E. Belfort Bax. Rise and Fall of the Anabaptists.

Chapter III.
Persecution of the Anabaptists and Death of the Earlier Leaders.

At first the attitude of the authorities towards the new sect was somewhat hesitating. Like Zwingli in Zürich, the spiritual and temporal powers of other towns made some show of giving the Anabaptists a fair hearing, and instituted public disputations. It was expected, of course, that they should accept the refutations of the pastors and masters who were appointed for the purpose of refuting them. When, as might have been supposed, the disputants having failed to come to an understanding, the Anabaptists would not repent and acknowledge themselves as beaten, resort had to be taken to other measures. St. Gallen, Basel and Bern, besides Zurich, tried the persuasive method of disputation without any tangible results. The inevitable change to persecution followed.

The Governments, although agreed as to the principle of non-toleration of dissentients from the established creed, whether Catholic or Protestant, were by no means all of the same mind as to the severity of the measures necessary to stamp out the new doctrine.

The Archduke Ferdinand of Austria issued on August 26th, 1527, an Imperial mandate condemning Anabaptism and threatening the followers of such doctrine with the punishment of death. On October 16th of the same year, he had more than two thousand copies of this mandate printed and distributed over the different provinces of the Empire. The Catholic territories and cities were, as might have been expected, the first to adopt extreme courses. They were stimulated by another Imperial mandate of January 4th, 1528, reminding them that, according alike to the Spiritual and temporal law, re-baptism was punishable with death, and exhorting the authorities throughout the Empire to proceed with rigour in accordance with the legal provisions in the matter. For the Catholic powers this was all right, but it was impossible for the new Evangelical (Protestant) principalities and cities to admit the validity of Imperial laws and edicts in religious matters; since they would have been at once themselves confronted with the Edict of Worms (1520) and with the opening up of a limitless vista of ‘consequences otherwise which would place them in an impossible position. Not that the heads of the official Reformation yielded one whit to the Catholics in the ill-will they bore the new comers, but the idea of starting a persecution on their own account by virtue of their local authority was as yet not quite familiar to them. Hence a certain hesitancy and reluctance to leave the path of persuasion and argument. Various lights of the official Protestantism were entrusted or entrusted themselves with the mission of controversially destroying the leading positions of the Anabaptists: In the discourses and literature that resulted, the to us unimportant but at that time essential question of re-baptism occupied the foremost place. But with all the disputation, spoken and written on the subject, little impression was made. Martin Butzer of Strasburg, clever theological logic-chopper as he was, was forced to admit that, during four years almost exclusively devoted to this class of activity, he could only boast of one convert.

Elsewhere there was a disposition to treat the Anabaptists as political criminals. The remembrance of the Peasants War and the part played in it by similar doctrines, doctrines now embraced, moreover, by the very same classes and in some cases even the very persons who had taken part in the great rebellion, naturally strengthened this way of looking at the matter.

In a pamphlet published at the time bearing the title: “Neue Zeitung von den Wiedertäufferen und ihrer sect, neulich erwachsen im Shi fte zu Salzburg und an andern enden,” etc. (1528),[1] we are told how the new Sect was spreading in Salzburg as elsewhere; how its votaries met and held conventicles in out-of-the-way places; how those who were baptized made over their possessions to the Brotherhood; how they refused to go more to the “stone temples” to hear mass, etc. A report being spread that the brethren proposed on Christmas Eve, 1527, to massacre all priests and monks, an ex-priest, who was one of their chief preachers, and thirty-two of his hearers were arrested not far from the town by five men-at-arms. Of these the priest himself and two others, who refused to recant, were burned alive on the Frohnhof at Salzburg. Five more, who confessed their errors, were executed with the sword. A woman and “a beautiful young girl” of sixteen would not recant and were drowned by the hangman in the horsepond, their bodies being afterwards burned. On the Monday after All Saints’ Day a nobleman and a walletmaker, both of Salzburg, were first beheaded and then burned. Shortly afterwards a girtle-maker and a shoe-latchet maker, who refused to recant, were burned in the public square. “They lived long,” says this little chronicle, “and cried so unceasingly to God that it was pitiful to hear.” On the following Monday, ten women and some men, who had recanted, had their lives spared on condition of doing penance, but were expelled the town. The same week one of the town-clerks, an ex-priest, and three other persons, amongst them another journeyman girtle-maker, who under torture steadfastly refused to recant, were shut up in a house previously used for the sect’s meetings, which was then set on fire. “They lived long, and pitifully shrieked together, till at last they gave up the ghost.” Two other houses used presumably for the meetings of the sect were also burned to the ground as a warning. The author states there were at the time of writing forty-one persons imprisoned in Salzburg of whom, he says, “no man knoweth what shall be done unto them.”

