Thursday, 28 April 2016

THE ANABAPTISTS

The Rev. Hugh Price Hughes writes on "John Wesley," an able and inspiring article, and Canon Farrar also contributes to the Contemporary a paper on this most influential of the sons of Oxford. The Methodist dwells mainly on the labours in travelling and preaching and writing of the founder of the faith held through many ramifications by over twenty-five millions of Christians; the Churchman emphasizes his unexampled liberality. The man who gave away £40,000 during his life and died poor, who never had £100 of his own in his life, and never got a sixpence of interest for money, answers the Socialist's ideal even better than Mr. Carnegie's. But seeing the marvellous liberality of thought shown by the founder of Methodism, and his root idea of God immanent in the soul, one is specially attracted towards the source of the spiritual light, and in a valuable article by Richard Heath on the "Anabaptists and their English Descendants," we see the germs of the central faith. The Anabaptists have till now been always described by their bitter enemies and contemporary persecutors, and subsequent historians have echoed the story of their licence, and characterized their doctrines as subversive of all Government. They represented in the sixteenth century the stream of popular religious thought, feeling, and aspiration, which has never ceased to flow through the Christian centuries, and which in the first place largely influenced the English Baptists and Quakers, and afterwards, through Tauler, gave the living principle which actuated the faith and life of John Wesley. It is remarkable that the English Baptists did not practise immersion till convinced by Anabaptist missionaries from Holland that this was scriptural. It was contrary to Anabaptist ways of thinking to formulate their doctrine in creeds or confession, for their Societies were founded on the belief that the Holy Spirit, was with the Church of Christ now, and would lead it into all truth, the Scriptures being subordinate and helpful to this end. In England, as on the Continent, they were scouted as heretics to be stamped out by all means, and the intrepidity with which they faced death was not regarded by Foxe or Latimer as any warrant for their faith. No Christian man, according to them, ought to bear arms, become a Magistrate or ruler, take an oath, or go to law ; no ministers could be made by man, and should not receive stipends. These still are the tenets of the Quakers. Only those who had been spiritually awakened should be baptised ; no Christian should call anything his own ; and the soul slept with the body till the Day of Judgment. Luther thought these doctrines were so mischievous that they should be put down by Civil power. And yet where had the noble army of Marian martyrs learnt the solemn lesson of the voice of conscience but from the despised Anabaptists, who filled the air with the doctrine that each man had within himself the Divine Teacher, whom he must obey.
 But Mr. Heath traces still further back this reformation, which was as much social and political as theological, to Wickliff, whose doctrine, caught up by Huss and Jerome, was the germ of a revival of religion with which Luther had little to do. In the whole history of the Church superstition has never met with a foe at once so learned and so thorough as Wickliff. In his great work "De Civili Dominio" he sweeps away the basis of every unrighteous government, and of every unjust social arrangement. Nothing, he says, has any right to exist which is founded on unrighteousness. Inheritance, or actual possession, cannot make good the claims of unrighteous rulers. Nor can they transfer their authority to others. The whole tendency of the Anabaptist doctrine was as much opposed to that of Luther and Calvin as it was to that of the Catholics. They declared that all infants and all the heathen who possessed the spirit of Christ would be saved, though they had never heard of the Gospel. Some were even accused of thinking that all, even the wicked, would be finally restored. It is known that over 30,000 Anabaptists were martyred in the merciless persecutions of these times. "Lollards, Hussites, Anabaptists preached the true constitution of Christian Society which Wickliff proclaimed, and they were slaughtered in thousands. A great idea is not driven out of the world like that. Anabaptism will rise again." We have heard of the Mennonites, a persecuted sect who would fain have fled from Russia to our Northern Territory to escape military service under the Tsar. Menno was an Anabaptist, and it was a Mennonite who converted the English Baptists to immersion. It is mainly because of the aversion to military service that dissenters are so severely treated in the Russian Empire, and the Jew is also so reluctant and so bad a soldier that this forms one of the reasons for the hardships inflicted on the race.
 An Anglo-Russian takes up the defensive for the Government against the sympathizers with the Jews, and says it is only in self-defence that Russia drives out the parasites who are sucking her life-blood. The only middlemen in the districts where they are permitted to exist, they are in too great numbers for the business to be done, and they lend money to the needy to his ruin. "In England and France the Jew can be held in check by the intelligent enterprising majority of men engaged in similar pursuits around him; in Austria he has made himself supreme. There is no longer an Austria ; no more a Hungary. From top to bottom there is only a kingdom of Jews. The villages belong to Jews, the Ministry is a Jewish office, the palaces are temples of Hebrew cult, and the hour of political death is terribly near." To save Russia from such a fate is the aim of Russia. The writer confesses that the mischief is aggravated by the corruption of the officials who take bribes to let off the rich and execute the rigours of the law on the poor.

South Australian Register 4th May 1891

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