On The Sword by Balthasar Hubmaier


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On The Sword (Anabaptist Writings)


Balthasar Hubmaier

(The Anabaptist leader of the 16th century)



Balthasar Hubmaier


Intorduction. 2


















Balthasar Hubmaier


To the noble and Christian Lords, Arekleb of Bozkowitz and Tzernehor of Trebitz, Chancellor of the Margravate of Moravia, my gracious Lords, Grace and peace in God.

Noble, gracious Lord, your Grace well knows that all those who in these last perilous times hold dear and preach the holy gospel, must not only be deprived of goods, but be tortured in body, yea, must even be wounded in honour (which to men is the most precious jewel on earth) and be oppressed by the godless. Even the weapons of the hellish Satan are here, through which he attempts without cessation to oppress, blot out and burden evangelical teaching and truth. Yet he will not succeed, his head must be bruised. Especially also must it be charged now by such servants of the devil, that all Christian preachers are rioters, seducers, and heretics, since they repudiate magistracy and teach disloyal doctrines. And yet this is not a cause for wonder. The same thing also happened to Christ, although he openly preached, 11 Render to Ccesar the things that are Ccesar’s” (when he paid the tribute for himself and for Peter). Notwithstanding, he was com­pelled to suffer back-breaking pains by liars, since he was reported a rioter and accused as a disturber of the people, whom he had forbidden to give the tribute- money to the Emperor. When the like now happens to us, what difference does it make? The servant is not more than his lord, and the disciple is not more than his master. If they have persecuted the master of the house, much more will they do it to us. But that your Grace may learn and know, what from the beginning I have always and everywhere held con­cerning the magistracy, how I also openly preached in the pulpit at Waldshut and elsewhere,[i] as well as wrote and frequently taught (‘without any boast be it said) and how much I suffered for it from my opponents, who falsely charged many other things against me;—I have composed a small book in which your Grace may learn thoroughly my opinion, and elucidated in general all writings which my antagonists have hitherto with much zeal charged to forbid magistracy among Christians. Such a tract your Grace will receive graciously from me, and briefly note my sentiments concerning Christian magistracy in the contents of the writings. Since I always, in this and my other teachings and deeds, desire justice and right, if I err I will gladly permit myself to be banished and punished, as is just. But, according to the Scripture, let them bear witness against the evil; but if I err not, wherefore do they smite me, wherefore do they brand me? For though my enemies (of whom I have as many as the old scaly serpent) are never willing to let me be justly judged, I am not so. If my God and Lord must suffer that they do offence and vio­lence to his word, I must also suffer, yet (God be praised) not as an evil-doer. Let every one judge as he desires to be judged by the Lord. Well! since it is the will of God, on account of our sins, therefore I must and will, even against my will, fashion my will. Here­with, your Grace and my especially gracious Lord, I give myself submissively in all service for all time. Your Grace, farewell in Christ Jesus.

Given at Nicolsburg on the 24th day of June, 1527.

Your Grace’s obedient

Balthasar Huebmor of Fridberg.


ON THE SWORD Balthasar Hubmaier


Christ says to Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world; if it were of this world my servants would doubtless fight for me, that I should not be delivered to the Jews.”—John xviii., 36.

From this Scripture many brothers say, “A Christian may not bear the sword, since the kingdom of Christ is not of this world.” Answer: If these people would use their eyes aright, they would say a very different thing, namely, that our kingdom should not be of this world. But with sorrow we lament before God that it is of this world, as we testify when we offer the Lord’s Prayer, ‘‘Father, thy kingdom come.” For we are in the king­dom of the world, which is a kingdom of sin, death and hell. But Father, help thou us out of this kingdom; we stick in it clear over ears, and shall not be freed from it till the end; it clings to us even in death. Lord, for­give us this evil, and help us home into thy kingdom! Yet such brothers must see and confess the truth, that our kingdom is of this world, which should cause us heartfelt sorrow. But Christ alone could say with truth, “My kingdom is not of this world,” since he was con­ceived and born without sin, a lamb without blemish, in whom is no deceit, but without sin and any spot. He alone with truth might also say,” The prince of this world has come, and has found nothing in me,” which we here on earth can nevermore speak with truth. For as often as the prince, the devil, comes he finds in us wicked lust, wicked desire, wicked longing. Whence also St. Paul, now filled with the Holy Ghost, yet calls himself a sinner [Rom. vii., 15-25]. Therefore all pious and godly Christians must confess themselves unholy even till death, whatever we may do of ourselves.

