of one, Wilhelm Reublin, it is recorded that he expounded the Holy Scriptures in so Christian and excellent a way that nothing like it had ever been heard before, so that he gained great numbers. He had been a priest in Basle and, during that time, at the celebration of the feast of Corpus Christi, had carried a Bible in procession instead of the monstrance. He was baptized, and later, when living near Zürich, was expelled from the country, so continued his preaching in Germany and Moravia. There were often brethren present from abroad, through whose visits connections with churches in other lands were maintained.
Among these was Richard Crocus from England, a learned man who exercised great influence among students, and many came also from France and from Holland.
In 1527 another Conference of brethren was called, in Moravia, at which Hubmeyer was present. It was held under the protection of Count Leonhard and Hans von Lichtenstein; the former was baptized on this occasion by Hubmeyer, who himself had been baptized two years earlier by Reublin. At that time 110 others had been baptized, and another 300 were baptized afterwards by Hubmeyer, among them his own wife, the daughter of a citizen of Waldshut. The same year Hubmeyer and his wife escaped, with the loss of everything, from an advancing Austrian army and reached Zürich, but there he was soon discovered by Zwingli's party and thrown into prison.
[Hubmeyer and Zwingli]
The city and Canton of Zürich were at this time completely under the influence of Ulrich Zwingli, who had begun the work of Reformation in Switzerland even earlier than Luther in Germany. The doctrine of the Swiss Reformers, differing in some respects from those taught by Luther, had spread over many of the Cantons and far into the German States.
The Zürich Council arranged a disputation between Hubmeyer and Zwingli in which the former, broken by imprisonment, was overwhelmed by his robust opponent. Afraid of being delivered into the hands of the Emperor, he went so far as to retract some of his teaching, but immediately repented bitterly of this fear of man and besought God to forgive and restore him. From there he went to Constance, then to Augsburg, where he baptized Hans Denck. In Nikolsburg, in Moravia, Hubmeyer was very active as a writer, printing some sixteen books. During his short stay in the district about 6000 persons were baptized and the numbers in the churches rose to 15,000 members.
The brethren were by no means of one mind on all points, and when the enthusiastic preacher Hans Hut came to Nikolsburg and taught that it was not Scriptural for a believer to bear arms in the service of his country or for self-defence, or to pay taxes for carrying on war, Hubmeyer opposed him. In 1527 King Ferdinand forced the authorities to give Hubmeyer up to him, and brought him to Vienna, where he insisted on his being tortured and executed. Hubmeyer's wife encouraged him to remain firm, and a few months after his arrival in Vienna he was brought to the scaffold set up in the Market Place. He prayed with a loud voice: "Oh, my gracious God, give me patience in my martyrdom! Oh, my Father, I thank Thee that Thou wilt take me to-day out of this vale of sorrow. Oh Lamb, Lamb, who takest away the sin of the world! Oh my God, into Thy hands I commit my spirit!" From the flames he was heard to cry out, "Jesus, Jesus!" Three days later his heroic wife was drowned in the Danube, thrown from the bridge with a stone around her neck.
[Johannes (Hans) Denck c. 1495-1527]
One of the most influential of the brethren who helped to guide the churches in the agitated times of the Reformation, was Hans Denck. A native of Bavaria, he had studied in Basle, where he took his degree, and must have come into contact with Erasmus and the brilliant circle of scholars and printers gathered there. Being appointed to the charge of one of the most important schools in Nüremberg he moved to that city (1523), where the Lutheran movement had already prevailed for a year, led by the young and gifted Osiander.
Denck also a young man, of about 25, hoped and expected to find that the new religion had brought morality and uprightness and godliness of life among the people. He was disappointed to find that this was not so, and inquiring into the cause, was forced to the conclusion that it was due to a defect in the Lutheran teaching, which, while insisting on the doctrine of justification by faith, apart from works and on the abolition of many abuses that had prevailed in the Catholic Church, neglected to press the necessity of obedience, self-denial, and the following of Christ, as being an essential part of true faith.
Perceiving these things by degrees, Osiander showed (1551) how experience only proved that the Wittenberg teaching made men "safe and careless." He said:"Most men dislike a teaching which lays upon them strict moral requirements that check their natural desires. Yet they like to be considered as Christians, and listen willingly to the hypocrites who preach that our righteousness is only that God holds us to be righteous, even if we are bad people, and that our righteousness is without us and not in us, for according to such teaching, they can be counted as holy people. Woe to those who preach that men of sinful walk cannot be considered pious; most are furious when they hear this, as we see and experience, and would like all such preachers to be driven away or even killed, but where that cannot be done, they strengthen their hypocrite preachers with praise, comfort, presents and protection, so that they may go on happily and give no place to the truth, however clear it may be, and thus the false saints and hypocritical preachers are one the same as the other; as the people so their priest."
Denck had perceived all this while Osiander was far from doing so, and was still calling Denck's teaching "horrible error." Osiander, in fact, denounced Denck to the city magistrates, who invited him to appear before them and his Lutheran opponents. In the disputation which followed, Denck, according to one of the other side, "showed himself so able that it was seen to be useless to contend with him by word of mouth." So it was decided that he should be required to give a written confession of his beliefs on seven important points that were indicated, Osiander declaring himself willing to reply to this in writing. When Denck's answers were presented, however, the Nüremberg preachers said it would not be wise that Osiander's promise should be fulfilled, nor did they deem themselves capable of convincing Denck, and accordingly preferred to give their reply to the City Council. The result was that (1525) Denck was required to quit Nüremberg before that night and get ten miles away from the city, with the threat that if he did not pledge himself on oath to do this he would be imprisoned. The reason given was that he had introduced unchristian errors and ventured to defend them, that he would not accept any instruction, and that his answers were so crooked and cunning that it was evidently useless to attempt to teach him. By the next morning Denck had said farewell to his family, left his situation, and set out on a wanderer's path, which lasted for the rest of his life.
In his "confession" Denck acknowledged the wretchedness of his natural state, but said that he was aware of something within him which was against sin and awakened desire after life and blessedness. He was told that these were to be obtained by faith, but saw that faith must mean something more than a mere acceptance of what he had heard or read. A natural resistance to reading the Scriptures was overcome by that voice of conscience within him which impelled him to do so, and he found that Christ revealed in the Scriptures corresponded to that which had been revealed of Him in his own heart. He found that he could not understand the Scriptures by a mere outward reading of them, but only as the Holy Spirit revealed them to his heart and conscience.
The document of the Lutheran ministers which led to Denck's exile stated that he "meant well", that "his words were written in such a way and with such Christian understanding that his thoughts and meaning might well be allowed", yet consideration for the unity of the Lutheran Church required them to act otherwise. In spite of this, wherever he came, Denck found that calumnies had preceded him, and that all kinds of evil doctrines were attributed to him which caused him to be avoided as a dangerous man. He never allowed himself to requite his adversaries as they had treated him; and although, according to the fashion of that time, the most violent denunciations of him were written, his own writings are free from any such spirit. He said, on an occasion of especial provocation: "Some have misrepresented and accused me to such an extent, that even a meek and humble heart is with difficulty held in check", and again: "it grieves me to my heart that I should be in disunion with many a one whom I cannot otherwise regard than as my brother, for he worships the God whom I worship and honours the Father whom I honour." "Therefore I will, if God will, as far as is possible, not make an adversary of my brother, nor of my Father a Judge, but, on the way, be reconciled with all my adversaries."
After a time spent in the hospitable home of one of the brethren in St. Gallen, Denck had to leave, as his host came into conflict with the authorities, and he found a place in Augsburg, through the influence of friends. In Augsburg there was at that time not only strife between the Lutherans and Zwinglians and between each of these and the Catholics, but a general depravity of morals, seriously affecting the people. Having compassion on the many distracted souls, Denck began to gather together such of the citizens as were willing to meet as a church of believers, who would combine faith in the atoning work of Christ with following in His footsteps in the conduct of their daily life.
He had not yet joined himself to the companies of believers called by those outside, Baptists or Anabaptists, but he found himself doing in Augsburg what they were doing elsewhere, and what he had seen intimately at St. Gallen. A visit of Dr. Hubmeyer brought him to the decision to throw in his lot with the brethren and to be baptized. There were before Denck's arrival many baptized believers in Augsburg, and the church grew rapidly. Most were poor people, but there were also some of wealth and position.
The writings and zeal of Eitelhans Langenmantel drew many. He was a son of one of the most eminent of Augsburg's citizens, a man who had been fourteen times Mayor, and had also occupied higher positions in the State. In 1527 the members of the church had increased to about eleven hundred, and their activities in the surrounding country helped in the founding and strengthening of churches in all the chief centres.
A writer well acquainted with the sources of information says:"it may be believed that many, from a real need of the heart, sickened by the recriminations and the mutual accusations of heresy from the different pulpits, sought refuge in being edified, quietly, and apart from all sectarianism.... It was a beautiful ideal which floated before the eyes of the purer spirits among the Anabaptists. They looked back with longing gaze to that glorious time when the pilgrim Apostles, going from town to town, founded the first Christian churches, where all came together in a spirit of love as members of one body."
Many hymns were written at this time in which the disciples expressed their worship and their experience.
[Capito and Bucer]
As persecution began to be directed particularly against Denck he left Augsburg and took refuge in Strassburg, where there was a large assembly of baptized believers. The leaders of the Protestant party were two men of ability's Capito and Bucer, who had not attached themselves definitely either to Wittenberg or Zürich, though their relations with Zwingli and the Swiss Reformers were the more intimate. Capito hoped it might be possible to remain connected with both parties and so be a means of happier relations between them. He was also undecided on the question of baptism, and had friendly connections with many of the brethren. The presence among the brethren of some extreme men, of whom they failed to rid themselves, injured their influence and kept some from coming among them who would otherwise have done so. Zwingli's introduction of capital punishment for those who differed from him on points of doctrine weakened his influence with Capito.
When Denck arrived, conditions were such and the brethren so numerous and influential that it seemed as though they might come to be the dominant factor in the religious life of the city. He soon became intimate with Capito, and his godliness, ability and personal charm drew to him, as to a trustworthy leader, not only the brethren who were looked upon as Baptists, but many others who were undecided as to the course they should take in such confusing conditions. Bucer regarded these circumstances with alarm, and, judging that there was no future for any party that could not fall back on the civil power to support it, he, in conjunction with Zwingli, worked so successfully on the fears of the City Council that within a few weeks of his arrival Denck received an order of expulsion. His sympathizers were so many that they could probably have resisted it and prevented his being exiled, but he, on the principle he always upheld, of submission to the authorities, left the city (1526).
In many dangers Denck wandered from place to place. In Worms, where there was a large congregation, he stayed for a time and had the translation of the Prophets printed which he and Ludwig Hetzer had made (1527). In three years thirteen editions of this translation were published. The first edition had to be printed five times, and in the following year six times more. The Augsburg edition was reprinted five times in nine months. Soon after this, Denck took a leading part in a Conference of brethren from many districts, in Augsburg, where he opposed some who were inclined to use force against the growing persecutions. This was called "the martyrs' conference", because so many who took part in it were later put to death.
Reaching Basle, broken down in health through his many wanderings and privations, he came into touch with his friend of early days, the Reformer Hausschein, called colampadius, who, finding him in a dying condition, provided for him a safe and quiet retreat, where he passed away in peace. Shortly before his death he wrote: "Hard and painful is for me my homelessness, but what presses upon me more is that my zeal has brought so little result and fruit. God knows I value no other fruit than that very many, with one heart and mind, should glorify the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, whether they be circumcised or baptised or neither. For I think quite otherwise than those who bind the Kingdom of God too much to ceremonies and the elements of this world, whatever they may be." In days when tolerance was little practised he said: "in matters of faith all should be free, willing, and from conviction."
Disputes as to doctrine have not always been founded on the defence of truth by one party and of error by the other. Frequently dissension has arisen because one side has emphasized one aspect of the truth, while the other side has laid stress on a different aspect of the same truth. Each side has then made much of those portions of Scripture which support the view it favoured, and minimized or explained away those parts which the other side has considered important. Thus the reproach has arisen that anything can be proved from Scripture, which on this account has been looked upon as an unsafe guide. This characteristic of Scripture, on the contrary, exhibits its completeness. It is not one-sided, but presents in its turn every phase of truth. Thus the doctrine of justification by faith alone, without works, is plainly taught, but so, in its own place, is the balancing doctrine of the necessity of good works, and that they are the consequence and proof of faith. It is plainly taught that fallen man is incapable of any good, of any motion or will towards God, that salvation originates in the love and grace of God towards men; but, also, that there is in man a capacity for salvation, a conscience which responds to the Divine Light and Word, condemning sin and approving righteousness. Indeed, every great doctrine revealed in Scripture has a balancing truth and both are necessary to a knowledge of the whole truth. In this the Word of God resembles the work of God in Creation, in which opposing forces work together to bring about the intended end.
It is often thought that when the Reformation was established, Europe was divided into Protestants (whether Lutheran or Swiss) on the one hand, and Roman Catholics on the other. The large numbers of Christians are overlooked who did not belong to either party, but who, most of them, met as independent churches, not relying, as the others did, on the support of the civil power, but endeavouring to carry out the principles of Scripture as in New Testament times. They were so numerous that both the State Church parties feared they might come to threaten their own power and even existence. The reason that so important a movement occupies so small a place in the history of those times is, that by the relentless use of the power of the State, the great Churches, Catholic and Protestant, were able almost to destroy it, the few adherents who were left being driven abroad or remaining only as weakened and comparatively unimportant companies. The victorious party was also able to destroy much of the literature of the brethren, and, writing their history, to represent them as holding doctrines which they repudiated, and to give them names to which an odious significance was attached.
[Conference at Baden 1527]
In 1527, under the guidance of Michael Sattler and others, a Conference was held in Baden, where it was agreed (1) that only believers should be baptized, (2) that discipline should be exercised in the churches, (3) that the Lord's Supper should be kept in remembrance of His death, (4) that members of the church should not have fellowship with the world, (5) that it is the duty of the shepherds of the church to teach and exhort, etc., (6) that a Christian should not use the sword or go to law, (7) that a Christian must not take an oath. Sattler was active in preaching the Word in many districts, and came, in the Spring of 1527, from Strassburg to Württemberg. In Rottenburg he was arrested and condemned to death for his doctrines.
In accordance with the sentence of the Court, he was shamefully mutilated in different parts of the town, then brought to the gate, and what remained of him thrown on the fire. His wife and some other Christian women were drowned, and a number of brethren who were with him in prison were beheaded. These were the first of a terrible series of such executions in Rottenburg.
The large meeting in Augsburg was scattered by similar means. The first to die was Hans Leupold, an elder of the church, who was arrested in a meeting, with 87 others, and beheaded (1528). He composed a hymn in prison which was included in the collection of the brethren. Many of the hymns of these Baptists were written in prison, and exhibit the deep experiences of suffering and of love to the Lord's through which they passed. They spread rapidly among the suffering saints, to whom they brought strong consolation and encouragement. Two weeks later the gifted Eitelhans Langenmantel, in spite of his connections with the most influential families, was executed, along with four others. Large numbers were beaten out of the town, often branded with a cross on the forehead. In Worms the congregation of believers was so large that all efforts to disperse it failed; it continued to exist in secret.
[Philip of Hessen 1504-1567]
Landgraf Philip of Hessen was a noble exception to the rulers of the time. He alone braved all the consequences of refusing to sign or obey the mandate of the Emperor Charles V, issued from Speyer, which solemnly commanded all rulers and officers in the Empire "... that all and every one baptized again or baptizing again, man or woman, of an age to understand, shall be judged and brought from natural life to death with fire and sword or the like according to individual circumstance, without previous inquisition of the spiritual judge", also that any failing to bring their children to be baptized should come under the same law, also that none should receive or conceal or fail to give up any who might endeavour to escape from these regulations.
The Elector of Saxony, counselled by the Wittenberg theologians, forced Landgraf Philip to banish or imprison some of the Baptists, but he could not be compelled to go beyond this and was able to boast that he had never had one put to death. He stood to it, that in times where one had one opinion and another another, those in error should be converted by instruction and not by force. He said he saw better lives among those called "fanatics" than among the Lutherans, and he could not bring his conscience to allow him to punish or put to death anyone for his faith, when there was not otherwise sufficient cause for doing so.
In the Palatinate there were many brethren in the districts of Heidelberg, Alzey, and Kreuznach. In the year 1529 alone, 350 were executed. Some especially cruel persecutions at Alzey drew from a brave Evangelical pastor, Johann Odenbach, a protest which does him honour. It is addressed to the "appointed judges of the poor prisoners in Alzey whom people call Anabaptists":"You, as poor ignorant and unlearned people, ought to cry diligently and earnestly to the true Judge and pray for His Divine help and for wisdom and grace. Then you would not lightly stain your hands with innocent blood, even though Imperial Majesty and all the Princes in the world had commanded you thus to judge. These poor prisoners, with their baptism, have not so deeply sinned against God that He will damn their souls on that account, nor have they acted so criminally against the Government and against mankind as to forfeit their lives. For right baptism or second baptism is not such a power as that it can either save a man or condemn him. We must allow baptism to be just a sign by which we acknowledge that we are Christians, dead to the world, enemies of the Devil, wretched, crucified people, who seek not temporal but eternal blessings; striving unceasingly against flesh, sin and Devil, and living a Christian life. Not many of you judges would know what to say about right or wrong baptism if it came to being bound and questioned under torture. Ought you on that account to be put to the sword? No! I do not say this to support second baptism, which should be done away with by Holy Scripture and not by the hangman's hands. Therefore, dear friends, do not usurp that which belongs to the Divine Majesty, lest the wrath of God should overwhelm you worse than the Sodomites and all evil-doers on earth. You have had many thieves, murderers and scoundrels more mercifully treated in prison than these poor creatures who have neither stolen nor murdered, are not incendiaries or traitors, nor have committed any shameful sin, but who are against all such things and with sincere and simple intention, through a small error, have been baptized again to the honour of God, and not to injure anyone.
"How can you possibly find it in your heart or conscience to say or acknowledge that for this they should be beheaded or that they will be damned for it? If you would deal with them as Christian judges ought to do, and if you knew how to instruct them out of the Gospel, there would be no need of a hangman; in this way the truth would doubtless prevail and imprisonment would be sufficient punishment. In the same way your priests ought to act, carrying them on their shoulders as erring sheep to the fold of Christ and proving to them henceforth that their office is to show them favour and brotherly love, to comfort, sustain, and restore them with sweet evangelical doctrine. Do not let yourselves be deceived into condemning these poor people to death. You ought to be terrified in this matter, such you ought to sweat blood for agony, for you do not know wherein the error lies. You should not just pay no heed when these poor creatures say: 'We desire better instruction out of the Holy Scripture and are willing to obey if a better way can be shown us out of the Gospel.' Think of your eternal shame through such an error! Think of the contempt and fury of the ordinary man when these poor people are slaughtered! It will come to be said of them: 'See with what great patience, love and worship these pious people have died, how knightly have they striven against the world!'
"Oh, that we might be as guiltless before God as they, indeed, they have not been overcome, they have suffered outrage: they are God's holy martyrs. Everyone will say that it was not to do away with the error of the poor Anabaptists that you gave such a bloody judgment, but that you might destroy by force the holy Gospel and the pure truth of God...."
The effect of this was that those judges refused to pronounce judgement in matters of faith.
Zwingli wrought his great Reformation work chiefly in German Switzerland. In the city and Canton of Zürich he came to exercise a predominant authority. In 1523 he introduced the State Church system into Zürich, and the Great Council received the responsibility of giving decisions in cases affecting the Church and doctrine. This power was at once directed against the brethren. A believer named Müller, brought before the Council said: "Do not oppress my conscience, for faith is a free gift of God's mercy and is not to be interfered with by anyone. The mystery of God lies hidden, and is like a treasure in the field which no one can find unless the Spirit of the Lord show it to him. So I beg of you, you servants of God, leave me my faith free." This was not allowed. The new State Church accepted the principle of the old Church, that it is right to act against "heretics" by imprisonment and even death.
In his earlier years Zwingli had had close relations with the brethren. He had seriously considered the question of baptism and had stated that there was no Scripture for infant baptism. As he developed the movement of reform, however, on the lines of a State Church, depending on the civil power to enforce its decisions, he necessarily drew away from the brethren.
[Grebel, Manz, and Blaurock]
They were numerous and active in Zürich, three of their number being especially prominent, and one of these formerly an intimate friend of Zwingli. This was Konrad Grebel, son of a member of the Zürich Council. He had distinguished himself in the Universities both of Paris and Vienna, and when he returned to Zürich attached himself to the congregation of believers there. Another was Felix Manz, an eminent Hebrew scholar, whose mother was also an ardent Christian and opened her house for meetings. The third had been a monk, who, being affected by the Reformation, came out of the Church of Rome. He was given the name of "Blaurock" or "Bluecoat" and was often called "Strong George" on account of his size and vigour.
These three were untiring, travelling, visiting from house to house, preaching, exhorting, and great numbers accepted the Gospel and were baptized and gathered as churches. In Zürich there were frequent public baptisms, and the believers met regularly for the Lord's Supper, which they called the Breaking of Bread. They spoke of themselves as the assembly of the true children of God, and kept themselves separate from the world, in which they included both the Reformed and the Roman Catholic Churches.
The Council forbade all these things, and a public disputation was ordered, but as the Council had power to decide the result, it only ended in an order that all who had not done so should have their children baptized within eight days, and the baptisms by the brethren were forbidden under heavy penalties. Grebel, Manz and Blaurock, however, only increased their activities, and people came by hundreds to hear the Word and to be baptized. While Grebel and Manz were moderate and persuasive in their ways, Blaurock was of an uncontrollable zeal and would at times go into the churches and interrupt the service, preaching there himself. The people were devoted to him, but the conflict with the authorities became rapidly more bitter, and many of the brethren were severely punished. Blaurock did not hesitate to say to Zwingli himself: "Thou hast, my Zwingli, constantly met the Papists with the statement that what is not founded in God's Word is of no value, and now thou sayest there is much that is not in God's Word and yet it is done in communion with God. Where is now the powerful word with which thou hast contradicted Bishop Faber and all the monks?"
At last the three preachers and fifteen others, including six women, were condemned to imprisonment, with water, bread and straw, there to die and rot, and any persons baptizing or being baptized were ordered to be punished by drowning (1526). The prisoners escaped in various ways, they had many sympathizers, but persecution became relentless, and the Cantons of Bern and St. Gallen among others joined Zürich in endeavouring to exterminate the churches. In the Canton of Bern 34 persons were executed, and some who fled to Biel, where there was a large assembly of brethren, were followed there. The meetings, which were held secretly at night in a forest, were discovered and scattered, and fresh places of gathering had to be found.
At this time Grebel died of the plague (1526), Blaurock was captured and condemned to be stripped and beaten with rods through the town "so that the blood should flow", and banished. Manz also was secured and was drowned. All this did not check the spread of the churches, which continued to increase, but it had the effect of driving into the neighbouring Austrian province of the Tyrol those whose preaching and testimony quickly established churches there. Among these was "Strong George" who travelled all over the Tyrol braving all dangers, and great numbers were won through his preaching, especially in and around Klausen, where the believers became very numerous and active in spreading the Word further. After many escapes Blaurock and a companion, Hansen Langegger, were caught and burnt in Klausen (1529).
In the same year Michael Kirschner, who had borne a good testimony for the Lord in Innsbruck, was publicly burnt in that town. Blaurock's dangerous service was taken up by Jakob Huter, among others. In the year Blaurock was burnt Huter was in a meeting for breaking bread, when it was surprised by soldiers; 14 brethren and sisters were arrested, but the rest escaped and Huter among them. In constant danger he went about, reconciling differences, encouraging the suffering, preaching the Word. Persecution was so severe that many fled into Moravia, where, for a time, they had liberty, but the frontiers were closely watched to prevent any from getting away, and arrangements were made with the Venetian Government, on the other side, to prevent the hunted men and women from escaping in that direction.
[Persecution in Tyrol and Gorz]
All over Austria there was a great spread of the Gospel and numerous churches were founded, which, after long and heroic suffering, were scattered and crushed by persecution. In Tyrol and Görz a thousand persons were burnt, beheaded, or drowned. In Salzburg a meeting was surprised in the house of a pastor and a large number put to death. One girl of sixteen stirred such pity by her youth and beauty that all begged for her life, but as she would not recant, the executioner carried her in his arms to a horse-trough, held her under water until she was dead, and then laid the lifeless body on the flames. Ambrosius Spittelmeyer of Linz, after an active and fruitful testimony, was martyred at Nüremberg. The Church in Linz had a faithful overseer in Wolfgang Brandhuber, who, together with seventy members of the assembly, was put to death (1528). So, in place after place, the Lord's witnesses were raised up by the preaching of Jesus Christ and Him crucified, and in the most literal way followed in His footsteps. Troops of soldiers were sent through these countries to search out and kill those called "heretics", without trial.
Though they were called Anabaptists, it was not the form of baptism that gave them courage to suffer as they did. They were aware of immediate communion with their Redeemer; no man and no religious form came between their souls and Him. With those called Mystics, they found that abiding in Christ and He in them, they shared His victory over the world. This fellowship with Him enabled them to understand their communion with those who shared it with them, and in their churches to realize the fellowship of saints. These churches had various beginnings, various histories, they differed according to the character of the persons in them; but all were alike in their desire to adhere to the pattern of primitive Christianity found in the New Testament; therefore they refused infant baptism, which the Reformers could not do, and they refused all worldly aid, without which it seemed to the great professing Churches impossible to maintain themselves. These things were only parts of a whole, which consisted in accepting the Scriptures as the sufficient, revealed will of God for their guidance and in putting their trust in Him to enable them to act upon them. Taking this path they were subject to special temptations, and wherever they yielded to fleshly desires, political aims or covetousness, their fall was great, but by far the greater part were enabled to bear a good testimony to the faithfulness of God. Their own description of the Christian Church is: "the assembly of all believers, who are gathered by the Holy Spirit, separated from the world by the pure teaching of Christ, united by Divine love, bringing to the Lord, from the heart, spiritual offerings. Whoever will be introduced into this Church", they said, "and become a member of the Household of God, must live and walk in God; whoever is outside this Church is outside Christ." Their rejection of infant baptism often raised the question as to children who die early, and of them they said, they are made partakers of eternal life for Christ's sake.
In the Chronicles of the Anabaptists in Austria-Hungary, one of them writes:"The foundations of the Christian faith were laid by the Apostles here and there in different countries, but through tyranny and false teaching, suffered many a blow and hindrance, the Church being often so diminished that it could scarcely be seen whether a Church existed at all. As Elias said, the altars were broken down, the prophets slain, and he remained alone; but God did not let His Church disappear altogether. Otherwise this article of the Christian faith would have been proved false: 'I believe there is one Christian Church, one fellowship of the saints.' If she could not be pointed out with the finger, if at times scarcely two or three could be found, yet the Lord, according to His promise, has been with them, and because they remained true to His Word, has never forsaken them, but has increased and added to them, but when they became careless, forgetful of Christ's goodness, God withdrew from them the gifts with which He had endowed them and awakened true men in other places, giving gifts to them, with which they again built up a church to the Lord. So the kingdom of Christ, from the Apostles' time until now, has wandered from one nation to another, until it has come to us."
"In other lands", he continues, "a good beginning was made and sometimes a good end, when the witnesses laid down their lives, but the tyranny of the Romish Church blotted out almost everything. Only the Pickards and Waldenses kept something of the truth. In the beginning of the reign of Charles V the Lord sent His light again. Luther and Zwingli destroyed as with thunder-bolts the Babylonian evil, but they set up nothing better, for when they came to power they trusted more in man than in God. And therefore, though they had made a good beginning, the light of truth was darkened. It was as though one had patched a hole in the old boiler and it was only made worse. So they have brought up a people bold to sin. Many joined these two, Luther and Zwingli, holding their teaching to be true, and some gave their lives for the truth, and without any doubt are saved, for they fought a good fight."