The tract concludes with an enumeration of sundry tenets held by the new sectaries, which had been rejected by the assembled clergy of Augsburg as anti-christian, amongst others, that no one is to be regarded as a right preacher who does not travel from place to place; that Christ is only the teacher of a Christian life, but not the fulfiller of the law in us; that the only way to the Father is to do justly; that adult baptism has been enjoined by a new dispensation from God.

During the five years from 1525 to 1530, the number of Anabaptists slain in the Tyrol and the neighbouring territories is estimated by Kirschmeyer at a thousand. Sebastian Franck reckons six hundred as having perished at Ensisheim, the seat of the Austrian Government in its south-western dominions, though whether he includes as Anabaptists those who suffered for their part in the Peasant revolt is not quite clear. At Linz there were seventy-six killed in six weeks. Duke Wilhelm of Bavaria gave the order that all those who recanted should be beheaded, whilst those who did not should be burned. From 1529 onwards, the authorities were in some cases somewhat more merciful, basing their action on an Imperial mandate of April 23rd of that year, that only the leaders and preachers among the Baptists and those who were specially obstinate, or who had relapsed after having once recanted, should be burned, but that those who confessed their errors might be pardoned. Even with this limitation enough victims were delivered over to the executioner, one would have thought, to satisfy the most blood-thirsty bigot or representative of dominant class-interest.

The so-called Evangelical territories, Zwinglian and Lutheran, though persecution in them was not, as a rule, carried to the same length as in the Catholic districts, had no lack of victims. The hesitancy and partial tolerance that marked their attitude in the earlier stages of the movement soon gave way to imprisonment and executions. Instances of toleration were rare, the chief one being that of the Landgraf of Hesse, who, in replying to a Lutheran admonition from Saxony, urging suppression of the Anabaptists, declared that his conscience would not allow him to punish religious opinion with the sword; were it not so, he would have to suppress Jews and Papists no less than the Anabaptists. In most of the Protestant territories, however, the wave of persecution rapidly rose higher and higher. Felix Manz was judicially drowned at Zurich on January 5th, 1527. On May 21st of the same year Michel Sattler, a well-known local leader at Rothenburg on the Neckar, had his tongue torn out, and after being flayed with red hot pincers was burned, his wife being punished by drowning shortly after. In Augsburg a bitter persecution began in the autumn of 1527. It was here that Hans Hut, imprisoned in one of the towers of the town wall, was killed in attempting to escape. His corpse was burned in the public place of execution. This happened in December. Among the’ earlier Anabaptists Hans Hut (not to be confounded with Jakob Huter) is such a prominent figure that it is worth while to turn aside to consider his career, characteristic as it in many ways was.

In a former chapter we have stated that Hut was a native of Hain in Franconia. By trade he was a bookbinder, who travelled much through the Franconian cities. He alleged, in a statement made at Augsburg before his accusers, that he had for some time acted as a kind of agent for the Lutheran press at Wittenberg. In 1524, however, lie made the acquaintance of Thomas Münzer, whom he also assisted in the printing and circulating of his pamphlets. Münzer soon won him over to some at least of his ideas. During a journey to Wittenberg, getting into conversation with some Anabaptists, he became much struck with their arguments, which he followed up by a diligent study of the passages in the New Testament relating to baptism. The result was Hut’s complete conversion to the new doctrines. On the outbreak of the Peasants War in Saxony he migrated to Frankenhausen, with the object of selling his books and pamphlets to the peasants. He was, however, arrested by the authorities, but was released through the agency of Münzer, then at the height of his power. After the battle of Frankenhausen he succeeded in escaping from the pursuers and began his career as an Anabaptist preacher. Hans Hut declared that although valuing the teaching of Münzer and revering his personality, he never actually joined his immediate followers at Mulhausen, who, as a sect, kept themselves separate from the rising Anabaptist body. Hut, however, does not appear himself to have been re-baptized before the 20th of May, 1526, when the ceremony was performed by Johannes Denck. Hence, during the Münzer period he had clearly not actually joined the body. Hut now went about himself baptizing, his chief proselyte being Wolfgang Vogel, a pastor of Elterdorf, who in his turn preached and baptized much. His assent, however, to the non-resistance doctrines, at this time held by the vast majority of the Anabaptists, seems to have been, if recognised at all, considerably modified by Münzerite teaching. The gist of his preaching was that Christ would shortly come into his earthly Kingdom, and would give the sword of justice into the hands of the elect, that is, the re-baptized ones. He is also credited with a free-love doctrine.

