Here you will find articles and resources which trace the history of the Anabaptist movement.
Anabaptism was a sixteenth-century radical Christian renewal movement in territories that now comprise parts of Switzerland, Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Alsace and the Netherlands.
Its distinguishing features included putting Jesus at the centre of our understanding of the Christian faith, emphasis on new birth and discipleship in the power of the Spirit, establishment of believers’ churches free from state control, commitment to economic sharing, and a vision of restoring New Testament Christianity.
It drew adherents primarily from poorer sections of the community, though early leaders included university graduates, monks and priests. Assessing its numerical strength is difficult, because it was driven underground by persecution; it certainly influenced many more people than those baptised as members.
Historians identify four main Anabaptist branches – the Swiss Brethren, the South German/Austrian Anabaptists, Dutch Mennonites and the communitarian Hutterites – but these branches comprised numerous groups which gathered around particular leaders and developed distinctive practices and emphases.
Although other factors (such as social discontent) contributed to its emergence, Anabaptism must be understood in the context of the Reformation and owed much to it, as its leaders freely acknowledged. Several things distinguished Anabaptists from the Reformers (e.g. Luther and Calvin):
• Radicalism. Anabaptists criticised the Reformers for their unwillingness to follow through biblical convictions. They were convinced Scripture was authoritative for ethics and church life as well as for doctrine, which the Reformers seemed unwilling to admit. Much to their discomfort, Anabaptists reminded the Reformers of their own more radical early views, which they had jettisoned. Anabaptists championed immediate action rather than the Reformers’ cautious approach.
• Restitution. Anabaptists believed the official church was “fallen” beyond mere reform. Thorough restoration of New Testament Christianity was necessary, which required freedom from state control and ecclesiastical traditions. Anabaptists urged separation of church and society and rejected the Christendom system, in which church and state were entwined, that had dominated European culture since the fourth century. They asserted that for centuries the official church had been in error, not only in certain doctrines, but also on the question of its identity and relationship with society.
• An Alternative Tradition. Anabaptists have been described as “step-children of the Reformers”, but there was resonance with earlier movements, such as the Unitas Fratrum, Waldensians and Lollards. Anabaptists were neither Catholic nor Protestant, but heirs of an alternative tradition that had persisted throughout the centuries since Constantine in the 4th century. Often regarded as heretics and persecuted, these “old evangelical brotherhoods” kept alive beliefs and practices that the official church ignored or marginalised.
• A Church of the Poor. As with these earlier groups, Anabaptists were mostly poor and powerless, with few wealthy, academic or influential members. They were regarded as subversives, although few were primarily politically or economically motivated. It is legitimate, however, to regard some Anabaptists as heirs of the failed Peasants’ Revolt (1524-1526), still pursuing their concerns through the alternative strategy of establishing communities where just practices were fostered. Those whose vested interests were threatened vehemently opposed Anabaptism, a grass-roots revival with disturbing implications for the church/state amalgam at the heart of the European social order. Some Anabaptist views owe much to their powerless position: Anabaptists were prepared to obey the Bible regardless of social consequences.
• “Anabaptists”. Anabaptists called themselves Christians or brothers and sisters; their opponents called them enthusiasts, revolutionaries or “Anabaptists”. This label, meaning “re-baptisers”, had negative connotations. Anabaptists objected to this: they did not regard believers’ baptism as rebaptism because they denied the validity of infant baptism, and baptism was not the main issue, although it symbolised their rejection of Christendom.
Anabaptism was a diverse, fluid but coherent movement. Various stimuli enabled it to develop in different places, resulting in regional variations and some sharp internal disagreements. It developed towards greater uniformity of belief and practice by mid-century. Most Anabaptists shared the following convictions:
Anabaptists agreed with the Reformers about the Bible’s authority but disagreed strongly about its interpretation and application. They focused on the New Testament and particularly the life and teachings of Jesus. This “Christocentrism” was a hallmark of Anabaptism that radically affected the way in which the Bible was approached. Balthasar Hübmaier (1481-1528), the leading Anabaptist theologian, (Snyder p55) explained: “all the Scriptures point us to the spirit, gospel, example, ordinance and usage of Christ.” Anabaptists started from Jesus and interpreted everything in the light of him – unlike the Reformers whom Anabaptists suspected of starting from doctrinal passages and trying to fit Jesus into these. Anabaptists refused to treat the Bible as a “flat” book, regarding it as an unfolding of God’s purposes, with the New Testament providing normative guidelines for ethics and church life. They challenged the Reformers’ use of Old Testament models and disagreed with them about such issues as baptism, war, tithing, church government and swearing oaths. In debates, Anabaptists complained that the Reformers used Old Testament passages illegitimately to set aside clear New Testament teaching.
The Reformers emphasised justification by faith and forgiveness of past sins. Anabaptists emphasised new birth and power to live as Jesus’ disciples. The Reformers feared Anabaptists were reverting to salvation by works; the Anabaptists accused the Reformers of failing to address moral issues and of tolerating unchristian behaviour in their churches. “Shame on you for the easy-going gospel,” chided Menno Simons (c1496-1561) .
Anabaptists stressed the work of the Spirit in believers and taught that Jesus was to be followed and obeyed as well as trusted. He was not only Saviour but also Captain, Leader and Lord. Dirk Philips (1504-1568) wrote: “Jesus with his doctrine, life and example is our teacher, leader and guide. Him we must hear and follow.” Michael Sattler (c1490-1527), author of the Schleitheim Confession (1527), complained that, whereas Catholics appeared to advocate works without faith, the Reformers taught faith without works, but he wanted faith that expressed itself in works. Hans Denck (1495-1527) insisted that faith and discipleship were inter-connected: “no one can truly know Christ unless he follows him in life, and no one may follow him unless he has first known him.”
Anabaptists formed churches of committed disciples, denying that all citizens should be regarded automatically as church members. They insisted on differentiating believers from unbelievers, so that church membership could be voluntary and meaningful. They acknowledged the role of the state in government but resisted state control of their churches. They rejected infant baptism as unbiblical, forcibly imposed on children and a hindrance to developing believers’ churches. They challenged the way the clergy dominated church life, lack of church discipline and coercion in matters of faith. Although greater formalism gradually developed, early gatherings were sometimes charismatic and unstructured, concentrating on Bible study. Some churches encouraged women to participate much more actively than was normal in contemporary church or society. They met wherever they could – in homes, woods, fields, even in boats. A Congregational Order (1527) conveys their serious informality: “when the brothers and sisters are together, they shall take up something to read together. The one to whom God has given the best understanding shall explain it...when a brother sees his brother erring, he shall warn him according to the command of Christ, and shall admonish him in a Christian and brotherly way.”
The Reformers did not generally practise evangelism. Where they had state support, they relied on sanctions to coerce attendance (though there are examples of evangelism and church planting by Calvinists in Catholic France where Protestants could not coerce). They assumed within Protestant territories that church and society were indistinct, so their policy was to pastor people through the parish system, rather than evangelising them as unbelievers. The Anabaptists rejected this interpretation of church and society and refused to use coercion. They embarked on a spontaneous missionary venture to evangelise Europe. Evangelists like Hans Hut (1490-1527) travelled widely, preached in homes and fields, interrupted state church services, baptised converts and planted churches. Such evangelism, ignoring national and parish boundaries, by untrained men and women, was regarded as outrageous.
Anabaptists were socially deviant, challenging contemporary norms and living in anticipation of the Kingdom of God.
They questioned the validity of private property. The Hutterites lived in communities and held their possessions in common. Most Anabaptists retained personal ownership, but all taught that their possessions were not their own but were available to those in need. The 1527 Congregational Order urged: “Of all the brothers and sisters of this congregation, none shall have anything of his own, but rather, as the Christians in the time of the apostles held all in common, and especially stored up a common fund, from which aid can be given to the poor, according as each will have need, and as in the apostles’ time permit no brother to be in need.” When they shared communion they confirmed this mutual commitment.
They rejected the use of violence, refusing to defend themselves by force. Conrad Grebel (1498-1526) described his congregation: “Neither do they use worldly sword or war, since all killing has ceased with them.” They urged love for enemies and respect for human life. Anabaptists accepted that governments would use force but regarded this as inappropriate for Christians. Felix Mantz (c1498-1527) concluded: “no Christian could be a magistrate, nor could he use the sword to punish or kill anyone.” They aimed to build an alternative community, changing society from the bottom up.
Many refused to swear oaths. Oaths were very important in sixteenth-century Europe, encouraging truth-telling in court and loyalty to the state. Anabaptists often rejected these, citing Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5 and arguing that they should always be truthful, not just under oath. Nor would they swear loyalty to any secular authority.
Anabaptists were not surprised by persecution. They knew they would be seen as revolutionaries, despite their commitment to non-violence; as heretics, despite their commitment to the Bible; and as disturbers of the status quo. They regarded suffering for obedience to Christ as unavoidable and biblical: suffering was a mark of the true church, as Jesus had taught in the Sermon on the Mount. Their very persecution of Anabaptists showed that the reformers themselves were not building a biblical church.
The Anabaptist movement was regarded as dangerous, and a tragic incident in 1535 seemed to justify the concerns of the authorities. Anabaptists gathered in the North German town of Münster, gained control of the town council and instituted a form of society characterised by oppression and extremism. Eventually the town was captured by military force and the inhabitants were slaughtered. Although most Anabaptists dissociated themselves from what happened there, Münster seemed to represent what the authorities feared from Anabaptism. The movement was persecuted by both Catholics and Protestants and was nearly drowned in blood. Those who survived in the regions where Anabaptism began did so by finding refuge in rather more tolerant cities, keeping on the move, meeting in secret and gradually becoming quieter about what they believed as the evangelistic fires cooled.
Many migrated east to find safer homes with greater freedom to worship in the way they wanted and to live without fear of arrest. Gradually Mennonite and Hutterite families and communities moved further into what is now Eastern Europe and on into Russia. From all over Europe, further periods of migration led many to settle in Canada and the USA, where large numbers of the descendants of the Anabaptists now live.
But the majority of Anabaptists now live neither in Europe nor in North America but in the southern hemisphere. During the 20th century, through extensive and creative mission activities, Anabaptism became a global movement. These mission activities included evangelism and church planting, disaster relief and development work, and working for peace and justice in divided communities. In some nations Mennonite churches are flourishing. In several others individuals and churches are discovering Anabaptism as a resource for renewal and faithful discipleship.
Accounts of what Anabaptists believed and how they lived — together with warnings about the danger they posed to society, frequently focused on what happened at Münster — were written by many of their contemporaries. “Anabaptist” became a label used to attack many radicals over the years, even if they had no links with the Anabaptist tradition and believed very different things. For the next four centuries the Anabaptist movement would be ignored or regarded (on the basis of such hostile accounts) as subversive, heretical and or of only marginal significance in the history of the church. Not until the middle of the 20th century did Mennonite historians succeed in presenting the Anabaptist tradition through its own writings rather than those of its enemies – and a very different and much more attractive picture emerged.
Church history, like all history, has both winners and losers, heroes and villains. And church history, again like all history, is written mainly by the winners and from their perspective. What they wrote may have been deliberately biased and hostile, or they may have attempted to be sympathetic and fair. But the history that emerges is necessarily an interpretation of events, personalities, beliefs and practices. Although there may be other legitimate interpretations or flaws in the official interpretation, it is not always easy to discover these.
When we look at church history, it is tempting to spend all our time on the winners, the mainline churches, establishment Christianity. We may not like everything we find here, but at least we are on safe ground and there are some wonderful saints to be found. The fringe groups that appear in the margins of many textbooks, or are dismissed as ‘schismatics’ or ‘heretics’, sound interesting but dangerous. Are they worth studying, or do we accept the judgment of their contemporaries and later generations of historians? Even if we are interested enough to explore one or more of these groups, it is difficult to discover much about them from these meagre references in the familiar historical textbooks.
This may not simply be because the writers of these books were uninterested in such groups. Often there is limited information about them available to historians. Those whose views and policies prevailed in each generation made sure that their version of events became the official version. The writings of the losers were destroyed, their activities interpreted in the worst possible light, and their memory vilified. What we know of many fringe groups is drawn largely from their opponents, and this is usually open to the charge of being somewhat biased.
However, although many of these difficulties remain, the situation is less bleak than it used to be. During the past fifty years or more, several of these groups have found champions prepared to set aside the traditional evaluations of their significance and present them in a new light, using what little remains of their own writings, and refusing to accept uncritically the accounts given by their enemies. It is now possible to put together what might be termed a ‘Losers’ Guide to Church History’, a survey of an alternative radical church history that is quite different from the official version, based on the research and scholarship of historians who have provided translations of primary sources, revisited earlier accounts and offered new interpretations of the available data.
But there are still difficulties. The few written sources available to us do not give us a complete picture, and it is tempting to fill in the gaps from our imagination, or using doubtful sources. A good example of this is the popular book by E H Broadbent, The Pilgrim Church, which attempts to trace a ‘silver thread’ of Christianity from the first century to the twentieth. It is a wonderful and inspiring romance and it contains much historical data. But it assumes too much, makes unwarranted connections, and is frequently unreliable. We simply have to accept that our knowledge of some groups or individuals is very limited, and with most it probably always will be. There is little prospect of new source material being discovered. Many of these groups in any case were poor and illiterate. They spread their teachings mainly by word of mouth, rather than through books.
Another temptation is to create new heroes. In trying to rescue the losers from obscurity and calumny, we can easily gloss over their weaknesses and present an unrealistic and unbalanced picture of them. Around the fringes of the mainline church were real heretics, persistent troublemakers and stubborn individualists. But there were also some wonderful men and women who paid dearly for their faithfulness and courage.
The Anabaptist Network has been primarily concerned to offer resources from the Anabaptist tradition, but it has also from time to time drawn attention to other movements that held similar (though not identical beliefs). Articles in Anabaptism Today have introduced readers to the English radicals and the Waldensians. Conferences have introduced participants to the Celtic tradition, to English radical groups such as the Lollards, Diggers, Levellers and Quakers. Papers from the English Radicals conference have for some time been available on this web site, and further information on other radical movements can now be found here.
After centuries of neglect and dismissal, evaluation on the basis of statements from their opponents, and misinterpretation, Anabaptism has been rediscovered as a potent source of renewal and a highly relevant historical movement. The “Anabaptist Vision” has been glimpsed afresh, not just by the Anabaptists’ lineal descendants, but by Christians from various traditions. The following examples demonstrate the indebtedness of many to the vision, example and writings of the Anabaptists.
The influence of Anabaptism on contemporary Christianity is mediated partly through the direct descendants of the Anabaptists (primarily the Mennonites, the Church of the Brethren the Brethren in Christ and the Hutterites) and partly through their indirect descendants. By this is meant those groups that have either some lineal connection with the Anabaptists, or major features that were derived in some way from Anabaptism. The Baptists are an example of the former. The Methodists and the Arminian wing of Dutch Calvinism are examples of the latter.
It was calculated in 1948 that these groups could account for almost a quarter of the membership of the World Council of Churches. The influence of the Baptists and the Mennonites on the thinking and practices of churches across the world has been significant, especially through their missionary activities. If the rapidly expanding Pentecostal movement is included among the descendants of Anabaptism (and it has been suggested that Pentecostalism is its closest contemporary equivalent), then these descendants form a major force in contemporary Christianity alongside the Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant streams.
Furthermore, the Anabaptist vision has functioned in recent years as a renewing model for these groups. Mennonites have become aware of the extent to which they have adopted ideas and practices from Protestantism and in many places they have consciously returned to Anabaptist emphases. Among Baptists, also, there is growing interest in their hitherto embarrassing Anabaptist roots and a readiness to explore the implications for their church governance.
Contemporary movements exploring the radical implications of Christian discipleship have drawn on the Anabaptist vision. Among these are Radical Evangelicals in North and South America and some sections of the House Church Movement in the United Kingdom. Other influential free church writers also identify themselves as Anabaptist in perspective, whatever their denominational allegiances.
Perhaps more surprising is the recognition within Catholic, Anglo-Catholic and mainline Protestant circles of the contribution that Anabaptism might make to the contemporary church. Michael Novak, in a famous article entitled “The Free Churches and the Roman Church”, interpreted Vatican II and its developments as moving in the direction of the Anabaptist vision in several areas. Theologians such as both Kenneth Leech and Jürgen Moltmann have urged the recovery of the idea of discipleship found among the Anabaptists but neglected by the Reformers and their descendants. Peter Wagner used the Anabaptists in his writings on church growth as an example of a structure that combined church and mission agency. Rodney Clapp, former associate editor of Christianity Today, has drawn on Anabaptist perspectives in his analysis of the role of the church in a post-Christian society. Popular journals are now prepared to devote considerable space to Anabaptism.
Usually there is no intention of adopting the Anabaptist vision in its entirety, but there is considerable interest in many of Anabaptist perspectives:
• Witness to peace and enemy-loving as an integral part of the gospel
• Concern about discipleship and “doing the truth”
• Commitment to religious liberty and tolerance
• Antipathy to institutions
• Commitment to community and economic sharing
• Witness to the potential of counter-cultural alternatives
• Rejection of Christendom
Some have also made suggestions about the significance of Anabaptist perspectives in wider society. Modern ideas about democracy, the separation of church and state, and consensus decision-making can be traced to various sources, but Anabaptism is one influential source of these now widely accepted concepts.
A few Anabaptists fled to England in the 16th century, hoping to escape persecution and find a place of refuge to the west rather than the east. Those who were detected by the authorities were soon rounded up and imprisoned. A few were many others were deported. The story of what happened to one such group of refugees is told by Alan Kreider in the book Coming Home. It was very clear that Anabaptists were not welcome in Britain. Even in the 39 Articles of the Church of England, there are still warnings about Anabaptists! During the next four centuries there were few, if any, overt Anabaptists in Britain.
Not until the end of World War II did Anabaptists begin to come to Britain again, but in the past twenty-five years the Anabaptist tradition has once again become visible in Britain and also in Ireland. Expressions of this include the London Mennonite Centre and the Wood Green Mennonite Church, and two Hutterian communities in the south-east of England. There is also an opportunity to study Anabaptism through a postgraduate programme at
Spurgeon’s College in London. But there are many others in all the main Christian denominations who are interested in Anabaptism and drawing on its values and practices. To these and others the Anabaptist Network offers resources and opportunities for dialogue.
The Anabaptist movement had its genesis as the radical wing of the Protestant Reformation. It began in Zurich in 1525 when a small group of men and women gathered to baptise one another. This group and those that followed them became known as Anabaptists because they believed that Christians must choose baptism as consenting adults rather than as infants.
The concept of believer's baptism was rejected by more moderate reformers who still believed in the Christendom model in which baptism of infants served as entry into both the church and the state. The Anabaptists were hunted down and persectued by both the Catholic and Protestant authorites for their baptism of adults as well as their rejection of the sword, swearing oaths and their focus on evangelism.
For centuries the term ‘Anabaptist’ has been reviled and its beliefs and practices have been ignored. Anabaptism has usually appeared as only a brief footnote in books on church history – and a negative one at that!
There has never been an indigenous Anabaptist movement in Britain. The few Anabaptists who crossed the English Channel were forcibly ejected in the late sixteenth century. But in the past few decades Christians from many traditions in Britain (and in many other nations) have rediscovered this movement and have begun to value its legacy.
As the culture of Christendom gradually fades and the church at the centre gives way to a church on the margins, Anabaptism now seems surprisingly relevant and helpful. A movement that rejected Christendom ways of thinking and operated from the margins has much to offer.
For more information on Anabaptism, see "What is Anabaptism?"
You can also download the file below (in pdf format) for a summary of the history and distinctives of the Anabaptist tradition. The second version is formatted to enable you to print it off as a booklet.
Unlike earlier radical movements, whose literature was seized and destroyed so that we have little left to know what they believed and how they lived, Anabaptists lived after the introduction of printing to Europe and so left plenty of written material. Through letters to individuals and churches, court statements, books and pamphlets on various subjects, Bible study aids, hymns and prayers, the Anabaptist tradition comes alive. We can listen in as they discuss theological and pastoral issues among themselves and debate contentious points with their Catholic and Protestant contemporaries. Some of this 16th-century material is, of course, rooted in a very different culture from ours, but the heart and passion of the movement pulses through these primary documents.
During the past 60 years much of this material has been translated into English and is available to consult in theological libraries or for sale through Metanoia Book Service - although some translation work has yet to be completed.
Our aim in this section is offer easy access to some key 16th-century documents. We hope gradually to enlarge our collection. You can also find links to other websites offering such resources on our Links page.
A Form of the Supper of Christ
1. The brethren and sisters who wish to hold the table of the Lord according to the institution of Christ, Matt. 26:26ff.; Luke 22:19ff.; Mark 14:22ff.; 1 Cor., 11:23ff., shall gather at a suitable place and time, so there may be no division, so that one does not come early and another late and that thereby evangelical teaching is neglected. Such the apostles desired when they asked Christ, “Master, where wilt thou that we prepare the passover lamb?” Then he set for them a certain place. Paul writes, “When you come together ... etc.,” 1 Cor. 11:20ff. Then they should prepare the table with ordinary bread and wine. Whether the cups are silver, wood, or pewter, makes no difference. But those who eat should be respectably dressed and should sit together in an orderly way without light talk and contention, 1 Pet. 13; Eph. 4:29; Heb. 12.
2. Since everyone should begin by accusing himself and confessing his sins and recognising his guilt before God, it is not inappropriate that the priest first of all should fall on his knees with the church and with heart and mouth say the following words:
“Father we have sinned against heaven and against thee Luke 15:21. We are not worthy to be called thy children. But speak a word of consolation and our souls will be made whole. God be gracious to us sinners, Luke 19:1ff. May the almighty, eternal and gracious God have mercy on all our sins and forgive us graciously, and when he has forgiven us, lead us into eternal life without blemish or impurity, through Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. Amen.
3. Now let the priest sit down with the people and open his mouth, explaining the Scriptures concerning Christ, Luke 24:31, so that the eyes of those who are gathered together may be opened, which were still somewhat darkened or closed, so that they may recognise Christ, who was a man, a prophet, mighty in works and teaching before God and all people, and how the highest bishops among the priests and princes gave him over to condemnation to death and how they crucified him, and how he has redeemed Israel, that is, all believers. The priest shall also rebuke those who are foolish and slow to believe all the things that Moses and the prophets have spoken, that he may kindle and make fervent and warm the hearts of those at the table, that they may be afire in fervent meditation of his bitter suffering and death in contemplation, love, and thanksgiving, so that the congregation with its whole heart, soul, and strength calls out to him:
Stay with us, o Christ! It is toward evening and the day is now far spent. Abide with us, O Jesus, abide with us. For where thou art not, there everything is darkness, night, and shadow, but thou art the true Sun, light, and shining brightness, John 8:12. He to whom thou dost light the way, cannot go astray.
On another day the servant of the Word may take the 10th or 11th chapter of Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians, or the 13th, 14th, 15th, 16th, or 17th chapter of John. Or Matthew 3 or Luke 3 on changing one’s life, Sirach 2 on the fear of God, or something else according to the opportuneness of the time and persons. No one shall be coerced herein, but each should be left free to the judgement of his spirit. But there must be diligence so that the death of the Lord is earnestly proclaimed, so that the people have a picture of the boundless goodness of Christ, and the church may be instructed, edified, and led, in heartfelt fervent and fraternal love, so that on the last day we may stand before the judgement scat of Christ with the accounts of our stewardship, Luke 16:8, and shepherd and sheep may be held together.
4. Now that the death of Christ has been proclaimed, those who are present have the opportunity and the authority to ask, if at any point they should have some misunderstanding or some lack, 1 Cor. 14:26ff.; but not with frivolous, unprofitable, or argumentative chatter, nor concerning heavenly matters having to do with the omnipotence or the mystery of God or future things, which we have no need to know, but concerning proper, necessary, and Christian items, having to do with Christian faith and brotherly love. Then one to whom something is revealed should teach, and the former should be quiet without any argument and quarrelling. For it is not customary to have conflict in the church. Let women keep silence in the congregation, If they want to learn anything, they should ask their husbands at home, so that everything takes place in orderly fashion, 1 Cor. 11; 14.
5. Let the priest take up for himself the words of Paul, 1 Cor. 11, and say:
Let every one test and examine himself, and let him thus eat of the bread and drink of the drink. For whoever eats and drinks unworthily, eats and drinks a judgement upon himself, as he does not discern the body of the Lord. And if we thus judged ourselves, we would not be condemned by the Lord.
Now such examination comprises the following: First, that one believes, Matt. 26:26ff.; Mark 14:22ff.; Luke 22:19f.; 1 Cor. 11:24ff., utterly and absolutely that Christ gave his body and shed his crimson blood for him on the cross in the power of his words, as he said: “This is my body, which is given for you, and this is my blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins.”
Second: Let a person test himself, whether lie has a proper inward and fervent hunger for the bread which comes down from heaven, from which one truly lives, and thirst for the drink which flows into eternal life, to eat and drink both in the spirit, faith, and truth, as Christ teaches us in John 4; 6; and 7. If the spiritual eating and drinking does not first take place, then the outward breaking of bread, eating and drinking is a killing letter, 2 Cor. 16; 1 Cor. 11:29, hypocrisy, and the kind of food and drink whereby one eats condemnation and drinks death, as Adam did with the forbidden fruit of the tree in Paradise, Gen. 3:6.
Third: Let one also confirm himself in gratitude, so as to be thankful in words and deeds toward God for the great, overabundant, and unspeakable love and goodness that he has shown him through his most beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, John 3:16; Rom. 8:32. Namely that he now gives praise and thanks from the heart to God. Further, that he be of an attitude and ready will to do for Christ his God and Lord in turn as lie had done for him. But since Christ does not need our good deeds, is not hungry, is not thirsty, is not naked or in prison, but heaven and earth are his and all that is in them, therefore he points us toward our neighbour, first of all to the members of the household of faith, Matt. 25:34ff.; Gal. 6:10; 1 Tim, 5, that we might fulfil the works of this our gratitude toward them physically and spiritually, feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, consoling the prisoner, sheltering the needy. Then he will be ready to accept these works of mercy from us in such a way as if we had done them unto him. Yea, he will say at the last judgement, “I was hungry and you fed me. I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was naked, in prison, and homeless, and you clothed me, visited me, and housed me,” Matt. 25. He says I, I, I, me, me, me.’ From this it is certain and sure that all the good that we do to the very least of his, that we do to Christ himself. Yea, he will not let a single drink of cool water go unrewarded, Matt. 10:42. If one is thus inclined toward his neighbour, he is now in the true fellowship of Christ, a member of his body, and a fellow member with all godly persons, Col. 1:4.
