The Anabaptists and their Stepchildren – F.N. Lee
F O R E W O R D By Reverend Richard Bacon
It has been my good pleasure to know Doctor Francis Nigel Lee for many years. This is the third booklet by him that Commonwealth has been privileged to publish. His previous two works from us are Revealed to Babies and Pentecostalism. Both works are presently sold out in the United States.
Doctor Lee is author of over three hundred books and pamphlets. His subject matter has covered such topics as the covenantal Sabbath, Christianity and Communism, a Christian view of the history of philosophy, church architecture, the importance of family devotions, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, etc.
This present work on Anabaptists and their history is another fine, well-documented book that is much in need by the Reformed community. Dr. Lee explains both the history and the strange beliefs of the groups that were on the radical fringes of Christendom during and shortly after the Middle Ages.
This work breaks some interesting ground in the ongoing controversy between modern-day Baptists and the rest of Christianity over the subject of paedobaptism. In this booklet, Dr. Lee demonstrates conclusively that the mainstream of the Church has always baptized covenant infants. He further demonstrates that when a body or Church departs from the precious doctrine of paedobaptism, it usually departs in other fundamental teachings of Scripture as well.
The reader may be surprised to discover that the early Anabaptists did not submerse candidates for baptism, but either sprinkled or poured. What is even more surprising, is to learn that the Mediaeval Roman Church did submerse, and that the Romanist Council of Nemours allowed the Scripture mode of sprinkling only in the case of “emergencies.”
Modern Baptists are fond of claiming that the Reformers simply adopted their doctrines concerning the Sacraments (especially Baptism) from the mediaeval Roman Church. Anyone who has studied the history of the Reformation knows better, but Dr. Lee has brought together a multitude of documents written by the Reformers themselves. In these various documents, the Reformers from Wycliffe to the Westminster Assembly consistently argue against the false doctrine of anti-paedobaptism from Scripture as well as the whole history of the Church.
The Reverend Professor Doctor Francis Nigel Lee is Professor of Systematic Theology at Queensland Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Brisbane, Australia. His doctoral degrees include those in philosophy, jurisprudence, education, and theology. Dr. Lee’s career has included callings as: official Translator for the South African Congress; Barrister of the Supreme Court of South Africa; Minister of the Word and Sacraments in both the United States and the Republic of South Africa; Professor of Philosophy; Scholar-in-Residence at a Christian “think-tank”; and Academic Dean at a North American College.
Dr. Lee’s articles and booklets include publications on history, law, philosophy, politics, theology, etc. His major publications include: About Sunday; Calvin on Creation; Calvin on the Sciences; A Christian Introduction to the History of Philosophy; Communism Versus Creation; Communist Eschatology; Effective Evangelism; Origin and Destiny of Man; The Central Significance of Culture; and The Covenantal Sabbath.
I N T R O D U C T I O N
By Rev. Prof. Dr. F.N. Lee
In recent years, Paternoster Press published a book with a very surprising title: The Reformers and their Stepchildren. The author was the noted Pro-Mennonite or neo-Anabaptist theologian, Dr. Leonard Verduin. Its aim was to try and establish an affinity between consistent Christianity and the Anabaptists.
This present work is a reply to that of Verduin. Hence its title: The Anabaptists and Their Stepchildren. It seeks to show the affinity between those earlier wildcat heretics on the one hand, and their modern sectarian descendants on the other.
To a lesser extent, it also seeks to show that Reformation Protestantism alone is the true daughter of the patristic Catholic Church. In particular, it would demonstrate that especially Calvinism is the true granddaughter of Biblical Christianity — of which contemporary churches need to be, and yet shall become, the true great-granddaughters.
I am grateful to my friend Rev. Richard Bacon, President of Commonwealth Publications in Dallas, for printing up the first edition of this work several years ago. I have kept his own Foreword thereto, also for this present publication. Since the production of the first edition, however, this work was expanded to twice its original length — in the second edition. And now, it has been expanded yet further (with the addition of new Calvin material) into this its third edition (1996).
As with the previous two editions, this work goes forth with the prayer that it may open the eyes of many sincere yet hitherto misguided (Ana)Baptists. May they, as did Mrs. John Calvin of old, repudiate their religious deviations — and then join the historic Christian Church of the Protestant Reformation, and thus come into true apostolic succession with unadulterated Christianity!
— Rev. Prof. Dr. Francis Nigel Lee, Department of Systematic Theology, Queensland Presbyterian Theological Hall, Brisbane, Australia. 1996
THE ANABAPTISTS AND THEIR STEPCHILDREN
Who were the Anabaptists and who are their stepchildren?
The Anabaptists were various sixteenth-century sects. They all repudiated infant baptism. They baptized — and often rebaptized — adults alone. Such Anabaptists as were trinitarian, generally did so by pouring. Unitarian Anabaptists, however, did so largely by a novel single submersion (at variance with the sprinkling previously practised by the Early Church till A.D. 250ff).
In the Middle Ages, the ritualistic Romanists had usually baptized by total immersion. The Protestant Reformers alone re-asserted Biblical baptism. Such is baptism only of believers and their babies and their other children. It is baptism also precisely by way of Scriptural sprinkling.
The Baptists are the (equally antipaidobaptistic) stepchildren of the Anabaptists. Baptists, however, have baptized by single submersion — at least ever since about 1638. In this, they have followed Mediaeval Romanism — and repudiated both the Protestant Reformation and most Anabaptists.
In modern times, Pro-Mennonite Leonard Verduin has written a book on the Anabaptists with the very misleading title: The Reformers and their Stepchildren.1 He would represent the latter as being but the disowned children of Luther and Calvin — and, more remotely, of Waldo and Wycliffe. However, the truth is — the Anabaptists disclaimed dependence upon the Reformers. For the Anabaptists actually represent re-emergent variants of neo-paganized sub- christian early-mediaeval and mid-mediaeval heresies.
Anabaptism was syncretistic. On the one hand, it descended from the communal concepts of Romish monasticism. On the other hand, its ancestors included the semi-Manichaean Paulicians and the neo-Marcionitic and antipaidobaptistic Petrobrusians (who denied even the possibility of infant salvation).
The Anabaptists were principally clustered in Central Europe –from Germany to Italy. Yet they also had great influence in Western Europe from Frisia to Flanders, and in Eastern Europe from Lithuania to Hungary. Indeed, scattered groups also functioned from Russia to Spain — and even in France and England.
Professor Dr. G.H. Williams, the foremost sympathetic authority on Anabaptism, has called it ‘The Radical Reformation.’2 That is a real misnomer. ‘Radical’ — yes! ‘Reformation’ — no! For, as Williams himself rightly pointed out — Anabaptism “broke on principle with the Catholic-Protestant corpus christianum and…induced currents in history and the interpretation thereof which pulsate today…, through democratic progressivism to Marxism.”3 Servetus the Anabaptist rides again!
Harvard’s Dr. Williams has not hesitated to describe himself4 as “a professor who, and in a university which, has spiritual connections with Calvin’s principal foe, Michael Servetus.” Extolling the neo-Anabaptist Karl Barth as “the greatest modern theologian,” Williams has saluted the Anabaptists as architects of the modern post-Christian pluriform society. Indeed, he has expressed the wish to “salute them from afar — as the honored citizens of that larger community which is the commonwealth of all mankind.”5
The Anabaptists, then, were sixteenth-century antipaidobaptists. As to their doctrine of God, they were variously Unitarian, Binitarian, Tritheistic — or, occasionally, even quasi-Trinitarian. As to creation and providence, many were either anarchistic or neo-Manichaean. Indeed, some were very lascivious — and either adulterers or polygamists.
Nearly all maintained a heretical neo-Gnostic christology. Several claimed to be prophetic visionaries and/or glossolalists, and more than a few were thoroughly communistic. Most were millenarian, fanatically predicting the imminent return of Christ. Nearly all of them taught both soul-sleep and the final annihilation of the wicked (thus denying the eternal punishment). Absolutely all of them were either antinomian or legalistic. What was good in them, was not original. What was original in them, was not good.
They all agreed in hating the Biblical and patristic practice of infant baptism. They all resurrected and rehashed various heresies already decisively rejected many centuries earlier and only after a thorough evaluation by the Early Church.
Very demonstrably, their modern stepchildren comprise various contemporary ecclesiastic revolutionaries. Such include the Christadelphians, the Mormons, the Seventh-day Adventists, the Jehovah witnesses, the Pentecostalists, and the left- wing liberationists.
Anabaptist views in general altogether foreign to Holy Scripture
Many, then, were the errors of Anabaptism. There were also different varieties of Anabaptists. Yet all agreed in rejecting infant baptism6 — and, more importantly, also the historical continuity and therefore the social stability which it promotes.
In Holy Scripture itself, there is neither antipaidobaptism nor submersionism. The Bible insists that both believers and their infants were to be circumcised, before Calvary. There, however, circumcision was replaced by baptism — and hence infant circumcision by infant baptism. Genesis 17:7-14; Acts 2:38f; Romans 4:11f; Colossians 2:11-13.
For an exhaustive demonstration of this, see Francis Nigel Lee’s dissertation titled Baby Belief Before Baptism.7 However, both the Anabaptists and the Baptists deny that the babies of believers should be baptized.
The modern Baptists (just like the mediaeval baptismal regenerationists) further insist that baptism should be administered only by way of submersion. That method, however, is totally foreign to the Word of God — which knows only of sprinkling and pouring. Isaiah 32:15 & 44:1-5 & 52:15f; Ezekiel 36:25-27; Daniel 3:33 & 5:21; Joel 2:16,23,28f; Acts 1:5f & 2:1-4a,16f,33,38f and Hebrews 9:10-21. For abundant proof of this, see Francis Nigel Lee’s monograph titled Sprinkling is Scriptural.8
The antipaidobaptism of the Anabaptists strongly characterizes their Baptist stepchildren today. Also the other views of the Anabaptists are still encountered — among many of their other different stepchildren. The latter include: sacramentalists like the Campbellites; unitarian Christadelphians; ‘charismatic’ Pentecostalists; premillenial Dispensationalists; polygamous proto-Mormons; state-hating “Jehovah’s witnesses”; soul-sleeping Seventh-day Adventists; and various assorted deniers of everlasting punishment.
At this point, we merely mention the various heresies of Anabaptism which spawned this seed. There was the anti- trinitarianism of Jan Denck, David Joris, Jan Campanus, and Miguel Servetus (against Genesis 1:1-3 and Matthew 28:19 and Revelation 4:5-8f). There was the denial of Christ’s incarnation by Melchior Hofmann and Menno Simons (against Luke 1:31f and Romans 1:3f and Hebrews 2:9-17 & 5:1-8).
There was the repeated adultery of Louis Haetzer — and the polygamy of the demagogue Jan Beukels of Leyden and of the murderer Jan Matthys of Haarlem (against Malachi 2:14-16 and Matthew 19:4-9 and First Thessalonians 4:3-8). Indeed, there was also the revolutionism of Thomas Muenzer, Bernard Knipperdolling and even David Joris (against Romans 13:1-7 and First Peter 2:13-17 and Titus 3:1f).
Then there was their communism (alias community of goods and community of wives) — squarely condemned by Exodus 20:15-17 and Acts 5:4 and Ephesians 4:24-28. There were the pseudo-pentecostal babblings of Thomas Muenzer, and the false prophecies of Menno Simons — against Matthew 6:7 and First Corinthians 14:7-21 and First John 4:1-6. There was an anarchical opposition to oathing — against Deuteronomy 10:20 and Jeremiah 4:2 and Second Corinthians 1:23. There was also a heretical doctrine of soul-sleep — against Luke 23:43 and Second Corinthians 5:1-9 and Philippians 1:21-23. Indeed, in some cases, there was even a denial of everlasting punishment –against Isaiah 34:8- 10 and Mark 9:42-48 and Revelation 14:11 & 20:10.
Anabaptist views contrary also to the history of the Early Church
Not just Holy Scripture but Early Church History too clearly substantiates the above claims. The Early Church Fathers opposed communism,9 revolutionism,10 soul-sleep,11 and pseudo-pentecostalistic babblings12 etc. Here, however, we now focus our attention specifically on antipaidobaptistic deviations from Biblical baptism.
There are few post-biblical extant records about baptism at all, until Cyprian in 250 A.D. Yet, many pre-250 works do yield fragmentary traces of either sprinkling or infant baptism or both — but none of antipaidobaptism.
Such pre-250 works include:13 the Tanna; the Talmud; the Old Testament Apocrypha, and the Pseudepigrapha. They include the writings also of: Philo; Josephus; Clement of Rome; the Didachee; (Pseudo-)Barnabas; Ignatius; Pliny; Aristides; Matheetees (to Diognetus); Papias; the Shepherd of Hermas; the New Testament Apocrypha; Justin Martyr; Polycarp; the mid-century martyrs around 150 A.D.; Athenagoras; Theodotus; Irenaeus; Polycrates; Clement of Alexandria; Tertullian; the Old Egyptian Ordinance; Hippolytus; Origen; Dionysius of Alexandria; and archaeological evidence.
Even the Baptist A.W. Argyle — Regent’s Park College tutor at Oxford — has made some important concessions. He conceded14 that there indeed “appears to be [at least] one cryptic reference to infant baptism in an allegorical passage of the Paedagogus” written by the 195f A.D. Clement of Alexandria.
Indeed, Baptist Argyle has further conceded that the 230 A.D. Origen describes “the practice of infant baptism not only as a custom of the church, but as an apostolic custom.” Nay more! Argyle also conceded the indisputable fact that (the 250f A.D.) “Cyprian Bishop of Carthage…directs that infants should be baptized.”
Yet sadly, we also find in Cyprian the evidence that submersionistic paganism was just then beginning to infiltrate the Christian Church. Until that time, ever since the apostles, baptisms of believers and their children had been administered in the Universal Church by way of sprinkling.
Only heretics had previously rejected infant baptism, and had begun to insist on neo-paganistic submersionism. The Church, however, sprinkled believers’ babies. See Francis Nigel Lee’s three theses Baptism Does Not Cleanse and Rebaptism Impossible and Baby Belief Before Baptism.15
After 250 A.D.: submersionism and other baptismal heresies
From the 250 A.D. time of Cyprian onward, however, the Church Universal degenerated — by syncretizing with paganism. More and more water now got used at baptisms. This was because of the false and new theory that the greater the quantity of water at baptisms (and the more naked the candidate), the greater the quantity and quality of sins were thereby washed away. Enter baptismal regenerationism.16 So, too, from 350, baptism was often deferred till death.
Fortunately, however, there was no attack against infant baptism as such. For even the romanizing Church Universal rightly regarded babies too as sinners — all stained with Adam’s original sin. Thus, paidobaptism was clearly enunciated by: Lactantius; Asterius; Basil; Gregory of Nazianze; Gregory of Nyssa; Hilary; Ambrose; Chrysostom; Jerome; and Augustine. Yet Biblical sprinkling decreased, and magical submersion increased.
In the Middle Ages, the neo-paganistic doctrines of the inherent goodness of babies and the denial of their original sin (in certain circles) — sometimes expressed itself in a rejection of infant baptism. This was found in various heretical sects outside the Church Universal.
Thus the wildcat adoptionistic Paulicians now arose in Armenia at the end of the seventh, and increased especially in the ninth century. Drawing from Marcionism and Manichaeism, most of the Paulicians rejected the Christian sacraments altogether.17
The non-baptizing Paulicians and the infant-damning Petrobrusians
As Prof. Dr. Edwin Yamauchi has pointed out18 in his important article Manichaeans: “The Paulician movement, which spread in Armenia from the seventh to the twelfth century –though it repudiated Manichaeism — resembled it in its dualistic views. The Paulicians came to Bulgaria in the tenth century and helped to develop the Bogomils, who flourished in the Balkans in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. The latter in turn stimulated the important Manichaean-like heresy of the Cathars or Albigensians in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.”
In 1012, neo-Manichaeans appeared even in Germany. A group in Treves rejected infant baptism. These were the so- called Cathari — called ‘Bogomils’ in the East, and ‘Albigensians’ in the West. Instead of Biblical baptism, they substituted their own rite (called the consolamentum) — which also women were allowed to administer. Thereby, they laid on hands — and imposed John’s Gospel onto the candidate’s breast.19
As Prof. Dr. Paul D. Steeves has indicated20 in his article The Paulicians and the Bogomils, “the Paulicians…held that only the Gospel and letters of Paul were divinely inspired. An evil deity…had inspired the rest of the New Testament, and the Old Testament. The Paulicians claimed that this evil deity was the creator and god of this world. The true God of heaven, they said, was opposed to all material things…. Physical and material…sacraments…must have come from the same evil spirit….
“Some of the Bulgars adopted Paulician ideas into a new religious system that acquired the name ‘Bogomilism’…. Around the middle of the tenth century, Bogomils began to teach that the first-born son of God was Satanael…. This deity was expelled from heaven. He made a new heaven and earth, in which he placed Adam and Eve. Satanael and Eve became the parents of Cain…. Moses and John the Baptist, according to Bogomil teaching, were both servants of Satanael…. The Bogomils…despised marriage…. They rejected baptism and communion as Satanic rites.”
In Western Europe and especially in France, a group of neo-Marcionistic antipaidobaptists arose at the beginning the twelfth century. Around 1105, Peter de Bruys and his ‘Petrobrusians’ and Henry of Lausanne and his ‘Henricians’ rejected infant baptism and practised rebaptism.
Unlike nearly all modern Baptists, however, these Petrobrusians held that infants are incapable of being saved! They also revived the Donatistic view that piety is essential for the valid administration of a sacrament. Indeed — even according to the modern Baptist Erroll Hulse — just like the later Anabaptists, “Peter de Bruys…rejected large parts of Scripture and embraced the false doctrine of ‘soul-sleep.'”21
According to the great British Puritan Rev. Dr. William Wall,22 “the Petrobrusians — otherwise called the ‘Henricians’ — did own water-baptism, and yet deny infant-baptism…. Peter Bruis and Henry [of Lausanne were] the two first antipaedobaptist preachers in the world.”
However, in denying infant baptism they had no long-term historical stability. Consequently, concluded Wall,23 they “quickly dwindled away — or came over to those that owned it.” Indeed, with the exception of these non- ecclesiastical and disorganized infant-damning twelfth-century Petrobrusians, “there is no certain evidence of any church or society of men that opposed infant baptism” — till the antireformational German and Swiss Anabaptists from about 1522 onward.
The Waldensians maintained the infant baptism of tiny Christians
Ritualistic Rome, with her rigid heresy of baptismal regenerationism, increasingly practised baptism specifically by submersion. Yet from about 1180 onward, we also encounter the protests of the proto-Protestant Waldensians.
While rejecting the various ritualistic additions to baptism, these disciples of Peter Waldo did not repudiate the validity of baptisms as such — not even when performed in the Church of Rome. Indeed, when unable to avail themselves of the rather scarce services of their own mostly itinerant pastors — some of them very questionably permitted their own children, rather than to remain unbaptized, to be baptized even by Romish priests. Still others, with reluctance, even delayed those baptisms (because not necessary for salvation) — until their own Waldensian pastors were later available and able to officiate.
“The Waldensians,” Martin Luther rightly wrote,24 “baptize little ones…. They proceed, then, to baptize little children.” Indeed, as Dr. Wall explained,25 apart from the infant-damning Petrobrusians “there is no certain evidence of any church or society of men that opposed infant baptism — till those in Germany, A.D. 1522…. For the main body of the Waldenses, there is no probability at all.” So too the Baptist A.H. Newman, in his History of Antipedobaptism:26 “The early Waldensian pastors…had scarcely anything in common with Baptists.”
For “the Waldenses,” as Rev. Prof. Dr. Samuel Miller rightly pointed out in his work Infant Baptism,27 “in their Confessions of Faith and other writings drawn up between the twelfth and sixteenth centuries…for several hundred years before the Reformation…have indeed written on the subject.” However, the evidence leads to only one conclusion: “The great body of the Waldenses, were Paedobaptists.”
Miller then cited from Waldensian historians themselves: “‘Baptism,’ say they, ‘is administered in a full congregation of the faithful, to the end that he who is received into the church may be reputed and held by all as a Christian brother…. We present our children in baptism…. The things which are not necessary in baptism, are — the exorcisms; the breathings; the sign of the cross upon the head or forehead of the infant‘” and/or the adult.
Later, under the influence of Calvinism, the Waldensians linked up with the Reformed Faith. The Waldensians’ own historic adherence to infant baptism is clearly seen in their 1655 Waldensian Confession. For there, they state28 “that we do agree in sound doctrine with all the Reformed Churches of France, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland…and others as it is set forth by them in their Confessions — as also in the Confession of Augsburg.”
Indeed, that Protestant Augsburg Confession — endorsed also by Calvin and the Calvinists — states29 “that children are to be baptized.” It then goes on to “condemn the Anabaptists, who allow not the baptism of children.”
The impact on baptism of Thomistic Roman Catholicism
However, it was not the Biblical but rather the magical view of baptism which predominated in the Late Middle Ages. For around 1250, Thomas Aquinas programmed ‘baptismal regeneration’ as the only view which would soon be standardized officially — in the Roman Catholic Church.30
Sometimes, Thomas upheld the right view — for the wrong reason. Thus:31 “A sacrament is a sign of a sacred thing — inasmuch as it sanctifies a man.” By the latter he meant, wrongly, that baptism itself regenerates. Again wrongly, he also held that originally it was administered by submersion.32
Indeed, centuries of baptismal regenerationism had by this time made submersionism very popular. Yet even Thomas conceded that “pouring and sprinkling are also allowable.”33
Sadly, he also opined that baptism is itself an “instrumental cause” initiating saving grace and bringing it to man.34 “Baptism is given this ability, so that anybody is regenerated through it itself”:35 ex opere operato.
Baptism, believed Thomas, is therefore the door to the kingdom of heaven.36 It is essential to salvation — except for those desiring to be baptized yet who die before this can be accomplished. Baptism, he insisted, is regeneration.37 Lay-baptism was and still is permitted — chiefly because all unbaptized children were and are regarded as being excluded from heaven.38
Under practically-universal baptismal regenerationism, submersion (whether triple or single) was now thought to be a “safer” mode of baptism than sprinkling. This can still be seen throughout ritualistic Eastern ‘Orthodoxy’ — as well as in the entire Eastern Rite of Romanism.
However, the water still needed to be applied to the head –as the most important part of the human body.39 The 1284 Council of Nemours limited head-sprinkling to cases of necessity.40 But the Pre- Reformation, and especially the Protestant Reformation, would erelong restore that Biblical mode to its rightful place. Acts 2:1-4,16a,33 and Revelation 7:3f & 22:4.
Meantime, the Deformed Church had long abandoned the fourth century’s tendency unnecessarily to delay baptism. It had instead, now for many centuries, administered it all too hastily. Yet it now did this — chiefly because it was superstitiously terrified that all unbaptized persons, including babies, could not go to heaven. Hence also babies were baptized, and often by submersion.
Wycliffe and Huss and their followers on infant baptism
Fortunately, however, the Christian Gospel was still preserved –especially in Northern Europe. In 1377, the English ‘Pre-Reformer’ John Wycliffe (1324-84) assailed the Romish mass.41 In 1402, the Wycliffite Huss did the same in Bohemia.42
Neither of them ever questioned infant baptism. To the contrary, Wycliffe declared: “On account of the words in the last chapter of Matthew [28:19], our church introduces believers who answer for the infant….
“The child of a believer is carried into the church to be baptized, according to the rule of Christ.” Yet “it seems hard…to assert” like the Romanists, “that this infant will be lost” if dying unbaptized. Nevertheless, “without a doubt, infants are duly baptized with water.”43
Wycliffe and his English followers the Lollards rejected baptismal regenerationism. As the great Puritan Rev. Dr. Wall has pointed out,44 “one of the articles usually enjoined [by their enemies] for the Lollards…to recant, was (as the martyrologist John Foxe45 recites it) this: ‘that an infant, though he die unbaptized, shall be saved.'”
Indeed, the Norfolk and Suffolk followers of the 1424 Wycliffite William White were constantly “speaking against [Romish] women baptizing new-born infants in private houses, [and] against the opinion of such as think children damned who depart before they come to their baptism.
“Wycliffe had said that the water itself, without…the Spirit, is of little efficacy…. He and his followers had said that if the parents be good Christians and pray for their child, there is hope that it may be saved — though it do by some sudden chance die before it can be baptized.”
England’s great ‘Pre-Reformer’ John Wycliffe was thus not only a convinced paidobaptist, but apparently both an antirebaptist and opposed to baptismal regenerationism. England’s King Richard’s Queen Anne was herself a Wycliffite, and the sister of Wenceslaus King of Bohemia (in the modern Czech Republic). It was probably chiefly through her agency that Wycliffe’s views were taken over almost without amendment by the Bohemian ‘Pre-Reformer’ John Huss — and also by his friend Jerome of Prague, who had become a Wycliffite while at Oxford University before returning to his native Bohemia.46
The followers of Huss were called the Hussites. “The Hussites of Bohemia,” according to the great Puritan Rev. Dr. Wall,47 were of the “opinion…that infants dying unbaptized, may be saved by the mercy of God…. Indeed, they were disciples of our Wycliffe.”
The influence of Wycliffe through Huss upon Luther
The Wycliffite Huss would influence Martin Luther himself — and thus launch the Protestant Reformation. Rome’s ‘Holy Council’ itself pronounced “John Huss to have been and to be…the disciple…of John Wycliffe.”
Thus the Romish controversialist Eck, Luther later exclaimed, “vilifies me as a ‘heretic’ and a Bohemian” — even “publicly accusing me of the heresy of and support for the Bohemian ‘heretics.'” For Eck was indeed accusing Luther: “Many of the things which you adduce, are heresies of…Wycliffe and Huss!”
Luther himself, however, insisted that “John Huss and Jerome of Prague were good Christians.” Luther also insisted that “Paul and Augustine are in reality Hussites.” And again: “All this is not Luther’s work. The credit belongs to John Huss.” Thus, “it is high time that we seriously and honestly consider the case of the Bohemians, and come into union with them…. I have no desire to pass judgment…upon John Huss’s articles…. I have not yet found any errors in his writings.”
Luther even went back behind the Wycliffite Huss — to the Englishman Wycliffe himself. Declared Luther: “As far as the [papal] ‘decretals’ are concerned…, they are…things it is not necessary to believe — as John Wycliffe said.” Indeed, in 1520 Luther boldly admitted: “I shall be called a Wycliffite!”
So, according to both Luther himself and his Romish opponent Dr. Eck, Luther was both a Wycliffite and a Hussite. For proof of all the aforesaid claims, see the documentation given in Francis Nigel Lee’s 1989 monograph Luther and Calvinism on Antichrist in the Bible.48
The rebaptismal error of the Bohemian ‘Minor United Brethren’
Now after Romanism’s murder of Huss, his numerous followers unfortunately soon split up three different ways. Thus arose the partially-Reformed Calixtines, the militant proto-Protestant Taborites, and finally the separatistic ‘Bohemian Brethren’ (alias the later ‘Moravians’).
They, the church historian Dr. Philip Schaff explains,49 rightly “denounced the Pope of Rome as Antichrist.” Yet they also wisely recognized that something of the historic Christian Church (though grossly deformed) was still to be found even within Romanism, despite its numerous papal perversions.
“At first, they received the sacraments from Calixtine and Romish priests who joined them.” Indeed, “in 1467 they effected an independent organization…under the lead of Michael, formerly a Catholic priest.” This was the ‘Minor United Brethren’ — a minority party within the antirebaptist Bohemian Brethren as a whole.
Yet the minority party then over-reacted. Misinterpreting Joshua 5:2f and Acts 19:3f, it forgot that in Biblical times Josiah and Paul had not recircumcisingly discarded or rebaptizingly jettisoned but retrieved and reformed — the deformed Church of God.
Too, in Ezekiel 34:11-15, God does not say He would send new shepherds to build new sheepfolds for new sheep. He says He Himself would re-gather His scattered sheep; bring them back into their old sheepfold; and punish not them but the false shepherds who had scattered them.
In Bohemia, however, the ex-priest Michael and his Minor United Brethren did something rather different. They forgot that baptism had replaced circumcision; and that re-baptism is therefore just as impossible as is re– circumcision. Romans 6:1-5f cf. Colossians 2:11-13. They revolutionarily went and elected by lot three priests from their number, and then laid their own ex-Romish hands on them. Then they themselves were all solemnly ‘rebaptized‘ by those three priests.
This latter act was a neo-Donatist and a catabaptistic error, itself certainly not devoid of sacramentalism. Never, however, did these Bohemian Brethren either abandon infant baptism as such — nor rebaptize as adults those they deemed to have been baptized in infancy. Thus, these Bohemians — though indeed confused Catabaptists — were not antipaidobaptistic Anabaptists. Still less were they adult-submersing Baptists.
As even the Pro-Mennonite Verduin has admitted:50 “The Brethren did practice infant baptism…of children born to ‘believing parents’…. The point was not anti-pedobaptism, but anti-Constantinianism” — or rather an exaggerated anti- Romanism and a wrongly-‘invalidating’ Neo-Donatism quite contrary to Holy Scripture (cf. Exodus 4:24-26).
The United Bohemian Brethren recanted the error of rebaptism
Fortunately, some of the later and better theologians of the ‘minor party’ Bohemian Brethren soon resiled from their catabaptistic position. They then abandoned that ‘rebaptismal’ radicalism — perhaps still during the fifteenth century. Indeed, already by the time of their 1504 Bohemian Confession(subsequently published in 1535) — they had also abandoned a ‘purely symbolical’ sacramentology similar to that of the later Baptists.
Perhaps under Luther’s influence from 1520 onward, they opted for consubstantiation. Later yet, they also gradually abandoned even that — for the purer truth of Calvinism. See their letter sent to Beza in December 1575 — and, further, their Bohemian Confession of that same year.
Now it seems this 1467f Bohemian Brethren ‘minor party’ had already abandoned its catabaptistic doctrines — by 1504. No doubt its leaders informed the antirebaptismal Luther about this, before he supported them in 1520. At any rate, in their 1504 Bohemian Confession — as well as in its 1535Prologue — they courageously distantiated themselves from the previous rebaptistic lapse of their own ancestors.
Thus, in the 1535 Prologue, the Ministers of the Church of the Bohemian Brethren assured the King of Bohemia and Hungary (Ferdinand I) that they were certainly not Anabaptists. This disclaimer was necessary. For their Romish opponents were then quite falsely alleging that very thing.
Explained these ‘Bohemian Brethren’:51 “It is not unknown to anybody that we do not belong to the party of the Anabaptists. For we take our origin from the Church of the Bohemians…. We had already existed many years before them [the Anabaptists], and we do not defend their error-filled teachings.
“We have nothing in common with the Anabaptists…and have taken over nothing from them…. Our association has been in existence for much longer — from before anyone ever first heard anything about the Anabaptists….
“However, although our ancestors were wont to rebaptize those who had been baptized by Romish priests in former years — they [our ancestors] still had an altogether different viewpoint and another purpose and an entirely other reason than the Anabaptists. Now, however, even this rebaptism has been abolished completely among us. Pre-eminently hereanent, a short account will be given in this writing — by the most excellent men of our Church….
“Further. Whenever we are, because of this rebaptism, regarded as Anabaptists — by the very ‘sophisticated’ [Romish] priests of Bohemia — even this weapon is necessarily turned against them. For their ancestors too ‘re-re-baptized’ those who had been baptized by papal priests, but who had thereafter been dedicated in [re]baptism” by the Bohemian Brethren. For the Romish priests then, “by way of reprisal, once again repeated the baptism [already given] by the Bohemian Brethren — to those [re-]renewed as papists.” The Romish priests in Bohemia thus “[re-]rebaptized those [re-]baptized by both us and by our ancestors — and they forced people, even with violence, to receive their baptism….
“Yet the [Romish] priests maintain they had not faltered nor erred when they rebaptized those baptized by us. For they regarded us as heretics, sectarians and ecclesiastical excommunicatees. Thus it also seemed very right to them — that our baptism was of no significance, effect and power. This is why they rebaptized….
“We answer that we…like they give nothing to [administering] baptism…among ourselves…. We used to regard the baptism administered by them as invalid, and void…. It is therefore clear that they have just as much guilt toward us, as we have toward them — in rebaptizing the baptized!”
The Bohemian Confession(s) on rebaptism from 1504 onward
Thus the 1535 Prologue. However, even earlier — also before Luther’s conversion to Protestantism alias his return to Biblical Christianity — we already encounter a 1504 Bohemian Confession to King Vladislav (which was thereafter constantly updated). We now cite from the 1535 version.
Article 12 declares “that children are baptized…and dedicated to Christ…according to His words: ‘Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them; for of such is the Kingdom of heaven’ [Matthew 19:14]. Therefore, we baptize ours.”
For we all “rest upon the words of the Lord for children, in the Name of the Holy Trinity. Indeed, this statement [Matthew 28:19] is general: ‘Teach all nations, inasmuch as you baptize them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.’ We do not baptize them again thereafter; and we no longer rebaptize….
“They [a former generation of ‘Bohemian Brethren’] previously rebaptized those who wished to be taken up into our churches from others…. When the Romanists violently fought against the ‘Bohemians’ in matters of faith and religion, the leaders of both Churches clashed with Scripture….
“In several localities the one repeated the baptism of the other, for as long as they persevered in the greatest hatred. For the ancestors of our faith, who then completely separated themselves from them [and indeed from all others], had their own particular association, and administered the sacraments — and rebaptized all who wished to join their churches….
“This kind of rebaptism existed in our churches — until we acquired a better insight about this. However, in the course of time — after through the goodness of God the light of truth illuminated our men more brightly, and after they had investigated the Scriptures more carefully, and after they had at the same time been supported by the help of several learned men — they realized that rebaptism is not necessary for the Church. And they then immediately discontinued and abolished it, with the approval of all.
“Hence, with the general agreement of our men, every repetition of baptism was abolished…. Nowhere is baptism any longer repeated among us. Yet some priests of the so-called Bohemian-Romish party, just as in former times, even now still rebaptize our people — although for the most part against their wishes, and in opposition to the parents.”52
God maintained His baptism despite the Church’s mediaeval meanderings
To a much lesser extent than in Britain under the Wycliffites and in Bohemia under the Hussites, Christianity had continued even in darkest Southern Europe. It had continued not only in the stagnant southeast, but also in the papal southwest — in spite of the tyranny there. In 1520, Luther called thisThe Babylonian Captivity of the Church.53 Also the Frenchman Calvin described the woes of the Western Church with great precision.
For, as the great genius of Geneva explained,54 even among “the papists” — there were and are “vestiges of a Church which the Lord has allowed to remain among them…. The Lord…deposited His covenant in Gaul, Italy, Germany, Spain and England.
“When these countries were oppressed by the tyranny of antichrist — He [the Lord], in order that His covenant might remain inviolable, first preserved baptism there, as an evidence of the covenant. Baptism…, consecrated by His lips, retains its power — in spite of human depravity.”
Luther on infants’ faith and reason before their infant baptism
According to Scripture, it is the Spirit-empowered Word which regenerates. James 1:18. According to the Anabaptists, the Spirit alone regenerates — unmonitorable by the Word. Rome, however, said that regeneration is effected by baptism — and that baptism then produces faith.
Rome thus held that infants could not believe savingly until after and because they had been baptized. The Anabaptists held that infants cannot believe (nor even profess belief), so that infants should not be baptized — but that adults could receive baptism (yet only after professing their faith). The Protestant Reformation objected first to Rome and then to the Anabaptists. Instead, it pointed both of them — back to the Bible.
Probably even before his formal break with Rome, Luther had realized — through studying Holy Scripture — that baptism presupposes faith within the baptizee himself. From the Bible alone, Luther was led to deny the Romish error (and the later Anabaptist heresy) that unbaptized infants cannot believe — and to demonstrate the contrary. On this, see Francis Nigel Lee: Revealed to Babies (Confederate Series, Commonwealth Publishing, Rowlett, Texas, 1987).
To Luther, Genesis 17:7 teaches that the Triune God is the Lord not only of adult believers but also of their seed. Himself the seed of believing parents, John the baptizer believed while yet in his mother’s womb. Luke 1:41.