Then he describes the conflicts with Zwingli in Zürich on the subject of baptism, and how Zwingli, though he had formerly testified that infant baptism cannot be proved by any clear word of God from the Holy Scriptures, yet afterwards taught from the pulpit that the baptism of adults and believers is wrong and should not be endured; and how it was enacted that whoever in Zürich and the district should be baptized should be drowned in water. He shows how this persecution led to the scattering of many of Christ's servants and how some came to Austria, preaching the Word.
[The Churches Spread in Austria]
The spread of the churches in Austria and the surrounding States was marvellous; the accounts of the numbers put to death and of their sufferings are terrible, yet there never failed to be men willing to take up the dangerous work of evangelists and elders. Of some it is recorded, "they went full of joy to their death. While some were being drowned and put to death, the others who were waiting their turn, sang and waited with joy the death which was theirs when the executioner took them in hand. They were firm in the truth which they knew and fortified in the faith which they had from God."
Such steadfastness constantly aroused astonishment, and inquiry as to the source of their strength. Many were won by it to the faith, but by the religious leaders, both of the Roman Catholic and Reformed Churches, it was generally attributed to Satan. The believers themselves said:"They have drunk of the water that flows from the Sanctuary of God, from the well of Life, and from this have obtained a heart that cannot be comprehended by human mind or understanding. They have found that God helped them to bear the cross and they have overcome the bitterness of death. The fire of God burned in them. Their tabernacle was not here on the earth but was pitched in Eternity, and they had foundation and certainty for their faith. Their faith blossomed as a lily, their faithfulness as a rose, their piety and uprightness as flowers of God's planting. The Angel of the Lord had swung his spear before them, so that the helmet of Salvation, the golden shield of David, could not be wrested from them. They have heard the horn blown in Sion and have understood it--and on that account they have cast down all pain and martyrdom and not feared. Their holy temper counted the things valued in the world as a shadow, knowing greater things. They were trained by God, so that they knew nothing, sought nothing, willed nothing, loved nothing, but the eternal, heavenly Good only. Therefore they had more patience in their sufferings than their enemies in inflicting them."
[Tyrolese Magistrates Make Excuses]
The King, Ferdinand I, brother of Charles V of Spain, was a fanatical persecutor of the brethren. Many of the authorities were unwilling instruments of his cruelty and would have spared the harmless, God-fearing people, but Ferdinand sent out an incessant stream of edicts and instructions exhorting them to greater ferocity and threatening them on account of their laxity. So we find magistrates in the Tyrol excusing the mildness of which their savage lord accused them, and writing to him--"for two years there has seldom been a day that Anabaptist matters have not come before our court, and more than 700 men and women in the Duchy of Tyrol, in different places, have been condemned to death, others have been banished from the country, and still more have fled, in misery, leaving their goods behind them and sometimes even forsaking their children.... We cannot conceal from your Majesty the folly generally found in these people, for they are not only not terrified by the punishment of others, but they go to the prisoners and acknowledge them as their brothers and sisters, and when on this account the magistrates accuse them, they acknowledge it willingly, without having to be put to the torture. They will listen to no instruction and it is seldom that one allows himself to be converted from his unbelief, for the most part they only wish that they may soon die.... we trust that your Royal Majesty will graciously understand from this our faithful report that we have not in any way been lacking in industry."
After Ferdinand became King of Bohemia also, the refuge which that country and Moravia had provided for so many of the brethren was cut off and there was now no way of escape for them. Increasing rewards were offered to those who would betray an "Anabaptist" into the hands of the Government. The goods of those executed were taken and used in part to cover the expense of persecution. Women about to give birth to children were ordered back to prison until after the birth of the child and then executed. A magistrate in Sillian, one Jörg Scharlinger, was so much troubled at being obliged to have sentence of death executed on two boys, of 16 and 17 years, that he ventured to delay while he made further inquiries, and it was agreed that in such cases the accused were to be educated by Roman Catholics, the expense to be paid out of the confiscated goods of "Anabaptists", until the age of 18, when if they did not abjure they were then to be executed. Imagine a youth who loved the Lord awaiting his eighteenth birthday under such conditions!
Things grew worse and worse but Jakob Huter never ceased to hold meetings, in woods or in isolated houses, and the brethren and sisters as constantly risked their lives by receiving him. On one occasion he and a company of forty who had met for the breaking of bread in a house in St. Georgen were surprised by a party of soldiers and seven of them made prisoners. The rest escaped for that time and Huter among them, but at last he was taken, betrayed for reward. The house in which he was concealed was surrounded by soldiers in the night, and he and his wife and a girl and their elderly hostess were secured. With a gag in his mouth "so that he might not speak the truth" he was carried to Innsbruck, where there was rejoicing at his capture, for the king had been giving the authorities no rest, insisting that Huter must be found.
As soon as he received the news he sent word that the prisoner must die, whether he recanted or not. Huter was not the man to recant; indeed he used the most violent language in denouncing King, Pope, and priests and all their ways. A request of the authorities that he might be privately beheaded in order to avoid the risk of a tumult among the sympathizing people was refused by Ferdinand, who insisted that he must be publicly burnt. He was therefore burnt in Innsbruck (1536).
His dangerous place as an acknowledged leader among the assemblies of the brethren was filled by Hans Mändl, a man of gentler spirit but equal courage, who had won the confidence and affection of all by his grace and gifts and unselfish devotion. In the Tyrol he baptized over 400 persons. He was repeatedly imprisoned, but the clergy sent to convert him complained of the kindness with which the magistrates treated him, and his frequent escapes from prison seem to indicate friendliness on the part of those in charge of him. Shortly after one of these escapes he addressed a meeting of a thousand brethren and sisters in a wood, but was captured again the same year (1560). This time he was cast into a deep dungeon in a tower in Innsbruck, where also two other brethren were confined. From his dungeon he wrote:"I have been put in the tower, where my dear brother Jörg Liebich has long lain.... he lies deep, but there is a little window high up, so that he gets some light when the sun shines.... I went as fearlessly to the torture as though it had been none. After they had questioned me three days they put me back in the tower. I hear the worms at times in the walls, the bats fly about me at night, and the mice rustle round, but God makes it all easy to me. He is most truly with me, even the ghosts which He sends at nights to frighten people He makes to be friendly and useful to me."
[The Trial at Innsbruck]
When his companion, Jörg Meyer, was examined, he was asked what had induced him to be baptized. He answered that before coming to this faith he had heard how one named Jakob Huter had been burnt in Innsbruck. It was said that a gag had been put in his mouth when he was taken to Innsbruck so that he might not make known the truth. Besides that, he had heard how at Klausen Ulrich Müllner had been put to death, a man acceptable to the people and whom they counted faithful, who had this same faith--a third time, he had seen with his own eyes how in Steinach they had burnt a man who had this faith. All this he took to heart most seriously, and considered that it must be a mighty grace of God that could make them so firm in their faith that they could endure to the end, and this was the reason why he began to enquire about these people.
The three prisoners answered all the questions put to them quietly and from Scripture; they said that though now they had no certain dwelling place, but were persecuted everywhere, yet a time would come when they would be rewarded a hundredfold. They affirmed that their faith was no "cursed sect" as was said of them, and that they had no "ringleaders". Mändl explained that he had been chosen by the brethren and the assembly to which he belonged as a teacher and guide.
Twelve men were taken from Innsbruck and the district as jurors. After having taken the usual oath that they would give a verdict according to their judgement, they were required to take another, namely that they would approve the Emperor's decree as regards the prisoners, which meant of course condemning them to death. This they refused to do. The prosecution was exceedingly angry, but Ferdinand (now become Emperor) did not like to act too harshly against them for fear of arousing general opposition. The men were therefore argued with and threatened until nine of them yielded, but three, remaining firm in their refusal, were imprisoned. After a few days' imprisonment these also yielded and all the jurymen took the required oath, which settled the verdict before the trial began. Mändl was condemned to be burnt, the two others to be beheaded. They had written to the brethren just before, from prison: "We send you word that after Corpus Christi they will condemn us and we shall pay our vow to God. We do it with joy and are not sad, for the day is holy unto the Lord." Among the crowds that came to witness their death was Leonhard Dax, formerly a priest, but now one of the brethren, whose fearless greeting of the prisoners as they passed, cheered them much. They addressed the crowd, exhorting them to repentance and bearing testimony to the truth. When their sentence was read out they reproached the magistrates and the jury for shedding innocent blood, and these excused themselves by saying that they acted under compulsion of the Emperor.
"O blind world" exclaimed Mändl "each man should act according to his own heart and conscience, but you condemn us according to the Emperor's order!" They preached further to the people, Mändl continuing until he was hoarse. "Do stop, my Hans!" cried the magistrate, but Mändl continued, and said: "What I have taught and testified is the Divine truth."
They spoke up to the moment of their death, for no one would hinder them. One of them was so ill that it was feared he might die before he could be executed, so he was beheaded first. Then the other turned to the executioner and cried with triumphant courage: "Here I forsake wife and child, house and farm, body and life for the sake of the faith and the truth", then kneeled down and offered his head to the fatal blow. Hans Mändl was bound to a ladder and cast alive into the flames where the bodies of his fellow-martyrs had already been thrown. There was one witness, Paul Lenz, who so took all this to heart that he shortly after joined the despised disciples, to share with them in the sufferings of Christ.
In some parts, and especially in Moravia, communities were formed where many believers lived together as one large household, under the same guidance and having all things common. This was done, partly to provide places of refuge, in favoured districts, where those driven out of other parts by persecution might find a home; partly also in imitation of the practice of the church at Jerusalem at the beginning.
Though such community of goods was a mark of special grace in Jerusalem, when all the believers lived in one place and could all meet in the temple, yet it was not a command laid upon the Church, was impossible when the churches were scattered everywhere, and was not practiced in New Testament times outside of Jerusalem. These communities in Moravia and elsewhere did provide places of refuge for many; much spiritual blessing was experienced in them in their best days, and the excellent work done, in farming and in the practice of various handicrafts, made them wealthy. But serious disadvantages showed themselves in time. The training of children in such a community suffered as compared with training in a Christian family. A certain gloomy moroseness of temper became noticeable. Many of the divisions which weakened the churches had their origin in the communities. When war spread over the districts where they were, their comparative wealth and the concentration in them of considerable accommodation and supplies, attracted the soldiery, and this was one of the causes which led to their abandonment.
In this period events took place in Münster which, though not connected with the Christian congregations, yet did their cause more harm in Germany than anything that had happened before. In such times of excitement it could not but be that unbalanced minds would be liable to rush into extremes. The cruelty with which innocent people were treated on account of their faith aroused wild indignation in many who yet did not share that faith, and the systematic slaughter of the wisest and best, those who were elders and leaders of the churches, removed the very men most capable of checking extravagance and fanaticism and left large opportunity to inferior men to exercise their influence. The sight of cruel persecution and murder caused many to think that the end had come and the Day of Redemption was near, a day too, of vengeance on the oppressors. Men arose pretending to be prophets and to foretell the near approach of the setting up of the Kingdom of Christ.
Münster was the capital of a Principality governed by a bishop, who was its civil as well as its ecclesiastical ruler. He levied taxes and filled all important positions with members of the clergy. This kept the citizens in a constant state of discontent. Bernard Rothmann, a young and inquiring theologian, travelled, visited Luther, but was more influenced by Capito and Schwenckfeld, whom he met in Strassburg. He was a good preacher, a man of strong sympathy for all that were oppressed, and personally of ascetic habits. When he came to Münster his preaching drew crowds of hearers, and caused such excitement that many of the citizens took part in an attack on the images in the church of St. Maurice, which they destroyed.
To quell the rising disorder the bishop made use of his military force, but Philip, Landgraf of Hessen, intervened, and as a result Münster was declared an evangelical city and was enrolled in the Smalcald League of Protestant Principalities. This change attracted crowds of persecuted people from the surrounding Catholic countries to Münster, which they could now look upon as a place of refuge. They were of all kinds, some of them saints, persecuted for Christ's sake, whom it was an honour to receive, others disorderly or fanatical persons whose presence endangered the peace of the city. Most arrived in a destitute state and were received, under Rothmann's teaching and example, with the utmost kindness and liberality. One of the immigrants convinced Rothmann that infant baptism was contrary to Scripture, so that, as a matter of conscience, he had to refuse to practise it. On this account the magistrates of the city removed him from the office of preacher, but his popularity with the citizens was such that they refused to accept his dismissal, and a public disputation on the subject of baptism was held in which it was judged that Rothmann had proved his case. An Anabaptist preacher, one of the strangers who had come in, by the violence of his talk, excited riots, so that the magistrates had him arrested, but the guilds rescued him and the conflict reached such a pitch that the magistrates were deposed from office and an Anabaptist Council was elected in their place.
Meanwhile the bishop had been collecting troops, and now invested the city and cut off supplies, which was the more serious on account of the large number of destitute strangers who were being fed. Among the immigrants were two Dutchmen, who in turn came to exercise paramount influence in Münster, Jan Matthys and Jan Bockelson, the latter a tailor, usually known as John of Leyden. Matthys, a tall, powerful man of commanding appearance, able to sway the crowd by his eloquence, gave himself out as a prophet, and was believed in. He was one of those fanatics who are capable of going to any extreme, and are the more dangerous because of their sincerity. He obtained absolute control of the Council, and his view as to separation from the world led to an ordinance that no unbaptized person might be tolerated in the city; within a few days all such must be baptized, or leave Münster, or die. Many were baptized, but many left rather than yield. It was wicked and fanatical, but not so wicked nor so fanatical as the action of those Churches and States which for centuries, throughout the greater part of Europe had condemned to cruel deaths those who did not believe in infant baptism. The city being now purged of "unbelievers", changes took place rapidly, community of goods was introduced, hastened by the necessities of the siege; the keeping of Sunday was abolished, as being a legal institution, all days being considered alike; the Lord's Supper was publicly celebrated at times, with preaching.
[Jan Matthys and Jan Bockelson]
Matthys had control of the distribution of food and other necessaries, with seven deacons whom he had appointed to help him, and this gave rise to another conflict. A shoemaker named Hubert Rüscher put himself at the head of a body of the original citizens to protest against the foreigners' having taken to themselves the administration of the city, to express their indignation on this account and their fears of what it might lead to if not checked. A popular gathering was held in the Cathedral square where Matthys at once condemned Rüscher to death, and Bockelson, claiming a revelation that he should execute the sentence, wounded the shoemaker severely with his halberd. Three men had the temerity to protest against this injustice, but were themselves imprisoned and hardly escaped with their lives. A few days later the wounded man was brought up again and his execution completed by Matthys, and so the ascendancy of the Council was maintained.
All this time fighting was going on with the bishop's troops, and provisions in the city were becoming scarcer. One evening Jan Matthys was sitting at supper, with others, in a friend's house, when it was noticed that he had fallen into deep thought. After a time he rose and said: "Loved Father, not my will but Thine be done," then he kissed his friends and left, with his wife. The next day he left the city, with twenty companions, marched to the outposts of the besieging force and attacked them.Numbers of the enemy came up and there was furious fighting. One by one the little force fell, overwhelmed, among the last being Jan Matthys, fighting desperately to the end.
[Kingdom of the New Zion]
There was consternation in Münster, but Jan Bockelson soon took the authority into his own hands, and, pretending to a revelation that the Council should be abolished, as being a mere human institution, did away with it and ruled supreme, appointing twelve "elders" to be associated with him. He combined the power of an orator with practical gifts for organization. New laws were introduced to suit the "New Israel" and the people readily believed that they were the special objects of the love and grace of God and were the true Apostolic Church, and that what they were doing in Münster was the pattern which would in due time be reproduced in the whole world, over which they would rule.
The number of men in Münster was small, the number of women was many times more, and there were a great many children. In July 1534, Bockelson called Rothmann and the other preachers and the twelve elders to the Town Hall, and astonished them all by proposing the introduction of polygamy. This was an unheard of suggestion in such a place, for the people were for the most part religious and accustomed to a life of self-denial, and the moral conditions of the city were unusually good. Only a few weeks earlier a tract had been published in the town which treated of marriage among other subjects, and shewed it to be the sacred and indissoluble union of one man with one woman. Bockelson's proposal was resented and refused by the preachers and elders, but he was not to be deflected from his purpose, and for eight days he argued and insisted with all his eloquence and influence. He made use of the failures of some good men in Old Testament days to pretend that Scripture sanctions polygamy. On the same reasoning he might have argued in favour of any sin. His chief argument was that of necessity, because of the great preponderance of women over men in Münster, and at last he gained his point, and for five days the preachers preached Polygamy, in the Cathedral square, to all the people.
[The Munster Sect]
At the end of this time Bernard Rothmann promulgated a law that all younger women were to be married, and the older ones attached to the household of some man for protection. Bockelson (which may possibly help to explain his eagerness for the new law) immediately married Divara, the widow of Jan Matthys, a woman distinguished for her beauty and attainments. The opposition, however, was so strong as to lead to civil war within the besieged city. A master-smith, Heinrich Möllenbecker, led the revolting party; they captured the Town Hall and made prisoners of some of the preachers and threatened to open the gates of the city to the besiegers unless the former government of Münster were restored. It seemed not unlikely that Bockelson's government would fall, but the preachers stood by him, and most of the women supporting him, the opposition was outnumbered, the Town Hall stormed, and all resistance quenched. The effects of the new law were altogether harmful, and before the end of the year it was abolished.
In spite of all these internal disorders the defence of the city was carried on with energy and important successes were obtained in engagements with the enemy. There was still hope that help might come from outside. A further stage was reached when Bockelson was proclaimed king. He had his prophet, formerly a goldsmith, who, in the market place proclaimed John of Leyden as king of the whole earth, and made known the kingdom of the New Zion. The coronation took place in great state in the market place; gold, taken from the people, was used for crowns and other royal emblems. From among his many wives Divara was chosen as queen. The provision for the king and his bodyguard and Court and for the attendants of the queen was sumptuous and complete in every detail, but the people, suffering the extremities of the siege, could hardly be comforted by promises of the triumph of the kingdom, immediately to take place. Yet they continued steadfast, and the city could not be taken until at last by treachery it was opened to the bishop's troops. Then began the slaughter of its inhabitants, of whom none were spared.
A band of 300 defending themselves desperately in the market place were promised a safe conduct to leave the city if they would lay down their arms. They accepted these terms, the promise was not kept, and they perished with the rest. A court was established for the trial of such Anabaptists as had not been killed. Divara was offered her life if she would recant, but she chose rather to die. Jan of Leyden and other leaders were publicly tortured and executed in the place where he had been crowned, and their bodies were exposed in iron cages on a tower of St. Lambert's church (1535).
Advantage was taken of these events to apply the hated name of Anabaptist to all who dissented from the three great Church systems and, by pretending that the congregations of pious, quiet and long-suffering Christians were of the same mind as those who set up the kingdom and practiced polygamy in Münster, to justify their being treated as dangerous and subversive sects. The control of literature for a long period enabled the victorious party to confound entirely different sets of people and so to mislead succeeding generations. Although Luther and Melanchathon condoned polygamy in some cases, no one tries to prove by this that Lutheranism as a whole is a system which enjoins it, yet the one would not be more unreasonable than the other.
Many churches and Christians have been so unremittingly and violently accused of enormities of wickedness and error that the calumny has come to be generally believed and is usually accepted without question. This should not be a matter for surprise, for the Lord Himself when He announced His coming shame, suffering, death and resurrection, immediately added that His disciples must follow Him. He was misrepresented and falsely accused; a robber was preferred to Him; rulers and mob cried wildly for His crucifixion. His death was in the company of malefactors and His resurrection was not believed in by the world, hardly by His own disciples.
What wonder, then, that those who followed Him endured the same. Caiaphas and Pilate, the religious and the civil powers, joined to condemn them to spitting, scourging and cruel death; the multitude, learned and ignorant, cried out against them; they were crucified between two malefactors, False Doctrine and Evil Life, with whom they had no connection but that of being nailed in their midst. Their own books were burnt, and doctrines were invented for them, suited to secure their condemnation. Though they were of godly and kindly life they were described as guilty of conduct which existed only in the vile imagination of their accusers, that the cruelty of their murderers might be condoned. Called Paulicians, Albigenses, Waldenses, Lollards, Anabaptists, and many other names the very mention of which carried to the mind the meaning heretic, schismatic, turner of the world upside down, they went before the same Judge who stood to receive Stephen stoned by the doctors of his day; and their teachings of tolerance, love, and compassion for the oppressed have become the heritage of multitudes to whom their very names are unknown.
[Menno Simon 1492-1559]
Menno Simon, who lived through these times (1492-1559) and was well qualified to speak, being one of the principal teachers among those who practiced the baptism of believers, wrote:"No one can truly charge me with agreeing with the Münster teaching; on the contrary, for seventeen years, until the present day, I have opposed and striven against it, privately and publicly, by voice and pen. Those who, like the Münster people, refuse the cross of Christ, despise the Lord's Word, and practice earthly lusts under the pretence of right doing, we never will acknowledge as our brethren and sisters." "Do our accusers mean to say that because we are outwardly baptized with the same kind of baptism as they, that therefore we must be reckoned as being of the same body and fellowship; then we answer: If outward baptism can do so much, then they themselves may consider what sort of fellowship theirs is, since it is clear and evident that adulterers and murderers and such like have received the same baptism as they!"
After the events at Münster, the congregations of believers, falsely accused of complicity in those fanatical excesses, were persecuted with greater violence than ever, and all expectation that they might gain liberty of conscience and of worship, and become a power for the general good of the German peoples, was extinguished. The scattered and harrassed remnants were visited and sustained, in the face of the greatest dangers, by Menno Simon, after whom some of the reorganized companies, though not of their own choice, came to be called Mennonites.
In his autobiography, written after he had been for eighteen years engaged in this work, he relates how at the age of 24 he became a priest (Roman Catholic) in the village of Pingjum (in Friesland, North Holland). "As to the Scriptures", he says, "I had never in my life touched them, for I feared that if I read them I might be misled.... A year later the thought came to me whenever I had to do with bread and wine in the Mass, that perhaps it was not the Lord's flesh and blood.... at first I supposed such thoughts came from the Devil who would lead me astray from my faith. I often confessed this and prayed; however I could not get rid of such thoughts."
He passed his time, with other priests, in drinking and various useless pastimes, and whenever the Scriptures were referred to he could do nothing but make fun of them. But then he writes,"At last I decided to read the New Testament once through diligently. I had not gone far with it before I became aware that we had been deceived.... Through the Lord's grace I advanced from day to day in the knowledge of the Scriptures, and some called me an Evangelical Preacher, although wrongly. Everyone sought after and praised me, for the world loved me and I the world. Yet it was said generally that I preached God's Word and was a fine man.
"Afterwards, though I had never in my life heard of brethren, it happened that a god-fearing, pious hero, Sicke Snyder by name, was beheaded in Leeuwarden, because he had renewed his baptism. That sounded extraordinary in my ears that another baptism should be spoken of. I examined the Scripture diligently and thought the matter over earnestly, but I could find no news there of infant baptism. When I recognized this I spoke of it with my pastor, and after much conversation, brought him so far that he had to acknowledge that infant baptism had no foundation in the Scripture."
Menno then consulted books and asked counsel of Luther and from Bucer and others. Each gave him a different reason for baptizing infants, but none of these corresponded with the Scripture.
At this time he was transferred to his native village, Witmarsum (also in Friesland), where he continued reading the Bible and was successful and admired, but continued to live a careless, self-indulgent life. He continues,"I obtained my knowledge both of baptism and the Supper, by God's great grace, through enlightening of the Holy Spirit by means of much reading of Scripture and meditation on it, and not through the instrumentality of misleading sects, as I am blamed for doing. Yet if any men have in any way been at all helpful to my progress I will for ever thank the Lord for it. When I had been about a year in the new place it happened that some brought baptism forward. I do not know whence those came who began it, where they belonged to, or what they were, and I do not now know, I did not even see them.
"Then the Münster sect broke out, through which many pious hearts, also from among us, were deceived. My soul was in great distress, for I noticed that they were zealous and yet in doctrine were in error. With my little gift, through preaching and exhortation I opposed the error, as well as I could.... All my exhortations effected nothing, because I myself was doing what I knew was not right. Yet the report was spread abroad that I was great at stopping the mouths of these people and all thought highly of me. So I saw that I was the champion of the unrepentant who all referred to me.
"This caused me no little anguish of heart, and I sighed on this account to the Lord and prayed: Lord help me that I may not load myself with other people's sins! My soul was troubled and I thought of the end how that if I gained the whole world and should live a thousand years, and then at last must bear God's heavy hand and wrath, what should I then have gained?
"After this these poor misled sheep, having no true shepherds, after many cruel edicts, after much slaughter and murder, gathered together in a place called Oude Kloster, and, alas! following the godless Münster teaching, against the Spirit, Word, and example of Christ, drew the sword in their own defence which the Lord had commanded Peter to put into the sheath. When this took place the blood of these people, although they were misled, fell so heavy on my heart that I could not bear it nor find any rest in my soul. I considered my unclean, fleshly life, my hypocritical teaching and idolatry, which I exhibited daily, though without any liking for it, and striving against my own soul. I had seen with my own eyes how these zealots, though not in the leading of wholesome doctrine, willingly yielded children, goods and blood for their conviction and faith, and I was one of those who had helped to show some of their number the evils of Popery; nevertheless I had continued in my gross living and known evil and that for no other reason than that I liked the comforts of the flesh and wished to avoid the cross of Christ.
"These thoughts gnawed at my heart to such an extent that I could bear it no longer. I thought to myself: Wretched man that I am, what shall I do? If I continue in this way, and, with the knowledge that has been given me, do not yield myself wholly to my Lord's Word, do not condemn with the Word of the Lord the unrepentant fleshly life and hypocrisy of the theologians, as well as their corrupted baptism, Supper, and false Divine Services, as far as my small gift enables me; if, because of fear of my flesh, I do not open up the real basis of truth, do not, as far as I can, direct the innocent wandering lambs, who would so willingly do right if they only knew how, to the true pasture of Christ, how will not this blood shed, although it is that of erring ones, speak against me in the judgement of the almighty and great God, and pronounce judgement upon my poor soul! My heart trembled in my body. I prayed to my God, with sighs and tears that He would grant the gift of His grace to me a troubled sinner, create in me a clean heart, through the efficacy of the blood of Christ forgive my unclean walk and vain gross life, and give to me wisdom, spirit, courage, and manly heroism so that I might preach genuinely His worshipful high Name and His holy Word and bring to light His truth unto His praise.
"Now I began, in the Name of the Lord to teach publicly from the pulpit the true word of repentance, to direct the people to the narrow way, to condemn all sins and godless ways, as well as all idolatry and false Divine worship, and to testify openly what baptism and the Lord's Supper are according to the mind and principle of Christ, as far as I had, up to that time, received grace from my God. I also warned everyone against the Münster wickedness, its king, polygamy, kingdom and sword; this I did earnestly and faithfully, until, after nine months, the Lord reached out to me His Fatherly Spirit, His help and mighty hand, so that, all at once, without compulsion, I was able to let go my honour, my good name and reputation, which I had among men, as well as all my antichristian wickedness and my coarse presumptuous life.
"Now I placed myself willingly in utter poverty and misery, under the heavy cross of my Lord Christ, feared God in my weakness, sought God-fearing people, of whom I found some, though not many, in real zeal and doctrine; I disputed with those that were turned aside, won some of them through the help and power of God and led them, by God's Word, to the Lord Christ. Those that were hard and obstinate I committed to the Lord. See, my reader, thus the merciful Lord through the free gift of His great grace to me a wretched sinner, first stirred in my heart, gave me a new mind, humbled me in His fear, brought me to some measure of knowledge of myself, led me from the ways of death to the narrow way of life and called me in pure mercy into the fellowship of the saints. To Him be praise for ever! Amen.
