header image
Home arrow Writers arrow J.S. Newman arrow Baptists In All Ages: Chapter XVII
Baptists In All Ages: Chapter XVII PDF Print E-mail
Written by J.S. Newman   

The "Mad Men of Munzer."

Inasmuch as the Campbellites say that we claim the "Mad Men of Munzer" as our religious ancestors, I have decided to devote this chapter to that subject. It is a fact well authenticated that our people have never claimed the Munzerites as their brethren, but denied the charge while Thomas Munzer was living, and have denied that they were our people ever since. I have before me a copy of "Baptist Blunders," by J. S. Warlick. I will make a lengthy quotation from him.

"The next link for our examination shall be the Anabaptists. In Buck's Theological Dictionary, p. 13, I find the following concerning their faith and practice. After stating that there were two factions of them, one of which remained with the Reformation as advocated by Luther, while the other, the only one left for the Baptist chain, did not, he says, 'Others, not satisfied with Luther's plan of reformation, undertook a more perfect plan--or, more properly, a visionary enterprise--to found a new church entirely spiritual and divine. This sect was soon joined by great numbers, whose characters and capacities were very different. *** The most pernicious faction: of all who composed this motley multitude was that which pretended that the founders of this new and perfect church were under divine impulse and were armed against all opposition by the power of working miracles. It was this faction that in the year 1521 began their fanatical work under the guidance of Munzer, Stubner, Storch, etc. These men taught that among Christians who had the precepts of the gospel to direct and the Spirit of God to guide them, the office of magistracy was not only unnecessary, but an unbaneful encroachment on their spiritual liberty, that the distinction occasioned by birth, rank, or wealth, should be abolished; that all Christians, throwing their possessions into one stock should live together in that state of equality which becomes members of the same family; that as neither the laws of nature nor the precepts of the New Testament had prohibited polygamy, they should use this same liberty as the patriarchs did in this respect. * * * Munzer and his associates, in the year 1525, put themselves at the head of a numerous army and declared war against all laws, magistrates and governments of every kind, under the chimerical pretext that Christ Himself was now to take the reign of all governments into His hands; but this seditious crowd was routed and dispersed by the elector of Saxony and other princes, and Munzer, their leader, put to death. At first they tried to propagate their sentiments by persuasive power; but not succeeding in this way very well, our author says: 'They then madly attempted to propagate their sentiments by force of arms.' For my part (says Joe S. Warlick), I dislike to charge the Baptists with being related to such a people as this; but they claim the kin themselves. So, I am in no way responsible for the relation."--pp. 24, 25.

If Joe S. Warlick had the documentary evidence demonstrating that Baptists "claim the kin themselves," he should have produced it. Mr. Maccalla, a Presbyterian preacher, in his debate with Mr. A. Campbell accused the Baptists of descending from the Munzerites. Mr. Campbell said: "That while Mr. M. endeavored to accuse the Baptists with the deeds of German fanatics, which the Baptists ever disclaimed."--p. 381. Joe S. Warlick says they "claimed the kin themselves." Campbell says they "disclaimed" the kin. On page 389 Mr. Campbell says: "As to his favorite point, the German Anabaptists, we have shown that his slanders from that source fall to the ground. We disclaim that people in word and deed."

I have before me a copy of the Campbell-Walker Debate and will quote from pages 272, 273: "It would be imposing upon the reader, and an imputation of his understanding, to be more copious in furnishing documents to put to silence the ignorance of foolish men who would assert that the Baptist denomination grew out of the wild, fanatic, enthusiastic Anabaptists of Germany. That men professing Baptist principles have acted in many instances incorrectly, is a very common truth. That some individuals professing Baptist principles might have been in that, or any other insurrection, may be conceded without, at the same time, yielding that the Baptists arose from the Anabaptists of Germany. As truly might it be said that the Church of Christ in Jerusalem, planted A. D. 33, arose out of the Anabaptists of Germany in the sixteenth century."

