Chapter 10. A Discussion On Baptism Between Hubmaier and Zwingli
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12 min read
It has been pointed out above that Hubmaier’s desire for a public discussion with Zwingli was never granted. Zwingli boasted often that he had refuted and silenced the Anabaptists in every debate. Hubmaier at last decided to write a book quoting Zwingli’s arguments for infant baptism and adding his reply. In this way he, as it were, compelled Zwingli to a public discussion. He published this book under the title: A Dialogue Between Balthasar Hubmaier and Ulrich Zwingli on Infant Baptism, Based on Zwingli’s Book on Baptism” Following is a part of this debate between Zwingli and Hubmaier.
Zwingli. — To baptize as do the Anabaptists is heresy, that is division and separation. (231).
Hubmaier. — Consider well your words, friend Zwingli. For if to baptize the instructed and the believers is heresy, it follows that Christ is the first heresiarch. He has ordered that there should be preaching, then faith, then baptism. (Matt. 28:19,20; Mark 16:14,15). And the apostles also who have followed this order must be heretics. (Acts, chapters 2, 8, 10, 11, 16, 19). May every earnest Christian read these chapters and then judge.
Zwingli. — You reject infant baptism that you may have an excuse to rebaptize. (231).
Hubmaier. — You continually accuse us of rebaptism and have never proved with a word that infant baptism is baptism. Here you wince and writhe this way and that, but are not able to bring forth clear Scripture. Remember what you said in your debate with John Fabri [the Vicar General of Constance] and afterwards published in your Fifteenth Thesis, namely that all pertinent truth is clearly found in God’s Word. If now the doctrine of infant baptism is truth, show it in the plain Word of God. Show it to us for God’s sake. Do it, do not forget it; or the Vicar will complain that you have used a sword against him which you now lay aside, and that you can not endure the attack with this sword.
Zwingli. — I know that they are refuted with the doctrine and today stand vanquished. (234).
Hubmaier. — Now tell me for once, with what doctrine? Or you will have to hear the words which were addressed to Fabri at Zurich: “The sword which pierced the pastor of Fislisbach, now a prisoner at Constance, has got stuck in its scabbard.” Just so, your spear with which you have overcome the Anabaptists does not come forth. “Answer and argue with clear Scripture; say, here it is written. It is befitting a scholar to defend his opinion by the Scriptures.” In this manner you addressed Fabri at Zurich.
Zwingli. — You say, nothing should be added to God’s Word. Now I ask you, where is it written that infants should not be baptized? If you can not show it and yet would reject infant baptism, you add to the Word. (236).
Hubmaier. — O the cunning tricks by which you would deceive the simple. My Zwingli, I am surprised that you are not ashamed of such pranks. Or, do you suppose they will not be recognized as such? But you have learned this of Fabri who said, the usages and commandments of the church which men have made are not against God, etc. To this, you answered: “Sir Vicar, prove that” and you quoted the words of Christ, Matt 15:9, in which he rejects the teachings and commandments of men. — Mark here, friend Zwingli, that you are out of place to ask us where infant baptism is forbidden, for Christ says not in this chapter, “Every plant which my heavenly Father has forbidden shall be rooted up,” but he says, “Every plant which my heavenly Father has not planted shall be rooted up.” Now it is in your place to show clearly from the Scriptures that God has planted infant baptism, or it must be rooted up. If you would maintain infant baptism without proving that it is planted of God, it is you who adds to God’s Word, and not we.
Zwingli. — He who through baptism surrenders himself to God, desires to hear his word, to learn his will and to walk in accordance with it. (239).
Hubmaier. — Has a new-born infant such a desire? You must confess, no. Why, then, do you baptize it? You say, the desire will come in about seven years. Well said; then wait with the administration of baptism till he has the desire. This would be consistent with your own statement.
Zwingli. — There is no distinction between the baptism of John and that of Christ and the apostles. (240).