"About a year later, as I was quietly reading and writing, searching in the Word of the Lord, it came to pass that six, seven or eight persons came to me, who were of one heart and of one soul; in their faith and life, as far as one could judge, blameless; separated from the world according to the testimony of the Scripture, under the cross, holding in horror not only the Münster, but also all the evils and sects worthy of condemnation in all the world. These besought me with many entreaties, in the name of those who feared God, who walked in one spirit and mind with me and with them, that I might take to heart the heavy sorrow and crying need of the distressed souls, for the hunger is great, the faithful householders very few, and that I might put to usury the pound that I had undeservedly received from the Lord....
"When I heard this, my heart was deeply troubled, anguish and fear encircled me; on the one side I saw the littleness of my gift, my lack of learning, my weak nature, the fearfulness of my flesh, the measureless wickedness, contrariety and tyranny of this world, the great, mighty sects, the craftiness of many spirits, and the heavy cross which were I to begin, would press no little upon me; on the other side, however, I saw the pitiable hunger, the lack and the need of the God-fearing pious children, for I saw clearly enough, they were as simple, forsaken sheep that have no shepherd. At last, after much entreaty, I placed myself at the disposal of the Lord and His church, on condition that they would for a time, with me, fervently call on the Lord, that if it should be His gracious will that I could and should serve to His praise, that His Fatherly goodness might give me such a heart and temper that I could testify, with Paul: Woe is me if I preach not the Gospel; if otherwise, that He would so order it that the matter should be prevented....
"See, dear reader, that I have not been called to this service by the Münster people nor by any other seditious sect, as is calumniously said of me, but, unworthy as I am, by such a people ... who were willing to follow Christ and His Word, who, in the fear of their God lived a contrite life, in love served their neighbours, patiently carried the cross, sought the salvation and good of all men, loved righteousness and truth, and loathed unrighteousness and wickedness. These are certainly living and powerful witnesses that they were not such a perverse sect as they are accused of being, but true Christians, although unknown to the world, if it is at all to be believed that the Word of Christ is true and His spotless, holy example is infallible and right.
"Thus I, a miserable, great sinner have been enlightened by the Lord, converted, have fled from Babylon and entered Jerusalem and finally have come to this difficult and high service. As the persons named above did not cease their request, and also my own conscience impelled me ... because I saw the great hunger and need ... I surrendered myself to the Lord with body and soul, committed myself into His gracious hand, and began at that time (1537) to teach and to baptize according to His holy Word, with my little gift to work in the Lord's field, to build His holy city and temple, to bring the fallen stones back to their place. And the great and mighty God has so acknowledged, in many cities and countries, the word of true repentance, the word of His grace and power, together with the wholesome use of His holy sacraments, through our small service, our teaching and unlearned writings, in fellowship with the true service, the work and help of our faithful brethren; He has made the appearance of His Church to be so glorious, and gifted her with such invincible power, that not only have many proud, haughty hearts become humble, not only unclean ones pure, drunkards sober, the covetous generous, the cruel kindly, the godless God-fearing; but, for the glorious testimony that they bear they have faithfully given goods and blood, body and life, as one may daily see to the present day.
"These surely could not be the fruits and signs of a false doctrine, with which God does not work; it could not exist so long under such heavy cross and misery, if it were not the Word and power of the Almighty. Further, they are armed with such great grace and wisdom, as Christ promised to all His own, they are so gifted of God in their temptations that all the learned of this world and the most celebrated theologians, as well as all the blood-guilty tyrants, who (may God have mercy on them!) boast that they also are Christians, must stand there ashamed and overcome by these invincible heroes and pious witnesses of Christ; so that they have no other weapon, can find no other means but exile, seizing, torture, burning and murder, as has been the habit and custom of the Old Serpent from the beginning, as in many places in our Netherlands, is, alas! daily to be seen.
"See, this is our call and doctrine, these are the fruits of our service, on account of which we are so terribly blasphemed and persecuted with such enmity. Whether all prophets, apostles and faithful servants of God have not produced the same fruits through their service we will willingly leave to the judgement of all good people ... if the evil world would listen to our teaching, which is not ours but that of our Lord Jesus Christ, and follow it in the fear of God, there is no doubt that a better and more Christian world would appear than now, alas! it is. I thank my God, who has given me the grace, that, even if it should be with my own blood, I desire that the whole world might be snatched out of its godless evil ways and won for Christ .
"I hope also, through the Lord's help, that no one in the whole world may be able truthfully to accuse me of covetousness or of luxurious living. Gold and riches have I none, do not even desire them, although there are some who, out of a dishonest heart, say that I eat more roast than they do mince, and drink more wine than they do beer.... He who ... has bought me ... and called me to His service, knows me and knows that I seek neither money nor goods, neither pleasure nor comfort on earth, but only my Lord's praise, my own salvation, and that of many. On which account I have had to suffer, with my delicate wife and little child, such excessive fear, pressure, sorrow, misery, and persecution, now these eighteen years, that I have to live in poverty and in constant fear and danger of our lives. Yes, when the preachers lie on soft beds and pillows, we must generally creep secretly into hidden corners. When they openly enjoy themselves at weddings, etc., with pipes, drums, and flutes, we must look round every time a dog barks for fear those should be there who would seize us. Whereas they are greeted by everyone as Doctor or Master, we must let ourselves be called Anabaptists, Corner-Preachers, Deceivers, and Heretics, and are greeted in the Devil's name. Finally, instead of being rewarded, as they are, for their service, with high salaries and good days, our reward and share from them is fire, sword, and death.
"See, my true reader, in such anxiety and poverty, sorrow and danger of death, I, wretched man, have carried out unceasingly my Lord's service to this hour, and hope to continue it further through His grace, to His praise, as long as I wander in this world. What now I and my true fellow-workers have sought in this difficult and dangerous service may easily be measured by all well-wishers, by the work itself and its fruits, but I will once more beg the sincere reader, for Jesus' sake, to receive in love this confession, wrung from me, of my enlightening conversion and call, and apply it for the best. I have done it out of great need in order that the God-fearing reader may know how things took place, for I have been everywhere slandered by the preachers and blamed contrary to the truth, as though it were by a revolutionary sect that I was called and ordained to this office. He who fears God, let him read and judge!"
Menno Simon devoted himself to visiting, gathering together again and building up the churches of believers scattered by persecution. This he did in the Netherlands, until (1543) he was declared an outlaw, a price set on his head, any who should shelter him condemned to death, and pardon promised to criminals who should deliver him into the bands of the executioner. Obliged thus to leave the Low Countries, after many wanderings and dangers, he found a refuge in Fresenburg, Holstein, where Count Alefeld was able to protect him, and not him only, but large numbers of the persecuted brethren. This nobleman, affected by the crying injustice from which these innocent people suffered, received them with the utmost kindness, and with him they found not only a dwelling place and occupation, but also liberty of worship, so that a numerous church gathered in the village of Wüstenfelde, and others in the surrounding district. In Fresenburg Menno was supplied with means for printing, and was able freely to publish his writings, which were widely circulated, and, coming into the hands of those in authority in different States, enlightened them as to the true character of the teachings which they, without understanding them, were so ruthlessly endeavouring to suppress. This had its effect in lessening the persecution and bringing about a measure of liberty of worship. Menno died peacefully in Fresenburg (1559).
New industries were established in Holstein by the immigrants, which flourished and brought prosperity to the country until they were swept away by the Thirty Years' War.
[Pilgram Marbeck's Book]
A small book published by Pilgram Marbeck in 1542 throws valuable light on the teaching and practices of the brethren. They doubtless differed among themselves on some points, but such a book as this shows the honest, genuine endeavour there was on their part to understand and carry out the Scriptures in a simple, straightforward way. Although this writer expresses an extreme view of the importance attaching to outward observances, yet there is an entire absence in the book of any of the evil teachings so commonly attributed to them. In his long title the writer says that the book is intended to bring help and comfort to all true, believing, pious, and good-hearted men, by showing them what the Holy Scriptures teach as to Baptism, the Lord's Supper, etc.
Referring his readers to many passages of Scripture in support of what he says, the author concludes: "Therefore as we have before made known our thought, understanding, opinion and faith with regard to both baptism and the supper, we will now close with a further general account of the use of both, and especially as to why and for what purpose they have been outwardly appointed. As Christ Jesus desires to be acknowledged, not only in His assembly, but also through it, so he will have His holy name acknowledged and praised by His own before the world. Therefore Christ, alongside of the outward preaching of His Gospel, has also commanded and instituted these two, namely, outward baptism and the supper to carry on and preserve the outward, pure, holy assembly. And if the matter be seen in its true light, we must say that three things are necessary to the economy of a Christian assembly, namely, true preaching of the Gospel, true baptism, and a true keeping of the Lord's Supper. Where these are not carried on, or where one of them is lacking, it is not possible for a genuine, pure Christian assembly to stand and maintain an outward testimony."... in order that the outward assembly of God may be gathered, begun and upheld there must be the preaching of the true and wholesome Gospel. That is the living fishing-net which must be cast out among all men, for all men swim in the morass of this world, are like wild beasts and by nature children of wrath. Those that are caught in this net or by this line, that is, with the Word of the Gospel, when they hear it and with firm faith cling to it, are brought out of darkness into light and have power to be changed from condemned children of wrath into children of God. Of these, as Peter says, the temple of God and assembly of Christ is being built up, as with living stones. For the Christian church is an assembly of those who are true believers and children of God, who praise and publish the Name of God. None have a place in it except believers, for we see that by nature all men are without understanding in Divine things, and it is only by the Word that they are brought to a right faith in, and understanding of, Christ; and the Scripture shows us no other way. Therefore this is the first beginning, by which all men must be gathered and through which they must be brought to the knowledge of God and to His Holy Church (as far as we are able to judge) by the preaching and hearing of the Word of God, which is the cause from which faith comes, and then they are counted as children of God, and then they may be reckoned as members of the Holy Church....
"The next thing for the building of the Church is holy baptism, which is the entrance and door into the holy church, so that it is in accordance with the ordinance of God that no one should be allowed to enter the church except through baptism. Therefore any one who is received into the holy church, that is, into the assembly of those who believe in Christ, must have died to the Devil, the world, with its following, grandeur and pomp, also to the pride of all fleshly desires, and must have refused and denied them. Then he must confess with his month that wholesome faith which he has believed in his heart. When this has been done he must be baptized in the Name of God, or into Jesus Christ, that is baptized on the ground that through true repentance and faith he is cleansed from sins in order that he may walk in unstained, obedient conduct in God and in Christ.... This is therefore the use of baptism, that by it believers might be outwardly joined to and accepted by a holy church....
"The general use of the Supper is twofold. First, that the holy Christian assembly shall be held together by it, and preserved in unity of faith and Christian love. Secondly, that all sinful wickedness, and all that does not belong to the holy, pure church of Christ, but causes offences, may be cut off and excluded."
The writer of this book, Pilgram Marbeck, was an eminent engineer. A native of Tyrol, he executed important works in the lower Inn valley, and marks of distinction given him by the Government showed its appreciation of his services. It is not known exactly when he became attached to the brethren, but in 1528 his confession of faith caused the loss of his dignities. At this time he wrote of himself: "Brought up by godly parents in Popery, I left this and became a preacher of the Wittenberg Gospel. Finding that in the places where God's Word was preached in the Lutheran way there was also a fleshly liberty, I was brought into doubt and could find no rest among the Lutherans. Then I accepted baptism as a sign of the obedience of faith, looking only to the Word and command of God."
He had to leave all he had and go abroad with his wife and child, and his property was then confiscated, but his ability enabled him to support his family wherever he was. In Strassburg he enriched the city by constructing the waterway by which the timber of the Black Forest was brought to it. His spotless character and spiritual zeal won him great favour, for the brethren were numerous and the Reformers, Bucer and Capito, were attracted by Pilgram Marbeck's sincerity and his spiritual and mental gifts. His fearless preaching of the baptism of believers, however, soon stirred up adversaries, Bucer turned against him, and he was imprisoned. Capito was not afraid to visit him in prison, but long discussions ended in the City Council's declaring that it did not hold the baptism of infants to be unchristian, and Pilgram Marbeck was given three or four weeks to realize his property, and left the city in 1532.
[Sectarianism and Truth out of Balance]
Sectarianism is limitation. Some truth taught in Scripture, some part of the Divine revelation, is apprehended, and the heart responds to it and accepts it. As it is dwelt upon, expounded, defended, its power and beauty increasingly influence those affected by it. Another side of truth, another view of revelation, also contained in Scripture, seems to weaken, even to contradict the truth that has been found to be so effectual, and in jealous fear for the doctrine accepted and taught the balancing truth is minimized, explained away, even denied. So on a portion of revelation, on a part of the Word, a sect is founded, good and useful because it preaches and practises Divine truth, but limited and unbalanced because it does not see all truth, nor frankly accept the whole of Scripture. Its members are not only deprived of the full use of all Scripture, but are cut off from the fellowship of many saints, who are less limited than they, or limited in another direction.
There is reason to regret the divisions of the Lord's people, for their underlying, essential unity is obscured by these outward and apparent divisions; yet liberty in the churches to emphasize what they have learned and experienced is of the greatest value, and even the sectarian conflicts between churches zealous for different aspects of truth, have led to much searching of Scripture and discovery of its treasures. When this goes on in such a way as to endanger love, the loss is great; nevertheless, worse than sectarian strife is uniformity maintained at the cost of liberty, or reunion made possible by indifference.
An edict of Duke Johann of Cleve, Jülich, Berg, and Mark, runs as follows: "Although it is known what is to be done with the Anabaptists ... yet we will, in conjunction with the Archbishop of Cologne, announce it by this edict, so that no one may be excused through lack of knowledge. Hereafter all who baptize again and are baptized again, as well as all who hold or teach that infant baptism is without value, shall be brought from life to death, and punished.... In the same way all who hold or teach that in the most highly esteemed sacrament of the altar the true body and the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ are not actually present, but only figuratively ... shall not be endured, but shall be banished from our Principalities, so that if after three days they are there they shall be punished in body and life ... and so treated as is announced with respect to the Anabaptists." Records are preserved of the burning, drowning, and beheading that followed.
In Cologne the assembly held its secret meetings in a house on the wall, which had two entrances, so as better to escape discovery and arrest. In 1556 Thomas Drucker von Imbroek, a very pious and gifted teacher, though only twenty-five years of age, was taken from one tower to another, repeatedly tortured, but in vain, and finally beheaded. Some of his beautiful letters and hymns, written in prison, and his confession of faith, came among the believers, were printed and circulated, and did much to spread the truth. His wife wrote to him in prison (in verse): "Dear Friend, keep to the pure truth, do not let yourself be terrified away from it, you know what you have vowed, let the cross be acceptable to you, Christ Himself went this way, and all the Apostles."
The church in Cologne was not discouraged by the death of Drucker. In 1561 three more brethren were drowned, and the following year two taken prisoner, one of whom was drowned, and the other at the moment of death reprieved and banished. The meetings continued until 1566, when, one of the members betraying them, the house was surrounded and all were taken. Their names were noted and they were distributed to different prisons. Matthias Zerfass, of his own accord, acknowledged that he was a teacher among them, and remained firm and patient under torture, and was then beheaded. He wrote from prison:"The chief object of our torture has been that we should say how many of us were teachers, and reveal their names and addresses.... I was to acknowledge the authorities as Christian and that infant baptism is right; I pressed my lips together, yielded myself to God, suffered patiently, and thought of the Lord's word when He said, 'Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are My friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.' It looks as though I have still much to suffer, but the Lord alone has it in His hand, and I can pray for nothing except that His will be done."
An instruction was issued as follows: "In order to arrest the leaders, teachers, bush-preachers, and corner-preachers of the sectaries ... officials shall send spies into the hedges, fens, and moors, especially at the approach of the more important festivals, and when there is full and continued moonlight, in order to discover their secret meeting-places."
Yet in 1534 the Bishop of Münster, in writing to the Pope, bore testimony to the excellent lives of the Anabaptists.
Hermann V, Archbishop of Cologne (1472-1552) saw the need of reform in the Roman Catholic Church and made a serious attempt to bring it about. He was Count of Wied and Runkel, and an Elector of the Empire, was made Dean of Cologne at the age of fifteen, and later Archbishop. He was a good and liberal man, beloved by his tenantry, though more interested in hunting than in church matters, and no student of theology or Latin. He opposed Luther and had his works burnt, and his spiritual court condemned two of the Cologne martyrs. Yet he saw the ignorance and superstition of the people, the neglect of discipline, the churches confided to ignorant clergy, and the income absorbed by absentees. He saw also the desecration of the Lord's Supper, and the vanity of all efforts to bring the corrupt members of the clergy back to the canonical rules. In consultation with the best men in the highest offices of the Church he tried to bring about a Catholic Reform after the ideas of Erasmus. When this failed he attempted an evangelical reform of the Church with the help of Bucer and Melanchthon, but the opposition of the clergy, the University and the city of Cologne, organized by the Jesuit Canisius, frustrated his efforts. Finding no support, he resigned his office as archbishop and retired to his estate.
[Kaspar von Schwenckfeld 1489-1561]
One who remained apart from the Roman Catholic Church, as well as from the Lutheran and the Reformed, and yet did not attach himself to those called Anabaptists, was the Silesian nobleman, Kaspar von Schwenckfeld (1489-1561), who exercised an important influence in his own country and beyond. Occupied in matters of business in connection with one or another of the smaller German courts, he did not trouble himself much about the Scriptures, until, when he was thirty years of age, he was awakened out of his indifference by Martin Luther's "wonderful trumpet of God", yielded himself to the "clear light of God's gracious visitation", and became "the soul" of the reformation in Silesia. It was not long before he found himself obliged to criticize some points in Luther's teaching, in the first instance that regarding the Lord's Supper. On this account he was attacked with virulence by Luther, who used his authority to get him treated as an outsider and a heretic.
Schwenckfeld, however, never ceased to acknowledge his great debt to Luther in spiritual things, and after suffering for many years from the attacks of Luther and the Lutheran preachers, he gave this counsel to those who sympathized with him, "Let us faithfully pray to God for them, for the time must come at last when they, with all of us, must together acknowledge our ignorance in the presence of the one Master, Christ."
The study of the Scriptures became his great delight. He reckoned that if he read four chapters a day he would read the Bible through once a year, and at first made this a rule, though afterwards he left it to the Holy Spirit to direct his reading and did not bind himself to a certain number of chapters daily. "Christ", he said, is the "summary of the whole Bible" and "the principal object of the whole of Holy Scripture is that we may fully know the Lord Christ." Faith in the accuracy and inspiration of the whole Bible was to him not a holding on to an old and doubtful dogma but a new discovery of illimitable possibilities; not ancient superstition but modern progress. He described his reading of Scripture as "a brooding over, seeking, boring into; indeed a reading and re-reading of all, chewing, meditating, turning over and thoroughly thinking out everything." "For there, undiluted treasure is revealed to the believer, pure pearls, gold and precious stones." As a "safe rule" for the expositor, he says, "where disputed passages occur, the whole context must be taken into account, Scripture brought to bear on Scripture, single passages brought to the whole, compared with one another and the application found, not only by the outward appearance of a single passage, but according to the sense of the whole of Scripture." He studied Hebrew and Greek and in his work made use not only of Luther's translation but also of "the old Bible" (used by the Anabaptists) and the Vulgate. He found the key to much that is contained in the Old Testament in the typical use made of it in the New. He determined to yield himself to the guidance of the Scriptures in doctrine and in practice, and, "if we do not understand everything" he said, "do not let us blame the Scriptures for it, but rather our own ignorance."
Eight years after his first "visitation" he had a further experience which seemed to him to affect his life even more. Up to this time he had been zealous in proclaiming the Scriptures and Lutheranism; but now what he had intellectually believed turned to an entire persuasion of the heart. He was made aware of his heavenly calling, received an overwhelming assurance of salvation, yielded himself to God as a "living sacrifice." A deep sense of sin and appreciation of the sufficiency of the redemption wrought for us in Christ, by His death and resurrection, captured his will, transformed his mind and brought him to that obedience in which he found liberty to do the will of God.
He also made the discovery that the Scriptures not only give sure guidance as to personal justification and sanctification, but that they also contain definite instruction with regard to the Church. "If we would reform the Church", he said, "we must make use of the Holy Scriptures and especially of the Acts, where it is clearly to be found how things were in the beginning, what is right and what is wrong, what is praiseworthy and acceptable to God and to the Lord Christ." He saw that the Church in the time of the Apostles and their immediate successors, was a glorious gathering, not only in one place but in many. He asks where such assemblies are to be found to-day, for, he says, "the Scripture knows no others than those which acknowledge Christ as their Head and willingly yield themselves to be ruled by the Holy Spirit, who adorns them with spiritual gifts and knowledge." Jesus Himself directs through the spiritual gifts which He dispenses, not only to the whole Church, but also to the separate assemblies. In these assemblies spiritual gifts are manifested for the common good; the same Spirit divides the gifts, but they are manifested in each one of the members. The Spirit has untrammelled liberty. If one, led by the Spirit, rises, the one already speaking must cease. The churches are not perfect, it is always possible that hypocrites may creep in unobserved, but when detected they must be excluded.
Schwenckfeld could not therefore recognize the Reformed religion as a Church, because the great mass of the baptized Christians were without the Spirit of Christ and took the Sacrament without the grace of God. He was willing to receive the help of missionary organizations, if they did not pretend to take the place of churches of Jesus Christ. "A National Church is one," he said, "that has gone back to the stage reached in the Old Testament."
"It is clear and evident" he says further, "that all Christians are called and sent to praise their Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, to publish His virtues who has called them from darkness to His wonderful light, and to confess His Name before men." Any restriction of the universal priesthood of all believers is a limitation of the Holy Spirit. "If in the time of Paul they had acted thus, and only those appointed by the magistrate had been allowed to preach, how far would the Christian faith have reached? How would the Gospel have reached to our times?" Some are chosen from among the believers to special service, and are fitted for and separated to their office, not by study, election, or ordination, but by the thrust, revelation and manifestation of the Spirit, "that Christ is with them being shown in grace, power, life and blessing." Since their "calling and sending is solely from God, in the grace of Christ, they act with power and with great assurance in the Holy Spirit, souls are born again, hearts are renewed, the kingdom of Christ is built up.""The believers can never be tired of such apostolic, spiritual preachers, nor hear them enough, for they find with them the power of God and food for their souls; it is of such that the Lord Christ said, 'Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth Me' (John 13. 20). No unconverted person or one of unholy conduct can be a right minister for the increase of the church, even though he might be Doctor and Professor, know the Bible off by heart, and be a great orator." When "some say that the person and the office are separate, so that even if a bishop, priest or preacher should be an evil man, yet he can occupy a good office, the office of a teacher of the New Testament, and can be a servant of the Holy Spirit, this is against all Scripture and against the ordinance of Christ." "What sort of ministry is that, where the teacher is himself untaught in his heart ... and does not believe what he teaches, that is, does not himself do or act what he says, whereas, in the right ministry of the New Covenant, according to the instruction of all Apostolic Scriptures and the example of the Lord Christ Himself, these two must always go together."
As to baptism, Schwenckfeld taught that it does not save, and that salvation can be had without it; but at the same time he saw its importance and that only those who confess themselves as believers should be baptized, and that as children in the cradle are not capable of faith they are not suitable subjects for baptism.
Yet he did not attach himself to those called Anabaptists. Though he describes them as a God-fearing people, separate from the great mass of those who were indifferent to religion, distinguished by their upright conduct and deep religious earnestness, yet he accuses them of legalism and ignorance, and, in common with so many others, confounds together, as though they were one, the godly, long-suffering brethren, with all the fanatical elements concerned in the Peasants' War, the Münster extravagances and other outbreaks. He claims to have known "the first Baptists" and then describes Müntzer, executed for sedition in the Peasants' War; speaks of men of the type of Balthazer Hubmeyer as being disciples of Hans Hut, although the former was a strenuous opponent of the extreme and unbalanced teachings of Hut; relates a rumour that Hut had committed suicide in prison, though he adds that some say this was unintentional, and he attaches the name "Hutist Baptists" generally to those called by most people "Anabaptists".
He recounts various detrimental anecdotes that had been communicated to him by letter, and one that he himself heard from a person who had left one of the "Hutist" assemblies, but of whose Christianity he expresses a poor opinion. He says they had little well-grounded knowledge as to sin, salvation through the grace of God and assurance of salvation, and especially that they had not grasped the ideal of the true Apostolic Church. He wrote:"They persuade themselves that ... as soon as they are received outwardly ... into their own self-gathered assemblies, they are the holy people of God, a people that He has chosen out from among all others, a pure, unblemished church, ... although the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the ornament and beauty of Christian assemblies and churches, as described in the Holy Scriptures, are very little in evidence among them."
An outward orthodoxy is to them the mark of the true Church of Christ. Therefore an unbiblical spirit of judging, and spiritual pride, are characteristic of them."They are so well pleased with themselves in all that they do, that all others, who are not of their way of thinking, that is, who have not accepted their baptism and will not join their assemblies, are condemned by them, separated from the fellowship of the saints of God, as they regard it, and considered as under Satan's power. Even if they were as full of faith as Stephen, filled with the Spirit and godly wisdom, that counts for nothing among the Baptists, so fast are they fixed, especially the leaders, in frivolous judgements, in self-love and in spiritual pride."
They are always breaking bread in their assemblies, and this, and water baptism, take the place of that which is inward and more important. "If you were to see one of their companies you would take them for the people of God, for there is no doubt as to the piety of their outward conduct." He points out, however, that the Pharisee in the parable had a more pious outward appearance than the Publican. "Not," he adds, "that we wish to blame outward piety, either in Baptists or monks," but "more is required than just, 'Come here and be baptized.'"
He complains also that tyranny was exercised over the consciences of the members, that there was legality as regards habits, dress and other outward things, and he opposed their views as to oaths, war and participation in civil government. From all which it may safely be gathered that among these people, as among any considerable body of men, even of Christians, there were failures, weaknesses and errors to be found, and that the narrowness and legality complained of were limitations to which some of those called "Anabaptists" were always liable, and against which the better men among them were constantly protesting. Schwenckfeld disapproved of the cruel persecutions to which they were subjected. "I would gladly spare the God-fearing, simple people that are among them" he says, and reminds his hearers that there were true Christians among them, who, in spite of lack of knowledge, had life from God; he points to their joy under suffering, advises that if, as was so often said, they were seditious, the civil government should be left to deal with them, adding that he found them to be peaceful people, without seditious plans.
Through Schwenckfeld's diligent activities, circles of believers were gathered throughout Silesia, beginning in and around Liegnitz. They were a pattern of godliness to those about them. In view of the great misuse of the Lord's Supper, Schwenckfeld discontinued it for the time being, and the influence of his teaching as to the worthy and unworthy taking of it had such an effect that the Lutheran clergy in Liegnitz began (1526) to follow his example. This led many to accuse Schwenckfeld of disparaging the Lord's Supper, though it was the opposite feeling that had influenced him.
His great desire was to realize the unity of the Church. He wrote:"Oh would to God we were truly the body of Christ, united in the bonds of love ... but alas there is as yet no sign of anything that could be compared with the first church, where the believers were of one heart and of one mind." "We will, however, stand fast in the liberty with which Christ has made us free, and not enter into any human sect, nor turn away from the universal Christian Church; we will not be bound by any yoke of bondage but only cling to the one Divine sect of Jesus Christ" ... "My desire and the wish of my heart is that I might help everyone to the truth and unity of Christ and His Holy Spirit and not that I should be a cause of sectarianism, division or falling away from Christ.... As there are now four that are called churches, the Papal, Lutheran, Zwinglian, and Baptist or Pickard, and each condemns the other, as is to be seen, that Luther condemns the Zwinglian Church and the fanatics, one cannot help asking whether all of them are, or which of them is, the true assembly of the Church of Christ, where one ought to be found and where one may be blessed.... We will answer the question in the words of Peter ... 'Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation he that feareth Him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with Him' (Acts 10. 34, 35).... So the more these churches condemn one another, so much the more will those who fear God and live uprightly and christianly, be, in the sight of God, unexcluded and uncondemned.... Although I have so far fully joined myself to no church ... yet I have not despised any church, persons, leaders or teachers, I desire to serve every one in God, to be the friend and brother of each who has a zeal for God and loves Christ from the heart.... Therefore I pray God to lead me aright in all things, to enable me, according to the Apostolic rule, rightly to recognize all spirits, especially the Spirit of Jesus Christ; to teach me to prove all things and to distinguish, and to accept and hold what is good, so that in this present state of divisions and separations, I may attain, with a clear, sure conscience in Christ, to truth and unity" ... "My liberty does not suit all, ... some call me an eccentric ... and many look upon me with suspicion, ... but God knows my heart.... I am ... no sectarian, and with God's help, will not be a disturber of peace." ...
