by F. Bente
XXII.Article XII of the Formula of Concord: Of Other Heretics and Sects.
257. Purpose of Article XII.
The purpose of the first eleven articles of the Formula of Concord was not only to establish peace within the Lutheran Church and to ward off future controversies, but also to meet the ridicule and obloquy of the Papists and to brand before the whole world as slander, pure and simple, their assertions that the Lutherans were hopelessly disagreed and had abandoned the Augsburg Confession, and that the Reformation was bound to end in utter confusion and dissolution. The Formula of Concord was to leave no doubt regarding the fact that the Lutheran Church offers a united front in every direction: against the Romanists, the Calvinists, the errorists that had arisen in their own midst, and selfevidently also against the sects and fanatics, old and modern, with whom the Romanists slanderously identified them.
Summarizing the errors which Lutherans repudiate, the Formula of Concord declares: “First, we reject and condemn all heresies and errors which were rejected and condemned in the primitive, ancient, orthodox Church, upon the true, firm ground of the holy divine Scriptures. Secondly, we reject and condemn all sects and heresies which are rejected in the writings, just mentioned, of the comprehensive summary of the confession of our churches [the Lutheran symbols, preceding the Formula of Concord]. Thirdly, we reject also all those errors which caused dissension within the Lutheran Church, and which are dealt with and refuted in the first eleven articles of the Formula of Concord.” (857, 17ff.) Among the errors rejected in the Augsburg Confession and the subsequent Lutheran symbols were those also of the Anabaptists,Antitrinitarians, and others. (CONC. TRIGL. 42, 6; 44, 4; 46, 3; 48, 7; 50, 3. 4; 138, 66; 244, 52; 310, 13; 356, 43; 436, 49; 744, 55; 746, 58.) And this is the class of errorists which Article XII of the Formula of Concord makes it a special point to characterize summarily and reject by name. Before this the Book of Confutation, composed 1559 by the theologians of Duke John Frederick, had enumerated and rejected the doctrines of such errorists as Servetus, Schwenckfeld, and the Anabaptists.
From the very beginning of the Reformation, and especially at Augsburg, 1530, Eck and other Romanists had either identified the Lutherans with the Anabaptists and other sects, or had, at least, held them responsible for their origin and growth. Both charges are denied by the Formula ofConcord.For here we read:”However, lest there be silently ascribed to us the condemned errors of the above enumerated factions and sects (which, as is the nature of such spirits, for the most part, secretly stole in at localities, and especially at a time when no place or room was given to the pure word of the holy Gospel, but all its sincere teachers and confessors were persecuted, and the deep darkness of the Papacy still prevailed and poor simple men who could not help but feel the manifest idolatry and false faith of the Papacy, in their simplicity, alas! embraced whatever was called Gospel, and was not papistic), we could not forbear testifying also against them publicly, before all Christendom, that we have neither part nor fellowship with their errors, be they many or few, but reject and condemn them, one and all, as wrong and heretical, and contrary to the Scriptures of the prophets and apostles, and to our Christian Augsburg Confession, well grounded in God’s Word.” (1097, 7f.)
258. The Anabaptists.
The Anabaptistic movement originated in Zurich. Their leaders were Conrad Grebel, Felix Manz, and the monk George of Chur (also called Blaurock, Bluecoat), who was the first to introduce anabaptism. In rapid succession Anabaptistic congregations sprang up in Swabia, Tyrol, Austria, Moravia, etc. Because of their attitude toward the civil government the Anabaptists were regarded as rebels and treated accordingly.As early as January, 1527, some of them were executed in Zurich. Persecution increased after the council held by Anabaptists in the autumn of 1527 at Augsburg, which then harbored a congregation of more than 1,100 “Apostolic Brethren,” as the Anabaptists there called themselves. In Germany the imperial mandate of September 23, 1529, authorized the governments to punish Anabaptists, men and women of every age, by fire or sword “without previous inquisition by spiritual judges.” They suffered most in Catholic territories. By 1531 about 1,000 (according to Sebastian Franck 2,000) had been executed in Tyrol and Goerz.
