"Beginnings" of the Anabaptist-Mennonite
At the beginning of the Reformation in Zurich, Switzerland in the 1520's, the church leaders sought to restore the church based on New Testament principles. They sought to establish a believers' church, but soon their efforts came under the control of the state government. Those committed to the original goals were forced to withdraw if they wanted to build a church composed only of followers of Christ. These disciples sought to live in "the image of him that created him" (Colossians 3:10) and observe the "all things" taught in the New Testament.
These Bible Christians were soon tagged with the Anabaptist name because they rebaptized those who had been baptized as infants. This caused the state to persecute and put them to death under a A. D. 529 Roman law. These disciples never referred to themselves as Anabaptist and frequently objected to the term because of the criminal character associated with it. They would have preferred to be called Brethren or Bible-believing Christians, but their enemies' nickname stuck. Later they were called Mennonites after a beloved leader in this restored church, Menno Simons. He was the only early leader who died a natural death. All the other important early leaders died a martyr's death.
by LMH - 1997
Following is a fuller story of the "beginnings."
1517-1525: The Beginnings of Anabaptism
as told in The Chroncile of the Hutterian Brethren, Vol. 1, pp. 41-47.
(Note: This page was scanned and typed in by Timothy L. Haines.)
In the thirty-second year of the rule of the emperor Maximilian I, Martin Luther began teaching and writing at Wittenberg in Saxony, warning people to be on their guard against such peddling and other Babylonian trickery. The pope summoned him to Rome, but instead he presented his views in writing to the legate of the pope at the Imperial Diet in Augsburg. When he did not receive an answer, he returned home on the advice of his well-wishers. Then Ulrich Zwingli at Zurich in Switzerland set out to storm the papacy.
About the time that the emperor Maximilian died (January 12, 1519) and Charles V became emperor, Zwingli began to teach and write against the loathsome evil of Babylon, the shameless harlot.
These two, Luther and Zwingli, exposed all the deception and villainy of the pope and brought it to the light of day as if they would strike everything to the ground with thunderbolts. But they put nothing better in its place. As soon as they began to cling to worldly power and put their trust in human help, they were just as bad - like someone mending an old kettle and only making a bigger hole. They left behind a shameless people, whom they had taught to sin. To speak in a parable, they struck the jug from the pope's hand but kept the broken pieces in their own.
And so it had to be as Jesus said, "A man that is not faithful in small things will not be trusted with great, but what he thought he had will be taken from him."
Now these two named above soon won a large following of those who accepted their teaching as the truth. Some gave their lives for it, believing that they had found salvation in Christ. This can be seen in the two young monks, Johannes and Heinrich, who were burned at Brussels in the Netherlands in 1523.
It was the same with Kaspar Tauber, a rich citizen of Vienna, Austria, who because of his faith was condemned and burned by his fellow citizens in 1524.
There were others besides, of whom nothing further is known, and we count them blessed according to Christ's teaching, for they suffered and fought a good fight. But however wonderful the beginning, Luther and Zwingli and their followers were soon divided into two wicked camps because of the sacraments, and they showed all the signs of a new Babel. There was no change in their lives, only boasting and the kind of knowledge that made them despise others. Eating meat, taking wives, and reviling popes, monks, and priests (who of course richly deserved it) was the extent of their service to God.
Luther and his followers taught that the body of the Lord Christ is in the bread of the Lord's Supper and that through it we have forgiveness of sins. Zwingli and his followers taught that the Lord's Supper was a memorial of the salvation and grace of Christ and not a sacrifice for sin, because that had been offered by Christ on the cross.
Both of them baptized infants and rejected the true baptism of Christ, which is sure to bring the cross with it. However much they reviled the pope in other respects, they followed him in the practice of infant baptism, taking over from him the leaven that gives rise to all kinds of evil, the very gateway to false Christianity. The pope had just as little scriptural foundation for infant baptism as for purgatory, the mass, the worship of saints, letters of indulgence, and the like.
Luther and Zwingli defended their teaching with the sword, as they had learned from the antichrist, their father and chief, knowing well that Christian knighthood is not of the flesh but is mighty before God to destroy all human attacks. Therefore, faith cannot be forced but is a gift of God. Christ says to his disciples, "If any man wants to follow me (take note: if any man wants to, desires to), let him deny himself and take his cross upon him." He does not say the sword, for that has no place at the cross. Sword and cross are as much akin to each other as Pilate and Christ or a wolf and a sheep in the fold.