"Rather than destroy anything good, I would die. And therefore I have not fully attached myself to any party, sect, or church, so that I might, in the will of God, through His grace, apart from party serve all parties."
The teachings of Schwenckfeld and the growth of the circles he established drew upon him the attention of King Ferdinand, who regarded him as a despiser of the Lord's Supper, and he was obliged (1529) to leave his native land, where he had always enjoyed a high position and great consideration. For the remaining thirty years of his life he was a wanderer, persecuted by the Lutheran Church, which formally declared him a heretic, but his exile led to a further spread of the groups which received his teaching, especially in South Germany, where some of the rulers protected him. Under Schwenckfeld's teaching these groups did not consider themselves as churches, such a position would, they thought, imply separation from believers in the existing parties, all of whom they wished to serve. They left baptism and the breaking of bread in abeyance until better times should come, and, in the meantime, they prayed and looked for a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit before the Lord's coming, which would unite His Church. Their part was, by Bible readings, visiting, and every means of testimony accorded to them, to prepare saints for that time, as well as, by preaching the Gospel, to gather in from among the unconverted as many as possible to be sharers in the blessings to be revealed.
Their abstention from any church testimony, merely because of the difficulties connected with it, made them a source of weakness rather than of strength to those brethren who were continuing in faith to carry out, as had been done by some from Apostolic times, the teaching of Scripture as regards the churches. Those principles, when rightly carried out, did not establish a sect or divide them from Christians who did not meet with them, but afforded the one ground on which it was possible for all believers to enjoy fellowship with each other, the ground of their common fellowship with Christ.
Pilgram Marbeck, in conjunction with others, wrote a reply to Schwenckfeld's strictures on the believers who gathered as churches and practised baptism and the breaking of bread. Schwenckfeld had expressed his disapproval in a work entitled, "Of the New Pamphlet of the Baptist Brethren published in the year 1542." Marbeck's reply had a long title (eighty-three words) and took the form of quoting Schwenckfeld and giving 100 answers. In it he and the brethren with him say: "It is not true that we refuse to count as Christians those who disagree with our baptism and reckon them as misguided spirits and deniers of Christ. It is not ours either to judge or condemn him who is not baptized according to the command of Christ."
"Die Reformation und die älteren Reformparteien" Dr. Ludwig Keller, who gives authorities.
"Die Taufe. Gedanken über die urchristliehe Taufe, ihre Gesehichte und ihre Bedeutung für die Gegenwart" J. Warns, who also gives authorities and sources.
"Neue Studien zur Geschichte der Theologie und der Kirche" Herausgegeben von N. Bonwetsch, Göttingen und R. Seeberg, Berlin. Zwanzigstes Stück. "D. Baithasar Hubmeier als Theologe" (Berlin, Trowitzch & Sohn, 1914) von Carl Sachsse.
"Ein Apostel der Wiedertäufer" Dr. Ludwig Keller.
"Reformations-Geschichte Augsburg " Friedrich Roth. (München 1881).
Vorträge und Aufsätze aus der Comenius Gesellschaft. 7ter Jahrgang, 1 u 2 Stück. "Georg Blaurock und die Anfänge des Anabaptismus in Graubündten und Tirol" Aus dern Nachlasse des Hofrates Dr. Joseph R. von Beck. Herausgegeben von Joh. Loserth.
Fontes Rerum Austriacarum. Oesterreichische Geschichts-Quellen. Abth. 2 Bd. 43. "Die Geschichts-Bücher der Wiedertäufer in Oesterreich-Ungarn, u.s.w. in der Zeit von 1526 bis 1785" Gesammelt, Erläutert und Ergänzt durch Dr. Josef Beck.
Archiv für Oestcrreichische Geschichte. 78 Bd. "Der Anabaptismus in Tirol u.s.w." Aus dem Nachlasse des Hofrates Joseph R. von Beck. Herausgegeben von Joh. Loserth.
"History of the Reformation" T. M. Lindsay, M.A., D.D., Edinburgh, 1907. "Geschichte der Wiedertäufer und ihres Reichs zu Münster" Dr. Ludwig Keller, 1880.
"Geschichte der Alt-Evangelischen Mennoniten Brüderschaft in Russland" P. M. Friesen.
"Fundamente der Christlichen Lehre u.s.w." Joh. Deknatel.
Vermanung-auch gantz klarer, gründtlicher uñ unwidersprechlicher bericht, z_ warer Christlicher, ewigbestendiger pundtssuerynigung allen waren glaubigen frummen, und g_tthertzigen menschen z_ hilff und trost, mit grund heyliger schrifft, durch bewerung warer Tauff und Abentmals Christi sampt mitlauffung und erklårung jrer gegensachen und Argumenten, wider alle vermeynte Christliche Pündtnus, so sich bissher uñ noch, onder dem nammen Christi z_tragend.
"Geschichte des Christlichen Lebens in der rheinisch-westphälischen evangelischen Kirche" Max Goebel.
"Schwenckfeld, Luther und der Gedanke einer Apostolischen Reformation" Karl Ecke.
France and Switzerland
Le Fèvre--Group of believers in Paris--Meaux--Farel's preaching--Metz--Images destroyed--Executions--Increased persecution in France--Farel in French Switzerland--In Neuchâtel--The Vaudois and the Reformers meet--Visit of Farel and Saunier to the valleys--Progress in Neuchâtel--Breaking of bread in the South of France--Jean Calvin--Breaking of bread in Poitiers--Evangelists sent out--Froment in Geneva--Breaking of bread outside Geneva--Calvin in Geneva--Socinianism--Servetus--Influence of Calvinism--The Placards--Sturm to Melanchthon--Organization of churches in France--The Huguenots--Massacre of St. Bartholomew--Edict of Nantes--The Dragonnades--Revocation of the Edict of Nantes--Flight from France--Prophets of the Cevennes--War of the Camisards--Churches of the Desert reorganized--Jacques Roger--Antoine Court.
[Jacques Le Febre c. 1455-1536]
At the end of the fifteenth and beginning of the sixteenth century there was in Paris a little, middle-aged man of quick and lively manner, who very devoutly observed all the requirements of the Roman Catholic Church. This was Jacques Le Fèvre, the most learned and popular Doctor of Divinity at the University. Born about 1455 at the small town of Étaples in Picardy, he studied later in Paris and in Italy, and his ability and industry were such that when, in the year 1492, he became Professor in the Paris University he quickly took a foremost place among his colleagues. The Revival of Learning had drawn to Paris eager students from all countries. Le Fèvre encouraged the study of languages, and finding that neither the classics nor the scholasticism that had so long dominated theology satisfied the soul, he took his students to the Bible, which he expounded with such understanding and fervour that large numbers were attracted both to him and to it, while his kind and attractive ways made him to be not only the teacher but also the trusted friend of his scholars.
[Guillaume Farel 1489-1565]
When Le Fèvre had been lecturing seventeen years at the Sorbonne and had become widely known through his writings, a much younger man, Guillaume Farel, then twenty years of age, came to Paris from his mountain home in Dauphiny, between Gap and Grenoble. In the pleasant manor house where the Farel family had long been established, he had left his parents, three brothers and one sister, all like himself brought up in the Church of Rome and its observances. Farel was distressed when he saw the wild and sinful lives of so many in Paris, but as he worshipped in the churches he was struck by the unusual devotion of Le Fèvre. The two became acquainted, the young student was charmed by the kindness and interest of the renowned professor, and the foundations of a lifelong friendship between them were laid. They read the Bible together. Le Fèvre had put much labour into a book he was writing, "Lives of the Saints", arranged in the order in which they occur in the calendar. He had already published an instalment covering the first two months, but the contrast between the absurdities contained in many of these "Lives" and the power and truth of the Scriptures so impressed him that he abandoned the "Lives" for the study of Scripture, taking up especially the Epistles of Paul, upon which he wrote and published commentaries.
He taught plainly: "It is God alone, who by His grace, through faith, justifies unto everlasting life." Such doctrine, preached in Paris before Zwingli proclaimed it in Zürich or Luther in Germany, aroused the most lively discussion. Though it was the old, the original Gospel, preached by the Lord and by His Apostles, yet it had been so long replaced by the teaching that salvation is by the sacraments of the Church of Rome that it appeared new to the hearers. Farel, who had passed through deep exercise of soul, was one of many who at that time laid hold of salvation by faith in the Son of God and the sufficiency of His atoning work. He said: "Le Fèvre extricated me from the false opinion of human merits, and taught me that everything comes from grace; which I believed as soon as it was spoken."
[Believers in the King's Court]
Even at the Court of King Francis I there were those who received the Gospel, among them Briçonnet the Bishop of Meaux, and Margaret of Valois, Duchess of Alençon, the king's sister, to whom he was greatly attached; who, already celebrated for her wit and beauty, became equally famous for her fervent faith and good works. Another adherent was Louis de Berquin, of Artois, known as the most learned among the nobility, careful for the poor, devout in the observances of the Church. His attention was drawn to the Bible by the very violence of the attacks upon it. Reading it for himself, he was converted and joined the little group of believers, which included Arnaud and Gérard Roussel, natives, like Le Fèvre, of Picardy. Berquin at once began to spread literature over France, writing and translating both books and tracts drawing attention to the teachings of Scripture. Such activities aroused opposition, which, under the leadership of the chancellor Duprat, and Noël Beda, an official of the University, became so violent that the more prominent witnesses for the Gospel had to leave Paris, and in 1521 several of them, including Le Fèvre and Farel, took refuge in Meaux, at the invitation of the bishop, who vigorously undertook the reformation of his diocese.
In Meaux, Le Fèvre published his translation into French of the New Testament and the Psalms. The Scriptures became the great theme of conversation, in the town of Meaux among its busy wool-workers and wool merchants, and also in the surrounding villages among the farmers and labourers on the hand. Farel preached everywhere, both in the churches and the open air. He wrote:"What are those treasures of the goodness of God which are given to us in the death of Jesus Christ? Firstly, if we diligently consider what the death of Jesus was, we there shall see in truth how all the treasures of the goodness and the grace of God our Father are magnified and glorified and exalted in that act of mercy and love. Is not that sight an invitation to wretched sinners to come to Him who has so loved them that He did not spare His only Son, but delivered Him up for us all? Does it not assure us that sinners are welcome to the Son of God, who so loved them that He gave His life, His body, and His blood, to be a perfect sacrifice, a complete ransom for all who believe in Him! ... He who is the Son of God, the power and the wisdom of God, He who is God Himself, so humbled Himself as to die for us, He the holy and the righteous One, for the ungodly and for sinners, offering Himself up that we might be made pure and clean. And it is the will of the Father, that those whom He thus saves by the precious gift of His Son, should be certain of their salvation and life, and should know that they are completely washed and cleansed from all their sins.... He gives the precious gift of His Son to the wretched prisoner of the Devil, of sin, of hell and of damnation.... The gracious God, the Father of mercy, takes such an one as this to make him His child.... He makes him a new creature; He gives him the earnest of the Spirit, by whom he lives, who unites him to Christ, making him a member of His body.... Let us not, therefore, shrink from laying down this mortal life, for the honour of our Father, for a witness to the holy Gospel....
"And oh! how bright, how blessed, how triumphant, how joyous and how happy is the day that is coming. Then the Lord and Saviour, in His own body--that body in which He suffered so much for us, in which He was spat upon, beaten, scourged and tortured, so that His face was marred more than any man--in that body He shall come; calling to all His own who have been partakers of His Spirit, in whom by the Spirit He has dwelt; calling them up to the glory, showing Himself to them in the body of His glory; raising them up in their bodies alive with immortal life, made like to Jesus, to reign for ever with Him in joy. For that blessed day the whole creation groans; that day of the triumphant coming of our Saviour and Redeemer, when all enemies shall be put under His feet, and His elect people shall ascend to meet Him in the air."
Meaux was at this time a centre of spiritual life and Bishop Briçonnet provided for the distribution of copies of the Scriptures in all the diocese. Among many who were converted were two wool-carders, Pierre and Jean Leclerc, with their mother; also Jacques Pavanne, a student on a visit to the bishop, and a man called the Hermit of Livry, a seeker after God, who lived in a hut in what was then the forest of Livry near Paris, supporting himself by begging. He met someone from Meaux who brought him the Bible. Reading this, he found salvation, and his hut soon became the meeting place of such as desired instruction in the Word.
The Franciscans in Meaux quickly complained to the Church and the University in Paris about what was going on in their town, and Beda and his colleagues took prompt measures to crush out the growing testimony of the Gospel. Berquin was seized in his country château, bravely confessed his faith, and was on the point of being executed, when the king intervened and saved him, as he did also Le Fèvre, who was allowed to remain in Meaux, with restricted liberty. Threatened with the loss of everything and with a cruel death, the bishop had yielded and consented to the reintroduction of the Roman system in his diocese. Farel, troubled that his friends in Meaux did not go far enough in following out the Scriptures, had already left, seeking, after a brief visit to Paris, his country home near Gap.
[Jean LeClerc 1657-1736]
The believers in Meaux and in the district had, from the first, understood that the gifts of the Spirit were not confined to a particular class but were given through all the members of the body of Christ, so, when sudden, severe persecution removed or silenced their more prominent leaders they were not crushed but held frequent secret meetings as they found opportunity, in which brethren ministered the Word according to their ability. Able and zealous in this service was the wool-carder, Jean Leclerc, who also, not content with this and with visiting from house to house, wrote and posted on the cathedral doors some placards condemning the Church of Rome, thus drawing punishment on himself. For three successive days he was whipped through the streets and then branded on the forehead with a red-hot iron as a heretic. "Glory to Jesus Christ and to His witnesses!" cried a voice from the crowd. It was that of his mother. The bishop had to see these things and consent.
Leclerc, with the seared face, removed to Metz, where he earned his living as a wool-carder and diligently explained the Scriptures to all he came in contact with. A learned man, Agrippa of Nettesheim, who had come to live in Metz, was now one of its most prominent citizens. Reading the works of Luther he was attracted to the Scriptures, and, enlightened by these, began to testify to others of the truth he had received. Thus both among the workpeople and those in high positions great interest was awakened in the Gospel. Jean Chaistellain, an Augustinian friar who had come to the knowledge of Christ in the Netherlands, came at this time to Metz, and his eloquent and sympathetic preaching affected many.
Another helper who joined this growing church was François Lambert. Brought up by the Franciscans in Avignon, he had been repelled even as a child by the evil he saw around him. He felt an inward power urging him to read the Scriptures, and, finding Christ revealed there, he believed and preached Him. His preaching journeys from the monastery, effective among his country hearers, aroused the derisive hostility of his fellow-monks. Luther's writings helped him much, and, using an opportunity to get away from his convent, he travelled to Wittenberg where he greatly pleased the famous reformer. There he met with printers from Hamburg, arranged for the printing of French tracts and Scriptures and organized their conveyance into various parts of France. Then he married, two years before Luther--the first of the French priests or monks to take this step. Willing to share with him the dangers of returning to France, his wife accompanied him to Metz (1524). They were soon driven out again, but others were continually added--a well-known knight, D'Esch; a young man, Pierre Toussaint, who had been expected to take a high place in the Roman Catholic Church, and many others.
A great festival was at hand, on the occasion of which the people of Metz were in the habit of making a pilgrimage some miles out from the city to a chapel celebrated for its images of the Virgin and the saints. His mind filled with Old Testament denunciations of idolatry, Leclerc, informing nobody of his intention, crept out of Metz the night before the pilgrimage and destroyed the images in the chapel. When, the next day, the worshippers arrived and found the shattered fragments of their images strewn over the chapel floor, they were filled with fury. Leclerc made no secret of what he had done. He exhorted the people to worship God only and declared that Jesus Christ, who is God manifest in the flesh, is alone to be adored. Condemned to the flames, he was first subjected to abominable tortures.
As member after member of his body was destroyed, he continued, as long as he could speak, solemnly to recite in a loud voice the words of the hundred and fifteenth Psalm: "Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men's hands. They have mouths, but they speak not: eyes have they, but they see not: they have ears, but they hear not: noses have they, but they smell not: they have hands, but they handle not: feet have they, but they walk not: neither speak they through their throat. They that make them are like unto them; so is every one that trusteth in them. O Israel trust thou in the Lord: He is their help and their shield."
The first to die in this persecution, he was quickly followed by Friar Chaistellain, who was degraded and burnt. D'Esch, Toussaint, and others had to fly for their lives, yet the believers continued to increase in Metz, as also throughout Lorraine. At Nancy a preacher of the Gospel named Schuch was burnt by order of the Duke, Anthony the Good. When he heard his sentence, Schuch simply said: "I was glad when they said unto me, 'Let us go into the house of the Lord.'"
In 1525 the King of France, Francis I, was defeated and made prisoner by the Emperor Charles V, at the battle of Pavia. Advantage was taken of this to press for the extirpation of dissent in France. The restraining influence of Margaret, the king's sister, was neutralized, the regent was easily induced to help, and Church, Parliament, and Sorbonne united in the attack. Parliament presented to the regent an address, in which it was asserted that the neglect of the king to bring heretics to the scaffold was the real cause of the disaster that had overtaken the throne and the nation. With the approval of the Pope, a commission was appointed, consisting of four men, determined enemies of Reform, before whom the ecclesiastical authorities were to bring all persons affected with the taint of Lutheran doctrine, that they might be handed over to the secular power and burnt.
A beginning was made with Briçonnet, Bishop of Meaux, as the most exalted offender, and one whose fall would make the deepest impression. True, on a former occasion he had submitted to all that had been required of him, but he had since given abundant evidence that he had acted only under compulsion, and that his inward adherence to the Gospel was unchanged. Seeing that it would better serve their cause to bring him to recant than to put him to death, every imaginable effort was made by the commission to effect this; until at last the bishop, of whose inward faith there is no doubt, yielded an outward submission to Rome and went through all the ceremonies of repentance and reconciliation prescribed.
The next to be attacked was Le Fèvre, but he, receiving timely warning, escaped to Strassburg, where Capito received him into his home and, with Bucer, gave him a hearty welcome, where also he found Farel and Gérard Roussel and enjoyed a wider fellowship of the Lord's people than he had ever known before. Among those who suffered imprisonment and death at this time in France was the Hermit of Livry. From the time of his finding peace himself, through believing, he had devoted himself to visiting in all the district, receiving such as came to his hut, and explaining to all from the Scriptures the way of salvation. He was brought with great pomp to the open space before the cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris, an immense multitude was gathered together by the tolling of the great bell, and there he was burnt before all, enduring his martyrdom with quiet fortitude of faith. Louis de Berquin had already been seized, imprisoned and condemned to death, but on the return of the king (1525), he was liberated, and (largely through the influence of the Duchess Margaret) the exiled preachers in Germany and Switzerland were invited to come back to France--excepting Farel, whose teaching, going beyond that of the others, was less acceptable to those who still hoped for some compromise with Rome.
During Farel's stay in his own country, Dauphiny, his three brothers became decided followers of Christ, also a young knight, Anemond de Coct, and many others. Farel preached constantly in the open air and in any buildings available. Many were surprised, even offended, that he, a layman and unordained, should preach. He was, however, an ideal preacher, learned, bold, eloquent, intensely convinced of the truth and importance of what he preached, intimately acquainted with the Scriptures and filled with a sense of his responsibility toward God and with compassionate love toward men. His appearance was striking and impressive; he was of medium height and thin, with a long red beard and flashing eyes and a deep, powerful voice, and his manner, at once serious and vivacious, instantly commanded attention, which his popular and convincing speech maintained. Driven out of Gap and pursued in his hiding-places in the country he knew so well, he at last made his way by remote paths across the frontier and reached Basle. There he was received into the house of colampadius, the two men becoming warmly attached to each other, but he would not even visit Erasmus, whom he considered to be unfaithful and half-hearted in his testimony, and Erasmus therefore became his opponent.
An opportunity was given to Farel, with colampadius, to hold a public discussion in Basle, in which they maintained with success the Sufficiency of the Word of God. Farel's fervour and ability charmed most of his hearers, but when after a short visit to Zwingli in Zürich he returned to Basle, he found that hostile influences had procured his expulsion from the city. It was then that he went to Strassburg, was received into Capito's hospitable home and met Le Fèvre and the other exiles from France.
[Farel in French Switzerland]
It was in French Switzerland that Farel's greatest work was done. Through his long-continued and ardent labours that beautiful country so long in spiritual darkness was transformed; and the greater part of it became, and has continued to be, a centre of enlightened, evangelical Christianity. Among many instances of the effect of Farel's preaching the story of Neuchâtel is one of the most striking. There seemed to be no opening there, but the curate of the neighbouring village of Serrières allowed him to preach in his churchyard. Accounts of this soon reached Neuchâtel and before long he was preaching in the market-place there.
The effect was extraordinary. Large numbers received the message, others were stirred to violent opposition; the whole city and surrounding country were in a ferment. After a few months' enforced absence the preacher was back again, with some companions, and the work not only laid hold increasingly of the town but spread to Valangin, throughout the Val de Ruz, through the villages along the shore of the Lake, to Granson and up to Orbe. At Valangin he and Antoine Froment narrowly escaped being drowned by the angry people in the River Seyon, were beaten in the chapel of the castle so that their blood stained its walls, and were eventually thrust into the prison, from which, however, they were rescued by the men of Neuchâtel. In October, 1530, less than a year after the first preaching in the churchyard of Serrières, Neuchâtel took a general vote of its inhabitants, and by the narrow majority of 18 abolished Roman Catholicism and adopted the reformed religion, but gave liberty of conscience to all.
[Reformers meet the Vaudois]
The Waldenses, or Vaudois, in their remote Alpine valleys, as well as in other places where they were settled, in Calabria and Apulia, in Provence, Dauphiny and Lorraine, received reports of the Reformation; while, on the other hand, the neighbouring countries where the Reformation was spreading also heard that in distant parts of the Alps and elsewhere people had been found who had always held those truths which they themselves were now contending for. The name of Barbe was given by the Vaudois to their elders, and one of these, Martin Gonin, of Angrogne, was so much moved by the reports that he had heard that he determined to undertake the journey to Switzerland and Germany to see some of the Reformers. This he did (1526), returning with such news as he had gathered, as well as some of the Reformers' books. The information he brought excited the greatest interest in the valleys, and at a meeting held (1530) at Merandol the brethren decided to send two of their Barbes, Georges Morel and Pierre Masson, to try to establish connections.
These came to Basle and, finding the house of colampadius, introduced themselves to him. Others were called in and these simple, godly mountaineers explained their faith and their origin in Apostolic times. "I thank God," said colampadius, "that He has called you to so great light." In conversation points of difference were discovered and discussed. In answer to questions the Barbes said: "All our ministers live in celibacy, and work at some honest trade." "Marriage, however", said colampadius, "is a state very becoming to all believers, and particularly to those who ought to be in all things examples to the flock. We also think that pastors ought not to devote to manual labour, as yours do, the time they could better employ in the study of Scripture. The minister has many things to learn; God does not teach us miraculously and without labour; we must take pains in order to know."
When the Barbes admitted that under stress of persecution they had sometimes had their children baptized by Romish priests, and even attended mass, the Reformers were surprised, and colampadius said: "What! has not Christ, the holy victim, fully satisfied the everlasting justice for us? Is there any need to offer other sacrifices after that of Golgotha? By saying 'Amen' to the priests' mass you deny the grace of Jesus Christ." Speaking of man's condition since the Fall, the Barbes said: "We believe that all men have some natural virtue, just as herbs, plants, and stones have." "We believe", said the Reformers, "that those who obey the commandments of God do so, not because they have more strength than others, but because of the great power of the Spirit of God which renews their will." "Ah", said the Babes, "nothing troubles us weak people so much as what we have heard of Luther's teaching relative to free will and predestination.... Our ignorance is the cause of our doubts: pray instruct us." These divergences did not estrange them; colampadius said: "We must enlighten these Christians, but above all things we must love them." "Christ", said the Reformers to the Vaudois, "is in you as he is in us, and we love you as brethren."
Morel and Masson then continued their journey to Strassburg. On their homeward way they visited Dijon where their conversation attracted the attention of someone who reported them as being dangerous persons, and they were imprisoned. Morel succeeded in escaping with the documents they had in their charge, but Masson was executed. The report which Morel brought of their conversations with the Reformers excited much discussion, and it was decided to call a general conference of the churches and invite representatives of the Reformers to be present so that they might examine these questions together. Martin Gonin and a Barbe from Calabria, named Georges, were chosen to go to Switzerland with the invitation. In Granson, in the summer of 1532, they found Farel and other preachers conferring as to the further spread of the Gospel in French Switzerland. Here they related the differences which had arisen among them with regard to some points in the teaching and practice of the Reformers and brought the request that some might return with them, so that unity of judgment might be reached and they might take steps for unitedly preaching the Gospel in the world. Farel responded readily to the invitation, and Saunier and another joined him.
After a dangerous journey they reached Angrogne, the home of Martin Gonin, and saw and visited some of the Waldensian hamlets scattered on the mountain slopes. The hamlet of Chanforans was chosen as meeting-place, and, as there was no building that would hold the people, the Conference was held in the open air, rough benches being arranged as seats. The Reformation was a movement outside the sphere of the Waldenses and unconnected with them, but they had retained their old and widespread connections with the numerous brethren and churches that had existed before the Reformation.
These churches, though sympathetically interested in the Reformation, had by no means been absorbed into it. So there were present at this gathering elders of churches in Italy, reaching even to the extreme south; from many parts of France, from the German lands and especially from Bohemia. Among the numerous peasants and labourers were also some Italian noblemen, as the lords of Rive Noble, Mirandola and Solaro. Under the shade of chestnut trees and surrounded by the mountain wall of the Alps the meetings were opened "in the Name of God" on the 12th of September, 1532.
The thoughts of the Reformers were ably expressed by Farel and Saunier, while two Barbes, Daniel of Valence and Jean of Molines, were the chief spokesmen in favour of retaining the practices current among the Vaudois in the valleys. On the points where these brethren of the mountains had yielded to pressure of persecution from the Romish Church and consented to observe certain feasts, fasts and other rites, to attend the Catholic services occasionally, and even submit outwardly to some of the ministrations of the priests, Farel was able to show that they had departed from their own more ancient custom, and he strongly urged entire separation from Rome. The Reformers maintained that everything in the Church of Rome which was not commanded in Scripture was to be rejected; the Waldenses were content to say that they rejected all connected with Rome which was forbidden in the Scriptures. Many matters of practice were considered, but the question which excited the greatest discussion was one of doctrine. Farel taught that "God has elected before the foundation of the world all those who have been or will be saved. It is impossible for those who have been ordained to salvation not to be saved. Whosoever upholds free-will, absolutly denies the grace of God."
Jean of Molines and Daniel of Valence laid stress both on the capacity of man and also his responsibility to receive the grace of God. In this they were supported by the nobles present and by many others, who urged that the changes advocated were not necessary and also that they would imply a condemnation of those who had so long and so faithfully guided these churches. Farel's eloquence and sympathetic earnestness strongly commended his arguments to his hearers and the majority accepted his teaching. A confession of faith was drawn up in accordance with this, which was signed by most present, though declined by some.
