Fun Facts from Church History: The Condemnation of Anabaptism

limmatOn September 9, 1527, Zurich, Bern, and St. Gall published an edict, in which for the first time the alleged errors and crimes of the Anabaptist party are set forth; viz.:

  • They seduce men from the congregations of the orthodox teachers and assail the public preachers with abuse; they babble in corners, woods, and fields;
  • contract spiritual marriages, thereby giving occasion for adulteries;
  • even command crime in the name of the Lord, e. g., the parricide at St. Gall;
  • glory in divine revelations and miracles;
  • teach that the Devil will be saved, and that in their church one could indulge lust without crime;
  • had other signs of the covenant aside from catabaptism;
  • would not carry swords;
  • pronounced usury and the lot wicked;
  • would have all external goods common and deposited in the midst of them, so that no one could use them as his own peculiar right;
  • forbade Christians to accept the magistracy or to say an oath was proper.

In order that this growth, dangerous to Christianity, wicked, harmful, turbulent, seditious, may be eradicated, we have thus decreed: if any one is suspected of catabaptism he is to be warned by the magistracy to leave off, under penalty of the designated punishment. Individuals as the civil contract obliges should inform upon those favourable to catabaptism. Whoever shall not fit his conduct to this dissuasion is liable to punishment according to the sentence of the magistracy and as special business; teachers, baptising preachers, itinerants and leaders of conventicles, or those previously released from prison and who have sworn to desist from such things, are to be drowned.

Foreigners, their faith being pledged, are to be driven out, if they return are to be drowned. No one is allowed to secede from the Church and absent himself from the Holy Supper. Men led into the error by fraud may receive a mitigation of their punishment in proportion to their property and standing. Whoever flees from one jurisdiction to another shall be banished or given up on demand.”*

Never was the power of execution ceded from the magistracy to the clergy.  Or, to put it another way, not one single heretic was executed by any member of the clergy (and that includes Calvin and Zwingli and Luther).  Ever.  Heretics were executed by the secular authorities and never did it happen otherwise.

*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), 259–261.