By J. W Allen
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Denck and Schwenckfeld can hardly be dealt with except in connection with the Anabaptists. It may seem that their religious views are remote from any sort of political theory. But this is hardly the case. The spread of such views tended to undermine belief in the State Churches and Church States of the sixteenth century and everywhere strengthened the tendency towards religious toleration. It is true that for them the State hardly exists at all. They do not seem to condemn it as evil ; they ignore it altogether.
To say ; but some such view is attributed to them by all their hostile contemporary commentators. It was mainly on the ground of their denial of rightful jurisdiction in the magistrate that they were everywhere persecuted. It was on this ground that the mild Melanchthon recommended their suppression by force. They were persecuted as anarchists rather than as heretics. But theirs was a religious anarchism : and it was just this fact that made the problem of dealing with them a difficult one for Protestant governments inclined to toleration.
Servants of the sword and may not do as they please but must do right. ' they will not do right it is for the people to take the sword into •· . 1 He is said to have proclaimed, like Hans Hut, that 'it was God's will that the ungodly should be exterminated by the elect ; but this doctrine docs not seem to appear in his writings. Very little, if anything, can be concluded from the happenings at Munster in 1534--5. Some form of what might be called communism was forced on the leaders by the blockade ; and Anabaptists naturally would give it religious significance.