Luther also saw that Matthew 18:6f refers to little ones who believe in Jesus. Indeed, in Matthew 19:14 — Jesus even declares that only those adults are fit for the kingdom of heaven, who believe like such infants.55
Thus Luther rightly realized that John the baptizer — as when a baby born to believing parents — was himself already a believer in Christ, even before John’s own birth. Luke 1:36-44. That was prior to any possible circumcision and/or baptism John may have received either in infancy or thereafter.
Referring to Christ’s blessing of the children in Mark 10:14f, Luther insisted56 that infant faith is present “before or certainly in the baptism…. If any baptism is certain of success, the baptism of children is most certain… In adults there may be deception, because of their mature reason. But in children there can be no deception, because of their slumbering reason.” And if such infants indeed have a “slumbering reason” — then why not also: a slumbering faith?
Now what exactly is this ‘slumbering’ reason? Luther explains: “Tell me, is the Christian deprived of his reason when he is asleep? Certainly, then, his faith and God’s grace do not leave him! If faith remains with the sleeping Christian while his reason is not conscious of the faith — why should there not be faith [with]in children, before reason is aware of it? A similar situation obtains, when a Christian is engaged in strenuous labour and is not [then] conscious of his faith and reason. Will you say that, on account of this, his faith has come to an end?” Of course not!
Luther later told the Anabaptists that Mark (16:16) does not say ‘he who confesses he has faith and is baptized, shall be saved.’ For Mark says instead that ‘he who believes and is baptized, shall be saved.’
Explained Luther:57 “It is true that a man should believe, for baptism…. But his faith, you do not know…. Because all men are liars, and only God knows the heart…. I do not get baptized because I am sure of faith, but because God has commanded it…. Who then can exclude the little children? … We have a command to offer every one the universal gospel and the universal baptism. The children must also be included. We plant and water; and leave God to give the increase.”
Luther on covenant infants’ faith at or even before their baptism
Well-known is Luther’s (quasi-Calvinian) emphasis on ‘infant faith’ at and even before infant baptism. For, he insists, “children must themselves believe — lest the majesty of the Word and sacrament be obscured.”58 So “we are of the opinion and the expectation that the child should believe, and we pray that God give it faith. Yet we do not baptize it for that reason, but because God has so commanded.”59
Already in 1521, Luther clearly stated60 that “without faith no sacrament is of any use…. The sacrament of baptism is a divine sign or seal given by virtue of the promise and Word of Christ in the last chapter of Mark [16:16]. ‘He that believes and is baptized, shall be saved.'”
Again, Luther insisted61 the Church prays for God to pour out His blessing upon the one to be baptized — “so that he may become worthy to come to grace at his baptism…. The children themselves believe…and have their own faith which God works within them — through the faithful intercession of their parents who faithfully bring them to the Christian Church…. Through their [parental] intercession and assistances, the children receive their own faith from God.”
Luther appealed to infant circumcision (Genesis 17:10f), and asserted against the Anabaptists that children actually believe. Matthew 18:6 & 19:14. Also against the Romanists he insisted: “Baptism helps no one. It is also to be given to no one –except he believes for himself. Without personal faith, no one is to be baptized.” Anabaptists and Lutherans, listen to Luther!
The roots and the rise of the Anabaptist heretics
Only around 1522 did the Anabaptists emerge. They were subdivided into many different varieties, with great differences among each another. The great German church historian Rev. Prof. Dr. Albrecht Ritschl, in his famous three-volume History of Pietism, attributed their origin to the mediaeval ‘spiritual Franciscans.’ Drs. G. Kramer, the noted Dutch historian of doctrine, considered62 the Anabaptists to have agreed with Romanism in many weighty matters of faith.
Indeed, some of Anabaptism’s views seem to derive — also via Francke and Paracelsus — even from the neo- paganistic Pre-Renaissance. This is unquestionably so in the cases of Campanus, Denck, Muenzer and Servetus. See Francis Nigel Lee: A Christian Introduction to the History of Philosophy, Craig, Nutley N.J., 1969, pp. 142ff.
Even modern Baptist(ic) church historians have agreed with many of these assessments. Thus, in his book The Anabaptist Story, Prof. Dr. W.R. Estep rightly insisted63 that “not one of the Swiss Anabaptist leaders came from a Waldensian background…. All of the early Anabaptist leaders came originally from the Roman Church…or directly out of Catholicism into Anabaptist life.”
Even more interesting is the admission of history professor Dr. K.R. Davis in his book Anabaptism and Asceticism, published by the modern Mennonite Anabaptists themselves. “The Marburg Anabaptists,” explained Davis,64 “question[ed] prospective members and those requesting the sign of baptism thus: ‘If need should require it, are you prepared to devote all your possessions to the service of the brotherhood?'” Behold the dechristianizing advocacy of communism at anabapticized baptisms!
Indeed, based on his Hutterite studies, the authority Friedmann has observed “that Anabaptist baptism might perhaps be compared to a monastic vow…. Novak advocates the same idea…that in general ‘Anabaptism represents a laicization of the Catholic monastic spirituality.'”
Now most Anabaptists departed much further from Scripture than Romanism had — and upheld even a neo-paganistic denial of the incarnation. Admitted Williams:65 “The ancient heretical christology (originally developed by Valentinus and assimilated by Apollinarius)…was variously communicated to the sixteenth-century Radicals…, in part indirectly by the perpetration of the ‘celestial flesh heresy’ in Bogomile and Cathar circles.”
True, some of the simpler Anabaptists — such as the widow Idelette Stordeur, even before she presbyterianized and married the Protestant Reformer John Calvin — were indeed sincere Christians. Yet as to their distinctives, even when at their very best, the Anabaptist leaders can most appropriately be described as sub-Christian. What was good in them, did not originate with them. What originated with them, was not good.
The Anabaptists were divided into many varieties. Yet they were nevertheless all apparently influenced by the dualistic, neo-Manichaean, anti-Old-Testamentistic and antipaidobaptistic66 Oriental sect of the ninth-century Paulicians.
Indeed, most of the Anabaptists were also tinged by the French Petrobrusian neo-Marcionistic antipaidobaptist soul- sleepers of the twelfth century. Thus the modern Baptist church historians Rev. Prof. Drs. H.C. Vedder and W.M.S. West.67
Dr. West divided those “Anabaptists” inter alia into ‘Spiritualists’ and ‘Anti-Trinitarians.’ He has held that the ‘Spiritualists’ include “Thomas Muenzer…and…eventually Andreas Carlstadt…. The most famous names among the ‘Anti-Trinitarians’ are Miguel Servetus…and Faustus Socinus.”
Some Anabaptists believed babies were ‘safe.’ Others believed they were lost — because deemed to be incapable of professing, or even of possessing, any faith in Christ at all. Again, some Anabaptists believed baptism was merely a sign of faith; others believed it made prior faith secure. Yet others believed faith was vain without baptism. But all Anabaptists believed it was wrong, and sometimes even sinful, to baptize babies.
The Anabaptist attack against the Protestant Reformation
The Protestant Reformation commenced when the paidobaptist Martin Luther of Wittenberg issued his Ninety-Five Theses against the Romish deformation of Christ’s Church. That occurred on Reformation Day, 31st October, 1517. However, by 1522, not just reactionary Romish priests (from the ultra-right wing) but also revolutionary Anabaptist weavers (from the lunatic left) were fanatically and viciously attacking the great Reformer.
As the famous Lutheran scholar Steimle has explained:68 “In December  the Zwickau prophets Niclas Storch, Thomas Drechsel…and Marcus Stuebner…appeared in Wittenberg claiming direct divine inspiration.” They then went on “and preached the overturn of present conditions….
“The City Council, in the endeavor to restore order, on January 24th 1522…adopted a ‘Worthy Ordinance for the Princely City of Wittenberg’ in which…a date was fixed on which the images should be removed from the parish church…. But the excited populace did not await the day. Taking the matter into its own hands it invaded the church, tore images and pictures from the walls, and burned them up.”
As Prof. Dr. Robert D. Linder has pointed out,69 the weavers “Nicholas Storch, Thomas Drechsel and Marcus Stuebner…preached a radical biblicism — which included rejection of infant baptism; denial of the need for a professional ministry and organized religion, because all ‘godly’ men were under the direct influence of the Spirit; special revelation through visions and dreams; the imminent return of Christ; and perhaps psychopannych[ian]ism.
“Driven from the Saxon town of Zwickau where they originated and where they had influenced Thomas Muenzer, they visited Wittenberg in December 1521 during Luther’s absence…. Their millenial ‘enthusiasm’ and outspoken criticism of the Wittenberger’s liturgy, led to their expulsion in 1522.”
Significantly, also the modern British Baptist historian Erroll Hulse has rightly called70 these first German Anabaptists “radical prophets.” Explained Hulse: “The leaders of this group were Storch, Stubner and Muenzer — the latter of ill-fame, because of his…claim of prophecy: the ability of inspired speech similar to the claims of neo- Pentecostals today…. Carlstadt, a well-known personality in town, was much influenced by the visitors. Eventually, he came to the position where he refused to administer infant baptism.”
The historian Prof. Dr. Robert G. Clouse has described71 how “when Luther returned to Wittenberg, Carlstadt left for Orlamuende…and renounced his academic degrees. He took an anticlerical attitude, began dressing as a peasant, wearing no shoes…. These actions were based upon his conviction that inner religious experience demanded social equality. Luther visited Orlamuende…. In a debate with him, Carlstadt claimed he spoke by direct revelation of the Holy Spirit rather than with the ‘papistical’ talk of Luther.”
Anabaptism’s Muenzer or Muentzer: the monster of Muhlhausen
In his important article on Thomas Muen(t)zer, Clouse rightly indicated72 that “he preached in a violent way…. He also organized his followers into bands, ready to take up arms….
“Some of these disciples destroyed a shrine…. This action…caused Duke John and Duke Frederick of Saxony to order Muenzer to preach before them. In his sermon…he demanded that the rulers use force to establish the true Gospel….
“After some months in South Germany, he appeared at Muhlhausen, where he preached to the townsmen and helped to involve them in the Peasant Revolt…. His teaching against infant baptism and his emphasis on the [alleged new] inspiration of the Holy Spirit, influenced other Anabaptists…. Marxist historians emphasize Muenzer, because he anticipated later social revolutionaries.”
Even Harvard’s sympathetic Prof. Dr. G.H. Williams has admitted73 “that Thomas Muenzer was a fierce fanatic, possessed of a demoniac spirit.” When previously a Romanist, “he became father confessor in a Bernadine convent” — yet was plagued with “radical doubt as to the existence of God.”
However, after “he entered the circle of the three so-called Zwickau prophets,” Muenzer went “preaching a radical Biblicism characterized by direct revelation in visions and dreams…, the abandonment of infant baptism, [and] belief in the millenium –to be preceded by the ascendancy of the Turk as Antichrist…. He appears to have encouraged the postponement of baptism until children should be of sufficient age to understand the action.”
In his communistic 1524 Sermon Before the Princes, Muenzer called apparently Luther “Brother Fattened Swine” and “Brother Soft Life” and even “Mr. Liar” — and the Lutheran theologians, “vicious reprobates.”74 Preaching revolution, Muenzer called upon the common people to crush the ‘godless.’75
As Williams has explained:76 “Muenzer reinterpreted the politically conservative text of Romans chapter thirteen — into a revolutionary passage…making the Ernestine princes by hortatory anticipation the executors of God’s wrath against the godless and the protectors of the revolutionary saints. At the same time, Muenzer warned that if the princes should fail to identify themselves with the ‘covenantal people’ — the sword would pass from them to the people….
“Sovereignty resided in the godly people” — meaning Muenzer’s people! “He took the outpouring of the Spirit in himself and others as confirmation of the prophecy of Joel (chs. 2:27-32 & 3:1-4).” This, Muenzer combined “with the equalization of the saints in the common possession both of the gifts of the Spirit and the goods of life.”
Also today, the message of Muenzer is alive and well on planet Earth. Compare George Orwell’s Animal Farm and his Nineteen Eighty-Four, and even Ron Sider’s 1984 Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger.
Huebmaier the Anabaptist and the road to revolution
Muenzer was apparently much encouraged by his fellow South German, Balthasar Huebmaier of Wausthut (or Waldshut). He had been a Roman Catholic priest who had studied under Luther’s implacable opponent, Dr. John Eck. Huebmaier himself had persecuted Jews — and helped promote the burning down of their synagogue in Regensberg.77
According to the Baptists Vedder and Estep,78 “foot washing was practised by Huebmaier even before believer’s baptism was introduced.” Yet by Easter 1525, after not baptizing but merely ‘dedicating’ most infants (yet still baptizing them when parents demanded it), Huebmaier introduced rebaptism in Waldshut. He himself rebaptized some three hundred Christians. This he did by sprinkling or pouring, but not by submersion.79
Now those who practise infant baptism, averred Huebmaier, “rob us of the true baptism…. One must not baptize infants…. If so, I may baptize my dog or my donkey; or I may circumcise girls…. I may make idols out of St. Paul and St. Peter — I may bring infants to the Lord’s Supper!”80
To Huebmaier,81 “infant baptism is a deception invented…by men…. The sprinkling of infants…is no baptism, nor is it worthy of such a name.”
1527 saw the publication of his work The Reason and Cause Why Every Man Who Was Christened in Infancy Is Under Obligation to be Baptized According to the Ordinances of Christ Even Though He Be One Hundred Years Old.82 And in his last polemic writing (On Infant Baptism),83 he not only condemned infant baptism but even declared that it actually does the infant harm.
Moreover, Huebmaier was also an anti-pacifistic Anabaptist. See his work On the Sword (translated by the Baptist Vedder).84 Huebmaier made common cause even with the revolutionistic Anabaptist Thomas Muenzer.
Bullinger charged Huebmaier with a restless spirit of innovation. The latter certainly was extremely brazen. Boldly, Huebmaier had claimed even Luther in support of his views.
So Luther retorted that “Balthasar Huebmoer [Huebmaier] quotes me, among others, by name — in his blasphemous book on rebaptism — as if I were of his foolish mind. But I take comfort in the fact that neither friend nor foe will believe such a lie –since I have sufficiently in my sermons shown my faith in infant baptism.” In addition, Luther classed the Anabaptists with the Jewish fanatics at the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. He also compared them to the Donatistic circumcellions who later ravaged the African Church.85
The Anabaptists and the 1525 Peasant War in Germany
Matters exploded early in 1525, upon the publication of the Twelve Articles of all the Peasants (allegedly and indeed apparently authored by Huebmaier). As the Lutheran theologian Charles M. Jacobs has pointed out:86 “The social ferment out of which the Peasants’ War arose, had its beginning far back of the Reformation. It had been in progress for a full century before the Reformation began…. Heretical ideas of many kinds had combined…. The hope of the coming millenium glowed most brightly in the hearts of those who had the least to hope for this side of it….
“This view of it was zealously spread by radical…preachers of religious revolution. The best know of these men, were Thomas Muenzer and Balthasar Huebmaier…. [Now] Muenzer, Huebmaier and others were preaching religious revolution…. The Twelve Articles…were adopted originally by the peasants…from January or February 1525….
“On the basis of extensive research, Wilhelm Stolze [Peasant War and Reformation 1926] has suggested that they were written by Huebmaier…. A valuable edition of the most important sources, is that of Boehmer: Documents for the History of the Peasant War and the Anabaptists, Bonn, 1910.”
Also the Dutch Christian Encyclopaedia has linked Huebmaier to the Peasant War.87 Indeed, the Schaff- Herzog Encyclopaedia of Religious Knowledge88 even mentions his acquaintance with the monster Muenzer.
Now of the 1525 Twelve Articles of all the Peasants, the Fourth condemned the “custom hitherto that no poor man has had the power to be allowed to catch game, wild fowls, or fish in running water…. This seems to us altogether improper.” Further, the Tenth Article communistically demanded what it called “the common fields” — which, it alleged, “once belonged to a community. We would take these back again into the hands of our communities!”89
Revolutionary insurrection spread rapidly across the whole of Southwestern and Central Germany. Soon, all was in uproar. Palaces, castles, convents and libraries were all put to the torch by Muenzer’s Anabaptists. Ten years later, they even ruled — from the City of Muenster.
As Karl Marx’s colleague the famous communist Friedrich Engels remarked,90 “the peasants and plebeians…united in a revolutionary party whose demands and doctrines were most clearly expressed by Muenzer…. The millenium and the day of judgement over the degenerated church and corrupted world proposed and described by the mystic, seemed to Muenzer imminently close….
“Under the cloak of Christian forms, he preached a kind of pantheism…and at times even approached atheism…. There is no heaven in the beyond…. There is no devil but man’s evil lusts…. His political program approached communism…. Even on the eve of the  February Revolution, there was more than one modern communist sect that had not such a well-stocked theoretical arsenal as was Muenzer’s in the sixteenth century….
“By ‘the kingdom of God’ Muenzer understood a society in which there would be no class differences or private property and…authority independent of or foreign to the members of the society…. A union[!] was established to implement all this.
“Muenzer set to work at once to organize the union. His sermons became still more militant and revolutionary…. He depicted the previous oppression in fiery colours, and countered it with his dream vision of the millennium of social[istic] republican equality. He published one revolutionary pamphlet after another and sent emissaries in all directions. ‘All the world must suffer a big jolt’ [proclaimed Muenzer]. ‘There will be such a game, that the ungodly will be thrown off their seats and the downtrodden will rise!'” Thus the classic communist Friedrich Engels.
Proclaimed Muenzer:91 “All things shall be common, and occasionally they shall be distributed according to each one’s necessity…. Whatever prince, count or lord will not submit to this, and being forewarned — his head shall be stricken off or he shall be hung!”
Muenzer then collected together eight thousand peasants, and ransacked the cloisters and the houses of the rich throughout Thuringia. However, he was solidly defeated at the Battle of Frankhausen in 1525, and beheaded shortly thereafter.
Muenzerite Anabaptists still continued to help spread the sedition
The death of Muenzer was by no means the end of the bloodshed. From Thuringia, the peasant revolt now spread to Swabia. There, the preaching of Melchior Hofmann — later the leading Anabaptist — inspired the peasants to make their demands, as laid down in the Twelve Articles.
Without waiting for the nobility to reply, the peasants revolted. In eight days, one hundred and seventy-nine castles and twenty-eight cloisters were burnt down. Many of the nobility were butchered. But the princes finally arose against the fanatics, and the revolt ended in the bloody death of nearly one hundred thousand peasants.
Friedrich Engels was by no means the only leading communist to praise these Anabaptists (in his 1850 book The Peasant War in Germany). Marx’s other associate, Karl Kautsky, did the same –in his 1894 book Communism in the Middle Ages and in the Time of the Reformation, and also in his 1897 other book Communism in Central Europe in the Time of the Reformation. Ever since, communist text-books world-wide have been doing exactly the same.
In the same year of the Peasant War, Luther published his 1525 essay Against the Robbing and Murdering Hordes of Peasants. Clearly referring to the Anabaptist Thomas Muenzer and his supporters, Luther insisted92 that the Peasant War was “the devil’s work…and in particular…the work of the archdevil who rules at Muhlhausen….
“The peasants are not content to be themselves the devil’s own, but they force and compel many good people against their wills to join their devilish league and so make them partakers of all of their own wickedness and damnation…. How many martyrs could now be made — by the bloodthirsty peasants and the murdering prophets!”
Luther on the antinomian and antipaidobaptistic Muenzerites
Luther later asked:93 “What was Muenzer seeking, except to become a new Turkish emperor? He was possessed of the spirit of lies, and therefore there was no holding him back. He had to go at the other work of the devil, take the sword and murder and rob, as the spirit of murder drove him — and he created such a rebellion, and such misery.”
Then Luther again warned94 against “poisonous and dangerous preachers who take the side of one party alone and call the lords names — in order to tickle the people and court the peasants like Muenzer, Carlstadt and other fanatics…. If Muenzer and Carlstadt and their comrades[!] had not been allowed to sneak and creep into other men’s houses and parishes whither they had neither call nor command to go — that whole great calamity [of the Peasant War] would not have happened.”
Luther further contrasted the Biblical basis of the Lutherans with the pseudo-spiritualistic fanaticism of Thomas Muenzer’s Anabaptists. “They devised the slogan: ‘Spirit! Spirit! The Spirit must do it! The letter killeth!'” — exclaimed Luther. “Thus Muenzer [derisively] called us Wittenberg theologians, ‘men learned in the Scriptures’ — and [deludedly called] himself, ‘the man taught of the Spirit’…. There you see how the devil had armed himself — and built up his barricades!”95
Indeed, Luther soon regarded96 Revelation 8:8 as a picture of those “who boast their spirits above all the Scripture and move — like this ‘burning mountain’ — between heaven and earth.” Such, he insisted, “in our day, do Muenzer and the fanatics.” The average German Anabaptist, wrote Luther, wished to have “nothing to do with baptism” (meaning infant baptism). Yet that was just one of the many errors of these Anabaptists. For — added Luther — “another rejects the sacrament; still another teaches that there will be another world between this one and the last judgment; and some assert that Christ is not divine.”97
All the Anabaptists rejected infant baptism. Indeed, many of them further rejected even adult baptism — whenever administered by the Romanists, or even by the Protestants. Clearly, the Anabaptists were not interested in the Reformation of Christ’s Church.
However, with their new and sectarian “gathered church” concept — the Anabaptists were indeed interested in revolution against what they regarded as a Christless social order. Consequently, in 1525 Luther now rightly called them “the new false prophets”98 of Germany.
Luther’s antirebaptismal work Concerning Rebaptism
In his own work Concerning Rebaptism (1528), Luther thrashed the Anabaptists. They had over-emphasized the subjective and downgraded the objective side of the rite. Yet, Luther retorted, important as faith is — the Word, and not faith, is the basis of baptism. Any would-be baptizer who regards faith on the part of the baptizee as essential for the validity of the baptism — can never consistently administer baptism. For he can never be certain that faith really is present.
It is possible, conceded Luther, that some might conceivably doubt the validity of their own infant baptisms. For they might well have no irrebutable evidence that they even then already truly believed. They might then conceivably wish to request (re-)baptism — when adults.
That request, however, should not be granted. Instead, insisted Luther, the one making this request should be told that even if he were thus to be ‘baptized’ a second time — Satan might well soon trouble him again, as to whether he then too really had faith. Then he would have to be ‘baptized’ yet again — a third time — and so on, ad infinitum, for just as long as any such doubts kept recurring.
“For it often happens that one who thinks that he has faith,” explained Luther, “has none whatever — and that one who thinks that he has no faith but only doubts, actually believes. We are not told ‘he who knows that he believes’ [shall be saved]…, but ‘he that believes [and is baptized] shall be saved!’ [Mark 16:16]….
“The man who bases his baptism on his faith — is not only uncertain…. He is…godless and hypocritical…. For he puts his trust in what is not his own — viz., a gift which God has given him — and not in the Word of God alone.” Consequently, even though at the time of baptism there be no faith — the baptism, nevertheless, is still valid.99
The condemnation of Anabaptism in the Lutheran Symbols
The 1530 Augsburg Confession (later endorsed also by John Calvin), declared100 that the Lutheran churches “condemn the Anabaptists…who imagine that the Holy Spirit is given to men without the outward Word, through their own preparation and works…. They condemn the Anabaptists who allow not the baptism of children….
“They condemn the Anabaptists…who teach that those who have once been holy, cannot fall again…. They condemn the Anabaptists who…contend that some men may attain to such a perfection in this life that they cannot sin…. They condemn the Anabaptists who forbid…civil offices [to Christians]…. They condemn the Anabaptists who think that there shall be an end of torments to condemned men and the devils.”
Also in the Formula of Concord, the later Lutherans declared101 that “the Anabaptists are divided into many sects — of which some maintain more, some fewer, errors. Nevertheless, in a general way — they all profess such a doctrine as can be tolerated neither in the Church; nor by the police and in the commonwealth; nor in daily [domestic and social] life.”
The Formula then mentions “Anabaptist Articles which cannot be endured in the Church.” It claims that “this ‘righteousness’ of the Anabaptists consists in great part in a certain arbitrary and humanly-devised sanctimony, and in truth is nothing else than some new sort of monkery.”
These intolerable Anabaptist Articles include the one “that infants, not baptized, are not sinners before God — but just and innocent.” Concerning “baptism,” continues the Lutheran Formula of Concord, “in the opinion of the Anabaptists, they [infants] have no need” of baptism or of salvation. “Infants [say the Anabaptists] ought not to be baptized until they attain the use of reason, and are able themselves to profess their faith….
“They [the Anabaptists] neither make much account of the baptism of children, nor take care to have their children baptized — which conflicts with the express words of the divine promise (Genesis 17:7 sqq.). For this only holds good to those who observe the covenant of God and do not contemn it.”
The Anabaptists again quite wrongly further teach “that a godly man ought to have no dealings at all with the Ministers of the Church who teach the Gospel of Christ according to the tenor of the Augsburg Confession, and rebuke the preachings and errors of the Anabaptists.” Thus, they ‘shunned’ saints!
The Formula also condemns “Anabaptist Articles which cannot be endured in the Commonwealth. I. That the office of the magistrate is not, under the New Testament, a condition of life that pleases God. II. That a Christian man cannot discharge the office of a magistrate with a safe and quiet conscience. III. That a Christian man cannot with a safe conscience administer and execute the office of a magistrate if matters so require against the wicked, nor subjects implore for their defence that power which the magistrate has received of God. IV. That a Christian man cannot with a safe conscience take an oath, nor swear obedience and fidelity to his prince or magistrate. V. That the magistrate, under the New Testament, cannot with a good conscience punish criminals with death.” Anabaptism spurns the Bible’s death penalty!
The Formula next condemns “Anabaptist Articles which cannot be endured in daily life. I. That a godly man cannot with safe conscience hold or possess any property, but that whatever means he may possess he is bound to bestow them all as common good. II. That a Christian man cannot with a safe conscience either keep an inn, or carry on trade, or forge weapons. III. That it is permitted married people who think differently in religion to divorce themselves, and to contract matrimony with some other person who agrees with them in religion.” Anabaptism hates capital, weapons, and marital fidelity!
The Formula further condemns the following “Errors of the [Anabaptist] Schwenkfeldians. I. That all those who affirm Christ according to the flesh to be a creature, have no true knowledge of the heavenly King and His reign. II. That the flesh of Christ through its exaltation has in such wise received all the divine attributes, that Christ as He is man is altogether like to the Father…and that the flesh of Christ pertains to the essence of the Blessed Trinity. III. That the ministry of the Word…is not that instrument whereby God the Holy Ghost teaches men…. IV. That the water of baptism is not a means whereby the Lord seals adoption in the children of God.”
Switzerland disturbed by the Anabaptist heresies
In the years culminating in 1525, the Anabaptists had torn Germany apart. Ominously, a similar situation was now threatening to develop in Switzerland too. For the rumblings of the Peasant War in Germany soon reached especially the German-speaking areas also of Switzerland.
Zwingli was rightly alarmed. The Anabaptists were radical revolutionists. Their baptismal views, he felt, were relatively unimportant. But their social views — as reflected in their demand that Christians get themselves rebaptized — made Luther’s previous controversy even against Rome now seem peripheral.
Schaff has shown102 that “radicalism was identical with the Anabaptist movement, but the baptismal question was secondary. It involved an entire reconstruction of the Church and of the social order. It meant revolution…. Nothing is more characteristic of radicalism and sectarianism, than an utter want of historical sense and respect for the past…. It rejects even the Bible as an external authority, and relies on inward inspiration….
“The radical opinion…rejected Luther’s theory of forensic, solifidian justification.” The radical Anabaptists replaced sola fide (by faith alone) with sola revolutione (by revolution alone). “They hoped at first to carry Zwingli with them, but in vain…. They then charged him with treason to the truth, and hated him worse than the pope…. The demand for rebaptism virtually unbaptized and unchristianized the entire Christian world, and completed the rupture with the historic Church.” Thereby, the Anabaptists existentialistically cut the continuous cord connecting the present to the past generations –and to the future.
Unlike the communists, modern antipaidobaptists are understandably embarrassed by the German Thomas Muenzer. Instead, they hasten to claim their descent rather from the ‘milder’ Anabaptists — such as Conrad Grebel and his Swiss circle. Thus, as regards all of the Anabaptists, the modern British Baptist Hulse has claimed103 that to be “the first baptism — when Grebel baptised Blaurock in the home of Manz on January 21 1525.” However, Hulse was silent about an adulatory letter from Grebel to Muenzer some four months earlier, already written on September 5th 1524.
It was addressed104 “to the sincere and true proclaimer of the Gospel, Thomas Muenzer at Allstedt in the Hartz, our faithful and beloved brother with us in Christ.” Grebel started off: “Dear Brother Thomas.” Soon thereafter, it further stated: “Thy book against false faith and baptism was brought to us, and we were more fully informed and confirmed, and it rejoiced us wonderfully that we found one who was of the same Christian mind with us….
“On the matter of baptism, thy book pleases us well, and we desire to be further instructed by thee. We understand that even an adult is not to be baptized without Christ’s rule of binding and loosing…. All children who have not yet come to the discernment of the knowledge of good and evil and have not yet eaten of the tree of knowledge…are surely saved by the suffering of Christ the new Adam….
“As to the [Protestant and Non-Anabaptist] objection that faith is demanded of all who are to be saved — we [Non-Protestant Anabaptists] exclude children from this and hold that they are saved without faith[!]…. We do not believe that children must be baptized…. Infant baptism is a senseless, blasphemous abomination[!] — contrary…even to the papacy….
“Thou knowest this ten times better, and hast published thy protests against infant baptism…. I have already begun to reply to all (excepting thyself) who have hitherto misleadingly and knowingly written on baptism and have deceived concerning the senseless blasphemous form of baptism — as, for instance, Luther…. I, C[onrad]. Grebel, meant to write to Luther in the name of all of us, and to exhort him to cease from his caution –which he uses without Scripture.”
Then, in a “Postscript or Second letter,” Conrad Grebel continued: “Dearly beloved Brother Thomas!” Condemning again “the idolatrous caution of Luther,” Grebel then stated that especially the Zwinglians “rail at us as knaves from the pulpit in public, and call us ‘Satan changed into angels of light’ [cf. Second Corinthians 11:14]….
“Establish and teach only…unadulterated baptism! … Thou art better informed than a hundred of us…. Ye are far purer than our men here, and those at Wittenberg…. [Signed:] Conrad Grebel…, Felix Manz…and seven new young Muenzers against Luther.”
Zwingli’s first condemnation of the Anabaptists’ views on baptism
When first contacted by Anabaptists in Zurich, even as early as 1525 the Protestant Reformer Zwingli never countenanced the rebaptism of those already baptized in infancy. To the contrary, even then he was already declaring:105 “I leave baptism untouched…. We must practice infant baptism, so as not to offend our fellow men.”
Zwingli first enjoyed some little friendship with the incipient Anabaptists in Switzerland. They seemed allies against Romanism, and initially supported his reforms. But when he clung to paidobaptism, they opposed him.
For the Swiss Anabaptists at length began not only to get themselves ‘rebaptized’ — but also stedfastly to refuse baptism to their own covenant infants. So Zwingli later condemned their views in his 1525 Christian Introduction of the Zurich Council to the Pastors and Preachers (in the sectionConcerning the Abrogation of the Law).
Now Zwingli had invited the Anabaptists to have private discussions with him. In vain. So a public disputation followed — by order of the magistrate — on January 17th 1525.
In his accompanying letter to Vadian, Zwingli wrote: “The issue is not baptism, but revolt!” Still, Zwingli rightly believed that John the baptizer had baptized not just God-professing adults but also their babies.106 He further believed that First Corinthians 7:14 implies those babies’ eligibility also for visible church membership.107 So he rightly launched a vigorous verbal attack against the Anabaptists.
Exclaimed Zwingli: “Their rebaptism is a clear sign that they intend to create a new and different Church. Biblical baptism, however — just like circumcision — can be performed once only. Once in the covenant, a man remains there. The New Testament knows only one baptism [Ephesians 4:4-6]. Neither Christ nor the holy Apostles ever repeated it — or taught that it needed to be repeated.”108
Zwingli further pointed out that “the soul is cleansed by the grace of God, and not by any external thing whatever.” Consequently, “baptism cannot wash away sin.” Furthermore, Zwingli rightly saw that “the children of Christians are not less the children of God than their parents are — or than the children in Old Testament times were.” So, seeing they “belong to God — who will refuse them baptism?”109
The antitrinitarian Anabaptist leaders Jan Denck (a pantheistic universalist) and Ludwig Haetzer (an adulterer and accused bigamist)110 then denounced Zwingli. He was, they said111 — worse than the pope. The Anabaptists had stubbornly rejected the baptism of covenant infants. So Zwingli now finally — and publically — condemned their views.112
The Reformer Bullinger was an eye-witness at that great debate. It took place in the Zurich Council Hall on January 17th 1525. The Anabaptists argued that infants cannot believe. But Zwingli showed that infant baptism had replaced infant circumcision (Genesis 17 cf. Colossians 2:11-13), and that the infants of Christians are themselves ‘holy’ (First Corinthians 7:14). He published his arguments (five months later) in a book. That bore the very appropriate title: On Baptism, Rebaptism, and Infant Baptism.
Zwingli won that debate, hands down. Another disputation was held in March, and a third in November — with the same result. As Bullinger later declared, the Anabaptists just could not answer Zwingli.113
The formal birth and constitution of Switzerland’s Anabaptists
Within four days of being trounced by Zwingli in the great debate of 17th January 1525, at one of their sectarian meetings the ex-priest Blaurock defiantly asked his colleague Grebel to rebaptize him in the home of Manz. Blaurock then in turn rebaptized all the others present. Thus was Swiss Anabaptism formally launched.
The Baptist Hulse has well described114 this situation. “This idea crystallised in the first baptism, when Grebel baptised Blaurock in the home of Mantz on January 21 1525…. Evening gatherings in the homes of the dissenters continued, and represented the first informal beginnings of gathered Baptist churches in the area. In the course of the week following the first baptism, thirty-five were baptised by affusion (pouring) at Zollikon.”
What a concession from the Baptist Hulse! The members of “the first…Baptist churches” — Hulse has assured us — were “baptised by affusion” alias pouring, and not by submersion. Subsequently too, Blaurock baptized by sprinkling; and Manz by pouring.115 As Richard Nitsche has shown, in hisHistory of the Anabaptists in Switzerland at the Time of the Reformation: “We hardly encounter a single formal submersion, such as indeed occurred later.”116
Blaurock himself then lashed out. According to the 1525 Anabaptist Hutterite Chronicle,117 Blaurock insisted that both Luther and Zwingli had “let go of the true baptism of Christ” — and had “followed instead the pope, with infant baptism…, into a false Christianity…. Luther and Zwingli defended…this false teaching [pedobaptism] — which they really learned from the father and head of Antichrist.”
It will be recalled that Grebel had rebaptized Blaurock in the home of Manz. Fortunately, Manz had rightly told his Swiss Anabaptist colleagues that John the baptizer had sprinkled [and not submersed]. Consequently, the three of them now did the same. Unfortunately, however, they did not follow John’s sprinkling of also the babies of believers. Nor did they follow John (who baptized but once and for all) — in their henceforth frequent ‘rebaptisms’ of those already baptized.
Manz himself later recounted these dramatic events among the Swiss Grebelites. He then wrote:118 “Just as John baptized…, so they — were poured over with water.”
However, having thus upheld the right mode of baptism, Manz then wrongly prescribed the wrong age for that ordinance. It should, he insisted, be received not merely in adulthood — but also specifically at age thirty. For he bizarrely decreed that “infant baptism…is also against the example of Christ Who…was baptized at thirty years…. Christ has given us an example, that as He has done — so also ought we to do.”
Yet according to the Baptist Hulse,119 after “Grebel baptised Blaurock in the home of Manz,” the latter Anabaptist himself was subsequently killed when only twenty-nine. Consequently, in getting himself (re-)baptized before his early death, Manz rejected his own inane injunction that baptism “ought” to be received precisely when thirty.
We have already referred120 to the Anabaptist hymnwriter Haetzer and his colleague the pantheistic universalist Denck, both of whom hated Zwingli even more than they did the pope. However, Denck himself has been described by the famous church historian Rev. Prof. Dr. J.H. Kurtz as ‘the pope of the Baptists.’121 And Haetzer was not only antitrinitarian, but also a repeated adulterer and a bigamist.