Fourth: So that the church might also be fully aware of a person’s attitude and will, one holds fellowship with her in the breaking of bread, thereby saying, testifying, and publicly assuring her, yea, making to her a sacrament or a sworn pledge and giving one’s hand on the commitment that one is willing henceforth to offer one’s body and to shed one’s blood thus for one’s fellow believers. This one does not out of human daring, like Peter, Matt. 26:33, but in the grace and power of the suffering and the blood shed by our Lord Jesus Christ, his (i.e., meaning Peter’s) only Saviour, of whose suffering and death the human being is now celebrating a living commemoration in the breaking of bread and the sharing of the chalice.
This is the true fellowship of saints, 1 Cor. 10:16. It is not a fellowship for the reason that bread is broken, but rather the bread is broken because the fellowship has already taken place and has been concluded inward in the spirit, since Christ has come into flesh, John 4:27. For not all who break bread are participants in the body and blood of Christ, which I can prove by the traitor Judas, Matt. 26:25. But those who are partakers inwardly and of the spirit, the same may also worthily partake outwardly of this bread and wine.
A parable: We do not believe because we have been baptised in water, but we are baptised in water because we first believe. So David says: “I have believed, therefore I have spoken,” Ps. 116:10; Matt. 16:16; Acts 8:30. So every Christian speaks equally: “I have believed, therefore I have publicly confessed that Jesus is Christ, Son of the living God, and have thereafter had myself baptised according to the order of Christ, the high priest who lives in eternity.” Or: “I have fellowship with Christ and all his members, 1 Cor. 10:16, therefore I break bread with all believers in Christ according to the institution of Christ. Without this inner communion in the spirit and in truth, the outward breaking of bread is nothing but an Iscariotic and damnable hypocrisy, it is precisely to this fellowship and commitment of love that the Supper of Christ points, as a living memorial of his suffering and death for us, spiritually signified and pointed to by the breaking of bread, the pouring out of the wine, that each one should also sacrifice and pour out his flesh and blood for the other. Herein will people recognise that we are truly disciples of Christ, John 13; 14; 15; 16; 17. All of the words which Christ spoke about the Last Supper tend toward this. For just as water baptism is a public testimony of the Christian faith, so is the Supper a public testimony of Christian love. Now he who does not want to be baptised or to observe the Supper, he does not desire to believe in Christ nor to practice Christian love and does not desire to be a Christian. How much someone cares about the flesh and blood, that is about the suffering and death of Christ Jesus, about the shedding of his crimson blood, about the forgiveness of sins, about brotherly love and communion in God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, yea the communion of the whole heavenly host and the universal Christian church outside of which there is no salvation, just this much he should care about the bread and the wine of God’s table. Not that here bread and wine are anything other than bread and wine; but according to the memorial and the significant mysteries for the sake of which Christ thus instituted it. If now one had no other word or Scripture, but only the correct understanding of water baptism and the Supper of Christ, one would have God and all his creatures, faith and love, the law and all the prophets. So whoever makes a mockery of the Supper of Christ, the Son of Man will mock before God and his angels. So much for self examination.
6. Since now these ceremonies and signs have to do completely and exclusively with fraternal love, and since one who loves his neighbour like himself is a rare bird, yea even an Indian phoenix on earth, who can sit at the supper table with a good conscience? Answer: One who has thus taken to heart and has thus shaped himself in mind and heart and senses inwardly that lie truly and sincerely can say, “The love of God which he has shown to me through the sacrifice of his only begotten and most beloved Son for the payment of my sins, John 3:16; 1 John 4:9; Rom. 8:32, of which I have heard and been certainly assured through his holy Word, has so moved, softened, and penetrated my spirit and soul that I am so minded and ready to offer my flesh and blood, furthermore so to rule over and so to master it, that it must obey me against its own will, and henceforth not take advantage of, deceive, injure, or harm my neighbour in any way in body, soul, honour, goods, wife, or child, but rather go into the fire for him and die, as Paul also desired to be accursed for his brethren and Moses to be stricken out of the book of life for the sake of his people,” Rom. 9:3; Exod. 32:32. Such a person may with good conscience and worthiness sit at the Supper of Christ.
You say: “This is humanly impossible.” Answer: Certainly for the Adamic human nature. But all things are possible to the Christian, Mark 9:23, not as persons, but as believers, who are one with God and all creatures, and are (except for the flesh) free and independent of themselves.” For God works such willing and doing in his believers, Phil. 2:14, through the inward anointing of his Holy Spirit, so that one stands in complete freedom to will and to do good or evil. The good one can do is through the anointing of God. The evil comes from one’s own innate nature and impulse, which evil will one can, however, master and tame through the grace given by God, Deut. 30:1ff.; Gen. 4:17; Rom. 10; Matt 19; John 1:12.
It is not sufficient that sin be recognised through the law, nor that we know what is good or evil. We must bind the commandments on our hand, grasp them and fulfil them in deeds, Deut. 6:8; Matt. 11:30; John 3. To do this is easy and a small thing to the believer, but to those who walk according to the flesh, all things are impossible. Yet the believing and newly born person under the gospel is still also [a person] under the law. He has just as many trials as before, or even more. He finds (however holy he may be) nothing good in his own flesh, just as Saint Paul laments the same with great seriousness regarding the conflict and the resistance of the flesh, Rom. 7:18. Nevertheless the believer rejoices and praises God that the trial is not and cannot be so great in him, but that the power of God in him, which he has received through the living Word which God has sent is stronger and mightier 1 Cor. 10:13; Rom. 8:11. He also knows certainly that such resistances, evil desires, and sinful lusts of his flesh are not damning for him if he confesses the same to God, regrets them, and does not follow after them, but reigns and rules mightily over the restless devil of his flesh, 1 Cor. 9:27, strangles, crucifies, and torments him without letup; holds in his rein, does not do his will, cares little that that breaks his neck, Exod. 34:20. So every one who is a Christian acts and behaves so that lie may worthily eat and drink at the table of the Lord.
Know thou further, righteous Christian, that to fulfil the law it is not enough to avoid sins and die to them. Yea, one must also do good to the neighbour, Ps. 37. For Christ not only broke the bread, he also distributed it and gave it to his disciples. Yea, not only the bread, but also even his own flesh and blood. So we must not only speak the word of brotherly love, hear it, confess ourselves to be sinners, and abstain from sin, we must also fulfil it in deeds, as Scripture everywhere teaches us:
Forsake evil and do good, Ps. 37.
Brethren, work out your salvation, Phil. 2:12.
While we have time let us do good, for the night comes when no man can work, Gal. 6:9.
Wilt thou enter into life, keep the commandments, Matt. 19:17.
For not those who hear the word are righteous before God, but those who do the law will be justified, Rom. 2:7.
Not all those who say to me, Lord, Lord, will enter into the kingdom of the heavens but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven, will enter into the kingdom of heaven, says Christ, and adds: Everyone who hears my words and does them, he shall be likened unto a wise man who built his house upon a rock. But everyone who hears my word and does it not shall be likened to a fool who built his house on sand, Matt. 7:21 27.
In sum: God requires of us the will, the word, and the works of brotherly love, and he will not let himself be paid off or dismissed with words, Matt. 14; Luke 8:21; Rom. 8:1; Luke 17; Isa. 64:5ff.; Col. 2:10; Ps, 32:1f.; Rom. 4:5; 5; 7; 8. But what innate weaknesses and imperfections constantly are intermingled with our acts of commission and omission because of our flesh, God – thanks to the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ – will not reckon to our eternal condemnation; for in Christ we have all attained perfection, and in him we are already blessed. What more do we lack?
7. Since now believers have inwardly surrendered themselves utterly to serve their fellow members in Christ at the cost of honour, goods, body, and life, yea even to offer their souls for them to the point of hell with the help of God; therefore, it is all the more needful sincerely to groan and pray to God that he may cause the faith of these new persons to grow, also that he may more deeply kindle in them the fire of brotherly love, so that in these two matters, signified by water baptism and the Lord’s Supper, they might continually grow, mature, and persevere unto the end.
Here shall now be held a time of common silence, so that each one who desires to approach the table of God can meditate upon the suffering of Christ and thus with Saint John rest on the breast of the Lord. After such silence the “Our Father” shall be spoken publicly by the church, reverently, and with hearts desirous of grace as follows, Matt. 6:9ff.; Luke 11: 2ff.:
Our Father who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name,
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
8. Now the priest shall point out clearly and expressly that the bread is bread and the wine wine and not flesh and blood, as has long been believed.
Whoever now desires to eat of this bread and drink of the drink of the Lord’s Supper, let him rise and repeat with heart and mouth the following pledge of love:
The Pledge of Love
Brothers and sisters, if you will to love God before, in, and above all things, in the power of his holy and living Word, serve him alone, Deut. 5; 6; Exod. 20, honour and adore him and henceforth sanctify his name, subject your carnal and sinful will to his divine will which he his worked in you by his living Word, in life and death, then let each say individually:
If you will love your neighbour and serve him with deeds of brotherly love, Matt. 25; Eph. 6; Col. 3; Rom. 13:1; 1 Pet. 2:13f., lay down and shed for him your life and blood, be obedient to father, mother, and all authorities according to the will of God, and this in the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, who laid down and shed his flesh and blood for us, then let each say individually:
If you will practice fraternal admonition toward your brethren and sisters, Matt. 18:15ff.; Luke 6; Matt. 5:44; Rom. 12:10, make peace and unity among them, and reconcile yourselves with all those whom you have offended, abandon all envy, hate, and evil will toward everyone, willingly cease all action and behaviour which causes harm, disadvantage, or offence to your neighbour, [if you will] also love your enemies and do good to them, and exclude according to the Rule of Christ, Matt. 18, all those who refuse to do so, then let each say individually:
If you desire publicly to confirm before the church this pledge of love which you have now made, through the Lord’s Supper of Christ, by eating bread and drinking wine, and to testify to it in the power of the living memorial of the suffering and death of Jesus Christ our Lord, then let each say individually:
I desire it in the power of God.
So eat and drink with one another in the name of God the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit. May God himself accord to all of us the power and the strength that we may worthily carry it out and bring it to its saving conclusion according to his divine will. May the Lord impart to us his grace. Amen.
9. The bishop takes the bread and with the church lifts his eves to heaven, praises God and says:
We praise and thank thee, Lord God, Creator of the heavens and earth, for all thy goodness toward us. Especially hast thou so sincerely loved us that thou didst give thy most beloved Son for us unto death so that each one who believes in him may not be lost but have eternal life, John 3:16; 1 John 4:9; Rom. 8:32. Be thou honoured, praised and magnified now, forever, always and eternally. Amen.
Now the priest takes the bread, breaks it, and offers it to the hands of those present, saying:
The Lord Jesus, in the night in which he was betrayed, took the bread, gave thanks, and broke it, and said: “Take, eat. This is my body, which is broken for you. Do this in my memory.” Therefore, take and eat also, dear brothers and sisters, this bread in the memory of the body of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he gave unto death for us.
Now when everyone has been fed, the priest likewise takes the cup with the wine and speaks with lifted eyes:
“God! Praise be to thee!”
and offers it into their hands, saying:
Likewise the Lord Jesus took the vessel after the Supper and spoke: “This cup is a new testament in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink, in memory of me.” Take therefore also the vessel and all drink from it in the memory of the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was shed for us for the forgiveness of our sins.
When they have all drunk, the priest says:
As often as you cat the bread and drink of the drink, you shall proclaim the death of the Lord, until he comes, 1 Cor. 11:26.
Now the church is seated to hear the conclusion.
10. Most dearly beloved brethren and sisters in the Lord. As we now, by thus eating the bread and drinking the drink in memory of the suffering and shed blood of our Lord Jesus Christ for the remission of our sins have had fellowship one with another, 1 Cor. 10:17; 12:12; Eph. 4:4; Col. 1:3; Eph. 1; 4; 5, and have all become one loaf and one body, and our Head is Christ, we should properly become conformed to our Head and as his members follow after him, love one another, do good, give counsel, and be helpful to one another, each offering up his flesh and blood for the other. Under our Head Christ we should all also live, speak, and act honourably and circumspectly, so that we give no offence or provocation to anyone, Matt. 18; Mark 9; Luke 17; 1 Cor. 8. Rom. 14. So that also those who are outside the church might not have reason to blaspheme our head, our faith, and church, and to say: “Does your head Christ teach you such an evil life? Is that your faith? Is that your baptism? Is that your Christian church, Supper, and gospel, that you should lead such an ungodly and shameful life in gluttony, drunkenness, gambling, dancing, usury, gossip, reviling, cursing, blasphemy, pride, avarice, envy, hate and wrath, unchastity, luxury, laziness, and frivolity? Matt. 18:6. Woe, woe to him who gives offence! It would be better for him that a millstone should be hung around his neck and he should be cast into the depth of the sea. Let us rather take upon ourselves a righteous, honourable, and serious life, through which God our Father who is in heaven may be praised.
Since our brotherly love requires that one member of the body be also concerned for the other, therefore we have the earnest behest of Christ, Matt. 18:14ff., that whenever henceforth a brother sees another erring or sinning, that he once and again should fraternally admonish him in brotherly love. Should he not be willing to reform nor to desist from his sin, he shall be reported to the church. The church shall then exhort him a third time. When this also does no good, she shall exclude him from her fellowship. Unless it should be the case that the sin is quite public and scandalous; then he should be admonished also publicly and before all, so that the others may fear, 1 Cor. 5:1; 1 Tim. 5:20; Gal. 2:11.
Whereupon I pray and exhort you once more, most dearly beloved in Christ, that henceforth as table companions of Christ Jesus, Luke 22:15, you henceforth lead a Christian walk before God and before men. Be mindful of your baptismal commitment and of your pledge of love which you made to God and the church publicly and certainly not unwittingly when receiving the water and in breaking bread. See to it that you bear fruit worthy of the baptism and the Supper of Christ, that you may in the power of God satisfy your pledge, promise, sacrament, and sworn commitment, Matt. 18; Luke 3:8. God sees it and knows your hearts. May our Lord Jesus Christ, ever and eternally praised, grant us the same. Amen.
Dear brothers and sisters, watch and pray lest you wander away and fall into temptation, Matt. 24:42; 25:13; Luke 16. You know neither the day nor the hour when the Lord is coming and will demand of you an accounting of your life. Therefore watch and pray, I commend you to God. May each of you say to himself, “Praise, praise, praise to the Lord eternally!” Amen.
Arise and go forth in the peace of Christ Jesus. The grace of God be with us all.
Truth Is Unkillable.
To the noble Lord Buriano of Cornitz, my gracious sovereign.
Grace and peace in Christ, noble and Christian Lord. Although the majority of people who stand by the gospel recognise that bread is bread and wine wine in the Lord’s Supper, and not Christ, Acts 1:9; Mark 16:19; Heb. 1:3; 12:2; Matt. 22:44; Ps. 110. For the same ascended into heaven and is sitting at the right hand of God his Father, whence he will come again to judge the living and the dead. Precisely that is our foundation, according to which we must deduce and exposit all of the Scriptures having to do with eating and drinking. Thus Christ cannot be eaten or drunk by us otherwise than spiritually and in faith. So then he cannot be bodily the bread either but rather in the memorial which is held, as he himself and Paul explained these Scriptures, Luke 22; 1 Cor. 11. Whoever understands them otherwise does violence to the articles of our Christian faith. Yet the restless Satan has invented another intrigue to hold us in his snare. Namely, that such a Lord’s Supper should be established without a prior water baptism, something which again Scripture cannot suffer. When the three thousand men and Paul had been instructed in the Word and believed, only thereafter did they break bread with the brethren, Acts 2:41f.; Acts 9. For as faith precedes love, so water baptism must precede the Lord’s Supper. So that Your Grace may know in what form the Lord’s Supper is celebrated in Nicolspurg, I have had it printed, for the praise of God, the honour of Your Grace, and the salvation of all believers in Christ. So that no one might think that we fear the light or that we are unable to give reasons for our teaching and actions. May Your Grace be commended to God and graciously accept from me this written token of respect, through my dear brother Jan Zeysinger.
by Conrad Grebel from The Sources of Swiss Anabaptism: The Grebel Letters and Related Documents. Edited by Leland Harder, 1985.
Grebel to Muntzer
Zurich, September 5, 1524
Letters 63 and 64 comprise what J. C. Wenger calls “the programmatic letters of Conrad Grebel" because they contain, more than any other document in this collection, the vision of a believers' church free of the state which he and his friends had developed before the autumn of 1524. These letters were first translated into English in 1905 by Walter Rauschenbusch, father of the "social gospel." This version was revised and republished by George H. Williams in 1957. Then in 1970, J. C. Wenger published his own translation. These are the first of Grebel's extant letters written in the German language. As far as is known, he had previously used German only in brief phrases and postscripts, such as in 51/195/28ff. Following the present two epistles, Letters 65, 66, and 67 were written in German.
Latin was used primarily by scholars and clergy and was not understood by the masses. Most of the day?to?day commercial and civil business was transacted in German, including all of the court records. Although Muntzer and Vadian were proficient Latinists, Grebel's resort to German reflects a new interest in using the vernacular for Reformation discourse (see 57C/245/ 8?18). His decision to write letters to Muntzer, Carlstadt, and Luther was announced to Vadian in Letter 62.
Muntzer was preacher at the Church of St. John's in Allstedt from Easter 1523 until the middle of August 1524. Grebel did not know that he had already fled to Muhlhausen. It is not known whether he received the letter; but the fact that the original is extant in the Vadian archives in St. Gallen may indicate that it was returned to Vadian undelivered, perhaps by the messenger himself since Grebel expressly states in 63/294/15?16 that he had not kept a copy.
Another obvious possibility is that having informed Vadian about his intention to write to Muntzer he decided to send Vadian a copy of his own, so that he could better know what Grebel's new approach to the Reformation was. Perhaps this is “the question which I said I would put to you” (61/281/31), namely.. What do you think of this free church vision for the Reformation of the church?
Peace, grace, and mercy from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord be with us all, Amen.
Dear Brother Thomas.
For the sake of God, please do not let it surprise you that we address you without title and ask you as a brother henceforth to exchange ideas with us by correspondence, and that we, unsolicited and unknown to you, have dared to initiate such future dialogue. God's Son, Jesus Christ, who offers himself as the only Master and Head to all who are to be saved and commands us to be brethren to all brethren and believers through the one common Word, has moved and impelled us to establish friendship and brotherhood and to bring the following theses to your attention. Also the fact that you have written two booklets on phony faith has led us to write to you. Therefore, if you will accept it graciously for the sake of Christ our Savior, it may, if God wills, serve and work for the good. Amen.
Just as our forefathers had fallen away from the true God and knowledge of Jesus Christ and true faith in him, from the one true common divine Word and from the godly practices of the Christian love and way, and lived without God's law and gospel in human, useless, unchristian practices and ceremonies and supposed they would find salvation in them but fell far short of it, as the evangelical preachers have shown and are still in part showing, so even today everyone wants to be saved by hypocritical faith, without fruits of faith, without the baptism of trial and testing, without hope and love, without true Christian practices, and wants to remain in all the old ways of personal vices and common antichristian ceremonial rites of baptism and the Lord's Supper, dishonoring the divine Word, but honoring the papal word and the antipapal preachers, which is not like or in accord with the divine Word. In respect of persons and all manner of seduction they are in more serious and harmful error than has ever been the case since the foundation of the world. We were also in the same aberration because we were only hearers and readers of the evangelical preachers who are responsible for all this error as our sins deserved. But after we took the Scripture in hand and consulted it on all kinds of issues, we gained some insight and became aware of the great and harmful shortcomings of the shepherds as well as our own in that we do not daily cry earnestly to God with constant sighs to be led out of the destruction of all godly living and out of human abominations and enter into true faith and practices of God. In all this, a false forbearance is what leads to the suppression of God's Word and its mixture with the human. Indeed, we say it brings harm to all and does disservice to all the things of God ? no need for further analysis and detail.
While we were noting and lamenting these things, your writing against false faith and baptism was brought out here to us and we are even better informed and strengthened and were wonderfully happy to have found someone who is of a common Christian mind with us and ventures to show the evangelical preachers their shortcomings ? how in all the major issues they practice false forbearance and set their own opinions and even those of antichrist above God and against God, not as befits messengers of God to act and to preach. Therefore we ask and admonish you as a brother in the name, power, Word, Spirit, and salvation which comes to all Christians through Jesus Christ our Master and Savior, to seek earnestly to preach only God's Word unflinchingly, to establish and defend only divine practices, to esteem as good and right only what can be found in definite clear Scripture, and to reject, hate, and curse all the schemes, words, practices, and opinions of all men, even your own.
[No. 1] We understand and have read that you have translated the mass into German and instituted new German chants. This cannot be good when we find in the New Testament no teaching on chanting, no example. Paul reproves the Corinthian learned more than he praises them for murmuring in their assemblies as if they were singing, as the Jews and Italians pronounce their rituals in the form of songs.
Second, since chanting in Latin developed without divine teaching or apostolic example or practice and has not brought good or edified, it will much less edify in German and will create an outward appearing faith.
Third, since Paul quite distinctly forbids chanting in Ephesians 5:24 and Colossians 3:21 where he says and teaches that they should address and instruct one another with psalms and spiritual songs, and if anyone would sing, he should sing in his heart and give thanks.
No. 4. Whatever we are not taught in definite statements and examples, we are to consider forbidden, as if it were written, "Do not do this, do not chant."
No. 5. Christ commanded his messengers to preach only the Word according to the Old as well as the New Testament. Paul also says that we should let the Word of Christ, not the chant, dwell in us. Whoever chants poorly feels chagrin; whoever can do it well feels conceit.
No. 6. We should neither add to nor take away from the Word what seems good to us.
No. 7. If you want to abolish the mass, it cannot be done with German chanting, which is perhaps your idea or derived from Luther.
[No. 8.] It must be rooted out with the Word and command of Christ.
No. 9. For it was not planted by God.
No. 10. Christ instituted and planted the Supper of fellowship.
No. 11. Only the words found in Matthew 26, Mark 14, Luke 22, and 1 Corinthians 11 should be used, neither more nor less.
[No. 12] The minister from the congregation shall recite them from one of the Gospels or from Paul.
13. They are words of institution of the Supper of unity, not of consecration.
14. There shall be an ordinary [loaf of] bread, without idolatry or addition.
15. For this causes a hypocritical worship and veneration of the bread and detracts from the inward. There shall also be a common cup.
16. This would do away with the veneration and would bring about a proper knowledge and understanding of the Supper, because the bread is nothing but bread. By faith it is the body of Christ and an incorporation with Christ and the brethren. For one must eat and drink in spirit and in love, as John indicates in chapter 6 and elsewhere, and Paul in  Corinthians 10 and 11, and is clearly observed in Acts 2.
17. Although it is simply bread, if faith and brotherly love are already present, it shall be eaten with joy, for when it is thus practiced in the church it ought to show us that we are and want to be truly one loaf and body and true brethren to one another, etc.
18. But if there be one who does not intend to live in a brotherly way, he eats to his condemnation, for he eats like any other meal without discernment and he brings shame upon love, the inward bond, as well as the bread, the outward bond.
19. For it also does not remind him of the body and blood of Christ, the covenant of the cross, so that he is willing to live and to suffer for the sake of Christ and the brethren, the Head and the members.
20. Nor should it be administered by you. Thereby the mass, the individual meal, would disappear, for the Supper is a sign of fellowship, not a mass and sacrament. Therefore no one shall eat it alone, whether on a deathbed or otherwise. Nor shall the bread be locked away, etc., for any individual person, for no one shall take the bread of the fellowship for himself alone, unless he be in unity with himself, which no one is, etc.
21. According to all Scripture and history, it shall also not be practiced in temples, for it leads to false devotion.
22. It shall be observed often and much.
23. It should not be practiced without applying the rule of Christ in Matthew 18; otherwise it is not the Lord's Supper, for without the same [rule], everyone pursues externals. The internal, love, is neglected, if brethren and false brethren go there and eat.
24. If you ever intend to administer, we would wish it would be without priestly robes and the vestments of the mass, without chanting, without addition.
25. Concerning the time, we know that Christ gave it to the apostles in the evening meal and that the Corinthians had also thus observed it. We do not stipulate any specific time, etc.
With this, since you are much better informed about the Lord's Supper, and we have merely indicated our understanding, if we are incorrect, teach us better, and be willing yourself to drop chanting and the mass, and act only in accord with the Word, and proclaim and establish the practices of the apostles with the Word. If that cannot be done it would be better to leave everything in Latin, unchanged and uncompromised. If that which is right cannot be established, then still do not administer after your own or the antichristian priestly rites, and at least teach how it ought to be, as Christ does in John 6, teaching how one should eat and drink his flesh and blood. Pay no attention to the apostasy or to the unchristian forbearance, which the very learned foremost evangelical preachers established as an actual idol and planted throughout the world. It is far better that a few be correctly instructed through the Word of God and believe and live right in virtues and practices than that many believe deceitfully out of adulterated false doctrine. Although we admonish and implore you, we do hope that you will do it of your own accord and are therefore admonishing you in deepest affection because you listened so kindly to our brother and have confessed to him that you have been too lax, and because you and Carlstadt are regarded among us as the purest proclaimers and preachers of the purest Word of God. And if you both properly impugn those who mix human word and practice with the divine, you should also logically break away from the priesthood, benefices, and all kinds of new and ancient practices and from your own and ancient opinions and become completely pure. If your benefices, like ours, are based on interest and tithes, both of which are actual usury, and if you are not supported by one entire congregation, we hope you will withdraw from the benefices. You know well enough how a shepherd is to be supported.
We await much good from Jacob Strauss and several others who are little regarded by the negligent theologians and doctors at Wittenberg. We are likewise rejected by our learned shepherds. All men adhere to them because they preach a sinful sweet Christ and they lack the power to discern as you show in your booklets, which have almost immeasurably instructed and strengthened us, the poor in spirit. And so we think alike in everything except that we learned with sorrow that you have set up tablets, for which we can find neither text nor example in the New Testament. In the Old, it was of course to be written outwardly, but now in the New it is to be written on the fleshly tablets of the heart, as a comparison of the two Testaments shows, as we are taught by Paul in 2 Corinthians 3, in Jeremiah 31, in Hebrews 8, and in Ezekiel 36. Unless we are in error, which we do not think and believe, we hope you will again destroy the tablets. It developed out of your own opinions; it is a useless expenditure which would continue to increase and become entirely idolatrous and implant itself throughout the world as idols did. It would also create a suspicion that some outward object from which the unlearned could learn had to stand and be erected in place of the idols, whereas the outward Word alone should be used according to all example and commands of Scripture, as shown to us especially in 1 Corinthians 14 and Colossians 3. This kind of learning from a single word might in time become somewhat obstructing, and even if it would never cause any harm I would never invent or establish any such innovation and thereby follow or imitate the negligent, misleading, falsely forbearing scholars, nor out of my own opinion invent, teach, or institute a single item.
