Sacramentists (Dutch, Sacramentisten, Sacramentariërs), the designation in the Netherlands of those who from about 1520 did not believe in the efficacy of the sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church and particularly denied that the host in the Mass was the real body and blood of Jesus Christ. Besides their doubt or unbelief concerning the doctrine of transubstantiation, they criticized certain Catholic practices, calling indulgences, pilgrimages, etc., mere idolatry, and at the same time were severely critical of the low moral standards and conduct of the clergy.
One of the first to censure Catholic abuses was a certain Wouter, a Dominican monk at Utrecht, who is said to have "preached the evangelical truth" as early as 1516. Jelle Smit (Gellius Faber), in later times an opponent of Menno Simons, then a Catholic priest at Jelsum in Friesland, is said to have preached evangelical doctrine from 1516; but this is incorrect, for Smit was not yet a priest in 1516 (as Vos has pointed out). Nicolaes Peters, a Franciscan monk, published in 1520 an anti-Catholic booklet, "Hier beghinnen de Sermonen . . . ." Cornelius Grapheus, city clerk of Antwerp, influenced by Erasmus, was arrested in 1522 and tried at Brussels, because he had attacked the Catholic Church. Like many of these first Sacramentists he recanted his heresies. Grapheus even died at an advanced age after a successful life as a loyal son of the Catholic Church. Others were less inclined to bend. Cornelis Hoen of The Hague was the first in the Netherlands to formulate an evangelical doctrine of the Lord's Supper (ca. 1521). He presented his formulation first to Luther, who rejected it, thereupon to Zwingli, who agreed with it; in this way Hoen's interpretation, that bread and wine in the Communion were merely a commemoration of the suffering and death of Christ, became the doctrine of the Zwinglians and also of the first Anabaptist church in Zürich, Switzerland. Hoen died in prison at The Hague in 1523. Other influential Sacramentists were Hinne Rode, Johannes Sartorius and Willem Gnapheus.
These Sacramentists, or Evangelicals (Evangelischen) as they have sometimes been called, were influenced by Erasmus and other Biblical humanists such as Wessel Gansfort. Luther's attitude against the Catholic Church, and his writings circulating in the Netherlands and eagerly read by the Sacramentists, also greatly stimulated them. Most of them, severely critical of the Catholic Church, remained members of the church. Only at Delft and perhaps a few other places was something like a separate evangelical church formed. Emperor Charles V, always a keen enemy of heresy, soon took measures to extirpate Sacramentism. In 1522 Frans van der Hulst was appointed imperial inquisitor-general of the Netherlands, but because of the opposition of the city magistrates, who maintained the rights of the cities to adjudicate the cases in their own territories, van der Hulst was not as successful as the emperor wished, especially because many magistrates in the Netherlands sympathized more or less with the Sacramentists. Nevertheless some of them were put to death; in September 1525 Jan Jansz de Bakker, usually called Pistorius, formerly a priest at Woerden, was burned at the stake at The Hague for his evangelical principles and doctrines. Others escaped the inquisitors by fleeing from the country. A large number of Dutch "evangelicals" are said to have settled in Prussia, Germany, before 1530.
The Sacramentist movement, especially during its rise about 1520-25, found its adherents among the well-educated classes, and priests and schoolteachers often promoted its ideas. But soon its views also found an echo among the masses of the Dutch people, particularly in the larger towns. For example, a considerable group of Sacramentists, all craftsmen, were found in Maastricht in the province of Limburg.
The Anabaptist movement rising in the Netherlands in the autumn of 1530 largely attracted the Sacramentists, and most of them joined the newly founded Anabaptist congregations. This was also the case in Maastricht, where nearly all the Sacramentists became active Anabaptist leaders. The line between Anabaptism and Sacramentism was not always clear, and until 1534-35 Anabaptists were often called Sacramentists and also the contrary. The Sacramentist martyr Wendelmoet (Weynken) Claes (dochter), of Monnikendam, executed at The Hague on 20 November 1527, was listed among the Anabaptist martyrs and commemorated in the Offer des Heeren and the following Mennonite martyr books, including van Braght's Martyrs' Mirror, This is not surprising. Sacramentists and Anabaptists had much in common; they both rejected Roman Catholic doctrines and practices, though the Anabaptists were more radical than the Sacramentists, and in their plea for Biblical-Evangelical Christendom they spoke the same language. Yet the Sacramentists did not practice baptism upon confession of faith and, with few exceptions, did not found special congregations.
Whereas most Sacramentists from the beginning joined the Anabaptists, others, averse to the radical principles of Anabaptism, later formed a group of Reformed, among whom should be mentioned Anastasius Veluanus.
Bax, W. Het Protestantisme in het bisdom Luik en vooral te Maastricht I. The Hague, 1937: 179-93.
Hoop Scheffer, Jacob Gijsbert de. Geschiedenis der Kerkhervorming in Nederland van haar ontstaan tot 1531. Amsterdam, 1873: passim.
Hoop Scheffer, Jacob Gijsbert de. Inventaris der Archiefstukken berustende bij de Vereenigde Doopsgezinde Gemeente to Amsterdam, 2 vols. Amsterdam: Uitgegeven en ten geschenke aangeboden door den Kerkeraad dier Gemeente, 1883-1884: v. I, Nos. 113, 117.
Knappert, L. Het Ontstaan en de Vestiging van het Protestantisme in de Nederlanden. Utrecht, 1924: 79 f., 111-61.
Kühler, Wilhelmus Johannes. Geschiedenis der Nederlandsche Doopsgezinden in de Zestiende Eeuw. Haarlem: H.D. Tjeenk Willink, 1932.
Mellink, Albert F. De Wederdopers in de noordelijke Nederlanden 1531-1544. Groningen: J.B. Wolters, 1954: 331-45.
Vos, Karel. Menno Simons, 1496-1561, zijn leven en werken en zijne reformatorische denkbeelden. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1914: 19.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, pp. 398-399. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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