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The Confession of Faith of the Anabaptists.
Mosheim's elaborate, though concise account of the Anabaptists, (Cent. XII. Purs II. ch. 3,) is, perhaps, the best, which has yet appeared of this important denomination of Christiaus. He mentions in it, that they are deducible from the Waldenses, Petrobussians and other ancient sects. “ Before,” (to use his own words, Cent. XVI. C. III. Sect. 2.) “the rise of Luther and Calvin, there lay concealed in almost all the countries of Europe, particulariy in Bohemia, Moravia, Switzerland, and Germany, many persons who adhered tenaciously to the following doctrines, which the Waldenses, Wickliffites, and Hussites had maintained; some in a more disguised, and others in a more open and public manner, viz. That the kingdom of Christ, or the visible church he had established on earth, was an assembly of true and real saints, and ought therefore to be inaccessible to the wicked and unrighteous, and also erempt from all those institutions which human prudence suggests, to oppose the progress of iniquity, or to correct and reform transgressions. This maxim is the true source of all the peculiarities, that are to be found in the religious doctrine and discipline of the Anabaptists, and it is most certain, that the greatest part of these peculiarities were approved by many of those, who before the dawn of the Rem formation, entertained the notion, already mentioned, relating to
the visible church of Christ.” Persons of this sect were not likely to be satisfied with the system of reformation introduced by Luther. They looked upon it as much below the sublimity of their views, and proposed to found a new church, entirely spiritual and truly divine.
The most remarkable of their religious ritual related to the sacrament of baptism; they contended that it ought to be administered only to persons grown up to years of understanding, and should be performed, not by sprinkling them with water, but by dipping them into it. For this reason, they condemned the baptism of infants, and re-baptised all, whom they admitted into their society. This gave them the name of Anabaptists.
In this ceremony, there was nothing inconsistent with the order of civil society or civil government: but they held tenets absolutely incompatible with either,—" that all things ought to be in common among the faithful; that taking interest for the loan of money, tythes and tribute ought to be entirely abolished, that, in the kingdom of Christ, civil magistrates were absolutely useless, and that God still continued to reveal his will to chosen persons by dreams and visions.” (Mosheim, Cent. XVI. ch. 111. sect. 5.) i
At first they contented themselves with employing the arts of persuasion, to propagate their doctrines ; but they soon had recourse to violence, and involved many parts of Switzerland, Holland, and Germany, in tumult and violence. Their zeal frequently amounted to frenzy; and many sovereign states enacted severe edicts against them, and strove to repress them by capital punishments : but, for a long time, the attempt was fruitless; the unhappy objects of the edicts preferring death, in its most terrible forms, to a retractation of their errors. The scenes which were exhibited at Munster are generally known. In that city, and many other parts of Germany and Holland, they committed, to use the language of Mosheim, “all the enormous crimes and ridiculous follies, which the most perverse and infernal imagination could suggest.” But the recapture of the city of Munster, the painful and ignominious death, inflicted on John Bockhold, the mock monarch of it, and the sanguinary persecutions, in almost every part of Europe, of these fanatics, greatly lessened their numbers, and introduced a better spirit among the survivors. · Two things, however, should not be forgotten. In the persecution of the Anabaptists religious principles were too often admitted as evidence of the actual commission of crime; and even when the ferment was at its utmost height, there were not wanting among them many, who, while they admitted the religious tenets, condemned and deplored the disorganising principles and rebellious proceedings of their brethren.
Among these, was the celebrated Simon Menno, a Roman Catholic priest, who embraced the Anabaptist communion.. By his eloquence, learning, conciliating manners, and indefatigable exertions, he obtained the confidence of its members, and availed himself of it to restore them to social, and peaceful babits. The guarded manner, in which he himself expressed and accustomed his followers to express their doctrines, disposed the public mind to view them, if not with kindness, at least with pity. Such was the reverence, in which he was held by them, and the space which he filled in the public eye, that, on the continent, they received from him the name of Mennonites, and are more frequently called on the continent, by that, than by the name of Anabaptists. In this state, they. are said by Mosheim to be descendants of the original Anabaptists, but to be purged from the fanaticism, by which these were disgraced. Soon after Menno's decease, they branched into two divisions, the refined and the gross, or the rigid and the moderate. The former are few in number; the latter are numerous, particularly in Holland. There, under the protection of William, the first Prince of Orange, and Maurice his son, they obtained a considerable degree of legal toleration.
They have published several confessions of faith. Five of them were printed at Amsterdam, in 1675, in one volume Svo. The most remarkable of these is thàt composed by John de Ries, assisted by Lubert Gerard, in 1580, and one, signed by them in 1626, in which, by disavowing the most offensive tenets imputed to them, they successfully attempted to propitiate the favour of the United States.
The descent of the English Baptists from the Memonites, and still more their descent from the Anabaptists, parents of these, is very problematical. At first, they were known under the name of Brownists; with both they agree in their adıninistration of Baptism by immersion, and the refusal of that sacrament to infants and persons in tender years : but, in almost every other particular, they differ from each. They have none of the Anabaptist prejudices against lawful war and magistracy. They are divided into General or Arminian Baptists, and Particular or Calvinistic Baptists. The latter are most numerous ; their discipline and form of worship are those of the Presbyterians. There cannot be a stronger contrast between two religious sects than that which is observable between the original Anabaptists and the English Baptists. These have ever possessed and still possess many persons of great learning, integrity, and liberality. Among them may be reckoned Mr. Solom Emlyn, so scandalously persecuted for his religious principles.
The Calvinistic Baptists published, in 1643, a confession of faith, mentioned in the Bibliotheque Brittannique, Tom. VI. p. 2. and another confession of faith, iu 1660, published by Mr. Whiston, in the Memoirs of his Life, Vol. II. p. 561.
At Baptism, they dip once, and not three times, and esteem it indifferent, whether the sacrament be administered in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, or in that of Christ alone. They believe in a kind of Millenniuin, and that the Apostolic Ordinance against things strangled was intended for perpetual observance, that the soul, from the moment of the death of the body, remains, till the day of general resurrection, in a state of insensibility: many of them observe both the Jewish and the Ch'istian Sabbath. They have three ecclesiastical orders, bishops, (whom, from the language of the book of Revelations, they style messengers,) elders, and deacons.
This denomination of Christians had rise in England during the civil wars. The founder of it was George Fox, a shoemaker, of an enthusiastic turn of mind.
To tremble at the divine judgments, was one of the duties most frequently inculcated by him and his associates. Being summoned before Mr. Justice Bennett, in 1650, they ordered the magistrate to tremble at the word of the Lord. This fixed on them the appellation of Quakers. With this explanation, they are not unwilling to accept it: but, on account of a fundamental principle of their religion, they prefer the appellation of Children or Confessors of the Light. In their intercourse with one another, they constantly use the appellation of Friends. Friends to humanity, they certainly have been; they have uniformly reprobated religious persecution; uniformly adyo--cated the cause of civil liberty. Their charities to the members of their own association, their incessant endeavours to promote harmony among them, their contempt of the gands of life, and their universal beneficence, are beyond praise. We owe to them, the abolition of the Slave Trade ; they have been the great promoters of the Lancasterian system of education; and at this time are actively employed in effecting the repeal of the statutes which sanction punishment by death. The method which they adopt to carry their salutary designs into execution,