The most prominent of the early Anabaptistic leaders and protagonists were Hubmaier, Denk, Dachser, and Hans Hutt. Besides these we mention: Ludwig Haetzer, published a translation of the prophets from the Hebrew, 1527, for which he was praised by Luther, was executed as adulterer February 4, 1529, at Constance; Eitelhans Langenmantel, a former soldier and son of the Augsburg burgomaster, expelled from the city October 14, 1527, impassionate in his writings against the “old and new Papists,” i.e., Luther and others who adhered to the real presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper, decapitated May 12, 1528, at Weissenburg; Christian Entfelder, 1527 leader of the Brethren at Eisenschuetz Moravia, and later on counselor of Duke Albrecht of Prussia; Hans Schlaffer, a former priest, active as Anabaptistic preacher and author, executed 1528; Joerg Haug, pastor in Bibra;Wolfgang Vogel, pastor near Nuernberg, executed 1527; Siegmund Salminger, imprisoned 1527 in Augsburg; Leonard Schiemer, former Franciscan, bishop of the Brethren in Austria, an Antitrinitarian, executed 1528; Ulrich Hugwald, professor in Basel; Melchior Rinck, pastor in Hesse; Pilgram Marbeck; Jacob Buenderlin; Jacob Kautz, preacher and author in Worms; Clemens Ziegler; Peter Riedemann, an Anabaptistic author and preacher, who was frequently imprisoned and died 1556; Melchior Hofmann, an Anabaptistic lay-preacher and prolific author, who died in prison at Strassburg, 1543. (Tschackert, 148ff.; Schlottenloher, Philipp Ulhart, ein Augsburger Winkeldrucker und Helfershelfer der “Schwaermer” und “Wiedertaeufer,” 1523-1529, p. 59ff.)
The various errors of the Anabaptists are enumerated in the Twelfth Article of the Formula of Concord. The Epitome remarks: “The Anabaptists are divided among themselves into many factions, as one contends for more, another for less errors; however they all in common propound such doctrine as is to be tolerated or allowed neither in the church, nor in the commonwealth and secular government, nor in domestic life.” (839, 2.) Urbanus Regius said in his book Against the New Baptistic Order: “Not all [of the Anabaptists] know of all of these errors [enumerated in his book]; it is therefore not our intention to do an injustice to any one; we mean such public deceivers in the Baptistic Order as John Denk and Balthasar Friedberger,” Hubmaier. (Schlottenloher, 80.)
While some of the Anabaptists, as Hubmaier, were more conservative, others (Denk, Schiemer) went so far as to deny even the doctrine of the Trinity. They all were agreed, however, in their opposition to infant baptism, and to the Lutheran doctrines of justification, of the means of grace, of the Sacraments, etc. What their preachers stressed was not faith in the atonement made by Christ, but medieval mysticism, sensation-faith (Gefuehlsglaube), and the law of love as exemplified by Christ. Tschackert quotes from one of their sermons: “Whoever follows the voice which constantly speaks in his heart always finds in himself the true testimony to sin no more, and an admonition to resist the evil.” (153.) In his introduction to a publication of hymns of Breuning, Salminger said: “Whoever speaks in truth to what his own heart testifies will be received by God.” Schlottenloher remarks: “It was medieval mysticism from which they [the Anabaptists] derived their consuming desire for the complete union of the soul with God and the Spirit.” (83.)
259. Balthasar Hubmaier.
Hubmaier (Hubmoer, Friedberger, Pacimontanus) was born at Friedberg, near Augsburg, and studied under Eck. In 1512 he became Doctor and professor of theology at Ingolstadt; 1516 preacher in Regensburg; 1522 pastor in Waldshut on the Rhine. Before he came to Waldshut, he had read the books of Luther.He joined Zwingli in his opposition to Romanism. In January, 1525, however, he wrote to Oecolampadius that now “he proclaimed publicly what before he had kept to himself,” referring in particular to his views on infant baptism. On Easter Day of the same year he was rebaptized together with 60 other persons, after which he continued to baptize more than 300. In July of 1525 he published his book Concerning Christian Baptism of Believers, which was directed against Zwingli, whose name, however, was not mentioned.At Zurich,whither he had fled from Waldshut after the defeat of the peasants in their rebellion of 1525, he was compelled to hold a public disputation with Zwingli on infant baptism. This led to his imprisonment from which he was released only after a public recantation, 1526. He escaped to Nicolsburg,Moravia, where, under the protection of a powerful nobleman, he developed a feverish activity and rebaptized about 12,000 persons.When the persecutions of the Anabaptists began, Hubmaier was arrested, and after sulphur and powder had been well rubbed into his long beard, he was burned at the stake in Vienna. March 10, 1528. Three days after, his wife, with a stone about her neck, was thrust from the bridge into the Danube.