Arrested by order of the City authorities of Nürnberg, Hut was after a short time released and expelled the city territory. The Rath of Nürnberg meanwhile sent warning to Augsburg and Regensburg against the dangerous firebrand. The latter, however, continued to preach, proclaiming himself a prophet sent by God to warn the godless of the approaching end of the world, when judgment would be held on the great ones of the earth for the abuse of their temporal authority in the persecution of the saints, no less than on priests and pastors for their false doctrines. But the saints would rejoice, for they should receive a two-edged sword, to the end that they might bind the Kings and nobles with iron chains. The great day would be presaged by the irruption of the Turks into Christendom. The advent of Christ was fixed by Hut for Whitsuntide 1528. On Hut’s beginning to preach these doctrines in Nikolsburg in Moravia, where Hubmeyer had fixed the scene of his activity, the two men naturally came into collision. Hubmeyer was nothing if not a partisan of the moderate views of the party, and generally represented the most conservative tendencies in Anabaptism. The usual disputation was held between the two preachers in a village church outside Nikolsburg, and a second in Nikolsburg itself. But the doctrine of non-resistance had two sides to it. If it discountenanced rebellion against constituted authorities, it also discountenanced fighting on behalf of those authorities or indeed in any way assisting them in their acts of violence. Now Hubmeyer, with a weakness that was characteristic of him, as is indicated not merely in his recantation at Zurich, but in his whole career, was inclined to temporize in this matter with the laws of the land, which obliged the inhabitants to pay a war-tax and provide war-material against the Turks. In this way he incurred the displeasure of the more logically-minded of the body, to whom Hans Hut rallied. It was not long before Hut was arrested and incarcerated in the castle of Nikolsburg. This time, however, friendly aid was successful in letting him down through the window by night in a net used for entrapping hares. These discussions between Hubmeyer and Hut in Moravia created a widespread sensation.

In August, 1527, Hut returned for the last time to Augsburg, where, in the following November, he was arrested, and where, as we have seen, his attempt to escape had a fatal ending. His disciple, Wolfgang Vogel, it should be said, had been already beheaded in Nürnberg, as a ringleader of rebels, on the 26th of March, 1527.

Hubmeyer himself was arrested at the instance of the Archduke Ferdinand at the beginning of 1528. He was, with eighteen other Anabaptists, in February 1528 brought to Passau and thence to Vienna where he was put to the torture. This time, though no promise of any formal recantation could be extracted from him, still weak, he sent in a defence in which he endeavoured to show himself in as orthodox a light as possible, and by which he evidently hoped to conciliate the authorities. But it was all of no avail. He was condemned to be burned at the stake. Early in March he was brought to Vienna, after being confined for some time in a castle outside the city. He was taken before the Spiritual Court, and was subjected to the torture, but, no further recantation being extorted, sentence was passed. On March 10th, he was placed bound upon a cart and carried through the streets of Vienna, being, as one report states, gripped with hot pincers at intervals till he reached the place of execution.

What followed is given in a report of the matter by one Fabri a priest, published immediately afterwards. It seems to have been a kind of official document. Hubmeyer, we are told, who throughout his journey had been repeating passages from the Bible, on being bound to the stake raised his voice and cried in the Swiss dialect: “Oh merciful God! give me patience in my great agony.” Turning to the crowd which had followed, he spoke: “Oh dear brethren, if I have offended anyone in word or deed, may he forgive me for the sake of my most merciful God, as I forgive also those who have injured me.” On his clothes being taken from him, he exclaimed: “I willingly part with my garments, O my Lord! Only preserve for me my spirit and my soul which I commend to thee.” After having repeated in Latin the words “Lord, into thy hands I commend my spirit,” his hands and feet were bound and he was laid upon the pile. When the executioner rubbed gunpowder into his long beard, he murmured, “O salt me well, salt me well,” and then raising his head, exclaimed: “O dear brethren, pray God to give me patience in this my suffering.” As his hair and beard burned, he cried out “Jesus! Jesus!” These were his last words, before, overpowered by the smoke, his head fell upon his breast and he died. It is said that to those around it seemed as though he experienced more joy than pain. The weakness and inconstancy that during his life had more than once led him, in the presence of danger, to recant or tone down his opinions, was exchanged in his last hour for the most heroic fortitude. His wife, it is said, the daughter of a citizen of Waldshut, strengthened him in his convictions with her encouragement up to the last. She herself was three days later thrown from the Danube bridge with a stone tied round her neck and drowned.

