Muncer, Thomas

, a celebrated German enthusiast, called sometimes Moncerus and Monetardus, was born at Stollberg in the Hartz, towards the end of the fifteenth century. His father is said to have been executed for some crime, and on this account the son was thought desirous of taking his revenge on the government of Stollberg. He studied probably at Wirtemberg, and acquired that knowledge in divinity which Melancthon praises, and which appears in his writings. By his own account he taught, in early life, in the schools of Aschersleben and Halle in Saxony; and most probably he was then in orders. It is certain, however, that he soon became attached to the mystics, and entertained the wildest notions of fanaticism, which pleased the lower classes of the people, while he preached at Stollberg and Zwickau, where he was settled as a preacher in 1520. Here, while he was violent against popery, he was as little contented with the progress of Luther’s reformation; the church, he maintained, was but half reformed, and a new and pure church of the true sons of God remained to be established. About this time he connected himself with Nicholas Storck, a leader among the baptists, who pretended to have communications with the Almighty, and to hold greater purity of doctrine than the r^st of the party. Muncer was a convert to his notions, and became ardent | in making proselytes. He maintained that for men to avoid vice, they must practise perpetual mortification. They must put on a grave countenance, speak but little, wear a plain garb, and be serious in their whole deportment. Such as prepared their hearts in this manner, might expect that the Supreme Being would direct all their steps, and by visible signs discover his will to them; if that illumination be at any time withheld, he says we may expostulate with the Almighty, and remind him of his promises. This expostulation will be acceptable to God, and will at last prevail on him to guide us with the same unerring hand which conducted the patriarchs of old. He also maintained, that all men were equal in the sight of God, and that, therefore, they ought to have all things in common, and should on no account exhibit any marks of subordination or pre-eminence. With these sentiments he endeavoured to establish in Alstadt a new kingdom upon earth, or a society of pious, holy, and awakened people. With these people he was accused, in 1524, of having plundered a church in a neighbouring village, burnt a chapel, and committed many other outrages; and as the affair made a great noise, he was cited to answer to the charges at Weimar; but finding that the utmost severity was to be used against him, he remained at Alstadt, where his companions were so riotous, that he was under the necessity of removing to a distance. After some little time he settled at Nuremberg, where he published a vehement censure upon Luther, which, with some irregularities, occasioned his expulsion by the government. Taking then a journey into Swabia, he found every where numerous and attentive hearers. His stay in Swabia gave rise to the report that he was the author of the famous twelve articles of the peasants; but his biographer endeavours to prove that he had no part in the insurrection which broke out in that part of the country. In the beginning of 1525, he returned back into Saxony, and was received with great favour by the citizens of Muhlhausen, and, against the consent of their council, appointed their preacher. Here his influence soon became predominant: the old council was entirely set aside, and a new one chosen: the monks were driven away, and their estates sequestered. Muncer himself was elected into the council, and proposed an equal communication of property, and similar reforms, agreeable to the taste of the people. | The tumults in Swabia and Franconia were the signal ta Muncer to attempt the same in Thuringia. Churches, monasteries, castles, were plundered and the success attending these first attempts increased the popular fury and the monks, the nuns, and the nooility, were the particular objects of their resentment. It is unnecessary to repeat here the history of these troubles; suffice it, that Muncer was at last overpowered in 1526, and put to death. At his execution he is said to have shewn signs of penitence.

His biographer says that among his writings, three on the establishing of the new reform at Alstadt, are of considerable value, and strives to prove that the grounds of Luther’s opposition to these changes lay in his consent not being first requested; from which he looked upon them as an inroad into his reformation; but it is more consistent to infer that Luther was fearful of the consequences which must attend the impetuosity of Muncer. His biographer has accumulated testimonies of Muncer’s learning, given by Melanchthon, Luther, Spangenberg, Camerarius, and others; and from his own writings on faith, on the scriptures, and on baptism. He also gives some proofs of the dreadful oppressions under which the peasants laboured in the time of Muncer; from which there may be reason to conclude that an explosion would have taken place even if Muncer had not existed. This is not improbable, for men of Muncer’s turbulent disposition generally mix something that is real with their imaginary complaints and ambitious designs. 1

1

Life by Strobel, printed at Nuremberg, 1795. Robertson’s Charles V. Milner’s Church Hist. vol. IV. part II. p. 785, &c.