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BAPTISTS

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Originally appearing in Volume V03, Page 374 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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BAPTISTS, a body of Christians, distinguished, as their name imports, from other denominations by the view they hold respecting the ordinance of baptism (q.v.). This distinctive view, common and peculiar to all Baptists, is that baptism should be administered to believers only. The mode of administration of the ordinance has not always been the same, and some Baptists (e.g. the Mennonites) still practise baptism by pouring or sprinkling, but among those who will here be styled modern Baptists, the mode of administration is also distinctive, to wit, immersion. It should, however, be borne in mind that immersion is not peculiar to the modern Baptists. It has always been recognized by Paedobaptists as a legitimate mode, and is still practised to the exclusion of other modes by a very large proportion of paedobaptist Christendom (e.g. the Orthodox Eastern Church). We shall distinguish here between two main groups of Baptists in Europe; the Anabaptists, now practically extinct, and the modern Baptists whose churches are in nearly every European country and in all other countries where white men reside. I. THE ANABAPTISTS The great spiritual movement of the 15th and 16th centuries had for its most general characteristic, revolt against authority. This showed itself not merely in the anti-papal reformation of Luther, but also in the anti-feudal rising of the peasants and in a variety of anti-ecclesiastical movements within the reformation areas themselves. One of the most notable of these radical anti-ecclesiastical movements was that of the Zwickau prophets, (Marcus Stubner, Nikolaus Storch and Thomas Munzer) : the most vigorous and notorious that of the Munster Anabaptists. Although . they have been called the "harbingers " of the Anabaptists, the characteristic teaching of the Zwickau prophets wasnot Anabaptism. (See, however, ANABAPTISTS.) For although Munzer repudiated infant baptism in theory, he did not relinquish its practice, nor did he insist on the re-baptism of believers. The characteristic teaching of the Zwickau movement, so closely linked with the peasant rising, was the great emphasis laid upon the " inner word." Divine revelation, said Munzer, was not received from the church, nor from preaching, least of all from the dead letter of the Bible; it was received solely and directly from the Spirit of God. It is this daring faith in divine illumination that brings the Zwickau teachers most nearly into touch with the Anabaptists. But if they are not typical of Anabaptism, still less are the later representatives of the movement in the last sad months at Munster. The beginnings of the Anabaptist movement proper were in Zurich, where Wilheld Reubli (148o-1554), Konrad Grebel (d. 1526), Felix Manz (d. 1527) and Simon Strumpf separated from Zwingli and proposed to form a separate church. They repudiated the use of force, advocated a scriptural communism of goods, and asserted that Christians must always exercise love and patience towards each other and so be independent of worldly tribunals. But their most radical doctrine was the rejection of infant baptism as unscriptural. They rapidly gained adherents, among whom was Hans BrOdli, pastor of Zollikon. Their refusal, however, to baptize infants, and the formation of a separate church as the outcome of this refusal, brought upon them the condemnation of Zwingli, and a number of them were banished. This act of banishment, however, drove Jorg Blaurock, Konrad Grebel and others to take the step which definitely instituted " Anabaptism " : they baptized one another and then partook of the Lord's Supper together. This step took them much farther than the repudiation of paedobaptism. It formed a new religious community, which sought to fashion itself on the model of primitive Christianity,. rejecting all tradition and accretions later than New Testament records. Its members claimed to get back to the simple church founded on brotherly love. The result was that their numbers grew with astonishing rapidity, and scholarly saints like Balthasar Hubmaier (ca. 1480-r 528) and Hans Denck (ca. 1495-' 1527) joined them. Hubmaier brought 1 ro new adherents with him, and in 1525 himself baptized 300 converts. This baptism, however, was not immersion. Blaurock and Grebel baptized each other, and many adherents, kneeling together in an ordinary room. Hubmaier baptized his 300 from one bucket. The mode was sprinkling or pouring. In all this the Anabaptists had maintained one central article of faith that linked them to the Zwickau prophets, belief in conscience, religious feeling, or inner light, as the sole true beginning or ground of religion; and one other article, held with equal vigour and sincerity, that true Christians are like sheep among wolves, and must on no account defend themselves from their enemies or take vengeance for wrong done. Very soon this their faith was put to fiery test. Not only were Catholics and Protestants opposed to them on doctrinal grounds, but the secular powers, fearing that the new teaching was potentially as revolutionary as Mtinzer's radicalism had been, soon instituted a persecution of the Anabaptists. On the 7th of March 1526 the Zurich Rath issued an edict threatening all who were baptized anew with death by drowning, and in 1529 the emperor Charles V., at the diet of Spires, ordered Anabaptists to be put to death with fire and sword without even the form of ecclesiastical trial. A cruel persecution arose. Manz was drowned at Zurich and Michael Sattler (ca. 1495-x527) burned to death after torture in 1527; Hubmaier was burned in 1528 and Blaurock in 1529i and Sebastian Franck (1499-1542) asserts that the number of slain was in 1530 already about 2000. Two results followed from this