"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth." I Timothy 3:15
16th Century Switzerland
J. M. Cramp
From the book, Baptist History, 1880
Public disputations were much in fashion 16th century Switzerland. They have rarely
proved of any real service to the cause of truth, since it is obvious that the man
who had the most fluent tongue, the readiest memory, the keenest wit, and the greatest
amount of self-possession was most likely to prevail, whether he was attached to
the right or the wrong side. Nor was it likely that either party would acknowledge
defeat. Perhaps the only benefit that resulted from them was, that many persons had
an opportunity of hearing the truth who would not otherwise have enjoyed it, and
in some instances they were led to further inquiry, which issued in their joining
Three disputations were held at Zurich in the year 1525. In all of them, according
to their adversaries, the Baptists were worsted, notwithstanding which they resolutely
retained their sentiments, and declared themselves ready to seal them with their
blood. But the magistracy did not rely on arguments. They issued an edict, prohibiting
believer's baptism, enjoining the baptism of children, and threatening that the disobedient
should be dealt with severely.
And so they were. Some were-imprisoned, some were banished. Still they persevered.
Whereupon in 1526, another edict was issued, ordering that if any baptized others,
or submitted to baptism (rebaptism they called it) they should be "drowned without
mercy."' Zwingli, I am sorry to say, approved this infamous enactment. It was no
vain threat. Felix Manta was drowned at Zurich in 1527. Jacob Falk and Heine Reyman
were drowned in 1528. These three were ministers of the gospel.
Anneken of Friburg, a Christian female, was drowned at that place in 1529, and her
body was afterward burned. Many others suffered, whose names are not recorded. They
did not inflict capital punishment at Basle, where the Baptists abounded, but they
scourged them, threw them into dungeons, or banished them, hoping to wear them out
The great Erasmus resided there at that time. He bore honorable testimony on behalf
of the sufferers. "The Anabaptists," said he, "although they everywhere abound in
great numbers, have nowhere obtained the churches for their use. They are to be
commended above all others for the innocence of their lives, but are oppressed by
other sects, as well as by the orthodox," that is, Catholics. Such were the men,
according to an opponent, whom Protestant, as well as Papists sought to exterminate.
It is gratifying to know that, though they were treated so shamefully, their characters
would endure the scrutiny of observers.
I mentioned Felix Mantz. He was a native of Zurich, and had received a liberal education.
Having early adopted the principles of the Reformation, he became an intimate friend
of Zwingli and other Swiss Reformers. But in the year 1522 he began to doubt the
scriptural authority of infant baptism, and of the church constitution which then
existed at Zurich, and suffered imprisonment in consequence. After this he preached
in the fields and woods, whither the people flocked in crowds to hear him, and there
he baptized those who professed faith.