Hubmaier denounced infant baptism as “an abominable idolatry.” He taught:: Children are incapable of making the public confession required by Baptism; there is no Scriptural reason for infant baptism; it robs us of the true baptism, since people believe that children are baptized while in reality they are nothing less than baptized.He says:”Since the alleged infant baptism is no baptism, those who now receive water-baptism according to the institution of Christ cannot be charged with anabaptism.”
Concerning the Lord’s Supper, Hubmaier taught: “Here it is apparent that the bread is not the body of Christ, but only a reminder of it. Likewise the wine is not the blood of Christ, but also a mere memorial that He has shed and given His blood to wash all believers from their sins.” “In the Lord’s Supper the body and blood of Christ are received spiritually and by faith only.” In the Supper of Christ “bread is bread and wine is wine and not Christ. For He has ascended to heaven and sits at the right hand of God,His Father.”
Hubmaier did not regard the Word as a means of grace nor Baptism and the Lord’s Supper as gracious acts of God, but as mere works of man.”In believers,”he says, “God works both to will and to do, by the inward anointing of His Holy Spirit.”Concerning church discipline he taught:Where the Christian ban is not established and used according to the command of Christ, there sin, shame, and vice control everything. A person who is expelled must be denied all communion until he repents. In connection with his deliverances on the ban, Hubmaier, after the fashion of the Papists, made the Gospel of Christian liberty as preached by Luther responsible for the carnal way in which many abused it. The socialistic trend of Anabaptism, however, was not developed by Hubmaier. (Tschackert 132. 172. 234.)
260. Dachser and Hutt.
Jacob Dachser was one of the most zealous members and leaders of the large Anabaptistic congregation in Augsburg, where he was also imprisoned, 1527. He, not Langenmantel, is the author of the “Offenbarung von den wahrhaftigen Wiedertaeufern. Revelation of the True Anabaptists,” secretly published by the Anabaptistic printer Philip Ulhart in Augsburg and accepted as a sort of confession by the council held by the Anabaptists in the fall of 1527 at Augsburg. The book of Urban Regius: “Wider den neuen Tauforden notwendige Warnung an alle Christenglaeubigen- Against the new Baptistic Order, a Necessary Warning to All Christians,” was directed against Dachser’s Revelation. In 1529 Dachser published his Form and Order of Spiritual Songs, the first hymn-book of the Anabaptists, containing hymns of Luther, Speratus, Muenzer,Hutt, Pollio, and Dachser.
In his Revelation Dachser said: “The entire world is against each other; we don’t know any more where the truth is.While all are convinced that the Pope has erred and deceived us, the new preachers, by reviling and maligning each other, betray that they, too, are not sent by God.””In their pulpits the false teachers [Lutherans, etc.] themselves confess that the longer they preach, the less good is done. But since they do not forsake a place where they see no fruits of their doctrine, they thereby reveal that they are not sent by God.””God draws us to Himself through the power which is in us, and warns us against wickedness and through the Teacher Christ, who in His Word has taught us the will of God.””Christ sent His disciples to preach the Gospel to all creatures and to baptize such as believe. And such as obey this command are called ¡¥Anabaptists’!” “By our evil will original purity has been defiled; from this uncleanness we must purge our heart. Who does not find this uncleanness in himself, neither without nor within, is a true child of God, obedient to the Word of God.Who, in accordance with the command of Christ, preaches and baptizes such as believe, is not an Anabaptist, but a cobaptist [Mittaeufer] of Christ and the Apostles.” “All such as preach, teach, and baptize otherwise than Christ commanded, are the real Anabaptists [opponents of Baptism], acting contrary to the Son of God, by first baptizing, instead of first teaching and awaiting faith, as Christ commanded.””We need but strive with Christ to do the will of the Father then we receive from God through the Holy Ghost the power to fulfil the divine command.” (Schlottenloher, 72ff.)