Hubmaier. — You assert what you can never prove. It is all the same water, but not the same baptism. For through John’s baptism those who were baptized acknowledged themselves as sinners and confessed their sins. (Matt. 3:6). Through the baptism of Christ those who are baptized confess forgiveness of their sins, which forgiveness took place through faith before baptism is administered, (Acts, chapters 2, 8, 16).
Zwingli. — Water-baptism without instruction and without the Spirit was administered by the disciples, Joh. 4:2 and I Cor. 1:17. (241).
Hubmaier. — This is said too much. You can not point to one person in all Scripture who was baptized without preceding instruction. Or, show us one with clear Scripture and you have won the day.
Zwingli. — That baptism was administered to those who did not believe is evident from John 6:66, for of the disciples who “went back and walked no more with him” there was quite probably none unbaptized, and yet Christ rebuked their unbelief, (241).
Hubmaier. — O the cunning wiles! Do you not fear God, or do you think he does not know and we do not understand it? I ask you also one thing: Did Peter, John and Andrew believe at the time of the institution of the Supper? You say, yes, as you must, and yet Christ rebuked their unbelief (Mark 16:14). O Zwingli, Zwingli, I recognize where the shoe pinches you. No more of this.
Zwingli. — The thief on the cross believed and was on the same day with Christ in Paradise and was never baptized with any external baptism. (242).
Hubmaier. — With this argument you would quite upset the baptism of Christ. But I tell you whoever has the excuse of the thief on the cross, with him God is well satisfied, if he is not baptized.
Zwingli. — This error has also misled me a few years ago, that I was of the opinion, it were far better to baptize the children only after they had come to a goodly age. (245).
Hubmaier. — Yes, this was your opinion; you have set forth this view in writing and have preached it from the pulpit; many hundreds of people have heard it out of your own mouth. But now all must be liars who say this of you; yes you have the courage to say that you never entertained this opinion. But I ask you also one thing: How many years ago did you have this opinion? Remember, when you had the debate with John Fabri, the Vicar General of Constance, you said in public that you had preached the gospel, pure and unadulterated, for five years. This was in 1523, and in the same year, about the day of Philip and James, I personally conferred with you on the moat of Zurich upon the Scriptures relative to baptism. Then and there you agreed with me in the opinion that children should not be baptized before they were instructed in the faith; you said this was the custom in times of yore, therefore such were called catechumens. You promised to mention this in your forthcoming book, as you also did in Article XVIII on Confirmation. Any one can read it and find your opinion clearly expressed. Sebastian Ruckensperger of St. Gall, at that time Prior of the cloister Sion at Klingnau, was present. Also in your little book Of Those Who Cause Disturbance published in 1525, you confessed openly that those who baptize infants can quote no clear word of Scripture bidding them to baptize them. From this learn, friend Zwingli, how your words, writing and preaching agree. But may God enlighten you and us all, that you may cease from your violent measures against many pious people.
Zwingli. — Baptism is a sign or rite laying obligations on those who accept it and indicating that they desire to mend their lives and follow Christ. (246)
Hubmaier. — God be praised. The truth has, at last, come to the light.
Zwingli. — With the words Matt. 28:19: “Go ye into all the world and teach all nations” the Anabaptists deceive themselves and others, insisting that teaching is to precede baptism, but they will not consider that after the command to baptize we have again the words, “Teach them” etc. (246).
Hubmaier. — Well, Zwingli, let us make an agreement. I shall not object to your teaching after baptism and you permit me to teach before baptism. If you consent to this, the question is settled. Teaching before baptism will make your way to baptize impossible. — It is true that the commandment is to teach both before and after baptism. The reason is: It does not suffice to have Pharaoh drowned in the Red Sea, there remain the Amalekites, Amorites, Jebusites and many other enemies and hence teaching is necessary after baptism.
Zwingli. — The word teach is in Greek Matheteuo which means to make disciples, as well as to teach. (247).
Hubmaier. — Making disciples includes teaching. This even the young pupils know.
