ANOTHER MOMENT IN CHURCH HISTORY - LEONHARD KEYESER, 1527 =======================================================
Like many others, Leonhard Keyeser is remembered only as a footnote in Church history. Few will recognize his name. During the Reformation of the 1500s when the number of believers increased almost daily, there was a terrible persecution led by the religious establishment of the day, resulting in the death and martyrdom of thousands. One of these was Leonhard Keyeser, a brother in Christ. This is his story.
In Bavaria, a pious priest of the mass, Father Leonhard Keyeser, earnestly studied the writings of Ulrich Zwingli, the Swiss reformer, and Martin Luther, a leader of the German Protestant "reformation". Although he came to appreciate their new found emphasis on salvation by faith alone, Leonhard's heart was hungry for more. This hunger led him to inquire of the fruit and doctrine of the restorationist Anabaptist movement, which was calling for a total "restoration" of New Testament Christianity, going much further than either Zwingli or Luther and their "reformation" movement(s) of the day. The Anabaptists were being persecuted by both the religious establishment and the newly formed Protestant movement(s). Many sincere believers - men, women, and children - were even tortured, drowned, burned at the stake, or put to death in other ways as "heretics", one of the darknest moments in the history of christendom. Father Leonhard Keyeser renounced the priesthood to which he had been ordained, and joined himself to the heavily persecuted, cross-bearing Anabaptists, following the Lord in true believers' baptism. ("Anabaptist" means "those who re-baptize". They endorsed believers' baptism only, not recognizing Protestant or Catholic infant "baptisms" as valid.) Keyeser experienced a mighty empowerment from Heaven, and his ministry was greatly anointed, as he preached the everlasting Gospel along with many others in the face of unbelievable adversity. Many came to a personal relationship with Jesus and followed their Lord in believers' baptism also. The martyrs were many
Although in constant danger, it was in the second year of his ministry that Br. Keyeser was apprehended at Scharding, in Bavaria (Germany). It was illegal to be an Anabaptist. Following a quickly organized tribunal, he was condemned by the Bishop of Passau to be burned alive as a heretic on St. Lawrence Feast Day in August (1527). Bound to a cart, Leonhard Keyeser was taken to the place of execution, the priests going alongside. Approaching the place of fire, Br. Leonhard, although still bound, managed to lean over and plucked a flower. Speaking prophetically by the spirit of prophecy to his judge, who rode on horseback next to the cart, Leonhard declared: "Lord Judge, here I pick a flower, if you can burn this flower and me, you have justly condemned me, but on the other hand, if you cannot burn me and this flower, consider what you have done and repent."
Visibly angered, the judge and his three executioners tossed an extraordinary quantity of wood into the fire, intending to burn him to ashes immediately. Although his spirit was released and returned to the Lord who gave it, when the wood was entirely burned up, Leonhard's body was removed from the fire uninjured. The frustrated executioners tried a second time, but his body was still not consumed. Only his hair and his nails were somewhat burnt brown, but when the ashes were wiped away, the latter was found smooth and clear, and the flower in his hand NOT withered or burnt in the least.
How satan did rage that day. In utter frustration, the executioners actually cut his body into pieces and threw them into a new fire. Again, the wood was burned up, but the pieces lay unconsumed by the fire. Finally, they took the pieces and tossed them into the river.
The historian records, "The judge was so terrified by this occurrence that he resigned his office and moved to another place. His chief servant, who was with the judge, was so moved by what he saw and heard that he came to the church in Moravia, became our brother in Christ and died in the Lord." To God be the Glory.
- ANOTHER MOMENT IN CHURCH HISTORY, compiled by Br. TERRY MILLER for the Sharon Broadcast, from authentic chronicles, historical records, and testimonies.