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Early Anabaptists (1535-1536)


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It was Philip of Hesse and his soldiers of the reformed party who chiefly
contributed to put an end to the disorders and cruelties of which Munster
had been the scene.

The only result of this episode for Protestantism was
to demonstrate that it had no connection with the fanaticism of these
would-be inspired ones. Protestant opinion was on this occasion
distinguished by various characteristic features. Its intention was that
punishment should be inflicted not for the religious doctrine of the
enthusiasts, but only for their rebellion and other ordinary crimes. There
have been, indeed, and there are especially at the present time a large
number of pious and zealous Christians who advocate adult baptism; and
we are bound to respect them although we do not share their views.

Moreover the baptism practiced by the enthusiasts of Munster, was not
that of the sect of Baptists; it was a proceeding which denoted adhesion to
the fanatical system the triumph of which they pretended to insure, a
ceremony such as is adopted in many secret societies. The essential
characteristics of their system were their alleged visions, their
unquestionable licentiousness, the confusion which they brought upon the
institutions of social life, their tyranny and their cruelty.

D'Aubigne, History of the Reformation in the Time of Calvin   (vol.8, book 16, ch.5).

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  • GHansen changed the title to Early Anabaptists (1535-1536)

     The mightiest power of the Middle Ages — the Papacy — was assailed. In place of the opinions which it had professed and imposed on the world for centuries, the reformers presented evangelical doctrine. It was easy to understand that
not all who rejected the views of the Roman pontiffs would accept those of the reformers, but that many would invent or adopt others.
     There was a diversity of doctrines, and sometimes, even within the limits of a single party, all manner of opinions. This was the case with the so-called Spirituals, who have been erroneously named Anabaptists, for opposition to infant baptism, so far from being their distinctive doctrine, was hardly their badge. They held in general the power for good of the natural will (free-will). Haetzer denied the divinity of Christ and led a bad life. Many of them said, ‘Christ took nothing of human nature from his mother, for the Adamic nature is accursed.’

     There were some who looked upon the observance of Sunday as an antichristian practice. These fanatics fancied themselves alone to be the children of God, and like the Israelites of old believed that they were called to exterminate the wicked. One of this sect, Melchior Hoffmann, after being in turn in king’s courts and in ignominious imprisonment, went into Alsace, supposing that at Strasburg the new Jerusalem was to come down from heaven, and that from this town would go forth the messengers charged to gather together God’s elect. Almost all of them expected that the end of the world was very near at hand, and some even fixed the day and the hour.

D'Aubigne, J. H. Merle, History of the Reformation in the Time of Calvin (vol.8, book 16, ch.3).

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The enthusiasts [spirituals/ anabaptists, during this time, were causing much trouble in Holland; but they did not succeed in bringing help to their brethren. At the beginning of 1535, a certain number of them proposed to burn Leyden; fifteen were arrested and beheaded. In February, others ran naked about the streets of Amsterdam by night, crying out, ‘Woe! woe! woe!’ They also were executed. Near Franeker, in Friesland, three hundred of them assembled and took possession of a convent; but they were all put to death. Bockhold, impatient to get the succor of which he was in sore need, delegated Jan van Geelen, a clever, crafty man, to stir up a revolt in Holland, and to return to his aid with an army which should raise the siege of Munster and help him to conquer the world. Jan van Geelen, by a feigned renunciation of his errors, obtained a pardon from Queen Mary.

Having entered Holland, he was able secretly to attract a large number of followers; and in a short time, he conceived the project of surprising Amsterdam by night. He did, in fact, get possession of the town-hall; but the towns-men, aroused by the tocsin, drove away the fanatics with cannon-shot, not without suffering great losses themselves, particularly in the death of a burgomaster. The rebels were cruelly treated. Many of them were stretched upon butcher’s blocks, had their hearts torn out, and were then quartered. On all these occasions a certain number of women were, as usual, drowned.

D'Aubigne, J.H. Merle, History of the Reformation in the Time of Calvin (vol. 8, book 16, ch. 5).

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  • 2 weeks later...

There was at Munster a woman of great courage and determination,
who boasted that no man should ever marry her. John [Bockhold] of Leyden
commanded that she be carried off and placed in the number of his wives;
but the woman, with her independence of character, finding the morals and the
manners of this harem intolerable, made her escape. This was in the king’s eyes a very
great crime, he therefore had her arrested, conducted her himself to the
great square, cut off her head with his own hand, and then, filled with
wrath and vengeance, trampled her body in the dust. Bockhold had ordered
that all his other wives should be present at this hateful scene, and had
directed them to sing a hymn of praise after the execution. These unhappy
creatures did, accordingly, strike up their song in the presence of the
mutilated and desecrated body of their companion.

D'Aubigne, J.H. Merle, History of the Reformation in the Time of Calvin (vol. 8, book 16, ch. 4).

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  • 9 months later...

German Anabaptists

Munster, the den of this filthy crew, stank in the nostrils of Papist and Protestant alike. It was a thing so
supremely offensive and disgusting that it was not possible to live in the same country with it. No matter
whether one believed in the mass or in Protestantism, this "heavenly kingdom" was more than either
religion could tolerate; and must, in the name of that common humanity of which it was the reproach, be
swept away. The princes of the Rhine Provinces in 1535 united their forces and marched against the city —
now strongly fortified. They besieged and took it. Buckholdt was led about in chains and exhibited in
several German towns. He was finally brought back to Munster, the scene of his grandeur and crimes, and
there subjected to an agonizing death. The body of the prophet was — after death — put into an iron
cage; and the dead bodies of two of his followers being similarly dealt with, all three were hung at the top
of the city-tower, as a public spectacle and warning — Buckholdt in the midst, and on either side a

Wylie, J.A., History of Protestantism

Book 12, chapter 2

History of Protestantism, vol. 2 — Ellen G. White Writings (egwwritings.org)

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German Anabaptists, part 2

Luther sought to make his countrymen understand the lesson taught them by these deplorable occurrences.
The Gospel, he said, was the only safe path between two abysses. Rome by usurping authority over the
moral law had opened one abyss, the prophets of Munster by abrogating that law had opened another. The
Gospel, by maintaining the supremacy of that law, placed the conscience under the authority of God, its
rightful Ruler, and so gave man liberty without licentiousness; and if the world would avoid falling
headlong into the gulf that yawned on either hand, it must go steadily forward in the road of Protestantism.
Rome and Munster might seem wide apart, but there was a point where the two met. From the indulgencebox
of Tetzel came an immunity from moral obligation, quite as complete as that of the "heavenly
kingdom" of the Anabaptist prophet of Munster.

Wylie, J.A., History of Protestantism

Book 12, chapter 2

History of Protestantism, vol. 2 — Ellen G. White Writings (egwwritings.org)

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