The Reformers were shown the manuscript Bibles in use among the churches and the old documents they possessed; the "Noble Lesson", the "Catechism", the "Antichrist", and others, and saw not only the interest and value of these books but also the need there was of printed French Bibles such as could be freely circulated among the people. This led to the translation of the Bible into French by Olivetan, a faithful worker among the Reformers from the old days in Paris. The brethren of the valleys subscribed to the utmost of their ability to the cost of the undertaking and the Bible was published in 1535.
Farel and Saunier mounted their horses and rode back from their eventful visit to continue the work in French Switzerland, having Geneva especially in view. Jean of Molines and Daniel of Valence went to Bohemia, and after conference among the churches there, the brethren in Bohemia wrote to those in the valleys begging them not to adopt any of the important changes of doctrine and practice recommended by the foreign brethren without the most careful consideration.
When, in the Autumn of 1530, the inhabitants of Neuchâtel destroyed the images in the great church and, by a popular vote established the Reformed religion, it was not clearly seen that though an oppressive tyranny had been broken by the bringing in of liberating truth, and a civil reform of the utmost value had been obtained, yet the churches of God do not properly receive their guidance or authority from a Democratic vote any more than they do from Papal power. This they have from the Lord Himself. Christ is the centre and gathering power of His people. Their fellowship with each other springs from their common fellowship with Him and while this gives them authority to exercise discipline among themselves, they are neither to seek to rule in the world nor are they to be ruled by it.
In order to emphasize the distinction between the Church and the world Farel set up tables (in place of the altar that had been cast down in the church at Neuchâtel) where believers might keep the Lord's Supper. Here, taught Farel, believers could worship Christ in Spirit and in truth, purged from everything which He has not ordained; here Jesus only could be seen among them and what He had commanded. The following year, after Farel had preached to a large congregation in the church at Orbe, eight believers there remembered the Lord in the breaking of bread.
In 1533 some believers in the south of France were strongly impressed with the need of coming often together for the reading of Scripture. At that time Margaret, Queen of Navarre, came from Paris to her husband's territories. With her were Le Fèvre and Roussel. They used to attend the Catholic church in Pau and afterwards hold meetings in the castle, where an address was given on the Scriptures, to which many of the country people came. Some of these expressed the desire to partake of the Lord's Supper, in spite of fears as to the danger of doing this. A large hall was found, however, under the terrace of the castle--a meeting place which could be reached without too much risk of attracting attention. Here, at the appointed time, a table was brought, with bread and wine, and all took part in the Supper, without any formality, the Queen and those of the humblest station apprehending their equality in the presence of the Lord. The Word was read and applied, a collection was made for the poor, and the people dispersed.
About the same time Jean Calvin, a young man who had been obliged to leave Paris on account of his teaching, was in Poitiers, where he came in contact with many believers and inquirers, all deeply interested in the Scriptures. Luther and Zwingli and their doctrines were discussed and there was the freest criticism of the Roman Catholic Church. As it began to be dangerous to attend these meetings, the Christians took to coming together in a wild district outside the town where there were caves, known as the caves of St. Benedict. There, in a large cavern, they were able to consider the Scriptures without interruption and a frequent topic was the unscripturalness of the Mass. This led to a desire to remember the Lord's death in the way He had appointed, so they met together there and with prayer and the reading of the Word, took the bread and wine among themselves, while any who felt that the Holy Spirit had given a word of exhortation or exposition spoke with liberty.
Next they became concerned about the people living in the district round them and their need of the Gospel, and in one of their meetings three of the brethren offered to travel as evangelists. They were known to have the necessary gifts of the Spirit for such a work, so they were commended to the Lord, a collection was made for the expenses of their journey and they were sent forth. Their labours were very fruitful. One, Babinot, a learned and gentle-spirited man, went first to Toulouse. He had a special power of attracting students and teachers, of whom he won not a few for Christ, and their influence with young people was most valuable in spreading the Gospel. They gave Babinot the name "Good-man" because of his excellent character. He was diligent in finding out and visiting little companies of the Lord's people who met for prayer and to break bread together.
Another of the evangelists, Véron, a man of great activity, spent twenty years travelling on foot through whole provinces of France. He so diligently sought the lost sheep and so exalted the Good Shepherd that he was called the "Gatherer". When he came into a place he used to ask who were the most worthy persons there and try to win them to the faith. He also took a special interest in the young people, many of whom became through him steadfast disciples of Christ and proved their ability to suffer for Him. The third of the evangelists, Jean Vernou, worked first in Poitiers and became well known throughout all that part of France for his influence in the colleges. He was eventually taken in Savoie and burnt at Chambéry for his confession of Christ.
The saving power of the Gospel began to be abundantly manifested in Geneva from the time when Antoine Froment, with much trepidation, opened a school there (1532). His Bible stories to the children and his useful knowledge of medicine soon drew large numbers to him. Some distinguished women, belonging to the first families in the city, were converted, then tradesmen and people of all classes. The believers soon began to meet in different houses for the study of the Scriptures and for prayer. These assemblies increased rapidly as more were converted. There was liberty of ministry in their meetings; one or another would read the Word, and such as were able would expound it, or lead the company in prayer. Collections were made, too, for the relief of the poor. If a gifted stranger passed through he would speak in one of the larger houses and all who could get in would crowd to hear his ministry.
These assemblies soon had the desire to break bread in remembrance of the Lord; in order to avoid disturbance the believers gathered in a walled garden belonging to one of them, at Pré l'Evêque, just outside the city walls. All these things took place in the face of constant opposition, which became more violent when the believers, as churches, met around the Lord's table. There was dangerous rioting, Froment and others being driven out of the city; yet the meetings continued. On a later occasion about eighty men and a number of women met at Pré l'Evêque. This time one of the brethren washed the feet of the others before they took the Lord's Supper, which increased the popular anger against them.
It was amid such disturbed conditions that Olivetan worked at his translation of the Bible. In order to give the sense better he translated into French such words as had formerly been left in a Greek form. Thus for "apostle" he put "messenger"; for "bishop", "overseer"; for "priests", "elder", these renderings being actual translations of the meaning of the Greek words and not mere transliterations. He said that as he did not find in the Bible such words as pope, cardinal, archbishop, archdeacon, abbot, prior, monk, he had no occasion to change them.
[Calvin 1509-1564 in Geneva]
Although, through a series of stirring events, Geneva like Neuchâtel had been delivered from the domination of Rome, it was not long before forms of Government were introduced considerably affecting the churches--though likewise not to be found in the Scriptures. Olivetan had been one of the first to lead his relative Calvin to the study of the Bible. The extraordinary ability of Calvin gave him from his early youth great influence wherever he went. The publication (1536) of his book, "The Institutes of the Christian Religion" in Basle, whither he had been obliged to fly on being driven out of France, caused him to be recognized as the foremost theologian of his day. The same year while on his way to Strassburg, Calvin was compelled on account of war to make his way through Geneva, where he stayed at an inn with the intention of continuing his journey the next morning. Farel heard of his arrival, called on him, and showed him what a marvellous work had been done and was still going on in Geneva and the country round; what conflicts there were, what need of helpers, he and those with him being overwhelmed by calls on every side, and commanded Calvin to remain and take up the work with them. To this he demurred, pleading his inability, his need of quiet for study, his character--unsuited to such activities as would be required of him. Farel adjured him not to allow his love of study, or any other form of self-pleasing to stand in the way of obedience to the call of God.
Overcome by Farel's vehemence and convinced by his appeal, Calvin consented to stay and with the exception of a period of three years' banishment he spent the remainder of his life in Geneva, with which city his name will be for ever connected. Through much conflict he imposed on the city his ideal of a State and Church organized largely on the Old Testament pattern. The City Council had absolute power in matters religious as well as civil, and it became the instrument of Calvin's will. The citizens were required to sign a confession of faith or to leave the city. Strict rules were enforced regulating the morals and habits of the people. The churches that had begun to grow up in obedience to New Testament teaching almost disappeared in the general organization, for Papal rule was replaced by that of the Reformer and liberty of conscience was still witheld.
One form of prevalent error which Calvin hoped to suppress by his strict rule was Unitarian in character. It was of ancient origin, resembling Arianism in some respects, but at this time began to be described as Socinianism on account of the association with it of Lilio (1525-62) and Faustus (1539-1604) Sozini, uncle and nephew, natives of Siena in Italy. The latter lived much in Poland, since there as in Transylvania, Unitarian teaching was permitted and was widespread. He united the divided sections of Unitarians in Poland; they were called "Polish Brethren" and the "Racovian" Catechism expressed their views. Socinianism spread from them as a centre. It early affected some in the Protestant churches, and later gained a commanding influence, especially over the Protestant clergy. Consisting to a large extent of criticism of existing theology, upon this criticism it based its appeal, which was more to the intellect than to the heart or understanding.
[Servetus Burned in Geneva]
A Spanish physician, Servetus, holding and teaching doctrines allied to these, reached Geneva on a journey, and, as he travelled through, came into conflict with Calvin and the Council, and refusing to renounce his error, was burnt (1553). This was but a logical outcome of the system that had been established.
Geneva under Calvin's rule became famous, and afforded a refuge for numbers of persecuted dissenters from different lands, many coming from England and Scotland. These were strongly influenced by Calvin's genius and carried his teachings far afield, so that Calvinism became a potent influence in the world, and its severe training has certainly moulded some of the finest characters. Farel submitted to Calvin's dominance but refused all entreaties to settle in Geneva or to accept any position to which honour and emolument were attached. He made Neuchâtel his centre, and married, but continued his hard life as a travelling preacher until he passed peacefully away at about seventy-six years of age.
Meanwhile in France, the growth of Christian churches and the preaching of the Gospel, which had continued in spite of great pressure of persecution, in 1534 received a serious check. Some of the believers in Paris, impatient at the slow progress made in France as compared with the large measure of liberty that had been gained in Switzerland, sent one of their number named Feret, to consult with brethren there as to whether they should take some bolder course to obtain Liberty for the Word. As a result of this a violent attack on the mass was composed among the Reformers in Switzerland, printed in the form of placards and tracts, and sent to Paris. There was a difference of opinion among the believers there as to whether the placards should be posted and the tracts distributed or not. Couralt, who spoke for the "men of judgement", said: "Let us beware of posting up these placards; we shall only inflame the rage of our adversaries thereby, and increase the dispersion of believers." Others said: "If we look timidly from one side to the other to see how far we can go without exposing our lives, we shall forsake Jesus Christ." The counsels of the more aggressive prevailed, the matter was carefully organized, and in one October night the placards were posted all over France, one even being fastened on to the door of the room in which the king was sleeping in his castle at Blois.
It was a long statement, headed: "Truthful Articles Concerning the horrible, great, and unbearable abuses of the Popish Mass, Invented directly Against the holy Supper of our Lord, The only Mediator and only Saviour, Jesus Christ." When, the next morning, the placards were read, the effect was tremendous. The King was won from his indecision to adopt the policy of exterminating the Reform party. On the first day Parliament proclaimed a reward for all who should make known those who had posted the placards and ordered that those who concealed them should be burnt. Arrests began at once to be made among those who were suspected of having attended the meetings, or however moderately, of favouring reform, including those who had opposed the posting of the placards. General terror prevailed. Many left everything and fled abroad. All over France the fires received their living victims, especially in Paris.
There was a procession (1535) through the streets of Paris of all the most holy relics that could be brought together. The King and his family and court, great numbers of ecclesiastics and of the nobility and an immense concourse of people were gathered. The host was carried through the streets, and Mass was celebrated at Notre Dame. Then the King and a great multitude witnessed, first in the Rue St. Honoré and then at the Halles, the burning, with apparatus designed to prolong their sufferings, of some of the best citizens of Paris, who, without exception, testified to the end their faith in Jesus Christ, with a courage that compelled the admiration of their tormentors.
The learned and moderate Sturm, Professor at the Royal College in Paris, wrote to Melanchthon:"We were in the best, the finest position, thanks to wise men; and now behold us, through the advice of unskilful men, fallen into the greatest calamity and supreme misery. I wrote you last year that everything was going on well, and what hopes we entertained from the king's equity. We congratulated one another; but, alas! extravagant men have deprived us of those propitious times. One night in the month of October, in a few moments, all over France, and in every corner, they posted with their own hands a placard concerning the ecclesiastical orders, the mass, and the eucharist ... they carried their audacity so far as to fasten one even on the door of the king's apartments, wishing by this means, as it would seem, to cause certain and atrocious dangers. Since that rash act, everything has been changed; the people are troubled, the thoughts of many are filled with alarm, the magistrates are irritated, the king is excited, and frightful trials are going on. It must be acknowledged that these imprudent men, if they were not the cause, were at least the occasion of this. Only, if it were possible for the judges to preserve a just mean! Some, having been seized, have already undergone their punishment; others promptly providing for their safety, have fled; innocent people have suffered the chastisement of the guilty. Informers show themselves publicly; any one may be both accuser and witness.
"These are not idle rumours that I write to you, Melanchthon; be assured that I do not tell you all, and that in what I write I do not employ the strong terms that the terrible state of our affairs would require. Already eighteen disciples of the Gospel have been burnt, and the same danger still threatens a still greater number. Every day the danger spreads wider and wider. There is not a good man who does not fear the calumnies of informers, and is not consumed with grief at the sight of these horrible doings. Our adversaries reign, and with all the more authority, that they appear to be fighting in a just cause, and to quell sedition. In the midst of these great and numerous evils there is only one hope left--that the people are beginning to be disgusted with such cruel persecutions, and that the king blushes at last for having thirsted for the blood of these unfortunate men. The persecutors are instigated by violent hatred and not by justice. If the king could but know what kind of spirit animates these bloodthirsty men, he would no doubt take better advice. And yet we do not despair. God reigns, He will scatter all these tempests, He will show us the port where we can take refuge, He will give good men an asylum where they will dare speak their thought freely."
Companies of believers met in many parts of France for reading the Scriptures and for worship, without any special organization. In one of these, however, in Paris, the birth of a child, causing its father much concern as to how it should be baptized, eventually led to the evolution of a complete system. His conscience did not allow him to take it to the Roman Catholic church, and it was not possible for him to take it abroad for baptism. The congregation met and prayed about the matter and decided to form a church themselves. They chose Jean de Maçon to be their minister, and appointed also elders and deacons and took the ground of an organized church, of which the ministers were authorized to baptize and to undertake such functions as they considered pertained to ordained persons. From the time when this was done (1555) many of the assemblies of believers throughout France acted in the same way, and the numbers of churches that adopted this Presbyterian order increased rapidly. A large proportion of them were supplied with pastors from Geneva.
[Presbyterian Systerm Introduced]
The Reformed churches in Holland and in Scotland were affected by the example of this movement in France even more than they were by the example of Geneva. Calvin favoured the guidance of each congregation by its minister, or ministers, and elders, but the French churches soon introduced the plan of holding Synods of ministers and elders representing, and having authority over, a group of churches. These local gatherings took later to sending delegates who formed a larger, Provincial Synod, and in 1559 the first National Synod of French churches was held in Paris. On this occasion a Confession of Faith was agreed upon which every minister was required to sign, and a Book of Discipline was drawn up regulating the order and discipline of the churches, each minister undertaking to submit himself to it.
The adherents of these churches were often called "Gospellers" or "Those of the Religion" but eventually the name "Huguenot" was more generally applied to them. It is not known with any certainty from what source the name is derived.
The South-East of France, which for centuries had been so ready to receive the Gospel, and where the truth had only been suppressed by repeated and relentless massacre, now again showed the old invincible desire for the Word, and in parts became predominantly Huguenot. In other parts of the country the Huguenots were usually a small minority of the people. A state of tension existed between the two religious parties, although liberty of worship was guaranteed to the Huguenot minority by royal decree, and there was hope that reform and tolerance might bring peace. The States-General, or Parliament, was favourable, so was the Queen-Mother Catherine de Medici, who wrote to the Pope: "The number of those who have separated themselves from the Roman Church is so great that they can no longer be restrained by severity of law or force of arms. They have become so powerful by reason of the nobles and magistrates who have joined the party, they are so firmly united, and daily acquire such strength that they are becoming more and more formidable in all parts of the kingdom. In the meantime, by the grace of God, there are amongst them neither Anabaptists nor libertines, nor any partizans of odious opinions." She goes on to argue the possibility of communion with them, and suggests matters that might with advantage be reformed in the Roman communion.
The Pope, however, was opposed, and both parties armed in preparation for what might come. Admiral Coligny, as leader of the Huguenot party, could say: "We have two thousand and fifty churches, and four hundred thousand men able to bear arms, without taking into account our secret adherents."
The Duke of Guise, leader of the Catholic party, shattered all hopes of compromise by attacking a large congregation of unarmed worshippers in a barn, where he and his soldiers surrounded them, slaughtering the helpless victims at their will. Civil war followed and devastated the country, but after years of exhausting struggle a truce was made and a marriage was arranged between Henry of Barn, King of Navarre, now leader of the Huguenot cause, and Marguerite, daughter of Catherine de Medici and sister of the King of France. The marriage was celebrated in Paris (1572) with great festivities, and as it was looked upon by the Huguenots as bringing peace to the contending parties, great numbers of them, including their chief leaders, crowded into the city to see or take part in the celebrations.
[The Saint Bartholomew Massacre]
Less than a week after the wedding in Notre Dame, at a given signal and according to a prearranged plan, the Catholic leaders with their troops fell upon the unsuspecting Huguenots, and the massacre of Saint Bartholomew took place. There was no escape. Huguenot houses had been marked beforehand; men, women, and children were slain without mercy, Admiral Coligny being among the first to be killed; by the end of four days Paris and the Seine were filled with mutilated corpses, in place of the vigorous men and women and groups of happy children who had thronged the streets a week before.
Throughout France similar deeds were done. After the first surprise the remaining Huguenots, under Henry of Navarre and the Prince of Conde, organized resistance, and there began the wars of the League, which kept France in misery for more than twenty years longer.
[The Edict of Nantes April 13, 1598]
In 1594 Henry of Navarre succeeded to the throne of France as Henry IV. He was a brave and capable ruler, but not a religious man, and he led the Huguenots more as a political than a religious party. His position was difficult as Protestant ruler of a country chiefly Roman Catholic, whose kings had always belonged to that Church. He met the problem by becoming a Roman Catholic himself, in order to secure his throne, then using his position to legislate in favour of the Huguenots. In this way a Roman Catholic dynasty was again fastened upon France, but (1598) the king issued the Edict of Nantes by which liberty of conscience and of worship was given to the Huguenots.
The Catholic League did not submit to him, but he defeated and suppressed it, and he expelled the Jesuits. The Huguenots were a State within the State, had their own cities and districts in some parts, and their rights everywhere. Twelve years after the Edict of Nantes the king was assassinated, and trouble soon began again for the Huguenots; there were massacres which stirred them to armed resistance but Cardinal Richelieu directed the war against them with such vigour that they were repeatedly defeated. Their great fortress, la Rochelle, was captured, and as an armed body and a political power they ceased to exist. Richelieu, however, gave them a measure of liberty so that they were reconciled to the Government, and devoting themselves with their characteristic energy to agriculture, industry and trade, they became wealthy and influential and a source of much prosperity to France.
When Louis XIV, on the death of Mazarin, himself assumed the government of France, he immediately began to take repressive measures against the Huguenots. Under Jesuit influence every means was used to compel them to join the Church of Rome. Those who resisted were subjected to increasing persecution. They bore it with patience, but their affliction only became more acute. Their children were taken from them to be brought up in convents as Catholics; there were massacres; their meetings were prohibited. Rough soldiers were quartered in their homes, and left to behave as they pleased--the infamous system of the "Dragonnades". When the people fled they were hunted in the woods and other places of refuge, brought back to their homes, and forced to entertain the brutal dragoons who, by every kind of torture and outrage, compelled their "conversion" or hounded them to death.
[Repeal of the Edict of Nantes, 1685 by Louis XIV]
In 1685 the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes was published and the last hope of the Huguenots was taken away. All their pastors were ordered to leave the country within a fortnight. In a few weeks eight hundred Huguenot meeting-places were destroyed. It was ordered that children were to be baptized and brought up in the Church of Rome; employment was made impossible to those who would not be converted; and any who attempted to leave the country were to be sent to the galleys for life, if men, or imprisoned for life if women.
In spite of all difficulties of uprooting themselves, leaving their property, travelling secretly by hidden ways with little children and the aged and the sick, and in spite of the desperate dangers of crossing the closely guarded frontiers, there took place such an exodus of the very best of the French nation as permanently impoverished it, while those countries which received the exiles, Switzerland, Holland, Brandenburg, Britain and others were enriched by the coming among them of these multitudes of capable people, of strong Calvinistic character, who brought with them their ability in manufacture and trade, and took a leading place in political and military and naval life, as well as in the arts and sciences. It is estimated that 200,000 Huguenots left France at this time.
Although such large numbers left France on the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, yet still greater numbers could not or would not go, and these still continued to suffer the iniquities of the Dragonnades. They were most numerous in Dauphiny and in Languedoc, so that there the persecution was the more intense. In these times of extremity a strange spiritual excitement and exaltation spread among them. Pierre Jurieu (1686) wrote an exposition of the Apocalypse in which he taught that the prediction of the fall of Babylon referred to the Roman Church and would be fulfilled in the year 1689. One of his disciples, Du Serre, taught his master's prophetic views to children in Dauphiny, and these, brought up among the horrors of the Dragonnades, now went about in bands as "little prophets", from village to village, quoting terrible judgements from the book of the Revelation and announcing their speedy fulfilment. The most famous of these was a girl known as "la belle Isabeau". Thousands of those who had been forced into the Roman Church were in this way brought back and refused to go to Mass. In Languedoc more than three hundred such child prophets were imprisoned in one place.
In the Cevennes mountains men and women fell into ecstasies, during which they spoke in the pure French of the Bible, whereas otherwise they could only speak their own dialect, and they inspired their hearers with heroic courage. In spite of their sufferings these people remained loyal to the king. In 1683 a representative body of the pastors and nobles and chief men among them met together and sent to Louis XIV a declaration of their loyalty. Yet at that very time the Pope was insisting on their extermination, calling them the "execrable race of the ancient Albigenses."
[The Camisard War 1703-1705]
The Abbé du Chayla, however, who introduced a special instrument of torture, practiced such cruelties on the Dissenters in the Cevennes that at last they rose, killed him, and organized military resistance to the Dragonnades. Among their leaders was Jean Cavalierm a baker's boy, who, at the age of seventeen, led the Camisards, so called from the white shirts which were their uniform, with such astonishing ability that for three year (1703-5) he fought and defeated the ablest marshals of France, though his little force never exceeded 3,000 men and his adversaries brought as many as 60,000 against him. He was able to conclude an honourable peace, but some of his followers, continuing the war, were exterminated.
The Camisard War was exceptional; in other parts the Huguenots suffered without resistance the dreadful miseries laid upon them. Many were hanged or burnt; many women were imprisoned, especially in Grenoble and in Valence. One woman, Louise Moulin of Beaufort, was condemned (1687) to be hanged at the door of her house for the crime of having attended meetings. She begged and obtained the favour of being allowed at the last to nourish her infant once more, after which she died with quiet courage. Under such conditions the "Churches of the Desert" as they were called, or "Churches under the Cross" continued their testimony.
[Jacques Rogers and Antoine Court]
One of the exiles from Dauphiny at the time of the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, Jacques Roger (1675--1745), stirred by the sufferings of his brethren in his native land, and contrasting the sorrows of their condition with the safety and ease in which he lived abroad, determined to return to France share in the tribulation there and give such help as he could. Arriving in France, he found the faithful remnant persisting in spite of all the power and rage of the adversaries. He saw, too, that the work of the "Prophets" both men and woman, had degenerated in some districts into fanaticism and disorder. He thought it necessary to replace the pastors who had fled, and re-establish the system of Synods that had broken down.
He was joined by others and, as he travelled, soon met Antoine Court, then a young man of twenty, already highly spoken of, who was to develop into the most prominent of all who laboured for the "Churches of the Desert". Court proved to be a man of sound judgement and quick intelligence, and as a preacher and courageous traveller and indefatigable worker and organizer he led the way in the re-establishment of the Church organization with its Provincial and even National Synods. A training school for pastors and preachers was carried on in Lausanne under his superintendence. It was a martyrs' school, for a large proportion of the men who went from it to the work in France were hanged, some of them quite young; Jacques Roger himself was hanged at Grenoble when seventy years of age. The lives of these men were made up of a constant succession of hairbreadth escapes as they traversed the mountains and forests, visited the village churches and ministered the Word. The "Churches of the Desert" instead of being exterminated, grew steadily until (1787) an Act of Toleration, of Louis XVI, brought relief, and in 1793 the Revolution burst over France, and gave them liberty of conscience.
"History of the Reformation of the Sixteenth Century" J. H. Merle D'Aubigné D.D. trans. H. White, B. A.
"Life of William Farel" Frances Bevan.
"The Reformation in Europe in the Time of Calvin" J. H. Merle D'Aubigné D.D.
"A History of the Reformation" Thomas M. Lindsay M.A., D.D.
"The Huguenots their Settlements Churches and Industries in England and Ireland" Samuel Smiles.
"Un Martyr du Désert Jacques Roger" Daniel Benoit.
Tyndale--Reading of Scripture forbidden--Church of England established--Persecution in the reign of Mary--Baptist and Independent churches--Robert Browne--Barrowe, Greenwood, Penry--Dissenters persecuted in Elizabeth's reign--Privye church in London--Hooker's Ecclesiastical Polity--Church of English Exiles in Amsterdam--Arminius--Emigration of brethren from England to Holland--John Robinson--The Pilgrim Fathers sail to America--Different kinds of churches in England and Scotland--Authorized Version of the Bible published--Civil war--Cromwell's New Model army--Religious liberty--Missions--George Fox--Character of Friends movement--Acts against Nonconformists--Literature--John Bunyan.
[William Tyndale 1494-1536]
The Lollard movement was outwardly suppressed, but there were always remains of it, and from time to time persons were punished for meeting together to read the Scriptures. The New Learning and the Reformation quickened interest in the Word, and it was a fresh translation of the Bible which was the most powerful means of bringing widespread revival among the people. William Tyndale, who had studied at Oxford and Cambridge, and had been greatly affected by the teachings of Luther, was in the habit of discussing with the clergy who came to the house where he was a tutor, and showing them how widely they erred from the teachings of Scripture. This raised persecution which obliged him to leave the country, but he had seen that the great need of the people was to become acquainted with the Bible, and he promised that "if God spared his life, ere many years he would cause the boys that drove the plough to know more of the Scriptures" than the divines who kept it from them! Living as an exile on the Continent, and "being inflamed with a tender care and zeal of his country, he studied how by all means possible to bring his countrymen to the same taste and understanding of God's holy word and verity, which the Lord had endued him withal."
The first edition of his translation of the New Testament was published in 1525, and was followed by a second, printed the next year in Cologne. Afterwards came the Pentateuch and other parts of the Old Testament, translated in Antwerp and Hamburg, as well as frequent editions of the New. The difficulties and dangers involved in getting such volumes into England were almost as great as those which lay in the way of their distribution. The clergy opposed the new translation with all their might. Sir Thomas More was one who wrote violently against it. Although more than any other translation it influenced the Authorized Version, which is indeed to a great extent founded upon it, it was at first declared to be full of errors. Great exception was taken to its using the word "congregation" for "church"; and More said it was so full of errors that "to tell all would be to rehearse the whole book", "to search for one fault would be like studying where to find water in the sea."
The Testaments were smuggled into England, and an association calling themselves "Christian Brethren" carried them through the country. Everywhere bought and read with avidity, they soon came into the Universities, where societies were formed for meeting to read them. The Bishop of London very early issued an injunction prohibiting them, saying:"Wherefore we, understanding by the report of divers credible persons, and also by the evident appearance of the matter, that many children of iniquity ... blinded through extreme wickedness, wandering from the way of truth and the Catholic faith, craftily have translated the New Testament into our English tongue.... Of the which translation there are many books imprinted, some with glosses and some without, containing in the English tongue that pestiferous and most pernicious poison dispersed throughout all our diocese of London in great number, which ... without doubt will contaminate and infect the flock committed unto us, with most deadly poison and heresy ... we ... command that within thirty days ... under pain of excommunication and incurring the suspicion of heresy, they do bring in and really deliver to our Vicar-General all and singular such books as contain the translation of the New Testament in the English tongue."