BECAUSE GOD WANTED ONE UNITED PEOPLE, separated from all other peoples, he brought forth the Morning Star, the light of his truth, to shine with all its radiance in the present age of this world. He wanted in particular to visit the German lands with his Word and to reveal the foundation of divine truth, so that his holy work could be recognized by everyone. It began in Switzerland, where God brought about an awakening. First of all a meeting took place between Ulrich Zwingli, Conrad Grebel (a member of the nobility), and Felix Mantz. All three were men of learning with a thorough knowledge of German, Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. They started to discuss matters of faith and realized that infant baptism is unnecessary and, moreover, is not baptism at all.
Two of them, Conrad and Felix, believed that people should be truly baptized in the Christian order appointed by the Lord, because Christ himself says, "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved." Ulrich Zwingli (who shrank from the cross, disgrace, and persecution that Christ suffered) refused to agree - he said it would cause an uproar. But Conrad and Felix said that was no reason to disobey the clear command of God.
At this point a man came from Chur, a priest named GEORG FROM THE HOUSE OF JAKOB, later known as Georg Blaurock. Once when they were discussing questions of faith, Georg shared his own views. Someone asked who had just spoken. "It was the man in the blue coat (blauer Rock)." So he was given this name because he had worn a blue coat. This same Georg had come because of his extraordinary zeal. Everyone thought of him as a plain, simple priest; but he was moved by God's grace to holy zeal in matters of faith and worked courageously for the truth.
He, too, had first approached Zwingli and discussed questions of faith with him at length, but he had got nowhere. Then he was told that there were other men more on fire than Zwingli. He inquired eagerly about them and met with them, that is, with Conrad Grebel and Felix Mantz, to talk about questions of faith. They came to unity about these questions. In the fear of God they agreed that from God's Word one must first learn true faith, expressed in deeds of love, and on confession of this faith receive true Christian baptism as a covenant of a good conscience with God, serving him from then on with a holy Christian life and remaining steadfast to the end, even in times of tribulation.
One day when they were meeting, fear came over them and struck their hearts. They fell on their knees before the almighty God in heaven and called upon him who knows all hearts. They prayed that God grant it to them to do his divine will and that he might have mercy on them. Neither flesh and blood nor human wisdom compelled them. They were well aware of what they would have to suffer for this.
After the prayer, Georg Blaurock stood up and asked Conrad Grebel in the name of God to baptize him with true Christian baptism on his faith and recognition of the truth. With this request he knelt down, and Conrad baptized him, since at that time there was no appointed servant of the Word. Then the others turned to Georg in their turn, asking him to baptize them, which he did. And so, in great fear of God, together they surrendered themselves to the Lord. They confirmed one another for the service of the Gospel and began to teach the faith and to keep it. This was the beginning of separation from the world and its evil ways.
Soon after this, more people joined them, like Balthasar Hubmaier of Friedberg and Ludwig Haetzer, and other scholars of German, Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, well acquainted with the Scriptures, as well as priests and preachers and other people. Soon they all gave witness with their blood.
Felix Mantz was drowned at Zurich for the sake of the true faith and baptism, thus giving his life in steadfast witness to the truth.
Later, Wolfgang Uliman was condemned to death and burned at Waldsee, also in Switzerland. His ten companions, including his own brothers, were executed with him. Valiantly and resolutely they gave their lives as a witness that their faith and baptism were founded on divine truth.
Melchior Vet, Georg Blaurock's traveling companion, was burned at Ettach for the sake of his faith.
So the movement spread through persecution and great tribulation. The church increased daily, and the number of the Lord's people grew quickly. This the enemy of divine truth could not endure, so he used Zwingli as a tool. Zwingli began to write and preach with fanaticism that baptism of adult believers was false and should not be tolerated. This was contrary to his earlier confession, when he himself had taught that not one clear word from God justified infant baptism. But now, because he wanted to please men and the world rather than God, he opposed true Christian baptism. He persuaded the authorities to use the imperial law to behead as Anabaptists those who were truly dedicated to God, those who out of conviction had made the bond of a good conscience with him.
Finally Zwingli succeeded in having twenty men, widows, pregnant women, and young girls thrown into misery in a dark tower. They were shut up with only bread and water and saw neither sun nor moon for the rest of their lives. They were condemned to remain in the dark tower - the living and the dead together - to suffocate in the stench, die, and rot, until not one of them was left. There were some who did not take one bite of bread in three days so that the others would have something to eat.
At the same time severe mandates were issued at Zwingli's instigation: from now on, any person in the district of Zurich who was baptized should be thrown into the water and drowned without any trial or judgment. That shows the spirit Zwingli belonged to, and his followers still belong to it.