Hymn of an Ancient Baptist Martyr
February 17, 2021
David Cloud, Way of Life Literature, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061
Baptists of old loved to sing. Their songs and hymns were sacred in character and biblical in doctrine. They put entire sermons or Bible stories or histories of martyrdom into song. Some of their hymns had 45 stanzas!

Balthasar Hübmaier’s hymn “A Song in Praise of God’s Word” is 18 stanzas and covers the whole Bible from Adam to Christ. Every stanza ends with “God’s Word stands sure for ever.” We found that the English translation to this hymn can be sung to the tune of the Common Meter (“Our God Our Help in Ages Past”).

Hübmaier (1480-1528) was a very learned and eloquent preacher who began his ministry as a Catholic. He was a student of Johann Eck, the Catholic theologian who debated Martin Luther. He obtained a Doctor of Theology degree in 1513 from the University of Ingolstadt and became professor of theology there. Afterward he was made the chief priest at the cathedral in Regensburg. There he preached against the Jews and had them driven from the city and their synagogue destroyed. A Catholic chapel dedicated to Mary was built on the site.

By 1522, he was preaching against Rome. He was associated briefly with Ulrich Zwingli in Zurich, Switzerland, but he desired to follow the Bible in all matters. He rejected infant baptism and in 1525 he was baptized upon personal profession of faith in Christ. He then baptized 300 of his converts and followers. At first, he defended pouring, but he soon adopted the biblical practice of immersion.

He wrote powerful books in defense of the faith. One was a defense of believer’s baptism. He said, “The command is to baptize those who believe. To baptize those who do not believe, therefore, is forbidden.”

Hübmaier, like other Baptists of that day, understood the necessity of liberty of conscience. In 1524, he wrote a tract entitled “Concerning Heretics and Those That Burn Them” in which he protested against the persecuting Catholics and Protestants:

“The burning of heretics cannot be justified by the Scripture. Christ Himself teaches that the tares should be allowed to grow with the wheat. He did not come to burn, or to murder, but to give life, and that more abundantly. We should, therefore, pray and hope for improvement in men as long as they live. If they cannot be convinced by appeals to reason, or the Word of God, they should be let alone. One cannot be made to see his errors either by fire or sword. But if it is a crime to burn those who scornfully reject the Gospel of Jesus Christ, how much more it is a crime to burn the true expounders and exemplars of the Word of God. Such an apparent zeal for God, the welfare of the soul, and the honor of the church is a deception. Indeed to every one it must be evident that the burning of heretics is a device of Satan” (cited by John Christian).

Hübmaier also translated portions of the New Testament. These and his books were put on Rome’s Index of Prohibited Books.

He was a strong preacher and debater. The defenders of infant baptism found support in Luke 18:15-17, in which Christ blessed the children and said, “Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.” When this was mentioned during a debate with Protestant leader Œcolampadius in Basel, Switzerland, Hubmaier sagely replied, “Tell me, were the infants our Lord loved, embraced, and blessed, previously baptized or not? If yes: you throw away your argument against those who keep them back from baptism. If not am I to understand that Christ calls, embraces and loves unbaptized children? What need have they, then, of baptism?”

Following is an example from a debate with Zwingli:

Zwingli. “There are many things besides infant baptism, not expressly mentioned in the Bible, not against God.”

Hübmaier. “Be still, Zwingli, or the Catholic, Faber, will hear you. That is what he said to you, but you demanded a plain passage from him.”

Hübmaier was arrested and thrown into prison by the Zurich Protestants in January 1526 in the dead of winter and kept there for four long months. His appeal to his old friend Zwingli was ignored. His wife also was in prison. He had just gotten over a sickness that was almost unto death. His health was broken. In this miserable, distressing condition, he was tortured on the rack by the pitiless Protestant authorities, and on April 6, 1526, the broken man agreed to recant his beliefs.

The people of Zurich were summoned to the cathedral to hear the recantation of this well-known Baptist preacher. Zwingli first preached a sermon against the “heretics.” Then every eye turned to Hübmaier, who walked forward to read the recantation. As he began to do so in a trembling voice, he broke down weeping. As he swayed to and fro in agony, he was suddenly strengthened by the Lord. He shouted, “INFANT BAPTISM IS NOT OF GOD, AND MEN MUST BE BAPTIZED BY FAITH IN CHRIST!”

Pandemonium broke out! Some screamed against him while others shouted applause. The Zurich authorities quickly took him back to the dungeon.

There he wrote these blessed words of prayer to God: “O, immortal God, this is my faith. I confess it with heart and mouth, and have testified it publicly before the Church in baptism. I faithfully pray thee graciously keep me in it until my end, and should I be forced from it out of mortal fear and timidity, by tyranny, torture, sword, fire or water, I now appeal to thee. O, my compassionate Father, raise me up again by the grace of thy Holy Spirit, and suffer me not to depart without this faith. This, I pray thee from the bottom of my heart, through Jesus Christ, thy most beloved Son, our Lord and Saviour. Father, in thee do I put my Trust, let me never be ashamed.”

About the middle of 1526, he escaped prison with the assistance of some friends and became associated with the Baptist preachers in Augsburg, Germany. He baptized Hans Denk, the pastor of the Augsburg Church, and he participated in the Baptist preacher’s convention there in 1527.