He affirmed that there were more than two thousand heresies in this translation. Knowing a merchant named Packington who was connected with the distribution, he hoped to destroy the books through him, and it is related: "The bishop, thinking that he had God by the toe, when indeed he had (as after he thought) the Devil by the fist, said, 'Gentle maister Packington, do your diligence to get them, and with all my heart I will pay for them, whatever they cost you, for the books are erroneous and naughty, and I intend surely to destroy them all, and to burn them at St. Paul's Cross.'" This bargain was carried out and money thus provided for the printing of a much larger number of Testaments.
A prisoner accused of heresy, when asked how Tyndale and his friends were supported, said: "It is the Bishop of London that hath holpen us, for he hath bestowed among us a great deal of money in New Testaments to burn them, and that hath been, and yet is, our only succour and comfort." Diligent inquisition was made for the prohibited books, and large numbers of people were fined or imprisoned or put to death for possessing them. It is recorded that "Divers persons that were detected to use reading of the New Testament, set forth by Tyndale, were punished ... but still the number of them daily increased."
By the help of a spy sent from England Tyndale was eventually taken, and at Vilvoord in Belgium, condemned, strangled, and his body burnt (1536). But his work was done, he had taken his valiant part with all those who by translating and distributing the Bible, by practising and teaching the truths it reveals, have helped to bring to men the knowledge of God and show them the Way of Life.
[Church of England Established]
Great changes were going on in England at this time. In 1531 King Henry VIII was acknowledged as the Supreme Head of the Church of England, the Church of England thus taking the place of the Church of Rome, and the King that of the Pope. The conflict between the Pope and the King was that between Church and State on the one hand and State and Church on the other, between the Papist and the Erastian views. The plan of bringing about Reform by making the civil power superior to the ecclesiastical (Erastianism) had already been introduced in the churches of Brandenburg and of Saxony. Cranmer held that this was the best course, and Henry VIII adopted it as his policy in England.
[The Coverdale Edition]
In the year of Tyndale's death, his translation of the Bible, revised and edited at the King's command by Miles Coverdale, was taken under the Royal patronage, ordered to be accepted as the foundation of national faith and placed in the churches throughout the country. This favour was, however, soon withdrawn. In 1543 a measure entitled, "An act for the advancement of true religion, and for the abolishment of the contrary" enacted that "All manner of books of the Old and New Testament in English, being of the crafty, false, and untrue translation of Tyndale, shall be clearly and utterly abolished, extinguished, and forbidden to be kept or used."
The punishments for disobedience were very severe, amounting in some cases to imprisonment for life. Other books might be read, but the reading of the Scriptures was confined to judges, noblemen, captains and justices, who might read the Bible to their families. "Merchants may read it in private to themselves; but no women, or artificers, prentyses, journeyman, serving man of the degree of yeoman or under, no husbandman, nor labourers, shall read within this realm the Bible or New Testament in English to himself, or to any other, privately or openly." Noble women or gentlewomen might read it to themselves. The King declared that by laws dreadful and penal he would purge and cleanse his realm of all such books. But whether permitted or forbidden, the people could not now be prevented from reading the Scriptures. When they were read aloud in the churches crowds came to hear; when they were forbidden all risks were run to obtain them.
A labourer wrote in his Testament: "On the invention of things, at Oxforde the yere 1546 browt down to Seynbury by John Darbye, price 14d. When I kepe Mr. Letymers shype I bout thys boke, when the Testament was abergatyn, that shepherdys might not red hit: I pray God amende that blyndnes. Wryt by Robert Wyllyams, keppynge shepe vppon Seynbury Hill." As the people were taught by Moses and the Prophets, by the Histories and the Psalms, especially as, in the Gospels, they learned to know Jesus Christ, and from the Epistles traced the consequences of His atoning work, the whole character of the nation was changed, for, in any nation, the extent to which righteousness and compassion prevail is a measure of the extent to which this Book has affected the hearts and minds of the people.
During the six years of the reign of Edward VI those in power developed the Church of England on more definitely Protestant lines than formerly, but in the following six years of the reign of Queen Mary this policy was reversed, and England returned to her allegiance to the Pope, receiving absolution for her heresy and schism. Where, however, the Government was pliant, the people were adamant. No efforts could induce them to submit to practices which were clearly contrary to the Word of God. Hundreds of people, not only those in high positions, but also from among the humblest, both men and women, were publicly burned to death in the towns and villages of England. The sufferings of these martyrs were more effective in breaking the power of Rome than the policies of rulers or the arguments of divines. Those fires still burn in the memory of the people of England, beacon lights, warning them against any return to a system that could bear such fruits.
[Robert Browne and the Brownists]
There was a church in London, founded on the ground of Scripture, in the reign of Edward VI, composed of French, Dutch, and Italian Christians. There were also English churches of this character considerably earlier, stretching back indeed to Lollard times, for the Bishop of London in 1523 wrote that the great band of Wycliffite heretics were nothing new. There are records of "Congregations" in England in 1555 and Baptist churches are known to have existed in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, before 1589. Both those called Independents or Congregationalists and those called Baptists were independent churches of believers, differing in this that the Baptists practised the baptism of believers only, while the Independents baptized infants one of whose parents (or whose guardian) was a believer.
Robert Browne was so active in proclaiming the independence of each believing congregation that, following the old habit of giving some sectarian name to those outside of the State Church, such companies were often called "Brownists". Sir Walter Raleigh stated in Parliament that there were thousands of Brownists at that time. Browne's writings, as for instance his book entitled, "A Booke which sheweth the Life and Manners of all true Christians, and howe unlike they are unto Turkes and Papistes and Heathen folke", and another, "A Treatise of Reformation without Tarrying for Anie", exercised a great influence. For circulating them, two men were hanged in Bury St. Edmunds, in 1583, and as many of the books as could be found were burned. Browne himself, hunted, imprisoned, persecuted, at last broke down in mind and body, and allowed himself to be forced back into the Established Church.
All forms of Dissent were relentlessly persecuted, Puritans, Presbyterians, and especially Baptists and Independents. The gaols were crowded with them, and as these were foul beyond description, unknown members died of the diseases, misery, and ill-treatment which then accompanied imprisonment.
[Barrowe, Greenwood, Penry]
The most distinguished men among the Independents were Barrowe, Greenwood and Penry. The two former had shown unanswerably that the only upright and straightforward course for those who did not believe in the Scripturalness of the Established Church was to separate from it, that it was dishonourable for a man to give assent to what he did not believe, or believed only in part, and especially for him to accept position and payment to disseminate it. After years in prison they were both hanged. Penry was so much moved by the miserable condition of the people in Wales that he not only preached and laboured among them indefatigably himself, but tried to incite others to do the same, thus disturbing the neglectful, notoriously evil-living clergy of that country and arousing their envious hatred. He was a man who possessed in an unusual degree the gifts and graces of a minister of Christ; he was of godly life, full of love and compassion for souls, learned, sympathetic, of strong family affections, and devoted in the service of the Gospel. His work was effectual in the conversion of sinners and building up of those who believed, chiefly in Wales, but also largely in Scotland and England. He too, was taken, in London, and hanged, soon after his two fellow-workers in the Gospel.
These men were connected with a church known as the "Privye Churche in London". Its foundation principle was the saying of the Lord: "where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them" (Matt. 18.20). It had no fixed place of meeting, gatherings being held in private houses or in the open fields. One of its meetings was broken up in 1567, and fourteen or fifteen of its leading members imprisoned. In 1592 fifty-six of them were seized in a meeting where they were worshipping God. Large numbers of them from many parts lay year after year in utmost misery, in dungeons and in chains. In six years seventeen died in gaol, and, later, twenty-four in one year.
[Hooker's "Ecclesiastical Polity"]
During this period a defence of the Church of England was written, the "Ecclesiastical Polity" of Richard Hooker a work which was, and still is, greatly admired. In it Hooker controverted those who maintained that the Church of England required further reformation, and laboured to prove that Scripture alone was not sufficient for the guidance of the Church; that there were many rites and customs practised by the Apostles which were not written but are known to be apostolical; that many of God's laws are changeable; that there are many actions performed in daily life about which Scripture gives no instruction and that Scripture is not needed to guide in every action, but action is to be framed by the law of reason; that faith may be founded on other things beside Scripture, for man's authority has great weight; and that what is narrated in Scripture is not necessarily to be regarded as commanded.
The authority of Scripture having thus been carefully limited and minimized, some practices and doctrines contrary to it are taken for granted as right, as, for instance, infant baptism and the necessity of the sacraments for salvation. He says, we are blamed"that in many things we have departed from the ancient simplicity of Christ and His Apostles; we have embraced more outward stateliness, we have those orders in the exercise of religion which they who best pleased God and served Him most devoutly never had. For it is out of doubt that the first state of things was best, that in the prime of Christian religion faith was soundest, the Scriptures of God were then best understood by all men, all parts of godliness did then most abound, and therefore it must needs follow, that customs, laws, and ordinances devised since are not so good for the Church of Christ; but the best way is, to cut off later inventions, and to reduce things unto the ancient state wherein at the first they were."
To this he replies that those who take such a position---"must needs confess it a very uncertain thing, what the orders of the Church were in the Apostles' times, seeing the Scriptures do not mention them all, and other records thereof besides they utterly reject. So in tying the Church to the orders of the Apostles' time, they tie it to a marvellous uncertain rule; unless they require the observation of no orders but only those that are known to be apostolical by the Apostles' own writings...." "It is not, I am right sure" he writes "their meaning, that we should now assemble our people to serve God in close and secret meetings; or that common brooks or rivers should be used for places of baptism; or that the eucharist should be ministered after meat; or that the custom of church-feasting should be renewed; or that all kind of standing provision for the ministry should be utterly taken away, and their estate made again dependent upon the voluntary devotion of men. In these things they easily perceive how unfit that were for the present, which was for the first age convenient enough. The faith, zeal, and godliness of former times is worthily had in honour; but doth this prove that the orders of the Church of Christ must be still the self-same with theirs, that nothing may be which was not then, or that nothing which then was may lawfully since have ceased? They who recall the Church unto that which was at the first, must necessarily set bounds and limits unto their speeches."
Thus, diminishing the authority of Scripture and pointing out that if his opponents were consistent they would go further than they had done in their professed return to the Scriptures, he laid a foundation on which he built up the conclusion that the Church of England did not need further reformation, being more consonant with Scripture and good sense than any other, working his way through its various beliefs and practices and reaching the summit of the structure when he argued that the acknowledgment of King Henry VIII and of each of his successors in turn as Supreme Head of the Church is in true accord with the teachings of Scripture. As to this Church, he says: "We hold that ... there is not any man of the Church of England but the same man is also a member of the commonwealth, nor any member of the commonwealth which is not also of the Church of England. " Though so positive in his teachings and deductions it is noticeable and commendable that there is in the language of Hooker a restraint and dignity in striking contrast to the violence and abusiveness of speech which all parties allowed themselves in his day.
Before the close of her reign, Elizabeth ceased to imprison those who refused conformity to the Church of England and banished them instead. This drove many called Brownists and Anabaptists to seek refuge in Holland. They formed a church in Amsterdam, which under the guidance of Francis Johnson and Henry Ainsworth published in 1596 "A Confession of Faith of certain English people living in the Low Countries, exiled."
[Jacobus Arminius 1560-1609]
Holland was a centre of spiritual activities of the greatest importance. Among the many eminent teachers there, none exercised a more far-reaching influence than Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609). Although his name is associated with much religious strife, Arminianism being contrasted with Calvinism, he was not himself a party man or extreme in his views. Since the days when Augustine and Pelagius had striven, the former to maintain the elective sovereignty of God and the latter to expound man's free will and responsibility these vital questions of the relations between God and man had not ceased to exercise minds and hearts. Calvin, and still more some of his followers, while showing powerfully what is taught in Scripture regarding the sovereignty and election of God, minimized those balancing truths which are also contained in the Scriptures. Thus their logic, setting out from part of revealed truth rather than the whole, led them to conclusions according to which man is the subject of absolute decrees which he has no power to affect. The manifest extravagance of such teaching naturally led to reaction, which, in its turn, tended to become extreme.
Brought up under the influence of Calvin's teaching, Arminius acknowledged by all as a man of spotless character, in ability and learning unexcelled--was chosen to write in defence of Calvinism of the less extreme kind, which was felt to be endangered by the attacks made upon it. Studying the subject, however, he came to see that much that he had held was indefensible, that it made God the author of sin, set limits to His saving grace, left the majority of mankind without hope or possibility of salvation. He saw from the Scriptures that the atoning work of Christ was for all, and that man's freedom of choice is a part of the Divine decree. Coming back to the original teaching of Scripture and faith of the Church, he avoided the extremes into which both parties to the long controversy had fallen. His statement of what he had come to believe involved him personally in conflicts which so affected his spirit as to shorten his life. His teaching took a vivid and evangelical form later, in the Methodist revival.
[Emigration to Holland from England]
When James I came to the throne, efforts to compel uniformity of religion, which had slackened at the end of Elizabeth's reign, were renewed, and emigration, though checked by the authorities, continued. At this time a congregation of believers met in Gainsborough, of which John Smyth was a leader. From this another church was formed, of members who had been in the habit of coming some ten or twelve miles on Sundays to the meetings in Gainsborough. This fresh meeting-place was in Scrooby Manor House, and the believers there were joined by John Robinson, driven by persecution from his congregation in Norwich. They were not long left in peace, their houses were watched and their means of earning a living were taken from them, or they were imprisoned. Some having vainly tried to escape to Holland, they eventually decided, as a church, to emigrate together (1607). Their journey was interrupted by repeated arrests, imprisonments, and painful separations, so that at last they arrived in little groups, destitute but undaunted, and, rejoining each other, were received by the churches in Amsterdam and elsewhere.
The church in Amsterdam soon began to suffer from differences of view. The Dutch Mennonites were in favour of the baptism of believers and so were John Smyth and Thomas Helwys. Most of the members, however, disagreed with this; there was much dissension; Smyth and Helwys with about forty others were excluded from fellowship and formed themselves into a separate church. The Baptists also held that the civil power had no right to interfere in matters of religion or to compel any form of doctrine, and affirmed that it should confine itself to political matters and to the maintenance of order; the others believed that it was the duty of the State to exercise a certain control in matters of doctrine and of church order, and, while they protested against the measures of compulsion used against themselves, would not have been willing to allow full liberty to others who differed from them.
Those who were with Smyth did not think it in accordance with the Lord's teaching for a Christian to bear arms, nor to serve as a magistrate or ruler. Johnson and Ainsworth inclined increasingly to a Presbyterian form of church Government, with which John Robinson did not agree. In order to avoid further disputing, Robinson and others removed from Amsterdam to Leyden and founded a church there. This church continued in unity and peace, the ministry of John Robinson being distinguished by its power and breadth.
These churches not only provided a home for persecuted saints and maintained a testimony to the truth, but came to exercise a far-reaching influence. When it became possible for some of their members to return to England, they greatly strengthened the believers there. Helwys with others formed a Baptist Church in London about 1612. A few years later Henry Jacob, an associate of Robinson, came and took part in the founding of an Independent church in London, from which a church of "Particular", or Calvinistic, Baptists, went out afterwards.
[Liberty of Conscience in the New World]
But there were others whose course was shaped to wider issues. The thought of establishing churches in the New World, where there would be liberty of conscience, of worship, and of testimony, came to affect these exiles increasingly, and, after much prayer and much negotiation, the "Speedwell" set out on this great adventure.
The parting was hard both for those going and those remaining. John Robinson in his memorable charge to the departing company at Delft Haven, said:"I charge you before God and His blessed angels, that you follow me no further than you have seen me follow the Lord Jesus Christ. If God reveals anything to you by any other instrument of His, be as ready to receive it as you were to receive any truth by my ministry, for I am verily persuaded the Lord hath more truth yet to break forth out of His holy word. For my part, I cannot sufficiently bewail the condition of those reformed Churches which are come to a period in religion, and will go, at present, no further than the instruments of their reformation. The Lutherans cannot be drawn to go beyond what Luther saw; whatever part of His will our God has revealed to Calvin, they will rather die than embrace it; and the Calvinists, you see, stick fast where they were left by that great man of God, who yet saw not all things. This is a misery much to be lamented, for though they were burning and shining lights in their times, yet they penetrated not into the whole counsel of God; but were they now living, would be as willing to embrace further light as that which they first received, for it is not possible the Christian world should come so lately out of such thick anti-christian darkness and that perfection of knowledge should break forth at once."
[Plymouth Rock 1620]
The "Speedwell" was joined by the "Mayflower" with a party from England that were to go with them, and the two ships set out together from England, but the "Speedwell" springing a leak, they had to return. All were crowded into the "Mayflower", and the little vessel set sail from Plymouth (1620). A tremendous storm almost turned them back, but, being determined to continue, they struggled on, and after nine weeks' sailing they landed, 102 of them, at Plymouth Bay in New England, and laid the foundations of a State which, become populous and prosperous beyond others, has never ceased to bear the impress of the character of the men and women who founded it in the fear of God and the love of liberty.
The Church of England, having its origin in the Church of Rome, but separated from it, and modified by the influences of the Lutheran and Swiss Reformers, combined characteristics of all these systems. It made the King its Head and so kept a political character, and, in common with the Reformers, it took over part of the clerical system of the Church of Rome, with its necessary bulwarks of infant baptism and the administration of the Lord's Supper by the clergy. Not at first Episcopalian, by the latter part of Elizabeth's reign it had begun to move Romewards in this respect and in a short time had fully adopted that system of government.
The Puritans were that element in the Church of England which consistently strove against what was Romish in it, endeavouring to made it more definitely Protestant, and they suffered much for their efforts to maintain the authority of Scripture as against the decrees of those who ruled.
The Presbyterians were more in sympathy with the Continental Reformers than the Church of England was. Presbyterianism became the established religion of Scotland, but in England such divergence from uniformity was not allowed; a Presbyterian Church formed at Wandsworth (1572) was dispersed by the authorities.
The Independents maintained the scriptural doctrine of the independence of each congregation of believers and its direct dependence on the Lord. They differed so entirely from the established religion, setting aside the king and the bishops from the places they had taken in the Church, indeed denying their right, unless converted, to be members of the Church at all, that no mercy could be shown them. They were crowded into the prisons, fined, mutilated and executed with unrelenting cruelty.
The Baptists were looked upon as even worse, for they not only shared to the full time view of the Independents as to the church, but they denied that the state had any authority at all to interfere in matters of religion, and they also repudiated infant baptism altogether and went back to the primitive practice of baptizing believers only, thus cutting at the root of clerical power. Their spiritual relationships were with the Anabaptists, Waldenses, and others like them, and they naturally shared with them and with the independents the utmost wrath of those who were determined at all costs to force on the whole nation that form of religion which for the time being was ordained by the State.
There were individual true members of the Church of Christ in all these circles, whether Roman, Anglican or Free Church, and there were also companies of believers corresponding to the churches of God of the New Testament among the despised and persecuted congregations, but their witness was maintained, as often before and since, in the midst of circumstances so confusing as to test faith and love to the utmost.
[The Authorized Version 1611]
A great impetus was given to the spread of the Gospel by the publication of the beautiful and powerful translation of the Bible known as the Authorized Version, in 1611. Its language and imagery have become an essential part of English speech, and no book has been so widely read or has exercised such an influence for good.
In spite of persecution the congregations of believers increased; it was stated in the House of Lords (1641) that there were eighty companies of different "sectaries" in and around London, those who ministered in them being spoken of contemptuously as cobblers, tailors, "and such like trash."
[The First Civil War 1642-1646]
A great change in conditions was brought about by the Civil War. During the course of the struggle proposals were considered for the formation of a new National Church. As the bishops were irreconcilably on the side of the king, and it was desirable to have the full support of Scotland; the divines appointed by Parliament to draw up a new form of religion adopted the Scottish Covenant and the Presbyterian form of Church government, which was accepted by Parliament. The Presbyterians insisted that this should be imposed on all the people of England, attaching severe penalties to the refusal to conform. The sects were to be extinguished. The few Independents who took part in these discussions at Westminster protested in vain that liberty should be secured to them; the Baptists, who advocated complete religious toleration, were not even consulted.
During the war, however, Cromwell's "New Model" army had grown up and become the indispensable means of victory. It was composed of religious men, a large proportion of them "sectaries". Men of various creeds had fought side by side for the same cause; Episcopalians, Puritans, Presbyterians, Independents, Baptists had joined in worship and in war and had learned respect for each other in the stern struggle they had shared. They were not disposed to see the liberty of conscience for which they had fought and suffered cast away by narrow-minded legislators, and by a rapid, striking turn of events, both the Assembly that had drawn up the Westminster Confession and the Houses of Parliament were dissolved; the Commonwealth was established, and with it came such liberty of conscience and of worship, such freedom to speak and publish what was believed as had never before been known.
The Council of State declared (1653) that none should be compelled to conform to the public religion, by penalties or otherwise, that "such as profess Faith in God by Jesus Christ, though differing in judgment from the doctrine, worship or discipline publicly held forth, shall not be restrained from, but shall be protected in, the profession of their faith and exercise of their religion, so as they abuse not this liberty to the civil injury of others, and to the actual disturbance of the public peace." Popery and Prelacy were not included in this liberty. "Triers" were appointed to examine the occupants of the Church livings. Those who were found to be of wicked life or ignorant, and they were numerous, were dismissed, and the pulpits were filled by men who were judged capable of instructing the people. These were mostly Presbyterians and Independents; a few were Baptists.
The removal of restraints allowed suppressed gifts to appear, and a host of able preachers and writers was both a response and a stimulus to quickened spiritual life. There was a great increase of Gospel preaching, and not a few of the churches formed as a result of it were of an unsectarian character. A conscience was awakened as to the needs of the heathen, and Parliament constituted a corporation for the Propagation of the Gospel in New England, declaring "that the Commons of England assembled in Parliament, having received intelligence that the heathens of New England were beginning to call on the name of the Lord, felt bound to assist in such a work." The interest which led to this had been awakened by John Eliot, who, driven from England by persecution, crossed to Boston, and, coming among Indians, learned their language, into which he translated the Bible and other books, and preached the Gospel among them, bringing about their spiritual and social uplifting.
[George Fox 1624-1691]
At Drayton-in-the Clay in Leicestershire, Christopher Fox and Mary his wife, godly people, had a son (born 1624) named George, who, as a child, "had a gravity and stayedness of mind and spirit not usual in children," so that, he says, "when I saw old men behave lightly and wantonly towards each other, I had a dislike thereof raised in my heart, and said within myself, 'If ever I come to be a man, surely I shall not do so.'" When only eleven years old he saw that his words should be few and that his "Yea" and "Nay" should be sufficient asseveration; also that he should eat and drink, not wantonly, but for health, "using the creatures in their service, as servants in their places, to the glory of Him that created them." After a time in a business situation, at the age of nineteen he felt a command of God to leave home, and for the next four years travelled, returning home occasionally. During this time he was in great spiritual conflict and distress, prayed and fasted and spent much time in long solitary walks. He also spoke with many, but was troubled as he found that professors of religion did not possess what they professed.
At festivals, such as Christmas, instead of joining in festivities, he would go from house to house visiting poor widows and giving them money, of which he had enough for himself and for the help of others. On his walks he had what he called "openings" from the Lord. One day, approaching Coventry, he was thinking of how it is said that all Christians are believers, whether Protestants or Papists. "But," he considered, "a believer is one that is born again, has passed from death unto life, otherwise he is no believer"; so he saw that many who call themselves Christians or believers are not so.
Another time, one first-day morning, crossing a field, the Lord opened to him "that being bred at Oxford or Cambridge was not enough to fit and qualify men to be ministers of Christ". He was impressed by the Scripture: "ye need not that any man teach you: but ... the ... anointing teacheth you of all things" (1 John 2. 27), and used this to justify his not going to church, but rather taking his Bible into the orchards and fields. Again it was opened to him: "God, who made the world, did not dwell in temples made with hands." This surprised him, because it was usual to speak of the churches as "temples of God ", "dreadful places", "holy ground", but now he saw that God's people are His temple and that He dwells in them.
At the end of this time, finally leaving his home and relations, he led a wandering life, taking a room in some town, staying a few weeks, and then going on. He had given up seeking help from the clergy and turned to the Dissenters, but neither could these speak to his condition. Then he says: "When all my hopes in them and in all men, were gone, so that I had nothing outwardly to help me nor could I tell what to do; then, Oh! then I heard a voice which said, 'There is one, even Christ Jesus, that can speak to thy condition'; and when I heard it, my heart did leap for joy." Then he entered into peace, enjoyed fellowship with Christ, saw that he had all things in Him who had done all, and in whom he believed. He could not sufficiently praise God for His mercy.
He was aware of the Lord's command to go abroad into the world, to turn people from darkness to the light, and, he says,"I saw that Christ died for all men, and was a propitiation for all; and enlightened all men and women with His divine and saving life; and that none could be a true believer but who believed in it...." and adds: "These things I did not see by the help of man nor by the letter, though they are written in the letter, but I saw them in the light of the Lord Jesus Christ, and by His immediate Spirit and power, as did the holy men of God, by whom the Holy Scriptures were written. Yet I had no slight esteem of the Holy Scriptures, but they were very precious to me, for I was in that Spirit by which they were given forth: and what the Lord opened in me, I afterwards found was agreeable to them."
Many began to come together to hear him and some were convinced, meetings of "the Friends" being begun in place after place.
Refusal to bear arms or take part in war was a principle with Fox; he set aside all use of force and taught that all things were to be borne and all forgiven, that no oath might be taken, and that all payment of tithes was to be refused. The manner of carrying out these principles and this mission was entirely fearless, and reckless of all consequences.
An example of this is given in his Journal:"I went to another steeple-house about three miles off, where preached a great high-priest, called a doctor.... I went into the steeple-house and stayed till the priest had done. The words which he took for his text were these, 'Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters; and he that hath no money, come ye, buy and eat, yea come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.' Then was I moved of the Lord God to say unto him, 'Come down, thou deceiver; dost thou bid people come and take of the water of life freely, and yet thou takest three hundred pounds a-year of them, for preaching the Scriptures to them. Mayest thou not blush for shame? Did the prophet Isaiah and Christ do so, who spoke the words, and gave them forth freely? Did not Christ say to His ministers, whom He sent to preach, "Freely ye have received, freely give?"
"The priest, like a man amazed, hastened away. After he had left his flock, I had as much time as I could desire to speak to the people; and I directed them from the darkness to the light, and to the grace of God, that would teach them, and bring them salvation; to the Spirit of God in their inward parts, which would be a free teacher unto them."
[Society of Friends or "Quakers"]
A conflict was joined which spread all over the country and far abroad. The methods of the Friends broke down all the Government's purpose of toleration, and local excitement and anger showed itself in utmost violence. The Friends, now derisively called Quakers were beaten, fined, shut up in loathsome and disgusting prisons and subjected to every possible indignity. Fox himself was repeatedly imprisoned, beaten and ill-treated, and, as their numbers increased, there were seldom less than a thousand Friends in prison at a time. Yet they never quailed, did not attempt to avoid persecution, seemed rather to court it, and, in spite of all, the Society increased, its meetings spread all over the country, and from them preachers went out, both men and women, whom no dangers could hold back; they soon reached out abroad also, westward to the West Indies and the New England settlements, eastward into Holland and Germany.
In the reign of James II circumstances brought liberty for the Friends, among others, and the Society became free to develop those labours for the alleviation of suffering and the removal of injustice which have always so greatly distinguished it.