Zwingli. — This is the true meaning of these verses: Go ye and make all nations disciples (now follows the first step, how they should be made disciples) baptizing them into the name of the Father etc. (finally follows the teaching) teaching them to observe, etc. (247).
Hubmaier. — You violate and distort Scripture. For the first step is to make disciples, as you express it. Now disciples are made by teaching. Secondly, those who accept the teaching, and who believe and desire to be henceforth Christ’s disciples, are baptized and through baptism they accept the duty to better their lives and follow Christ, as you yourself have said above. Thirdly, since imperfection of faith remains and shall remain unto death, it is necessary, never to cease teaching after baptism, that faith may be increased and grow as a grain of mustard seed. This is the real meaning and order of this Scripture, no matter how you would force it.
Zwingli. — The Anabaptists quote Matt. 3:1 and say: “Do you not see that John first preached and then baptized?” Our reply is, that we do the same, for parents do not bring their child for baptism unless they are first taught. (250).
Hubmaier. — In the third chapter of Matthew there is nothing said of bringing infants. It is written that John preached and those who accepted his word he baptized. Note, he baptized those who accepted his preaching, not their infants.
Zwingli. — We willingly admit that John first taught and then baptized, but no one can deny that those who were instructed by him also brought their uninstructed children for baptism. (250).
Hubmaier. — O friend Zwingli, how dare you say John baptized uninstructed children, contrary to the plain and clear text, Matt. 3:6, which distinctly shows that those who were baptized by John confessed their sins. O reader, read the text for yourself and judge.
Zwingli. — Now comes the strongest Scripture which teaches us that baptism is a rite indicating a beginning through which we accept the obligation imposed upon us by God to live a new life; in witness thereof we receive baptism. This Scripture is found in Rom. 6:3-11. (253).
Hubmaier. — The strongest Scripture is clearly against you; this I shall establish with your own words and with the words of Paul. You yourself confess that baptism is a rite through which we accept the obligation to a new life. Mark, you say, we, we, we; not others in our stead. And you say, we receive baptism as a testimony. The crying infant in the cradle knows nothing whatever of obligation, baptism, new life, or testimony. Secondly, Paul sets forth in this chapter the meaning of baptism. Now any infant who knows the meaning of baptism and is willing to accept its obligations and to confess his faith before the church, desiring to be baptized and received into the church — such an infant should be baptized. But so long as this is not the case, do not proceed to baptize him. Read this chapter and see whether Paul writes here to infants in the cradle.
Zwingli. — A man may well be conformed to Christ’s image though he was never rebaptized. (254)
Hubmaier. — You accuse us continually of rebaptizing, but have never shown that the rite performed on infants is baptism.
Zwingli. — I can not understand the Anabaptists otherwise than that they make too much of baptism. (258).
Hubmaier. — We do not ascribe to baptism anything except that it is an institution of Christ through which we are received into the organized Christian church and which every one who believes will accept if opportunity presents. Christ has instituted it, the apostles have administered it, and the believers received it as such. Here I appeal to the Scriptures throughout; let them be the judge.
Zwingli. — Neither I nor any one has clear Scripture ground to assert that infant baptism is another baptism than the one true baptism of Christ. Just so, many other things are not expressly mentioned in Scripture and nevertheless are not against but for God. (280).
Hubmaier. — Silence, silence, friend Zwingli; Fabri of Constance hears you. This was his opinion at Zurich in the debate, but you would not accept it. You demanded clear Scripture of him, and rightfully.
Zwingli. — We let the women take part in the Supper, but do not read that women were present at Christ’s Supper. (280).
Hubmaier. — You remind me here of a point which I had almost forgotten. I must tell it into your ear. Friend Zwingli, all arguments which you advance for baptizing infants would also compel you to let them partake of the Supper. For they are God’s and theirs is the kingdom of heaven, as you say. You assert that there were infants among the three thousand that were baptized on one day; then they must also have been among them in the breaking of the bread (Acts 2:46). Moreover, it is nowhere forbidden by Christ that the Bohemians should bring their infants to the Supper.
