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Felix Manz

From Academic Kids

Felix Manz (ca. 1498-1527) was a co-founder of the original Swiss Brethren Anabaptist congregation in Zürich, Switzerland, and the first martyr of the Radical Reformation.

Contents

Birth and Life

Felix Manz was the illegitimate son of a canon of Grossmünster church in Zürich. Though records of his education are scant, there is evidence that he had a liberal education, with a thorough knowledge of Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. Manz became a follower of Ulrich Zwingli after he came to Zürich in 1519. When Conrad Grebel joined the group in 1521, he and Manz became fast friends. They questioned the mass, the nature of church and state connections, and infant baptism. After the Second Disputation of Zürich¹ in 1523, they became dissatisfied, believing that Zwingli's plans for reform had been compromised with the city council. Grebel, Manz, and others made several attempts to plead their position. Several parents refused to have their children baptized. A public disputation was held with Zwingli on January 17, 1525. The council declared Zwingli the victor.

After the final rebuff by the city council on January 18, in which they were ordered to desist from arguing and submit to the decision of the council, and have their children baptized within eight days, the brethren gathered at the home of Felix Manz and his mother on January 21. Conrad Grebel baptized George Blaurock, and Blaurock in turn baptized the others². This made complete the break with Zwingli and the council, and formed the first church of the Radical Reformation. The movement spread rapidly, and Manz was very active in it. He used his language skills to translate his texts into the language of the people, and worked enthusiastically as an evangelist. Manz was arrested on a number of occasions between 1525 and 1527. While preaching with George Blaurock in the Grüningen region, they were taken by surprise, arrested and imprisoned in Zürich at the Wellenburg prison.

Death by "Baptism"

On March 7, 1526, the Zürich council had passed an edict that made adult baptism punishable by drowning. On January 5, 1527, Felix Manz became the first casualty of the edict, and the first Swiss Anabaptist to be martyred at the hands of the Protestants. While Manz only wanted "to bring together those who were willing to accept Christ, obey the Word, and follow in His footsteps, to unite with these by baptism, and to leave the rest in their present conviction", Zwingli and the council accused him of obstinately refusing "to recede from his error and caprice". At 3:00 p.m., as he was led from the Wellenburg to a boat, he praised God and preached to the people. A Reformed priest went along, seeking to silence him, and hoping to give him an opportunity to recant. Manz' brother and mother encouraged him to stand firm and suffer for Jesus' sake. He was taken by boat onto the River Limmat. His hands were bound and pulled behind his knees and a pole was placed between them. He was thrown to his death in an icy baptism in the cold waters of Lake Zürich on the Limmat. His last cry was, "Into thy hands, O God, I commend my spirit." His property went to the government of Zürich, and he was buried in the St. Jakobs cemetery, but the Reformed Church and the Zürich city council failed to break the spirit of the Swiss Brethren.

Felix Manz left written testimony of his faith, an eighteen stanza hymn, and was apparently the author of Protestation und Schutzschrift (a defense of Anabaptism presented to the Zürich council)³.

External link

References

Footnotes

  • 1. The first disputation occurred in January of 1523 between Zwingli and Johann Faber.
  • 2. This is considered the first adult baptisms of the Reformation era.
  • 3. According to the Mennonite Encyclopedia, research by W. Schmid has shown this to have been written by Manz rather than Grebel, as earlier thought.
  • 4. Estep and others call this the "definitive work" on Felix Manz.

Hymn by Manz

An 18-stanza hymn by Manz has been preserved and is found in the Ausbund, a 16th century hymn book still used by the Amish. It is a hymn of praise to God for His great salvation. The seven lines of the first stanza are found below.

de:Felix Manz
Deutsch English
  1. Mit Lust so will ich singen
  2. Mein Herz freut sich in Gott
  3. Der mir viel Kunst thut bringen,
  4. Dasz ich entrinn dem Tod
  5. Der ewiglich nimmet kein End.
  6. Ich preiz dich Christ vom Himmel,
  7. Der mir mein Kummer wend.
  1. With gladness will I now sing;
  2. My heart delights in God,
  3. Who showed me such forbearance
  4. That I from death was saved
  5. Which never hath an end.
  6. I praise Thee, Christ in heaven
  7. Who all my sorrow changed.
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