Targets of Persecution
Annekin Hendriks – Anabaptist
“On the 10th of June, 1535, a furious edict was published at Brussels. Death by fire was the punishment on all Baptists who should be detected and should refuse to abjure. If they recanted they were still to die, but not by fire; the men were to be put to death by the sword, ‘the women in a sunken pit.’ Those who resisted the operation of the edict by failing to deliver up Baptists [Anabaptists] to the authorities, were to suffer the same punishment as accomplices.”What a troublesome time in which to live! Religious freedom was unknown to Anabaptists, and they were forced to worship covertly, everywhere because informers were promised one-third of the confiscated estates of the dreaded Anabaptists!
Perhaps the actual wording of a portion of the edict might prove enlightening as to the pressures that our forefathers experienced.
“In order to provide against and remedy the errors and seductions which many sectaries and authors of mischief, with their followers, have dared to sow and spread in our possessions, in opposition to our holy Christian faith, the sacraments and commands of the holy church our mother; we have at various times decreed…many mandates containing statutes, edicts, ordinances, together with punishments that transgressors should suffer; in order that by such means the common and simple people might guard themselves against the aforesaid errors and abuses, and that their chief promoters might be punished and corrected as an example to all.
And it, having come to our knowledge, that…many and various sectaries, even some who are denominated Anabaptist or rebaptizers, have promoted…their said abuses and errors, in order to mislead the same…to the great scandal and contempt of the sacrament of holy baptism, and of our edicts, statutes, and ordinances:
Therefore, being desirous to provide against and remedy the same, we summon and command, that, from this time…you make proclamation in all the parts of limits of your jurisdiction, that all who are, or shall be found to be, infected by the cursed sect of Anabaptists, or rebaptizers, of what state or condition they may be, abettors, followers, and accomplices, shall suffer the forfeiture of life and estate, and shall without delay, be brought to the severest punishment.”
There are several other paragraphs of the edict, but this example is typical of the many edicts issued by the Roman Catholic and even Protestant leaders who harmonized only at the point of persecuting the re-baptizers. Catholics and some reformers believed that “re-baptism” was a repudiation of the baptism by the state church, which they considered salvation. Anabaptists did not accept “sacramental grace” and “infant sprinkling.” They denied that they were re-baptizers at all! Thank God for grace in Christ and the privilege of obeying His ordinance as a testimony! Praise the Lord for our glorious freedom of religion and liberty of conscience to serve Him without man’s dictates!
Dr. Dale R. Hart:: Adapted from: This Day in Baptist History Vol. I. (Thompson/ Cummins) pp. 239 -240.