March forward with the Word and create a Christian church with the help of Christ and his rule such as we find instituted in Matthew 18 and practiced in the epistles. Press on in earnest with common prayer and fasting, in accord with faith and love without being commanded and compelled. Then God will help you and your lambs to all purity, and the chanting and the tablets will fall away. There is more than enough wisdom and counsel in the Scripture on how to teach, govern, direct, and make devout all classes and all men. Anyone who will not reform or believe and strives against the Word and acts of God and persists therein, after Christ and his Word and rule have been preached to him, and he has been admonished with the three witnesses before the church, such a man we say on the basis of God's Word shall not be put to death but regarded as a heathen and publican and left alone.
Moreover, the gospel and its adherents are not to be protected by the sword, nor [should] they [protect] themselves, which as we have heard through our brother is what you believe and maintain. True believing Christians are sheep among wolves, sheep for the slaughter. They must be baptized in anguish and tribulation, persecution, suffering, and death, tried in fire, and must reach the fatherland of eternal rest not by slaying the physical but the spiritual. They use neither worldly sword nor war, since killing has ceased with them entirely, unless indeed we are still under the old law, and even there (as far as we can know) war was only a plague after they had once conquered the Promised Land. No more of this.
On the subject of baptism, your writing pleases us well, and we ask for further instruction from you. We are taught that without Christ's rule of binding and loosing, even an adult should not be baptized. The Scriptures describe baptism for us, that it signifies the washing away of sins by faith and the blood of Christ (that the nature of the baptized and believing one is changing before and after), that it signifies one has died and shall (die) to sin and walks in newness of life and Spirit and one will surely be saved if one through the inward baptism lives the faith according to this meaning, so that the water does not strengthen and increase faith and give a very great comfort and last resort on the deathbed, as the scholars at Wittenberg say. Also that it does not save, as Augustine, Tertullian, Theophylact, and Cyprian taught, thus dishonoring faith and the suffering of Christ for mature adults and dishonoring the suffering of Christ for unbaptized infants. On the basis of the following Scriptures ? Genesis 8, Deuteronomy 1, 30?31; 1 Corinthians 14; Wisdom 12; also 1 Peter 2; Romans 1, 2, 7, 10; Matthew 18?19; Mark 9? 10; Luke 18, etc we hold that all children who have not attained the knowledge to discern between good and evil and have not eaten of the tree of knowledge are surely saved through the suffering of Christ, the new Adam, who has restored the life that has been distorted, because they would have been subject to death and damnation only if Christ had not suffered, not afterward risen to the infirmity of our broken nature, unless it can be proved to us that Christ did not die for children. But in answer to the charge that faith is required of all who are to be saved, we exclude children and on the basis of the above texts accept that they will be saved without faith and that they do not believe; and we conclude from the description of baptism and from Acts (according to which no child was baptized) and also from the above texts, which are the only ones which deal with the subject of children, and all other Scriptures which do not concern children, that infant baptism is a senseless, blasphemous abomination contrary to all Scripture and even contrary to the papacy, for we learn through Cyprian and Augustine that for many years after the time of the apostles, for six hundred years, believers and unbelievers were baptized together, etc. Since you know this ten times better than we, and have published your protestation against infant baptism, we hope that you will not act contrary to God's eternal Word, wisdom, and command, according to which only believers should be baptized and will not baptize children. If you or Carlstadt do not adequately write against infant baptism and all that pertains to it, how and why one is to baptize, etc., I (Conrad Grebel) will try my hand at it and will finish writing out what I have begun against all (except for you) who have thus far written misleadingly and knowingly about baptism, and who have translated into German the senseless, blasphemous form of infant baptism, like Luther, Leo, Osiander, and the Strasbourgers and some who have acted even more shamefully. Unless God averts it, I together with all of us are and shall be more certain of persecution by the scholars, etc., than by other people. We beg you not to use or adopt the old rites of the antichrist, such as sacrament, mass, signs, etc. Hold to the Word alone and administer' as all emissaries should, especially you and Carlstadt and you will be doing more than all the preachers of all nations.
Consider us your brethren and read this epistle as our expression of great joy and hope toward you through God. Admonish, comfort, and strengthen us as you are well able. Pray to the Lord God for us that he will come to the aid of our faith, for we are very ready to believe. And if God grants it to us to pray, we too will intercede for you and for all that we may all walk according to our calling and commitment. May God grant us this through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.
Greet all the brethren for us, the shepherds and the sheep, who accept the Word of faith and salvation with deep desire and hunger, etc. One thing more. We desire a reply from you; and if you publish anything, send it to us by this messenger or another. We would also like to know whether you and Carlstadt are of one mind. We hope and believe you are. We commend to you this messenger, who has also carried letters from us to our dear brother Carlstadt. And if you should go to Carlstadt so that you would reply jointly, that would be a great joy to us. The messenger is to return to us. Whatever we have not adequately paid him will be reimbursed when he returns.
Whatever we have not correctly understood, inform and instruct us. At Zurich, on the fifth day of September in the year 1524.
Conrad Grebel, Andreas Castelberg(er), Felix Mantz, Hans Ockenfuss, Bartlime Pur, Heinrich Aberli, and your other brethren (God willing) in Christ. Until another communication, we who have written this to you wish for you and all of us and all your flock the true Word of God, true faith, love, and hope, with all peace and grace from God through Christ Jesus, Amen.
I, C. Grebel, was going to write to Luther in the name of all of us and exhort him to desist from the forbearance which he and his followers practice without scriptural authority and planted abroad in the world, but my affliction and time did not permit. You do it according to your duty, etc.
To the true and faithful proclaimer of the gospel, Thomas Muntzer of Allstedt in the Hartz, our faithful and dear brother in Christ, etc.
Original: Stadtbibliothek (Vadiana) St. Gallen, VB.XL.97
Transcriptions: M?S, No. 14, pp. 13?19; J. C. Wenger, Conrad Grebel's Programmatic Letters of 1524 (Scottdale, Pa., Herald Press, 1970)
Grebel to Miintzer
Zurich, sent with letter of September 5, 1524
Dearly beloved brother Thomas.
After I had written in haste in the name of all of us and assumed that the messenger would not wait until we also wrote to Luther, he had to delay and wait because of rain. And so I also wrote to Luther in my name and that of the other brothers, mine and yours, and admonished him to desist from his false forbearance toward the weak, which they are themselves. Andreas Castelberg(er) wrote to Carlstadt. Meanwhile, there arrived here for Hans Hujuff of Halle, our fellow citizen and brother who visited you recently, a letter and a shameful booklet by Luther, which no one who claims to be primaries [firstfruits] like the apostles ought to write. Paul teaches otherwise: Porro servum domini, etc. ["Next, the Lord's servant, etc."] I see that he wants to deliver you to the ax and hand you over to the prince, to whom he has bound his gospel, just as Aaron had to have Moses as a god. As for your booklets and protestations, 1 find you guiltless. I do not gather from them that you utterly repudiate baptism, but that you condemn infant baptism and the misunderstanding of baptism. What water means in John 3 we want to examine further in your booklet and in the Scripture.
Hujuff's brother writes that you have preached against the princes, that they should be combatted with the fist. If that is true, or if you intend to defend war, the tablets, chanting, or other things for which you do not find a clear word (as you do not find for any of these aforementioned points), I admonish you by the salvation common to all of us that if you will desist from them and all opinions of your own now and henceforth, you will become completely pure, for you satisfy us on all other points better than anyone else in this German and other lands. If you fall into the hands of Luther and the duke, drop the aforementioned articles and stand by the other like a hero and a soldier of God. Be strong. You have the Bible (which Luther rendered "bible bubel ballet'') as defense against Luther's idolatrous forbearance, which he and the learned shepherds around here have spread throughout the world against the deceitful lax faith, against their preaching in which they do not teach Christ as they ought. They have just opened up the gospel to all the world so that many can read it for themselves (or ought to read it), but not many do, for everyone depends on them. Around here there are not even twenty who believe the Word of God. They only believe humans ? Zwingli, Leo, and others who are regarded elsewhere as learned. And if you should have to suffer for it, you know that it cannot be otherwise. Christ must suffer still more in his members, but he will strengthen them and keep them steadfast to the end. God grant you and us grace, for our shepherds are also fierce and enraged against us, reviling us from the public pulpit as rascals and Satanas in angelos lucis conversos [Satans turned into angels of light]. In time we too will see persecution come upon us through them. Therefore pray to God for us. Once more we admonish you, because we love and respect you so sincerely for the clarity of your words, and we confidently venture to write to you: Do not act, teach, or establish anything according to human opinion, your own or borrowed, repeal what has been established, and teach only the clear Word and rites of God, including the rule of Christ, the unadulterated baptism and unadulterated Supper, which we touched upon in our first letter and upon which you are better informed than a hundred of us. If you and Carlstadt, Jacob Strauss, and Michael Stiefel should not deliberately strive to be wholly pure (as I and my brethren hope you will do) it will be a sorry gospel indeed that has come into the world. But you are far purer than our clergy here or those at Wittenberg who daily fall from one perversion of Scripture into another and from one blindness into another that is worse. I believe and am sure that they want to become true papists and popes. No more now. God our captain with his Son Jesus Christ our Savior and his Spirit and Word be with you and us all.
Conrad Grebel, Andreas Castelberg(er), Felix Mantz, Heinrich Aberli, John Pannicellus, Hans Ockenfuss, Hans Hujuff your countryman of Halle, brethren to you, and seven new young Muntzers to Luther.
In case you are allowed to continue to preach and nothing happens to you, we will send you a copy of our letter to Luther and his answer if he replies to us. We have admonished him and our clergy here too. In this way, unless God prevents, we want to show them their shortcomings and not fear what may happen to us for it. We have kept no copy except for the letter we wrote to Martin, your adversary. Please accept favorably our unlearned, unpolished letter, and be sure that we have written out of genuine love, for we are one in Word and trial and adversaries, although you are more learned and stronger in spirit. Because of this common identity, we have spoken or rather written at length. Give our greetings to the Christians there, God willing, and write us a long letter in reply from all of you together. You will give us great joy and stir in us an even greater love for you.
This letter also is for Thomas Muntzer of Allstedt in the Hartz.
Original: Stadtbibliothek (Vadiana) St. Gallen, V13.11.204
Transcription: M-S, No. 14, pp. 19-21
Used by Permission. Originally published by Herald Press, Scottdale, PA 15683, USA. To order from them in the UK, contact Metanoia Books. Elswhere, see the Mennonite Publishing Network web site for ordering details.
Subtitle: That is, who are the true teachers who are sent by God and rightly chosen and called by the Christian congregation: Whereby these are recognized and what fruits they bear. Similarly, how one may know the false teachers and how one may shun them and not hear them. A small instruction out of Holy Scripture with an explanation of some contradictions and blasphemies introduced by the disgruntled blasphemers, and spoken in a mocking manner, against the true ministers1 of the gospel.
By Dirk Philips from The Writings of Dirk Philips, 1504-1568. Translated and edited by Cornelius J. Dyck, William E. Keeney, and Alvin J. Beachy, 1992.
This is the first half of the document. The second half is available here.
"He whom God has sent speaks God's words," John 3:34.
I, Dirk Philips, out of grace a fellow member of the faith and of the Christian congregations,2 wish all God fearing lovers of the truth genuine spiritual wisdom and a pure understanding of the divine Word from our heavenly Father, and of Christ Jesus his only begotten Son, our Lord and Savior, through the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Beloved in the Lord, all you who fear God and love the truth; since some at this time create much controversy and discord concerning the sending [of ministers], and in addition all ministers, be they whoever they are, boast of the gospel and allow themselves to think that they are sent of God, and that also without any doubt, now is the time of which Christ and the apostles have prophesied, namely that many false prophets and false Christians should come and lead many astray, Matt. 24: 11; 1 Tim. 4: 1; 2 Tim. 3: 1; 2 Pet. 2: 1; Jude 4; therefore I was compelled, out of brotherly love, to prepare a brief instruction about the sending of true ministers in order that you may know how to distinguish true prophets, teachers, and Christians from false ones. For this is the nature, character, and skill of Satan, that he transforms himself into an angel of light, 2 Cor. 11:14. Therewith he hides his guile and hypocrisy, disguises and conceals his ministers, and sets them before the world in a beautiful appearance of piety.
For what has a more beautiful appearance than Satan in all hypocritical and unspiritual work as saints who seek righteousness through their own works and efforts, and present themselves so splendidly with words and appearance, with many ceremonies and churchly pomp? Who is more presumptuous and audacious with words of high praise than the false, deceptive, and lying prophets; those who run but are not sent from the Lord, those who prophesy but not through the Spirit of the Lord? Who pride themselves more of the gospel and Christendom, of true theology and knowledge of Holy Scripture than [do] the highly praised wise [ones] of the world, the perverse scribes who allow themselves to think, since they have studied in advanced schools (and, therefore, according to the common proverb, the more learned the more perverted they have become), so they alone are teachers and masters of Scripture and yet themselves have neither received nor taught the divine words of the first school primer? For they have not yet been in the school of Christ and they have not had the true master teacher, namely, the Holy Spirit, yes, have neither seen nor known [him]. But they speak about the Scripture which they do not understand, and even when they already do understand something, they yet do not wish to act in accord with it, John 14:26; 15:26; 16:7.
These are the genuine false Christians and false prophets of whom the Lord warns us and of their fine image, saying, "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits," Matt. 7:15 [ 16]. And at another [place] Christ says, “Not every one who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven" [Matt. 7:21]. And after this follows: "On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then I will declare to them, never knew you; depart from me, all you who do evil,' " [Matt. 7:22 23].
Out of these words of Christ it is clear that those are the false Christians and false prophets who boast much about Christ, prattle beautifully about the gospel, and portray themselves in a splendid manner and, in addition, live according to the flesh and have the nature of a wolf in order to destroy the sheep of Christ in every way they can.
Christ has truly warned us about these, although there are few who heed this warning. The people are generally so minded as Ahab the king of Israel was minded, namely, they love lies and hate the truth and cannot endure it that a Micaiah should come and tell them the truth, 1 Kings 22:. Therefore, they cannot understand the truth. “For the foolish, (says Jesus Ben Sirach), shall not find wisdom, and the godless shall not get to see her. She is far from the proud and hypocrites shall not know her," Ecclus. 15:[7 8]. Therefore Paul also says, "If our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only in those who are being lost, in whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, so that the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the exact image of God, does riot shine on them," 2 Cor. 4:3[ 4].
It is on account of this that false prophets have always had such great respect and attention, but the good prophets, regarded as those who lead astray, are shamed and persecuted. And that is the way it still goes. For Satan can so deceive the world that it accepts appearance for reality, darkness for light, and lies for the truth; yes, completely rejects Christ because his being is an offense to the world as the Lord says through Isaiah: "Behold, my servant shall deal wisely. [He] shall be
exalted and lifted up, and shall be very high. And many shall be agitated on his account because his appearance is so marred, beyond human resemblance, and his form beyond that of human beings," Isa. [52:13 14]. And Simon spoke to Mary concerning Christ: "He is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that shall be spoken against," Luke 2:34. And Peter said that Christ Jesus is the cornerstone of God laid in Zion, which is precious to the believers, but to the unbelievers he is the stone which the workmen have rejected and has become the head of the corner, "a stone that will make people stumble, a rock of irritation for they stumble because they do not believe the Word on which they were founded," 1 Pet. 2:.
Therefore spiritual judgment, keen insight, and clear eyes are necessary [for] all believers, particularly in these our times, whereby they may see Christ rightly, rightly recognize his ministers and distinguish them from the ministers of Satan. These reasons move me, through the Lord's grace, to show all God fearing persons out of the biblical Scriptures, which teachers are sent of God and whereby and through what [they are recognized]. [I do this in order that all pious Christians may be strengthened a little in their faith, comforted and refreshed in their hearts, and that all blasphemous mouths who speak blasphemously against the true messengers of God, against the faithful ministers of Christ in order to hide their [own] hypocritical nature, may be stopped. The eternal and omniscient God grant us grace thereto. Amen, 1 Tim. 1:17.
In the first place there are two kinds of calling or sending (whereby God calls anyone to an office) included in Scripture. The first is from God alone. Thus, Moses was called by God alone, Exod. 3: 10; Num. 12:6 [ 8]. Thus also Aaron was chosen by God alone, Heb. 5:. Thus also the prophets were called by God alone and spoke, being driven by the Holy Spirit, 2 Pet. 1:21. Thus also the apostles were called by Christ Jesus alone, chosen, and sent out to preach the gospel to all creatures [Mark 16:15; Rom. 8:19 22; Gen. 9:8 17].3
These were sent out by God without mediation from any persons in order to prophesy and to teach, and [were] driven through his Spirit. But because of the [fact] that Satan also sends out his ministers and at times drives [them] powerfully, yet under the appearance that they are sent by God and driven by his Spirit, 2 Cor. 11: [ 13 14], therefore the Lord has left us a sure test whereby one may recognize both good and false prophets and [it] is this:
In the first place, if the prophet prophesies something and it does not take place, then he is false. For thus says the Lord: 'Whenever a prophet presumes to speak in my name [that] which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die. But you say in your heart, 'How can I know the word which the Lord has not spoken?' When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass, that is a word which the Lord has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously, therefore you need not fear him," Deut. 18:[20 22].
These are the clear words of the Lord wherewith all prophesies must be measured and judged. Therefore the prophet Jeremiah spoke thus to Hananiah (who prophesied falsely about the release of Judah from Babylon): "The prophets who preceded you and me from ancient times, who prophesied in many lands and kingdoms against war, famine, and pestilence or prophesied peace, will be tested whether God truly sent them whenever that comes to pass which the prophet said," Jer. 28:8[ 9].
In the second place, even though a prophet gives a sign or miracle, and it takes place as the prophet said, and the prophet in addition teaches that one should serve other gods, then the prophet is false. For thus says the Lord, "If a prophet arises among you, or a dreamer, and gives you a sign or a miracle, and the sign or miracle which he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, 'Let us go after other gods,' which you have not known, 'and let us serve them,' you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or to that dreamer; for the Lord your God is testing you, to know whether you love him with all your heart and all your soul," Deut. 13:1[ 3].
In these words it is to be observed that although a prophet gives a sign or a miracle and it comes as the prophet said, this is not enough to establish his sending that it is from God, if his teaching is not unblamable, fruitful, and wholesome. To this Paul also says, “Should it be that an angel from heaven proclaim another gospel than we have received, let him be accursed," Gal. 1: 8[ 9].
The other calling is from God and from his congregations. Thus Paul and Barnabas were first called by the Lord and thereafter by the congregations through the co witness of the Holy Spirit, and were confirmed in the divine call as the work of the apostles indicates, namely, that the Holy Spirit said to the congregations, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them. Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and let them go," Acts 13:2 [ 3]. Thus Paul and Barnabas also ordained bishops or elders in all congregations (through united voice) with fasting and prayers, Acts 14:23. Again, Paul writes to Timothy, "Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you through prophecy when the elders laid their hands upon you," 1 Tim.. 4:14. Similarly he commands Titus [to do] the same in the cities of Crete, to appoint elders over all as he [Paul] had ordained him, Titus 1:5. Thus also the congregation at Jerusalem set seven deacons before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them, Acts 6:6.
From these [examples] it is clear that the apostles and elders with the congregations, through the power of Jesus Christ and the testimony of the Holy Spirit, called, chose, and ordained teachers and ministers. Therefore no one may assume such an office by himself, except he is called of God (like the prophets and apostles) or by the congregations of God with the laying on of hands (as Timothy and Titus and others in addition, were ordained by the apostles and elders, with the voluntary consent of the congregations) and thus others also were called and chosen. For thus says the apostle, “And how shall they preach unless they are sent," Rom. 10:15. And another passage, "No one takes this honor upon himself, except he is called by God, just as Aaron was," Heb. 5:. Therefore, also the Lord so severely punished Dathan, Korah, and Abiram, and their followers because they wished to take up the priesthood without God's election, Num. 16. [See especially 16:28 35.] Thus the Lord rejects all prophets who run of themselves and are not sent by him, who speak in his name but are nevertheless not driven by his Spirit, Jer. 23:21.
Therefore, everyone may well see to it that he does not run by himself before he is called by the Lord or by his congregation according to these previously described methods. But now no one will be sent by the Lord nor correctly chosen by the congregation, except through the Holy Spirit who must touch his heart, make him fiery with love, in order thus to voluntarily feed, lead, and send out the congregation of God, John 21:15; 1 Pet. 5:2, as it is written of Paul and Barnabas, "they went out sent by the Holy Spirit," Acts 13:4, and Paul said to the elders of the churches, “Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you guardians, to feed the congregation of the Lord which he obtained with his blood," Acts 20:28.
But because the true teachers must be driven, sent out, and set over the congregation of God by the Holy Spirit, it is clear how these must be prepared. For it is certain and undeniable that the Holy Spirit sends out no drunkards, nor adulterers, nor misers, nor servants of idols, nor hypocrites, who dissemble for the sake of the belly, and make merchandise with God's Word. For it is written: "The holy spirit who teaches rightly flees deceit, and avoids the reckless," Wisd. of Sol. 1:5. Therefore, Christ also says that the world cannot receive the Holy Spirit for she does not see nor know him, John 14:17. But those who do not have the Spirit of Christ do not belong to him, Rom. 8:9. But how can those who do not belong to Christ have an office in his congregations and serve correctly, 1 Cor. 12:8? The apostle says that no one may call “Christ Jesus Lord except by the Holy Spirit," [1 Cor. 12:3], much less then can he preach Christ Jesus correctly except through the Holy Spirit.
Out of this it follows forcefully that the ministers of Christ, the teachers and bishops in his congregations, must have the Holy Spirit through whom they first and before all things must be well instructed in God's Word. The common people will err and walk in darkness if the teachers themselves are unwise. The reason? Christ calls teachers a light of the world and salt of the earth, Matt. 5:[13 ]14. How shall the world see correctly whenever those to whom it belongs to be a light of the world are themselves darkness? Again, how shall the world correctly understand and know the Holy Scriptures and the power of God, when those who should be the salt of the earth have lost the power of the divine Word and themselves do not know what it behooves a good Christian to know? Again, how should the world not err when those who properly and with truth should be the city (built upon a high mountain) and show all erring ones the right way are themselves those who lead astray? Therefore, I say again, that the teachers themselves must before all things be well instructed and taught in God's Word. As it is written: "For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, that one may seek the law from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts," Mal. 2:7. And Paul says that "a bishop must hold firm to the sure Word, so that he may be able to give instruction in saving doctrine and to admonish those who contradict it," Titus 1:9.
In addition, the teachers of God's Word must teach correctly and without falsification, as the evangelist says, “He whom God has sent utters the words of God," John 3:34. And Paul says, "I will not dare to speak of anything except what Christ has worked through me," Rom. 15:18. And again, "we are not like some who falsify God's Word but we speak in Christ out of sincerity and out of God, and before God," 2 Cor. 2:; 4:2. Likewise, "we are messengers in Christ's place, God admonishes through us. We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God," 2 Cor. 5:20. Again "our admonition does not spring from error or uncleanness, nor is it made with guile; but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, to preach it, so we speak, not as though we would please people, but to please God who tests our hearts," 1 Thess. 2:3[ 4]. The apostle Peter says, “If there is anyone who speaks, he shall speak as God's Word," 1 Pet. 4: 11. Therefore, the Lord also said through Jeremiah, "Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let him to whom my Word is revealed proclaim it faithfully. For what does chaff have in common with wheat? says the Lord. Is not my Word like fire, says the Lord, and like a hammer which breaks the rock in pieces," Jer. 23:28 [ 29]?
Out of these and similar words of Holy Scripture, the true teachers may certainly be easily recognized, particularly as far as true doctrine is concerned, namely, if they teach God's Word correctly, if they seek therewith the glory of God and the salvation of persons, if they are spiritually minded, if they have renounced all earthly and temporal things, if they know no one according to the flesh, 2 Cor. 5:16, if they love God above all and do his work without deception and hypocrisy. For such leaders the Lord desires to have as Moses also said, 'Who says to his father and mother, 'I do not see you'; and to his brother, 'I do not know him,' and to his neighbor, 'I do not recognize him,' he has kept your Word and preserved your covenant. He shall teach Jacob your ordinances, and your law to Israel," Deut. 33:9[ 10].
Therefore Christ also chose and sent out such apostles to preach who had first forsaken all things, Matt. 10:, and had followed after him, and remained with him in his temptations, Matt. 4:19; 19:27; Luke 5:11; 18:28; 22:28. These the Father gave him out of the world and to these he first revealed the Father's name, as he himself said, "I have revealed your name to the people whom you have given me out of the world; they were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your Word," John 17:6. These Christ also chose himself and separated from the world, just as he said, "You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should remain," John 15:16. These Christ also cornmended to his Father and prayed for them saying, "I am praying for them; I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours; all mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them.... Holy Father, keep them in your name which you have given me, that they may be one even as we are one," John 17:9[ 11]. "I have given them your Word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world," [John 17:14]. These [disciples] taught by God, chosen and separated from the world, Christ sent out and said to them, "Even as the Father has sent me, so I send you," John 20:21. But how Christ was sent from the Father, and how he forsook all things and gave up all his glory and became a faithful messenger of his Father [who] did not do his own will nor speak his own Word nor seek his own honor, but spoke and did as the Father commanded him, the Scriptures, both the Old and New Testament, testify so abundantly that we do not think it necessary to repeat such here, Isa. 53:1[ff.]; Jer. 23:5[ 6]; Ezek. 34:15[ 16]; John 1: 1; 3:; 5:19; 6:32; 7:16; 8:28; 10: 14 [ 15]; 12:49.