Hans Hutt (Hut), a restless bookbinder in Franconia, attended the Anabaptistic council in Augsburg, where he was opposed by Regius and incarcerated. He died 1527 in an attempt to escape from prison. As a punishment his body was burned. Hutt must not be confounded with Jacob Huter or Hueter, an Anabaptist in Tyrol. The followers of Hans Hutt in the city of Steyr developed the socialistic tendencies of Anabaptism. They taught : Private ownership is sinful; all things are to be held in common; Judgment Day is imminent; then the Anabaptists will reign with Christ on earth. Some also taught that finally the devil and all the damned would be saved; others held that there is neither a devil nor a hell, because Christ had destroyed them. (Tschackert 134ff. 141. 153.) Article XVII of the Augsburg Confession condemns “the Anabaptists, who think that there will be an end to the punishments of condemned men and devils …; also others,who are now spreading certain Jewish opinions, that before the resurrection of the dead the godly shall take possession of the kingdom of the world, the ungodly being everywhere suppressed.” (CONC. TRIGL., 51, 4.)
261. John Denk.
Denk, who was called the “Archbaptist,” the “Bishop,” “Pope,” and “Apollo” of the Anabaptists, was born in Bavaria and trained in Basel. In 1523 he became Rector of St. Sebald in Nuernberg where he was opposed by Osiander.Banished in the following year,he escaped to St. GalIen. Expelled again, he fled to Augsburg. Here he was rebaptized by immersion and became an active member of the Anabaptistic “Apostolic Brethren,” who at that time numbered about 1,100 persons. Denk was the leader of the council held by the Anabaptists in 1527 in Augsburg. Expelled from the city, Denk died during his flight, 1527, at Basel.His “Retraction, Widerruf” (a title probably chosen by the printer), published 1527 after his death, does not contain a retraction, but a summary of his teaching. (Schlottenloher, 84.) The mystic mind of Denk runs a good deal in the channels of the author of the “German Theology, Deutsche Theologie,” and of his pantheistic contemporary, Sebastian Franck.
Denk taught: God is one, and the source of unity. To return from all divisions to this unity must be our constant aim. The only way is entire surrender to God and submission in tranquillity.He says:”Nothing is necessary for this salvation [reunion with God] but to obey Him who is in us, and to be tranquil and wait for Him in the true real Sabbath and tranquillity, losing ourselves and all that is ours, so that God may both work and suffer in us. He who is in us is ready every hour and moment to follow, if we are but willing. His hour is always, but ours is not. He calls and stretches forth His arms the entire day, always ready; nobody answers Him, nobody admits Him or suffers Him to enter. Do but seek the Lord, then you will find Him; yea,He is already seeking you; only suffer yourselves to be found. Indeed He has already found you, and even now is knocking. Do but open unto Him and let Him in.Apprehend and know the Lord, even as you are apprehended and known of Him.”
Denk held that the source of religious and moral knowledge is not the Scriptures, but the voice of God in the heart of man, or Christ Himself, who speaks and writes the divine Law into the hearts of those who are His. [Before Denk, Thomas Muenzer had said: “Was Bibel!! Bibel, Bubel, Babel!”] Whoever has this divine Law in his heart lacks nothing that is needed to fulfil the will of God. According to Denk a man may be saved without the preaching of the Word, without the Scriptures, and without any knowledge of the historical Christ and His work. Nor can the Scriptures be understood without heeding the revelation of God in our own bosom. The Scriptures must indeed be regarded as higher than “all human treasures, but not as high as God’s Word” [in our own bosom]. Baptism is a mere outward sign that one has joined the number of believers; hence it can be administered to such only as are conscious of their faith. Ceremonies in themselves are not sin, says Denk, “but whoever imagines to obtain grace through them, either by Baptism or by the Breaking of Bread, is given to superstition.” (Tschackert, 143;Meusel,Handl. 2, 142.)
262. The Schwenckfeldians.
Caspar Schwenckfeldt, of Ossig in Liegnitz a descendent of a noble family in Silesia, was born 1490 and studied in Cologne. In 1524 he helped to introduce the Reformation in Liegnitz. He was twice in Wittenberg; 1522, when he met Carlstadt and Thomas Muenzer and 1525, when he visited Luther.He endeavored to interest Luther in the formation of conventicles, and particularly in his mystical theory concerning the Lord’s Supper, which he considered the correct middle ground on which Lutherans and Zwinglians might compromise. But Luther had no confidence in the enthusiast, whom he characterized as a “mad fool,” “possessed by the devil.” He said: “In Silesia Schwenckfeldt has kindled a fire which as yet has not been quenched and will burn on him eternally.”
