An Introduction to Mennonite History: A Popular History of by Cornelius J. Dyck

By Cornelius J. Dyck

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Helping the sacramental routine were woodcuts on religious themes which people unable to read could hang on the wall as aids in prayer. There were also Bibles for those who could read and their number increased rapidly with Gutenberg's invention of movable type. More popular, however, were the relics of saints and pilgrimages to shrines. In 1509, Frederick the Wise, Prince of Saxony and Luther's protector, had 5,005 relic items on display. The viewing of each was said to give one hundred days' remission from purgatory.

Soon armed uprisings were occurring as the peasants took justice into their own hands. In doing this they thought they were simply helping to fulfill the divine plan for society as they understood it from the preaching of Luther. A military showdown came on May 15, 1525, at Frankenhausen where thousands of peasants were killed by the well-armed nobles. Müntzer himself was captured, tortured, and executed several days later. These events are known as the Peasants' Revolt. Karlstadt, the Zwickau prophets, and the Peasants' Revolt helped close Luther's mind to the Anabaptists when they appeared in 1525.

The baptism with water and by the Spirit was often followed by the baptism of bloodmartyrdom. Hated by the Jews and suspected by the Romans as ''enemies of the human race" (Tacitus), suffering became part of the new life in Christ for his disciples (Heb. 11:3738). But "the blood of martyrs is seed" (Tertullian). By mid-second century the Epistle to Diognetus reminded the persecutors that they were fighting a losing battle: "Do you not see that the more of them are punished, the more do others increase?

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