Just as Christ now sent from the Father was entirely faithful in his office, so also all his servants must be faithful according to the example of their Lord and Master, Heb. 3:5[ 6], disregard all earthly things, deny the world, pursue heavenly things, and not seek their own glory but the glory of Christ who sent them. Of such an interpretation Christ said, "He who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but he who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no unrighteousness," John 7: 18. Therefore, those are without doubt sent of God who teach God's Word correctly and with their whole heart seek the praise and glory of God, as Paul did. "For we," he says, “never used either words of flattery, as you know, or a cloak for greed, as God is witness; nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nurse taking care of her children. Thus our heart was filled with joy for you to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because we had come to love you," 1 Thess. 2:5[ 8].
In these words one may clearly see how the apostle Paul was minded, and what he actually sought, namely, the glory of God and the salvation of souls. But thus the hypocrites and false prophets do not do, but they seek their own honor, they incline toward money and goods, they preach for a wage, they serve their belly and are enemies of the cross of Christ, Rom. 16:; Phil. 3:18. Therefore, they also can [neither] do nor teach anything good as it is written, a godless [person] cannot teach correctly for it does not come from God. For to the correct teaching belongs wisdom, then God grants his grace thereto, Ecclus. 15:14[?].
Since then a godless person cannot teach correctly, and he who is actually godless is he who transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ as John says, 2 John 1:9, it follows therefrom, without contradiction, that no one can teach God's Word correctly unless he himself remains in Christ and his doctrine. But no one can understand Christ's doctrine, much less abide in it, except through the Holy Spirit. And no one has the Holy Spirit except one who is no longer carnally but spiritually minded, as Paul says, “But you are not in the flesh, you are in the Spirit, if the Spirit of God really dwells in you. Any one who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although your bodies are dead because of sin, your spirits are alive because of righteousness," Rom. 8:9[ 10]. Therefore, he who has not died to sin and does not live in righteousness does not have the Spirit of God. But he who does not have the Spirit of the Lord does not understand the Word of the Lord and does not experience what is spiritual. How should he then be able to teach God's Word correctly or correctly distribute the gifts of the Spirit, 1 Cor. 2:14? Therefore everyone may well see to it that he does not accept the office of teacher before be himself has been taught by God and enlightened with the Holy Spirit through whom he may speak God's Word correctly.
Further, so Scripture testifies, a true teacher must bear or bring forth fruit. For wherever God's Word is implanted in the human heart and spoken in the power of the Spirit, there it must, according to its nature, be active and fruitful. To that end the true teachers are chosen and ordained of Christ that they may go forth and bear fruit and that their fruit may abide, John 15:16. But the fruit which all true teachers through God's Word and spirit must bring forth is [of] two kinds.
The first is that whenever God's Word is spoken through the Holy Spirit it bears fruit and is not barren just as the evangelical parable of the sower and his seed testifies, in which parable Christ gave us to understand that his Word is not without fruit, Matt. 13:31 91; Luke 8:[5 7]; [Mark 4:3 9]. For while most of the seed fell upon bad earth and brought [forth] no fruit (which then is not the fault of the good seed but of the bad earth), nevertheless another part fell upon good earth and brought forth much fruit. Therewith the Lord teaches us two things. The first, that there are at all times few Christians upon the earth although many have the name Christian and boast themselves of the gospel as then he also said to Matthew in the seventh chapter, “The gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to condemnation, and many walk on it. But the gate that leads to eternal life is small and the way is narrow, and there are few who find it," Matt. 7:13[ 14].
The second [is that] Christ gives us to understand, that even though the largest part remains evil, his Word is nevertheless not without fruit. There is yet perchance a good acre into which the seed of the divine Word is cast, sprouts, and brings [forth] fruit. This [is] what God has also said through Isaiah, “Just as the rain and snow fall from heaven, and do not return but water the earth, making it fruitful and [bring forth] growth, giving seed to the sower and bread to eat, so shall the Word that goes out of my mouth not return to me empty, but accomplish that which pleases me, and shall prosper in that for which I send it," Isa. 55: 10 [-11].
But because the Word of God is now the seed that is planted by God in the hearts of human beings and desires and must have good soil, therefore it is necessary that the field of the heart be properly cultivated through the grace of the Lord, [that] all weeds be plucked up or uprooted, so then the field will be made receptive of the divine seed and bring forth fruit, as James says, “Put away all uncleanness and all wickedness and receive with meekness the Word which has been planted in you, which is able to save your souls," James 1: 21.
To that end, namely, in order to cultivate and prepare the field of the heart, the law of God serves [well]. Therefore, true preachers must also first and before all things proclaim and preach repentance to the people (even as Christ and the apostles did) and teach them out of the law God's wrath and severe judgment upon sin, Matt. 3:8; Acts 24:25; but out of the gospel rightly to know God the Father in his eternal love and fathomless mercy, Christ Jesus in his grace and merits, through the cooperation of the Holy Spirit in order that the hearts, smitten and broken through the law, may again be comforted and strengthened through the gospel. For this is the nature, character, and power of the divine Word, that where it is spoken orderly and through the motivating of the Spirit flinty hearts are smitten, Jer. [23:291, the cold made fervent, and the sorrowful are comforted thereby.
This is also the true teacher's office and work, according to the command of Christ, first to preach the law, thereafter the gospel. But false teachers preach to the people, also to the unrepentant, nothing but grace, proclaiming peace to them, and as Ezekiel says, "They lay cushions under the arms of the people and pillows under their heads and shoulders," Ezek. 13:18. With this they strengthen the hands of evil persons in order that no one may be converted from their wickedness and unrighteousness as can be seen and found daily. But because they do not convert anyone, therefore they are also not sent from God and also do not have God's Word. For thus says the Lord I did not send the prophets, yet they ran; I have not spoken with them, yet they prophesied. But if they had remained in my council, and had heard my words, then they would have turned my people from their evil ways, and from the evil of their doings, Jer. 23:21[ 22].
These words testify to us clearly that those who have God's Word correctly teach and speak it; these are they who convert the people from their reckless living and evil ways. Again, those who do not do this also do not have God's Word. They may well have the letter of Scripture, but the living, powerful, and fervent Word of God that pierces and cuts through hearts and souls as a two edged sword, Heb. 4:12, that they do not have. They may speak many words, but because the Lord has not cleansed their lips with fire, (as the lips of the prophet Isaiah), Isa. 6:7, and has not given his Word into their mouths, (just as into the mouth of Jeremiah) that they [may] pluck up and break down, destroy, build up, and plant, Jer. 1:9; therefore they are not sent from the Lord and they also accomplish nothing, as is seen and felt much in the present day [from those] who want to be evangelical preachers but have not yet discontinued the human idolatrous ceremonies and institutions and again accepted true worship and ordinances. But so much some may well do, that they with Jehu hate the harlotry and sorcery of Jezebel and have a zeal against the priests and prophets of Baal. Nevertheless, they themselves walk in the sins of Jeroboam and allow the golden calves (which were erected in the place of divine worship by the godless king) to stand and remain a judgment upon themselves but a stumbling block and destruction to others, 2 Kings 9:22; 10:[28 29]. Thus one blind person leads another until they both finally fall into the canal, Matt. 15:14.
The second fruit of a true teacher is that he himself leads an unblamable life which is conformed to the gospel. “For the kingdom of God does not consist in words but in power," 1 Cor. 4:20. The wisdom which the teacher [needs] to open his mouth in the congregation, Ecclus. 15: 10, does not enter an evil soul, nor a body enslaved to sin, Wisd. of Sol. 1:4. Therefore James also says, 'Whoever is wise and understanding among you, let him show [this] with his good life and works in the meekness of wisdom," James 3:13. Thus Paul also did as he himself said, "I pommel my body and subdue it, in order that while I preach to others, I myself will not be rejected," 1 Cor. 9:27. And nothing is accomplished and leads to no end that anyone praise and chatter at length about himself, but let him who wishes to boast (says the apostle) "boast of the Lord," 1 Cor. 1:; 2 Cor. [10:17]; Jer. 9:23 24. For he is not praised who praises himself but whom the Lord praises. But the Lord praises the righteous who praise and honor him as he himself said, “Those who honor me I will honor, but those who despise me shall be lightly esteemed," 1 Sam. 2:30.
But what the true honor of God is, Christ testified with these words: "By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, and that you become my disciples," John 15:8. But which are the fruits of the Spirit Paul told the Galatians, namely, love, joy, meekness, goodness, faith, moderation, Gal. 5:22 [ 23]. Again, who are the true disciples of Christ he himself said, namely, those who continue in his Word, these will know the truth and the truth shall make them free, John 8:32. But no one abides in Christ and his teaching except those who walk as he walked, 1 John 2:. But whoever does not walk thus, does not remain in Christ, yes, that one has neither seen nor known Christ as John clearly testified in his epistle, 1 John 3:6.
Therefore, true Christians and primarily the teachers must themselves as disciples of Christ lead a Christlike life and faithfully follow Christ. But if they do not do this, then Christ has not sent them. For he said that we would recognize false prophets by their fruits even though they come in sheep's clothing, Matt. 7:15[ 16]. He taught us this through parables saying, “Can one gather grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles? So, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears evil fruit. A good tree cannot bear evil fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore, you will know them by their fruits" [Matt. 7:16 20].
In these words Christ compares every good Christian, but in particular an honest teacher (for he speaks primarily of the teachers) with a good tree and a false teacher with a bad tree. just as now a good tree brings good fruit and therewith shows its good nature and serves humanity in its necessity and feeds the body, so also a good teacher bears good fruit; therewith he shows his Christian nature and that he has been sent of God. But the others, that is, the goodhearted listeners and lovers of the truth, he thus serves to their salvation, just as Paul said to Timothy, "Take heed to yourself and to your teaching; remain in it, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers," 1 Tim. 4:16.
Again, just as a bad tree can bring no good fruit, and just as one can pick no grapes from thorns and no figs from thistles, so also a false prophet cannot teach nor do right. The false prophet can indeed boast himself of the gospel, but that he should accurately teach or speak the teaching of the gospel and bear the fruits of the Spirit, that he does not do; his leaves are and remain leaves, that is, a useless noise beautiful in appearance all that he teaches, and hypocrisy all that he does.
If then now through the particular grace of God, the gospel (which has sharp eyes and looks not upon the sheep's clothing but upon the inward nature, and does not inquire about the leaves but about the fruits of the tree) has come to the [light] of day and been revealed to us, and has given to us [the ability] to know the tree by its fruits out of God's Word; therefore [let] everyone pay attention to that and guard himself before the false prophets that he be not deceived by them.
Likewise, how a teacher should be qualified Paul describes very beautifully for us to both Timothy and Titus. There one has a true description, yes, an express example of an evangelical teacher. And Peter says, “So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the suffering that is in Christ, and also as a partaker in the glory that is to be revealed. Feed the flock of Christ that is in your charge, care for them, not by constraint but willingly, not for shameful gain but with a compassionate spirit, not as those who domineer over the inheritance but being examples to the flock. So shall you (when the chief Shepherd reveals himself) receive the imperishable crown of glory," 1 Pet. 5:1[-4].
Here Peter gives all elders, leaders, and teachers a good lesson, that is, how they should be qualified, and says among other words, that they shall feed the flock of God out of a willing mind and not for the sake of shameful gain. For he knew well that the Lord Christ had asked him three times, saying, “Peter do you love me? Then feed my sheep," John 21:15[ 18]. Thus also all true ministers of the Word of Christ must teach God's Word unfalsified out of true love without desiring shameful gain. For this is called feeding in the Scripture.
But how many now at this present time accept the office of teacher who do not reflect upon this teaching of Peter, but it takes place even according to the words of the prophet, namely, 'Its priests teach for reward, its prophets prophesy for money; in addition they want to be seen as though they rely upon the Lord and say, 'The Lord is among us, no evil can come upon us.' Therefore because of you Zion shall be plowed as a field; and Jerusalem shall become a heap of stones, and the mountain of the temple a wooded height," Mic. 3:11[ 12]. The same prophet also says in another place [that] the false prophets "declare war against him who puts nothing into their mouths," Mic. 3:5.
God complains similarly through Ezekiel over the false prophets who proclaimed death to souls who should not die and affirmed life to souls who should not live; that is, they condemn the innocent and pious and justify the godless, and they do this for a handful of barley and a piece of bread, Ezek. 13:[18 ]19. And this still happens daily and proceeds in full power. Yes, Balaam, the son Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness, he still has many followers and companions, Num. 22:5. And even though the Lord had opened the mouth of the ass to punish such Balaamites, they are yet so stubborn and blinded that they cannot discontinue [their] greediness, Num. [22:21 35]; 23; 24; 2 Pet. 2:15. And then above that they still wish to be regarded as though they were true servants of Christ, and take the liberty which Christ has given to the true ministers of the gospel, (namely, that they may live off of the gospel and have seemly necessities), as a cloak for greed, 1 Cor. 9:14.
But this is a shameful thing that one under the guise of the gospel (which after all teaches scorn of all temporal things) seeks money and goods, Matt. 10:37[ 38]. This is also an abomination before God, that someone who undertakes to teach God's Word does not himself live according to it. To all such the Lord says, 'What right have you to proclaim my statutes, or take my covenant in your mouth? For you hate discipline and cast my words behind you. If you see a thief you run with him, and you keep company with adulterers," Ps. 50:16.
And Paul says, "You presume to be a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, an instructor of the unwise, a teacher of the simple, you have the form to know something, and what is right in the law. Now you teach others but do not teach yourself? You preach against stealing but you steal? You say that one must not commit adultery, but you do commit adultery? You abhor idols but you rob God of his own? You boast about the law but you dishonor God by transgressing the law? 'The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,' " Rom. 2:19 [ 24].
Oh, that many (who accept their teaching position and yet are so selfish, haughty, unrighteous, idolatrous, and lead such godless lives) would earnestly observe and consider well what great complaint is in all Scripture over the false prophets and shepherds with the implication that the corruption of the people has most of its origin from them. For it behooves the shepherds to feed the sheep, just as Christ commanded Peter and Peter commanded the elders, John 21:; 1 Pet. 5:. But how is this to take place when the shepherds trample the precious pasture of the divine Word with their feet and then give the sheep to eat the same which they have trampled with their feet, Ezek. 34:18[ 19]? It behooves the shepherds also to dip the water of divine teaching out of the fountain of salvation and give the sheep to drink; but how lamentable is it when the shepherds become Philistines and stop up the spring of living water by throwing in earth. Yes, when they are wolves who do not save the flock [but] feed themselves and scatter and strangle the sheep, Acts 20:29 [ 30]?
Again, whenever they are such, as the prophet Hosea says, "The bands of priests are just like robbers who murder on the streets and lie in wait for the people on the way to Shechem. For they complete all villainy," Hos. 6:. And as Isaiah says, "Your watchmen are all blind and have no knowledge; they are all mute dogs who cannot punish, they are lazy, sleepy, lying down, and snoring, loving to slumber. They are unashamed dogs who have a mighty appetite, they never have enough. Similarly the shepherds also have no understanding; they each look to their own way, each to his own gain in his own place. 'Come,' they say, 'let us get wine, let us drink ourselves full and do tomorrow just like today, yes, and much more.' " Isa. 56:10[ 12].
Oh, God, why have the false prophets, priests, and shepherds always been so many in the world and the pious ones so few? Against so many hundred prophets and priests of Baal, it is scarcely possible to find one Elijah, 1 Kings 18:22. Among so many lying prophets of Ahab, it is scarcely possible to get one Micaiah, 1 Kings 22:5[ 23].
Thus also sometimes the sins of the people deserve that God allows an hypocrite and idolator to rule in the place of a shepherd. For since the people are so minded that they hold good teaching in contempt, as Paul says, and have such weak ears that they desire more to hear what is pleasing than fruitful teaching, therefore they choose such teachers for themselves, after whom their ears itch, 2 Tim. 4:3. And it then happens just as the Lord said through the prophet, “It is horrible and dangerous in the land: the prophets teach lies and the priests rule in their office, and my people like to have it that way, but what will you do when the end comes?" Jer. 5:[30 31].
Therefore Christ also said to his disciples, "Woe to you, when all speak well of you, for thus they did to the false prophets who have been before you," Luke 6:26. Contrary to this you are blessed "when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they did to the good prophets, etc." [Matt. 5: 11 12].
Therefore it is certain that the true teachers must be tested with the cross. And this comes because they desire, speak, and do other than the world; therefore the world hates them as is written in the book of Wisdom: "Let us lie in wait for the righteous one, because he is of no good to us, and is contrary to our works, and blames us that we sin against the law, and calls our being out to sin. He claims that he knows God and boasts of being a child of God, punishing us for what we have in our heart. He is grievous for us to look at, for his life is unlike others, and his being is a very different being. He holds us to be unfit, and avoids our doings as defiled, and claims that the justified shall be rewarded at the last, and boasts that God is his father," Wisd. of Sol. [2:12 16].
Thus Christ was treated and opposed as he himself says, “The world hates me because I testify of it that its works are evil," [John 7:7] This he also promised all his disciples and said, "I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be as careful as serpents and as innocent as doves," Matt. 10:16. Continuing, he said, “You will be hated by all people for my name's sake," [Matt. 10:22], but "if the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, and I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also. But all this they will do to you for my name's sake, because they do not know him who sent me," John 15:18 [ 21].
In summary, how all good prophets and true teachers have been persecuted from the beginning, and shall be persecuted to the end of the world, yes, as even the most high prophet and master, Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God had to suffer and thus enter into his glory, Luke 24:, the Scripture, both the Old and New Testaments, testifies so openly and abundantly that it is unnecessary to discuss and write more about it.
Therefore then they are not ministers of Christ who are so great and highly regarded by the world, who are seated on high and who persecute others purposely. For that is far from Jesus Christ and from his gentle divine spirit, Matt. 13:28. It is also far from all Christians who have the mind and spirit of Christ. It is not Christlike but tyrannical to persecute, to expel, to strangle the people because of faith and religion. Those who do this are certainly a remnant of the pharisaical race to whom Stephen said, "You stiff necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did not your fathers persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the righteous one, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it," Acts 7:51[ 53].
Oh, how many pride themselves now at the present time that they have received the gospel out of the grace of God and yet do so little, yes, nothing according to it! They want to be great masters in the Scripture [and] be called evangelical preachers, but Christ Jesus and him crucified they know not, 1 Cor 2:2. For Christ himself was poor and also chose poor disciples who had to deny themselves for the sake of the Lord, who forsook all things for the sake of the gospel, Matt. 8:; Luke 9:58; Matt. 4:18[ 19]; 19:27; 1 Cor. 8:9, who were a spectacle to the world and the refuse of the world, and the offscouring thrown out by all people, 1 Cor. 4:9[ 13]. But these are rich and powerful, therefore also, according to the word of the prophet, their pride or haughtiness must be a costly thing and their cruelty must be called well done, Ps. 73:6.
Christ said to his disciples, “You are not to let yourself be called rabbi, for one is your Master, Christ. The greatest among you shall be your servant. He who exalts himself shall be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted," Matt. 23:[8 11]. But these allow themselves because of the gospel and their ministerial office to be called masters, licentiates, doctors, yes, worthy fathers and lords in Christ. How splendidly does that accord with these previously mentioned words of Christ? Yet these are of no avail to them, they pay no attention to them but puff up their person, as the prophet says, "They do only what they think; [they] speak evil of the devout, blaspheme the truth, and what they say must be spoken from heaven; what they propose and institute must prevail upon earth," Ps. 73:7[ 9]; for they think and also say, "Our tongue shall take the upper hand. We have the authority to speak. Who is he who can master us," Ps. 12:?4
But what shall follow and happen to them after such presumption and pride, let them be aware of The Scriptures testify clearly that Jezebel, while she indeed ruled for a period of time, feasted her prophets lavishly, and kept them in great splendor, yet finally had to be brought to shame together with all her followers, Rev. 2:20. And although the harlot of Babylon has made the heathen drunk with the wine of harlotry, [Rev. 18:3], and has become proud and says in her heart, "'I sit, and am a queen. I shall be no widow, mourning I shall never see,' so nevertheless, her plagues shall come in a single day," Rev. 18:7[ 8].
Thus we have now briefly indicated which teachers are sent of God, that is, those who are thus qualified, just as the Scripture testifies, speak God's Word rightly, and are conformed to the image of Christ and his saints. And what they yet lack, they seek with [their] whole zeal at the fountain of all grace, Jesus Christ. Whoever is such an one is without doubt sent of God.
Again, those who are otherwise minded, speak and do other than what is seen in this previously described and presented mirror of the prophets of Christ and his apostles, these are also not sent from God. They can also teach nothing good nor speak God's Word correctly, for that must be spoken through the Holy Spirit, as Christ said to his disciples, “For it is not you who speak, but it is the spirit of your Father speaking through you," Matt. 10:20. And Peter said, "No prophecy ever came out of the will of humans, but the holy people of God, moved by the Holy Spirit, have spoken," 2 Pet. 1:21. Therefore all that the spiritless people say, that has no power and bears no fruit. Yes, and if it were possible that they could speak with the tongues of angels, yet it is nothing more than a sounding brass or a tinkling bell, 1 Cor. 13:1.
We also urge and admonish every individual, be he teacher or listener, that he heed it well. The teacher may well see whose servant he is, of which spirit he is motivated, whether Christ is and works in him, whether he portrays the living Word of God in open testimony of the Holy Scripture to the people, images it, bears fruit with it, and himself walks according to it. The listener may well take heed to himself that he not believe every spirit, but that he at all times recognize the teacher by his teaching and fruits, 1 John 4:1. And the teaching must test and measure right according to the plumb line of the divine Word.
Similarly, observe, test, and prove fruit not alone according to their external and splendid appearance, but according to the Spirit and true reality. And whichever teacher he recognizes and finds false, him he himself watches and hears him not, but turns from him, just as God commanded through Jeremiah and Christ through the gospel, namely, that one should not hear the words of the false prophets, that one should beware of them, Jer. 23:16; Matt. 7:15, that his sheep hear his voice, and follow him and the stranger they do not follow after but flee from him for the reason that the voice of the stranger is unknown to them. Yes, all those who did not enter into the sheepfold through Christ Jesus, as through the true door, but have climbed in through another way, these are thieves and murderers who come nowhere except to steal and to kill and to destroy, John 10: 4 [ 5]; [8 10]. Therefore the sheep of Christ fear for themselves before such thieves, murderers, and destroyers.
But that some suggest that Scripture does not forbid the external hearing of the false prophets, but the internal hearing only, this is craftiness and philosophy, yes, an open falsification of the divine truth. For this is certain and undoubtedly true, that two kinds of bearing are included in Scripture, one the internal hearing which is faith, that which comes through the external hearing of the divine Word through the cooperation and enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, as may clearly be seen in the following words of Paul: "How shall they call upon him in whom they do not believe? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have never heard? How are they to hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach when they are not sent? As it is written, 'How lovely are the feet of those who proclaim peace and preach good news!' But they are not all obedient to the gospel, for Isaiah says Lord, who believes our preaching?' So faith comes from hearing, but the hearing is through the Word of God. But I say to you, have they not heard? Indeed their voice has now gone out to all the lands, and their words to all the world," Rom. 10:14[ 18]; Isa. 52:7; 53:; Ps. 19:4.
Here the apostle speaks expressly about the external hearing through which the preaching of the gospel by the apostles' voices and their words were heard by all creatures under heaven, Mark 16:15; Col. 1:6, through which many have also come to faith, yet all out of grace through the internal working of God and his Holy Spirit, as God now through the external hearing of his Word creates faith in his elect, as through a mediator. Thus Satan also creates unbelief in his children through the external hearing of his false doctrine. Therefore Holy Scripture also admonishes us to hear God's Word and that is to be understood that we shall hear God's Word with external ears and believe thereon with the heart, John 5:24; 8:51; 10:27. This then is called to hear God's Word aright.
In like measure the Scripture forbids us to hear false teachers, Jer. 23:16. Ps. 1: 1; John 10: and this is the meaning, that we should not run to the false teachers in the house of idols where they stand upon the stool of pestilence and falsify God's Word, nor hear their words nor believe them, 2 Cor. 6:[14 15]. This the Scripture calls not hearing false teachers, to shun the strange ones and to flee from them, John 10:5. On this opinion the apostle John also says that false teachers are of the world; “and what they say is of the world, and the world listens to them. But true teachers are from God. Whoever knows God listens to them, but whoever is not of God does not listen to them. By this one knows the spirit of truth and the spirit of error," 1 John 4:5 [ 6]. This is what we have now said in brief of the sending of teachers.
Used by Permission. Originally published by Herald Press, Scottdale, PA 15683, USA. To order from them in the UK, contact Metanoia Books. Elswhere, see the Mennonite Publishing Network web site for ordering details.
By Dirk Philips from The Writings of Dirk Philips, 1504-1568. Translated and edited by Cornelius J. Dyck, William E. Keeney, and Alvin J. Beachy, 1992. This is the second half of this document. The first half is available here.
But there are many who contradict [us] here. In the first place, some say that no one may teach and restore the fallen worship again, except they be called of the Lord through a living voice from heaven. Just as Elijah (they say) did not punish the priests of Baal nor restore the fallen worship in Israel before he had received a command from the Lord and was sent to Ahab, 1 Kings 18. Again, just as Joshua did not again begin circumcision (which was not practiced for a period in the wilderness), before the time that the Lord commanded him, Josh. 5:2. Answer
God does not now, at the present time, speak with us through an external voice from heaven, nor through visions and dreams as happened in the Old Testament, but he speaks with us through his Son, Jesus Christ, Heb, 1: 1[ 2], and Christ speaks with us through his Word. And the Word of Christ is Spirit and life, John 6:63. Whenever Christ now grants and impresses his living Word in someone's heart, and thereby calls, that person is without any doubt called of the Lord through his Word. But whereby one shall know that anyone is thus called of God through the living Word and through the Spirit of Christ, we have said above, namely, that he speaks God's Word truly, bears fruit, and seeks the honor of Christ and the salvation of souls with wholehearted zeal, Isa. 55: 10[-11]; John 3:34.
Further, so we have maintained above, that the apostles and elders, with the congregations of God, called and ordained deacons and teachers through the power of Christ, Acts 6:1[ 6]; 13:1[ 2]. What now the Christians of their time did correctly, that is not forbidden or discontinued for the Christians of this time, but the Christians must conduct themselves according to the practice and procedure of the first churches. The reason: "For no other foundation can any one lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ," 1 Cor. 3: 11. Therefore, just as the fallen temple of the Lord in Jerusalem was built again on the first foundation and all worship therein was resumed and practiced according to the law, so also now must the fallen house of God, namely the Christian congregation, be built up again on the first foundation of the apostles and prophets, (of which Christ Jesus is the cornerstone) 1 Tim. 3:[1 12]; Heb. 3:5 [ 6]; Eph. 2:19 [ 20]; and all things therein must be conducted and carried out according to the ordinance of Christ and his apostles.