Because of the troubles and dissensions created in Liegnitz, Schwenckfeldt, in 1529, was compelled to leave. Having removed to Strassburg he was zealous in propagating his enthusiasm in Southern Germany by establishing conventicles of “Lovers of the Glory of Christ,” as the adherents of Schwenckfeldt called themselves. At a colloquy in Tuebingen, 1535, he promised not to disquiet the Church. In 1539 he published his Summary of Several Arguments that Christ according to His Humanity Is To-day No Creature, but Entirely Our God and Lord. He called it the doctrine of the “Deification of the Flesh of Christ.”When this teaching was rejected as Eutychianism, Schwenckfeldt published his Large Confession, 1540. At the convention of Smalcald, also 1540, his views were condemned and his books prohibited and burned. Compelled to leave Strassburg, he spent the remainder of his life in Augsburg, in Speier and in Ulm (where he died, December 10 1561) . Schwenckfeldt exchanged controversial writings with many contemporary theologians, whom he kept in constant excitement. In Liegnitz he was supported by the ministers Valentin Krautwald, Fabian Eckel, Sigismund Werner, and Valerius Rosenheyn. His adherents were called “Neutrals,” because they declined to affiliate with any of the existing churches.
263. Schwenckfeldt’s Doctrine.
In 1526 Schwenckfeldt wrote to Paul Speratus: Since by the preaching of the Gospel as set forth by Luther so few people amended their lives, the thought had occurred to him that “something must still be lacking, whatever that may be.” Endeavoring to supply this defect, Schwenckfeldt taught: Grace cannot be imparted by any creature, bodily word, writing, or sacrament, but only by the omnipotent, eternal Word proceeding from the mouth of God.Whatever is external is a mere symbol and image of God, able neither to bring God into the soul nor to produce faith or an inward experience of divine life. “Mark well” says he, “God is not in need of external things and means for His internal grace and spiritual action. For even Christ, according to the flesh, was a hindrance to grace and [the Spirit] of God, and had to be translated into the heavenly mode of being that the grace of the Holy Spirit might come to us … Whoever endeavors to come from without and through external means into the inner [the heart] does not understand the course of grace. God works without all means and pictures … Man must forget and drop everything, and be free and tranquil for the inbreathing [Einsprechen, inspiration], and be drawn away from all creatures, giving himself up to God altogether.”
Schwenckfeldt continues: The Holy Spirit enters the quiet soul only through the eternal Word, which “proceeds from the mouth of God without means and not at all through Scripture, external Word, Sacrament, or any creature in heaven or on earth. God wants to have this honor reserved solely to Himself through Himself [without any means] He wants to pardon man, teach him, impart the Holy Spirit to him, and save him. He does not want to grant His grace, and effect illumination and salvation through any creature; for even the flesh of Christ was not a sufficient instrument for this purpose before He was glorified, translated into the heavenly places, and removed from our eyes.””Scripture is for the external man; the Holy Spirit teaches everything to the elect inwardly and is not in need of Scripture to give faith to them and to save them.” Schwenckfeldt, who employed the term “revelation” for this immediate operation of God, was inconsistent in not rejecting Scripture, preaching, etc., altogether. But when admitting these, he adds that he distinguishes “God’s own inner work from the external service.”
Self-evidently, these views concerning the means of grace had a corrupting influence also on other doctrines. Saving faith, according to Schwenckfeldt, is not trust in God’s promise of pardon for Christ’s sake, but an immediate mystical relation of the soul to God. Justification, says he, “is not only forgiveness and nonimputation of sin, but also renewal of the heart.” “We must seek our justification and righteousness not in Christ according to His first state [of humiliation], in a manner historical,” but according to His state of glorification, in which He governs the Church. In order to enhance the “glory of Christ”and have it shine and radiate in a new light, Schwenckfeldt taught the “deification of the flesh of Christ,” thus corrupting the doctrine of the exaltation and of the person of Christ in the direction of Monophysitism. And the more his views were opposed, the more he was enamored of, and engrossed by, them, calling himself the “confessor and lover of the glory of Christ.”
Concerning the Lord’s Supper, Schwenckfeldt taught that the deified humanity of Christ is really imparted and appropriated, not indeed through bread and wine, but immediately (without the intervention of any medium), internally, spiritually. The words of institution mean: My body, which is given for you, is what bread is, a food, i.e., a food for souls; and the new testament in My blood is a chalice, i.e., a drink for the elect to drink in the kingdom of God. Baptism, says Schwenckfeldt, is the “baptizing of the heavenly High Priest Jesus Christ, which occurs in the believing soul by the Holy Ghost and by fire. Infant baptism is a human ordinance, not merely useless, but detrimental to the baptism of Christ.” (Tschackert, 159ff.)