According to the New International Dictionary of the Christian Church,122 in 1523 Denck became involved in the trial of the three impious painters of Nuremberg, where “the ideas of Thomas Muenzer and Andreas Karlstadt influenced him greatly…. About October 1525, he was forced to leave Nuremberg, and he became a wanderer…. He was rebaptized by Huebmaier…[and became] a leader of the Anabaptists…. He opposed the doctrines of predestination, the bound will, justification by faith, the sufficiency of Christ’s atonement, the authority of the Scriptures…and the ministry.”
Also in the New International Dictionary, the Scottish Baptist J.G.G. Norman has stated123 that Haetzer “came to Zurich, and wrote advocating an iconoclasm like that of Carlstadt…. Tending to antitrinitarian spiritualism, he was accused of adultery…. He composed hymns which were highly prized.” Indeed, to this the English Baptist Hulse has added: “Haetzer, Huebmaier and Blaurock, all ex-priests…, were other influential characters involved in the Anabaptist movement.”124
G.H. Williams has explained125 how “Haetzer in Worms in 1527…was engaged with Denck in translating…. He attacked the Magisterial Reformation for disparaging the apocryphal books…. The clearest evidence of Haetzer’s final antitrinitarian spiritualism, is a stanza from one of the many hymns that he composed and which were cherished….
“There survives the following explicitly antitrinitarian utterance placed in the mouth of God: ‘I am He who created all things…. I am not three persons, but I am one! And I cannot be three persons, for I am one!'”
Williams continued: “Haetzer was exposed in the house of Georg Regel to his besetting temptation, for which he earlier had been asked to leave Basel. This time, however, it was adultery with the mistress herself of the little Anabaptist maid he had earlier taken to wife…. He was clearly guilty.”
The Anabaptists, rebaptizing defiantly, expelled from Switzerland
From the above, it is very clear that both Zwingli and Zurich would be well rid of the likes of Haetzer and his Anabaptists. The latter had been trounced in three successive public debates against Zwingli — respectively in January, March and November 1525. After the first debate, they had: defiantly started rebaptizing Christians in and around Zurich; created public disturbances; and threatened the very maintenance of law and order.
So the City Council of Zurich then decided against them. Yet it still followed Zwingli’s clement advice. Anabaptist parents with unbaptized children, should be given eight days to get them baptized — or face banishment from the city and canton (yet with full benefit of their goods) as obvious seditionists.
The great church historian Schaff has rightly described126 what then ensued. “The Anabaptists refused to obey, and ventured on bold demonstrations. They arranged processions and passed as preachers of repentance in sackcloth and girdles through the streets of Zurich…abusing ‘the old dragon’ (Zwingli) and his horns [Revelation 12:9 & 13:11 & 20:2], and exclaiming: ‘Woe, woe unto Zurich!'”
Schaff continued: “The leaders were arrested…. A commission of ministers and magistrates were sent to them, to convert them. Twenty-four professed conversion, and were set free…. Fourteen men and seven women were retained…but made their escape April 5 . Grebel, Manz and Blaurock were rearrested, and charged with communistic and revolutionary teaching.
“After some other excesses, the magistracy proceeded to threaten those who stubbornly persisted in their error…. Six executions in all took place in Zurich [not for rebaptism but indeed for revolutionism], between 1527 and 1532…. The foreigners were punished by exile, and met death in Roman Catholic countries…. [The German Anabaptist] Huebmaier, who had fled from Waldshut [or Wausthut in Germany] to Zurich [in nearby Switzerland], was tried before the magistracy…and was sent out of the country.”
Zwingli’s various writings against the errors of the Anabaptists
According to Zwingli, “the Anabaptists have their wives in common and meet at night…for lewd practices.” He accused them openly: “As often as you [Anabaptists] confess Christ, you make a confession which is worse than that of the demons. For they had experienced His power in such a measure that they sincerely confessed Him to be the Son of God. But you, when you confess Him, do so hypocritically.”127
Again, insisted Zwingli:128 “Give up the oath in any state, and at once — and in keeping with the Anabaptists’ desire — the magistracy is removed…. [Then,] all things follow as they would have them — what confusion and up- turning of everything!”
In 1527, Zwingli wrote his refutation of the Anabaptist Balthazar Huebmaier’s little book Concerning the Christian Baptism of Believers.129 In that same year, Zwingli also published his own Polemic against the Catabaptistic Catastrophe. There, he showed that rebaptism amounts to recrucifying Christ [Hebrews 6:1-6].
In that latter work, he rightly remarked that “the Hebrews’ children, because they with their parents were under the covenant, merited the sign of the covenant [circumcision]. So also Christians’ infants — because they are counted within Christ’s Church and people — ought in no way to be deprived of baptism, the sign of the covenant.”130
Zwingli thus saw that the Church “distributes the sacrament [of baptism] — to those who according to human judgment are to be regarded as elect.”131 He therefore insisted that Christ-professing people (and their infants) are to be regarded as saved — before their baptisms. For “by the time the sacrament is administered, [even] the Anabaptist does not need it.” This is so, because baptism certifies “something already given and accomplished in the heart” of a person “who knows that God has forgiven his sins long ago.”
While conceding (as above) that some Anabaptists were indeed Christians, Zwingli did not accept that all of them were. For Zwingli also insisted that many Anabaptists were more immoral than even the weakest paidobaptists. Indeed, precisely their revolutionary rebaptisms helped lead on to the communism of the Anabaptists (both as to goods and as to wives) — and also to their revolutionary and epilepsy-like “babbling under the claim of inspiration.”132
Zwingli’s antirebaptismal Questions Concerning Rebaptism
Zwingli also published a work about Questions Concerning the Sacrament of Baptism. Indeed, in his Confession of Faith, he declared133 that “specifically the children of Christians belong without exception to the Church of God’s people and are Members of His Church…. However, the children [of Israel] just as much as the [adult] Jews themselves belonged to that Church. No less do our children belong to the Church of Christ, than was formerly the case with the children of the Jews….
“All who descend from them according to the flesh, were reckoned to the Church. Yet if ours were not counted together with the parents, Christ would appear to be mean and stingy toward us –if He had denied us what He gave to the ancients…. Hence, in my opinion, those who damn the children of Christians — are acting godlessly and arrogantly. So many open testimonies of Scripture speak against them, that the Gentile Church would become not merely just as large but larger than that of the Jews.” Behold Zwingli’s optimism — versus the pessimism of the Anabaptists!
Continued Zwingli: “Were John and Paul not chosen — even when they were still children — and indeed, from the foundation of the world? However, the word ‘Church’ is taken quite generally — namely for all who pass as Christians; that is, for those who relate themselves to Christ…. [In Old Testament times,] Isaac, Jacob, Judah and all descendants of Abraham were members of this Church — even in their childhood; yes, even those children whose parents turned to Christ through the preaching of the apostles at the start of the [New Testament] Church….
“That was also the case of the young children of the first Church. For this reason, I believe and acknowledge that they were marked with the sacrament of baptism…. For the promise is not given to our children more narrowly but rather more extensively and more richly than it was to the children of the Hebrews in olden times. These are the foundations according to which the children are baptized and the Church is to be commanded. The attacks of the Anabaptists have no power against this….
“Isaac was circumcised as a child, even though he did not [then] make a profession of faith…. Whereas we are prepared –without the sacrament — so that we may receive the sacrament. The Spirit works with His grace, before the sacrament. The sacraments serve as general testimonies of that grace which already previously inhabits each one in particular. Thus, baptism is conferred in front of the congregation — to him who already has the promise before he receives baptism.
“From this, it is acknowledged that he is a member of the Church…. Our children are no less regarded as belonging to the Church than were those of the Hebrews. When members of the Church bring their child, it is baptized. For as a child of Christian parents it is regarded as belonging among the members, according to the promise. By baptism the Church thus openly takes in him who was previously already accepted by grace.
“Consequently, baptism does not bring grace; but the Church testifies that he who is entitled to baptism, already has receiv-ed grace…. The sacrament is the sign of something holy, namely of the grace already received…. The Anabaptists err thoroughly, inasmuch as they refuse baptism to the children of believers — and err in many other ways too…. But now, by God’s grace, this pest in our midst has much abated.”
Zwingli’s antirebaptismal Declaration of Christian Faith
Finally, in Zwingli’s Declaration of Christian Faith, he declared134 that “the sacraments…are for us signs and symbols of holy things, not the things themselves which they imply. For who could be so simple as to regard the sign as the thing signified?
“The sacraments are to be honoured…. For they signify the holiest things — both those things which have happened, as well as those things we should do…. Thus, baptism indicates that Christ has cleansed us with His blood; and that, as Paul teaches, we ‘put Him on’ or are to live according to His example. Romans 13:14 & Galatians 3:27….
“Would the sacraments then have no power? No, they have a big power! Firstly, they are holy and honourable. For they were constituted and received by Christ the High Priest. For He not only instituted but also Himself received baptism….
“Secondly, they testify about an event…. Because baptism now indicatively proclaims the death and the resurrection of Christ, these must have been actual events…. Thirdly, they represent the state of things which they indicated. This is why they also receive their names…. Fourthly, they signify high things….
“Fifthly, the signs are similar to the things signified. For in each sacrament, one can measure two things. The one is the external sign, like the water in baptism…. The other and the more important, is the essential in the sacrament…. In baptism, through the water of grace, the really essential matter is that we are inwardly cleansed and washed from sins by the blood of Christ; that we are a congregation of Christ; that we are incorporated into Christ; that we are buried with Him in His death; and that we are raised with Him to a new life, etc.….
“Sixthly, the sacraments offer support and help to faith…. The sacraments thus support faith…. The hearing and the feeling are all attracted to the operation of faith…. For the faith of the Church or of those baptized, acknowledges that Christ died and rose and triumphed for His Church. One hears and sees and feels that — during baptism….
“Seventhly, it represents the condition of an oath…. The Anabaptists…hold all things in common…. [They say that] a man could have…more than one wife, in spirit…. They have distantiated themselves from us, and they never belonged to us…. That anabaptistic pest crawls particularly into places where the pure doctrine of Christ begins to emerge…. From this…it can clearly be seen that it is sent by Satan — in order to strangle healthy seed while the latter is germinating.”
Early Anabaptists outside of Switzerland and Germany
Anabaptism now spread further, also outside of Germany and Switzerland. In 1526, Denck rebaptized the Austrian Hans Hut –a sword-swaying visionary and former follower of Muenzer.135 According to the American Baptist Vedder,136 Hut declared that shortly before the end of the age “all the ‘godless’ will be destroyed — and that, by ‘true Christians.'”
Going to Nicolsburg and joining the Anabaptists there, Hut “placed in an intensely eschatological framework the expendable role of the magistrate and the pre-eminence of agapetic communism…. He had been anticipating Christ’s second advent three and one half years, from the outbreak of the Peasants’ War…. Hut their fiery spokesman…had apparently preached that Christ would usher in His Kingdom during the approaching Pentecost [of 1528]…and had in this pitch of eschatological excitement exhorted them ‘to sell house and goods.'” Thus the sympathetic Dr. G.H. Williams of Harvard.137
“In Nikolsburg,” explained the Baptist Estep,138 “Jacob Wiedemann, an Anabaptist preacher who held that community of goods should be a cardinal principle…, joined forces with Hut…. Growing division finally compelled the Lichtenstein barons to expel Wiedemann and his party from their lands. From this group…the Hutterite expression of sixteenth-century Anabaptism developed….
“Old Jacob…dominated the Bruederhof [alias ‘The Court of the Brethren’] in a rather highhanded manner. He directed the young women of the Bruederhof to marry the eligible young men available, threatening to secure heathen wives for them if they failed to follow his admonition…. Among other things, he accused the elders of unequal distribution of goods and hypocrisy.”
In Moravia, the Austerlitz Anabaptists adopted a twelve-point ‘communist manifesto’ in 1529. There they resolved: to “receive all gifts from God [and] hold them in common”; to worship “at least four or five times a week”; to discourage their own practice of “two or three standing up in meeting to speak at once”; and to be “ever watching for the imminent advent of the Lord.”139
By 1532, the Hutterite Peter Riedemann had started producing his Anabaptist Confession of Faith. He who would not forsake private property, insisted Riedemann, could not be a disciple of Christ. Christian community of goods was practised, and all shared alike.140 Foreshadowing the modern Moonies, Riedemann’s Anabaptist Confession of Faith also provided for wives to be selected not by their husbands but instead by the community’s elders.141
All this was perfected in 1537 by Ulrich Stadler. In his Cherished Instructions on…the Community of Goods, that Anabaptist Bishop insisted:142 “There is one communion… All are baptized…. In this community everything must proceed equally, all things be one and communal…. ‘Common builds the Lord’s house, and is pure. But mine, thine, his, own — divides the Lord’s house, and is impure. Therefore, where there is ownership…one does not wish to be one with Christ…. He is outside of Christ and His communion, and has thus no Father in heaven….
“As the sun with its shining is common to all, so also the use of all creaturely things. Whoever appropriates them for himself and encloses them, is a thief…. Whoever is…unhampered and resigned in the Lord for everything, [is ready] to give over all his goods and chattels — yea, to lay it up for distribution among the children of God…. Men should be ordained who take care that everything proceeds equally in the whole house of the Lord…. They also should be fatherly with all the little children of God, and also do all the buying and selling….
“Wherever…each sets up his [own] kitchen, there it can[not] be said in truth that there is the one heart…which must however (and always should be) among the children of God…. ‘Thine‘ will not be disclosed in the house of the Lord, but rather equal love…. The free unencumbered community-minded and yielded hearts must still be and remain precisely those who have everything in common with the children of God….
“It is true abandon (Gelassenheit) to yield and dispose oneself with goods and chattels in the service of the saints. It is also the way of love…. We learn it in Christ, to lose oneself…and become poor and to suffer want, if only another may be served — and further, to put aside all goods and chattels, to throw them away in order that they may be distributed to the needs…. A brother should serve, live and work for the others; none for himself!” Per contra, however: Ephesians 5:28-29 & First Timothy 5:7-8.
Pseudo-Clement, Pseudo-Isidore, and Anabaptist communism
Comments Harvard’s sympathetic G.H. Williams:143 “The Hutterite coenibites…were a household of faith. Theirs was a communism of love and production…. The Hutterites also found substantiation for their communism in the Pseudo-Clementine Epistle IV…developed in Ebionite anti-Pauline circles. Neo-Pythagorean and Stoic ideas of a golden age were here conflated with the ‘memory’ of a primitive communism.
“In the ninth century, the [Pseudo-]Clementine letters were incorporated into the Pseudo-Isidorean Decretals…. [The Anabaptist Sebastian] Franck excerpted the letters, in his Chronica of 1531. It is quite probably from Franck that a later Hutterite article quotes ‘Clement’ — supposedly writing in A.D. 92 [cf. Philippians 4:3]….
“The Hutterites believed that God from the beginning had commanded the communitarian way of life…. There was the eschatological paradisic interpretation of the community as the true church.”
Even more important than the fourth was the so-called Fifth Letter of (Pseudo-)Clement. As given in the Pseudo-Isidorean Decretals, it contains the vital phrase: “without doubt all things and also wives ought to be common to friends.”144
According to the sympathetic Williams and Mergal, in “Moravian communism…the Fifth Letter of [Pseudo-]Clement of Rome was no doubt influential.”145 For “[Pseudo-]Clement is quoted in the Hutterite Article Book (1547).”146
Yet the above-mentioned Pseudo-Isidoreanized Pseudo-Clementine Epistles influenced not only the communism of both the Austrian and the Moravian Anabaptists. They infected also Early-Dutch and Later-German Anabaptism. As Williams and Mergal themselves have admitted, “by way of Campanus…Franck’s evaluation of Pseudo-Clement reached Bernard Rothmann in Muenster.”147
The article Campanus on that above-mentioned man — in the 1882 Schaff-Herzog Encyclopaedia of Religious Knowledge — is most illuminating. “Campanus,” it records, was born near “Liege in the beginning of the sixteenth century…. Differing equally-much from the Reformed, the Lutheran and the Roman-Catholic” viewpoints — Jan Campanus was, “during his stay in Saxony, imprisoned on suspicion of antitrinitarian and anabaptistic heresies” during that time of great religious upheaval especially among the Saxons.
When Campanus was later released, “he caused great excitement among the peasants — by preaching that the end of the world was speedily approaching.” For thus sowing sedition anew, he “was again imprisoned — and died insane. His antitrinitarian and anabaptist views he developed in…Against the World…. He held there were only two Divine Persons” (‘Father’ and ‘Son’).
Anabaptist polygamy and community of wives: its roots
Now this binitarian Belgian Campanus,148 a friend of Sebastian Franck, turned Anabaptist under the influence of Melchior Hofmann.149 Franck himself — the excerpter of the Pseudo-Isidoreanized Pseudo-Clementine Letters150 — was not only sympathetic to Anabaptists like Denck and Servetus, but also to the one he called his “dear Campanus.” From Franck, to Campanus, and then apparently through Hofmann — the practices of polygamy and of community of women reached Rothmann in Muenster, and then too also David Joris and the Batenburger Anabaptists.151
Melchior Hofmann, the Anabaptist mentor of Campanus, was a colourful Swabian. Already in 1525, while he was in Dorpat, there was uproar and iconoclasm.152 The same year he clashed with the Lutheran ministers there, began to show deviant views about political government, and rejected the oath. After he falsely predicted that Christ’s second coming would occur in 1533, the King of Sweden forbad him to preach there. Lutheran ministers then attacked him, and Luther himself opposed him. Next succumbing to the influence of Schwenckfeld, Hoffmann slid even more deeply into the various heresies of Anabaptism.
Hofmann denied Christ’s humanity,153 alleging that Jesus merely travelled through Mary ‘like water through a pipe.’ To Hofmann, the Saviour ‘has not two but only one nature’ and was solidified as heavenly dew in the womb of Mary — like a spiritual pearl in a carnal oyster.
In April 1530, Hofmann was rebaptized.154 Understandably, his fanaticism then increased. For now he wrote155 that baptism “is the sign of the covenant God instituted solely for the old…, not for…immature children…. There is absolutely no order enacted by the apostles or Jesus Christ…about it…. It has not been discovered that they ever baptized any child, nor will any such instance be found in all eternity….
“Pedobaptism is absolutely not from God, but rather is practised out of wilfulness by anti-Christians and the satanic crowd in opposition to God and all His Commandments…. Verily, it is an eternal abomination to Him. Woe, woe to all such blind leaders who wilfully publish lies for the truth — and ascribe to God that which He has not commanded and will never in eternity command. How serious a thing it is to fall into the hands of God! … Their inheritance and portion, is rather eternal damnation!”
Hofmann next claimed that baptism was bridal: “The bride of the Lord Jesus Christ has given herself over to the Bridegroom in baptism…and has betrothed herself and yielded herself to Him, of her own free will, and has thus in very truth accepted Him and taken Him unto herself.” This language is almost erotic. It doubtless played a major role in promoting the emergence of polygamy and even community of wives among many of the Hofmannites.
While preaching in the border region of Germany and Holland, Hofmann made many converts. They themselves later ‘converted’ the Dutch lechers Matthys and Beukels. Two of Matthys’s own ‘apostles’ then rebaptized and ordained the Dutchman Obbe Philips as well as Muenster’s Rothmann. Hofmann himself was then imprisoned in Strassburg, where he died in captivity.
Hofmann was a false prophet. His prediction that 144 000 would soon go forth from Strassburg and convert the world,156 never came to pass.
The Dutch Anabaptist Leaders Obbe and Dirck Philips
After the imprisonment of Hofmann in 1533, the Hofmannite baker Jan Matthys alias ‘Elijah’ emerged as the new leader. His ‘commissioned apostles’ Boekbinder and Cuyper then rebaptized the famous Dutch Anabaptist Obbe Philips in the same year — before they then went forth to Muenster and rebaptized its cathredal’s ex-priest Rothmann.
Obbe himself then ordained his own brother Dirck Philips, and then rebaptized and ordained the famous Anabaptists David Joris in 1534 and Menno Simons around 1536. So renowned did Obbe become, that the Dutch Anabaptists were then often called Obbenites.157
Obbe’s brother Dirck or Dietrich later became the leading Mennonite theologian. As History Professor Dr. K.R. Davis pointed out:158 “Son of a Dutch priest, he…left the Franciscans and converted to Anabaptism in 1533…. His elder brother Obbe ordained him an elder in 1534…. He wrote extensively and systematically, and was probably the leading theologian of the early Dutch and North-German Mennonites. But largely because of his greater severity and rigidity, he was…responsible for schism within the Mennonite brotherhood.”
Dirck Philips spurned the Old Testament, rejected the incarnation, and denied infant baptism. As the Pro-Mennonite Leonard Verduin has rightly maintained:159 “In the words of Dirck Philips, one of the most influential thinkers in the camp of the Anabaptists: ‘The false prophets cover and disguise their deceptive doctrines by appealing to the letter of the Old Testament…. It is from this fountain that the sacrilegious ceremonies and pomp of the Church of Antichrist [alias Rome] and the deplorable errors of the seditious sects [alias the Lutherans and the Calvinists] have come.'”
The Hofmannite Dirck Philips’ christology and sacramentology were not original. He derived both from the ‘bridal baptisms’ of Melchior Hofmann himself, and of Hofmann’s convert Jan Campanus.
As Harvard’s sympathetic Dr. Williams has explained:160 “In Campanus…we have a clearly-enunciated binitarianism which, in denying personality to the Holy Spirit as in the case of Servetus, nevertheless postulates an eternal binity of persons. God the Father and God the Son [are] in one essence and one nature — just as man and wife are two persons but one flesh….
“Campanus saw in the ‘birth’ of Eve from the side of Adam…the nuptial-generative union…. One may compare here the baptismal-nuptial theology of Hofmann…, extending from the latter through Menno Simons and Dietrich Philips into the whole of Netherlandish and North-German Anabaptism…. The ancient heretical christology, originally developed by Valentinus and assimilated by Apollinarius…was variously communicated to the sixteenth-century Radicals…by the perpetration of the celestial flesh heresy in Bogomile and Cathar circles.”
To Dirck Philips, there is no link between the infant circumcision of the ‘carnal’ Old Covenant and the adult baptism of the ‘spiritual’ New Testament.161 One who has been regenerated, as a reward for his obedience in following Christ’s command, receives the forgiveness of sin — so that “in baptism the regenerated children of God are washed through the blood and the Spirit of Christ.”162 Synergism, proto-Arminianism and crypto-sacramentalism are all present in this statement of Dirck Philips.
The awful actions of Anabaptism in its ‘millenium’ at Muenster
News reached the Hofmannite Anabaptist Beukels in Holland that the cathedral priest Bernard Rothmann of Muenster in Germany had defended antipaidobaptism (but not yet adult rebaptism). So Beukels concluded that Hofmann’s eschatological predictions were then being fulfilled in Muenster.
Matthys, the henchman of Beukels, therefore promptly resumed the rebaptisms previously suspended by Hoffmann. After two of his ‘apostles’ (Boekbinder and Cuyper) had rebaptized and ordained Obbe Philips to lead the ‘Obbenite’ Anabaptists in Holland, the Dutch Anabaptist Matthys then sent them to Muenster — where they promptly rebaptized the ex-priest Rothmann.163
Matthys and Beukels and other Dutch Anabaptists then sped to Muenster, and supported Rothmann and Knipperdolling. Matthys proclaimed himself King of Muenster, and announced his intention of killing all his enemies.
When Catholics and Lutherans both fled the city, Matthys then and there introduced communism and confiscated all money and food and real estate — on the basis of the Fourth Pseudo-Clementine Epistle.164
“By way of Campanus” the student of Melchior Hofmann, Williams and Mergal have insisted, the Anabaptist “Franck’s evaluation of Pseudo-Clement reached Bernard Rothmann in Muenster….. See Hans von Schubert’s The Communism of the Anabaptists in Muenster and its Sources.”165
After Matthys was killed in one of the predictable skirmishes, Beukels immediately took over and proclaimed a yet stricter form of communism. He enforced the death penalty even for merely complaining, and then established polygamy.166 On this, we shall now let Harvard’s G.H. Williams tell the story.
“John Beukels,” explained Williams,167 “established polygamy…. All who resisted it were to be considered reprobates (and therefore in danger of execution)…. Rothmann followed John’s polygamous example, and eventually acquired nine wives…. Beukels had himself anointed, and crowned…as ‘a king of righteousness over all’….
“Rothmann defended polygamy…. Since the only legitimate purpose of marriage was to be fruitful and multiply, a husband should not be held back from fructification by the sterility or pregnancy or indisposition of one wife.” Mormonism — here we come!
Continued the American Dr. Williams: “Rothmann, in a sermon in the Muenster cathedral, proclaimed enthusiastically it was the will of the Lord that the saints should multiply as the sands of the sea…. Rothmann may have come into contact…with a certain epistle [falsely] ascribed to Clement of Rome, which urges the community of goods — including wives.”
Rothmann taught this radical sharing of property and its public ownership — in his 1533 Confession of Both Sacraments. Basing it on the pseudo-isidoreanized fourth and fifth Epistles of [Pseudo-]Clement, Rothmann’s programme led to a community where the sharing of goods and wives was compulsory.168
While Rothmann had a mere nine wives, Beukels took fifteen — and Knipperdolling seventeen.169 “Koning Jan” alias ‘King John’ Beukels had deserted a wife in Leyden; had next married the beautiful young widow of Matthys; and then soon had a whole harem. A ‘law’ was passed, forcing all women under a certain age to marry — under pain of capital punishment. Quarrels among plural wives were also capitally punished. Finally, divorce had to be permitted — which ‘transubstantiated’ polygamy into an even grosser licentiousness.170
Just like Melchior Hofmann before them, the Melchiorite Rothmannites in Muenster held both baptism and marriage to be an image of the relation of Christ to His bride (alias the community of the faithful). However, continued Williams,171 these “Rothmannites…could think of Christ with many individual brides — and hence each husband with a plurality of wives. But since plural marriage was also bound up with faith, the marriage of believers with unbelievers was not true marriage but the equivalent of adultery — and therefore to be annulled by a rigid communal discipline….
“The Anabaptist leader of Muenster [was next] to name Jacob van Campen ‘putative bishop’ of the ‘new Zion in Amsterdam’…. Seven enthusiasts, men and women…, walked naked and unarmed, 10 February 1535, to proclaim the ‘naked truth’ of the new Eden…. The failure to secure public support in Amsterdam was signalized by the desperate behavior of the naaktloopers” or ‘naked walkers.’172 Indeed, “this little coterie of wild visionaries proclaimed the ‘naked truth’ of an apocalyptic judgment and the coming of a communistic paradise.”173
“The ecstatic prophet Herman Schoenmaker…had messianic pretensions and wanted to kill all monks, priests and civil officials…. Within beleaguered Muenster, John, to prevent surprise and defection, established in May twelve ‘dukes’ to guard the gates…. He make life wretched for his subjects, and also for his wives. One of the most spirited among them was beheaded by him…. He trampled on her body, while the rest of his harem looked on….
“After a fearful battle, the city was taken on 25 June…. [The Anabaptist leaders] Knipperdolling and Krechting remained loyal to their Anabaptist faith, but John Beukels made a partial recantation before his death and even offered, if his life were spared, to persuade the remaining Anabaptists to give up all thoughts of violence.”174
History had repeated itself! Centuries earlier, the neo-circumcellion circuit-riders had rebaptized neo-Donatistically — and then gone plundering and burning, murdering traditional Christians in many areas of North Africa. Now, revolutionary rebaptists rode again! A then-contemporary writer described it all perfectly. See U. Rhegius’s Refutation of the Neo-Valentinians and Neo-Donatists of Muenster (Wittenberg 1535). See too the classic statement, by the modern liberal Roman Catholic scholar C.A. Cornelius (in his History of the Muenster Revolution).175
Interestingly, in his essay The Anabaptists and the Rise of the Baptist Movement, the modern Baptist scholar Rev. Dr. West of Oxford has rightly described Muenster’s Jan Beukels alias ‘King John’ as “scarcely sane.” Nevertheless, in all candour, West has then also honestly added: “It is certainly not right to divorce Muenster entirely from Anabaptism.”176
Polygamy since Muenster: the awful aftermath of Anabaptism
According to G.H. Williams, “after the fall of…Muenster in June 1535 and the execution of King John in January 1536 a group of radical Anabaptists from as far away as England met in August 1536, at the still-tolerant town of Bocholt near Wesel [in the Netherlands] — to attempt to come to some mutual understanding to unify the shattered and scattered Melchiorite forces. The meeting was attended by followers of David Joris, John of Batenburg, and by a group of former Muensterites.”177
Ordained by the Dutch Anabaptist Obbe Philips,178 the revolutionary Flemish Anabaptist and Sabellian David Joris179 claimed to be the true Messiah.180 The Anabaptists acknowledged him as one of their most influential hymnwriters and prophets. Some of his followers — the ‘Adamites’ — trangressed all boundaries of shame. His own Miracle Book predicted the then soon destruction of the papacy — and the abolition of marriage in favour of total ‘free love.’181
“David Joris,” according to Mergal and Williams,182 “regarded himself as the third David — in succession to King David and Christ” the Davidic King. “David Joris…misled the more fanatic remnants of the Muensterite debacle from his new base in Basel, where he lived splendidly under a false name.” Among his followers, there were some polygamists.183
Explained the Baptist Estep:184 “At one time a Muensterite also, Joris was…an extreme ‘inspirationist’ [alias an advocate of immediate ongoing inspiration by the Spirit of God]…. He claimed that the Scriptures were inadequate, and therefore destined to be supplemented by his own inspired writings” if not also by his own verbal utterances too.
According to Williams,185 the followers of John of Batenburg — the leader of the ‘Sword-Minded Muensterites’ — were even more radical than the ‘Davidjorists.’ For the Batenburgers “believed that all who did not join with them, had to be killed. They sanctioned the plunder of churches, and divorce was obligatory for anyone whose spouse refused to join the group.
“They continued to practise polygamy, and held goods in common. With Batenburg as their new Elijah, they clandestinely waited for the belligerent second advent of the Lord. In the meantime, they allowed adult baptism to lapse, and attended Catholic services in order to escape detection and persecution…. Community of wives was the distinctive feature of the Batenburgers, drawing upon the paradisic speculations of the medieval ‘Adamites’ and emboldened by the restitution of polygamy in Muenster.
“Fleshly mingling as the true and sole sacrament, called Christerie or Christirung, was the distinctive feature…of Thuringian and Hessian ‘Dreamers’ or ‘Blood Friends.'” These Anabaptists were “led by one Louis of Tuengeda, who around 1550 renounced baptism as the covenantal sign — in favor of a sexual spiritualism that ‘sacramentally’ unified the fellowship by a single dream-inspired coition all around….
“Promiscuity cropped out in many places among the excesses of the ‘evangelistic’ revival, notably in St. Gall.” It also occurred “in the group around Hut’s deputy in Franconian Koeningsberg (Georg Volk)…and in the communitarian Sabbatarian Anabaptism of Andrew Fischer.”
The repeated adultery and bigamy of Haetzer and the communism of the Hutterites and the ‘marriage meaning’ of Hofmannite rebaptism had produced a horrible harvest. There was the lewd lasciviousness of the lecherous Dutch Anabaptists Matthys and Beukels; the ‘naked walkers’ of Amsterdam; the popular polygamy in Muenster; and the community of women among the Batenburgers and other groups. One can certainly understand the embarrassment of many of their modern stepchildren. Yet there is no way the widespread occurrence of gross sexual immortality among the Anabaptists themselves can be overlooked.
Obbe Philips recants in his Recollections of the Years 1533- 1536
Long after the fall of Muenster in 1536, and indeed even until 1540, Obbe Philips continued to lead the Dutch Anabaptists: his Obbenists. Then, however, he became convinced that Anabaptism was fraudulent. Withdrawing from it at that time, around 1560 he published his Confession — alias hisRecollections of the Years 1533-1536. That is an account of what had helped to open his eyes to all of those deceptions.
Obbe’s frank and honest Confession is of very great importance in exposing neo-Anabaptism (such as pseudo- Pentecostalism and other heresies) today. Consequently, we now present important excerpts therefrom.
Wrote Obbe:186 “The first Church of Christ and the Apostles, was destroyed and ruined in early times by Antichrist…. All who with us are called ‘Evangelical’ know that the whole of the papacy is a Sodom, a Babylon and Egypt, and an abomination of desolation — the work or service of Antichrist…. Its ordinances…and teachings are false….
“Fieriness became apparent in some [Anabaptists] who could no longer contain themselves…. They presented themselves as teachers and envoys of God, professing to have been compelled in their hearts by God to baptize, preach and teach…. Among these were Doctor Balthasar Huebmaier…, Johan Hut, Johan Denck, Louis Haetzer, and Thomas Muenzer….
“Among these, Melchior Hofmann stood out…. This Melchior was a very fiery and zealous man, a very smooth-tongued speaker who…wrote heatedly against Luther and Zwingli concerning baptism and other articles…. I know of no one who has so much calumniated and damned in his writings, as this Melchior –whereby also we all taught many blasphemies…. All who did not say yes and amen — were ‘devilish and satanic spirits’; ‘godless heretics’; and people ‘damned to eternity’….
“Great dissension and insurrection daily broke out among the burghers…. Baptism came rapidly into vogue — among many plain and simple souls. At the same time, Melchior had written from prison that baptism should be suspended for two years…. Thereafter, there also rose up two prophetesses…. These also prophesied and predicted remarkable things – – and had many visions, revelations and dreams….
“One of the prophetesses also prophesied — and that through a vision — that Melchior was ‘Elijah.’ She saw a white swan…. That, she interpreted to apply to Melchior as the true ‘Elijah’…. She also saw a vision that…Cornelius Polterman, who was Melchior’s disciple…, would be ‘Enoch.’ [However,] some among them held that Doctor Caspar Schwenckfeld should be considered ‘Enoch’….
“It was also prophesied that Strassburg would be the ‘New Jerusalem’…. After Melchior was in prison for a half- year…he would leave Strassburg with 144 000 true preachers, apostles and emissaries of God — with powers, signs and miracles…. Thereafter, ‘Elijah’ and ‘Enoch’ would stand upon the earth as two torches and olive trees.”
Obbe Philips on the Hofmannite Anabaptist Jan Matthys
Continued Obbe: “There arose a baker of Haarlem named John Matthys, who had an elderly wife whom he deserted…. He took with him a brewer’s daughter, who was a very pretty young slip of a girl…. He enticed her away from her parents with sacred and beautiful words — and told how God had shown great things to him, and that she would be his wife…. He professed to have been greatly driven by the Spirit; and how God had revealed great things to him…; and that he was the other witness ‘Enoch’….
“Now when the friends or brethren heard of this, they became apprehensive…. They had also heard that Cornelius Polterman was ‘Enoch.’ When John Matthys learned of this, he carried on with much emotion and terrifying alarm — and with great and desperate curses cast unto eternity into hell (and to the devils) all who would not hear his voice and who would not recognize and accept him as the true ‘Enoch.’ Because of this, some went into a room without food and drink, in fasting and prayer…. No one knew that such false prophets could arise in the midst of the brethren.” Yet see: Deuteronomy 13 & 18 and First John 4!
“They attached themselves to John Matthys and became obedient. John Matthys as ‘Enoch’…sent out ‘true apostles’ in pairs…. Some, such as Gerard Boekbinder and John [Beukels] of Leyden, departed for Muenster. Thereafter, through his corrupt activities, John of Leyden became king of Muenster — all of which Gerard Boekbinder later told me in Amsterdam in the presence of Jacob van Campen [‘putative bishop’ of the ‘new Zion in Amsterdam’] and several others…. Two of these commissioned apostles, namely…Boekbinder and…Cuyper…, said we should not doubt but that they were no less sent forth with power and miracle than the apostles at Pentecost….
“They also comforted us and said…no Christian blood would be shed on earth, but in a short time God would rid the earth of all shedders of blood…. Thus did we on that day almost all permit ourselves to be baptized.
“The following day…, they summoned us…and with the laying on of hands laid upon us the office of preaching…. We could feel the laying on of hands and…many loose words which had neither strength nor lasting effect — as afterward we amply discovered….
“Three men…shortly thereafter — through ‘the driving of the Spirit’ — walked through Amsterdam [March 23rd 1534]. One cried out: ‘The new city is given to the children of God!’ Another called out: ‘Repent ye, and do penance!’ The third cried out: ‘Woe, woe to all the godless!’
