The Anabaptists (from Greek ana, "again") exemplify one of many radical movements stemming from the Protestant Reformation of sixteenth-century Europe. They were persecuted for their adherence to the doctrine of credobaptism, or baptism after a person has made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ once they reach a certain age. Other major tenets include separation of church and state, pacifism, and nonviolent resistance, and a priesthood of all believers. Their spiritual descendents include the Mennonites, Hutterites, and Amish.

The Anabaptists, who had a deep desire for moral reform and for restoration of the church as a holy community, They preached against infant baptism, because they believed infants were not responsible and children should not be punished for original sin. Anabaptist baptisms were rooted in the "voluntary, personal, and penitential pledge of submission to Christ's law in baptism and expressed communally in the loving fellowship of and submission to the visible brotherhood of believers" (Davis, 47). Therefore, those who converted to Anabaptism were baptized again. This practice was considered a blasphemous crime in the early nineteenth century. Many Anabaptists were nonviolent, opposing war and coercive measures to maintain social order. Their radically unorthodox religious views resulte in religious persecution throughout most of Europe.

Carlyle uses the Anabaptists to represent groups who approach religion mechanically, telling the reader that "every little sect among us, Unitarians, Utilitarians, Anabaptists, Phrenologists, must have its Periodical, its monthly or quarterly Magazine; — hanging out, like its windmill, into the popularis aura, to grind meal for the society". He shows how "great currents of society" rely on social and organizational machinery to "grind meal for the society". In "Signs of the Times," Carlyle argues that any organization seeking to do spiritual work "must first call a public meeting, appoint committees, issue prospectuses, eat a public dinner; in a word, construct or borrow machinery, wherewith to speak it and do it."


"Anabaptist (Protestantism)." Encyclopedia Britannica. 2009. March 31, 2009.[KA]

[Wikipedia Contributors.] "Anabaptists." Wikipedia. 22 March 2010.

Davis, R. K. "No Discipline, No church: an Anabaptist Contribution to the Reformed Tradition". The Sixteenth Century Journal, 13.4 (Winter 1982): 43-58. [KA]

Estep, William Roscoe. Anabaptist Beginnings (1523-1533): A Source Book. Nieuwkoop: B. de Graaf, 1976. [PH]

Last modified 24 March 2010