264. The Antitrinitarians.
The first article of the Augsburg Confession makes a special point of rejecting not only the ancient, but also the “modern; Samosatenes,” i.e., the Antitrinitarians, who in the beginning of the Reformation began their activity in Italy, Spain, Switzerland, and Germany.Most of these “modern Arians and Antitrinitarians,” as they are called in the Twelfth Article of the Formula of Concord came from the skeptical circles ofHumanists in Italy. Concerning these rationalists and Epicureans the Apology remarks: “Many [in Italy and elsewhere] even publicly ridicule all religions, or, if they approve anything, they approve such things only as are in harmony with human reason, and regard the rest as fabulous and like the tragedies of the poets.”(CONC.TRIGL., 235, 28; C. R. 9, 763.) Pope Leo X was generally regarded as being one of those who spoke of the profitable “fables concerning Christ.”
According to a letter of warning to the Christians in Antwerp, 1525, a fanatic (Rumpelgeist) there taught: “Every man has the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is our reason and understanding (ingenium et ratio naturalis). Every man believes. There is neither hell nor damnation. Every one will obtain eternal life. Nature teaches that I should do unto my neighbor as I would have him do unto me-to desire which is faith. The Law is not violated by evil lust as long as I do not consent to lust. Who has not the Holy Ghost has no sin for he has no reason.” (E. 53, 344; St. L. 21a 730; Enders 5, 147.)
In his report on the Marburg Colloquy, October 5, 1529,Melanchthon remarks: “We have heard that some of them [the Strassburgers] speak of the Deity as the Jews do, as though Christ were not God by nature. (C. R. 1, 1099.) At Marburg, Zwingli remarked that some had spoken incorrectly concerning the Trinity, and that Haetzer had written a book against the divinity of Christ, which he,Zwingli, had not permitted to be published.” (1103.)
In a letter of Luther to Bugenhagen, 1532 we read: “Your undertaking [of publishing a writing of Athanasius concerning the Trinity] is Christian and wholesome in this our most corrupt time, in which all articles of faith in general are attacked by the servants of Satan, and the one concerning the Trinity is in particular beginning to be derided confidently by some skeptics and Epicureans. These are ably assisted not only by those Italian grammarians [Humanists] and orators, which they flatter themselves to be, but also by some Italico-German vipers and others, or, as you are accustomed to call them, viper-aspides, who sow their seed here and there in their discourses and writings, and, as Paul says [2 Tim. 2, 17], eat as doth a canker (gar sehr um sich fressen) and promote godlessness, about which they, when among themselves, laugh so complacently and are so happy that one can hardly believe it.” (St. L. 14, 326; Enders 9, 252.)
Some Antitrinitarians who affiliated with the Anabaptists have already been referred to. Denk, Haetzer, and others rejected the Apostles’Creed because of their opposition to the doctrine of the Trinity. Haetzer, as stated wrote a book against the deity of Christ in which he denied the tripersonality of God and the preexistence of the Logos, and blasphemously designated the belief in the deity of Christ as “superstition” and the trust in His satisfaction as “drinking on the score of Christ (ein Zechen auf die Kreide Christi).” According to Denk, Christ is merely an example showing us how to redeem ourselves which we are all able to do because there is still within us a seed of the divine Word and light. (Tschackert, 143, 461.) It was of Denk that Capito wrote, 1526: “At Nuernberg the schoolteacher at St. Sebald denied that the Holy Ghost and the Son are equal to the Father, and for this reason he was expelled.” (Plitt, Augustana 1, 153.)
At Strassburg the Anabaptists were publicly charged, in 1526,with denying the Trinity; in 1529,with denying the deity of Christ. In 1527 Urban Regius spoke of the Anabaptists in Augsburg as maintaining that Christ was merely a teacher of a Christian life. In the same year Althamer of Nuernberg published his book Against the New Jews and Arians under the Christian Name Who Deny the Deity of Christ. In 1529 Osiander wrote concerning Anabaptists in Nuernberg: “It is well known, and may be proved by their own writings, that they deny and contradict the sublime article of our faith concerning the Holy Trinity, from which it follows immediately that they also deny the deity of Christ.” “Christ is not the natural, true Son of God,” such was also the accusation made by Justus Menius in his book concerning the Doctrines and Secrets of the Anabaptists. In his Sermons on the Life of Luther, Mathesius said “Now the Anabaptists speak most contemptuously of the deity of Jesus Christ … This was their chief article that they despised the written Word, the Holy Bible, and believed nothing or very little of Jesus Christ the eternal Son of God.”