Zwingli. — What I have ever said, I shall say until death and it will never be found otherwise than that I say the same thing. (281).
Hubmaier. — I offer to show openly by your own printed books that you, again and again, have spoken differently.
Zwingli. — Concerning infant baptism we ask you for God’s sake to say as follows: Since God has commanded to baptize, do not say: But not the infants. (281).
Hubmaier. — And we ask you, for God’s sake to say as follows: God has commanded to baptize those who are instructed in his word and believe.
Zwingli. — Why do you make a distinction between people? Are infants people, or not? If they are men, or people, you must have them baptized. (281).
Hubmaier. — This argument is not to the point, for it proves as much for Turks as for the infants of Christian parents. Turks also are people. Christ has commanded to baptize believing people.
Zwingli. — We demand of the Anabaptists to show us clear Scripture forbidding the baptism of infants. (281).
Hubmaier. — And I demand of you to show me clear Scripture forbidding the doctrine of purgatory, cloisters, cowls, tonsure, mass, etc.
Zwingli. — Paul writes to the Corinthians, 1 Cor. 7:12-14, that a brother whose wife does not believe, should not leave her; he says, “Else were your children unclean, but now they are holy.” It is known to every one that holy in the language of Paul and the early Christians means believing, for they spoke of those who served God as the saints. (291).
Hubmaier. — Here, friend Zwingli, you assert that the infants should be baptized being holy. And you say further that it is generally known that holy is used for believing. It would follow that the infants believe, but this you have until now always denied. Secondly, since you, on the ground that Paul speaks of the children of believers as holy, would justify infant baptism, you must, on the same ground also baptize the unbelieving husband of a believing wife, for Paul in this place says expressly that he is holy, as well as the child. If in this passage holy means believing, then the unbelieving husband is a believer. Take notice, reader, how we fare if we accept conclusions of this sort. It is clear that holy in this instance does not stand for believing.
Zwingli. — That infants have faith, I can not accept, though there are those who defend this opinion. It is ungrounded. (292).
Hubmaier. — But you have said above: Paul speaks of the Christians’ children as holy, holy is believing, hence they must be believing. Take notice of your own words. Read your own book. I do not misquote you.
Consider for the last judgment’s sake your course, my dear Zwingli. Acknowledge your error. Cease your empty talk. Give God the honor. Confess the truth; you are its captive and shall not escape it. Defend the truth openly and frankly and speak of it as you did two years ago. Save yourself and your city from shame. You know indeed that the truth will finally prevail and triumph. Remember that Peter also stumbled and walked not according to the truth of the gospel (Gal. 2:14). Paul and Barnabas disagreed. If you have failed, it was for your own and our good, that you may not be overbearing and we may not depend upon men, but humble ourselves under the mighty word of God and no longer follow our own opinion. Also make an end to the pitiful imprisonment and exile of the devoted brethren and sisters, to their banishment, incarceration, torture, drowning and the like, all of which you can easily do if again you give place to God’s clear truth. If you had preached and baptized or sanctioned baptism according to the order of Christ, there would have been no need for others to begin it; but since you and those with you kept silence, at last the stones must cry out for again establishing the true baptism of Christ. My dear Zwingli, do it for Grod’s and for the truth’s sake, and the issue will soon be settled. May God grant you his grace and assist you that you may again, as formerly, set forth his clear, plain word and follow its teaching. May he, the all-loving, merciful Father in heaven, grant this to you and us all through Jesus Christ his beloved Son, our only Redeemer. Amen. Dear Zwingli, you see that I have quoted your words as you have written them in public print; you will admit that I have not misquoted you. And if you desire, write a reply, and with God’s help I shall faithfully answer you. For you know how you and your city of Zurich have acted in this matter; it were no wonder if the stones would speak of it. But if you desire an oral, public discussion with me, I would herewith (with the permission of the magistrates) suggest that we meet in the old, imperial city of Regensburg in Bavaria.