Since then the apostles and elders with the congregation of God chose leaders and ministers through Christ and placed and established them in their office, therefore the Christians of this time must also, according to the example of the apostolic congregations, choose and ordain teachers. And necessity also demands this, for it is certain and incontrovertible, that a Christian congregation may not be built, established, and gathered without correct doctrine, faith, and baptism.
In addition, without the Lord's Supper, admonition, discipline, excommunication, or separation, it cannot stand. For where God's Word is not taught correctly and the gospel of Christ is not preached, how then shall people believe? As the apostle says, "And how are they to believe in him of whom they have not heard," Rom. 10:? But where faith out of the hearing of the Word of God through the cooperation of the Holy Spirit is not rightly grasped in the heart, how can baptism be practiced orderly and received, since baptism upon faith was commanded and instituted by the Lord himself and practiced by the apostles, Matt. 28:19; Mark 16:; Acts 2:41; 8:[38 39]; 10:47 [ 48]? But where the baptism of Christ is not practiced properly, how shall one then be baptized into Christ Jesus, into his death and [added] to the fellowship of his body through the Holy Spirit, Rom. 6:3; Col. 2:12; 1 Cor. 12:13? How then shall the dying away of the flesh, the burial of sins, and the resurrection into a new life be rightly considered and carried out [Rom. 6:6 11]?
Where the Lord's Supper is not rightly observed, how can his Word and command (that one by and with the breaking of bread should proclaim his death arid preserve his memory) be adequately done there, Matt. 26:25; Mark 14:22; Luke 22:19; 1 Cor. 10:16; 11:22? How can the fellowship of Christ, yes, his body and blood, be indeed taken to heart there, brotherly love and unity be truly signified and established? Again, where admonition does not proceed in full power, there the love to both God and neighbor usually grows cold. And where discipline is not correctly practiced, there the one entangles himself in sin with the other. Therefore the Lord says, “You shall not hate your neighbor in your heart, but punish him, that you may not be guilty because of him," Lev. 19:17. Again, where excommunication and the ban are not correctly observed with the gospel, there the one corrupts the other, as Paul says, “Do you not know that a little leaven ferments the whole lump of dough," 1 Cor. 5:?
And if the congregation of God without all these previously mentioned items (and whatsoever more the Lord has ordained for the upbuilding and sustaining of his congregation), can neither stand nor be maintained, therefore there must also be ministers of the Word in the congregation. For it is not everyone's thing to teach God's Word and to distribute the sacraments of Christ. But it is with these things as Paul says, "Similarly, as in one body we have many members, and all the members do not have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, but among each other the one is the member of the other and they have many kinds of gifts according to the grace that is given to us," Rom. 12:4 [ 6]. Again, "there are many kinds of gifts, but there is one Spirit; and there are many kinds of service, but there is one Lord; and there are many kinds of powers, but there is one God who works all things in everyone. But in each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good," 1 Cor. 12:4[ 7].
In addition the apostle says, “Grace is given to each one among us according to the measure of Christ's gift, and he has established some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, some as pastors and teachers, that the saints should all be joined together for common service, for improving the body of Christ, until we all extend our hand to the other in one faith and knowledge of the Son of God, to become a mature person who is there in the measure of the fullness of Christ," Eph. 4:7, [11 13]. And Peter says, "Serve one another, each with the gift he has received, as good stewards of God's varied grace: if someone speaks, that he speaks God's Word; if someone renders service, that he renders it out of the strength which God gives in order that in everything God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be honor and dominion from eternity to eternity. Amen," 1 Pet. 4:10[ 11].
Out of all these words it is easily understood in the first place, how God places his ministers in his congregations and distributes many kinds of gifts. In the second place, how necessary ministers are in the congregation and what their work and service is. In the third place, that the congregation (since it is one with Christ) has the power to choose teachers and ministers according to the Scripture. But which is the congregation of Christ, which has received such power from Christ (not only to choose teachers and leaders, but, what is more, to bind and to loose, to forgive sins and to retain them), Scripture testifies clearly at many places, namely, that it is a gathering of believers, that is, of living saints and born again persons who believe the Word of God entirely, teach the same correctly, bear fruit with it, practice the sacraments of Christ fittingly, correctly maintain the ban, walk in love, and conduct and carry out all things according to the gospel, Matt. 16:19; 18: 18; John 20:23; 8:30.
Yes, the congregation of Christ is the fellowship of the saints, who through the providence of God the Father, through the grace of Jesus Christ, and in the sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth, was gathered through the preaching of the gospel, and through one Spirit baptized into one body, unified, and joined together, 1 Pet. 1:2; 2 Thess. 2:13; 1 Cor. 12:13a; Eph. 4:4; so that it is the body of Christ, his bride, taken out of his side, made from his flesh and bone, washed in his blood, cleansed through the water bath in his Word, and sanctified through his Spirit, Eph. 5:30; Col. 1:14; Eph. 5:26.
For therefore he also allowed his side to be opened and pierced through on the cross and allowed blood and water to flow or run from it so that he might gain, purify, and save his congregation, John 19:34; Eph. 5:25 [ 26]. Therefore it is also his pure bride, his most beloved friend, the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, come here out of heaven from God, and illumined with the glory of God and of the Lamb, etc., Rev. 19:7[ 8]; 21:2.
This congregation has the power through Christ Jesus (from whom it has received everything) to choose leaders and ministers. And if anyone should ask, 'Where is this congregation?" we answer, "Where God's Word is correctly taught, believed, and kept, for they are Christ's disciples who have his word, believe, and keep it," John 8:30; 17:6; Matt. 18:20; Luke 24:14[ 15]. Where now such disciples are gathered in his name, there he is in the midst of them. But if Christ is among them, then they are always a congregation of Christ. If they are a congregation of Christ, then they must also have the same power which Christ gave the congregation. But the power which Christ has given his congregation (namely, not only to choose teachers and ministers of the Word, but also to bind and to loose, to forgive sins and to retain them), has been adequately related and explained above, Matt. 16:; 18:18; John 20:23.
Therefore we conclude that, since God's Word has now come to the [light of] day, there must, therefore, also be a congregation of God; for God's Word is not without fruit, Isa. 55: 10 [ 111. If then someone says that there is no congregation of God, he must also say that there are no believers upon the earth, yes, that God's Word is nowhere upon earth; for where God's Word is, there is also a congregation of God, be it small or large. But the congregation of God is not only invisible, as some permit themselves to think and imagine an invisible Christian people, but also visible. For believers recognize each other and join with their kind, (as also all animals do according to Ecclesiasticus), Ecclus. 13:[15 16], and love each other since they are the children of one heavenly Father, born out of one God, brought forth out of one seed, partakers of one divine nature, and endowed with one Holy Spirit, John 1: 13; 1 John 5: 1; 1 Pet. 1:23.
Out of this comes the difference between brotherly and common love, 2 Pet. 1:7. And this is the reason the apostles wrote all their letters to the Christians, to their brothers and companions of faith and not to the world. This would not have taken place if they had not known the Christians and had not known the difference between Christians and the world.
Yes, the Christian congregation is also in part manifest to the world, just as Abraham was manifest to the world through his faith, righteousness, and glorious deed according to God's Word, and left to us as an example in Scripture to teach and admonish that we should follow in his footsteps with sincere trust and fruitfulness of works which God commands us, Gen. 15:6; 22; Rom. 4:3; Gal. 3:6; James 2:23. Yes, Christ Jesus our Lord and Master, Matt. 23:, our Pioneer and Ruler, Heb. 12:2, revealed himself to the world through words and works and thus also commanded his disciples and said, “Let your light shine before people, that they see your good works and praise your Father in heaven," Matt. 5:16.
To this Paul also admonished the believers that they should walk such good lives through which they would become manifest to unbelievers, and says, “Do all things without grumbling or questioning so that you may be irreproachable, innocent, and children of God blameless in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shall shine as lights in the world, that you will remain with the Word of life," Phil. 2:14[ 16]. And Peter says that the godless and blasphemers indeed recognize Christians whenever they do not run with them as earlier in their licentious, unseemly, and godless ways, 1 Pet. 4 4.
Herewith it is adequately shown that the congregation of God is not alone invisible, but also visible and in part revealed to the world. But it is not in a particular location or place like the figurative Jerusalem was nowhere on earth except in the Jewish land alone. But the heavenly Jerusalem is everywhere, wherever the Word of God is rightly taught, believed, and kept, Gal. 4:26; Rev. 21:2; Matt. 28:, and the sacraments of Christ are used correctly according to the Word. For the Lord has added his sacraments to the gospel, attached them to it, and commanded not only that his gospel should be preached but also that his sacraments should be practiced and maintained, Mark 16:; Matt. 26:[26 28]; Mark 14:22; Luke 22:19; 1 Cor. 11: [23 25].
Thus has the Lord ordained and thus it shall also remain to the end. "Heaven and earth," says Christ, “will pass away but my words mill not pass away," Matt. 24:35. Therefore we still say that where God's Word is correctly taught, believed, and kept, and the sacraments are properly practiced, there is the heavenly Jerusalem, there dwells God the almighty Lord and the Lamb, Rev. 21:2; Heb. 12:22, just as Christ himself testified and said, "Whoever loves me shall keep my word, and my Father will love him and we will come to him and make our home with him," John 14:. And in another place God says, "I will live in them, and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people," Lev. 26: ; Ezek. 37:27; 2 Cor. 6:16, says the almighty Lord.
In the second place, some say that the teachers now should confirm their sending with signs and miracles like the apostles did.5
Thereupon we answer that to require signs and not permit oneself to be satisfied with the words is a sign of unbelief as Christ testified with these words: "Whenever you do not see signs and wonders you do not believe," John 4:48. Therefore we may indeed say that they do not have the true faith who demand and desire signs beyond the Word of Christ. But where they have such faith as the centurion had who said to Christ, "Oh, Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, therefore I also did not consider myself worthy to come to you. But speak a word and my servant will be healed," Luke 7:6[ 8]. Had they such faith (we say), they should always believe the words of Christ and now demand no signs but allow themselves to be satisfied with the fact that Christ in the beginning and thereafter the apostles have adequately confirmed the teaching of the gospel with signs and miracles.
And should it be that they already saw signs and wonders, they would perhaps mistakenly do as the Pharisees; namely, they might attribute the works of God to the devil or seek another reason in order to blaspheme the works of God. But now that they see no signs they speak with the Pharisees, “We would like to see a sign." But what did Christ answer to the Pharisees? "This evil and adulterous nature seeks a sign but no sign shall be given to it except alone the sign of the prophet Jonah," Matt. 12:38 [ 39]. What did Abraham reply to the rich man (who desired that he would send Lazarus to his father's house that he testify to his brothers in order that they would not come to the place where he was)? "They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear those." But he said, "No, father Abraham; but if some one goes to them from the dead, they will repent." He said to him, “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither would they believe if someone should rise from the dead," Luke 16:27 [ 31]. And Paul says, "The Jews demand signs and the Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach the crucified Christ, a stumbling block to the Jews and folly to the Greeks, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, we preach Christ a divine power and wisdom," 1 Cor. 1: [22 24].
Out of these and similar words of Holy Scripture we may clearly observe what kind of people these are who require signs and do not allow themselves to be satisfied with the Word and how one must believe God's Word more than signs and miracles and how those cannot be helped who will not hear Moses and the prophets. But if these are not to be helped, how then shall those be helped who will not hear Christ and his apostles? But if they wish to hear, why do they then demand signs?
It is true that the miracles and signs of wonder are witnesses of the gospel and the divine Word and that they confirm and strengthen the same. The miracles also move the people toward faith but with the understanding that not the teaching which is already accepted and established must be therewith confirmed, but every new doctrine, that it is from God. Therefore these signs are not necessary now at the present time just as they were necessary at the time of Christ and his apostles. [The] reason: Since Christ is the end of the law and a mediator of the New Testament, therefore his teaching had to be confirmed with strong signs and wonderful works, just as the Old Testament was confirmed with signs and miracles, Rom. 10:4; Heb. 7:11; Gal. 3:20; Heb. 12:24. But now that the teaching of Christ has once been established, and no other teaching is taught or may be taught, yes, cursed is the one who preaches another gospel than that which Christ and his apostles have preached to us, Gal. 1:9.
Thus the signs are not a necessity. For the law was after all not established more than once with signs and with the blood of calves and goats, Exod. 19:16; 24:6; Heb. 9:13. And as it was for a period of time obscured and hidden and was again found and came to the light of day, even so, it was not confirmed by signs a second time, 2 Kings 22:8. So also the pious Josiah, as he heard the book of the law read desired no sign but indeed allowed himself to be satisfied with the words and carried out all things according to it, and also kept the Passover. The same no king in Israel had done before him [2 Kings 23:21 23].
Because the gospel has now been confirmed with such glorious miracles (the like of which had never taken place) [and] in addition was empowered with the innocent death and precious blood of the spotless Lamb, Jesus Christ, Heb. 9:13[ 14], and was for a long time obscured, but now through the grace of God [has] again come to light, so all devout Christians must allow themselves to be satisfied therewith. So that whoever requires a sign beyond this must hear "an evil and adulterous nature seeks for a sign," etc. Matt. 12:39.
Thus we must again also administer and maintain all the ordinances of God according to the gospel. For to that [end] God reveals his Word to us that we through this should learn to know his will, turn ourselves to God, abstain from sin, believe rightly, live a Christlike life, and maintain all his commandments, as Christ says to his apostles, "Teach them to observe all that I have commanded you," Matt. 28:20. But even as we accept and must accept the teaching of the gospel without signs if we would be saved, James 1:21, in the same manner we must also accept the teachers who proclaim the teaching to us without signs and recognize [them as] good. The work always praises the master, and blameless teaching and walk [praises] a Christian teacher. Nevertheless, even though a teacher is blameless in all things, the hypocritical and pharisaical nature will yet not believe the gospel.
False teachers can also sometimes indeed perform signs. One knows well how the Egyptian magicians withstood Moses and what they did through their magic, Exod. 7:11 [ 12]; 2 Tim. 3: 8. And Christ says that many false prophets arid false Christians shall arise [and] do great signs and wonders so that (if it were possible), even the elect should be led astray, Matt. 24: 11. And Paul says, "The coming of the antichrist will happen according to the activity of Satan with all kinds of deceitful signs and wonders among those who will be lost," 2 Tbess. 2:9[ 10]. Therefore then, a Christian may not look upon the signs alone, but much more upon God's Word which is always certain and true, John 17:8.
And if one still requires signs, then one must demand them not only of the teachers but also of all believers. For Christ says, "Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater works, because I go to the Father," John 14:12. And at another place Christ says, "The signs which will accompany those who believe are these: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will drive out serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and it will become better with them," Mark 16:17[ 18]. But now we do not see that anyone does such outward signs. Who will therefore say that there is no one who believes?
This be far hence! Does Paul not say after all, that they are not all workers of miracles, 1 Cor. 12:29. Therefore, just as external signs do not follow faith at the present time, and there is without the slightest doubt faith to be found in some persons, therefore also external signs do not follow the sending of God. Nevertheless, some without doubt are still sent out from God in order to preach his Word whom one shall not attempt to recognize by the signs (for these are many times false and deceptive), but by their sound teaching and fruits (which will not be found with all false prophets and false Christians).
Paul also describes to us expressly how a bishop shall be qualified, but he does not say that he must also perform signs, 1 Tim. 3:1[ 7]; Titus 1:5[ 9]. One reads nowhere in Scripture that Timothy, Titus, and others in addition, who were full of the Holy Spirit did signs. Therefore someone can indeed be a bishop and yet not do any sign. But a bishop's office or service is to preach the gospel and thus to feed the flock of Christ, 1 Cor. 1: 1 [?]; [Acts 20:28; 1 Pet. 5:2 4]. But preaching the gospel is more than to distribute the sacramental signs, yet the one was established and commanded with the other of the Lord Christ Jesus, as was said above, Matt. 28:; Mark 16:15.
Out of all this it now finally follows that a teacher may indeed be sent of God, teach God's Word, and serve the congregation of Christ, yet nevertheless do no signs. Therefore they err who look upon signs and watch for them to come. But [let] them beware that they do not accept and receive Satan (who is very cunning and hides all his wickedness under the guise of hypocrisy) as Christ, 2 Cor. 11: [14 15], and that it not happen to them as with the Jews, to whom Christ said, "I have come in my Father's name, and you did not accept me; but if another comes in his own name, him you will receive," John 5:43.
In the third place, some say, that a teacher who is sent of God should not teach secretly but should proclaim the Word of God openly before everyone. Answer
Thus it also happened to Christ. For his brothers (says the evangelist) said to him, "'Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples may see the works you are doing. For no man works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.' For even his brothers did not believe in him," John 7:3 [ 5]. Thus the unbelieving and evil world also says now at the present time [together] with the apostate and false brothers, that teachers, if they are from God, should make themselves manifest to the world. But what did Christ answer his brothers (who did not believe in him and therefore wanted that he should reveal himself to the world?): "My time has not yet come, but your time is always ready. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil," John 7:6[ 7]. Thus all disciples of Christ must now do also, maintain their silence, accommodate themselves to the time (yet in such a way that they do not act against God's Word) and not regard what the perverted and godless say, Rom. 12:; Eph. 5:16. For the world has always blasphemed the works of God and cannot look upon them with good eyes. It must all be evil, however good that is which the good Lord Christ Jesus does.
Therefore he also says in the Gospel, “To whom shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market places and calling to their playmates, 'We piped to you, and you did not want to dance; we lamented, and you did not want to cry.' John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, 'He has a demon'; the Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'See what a glutton and drunkard this person is, a companion of tax collectors and sinners!' Yet wisdom must let itself be justified by her children," Matt. 11: 16[-17]; Luke 7:31 [ 32].
From this one may recognize the evil, hypocritical nature which always seeks a reason to oppose Christ and finds none. Here one may clearly see that the perverted and malicious [persons] who hate the gospel, and it does not help whether it is sweet (as Christ makes it) or sour (as John makes it). But they pervert it into evil every time they [have opportunity to] abuse the gospel. The apostle Paul had to be regarded by the Jews as an agitator and by Festus as mad, Acts 21:38; 26:24. Thus the world has always been perverted like it still is and deals in a perverted manner with the Christians. For if they reveal themselves and come forth boldly and proclaim God's Word, the world can yet not, above all other things endure such, and abuses them as enthusiasts [and] agitators; yes, persecutes them with sword, water, and fire. But if they keep themselves secret and live their faith in quietness, then the world blasphemes them nonetheless and calls them rabble spirits, corner preachers, and does not know how to blaspheme them disdainfully enough.
Is this not a perverse nature which castigates Christians whenever they keep themselves hidden and remain quiet, and whenever they are open they cannot endure a single Christian? So there is here now no other counsel to be found than that the Christians, if they are exposed, will be persecuted by the world, and if they are hidden they will be blasphemed and disdained by the world. This is also the prediction of the Lord, as all Christians and God fearing [persons] well know, Matt. 5:10; 10:16[ 17]; 24:9; John 15:18. Therefore then, they do not regard what the world and the false brothers say. Nevertheless we thus wish, through the grace of the Lord, to serve all goodhearted [persons], but give to our ministers a more reasonable answer [and] broader information thereon, and speak thus.
In the first place, we have indicated above, with many clear testimonies of Scripture, whereby a true teacher shall be known and differentiated from a false teacher. Whoever now is such an one, just as the Scripture portrays a true teacher, and remains always conformed to Christ his Lord and master, yes, out of true fervent love of God and the neighbor is driven to his ministerial office, he is without doubt sent of God whether he teaches secretly or openly, 1 Cor. 10: ; Phil. 3:17. The opponent then says, yes, [but] Christ and his apostles taught openly. Answer
Christ was promised to the Jews and sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, Matt. 10:6; 15:24. To them he proclaimed his Father's Word and performed such works among them as no one else had done in order that they should believe in him, and if not, that they then had no excuse. In addition, Christ could slip away in the midst of his enemies, Luke 4:30. Yes, he caused them to fall to earth through his powerful Word and no one could lay a hand on him before his hour was come, John 18:6. Nevertheless he still hid himself and did not trust the people, for he knew well (as John says) what was in the people, John 2:24 [ 25].
The apostles were chosen by Christ and sent out to preach the gospel to all creatures, and to be witnesses of Christ to the end of the world, Matt. 28:[17 20]; Mark 16:15; John 15:27; Acts 1:22. Therefore God also worked marvelously with them. But God does not work thus with all teachers, for they are not all like the great apostles, and God also does not want to accomplish through all teachers what he accomplished through the apostles. Therefore he also did not lay upon all teachers what he laid upon the apostles. The apostles were commanded of the Lord to preach the gospel to all creatures which they also did through God's grace, Matt. 28:[18 20]; Mark 16:15; Col. 1:6. The teachers who now follow them must then preach not only to so called Christians, but also to Jews and Turks and all heathen. But now Paul says to the teachers and bishops of the congregations that they should take heed to themselves and to the congregation over which the Holy Spirit had set them, Acts 20:28.
The apostles spoke at Pentecost with tongues of fire and everyone understood them, Acts 2:[3 ]4. This had not happened before that time nor since. Thus God also miraculously released the apostles from prison, Acts 5:18; Acts 12:7; 16:25[ 26]. Thus if anyone now wants to say that the teachers should preach openly as Christ and his apostles did, he [should] still consider that Christ was able to free himself out of the hands of his enemies as he milled and that God worked and dealt so marvelously with his apostles. The one must always be observed with the other so that one does not with indiscretion lay upon every teacher [to do] what Christ and his apostles did. But just as God apportions to every individual the measure of the Spirit and faith, and has given him his particular service, he himself will know [what] to observe, and also [what] should be observed by the congregations, 1 Cor. 12:[4 11].
Yes, says the opponent then, God's hand is not shortened. He is still able to help his own as he helped the apostles. Answer
That we know and indeed believe. The disciples at Damascus also knew and believed that God is almighty, but nevertheless they helped Paul over the wall at night and thus he escaped out of the hands of the authorities of Damascus, Acts 9:25. The Christians at Ephesus also knew and indeed believed that God is almighty and could certainly protect Paul from all his enemies. Nevertheless they would not permit Paul to go among the people and give them a reply, Acts 19:30. But now some wish to expel the teachers into the midst of their enemies, even when it has been shown before their eyes how extremely blood thirsty the world is and with abominable tyrannies persecutes the teachers unto death. But what kind of a spirit, disposition, and love these people have may be seen and understood [when compared with] the example of these disciples at Damascus and at Ephesus.
Elijah also well knew that God is almighty. He also trusted his Lord and God that he could protect him well. Nevertheless, he feared [for] himself before Jezebel and fled into the wilderness, 1 Kings 19:3. But Jezebel could cherish no more evil purpose against Elijah than the world now has against all Christians, and in particular against the true teachers and preachers of the gospel.
Above all this, Jesus Christ our Lord left the land of Judea when he heard that Herod had thrown John into prison, Matt. 14:13. If then Elijah hid himself from Jezebel [and] Christ from Herod, why should not a true teacher also do the same?
The opponent then says [that] Elijah revealed himself before Ahab and Jezebel and the whole people of Israel, 1 Kings 18:1; [18: 17; 18: 30; 19:1 2], and Christ did not always remain outside of the land of Judea.
That Elijah revealed himself was the will of the Lord, therefore he was also driven thereto by the Spirit of the Lord. When God also wills that the teachers should come into the open and not fear for themselves before murderous Jezebel, then the Lord will indeed work and drive [them] thereto through his Spirit.
The opponent then says, yes, since the teachers of this present time are not driven through the Spirit of the Lord to reveal themselves to the world, therefore they should remain silent and not take it upon themselves to teach, to distribute the sacramental signs of Christ, and thus to gather a congregation of God.
Answer If after all the apostles out of fear of the Jews came together secretly, held their gathering [behind] locked doors, taught, baptized, and broke bread in houses, and that not by day only but also by night, why may and should it not now also take place in this way, John 20:19; Acts 1: 13; 2:46; 20:7? Or will one accuse and censure the apostles because of this? Or is it now sin and censurable what in that time was good and useful?
The opponent then says thus: Christ after all said in the gospel, 'Whoever does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, so that his deeds will not be punished. But whoever does the truth comes to the light, that their works may be revealed, for they have been done in God," John 3:20 [ 21].
Thereupon we answer that these words are not against us. They are spoken by Christ to mean that evildoers hate the light of the divine Word in order that they may not be disciplined nor shamed thereby. Therefore the apostle says to the Thessalonians, "You are all children of light and of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness. So then let us not sleep, as the others do. Those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night," 1 Thess. 5:5[ 7]. Again, [he wrote] to the Romans, “The night is gone, the day has come. Let us then cast off the works of darkness and put on the weapons of light; let us conduct ourselves honorably as in the day.” Rom. 13:12[ 13].
Therefore the previously mentioned words of Christ are not to be understood that one may not teach God's Word secretly (for the contrary there is proof enough in the Scriptures), but that unbelievers and evildoers hate the true light, that is the Word of God, and flee from [it] because God's Word disciplines and judges. Yes, (as the apostle says), “It is sharper than any two edged sword, piercing to the division of body and soul, also through nerves and marrow, and is a judge of the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is invisible before him…, " Heb. 4:12 [ 13].
Since then God's Word thus pierces, disciplines, and judges, evildoers hate the light of the divine Word so that they may neither be disciplined nor judged by it. For the godless hate discipline, Prov. 9:8 and seek corners to slip into in order to hide themselves. They love darkness and are not eager to be seen, since what they indeed do secretly is a shame to say, as the apostle writes to the Ephesians, Eph. 5:12.
Likewise, let us observe with understanding what this signifies and what our Lord willed to give us to know therewith when he sent Elijah in the time of drought to Zarephath to a widow and there preserved him before Ahab and Jezebel, and fed, nourished, and kept him and the widow through a little oil and meal, 1 Kings 17:9. The Lord could well have fed and kept Elijah even had he not sent him to the widow. He could also have comforted the widow even if Elijah had not come to her. But it now pleased the Lord that Elijah with the widow and the widow with Elijah, would be kept (as is said) through a little oil and meal. But what this signifies we will give to all Godfearing persons to consider. According to our understanding these figures (as also all other figures), happened and [were] written for our learning, "so that by patience and the encouragement of the Scriptures, we might have hope," Rom. 15:4; namely, that God does not forsake his own, but helps them in every need and gathers them to each other that they may live their faith in quietness and solitude, guarded before Ahab and Jezebel, fed and nourished by God through his Word and Spirit. For the Lord does not forsake his saints but in evil times they are kept, Ps. 33:19; and in the time of drought they shall have enough.