Hubmeyer’s death created a great impression, but the Archduke Ferdinand was by no means disposed to stop at half measures, or at the mere extermination of the leaders. He immediately took steps of a still more drastic nature in that great seat of Anabaptism, the scene of the activity of Hubmeyer, Moravia. Shortly after Hubmeyer’s death, he got a measure sanctioned by the assembled estates of that territory for the rooting out of the Anabaptist communities throughout all its districts. After this they were to be treated as common criminals, to shelter whom was in itself a crime. Large numbers fled the country into Lower Austria, Switzerland, Tyrol, Bavaria and Wurtemburg. But they were destined to find no rest for the soles of their feet. Orders were sent to the provincial Governor of Lower Austria with strict injunctions to suppress the sectaries. The following indications as to how they might be known were also forwarded:- When an Anabaptist meets another, it was said, he seizes his hat or his beard and exclaims: “God be with thee, brother in the Lord,” to which is replied: “God thank thee in the Lord;” they profess the doctrine that no authority besides God should be tolerated, and that all goods should be in common; they declare, it was also alleged, that if the Turks come into the land, they will join them and not help their authorities, for that all who were not of their faith, including the Emperor, ought to be killed. It is needless to say that the Archduke and his advisers in this document only show their complete ignorance as to the tenets and dispositions of the great bulk of the Anabaptists of that time. The Moravian communities especially, having come under the influence of Hubmeyer, belonged to the most moderate section of the body. Large numbers of men, women and children, of course, fell victims. Speaking of the orders of Ferdinand, the “Geschichtsbücher der Wiedertäuffer”, (C. 58,) says: “He, by means of his agents, did bring many into prison; and whom he found in the streets or in the fields, them had he beheaded, and they who in the villages would not betray their faith were hanged to the gate-posts.”

But Leonhard of Lichtenstein, the territorial magnate who had yielded to pressure in the surrender of Hubmeyer and his associates, and in the subsequent expulsion of the Anabaptists generally, seems before long to have repented of his departure from the policy of toleration which had previously characterized him, and, in conjunction with his brother, Hans von Lichtenstein, now allowed the fugitives to return. Many of them had hidden themselves in the neighbouring forests and mountains. So the lords of Nikolsburg, the Lichtensteins, while threatening the Austrian Provost with armed resistance, should he enter their territory, sent messengers to seek out these wanderers, and to invite them to come back to their houses and homes on the assurance that nothing further should await them. Other fugitives had sought refuge in Hungary. Attracted by the reputation for toleration of the house of Lichtenstein, their Moravian territories again became a centre to which the German Anabaptists flocked, notwithstanding the efforts of the Archduke Ferdinand to keep alive the persecution there. Several places throughout the Moravian Margravate became new centres of the Baptist communities. We read, it is true, of persecution in some districts, but, on the other hand, they succeeded in maintaining themselves in Austerlitz, Anspitz, Ausspitz and Kronau, in addition to Nikolsburg.

Meanwhile the attention of the Austrian authorities was, for the time being, partially diverted from the Anabaptist hunt by the imminence of the Turkish invasion. Others were found to take the place of the lost leaders, Hubmeyer and Hut, but no sooner were the Brethren vouchsafed temporary respite from persecution than the old opposition between the two tendencies broke out afresh. Should the Brethren fulfil their obligations as subjects in succouring their lords and masters in their resistance to the Turks, or should they rigidly maintain an attitude of passive non-resistance? Was it lawful to pay taxes? Was community of goods essential to Christian brotherhood? These were questions acrimoniously debated between the opportunists and the thorough-going section.

At last it became evident that Nikolsburg would not hold the two sides any longer. The dissension could only be put an end to by separation. Accordingly, the “men of the common life” or “men of the staff” (“Stäbler”), so called because they said that no Christian ought to carry a sword or any other weapon, decided to shake the dust off their feet and depart from their opponents, the “men of the sword,” as they termed them. The territorial lord, Leonhard of Lichtenstein, although, in his character of magnate and ruler, favouring the latter, as partizans of concessions to the powers of this world, nevertheless seems to have used his utmost endeavours to affect a reconciliation between the two parties. On the “men of the staff” proving obdurate, however, Leonhard issued an order that left them no alternative but to quit his domains. No sooner had they gone than Leonhard regretted having driven out a number of peaceable and industrious subjects, so hurriedly riding after them, accompanied by a small party of horsemen, he came up with them at a place called Bogenitz. He asked them why they were leaving Nikolsburg. Their conscience and heart, they said, witnessed against his preachers; they even disapproved of his having resisted the Austrian Provost on their behalf, for, said they, the latter had been sent against them by those having authority, and to resist the powers that be was to resist the ordinance of God. Leonhard seems to have been struck with admiration at their unshakeable constancy, for finding that he could not persuade them, he accompanied them a stage further on their way, and having treated them to meat and drink, took his leave.

