Felix Mantz: Man of Conscience
On January 21, 1525, the Protestant church of Zürich decreed that independent Bible study groups were to be banned. That very evening at the home of Felix Mantz a dozen men gathered to decide what to do.
Was this civil disobedience or merely following one's conscience? Or was it both? Either way, Zwingli's erstwhile pupils would have nothing to do with a state church.
Even today -- as I can attest from personal experience -- Baptists in Switzerland are often considered sectarian. Disdained by some and dismissed as a cult by others, our little flock (die Baptistengemeinde Basel) pressed on. We felt (and still do) that obedience to biblical authority requires the rejection of infant baptism and the adoption of believers' baptism.
I can hear some of Mantz's friends saying, "Too bad about old Felix. He got off to such a great start. He was a brilliant student of our esteemed Zwingli. But one day he had something like a sunstroke and he's been a religious fanatic ever since. Stays in jail a lot of the time too. And just as soon as he gets out, he's in trouble again and right back in jail. What a failure!"
We may have forgotten that almost exactly the same thing was no doubt said of the apostle Paul by his former friends.
There is no shame in following one's conscience. But along with blessings come dangers. Along with abundance come adversaries. We are not to be terrified of our foes as the ten spies were, but neither are we to naively ignore their existence.
As Felix Mantz was being taken to the Limmat River to be drowned to death on January 5, 1527, his mother's voice could be heard above the crowd urging her son to remain true to Christ in his hour of testing. Mantz was the first Anabaptist to die at the hands of the Protestant church but certainly not the last.
I still find it absolutely amazing how the Anabaptists could go to their deaths singing. Lord, grant me such courage -- and faith!
January 22, 2011
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com.