Thus we see that Campbell himself repudiated the slander in his day and disclaimed all connection with the Munzer insurrectionists. To this the Campbellite preachers of our day object by saying Mr. Campbell said that while he was a Baptist. I have his work on baptism, edition of 1851. On page 409 he says: "Hence, it is that the Baptist denomination, in all ages and in all countries, has been as a body, the constant asserters of the right of man and the liberty of conscience. They have often been persecuted by Pedo-Baptists; but they never politically persecuted, though they had it in their power."

This quotation shows very conclusively that Mr. Campbell did not after his exclusion from the Baptists charge them with the errors of Thomas Munzer. Mr. Campbell claimed that there were Baptists in all ages; therefore, he did not believe the Baptists originated with Munzer & Co. He also said that the Baptists have never persecuted anyone, though they have had power to do so. He said Thomas Munzer did; therefore, he did not believe that the Munzerites were Baptists.

Menno Simons joined the Baptists or Anabaptists on confession of faith in 1536. Here is what he says "Beloved reader, we have been falsely accused by our opponents of defending the doctrine of Munzerites, with respect to king, sword, revolution, self-defense, polygamy and many similar abominations but know my good reader, that never in my life have I assented to those articles of the Munzer confession but for years, according to my small gift, I have warned and opposed them in their abominable errors. I have by the word of the Lord brought some of them to the right way. Munzer, I have never seen in all my life. I have never been in their communion. I hope by God's grace, with such never to eat or drink (as the scriptures teach), except they confess from the heart their abominations and bring forth fruits meet for repentance and truly follow the gospel."--Vedder, pp. 104, 105.
The enemies of the Baptists are not willing to credit the testimony of men who lived in that day. Here is what Dryzinger, who was a Baptist, and was martyred in 1538, said, after being interrogated as to whether the Baptists approved of the way the Munzerites did: "They would not be Christians if they did." Here is what Hans. another
Baptist martyr, said "We are clearly belied by those who say that we defend our faith with the sword, as they of Munzer did. The Almighty defend us from abominations."--Church Perpetuity, p. 225.
Dosie, who was a Baptist, and endured cruel slaughter for his love to Christ, was asked by the governor's wife if he and his brethren were not of the disgraceful people who took up arms against magistrates. His reply was "No, madam, those people greatly erred. We consider it a devilish doctrine to resist the magistrates by outward sword and violence. We would rather suffer persecution and death at their hands and whatever is appointed us to suffer. --Church Perpetuity, p. 225.

Mr. Brown, the editor of Religious Encyclopedia, says "It is but justice to observe, also, that Baptists in Holland, England, and United States, are to be considered as entirely distinct from those seditions and fanatical individuals above mentioned, as they profess an equal version to all principles of rebellion on the one hand, and of enthusiasm on the other."--p. 78.

D'Aubigny, a Pedobaptist historian, says: "On one point it seems necessary to guard against misapprehension. Some persons imagine that the Munzer Anabaptists of the time of the Reformation and the Baptists of our day are the same. But they are as different as possible. We have the testimony of the Royal Encyclopedia quoted by J. R. Graves in Tri-Lemma, p. 137: "It is to be remarked that the Baptists or Mennonites, in England and Holland are to be considered in a very different light from the Enthusiasts we have been describing; and it appears equally uncandid and invidious to trace up their distinguished sentiments, as some of their adversaries have done to those obnoxious characters, and then to stop in order, as it were to associate with it the ideas of turbulence and fanaticism, with which it certainly has no natural connection. Their coincidence with some of those oppressed and infatuated people in denying baptism to infants, is acknowledged by the Baptists; but they disavow the practice which the appellation of Anabaptists implies; and their doctrines seem referable to a more ancient and respectable origin. They appear supported by history in considering themselves the descendents of the Waldenses, who were so grievously oppressed and persecuted by the despotic heads of the Roman hierarchy."