265. Franck, Campanus, Ochino, Servetus, Blandrata, etc.
Sebastian Franck and John Campanus must also be numbered among the Antitrinitarians. Franck was a pantheist, who had been pastor in the vicinity of Nuernberg till 1528, when he resigned and engaged in soap manufacturing, writing, and printing. Campanus appeared in Wittenberg, 1527. At the Colloquy of Marburg he endeavored to unite Luther and Zwingli by explaining the words: “This is My body” to mean: This is a body created by Me. In 1530 he published a book: “Against the Entire World after the Apostles-Contra Totum post Apostolos Mundum,” in which he taught that the Son is inferior to the Father, and denied the personality of the Holy Spirit.”He argues,” says Melanchthon, who in his letters frequently refers to the “blasphemies of Campanus,” “that Christ is not God; that the Holy Spirit is not God; that original sin is an empty word. Finally there is nothing which he does not transform into philosophy.” (C. R. 2, 33. 34. 93. 29. 513; 9, 763; 10, 132.) When Campanus endeavored to spread his doctrines, he was banished from Saxony, 1531.He returned to Juelich, where he preached on the imminence of Judgment Day, with the result that the peasants sold their property and declined to work any longer. Campanus was imprisoned for twenty years and died 1575.
Prominent among the numerous Antitrinitarians who came from Italy were Ochino, Servetus, Gribaldo, Gentile, Blandrata, and Alciati. Bernardino Ochino, born 1487, was Vicar-General of the Capuchins and a renowned pulpit orator in Siena. In 1542 he was compelled to leave Italy in order to escape the Inquisition. He served the Italian congregation in Zurich from 1555 to 1564, when he was banished because he had defended polygamy. He died in Austerlitz, 1665. In his Thirty Dialogs, published 1563, he rejects the doctrines of the Trinity, of the deity of Christ, and of the atonement. (Herzog R. 14, 256.)-Michael Servetus was born in 1511 and educated at Saragossa and Toulouse. In 1531, at Hagenau, Alsace, he published De Trinitatis Erroribus Libri Vll. He was opposed by Zwingli and Oecolampadius. In 1540 he wrote his Christianismi Restitutio, a voluminous book, which he published in 1553. In it he opposes the Trinity as an unbiblical and satanic doctrine, and at the same time rejects original sin and infant baptism. The result was that, while pass- ing through Geneva on his way to Italy, he was arrested at the instance of Calvin, tried, condemned, and burned at the stake, October 27, 1553-an act which was approved also by Melanchthon. (C. R. 8, 362; 9, 763.)- Matteo Gribaldo, in 1554, uttered tritheistic views concerning the Trinity in the Italian congregation at Geneva. Arrested in Bern, he retracted his doctrine.He died 1564.-John Valentine Gentile also belonged to the Italian fugitives in Geneva. In 1558 he signed an orthodox confession concerning the Trinity. Before long, however, he relapsed into his Antitrinitarian errors. He was finally beheaded at Bern. (Herzog R. 6, 518.)
George Blandrata, born 1515, was influenced by Gribaldo. Fearing for his liberty, he left Geneva and went to Poland and thence to Transylvania. Here he published his Confessio Antitrinitaria, and was instrumental in introducing Unitarianism into Transylvania. He died after 1585. In 1558 Gianpaolo Alciati of Piedmont accompanied Blandrata to Poland.He taught that Christ was inferior to the Father, and denied that there were two natures in Christ.