Their ultimate goal was Austerlitz, where the territorial lords, the brothers Von Kaunitz, were known to be friendly to the new doctrines. The messengers they sent in advance to beg for an asylum were warmly received, the brothers Von Kaunitz sending three large waggons to facilitate the advance of their main body, at the same time assigning to them a temporary resting-place, pending the erection of their houses on the Oats-market (Hafenmarkt), for which houses they were presented with the necessary land and timber. But here new disputes arose. Sebastian Franck relates that they had in Austerlitz overseers for the whole community and one common dish from which each took what he had need of; but he goes on to state that the strictest discipline in matters of faith was enforced, and excommunication was frequent. “There was as much liberty of conscience among them,” he says, “as among the Papists. He who will not say them yea in all things, for him hath God stopped the ears, and be he not willing to turn back they cast him out.” Similar dissensions, various in kind, occurred in the other Moravian centres. One tendency would succeed in making itself paramount in Ausspitz, for example, and another in Rossitz.

Altogether the Anabaptist communities seem to have been approaching a condition of internal disintegration, when a leader appeared, who succeeded in restoring something like order. The leader was Jakob Huter, a preacher hailing from the Tyrol, who was sent to Austerlitz with a colleague in the autumn of 1529 to report on the situation. Huter, on returning to the Tyrol, organised a series of missionary companies whom he sent out into Moravia. They found everywhere disputes and jealousy rife. It was alleged that the elders took more than their share in the good things of the community. Reublin, the spokesman of the malcontents, (quoted in Cornelius Vol. II, p.252-259, note, letter to Pilgram Maarbeck) alleges various grievances of administration as well as of doctrine. In the catalogue that he sets forth we find, for example, “maids are compelled to enter into wedlock with young men without their knowledge or consent, and are sought to be held thereto. Moreover, young children are injured by being given hard food, without milk, the issue of this treatment being such that more than twenty have perished.” The writer adds: “it were enough to make a stone pity them.” Some who had paid fifty gulden into the common fund had to see their own children suffering hunger. As a result, Reublin and his followers migrated from Austerlitz to Ausspitz, where the Abbess of the Convent in whose territory the town lay offered them asylum. Reublin himself, however, seems to have fallen under suspicion of similar practices to those with which he charged the Austerlitzers.

At this juncture Huter was definitely called in as arbitrator, and was finally driven from Tyrol by the persecution which was there started. This was in the late summer of 1533, more than two years and a half after the split in Austerlitz. He was received in Ausspitz in a friendly manner. Financially, the community seems to have been in a bad way; so much so, indeed, that they required the material assistance of Huter and his Tyrollers to enable them to pay their rent-dues to the Convent on whose lands they dwelt. Reproaches, with unpleasant references to Ananias, were bandied about amongst the Brethren. The situation, however, in Tyrol had the effect of steadily augmenting the number of immigrants into Moravia. But the Austrian authorities began to take steps for cutting off this last retreat of the Brethren.

The new persecution was occasioned by the events occurring at this time in Westphalia. In vain the Moravian Anabaptists with perfect truth disclaimed all connection with the Münster movement. Anabaptism, let it take never so passive or non-resistant a form, became now suspect to the governing classes everywhere. The assembly of the Moravian estates, in a sitting held on the first Sunday in Lent, 1534, decreed that “the Anabaptists shall henceforth no longer be borne within the land, but shall be driven out.”. The shortest possible respite was given them. They were to leave the land by St. George’s Day, and find their bread elsewhere. Accordingly, large numbers, in spite of prohibitions, went back to the territories whence they came. Jakob Huter himself, with many of his countrymen, returned into Tyrol. But his work in Ausspitz had not been in vain, notwithstanding the confusion and discord that reigned there. He had succeeded in gaining over a large number of the Brethren to submit to the regime which he established, and which was termed the “Hutercher Ordnung” or regime of Huter. By this time, in fact, he had become recognised as the head of the movement in both Moravia and Tyrol. But shortly after his return he was arrested in accordance with the Imperial mandate. His trial and execution followed. But we are anticipating.