The charge that Baptist:, claim the Munzerites as their kin and that they originated with them is not new. The charge was first made by the Catholics. The Baptists said: "These were not our brethren. We have no fellowship for such men. The men of Munzer were among yourselves or of your party. They did not admit, or even intimate, that they went off from them, or were ever in their connection. But they bitterly complained of having to suffer for the faults of others that they knew nothing about, because some of them agreed with them in rejecting infant baptism."--Baptist Succession, p. 98.

The new American Encyclopedia says: "There was another class of Anabaptists widely different from those who have been described as the Munzer men."

Fessendens, in his encyclopedia, says: "Anabaptists: The English and Dutch Baptists do not consider the word as applicable to their sect. It is but justice to add that the Baptists of Holland and England and the United States are to be regarded essentially distinct from those seditions and fanatical individuals." Mr. Brockland, of the Rochester Theological Seminary, says: "But the peaceable Anabaptists, who made it a religious principle to bear no weapons, use no force, love their enemies and suffer all things unresistingly, existed by many tens of thousands during and after the time in Switzerland, Germany, Moravia, and the low countries. In these distinctive principles they were identical with the Waldenses before them, and the noble Mennonites after them.'--Church Perpetuity, p. 232.

I will introduce Mr. Armitage, being a favorite witness with the Campbellites. On page 364 he says: "We see here how religion entered the contests of the peasants' war, and by whom it was introduced. It is simply absurd to say that these peasants were Anabaptists. *** The peasants were Catholics and Lutherans, and their enforced ministers were the same." The Munzerites were not Anabaptists of any kind. They were called that simply because they rejected infant baptism. On page 366 Armitage says: "On the contrary, Keller, in his late work on the 'Reformation' (p. 370), says that Cornelius has shown that in the chief points Munzer was opposed to the Baptists." On page 367 we have this language: "Most of the later writers agree with the author of Johnson's Cyclopedia in saying that "he entertained peculiar ideas of infant baptism, similar to those of the Anabaptists, with whom however he had no direct connection." The Munzerites were not our people. Our people did not claim them then, neither do we claim them now as our people. On page 368, Mr. Armitage says: "Few writers have treated this subject with greater care and clearness than Ypeig and Dermont in their 'History of the Netherland Church.'" They say of the Munzer men that while they are known in history as Anabaptists, they ought by no means to be known as Baptists.

"From the nature of the case," says Mr. Armitage, "the majority of the Romanists knew no difference between the various Protestant parties and sects, and would make no distinction. Hence, the abhorrence only deserved by some of the Anabaptists was bestowed upon all Protestants. The honest Baptists suffered the most severely from this prejudice, because they were considered by the people to be the same and were called by the same name." The same historians say: "The emperor and all his statesmen knew that the Baptists generally had, both by word and deed, said that their peace-loving hearts abhorred the seditious conduct of the Anabaptists."--p. 370.

In speaking of the Romanists the same authors say: "They would not see that which they might have seen. How evident it was that although the Baptists appeared to agree with the Anabaptists in respect to the baptismal question, the former entirely disapproved of the course pursued by the latter. For it had been, and continued to be, a doctrine of the Baptists, that the bearing of arms was very unbecoming to a Christian. Did not the Anabaptists (Munzerites) pursue a course directly the opposite of this? *** who could have imagined that such a purpose prevailed among the Baptists, who were the meekest of Christians? And yet the Romanists, without dissent, agree in ascribing these things to all the Baptists. We have nowhere seen clearer evidence of the injurious influence of the prejudice; nowhere hard we met with a more obstinate unwillingness to be correctly informed, and a more evident disposition to silence those who better understood the truth of the matter. Prejudice, when once deeply imbibed, blinds the eye, perplexes the understanding, silences the instincts of the heart and destroys the love of truth and rectitude. We shall now proceed more at length to notice the defense of the worthy Baptists. The Baptists are Protestant Christians, entirely different from the Anabaptists (Munzerites) in character. They were descendents from the ancient Waldenses, whose teachings were evangelical and tolerably pure, and who were scattered by severe persecutions in various lands, and long before the time of the Reformation of the Church were existing in the Netherlands. In their flights they came thither in the latter part of the twelfth century."--p. 370.