The power of its testimony lay in the revival of forgotten truth as to the reality of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. It did not establish churches in the New Testament sense of the word, since membership of the Society was not based on conversion or the new birth, and the outward ordinances of baptism and the Lord's Supper were not observed. The meetings, however, were occasions when there was liberty for the Spirit to minister through whom He might choose, untrammelled by any human regulations.
[The Act of Uniformity 1662]
At the Restoration there was a return to the old policy of endeavouring to force all into conformity to the Church of England. The Act of Uniformity was passed (1662), which required that every minister in the Church should declare before his congregation his unfeigned assent and consent to everything contained in the Book of Common Prayer and that every minister should obtain episcopal ordination. The result was that two thousand ministers, including naturally the best, refused submission and were ejected from their livings. This greatly strengthened Nonconformity in the country and Act after Act was passed to crush it out. No Nonconformist might hold office in any municipal body, nor might he hold any meeting at which more than five persons were present in addition to the members of his own family, nor might any Government employment be given to him; the ejected ministers were forbidden to go within five miles of any corporate borough or any place where they had formerly ministered.
The penalties attached to any contravention of these laws were most severe, yet Baptists and Independents held secret meetings, Quakers continued theirs without concealment, and soon the prisons were again crowded, and fines, pillory, the stocks and noisome gaols were doing their old work. A desperate and unremitting conflict between the Church party and the Dissenters had now been entered upon, or reached a new phase, lasting from this the middle of the 17th far into the 19th century, in the course of which, little by little, in the face of unrelenting hostility, Dissenters obtained the rights of citizens of their native country.
[Richard Baxter 1615-1691]
[John Owen, Isaac Watts, John Bunyan]
Throughout all these conflicts an extraordinary volume of spiritual and intellectual grace and power was developed, and that in all the different circles. Among a multitude of distinguished men, Baxter, the Presbyterian, is remembered by his "Saints' Everlasting Rest"; John Owens, as being the powerful exponent of the doctrines of the Congregational churches; Isaac Watts, also an independent, by his hymns, which gave a new expression to worship and praise; and John Bunyan, whose "Pilgrim's Progress" has probably been more read than any book ever written, except the Bible, and who, by his sufferings and labours also, takes rank among the highest.
The church in Bedford, of which he was a member and became an elder and then pastor, has left in its minutes an account of the care exercised, with frequent prayer and fasting, in the reception of members and the exercise of discipline and also in the visiting and instruction of the believers. Even when it was under stress of persecution and imprisonment, impoverished by fines and driven from one place of meeting to another, the diligence of the elders in fulfilling the testimony and ministry committed to them was unabated. Though a Baptist church they were emphatic in refusing to make baptism the ground of fellowship, or differences of judgement on the matter a bar to communion. Bunyan desired fellowship with all Christians and wrote:"I will not let Water Baptism be the rule, the door, the bolt, the bar, the wall of division between the righteous and the righteous," and again: "The Lord deliver me from superstitious and idolatrous thoughts about any of the ordinances of Christ and of God"; further: "Since you would know by what name I would be distinguished from others, I tell you I would be, and hope I am, a Christian, and choose, if God should count me worthy, to be called a Christian, a believer, or other such name which is approved by the Holy Ghost."
"Memoir of William Tyndale" George Offor.
"A History of the Free Churches of England" Herbert S. Skeats.
"A Popular History of the Free Churches" C. Silvester Horne.
"Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity" Richard Hooker.
"Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics" Edited by James Hastings. Article, Arminianism.
"Journal of George Fox"
"John Bunyan His Life Times and Work" John Brown B.A., D.D.
Labadie, the Pietists, Zinzendorf, Philadelphia
Labadie--Forms a fellowship in the Roman Catholic Church--Joins the Reformed Church--Goes to Orange--To Geneva--Willem Teelinck--Gisbert Voet--van Lodensteyn--Labadie goes to Holland--Difference between Presbyterian and Independent ideals--Reforms forms in the Middelburg church--Conflict with Synods of the Reformed Church--Conflict on Rationalism--Labadie condemns Synods--He is excluded from the Reformed Church--A separate church formed in Middelburg--The new church expelled from Middelburg--It removes to Veere--Then to Amsterdam--Household church formed--Anna Maria van Schürman--Difference with Voet--Household troubles--Removal to Herford--Labadie dies in Altona--Removal of household in Wieuwerd--Household broken up--Effects of testimony--Spener--Pietists--Franke--Christian David--Zinzendorf--Herrnhut--Dissensions--Zinzendorf's Statutes accepted--Revival--Discovery of document in Zittau--Determination to restore the Bohemian Church--Question of relations with the Lutheran Church--The negro Anthony--Moravian Missions--The Mission in England--Cennick--Central control unsuited to expanding work--Philadelphia Societies--Miguel de Molines--Madame Guyon--Gottfried Arnold--Wittgenstein--The Marburg Bible--The Berleburg Bible--Philadelphian Invitation--Hochmann von Hochenau--Tersteegen--Jung Stilling--Primitive and Reformed and other churches--Various ways of return to Scripture.
[Jean De LaBAdie 1610-1674]
The line of thought of the mystics in the Roman Catholic Church affected a young man, Jean de Labadie, born in Bordeaux in 1610, and educated by the Jesuits with a view to his becoming a member of their Society. Dissatisfied with his theological studies he turned to the New Testament and became deeply impressed by the greatness of the Gospel; saw, too, how corrupt Christendom had become and that the way of restoration could only be in a return to the pattern of the first assembly in Jerusalem. Ordained a priest (1635) he felt that his ordination was not from the bishop but the Lord Himself, who had called him from his mother's womb to reform the Christian Church.
He saw that he must leave the Jesuits--with whom he was not yet completely associated. There seemed, however, no possibility of disentangling himself even from the position in which he already was; he had gone too far to turn back; so he committed himself into the hands of God and waited for Him to open the way. Serious and prolonged sickness led to the Jesuits' giving up the idea of his finally becoming one of their number, and he was able to leave Bordeaux and all his old surroundings. His activities in Bordeaux had been so successful that with the consent of the archbishop he accepted a call and began to teach, first in Paris, then in Amiens.
Large numbers were attracted to his lectures. His method was to read a considerable portion of Scripture, several chapters even, and then expound them. People began to give up their rosaries and to occupy themselves with the New Testaments which Labadie circulated widely. He taught that the Gospel is the only rule of faith and piety, and that the manner of life of the primitive Christians is the pattern for all times. With the permission of the bishop a "congregation" or "brotherhood" was formed, consisting of those only who were awakened; they met twice weekly for meditation, and in their own houses they read the Bible. In this circle he made known his earnest desire that, in the will of God, the time might come when the Church would be restored to its original condition, so that it might be possible to read the Word of God there, to preach according to the custom of the original church (1 Cor. 14), and to take the Lord's Supper in both kinds.
Persistently persecuted by the Jesuits, Labadie left Picardy and went to Guyenne, his birthplace, accompanied by several members of the brotherhood as a travelling assembly. There he was brought into contact with the teaching of Calvin, which he studied, thinking he might find among the reformed a people who lived for God and acted according to the principles, of the Gospel in doctrine, worship, and manner of life. He found that all the most important and decisive convictions he had received had been obtained by him through the study of Scripture, while still in the Roman Catholic Church, and not through the Study of Calvin's works. Here he heard of the efforts made in the 16th century by Le Fèvre, Briçonnet, Roussel and others to reform the Church.
Continued persecution obliged him to hide among the Carmelites and in the castles of his admirers, where he came among families belonging to the Reformed Church, families by whose life and teaching he was affected and impressed. He had tried to serve and heal the Church of Rome, but came to see that he was in irreconcilable opposition to its clergy. He hoped that if he joined the Reformed Church he might have liberty to confess openly the truths which God had so laid on his heart. Being in general agreement with the teaching of the Reformed Church he entered it in 1650 at Montauban, but did so under the conviction that its discipline was lax and its practice unworthy, and that as his efforts to reform the Roman Catholic Church had been resisted he was called now to bring about reform in the Reformed Church.
In his writings and preaching Labadie showed that the power for outward reform and godly living lies in an inward life of communion with God, and wrote detailed instructions as to prayer and meditation. The constant aim of the Christian, he said, must be conformity of the will to the will of God, union with God. His love to God should be unselfish and unconditional; he would love and glorify God even if God had reckoned him to the lost.
Obliged to leave Montauban, Labadie was passing through Orange, but the presbytery of the church there persuaded him to remain. With the help of the members he set about a thorough reform, so that it might be really a "Reformed" Church, and this was, to a large extent effected. After less than two years the threatenings of Louis XIV making his stay even in the territories of the Prince of Orange dangerous, he accepted an invitation from the French church in London to become its minister. Fearing to pass through France he travelled by way of Switzerland. In Geneva, however, he was restrained from going further, remaining as a preacher in the church there (1659).
His preaching was so powerful that the laxity that had followed Calvin's strict rule was immediately checked and there was a return to righteousness which affected the moral condition of the city generally. More special blessing attended the Bible readings which were held in his own house, where a group of young people gathered around him to whom he taught "sound doctrine and holy life" as the "two hands" of the Christian. One of the young men who was helped through these Bible readings was Philip Jakob Spener.
In 1661 Labadie received an invitation to Holland from some who were well known for their earnest Christian testimony. Among them were Voet, van Lodensteyn and Anna Maria van Schürman, who requested him to accept the place of preacher in the church at Middelburg where Teelinck had exercised a ministry of remarkable power and blessing.
Since the freeing of the Netherlands from the yoke of Spain, through the heroic fight led by William of Orange, the Low Countries had been in advance of all their neighbours both in religious liberty and material prosperity, and had become the scene and centre of intense spiritual activities. The University at Franecke was celebrated for the learning and piety of its professors.
[Willem Teelinck 1579-1629]
An originator of much of this life and interest in matters of religion was Willem Teelinck, born in 1579, whose father occupied a prominent position in the administration of the country. Teelinck travelled and studied for seven years in France, Scotland, and England. In London he came into contact with Puritan families, where what he heard and read led him to a change of life. He spent time in prayer, had days of fasting, and determined to give up his legal studies in order to devote himself exclusively to the ministry of the Word. He lived for some time in a family in Bamburgh, where he found such a life of prayer and of good works as he had never before seen or imagined possible. The regular prayer and reading of the Scriptures with exposition in the household; the thanksgiving at meals, conversation at table, singing, attendance at meetings, in all of which the servants and the children were as much interested as the heads of the household, the unfailing kindness, the care of the sick and needy--all this had an influence upon him which affected his whole after life.
Returning to Holland, he laboured with great effect in preaching, visiting, and writing. This, with his godly example in personal life and in his household, was the occasion of widespread revival. The last sixteen years of his life were spent in Middelburg, where he died in 1629. He had felt deeply the merely nominal character of reformed Christianity. It seemed to him that in his own country it was to a great extent as a body without life, light or warmth, and he devoted himself entirely to its real reformation. While he trusted chiefly in spiritual means for this, he still thought that where fundamental errors could not be suppressed by such means, the help of the State should be called in.
[Gisbert Voet 1588-1676]
Gisbert Voet(Voetius), who continued Teelinck's line of teaching, took an active part in the theological controversies of his day, ably defending the Reformed Church against all who differed from it, and came to be recognized as its most distinguished member. He introduced the practice of holding conventicles or meetings outside of the regular services of the church, in which laymen also took part. These conventicles were developed by Jodocus van Lodensteyn, a disciple of Voet, who had studied also at Franecke. Under his warm, hearty encouragement the conventicles became an important part of the religious life of the country.
[LaBadie Moves to Holland]
But to return to Labadie: an invitation from such people and into such apparently favourable conditions appealed to him so strongly that, in spite of many efforts to keep him in Geneva, he removed to Holland. The journey was dangerous; but a company of eighty Waldenses was in Geneva, provided with passports, on their way to the Palatinate (Pfalz); three of them were detained in Geneva through illness, and Labadie and his friends, Yvon and Dulignon, travelled undetected with the party, in their place. In Heidelberg they were joined by Menuret, and there the four vowed themselves to entire sanctification, to deny the world with its desires, goods, pleasures and friends; so to follow Jesus Christ, poor, despised and persecuted, as to grow into His likeness and carry His cross and shame; to give themselves to God and to His Gospel, first practicing it themselves that they might then help others to do so.
Reaching Holland they went first to Utrecht, where they were invited to the house of Anna Maria van Schürman, were warmly welcomed by her and Voet and others, and stayed ten days. During this time Labadie preached with power and marked effect. Their hostess was captivated by his teaching, but Voet and van Lodensteyn saw that Labadie's spirit was very different from what Teelinek's had been; they wondered whether he and they would be able to work together, and doubted whether the world could be altogether driven out of the church as Labadie thought it certainly could.
[Presbyterian vs. Independent]
Even at this early stage the difference between the Presbyterian and Independent systems began to show itself; the former was practised by the Reformed Church, the latter was more prevalent in England, and was the one which Labadie with increasing clearness was coming to approve. The Independents denied the authority of Synods, looking upon each congregation as directly under Christ and responsible to Him, whereas the Dutch and French Reformed Churches had organized a system of half-yearly Synods, to which each church sent two representatives, who then conveyed the decisions of the Synod to the church.
The Reformed Church attached great importance also to the office and rights of its preachers and to their training for that office, and failures which they observed in the ministry among other bodies, such as the Mennonites, confirmed them in their view. The Independents did not acknowledge any church office as absolutely necessary and appointed by God, they considered, and so did Labadie, that a church is a congregation of believing people, and this condition of belief the necessary foundation of teaching and testimony.
Teelinck and Voet on the other hand viewed the church as the field in which the power of the Gospel is to become effective and the aim of their work was the conversion of its members, and then the leading of them on in worthy living. Van Lodensteyn would have liked to call the Church not "Reformed" (Reformata) but "to be Reformed" (Reformanda). He and Voet long hoped to steer a middle way between the two ideals. There was a section which thought the Church had fallen so utterly that it was no longer to be found in the world and all that remained was to wait for the coming of Christ.
Soon after reaching Middelburg Labadie found himself deeply disappointed at the low spiritual level to which both the Dutch and French assemblies had sunk. Church discipline had been neglected and the church was far from Labadie's ideal. He set about reform by means of preaching, catechizing, discipline, and meetings of small groups, but his personal piety and self-denial were more effectual still in influencing the people. He urged upon the members of the Consistorium that with fasting and prayer and absolute separation from all evil they should effectually use the keys of "loosing and binding" that Christ had committed to them, denying self and giving time to meditation and prayer, for only thus would the assembly be changed.
No such preaching as his had been heard in Holland. His habit of extempore prayer, in which he encouraged others also, was new to the church, and he taught the union of the soul with God in an unaccustomed way. Under his guidance the assembly endeavoured to carry out New Testament principles. "Prophecy" was understood among them to be a gift to be exercised by any brother, who, led by the Spirit, might stand up in the meeting, expound the Word and apply it in a way suited to the needs of the church. Labadie wrote a book entitled "The discernment of a true church according to the Holy Scripture containing thirty remarkable signs by which it may be well known". He shows that it is only a company of those who are really born again that can be considered a true church; one where all, through the Holy Spirit, are united in one body and where all members of the assembly are led by the Spirit of Christ.
His teaching won the hearts of great numbers not only in Middelburg but also throughout the Netherlands. At the same time it became increasingly evident that if it were followed it would altogether change the character of the Reformed churches, emphasizing in a way to which those congregations were not accustomed the inner life of communion with God. Such an emphasis, they feared, would endanger the soul's rest in the work of Christ, making more of Christ in it than of Christ for it, exalting works at the expense of faith, dwelling more on sanctification than on justification. They also saw that the liberty of ministry allowed must affect the guiding power and influence of the ordained ministers of the Church.
[LaBadie Refuses Belgic Confession]
Opposition to that which Labadie considered as needful reformation, but which was regarded by most leaders of the Church as a bringing in of strange and disturbing changes, grew to be definite, organized, and bitter. At a French Synod held in Amsterdam in 1667 he was required to sign the Belgian Confession. This he refused to do on the ground that he now found many unscriptural expressions in it, though he had formerly signed the identical French Confession at Montauban, Orange and Geneva. This so strengthened the opposition to him that, at a following Synod at Leyden, it was decided that if he would not sign the Belgian Confession at the next Synod, to be held at Vlissingen, and undertake to conform to the usages of the Reformed Church, he should be suspended from office.
The people of Middelburg were so indignant at this that the magistrate was compelled to take action, with the result that when the Synod met at Vlissingen it was obliged to have the complaints against Labadie removed from the minutes of the Leyden Synod.
[Ludwig Meijer and the Battle over Rationalism]
About this time a book was published by an Amsterdam doctor, Ludwig Meijer, arguing that natural understanding should be the ground of all Scripture exegesis. This rationalistic teaching aroused such opposition among all in the Netherlands who believed in the inspiration of the Scriptures that the civil authorities appointed the learned and well-known Professor Coccejus to write a refutation. Others also wrote, and among them Ludwig Wolzogen, preacher of the French Reformed Church at Utrecht. Wolzogen's book, however, while written ostensibly to oppose rationalism, diverged so widely from the accepted teaching of the Church that believers in the inspiration of the Bible looked upon this book as being rather an apology for the teaching objected to. Labadie also wrote, and the church council of the French church at Middelburg found his book to be so convincing a refutation of the rationalistic teaching that it decided to bring forward a motion at the next Synod at Vlissingen for a formal condemnation of Meijer's book.
In consequence of this the Synod appointed the church councils of three cities, one of which was Middelburg to prepare a report on the book for the next Synod, to be held at Naarden (1668). The reports of the three councils differed considerably, but it was a surprise when a large majority of the Synod declared Meijer's book to be orthodox and justified Wolzogen. Labadie left the Synod to consult with his church council at Middelburg, but in the meantime the Synod proceeded to suspend him from his office provisionally as one who had introduced strange teachings and practices into the church. Further charges were brought against him, namely, that he had taught that the present time is the reign of grace, and that the millennial reign of Christ will not begin until He shall have overcome all enemies and accomplished the object of creation, in spite of the Fall of man, and brought about the restitution of all things to that state in which God created them. If Labadie would not submit he was to be finally removed from office.
A commission of the Synod was sent to Middelburg with power to suspend any members of the church council who might resist its decree, but the Middelburg church council refused to accept the decree of the Synod, saying that Labadie was not convicted of falling away from the teaching and order of the church. The council was suspended. It was decided that at the next Synod Labadie should be forbidden to preach.
He was thought the more dangerous because of his extraordinary gifts. He himself never thought of yielding, but continued to preach, and wrote declaring that he could have no fellowship with the Synod, which had fallen altogether into error and evil. He not only found error in the Belgian Confession, but asserted that the Synod rejected the teaching of I Corinthians 14. He also condemned the whole system of Synods and Consistoriums, the stereotyped liturgical forms, the reading of Scripture without explanation, the misuse of the Sacraments by accepting those who were not born again as witnesses at baptisms and to partake of the Lord's Supper. He pointed out too that at marriages notoriously ungodly people were made to take Christian vows and promised God's blessing, that the church authorities took Papal powers to themselves, and bound people's consciences with their ordinances. He said that there is no authority in the church but that of the Spirit and the Word of God, i.e, what is contained in the Holy Scriptures, and the inward witness of the Word which corresponds with this. As therefore the Christian conscience is only guided by the authority of the Word of God, it is not rebellion to refuse the ordinances of Synods and other human institutions when they are contrary to this; it is, on the other hand, rather the duty of a Christian assembly to do this in the interests of Christian liberty and to oppose the setting up of a new Popery which would act as though it were above the Word of God.
[The Dortrecht Synod of 1669]
The much looked for Synod was held at Dordrecht in the year 1669. Labadie and the Middelburg church council with some members of the church waited a week in Dordrecht that they might appeal against the treatment they had received. They were not given a hearing. The Synod confirmed the expulsion of Labadie and all his supporters, "because they had shown themselves disobedient to the laws of the Church and intended to bring about division".
Labadie was assured that he had been called by God to re-establish Apostolic churches. Until he was forty years of age he had laboured for the reform of the Church of Rome, and then for twenty years for that of the Reformed Church. He had thrown his excellent gifts and his whole life into both these attempts with enthusiasm and delight--now both had failed! This brought him to the conclusion that "a reform of the existing church bodies is impossible, and that restoration of the Apostolic church can only be accomplished through separation from them". He at once introduced this principle into the Middelburg church, and some three hundred separated from it and formed a new gathering. Several elders and three pastors took the oversight of this; meetings were held twice daily, and on Sundays three times. The meeting room had nothing in it but benches, not even a pulpit. One bench was a little higher than the others, and on this sat the elders and preachers, all of whom were in the habit of speaking in the meetings. They would not use the name "Reformed", but preferred to be known as "Evangelical". Only those might be members of whom there was reason to believe that they were born again.
Differences between the Reformed Church and this newly formed congregation induced the town authorities to ask the members of the latter to leave Middelburg. No sooner was this known than the town of Ter Veere, an hour distant, invited the exiled church to remove there. The invitation was thankfully accepted, but the chief magistrate of Middelburg soon saw that he had made a mistake, for crowds flocked to Ter Veere to hear Labadie preach, while Middelburg was deserted. Annoyed at the material loss this involved, the Middelburg magistrate persuaded the higher district authorities to order the Veere magistrate to expel Labadie and Yvon on the ground that they had caused division in the church and unrest among the people.
The Middelburg magistrate armed his men to enforce the decree, but the people of Veere rose as one man to resist forcibly. Civil war was imminent. Then Labadie came forward and said that no blood should flow on his account, he saw the hand of God leading them from Veere, and would go to Amsterdam, with those who wished to accompany him. There was dismay in Veere, but Labadie remained firm, and the citizens had to yield, the magistrate said he only let him go "most unwillingly and on the ground of utmost necessity."
Labadie and his three friends, with some other sympathizers, moved to Amsterdam, where they were well received and promised protection and religious liberty. The influence of Labadie's work had been such that in Amsterdam there were many thousands who were attached to the new church and abstained from taking the Lord's Supper in the Reformed Church, and it was the same in all the larger churches in the country, while many who did not actually join these companies were greatly influenced by them. This serious danger to their system induced the leaders of the Reformed Church to ask the help of the Government, but under the eminent statesman, Jan de Witt, religious freedom was assured, and no steps could be taken.
Unhappily, however, events in his own mind and in his immediate circle did more to injure Labadie's testimony than any outward attack could have done. He had learned by experience and from the Word, that it is not possible so to reform a town or a church system as to bring it to the condition he aimed at; but he was not content with the formation of churches of the Apostolic pattern--gatherings of persons saved, indeed, and separated from the surrounding world, but many of them weak and failing and needing constant patient care--so he decided to form a Household Church, where the household and the church would be the same and it would be possible, as he supposed, to know each member and lead each into the true following of Christ and union with God.
A house was rented in Amsterdam where there was accommodation for about forty and the new household was gathered. Regular meetings were held, and once a week a meal was taken in common. The meetings were attended by many from outside, and when French was spoken it was translated into Dutch. Yvon, Dulignon and Menuret went out on preaching expeditions throughout the Netherlands and surrounding countries.
[Anna Maria Van Schürman joins LaBadie]
Anna Maria van Schürman moved to Amsterdam, rented an apartment in the house, and threw in her lot with the new household. She was considered the most accomplished woman of her time. She corresponded in various languages with the most famous literary men in Europe, and her opinion and counsel were sought and valued by those who were themselves experts in the arts and sciences. She had been a devoted Christian from her childhood.
In her book, "Eukleria", written in Latin, she relates, "as a child of scarcely four years old I sat with my nurse on the banks of a stream. She repeated to me the words, 'I am not my own but belong to my truest Saviour, Jesus Christ.' I was filled with such an inward sense of love to Christ that in all my following years nothing has ever been able to erase the vivid remembrance of that moment".
In justifying her adhesion to the new company she wrote: "As I have now seen for a number of years, with pain, the departure of Christendom from its origins, and its almost entire unlikeness to the same ... and had lost any hope of its restoration in the usual course of things which is followed by our clergy (most of whom are themselves greatly in need of reformation), who can rightly object that I have, with a happy heart, chosen for my own those teachers fitted by God to bring about a reform of degenerate Christianity?"
Her renown caused this step to be everywhere spoken of and she was overwhelmed with letters calling her back to the Reformed Church, but she rejoiced that she had now put aside the old man and chosen that good part that would not be taken away from her. She had formerly sought God's honour, but her own also, now she sought none for herself but only for God. She sold what she had and gave it to Labadie and never seems to have regretted this. In all the many vicissitudes of the family she was an invaluable helper, and in her old age its most trusted counsellor.
[Dangers of the Household Church Idea]
Voet saw dangers in this new development and, though he had hitherto been one of Labadie's most important supporters, now became his opponent. He wrote to show that no one should leave the Reformed Church because evil, lukewarmness and weakness were to be found in it, or in order to join a separated, cloister-like union taking the place of the church, and said that a household such as that proposed would give rise to evil surmisings. The publication of this book had an extraordinary effect. An anonymous reply appeared in which Voet was attacked in a violent and unworthy way. It was found that Labadie was the author, and his reputation was seriously injured by it. Many wrote against him, but the increase of these attacks only drew the members of the household more closely together, and they were joined by others, including the Burgomaster of Amsterdam.
Troubles arose in the household however. A member of it, a widow, died, and a false report was circulated that she had been killed, and that her body was to be buried in the garden. A mob surrounded the house, which had to be protected for three days by a military force. Menuret, whom Labadie loved as a son, became mentally afflicted and died in a frenzy of madness. Members of the household questioned whether such a thing could happen in a church that was really of God. It was found that in spite of all their care, one of the household held Socinian views, and that another had Quaker ideas. When they were reproved for these, they published a pamphlet full of calumnies, in revenge. The matter came before the courts and the statements in the pamphlets were proved to be false, but the report gained currency nevertheless that there were members of the family who were dangerous sectaries. So much prejudice was excited against them, that in the interests of peace, the magistrates forbade anyone to attend meetings in Labadie's house except the members of the household. This checked their growing numbers and cut off the hope of development.
To escape these difficulties Anna Maria van Schürman appealed to her old friend Princess Elizabeth, Abbess of Herford, who invited all who would come to take refuge on her free estate, so Labadie and a party of about fifty sailed from Amsterdam to Bremen, and travelled from there by waggon to Herford (1670). The Lutheran inhabitants of Herford violently resented the coming of the "Quakers", as they called them, and it was only the authority of the Princess that made it possible for them to remain.
The hatred and enmity by which they were surrounded isolated the household still more from the world, and they became increasingly occupied with their own religious exercises. The preaching of Labadie at this time so affected his hearers that they felt they had only now attained to an entire yielding of themselves to God, and this led to their introducing community of goods as a means of expressing their giving up of all worldly things and their denial of self and entire union with the members of the body of Christ. At the introduction of this change they were engaged in the breaking of bread in memory of the Lord's death when a strange spiritual ecstasy came over, first some, then all of them; they began to speak with tongues and then stood up and danced and this lasted for about an hour. At somewhat rare intervals similar manifestations were repeated. To most of them these things seemed to show that they were now really of one heart and one soul in the Lord. Others disapproved and withdrew from their fellowship. The hatred of those outside was embittered as such doings were related. Until this time the community had, on the whole, discouraged marriage, but now took another view of this and Labadie, Yvon and Dulignon all married, finding wives who were a help to them in their testimony.
The growing animosity of the people obliged them at last to leave Herford in spite of the protection of the Princess, who never ceased to defend them, and they found a quiet dwellingplace in Altona, where they rented two houses. Here Labadie died peacefully (1674), and here Anna Maria van Schürman wrote her book "Eukleria".
War obliged them to leave this retreat and they moved to Castle Waltha, in the little village of Wieuwerd in West Friesland, which had been placed at their disposal. This was their last home. The country people received them gladly and a commission appointed by the Reformed Church to inquire into their views and ways reported them to be harmless, which led to their being allowed to remain in peace. Here Anna Maria van Schürman died, aged 71; also Dulignon and his wife.
