The following statement was made in 1538 by an unnamed Anabaptist leader during a meeting between the Swiss Reformed and Anabaptists in Berne:
“While yet in the national church we obtained much instruction from the writings of Luther, Zwingli, and others, concerning the mass and other papal ceremonies, that they are vain. Yet we recognized a great lack as regards repentance, conversion, and the true Christian life. Upon these things my mind was bent. I waited and hoped for a year or two, since the minister had much to say of amendment of life, of giving to the poor, loving one another, and refraining from evil. But I could not close my eyes to the fact that the doctrie which was preached and which was based on the Word of God, was not carried out. No beginning was made toward true Christian living, and there was no unison in the teaching concerning the things which were necessary. And although the mass and the images were finally abolished, true repentance and Christian love were not in evidence. Changes were made only as concerned external things. This gave me occasion to enquire further into these matters. Then God sent His messengers, Conrad Grebel and others, with whom I conferred about the fundamental teachings of the apostles and the Christian life and practice. I found them men who had surrendered themselves to the doctrine of Christ by ‘Busfertigkeit’ [repentance evidenced by fruits]. With their assistance we established a congregation in which repentance was evidenced by newness of life in Christ.”
Roman Catholics, Lutherans and Reformed all witnessed the purity of life of the Anabaptists and considered it to be evidence of their great perversion:
Heinrich Bullinger (Swiss Reformed) wrote:
“Those who unite with them will by their ministers be received into their church by rebaptism and repentance and newness of life. They henceforth lead their lives under a semblance of a quiet spiritual conduct. They denounce covetousness, pride, profanity, the lewd conversation and immorality of the world, drinking and gluttony. In short, their hypocrisy is great and manifold.”
Franz Agricola (Roman Catholic) wrote:
“Among the existing heretical sects there is none which in appearance leads a more modest or pious life than the Anabaptist. As concerns their outward public life, they are irreproachable. No lying, deception, swearing, strife, harsh language, no intemperate eating and drinking, no outward personal display, is found among them, but humility, patience, uprightness, neatness, honesty, temperance, straightforwardness in such measure that one would suppose that they had the Holy Spirit of God.”
Bullinger, Agricola, and most other leaders in the state churches in the 1500’s felt themselves so threatened by the Christ-like lives of the Anabaptists that they felt the only solution was to kill the whole lot of them.
We have lived through several centuries of tolerance since then. As we consider the events of the world around us today, it seems that a time may be approaching when those who lead a pure, Christian life and will not compromise with the world could be once more the object of such hatred from the self-righteous compromisers of the world.