Scripture: Galatians 2:11-21
Balthazar Hubmaer (Hubmeyer) was born at Friedburg, Bavaria, in 1480. Even though he studied philosophy and theology under Eck, the great antagonist of Martin Luther, he embraced Luther’s views in 1522. He was in full communication with Zwingli and assisted him in the great debate at Zurich with the Catholics in 1523, after which they became the closest and warmest of friends.
Hubmaer, being a biblical scholar and preacher of power, soon discovered that the Reformation in Zurich had not gone back to the apostolic model. Gradually and deliberately, he embraced Anabaptists principles, which caused a severe rupture in his relationship with Zwingli. He formed an Anabaptist church and baptized more than three hundred of his former hearers. He would preach in the open air, and soon the population became largely Baptist.
The popularity of the preacher and the effectiveness of his preaching soon attracted the attention of the Reformers and Catholics alike. He was soon arrested and cast into a dungeon, where he lay four months appealing to his old friend Zwingli, to the emperor, and to the Confederation and Council, but in vain. His health broke, his wife was in prison, and he lay in a dungeon with more than twenty others. There was no light of the sun nor moon; bread and water were his only nourishment, and these could not be eaten for days on end because of the sickening odors of the place where the living were shut up with the dead. The only hope of escape was in death or recantation. The Zurich inquisition used all methods to persuade him to recant. Zwingli and others visited him in prison for the purpose of getting him to recant, and by the use of the rack and because of his weakened condition, he agreed to do so on some points. In his words, “They compelled, or sought to compel, me, a sick man, just risen from a bed of death; hunted, exiled, and having lost all that I had, to teach another faith.” In the presence of a large congregation, after Zwingli had preached against the Anabaptist heretics, the broken and meek Hubmaer climbed to the pulpit, where he began to read his recantation in a weak and quavering voice. As he swayed to and fro in weakness, suddenly, being strengthened by the power of God, he raised himself to his full height and filled the great cathedral with the shout, “Infant baptism is not of God, and men must be baptized by faith in Christ.” The crowd surged, some seized with horror, and others shouted approval till the cathedral rang, as Hubmaer was dragged from the pulpit and through the mass of people, being hustled back to his dungeon. There he once again wrote his confession of faith.
On March 10, 1528, he was led forth to his death with his heart fixed on the truth which he found in Christ Jesus and His Word. With his wife exhorting him to be strong and faithful, he was led to the place of execution which was a pile of a bundle of sticks, where he was stripped of his clothing. His executioners then rubbed sulfur and gunpowder into his long beard. During this procedure, he was exhorting others, praying to God and asking forgiveness, and commending his spirit to his Lord. The bundle of sticks were ignited, and when his beard and hair caught fire, he cried out, “O Jesus, Jesus.” Suffocating from the smoke of the burning sulfur and gun powder he died. Three days later his wife joined him in the presence of their Lord, being executed by drowning in the Danube River.
Once again a church state had stained its garments with the blood of the saints of God.
Thomas Armitage, The History of the Baptists (1890; reprint ed., Watertown, Wis.: Maranatha Baptist Press, 1976), 1:336-39.
William R. Estep, The Anabaptist Story (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1963), p. 63.