persecution. First, the development of a self-contained and homogeneous community was made impossible. No opportunity for the adoption of any common confession was given. Only a few great doctrines are seen to have been generally held by Anabaptists—such as the baptism of believers only, the rejection of the Lutheran doctrine of justification by faith as onesided and the simple practice of the breaking of bread. This last, the Anabaptist doctrine of the Lord's Supper, was to the effect that brothers and sisters in Christ should partake in remembrance of the death of Christ, and that they should thereby renew the bond of brotherly love as the basis of neighbourly life. In the second place, the persecution deprived the Anabaptists of the noble leaders who had preached non-resistance and at the same time provoked others to an attitude of vengeance which culminated in the horrors of Munster. For Melchior Hofmann (ca. 1498-1543 or 1544) having taken the Anabaptist teaching to Holland, there arose in Haarlem a preacher of vengeance, Jan Matthisson or Matthyszoon (Matthys) (d. 1534) by name, who, prophesying a speedy end of the world and establishment of the kingdom of heaven, obtained many adherents, and despatched Boekebinder and de Kniper to Munster. Here the attempt was made to realise Matthisson's371 ideals. All who did not embrace Anabaptism were driven from Munster (1533), and Bernt Knipperdolling (ca. 1495-1536) became burgomaster. The town was now besieged and Matthisson was killed early in 1534. John (Johann Bockelson) of Leiden (15510-1536) took his place and the town became the scene of the grossest licence and cruelty, until in 1535 it was taken by the besieging bishop. Unhappily the Anabaptists have always been remembered by the crimes of John of Leiden and the revelry of Munster. They should really be known by the teaching and martyrdom of Blaurock, Grebel and Hubmaier, and by the gentle learning and piety of Hans Denck—of whom, with many hundred others, " the world was not worthy." For the teaching of the Anabaptists, see ANABAPTISTS. Reference has already been made to the reason why a common Anabaptist confession was never made public. Probably, how-ever, the earliest confession of faith of any Baptist community is that given by Zwingli in the second part of his Elenchus contra Calabaplistas, published in 1527. Zwingli professes to give it entire, translating it, as he says, ad verbum into Latin. Whatever opinion may be held as to the orthodoxy of the seven articles of the Anabaptists, the vehemence with which they were opposed, and the epithets of abuse which were heaped upon the unfortunate sect that maintained them, cannot fail to astonish those used to toleration. Zwingli, who details these articles, as he says, that the world may see that .they are " fanatical, stolid, audacious, impious," can scarcely be acquitted of unfairness in joining together two of them,—the fourth and fifth,—thus making the article treat " of the avoiding of abominable pastors in the church " (Super devitatione abominabilium pastorum in Ecclesia), though there is nothing about pastors in the fourth article, and nothing about abominations in the fifth, and though in a marginal note he himself explains that the first two copies that were sent him read as he does, but the other copies make two articles, as in fact they evidently are. It is strange that the Protestant Council of Zurich, which had scarcely won its own liberty, and was still in dread of the persecution of the Romanists, should pass the decree which instituted the cruel persecution of the Anabaptists. After Munster had fallen the harassed remnants of the Ana-baptists were gathered together under Menno Simonis, who joined them in 1537. His moderation and piety held in check the turbulence of the more fanatical amongst them. He died in x56r after a life passed amidst continual dangers and conflicts. His name remains as the designation of the Mennonites (q.v.), who eventually settled in the Netherlands under the protection of William the Silent, prince of Orange. Of the introduction of Anabaptist views into England we have no certain knowledge. Fox relates that " the registers of London make mention of certain Dutchmen counted for Anabaptists, of whom ten were put to death in sundry places in the realm, anno 1535; other ten repented and were saved." In 1536 King Henry VIII. issued a proclamation together with articles concerning faith agreed upon by Convocation, in which the clergy are told to instruct the people that they ought to repute and take " the Anabaptists' opinions for detestable heresies and to be utterly condemned." Thomas Fuller (16o8-166r) tells us from Stow's Chronicles that, in the year 1538, " four Anabaptists, three men and one woman, all Dutch, bare faggots at Paul's Cross, and three days after a man and woman of their sect was burnt in Smithfield." In the reign of Edward VI., after the return of the exiles from Zurich, John Hooper (bishop of Gloucester and Worcester, d. 1555) writes to his friend Bullinger in 1549, that he reads "a public lecture twice in the day to so numerous an audience that the church cannot contain them," and adds, " the Anabaptists flock to the place and give me much trouble." It would seem that at this time they were united together in communities separate from the established Church. Latimer, in 1552, speaks of them as segregating themselves from the company of other men. In the sixth examination of John Philpot (1516-1555) in 1555 we are told that Lord Riche said to him, " All heretics do boast of the Spirit of God, and every one would have a church by himself, as Joan of Kent and the Anabaptists." Philpot was imprisoned soon after Mary's accession in 1553; and it is very pleasing to find, amidst the records of intense bitterness and rancour which characterized these times, and with which Romanist and Protestant alike assailed the persecuted Anabaptists, End of Article: BAPTISTS
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