“Now, as they were captured in the midst of these outcries, they and some fifteen or sixteen other teachers and brethren were taken as insurrectionists and Anabaptists to Haarlem — where they were all condemned and tortured to death…. Such was the reliability of their prophecies…. All they told us would come upon the world, the tyrants and the godless on earth — that came upon us, and upon them first of all….
“After this, some others arose who were made teachers by the previous ones mentioned…. Such strange instruction was heard among them! One corrupted marriage. The second taught nothing but parables. The third would pardon no one nor recognize him as brother who fell into apostasy after baptism…. Others stood firmly by visions, dreams and prophecies.
“Some also were of the opinion that when the brethren and teachers were put to death, they would immediately be resurrected and would rule on earth with Christ a thousand years…. There were almost as many opinions as there were teachers — each comforting himself with lies and false promises, visions, dreams and revelations. Some had spoken with God, others with angels –until they got a new trek under way to Muenster.”
Obbe on the interaction between the Dutch and the Muenster Anabaptists
“The most prominent in Muenster, were John Matthys and John of Leyden…. Letters they daily sent to us — of the great signs, wondrous visions, and revelations they had daily…. One may perceive of which spirit they were the children, and by which spirit they were led and driven….
“Diverse teachers from Holland…professed that Muenster and not Strassburg was — the New Jerusalem. For Melchior was forgotten, with his prophets and prophetesses…. All his apostleship, prophecy, Elijah-role, and his despatch of apostles from Strassburg — all went to nought and to shame…. Everything that he so boldly professed from the mouth of the prophets and prophetesses — he, in the end, found it all falsehood and deception: in fact, and in truth….
“Just as John Matthys was truly ‘Enoch’ with the true commission and apostolic office — so he also came to his end…. Melchior died in prison, and did not come out again, as the prophets and prophetesses had predicted [he would do]….
“John Matthys — as an apostle and ‘Enoch’ — was beaten before the gates of Muenster in a skirmish…. He was so fierce and bloodthirsty, that he brought various people to their deaths…. His enemies…did not just kill him like other people, but hacked and chopped him into little pieces….
“Yet some of the brethren insisted that — following the prophecy of ‘Enoch’ and ‘Elijah’ — he would be resurrected on the fourth day, and before all people he would rise up to heaven or be carried away by a cloud…. We have here the beginning and end of both ‘Elijah’ and ‘Enoch’ — with their commissions, visions, prophecies, dreams and revelations….
“One insurrection followed another.” Seven ‘naked walkers’ in Amsterdam during February 1535 proclaimed the ‘naked truth’ of an apocalyptic judgment and the coming of a communistic paradise. “There the ‘godless’ would meet their end, and be punished. All that, came to nothing. All ‘prophecies’ were false and lying…. Those who denounced others as godless, were such themselves. And those who would exterminate the others, were themselves annihilated….
“I am still miserable of heart today, that I…was so shamefully and miserably deceived…. I did not stop forthwith but permitted myself to bring poor souls to this — that I through the importuning of the brethren, commissioned to the office: Dietrich Philips in Amsterdam; David Joris in Delft; and Menno Simons in Groningen…. It is this which is utter grief to my heart, and which I will lament before my God as long as I live….
“I shall be silent about all the false commissions, prophecies, visions, dreams, revelations and unspeakable spiritual pride which immediately from the first hour stole in among the brethren…. As soon as anyone was ‘baptized’ he was at once a ‘pious Christian’ — and slandered all people and admitted no one on earth to be good but himself and his fellow brethren.
“Was that not a great and terrible pride? And who can express the great wrangling and dissension among the congregation — of debating and arguing about…the thousand-year Kingdom of Christ on earth; about the incarnation; baptism; belief; Supper; the promised David; second marriage; free will….
“A reasonable, impartial Christian may truly say that it is no Christian congregation but a desolate abomination — that it can be no temple of God but a cave of murderers full of hate, envy, jealousy, spiritual pride, pseudo-piety, hypocrisy, contempt, defamation. They could suffer neither the love nor benefit of another who was not of their belief.”
The not-so-peaceful Anabaptist Menno Simons
About 1534, the priest Menno Simons had renounced Romanism. Around 1536, he was ‘rebaptized’ and ‘(re-)ordained’ by the Anabaptist Obbe Philips.187
After Obbe withdrew from his own Obbenites around 1540, his brother Dirck and the Unitarian Anabaptist Adam Pastor and Menno Simons reorganized the Dutch Obbenites under the new name of Mennonites.188 Indeed, Menno promptly branded189 Obbe as “a Demas” (Second Timothy 4:10) — but never denied that Obbe was the one who had ordained Menno!
Menno’s first three books bore the titles Christian Baptism, Foundation of Christian Doctrine, and True Christian Faith. Together with Dirck Philips, Menno ordained Adam Pastor in 1542. Pastor taught that Christ did not exist before the incarnation. However, only after 1547 did the Mennonites excommunicate and ‘shun’ him because of his unitarianism.
As the Baptist Estep has admitted: “Menno was never quite able to shake off the memory of that unpleasant experience. Like himself, Pastor had been a priest…. In other respects, he was apparently a true Anabaptist…. Rationality led him to doubt the deity of Christ….
“Menno felt that the threat to the faith was so grave that he wrote a small book to counteract Pastor’s influence, Confession of the Triune God …. Menno’s own view of the incarnation, however, became a source of controversy…. Menno’s position differed from the historic view, in denying that Christ received His human body from Mary.”190
Simons not only forbad oaths, but also lacked love. Not only did he perfect the practice of ‘shunning’ and often wield the ban. He also untruthfully denounced paidobaptism as “nothing other than a ceremony of the Antichrist; a public blasphemy; a sin of sorcery; a graven image; yes, an abominable idolatry!”191
To Menno, infant baptism was “a human invention of which not one jot or tittle is found in God’s Word.” He condemned it as “a sin of sorcery; a graven image; a falsification of the ordinance of Christ; a work of superstition and idolatry; a public abomination; and a sacrament of the churches of the antichrist just as absurd as the baptism of church bells in the papacy.”192
Let it not be forgotten that this Menno is the very man British Baptist Erroll Hulse has recently called193 “probably the most successful of the early Baptists.”
Menno said194 Christians should regard the paidobaptist sacrament as “the baptism of the antichrist.” Therefore “we must resist infant baptism not only with our mouth, but also unto blood and death.” For “we must be baptized on our own faith.” Infants cannot believe or share in regeneration, “because reason teaches they do not have ears to hear God’s Word.” Yet they do have ears and, as Luther pointed out, in our fallen world ‘reason’ is a whore!
As a false prophet, in 1536 Menno Simons also — just like very many dispensationalists today — mispredicted the second coming of Christ, when he alleged it was “imminent.” So too did all of the other Anabaptists.195
Today, more than four-and-a-half centuries later, the second coming of Christ has still not yet occurred. Thus, even the uneminent Menno of the Mennonites stands ‘imminently’ exposed as a false prophet indeed. Deuteronomy 13:1-11 & 18:10-22.
The Antitrinitarian Anabaptist Servetus (or Miguel Serveto)
Miguel Serveto (alias Michael Servetus) was probably quite the most dangerous of all the Anabaptists. Even Harvard’s Prof. Williams has described himself196 as maintaining “spiritual connections with Calvin’s principal foe, Michael Servetus…. Servetus [w]as a Spaniard brought up in contact with Moriscos [alias ex-Moors] and Marranos” [alias ‘pigs’].
The latter were respectively such Islamic Moors and Sephardic Judaists as had surreptitiously continued practising their cordial Unitarianism — even after their own purely nominal ‘conversion’ to and baptism by the Church in Spain. Indeed, often before and sometimes even after their baptism — they usually swore a secret oath to try to destroy the Church’s Trinitarianism from within. So these ‘pigs’ were not the ‘sheep’ they pretended to have become.
Understandably, after Servetus published his own books On the Errors of the Trinity (1531) and Concerning the Trinity (1532) — the whole of Christian Europe was deeply shocked. Then, in his 1553 Restitution of Christianity, Servetus also vilified infant baptism in the Name of the Triune God. No wonder that Calvin in 1556 denounced him as “that vilest of men” — and “an Anabaptist and the worst of heretics.”197
“Servetus,” explained the sympathetic Prof. Williams,198 “repudiated as a ‘philosophical sophistication’ the claim of the Trinitarians that the mundane [or ‘economic’] generation of the Logos-Son had been preceded by an eternal [or ‘ontological’] generation of the Logos-Son…. For Servetus, the Holy Spirit was a power — and not a Person of the Godhead….
“The Prologue of John was seen to be a parallel to the prologue of Genesis, and the identification of the Word with Light had now made it possible for Servetus to think of the Word itself (cf. Dietrich Philips)…before the mundane incarnation, as also a kind of ‘celestial flesh’…. For Servetus, as of 1553, Christ was also the eternal idea of man in the mind of God….
“His basic proposition was…that there were not three intradeical Persons…. As for the continuous but invisible outpouring of the Spirit of God, Servetus was aware of it everywhere as the mundification of the divine substantia in all creatures, which could therefore be considered full of divinity. Hence, all things, from the heavenly bodies to the smallest flowers, could be looked upon as gods….
“According to Servetus, God’s Spirit is present in a special way at baptismal regeneration or deification — to clarify the mind of the convert.” Thus Servetus coupled his repudiation of the Ontological Trinity and his confession of a purely economic ‘trinity’ to his repudiation of infant baptism and his advocacy of adult Anabaptism.
As the great church historian Rev. Prof. Dr. J.H. Kurtz has indicated199 regarding the viewpoint of Servetus: “Son and Spirit are only different dispositiones Dei [or dispositions of God]. The Father alone is tota substantia et unus Deus [the whole substance and one God]. And as the ‘Trinity’ makes its appearance in connection with the redemption of the world –it will disappear again, when that redemption has been completed.
“The polemic of Servetus, however, extended beyond the doctrine of the Trinity to an attack upon the church doctrine of original sin and the repudiation of infant baptism…. He denounced views opposed to his own as ‘doctrines of devils’ — among other reproachful terms, applying to the church doctrine of the Trinity the name of triceps Cerberus (the three-headed dog of hell).” To him, the Holy Trinity was the hound of hell or the dog of Satan!
The influence of Servetus among Anabaptists internationally
The influence of the rabid antitrinitarian Miguel Serveto alius Servetus soon spread to Italy — and then, also with that of the Unitarian Socinus, to Hungary and Poland. Soon Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, was a centre of Anabaptism.200 There, the Calvinist Georg Weigel stated that the Antitrinitarian Anabaptists “tell their dreams and visions…[and] introduce plurality of wives, community of goods, contempt of the magistrate, of the courts, and of every rank.”
As the Calvinist Rev. Prof. Dr. H. Bouwman has shown: “In Bohemia, Italy and Poland — many still remained Anabaptists.” There, “they intermixed especially with the Antitrinitarians…, absorbing themselves into the Socianians.”201 Interestingly, even the American Baptist Rev. Prof. Dr. H.C. Vedder has admitted202 that “we find definite proofs of immersion only among the Anabaptists…in Poland” — namely, among the Antitrinitarians!203
These Anabaptists included even what G.H. Williams has called “immersionist Trideistae” alias submersionistic Tritheists [cf. the later polytheistic Mormons]. Poland too had many Anabaptist Tritheists, but even more Anabaptist Arians. Through its crypto-subordinationistic denial of the Filioquealias the eternal procession of the Spirit from the Father and from the Son, the nearby ‘Russian Orthodox’ alias “Greek Orthodox formulation of the Trinity helped the proto-Unitarians.” Such were “the antitrinitarian antipaidobaptist Radicals.”204 Indeed, “their Protestant and Catholic foes called them ‘Arians.'”205
These deadly heresies were then indeed quite general among Anabaptists. As the very eminent church historian Rev. Prof. Dr. Kurtz has explained:206 “It was agreed…to summon an Anabaptist Council to meet at Vienna in September 1550…. About sixty deputies…laid down the following doctrinal propositions as binding upon all their congregations: ‘Christ is not God but man….; there are neither angels nor devil…; there is no other hell than the grave in which the elect sleep…till they shall be awaked at the last day…; the souls of the ungodly as well as their bodies, like those of the beasts, perish in death.'”
The Anabaptist Servetus spread his Antitrinitarianism to Italy, and his fellow-heretic Faustus Socinus then exported Unitarianism from Italy to Poland and thence to Holland and even to England. Walter Klaassen’s Anabaptism: Neither Catholic nor Protestant — and I.B. Horst’s The Radical Brethren: Anabaptism and the English Reformation to 1558 — help substantiate these facts.207
“The Anabaptists,” claimed the Baptist Estep, “made the New Testament alone normative for the Christian life.” Even the ‘moderate’ Anabaptist Pilgram Marbeck (alias Marpeck) held to “an absolute distinction between the Old Testament and the New.”208
Too, the neo-Anabaptist Harold Bender stated209 the case quite rightly in the Mennonite Quarterly Review. “Anabaptism was not fully conformant to Reformation Protestantism, in that it refused to place the Old Testament on a parity with the New Testament…., relegating therefore the Old Testament to the position of a preparatory instrument…. Baptism is not the counterpart of circumcision therefore.” However, the Bible teaches the very opposite! Romans 4:10f & 6:1f; Galatians 3:6-29; Colossians 2:11-13.
Candid assessment of the Anabaptists’ faith and practice
The famous Swiss-American German Reformed church historian Rev. Prof. Dr. Philip Schaff has explained210 that “the early history of the Anabaptists exhibits…violent revolutions, separatism, mysticism, millenarianism, spiritualism, contempt of history, ascetic rigor, fanaticism, communism, and some novel speculations concerning the body of Christ as being directly created by God and different from the flesh and blood of other men….
“They rebaptized those baptized in infancy…. They themselves denied the validity of infant baptism…and regarded voluntary baptism in ‘years of discretion’ as the only true baptism.”
To Schaff, the Anabaptist Thomas Muenzer was the “evangelist of the social revolution.” He anticipated the later Marxists and Leninists (who praised him). Thus, as a ‘revolutionary communist’ he signed his pamphlets: “Muenzer with the hammer” [and the sickle] — and “Let not the saint’s sword grow cold from blood!”
Sympathetic even to the antitrinitarian Servetus,211 Harvard’s Dr. G.H. Williams has admitted212 that among the Anabaptists in general “the imminent advent…was discussed and calculated with enthusiasm. Group confession led to disclosures that alarmed spouses…. Glossolalia broke out. There was lewdness and unchastity, and the extraordinary declaration of a deranged woman that she was predestined to give birth to the Antichrist.”
According to the American Baptist Rev. Prof. Dr. M’Glothlin,213 it was not till 1527 that the first Anabaptist ‘Articles of Confession’ were drawn up — inculcating, however, the teachings of communism! This was done by the ex- priest Michael Sattler — at Schleitheim, on the border of Germany and Switzerland. The full title of that document is The Brotherly Union of a Number of Children of God Concerning Seven Articles.
Those Seven Articles of Schleitheim were the ecumenical ‘basis of agreement’ defining the Brotherly Union of German and Swiss Anabaptists. They consisted of: (1) the total rejection of infant baptism; (2) the rigid affirmation of the mandatory ban; (3) a heretical view of the Lord’s supper; (4) an unbiblical doctrine of ministry; (5) a statement on the need to separate from political ‘abominations’; (6) rejection of the state’s sword; and (7) repudiation of the oath.214
The great church historian Philip Schaff has noted215 that “the earliest Anabaptist articles” in these “Swiss statements of 1527…bear solely on practical questions. Two of the teachings inculcate communism and that the Lord’s supper be celebrated as often as the brethren come together.'”
For a refutation of this communism of the Anabaptists, see Francis Nigel Lee’s Biblical Private Property Versus Socialistic Common Property.216 For a refutation of their overly-frequentative use of the Lord’s supper, see Francis Nigel Lee’s Quarterly Communion at Biblical Seasons Annually.217
It is very significant that the author of the Seven Articles, the Anabaptist Michael Sattler himself, felt obliged to write a revealing disclaimer in the Preface thereof. Acknowledged Sattler:218 “A very great offence has been introduced by some false brothers among us[!] — whereby several…[attempted] to practise and observe ‘the freedom of the Spirit’…[in] the lasciviousness and licence of the flesh. They have esteemed that faith and love may do, and permit, everything — and that nothing can harm nor condemn them, since they are ‘believers.'”
However, neither Schleitheim’s Saddler nor the Hutterite Stadler ever softened their hatred of private property and their promotion of communal goods.219 So Calvin himself amply refuted220 Schleitheim, in 1544. Indeed, even the liberal American Prof. Dr. Henry Preserved Smith221 has rightly called these Anabaptists: Bolsheviks.
The Articles of Association of the Moravian Anabaptists forbad the Lord’s supper to persons holding private property.222 Also those of the Dutch Mennonites upheld many heterodox beliefs. Thus the various editions of the 1580f Confession of Waterland223 still denied the guilt of hereditary sin (art. 4); taught that God predestinated all men for salvation (art. 7); rejected war, secular office-holding, and oaths (arts. 18 & 37 & 38); and repudiated infant baptism as ‘unscriptural’ (art. 31).
Significantly, the Mennonites in the Netherlands later called themselves Doopsgezinden (alias ‘Baptist- minded‘). This occurred even before the yet-later establishment of Baptist congregations in Holland.
Now while all of the Anabaptists attacked infant baptism, most of them ‘rebaptized’ adults by way of pouring alone. The first clear case of submersion among the Anabaptists — thus the Baptist M’Glothlin224 — occurred when the altogether-naked Ulimann got himself submersed in the Rhine. Only in the seventeenth century did the first English- speaking (Re-)Baptists baptize and/or rebaptize by submersion alone. Fortunately, they then did so only by way of non- naked submersions.
As Wheaton College’s Rev. Prof. Dr. Donald M. Lake has very honestly insisted225 in his article on Baptism: “Only with the English Baptists about 1633 did the issue of immersion arise among the Particular Baptists. Prior to this, even the Baptists practiced affusion or sprinkling.”
Most of the Anabaptists were intolerant and violent, although some of the later ones were pacifistic. Some Anabaptists killed all who refused rebaptism. Most affirmed soul-sleep and denied the existence of hell and of the devil. Many were communists, polygamists and/or advocates of ‘group marriage’ alias ‘free love’ (sic). The majority seem to have been a miscellaneous assortment of Antitrinitarians — namely Binitarians, Modalists, Pantheists, Tritheists and/or Unitarians. Even the uniquely-trinitarian Anabaptist Simons denied Christ’s incarnation; and the Anabaptist Servetus denounced the Holy Trinity as a ‘dog with three heads.’
Already by 1534, Anabaptism had been exported even to England.226 Practising community of property and community of wives, the violent Anabaptists were the forerunners of the Red Revolutions of 1848 and 1917 — and thereafter, even till today. Those Anabaptists in effect declared: “Communists of the world –unworking men of all nations — ignite!”
Nature of the baptistic views of the Anabaptists
Appreciating that most Anabaptists did not immerse under water, we need not dwell on the maverick plunging of the noted Anabaptist Ulimann in the Rhine — nor on the single submersionisms of the Unitarian Polish Anabaptists. Accordingly, we here confine our attention only to the widespread Anabaptist denial of sealing during baptism — and especially their individualistic denial of household baptism (and thus that of covenantal infants).
The Anabaptists did not heed the Biblical statements about the sealing (or confirmatory) effect of baptism — especially in respect of covenant children (Romans 4:11f cf. Colossians 2:11f). Nor did they understand that believers’ children, even before their birth, are already to be regarded as being among the faithful.227
Thus the Anabaptists denied the possibility of regeneration and faith within unborn babies, and also in newly-born children.228 Consequently, they also denied that any newly-born children should receive baptism as the seal of regeneration and faith.
Holy Scripture, however, teaches that only those sinners who have been regenerated can enter into the Kingdom of God. See John 3:3-8. This clearly means that all unregenerates, even if still very tiny, are lost. Yet the Anabaptists held that babies are: neither lost; nor sinners; nor regeneratable. Denying the covenant of election, they maintained that all babies are ‘innocent’ — as too, they said, were the unfallen Adam and Eve.229
The Anabaptists correctly saw that saving faith is not acquired by baptism. Neither is faith obtained for the very first time only at that sacrament’s administration.230
However, that believers’ babies should be seen as obviously residing already among the faithful even before their birth — never dawned upon the Anabaptists. These heretics accordingly denied the possibility of regeneration and faith inside believers’ unborn infants themselves — and also inside just-born babies and other very young children.231
Following the heretic Pelagius, the Anabaptists quite wrongly held that all children — even those of pagan parents — were devoid of guilt.232 Sinless infants (said the Anabaptists) need neither repentance; nor faith in Christ; nor baptism. Indeed, they concluded that even the infants of believers can have no faith at all — at least while still infants. Scripture, however, teaches quite the opposite — Psalm 22:9f; Matthew 18:6; Luke 1:44 & 18:15f; Second Timothy 1:5 & 3:15f cf. Hebrews 11:6.
Butzer, Oecolampadius and the 1532 First Basle Confession on baptism
In 1530, the Reformed Tetrapolitan Confession appeared. This was drawn up by Calvin’s mentor Martin Butzer alius Martin(us) Bucer(us) and others. It states233 that without faith, it is impossible to please God [Hebrews 11:6].
Declares the Tetrapolitana: “Baptism is a sacrament of the covenant which God makes with those who belong to Him. There, He promises to protect them and their descendants and to regard them as His people…. It should be imparted even to the children…. Every promise applies just as much to us, as to those of old; ‘I will be the God of you, and of your seed!'” Genesis 17:7-14.
Butzer also wrote to the Anabaptist Margaret Blaures in 1531 about the well-known Anabaptist Pilgram Marbeck. Asked Butzer:234 “What is the view of your Anabaptist of whom you write to me — but that of the ancient Cyprian, who [wrongly] wanted to rebaptize all who had been baptized by heretics?”
Also Rev. Prof. Dr. Johann Heuszgen or Hausschein (alias Oecolampadius) — Zwingli’s friend in Basle — firmly believed that regeneration often precedes infant baptism. In his Instruction Against Rebaptism, he urged Christians not to trust in baptism itself. For not the earthly water but only the Spirit of Christ washes away sins and brings about regeneration. Yet baptism is necessary, so that people can regard us as belonging to the number of the Christians. Infants too need forgiveness of sin, and regeneration. For they follow the sinful Adam.235
“If that were not so,” explained Oecolampadius, “it would be incorrect to baptize them. For then, it would be a lying sign.” For baptism indicates the forgiveness precisely of sin, through faith in the cleansing blood of Jesus. The fact is, however, that God “provides” the “Holy Spirit” to at least such of His elect who die in their infancy before receiving baptism. At the same time, He also provides that those who do not die before their baptism in infancy, but who live till early childhood and beyond, then have “further grace poured over” them. See Oecolampadius’s 1527 Answer to Balthazar Hubmaier’s “Little Book Against…Infant Baptism.”236
Above, it should be noted that Oecolampadius advised “to baptize” even the infants of believers — and then to expect them to have further grace “poured over” them. Very clearly, these words indicate his conviction that also the babies of believers should be baptized — and indeed not by submersion, but precisely by having the water “poured over” them (alias by way of sprinkling).
It was probably Oecolampadius who wrote the 1532 First Basle Confession.237 That was subsequently revised in 1534 by his Zurich successor, Rev. Prof. Dr. Oswald Myconius. Significantly, it ends with a final section — under the heading: ‘Against the Errors of the Anabaptists.’
There, the First Basle Confession proclaims: “We openly declare that we not only do not accept — but that we reject those strange erroneous teachings as abominable and as blasphemous. For these weird swarms (Rottengeister) also say — among other condemned and evil opinions — that one should not baptize children. We, however, do get them baptized — according to the custom of the Apostles and of the Primitive Church, and also because baptism has come in the place of circumcision.” Thus, the Anabaptists are Rottengeister!
The 1536 Second Basle or First Helvetic Confession on baptism
With this one should compare too the 1531 work Unashamed Wickedness (about Pfistermeyer and his followers). Written by Zwingli’s successor Henry Bullinger, the latter said of those Swiss Anabaptists: “They be wholly given over to such foul and detestable sensuality…. They do interpret it to be the commandment of the Heavenly Father, persuading women and honest matrons that it is impossible for them to be partakers of the Kingdom of Heaven — unless they do abominably prostitute and make common their own bodies to all men.”
Again according to Bullinger, these Anabaptists further taught that “we ought to suffer all kinds of infamy or reproach for Christ’s sake. Besides that, the publicans and harlots [held the Anabaptists] shall be preferred to the ‘righteous’ in the Kingdom of heaven…. [Furthermore, they also taught that] Christ was but a prophet — saying that ungodly persons…and the devils also should enjoy the heavenly bliss.”238
The Second Basle Confession alias the First Helvetic [or Swiss] Confession of 1536, was drawn up by the same Bullinger –in association with Myconius, Megander, Leo Judae, Butzer and Capito. Martin Bullinger was Zwingli’s successor in Zurich. There, Myconius succeeded Oecolampadius as Professor of Theology. Megander was recommended by Zwingli for a Zurich Professorship. Leo Judae was Zwingli’s co-worker in Zurich. And Butzer and Capito were Reformed theologians from Strassburg.239
This First Helvetic Confession is directed largely against the Anabaptists. It insists240 that Christ “has two different unmixed natures in one individual person…. He took our flesh upon Himself (yet without sin)…from the virgin Mary.”
It further declares241 that the “sacraments…are not merely empty signs — but consist of signs and the things signified. For in baptism, the water is the sign. The signified thing itself, however, is regeneration and adoption in the family of God.”
The First Helvetica continues: “We baptize our children with this holy washing” — literally, ‘we tinge our infants’ (in the original Latin). “It would be unfair if we were to rob those born from us [who are God’s people] — of the fellowship of God’s people” [namely the fellowship of the parents of such infants]. For “our children are predestined through the divine Word — and they are those whose pious election is to be presumed.”
In the last sentence, the official Latin text reads: “infantos nostros…tingimus…de eorum electione pie est praesumendum.” The official German translation here runs: “taufen wir unsre Kinder…von denen man vermuthen soll, sie seien von Gott erwaehlt.” To prove this ‘presumed election’ of the infant children of believers — the Confession itself then immediately goes on to cite: “Titus 3; Acts 10; Genesis 17; First Corinthians 7; and Luke 18.”
Note here that the word ‘presume’ is used. The First Helvetica thus teaches not the false and hypercalvinistic heresy of irrebuttable and asserted regeneration of covenant infants. It teaches the glorious ‘Calvinistic’ (and also pre-Calvinistic) doctrine of the rebuttable yet nevertheless (pre)-supposedand presumed regeneration of covenant infants before baptism.
Later apostasy after infant baptism (and also after adult baptism) would certainly rebut this prebaptismal presumption! Wherever such apostasy then occurs to the point it cannot be denied, this proves the previous presumption to have been incorrect. Yet, until such post-baptismal apostasy might occur undeniably — prebaptismal regeneration is indeed to be presumed — as the proper prerequisite for the right administration of baptism.
The Helvetica then concludes with a warning against “all those who hamper the holy congregation and fellowship of the Church, and who introduce ungodly doctrines…. These are signs which in our time are displayed mostly by the Anabaptists…. They should be suppressed, so that they do not poison nor harm nor pollute the flock of God with their false doctrines…. The magistrate should punish and eradicate all blasphemy.”242
The development of the paidobaptist Calvin’s anti-Anabaptist views
When Calvin was suddenly converted to recognizing the Lordship of Christ — around the age of twenty-four — he saw this as his own yielding to the Triune God Who had previously sealed him at his infant baptism many years earlier in 1509. It was only in 1533 that he underwent the internal crisis of sudden conversion to Christ. That was followed, three years later, by the first edition of his great work: The Institutes of the Christian Religion.
Later, in 1557, Calvin first published the Preface to his Commentary on the Psalms. There, he furnished it with an account of some of the events leading up to his earlier “sudden conversion” (and then to his production of the Institutes) –about a quarter of a century earlier.
Already at the front of the first edition of his Institutes, in his 1536 Preface to Francis King of France, Calvin was defending himself against the Romish charge that the Calvinists were Anabaptists. Together with the Romanists, Calvin too opined that the “tumults and disputes” of Anabaptism “ought to be ascribed to the malice of Satan…by means of his Catabaptists and other portentous miscreants.”243
Accordingly, Calvin had written his Institutes of the Christian Religion. He had done so, precisely to persuade the Romish King Francis that the Calvinists stood with the Romanists against those Satanic Anabaptists.
Later yet, the Reformer wrote in the 1557 Preface to his Commentary on the Psalms244 that around 1533 “God by a sudden conversion subdued and brought my mind to a teachable frame.” At that time, however, “certain wicked and lying pamphlets were circulated” by the persecuting French Romanists. They cruelly assailed the true Protestants — only obliquely, yet very effectively.
They did so, explained Calvin, by “stating that none were being treated with such cruelty — except Anabaptists and seditious persons who by their perverse ravings and false opinions were overthrowing not only religion but also all civil order….
“It appeared to me, that unless I opposed them to the utmost of my ability — my silence could not be vindicated from the charge of cowardice and treachery. This was the consideration which induced me to publish my Institutes of the Christian Religion” — in 1536.
The mature Calvin’s commitment to infant faith before baptism
In his Institutes, Calvin repudiated245 the above-mentioned Romish allegations that the Biblical Protestants — those who witnessed for the purity of Christ’s Gospel — were “Anabaptists and seditious persons.” Indeed, the very actions of the revolutionary Anabaptists themselves — even toward the Calvinists — clearly indicated the untruthfulness of the above anti-Calvinistic allegations of the Romanists.
As Calvin next stated, also “the Anabaptists began to assail us.” Understandably so. For the Calvinists had opposed the revolutionism of the Anabaptists — including their revolutionary repudiation of infant baptism for covenant children. Clearly, the revolutionary Anabaptists had broken with the Historic Church in a very major way.
In his Institutes, Calvin therefore attacked246 the “madness” of these “certain giddy men…who while they make a great display of the superiority of the Spirit…, deride the simplicity of those who only delight in what they [the Anabaptists] call ‘the dead and deadly letter.’ But I wish they would tell me what ‘spirit’ it is whose ‘inspiration’ raises them to such a ‘sublime’ height that they dare despise the doctrine of Scripture!”
Against Scripture, “the Anabaptists…condemn all [oaths] without exception.”247 Indeed, added Calvin,248 “some Anabaptists in the present age mistake some indescribable sort of frenzied excess for the regeneration of the Spirit, holding that the children of God…need give themselves no anxiety about curbing the lust of the flesh….
“It would be incredible that the human mind could proceed to such insanity…. There would be no difference — then — between whoredom and chastity; [between] sincerity and craft…. They say the Spirit will not bid you do anything that is wrong –provided you sincerely and boldly leave yourself to His agency.
“Who is not amazed at such monstrous doctrines? And yet, this philosophy is popular with those who — blinded by insane lusts — have thrown off common sense. But what kind of Christ, pray, do they fabricate? What kind of Spirit do they belch forth?
“We [Protestant Christians] acknowledge one Christ, and His one Spirit — Whom the prophets foretold and the Gospel proclaims as actually manifested. But we hear nothing of this kind [from the Anabaptists], respecting Him. That Spirit is not the patron of murder, adultery, drunkenness, pride, contention, avarice and fraud — but the Author of love, chastity, sobriety, modesty, peace, moderation and truth.
“He is not a Spirit of giddiness, rushing rashly and precipitately, without regard to right and wrong — but full of wisdom and understanding, by which He can duly distinguish between justice and injustice. He instigates not to lawless and unrestrained licentiousness, but — discriminating between lawful and unlawful — teaches temperance and moderation.
“But why dwell longer in refuting that brutish frenzy [of the Anabaptists]? To Christians, the Spirit of the Lord is not a turbulent phantom which they themselves have produced by dreaming — or received ready-made by others. But they religiously seek the knowledge of Him — from Scripture.”
Calvin then noted249 that “certain frenzied spirits have raised and even now continue to raise great disturbance in the Church on account of paedobaptism…. The practice which we have of baptizing little children, is impugned and assailed by some malignant spirits….
“It will be very seasonable to…refute the lying objections which such seducers might make…. Should it [infant baptism] appear to have been devised merely by human rashness — let us abandon it…. But should it be proved to be by no means destitute of His sure authority — let us beware of discarding the sacred institutions of God, and thereby insulting their Author!”
Unitarian Anabaptist Servetus versus Trinitarian Reformer Calvin
Calvin the consistent Trinitarian defended his own baptismal views especially against those of the antitrinitarian and antipaidobaptistic heretic Servetus the Unitarian Anabaptist. Those defences are very instructive.
To Calvin, “Servetus was both an Anabaptist and the worst of heretics.”250 For Servetus and his followers repudiated not only the triune baptisms of covenant children — but even the Triune God Himself. Nevertheless, Calvin still gave even Servetus every opportunity to put his case.
As Calvin wrote in his Last Admonition of Westphal (in 1557): “I have not taught in word anything that I have not confirmed by act. For when Servetus was, by nefarious blasphemies, overthrowing whatever piety exists in the world — I, nevertheless, called him to discussion; and not only came prepared to give an account of my own doctrine, but chose rather to swallow the reproaches of that vilest of men, than furnish a bad example by enabling anyone afterwards to object that he was crushed without being heard.”
Explained Calvin:251 “In our day have arisen certain frantic men, such as Servetus and others who by new devices have thrown everything into confusion…. The name of Trinity was so much disliked, nay detested, by Servetus – – that he charged all whom he called ‘Trinitarians’ with being atheists.” For to Servetus, they were ‘polytheists’ and hence unbelievers in one God alone.
Continued Calvin regarding Servetus: “The sum of his speculations [about God] was that a threefold deity [alias a compound of three separate gods] is introduced wherever three Persons are said to exist in His essence…. He [Servetus] sometimes cloaks his absurdities in allegory, as when he says that the eternal Word of God was the Spirit of Christ with God…. He at last reduces the divinity of both to nothing; maintaining that…there is a part of God as well in the Son as in the Spirit — just as the same spirit substantially is a portion of God in us, and also in wood and stone.”
Of his several serious errors, it was the antitrinitarianism of the Anabaptist Servetus which was by far the worst. Explained Calvin:252 “Out of many, let the one example of Servetus suffice. For this man who was already puffed up with Portuguese pride and is now even more swollen with his own arrogance, made up his mind that the best way to make a name for himself was to overthrow all the principles of religion. Accordingly, not only does he repudiate as absurd all that was taught by the Fathers ever since the apostolic age itself and accepted by all believers all down the course of the ages — but he also criticizes it, and tears it to pieces with the cruelest of insults….
“He imagines that the Word of God [alias the Eternal Son] did not exist before Moses introduces God speaking in the creation of the world.” To Servetus, “when God put forth such great power as He did, it is as if He [the Word] actually began to exist only then — rather than that He [thus] gave evidence of His eternal being….. [To Servetus, Christ] is the ‘Son of God’ only by the right that He was conceived in the womb of the virgin…. Servetus collects many wagonloads of speculations, which are so meaningless that it is easy for any sensible man to see that only someone bewitched by a blind love of himself can be so foolish.”
Calvin further observed253 that “Servetus, not the least among the Anabaptists,” also wrongly assumes that “infants…are unable to believe.” To Servetus, for that reason, all infants still “lie under condemnation.”
Replied Calvin: “Seeing it is certain that [covenantal] infants are blessed by Him [Christ], it follows that they are freed from death…. Servetus cannot show that by divine appointment several years must elapse before the new spiritual life begins. Paul’s testimony is that…the children of believers are holy by supernatural grace….
“Servetus [himself] afterwards adds that no man becomes our brother, unless by the spirit of adoption — which is only conferred by the hearing of faith.” Calvin answered: “Who will presume from this, to give [or prescribe] the law to God — and say that He may not ingraft infants into Christ by some other secret method” than by hearing the Word physically through one’s ears?
Servetus, continued Calvin, “objects that Cornelius was baptized after receiving the Holy Spirit…. He objects that infants cannot be regarded as new men…. But what I have said again and again, I now repeat…. From non-age…God takes His own methods of regenerating.”