The rich must suffer want and hunger, but those who fear the Lord have no lack, Ps. 34:[9 10]. But what [does] Christ say? “I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when heaven was shut up three years and six months, when there came a great famine over all the land; and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon to a woman who was a widow," Luke 4:25 [ 26]. Thus it still goes. For Ahab and Jezebel reign now also at this time and have brought Baal into Israel; therewith they make Israel to sin against the Lord. Therefore the Lord is also angry over Israel and has sent them a time of famine (that is) hunger and want of his Word upon earth, [Amos 8: 11], as Israel in the time of Elijah had want of bodily bread. And just as Elijah was sent alone to the widow in Zarephath, so also few are now found who are pleasing to the Lord, so that they receive the comforting and quickening of their souls from God through his Word and Spirit with the cooperation of the servants and ministers of Jesus Christ.
But that Elijah had to keep himself hidden [and] also was not sent by the Lord to many, but alone to the widow in Zarephath, that was not his fault but that of the others. That the teachers must now also hide at this time and not be sent to the world by the Lord the fault is not the Lord's (for he desires that all persons should be saved), also not of the sincere ministers (for they are of good will and inclined to serve everyone and to proclaim God's Word) but the wicked will not hear nor endure them, Ezek. 18:23; 1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9.
Finally, since Jezebel is so hateful against all servants of God, it is better to serve God in secret than to bow the knees openly before Baal better to teach God's Word secretly among those who have a desire for the truth and bear fruit according to it than to keep completely silent about it. It is better to teach the mystery of the kingdom of God and explain it secretly, where it is accepted and understood, as Christ and the apostles did, Matt. 13: 11, than to hear that the harmful throne openly serves evil with the law,6 Ps. 94:20. It is also better to practice the sacraments secretly with the God fearing and true believing [persons] according to God's Word than to openly misuse them with unbelieving and false Christians, or to despise them and abandon them entirely as the erring and prideful spirits do who think and say unashamedly, “They are rich and have prospered, and need nothing; not knowing that they are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked," Rev. 3:17.
Further, as Scripture clearly indicates, one may not speak about God's Word wherever and whenever one wills, but alone when and where God wills. But the Lord wills that his Word shall be spoken where it bears fruit. Again, where it does riot bear fruit, there it shall not be spoken. Therefore Eceleciasticus says, “Where there is no hearing, there one shall not speak in vain," Ecclus. 32:. And Christ said to his apostles, "Do not give dogs what is holy; and do not throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under foot and tear you to pieces," Matt. 7:6. These words give us adequate recognition that God's Word (which is the holy thing and the pearl) shall not be preached to the persecutors of truth (which are the dogs who gnash their teeth together over the righteous), Ps. 37:12, and the unclean who are drowned in the desires of the flesh (which are the swine).
Moreover, it is well to observe here that the Holy Spirit forbade Paul to speak in Asia but sent him to Macedonia to preach the gospel there, Acts 16:6 [ 9]. Therefore the same apostle said, "Speak what is profitable, for improvement where it is needed, that it may be profitable to hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, in which you were sealed for the day of redemption," Eph. 4:29 [ 30].
Yes, Christ himself did not want to give the Pharisees an answer to their question and also did not want to answer all the questions of Herod with a single word, [Luke 23:9]. In addition, Christ often spoke to the people in parables, Matt. 13: 10; Mark 4: 10, but the mystery of the gospel he explained secretly to his disciples to whom he said, "To you it has been given to understand the secrets of the kingdom of God, but to the others it has not been given," Matt. 13:11; [Mark 4:11], as it stands written, "he made known his ways to Moses, his intentions to the people of Israel," Ps. 103:7 And further, "he declares his word to Jacob, his manners and rules to Israel," Ps. 147:19. And Paul says that God's Word, that is, the mystery which was hidden from the foundation of the world, and from former times, is now revealed to the saints. "To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ among you, the hope of glory," Col. 1: .
Therefore Christ also says, "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth that you have hidden these things (the gospel) from the wise and understanding and revealed them to those without understanding and the simple ones; yes, Father, thus it has been pleasing to you," Matt. 11: 25 [ 26]; Luke 10: 2 1. And Christ further says, "Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, that is the one who loves me; and whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him." Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, "Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world," John 14:21[ 22]?
Out of all these words it is easily observed that God himself hid his Word from the world, that Christ spoke to the people in obscure parables, the Holy Spirit forbade Paul to speak God's Word in Asia, and God revealed his Word to his saints and not to the world. How then may the ministers of the Word be blamed with any reasonable~ ness that they act according to this example in these dangerous times, to conceal the mystery of the gospel from this evil world, and in quietness secretly to reveal and speak what is profitable to the goodhearted who are receptive to hear them,7 in order that they not grieve the Holy Spirit, Eph. 4:  ?
In summary, how a teacher shall primarily be tested and recognized by his teaching and fruits is adequately explained above. But whether to teach openly or secretly is beside the point. For to teach openly is good and right according to the opportunity of the time; to teach secretly is not forbidden according to the opportunity of the time. Public teaching, if it is false, does not therefore become good because it is publicly taught. That which is false must be and remain false even if it were taught publicly a thousand times and were it wonderfully decorated with beautiful sounding words. Again, to teach secretly does not therefore become false because it was taught secretly. For what is right, that must remain right (says the prophet) and this shall please all devout hearts, Ps. 94:15. And God's Word is and remains the truth whether it be taught secretly or publicly. And if it were [so] that the true teachers might teach publicly, they should yet proclaim to us nothing other than this same Word of God that is revealed and taught us through the grace of the Lord.
Therefore here is not to be twisted, here no looking around after another gospel, since after all, both angels and people must be cursed who preach us another gospel than that which we have received from Christ and his apostles, Gal. 1:8[ 9]. So let us now, according to the word of the prophet, give God the honor, and observe the light before it becomes dark and our feet stumble on the dark mountains, Jer. 13:16. We also see before [our] eyes how perilous the times now are, much more than at the time of the apostles. Then the apostles and Christians could flee from one city to another, Matt. 10:23, but now all lords and princes, cities and lands have made a covenant against us.8 Then the heathen government was so reasonable and proper that they did not wish to oppose strongly the faith and affairs of the Christian religion, Acts 17:9; 18:14 [ 15]; 23:22. But now almost everyone wants to be a lord over the conscience [of others] and a judge of faith (which after all belongs to Christ alone). Now the papal caesardom with all who are included therein, persecutes our faith as abominably as Antiochus persecuted the God fearing Jews.
[In] particular the remnant of the pharisaic race, the perverted scribes, the presumptuous wise and arrogant of the world shout and rage against us, those who are of the seed of Cain and not of Abel, Isa. 5:21; Gen. 4:8. Therefore they persecute and kill the righteous, 1 John 3:. And even though they are many times warned and instructed by God's Word, both orally and in writing, yet they remain stuck in their blindness, wickedness, and abominable tyranny. How then could it go otherwise with these despisers and persecutors of the divine Word, than it went with the rebellious, unbelieving, and malicious Jews; that is, that the kingdom of God would not come to them or again would be taken from them because they, after all, did not want to bring [forth] its fruits, Matt. 21:43?
And how much more is there to say? The world has no inclination to hear God's Word, therefore it is also not worthy to hear it. It despises righteousness, therefore it has also fled far from it. It persecutes Christ and has no desire whatever for that which [is] his; thus Christ also does not desire it. It will not cease from evil; therefore it also will not be disciplined by God's Word. It hates the truth, as Ahab did; therefore a lying spirit misleads them in the mouth [s] of all the prophets of Baal, 1 Kings 22:. It will not endure true teachers; therefore the Lord sends it false prophets in heaps who speak to it what it gladly bears. And stated in the briefest form it happens even as Isaiah laments, namely, “that they are a rebellious people; lying, faithless children who will not hear the law of the Lord; who say to the seers, 'you should not see'; and to the prophets, 'Do not tell us what is right but what is pleasing to us; show us illusions, leave the way, turn aside from the path, let the Holy One of Israel cease among us,' " Isa. 30:9 [ 11].
Since then the world wants to have such prophets, the Lord thus sends her such teachers as she desires. But they must all come to shame as the Lord says through Ezekiel, “If the prophet be misled and speak a word, I, the Lord myself have misled that prophet, and I will stretch out my hand against him, and will root him out of my people Israel. And they shall both bear their misdeeds, the misdeeds of the inquirer shall be the same as the misdeeds of the prophet, etc.” Ezek. 14:9 [ 10]. Jeremiah also lamented over Jerusalem that it was so miserably led astray by the false prophets and was brought into captivity, and says, "Oh, daughter of Jerusalem, wherewith shall I comfort you? Whom shall I liken to you, daughter of Zion, with which to comfort you? For your injury is great. Who can heal you? Your prophets have preached idle and foolish visions and have not revealed their misdeeds. Therewith they could have avoided your captivity, but they have preached idle sermons, so that they have preached you out of the land," Lam. 2:13 [ 14].
Thus the false prophets deceived Jerusalem, brought it to BabyIon, and [they] themselves also came there. Yes, some received abominable punishments for their deceptive prophecies, Jer. 28:16. Thus it shall also go with the world and her false prophets as long as they do not amend themselves. But the Lord wants to convert them that they may honestly repent and turn to the living God and may come from darkness to the true light that they may be saved.
See, dear brothers, we have written a little through the grace of the Lord, out of brotherly love, about the sending of the evangelical teachers. Our friendly desire is that you will accept this for the best and test it well with the touchstone of Holy Scripture. We certainly might write much more about the matter, but we hope that we have done enough for the understanding and good hearted. The perverted and malicious are not to be helped, even though an angel from heaven were to preach the truth to them. But the almighty God, a Father of all mercies and a God of all grace, 2 Cor. 1:3; 1 Pet. 5:10, who enlightens, strengthens, and confirms all true teachers and ministers of his Holy Word, whom he has set over his congregation through Christ Jesus with his Spirit, [grant] that they may remain steadfast in the evangelical teaching and show themselves irreproachable workers, who rightly divide the Word of truth, 2 Tim. 2:15, so that at the revelation of Jesus Christ they may receive from him the unfading crown, 1 Pet. 5:4.
And you, dear brothers in the Lord, “you who were straying like sheep, but are now converted to the shepherd and guardian of your souls," to Christ Jesus, 1 Pet. 2:25, remain steadfast in his teaching, hear his voice alone, follow in his footsteps, and be at peace with your leaders and teachers who rightly teach you God's Word, John 10:27; 1 Thess. 5:12[ 13]. [Do this] so that the God of peace may be among you and that the Lord Jesus Christ may recognize you as his sheep on the last day and set you on his right hand and say to you, "Come here, you blessed of my Father, possess the kingdom of your Father that was prepared for you from the beginning of the world," Matt. 25:34. To that end the eternal God help us all through Christ Jesus. Amen.
1. Dienaers, literally servants but used generally, in this context, to refer to ministers. So also Leeraers, literally teachers, means ministers but will be translated as teachers to avoid redundancy since Dirk often uses both terms in conjunction.
2, Gherneynte is often translated church, but congregation(s) is the more accurate translation. By "church" most Anabaptists tended to think of the Roman Catholic and Protestant institutions. Cf.. the well known church and sect typology of Troeltsch (1865 1923), The Social Teaching of The Christian Churches, pp. 694ff. and related literature.
3. The “gospel of all creatures" is referred to frequently in early Anabaptism, particularly in the baptismal theology of Hans Hut (d. 1527). Drawing on both medieval mysticism and on natural theology it held that true knowledge of God can be had through all of his creation, Rom. 1:20, and is preached to every creature, Col. 1:23. Creation itself prepares the way for the gospel of Christ, particularly through suffering. Thus Hut writes, “In the gospel [of] all creation is nothing else signified and preached than alone Christ the crucified, but not only Christ the head, but the whole Christ with all [his] members, this Christ preach and teach all creatures.... Here is not [to be] understood that the gospel is [to be] preached to dogs and cats, cows and calves, foliage and grass, but as Paul says, the gospel that is preached to you in all creatures." Muller Glaubenszeugnisse, p. 16. That is, the gospel is not preached to but in or of [through] all creation. To make this point, Hut changed the Mark 16:15 text from the dative to genitive case. For a translated excerpt of Hut's "Of the Mystery of Baptism, " see Rupp, Patterns of Reformation, pp. 379ff. See also Packull, Mysticism, and Williams, The Radical Reformation. In Genesis 9:8 17, we note that the covenant was not only made with Noah and his descendents but also with "every living creature.”
4. The quotations from Psalm 73 and 12 are translations of the Dirk text but do not correspond with the Dutch text of the Biestkens Bible of 1563. They do, however, correspond with the German text of Luther's translation. This raises the possibility that Dirk sometimes worked with a German Bible whose text he simply translated into Dutch.
5. Dirck V. Coornhert and others argued that for a ministry to be valid the minister must be either called/sent by a legitimate congregation or be able to perform miracles. They did not accept the Anabaptist congregation(s) as legitimate and, since Anabaptist ministers could not perform miracles, their ministry was not of God.
6. Dirk's meaning here is not clear. The reference may be to Ps. 94:20 where the RSV reads, "Can wicked rulers be allied with thee, who frame mischief by statute?"
7. The identity of these "good hearted" people, a phrase frequently used by Dirk, is not clear. He may, in fact, be referring to Anabaptists, but it is also possible that he had friends of Anabaptists in mind, people who largely agreed with them and often helped them, but did not join them for fear of persecution; hence the “in quietness secretly to reveal . . ." words. The attitude toward these "friends" [true hearted] was to become an issue in the Amish division of 1693 97. See "Half Anabaptists" in ME 11:634 and related literature.
8. The article “Mandates” in ME 3:446 53 lists 221 decrees against the Anabaptists from 1525 1761. The listing is not exhaustive. The imperial mandate issued by Emperor Charles V on January 4, 1528, was reaffirmed at the second Diet of' Speyer in 1529 and extended to the entire area then known as the Holy Roman Empire. A specific edict was issued against Menno Simons by Charles V on August 31, 1544, followed by others in the Lowlands and Rhine Valley area. Dirk's assessment of persecution in the early church is too optimistic.
Used by Permission. Originally published by Herald Press, Scottdale, PA 15683, USA. To order from them in the UK, contact Metanoia Books. Elswhere, see the Mennonite Publishing Network web site for ordering details.
O Almighty and Merciful God; everyone lives in iniquity, blindness and error and the whole world exists in wickedness (1 John 5[:19]). I pray that you will deliver all good-hearted people out of this blindness and error and draw and bring them to your marvellous light. Jesus Christ alone is this light, your eternal Word and your only Son. 0 Lord, enlighten with this light all darkened hearts who earnestly and truthfully desire to live and walk in it. For it only is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14[:6]). Beside this light there is no other way, truth and life, but only error, falsehood, and death, no matter how brightly it shines in the world and before all people.
O Heavenly Father, grant us to know this light so that we may abandon what is wrong and take the true way against which the great number of people have striven since the beginning of the world. From among these many a little flock has accepted this way and remained steadfast in it. For it is a very narrow way and few walk on it (Matt. 7[:14]). 0 Lord, who would not be afraid and tremble (Joel 2[:1]) because of the amazing judgements and deeds (Isa. 58[?]) you have manifested in these last and perilous times (Zeph. 1), anxious to help the world. But alas, the world will not acknowledge it. Therefore, Eternal God, grant us your Holy Spirit who will teach the truth in our hearts that we may worship you in Spirit and in truth (John 4[:23]). Christ our Saviour himself taught us to say: Our Father in heaven. Christ taught us what all pretended Christians also mouth and confess with their hypocritical, external, and invented works but deny with their hearts and the absence of true deeds. Every true-hearted Christian, knowing this prayer, can easily see this. For if God is called Father by the world, how can he have children who love him and live a heavenly life? How can the name of God be hallowed in them, the kingdom of God come to them, and his will be done? Are they hungry for daily bread, that is the Word of God? How do they forgive each other? How are they kept from temptation to sin, and how can they desire to be delivered from evil? (Gloss: The Our Father falsely taught).
From all of this it is easy to conclude who are the true believers and proper Christians and who not. Since not everyone who says Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does the will of the heavenly Father, I am certain when I say: if I had all the pretend Christians in the whole world all together, and I asked them to tell me truly if they were Christians, each one would say either I don't know, or I hope so, or I want to become one and the like. And even if someone said yes he would still not be certain of it in his heart since he felt not the least trace of Christian deeds in heart or life. To be brief, that these pretend Christians are worse than Turks or heathen they must themselves acknowledge to each other. For under the sun there is no people who so blasphemes God's name, his suffering, agony and death as these pretend Christians. They are full of terrible public vices such as adultery, fornication, drunkenness, pride, envy, quarrelling and gossip, not to mention the secret sins. Therefore you are not Christians, regardless of how you try to prove it. You are Christians only if you live according, to the teaching and commandments of Christ, which are none other than the commandments of God, his Father, and if you continue in his life and follow in his footsteps. Otherwise you are worse than any other unbelieving nation on earth. May God enlighten you. Amen
Whoever desires to be a true Christian must have in himself the witness of the truth and remember that his former life and being was sinful and under condemnation in the light of the commandments of God and the teaching, life, and example of Christ and his disciples. He must remember that he harboured hostility in his heart against Jesus and opposed him in word and deed and still does. He must know that in his own strength it is impossible to act and live as a true believer or Christian should. Moses in the Law and Christ in the Gospel said that every word or truth is valid when supported by two or three witnesses. We also have three witnesses to instruct in and witness to a true Christian and God-blessed life. These are created things, Scripture and Christ.
The First Witness is Created Things
First, therefore, all things that God has created for human necessity and use witness to and teach human beings what a godly and Christian life is. For no creature has been created to live and die for itself alone, but rather to die according to the will and bidding of humans. That is why Christ commands his apostles to preach the "Gospel of all creatures." Christ himself, in his time, taught mainly by means of created things and parables, among them trees, vineyards, fields, seed, dough, bread, fish, weights, oil, lamps, clothing and many others. He did not teach at all without parables.
Without doubt, Jesus' disciples taught the Gospel in the same way as Paul, who had become a servant of the Gospel, said. It has to be done in the same way today. An example: a chicken or a fish or another animal which you plan to eat cannot of its own will be what it must be according to your bidding and will. It cannot kill, remove its feathers and prepare itself for cooking or frying. You have to do it; it must suffer your will. You must turn it into what it must be;" the creature can do nothing towards it. It has to surrender and suffer your will and action. It is in its best state for you when it is most contemptible, that is, when you chew it and swallow it. The same thing can be observed and learned from other created things everywhere. Consider what wine and bread have to suffer before you can use or eat them. If we use the created things only to fill our bellies and the nurture this fetid bag of sin, we should be no better than Turks or heathen. Indeed, we would be like the unreasonable animals, as David says. Another parable is a field. If it is covered with grass, thistles, and thorns, it can't be sowed on, as the prophet says (Jer. ?). Notice what work the field must suffer before it is ready for the seed. Again, an ungrafted wild tree will yield only wild fruit. If we expect good fruit from it, it must be slashed, all its branches cut off down to a stump, and a new branch grafted on. Further, no one tills someone else's field, and no one will graft a tree in another's garden without permission, as the prophet says.
Before we come to understanding and are able to distinguish between good and evil we are all by nature and manner a bad tree and can never make ourselves good even as a field cannot till itself nor a tree graft itself; a farmer or a gardener has to do it. Likewise God alone can make us devout, just and useful to his praise, and we have to endure his work and discipline patiently and keep still as the field for the farmer and the tree for the gardener (Prov. 1[:23], 3[:11], 5[:12]). God himself says: Return to me that I may give you my spirit. Learn my words for that is the good seed on the field and the good branch on the tree (Isa. 65[?]; Jer. 7[?]; Hos. 6[?]. Since, however, we are the field of a stranger and growing in someone else's garden, God does not want to sow his seed in us nor graft his branches in us. He will do that only for the one who surrenders all possessions (Matt. 16[:24-26], 19[:21]). Otherwise one cannot be a disciple of Christ (Luke 9[:23-25], 14[:33]). This is what it means to teach and preach the gospel of all creatures as the Lord commands (Matt. 28[:19-20]). (This is the power and the will of God and his divine work, to save us by grace and mercy through faith in Christ). The created things (Mark 16[:15]) are God's book and living text which everyone can read and understand so that on the day of judgement there can be no excuse before the Lord.
That is why Job says: "Speak to the earth and she will answer you. Ask the animals and they will answer you, the birds of the air and the fish in the sea will show you" (Job 17[12:7-8]). Paul says that "God's invisible nature, that is, his eternal power and divine nature, have been understood and seen through the things he has made from the creation of the world." He goes on to say: "So they are without excuse, for though they knew that God is, they did not honour or praise him, nor give him thanks as God, but they became futile in their thinking and their ignorant hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise they became fools" (Rom. 1[:20-22]). Elsewhere Paul says that "the invisible things are known by what is visible" (Heb. 11[:3]).
Here we can clearly see how we should understand the creation and all the creatures of God. From those that are visible we see what is invisible, namely God's power and wisdom and work which he, and not we ourselves, performs in us. He justifies, sanctifies and makes us fit for his honour and the glory of his kingdom through his Son Jesus Christ.
Accordingly, all things such as eating, drinking, sleeping, waking, getting dressed and undressed, all that is done and left undone, personally and with others, are clean for the Christian. For in all things the Christian seeks not his own will but God's only, so that at all times there is a willing readiness to be subject to God's will and patiently to submit to it. In the same way all the things that are necessary to life must patiently suffer the Christian's will, although unwillingly because the creation is subject to futility. That is why the creation is afraid and yearns and waits for the liberation of the children of God in hope, as Paul says (Rom. 8[:20-21]). Human flesh is resistant to the Spirit. However, there is no condemnation in those who belong to Christ. For they live not after the flesh but according to the Spirit. That means that the flesh does not govern them but rather the Spirit. The Spirit [in the believer] employs all created things, sees in them the work of God, and is always ready and willing to submit to the Lord. Such a person understands the gospel of all creatures and is called to preach it. There is no need here for intellectual brilliance nor vaulting wisdom; only a simple, obedient, unselfish and humble heart (Ps. 51[:17]). Such a heart God accepts, as the Scriptures witness in many places (Luke 1[:48]).
Much more could be written about the created things. However, I hope that every person of goodwill who desires Christian truth and a godly life will consider the matter diligently and more deeply than I have done here.
The Second Witness is Scripture
Let us now listen to the second witness, the Scriptures. The whole of Scripture everywhere testifies to the suffering of the elect from Abel down to the apostles (Matt. 23[:35]). That is what is meant when it says that the Lamb was slain from the foundation of the world (Rev. 13[:8]).
Let us consider, therefore, how our fathers Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and others attained salvation (Judg. 8[:18-23]). They struggled to attain faith through much tribulation. We read of the great persecution endured by Elijah, Jeremiah and others from their own fellow believers (that is the Jews), and were even killed by them as Jesus told his listeners in the Gospel (Matt. 23[:29-35]). Especially important here is the 11th chapter of Hebrews where the apostle surveys practically the whole Scripture and describes what the saints suffered and how they overcame through faith.
Paul says that everything that is written is written for our instruction so that through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures we might have hope. Suffering brings patience since all Scripture speaks only about suffering. Patience without suffering is not patience even as fire is not fire without heat and light. Comfort consists in the promise of God to help and rescue his saints from suffering for which there is much Scripture (Ps. 91[:14]). I will be with them, says the Lord, to rescue them from all tribulation and to honour them.
Likewise, God is near to all afflicted hearts, and those of a humble spirit he will save.
Christ says: "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted" (Matt. 5[:4]), and "Woe to you who laugh now, for you will howl and weep." Similarly he says, In the world you will have fear, but in me peace. The world will rejoice and you will mourn, but your sorrow will turn into peace, and no one will take that peace from you (John 16[:20-22]). Through much anxiety and sadness we will enter the kingdom of heaven (Acts 14[:23]), for very child which the Father loves he disciplines (Prov. 3[:12]). Whoever is without discipline is a bastard and inherits nothing (Heb. 12[:8]). Search all the epistles of Paul, Peter, and James, and you will read about the sufferings of Christians, and in the book of Revelation of John, which alone speaks of the last times we read: here is the patience of the believers and the saints. Here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith in Jesus.
By the mercy of God I admonish every sincere Christian (a proper Christian knows it already) to look to Scripture where the Lord himself distinguishes the true from the false Christians (Matt 24 13[:27]; Luke 21[:27]).
Being a true Christian has nothing to do with fur coats, long gowns and hats, good eating and drinking and idleness, honoured sir, highly learned father, beautiful salons, tall houses, warm rooms, gentle brother on your pillow or feather mattress. Poor blind crew! That is not the way it is. I say it without envy as God is my witness; within a very short time you will know it with much greater sorrow and suffering than the pleasure and happiness you have had. I would like to know which way you will look then and where you will find your comfort. Now you are haughty and blind, and pretend to be leaders of the blind. But should not one of your own kind, who knows all about you, who to his own loss himself learned and experienced it, leave you alone and unscathed? Yes indeed, you have already lost part of the game; you understand me well enough, right? The pay-off is on the other, the left side, but not everywhere. Enough, there are already too many words. I repeat, Scripture can never be abolished. It will be fulfilled in whole and in every part, in the members as well as the head, who is Christ.
The Third Witness is Christ,
who has himself said that his life is an example for us according to which we are to live and walk, everyone according to his measure, as Peter said: "Christ has suffered for us and left us a likeness or an example that we should follow in his steps" (1 Pet. 2[:21]). He continues: since Christ has suffered in the flesh for us, arm yourselves with the same mind, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has finished with sin so as to live for the rest of your earthly life no longer by human desires but by the will of God. For it is quite enough that we lived in a heathen way in our past life in licentiousness, passions, drunkenness. revels, carousing, and lawless idolatry. They are surprised that you no longer join with them in the excesses of disorderly living and so they curse you. But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.
It should be easy, for God's sake, to tell from these words of Peter who is a Christian and who not. For whoever has been burdened down with the vices of lewdness, gluttony, drunkenness, blasphemers, and idolatry (Paul recalls avarice a service of idolatry, Eph. 5[:5]) in the world for a long time and still is, such a one is not a Christian, says Peter. It is a common saying that the devil has knocked out their bottoms. Paul says likewise that no one should be able to charge you with fornication, uncleanness and greed. That should be obvious for the saints, that is, all Christians. Shameful words, foolish behaviour, and levity that produces no good but rather vexation, and which cannot be reconciled with Christian living, must be avoided. Instead give thanks. For you must know that no fornicator or unclean or greedy person will inherit the kingdom of God.