266. Davidis and Socinus.
Francis Davidis in Transylvania was an Antitrinitarian of the most radical stripe. He had studied in Wittenberg 1545 and 1548. In 1552 he joined the Lutherans, in 1559 the Calvinists. Secretly after 1560 and publicly since 1566 he cooperated with Blandrata to introduce Unitarianism in Transylvania. In numerous disputations he attacked the doctrine of the Trinity as unscriptural and contradictory. In 1567 he published his views in De Falso et Vera Unius Dei Patris, Filii et Spiritus Sancti Cognitione Libri Duo.He contended that the doctrine of the Trinity was the source of all idolatry in the Church; that Christ, though born of Mary in a supernatural way, was preexistent only in the decree of God, and that the Holy Spirit was merely a power emanating from God for our sanctification.He also rejected infant baptism and the Lord’s Supper. After the prince and the greater part of the nobility had been won for Unitarianism, Davidis, in 1568, was made Superintendent of the Unitarian Church in Transylvania. In 1571 religious liberty was proclaimed, and Unitarians, Catholics, Lutherans, and Calvinists were tolerated equally. Before long, however, a reaction set in. The Catholic Stephan Bathory,who succeeded to the throne, removed the Unitarians from his court and surrounded himself with Jesuits. On March 29, 1579, Davidis delivered a sermon against the adoration of Christ, declaring it to be the same idolatry as the invocation of Mary and the saints. Three days after he was deposed and imprisoned. In the proceedings instituted against him he was convicted as a blasphemer and sentenced to imprisonment for life. He died in prison, November 15, 1579, prophesying the final downfall of all “false dogmas,” meaning, of course, the doctrines which _______combated.
In Poland, especially since 1548, the humanistic and liberal-minded nobility opposed the Catholic clergy and protected Protestants and later on also fugitive Antitrinitarians. Among these were the Italians Francis Lismanio, Gregory Pauli, and Peter Statorius. These Unitarians, however, lacked unity and harmony. They disagreed on infant baptism, the preexistence and adoration of Christ, etc. These dissensions continued until Faustus Socinus (born at Siena 1539, died 1604 in Poland) arrived.He was the nephew of the skeptical and liberal-minded Laelius Socinus (Lelio Sozzini) who left Italy in 1542, when the Inquisition was established there, and died in Zurich, 1562.
Faustus Socinus claimed that he had received his ideas from his uncle Laelius. In 1562 he published anonymously an explanation of the first chapter of the Gospel of St. John, which, contained the entire program of Unitarianism. In 1578 he followed an invitation of Blandrata to oppose non-adorantism (the doctrine that Christ must not be adored) as taught by Davidis. In the following year Faustus removed to Poland, where he endeavored to unite the various Unitarian parties: the Anabaptists, Non-adorantes, the believers in the preexistence of Christ, etc., and their opponents. The growth of Unitarianism in Poland was rapid. A school flourished in Rakow numbering in its palmy days about 1,000 scholars.However here, too, a Jesuitic reaction set in. In 1638 the school at Rakow was destroyed, the printery closed, and the teachers and ministers expelled. In 1658 the Unitarians generally were banished as traitors, and in 1661 the rigorous laws against Unitarianism were confirmed.
The chief source of the Antitrinitarian and Socinian doctrine is the Racovian Catechism, published 1605 in the Polish and 1609 in the Latin language under the title: “Catechism of the Churches in the Kingdom of Poland which affirm that no one besides the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is that One God of Israel.”It teaches: There is but one divine person;Christ is a mere man; the doctrine concerning the deity of Christ is false; as a reward for His sinless life, God has given Christ all power in heaven and on earth; as such, as God’s representative (homo Deus factus, the man made God), He may be adored; there is no original sin; with the help of God, that is to say,with the commandments and promises of God revealed by Christ, man may acquire salvation; he is able to keep these commandments, though not perfectly;man’s shortcomings are pardoned by God on account of his good intention; an atonement by Christ is not required for this purpose; moreover, the doctrine of atonement must be opposed as false and pernicious; by His death Christ merely sealed His doctrine; all who obey His commandments are adherents of Christ; these will participate in His dominion; the wicked and the devils will be annihilated; there is no such thing as eternal punishment; whatever in the Bible comports with human reason and serves moral ends is inspired; the Old Testament is superfluous for Christians, because all matters pertaining to religion are contained better and clearer in the New Testament. (Tschackert, 473.)
Evidently, in every detail, Antitrinitarianism and Socinianism are absolutely incompatible with, and destructive of, the very essence of Christianity. The Apology declares that the deniers of the doctrine of the Holy Trinity “are outside of the Church of Christ and are idolaters, and insult God.” (103, 1.) This verdict is confirmed by Article XII of the Formula of Concord. (843, 30; 1103, 39.)