In a letter to Servetus, Calvin made an even more pertinent remark. “We say that Christ extends His hand to the children of holy parents as soon as they are born or conceived (‘simul ac nascitur‘) — in order to liberate them from the general guilt of sin.”254
We cannot here deal with Calvin’s minor role in the final trial of Servetus — before the then still non-Calvinistic magistrates of Geneva. Harvard’s Dr. G.H. Williams was sympathetic toward that heretic. Yet even Williams wrote255 “that Servetus the anti-Nicene anti-Chalcedonian Anabaptist was not a pacifist. He expressly recognized the state as ordained by Christ, and he legitimated as proper to a Christian magistrate the punishment of obstinate or blasphemous heretics by death….
“As the trial ran its course Servetus was variously –headstrong, truculent, and plaintive…. He demanded that Calvin be imprisoned likewise, with death to one or the other under the poena talionis…. Bullinger of Zurich…asked for the death penalty…. The condemnation of Servetus’ doctrine was unanimous…. The public prosecutor Claude Rigot — himself a Libertine! — accused Servetus of subverting the social order, of a dissolute life, and of affinity with Jews and Turks….
“The court found Servetus guilty…, and condemned him to be burned at the stake…. Calvin intervened to secure an execution more merciful than death by burning, but the judgment was not changed. It was Farel who conducted Servetus to the place of execution…, urging him to recant. Servetus rejected all entreaties…. In his extremity, he was explicit in his belief — still refusing to ascribe eternity to the person of Jesus Christ.”
Calvin’s wife and babies and his many contacts with Anabaptists
Some four years after first publishing the Institutes, Calvin married a converted Anabaptist widow in 1540. Of course, she herself was never rebaptized on becoming a Presbyterian. Indeed, Rev. and Mrs. Calvin’s subsequently- born eldest child was baptized in infancy. Their subsequent children were never baptized at all — because dying shortly after birth.256
These examples of the baptisms in Calvin’s own immediate family, are most instructive. Calvin was baptized by sprinkling — while yet an infant (in the Church of Rome) — and was never rebaptized. Nor was his wife — after having previously been affused as an adult in the Name of the Triune God by Anabaptists in the Netherlands.
Their eldest child, expected to live, was baptized at Geneva in the Swiss Presbyterian Church. Their other children, even at birth, were seen to be dying already. Expected next to be seen only in glory, they were deliberately left unbaptized. For baptism is only for the viable. Romans 6:1-5.
Calvin was baptized, as an infant, by Romanists; his wife, as an adult, by Anabaptists. He himself, when a Presbyterian, baptized one of their babies. The others died unbaptized. Not a single member of the entire family was ever rebaptized, and still less submersed, since becoming Protestants.
Why not? The Baptist Hulse has offered us an incorrect explanation:257 “Calvin did not have…much contact with the Anabaptists.”
Here, Hulse was oblivious to the fact that Servetus (with whom Calvin had much contact) was an Anabaptist. Indeed, Hulse also minimized the contact Calvin had with Pastor and Mrs. Jan Stordeur — especially when they were both still Anabaptists.
Moreover, blissfully, Hulse here seems to be unaware of Calvin’s role in protestantizing the Anabaptists Herman of Gerbehaye and Count John Bomeromenus. Further, Hulse here seems to be unfamiliar with Calvin’s several works about the Anabaptists and their doctrines. He seems unfamiliar also with Calvin’s references to Anabaptists like Muentzer and Quintin.
Yet Hulse did concede that Calvin indeed “married Idolette de Bure, widow of John Stordeur.” By ‘Idolette de Bure’ — Mrs. John Calvin’s name at the much earlier time of her birth — Hulse here means Idelette Stordeur. According to Hulse, the former Anabaptist Pastor “Stordeur had confessed ‘his crime’ of Anabaptism, and had gone over to the Reformed party.”
Continued Hulse: “We have only Calvin’s description to go by, but he mockingly caricatures [the Anabaptist] Belot as: ‘giving himself, with raised head and rolling eyes, the majestic aspect of a prophet.’ We can well understand how an unfortunate impression of Belot confirmed Calvin’s bad impression of Anabaptists, to whom he refers in his Institutes as ‘furious madmen.'”
Here, Hulse omitted to mention that Belot had ‘invaded’ Geneva precisely in order to distribute Anabaptist tracts advocating perfectionism and denouncing the civil oath — and that he had obnoxiously and falsely accused the humble Calvin of living in luxury. In his own customary way, Calvin had spoken politely to Belot. However, that Anabaptist then defiantly snubbed the great Reformer.258
Hulse also seemed oblivious to the fact that it was Calvin the soul-winner himself who won both Jan and Idolette Stordeur –from the errors of Anabaptism, and for the Protestant Reformation. With similar patience, Calvin lovingly won over also the Anabaptist Leaders Herman of Gerbehaye and Count John Bomeromenus.
For, writing to Farel on 6th February 1540, Calvin exulted259 that “the Lord from time to time bestows something which refreshes us. Herman, who disputed against us at Geneva, besought me to appoint a day for conferring with him. In regard to infant baptism, the human nature of Christ, and some other points, he now acknowledges that he had fallen grievously into error….
“This affords good hope…. [His companion] Count John has at length presented his boy, rather big for his age, to be baptized. I have long borne with his [the Count’s] weakness, since he told me that he thought he had good reasons for delaying. At length, he said that he no longer cared for those [the Anabaptists] whose perverseness could by no means be worn out or subdued.”
Then, on 27th February 1540, Calvin again wrote260 to Farel: “Herman has, if I am not mistaken, in good faith come to the fellowship of the Church…. He accepted instruction on the freedom of the will, the deity and humanity of Christ, rebirth, infant baptism, and other things. Only on the question of predestination did he hesitate…. He asked that this might not prevent his being received into the communion of the church with his children. I received him with fitting readiness…. I gave him my hand in the name of the church. Then I baptized his little daughter, who was over two years old…. He is a pious man. When I admonished him to lead others to the right way, he said: ‘That is the least that I can do — to exert myself no less in building up than I did before in tearing down!'”
Calvin’s opposition to the Anabaptists’ soul-sleep theory
Calvin’s Psychopannychia is especially important. He wrote it in 1534, and published it in 1542 — against the Anabaptist doctrine261 of soul-sleep. This is still taught today by certain neo-Anabaptist groups, such as the Seventh-day Adventists and the so-called Jehovah’s witnesses.
“These babblers have so actively exerted themselves,” wrote Calvin in the Forward to his book about the soul- sleep theory of the Anabaptists,262 “that they have already drawn thousands into their insanity. And even the error itself has, I see, been aggravated. At first, some only vaguely alleged that the soul sleeps — without defining what they wished to be understood by ‘sleep.’ Afterwards arose those psucho-ktonoi, who ‘murder souls’ — though without inflicting a wound. The error of the former, indeed, was not to be borne…. The madness of the latter ought to be severely repressed….
“The evil…makes far too much progress…, gaining ground daily and eating in like a cancer. Nor does it now appear for the first time. For we read that it originated with some Arabs, who maintained that ‘the soul dies with the body and that both rise again at the Day of Judgment.’ Eusebius: Church History VI:36[ff]….
“It lay smouldering for some ages, but has lately begun to send forth sparks — being stirred up by some dregs of Anabaptists. These, spread abroad far and wide, have kindled torches…. Would that they were soon extinguished by that voluntary rain which the Lord hath set apart for His inheritance! … Amid those tumults of vain opinions…, giddy spirits disturb the peace.”
Calvin next explained263 that he was “referring to the nefarious herd of Anabaptists, from whose fountain this noxious stream did…first flow…. It was certainly much more my intention to bring all back into the right way, than to provoke them…. Those err who, when the Word of God is brought to light which had been laid aside though perverse custom or sloth, charge it with novelty.” Others, however, “err in the opposite direction.” For such [others] are like reeds driven by the wind — nay, [such] nod and bend at the slightest breeze.”
Now the soulsleep-Anabaptists “with the greatest confidence, as if from a tripod, give forth decisions upon all things…. This is the head of the evil, while they proceed obstinately to defend whatever they have once rashly babbled…. What do they not pervert? What do they not adulterate and corrupt — that they may (I do not say bend but) distort it to their own view?”
Consequently: “Is this the way of learning — to roll the Scriptures over and over, and twist them about in search of something that may minister to our lusts or to force them into subjection to our senses? Nothing can be more absurd than this — O pernicious pest, O tares certainly sown by an enemy’s hand for the purpose of rendering the true seed useless! … It is certainly no trivial matter to see God’s light extinguished by the devil’s darkness.”
Anabaptist soul-sleep refuted in Calvin’s Psychopannychia
In the main text of his Psychopannychia itself, Calvin insisted264 that the [expanding] human “breath of life is distinguished from the [limited] souls of brutes…. Whence do the souls of…animals arise? God says, ‘Let the earth bring forth the living soul’ etc. [Genesis 1:24]. Let that which has sprung from earth, be resolved into earth! But the soul of man is not from the earth.” It come s directly from God. Genesis 2:7 cf. Ecclesiastes 12:7.
“God created man, and made him after His own image [Genesis 1:26]…. The image of God extended [and would keep on expanding]…. Man [is] inexterminable — because created in the image of God…. God created the great whales and every living soul (Genesis 1:21)…. A ‘living soul’ is repeatedly attributed to the brutes, because they too have their own life. But they live after one way; man after another…. The soul of man possesses reason, intellect, and will…. It subsists without the body, and does not perish like the brutes which have nothing more than their bodily senses….
“Man, if he had not fallen, would have been immortal…. The elect now are such as Adam was before his sin…. He was created inexterminable. So, now, have those become who have been renewed by Christ….
“As their most powerful battering ram, they [the soulsleep-Anabaptists] urge against us…the passage in…Ecclesiastes: ‘I [viz. Solomon] said in my heart, of the children of men, that God would prove them to shew that they were like the brutes; as man dies, so do they also die.’ But God then declares that “the spirit of the sons of Adam ascends upwards, and the spirit of beasts descends downwards.” Stated Calvin: “The wisdom of God explains — assuring us that the spirit of the sons of Adam ascends upwards!” Ecclesiastes 3:18-21 cf. 12:7; Second Peter 2:12; Revelation 6:9f & 20:12f.
Thus, the Anabaptists’ soul-sleep doctrine is thoroughly unbiblical. Concluded Calvin:265 “I again desire all my readers…to remember that the Catabaptists — whom, as embodying all kinds of abominations, it is sufficient to have named — are the authors of this famous dogma. Well may we suspect anything that proceeds from such a forge — a forge which has already fabricated, and is daily fabricating, so many monsters!”
Calvin’s anti-revolutionary 1544 Treatise Against the Anabaptists
Not just in the Church, but also in the Family and in the State these Anabaptists sowed revolution. Exclaimed Calvin:266 “Fanatics indeed delighting in unbridled license, insist and vociferate that…it is unworthy of us and far beneath our dignity to be occupied with those ‘profane’ and ‘impure’ cares which relate to matters ‘alien’ from a Christian man.”
In his 1544 Brief Instruction…Against the Errors of the Common Sect of the Anabaptists, Calvin gave a detailed discussion of the various heresies of Anabaptism. There, he formally refuted the communism of their 1527 Schleitheim Articles.
Of the Anabaptists, Calvin declared267 that “on several principal points of Christianity they agree closely with the papists, holding a view directly repugnant to all the holy Scripture — as with free will, predestination and the cause of our salvation. It is therefore with deception that they abuse this pretext, making the simple believe that they wish to be governed totally according to the Scripture. For they do not hold to it whatsoever, but only to the fantasy of their brain.”
The First Article of the Schleitheim Anabaptists declared that “baptism…ought to be administered to those who request it for themselves, not for infants as is done in the pope’s kingdom.” Here, Calvin responded:268 “Infant baptism is not a recent introduction, nor are its origins traceable to the papal church…. It has always been a holy ordinance observed in the Christian Church…. They [the Anabaptists] will not accept this similitude that we acknowledge between circumcision and baptism [Colossians 2:11f etc.]…. Nevertheless, God did not fail to command little children to be circumcised.” Genesis 17:7f.
The Second Article of the Schleitheim Anabaptists declared that “the ban ought to be used.” Here Calvin simply responded269 that even where the application of the ban might have lapsed, “we do not…persist in its necessity for communion. Nor do we hold that it is lawful for people [as the Anabaptists had done] to separate themselves from the Church” just because its discipline might be lax. First Corinthians 1:2 & 5:1f.
The Third Article of the Schleitheim Anabaptists declared that “the sword [is]…outside the perfection of Christ…. [There,] the ban is the heaviest penalty — without corporal death.” This Calvin refuted — by stressing the Biblical teaching regarding the holy office of the magistrate — and of capital punishment. Genesis 9:5f; Psalm 82:6f; John 10:34f; Romans 13:1-7.
“If this calling to fulfil the office of the sword or of temporal power is repugnant to the vocation of believers” — observed Calvin270 — “then how is it that…especially good kings like David…and Josiah, and even a few prophets like Daniel, made use of it?” Anabaptists are not like good kings!
Yet, spurning these Old Testament examples, the ‘New Testamentistic’ Anabaptists had a quick response. It was this: ‘Our Lord Jesus did not order that the woman who was caught in adultery be stoned to death, as the law of God requires.’271 Lawless Anabaptists ungraciously rejected God’s Law.
So Calvin then responded:272 “They say that the ban has replaced the temporal sword in the Christian Church — so much so that in place of punishing a crime by death as was formerly done, we must punish the delinquent by depriving him of the fellowship of believers…. I ask them how do they excuse Jesus Christ for what He has done? For He did not observe their rule. For He neither condemned the woman by banishing her from the fellowship of believers, nor condemned her to death [John 8:3-11]….
“These poor fools in this passage follow that exposition with which the papal priests feather their nests. For since marriage was prohibited them, they wanted as a recompense a license to commit adultery. Thus they borrowed the wives of their neighbours. Now, in order for it not to appear that adultery was such a great sin — they said that we should be under the ‘law of grace’ with respect to it. And, hardly recognizing the grace of Jesus Christ in anything — they said adulterers should go unpunished…..
“Let us understand the office of our Lord Jesus…. His office is to forgive sins…. To mete out corporal punishments, is not His task…. He leaves these to those to whose authority it belongs, and to whom the charge has been commissioned – -according to what He says in another text: ‘Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s!'”
Magistrates are also to protect against the theft of private property (the very existence of which the Anabaptists deprecate). Observed Calvin: “The miserable fanatics have no other goal than to put everything into disorder — to undo the commonwealth of property in such a way that whoever has the power to take anything, is welcome to it….
“I thus put in opposition to the Anabaptists — Moses, David, Hezekiah, Josiah, Joseph, Daniel, and all the kings and judges of Israel. See if they [the Anabaptists] can support their cause by asking whether these kings were banished from the Kingdom of God — for having had charge of the sword in this world…. Isaiah [60:3] certainly contradicts them — promising that earthly kings will serve in the heavenly and spiritual Kingdom of Jesus Christ. Saint Paul also says the same (First Timothy 2:2)…. He shows that the chief end of magistrates is…to ensure that God is served and honoured in their countries, and that each person leads a good and honest life.
“Thus we see with respect to this matter how false and perverse the Anabaptists’ allegations are, by which they condemn the vocation of magistrates which God has so highly approved…. For they make war against God, in wanting to revile what He has exalted. And we could not imagine a better way of trying to ruin the world and ushering in brigandage everywhere, than in seeking to abolish the civil government or the power of the sword –which indeed is thrown down, if it is not lawful for a Christian man to exercise it.”
The Anabaptist doctrine of ‘flesh’ refuted by Calvin
Coming now to the Anabaptist doctrine of the flesh, Calvin has declared:273 “It is not good for me to close my eyes to these two gravely persistent and spiteful views, since they are so common among them. What some among them have held concerning property in common, or that a man may have several wives, even compelling some to take more who were content with one, and a thousand other absurdities, I refrain from mentioning. For even they, being confounded in their madness, have for the most part retracted these….
“Concerning the body or the human nature of our Lord Jesus Christ, we must note that there were two ancient heresies that conform to or approach what they [the Anabaptists] say about it. For the Manichees fantasized that Jesus Christ brought a heavenly body into the womb of the virgin His mother. The Marcionites [too] had a…delusion that He did not have a truly substantial body….
“The end of both [heresies] has been to deny that Jesus Christ was descended from human seed…. The Anabaptists in this way only stir up errors that the devil has kept alive for one thousand four hundred years [since Marcion’s till Calvin’s time] and that were refuted by the Word of God…. From the beginning of the world, [however,] our Lord promised Eve that her Seed would be victorious over the serpent. Genesis 3:15!” Thus: Christ is the woman’s Seed — and the woman’s Seed.
Calvin refutes the Anabaptist denial of postmortal consciousness
Continued Calvin:274 “The second issue…is that the Anabaptists in general all hold that souls, being departed from the body, cease to live until the day of the resurrection…. This was the error of the Sadducees, which was expressly reproved in Scripture [Acts 23:6f]…. Let the Anabaptists [then] hold to the quarrel of the Sadducees their predecessors – – and maintain it against Saint Paul” and even against Jesus Himself! Luke 16:23-28 & 20:27f.
“We have reproved the error of the Anabaptists, who make believe that souls sleep as if dead and without any consciousness…. The unfaithful person’s soul, [however] — being departed from the body — is like a malefactor who has already received his sentence of condemnation and now awaits only the hour when he shall be led to the gallows for execution…. They are in extreme agony, awaiting the execution of their sentence….
“Faithful souls, after death, we can say…are at rest. Not because they are in a perfect state of blessedness or glory, but because they are content with the joy and consolation that God grants them while awaiting the day of their final redemption…. The Anabaptist’s delusion concerning the sleep of souls was never advocated by anyone, save by a heretical sect called the ‘Arabs’ — and by Pope John of Rome some [two] hundred and thirty years ago.”
Pseudo-glossolaly of the Anabaptists refuted by Calvin
John Calvin also seemed to reprehend the pseudo-pentecostalism of the Anabaptists. Declared the great Reformer: “I should warn all the truly faithful, of their malice. For the Anabaptists cannot make their cause appear good, except by muddling everything to the extent that their entire teaching is a confused mess. For like a body without a head or arms or feet, they often use forms of speech that are absurd and outlandish.”275
In 1545, Calvin published his Against the Fantastic and Furious Sect of the Libertines Who Are Called ‘Spirituals.’ Here, as its modern editor Rev. Prof. Dr. Farley has pointed out,276 one encounters “the concept of ‘spiritual marriage’ also observed among other groups.” Indeed, one also encounters “a radical application of the Anabaptist principle of the ‘community of goods’…associated with the excesses of the Anabaptist movement at St. Gall in Switzerland…. Polygamy was practiced by a variety of groups.”
One such Libertine Anabaptist group, the Quintinists, seem to have been pseudo-pentecostalistic. For, explained Calvin, like “wandering beggars, as they are called, they possess a unique jargon which is only understood by their brotherhood…. The Quintinists possess an unbelievable tongue in which they banter, to the extent that one understands it about as little as a bird’s song.” On the pseudo-patristic and truly-pagan roots of such phenomena, see Francis Nigel Lee’s Pentecostalism: New Outpouring or Ancient Heresy?
Calvin called these followers of the libertine Anabaptist Quintin, “loud-mouthed boasters” — like the “scum and froth” mentioned in Second Peter 2:18 and Jude 16. “They babble,” observed Calvin of these Quintinists.
“I remember once in a large group how Quintin…told me that I found his ideas unacceptable — owing to a lack of understanding. To which I replied that I understood better than he — since he knew nothing that he was saying, and I at least recognized that he wanted to seduce the world by means of absurd and dangerous follies….
“God created the tongue for the purpose of expressing thought, in order that we might be able to communicate with each other. Consequently, it is a perversion of God’s order to pommel the air with a confused sound that cannot be understood…. The Scriptures ought to be our guide with respect to how God’s mysteries are handled. Therefore let us adopt the language that it uses, without being lightheaded…. He [the Lord] uses toward us an unrefined way of speaking, in order to be understood.
“Whoever therefore reverses this order — only succeeds in burying God’s truth…. We must labour to unravel their [Quintinistic] obscurities, in order to drag them if necessary by force into the light — so that their abominations, which they make a point of hiding, might be known to all the world.
“Similarly, every Christian must be warned that when he hears them garbling as they do — he must cut them off immediately at the spigot and say to them: ‘Either speak the language that the Lord has taught us and which He uses in His Scriptures — or go speak to the rocks and trees!'”
Yet, added Calvin, it is before men that Quintinists still “speak with a doubtful tongue — a practice that even pagans condemned.” Indeed, “Jesus Christ…did not..babble unintelligently…after the example of their predecessors the Priscillianists” alias the pentecostalistic Montanists.
As to the Anabaptist Quintinists, continued Calvin, “they pursue a double purpose” (sic). They say “one should not be content with what is written or acquiesce in it at all — but one should speculate higher, and look for new revelations…. This sect is certainly different from the papists’ — inasmuch as it is a hundred times worse and more pernicious.” Anabaptists, said Calvin, are a hundred times worse than Papists!
Calvin continued: “We must note to what end our Lord has promised us His Spirit. Now He did not promise the Spirit for the purpose of forsaking Scripture, so that we might be led by Him and stroll amid the clouds [away from Scripture] — but in order to gain its true meaning and thus be satisfied…. After His resurrection, when He opened the understanding of His two disciples (Luke 24:27-32), it was not in order to inspire them with strange subjects not found in Scripture — but in order to help them understand Scripture itself….
“Spirit and Scripture are one and the same…. We choke out the light of God’s Spirit, if we cut ourselves off from His Word…. Preaching and Scripture are the true instruments of God’s Spirit. Therefore, let us consider anyone a devil who wants to lead us astray from it, whether directly or indirectly — and let us flee from them as we would a poison!”277
Calvin refutes the denial of the soul’s immortality
It is clear that these libertines also denied the immortality of the human soul. Declared Calvin:278 “Let us listen to their grand arguments — ‘there is only one God who [truly] ex-ists.’ I admit that,” conceded Calvin. “But we do not cease to sub-sist in Him…. He created us…and upholds us by His power.” Genesis 1:26f; 2:7; 5:1-5; Psalm 8:1-8; Ecclesiastes 3:21 & 12:7.
“Saint Paul, they argue, calls God alone immortal (First Timothy 6:16). I certainly agree with Saint Paul. But he means that God alone has this privilege in Himself and by virtue of His own nature, so much so that He is the Source of immortality. But what God has in Himself, He has communicated to our souls by His grace when He formed them in His image> [James 3:9]….
“Besides, the teaching of Scripture is simple and clear…. God has made our souls after His likeness…. They so indwell our bodies that when they depart from them, each goes to the place which it has prepared for itself [by virtue of how it lived while yet] in this world — some to consolation and rest; others to the anguish and torments of hell…. I have dealt with that so amply [in my tract] Against the Anabaptists, that it would be superfluous to mention it any further.” See too: Isaiah 66:24; Daniel 12:2; Second Corinthians 5:1-8; Philippians 1:23; First Peter 3:19f; Jude 6f; Revelation 14:11-13; 20:10-15; 22:4-5.
Anabaptism’s sexual immorality refuted by Calvin
On the sexual practices of the Anabaptists, Calvin has stated279 that “they permit a man and a woman to unite with each other in whatever form seems good to them. They call it a ‘spiritual marriage’ when anyone is content with the other. Hence, if a man takes no pleasure in his wife — in their view he may provide for himself elsewhere, to solve his problem.
“At the same time, lest the woman remain destitute, they also grant her permission to meet her need and to accept it wherever it is offered to her…. If the day after tomorrow, should a bawd become angry with her pimp, she can make an exchange –provided he can offer her someone new who pleases her better. Similarly, a philander[er] can flirt about in order to acquire new ‘spiritual wives’ and take them as he finds them….
“What order, loyalty, integrity or assurance will remain if marriage — which is the holiest covenant, and the one which ought to be kept the most faithfully — can thus be repudiated? For marriage, I say — as God instituted…and blessed it — transcends all natural unions….
“The Scripture says that ‘the two shall become one flesh!’ It does not say ‘three’ or ‘four’ but only ‘two’ — adding that ‘man shall leave his father and mother and cleave unto his wife’ (Genesis 2:24 & Mark 10:7). As if our Lord gave His Law in vain, when He forbids the coveting of another’s wife (Exodus 20:14-17)! As if He had condemned without purpose adulterers and lechers! As if Saint Paul had spoken in vain, when he exhorts every man to be content with his wife (First Corinthians 7:2)!
“For this reason…I have shown above that this wretched sect has a license to commit every form of brigandage and murder against the body — to steal, pillage and plunder the goods of others as being so much prey. We also see at the present how it constitutes an opening for defiling every bed and home, exterminating every form of chastity in the world….
“These wretches profane marriage, mingling men and women like dumb animals according to the lusts that drive them…. Under the name of ‘spiritual marriage’ they disguise this churlish corruption, labelling as a ‘spiritual movement’ that wild impetuosity that goads and inflames a man like a bull and a woman like a dog [or bitch] in heat.
Calvin refutes Anabaptism’s community of goods
“Now in order not to leave any order among men,” explained Calvin of the Anabaptists, “they create a similar confusion with respect to goods — saying that ‘the communion of the saints’ exists where no one possesses anything as his own but each may take whatever he is able to get. At the beginning, there were indeed a few giddy Anabaptists who spoke like this. But because such an absurdity was repudiated by everyone as repugnant to human intelligence…, even the[ir] first authors became ashamed of it.”
However, neither the Anabaptists Sattler nor Stadler mitigated their views.280 The Hutterites too did not soften their communism. Nor did the Muensterite Anabaptists; nor the Davidjorists; nor the Batenburgers.
“They also cite what is written in Acts 4:32ff,” wrote Calvin281 of the Anabaptists. “They are doubly mistaken. First of all, Saint Luke does not say that everyone sold [his possessions]. And as for those who did sell, he does not say that they sold everything without leaving themselves something….
“Saint Luke…gave us two examples [Barnabas and Ananias], of whom one was even a hypocrite…. Are we to believe that among the six thousand believers or thereabouts who were present then, that all who had possessions sold them — and that Saint Luke only produced one [Barnabas] as an example? In the second place, I reply that even the believers who sold their possessions at that time in order to aid their poor brothers, did not so effectively sell everything as to have had nothing left. For each did not cease owning his house, or feeding his family, or using the goods which God had given him.
“In any case, it is said afterward that Tabitha…gave great alms (Acts 9:36). Whence could she have made them [and only now given those goods] — if she [already previously] had given up all her goods? It is said that Saint Peter lodged at the home of Simon the tanner (Acts 10:6). This could not have been possible, if Simon had not [then still] had a house and a family. The same holds true for what is said next of Mary [Acts 12:12]. The same for Lydia (Acts 16:15)…. The apostle…returned to her house….
“The Christians…did not practise a confused ‘community of goods’ among themselves…. It would be a superfluous matter…to collect all the specific examples in order to show that when the believers brought their goods together, they did not mix into a pile [like the Muensterite and Hutterite Anabaptists] what they had. But, each retaining what was his in his own hands — they distributed them [only] according as demand necessitated….
“There is Philemon…. He continues to possess not only his estate and his household goods, but also his serfs and servants –who in those days were like slaves. For they were not servants whom one hires. But one owned them in order to be served by them all one’s life — or in order to sell them and transfer them….
“Paul does not require him to cast aside whatsoever he has. But he begs him to receive [back] Onesimus his serf, who had fled from him. If a man [Philemon] who is like a mirror of perfection for others, enjoyed his possessions in good conscience thus, and is approved by Saint Paul for doing so — who will dare impose a completely different law on Christians?” Only the mediaeval monks; or their Anabaptist offspring; or their socialistic stepchildren! See Francis Nigel Lee: Biblical Private Property Versus Socialistic Common Property.
Calvin then concluded:282 “Thus let us learn to participate with decency and order in the fellowship which believers exercise concerning goods, and consequently to reject and hold in abomination this diabolical delusion of wanting to heap all goods into a pile in order to introduce not only a labyrinth into the world but a terrible brigandage…. As for Saint Luke’s passages cited above, it appears that they no more serve these fantastics than they do monks who want to feather their own nests in order to found [or otherwise to firm up] their lovely communities of swine, such as we find in their cloisters…. The doctrine in itself is wicked, and damnable.”
Anabaptism’s superspiritualistic ecstasy refuted by Calvin
The genius of Geneva then took one last swing283 — this time at the pseudo-pentecostalistic Anabaptist Pocquet. Wrote Calvin: “I have decided to inform the reader more amply, by inserting here the ramblings of Monsieur Anthony Pocquet…. He begins to ‘froth at the mouth’ — as Saint Jude says (verse 16)…. On the surface, Monsieur Anthony Pocquet has become a demi-angel — hearing him speak in such a lofty manner, as if he no longer had sensations of anything except heavenly matters….
“He pretends to save the world from the simple and pure teaching of the Scripture. As if it were the wisdom of Christians to search after new revelations! And he now calls it ‘a double [portion of] spirit’ — to pass beyond the contents of Scripture!
“Still, whenever it suits them, they interpret Scripture in a totally different sense…. What he calls ‘the natural law of growing and multiplying’; and what he adds about our having to return to that, in order to experience original innocence –follows from their [Anabaptist] doctrine of ‘spiritual’ marriage.I.e., that each should unite with the other — wherever it suits….
“These serpents twist the terms…. ‘Spirit’ to them is not derived from the grace of regeneration. Rather is it the fantasy that God is in us, and that we must permit Him to do whatever ‘He’ wants. We also see what they mean by the life which we have in Jesus Christ. I.e., that everything is lawful — and there is no evil, provided we are not conscious of it….
Monsieur Anthony Pocquet…is a wolf in sheepskin…. We should not allow this wicked man to bring such shame on a Christian people…. He says…we are under the law of ‘love’…. I ask him, whether Moses and the judges did not hear the people’s disputes and decide them? What sort of a scatterbrained man is it who plunges across [the] country on the basis of badly-founded speculations? … His daydreams are so silly and absurd, that among sane intelligent people it is enough to have pointed them out — so that one can be on guard….
“He says that medicine came into the world through the suggestion of the evil spirit. I say…that it came from God, inasmuch as it is a knowledge of carefully using the gifts of creation which He gives us…. He [Pocquet] says we are not obligated to do God’s Commandments…. This loathsome teaching…is not only repugnant to God, but so full of detestable errors as to make one’s hair stand on end!”
Baptistic misallegations that Calvin favoured submersionism
Certain Baptistic persons delight in quoting from Calvin’s Commentary on John’s Gospel (3:22) that “John and Christ administered baptism by total immersion….” Yet they neglect to add that such ‘im-mersion’ (or ‘putting into‘) is not the same as sub-mersion (or ‘putting under‘). For all Presbyterian Ministers ‘im-merse’ (but never sub-merse) their fingers in baptismal water, before sprinkling babies therewith.
Such Baptistic persons also neglect to complete Calvin’s above sentence. For it went on to say that “we must not worry overmuch about the outward rite, so long as it accords with the spiritual truth and the Lord’s institution and rule.” Indeed, three paragraphs later, Calvin added: “The Law appointed various baptisms for the Jews…. A new rite of purifying is introduced by Christ and by John” the baptizer, by way of sprinkling. John 3:25 and 1:25-33 cf. First Kings 18:33f and Matthew 11:12f & 17:10f.
Interestingly, Calvin made it clear that such baptismal purifyings practised by the Israelites — were always accomplished by pouring or sprinkling! Thus, commenting on Hebrews 9:10-20, he explained: “When there was a sprinkling of hyssop and scarlet wool, there is no doubt that this represented the mystical sprinkling that comes by the Spirit…. Christ uses His Spirit in place of sprinkling, to wash us with His blood.” Indeed, even in John chapters 1 to 4, we see the same teaching in respect of water baptism.
Thus, in his comment on the words of John the baptizer in John 1:31f (‘I came baptizing with water’ and ‘I have beheld the Spirit descending as a dove’), Calvin had said just previously that Christ had been “consecrated with a solemn ceremony…. When He wished to make Himself known to the world, He began with baptism. He therefore received the Spirit on that occasion — not so much for Himself, as for His people. And the Spirit descended.”
Commenting on John 3:5, Calvin added: “We sometimes hear of Christ baptizing with the Holy Spirit…. It is as if Christ had said that no one is a son of God, until he has been renewed by water — and that this water is the Spirit Who cleanses us anew and Who, by His power poured upon us, imparts to us the energy of the heavenly life.” Again, commenting on John 3:34, Calvin declared “that God the inexhaustible Fount of all good does not at all exhaust Himself when He bountifully and plentifully pours out His gifts on men.”
Also on John 4:2, Calvin commented: “Not only does Christ baptize inwardly by His Spirit, but the very [baptismal] symbol that we receive from a mortal man should be regarded in the same light as if Christ Himself had put forth His hand and stretched it out to us…. This suffices to refute the Anabaptists, who maintain that baptism is vitiated by the vice of the Minister, and disturb the Church with this madness!” Compare too Calvin’s comments on Acts 1:5 and 2:17,33,38f (for which see later below).
Some Baptistic persons also delight in quoting Calvin’s Institutes IV:15:19. There, they tell us, Calvin declared: “It is evident that the term ‘baptize’ means to immerse, and that this was the form used by the ancient Church.”
Such persons here again confuse immersion with submersion, and are quoting only the last part of Calvin’s sentence. In its entirety, it states: “Whether the person baptized is to be wholly immersed and that whether once or thrice, or whether he is only to be sprinkled with water, is not of the least consequence. Churches should be at liberty to adopt either, according to the diversity of climate, although it is evident that the term baptize means to immerse and that this was the form used by the ancient Church.”
Here, the word ‘ancient’ is not the same as the word ‘apostolic.’ Baptistic persons omit to add that (in the original French) Calvin here actually wrote “that the custom of thus entirely immersing, was anciently observed in the Church.” Our English word ‘anciently’ here translates the original French word anciennement. That latter word in this context hardly means specifically ‘during apostolic times’ — but certainly refers particularly to the mid-patristic period, especially after the rise of the heresy of baptismal regenerationism.
Regarding baptism during the apostolic period, Calvin has commented at Acts 8:37f on Philip’s baptism of the eunuch: “Fanatics stupidly and wrongly attack infant baptism…. The children of the godly are born sons of the Church, and are numbered among the members of Christ from birth….Christ initiates infants to Himself…. The practice that has now become dominant, is for the Minister only to sprinkle the body or the head.”
Indeed, Rev. Prof. Dr. John Calvin also wrote: “We maintain…that in baptism…the forehead is sprinkled with water.”284 Further: “The meaning of baptism…is set before us, when the water is poured upon the head…. The blood of Christ…was shed, in order to wipe away all our stains…. We receive the fruit of this cleansing, when the Holy Spirit sprinkles our consciences with that sacred blood. Of this, we have a seal in the Sacrament.”
Finally, the above applies also to the babies of believers. Concluded Calvin: “We baptize infants…. God, under the Old Testament, in order to show Himself [to be] the Father of infants, was pleased that the promise of salvation should be engraven on their bodies by a visible sign.
“It were unbecoming to suppose that, since the advent of Christ, believers [now] have less to confirm them…. The force and…the substance of Baptism are common to children. To deny them the sign, which is inferior to the substance, were manifest injustice…. Children are to be baptized…. They are heirs of the blessing promised to the seed of believers.”285
Calvin refuted the Anabaptists from Matthew 19:14
Declared Jesus of tiny covenanters: “Permit the little children, and do not hinder them (mee kooluete auta) to come to Me! For the Kingdom of heaven is of such as these.” Matthew 19:14.
Some Anabaptists believed baptism was not essential for salvation, but others believed the opposite. In chiding the latter kind of Anabaptist heretics, Calvin observed286 that “baptism being, as they hold, necessary to salvation — they, in denying it to infants, consign them all to eternal death. Let them now consider what kind of agreement they have with the words of Christ, Who says [in respect of covenant infants or paidia] that ‘of such is the Kingdom of heaven!’ Matthew 19:14.” Compare specifically the word “infants” in the parallel passage Luke 18:15f.
The Anabaptists often ignored this text until they thought they had disproved both infant regeneration and infant baptism. Explained Calvin: “In regard to the meaning of this passage, they will [or want to] extract nothing from it — until they have previously overthrown the doctrine which we have already established concerning the regeneration of infants.”