The movement in Tyrol began early in the history of Anabaptism, and was recruited by more than one strong wave of immigration from the other Austrian territories, where the Imperial edicts were more rigorously carried into effect. This was the case in the autumn of 1527, when many arrived from Lower Austria, also in the early spring of 1528, when they came from the domains of the Archbishop of Salzburg, because of the persecution, already referred to, in that district. In consequence, orders were sent to all the principal places throughout Tyrolese territory, to all the local magistrates, enjoining them not to tolerate the pernicious error, while, in order that no one might excuse himself by pleading ignorance of the mandates, it was ordered that they should be read in churches on every third Sunday. Still the sect continued to exist, holding meetings at night in secret places.

The persecution at this time (1528-1529) raged well-nigh everywhere throughout southern Germany and Austria. The Swabian League instituted flying columns for the purpose of hunting down Anabaptists, with instructions to shoot them on the spot as outlaws. Blaurock, the protagonist of re-baptism, was burned at Klausen in the Tyrol in 1529.

Up to the autumn of 1527, besides Nikolsburg, Augsburg had gradually become, owing to its political security for the time being, one of the chief seats of the movement. Among the Brethren at Augsburg were many well-to-do citizens. These naturally belonged to what may be termed the “moderate party” — that is the party whose tendencies, whilst they adhered to the purely theological side of the movement, were to follow their personal and class interests in the material affairs of life. Hence they looked with little favour on the communism of the Zurich Brethren, and still less on the new and politically subversive tendencies that had been sought to be introduced into the Anabaptist communities by certain of the ex-followers of Münzer, notably by Hans Hut. The two first synods of the Anabaptists were held at Augsburg; one in the spring of 1526, and the other in August of the following year, just before the outbreak of the persecution. The latter synod was attended by more than sixty delegates from all the German-speaking countries. Considerable divergencies of opinion in the communities, divergencies falling under the heads of moderate or extreme respectively, were there represented.

Amongst the leaders of the party in Augsburg, where he successfully agitated for a time, was Hans Denck. It was he, in fact, who, by his eloquence and the influence of his personality, raised the Augsburg community to the important place it attained in the movement. Denck was a learned theologian, whose salient doctrine was that of the inner light and inner word rendering sacraments and scriptures superfluous to the true believer. His sympathy with the economical and political side of the movement was not great, and he had broken many a lance with Hans Hut on these points. Denck subsequently went to Basel, where he modified his views, apparently under the influence of Oecolampadius, and where late in the year 1527 he died of the plague.

But neither persecution nor the loss of leaders seriously affected the progress of the movement. It continued to grow even where to all outward appearance it had been stamped out. Up to this time, that is, from its origin to about 1530, Anabaptism had been predominantly theological, or at least non-political. The doctrine of passive non-resistance was itself purely a deduction from a theological position. It was professedly accepted by almost all the Anabaptist communities, at any rate so far as the discountenancing of rebellion against the temporal authority was concerned. The thoroughgoing spirits insisted on its logical carrying-out in the refusal to assist, even by the payment of taxes, the powers that were, in any coercive or warlike enterprise. The community of goods, based on similar theological grounds, was indeed a sacred principle with many congregations of the Brethren, although not with all; but in no case, in the bodies founded during the earlier years of the movement, do we find evidences of any general sympathy with the Münzerite political idea of the sword of sharpness being wielded by the elect against the unbelieving world. Hans Hut’s success at Nikolsburg, and probably at Augsburg also, was due to his championing the cause of the logical non-resistants against the more moderate temporisers. Yet, in spite of his fervent enunciation of them, it would not seem that he succeeded in acquiring any following worth mentioning for his political-revolutionary theories.

Sufficient has been said to show the general character of the movement, theoretical and practical, and its fortunes during these years. To weary the reader by multiplying the names of obscure leaders or the details of the persecutions endured would be purposeless. It is enough to say that the non-political tendencies present in these earlier communities continued to maintain themselves in many cases, as, for instance, in Moravia, after a new and more aggressive spirit had seized what may henceforward be described as the main movement, a movement that, in the beginning of the fourth decade of the century, constituted itself along the valley of the Rhine and its adjacent districts. The rise, progress, and culmination of this movement we shall now have to consider.

1. (“New tractate touching the Anabaptists and their sect newly arisen and grown up in the diocese of Salzburg and in other parts”.)