The Campbellites occupy precisely the same ground that the Romanists did at the Munzer affair. On page 371 our author says: "That ignorance is inexcusable which attributes the rise of the Baptists to the period of the Munzer kingdom; much rather can it be proved and even centuries. No greater injustice can be done to any people than has been done to the German Baptists, in the attempt to saddle them with the peasants' war and the villainies of Munzer." Frank, who wrote in 1531, says of the Baptists: "They teach love. faith and the cross. They are long suffering and are heroic in affliction.*** The world feared they would cause an uproar but they have proved innocent everywhere. If I were emperor, pope, or Turk, I would not fear revolt less from any people than this. *** All the Baptists oppose those who would fight for the gospel with the sword. Some object to war or any use of the sword, but the most favor self-defense and justifiable war."--p. 373.

Mr. Armitage well said: "So much has been said of these disgraceful transactions at Munzer, and said so rashly, to the injury of Baptists that one is tempted to add cumulative evidence on the subject, even to prolixity. The mean-spirited charges were flung in their faces by men who persecuted them at that time, and they repudiated them with deep feeling, as cruelly adding insult to injury."--p. 373.

The Schleitheim Articles, as well as many private writings, throw a strong light upon this subject. Not only does the sixth article, on "The Sword," relieve them from this odium, but they wash their hands of the revolutionary transactions at Zwickaw and Muhlbausen, the first in 1521, the last in 1524, under Munzer. They say to the Baptist congregations concerning the Munzerites: "Beware of such, for they serve not our Father, but their father, the devil. But ye are not so, for they who are in Christ have crucified the flesh, with all its lusts and longings."--p. 374. On page 375 the same writer says: "The Baptists of our clay are the first and the freest to wash their hands of all the black deeds of Munzer, not only because they are black, but also because their true brethren of the sixteenth century renounced them honestly and earnestly."

Mr. Burrage, in his history of the Anabaptists of Switzerland, on page 89, says, alluding to a meeting between Thomas Munzer, Grebel and Mantz; "Nor do we find that the Swiss radicals had any subsequent dealings with him. As Grebel's letter shows, he and his associates were not in agreement with Munzer in reference to baptism They did not believe in the use of the sword as he did. Doubtless, they now found that in purpose they and the Saxon reformer differed widely." Well did Mr. Vedder say: "The fanatical outbreaks in north Germany had no connection with Hoffman. Their chief leader, if not instigator, was Thomas Munzer. He is invariably called an Anabaptist, but in reality he never belonged with that body."--p. 98. The Munzerites were not Baptists of any kind. They were called Baptists or Anabaptists because they said infant baptism was not taught in the Bible. Munzer practiced infant baptism as long as he lived therefore, he could not have been a Baptist of any kind. "It is sufficient to reply that contemporary records make no charge of sedition against the Anabaptists. They were condemned for Anabaptism and nothing else. The record stands in black and white for all men to read."--Vedder, pp. 8l, 82. Though persecution at first increased the number of Anabaptists. They were for the most part plain, unlettered, rich in nothing else than faith, and little able to hold out unaided and unled against a persecution so bitter and determined."--Vedder, p. 84.

The Catholics left nothing unturned that they thought would bring shame and contempt on the Baptists.

The Campbellites are just as bitter and determined foes as the Catholics were and are. While it is true that the Campbellites have never put people to death for disagreeing with them, we can readily see the same spirit of falsehood and misrepresentation in their preachers that we see in the Catholic priests.

< Previous   Next >


The Primitive or Old School Baptists cling to the doctrines and practices held by Baptist Churches throughout America at the close of the Revolutionary War. This site is dedicated to providing access to our rich heritage, with both historic and contemporary writings.