On this same passage, Calvin further commented: “The Anabaptists….refuse baptism to infants, because [they say] infants are incapable of understanding that mystery which is denoted by it. We, on the other hand, maintain that since baptism is the pledge and figure of the forgiveness of sins and likewise of adoption by God, it ought not to be denied to infants whom God adopts and washes with the blood of His Son….
“Infants are renewed by the Spirit of God, according to the capacity[!] of their age — till that power which was concealed within them, grows by degrees and becomes fully manifest at the proper time…. Hence it follows that they were renewed by the Spirit, [un]to the hope of salvation.
“In short, by embracing them, He [Jesus] testified that they were [already] reckoned by Christ among His flock. And if they were partakers[!] of the spiritual gifts which are represented by baptism — it is unreasonable that they should be deprived of the outward sign” of holy baptism.
The Great Commission implies faith within covenant infants
In Christ’s Great Commission, Jesus Himself commands His ambassadors to go and preach — keeruxate — and then to baptize those who would believe that preached Gospel. Mark 16:15f. For He enjoins those evangelizing ambassadors — His Ministers of the Word and Sacraments — to “go disciple all nations”: matheeteusate panta ta ethnee. Matthew 28:19.
This obviously means the people in those nations — including that large percentage of such people which constitutes the babies and the children in all those nations. Christ’s preaching ambassadors — His Ministers of the Word and Sacraments — are thus to keep on baptizing them: baptizontes autous. Then His ambassadors are further to “keep on teaching them” —didaskontes autous.
“The meaning amounts to this,” Calvin commented,287 “that by proclaiming the Gospel everywhere — they should bring all nations to the obedience of the faith and…seal and ratify their doctrine by the sign of the Gospel…. It is said in Mark: ‘he that shall believe and be baptized, shall be saved.’
“By these words, Christ…by a sacred bond…connects baptism with doctrine…. But as Christ enjoins them to teach before baptizing, and desires that none but believers shall be admitted to baptism, it would appear that baptism is not properly administered unless when it is preceded by faith.
“On this pretext, the Anabaptists have stormed greatly against infant baptism. But the reply is not difficult…. Christ orders them [His Ministers] to convey to all nations the message of eternal salvation — and confirms it by adding the seal of baptism….
“On what condition does God adopt as children those who formerly were aliens? It cannot indeed be denied that, when He has once received them [the aliens] into His favour, He continues to bestow it on their children and their children’s children…. Therefore, that promise which was formerly given to the Jews, must now be in force towards the Gentiles — ‘I will be your God, and the God of your seed after you!’ Genesis 17:7.”
Calvin’s 1542 Form[ula] of Administering Baptism
That Calvin regarded the above-mentioned ‘Great Commission’ of Matthew 28:19 as in fact requiring the baptism especially of the infants of Christ-professing parents, is clear from his 1542 Form[ula] of Administering Baptism. That commences with the following very important statements:
“It is particularly necessary to know that infants are to be brought for baptism either on the Lord’s Day…or at public service…under the eyes of the whole Congregation…. Our gracious God, not contenting Himself with having adopt-ed us for His children and received us into the communion of His Church, has been pleased to extend His goodness still farther to us by promising to be our God and the God of our seed to a thousand generations….
“He was pleased from the first (Genesis 17:12) that in His Church children should receive the sign of circumcision — by which He then represented all that is now signified to us by baptism…. He adopted them for His children…. St. Paul says (First Corinthians 7:14) that God sanctifies them from their mothers’ womb, to distinguish them from the children of pagans and unbelievers….
“Our Lord Jesus Christ received the children that were brought to Him, as is written in the nineteenth chapter of St. Matthew…. By declaring that the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to them…He clearly teaches that we must not exclude them from His Church….
After the promise [has been] made to the child…, the Minister baptizes it, saying: ‘I baptize thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit’ [cf. Matthew 28:19]. The whole is said aloud, and in the common tongue, in order that the people who are present may be witnesses to what is done…, and in order that all may be edified by recognizing and calling to mind the fruit and use of their own Baptism.”
By the latter, Calvin meant part of what is involved in and required by the life-long task of “the needful…duty of improving our baptism.” See the Westminster Larger Catechism, Q. & A. 167p.
“Be baptized [Acts 2:38f]: for the promise is to you and to your children!“
On Ascension Day, Jesus reminded His Apostles that John had truly “baptized [them] with water.” Acts 1:5f. Yet He then added that they would also soon “be baptized with the Holy Spirit” — namely on Pentecost Sunday, and indeed by Jesus Himself. Acts 2:32f cf. Mark 1:8. This would be accomplished not by a submersion under but by an outpouring of the Spirit. Indeed, He was shed forth from on high, and then came like raindrops and sat upon both the disciples and their sucklings. Acts 2:3-33 cf. Joel 2:16-29.
Now this ‘baptismal’ outpouring of God’s Spirit on Pentecost Sunday attracted the attention even of many unconverted bystanders. Peter accordingly then preached the Gospel to those witnesses. Thus he told them: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you — in the Name of Jesus Christ…. For the promise is to you, and to your children.” Consequently, “they that gladly received his word, were baptized.” Acts 2:38-41.
Note the order: first, repent; then, be baptized! Thus, both adults and their babies should start repenting before they get baptized. Repentance commences only incipiently –and thereafter needs to increase and continue recurring also post-baptismally and even life-long. Yet the beginnings of repentance should first be there, even in babies — before any baptism is administered (either to adults or to infants). For faith can and should be possessed, even if not able to be professed, also by babies.
He who has repented and who believes in Jesus, even before he so professes, is obviously already regenerate — prior to baptism. Regeneration should thus precede baptism. It was only after Peter’s listeners had received his preached word — by believing it — that they were then baptized.
Rev. Prof. Dr. John Calvin’s baptismal comments on Acts 2:38f
Commenting here, Calvin insisted288 that “we can be reconciled to God only by the intercession of the death of Christ…. Our sins cannot be purged and done away — other than by His blood.
“Peter recalls us to Him — by Name! He puts baptism…as the seal — by which the promise of grace is fulfilled…. Not that those who desire to be accounted faithful, and have their place already with the Church, are to make a beginning in this [baptism] — but that they are to continue to proceedin it [their prebaptismal faithfulness]….
“Baptism…is nothing else but a sealing of the blessings which we have through Christ…. Baptism is a help for confirming and increasing our faith…. The promise was made first to the Jews, and then to their children, and finally…to the Gentiles…. God reckons the children –with the fathers —in the grace of adoption.
“This passage therefore sufficiently refutes the Anabaptists, who deny baptism to the children of the faithful while they are still infants — as though they were not Members of the Church…. Peter spoke thus, because God adopted one nation as peculiarly His Own. And circumcision bears evidence that the right of adoption was shared even by infants….
“God made a covenant with Abraham when he [Isaac] was not yet born — because he [Isaac] was the seed of Abraham…. So Peter teaches that all the children of the Jews are covered by the same covenant — because the word continues in force which says ‘I will be the God of your seed!'” Compare Genesis 17:7.
Were also the infants of believing Samaritan adults baptized?
Soon Christian “men and women” (some doubtless with babies) were driven into Samaria. Acts 8:1-3. Philip then preached the Gospel to the Samaritans. “When they believed,” many “were baptized — both male and female.” Acts 8:12f. There, Philip baptized also the Ethiopian. Thus did Christ “sprinkle many nations” and “see His seed.” Isaiah 52:15 to 53:10 cf. Acts 8:27-36.
Calvin commented here:289 “The fact that baptism came after faith, is in accordance with Christ’s institution with regard to strangers. Mark 16:16. For they ought to have been ingrafted into the body of the Church by faith — before receiving the sign.
“Anabaptists are being quite absurd, in trying to prove from these verses — that infants must be kept back from baptism. Men and women could not have been baptized — without making open confession of their faith. But they were admitted to baptism on this condition — that their families wereconsecrated to God at the same time. For the covenant is in these terms, ‘I will be your God, and the God of your seed.’ Genesis 17:7.”
Cornelius and his family trusted God long before their baptism
Cornelius of Caesarea — and apparently his family too — was already “regenerated” prior to Acts 10:2. This was long before they all received baptism at the command of Peter, in Acts 10:48.
Long before Peter arrived on the scene in Caesarea, that Gentile officer Cornelius was already “a devout man, and one who feared God with all his house…. He prayed to God always.” Indeed, also his own soldiers called him “a just man and one that fears God.” Acts 10:2,22,31,35,45,47,48.
Also Peter perceived that Cornelius — and apparently his whole household too — had for quite some time continually been “fearing Him and working righteousness.” Hence, Peter finally concluded: “‘Can anyone forbid water, that these [members of Cornelius’s whole household] should not be baptized?’ So he commanded them to be baptized in the Name of the Lord.”
Commenting on this,290 Calvin stated: “Since baptism is an appendage to the spiritual grace — a man who receives the Spirit is at the same time fit to receive baptism…. The inference that ignorant men draw from this — that infants must be debarred from baptism — is absolutely groundless….Believers’ children, who are born within the Church, are members of the family of the Kingdom of God — from the womb….
“God has adopted the children of believers before they are born…. This testimony…powerfully refutes the superstition of the Papists, who bind the grace of the Spirit to the signs…. Luke narrates that men who had not yet been initiated in baptism — were already endowed with the Holy Spirit [Acts 10:1f,22,35]. He is showing that the Spirit is not shut up in baptism.”
Peter soon gave a report to the other Apostles — about this pre-baptismal faith of Cornelius’s household. Acts 11:1f. Explained Peter: “He had seen an angel in his house, who stood and said to him…’All your household shall be saved!’ … John indeed baptized with water…. Inasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as He did to us who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ — who was I, that I could withstand God [by withholding baptism from them]?” Acts 11:13-16f.
Here, Calvin again castigated the Anabaptists: “Those who are opposing infant baptism, are waging war on God…. Those men are cruelly rejecting from the Church those whom the promise of God adopts into the Church…. Those whom God honours with the name of ‘sons’ — they deprive of the external symbol” of infant baptism!
The actions of Paul in Antioch and Philippi condemn the Anabaptists
Now Paul told the Jews in the synagogue of Pisidian Antioch that God had fulfilled the promises made to the fathers. He had now fulfilled those same promises to their children. For God had raised up Jesus from the dead. Acts 13:14,32f.
Calvin here commented:291 “It is certain that Paul is here speaking about the natural children who derived their origin from the holy fathers…. Certain fanatics [the Anabaptists], who make allegories out of everything, imagine that no account is to be taken here of descendants — but only of ‘faith.’ But with a fiction like that — they are making meaningless the sacred covenant of God, which says: ‘I will be your God, and the God of your seed!’ Genesis 17:7….
“Those who are born children of Abraham according to the flesh, are also to be regarded as God’s spiritual children — unless they cut themselves off by their own unfaithfulness. For the branches are holy by nature, because they have been produced from a holy root — unless they are polluted by their own fault. Romans 11:16…. It is by faith that God separates His own.”
Calvin insisted292 that “children who happen to depart this life before an opportunity of baptizing them in water, are not excluded from the Kingdom of heaven.” For “by faith” — God has already separated them as “His own.”
The conclusion to be drawn, explained Calvin, is obvious. “Hence it follows that the children of believers are not baptized in order that, though formerly aliens from the Church, they may then for the first time become children of God. But rather are [they] received into the Church by a formal sign because, in virtue of the promise, they previously belong-ed to the body of Christ.”
Thus “the children have faith — in common with the adults. But nobody should take this in the sense as if I wish to say that faith always begins from one’s mother’s womb. For the Lord sometimes calls adults too — sometimes earlier, and sometimes later. But I am only saying that all of God’s elect enter into everlasting life by faith — at whatever time of life they may be removed from this prison of destruction.”293
In Acts 16:13-16, the writer records that at Philippi “on the sabbath…a certain woman named Lydia — a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira — was worshipping God…. The Lord opened her heart, so that she gave attention to the things which were spoken by Paul. Then, when she and her household had been baptized, she besought us, saying: ‘If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord — come into my home, and stay there!'”
Here Calvin commented: “It is clear…how in a short space of time, God had been effectively at work in Lydia. For there is no doubt that she genuinely embraced the faith of Christ, and gave her allegiance to Him — before Paul admitted her to baptism…. Here holy zeal and piety reveal themselves in the fact that she dedicates her household to God at the same time….
“It certainly ought to be the common desire of all the godly to have their relatives who are under their charge [become] of the same faith…. Any man who wishes to rule over wife, children, and men-servants and women-servants in his home — but will not trouble himself about giving any place to Christ — does not deserve to be counted among the sons of God.”
Also to the penitent jailor in Philippi, Paul similarly commanded: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved — and your household!” Paul and Silas then “spoke the Word of the Lord to him and to all that were in his house.” Then he “was baptized — he and all his — immediately.” The jailor then “rejoiced, believing in God with all his household.” Acts 16:31-34.
Comments Calvin: “Luke again commends the godly zeal of the keeper [of the jail], because he dedicated his whole household to God. The grace of God is also reflected in that — because He suddenly brought a whole family to godly unanimity.”
Consequently, Calvin concludes in his Institutes of the Christian Faith (IV:16:8) that there is not “anything plausible in the objection that we nowhere read of even one infant having been baptized…. For although this is not expressly narrated…, they are not expressly excluded when mentioned is made of any baptized family (Acts 16:15,32). What man of sense will argue from this that they were not baptized?”
Calvin insists Acts 19:1-6 does not teach rebaptism
In Acts 18:25-28 one reads that in Ephesus “a certain Jew named Apollos…, deeply instructed in the way of the Lord and fervent in the Spirit, spoke diligently about the things of the Lord. Though knowing only the baptism of John, he began to speak boldly in the synagogue.
“When Aquila and Priscilla had heard him, they took him to them — and explained the Way of God more perfectly to him…. Now when he was disposed to pass into Achaia [namely to Corinth], the brethren wrote exhorting the disciples to receive him [there]…. When he had come, he [there] helped them who had believed…. For he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publically –showing from the Scriptures that Jesus was Christ.”
Next, in Acts 19:1-7, one reads: “Then it came to pass that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul…came to Ephesus…. Finding certain disciples [or ‘taught ones’ there], he said to them: ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you started to believe?’
“But they said to him: ‘We have not so much as heard whether there is any Holy Spirit!’ Then he said to them: ‘With what baptism, then, were you baptized?’ Then they said: ‘With John’s’….
“Then Paul said: ‘John truly baptized, with the baptism of repentance. He said to the people that they should believe in Him Who would come after him — that is, in Christ Jesus.’
“When they heard this, they were baptized in the Name of the Lord Jesus…. And all the men were about twelve” in number.
On those twelve men, at Acts 19:2 Calvin rightly commented: “It is not likely that so few [Christian] disciples were left at Ephesus by Apollos. And they would have been instructed more correctly by him, seeing that he himself had learnt the Way of the Lord [Jesus Christ] precisely — from Aquila and Priscilla…. I do not doubt that ‘the brethren’ [in Ephesus] whom Luke mentioned previously (18:27), were different from these particular men” mentioned in Acts 19:1-7.
One should carefully note it was indeed true triune Christian baptism which was formerly administered by John himself: on behalf of God the Father; pointing to Christ the Son; Who would baptize with the Holy Spirit. Luke 3:8-16. So too, when John the baptizer (for the sake of God’s true people) gave also Jesus true Christian Baptism — “the Holy Spirit descended…upon Him, and a voice came from heaven saying: ‘You are My beloved Son in Whom I am well-pleased!'” Luke 3:22.
Yet after the death of John it does seem that some of those of his disciples who had not followed Jesus, did not continue (as had John) to baptize from the Father and toward the Son with the Spirit. Quite wrongly, those confused men then started to baptize “in the name of John” — weirdly dispensing what they then apparently called “John’s baptism.” Also Simon the sorceror, and his disciple Menander, acted similarly.294
Such “John’s baptism” was of course not at all the Christian Sacrament which John himself had administered. Indeed, it seems to be precisely such a Christless and Spiritless ‘baptism’ which the twelve in Ephesus had received, and which they there called: “John’s.”
At Acts 19:4f, Dr. Calvin therefore commented: “The baptism of John was a sign of repentance and remission of sins…. There is no difference between it and our own baptism…. We do not read that Christ baptized afresh those who came over to Him from John [see John 3:22f & 4:1f]….
“Fanatical men of our day, relying on this ‘evidence’ — have tried to introduce Anabaptism…. Yet I do deny that the baptism of water was repeated.” Also at Ephesus, there was only one baptism!” Ephesians 4:4-6 cf. Acts 19:1-7.
In his Institutes of the Christian Religion (IV:15:18), Calvin further says of the Anabaptists that “they seem to think the weapon which they brandish irresistible — when they allege that Paul rebaptized those who had been baptized with the baptism of John (Acts 19:3-5).” However, “it seem to some [Non-Anabaptists] that it was a foolish imitator of John who by a former ‘baptism’ had initiated them into vain superstition.
“This, it is thought, may be conjectured from the fact that they acknowledge their entire ignorance of the Holy Spirit — an ignorance in which John never would have left his disciples…. I grant that John’s was a true baptism, and one and the same with the baptism of Christ…. I deny that they were rebaptized (see Calvin’s Instructions Against the Anabaptists).”
There, Calvin states that in ‘Article One’ (on Baptism) of The Schleitheim Confession of Michael Sattler and his Anabaptists, “these poor fanatics cite the usage and practice of the Apostles [Acts 19:2ff]…. But of children who belong to the Church before they depart their mother’s womb…, their fathers and forefathers received the promise upon which their baptism is founded….
“Peter testifies to the Jews that they are children of the promises…inasmuch as they are descendants of Abraham’s race (Acts 2:39 & 3:25)…. Otherwise, it would be in vain for Saint Paul to say that a child of a believing father or mother is sanctified — who would be impure, if he were born of and descended from unbelievers (First Corinthians 7:14). Seeing then that the Holy Spirit, Author and Source of all sanctification, testifies that the children of Christians are holy — is it our business to exclude them from such a benefit? Thus, if the truth of baptism is in them — how can we dare deprive them of the sign, which is less significant and inferior?
“But the Anabaptists reply that the custom and practice of the Apostles was to the contrary…. They think they have a passage that is precisely in their favour in Acts 19:2ff — where it is written that Saint Paul, having discovered certain disciples who had not yet received the Holy Spirit, ‘rebaptized’ them….
“They [the Anabaptists] cannot accept anything other than that Saint Paul rebaptized these disciples, owing to their ignorance. But if it is necessary for baptism to be repeated on these grounds — then why weren’t the Apostles rebaptized, who three years after their baptism were so filled with errors and misleading opinions as to think that the Kingdom of Jesus Christ was earthly, understanding nothing of His death and resurrection and many other things?” Thus Calvin, referring to Acts 1:5-8.
“As for ourselves,” he added, “we would constantly require a lake or river in readiness — if it were a matter of receiving baptism anew, every time our Lord should purge us of error!” But, of course, it is not.
Calvin refutes the Anabaptist views against paidobaptism
Speaking of the Anabaptists, Calvin added:295 “The assertion they disseminate among the common people, that a long series of years elapsed after the resurrection of Christ during which paedobaptism was unknown — is a shameful falsehood. Since there is no writer — however ancient — who does not trace its origin to the days of the Apostles.”
Calvin further observed296 that Abraham “received the sign of circumcision [as] a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had, [while] yet being uncircumcised; so that he might be the father of all them that believe [Romans 4:11f]…. We have no doubt that in distinguishing the children of God from bastards and foreigners, that the election of God reigns freely…. He was pleased specially to embrace the seed of Abraham with His mercy — and for the better attestation of it, to seal it by circumcision….
“Paul declares that the Jews were sanctified by their parents.” See Romans 11:16. “He elsewhere says that the children of Christians derive sanctification from their parents.” First Corinthians 7:14…. To the same effect is the declaration of Peter to the Jews: ‘The promise is unto you and to your children.’ Acts 2:39…. God is so good and liberal to His people, that He is pleased as a mark of His favour to extend their privileges to the children [generated or conceived by and] born to them.”
Dr. John Calvin next refuted the Anabaptists’ objection that “spiritual regeneration is not applicable to earliest infancy.” For ‘how’ — they ask — ‘are infants regenerated?’
Here Calvin replied: “We answer that the work of God — though beyond the reach of our capacities [fully to understand it] — is not therefore null” in infants. For such “infants who are to be saved — and that some are saved at this age is certain — must, without question, previously be regenerated by the Lord….
“The Judge Himself publicly declares that ‘except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.’ John 3:3…. God gave, in the case of John the baptizer — whom He sanctified from his mother’s womb (Luke 1:15) — a proof of what He might do in others [compare Luke 1:41-44]…. The child, not yet born, would be filled with the Holy Spirit [compare Luke 1:15 & 1:41f]…. Instead of attempting to give a law to God, let us hold that He sanctifies whom He pleases in the way in which He sanctified John — seeing that His power is not impaired.”
Continued Calvin297 (recycling Irenaeus): “Christ was sanctified from earliest infancy [from His conception onward], so that He might sanctify His elect in Himself at any age…. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, so that — completely pervaded with His holiness in the flesh which He had assumed — He might transfuse it [His holiness] into us…. In Christ…we have a proof that the age of infancy is not incapable of receiving sanctification (infantiae aetatem non usque adeo a sanctificatione abhorrere)….
“We set down as incontrovertible, that none of the elect is called away from the present life without previously being sanctified and regenerated by the Spirit of God…. We deny…the power of God cannot regenerate infants. This is as possible and easy for Him to do, as it is wondrous and incomprehensible to us. It were dangerous to deny that the Lord is able to furnish them with the knowledge of Himself in any way He pleases.”
The Anabaptists, however, ‘deem it very absurd to attribute any knowledge of God to infants.’ But Calvin replied298 that covenantal infants “are said now to receive some part of that grace of which they are to have the full measure shortly after….
“Some of those whom death hurries away in the first moments of infancy, pass into life eternal. They are certainly admitted to behold the immediate presence of God. Those, therefore, whom the Lord is to illumine with the full brightness of His light — why may He not, if He so please, irradiate at present with some small beam…before He delivers them from the prison of the flesh”299 (alias when He lets them die in infancy and then takes their souls to glory)?
Calvin on why the babies of believers should be baptized
The Christian believers’ infant “children are baptized for…[ongoing] repentance and faith. Though these are not yet formed in them [fully], yet the seed of both lies hidden in them by the secret operation of the Spirit” – – arcana tamen Spiritus operatione utriusque semen in illis latet.
Calvin went on:300 “If those on whom the Lord has bestowed His election…depart this life before they become adults — He, by the incomprehensible energy of His Spirit, [first] renews them in the way which He alone deems expedient.”
According to Calvin,301 the antipaidobaptistic and anabaptistic apostate “Servetus cannot show that…several years must elapse before the new spiritual life begins. Paul’s testimony is that, though lost by nature, the children of believers are holy by supernatural grace [Romans 11:16 and First Corinthians 7:14]…. When the office of teaching was committed to the Apostles, they were not prohibited from baptizing infants [Matthew 28:19]…. How feebly Servetus has supported his friends the Anabaptists!”
Here Calvin concluded: “It is of importance to observe what Satan means by all this craft — viz. to rob us of the singular blessing of confidence and spiritual joy…. Doubtless the design of Satan in assaulting paedobaptism with all his forces, is to keep out of view and gradually efface that attestation of divine grace which the promise itself presents to our eyes.
“In this way, not only would men impiously be ungrateful for the mercy of God — but be less careful in training their children to piety. For it is no slight stimulus to us to bring them up in the fear of God and the observance of His Law — when we reflect that from their birth they have been considered and acknowledged by Him as His children.”
Calvin said Anabaptists and Romanists were not too dissimilar on baptism
In 1539, the Romish Cardinal Sadoleto absurdly insinuated that the Calvinists were essentially the same as the Anabaptists. In his reply, Calvin turned the tables. For he then demonstrated that the Anabaptists should rather be compared — to the Romanists.
“Similitude is there in appearance, between the Pope and the Anabaptists,” explained Calvin.302 “Satan never transforms himself so cunningly, as not in some measure to betray himself…. The principal weapon with which they [the Romanists and the Anabaptists] both assail us, is the same. For when they boast extravagantly of the Spirit — the tendency certainly is to sink and bury the Word of God, that they may make room for their own falsehoods.”
Against both Anabaptists and Romanists, Calvin again insisted in 1542: “Paul teaches that the children of believers are born holy (First Corinthians 7:14)…. They do not become the sons of God through baptism. But because in virtue of the promise they are heirs of adoption, therefore the Church admits them to baptism…. As in Abraham the father of the faithful, the righteousness of faith preceded circumcision — so in the children of the faithful in the present day, the gift of adoption is prior to baptism.”303
In 1547, Calvin also declared304 to both the Anabaptists and the Romanists that “the Spirit of God must…be to us both an earnest and a seal. Romans 8:15. He it is Who…sprinkles our souls with the blood of Christ. First Peter 1:2…. I do not, however, concede to them that Paedobaptism had its origin in the tradition of the Church. It certainly appears to be founded on the institution of God, and to have derived its origin from circumcision….
“The offspring of believers is born holy — because their children, while yet in the womb, before they breathe the vital air, are included in the covenant of eternal life. Nor indeed are they admitted into the [Visible] Church by baptism on any other ground than that they belong-ed to the body of Christ before they were born…. How could it be lawful to put [baptism as] the sacred impress of Christ — on strangers? Baptism must therefore be preceded by the gift of adoption, which is…afterwards ratified by baptism.”
Calvin’s strongly anti-Anabaptist paidobaptism
Declared Calvin:305 “If anyone at this time maintains Paedobaptism keenly, and on strong grounds, I am certainly in the number…. The children of believers, [even] before they were begotten, were adopted by the Lord — when He said, ‘I will be your God and the God of your seed.’ Genesis 17:7. That in this promise the baptism of infants is included, is absolutely certain…. The genuine children of Abraham, even before they are born, are the heirs of eternal life…. I maintain that they [covenant infants] may obtain salvation without baptism…, because the promise which assigns life to them while still in the womb has sufficient efficacy in itself.
“Paedobaptism rests on this ground — that God recognizes those who are presented to Him by our ministry as already His own. Whence too He anciently called all who derived their origin from Israel, His own [Ezekiel 16:20f]. And justly! For the offspring was holy, as Paul teaches. Romans 11:16….
[Even covenant] children have need of regeneration. But I maintain that this gift comes to them by promise, and that baptism follows as a seal…. John the baptizer was sanctified from the womb [Luke 1:15-44]…. That passage…I elsewhere produce…against the Anabaptists…. The infant [of a believer] is included in the covenant by hereditary right — even from its mother’s womb.”
In a sermon on Deuteronomy 12 preached on 7th October 1555, Calvin did not urge his listeners to get rebaptized as adults –but instead to ‘improve’ their infant baptisms. Observed the genius of Geneva:306 “We see that God is contented…. His will is that in our baptism we should have such an assurance of our washing and cleansing by the grace that is purchased for us in our Lord Jesus Christ, as should continue with us for ever. Have we that? We must hold ourselves contented with it” — and, indeed, ‘improve’ it!
In a sermon on Deuteronomy 31 preached in April 1556, Calvin declared:307 “As soon as our children be born, they be carried to baptism. And there, God doth show that His will is that they should be as of His household.
“Therefore when an infant is thus declared to be a member of our Lord Jesus Christ…, should he not when he cometh to age of understanding endeavour to learn that he was created by God Who, having created him after His own image, hath vouchsafed also to choose him to be of the number and company of His people, and has placed him in the body of our Lord Jesus Christ, to the end he should be partaker of the inheritance of salvation? Considering so many and so inestimable benefits received at God’s hand –ought he not, say I, to give himself wholly to Him and to His service?” Of course he should!
Calvin refutes Gnesio-Lutheran slander that he was an “Anabaptist”
Again in 1556, Calvin declared308 that hostile Gnesio-Lutherans like Joachim Westphal — quite absurdly — were “mixing us [Calvinists] up with the Anabaptists.” However, Calvin then pointed out that in actual fact his greatest opponent was precisely “Servetus — who was both an Anabaptist and the worst of heretics.” Indeed, Calvin added: “I have accused Thomas Muntzer” — that most dangerous of all the Anabaptists!
Now it is also true that even the Calvinists “sometimes allow children to die unbaptized…. [However, this] is because we [Calvinists] give hopes that infants may obtain salvation without baptism [which Servetus never did] — because we hold that baptism, instead of regenerating or saving them, only seals the salvation of which they were previously partakers….
“Let an Anabaptist come forward and maintain ‘that the symbol of regeneration is improperly conferred on the cursed children of Adam whom the Lord has not yet called to the fellowship of His grace!'” Yet God’s “grace…is common to them [the infants of believers]. Hence it follows, that they are not ‘absolutely regenerated by baptism‘ — from which they ought to be debarred, did God not rank them among the members of His Son….
“You have no pretext, [Westphal,] for charging me with holding none to be learned who have not been taught in the school of Zuinglius. Though Luther differed from us — did we ever contemn his erudition?”
The Gnesio-Lutheran Westphal “says there is good ground for the common proverb ‘The unlearned make no heresies.'” To that, Calvin retorted:
“What then did the Anabaptists do? What Muntzer? What the Libertines? Nay, in the whole [heretical] crew of whom Irenaeus, Epiphanius and Augustine speak — how many more were involved in error by gross ignorance, than by erudition? More correctly and wisely does Augustine say that the mother of all heresies is pride, by which we often see that the most ignorant are most highly swollen.” The Anabaptists were proud of their ignorance!
Explained Calvin: “I say that infants begotten of believers are holy, and members of the Church [Invisible], before they are baptized…. They were members of the Church before baptism…. There is nothing to prevent our applying this to infants…. God gives the name of sons to those to whom the inheritance of salvation has been promised in the person of their parents…. There is nothing, however, to prevent His sealing this grace [in baptism], and confirming anew the same thing that He had given before” baptism to babies.
“I deny that any are duly baptized, if they do not belong to the body of the Church…. Who authorized you, Westphal, to bestow the pledge of eternal life — the symbol of righteousness and renovation — on [one whom you Gnesio-Lutherans wrongly consider to be] a ‘profane’ person lying under curse? Were an Anabaptist to debate with you, I presume your only valid defence would be [that of Calvinism — namely] that baptism is rightly administered to those whom God adopted [even] before they were born….
“Did God not transmit His grace from parents to children — to admit new-born infants into the Church, would be a mere profanation of baptism! But if the promise of God, under the Law, caused holy branches to proceed from a holy root [Romans 11:16] — will you restrict the grace of God under the Gospel, or diminish its efficacy by withholding the testimony of adoption by which God distinguishes infants?
“The Law ordered infants to be circumcised on the eighth day…. Scripture declares them to have been holy from the womb; as being the offspring of a holy race…. Paul teaches that the children of believers are now holy [First Corinthians 7:14]….
Those whom God has already set apart for Himself, are rightly brought for baptism. We are…speaking of…an adoption manifested by the Word which [has] sanctified infants not yet born…. [The family of] Cornelius — before he was baptized with his household — having received the Holy Spirit…, justly held some place among the children of God.” Acts 10:2,4,24,34f,43f. “Fanatical men impugn Paedobaptism.” So the antipaidobaptistic Anabaptists were fanatics who pugnaciously undermined baptism itself.
Calvin’s final words of opposition to the Anabaptists
In his Confession of Faith in the Name of the Reformed Churches of France,309 Calvin (according to Beza) insisted that “since baptism is a treasure which God has placed in His Church — all the members ought to partake of it. Now we doubt not that little children born of Christians are of this number, since God has adopted them — as He declares.
“Indeed, we should defraud them of their right — were we to exclude them from the sign which only ratifies the thing contained in the promise…. Children ought no more in the present day to be deprived of the sacrament of their salvation, than the children of the Jews were in ancient times — seeing that now the manifestation must be larger and clearer than it was under the Law. Wherefore, we reprobate all [Anabaptist] fanatics who will not allow little children to be baptized.”
More fully, in the French Confession of 1559, Calvin (and his pupil Chandieu) rightly declared310 that “as some trace of the Church is left in the papacy, and the virtue and substance of baptism remain, and as the efficacy of baptism does not depend upon the person who administers it, we confess that those baptized in it do not need a second baptism. But, on account of its corruptions, we cannot present children to be baptized in it without incurring pollution…. Yet as God receives little children into the Church with their fathers, we say — upon the authority of Jesus Christ — that the children of believing parents should be baptized….
“We believe that God wishes to have the world governed by laws and magistrates…. He has put the sword into the hands of magistrates to suppress crimes against the First [Table] as well as against the Second Table of the Commandments of God. We must therefore, on His account, not only submit to them as superiors, but honour and hold them in all reverence as His lieutenants and officers, whom He has commissioned to exercise a legitimate and holy authority…. We detest all those who would like — to reject authority; to establish community and confusion of property; and [to] overthrow the order of justice.”
Indeed, in 1561 Calvin asked:311 “What affinity with Luther had the Muensterians, the Anabaptists? … Did he ever lend them his support? Did he subscribe their most absurd fictions? Nay, with what vehemence did he oppose them — in order to prevent the spreading of the contagion! He had the discernment at once to perceive what noxious pests they would prove….
“Are we not, independently of baptism, cleansed by the blood of Christ and regenerated by the Spirit? … Christ is formed in us, like the foetus in the womb [cf. Psalm 22:9-10 and Second Timothy 1:3-5 & 3:14-15]…. Hence, though God calls suddenly away from the world many who are children not merely in age but also in faith — yet, one spark from the Spirit is sufficient to give them a life” immortal unto all eternity!
The Early British Anabaptists from 1534 onward
The Anabaptists infected Britain at an early date, even between the reigns of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. According to the Baptist Estep,312 “it seems…to be fully substantiated that continental Anabaptists were numerous and not without influence in England from about 1534…. In 1538 the English authorities learned that the Anabaptists had published and distributed a book on the incarnation [denying it]. For this effrontery, they were asked to leave the country.”
Even the Unitarian Anabaptists in Poland soon spread their influence among their brethren in Holland, and thence also into England. There, as G.H. Williams has stated, they were vigorously opposed by the Polish Calvinists in London’s Stranger’s Church at Austin Friars, “where Laski served as the first superintendent. The king recorded in his journal that the Stranger’s Church was organized ‘for the avoyding of al sectes of Anabaptistes and such like.'”313
Also the Swiss Calvinist Bullinger had massive influence in England against the Anabaptists. See his Wholesome Antidote (London 1548), his Most Sure and Strong Defence of the Baptism of Children (Worcester 1551), and his Most Necessary and Fruitful Dialogue Between the Seditious Libertine or Rebel Anabaptist and the True Obedient Christian (Worcester 1551).
The followers of “Henry Hart, a leader of a congregation of dissenters in Kent…, were referred to as Anabaptists. They were also accused of Pelagian heresy and libertinism. From Hart’s own tract, printed in 1548 and reprinted in 1549, it is clear that…his teachings regarding free will, the new birth and discipleship were true to Anabaptist insights.” Thus the American Baptist, Professor Estep.314
“Anabaptists,” Bishop John Hooper complained to Bullinger in 1549, “give me much trouble with their opinions respecting the incarnation of the Lord.” For Kent and Sussex were then hotbeds of Anabaptism. Indeed, between 1549 and 1550 there were no less than three editions of Hooper’s Lesson of the Incarnation of Christ, against the Anabaptist heresy of the ‘celestial flesh’ of Jesus even from before His earthly conception onward.315
In 1553, Thomas Cole published his Godly and Fruitful Sermon Against the Anabaptists. Soon thereafter, also Bishop John Jewel rightly called them “a large and inauspicious crop of Arians, Anabaptists and other pests.”316 No wonder, then, that the most important creedal formulation of the Church of England — the Forty-two Articles of 1553 — included no less than seventeen articles against the Anabaptists!317
The anti-Anabaptist Edwardine Articles of 1553
Indeed, the above-mentioned (1553) ‘Edwardine Articles’ of the Church of England were drawn up largely against the Anabaptists. The Presbyterian Rev. Prof. Dr. W.A. Curtis of the University of Aberdeen stated in his book History of Creeds and Confessions of Faith that318 “the framers of the Forty-Two Articles had not only the earlier English attempts in mind, but also…the medley of eccentric or heretical opinions roughly classed as Anabaptist…. Artt. I-IV, VI-VIII, XIV, XV, XVIII, XIX, XXVII, XXVIII, XXIX, XXXII, XXXIII, XXXVI-XLII explicitly or implicitly condemn the varied opinions classed as Anabaptist.”