Hübmaier traveled widely in Central and Western Europe, always under threat of arrest by the ecclesiastical authorities. His preaching was particularly blessed in Moravia, where 6,000 converts were baptized in one year.

Hübmaier was arrested in 1528 and sent to Vienna. On March 1, he was burned to death at the stake, dying unwavering in the biblical faith that he had preached. As he prepared to face the fire, his wife exhorted him to remain steadfast in Christ. His beard and hair caught fire and as he cried out, “O Jesus, Jesus,” he died in the smoke and flames.

Eight days later, the faithful wife joined her husband in Glory when she was drowned by the cruel persecutors. A heavy stone was tied around her neck and she was thrown from a bridge into the Danube River.

Hübmaier’s motto was “Truth is immortal.”

Balthasar Hübmaier’s hymn “A Song in Praise of God’s Word” (can be sung to the tune of “Our God Our Help in Ages Past”)--

Rejoice, rejoice, ye Christians all,
And break forth into singing!
Since far and wide on every side
The word of God is ringing.
And well we know, no human foe
Our souls from Christ can sever;
For to the base, and men of grace,
God's word stands sure for ever.

O Adam, Adam, first of men,
What future did fate send you?
After your fall in Paradise
How did your God befriend you?
His holy word from him you heard,
That word which faileth never,
To tend'rest age, to hoary sage,
God's word stands sure for ever.

O Noah, Noah, man of God,
Thy God hath thee selected
And sworn to thee an oath, since thou
His word hast not rejected:
"With flood again to drown all men
My wrath shall hasten never";
To swollen pelf, to want itself, [pelf is wealth]
God's word stands sure for ever.

And Abraham believed his God,
And so, for his devotion,
His faith became his righteousness,
His seed like sands of ocean.
Thus has God done for every one,
Who trust him perish never;
To every one who builds thereon
God's word stands sure for ever.

And Lot, devout, God-fearing man,
Two angels came to find him,
And lead him out from Sodom safe,
Nor should he look behind him.
God's fiery flood therein withstood
No living thing whatever;
All men, like Lot, must pay their scot,
God's word stands sure for ever.

O David, David, king and lord,
A man of God's own choosing,
God's truth he hid within his heart
Beyond all fear of losing.
From David's seed Christ should proceed,
He swore who changeth never;
In heaven and on earth the same
God's word stands sure for ever.

Jesus the Christ, of Mary born
And of the Holy Spirit,
What all the prophets promisèd
We shall in him inherit.
"Hear him," the call of God to all,
To save us his endeavour;
To him all praise and honour raise—
God's word stands sure for ever.

Now hear, now hear, and mark with care
What else for us is written,
And learn from his new Covenant
What more to do we're bidden.
And what of old has been foretold
Of Christ our Lord and Saviour;
To latest hour, in vaster power,
God's word stands sure for ever.

Matthew, the first evangelist,
From Roman service taken,
Has now become chief counsellor
And has his sins forsaken;
Hears Jesus call, who says to all,
"Follow with best endeavour."
In ample fame, always the same,
God's word stands sure for ever.

And Mark, yes, Mark, the second is,
And richly he has taught us
The knowledge of that mighty power
Wherewith our Lord has brought us
To faith in God, to which is owed
All goodness whatsoever;
For all men's tears, for all men's jeers,
God's word stands sure for ever.

Luke also follows in the train
And tells the gospel story:
The wondrous works of Christ, and how
From heaven the God of glory
To men undone has sent his Son
That men might perish never;
Believe we must, or bite the dust,
God's word stands sure for ever.

And John, the fourth evangelist,
A youth of wondrous beauty,
Reveals to us the Word divine
And teaches us our duty.
With faith and love your calling prove
And seek no other lever;
It gives no aid to hoe or spade,
But God's word stands for ever.

And Saul, God's chosen vessel he,
His early sin repented:
He stormed and strove against the saints
As if he were demented.
In vain the age 'gainst us shall rage,
Our souls from Christ to sever;
In time of ill our stronghold still,
God's word stands sure for ever.

O Paul, O Paul, what fruit of all
Thy writings in their season!
The truth thou hast declared shall stand
Against all human reason.
Sin is o'erthrown by faith alone,
And, though the great and clever
Were all employed to make it void,
God's word stands sure for ever.

And Peter, Jude, and James, all three
Do follow in this teaching;
Repentance and confession they
Through Christ our Lord are preaching
In him men must put all their trust,
Or they shall see God never;
The wolf may tear, the lion, bear,—
God's word stands sure for ever.

Ah, man, blind man, now hear the word,
Make sure your state and calling;
Believe the Scripture is the power
By which we're kept from falling.
Your valued lore at once give o'er,
Renounce your vain endeavour;
This shows the way, no longer stray,
God's word stands sure for ever.

O Jesus Christ, thou Son of God,
Let us not lack thy favour,
For what shall be our just reward
If the salt shall lose its savour?
With angry flame to efface thy name
In vain shall men endeavour;
Not for a day, the same for aye,
God's word stands sure for ever.

Praise God, praise God in unity,
Ye Christian people sweetly,
That he his word has spread abroad—
His word, his work completely.
No human hand can him withstand,
No name how high soever;
And sing we then our glad Amen!
God's word stands sure for ever.
(Balthasar Hübmaier, “A Song in Praise of God’s Word”)

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