Balthasar Hubmaier


Jesus says to Peter: “Put up thy sword in its place, for he who taketh the sword shall perish by the sword. Or thinkest thou that I could not pray to my Father, and he would send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how would the Scripture be fulfilled, that it must be thus?”—Matt, xxvi., 53, 54.

Balthasar Hubmaier

Mark here well, pious Christian, the word of Christ, so will you have an answer to the accusation of the brothers. First Christ says, ‘‘Put your sword into its place,” he does not forbid you to bear it. You are not in authority; it is not your appointed place, nor are you yet called or elected thereto. ” For who takes the sword shall perish with the sword.” The sword means those who act without election, disorderly, and of their own authority. But no one shall take the sword himself, ex­cept one who has been elected and appointed thereto; for so he does not take it of himself, but it has been brought to him and given him. Now he may say,” I have not taken the sword. I would rather go unemployed, since I am myself not very stern. But since I am chosen thereto, I pray God that he will give me grace and wis­dom that I may bear it and rule according to his word and will.” So Solomon prayed and was given great wisdom by God to bear the sword well. Besides, do you hear this: Christ said to Peter, “Put up thy sword in its sheath.” He did not say, Put it away, throw it from thee. For Christ blames him because he seeks it first, and not because he has it at his side—otherwise he would have blamed him long before, if that were wrong.

Balthasar Hubmaier

It follows further: “Who takes the sword shall perish by the sword,” that is, he is brought under the judgment of the sword. Though he may not wish it, he will always be judged by the sword for his fault. Do you mark here how Christ sanctions the sword, that they shall pun­ish with it, and suppress self-constituted authority and wickedness? And that they shall do who are elected for the purpose, whoever they are. Hence it is evident that if men are pious, good and orderly, they will bear the sword for the protection of the innocent, according to the will of God, and for a terror to evil-doers, according as God has appointed and ordained.

In the third place, Christ said to his disciples, when they asked him wherefore he was going to Jerusalem when the Jews had wished before to stone him: “Are there not twelve hours in the day?” As if he had said, They will not kill me until the twelfth hour comes, that is, the one ordained of God for my death, which Christ also calls the hour of darkness. But when the same twelfth hour was come, Christ said to his disciples, near the Mount of Olives, “Sleep on and take your rest. The hour is here that I should be given to death, in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled.” Mark, Peter hears that the appointed and fore-ordained hour of God had come, yet he would oppose, and draws the sword of his own authority. That was the greatest [error]. Therefore Christ speaks: There is no use in protecting and guarding me further. The hour foreseen by God is here, and even if there were twelve legions of angels here they might not help me against the will of my Heavenly Father. Therefore put up [thy sword]; it is useless. I have already said to you, the hour is here; the Scripture shall and must be fulfilled.

Balthasar Hubmaier

From that every Christian learns that one should not cease to protect and guard all pious and innocent men, so long as he does not certainly know that even now the hour of their death is here. But when the hour comes, whether you know it or not, you can no longer protect and guard them. Therefore the magistrate is bound by his soul’s salvation to protect and guard all innocent and peaceful men, until a certain voice of God comes and is heard to say, Now shalt thou no longer protect this man —as Abraham also heard a voice that he should slay his son, contrary to the commandment, Thou shalt not kill. Therefore the magistrate is also bound to rescue and re­lease all oppressed and persecuted men, widows, orphans, whether known or strangers, without any respect of per­sons, according to the will and most earnest command of God (Is. i., 17; Jer. xxi., 12; xxii., 3; Rom. xiii., 1; and many other passages) until they are called by God to something else, which they will not need to wait for long. Therefore God has hung the sword at their side and given it to his disciples.

Balthasar Hubmaier


[i] I have more earnestly held with the Scripture concerning the pious magistracy, than any preacher within twenty miles. But I have also charged tyrants with their crime, whence arises their envy, hatred and enmity.—Marginal note by Hübmaier.


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