Those opinions “impugned the Creeds, Catholic Christology, faith in the Trinity, rights of individual property, the need of Scriptures, infant baptism, avoidance of excommunicated persons, reverence for traditions and ceremonies, obedience to magistrates, military service, [and the] taking of oaths.” Positively, those Anabaptist opinions also “affirmed Christian perfection[ism], inefficacy of services and Sacraments conducted by unworthy Ministers, [and] ultimate universal salvation.”
This is quite in agreement with the well-known Anglican scholar Rev. Prof. Dr. E.J. Bicknell. He declared319 “that the Forty-two Articles…are a double-edged weapon, designed to smite two opposite enemies. On the one hand they attack mediaeval teaching and abuses…. They oppose even more keenly the teaching of the Anabaptists…. The name Anabaptists was given to them from their denial of infant baptism and their custom of re-baptizing converts. There is hardly any error of doctrine or morality that was not proclaimed by some of them. They were a very real danger to all order in Church and State alike….
“The Anabaptists are only mentioned by name twice, but…they had revived all the ancient heresies about the Holy Trinity and the Person of Christ…. Many of them were Pelagians…. Others claimed that, being regenerate, they were unable to commit sin…. Some depreciated all Scripture and placed themselves above even the Moral Law…. Some denied any need of ordination for Ministers, and claimed that the efficacy of all ministrations depended on the personal holiness of the Minister…. Infant baptism was denied…. All church discipline was repudiated…. Many held strange views about the descent into hell, the nature of the resurrection — and the future life, the ultimate salvation of all men, and millenarianism….. The authority of the State was impugned, and communism demanded.”
The anti-Anabaptist Thirty-nine Articles of 1563f
The later Thirty-nine Articles of 1563 and 1571 are but the revision of the Forty-two Articles of 1553. As regards the former, Bicknell has shown320 specifically that Article I (on “Faith in the Holy Trinity”) was indeed “called forth by the teaching of the Anabaptists, who were reviving all the ancient heresies.” Bicknell further insisted321 that Article II (on the “Son of God which was made very man”) had as its object “to oppose the revival of ancient heresies on the Person of Christ by Anabaptists.”
Article IV (“Of the Resurrection of Christ”) is worded, explained Bicknell,322 “so as to assert…also the reality of our Lord’s risen and ascended manhood — in opposition to a form of Docetism revived by the Anabaptists, which regarded our Lord’s humanity as absorbed into His divinity after the resurrection.” Article V ‘Of the Holy Ghost’ — Bicknell maintained323 — is “one of the new Articles added in 1563…due to the revival of ancient heresies by the Anabaptists.”
Article VI (“Of the Sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures for Salvation”) is directed against “certain among the Anabaptists [who] regarded all Scripture as unnecessary,” explained Bicknell.324 “An Article of 1553 describes them as those ‘who affirm that Holy Scripture is given only to the weak, and do boast themselves continually of the Spirit — of Whom (they say) they have learnt such things as they teach, although the same be most evidently repugnant to the Holy Scripture.’ In other words, if men claim to be under the immediate guidance of the Holy Spirit and to have received a personal revelation — does not this supersede Scripture? Such a view ignored the corporate and social nature of all truth.”
Article VII (“Of the Old Testament”) states inter alia that “no Christian man whatsoever is free from the obedience of the Commandments which are called Moral.” Bicknell has shown325 that the Article “is directed against…errors…maintained by sections of Anabaptists.”
Of those Anabaptists, “some rejected the Old Testament entirely, and claimed — in virtue of their illumination by the Spirit –to be superior even to the Moral Law contained in it.” Similarly, also Article VIII (“Of the Three Creeds”), explained Bicknell,326 “was composed as a protest against Anabaptists who rejected all creeds” in general — and in particular the Nicene, the Athanasian, and the Apostles’ Creeds.
Article IX (“Of Original or Birth Sin”) — Bicknell maintained327 — is “directed against the Pelagian views of Anabaptists.” The 1553 Article, after the words ‘as the Pelagians do vainly talk’ had the further words ‘which also the Anabaptists do nowadays renew.’ Observed Bicknell: “This sufficiently shows the object of the Article.”
Article X (“Of Free Will”) — Bicknell elucidated328 –“asserts the need of grace against Pelagian Anabaptists.” Article XV (“Of Christ alone without Sin”) — Bicknell has insisted329 — “was directed against certain Anabaptists who denied our Lord’s sinlessness.”
Continuation of the anti-Anabaptist Thirty-nine Articles
Article XVI (“Of Sin after Baptism”) — thus Bicknell330 –“is aimed at Anabaptist errors.” The 1553 Article dealt with blasphemy against the Holy Ghost,331 and dealt with what the Anglican scholars Maclear and Williams have rightly called332 “erroneous views…reproduced in the sixteenth century by a section of the Anabaptists who appeared in great numbers in Essex and Kent.” Indeed, they have drawn attention to “a letter from Bishop Hooper to Bullinger, June 25 1549, describing the appearance of the Anabaptists in England.”333
Then there is Article XVIII (“Of obtaining eternal Salvation only by the name of Christ”). It too, Bicknell has shown,334 “is aimed at Anabaptists” — namely such as “rejected Christ as Saviour and treated any definite Christian belief as unimportant.”
Article XIX (“Of the Church”) — thus Bicknell335 –“would…exclude various Anabaptist sects.” Indeed, the 1553 Article also stated that “all men are bound to keep the Moral Commandments of the Law.”
This — Maclear and Williams have insisted336 — “had reference to the teaching of a branch of the Anabaptists who ‘by putting forth the plea of preternatural illumination made themselves superior to the Moral Law, and circulated opinions respecting it most evidently repugnant to the Holy Scripture.'”
Article XXIII (“Of Ministering in the Congregation”) — thus Bicknell337 — shows that “the Anglicans wished to oppose Anabaptists, who held…to ecclesiastical anarchy.” Article XXV (“Of the Sacraments”) — Bicknell elucidated338 — has as “its object…to condemn as inadequate, teaching about the sacraments held by Anabaptists.”
Similarly, Article XXVI (“Of the Unworthiness of the Ministers which hinder not the Effect of the Sacrament”) — thus Bicknell339 — would “condemn the idea of Anabaptists that the personal holiness of the Minister was a necessary condition for any valid preaching of the Word or ministration of the Sacraments.”
Article XXVII (“Of Baptism”) insists that “the Baptism of young children is in any wise to be retained in the Church, as most agreeable with the institution of Christ.” Bicknell has stated340 that this “is aimed at (i) the inadequate view of Baptism taken by…the Anabaptists; (ii) the denial of Infant Baptism.” Similarly, Article XXVIII (“Of the Lord’s Supper”) according to Bicknell341 “excludes…Anabaptist views which made the Lord’s Supper a mere love feast.”
Article XXXVII (“Of the Civil Magistrates”), Bicknell has shown,342 would “condemn Anabaptist attacks on the authority of the State.” Also Article XXXIX (“Of a Christian man’s oath”), explained Bicknell,343 is directed against “the objection of the Anabaptists…to the use of oaths.”
Article XXXVIII — “Of Christian men’s Goods, which are Not Common” — merits more attention. It states that “the riches and goods of Christians are not common as touching the…title and possession of the same, as certain Anabaptists do falsely boast.” According to Bicknell,344 this Article was drawn up because “certain Anabaptists advocated communism.”
Rev. Prof. Dr. Philip Schaff has pointed out345 that “in the Forty-two Articles of Edward VI, there are four additional Articles — on the Resurrection of the Dead, the State of the Souls of the Departed, Millenarians, and the Eternal Damnation of the Wicked.” These Articles, Schaff added,346 are: “against the Anabaptist notion of the psychopannychia (XL)”; and “against the millenarians (XLI),” compare “the Augsburg Confession where the Anabaptists and others are condemned.” All of these additional Articles, as Maclear and Williams have explained,347 refer to the heresies of “the Anabaptist sect whose theories had previously been denounced.”
John Knox’s writings against the Anabaptists
Already in 1557, Calvin’s faithful student the great Scottish Reformer Knox had written some letters to his brethren and ‘lords professing the truth’ in Scotland. One such letter was recently republished under the title: A Warning Against the Anabaptists.348 There,349 Knox condemned those who “have separated themselves from the society and communion of their brethren in[to] sects damnable and most pernicious.”
Those sectarian Anabaptists, conceded Knox, really do “have a zeal…. But alas, it is not according to knowledge…. This sort of men fall from the society of Christ’s little flock, with contempt of His sacraments and holy ordinances by us truly maintained.” Indeed, “they require a greater purity than ever was found in any congregation since the beginning.”
Knox then immediately went on to insist that the Anabaptists “shall not escape judgment and condemnation.” This is so, declared Knox, “because they do despise Christ Jesus and His[!] holy ordinances.”
Indeed, the Anabaptists were not at all like the apostolic-age Christians who had been ejected from Judaism’s “synagogue of Satan.” Mark 13:9-13 and Revelation 2:9 & 3:9. Nor were the Anabaptists like the Protestants who had just been removed from the Romish Neo-Babylon. Revelation 17:5 and 18:4; compare Second Thessalonians 2:3-17f. Rather were the Anabaptists exactly analogous to the post-ascensional Gnostics, who opposed Christianity and who castigated its infant baptism. Colossians 2:9-23 (q.v.).
Just a few paragraphs after penning his above-cited words, Knox wrote that even though “the Papists are busy to espy our offences, faults and infirmities…, they are not the enemies most to be feared. For…of the other [Anabaptist] sort of whom before we have somewhat spoken, the craft and malice of the devil fighting against Christ is more covert and therefore more to be feared.”
Think of it — the Anabaptists more to be feared than the Romanists! For the Anabaptists, insisted Knox, were “privy blasphemers of Christ Jesus; supplanters of His dignity; and manifest enemies to the free justification which comes by faith in His blood.”
In 1560, Knox himself wrote a considerable treatise with the title: An Answer to a Great Number of Blasphemous Cavillations Written by an Anabaptist and Adversary. There, he told the Anabaptists that “with the Pelagians and Papists, you have become teachers of free will and defenders of your own justice…. Your poison is more pestilent than that of the Papistry was in the beginning.”350
To Knox, the “poison” of the Anabaptists was “more pestilent” –yes more pestilent! — than that of “the Papistry.” Again, just think of it — Anabaptism more poisonous and more ‘pestilent’ than the Papacy!
Indeed, Knox added elsewhere: “We damn the error of the Anabaptists who deny baptism to appertain to children.”351 He damns the Anabaptists’ error!
In his 1560 Scots Confession, Knox and his associates added: “We hold that baptism applies as much to the [infant] children of the faithful as to those who are of age and discretion. And so we condemn the error of the Anabaptists, who deny that [infant] children should be baptized.”352 Again in their First Book of Discipline, the Knoxians insisted: “Anabaptists, Arians, or other such — [are] enemies of the Christian religion.”353
The English Anabaptists called the ‘Family of Love’
So the heresies of the neo-Marcionitic and neo-Manichaean Paulicians and even of the antitrinitarian Servetus himself were already afoot even in Knox’s Britain. Indeed, prominent among the British Anabaptists was the so-called ‘Family of Love’ in England.
As Williams has explained:354 “The English ‘Familists’ were communitarian pacifistic Anabaptists who, like the Paulicians and the Servetians, received believers’ baptism at the age of thirty.”
They were very well-described by John Rogers, in his 1579 Horrible Sect of Gross and Wicked Heretics naming themselves the ‘Family of Love.’ There, explained Rogers, “marriage is made by the brethren…. These had never met before…. All men not of their congregation, or revolted from them, are as dead…. If they have anything to do touching their temporal things, they must do it…through one of their bishops.”355
Rome rides again — toward the sunset of the modern Moonies! Tallyho! Yahoo! Weirdo’s of the world — unite!
The Forty-two Articles and the writings of John Knox effectively checked the further spread of British Anabaptism. Nevertheless, by 1587 the majority of the population of Norwich alone consisted of refugee Dutch Anabaptists.356
They were, however, stoutly opposed by Anglicans and Puritans alike. Compare the English Presbyterian Thomas Cartwright’s 1589 book The Anabaptists’ Error Confuted. Consequently, in 1593 some English ‘Barrowists’ fled to Holland — where they soon became Anabaptists.357
The Belgica condemns the various views of the Anabaptists
To the north of the Province of Holland, especially Friesland had been heavily infected with Anabaptism. Indeed, the whole of the United Netherlands — almost from Denmark in the north right down to the Belgian border with France in the south — was then being pestered by that plague.
The Belgian Calvinist Guido de Bres had been a refugee from 1548 till 1554 in England. There, he had greatly been strengthened by the Calvinism of those supporting King Edward VI. He then returned to the Netherlands, where he continued his struggle especially against the Anabaptists.
This can be seen in his famous 1562 Belgic Confession. For it attacks358 not so much the Romanist but indeed the Anabaptist doctrine of baptism — and indeed many of the other Anabaptist doctrines too.359
Thus, in Article 7, the Belgic Confession asserts: “We believe that these Holy Scriptures fully contain the will of God, and that whatsoever man ought to believe unto salvation is sufficiently taught therein…. It is unlawful for any one, though an Apostle, to teach otherwise than we are now taught in the Holy Scriptures. ‘Nay, though it were an angel from heaven’ — as the Apostle Paul saith. Galatians 1:8f….
“We reject with all our hearts whatsoever doth not agree with this infallible rule which the Apostles have taught us, saying: ‘Test the spirits, whether they are of God!’ First John 4:1. Likewise: ‘If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine — receive him not into your house!’ Second John 10.” This refers to deniers of the incarnation [like the Anabaptists].
In Article 18, the Belgica adds: “We confess (in opposition to the heresy of the Anabaptists who deny that Christ assumed human flesh of His mother), that Christ is become ‘a partaker of the flesh and blood of the children.’ Hebrews 2:14….
“He is: a ‘fruit of the loins of David after the flesh’ (Acts 2:30); a ‘fruit of the womb’ of the virgin Mary (Galatians 4:4); a ‘branch’ of David (Jeremiah 33:15); a shoot of ‘the root of Jesse’ (Isaiah 11:1); ‘sprung from the tribe of Judah’ (Hebrews 7:14); ‘descended from the Jews according to the flesh’ (Romans 9:5); ‘of the seed of Abraham, since He took upon Him the seed of Abraham and became like unto His brethren in all things, sin excepted’ — so that in truth He is our Immanuel, that is to say, ‘God with us!’ Genesis 22:8; Second Samuel 7:12; Matthew 1:1; Galatians 3:16; Hebrews 2:15f; Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23.”
In Article 34, the Belgica further declares: “We believe and confess that Jesus Christ…, having abolished circumcision which was done with blood — hath instituted the sacrament of baptism instead thereof. Colossians 2:11; First Peter 3:21; First Corinthians 10:2…. Therefore He has commanded all those who are His, to be baptized with pure water in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Matthew 28:19.
“This signifies to us that as water washes away the filth of the body when poured upon it, and is seen on the body of the baptized when sprinkled upon him, so does the blood of Christ by the power of the Holy Ghost internally sprinkle the soul…by the sprinkling of the precious blood of the Son. First Corinthians 6:11; Titus 3:5; Hebrews 9:14; First John 1:7; Revelation 1:6; John 19:34.”
Against submersionism, the Belgica here hammers home the Biblical mode of baptism. Thus it insists that the baptismal water is “poured upon” [namely “poured upon“] and “sprinkled upon” [namely “sprinkled upon“] the believer — to show how the Holy Spirit does “internally sprinkle” and save the soul “by the sprinkling” of the blood of Jesus etc.
Further, continues the Belgica: “We believe that every man who is earnestly studious of obtaining life eternal, ought to be but once baptized with this only baptism, without ever repeating the same. Mark 16:16; Matthew 28:19; Ephesians 4:5; Hebrews 6:2f. Since we cannot be born twice! Neither does this baptism only avail us at the time when the water is poured upon us and received by us — otherwise we would always have our head in the water — but also throughout the whole course of our life. Acts 2:38; 8:16.
“Therefore we detest the error of the Anabaptists, who are not content with the one only baptism they have once received…. The infants of believers…, we believe, ought to be baptized and sealed with the sign of the covenant (Matthew 19:14 & First Corinthians 7:14) — as the children in Israel formerly were circumcised upon the same promises which are made unto our children. Genesis 17:11f…. Christ shed His blood no less for the washing of the children of the faithful than for adult persons. Colossians 2:11f…. What circumcision was to the Jews — that, baptism is to our children.”
Finally, in Article 36, the Belgica adds: “We detest the error of the Anabaptists and other seditious people and in general all those who reject the higher powers and magistrates, and would subvert justice. Second Peter 2:10.” Indeed, such Anabaptists would also “introduce a community of goods, and confound that decency and good order which God hath established among men. Jude 8 & 10.”
Guido De Bres’s 1570 book against the Anabaptists
The author of the Belgica, Guido de Bres, defended the baptism of covenant children elsewhere too. He did so, and also attacked rebaptism, in his other (1570) work The Radical Origin and Foundation of the Anabaptists.
There he stated:360 “These two things we must observe in baptism. Namely: (1) the sign of water used as a seal, and (2) the body of those who have the truth of baptism [viz. the Church]…. The truth of baptism is also to be recognized in baptism…. That is the internal washing of souls in the blood of Christ…through the fellowship which we have with Him….
“One should note…to whom the sign of baptism applies. Holy Scripture clearly teaches us that it applies to the entire household of God; to the whole body of His congregation; that is, to all of those who are His people, both small and large…. Little children…[of the covenant] have the sproutings of faith…. One cannot include them among the unbelievers until they come to their years or understanding….
“Between these two [believers and unbelievers], there is no intermediate position before God…. God regards them [the little believers] as and reckons them to be — of the number of those who believe in the Son…. By grace and through Christ, the little children are regarded and reckoned by God as possessing all the virtues which [believing] adults possess — by understanding, and through faith in the same Christ.”361
Covenant babies, said De Bres,362 “are without contradiction the people of God…. The little children are also regenerated, by the power of God which is incomprehensible to us.” From Luke 1:15 & 1:36 and Jeremiah 1:15 and First Corinthians 7:14 and Matthew 19:14 and Deuteronomy 30:6 and Acts 10:47 and Romans 8:7 — it can be seen that the Holy Spirit is well able to work in children. “Although the work of God is hidden to our understanding, yet it is still true. Now it is certain and definite that God regenerates even children and makes them new creatures — namely those whom He justifies.”363
The Anabaptists essentially said364 that ‘the small members of the body [alias the Church] are not enlivened by the Spirit of the body — because they are small.’ Yet De Bres countered that the Apostle says “that those who do not have Christ’s Spirit, do not belong to Him [Romans 8:9]. But these little children do belong to Christ. Therefore, they have Christ’s Spirit.”
All children are indeed under the curse, admitted De Bres –“except the children of believers who have been redeemed from such perdition by God’s gracious acceptance, and through the power of the promise and of the covenant…. Now, it is certain and sure that God regenerates even the little children. I say He makes those whom He saves, into new creatures…. They possess both rebirth and renewal…through Christ the Second Adam in His Spirit…. Regeneration is nothing other than an internal washing and purification.”365
Continued De Bres: “According to the testimonies of God’s Word, they [covenant babies] are incorporated and ingrafted into the death of Christ…. Similarly, a cutting is ingrafted into a tree — and then draws the power and substance of that tree toward itself, and partakes thereof.”366 Romans 11:16.
De Bres concluded:367 “The tiny little children receive the sign of regeneration and of renewal (viz. baptism). They are separated from the world before they come to years…. They are blessed and elect before the Lord, Who regenerates them and renews them through His Spirit. But when they come to a suitable age…, we teach and instruct them in the doctrine of baptism and get them to know that they should think of this Spirit-ual regeneration all the days of their lives — of which they receive the sign in their young days….
“The little children are renewed by God’s Spirit according to the measure and comprehension of their age. And this divine power, which is hidden within them, grows and gradually increases [cf. Luke 1:15f,41f,80]…. They are redeemed, sanctified and regenerated from perdition — even though natural corruption still remains in them. For they possess such regeneration not through their own goodness, but through the sole goodness and mercy of God in Jesus Christ.”
Bullinger’s anti-Anabaptist Second Swiss Confession
It will be remembered that Calvin’s associate Henry Bullinger himself authored a work on The Origin, Progress, and Sects of the Anabaptists. There, he wrote368 that “they wished to abandon the Papists and the Evangelicals…and live in a new Baptist order.”
Indeed, Switzerland’s 1536 First Helvetic Confession of that very same Bullinger and others — was expanded considerably in Bullinger’s 1566 Second Swiss Confession. This too constantly castigates the many heresies of the Anabaptists.
Thus it declares:369 “We believe and teach that the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, was from all eternity…. He took flesh of the virgin Mary…. We therefore do abhor the blasphemous doctrine of Arius and all the Arians, uttered against the Son of God; and especially the blasphemies of [the Anabaptist] Michael Servetus.”
It continues:370 “Baptism, once received, continues for all of life and is a perpetual sealing of our adoption…. We are baptized, that is, washed or sprinkled….
“We condemn the Anabaptists, who deny that new-born infants of the faithful are to be baptized. For, according to evangelical teaching, of such [infants of the faithful] is the Kingdom of God (Luke 18:16), and they are in the covenant (Acts 3:25)…. Why, then, should the sign of God’s covenant not be given to them? Why should those who belong to God…and are in God’s Church, not be initiated by holy baptism?
“We condemn the Anabaptists also in the rest of those peculiar opinions which they hold against the Word of God. We therefore are not Anabaptists, neither do we agree with them in any point that is theirs…. For wedlock (which is the medicine of incontinency, and continency itself) — was ordained by the Lord God Himself…. We therefore condemn polygamy…. We do detest unclean single life, licentious lusts and fornications…. We do not disallow riches, nor contemn rich men — if they be godly and use their riches well. But we reprove the sect of the Apostolicals, etc.”371
Finally: “We condemn the Anabaptists who — as they deny that a Christian man should bear the office of a magistrate — deny also that any man can justly be put to death by the magistrate; or that the magistrate may make war; or that oaths should be administered by the magistrate; and such like things…. For he that opposes himself against the magistrate, does provoke the wrath of God. We condemn therefore all contemners of magistrates, rebels, enemies of the commonwealth, seditious villains — and, in a word, all such as do either openly or closely refuse to perform those duties which they owe.”372
We should perhaps also mention the Rhaetian Confession. According to Rev. Prof. Dr. Curtis,373 “at a Synod of the Reformed Churches in the Rhaetian Alps, approval was given in 1552 to a Confession — the Confessio Rhaetica — drawn up by Saluz Gallicus, and intended to establish a uniform system of doctrine in place of the existing theological chaos in which Anabaptist…and pantheistic teachings mingled. In 1553 it was submitted to Bullinger, who cordially approved of it…. Thereafter for centuries, in spite of the subsequent local recognition of the Second Helvetic Confession, it remained the authoritative Rhaetian formula.”
Monolithic opposition of all the Reformers to Anabaptism
Quite the entirety of the first generation, and perhaps also the majority of the second generation of Protestant Reformers — were all infantly-baptized in the Roman Catholic Church. Apparently not one of them was ever subsequently (re)baptized in any Protestant Church. Still less was any ever ‘rebaptized’ by the Anabaptists.
Yet many of them accurately and aggressively assailed both the Anabaptist and the Romish doctrines. As we have already seen, this was the case with: Martin Luther;374 Ulrich Zwingli;375 John Oecolampadius;376 John Calvin;377 Henry Bullinger;378 John Knox;379 and Guido de Bres.380
Indeed, it was also the case with ‘second generation’ Calvinist Reformers. Those would include: Peter Datheen;381 Menzo Alting;382 Jean Taffin;383 Francis Junius;384 Lucas Trelcatius Sr.;385 Lucas Trelcatius Jr.;386 Gellius Snecanus;387 James Kimedoncius;388 Peter Bontemps;389 and many others.390 All of them were baptized but once — some in the Romish Church prior to their conversion, but the others in the Protestant Church into which they had been born. Some, like Calvin himself, converted and married an Anabaptist.
These anti-Anabaptist Calvinists strongly opposed also Romanism’s false doctrine of baptismal regenerationism — and Gnesio-Lutheranism’s teaching as to the almost absolute necessity for baptism. Thus Calvin, Beza and Alsted — as well as the Brandenburg Confessions from 1614 onward.391
Mutual influence of Continental and British anti-Anabaptists
The above sixteenth-century and seventeenth-century Calvinists in Europe strongly affected not only the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, but also the Anglican Church in England. Both sixteenth-century and seventeenth-century British Puritans were massively influenced by, and in turn themselves massively influenced, the Paidobaptist and anti- anabaptistic Reformed theology of the Continent.
Thus, the Scots Wishart and Knox both studied in Switzerland. Wishart was deeply impressed by the anti-anabaptistic First Helvetic Confession of 1536. Knox not only frequently consulted with John Calvin, but himself wrote at least two works against the Anabaptists. According to Rev. Dr. William McMillan in his book The Worship of the Scottish Reformed Church 1550 – 1638, the conviction of the writers of the Book of Common Order is the Biblical view that the babies of believers are themselves Christians and federally holy before baptism392 (just as later reflected in the 1645 Westminster Assembly’s Directory for the Publick Worship of God).393
Not just Peter Martyr Vermigli and Jan Laski but also Micron and Gomarus all studied and worked in England. Indeed, there was a constant stream of heavy correspondence between the Reformed Churches in Switzerland and both the Anglicans and the Presbyterians in Britain.
This was especially the case in respect of Butzer and Calvin and Bullinger and Peter Martyr on the one hand. It was also the case as regards Knox and Hooper and Jewel and Cranmer and Somerset (etc.) on the other.
Also of significance is what certain Superintendents and Ministers in the Church of Scotland wrote to Calvin’s successor Beza. They wrote that the doctrine of the anti-Anabaptist Second Helvetic Confession of 1566 is precisely “what we have been teaching constantly these eight years [1558-66], and still by the grace of God continue to teach in our churches.”394
The General Assembly gave official approval to the Helvetica on 25th December 1566, when it “ordained the same to be printed, together with an epistle sent by the Assembly of the Kirk of Scotland approving the same.” Too, Calvin’s Catechism was approved by the Church of Scotland and was usually adjoined to its Book of Common Order.395
The anti-Anabaptist and anti-Romish 1615 Irish Articles
Very important too are the 1615 Irish Articles. For, as Rev. Prof. Dr. Philip Schaff396 and Rev. Prof. Dr. Benjamin B. Warfield397 both rightly claimed, the Westminster Confession of Faith itself was influenced chiefly by these Articles.
Already in 1566, the Protestant Episcopal Church of Ireland had drawn up twelve short articles. After the founding of Dublin University by pious bishops in 1591, the Protestant Irish Church convoked in 1613. It then drew up one hundred and four new articles — largely under the leadership of the godly Puritan Archbishop Rev. Dr. James Ussher.
The Irish Articles are strongly anti-anabaptistic. They provide398 that “the laws of the realm may punish Christian men with death for heinous and grievous offences…. It is lawful for Christian men, at the commandment of the magistrate, to bear arms and to serve in just wars….
“For the preservation of the chastity of men’s persons, wedlock is commanded unto all men that stand in need thereof…. The riches and goods of Christians are not common — as touching the right, title and possession of the same — as certain Anabaptists falsely affirm….
“Although in the visible Church the evil be ever mingled with the good, and sometimes the evil have chief authority in the ministration of the Word and Sacraments: yet, forasmuch as they do not the same in their own name, but in Christ’s, and minister by His commission and authority, we may use their ministry both in hearing the Word and in receiving the Sacraments.
“Neither is the effect of Christ’s ordinance taken away by their wickedness…. It is not lawful for any man to take upon him the office of public preaching or ministering the Sacraments in the Church, unless he be first lawfully called and sent to execute the same.”
These Irish Articles are also very strongly Calvinistic, and reflect the Puritanism then prevalent in Trinity College Dublin. They are rather ‘Presbyterian’ in character, and are very strong on predestination and reprobation. Indeed, they apparently presuppose regeneration even before infant baptism.
They insist399 that “baptism is not only an outward sign of our profession and a note of difference whereby Christians are discerned from such as are not Christians — but much more a Sacrament of our admission into the Church, sealing unto us our new birth by the communion which we have in Jesus Christ. The baptism of infants is to be retained in the Church, as agreeable to the Word of God.”
The anti-Anabaptist ‘T-U-L-I-P’ Decrees of the Synod of Dordt
Hot on the heels of the 1615 Irish Articles, followed the 1618f ‘Five Point of Calvinism’ alias the Decrees of Dordt. Also acronymed as ‘T-U-L-I-P’ (see the next paragraph), the ‘Five Points’ were formulated at an international Synod — attended by delegates from England, Friesland, Germany, Holland, Scotland, Switzerland, and Wales.
Dordt’s famous “T-U-L-I-P” itself, is implicitly paidobaptistic and anti-anabaptistic. For that ‘T-U-L-I-P’ — viz. ‘Total Depravity’ and ‘Unconditional Election’ and ‘Limited Atonement’ and ‘Irresistible Grace’ and the ‘Perseverance of the Saints’ — also in Holy Scripture itself applies not just to believing adults but also to their covenant babies.
Thus, God’s elect also include many babies. For Dordt insists that “the children of believers are holy not by nature but by virtue of the covenant of grace in which they, together with the parents, are comprehended. Godly parents have no reason to doubt the election and salvation of those their children whom it pleases God to call out of this life, in their infancy.”400
Again, Dordt reminds us of Christ’s own words in Holy Scripture about God’s revelations to ‘tiny tots’ within the covenant of grace. For it cites the Saviour’s statement: “I praise You, Father…, that You have revealed these things…to the little children.”401 Cf. Matthew 11:25f.
Lastly, one of Dordt’s articles402 against the Remonstrants (or Arminians) ascribes both the commencement and the preservation of grace in the elect to the Word alone. It ascribes to the Sacraments not the beginning or the inauguration but only the conservation, continuation and perfection of previously-begun saving grace.403
The influence of the 1618f Synod of Dordt upon Britain
The Stated Clerk of the Synod of Dordt later had a considerable influence upon the leading Westminster Assembly Theologian, Rev. Dr. George Gillespie. Indeed, King James the First of Great Britain — who authorized the translation of the King James Bible in 1611 — himself sent British Delegates to the Synod of Dordt in 1618.
At least five Britons are known to have attended the Synod of Dordt — and to have circulated its doctrine in Britain thereafter. They are: Bishop George Landaff of Wales; Rev. Prof. Dr. John Davenant and Rev. Prof. Dr. Samuel Ward, both of Cambridge; Rev. Dr. Thomas Goad of London; and Rev. Dr. Walter Balcanqual of Scotland.404 Indeed, there is some evidence that the Synod was attended even by the great British Puritan Rev. Dr. William Ames (who soon thereafter became Professor of Theology at Franeker in Friesland).
‘Mr. T-U-L-I-P’ himself, the great Rev. Prof. Dr. Francis Gomarus, had attended the 1618f Synod of Dordt. So too had his even more famous student, Gisbert Voetius. Gomarus had taught in Britain toward the end of the previous century. He clearly asserted an infant faith within covenant babies.405
Voetius would soon become the greatest Theologian in seventeenth-century Holland. Rev. Dr. Kaajan rightly represented Voetius as being “kindred in spirit to the Scottish and English Puritans.”406 Voetius’s own doctrine of the prebaptismal (rebuttably) presumed regeneration of covenant infants was itself strongly influenced by that of the very famous Englishman Rev. Dr. C. Burgess.
Perhaps most significantly of all, Voetius later publically expressed his own agreement with the ‘infant faith’ views of that Rev. Dr. Cornelius Burgess (the Assessor and Acting Moderator of the Westminster Assembly itself). Burgess had published his own views in his 1629 Treatise on the…Regeneration of Elect Infants. Compare the Westminster Confession 10:4.
Thereafter, Voetius commented on that writing of Burgess:407 “The opinion of the author pleases me…. He insists that in the elect and covenanted infants, there is room for the initial regeneration of the Holy Spirit — by which is impressed the beginning and seed of actual conversion or renovation, which is to follow in its own time.”
Also Voetius’s friend, Rev. Dr. Jan Cloppenburgh of Amsterdam, rightly refuted both Arminians and Anabaptists. Cloppenburgh later became Professor of Theology in Hardewyk, and later in Franeker.
In his work The Gangrene of Anabaptist Theology, Cloppenburgh insisted408 that covenant children “possess the seed of faith within them…. It [faith] not merely follows but also precedes [baptism] — and is accompanied by the fulfilments of the promises.” Compare too the earlier British Puritan William Perkins’ Golden Chain.409
Anti-Anabaptist background of Britain’s Westminster Assembly
Rev. Prof. Dr. Mitchell of St. Andrews University, the great authority on the theology and literature of the Westminster period, has demonstrated quite conclusively410 that the order followed by the Westminster divines in their Westminster Confession of Faith is that of the Irish Articles.
By 1643, the influence of Calvin was dominant throughout the British Isles (England, Wales, Ireland, Scotland, Cornwall, the Isle of Man, and the Channel Islands). Britain was already exporting Calvinism — to Holland, Germany, North America, and elsewhere. Indeed, also from Continental Europe — the ongoing influence of Post-Calvinian Calvinism further strengthened the already strong native Calvinism of Great Britain herself.
Yet not just the 1615 Irish Articles but also the 1618f Synod of Dordt and its ‘T-U-L-I-P’ Decrees of Dordt (alias the ‘Five Points of Calvinism’) had a massive influence on the 1643f Westminster Assembly. Indeed, as the American Presbyterian Rev. Prof. Dr. L.B. Schenck has rightly remarked,411the whole gamut of Calvinist Confessions, as well as the best Reformed Theologians, were drawn upon by the Westminster Assembly. Such was the interaction between Northern Europe and the whole of the British Isles in the maturing of Calvinism, that there was little room for independent development.
Mercifully, Britain in general and the 1643f Westminster Assembly in particular was steered away from heterodox Continental Anabaptism. It is true that even the belated ‘English Baptists’ (from 1611 onward) did derive largely from the Anabaptists. Mercifully, however, they remained only on the fringes of British Puritanism.
Baptist Professors on the origin and development of the (Ana)Baptists
The American Rev. Dr. Robert G. Torbet was Professor of Church History at Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary (from 1934-51). In 1950, he made some very important statements in his book A History of the Baptists.
According to Torbet,412 Prof. Dr. “Walter Rauschenbusch, of [Colgate] Rochester Baptist Theological Seminary” in New York State, exhibited a “willingness to identify Baptists with the socially radical Anabaptists.” Similarly, even Rev. Prof. Henry C. Vedder, the well-known Baptist and Church Historian at Crozer Theological Seminary from 1894 to 1927, noted the Anabaptists’ “aversion to oath-taking and holding public office.”
Torbet affirmed the view of “Ernest A. Payne, British Baptist church historian, that the Anabaptists were in all likelihood an influence in England which affected…Baptist development. Thus we are obliged to consider the influence of Anabaptist spiritualism upon early Baptists.”
Wrote Payne in the Baptist Quarterly: “Baptists cannot be separated from…other…groups of the sixteenth century.” For there is indeed a “relationship between the early English Baptists and the Continental Anabaptists…. The Mennonite influence was responsible in part for the first Baptist witness.”
Torbet himself admitted that “the false claims made by Thomas Muenzer (1490-1525), a socialist and leader in the Peasants’ War of 1525, and the horrors of the Muenster Rebellion ten years later under…Melchior Hofmann and Jan Matthys, combined to bring the Anabaptists into complete disrepute…. The extravagant cruelty and wanton destruction of the visionaries who sought to establish the millenial kingdom in Muenster, made an indelible impression…. The fanatics of Muenster were a potential menace to law and order” — and “taught resistance, against government, by the sword….
“Anabaptist teaching was to be found in England quite early in the sixteenth century. Large numbers of this sect came in 1528…until 1573, when…some fifty thousand were in the country…. The earlier Anabaptist refugees were disciples of Melchior Hofmann’s fanatical teaching…. In 1530…Archbishop Warham at the command of Henry VIII condemned an Anabaptist book…. In 1549, during the reign of Henry’s son Edward VI, Bishop Latimer’s sermons contained warnings against this ‘sect of hereticks.’ He accused them of being anarchistic.”
