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Anabaptists, Page Four

Article from the 1911 Encyclopedia


Some sects calling themselves Spirituales or Perfecti also held that the baptized cannot sin, a very ancient tenet.

They seem to have preserved among them the primitive manual called the Teaching of the Apostles, for Bishop Longland in England condemned an Anabaptist for repeating one of its maxims "that alms should not be given before they did sweat in a man's hand." This was between 1518 and 1521.

On the 12th of April 1549, certain London Anabaptists brought before a commission of bishops asserted--

    "That a man regenerate could not sin; that though the outward man sinned, the inward man sinned not; that there was no Trinity of Persons; that Christ was only a holy prophet and not at all God; that all we had by Christ was that he taught us the way to heaven; that he took no flesh of the Virgin, and that the baptism of infants was not profitable."

The Anabaptists were great readers of Revelation and of the Epistle of James, the latter perhaps by way of counteracting Luther's one-sided teaching of justification by faith alone. Luther feebly rejected this scripture as "a right strawy epistle." English Anabaptists often knew it by heart. Excessive reading of Revelation seems to have been the chief cause of the aberrations of the Munster fanatics.

In Poland and Holland certain of the Baptists denied the Trinity, hence the saying that a Socinian was a learned Baptist (see SOCINUS.) With these Menno and his followers refused to hold communion.

One of the most notable features of the early Anabaptists is that they regarded any true religious reform as involving social amelioration. The socialism of the 16th century was necessarily Christian and Anabaptist. Lutheranism was more attractive to grand-ducal patriots and well-to-do burghers than to the poor and oppressed and disinherited. The Lutherans and Zwinglians never converted the Anabaptists. Those who yielded to stress of persecution fell back into Papalism and went to swell the tide of the Catholic reaction.

AUTHORITIES.--Fussli, Kirchen- und Ketzerhistorie der mittlern Zeit (contains Bullinger); Zwinglius, In catabaptistarum strophas elenchus (1527) (Opera iii. 351); Bullinger, Der Wiedertaafsr Ursprung (1560); Gieseler, Ecclesiastical History, Engl. tr. v. 344; Spanheim, De origine Anabapt. (Lugd. 1643); Ranke's History of the Reformation; Melanchthon, Die Historic von Th. Muntzer (1525) (in Luthers Werke, ed. Walch, xvi. 199); Strobel, Leben Th. Muntzers (1795); C. A. Cornelius, Die niederlandischen Wiedertaufer, in publications of Bavarian Academy (1869); J. G. Walch, Hist. u. theolog. Einleitung (Jena, 1733); Mosheim, Ecclesiastical History; Gerbert, Gesch. d. Strassb. Sektenbewegung (Strassburg, 1889); W. Moeller, History of the Christian Church, tr. by Freese, 1900; Jos. v. Beck, Die Geschichtsbucher der Wiedertaufer in Osterr.-Ung. (Wien, 1883), (Fontes rerum Austr. II. xliii., a valuable history of the sect from their own early documents); Ritschl, Geschichte des Pietismus, vol. i. (Bonn, 1880); Loserth, B. Hubmaier und die Anfange der Wiedertaufer in Mahren (Brunn, 1893); Kolde, in Kirchengesch. Studien (Leipzig, 1888); Kessler, Sabbata; Leendertz and Zur Linden, M. Hofmann (Haarlem, 1883-1885); Erbkam, Gesch. der prot. Sekten der Reform. (1848); Justus Menius, Der Weidertaufer Lehre (Wittenberg, 1534); Johann Cloppenburg and Fred. Spanheim, Gangraena theologiae Anabaptisticae (Franekerd, 1656); Balthasar Lydius, Waldensia, id est conservatio verae Ecclesiae (Rotterdam, 1616); Herman Schyn, Historiae Mennonitarum (Amsterdam, 1729); John. Henr. Ottius, Annales Anabaptistici (Basileae. 1772); Karl Rembert, Die Wiedertaufer in Herzogtum Julich (Munster, 1873); Universal Lexicon, art. "Wiedertaufer" (Leipzig. 1748); Tielmann Janssen van Bracht, Martyrologia Mennonitarum (Haarlem. 1615-1631); John. Gastii, Tractat. de Anabapt. Exordio (Basel, 1545); Jehring, History of the Baptists; Auss Bundt, or hymns written by and of the Baptist martyrs from 1526-1620, first printed without date or place, reprinted Basel, 1838. (F. C. C.)

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