Those however, are Christians, who have the mind of Christ as Paul writes (Phil. 2[:5]). They prepare themselves to suffer, have nothing to do with the disorder of the world, have no fellowship with the works of darkness but rather with the works of light (Rom. 13[:12]), are not ashamed of their master Christ and of his words (John 13[Mark 8:38]), and [are prepared] to follow him, each in the measure of grace given for it. Therefore also he will not be ashamed of them before God his heavenly Father and all his angels as he himself says (Matt. 16[Luke 9:26]), and then goes on: "Whoever loves his life will lose it, but whoever hates and loses his life in this world for my sake, will save it for eternal life" (Mark 8[:35]; Luke 9[:24], 14[:11]. Whoever desires to serve me must follow me, and wherever I am, there shall my servant also be. Whoever serves me will be honoured by my Father (John 12[:26]). If anyone wants to be my follower, says the Lord, let him take up his cross daily and follow me (Luke 9[:23]).
To sum up, a follower of Christ is a Christian. Nothing can change that, even though the whole world should shatter and end, which will certainly happen, and, I venture to say, very soon (2 Pet. 3[:10]). For a thousand years are before God as one day, says Peter. For this reason Christians lift up their heads and await their liberation with joy. This will happen when Christ returns to judge the living and the dead (Ezek. 12[:23, :28]).
A goodhearted person is one whom the Father draws. He wants everyone to be saved for he teaches and witnesses to them all. If such a person has been witnessed to in truth by all creatures, the Scriptures of Christ and his teaching, life and example, finds in his heart and is certain that this and no other is the way to salvation, to such a one the gospel of all the creatures has been preached. He is taught and made into a disciple. In the name of Christ repentance and forgives of sins has been proclaimed to him (Luke 24[:47]) provided that he surrenders himself with his whole heart and believes Christ. The Lord says: "Whoever believes" (Mark 16[:15]). This faith is also a work of God in a person. Through this faith God makes a covenant with a person and that person with God. God himself says: Henceforth I will be your God and you my son or daughter, my servant, man or woman together with all my elect sons and daughters who keep my commandments, live and walk according to my will, all of which is written in Moses and the prophets. This is not the old covenant which he made with the Jews who were his people then (Deut. 26). The old covenant, confirmed with the blood of a ram, is only a figure of the new which is a true covenant as Jeremiah says Jer. 24[:7], 31[:31-34]). Christ himself calls it the new testament in his blood which is shed for the forgiveness of sins (Heb. 8[:8-13]). It is impossible to say too much in words about this new testament. For it only is the work of the Spirit in the human heart and is at the same time the baptism of Spirit and fire with which Christ baptises. What a holy and blessed covenant it is! It is eternal which no mortal man is able to grant or prevent. Only God through his only Son Christ has that power and orders it through his servants who are not chosen by men but by him. David says: "Gather to me my faithful ones, who look to my covenant rather than to sacrifice" (Ps. 49[:50]). Christ himself confirms it all for his disciples irrespective of the permission of the worldly powers such as emperors, kings, or princes, in the passages mentioned above. This covenant is not against them but rather for them, but their power concerns not the souls but the body and property only. Christ is the only lord in his kingdom and will remain so for ever. Here there is no respect of persons.
For the same reason Christ did not seek permission from the emperor in Rome or his governors in Syria nor the apostles from the kings and lords of the lands in which they preached. If they had tried to gain it, it would not have been given them. They would simply have participated in the same thing with their Lord. The proven and biblical Scriptures do not tell us much about that, since it is as impossible for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven as it is for a camel to go through the eye of a needle (Matt. 19[:24]). But what is humanly impossible is possible with God. O that God would grant all rulers [to know] how all true Christians honoured them; they would certainly heartily desire that, if it were possible, all their subjects would be Christians. But I am afraid they do not believe it. Nevertheless, the day of the Lord will reveal all things, for nothing is so hidden or secret that it will not be made known. I could go on here to a discussion of the covenant between God and the believer, but it would be too much. Briefly, 1 understand this covenant to be nothing other than the baptism of Christ in the Spirit and with fire as described above.
Spirit is the assurance in the conscience of the grace and mercy of God for the forgiveness of all committed sins no matter how great or how many, for Christ has taken them all away and annulled them. The Spirit of God witnesses to our spirits that we are the children of God. By this Spirit we can address God as Abba, dear Father. Whoever does not have the Spirit of Christ is no Christian (Rom. 8[:15-16, 9]).
The fire is the ardour of the love of God and the neighbour in the heart. It enables him to suffer whatever befalls him because of the witness to God's truth, including death. Nothing can turn such a believer from the witness of the truth in the heart. This fiery love of God overflows towards the neighbour, that is, the brothers and sisters, not only with words but with deed and truth. Such goodwill is given also to enemies and evildoers (Matt. 5[:44]), for Christ himself teaches us and says: "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13[:35]). Paul writes that love does no evil, does not commit adultery or unchastity, does not scold nor give false witness, nor commit any other kind of wrong (Rom. 13[:8-10]). The worldly Christians do such things. Enough has been said about faith, covenant and the inner baptism of Christ.
We go on now to speak about what the Lord says about how to baptise those who believe or have already believed in the past. In Matthew he says baptise them, understand well, those whom you have taught, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Mark 16[:16]; Matt. 28[:18-20]). This is said about water baptism or the external sign. This is for all of us the least important part of baptism but [the part] about which the world is most resentful.
Take note, please, why this water baptism is important for us. In the first place we observe it because Christ instituted and commanded this order, that is, first to preach and teach, secondly to believe, and thirdly to baptise.
Observe first, how strictly God has forbidden not to add or take anything away from his Word and not to pervert it (Deut. 4[:2], 12[:32]). So important are to us the words of Christ, for he is himself the eternal Word of God, and his Word is the very Word of the Father. Heaven and earth will pass away but not his Word (Matt. 24[351). That is why we will not alter it or pervert it but accept the commandment and remain in his order. In his grace he has restored our understanding to us regardless of what popes, Fathers, and Councils have ordered and agreed upon. For it is safer and more certain to build on Christ and his teaching than to depend on Fathers and Councils. After all, Christ the Lord (Matt. 25[:31]; 1 Cor. 15[:25]) and not popes, Fathers and Councils will be the judge on the Last Day. Nor is old custom of any avail since Christ and his Word are still older, that is, he is God's Son from eternity and will be in eternity.
Second, we believe that water baptism should be given after the knowledge of and faith in Christ because Christ himself received baptism from John the Baptist for the first time in the thirtieth year of his life (Matt. 3[:13-15]; Mark 1[:9]). After that he was led into the wilderness by the Spirit to be assaulted by the devil whom he also overcame (Luke 3[:21-23]). All this is a great mystery. A Christian life is not child's play. It must be marked by much resolution, truth, courage, and holiness. No external gentility or pleasant pastime as the whole world thinks will count for anything.
Thirdly, water baptism is a sign by which Christians make themselves known to each other by public confession. By this each of them will be prepared to give Christian, brotherly love to each other following the command of Christ. This involves teaching, admonishing, disciplining, excluding, binding, loosing and the like. This is not the least that Christians should do but the most necessary if the church, congregation or gathering of Christ is to remain the virgin and bride of her bridegroom without spot or wrinkle (Matt. 25[:1-13]), and also a holy mother and whatever other names she is called in Scripture. Or else, how has Christ cleansed and sanctified her with his blood if she does not live a spotless and holy life before God with each other and publicly before the world?
Not in any way do we bind salvation to external baptism, for Christ says: Whoever does not believe is condemned. He totally omits baptism. Everyone can read in the book of Acts that Peter, when he preached to the gentiles, witnessing to Christ and proving it with Scripture, all who heard the word and believed it, received the Holy Spirit; only later were they baptised (Acts 10[:44-48]). In this book there is instruction enough concerning external water baptism for anyone who desires it (Acts 8, 10, 19). However, I am afraid that those who are obligated to learn these things have already received their sentence as the Lord and also Isaiah say.
The third baptism, which is the result of water baptism, is the baptism of blood. The Lord speaks about this: “I have a baptism with which to be baptised, and how afraid I am until it is completed” (Luke 12[:50]). He means the baptism of suffering and shedding of his blood. And now he asks his disciples if they desire to be baptised with that same baptism?(Matt. 20[:22]). Here he offers them his suffering. For there are three that give witness on earth by which a person is known," namely Spirit, water, and blood (1 John 5[:8]). These three are one, since there is only one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all and of our Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 4[:5-6]).
To sum up: Since in this last and dangerous time God has raised up again a visible, holy, Christian assembly through his Son Christ, he also expects that this church should become manifest before the world through the external sign of baptism. True to form, the world rages and raves and itself does not know why. It is because God will begin his judgement with his own house. All the writings of the prophets, Christ, and the apostles will be fulfilled and completed first in his own house, and then in the whole world which will not acknowledge the fatherly and faithful visitation of its creator. Therefore she will suffer another judgement and penalty eternally. From which may God protect all those who humble themselves under his mighty hand and suffer patiently the fatherly discipline through Jesus Christ his Son, our Lord. Amen.
May everyone repent and be baptised in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Written in my bondage in Schwaz the 19th day of December, 1527.
by Pilgram Marpeck in 1531
from The Writings of Pilgram Marpeck. Translated and edited by William Klassen and Walter Klaassen, 1978
First, certain spirits (which, according to 1 John "went out from us but are not of us'' ) are advocating that the children of God should no longer use the ceremonies of the New Testament such as baptism, the Lord's Supper, and the Scriptures. These spirits think that such ceremonies are to be shunned because they have been abused and destroyed by the Antichrist, who imitates them without a mandate and without the witness of the heart. Therefore, the ceremonies are misunderstood, abused, and stained. This abomination will remain until the end, etc.
The righteous have nothing to do with evil matters (Ezek. 18; Deut. 24) because they have not given their consent (Lk. 23; Eph. 5; 1 Tim. 5; Rev. 18; 2 Cor. 6; Ps. 26; Ex. 23). Because the Antichrist is an unbeliever and a pervert, he uses all things, including the ceremonies, in a perverted, impure manner, for to him all things are impure (Tit. 1). This abuse cannot invalidate them for the believer who understands, uses, practices, and promotes them in a correct and pure manner. The ceremonies, duly instituted, are valid in themselves and cannot, as a result of the Antichrist's impurity and abuse, become impure for the pure.
Although the Antichrist uses them in a carnal manner, when man decides what is right and when they are inspired by Christ's mandate of faith, spirit, and truth, these ceremonies are also performed in a Christian manner and spiritual form. For they have been commended to the believers and not to those who follow the Antichrist. Consequently, neither those belonging to the Antichrist nor any others can defile the ceremonies so that they are weakened, or lose their power. Those who abuse them defile only themselves, but the commandment and the ordinance of Christ remain in themselves fresh, free, upright, powerful, and steadfast forever. They do not age, nor are they replaced, and, until His physical return, are not misplaced through length of time, for they have been instituted in the New Testament and not in the Old. Thus, with respect to time, they belong in the New Testament until Christ's physical return.
I freely, admit that whoever, like, the Antichrist, abuses such ceremonies does so unjustly and participates in the abomination. Where, however, the Spirit of Christ is present (which those belonging to the Antichrist lack and, I fear, these spirits also lack), there Christ's pure ordinance is joined to it. Among the holy, undefiled, and pure, Christ and His law are holy, undefiled, and pure; among the perverted, they are perverted (Ps. 2; Kings 22). The perverted and the cursed have spoiled it as far as God is concerned, and they are not His children because of their spots and blemishes (Deut. 32). Moreover, because these spirits appeal to the images of the Old Testament, I must reply using the same images.
How often did the Israelites and Jews defect from God and their laws in the Old Testament! Godless kings arose who besmirched, changed, perverted, and distorted the ceremonies of the law (just as the Antichrist did, and now does, in the New). Read 2 Kings 21; 2 Chronicles 15, 34, 35; Ezra 5, 10. A few times it occurred, not through the prophets, but through the people and their kings themselves, men who were compelled by their consciences and the fear of God (2 Chron. 14, 23, 24, 29, 30, 31, 33, 34; 1 Macc. 4) and not by special signs or miracles as these erring spirits aver. Just as the Israelites, rescued out of Babylon captivity (Ezra 2), restored the ancient ceremonies, so too does Christ today, through His servants rescued out of the prison of the Antichrist, restore and renew His instituted ceremonies (Acts 3) by means of His inner command and His bestowal of certainty of His Spirit.
Similarly, because of the apostasy of the same Jerusalemites (2 Thess. 2), Christ is again restoring the spiritual Jerusalem destroyed by the antichristian Chaldeans. Earlier, because of sins of the Israelites or Jews and their kings, the Chaldean and other kings destroyed the physical Jerusalem (2 Chron. 36; Neh. 1; 2 Chron. 24:23, 24; Jer. 25; 1 Macc. 1, 2). Yet, through the inspiration and awakening of God, and not through external miracles, Jerusalem was again rebuilt by King Cyrus (2 Chron. 36; Ezra 1) and also by Nehemiah (Neh. 2). For God calls His apostate people that they may again return to Him and keep His law and ordinance, that He may receive them and gather them together (Neh. 1; Jer. 3, 8, 31; Is. 31 Hos. 14). As then, so now, by breathing on His disciples and directing the shining brilliance of His countenance toward His spiritual Jerusalem, Christ will accomplish what He has promised, the revelation of His glory by means of His physical return (Lk. 21). To prepare for His coming, the King, Christ, has already begun to send ahead messengers who will ensure that His temple and the city of Jerusalem are purified and cleansed of all abuses of His commands, laws, and ceremonies. The spiritual idolatry, waste, and abomination raised by the Antichrist are to be purged from this spiritual Jerusalem, just as, previously, Josiah (2 Chron. 30, 34) and, figuratively, other kings under the law purged it. Thus when this king comes, ceremonies, external instruction, Scriptures, all enigmas, and all that is partial (1 Cor. 13) will cease and will no longer be needed. Only then will the true leap be taken.
Second, these spirits insist that, because of the death of the apostles, there is no longer any command or witness of the Scriptures concerning ceremonies such as baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Accordingly, these practices fall away, and the erring spirits are unconvinced that restitution is called for at this time. Therefore, what is needed is an external command lest we practice the ceremonies in unbelief of with an unsteady, doubting heart and the like, etc.
If such an argument were valid, we might well take heed not to say the Lord’s Prayer in vain or many other matters about which Jesus spoke to His disciples, internally and externally. Are we now to regard the Scriptures as words spoken only to the disciples present and as applying literally only to them at that time? That is impossible. It will be found in Scripture that such ceremonies must remain as long as there are Christians, that is, until the end of the world, for, in His command to baptize (Mt. 28), Jesus had in mind not only His present disciples but also all future disciples throughout time until the end of the world, a fact which is evident when He says: “I am with you always, to the close of the age.” He also spoke to them in this manner on other matters, as He did, for example, in Matthew 24, when He spoke of the end: “Now when you see the abomination of desolation,” etc. Further, He says in Luke 21: “When you see all this, then know that the end is near," and in Matthew 10: “When, however, this begins to happen, then look up.... You will not get around to all the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes.” He certainly knew that His contemporary disciples would not live that long. He further says in Mark 13: “What I say to you, I say to all, Watch.” Paul, too, when he spoke of the Lord's Supper (1 Cor. 11), addressed his remarks about Christ's physical return not only to his contemporaries but to all Christians, thus reiterating Christ's command to proclaim the Lord's death until He comes. This injunction does not refer to Christ's spiritual coming, as some have understood it to mean, for those who proclaim Christ's death must first have Him spiritually in them (2 Cor. 13), or eat the bread in an unworthy manner and thus, since they are unable to discern the body of the Lord, eat judgment unto themselves and the world.
How then can these spirits say that there is no longer any scriptural testimony or external authorization for such ceremonies? Similarly, when they affirm that at the time of the apostles the proclamation already went forth adequately as a witness to the world, they refute the proclamation of the gospel. Especially in these last days, proclamation of a witness is required from all nations in the whole world (Mt. 24; Mk. 13; Acts 3; Rev. 14). But the proclamation must be the same as the one Christ and the apostles have preached (Gal. 1; John 15; 2 John 1, 2; 2 Cor. 11; 1 Tim. 6), for Christ's Word will not pass away until heaven and earth pass away (Mt. 24; Mk. 13; Lk. 21). Since such a gospel is proclaimed openly through word and blood, neither is it His will that His words be changed, added to, or subtracted from (2 Cor. 2, 4; Rev. 22; Mt. 5; Deut. 4; Prov. 30; Gal. 3). Who, however, sent these preachers, witnesses, or messengers? Or do they testify to lies and not to truth?
If, then, such proclamation of, and testimony to, the gospel must take place in these last days, why then would they discontinue baptism, the Lord's Supper, etc., which are also external witnesses? Why differentiate between one external witness and another?
That Christ does not at this time once more in the flesh give a personal command as He did to the eleven disciples or, as in the case of Paul (Acts 9), perform a miracle, should not deter us. As noted, subsequent to the apostasy of Israel and the destruction of their kings, the ceremonies of the old covenant were reinstituted without miracles. If the people whom the Assyrian king (2 Kings 17) settled in the cities of Samaria had followed the Israelite priest, who came not with signs but rather with teaching or preaching, and if they had dealt with him according to the law of Moses, they would not have acted incorrectly, even though they were Gentiles. Thus, we should not yearn to have Christ, the Head, physically with us until He comes at the end of the world. Through the Spirit of Christ, there is sufficient inner command. Whoever desires more, such as miraculous signs or the like, as unbelievers always do, and does not, like the Ninevites, allow the proclamation of Jonah (who preached without miraculous signs) to suffice, is not hungry for the truth. Signs and wonders have already testified to this truth and the Scriptures have been made abundantly certain for us (Heb. 2; Mk. 16; Jn. 20; Acts 2, 7). For, although its actions deny this claim, the whole world verbally confesses Christ to be the Son of God and considers the Scripture its certification. Consequently, a destruction worse than that of Sodorn and Gomorrah, who did not have such a clear revelation, could result.
Therefore, he who in these last days desires miracles, and will not believe the truth without them, let him beware lest he be deceived and punished by those wonders and signs of deception referred to in the Scriptures (Mt. 24; Mk. 13; 2 Thess. 2; Rev. 13; Rom. 16; 1 Tim. 4).
I speak thus as a warning and not, as certain individuals assume, as an argument to exclude divine miracles and signs. Nor does Scripture assert this exclusion. God has a free hand even in these last days. He has performed miracles and signs before, and even does so today for him who has eyes to see. These spirits who also assert that, together with ceremonies, all miraculous signs ended at the time of the apostles well recognize this fact and should take note how Christian baptism and the Lord's Supper are today repeated according to their original intention and institution. Not only through external ceremonies but also through the power of Christ and His authoritative teachings and of the apostles, these people bear witness both in death and blood. And they do so uncoerced ? freely, deliberately, and joyfully through the abundant comfort and power of the Holy Spirit of Christ in this world. Thus, they seal and confirm the power of Christ. Many of them have remained constant, enduring tortures inflicted by sword, rope, fire, and water, and suffering terrible, tyrannical, unheard?of deaths and martyrdoms, all of which they could easily have avoided by recantation. Moreover, one also marvels when one sees how the faithful God (who, after all, overflows with goodness) raises from the dead several such brothers and sisters of Christ after they were hanged, drowned, or killed in other ways. Even today, they are found alive and we can hear their own testimony.
Here and there one can find the same thing happening, even today, it takes place among those who are powerfully moved and driven by the living Word of God and the Spirit of Christ. They will continue on (as we see before us now), and no one will be able to wipe them out until the whole world, inebriated and insane with innocent blood, will bear abundant testimony to them.
Cannot everyone who sees, even the blind, say with a good conscience that such things are a powerful, unusual, and miraculous act of God? Those who would deny it must be hardened men. Yes, and even more murders now occur, executed by the devil, that is, by his children, the Antichrists and their breed, his citizens and agents with whom these erring spirits accuse us of committing adultery. These spirits further accuse us of imitating him, of paying homage to his image. How, indeed, can anyone say that such a thing is not of God? For, if it were of the devil or Antichrist, as the Jews also committed blasphemy against Christ in the Holy Spirit, it would follow that the devil is himself divided and is fighting against himself. Then, he and his kingdom could never endure, but would come to an end (Mt. 12; Mk. 3; Lk. 11). But one devil cannot be against another.
Christ bids us to recognize prophets not by miraculous signs, but by their fruits (Mt. 7). Likewise, we also know the fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5). 1 John 4 tells us to test the spirits in order to determine whether or not they acknowledge Christ's having come in the flesh.
Nowhere do I find Christ's physical command to Philip, the deacon, who was not elected by the church to teach or baptize, and yet he preached and baptized in the surrounding lands. The same is true of Apollos and other renowned apostles who moved about, preaching and baptizing, without external command or commission, but who were sent inwardly by Christ's Spirit. Similarly, the revival and restoration of the pure order of Christ has occurred, and continues to occur, by virtue of His voluntary Spirit, not by carnal compulsion or pressure, but freely and voluntarily. Those who act differently, as lords or masters, should take heed lest they miss the goal. I fear that these spirits lack the true knowledge of Christ; otherwise, they would speak differently. They preach a different gospel than Paul, who prescribed that in the Lord's Supper believers should proclaim the Lord's death until He comes.
Thus, these spirits, through their alien preaching, call down Paul's curse upon themselves (Gal. 1). Christ also commands and directs us (Mt. 28; Mk. 16; Lk. 24) to preach, teach, and baptize not only the world of His time, but also the world which will remain and the nations which will exist until the end or the last day (Mt. 24; Mk. 13; Acts 2; Rom. 15; Deut. 31; Ps. 78). He commands us also in Luke 22 to break bread in remembrance of Him; in John 5, “Search the Scriptures,” and in John 7, according to the word and content of the same, to believe in Him; in John 13, to wash one another's feet, etc. So also John, in the Book of Revelation, refers to these last days when we read in chapter 1: “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy and keep what is written in it.” But these spirits shy away from such external matters, and so the judgment falls upon them, as it is described in 2 John 1: “Whoever goes ahead and does not remain in the instruction of Christ has no God.” The same John 8: “Whoever does not believe in Him, as the Scriptures say, from his body will not flow rivers of living water." Also Revelation 22: "If anyone removes anything from the words of this prophecy, God will remove his portion from the book of life.” These spirits speak with neither discernment nor the support of the Scriptures, and think that, because the ceremonies of the Old Testament have been abrogated (as for example, in Heb. 7, 8, 9, 10; Gal. 5), the ceremonies of the New Testament have also been abrogated. They are mistaken. Note, however, that if they do regard as abrogated (which they cannot) the ceremonies of the New Testament, ceremonies like baptism and the Lord's Supper, it should follow that all Scriptures, external teaching, separation from the world, ban, rebuke, exhortation, prayer, kneeling, the example of the believers, and all ceremonies for improvement and corporate benefit are no longer valid. If one is invalid, all are invalid; if one remains valid, all remain valid.
Who has commissioned only them, or ordered them to teach, write, and travel here and there with allegations and inferences drawn from the Scriptures and other creatures and examples? Here in the kingdom of Christ, they must, after all, renew the tangible, visible, physical body of man through the Spirit of Christ (2 Cor. 5) and, at the same time, retain the external visible ceremonies which have been instituted and commanded by Christ. Where Christ has come in the flesh by faith (Eph. 3; Gal. 2), that same man, with his flesh and all external members, indeed, the whole man obedient in external ceremonies, will confess the instruction and the life of Christ. But today these spirits desire to make the kingdom of Christ far too spiritual, and make too great a leap, just as, on the other hand, the Antichrist has made it too physical.
I willingly believe that they cannot in their hearts feel such ceremonies and matters, which seem foreign to them; they are wary and suspicious of these ceremonies. So, too, in the whole world the pure usage of the ceremonies is suspect. They are an abomination because of their lack of knowledge and their shying away from the discipline of God. But it is, therefore, not so with others as it is with them. I sense that they lack the Holy Spirit dedicated to the common good (1 Cor. 12), who uses the gifts of the Holy Spirit for the edification of others (1 Cor. 14; Eph. 4), and thus serves them (1 Peter 4). Therefore, they do not believe in Jesus Christ, by which faith one receives the Spirit of promise (Gal. 3; 2 Cor. 4; Jn. 7; Acts 11; Rom. 12). Without this spirit, they are unable to address Jesus as Lord (1 Cor. 12), to cry "Abba Father" to belong to Christ, to pray (Rom. 8), to have love (Rom. 5), to be baptized inwardly, washed, sanctified, or made righteous (Jn. 1; 1 Cor. 6), to know the truth (Jn. 16), or to be instructed in it (1 Jn. 2; Jn. 14). Thus, they themselves have not yet been taught (Rom. 2). Nothing but error and confusion arises from such unbelieving, vain, carnally wise, fable?producing spirits and blind leaders.
If they say, however, that they have as much spirit and faith as they need, but have no command to use spiritual gifts for others, I answer: Their boast is nothing but a deceitful adornment of Satan. If they are members of the body of Christ, they will speak differently. For one member to forsake another (1 Cor. 12) in spiritual matters (to say nothing of the temporal, which is of less importance) would be contrary to the faith of the Spirit, and the nature and attributes of love. The fruit of the Spirit is love and faithfulness (Gal. 5). Faith must manifest itself in witness, fruit, and work (2 Pet. 1; Jn. 7, 15; Heb. 6; Jas. 2; 1 Thess. 1). So love is faith in action (Gal. 5); it edifies and improves (1 Cor. 8). If they do not love their neighbor, how can they fulfill the law, for such love is the fulfillment of the law (Rom. 13). Paul says: Let no one seek his own profit, but rather the profit of another. I do not seek what is beneficial to me, but rather what is beneficial and advantageous for many in order that they may be saved. Follow me as I follow Christ (1 Cor. 10; Phil. 2). Thus, the gifts of the Spirit manifest themselves not only for private but also for common benefit, service, and improvement.
Now, since they do not admit that they are commanded to use the gifts of the Spirit according to the distribution of faith (Rom. 12) in relation to others, I would very much like to see how they stand the test of stewardship over their professed gifts of spirit, faith, and love ? a spiritual gift given them by the Lord as a committed trust, talent, or pound until the return of the Lord. What will be their increase (Mt. 25; Lk. 19), and how have they watched (Mk. 13)?