With commendable candour, the Baptist Torbet then went on to provide further alarming details: “English Anabaptists known as the ‘Family of Love’…were present in the country during the reign of Queen Elizabeth, who came to the throne in 1558. This sect had its origin on the continent with Henry Nicholas (Niklaes), a native of Muenster, who migrated to Amsterdam in 1530…. [In 1546,] he wrote a little book still to be found in the Mennonite library at Amsterdam, entitled Of the Spiritual Land of Promise…..
“In this work he advocated and defended ‘spiritual marriage,’ somewhat akin to Mormon teaching…. On the continent, ‘naked-runners,’ as they were called, appeared in many cities. These ‘naked-runners,’ who reputedly were Anabaptist fanatics, seem to have been Nicholas’ disciples. The sect, as transplanted to England, was known as ‘Familists’ — and gained an unsavory reputation for immorality….
“Christopher Vitell, a Southwark joiner…, translated many of Nicholas’ writings from the Dutch into English…. Bax, an able historian of the Anabaptist movement, admits…the historical connection between the ‘Family of Love’ and Anabaptists generally.”
Fifty years later, concluded Torbet, the exiled English (Ana)Baptist “Smyth’s congregation of some eighty persons seems to have had a separate existence [from Robinson’s “Pilgrim Father” Congregationalists] in Amsterdam….. He [John Smyth] felt that a minister should not preach with any manuscript before him; not even a translation of the Scriptures…. Smyth finished a tract against infant baptism, The Character of the Beast [‘666’], on March 24th 1609…. Smyth, undoubtedly under the influence of the Waterlander Mennonites, became an Anabaptist….
“He baptized himself…. Since they worshiped in a block of buildings belonging to a Mennonite merchant…., Smyth came increasingly under Mennonite influence.” After Smyth’s death in Amsterdam in 1610, his colleague and successor Thomas Helwys issued a Declaration of Faith, denying that baptism “appertaineth to infants.” Then, with his flock, he returned to England — to establish its first Baptist Church in 1611.
Many modern Baptists say their pioneers derive from the Anabaptists
Were we to wish, we could dwell for a long while on some of the quainter views of many of the more sectarian Anabaptists. We could also point to the naked submersions of some, and the forward-leaning triple immersions of others, within groups of German Baptists.413 However, instead of examining those extraordinary eccentricities, we rather proceed straight to the British and Anglo-American Baptists — who finally adopted the baptismal mode of backward-leaning and fully-clothed onefold submersion.
Yet, in light of all the foregoing, the esteem of certain modern Baptists for the apostate Anabaptists — is absolutely appalling. We have already seen414 claims to this effect in the writings of the Baptists Torbet, Rauschenbusch and Payne.415 Other specialists in the history of the Baptists agree.416Indeed, weirdly and woefully, even the modern British Particular Baptist Erroll Hulse has insisted417 that “we should call the orthodox evangelical Anabaptists of the Reformation ‘Baptists’ — and not ‘Anabaptists.'”
Speaking specifically of the situation in England and America, Hulse has continued: “The General Baptists…had their origin in John Smyth (d. 1612)…. His study of the Scriptures brought him to practise believers’ baptism…. In March 1639, [Roger] Williams and eleven others were baptized, and the first Baptist Church in America was constituted.”
Yet it should be observed that after Smyth had ‘baptized’ himself, or rather ‘re-baptized‘ himself (and rebaptized himself), he was ‘re-re-baptized’ by the Dutch Mennonite Anabaptists (by way of pouring). It should also be noted that after Williams was submersed, he later renounced that immersion as invalid — because administered by one not yet himself submersed.
As the Scottish Baptist J.G.G. Norman has reminded us,418 John Smyth, “father of English General Baptists…, baptized himself.” This he did in 1609; by affusion; and on foreign soil. Worse yet. After thus becoming a Mennonite, Smyth personally embraced their heretical christology.419
Even more startlingly, the noted English Baptist Rev. Prof. Dr. West has drawn attention to what he regarded420 as “the first statement by an Englishman arguing for believers’ baptism. It is Smyth’s pamphlet: Character of the Beast.” Sadly, that is a diatribe — 666! — against the historic Christian Church’s apostolic practice of infant baptism. The latter must be renounced, held Smyth, as “profanation” and as the baptism of “Antichrist.”421
After Smyth’s death while a Mennonite, his colleague and successor Thomas Helwys in 1611 drew up the first English Baptist Confession. At first, he denied original sin; always, he maintained an Arminian soteriology.422 Indeed, Helwys’s Baptist Confession — while indeed confining baptism only to those who have confessed Christ — still says nothing about submersion.423 However, he not only identified Romanism with the first beast of Revelation thirteen — but the Church of England as the second.424
Smyth and Helwys were both Arminian (Ana)Baptists. The first so-called ‘Calvinistic’ or rather ‘Particular Baptist’ congregation was formed, in England, only in the 1630s. Yet by 1638, this new denomination had rejected Scriptural sprinkling and had lapsed into sacramentalistic submersionism. Then, following that declension — in 1641, Edward Barber was the first English Arminian or General Baptist to advocate dipping.425
Yet the sympathetic Williams has made an honest admission. For even he admits426 that “the adoption by English Baptists of the practice of immersion ultimately derived from the Minor Church of Poland…introduced into Holland by the Socinians” alias the Unitarian Anabaptists.
The arrival and expansion of (Ana)Baptists in North America
The famous American-Swiss church historian Rev. Prof. Dr. Philip Schaff has informed us427 that “in America the Baptists trace their origin chiefly…to Roger Williams…. He was charged with advocating certain opinions supposed to be dangerous.”
These included the viewpoints: “that the magistrate ought not to punish offences against the First Table [of God’s Law]; that an oath ought not to be tendered to an unregenerate man; [and] that a regenerate man ought not to pray with the unregenerate, though it be his wife or child….
“He [Roger Williams] was immersed by Ezekiel Hollyman [during 1639] — and, in turn, immersed Hollyman and ten others. This was the first Baptist church on the American Continent. But a few months afterwards, he renounced his rebaptism — on the ground that Hollyman was unbaptized [meaning unsubmersed], and therefore unauthorized to administer the rite to him.”
Clearly, it never dawned on Roger Williams that nobody had baptized John the baptizer. Yet it was John (and apparently by pouring or sprinkling) who baptized Jesus Christ. And it is the Latter’s baptism alone which gives validity to all Christian baptisms.
Incredibly, the apostate Roger Williams pleaded428 even for the complete toleration of Islam, Judaism and Paganism. He read Dutch well; knew of the political concepts of the Dutch Anabaptists; and accordingly rejected the British and American Puritans and their Christonomic Theocracy.429Unfortunately, the Dutch (Ana)Baptistic heresies of Roger Williams have now massively corrupted especially the United States.
As even the Baptist Hulse has indicated,430 “the Baptist World Alliance has published the statement that in 1975 there were 33,800,000 adherents throughout the world. Over 29,600,000 of these are in North America.”
Well could Hulse have added that most are from Dixie: the Deep South of the U.S.A. There, Baptists themselves often boast, reside almost “more Baptists than people.” Undoubtedly, Baptist Bill Clinton — the U.S. President — is clearly “Exhibit A.”
What Hulse indeed has added,431 is that “the statistics might represent nominal Baptists only — that is people who have little if any religious conviction; but when asked what religion they profess, will say Baptist. This is especially so in areas where there is little cost to discipleship….
“In some areas, such as the Southern States of America, membership may be almost as nominal as it is in State Churches of other countries. The great majority may have recorded a decision for Christ, but show no evidence of a saving change.” What an admission, about Baptists, by a Baptist!
British (Ana)Baptist Confessions of the seventeenth century
Clearly, Pro-Mennonite Verduin was wrong to regard the Anabaptists as the Reformer’s stepchildren. The truth is, the Anabaptists were the Romanists‘ stepchildren — and even more heretical. Yet Baptists like Torbet and Hulse have nevertheless regarded the Anabaptists as the ancestors of the Baptists — and thus the Baptists as the ‘stepchildren’ of the Anabaptists (and therefore also as the ‘great-stepchildren’ of the mediaeval Romanists).
Baptist Estep has alleged432 that “baptism by immersion was inaugurated by 1641.” He should have conceded these so-called immersions, or rather submersions, were not at all being “inaugurated” by “1641” — but were then merely a restoration of the post-midpatristic submersions inaugurated by baptismally- regenerationistic and sacramentalistic Romanism.
In July 1643, the National Assembly of infant-sprinkling British Puritans had convened at Westminster. Swiftly, the (Ana)Baptists reacted. Arising out of their disputation against the leading Anglican Puritan Rev. Dr. Daniel Featley, they quickly produced their 1644 Confession of the Seven Churches of London alias their London Confession.433
Thus did they issue their own 1644 symbol. Intriguingly, it was subtitled: Confession of Faith of those churches which are commonly…called ‘Anabaptist.’434 This novelly alleged a single submersion to be the only valid form of baptism. Therein, it alleged that the candidate’s total submersion (alias his being dunked or dipped under the water) — is indeed necessary.
It was, of course, intended purely as a declaration of faith. For it possessed no binding power over British Anabaptists in general — and not even over those seven submersing congregationalistic congregations in London which framed that document. Indeed, after the appearing of the sacramental parts of the British Puritans’ Westminster Confession, the London Confession of the ‘Anabaptists’ appeared again in 1646 — but this time with several additions and alterations.
Held this antipaidobaptistic and submersionistic Confession: “Baptism is an Ordinance of the New Testament…to be dispensed only upon persons professing faith…. The way and manner of the dispensing of this ordinance, the Scripture holds out to be dipping or plunging the whole body under water…. The word baptizo, signifying to dip under water — yet so as with convenient garments both upon the administrator and subject, with all modesty.”435
Only in the London Baptist Confession of 1677 (further to be reprinted in 1688 & 1689), was a general declaration with an abiding authority among Baptists made in this regard. Its full title was A Confession of Faith put forth by the Elders and Brethren of many congregations of Christians baptized upon Profession of their Faith.436 It contains the statement that “immersion or dipping of the person in water” was “necessary to the due administration of this ordinance.”437
For the rest, this whole London Confession of 1677 was plagiarized from the paidobaptist Puritans’ Westminster Confession of 1645. Of the latter, fortunately only the articles on Church Government and the Sacraments were perverted by the London Confession — which, from 1742 onward, was in North America also known as the Philadelphia Confession. For the rest — this Baptist borrowing from the Westminster Confession438 is indeed quite the sincerest form of flattery.
The Particular Baptists and the General Baptists separated from one another from 1691 until 1891. Based upon the London Confession of 1677, the 1693 London General Assembly of the Particular Baptists adopted their Baptist Catechism.439
The reply to the (Ana)Baptists of the Calvinistic Westminster Assembly
The absurd allegations contained in the 1644 Baptist Confession of the seven congregations in London, soon became apparent upon the 1646 publication of the Westminster Confession of the British Puritans. See Francis Nigel Lee’s I Confess! (subtitled Holy Scripture, the Westminster Confession, and the Declaratory Statement — their Relationship to One Another in the Presbyterian Church of Australia).440
Of the various Westminster Standards, the Westminster Directory for the Publick Worship of God had appeared already in February 1645. “Baptism,” it declared,441 “is not unnecessarily to be delayed…. The child to be baptized…is to be presented by the father….
“Before baptism, the Minister is to use some words of instruction…shewing that…the seed and posterity of the faithful born within the Church have by their birth interest in the covenant and right to the seal of it…. They are Christians and federally holy before baptism, and therefore are they baptized…. He is to baptize the child with water which, for the manner of doing it, is not only lawful but sufficient and most expedient to be by pouring or sprinkling of the water on the face of the child without adding any other ceremony.” By the latter is meant the ‘salt and spittle’ as well as the submersions of post-midpatristic Romanism.
The Westminster Confession was finalized. It states442 that “the first covenant made with man was a covenant of works wherein life was promised to Adam and in him to his posterity. [Hosea 6:7 & First Corinthians 15:22 & 15:45f &] Romans 10:5 & 5:12-20…. God gave to Adam a Law — as a covenant of works by which He bound him and all his posterity to…perpetual obedience. Genesis 1:26f & 2:17; Romans 2:14f.”
The Petrobrusians had denied infants could demonstrate their worthiness and thus be saved. Accordingly, they rejected the baptism of babies. Also their descendants, the Anabaptists, rejected the baptism of infants, and equivocated on their salvation. So too do their stepchildren, the Baptists. But the Calvinistic Westminster Confession summarily declares443 that “elect infants dying in infancy are regenerated and saved by Christ through the Spirit, Who worketh when and where and how He pleaseth. Luke 18:15f; Acts 2:38f; John 3:3,5; First John 5:12; Romans 8:9; John 3:8.”
At man’s creation, the 1647 Westminster Confession continues,444 “marriage was ordained…for the increase of mankind with a legitimate issue and of the Church with an holy seed. Malachi 2:15…. The catholick or universal church which is invisible, consists of the whole number of the elect….
“The Visible Church which is also catholick or universal…consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion together with their children, and is the family of God. First Corinthians 7:14; Acts 2:39; Ezekiel 16:20f; Romans 11:16; Genesis 3:15 & 17:7…. Unto this catholick Visible Church Christ hath given the Ministry, Oracles and Ordinances of God…. Matthew 28:19 & Isaiah 59:21.” In the last two prooftexts, taken together, also infant baptism is indicated.
Specifically, the Confession goes on,445 “baptism is a sacrament…and seal of the covenant of grace…. Dipping of the person into the water is not necessary; but baptism is rightly administered by pouring or sprinkling water upon the person. Hebrews 9:10-22; Acts 2:41 [also vv. 14-18 & 33] & 16:33; Mark 7:4.” See too Psalms 77:15-20 & 78:12-16; Joel 2:16,23,28f; First Corinthians 10:1-2; and First Peter 1:2 & 3:20f.
“Also the infants of one or both believing parents are to be baptized. Genesis 17:7-9; Galatians 3:9,14 [and vv. 27f]; Colossians 2:11f; Acts 2:38f; Romans 4:11f; Mark 10:13f; Luke 18:15f…. It be a great sin to contemn or neglect this ordinance. Luke 7:30 & Exodus 4:24-26…. Baptism isbut once to be administered to any person. Titus 3:5.”
The Westminster Larger Catechism was adopted in October 1647. “God doth not leave all men to perish in the estate of sin and misery, but” — it states446 — “bringeth them into an estate of salvation by the second covenant…of grace…. Under the New Testament…the same covenant of grace was and still is to be administered in…the administration…of baptism. Matthew 28:19f…..
“Baptism is a Sacrament of the New Testament wherein Christ hath ordained the washing with water…to be a sign and seal of ingrafting into Himself…. Baptism is not to be administered to any that are out[side] of the Visible Church…. Infants descending from parents either both or but one of them professing faith in Christ and obedience to Him are in that respect within the covenant and to be baptized. Genesis 17:7f; Colossians 2:11f; Acts 2:38f; Romans 4:11f; First Corinthians 7:14; Matthew 28:19; Luke 18:15f; Romans 11:16…. Baptism is to be administered but once…, and that even to infants.”447
Finally, the Westminster Shorter Catechism was adopted in November 1647. It insists448 that “baptism is a Sacrament wherein the washing with water in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost doth signify and seal our ingrafting into Christ and partaking of the benefits of the covenant of grace and our engagement to be the Lord’s. Matthew 28:19; Romans 6:4; Galatians 3:27. Infants of such as are members of the visible church, are to be baptized. Acts 2:38f; Genesis 17:10; Colossians 2:11f; First Corinthians 7:14.”
It was hardly necessary for the Westminster Confession to condemn the Anabaptists by name. For earlier, it had already condemned their distinctive doctrines of revolutionism,449 of pseudo-pentecostalism,450 of opposition to oath-taking,451 of anarchy,452 of polygamy,453 of adultery,454 and of their communistic redistribution of private property.455
How to “crucify the Son of God afresh”: the sin of rebaptism
Scripture and the Westminster Standards both see rebaptism as a sin. It is a transgression of the Law of God. For the Decalogue commands that God be worshipped only in the authorized way — and not be worshipped through any ‘graven images’ (such as rebaptism) contrary to His revealed will.
In Old Testament times, bodily circumcision is unrepeatable –and recircumcision was and is impossible. Deut 10:16 & 30:6 and Jeremiah 4:4 & 9:25-26. Because circumcision has now been replaced by baptism, the latter too is unrepeatable — and rebaptism impossible. Romans 4:11-25 & 6:1-5; Galatians 3:6-29; Colossians 2:11-13.
Only unitarians and heretics practised ‘rebaptism’ in the apostolic and post-apostolic ages. Mark 7:3-8; Acts 19:1-3; First Corinthians 11:18f & 15:29. To the True Visible Church of the Triune God, there was only one baptism — trinitarian, life-long, and unrepeatable. Matthew 28:19f; Mark 16:15f; Romans 6:3-23; Ephesians 4:4-6; Colossians 2:6- 16.
Hebrews 6:1-6 implies that those who get themselves rebaptized, recrucify Christ. For it commands: “Do not again lay down…the doctrine of baptisms!” Indeed, such who do so, thereby “crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh!” See Francis Nigel Lee’s Rebaptism Impossible.
The Westminster Confession of Faith456 declares that “the sacrament of baptism is but once to be administered to any person. Titus 3:5.”
The Westminster Larger Catechism457 rightly insists that the Second Commandment requires the proper “receiving of the sacraments. Matthew 28:19.” Indeed, the Third Commandment requires that the “sacraments…be holily and reverently used…by an holy profession.”
Consequently, the Westminster Larger Catechism458 also requires “that baptism is to be administered but once with water — to be a sign and seal of our regeneration and ingrafting into Christ. Matthew 3:11 & Galatians 3:27.” But once! Rebaptism thus denies Christ’s work for us once-and-for-all!
The great sin of leaving one’s own babies unbaptized
According to both Holy Scripture and the Westminster Standards, being unbaptized is a sin. Omitting to have also one’s baby baptized, is sinfully to break the Law of God. The Confession (28:5) calls this not just a minor aberration, but “a great sin.”
God solemnly warns us not to neglect getting the Sacrament of initiation administered to our own babies. See Francis Nigel Lee: Have You Been Neglecting Your Baby? On the Serious Consequences of Withholding Baptism from the Infants of Christians.459
In Genesis 17:10-14, God demands that all covenant babies concerned “must needs” receive the sign of the covenant. If they do not, those babies are “cut off” from God’s people. This then occurs because of the “breach” of the covenant — through their wayward parents’ sinful omission of getting the sacrament affixed to their infants.
Commented Calvin:460 “As God adopts the infant son in the person of his father, so when the father repudiates such a benefit — the infant is said to [be] cut…off from the Church…. God indeed will not acknowledge those as among His people who…[do] not bear the mark and token of adoption….God will take vengeance on every one who despises to impress the symbol of the covenant on his child (Genesis 17) — such contempt being a rejection and as it were abjuration of the offered grace.”
In Exodus 4:24-26, God sought to kill Moses — for neglecting to give the sign of the covenant to his infant child. Significantly, God then threatened with death not the infant but his wayward father Moses. For “the Lord met him, and sought to kill him.”
So, to prevent the death of her husband, Moses’ unordained wife Zipporah herself then (very understandably yet highly irregularly) circumcised their son, and threw his foreskin at Moses’ feet. “Then she said: ‘You are surely a husband-of- blood to me!’ Then He [God] let him [Moses] go. Thus she said: ‘You are a husband-of-blood!’ — because of the circumcising.”
To put this in church-historical terms, we may say that the backslidden Presbyterian Rev. Moses had temporarily lapsed from strict obedience to God — by becoming a de facto antipaidocircumcisional or ‘antipaidobaptistic’ Baptist. For he had neglected himself to circumcise his infant son. His presbyterianized wife, however — though overenthusiastically herself administering the sacrament — had commendably remained a loyal paidocircumcisional or ‘paidobaptistic’ Presbyterian.
Commented Calvin:461 “Why should Zipporah have taken a sharp stone or knife, and circumcised her son — had she not known that God was offended at his uncircumcision? … Moses had provoked God’s vengeance…. He was terrified by the approach of certain destruction…. The cause of His affliction was shewn him…. It would otherwise never have occurred to himself or his wife to circumcise the child to appease God’s wrath…. Let us then learn from hence, to use reverently the Sacraments which are the seals of God’s grace — lest He should severely avenge our despisal of them!”
In Exodus 12:24-43f, God debars from the second Sacrament all adults whose infants still lack the first Sacrament. Commented Calvin:462 “They should also teach their children…. For doctrine may justly be called the life of Sacraments…. The Paschal Lamb corresponds to the Holy Supper…. None but the initiated were admitted…. From the analogy between the Holy Supper and the Passover, this Law remains in force now.”
In Joshua 5:2-8, at God’s command, Moses’ successor Joshua circumcised the people of Israel. For they had lapsed into uncircumcision, while on their way through the wilderness.
Because of that widespread delinquency, Joshua soon thereafter told the Israelites: ‘As for me and my household — we will serve the Lord!’ Joshua 24:15. For he would not only preach paidocircumcision, but — by his personal example and that of his family — also practise it ‘puritanically’ and precisely. Indeed, he would do so especially by then and thereafter training his covenant children to serve the Lord lifelong — and thus to ‘improve’ the sacrament they had received in infancy.
As Rev. Prof. Dr. John Calvin explained of the soon-backsliding and indeed then-anabapticizing and de- presbyterianizing antipaidocircumcisional Israelites:463 “They did not desist from circumcising their children the very first day after their departure [from Egypt], but only after they had been obliged to retrace their steps through their own perverseness…. None were circumcised on the way, after they had set out…. For it is said that their sons…were circumcised by Joshua….
“The real object of Joshua was…to renew and confirm the covenant which God had already made…. To impress them [the ‘anabapticized’ people] with a feeling of shame — he declares that he and his house will persevere in the worship of God.” For Joshua the Presbyterian would represbyterianize those antipaidocircumcisionized backslidden ‘Baptists.’
Let us now put the above in church-historical terms easily understandable in an anabapticized Clintonic America today almost totally fallen away from its colonial heritage of paidobaptistic Puritanism. After the exodus, the previously- Presbyterian people of God had lapsed into an ‘anabaptistic’ antipaidocircumcisionalism (or ‘antipaidobapticism’). Thus the Israelites had become de facto Baptists. But the faithful and paidocircumcisional or ‘paidobaptistic’ Joshua now represbyterianized them — even as paidobaptist Presbyterians must now repuritanize Clinton the Baptist’s U.S.A.
Indeed, Joshua did this not by impossibly attempting to recircumcise the circumcised — but by circumcising all of those of them and of their infants who had grown up uncircumcised. He also did so — by declaring that, whatever the people themselves would thenceforth do, at least he and his household would paidocircumcisionally and presbyterianly serve the Lord.
In Ezekiel 44:7 — a foreshadowing of the New Testament Church –God rebukes those who have received the Sacrament of initiation for bringing those who have not, to worship in His presence. Declares God: “You have brought into My sanctuary strangers, uncircumcised in heart and uncircumcised in flesh, to be in My sanctuary to pollute it…. They have broken My covenant.” What application does this have to baptized Baptists, who regard their own babies as strangers to God but yet bring them to worship Him?
In Luke 7:29f, God declares that “the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized.” Commented Calvin:464 “It was already an evidence of their piety, that they [the godly] presented themselves to be baptized…. The scribes, in despising the baptism of John, shut against themselves, through their pride, the gate of faith…. Let us first guard against despising the very least of God’s invitations, and be prepared in humility to commence with small and elementary instructions!”
In Acts 2:38f, God commands the penitent: “Be baptized every one of you…, for the promise is unto you and to your children!” Commented Calvin:465 “This passage therefore sufficiently refutes the Anabaptists, who deny baptism to the children of the faithful while they are still infants, as though they were not members of the Church…. This gross presumption is of no profit to them.”
In Acts 11:16f, Peter saw his baptizing of the entire family of Cornelius as a fulfilment of Christ’s prediction that people would be baptized with the Holy Spirit at and after His outpouring. Peter added “What was I, that I could withstand God?” Commented Calvin:466 “Those who are opposing infant baptism, are waging war against God.”
According to the Westminster Larger Catechism,467 the Fifth Commandment requires fathers and mothers not to commit “sins” by “the neglect of the duties required of them” — such as that of bringing their children to be baptized. “Second Kings 5:13; Ephesians 6:4; Deuteronomy 6:6f; Ezekiel 34:2-4.”
Indeed, the Westminster Larger Catechism468 requires that “infants descending from parents either both or but one of them professing faith in Christ…are…to be baptized. Genesis 17:7f; Galatians 3:9f; Colossians 2:11f; Acts 2:38f; Romans 4:11f; First Corinthians 7:14; Matthew 28:19; Luke 18:15f; Romans 11:16.”
Rightly does the Westminster Confession469 therefore conclude that “also the infants of one or both believing parents are to be baptized…. It be a great sin to contemn or neglect this ordinance. Luke 7:30 & Exodus 4:24-26.”
Godly methods for overcoming Anabaptist influences
God has not left us in the dark as to how to overcome Anabaptist (and all other deleterious) influences even in our modern world. Those methods are: firstly, the powerful preaching of the Gospel; secondly, the ‘improving’ (or daily living-out) of one’s own baptism; thirdly, the joyful outworking of the preached Word of God; fourthly, the State’s punishment of criminals. Thus, fifthly, do we confidently approach the future millenium –when Consistent Christianity (alias Calvinism) will triumph internationally.
Firstly, there needs to be the powerful preaching of the Gospel. States the Westminster Larger Catechism: “The Spirit of God maketh the reading but especially the preaching of the Word an effectual means of enlightening, convincing and humbling sinners…and drawing them unto Christ…; of strengthening them against temptations and corruptions…and establishing their hearts in holiness. Nehemiah 8:8; Acts 2:37-41; 8:27-38; 26:18; Psalm 19:8; Matthew 4:4-10; Ephesians 6:16f….. They that are called to labour in the Ministry of the Word, are to preach sound doctrine…in demonstration of the Spirit and of power. Titus 2:1-8 & First Corinthians 2:4.”470
Secondly, Christians are to ‘improve’ their own baptism. States the Westminster Larger Catechism:471 “The needful but much neglected duty of improving our baptism is to be performed by us all our life long…, by serious and thankful consideration of the nature of it and…the privileges and benefits conferred and sealed thereby and our solemn vow made therein; by…growing up to assurance of pardon of sin and of all other blessings sealed to us in that sacrament; by drawing strength from the death and resurrection of Christ into Whom we are baptized…; and by endeavouring to live by faith…in holiness and righteousness. Colossians 2:11f; Romans 6:4-11; Galatians 3:26f; Romans 6:22.”
Thirdly — and proceeding from the aforegoing — there is to be a joyful outworking of the Word of God in our lives. States the Westminster Confession of Faith:472 “They who are effectually called and regenerated, having a new heart and a new spirit created in them, are farther sanctified really and personally through the virtue of Christ’s death and resurrection, by His Word and Spirit dwelling in them. John 17:17; Second Thessalonians 2:13…. Their ability to do good works is not at all of themselves, but wholly from the Spirit of Christ. John 15:4f; Ezekiel 36:26f….
“There is required an actual influence of the same Holy Spirit to work in them to will and to do of His good pleasure. Philippians 2:12f & 4:13; Second Corinthians 3:5. Yet are they not hereupon to grow negligent, as if they were not bound to perform any duty unless upon a special motion of the Spirit. But they ought to be diligent in stirring up the grace of God that is in them…, the Spirit of Christ subduing and enabling the will of man to do that freely and cheerfully which the will of God revealed in the Law requireth to be done. Hebrews 6:11f; Second Peter 1:3-11; Isaiah 64:7; Second Timothy 1:6; Acts 26:6f; Jude 20f; Ezekiel 36:27; Hebrews 8:10; Jeremiah 31:33.”
Fourthly, the State, as God’s servant, is to punish all criminals. Explains the Westminster Confession of Faith:473 “They who, upon pretence of Christian liberty, shall oppose any lawful power or the lawful exercise of it…resist the ordinance of God. Matthew 12:35; First Peter 2:13-16; Romans 13:1-8….
“For their publishing of such opinions or maintaining of such practices as are contrary to the light of nature or to the known principles of Christianity…, they may lawfully be called to account and proceeded against…by the power of the civil magistrate. Romans 1:32; Deuteronomy 13:6-12; Ezra 7:23-28; Nehemiah 13:5-30; Second Kings 23:5- 21; Second Chronicles 34:33 & 15:12-16; Daniel 3:29; First Timothy 2:2; Isaiah 49:23; Zechariah 12:2f…. God the supreme Lord and King of all the world hath ordained civil magistrates to be under Him over the people…for the defence and encouragement of them that are good and for the punishment of evil-doers. Romans 13:1-4; First Peter 2:13f.”
Fifthly, we are confident of the Church’s future. States the Westminster Larger Catechism:474 “Christ was exalted in His ascension…, triumphing over enemies. Ephesians 4:8.” He “visibly went up into the highest heavens, there to receive gifts for men. Acts 1:9-11; Ephesians 4:10; Psalm 68:18…. As God-man, He is advanced to the highest favour with God the Father…and power over all things in heaven and earth; and doth gather and defend His Church and subdue their enemies. Philippians 2:9; Ephesians 1:22; First Peter 3:22; Romans 8:34.” This confidence is rooted in the Lord’s Prayer.
The inevitable conversion of the Anabaptists’ stepchildren
It is quite inevitable that all our planet’s nations (obviously including their babies) will yet be brought into baptismal subjection to the Triune God. For Jesus urges and promises this, in the “Lord’s prayer” for His disciples. There, He enjoins us to pray each day: “Thy Kingdom come!” Matthew 6:10 & Luke 11:2. God commands this; and God will execute this.
Here, explains the Westminster Larger Catechism,475 “we pray: that the kingdom of sin and Satan may be destroyed; the Gospel propagated throughout the world; the Jews called; the fulness of the Gentiles brought in.” This is a prayer that “the Church [be] furnished with all Gospel-Offices and Ordinances” such as infant baptism. It is an earnest petition that the Church be “purged from corruption” such as Anabaptism, and be “countenanced and maintained by the Civil Magistrate” against all ungodliness — so “that the Ordinances of Christ may be purely dispensed.” Romans 10:1f & 11:25f. This is a petition that baptism no longer be limited by some to adults alone — nor repeated in adulthood to those already baptized in infancy.
The Westminster Assembly’s Directory for the Publick Worship of God rightly understands the above petition to be a promise that the Church will ultimately calvinize all the world. That includes de-brainwashing heretics — and redirecting them toward the untruncated Word of God.
For in the ‘Publick Prayer before the Sermon’476 the Minister is “to pray for the propagation of the Gospel and Kingdom of Christ to all nations — for the conversion of the Jews; the fulness of the Gentiles; the fall of Antichrist.” He is also to pray: “for the deliverance of the distressed churches abroad from the tyranny of the antichristian faction and from the cruel oppressions and blasphemies of the Turks [or the Moslems]; for the blessing of God upon the Reformed Churches“; and for God to “establish…the purity of all His Ordinances, and…remove heresy.”
This is to be effected even in “the universities and all schools and religious seminaries of Church and Commonwealth, [so] that they may flourish more and more in learning and piety.” For we are to pray “that God would pour out a blessing upon the Ministry of the Word, Sacraments and Discipline; upon the Civil Government; and all the several families and persons therein.” This is to be done “with confidence of His mercy to His whole Church” — thus giving “evidence and demonstration of the Spirit and power.”
The above Westminster Directory for the Publick Worship of God was intended to provide a uniform international religion for the united kingdom of England and Wales, the kingdom of Ireland, and the kingdom of Scotland. On 3rd February 1645, it was put into execution by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland.477 Its relevant Act declared:
“Whereas an happy unity and uniformity in religion amongst the kirks of Christ in these three kingdoms…having been long and earnestly wished for by the godly and well-affected amongst us…, these kingdoms…are now by the blessing of God brought to a nearer uniformity than any other Reformed Kirk.” This is for us “the return of our prayers, and a lightening of our eyes, and reviving of our hearts…., and an opening unto us a door of hope…in the expectation and confidence whereof we do rejoice.”
Thus we are confidently “beseeching the Lord to preserve these kingdoms from heresies…, and to continue with us and the generations following these His pure and purged Ordinances, together with an increase of the power and life thereof — to the glory of His great Name, the enlargement of the Kingdom of His Son, and the…unity and comfort of all His people.”
In 1648, both the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church and the Parliament of the Committee of Estates of Scotland approved the Solemn Acknowledgement of Publick Sins and Breaches of the Covenant. That declared:478 “Because religion is of all things the most excellent and precious, the advancing and promoting the power thereof against all…Anabaptism, Antinomianism, Arminianism, and Socianianism, Familism, Libertinism, Scepticism, and Erastianism…shall be studied and endeavoured by us before all worldly interests.”
Similarly, on 31st May 1851, the General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland declared479 that “it pleased Almighty God in His great and undeserved mercy to reform this Church from Popery — by Presbyters…. Nations and their rulers are bound to own the truth of God, and to advance the Kingdom of His Son…. How signally God opened for her…a door of utterance and a door of entrance not only in this but in other countries also…, this Church cannot but most devoutly acknowledge….
“In the holy boldness of faith unfeigned, she would still seek…to prosecute the ends contemplated from the beginning in all the acts and deeds of her reforming fathers — until the errors which they renounced shall have disappeared from the land, and the true system which they upheld shall be so universally received — that the whole people, rightly instructed in the faith, shall unite to glorify God the Father in the full acknowledgment of the Kingdom of His Son our blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, to Whose Name be praise for ever and ever!”
(Ana)Baptists of all countries — repent!
Karl Marx, himself a stepchild of the communistic Anabaptists, loved to enjoin: “Workers of the world — unite!”480 But, standing upon Scripture, Christian Calvinists now say to all such stepchildren: “Anabaptists of all countries — repent!”
We therefore call upon all of the various stepchildren of the Anabaptists — including justified Baptists; heretical Seventh-day Adventists; apostate “Jehovah witnesses”; polytheistic Mormons; and atheistic Communists — to repent of their great sin of antipaidobaptism (and of all their other sins).
Standing upon Scripture — Matthew 28:18f and Revelation 7:2f & 9:4 & 12:17 & 14:1 & 21:2,24 & 22:3f — we now call upon them all to repent of their antipaidobaptism. We call upon them: to bring their babies and their other children to that great King of men and divine Leader of angels, the mighty Archangel Jesus; to get them all baptized on their foreheads with the seal of the Triune God; and then to urge them life-long to improve that baptism.
To His Ministers of the Word and Sacraments, “Jesus came and spake…saying, ‘All power in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore, go and make all nations into [My] disciples, baptizing them into the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, continuing to teach them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded!'”
In the last book of the Bible, the Apostle John declared: “I saw an…Angel [apparently the risen Christ Himself] ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God. And He cried out with a loud voice…saying [to His angels], ‘Do not hurt the land nor the sea nor the trees — till We [the Three Persons of the Triune God through His Ministers of the Word and Sacraments] have sealed the servants of our God upon their foreheads!’ And I heard the number of them which were sealed — sealed, a hundred and forty-four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel….
“I beheld [or kept on beholding],” continued John. “Then look, a great multitude which no man could number — of all nations and kindreds…stood before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes…. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”
John also heard God’s Spirit say: “Do not hurt the grass of the earth nor any green thing nor any tree; but only those men who do not have the seal of God upon their foreheads…. But the dragon was angry with the woman, and went to make war against the rest of her seed — who keep the Commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.”
Finally, John observed with joy: “I looked, and behold — a Lamb stood upon Mount Zion [the Christian Church]! And those with Him have His Father’s Name written upon their foreheads…. I, John, saw the holy city New Jerusalem coming down from God…. The nations of those who are saved, shall walk in the light of it…. There shall be no more curse. But the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. Then they shall see His face; and His Name shall be upon their foreheads!”
This material may be reproduced and circulated, providing written credit is given to its author, Rev. Prof. Dr. Francis Nigel Lee, of the Queensland Presbyterian Theological Hall in Australia. (within Emmanuel College, Upland Road, St Lucia, QLD, Australia 4067). Phone: Intl. +61 7 3266 1688.
The right of (re)publication by the author in any different way is hereby reserved.