January 4, 1528: "Ferdinand of Austria, younger brother to Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, issued the first secular mandate forbidding the Anabaptist religious movement." (Studylight.org)
Over the course of the Reformation and the next 250 years there were a multitude of such mandates issued against the Anabaptists, as shown in the link below.
However, the more these people were repressed, persecuted and killed, the more their numbers grew as other people witnessed their calm and peaceful response to horrendous treatment. They were expelled from their homeland, hunted like animals and their orphaned children disinherited (by the civic authorities) from their dead parents' estates.
The businesses they owned were made illegal, their houses burned, the assets confiscated and bounties were placed on their heads with large rewards for the killing of leaders. One such bounty was set at 100 Reichstaler, a coin from that era, depicted in this link -
Still their numbers grew as their neighbors joined with them, convinced of their innocence by their display of calm and unwavering faith. If captured, these defenseless people bravely met death with joy. As the wood was piled around them, they often sang hymns and prayed aloud, bolstered by the knowledge that they would very soon be seeing their Savior face to face.
Even their persecutors grew weary and sickened by the innocent blood they shed. One such murderer was the provost Aichelin who surprised an entire Anabaptist family on their farm, Mantelhof, near Wurttemburg, Germany. He and his men burned 20 women and children alive in their house after hanging the father and son from a nearby Linden tree before the eyes of his family.
http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Mantel ... Germany%29
It was after this atrocity that a historian said of Aichelin: "But God at last instilled fear into him through the steadfastness of His servants, so that he swore that he would not execute another brother. He was later stabbed in Württemberg and died a shameful death." Another account states how many of the persecutors swore off killing because of the horrors that they had committed on these innocents.
There is in the archives of my own family history an account dated January 11, 1711, of one Anabaptist from the Schwarze farm of the hamlet,Trub, Switzerland. Hans Schwartzentruber (hence the origin of my surname) was expelled to Holland but later returned to Bern, Switzerland. He must have survived and/or had sons who survived, for their movements were traced through the oft-troubled Palatinate and eventually had children who moved to Germany and then North America where they found freedom to freely worship as they believed.
As one of their descendants, I am deeply humbled to think of the extreme deprivation and abuse they endured as they held to their faith. Their example of patient suffering remains to this day as a model of Christ-like conduct in the face of opposition and oppression. They forgave. They endured. They died without malice toward anyone.
And they gained eternal life!
And they were often reduced to having nothing which they could call their own on this earth. For some reason they remind me of this passage from Hebrews 11:35-40:
"...Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, and they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated—of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.
And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect."(ESV)
What do I - what do you - consider to be our most valuable possession? Is it something here, or "something better"?
January 5, 1527: "Swiss Anabaptist reformer Felix Manz, 29, was drowned in punishment for preaching adult (re-)baptism. Manz's death made him the first Protestant in history to be martyred at the hands of other Protestants." (SLO)
On January 8, 1956, 5 missionaries died in the Ecuador jungle. As has been so often proven before, "the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church"...
http://www.christianity.com/church/chur ... 30813.html
January 9, 1944, a chain gang convict breaks his chains...
http://www.christianity.com/church/chur ... 30776.html
"There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root". Henry D. Thoreau.