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"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15
J. Newton Brown
From Memorials of Baptist Martyrs, 1854
This distinguished man, a leader in the Reformation in Germany, was a native of Zurich, and was educated in all the learning of the age, his father being a canon of the great minster in the place of his birth. In 1519 we find him studying the Hebrew language with Zuingle [Huldrych Zwingli], under the tuition of Carlstadt, and to have been on terms of intimacy with that Reformer, as well as with Myconius, Capito, and other leaders of the Swiss Reformation.
About the year 1522, he began to doubt as to the scriptural character of infant baptism, having many conversations on that subject with Zuingle, who was at first inclined to embrace the same views. The progress of his investigations led him further to object to tithes and usury, and to desire to lay aside the peculiarities of Rome more rapidly than was consistent with the opinions of Zuingle. This led to a separation, and to a final adoption, on the part of Mantz, of the sentiments of the Baptists.
In 1523, he began to preach publicly on the subject of baptism, and to urge the necessity of a church constituted in accordance with the word of God. "He wished," says Zuingle, "to form a church free from sin." In this way did the reformer express the sentiment of Mantz—that a church of Christ should consist of believers baptized into Christ, and of them only Mantz likewise objected to the presence and use of secular power in the church of God.
In the three disputes held at Zurich during the year 1525, Mantz appears to have taken part, and after that of March, to have been thrown into prison, from which, however, he escaped. His pious reference to the escape of Peter by the assistance of an angel, as in some measure applicable to his own, gave his enemies occasion to assert, that he said an angelic being had likewise opened to him the gates of his prison-house.
He now diligently proclaimed the freeness of the gospel in different parts of Switzerland, and taught the true constitution of the church. He was baptized by Blaurock, a companion in suffering; and in the fields and woods, as occasion offered, with the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures in his hand, he expounded the word of God to the people who flocked to him. As this was contrary to the prohibitory command of the magistrates of Zurich, he was deemed a rebel against legitimate authority, and an exciter of the people to sedition.
Towards the end of 1526, he was seized and imprisoned in the tower of Wellenberg. He confessed that he had baptized contrary to the edict. It was right, he said, to obey God rather than man. Exhibiting no sign of repentance, he was at last judged, and on the 5th of January, 1527, was drowned.
Bullinger thus writes, "As he came down from the Wellenberg to the fishmarket, and was led through the shambles to the boat, he praised God that he was about to die for his truth; for anabaptism was right, and founded on the word of God, and Christ had foretold that his followers would suffer for the truth's sake. And the like discourse he urged much, contradicting the preacher who attended him.
On the way, his mother and brother came to him, and exhorted him to be steadfast; and he persevered in his folly, even to the end. When he was bound upon the hurdle, and was about to be thrown into the stream by the executioner, he sung with a loud voice, ‘Into thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.' And herewith was he drawn into the water by the executioner, and drowned. His body was then taken to the Place and buried at St. Jacob's."
"It is reported here," says Capito, writing to Zuingle, near the end of the same month, "that your Felix Mantz hath suffered punishment, and died gloriously; by which the cause of truth and piety, which you sustain, is weighed down exceedingly."
Mantz left behind him a paper, written in his last days, with a view to encourage his companions in their sorrows, which the reader will be glad to see:
"My heart rejoiceth in God, who giveth me much understanding, and "guideth me that I may escape eternal and endless death. Wherefore I praise thee, O Christ, Lord of heaven that thou succorest me in my affliction and sorrow; which Saviour God hath sent me for an example and a light, who hath called me before my end is come, to his heavenly kingdom, that I might have eternal joy with him, and love him in all his judgments, which shall endure both here and hereafter in eternity, without which nothing avails or subsists. Therefore are there so many, who not having this are deceived with a vain opinion.
“But, alas! Nowadays, we find men who boast themselves of the gospel, speak much of it, teach and publish it, to be full of hatred and envy; who have in them no divine love, whose deceit is known of all the world, even as we have been told, that in these last days, they that come to us in sheep's clothing are ravening wolves, who hate the godly in the earth, and hinder the way of life and to the true sheepfold.
“Thus do the false prophets and hypocrites of this world; with the mouth they curse and with the same mouth likewise pray, whose life is bad; these call upon the magistrates to put us to death, and herewith they destroy the body of Christ. But I will praise the Lord Christ, who hath all patience with us. He instructeth us with his divine grace; he showeth, after the nature of God, his heavenly Father's love to all men, which none of the false prophets can do.
"Herein must we observe the difference; the sheep of Christ seek the honor of God. This they choose. They suffer not themselves to be hindered by gain or temporal good, for they are in the keeping of Christ. The Lord Christ forces no man into his glory; but the willing and ready alone enter, who come thereto by true faith and baptism.
“When a man bringeth forth the true fruits of repentance, for him is purchased and procured, by Christ, through grace, the heaven of everlasting joy, by the shedding of his innocent blood, which he so willingly poured out. Thereby he showeth us his love, and endueth us with the might of his Spirit; and he who receiveth and exerciseth this, groweth and becometh perfect in God.
"Love to God, through Christ, will alone endure and profit; no boasting, railing, or threatening. There is nothing but love with which God is pleased. He who can show no love shall find no place with God. The true love of Christ shall cast off the enemy. It is set before him who will be an heir with Christ, that he must be merciful, even as his heavenly Father is merciful. Christ never accused any one, as the false teachers now do; whence it appears that they have not the love of Christ, nor understand his word. Yet they will be shepherds and teachers. But at last they must tremble, when they find that eternal pain will be their reward, if they do not amend.
"Christ never hated any, and his true servants likewise hate no one, continuing thus to follow Christ in the right way, as he has gone before them. This light of life they have before them, and rejoice to walk therein; but those who are full of hatred and envy, who thus wickedly betray, accuse, smite, and wrangle, cannot be Christians. These are they who as thieves and murderers run before Christ, and under a false show shed innocent blood. Thereby may men know them, they take no part with Christ; for through malice, as the children of Belial, they annul the command of Jesus Christ; as Cain slew his brother Abel when God accepted his offering.
"Herewith I will finish my discourse, and request all the pious to meditate on the fall of Adam, who followed the serpent's counsel; and being disobedient to God, death followed him. So shall it also befall those who receive not Christ, but oppose him;—who love this world, and have no love to God. With this I conclude. I will abide close to Christ and confide in him; he knoweth all my distresses, and can help me out of them. Amen."