All who did not embrace Anabaptism were driven from Münster (1533), and Bernt Knipperdolling (ca. 1495-1536) became burgomaster. The town was now besieged and Matthisson was killed early in 1534. John (Johann Bockelson) of Leiden (1510-1536) took his place and the town became the scene of the grossest licence and cruelty, until in 1535 it was taken by the besieging bishop. Unhappily the Anabaptists have always been remembered by the crimes of John of Leiden and the revelry of Münster. They should really be known by the teaching and martyrdom of Blaurock, Grebel and Hubmaier, and by the gentle learning and piety of Hans Denck - of whom, with many hundred others, "the world was not worthy."
For the teaching of the Anabaptists, see Anabaptists.
Reference has already been made to the reason why a common Anabaptist confession was never made public. Probably, however, the earliest confession of faith of any Baptist community is that given by Zwingli in the second part of his Elenchus contra Catabaptistas, published in 1527. Zwingli professes to give it entire, translating it, as he says, ad verbum into Latin. Whatever opinion may be held as to the orthodoxy of the seven articles of the Anabaptists, the vehemence with which they were opposed, and the epithets of abuse which were heaped upon the unfortunate sect that maintained them, cannot fail to astonish those used to toleration. Zwingli, who details these articles, as he says, that the world may see that they are "fanatical, stolid, audacious, impious," can scarcely be acquitted of unfairness in joining together two of them, - the fourth and fifth, - thus making the article treat "of the avoiding of abominable pastors in the church" (Super devitatione abominabilium pastorum in Ecclesia), though there is nothing about pastors in the fourth article, and nothing about abominations in the fifth, and though in a marginal note he himself explains that the first two copies that were sent him read as he does, but the other copies make two articles, as in fact they evidently are.
It is strange that the Protestant Council of Zürich, which had scarcely won its own liberty, and was still in dread of the persecution of the Romanists, should pass the decree which instituted the cruel persecution of the Anabaptists.
After Münster had fallen the harassed remnants of the Anabaptists were gathered together under Menno Simonis, who joined them in 1537. His moderation and piety held in check the turbulence of the more fanatical amongst them. He died in 1561 after a life passed amidst continual dangers and conflicts. His name remains as the designation of the Mennonites (q.v.), who eventually settled in the Netherlands under the protection of William the Silent, prince of Orange.
Of the introduction of Anabaptist views into England we have no certain knowledge. Fox relates that "the registers of London make mention of certain Dutchmen counted for Anabaptists, of whom ten were put to death in sundry places in the realm, anno 1535; other ten repented and were saved." In 1536 King Henry VIII. issued a proclamation together with articles concerning faith agreed upon by Convocation, in which the clergy are told to instruct the people that they ought to repute and take "the Anabaptists' opinions for detestable heresies and to be utterly condemned." Thomas Fuller (1608-1661) tells us from Stow's Chronicles that, in the year 1538, "four Anabaptists, three men and one woman, all Dutch, bare faggots at Paul's Cross, and three days after a man and woman of their sect was burnt in Smithfield." In the reign of Edward VI., after the return of the exiles from Zürich, John Hooper (bishop of Gloucester and Worcester, d. 1555) writes to his friend Bullinger in 1549, that he reads "a public lecture twice in the day to so numerous an audience that the church cannot contain them," and adds, "the Anabaptists flock to the place and give me much trouble." It would seem that at this time they were united together in communities separate from the established Church. Latimer, in 1552, speaks of them as segregating themselves from the company of other men.
In the sixth examination of John Philpot (1516-1555) in 1555 we are told that Lord Riche said to him, "All heretics do boast of the Spirit of God, and every one would have a church by himself, as Joan of Kent and the Anabaptists." Philpot was imprisoned soon after Mary's accession in 1553; and it is very pleasing to find, amidst the records of intense bitterness and rancour which characterized these times, and with which Romanist and Protestant alike assailed the persecuted Anabaptists, a letter of Philpot's, to a friend of his, "prisoner the same time in Newgate," who held the condemned opinions. His friend had written to ask his judgment concerning the baptism of infants. Philpot in a long reply, whilst maintaining the obligation of infant baptism, yet addresses his correspondent as, "dear brother, saint, and fellow-prisoner for the truth of Christ's gospel"; and at the close of his argument he says, "I beseech thee, dear brother in the gospel, follow the steps of the faith of the glorious martyrs in the primitive church, and of such as at this day follow the same."
Many Anabaptist communities existed in England toward the end of the 16th century, particularly in East Anglia, Kent and London. Their most notable representative was Robert Cooke, but they were more notorious for heretical views as to the Virgin Mary (see Anabaptists) than for their anti-paedobaptist position. It was for these views that Joan Boucher of Kent was burnt in 1550. There is no doubt that these prepared the way for the coming of the modern Baptists, but "the truth is that, while the Anabaptists in England raised the question of baptism, they were almost entirely a foreign importation, an alien element; and the rise of the Baptist churches was wholly independent of them."