Zwingli and the Re-Baptizers, In His Own Words

“Balthasar of Waldshut has fallen into prison here—a man not merely irreverent and unlearned, but even empty. Learn the sum of the matter. When he came to Zurich our Council fearing lest he should cause a commotion ordered him to be taken into custody. Since, however, he had once in freakishness of disposition and fatuity, blurted out in Waldshut against our Council, of which place he, by the gods, was a guardian [i. e., he was pastor there], until the stupid fellow disunited and destroyed everything, it was determined that I should discuss with him in a friendly manner the baptising of infants and Catabaptists, as he earnestly begged first from prison and afterwards from custody. I met the fellow and rendered him mute as a fish. The next day he recited a recantation in the presence of certain Councillors appointed for the purpose [which recantation when repeated to the Two Hundred it was ordered should be publicly made. Therefore having started to write it in the city, he gave it to the Council with his own hand, with all its silliness, as he promised. At length he denied that he had changed his opinion, although he had done so before a Swiss tribunal, which with us is a capital offence, affirming that his signature had been extorted from him by terror, which was most untrue].

“The Council was so unwilling that force should be used on him that when the Emperor or Ferdinand twice asked that the fellow be given to him it refused the request. Indeed he was not taken prisoner that he might suffer the penalty of his boldness in the baptismal matter, but to prevent his causing in secret some confusion, a thing he delighted to do. Then he angered the Council; for there were present most upright Councillors who had witnessed his most explicit and unconstrained withdrawal, and had refused to hand him over to the cruelty of the Emperor, helping themselves with my aid. The next day he was thrust back into prison and tortured. It is clear that the man had become a sport for demons, so he recanted not frankly as he had promised, nay he said that he entertained no other opinions than those taught by me, execrated the error and obstinacy of the Catabaptists, repeated this three times when stretched on the rack, and bewailed his misery and the wrath of God which in this affair was so unkind. Behold what wantonness! Than these men there is nothing more foolhardy, deceptive, infamous—for I cannot tell you what they devise in Abtzell—and shameless. To-morrow or next day the case will come up.”*

*Samuel Macauley Jackson, Huldreich Zwingli: The Reformer of German Switzerland (1484–1531) (Heroes of the Reformation; New York; London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons; Knickerbocker Press, 1901), 249–250.

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