Saturday, June 21, 2008
Someone Always Acts Up . . .
Today I was reading an interesting passage in one of Henry Sheldon's church history volumes. It was dealing with the Reformation in Germany. I'll let the words speak for themselves.
Some noteworthy stumbling blocks, however, were thrown in the way of this general progress. Such was the Anabaptist fanaticism which raged in Munster. The Reformation had made considerable progress in Munster by the year 1533, under the leadership of the preacher Bernhard Rottmann; and the bishop had found it necessary to grant tolerance to the growing party of its adherents. There was a fair prospect that the whole city would be won to the Protestant cause.
But at this juncture the Anabaptist distemper made its appearance. Rottmann himself caught the infection, and the whole city became a chosen resort for the extremists of the Anabaptist sect. Such in particular were John Mathys from Harlem and John Bockelson from Leyden, who played the role of prophets or theocratic leaders. Adherents being rapidly won, the violent sectaries usurped the government, and in 1534 banished from the city all who were counted unbelievers. One excess led to another. Works of art perished before an indiscriminate iconoclasm. The principles of wildest communism were adopted. Polygamy was declared lawful. John of Leyden, who finally added the dignity of king to that of prophet, took sixteen wives. Everything was managed in the name of pretended revelation from heaven. A reign of terror prevailed, and it was instant death to disagree with the fanatical chief, or his principal agent, the sword-bearer Knipperdolling.
But this mad revel was soon brought to an end. In 1535 the bishop and his allies, among whom were numbered some of the Protestant states, succeeded in overpowering the fanatics. A re-action to Romanism naturally followed; Protestantism was utterly ruined in Munster.
Amazing, isn't it? There's a huge lesson here, in fact several of them.