The community increased and large numbers attended the services from the country round. Considerable parties were sent out, one to Surinam and one to New York. They were financed and controlled by the Wieuwerd community, but both parties returned unsuccessful, chiefly because, instead of trying to win the heathen to Christ, they had occupied themselves with endeavouring to gain the Christians there to their party. These expeditions impoverished those left at home, and the practical difficulties of having community of goods compelled them to abandon the system after carrying it on for twenty years.
This change caused great distress, since most of the members were poor, many had not been in the habit of earning a living, and many were unfit to do so, and had depended on those who had means. Yvon explained that when the first church at Jerusalem was scattered, community of goods ceased, and that they themselves also were now called to spread in the world and work as a leaven there. If this had been seen earlier it would have saved them from giving up the Scriptural church order which they practised at first and exchanging it for a community life which narrowed their testimony and hindered it from the wider development of which it had given promise. The household was broken up and scattered. Yvon remained at Castle Waltha, where he died, and twenty-five years later, the castle passing into other hands, the last of the Labadists left.
The life of Labadie was one of valiant effort, the source of which lay in inward communion with God, nourished by systematic prayer and instructed by diligent study of the Scriptures. He learned that his great idea of a reformation of the Roman Catholic Church was impossible of attainment. Then he found by large experiment that a city or state cannot, as such, be converted and become a church. He found later that the Reformed Protestant Church was incapable of reformation and of being restored to the New Testament pattern. Then through long conflicts he came to see the true churches of God as they were at the first and always have been. Afterwards, discouraged by much opposition and many disappointments, he sought refuge in a household church, thinking that in its limited circle purity could be maintained, but he missed the track here, for the true churches are not the resting places of perfect people but the nurseries and schools where all are received who confess Christ and where all their weakness and ignorance and imperfection must be borne with and instructed in the patience of unfailing love.
In Labadie we see a man whose life held elements of heroic failure and yet of abiding success. First he tried to include too much in the Church; great worldly systems from which the true churches must be separate. Then he included too little, thinking that the churches must contain only those who are perfect. There was a period when he founded true churches of God and the influence of what he then taught and accomplished continued beyond his lifetime. Taking a limited view of the church involved him in the mistakes to which such a course leads--the narrowed communion favoured the extravagances and lack of balance which accompany undue restriction. His experiences remain strikingly valuable, illustrating the excellence of the way of the Word and the danger of turning to the right hand or to the left--of including the world in the churches or of excluding the saints from them.
At the close of the Thirty Years' War in 1648, the Protestant countries, exhausted economically and suffering from the moral degradation of a generation brought up in conditions of violence and disorder, were also in a low and careless spiritual state. The Lutheran, and to a less degree the Reformed, churches were more occupied with a rigid orthodoxy than with a godly manner of life.
[Philip Jacob Spener 1635-1705]
Philip Jacob Spener, born in Alsace in 1635, became at the age of 35 chief pastor of the Lutheran Church in Frankfurt. Deeply impressed with the crying need for reform in the Church, he held meetings, first in his own house and afterwards in the church, the aim of which was to bring into practice "the old apostolic way of church meetings ... as Paul in I Corinthians 14 describes it, when those who have gifts and knowledge should also speak and, without disorder and strife, express their pious thoughts on the matters in hand, and that the others might judge".
The believers came together regularly, and an appointed subject was considered and a conversation on it took place. The men and women sat apart and only the men took part. It was understood that other people were not to be judged and that all gossip was excluded. At first edifying books were read and discussed, but hater they confined themselves to the reading and general consideration of the New Testament. In many of the private meetings after this there followed questions, confessions or experiences, designed to bring out what was learned. Spener himself did not encourage this but kept to the exposition of the Word.
He objected to names, as Pietist, Spenerite and others, as he did not want to found a sect, or that they should become a monkish community, but only that they should come back to the old and universal Christianity. Spener could allow and even support in other churches what he would not do himself. He felt that he had not himself the energy and force of a Reformer, but rather an ability to tolerate differences. He allowed the self-examination and confession that prevailed in some meetings but did not introduce them into his own, and valued the mysticism of some believers while confessing that he had had no experiences of the ecstasies they enjoyed in the revelation of the Bridegroom, nor of the Quietist self-abandonment that they practised.
His desire was expressed in his words: "Oh that I knew a single assembly upright in all things, in doctrine, order, and practice, all that would make it what an apostolic Christian assembly should be in doctrine and life!" He did not expect an assembly "without weeds", but one where the preachers carried out their work in the leading of the Holy Spirit and the greater part of the hearers were such as had died to the world and led not only an honest but also a godly life. He said the greater part of professing Christians were not born again and many of the ministers of the Word did not understand as they should the true doctrines on which the steadfastness of the church depends. After a time the members of Spener's church in Frankfurt abstained from the Lord's Supper so that they might not take it with those who took it unworthily.
From Frankfurt Spener was removed to Dresden as Court chaplain, and then to Berlin, where he was diligent in service until his death (1705). The societies, called Pietist, which he did so much to found and encourage became a vivifying force; though attacked and ridiculed by official Christianity, they did not separate from the Lutheran Church but formed centres within it which attracted seekers after godliness and bore fruit in many and far-reaching spiritual activities.
[August Franke 1663-1727]
One to whom Spener was a help was August Hermann Franke, who became his chief successor in the Pietist movement. He was born at Lübeck (1663), and studied theology, which, though it had a certain value for him, did not bring peace to his soul. His studies, however, awakened in him an earnest desire to understand in his life and conduct what he had merely apprehended in the mind and memory, and, after some years of anxious seeking he experienced a sudden conversion by which all his unbelief was dissipated and he received an entire assurance of salvation.
His insistence on conversion and godliness brought blessing to many, but also made him enemies; he was branded as a Pietist and expelled from Erfurt, where he was minister, at forty-eight hours' notice. The same day an invitation from the Court of Brandenburg led to his being appointed Professor of Greek and Oriental Languages at the University which was being founded at Halle. There he was much affected by the distress of the poor and set up a box into which contributions might be put, which he then distributed. One day a larger sum than before was put in, about 15/. "On taking this sum into my hand", he wrote, "I exclaimed with great liberty of faith: This is a considerable sum, with which something really good must be accomplished; I will begin a school for the poor with it." This was the beginning of the extensive institutions at Halle, which were built up and carried on without appealing for money and without any visible supply, "but solely and simply, " he said, "in reliance on the living God in heaven".
At Franke's death 134 orphans were being supported in the Home, cared for by 10 women and men; 2200 children and young men were being taught in the different schools, mostly without charge, by 175 teachers; hundreds of poor students were fed daily, and there were in operation printing and bookselling, a library, a dispensary, a hospital, and other institutions. As a boy in this school, and, later, sitting at Franke's table and listening to the stories of missionaries, who were often there, Zinzendorf received impressions which were fruitful in his after life.
[Christian David 1690-1751]
In 1690, seventy years after the battle of the White Mountain, and sixty-two years after Comenius had led the last band of exiles from Moravia, Christian David was born, not far from Fulneck. The "hidden seed" which Comenius had prayed might be preserved was still hidden; Christian's parents were Roman Catholics, like their neighbours, and he as a shepherd boy and then a carpenter was very devout, while inwardly concerned as to how he could be assured that God had forgiven his sins. Reading and inquiring he got such contradictory answers to his questions that he was altogether perplexed, left home and wandered away into Germany, seeking truth. After many adventures and constant disappointments he met with Pastor Schäfer in Görlitz, a Pietist, from whom he learned the way of salvation. Full of joy and zeal he returned to Moravia and went about preaching everywhere. The forgotten truths of former times were revived in the hearts of many of his hearers as they listened to his homely discourse. Those, however, who obeyed the Gospel were met at once by crushing persecution. David went back to Schäfer in Görlitz to see whether a place of refuge could be found in Saxony, and through him met with Count Zinzendorf.
[Nicholas Zinzendorf 1700-1760]
From his earliest childhood Zinzendorf had been a lover of Jesus Christ, and his training in Pietist circles had strengthened his devotion. At the time when Christian David met him he was living in his castle of Berthelsdorf, near the Bohemian frontier, where he and his friend, Pastor Johann Andreae Rothe were engaged in serving the Lord among the surrounding people. The two young men, Zinzendorf 22, David ten years older, discussed the need in Moravia, and Zinzendorf invited the persecuted believers there to come and settle on his estates in Saxony. David was quickly back in his own country, where he gathered a few families of believers, who were able to steal away from their homes and whom he led over the mountains into Saxony and to Berthelsdorf.
There they were cordially received, but there was no place where they could live. About a mile away, on Zinzendorf's estate, was a low, wooded hill called Hutberg, or the Watch Hill. This they re-named Herrnhut, the Lord's Watch, and decided to build a home for themselves there. Christian David, taking an axe, felled the first tree, and, an indefatigable workman and preacher, he guided and encouraged the builders so that in a short time (1722) a house was finished, the beginning of the extensive buildings now forming Herrnhut, and the pattern for many that were to follow in different parts of the world.
One day David, nailing a plank in the castle in Berthelsdorf, his thoughts in Moravia, suddenly left his tools and even his hat, set off, without preparation, and walked the two hundred miles to Kunewald, where there were a number of believers, descendants of families that had belonged to the old Church of the Bohemian Brethren. He brought away a party of these, among them the families Nitschmann, Zeisberger and Toeltschig, afterwards to become well-known in connection with the missionary enterprises of the new Moravian Church. They reached Herrnhut just as Zinzendorf and his friend de Watteville were laying the foundation stone of the first meeting-house to be built there, and they threw in their lot with the company that had preceded them.
[Establishing of Herrnhut]
After this many came from Bohemia and Moravia, some escaping from prison or leaving hiding places in the forests. As this place of refuge for the oppressed came to be more widely known, others came there, of divers views, some followers of Schwenckfeld, some Pietists, and some who could agree with no one. Bitter disputing took the place of brotherly accord, and the settlement was threatened with disruption.
In the meantime Zinzendorf had been converting Berthelsdorf into a model village, where everything was done in accordance with his wishes, and those of his friend Pastor Rothe. The Count believed in organizing an appeal to the imagination. As a boy at Halle his missionary enthusiasm expressed itself in the formation of the "Order of the Mustard Seed", with promises and emblems and motto and ring, which, beginning with five boys of whom he was the Grand Master, grew to be a powerful incentive to devotion in missionary work. In Berthelsdorf he had founded the "League of the Four Brethren", himself, de Watteville, Rothe, and Schäfer, to make known to the world the "Universal Religion of the Saviour and His Family of Disciples, the Heart-Religion, in which the Person of the Saviour is the central point"; in later days his "Warrior Band" became an effectual missionary instrument. Now he intervened in Herrnhut. He recognized the honest intent in these quarrelling partisans, was able to say of one of the most impetuous of them: "Although our dear Christian David was calling me the Beast and Mr. Rothe the False Prophet, we could see his honest heart nevertheless, and knew we could lead him right. It is not a bad maxim, when honest men are going wrong, to put them into office, and they will learn from experience what they will never learn from speculation". He gathered them together, and in a three hours' address, expounded to them the "Statutes, Injunctions and Prohibitions" which he had made out to regulate every particular of their lives. A spiritual revival was given them at this time, power to forgive and be reconciled, and they settled down peaceably to the new order.
About the same time Zinzendorf found in the library of the neighbouring town of Zittau, a copy of the "Order of Discipline" drawn up by the last meeting of the Bohemian Brethren just before the battle of the White Mountain edited by Comenius. From this Zinzendorf saw that the settlers he had received represented the ancient church that had existed so long in Bohemia. He was profoundly touched by the lament of Comenius as he recorded the destruction of its testimony, and he resolved that he and all that he had should be devoted to the preservation of the Little Company of the Lord's disciples that had taken refuge with him. When this document was communicated to the refugees they were stirred to restore the old church, from members of which many of them were descended.
The question of the relations of the communal society at Herrnhut to the Lutheran Church naturally arose. Zinzendorf, himself a Lutheran, wanted the community to attach itself altogether to the Lutheran Church. This they were determined not to do. Eventually the matter was decided by lot, a method much in use among them, and the lot decided against joining the Lutheran Church. Then Zinzendorf, to avoid friction with that, the established Church, had himself ordained as a minister in it, while one of the refugees was consecrated bishop by Daniel Ernst Jablonsky, Court preacher at Berlin, and the only surviving bishop of the old Church of the Bohemian Brethren. In this way they were acknowledged as a community within the Lutheran Church and so able to administer the sacraments. In spite of this the forces opposed to them were such that Zinzendorf was banished from the kingdom of Saxony (1736).
[First Moravian Missionaries]
Visiting the King of Denmark, Christian VI, he met a negro, Anthony, whom he invited to Herrnhut, and Anthony's description of the condition of the slaves in the West Indies so affected his hearers, that one, Leonard Dober, offered to go and carry the Gospel to them. The project was confirmed by casting lots and the young man, with another, David Nitschmann, set out. They were practical men, a carpenter and a potter, had been well educated in the Herrnhut schools, and were able speakers. They set forth on their journey on foot, with no more baggage than they could carry on their backs and with 18/ between them. This was the beginning of the Moravian Missions, which turned the whole Body into a Missionary Society (1732). Devotion to Christ led many of the missionaries to choose by preference the most difficult and dangerous regions to work in. Herrnhut became a centre associated with all parts of the world. In many countries settlements modelled upon it were established. In its large cemetery are the graves of natives of the most diverse countries, who came from their distant lands to visit the parent settlement.
The work of the Moravians in England began in 1738, when Peter Boehler, on his way as a missionary to South Carolina, spoke in London in a Society founded by James Hutton, a London bookseller. Hutton and his friends were seekers after salvation, but had not found assurance, and as Boehler, in broken English, but with much ability, expounded the Scriptures to them, "it was", said Hutton, "with indescribable astonishment and joy that we embraced the doctrine of the Saviour, of His merits and sufferings, of justification through faith in Him, and of freedom by it from the dominion of guilt and sin."
This company accepted the Herrnhut rules given them by Boehler, and a preacher from Germany was sent to them, though they still remained members of the Church of England. Four years later Spangenberg came from Germany, and admitted them as a congregation of the Brethren's Church, introducing the rules and officers of the German congregations. At first there was much intercourse between them and Wesley, who was largely influenced by their example in his organization of Societies within the Established Church, class meetings and love feasts.
Benjamin Ingham, a clergyman at Ossett, in Yorkshire, was one of those who in these days of revival was active and greatly blessed in his work. Not confining himself to his parish, he travelled over the country from Halifax to Leeds, and founded some fifty little societies for reading and prayer. Seeing a need of more helpers, he invited the Moravians, who, responding immediately, sent twenty-six workers, men and women, into Yorkshire. They set to work methodically. Spangenberg directed operations from Wyke as a centre; Toeltschig, who had come with Christian David from Moravia, was at Holbeck; altogether there were five directing centres arranged, controlling in a short time nearly fifty preaching places, which were carried on with the help of "National Assistants" or native helpers. The preachers had all the tumultuous experiences usual at that time, and it was decided to establish a more solid base by building a Herrnhut in England. Count Zinzendorf came over and helped them in securing land at Pudsey between Leeds and Bradford, money was sent from Germany and Fulneck was built, its name chosen to commemorate its connection with Fulneck in Moravia. Here a settlement was established on the Herrnhut model, and others on a smaller scale at Wyke, Mirfield, and Gomersal, where Zinzendorf's rules and regulations were reproduced.
Similar work was done in some other parts of the country; the most successful evangelist being John Cennick, born in England but descended from a Bohemian family that had taken refuge in England at the break-up of the Old Bohemian Brethren's Church. Cennick was at first an active helper of the Wesleys but his leanings to Whitefield's doctrines led them to repudiate him, and eventually he became fully associated with the Moravians. He was an open-air preacher of extraordinary power and a man of a gentle and winning disposition. His short life was wholly devoted to the Lord's service, and in the West of England and Northern Ireland the fruit of his labours was very abundant.
The endeavour to control from Germany this widespread organization proved an increasing hindrance to the work, and even when modified as it was later in England and America, the unsuitability of the settlement system to meet the varied needs of different national characteristics, and of changing circumstances, emphasizes the fact that the wisest plans of even the best of men are not fitted for permanent or universal application, whereas the teaching and example of the New Testament as to the founding and conduct of the churches of God prove suitable to every variety of need.
In the eighteenth century the Philadelphia societies or churches were formed as the result of the meeting of two streams of spiritual experience. The first owed its origin to the desire of the soul for immediate communion with God, and union with Him. The second sprang from a sense of the essential unity of all the children of God, and a desire to express this communion of the true Church.
The Roman Catholic Church early introduced its clergy and sacraments between the soul and the Saviour, but while this system kept many at a distance from Him, there were those whose longing for communion with God, as He is revealed in Christ Jesus, and desire for the Heavenly Bridegroom was so strong that they devoted themselves to the attainment of the full knowledge of Him and the experience of union with Him. This they sought in the way of following Jesus, of the imitation of Christ. They thought to attain this by meditation on Him, so that His beauty and blessedness might be increasingly revealed to them, and by an asceticism which should subdue the body and the natural will.
Protestantism accentuated the divisions among the professing people of God and induced the bitterest strife and enmity between the numerous parties. There were, however, those who lamented this and tried to emphasize the underlying unity in life and love of those who are separated from the world but joined to Christ and His members by faith.
[Influences for Good in the Romish Church]
Those in the Roman Catholic Church, often called Mystics or Quietists, were long looked upon as patterns of the Christian life, some of the best known among them being canonized, but later the influence of the Jesuits and of Louis XIV of France caused them to be persecuted. The Spanish priest, Miguel de Molinos (1640-1697), coming to Rome about 1670, became the greatest spiritual power there. His book the "Spiritual Guide" was used as a rule of life by large numbers, especially of the aristocracy and the priesthood. He was the confessor and most trusted adviser of the Pope Innocent XI, a Pope who was personally opposed to persecution, yet Molinos was eventually condemned to lifelong imprisonment, and died in the hands of the Inquisition, though in what manner remains unknown.
Madame Guyon (1648-1717) by her life and writings led wide circles to strive after a life of perfect love and entire acquiescence in the will of God. The gifted and saintly Archbishop Fénélon accepted and defended her teaching at the cost of all his popularity and prospects at court. Louis XIV imprisoned her repeatedly, at last in the dreaded Bastille, but those stone walls, twelve feet thick, could not check the influence and spread of her teaching.
In Protestant circles the writings of Gottfried Arnold (1666-1714) had a great effect. He studied at Wittenberg and became Professor of History at Giessen, but withdrew from the position as he found that the social and ceremonial duties it involved hindered his inner life of communion with the Lord. Spener disagreed with this, maintaining that we must hold on to what we do not approve even if it endangers our own souls, as long as there is any hope of helping others. Arnold, however, regarded the Lutheran Church as Babel and incapable of reformation, and felt that the way he took of lonely separation was more in accord with the example of the Apostles. His first book, "First Love, that is a True Picture of the First Christians according to their Living Faith and holy Life" was a history of the Church in Apostolic times and until the time of Constantine, in which he showed the evils brought in by the union of Church and State. Being increasingly impressed by the fact that Church history has been written by representatives of the dominant churches and from a party point of view, he thought it necessary to present that important history in an impartial way, and so wrote the history by which he became so widely known in his own and succeeding generations, entitled "Impartial History of the Churches and Heretics from the Beginning of the New Testament to the Year of Christ, 1688". Abandoning the idea that the Church is bound up with some particular society or organization, he sought the universal Church's hidden and scattered throughout the whole world and among all peoples and churches.
Naturally opinions of the book differed. One theologian wrote that it was the most harmful book that had been written since the birth of Christ and another called it the best and most useful book of its kind after the Holy Scriptures. Madame Guyon's writings opened to many the view of the possibility of a life in perfect communion with God. Arnold's book awakened the hope of separation from the world and communion with all saints.
About 1700 there was a drawing together of these various scattered elements into societies or churches, to which the name of Philadelphia (Brotherly love) was given. The little country of Wittgenstein, at the southern end of Westphalia, had a series of good and tolerant rulers, and this attracted a large population of very varied character. Fugitives from the Cevennes in France were kindly received, the more so as the two brothers who ruled respectively the northern and southern parts of the country had married (1657) two sisters, daughters of a French nobleman who had escaped to the Netherlands from the massacre of St. Bartholomew. Both these families were devoted Christians. In 1712 the northern part of the country, called Berleburg, was ruled by a descendant of one of these families, Count Casimir, who, with his wife and widowed mother, was the consistent protector of all who were oppressed.
They were connected with the Philadelphia churches which spread widely at this time. Jane Leade of Norwich and others taught that the messages to the churches in the 2nd and 3rd chapters of the Revelation had a progressive historic meaning. Sardis represented Protestantism, having a name to live and yet being dead. The indifference and apostasy of Laodicea were coming. All awakened souls were called to realize and be joined to faithful Philadelphia. A Philadelphia church was founded in London in 1695, not, they said, to form a new sect, but to preserve in their meetings the spirit of love and the form of the first holy and Catholic Apostolic Church. The members did not necessarily separate from the churches to which they had belonged and did not persuade others to do so, yet they held their regular meetings at the same time as the churches had their services, so that attendance at the latter was made impossible for those who attended the former. At present, they said, the Philadelphia church is weak, and until it is manifested in power it is not to be expected that those things will take place which are looked for, the conversion of the Jews, the bringing in of the Turks and other unbelievers, the recovery of the apostasy, the restitution of all things and the personal appearing of Christ on the earth. Similar meetings were begun in many parts of Germany, Holland, and elsewhere, and Berleburg became the centre of an important revival spreading over all west Germany from the Alps to the sea.
In these circles, in 1712, the Marburg Bible was published with the title, "Mystic and Prophetic Bible, that is the whole of the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, newly translated from the original, with explanations of the Principal Types and Prophecies, especially of the Song of Songs of Solomon and the Revelation of Jesus Christ, with their principal Doctrines, etc." Later (1726-1742) a larger work was produced, the Berleburg Bible, in eight volumes, beautifully printed in large type and containing extensive notes, among which some of the teachings of Madame Guyon were included.
The Philadelphia society or church was the outcome of a great variety of different movements and it aimed at setting aside the differences in the churches and uniting all in love and thought the purifying and perfecting of the soul more important than the observance of the outward forms of the "churches".
In order to help one another they set aside a time each morning when, in all the different places where they were, they would join in spirit in waiting on God.
An active member of the society in Berleburg was Dr. Carl, medical attendant to Count Casimir. In 1730 he issued the "Philadelphia Invitation", an appeal to undying souls to turn from the circumference of opinions and passions to the centre, to worship in Spirit and in truth. Those whose ears are opened do not differ (it says) in their sentiments, they have one language, taste and affection. But such central unity is only found in those who leave the fleshly letter and self-made articles and turn continually into themselves in spirit and in truth and taste the theology of the heart as the sweet Word of God. They may be called Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Reformed, etc.--there Tauler, Kempis, Arndt, Neander are all one. The real, abiding part of Christianity is the putting to death of the old man and making alive of the spirit.
This appeal awakened a response in countless hearts, especially in Württemberg and Switzerland. Many who did not join the outward circle of Philadelphia belonged to it in heart. All these sought the Kingdom of God and practised piety, they looked upon Philadelphia as the society to which they belonged inwardly because they believed they saw in it that which is essential to the Kingdom of God, whereas in the churches of the different confessions they saw only outward shells and forms, among which the spirit of the Antichrist was hidden. Zinzendorf tried to organize these societies and attach them to the Moravian Brethren's Unity, but without success.
The preaching of Hochmann von Hochenau at this time was one great means of revival, in the conversion of sinners and founding of Philadelphia churches. His constant journeys, when he was attacked by mobs, imprisoned by the authorities, and yet listened to everywhere by enormous crowds, filled a life of enthusiastic service for the Lord with blessing to countless numbers of his hearers. His only periods of rest were when he retired from time to time to a little hermitage he had in the forests of Wittgenstein, otherwise his love to all men, especially the Jews, kept him travelling and preaching all over western and northern Germany.
The preaching of Hochmann was the means of the conversion of a young student of theology, Hoffman, whose meetings, outside the Established Church, helped towards the conversion of Gerhard Tersteegen, who became later a powerful witness for Christ and has ministered to succeeding generations also by his beautiful hymns.
Jung Stilling (1740-1817), whose life and writings exercised a great influence, wrote of these days: "In the whole history of the Church is no time in which the expectation of the Lord's coming was so instant and so universal as in the first half of the century just ended, the revivals at Halle led the way, the restoration of the Brethren's Church through Zinzendorf followed immediately, then the mystic Philadelphia society at Berleburg, the fruit of which is the Berleburg Bible. At the same time two heralds appeared, Friedrich Roch and Hochmann von Hochenau, then Gerhard Tersteegen and many other men."
Those called Waldenses, or Anabaptists, and others of like character, were not reformers of the Roman Catholic Church, nor, afterwards, of the Lutheran and Reformed Churches. Their origin was earlier and they carried on their primitive Bible teachings and practices from before, and then through the times of the rise and progress of those later-developed communions.
Similarly, those called Paulicians, and others spiritually related to them, were not reformers of the Greek Orthodox Church, but preceded it and were later contemporary with it, but always separate from it.
There were, however, other movements which were movements of reform, in connection with both the Catholic and the Protestant churches. Some of these made efforts to influence the existing communion from within, while others formed groups which left, or were expelled from it. Of these latter "the Reformation" came out of the Roman Catholic Church and formed Protestant denominations, which represented varying degrees of reform of Roman Catholicism.
There were also attempts at reform within the Roman Catholic Church, such as those of Francis of Assisi, and of several of the Popes, who made genuine efforts to remove abuses, but found long established custom and entanglement of financial obligations too strong for them.
Similarly, in the Lutheran and Reformed Churches there were some who attempted reform from within, as the Pietists. There were also others who separated from them, such as those called Labadists.
The Bohemian Brethren were originally of primitive, Waldensian belief, but when Zinzendorf reorganized them it was on those Pietist lines which tended to keep them within the established churches.
The Mystics represent those who, not seeing any possibility of returning to the order of the primitive church, took refuge in personal sanctification and communion with God and remained in the ecclesiastical associations in which they were, and which they valued more or less according to their individual character. They had spiritual affinities with what was best in monasticism, and were found in both the Catholic and Protestant communions. They endeavoured to form actual churches at the time of the "Philadelphian Invitation".
[Unity in Truth, The Lord's Prayer]
Departure from the commands of Christ and from Apostolic doctrine had been very great, and had extended to every particular of the teachings of Scripture, therefore the long way back was not found all at once; first one truth was recovered, then another. As these spiritual revivals occurred in various surroundings and at different times they produced a number of churches, differing from each other in their history, in the measure of their apprehension of original revelation, and of their return to primitive practice. On this account they incur the reproach of multiplying sects, but in reality they are many paths back to the first unity--that first unity which will be their final one, for the travellers will reach the goal at last, according to the Lord's prayer for them: "I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be made perfect in One; and that the world may know that Thou hast sent Me, and hast loved them, as Thou hast loved Me" (John 17.23).
"Geschichte des Christlichen Lebens in der rheinisch-westph_lischen Kirche Max Goebel. "Geschichte des Pietismus und der Mystik in der reformirten Kirche u.s.w." Heinr. Heppe. "Geschichte des Pietismus in der reformirten Kirche" Albrecht Ritschl.
"Die Vorbereitung des Pietismus in der Reformierten Kirche der Niederlande bis zur Labadistischen Krisis, 1670." von Wilhelm Goeters, Leipzig. J. C. Hinrichssehe Buchhandlung Utrecht. A. Oosthock, 1911.
"Geschichte des Pietismus in der reformirten Kirche" Albrecht Ritschl.
"The Life of Aug. Herm. Franke" H. E. F. Guerike. trans. S. Jackson.
"History of the Moravian church" J. E. Hutton M.A.
"Geschichte des Christlichen Lebens in der rheinisch-westphälichen evangelischen Kirche" Max Goebel.
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