When Christ in Mark 13 says: “What I say to you, I say to all, Watch," these spirits say that such watching does not refer here to preaching, teaching, or action toward others, but only to oneself, and that one should be awake to oneself.
Answer: Christ says this to all stewards and guardians of His house and to the people over whom they are to watch and guard (Mk. 13; Lk. 12; Mt. 24; Heb. 13) by means of teaching and exhortation and other external service (Col. 1, 4; 2 Cor. 12; 1 Thess. 2,3; Rom. 15).
Thus, these drunken prophets want to watch for their own benefit, like dumb dogs which cannot bark (Is. 56). They bruise the conscience of the group by means of false teaching and retard them in their search for the truth; they teach them to watch without love when, after all, watching, not only by the masters but also by the servants, must take place if one is to love one's neighbor, as evidenced in Ephesians 6: “They are to watch, for all the saints.”
The salvation of the soul depends upon love for the neighbor. Whoever does not love his neighbor does not love his own soul, and foolishly seeks his own profit to his highest damage. Therefore, no wakefulness or sobriety are manifested over either his own or over others' souls, but only slumber and drunkenness. Since one can find Scriptures about the suspension of the Old Testament ceremonies, I would greatly desire that these spirits show me clear Scriptures indicating that such ordained proclamation, teaching, baptism, and the Lord's Supper (Mt. 28; 1 Cor. 11) had been suspended, or again forbidden and discontinued. Then, without wavering and doubt in my heart, I might be able to believe their teaching. They are, however, unable to accomplish this without resorting to questionable, untenable, sophistic presentations, examples, and illustrations, all of which the Antichrist does for the preservation of his abomination.
Third, these spirits say that no apostle has Christ's authority or mandate to hand over the apostolic offices to others, nor did these spirits do so. Rather, they appointed bishops to tend the flock of God. Since then, however, no one has been instructed to appoint the ruler of God's flock.
External transmission of authority or mandate does not make an apostle, even if the apostles themselves had made the appointment. If the inner mandate of Christ is not present, all is in vain. Even the external mandate of Christ to the eleven would not have been effective if He had not afterward spiritually thrust the mandate into the heart of their bosom. Therefore, the apostles saw what was committed to them; they themselves carried out their mission and office until they died, when they were then followed by others whom the Lord (who has all authority) sent (Mt. 28).
Indeed, in the worldly realm, those in authority externally hand that authority on to others; but not so in the spiritual realm. Here it depends upon the inner power which Christ alone gives through His spirit. For without the inner mandate, even if Christ, Paul, or Peter would today confer on me external authority, I would not undertake anything. Otherwise, I, together with all the other worldly and antichristian potentates, would be pursuing my own advancement.
Nor is it the case (as these spirits claim) that the apostles, who were sent by the chief Shepherd to gather the flock, did not appoint successors to watch over and to guard the property or sheep gathered together for the Lord. Nor was there provision that these successors had first been found adequate and placed into the confidence of the chief Shepherd. Christ appointed them over the flock so that the true sheep might not diminish but increase. For like Peter, whom He appoints as a shepherd (Jn. 21), Christ would have shepherds who love Him.
Our carnal flesh sharply opposes the right kind of apostolic bishopric. For this reason, many turn away from it and, by means of clever excuses and undisciplined, deceptive teachings, seek to evade it. For, truly, neither reason, wisdom, selfish ambition, honor, impatience, nor other weeds of the flesh have a place in the kingdom of Christ, especially in the office of leader (Vorsteerampt), if fruit is to come.
The authority of the apostle, bishop, and shepherd is not an authority of ruling or lordship; rather, it is one of humility and lowliness so that nothing is done out of a desire to dominate others or to advance only themselves. They are servants of God and of His community.
As mentioned, Christ left, until the end of the world, His external authority and command in the Scriptures (Mt. 28) to all His disciples, brothers, and members who possess His Spirit or mind. This same written authority was accepted by Paul, as a member of Christ, when he refers to the verse (interpreting it to refer to the body of members of Christ in Acts 13): "As the Lord commanded us, I have made you a light for the Gentiles that you might be salvation to the ends of the earth," etc. Let everyone beware lest he abuse such authority, lest he represent only himself rather than Christ, who sends him, and lest he be without the seal of authority in his heart. Let him honorably be Christ's representative throughout the whole world, wherever need exists; then he need not be concerned that he is abusing his authority. Yes, even if a dog or a cat were to proclaim the gospel as a testimony, throughout the unbelieving world and deliver it into repentance and improvement, who could declare it wrong? For everything that leads to godliness is good, and not evil, for all visible creatures are placed in the world as apostles and teachers (job 12). If such mute creatures could speak, Christ's sending the apostles to elucidate or preach the gospel would have been unnecessary.
But, in their carnal wisdom, these spirits desire, on the basis of the verse “they will all be taught of God” (Jn. 6), the proclamation of the gospel to all creatures (Col. 1; Mk. 16), and they desire to abolish too much. For the latter was spoken by Christ after the former. They seek even to abolish all external order and means of God, through which and in which His invisible being is seen (Rom. 1; Wisdom of Sol. 13); in Christ and in God man is led from the visible into the invisible. Thus, with the ruse that it breeds idolatry, these spirits abominate that which God has created and provided for man's well?being. If in this way they thank God for that which is external, how would they thank Him for that which is internal? In any event, they adduce only part of the Scriptures and leave out the counterpart, have uncloven hoofs, not cogitating on what they take in (Deut. 14). Therefore, one should neither heed them nor accept them. They err in vision and stumble in giving judgment (Is. 28). They act like Joshua, the servant of Moses (Num. 11), who sought to prevent Eldat and Medat from prophesying. But Moses said to him: “Are you zealous for me? Would to God that all the people of God might prophesy and that God's spirit might be poured into them." Spirits also act like Jesus' disciples when they forbade someone to drive out demons because he did not follow after Christ with them. Jesus answered: “Do not forbid him or hinder him, for there is no one who does anything in my name, even if he speaks evil against me, for whoever is not against us is for us” (Mk. 9; Lk. 9).
With their sandy soil and sod taken from the ground, which is earthly wisdom, they desire to stop up the well of the Spirit which pours from the believing hearts (Jn. 7; 2 Cor. 4; Acts 2; Rom. 10; Ps. 115). These spirits compound their sin in every way (1 Thess. 2), for, like the world, they would restrain us from preaching salvation to the heathen. The world resists us with physical force; these spirits with their false artistry and cunning trickery (2 Cor. 11) hinder us spiritually. Paul says: “I rejoice that Christ is proclaimed in every way, whether out of a good motive or accidentally” (Phil. 1). Who sent the woman (Jn. 4) into the town that she might proclaim Christ? Nevertheless, through her message, the Samaritans were edified. Only if these spirits had good intentions, neither misleading others nor condemning themselves (Rom. 2; Mt. 7; Jas. 3; 1 Cor. 11; Ps. 50; Ecclus. 5, 7, 14, 22), only if they sought to warn emissaries or bishops, teachers and others to pay heed to the manner in which they themselves had been taught and now think (Tit. 1, 2; 1 Tim. 3, 4, 5; 2 Tim. 2; 1 Pet. 5), only if these spirits did not go so far as to discontinue or forbid completely instruction and ceremonies, only then could their cause be tolerated. Their cause, as it now stands, cannot be tolerated,
Christ did not restrict His command, Word, grace, Spirit, or ceremonies to the first apostles and churches. His Word and power, and the outpouring of His Spirit, have no end. Nor is the arm of the Lord shortened (Num. 11). Had the world died out with the first apostles and ceased with them, I would believe this. However, the fallen world continues even now to need apostles, messengers, and teachers, who testify and confess the sound of the gospel and the name of Jesus Christ (Rom. 10; Col. 1). Also, they must declare, remind, and testify to the world's sins and burdens, and to their own imagined, fabricated faith. The Israelites, too, after their apostasy everywhere (where they did not do right by themselves), had to be reminded again of their vices, sin, and destruction. The sound that went out, the law and the name of God (Ps. 18) had been witnessed to and confessed beforehand. For it is the will of God that recollection, testimony, and proclamation should always be made to the followers, apostate, erring, and ignorant (Is. 60; Rom. 15; Deut. 31; Ps, 78), and, as long as it is today (Heb. 3), even to those who know (2 Cor. 1; 2 Pet. I; Phil. 3), in order that no one may be lost, that everyone may improve (2 Pet. 3), and that all men may become well, be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2), just as Christ is not the atonement for the sins of a part or a half but of the whole world (1 Jn. 2), so, also, as the light which enlightens every man coming into the world (Jn. 1), through His justification, the justification of life came upon all of them (Rom. 5). Therefore, the Scriptures also are designed and intended for those upon whom the end of the world has come (1 Cor. 9, 10; Is. 30).
We do not serve the Scriptures or benefit them; they serve and benefit us by their instruction, edification, exhortation, and discipline (Rom. 15; 2 Tim. 1). Similarly, all ceremonies have been instituted by Christ for our service and benefit, and we are not thereby to serve God in the manner the carnal Jews (Is. 1; Ps. 50) thought.
These spirits ask us: why should God need such external things or services, and how is it that we are making an idol out of them, etc.? Rather, these services serve us, just as Christ the Man came to serve us (Mk. 10; Rom. 15) and did everything for our sake (Jn. 11). To be sure, God ordered that it should be so, when it is done in faith (Heb. 11; Rom. 13; Mt. 5; Prov. 15; Rom. 8; Col. 1; 1 Thess. 2) and in obedience to faith (Rom. 1, 6, 10, 16; 2 Cor. 2, 7, 10; Heb. 5, 13), and when one serves the members or body of Christ thereby (Col. 1; 1 Thess. 2; 1 Cor. 3; 1 Pet. 4; Eph. 4). If one does it in the Spirit of God (Phil. 3; Rom. 13) and for the praise of God (Jn. 7, 16; 1 Cor. 10; 1 Pet. 4), to do so is to serve Christ the Head and God Himself (Phil. 2; Eph. 6; Col. 3; 1 Cor. 8; Mt. 10, 18, 25). We would not use such ceremonies and Scriptures as the scribes of this world do (Mt. 15, 23; 1 Cor. 1; 2 Cor. 2, 4), that is false and for the sake of unrighteousness. We would use them as the scribes of the kingdom of God do, for the sake of righteousness, and godliness, piety, and wisdom, and with the faith of the elect in Jesus (2 Tim. 3; Mt. 13; Act. 18). With Paul, we believe all that is written in the law and the prophets (Acts 24), and fulfill the royal law according to James 2. We recall the written words of the apostles (Jude 1). We search daily in the Scriptures to see whether it is in fact as these spirits teach (Acts 17). From what we read and know beforehand (2 Cor. 1), we find, however, that it is not as they say. Nevertheless, we say nothing except what has already been said by Moses, the prophets, Christ, and the apostles (Acts 26). Without the Scriptures, no one knows how, why, and in what form Christ died, was buried, and was raised (1 Cor. 15). Therefore, moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1) and by the example of Christ through His Spirit, all messengers and teachers should have witness of the Scriptures, but in humility and obedience to the gospel ? as it has happened until now, God be praised, on many occasions. Thus, not entering into a situation as overlords (1 Pet. 5), they are genuinely commissioned messengers eating (Jn. 6) of Christ and living for the sake of Christ, just as Christ was sent by the living Father and lives for the sake of the Father. Into the hearts of such as the apostles, the Spirit of God is poured forth, according to common salvation, for it is one unified Spirit.
The pouring out of the Spirit is not as those spirits say: At the time of the apostles, the Spirit of God was poured forth over all the present and future world, until the last judgment, as if such a pouring out had then ceased. The Spirit of God at that time (Acts 2) was not poured out over all, but only on the apostles and Christians. The others were unbelievers. And without such a Spirit, like all men from the beginning of the world and so too, now, the unbelievers are not any better by virtue of such an outpouring than the people at the time of Noah, Lot, or Moses who had the same light of conscience as these have now. For if today a man is born and grows up without hearing external proclamation about Christ, how can he be better than the people at the time of Moses? Without external hearing or proclamation (Rom. 10), neither can he name Jesus Christ nor the Holy Spirit except through special or miraculous proclamation of God; as in former times, they could know little about sin without the written law (Rom. 5, 7).
If, however, man hears about the life of Christ, a higher light and witness comes to his conscience than the one that came under the law, just as today the believers receive a mightier spirit than before.
The outpouring of the Spirit of God on the apostles or on another man next to me does not profit me, a coarse, crude man, except it also be poured into my heart for common good unto salvation. All men from the beginning of the world, from their mother's womb, have the image and likeness of God (Ezek. 28; Ecclus. 17). However, they have all been misled, along with Adam, by the advice of the serpent (Gen. 3; 2 Cor. 2, 4, 11).
God says in Joel 2 and Acts 2 that in the last days He will pour His Spirit upon all flesh. That is the New Testament of which Hebrew 8 and Jeremiah 31 speak. The last days begin with the birth of Christ. Since then, a richer outpouring of His Spirit has taken place than ever before. Not, however, upon all men, 1 John 2 explains: Christ is the expiation for the whole world and for the sins of all men. The counterpart says: whoever does not suffer (meaning through a genuine act of repentance) will not rule with Him (Rom. 8). Since not all men repent, not all will share in the sufferings of Christ. Neither can God be gracious to such unrepentant, unrighteous men nor (as He promises in Hebrews 8) will He forget their sins (Ezek. 33). Thus, God would pour His Spirit over all men unto the end of the world. God desires that they would all know Him (Heb. 8; Joel 2) and desires that all be healed (1 Tim. 2). His will and desire are clear. But, where man is not willing, God cannot and will not. He does not pour His new wine into old skins (Mt. 9). He opposes the proud (1 Pet. 5). The hungry He fills with good things, the rich He sends away empty (Lk. I; Mt. 5). Wisdom does not enter an evil spirit, nor does it dwell in those who are subservient to sin (Wisd. of Sol. 1). Therefore, the unwilling, disobedient man will no more receive the Spirit of God than he will participate in the expiation of Christ. The man who, through genuine works of repentance (that is, through faith in Jesus Christ), submits to the fellowship of suffering under God's hand and discipline will also participate in the suffering and expiation of Christ, and upon him God's Spirit will be poured (Prov. 1) by faith (Gal. 3; Jn. 7); he will receive the rich spirit of transformation, the knowledge of Christ in his heart, indeed, the Spirit of the New Testament, which He promised in these days to pour over all flesh. Wherever He has promised the Spirit and grace of the new covenant, we are to understand that it is this Spirit, even as He promised to Abraham: In his seed, that is, the seed of this Spirit, all the nations will be blessed. This Spirit was promised as soon as Adam transgressed the commandment (Gen. 3). To whomever this seed or Spirit is given, in him the Spirit crushes the head of the serpent (Rom. 16), that is, he resists his advice, deception, and lust (Rom. 8; Jas. 4; Gal. 5). For the fastest way to kill a serpent is to step on its head. Therefore, it refers to the head. While the head is being stepped on, it bites Christ in the heel; without suffering and the cross, it cannot be crushed or killed. It lies under Christ's feet and bites, not His toes, but His heel. Why? Because Christ's countenance is too sharp, and therefore, the serpent attacks from behind, for he is a murderer (Jn. 8). Murderers do not attack honorably. So, too, the serpent does everything in a crafty way, seeking to deceive and to kill and lead men spiritually and physically astray.
Furthermore, before the birth of Christ, the elect already possessed (Heb. 11) this promised Spirit, the Spirit of faith, (Gal, 3), but not as generously as they do now. God would willingly have given it to all the nations, since He promised it to them, but they did not want it. Just so today, the world does not want it, choosing to follow instead the wisdom of the serpent. Neither God nor Christ can be blamed for this action, only men themselves are to blame. Pharaoh himself hardened his heart, first through his disobedient, unwilling heart, as the knower of hearts testified and said in Exodus 3: I know that the king of Egypt will not let you move, etc., otherwise God would not have hardened his heart (Exod. 4). From the beginning, God's offer is upright (1 Cor. 1), and His faithfulness will not falter (Rom. 3). But, even as it is now (Jn. 1), the nations did not wish it nor believe it (Jer. 5, 6, 7, 8, 25; Heb. 3, 4).
God's order is a purposeful one. Whoever seeks Him will find Him. Whoever leaves Him will also be deserted. Whoever does not hold Him will not be held by Him (1 Chron. 29; 2 Chron. 15, 24). Before the birth of Christ, the elect looked forward to the promise of Christ's coming (Acts 2, 7; Dent. 18; Jn. 4; Is. 11). The promise has been realized; He has come for men's salvation, but, until now, they have looked only upon the Christ of the past. So take a lesson from the clarity of vision present before His coming; how much more clearly is He known since His coming. Scriptures speak more clearly of Him after His coming than they had done before. After He came, He is clearer and more powerful than He was before, as He said Himself (Mt. 13): Many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see, but did not see it; they longed to hear what you hear, but did not hear it. Therefore, the present world, since His coming, will experience sharper condemnation than did the one before He came (Mt. 10, 11, 12; Lk. 10). For, since we are now more able to know Him and can say more about Him, we can pattern ourselves after Him, and more fully partake of the divine nature and spiritual good. Thus, revenge is no longer permitted in the New Testament for, through patience, the Spirit can now more powerfully overcome enemies than it could in the Old Testament. Therefore, Christ forbade such vengeance and resistance (Lk. 9, 21; Mt. 5), and commanded the children who possessed the Spirit of the New Testament to love, to bless their enemies, persecutors, and opponents, and to overcome them with patience (Mt. 5; Lk. 6).
Such a powerful Spirit, a Spirit promised for the last days, could not come as long as Christ was personally upon the earth with His disciples (Jn. 12, 16). Now we are to reflect upon Him spiritually, upon what kind of a mind, spirit, and disposition He had, and how He lived; the more we reflect upon His physical words, works, deeds, and life, the better God allows us to know His mind, and the better He teaches and instructs us (Jn. 6). Whoever does not think of Him, reflect upon Him, pray, or seek Him will not receive from Him (Mt. 7; Luke 11, 13; 1 Chron. 29). The more one now learns to know Him and see Him spiritually (Jn. 6, 17; Heb. 12), the more one learns to love Him, to become friendly and pleasant toward Him and, through such knowledge, receives Him into the heart and grows therein (2 Pet. 1, 2). Finally, one jumps with Peter himself, freely and voluntarily (Jn. 21), into the sea of tribulations and, concentrating on Christ, casts aside the mantle or the old garment. Through such a knowledge of Christ, man also comes to the knowledge of God (Jn. 8, 14; 2 Cor. 4) and partakes of divine nature, but only if he is willing to flee from the lusts of this world, under God's rule. In this manner, through instruction and knowledge of Christ's mind, God places His law into our mind and writes it into our hearts (Heb. 8).
All of the apostles had this Spirit, receiving it only after the ascension of Christ. The Twelve received the foretaste of the Spirit from Christ (Jn. 6) when they said: “He has words of eternal life.” This foretaste of the Spirit first enlightened Peter, and impelled him to stand up and speak at Pentecost. Also through the foretaste of this Spirit, they elected Matthias before Pentecost and prayer (Acts 1). Such a Spirit already moved in the disciples before the ascension of Christ, especially in Peter when he acknowledged Christ as the Son of God (Mt. 16; Jn. 6). Flesh and blood did not reveal that knowledge to him; rather, God confers this Spirit of knowledge. Through this Spirit, they were all together in one accord at Pentecost (Acts 2). The Lord then marvelously filled them with this Spirit, not in the way that He usually gives it to men, for the common good; rather, He gave a strong witness to it at the beginning, according to His will and good pleasure. We must speak of this beginning until He returns. In the meantime, we do not need to long for that beginning; at Pentecost, in the presence of many people, external noise, wind, and strange tongues were His witness to His promise. This testimony is contained in the writings of the New Testament. He who has this Scripture sealed in his heart, this common Spirit of salvation, he alone, and no one else, can bear testimony to it. This Spirit of promise and clarity from God is here and now in the elect an open indicator, foretaste, seal, and down payment of future glory (1 Cor. 2; Eph. 1, 4; Rom. 8).
Whoever retains, practices, or accepts baptism, the Lord's Supper, or anything else, even Scriptures, word or deed, according to the command, attitude, form, essence, or example of the Antichrist is a child, member, and brother of the Antichrist, worships the image of his being, arid with him will inherit destruction.
But whoever retains, practices, and accepts such ceremonies according to the command, attitude, form, essence, and example of Christ and the apostles, indeed according to the instruction and urging of the free Spirit, participates without blemish, misunderstanding, or abomination in the truly reenacted, spiritual apostolic order.
Whoever practices or receives such ceremonies and matters without true faith, because of an external urge or other reasons, errs even though there is, externally, correctness of words and procedures. Such mistakes some have confessed to have made, but they confess it only out of anger and not for the good, which makes them unbelieving and unloving; these I admonish to believe and to genuine confession.
Whoever has been inwardly baptized, with belief and the Spirit of Christ in his heart, will not despise the external baptism and the Lord's Supper which are performed according to Christian, apostolic order; nor will he dissuade anyone from participating in them. Rather, he should willingly accept them and practice them, not merely imitating them externally in an apish manner, but in truth and in the spirit with which the true worshipers use external means, such as the mouth, hands, and knees. For, as one can see, the heart moves our external members. Whenever the heart laughs, is compassionate, rejoices, or gets angry, then the mouth, eyes, head, hands, and feet laugh, are compassionate, rejoice, get angry, move, and grasp without delay the external things which correspond to anger, joy, mercy, or laughter. The opposite is also true. So it is with baptism and the Lord's Supper.
Where they are present in the heart, there they are also practiced externally and practiced according to love. Thus, the heart of the eunuch also moved (Acts 8) all his physical members and his whole body, freely and without any external compulsion, to undergo external baptism. The inner covenant compelled Abraham to accept the external sign of the covenant of the Old Testament. For out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks (Mt. 12).
In summary: The believer will retain, undissolved or unchanged, the commandment of his Master and will be a faithful disciple, who does not long to be master or to run ahead of Christ; he will diligently seek to be faithful in all things (2 Cor. 2), to fulfill all righteousness (Mt. 3), not only inwardly before God, but also externally before man (2 Cor. 8; Tit. 2). If anyone acts differently, he is not to be believed, whatever boastful claims he may make. Yes, even if an angel were to come from heaven and teach differently than Christ and His apostles once taught and commanded, he should not be believed.
Whoever teaches that believers do not need external baptism and the Lord's Supper, or teaches that these ceremonies are not expected of believers or given to them, errs, for Philip demands that faith go before (Acts 8). Christ also places faith first (Mk. 16) and, according to the Acts of the Apostles, faith always precedes baptism. Also, the command to break bread is given only to the disciples and the believers, and not the unbelievers (Lk. 22; 1 Cor. 11). The believers have always practiced it (Acts 2, 20), and only they can practice it in spirit and in truth. Others practice only lies and misunderstanding.
Love has driven me to write because I discern the secrets of these spirits. The adversary would destroy the internal by discontinuing the external. To be sure, these spirits, implying that, if only the external things dropped away, love, the internal, would rapidly increase, gloss over their intentions with a great deal of pious show and denial. Yes, behind them into the land of Sodom! May the Lord keep His own, whom He knows to be on the right track to His own glory.
I desire that these spirits would become confident of their position and, if not, that they might build on the rock, securing themselves against cloudburst and tempests. I would admonish all God's children and good?hearted people to guard themselves from such errors. May God grant it to all who desire it from their hearts. May He strengthen us, build us, lead us, and keep us in His knowledge, love, long?suffering, friendliness, meekness, patience, and other fruits and powers of the Spirit. Through these powers, and through true faith in Christ by whom, and none other, we accomplish to His praise our acting and willing, life, cross, and death, we may grow and increase in divine, quiet nature without causing others to be offended by the only name that saves, the name which cannot be deceived and does not deceive, Jesus; that name will not be put to shame (1 Pet. 2). We will be without envy, strife, hatred, feuding, bad temper, ill?will, anger, insult, hypocrisy, gossip, bitter striving, evil manners, scandal?mongering, slander, and other vain fruit or work of the flesh, through the same Jesus, His only?begotten Son, who is our Savior (Heb. 7), and only mediator (1 Tim. 2), to whom is given all power and authority (Mt. 11, 28; Lk. 10; Jn. 13; 1 Pet. 3; Heb. 2), to whom the angels are subject (1 Pet. 3).
This Lamb is Lord of lords and King of kings (Rev. 17). This man and Lord is Jesus of Nazareth, a future Judge and avenger (Jn, 5; Acts 10; 2 Thess. 1) who is Christ (Jn. 20; Acts 19), who was before Abraham (Jn. 8). Whoever denies this is a liar (1 Jn. 2). Whoever does not believe that this is so will die in his sins (Jn. 7), for such an unbeliever is not born of God (1 Jn. 5). Indeed, this Jesus Christ is also true God (Rom. 9; 1 Jn. 5) and eternal life. To Him be praise unto eternity. Amen.
Exposé of the Babylonian Whore and Antichrist; its mystery and abomination old and new. Also concerning the victory, peace and rule of the true Christians, and published to show in what manner they obey the authorities, and bear the cross of Christ without rebellion and resistance, with patience and love to the glory of God,and to assist, strengthen, and perfect all the faithful and those who inquire after God.
Matt. 22 [:21]
Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s
Prov. 24 [:21]
Have nothing to do with the rebellious
May God give his grace toward true understanding for all who sincerely seek the truth in this last and perilous time. This time has now come, according to the word of the Lord in Matt. 24 [:11-12]. It says that temptations so difficult will come that it is possible that even the elect would not escape them unless the days were shortened. Lord, come; cut them short soon for the sake of your chosen ones. May your will be done soon.
Since the evidence of our eyes, our experience, and the witness of Scripture which sufficiently discloses itself through the action and favour of God, and which is now also understood through the events which are everywhere unfolding according to the Word of the Lord, all of God's creatures should tremble and be afraid of the stern judgement of God on his awesome day which is to come (Isa. 24[:21ff.]; Jon. 2[:?], 3[:4], Zeph. 1[:7-18], 2[:2], 3[:8]). The fact that the ruined, sodomitic, perverted, abandoned, and seductive world does not comprehend this nor show any fear means that the Scripture in the Lord's Word is even now being fulfilled where it says that in the time of Lot and Noah they ate and drank, married and gave in marriage without any alarm, until they were altogether destroyed (Luke 17[:26-30]).
Already the world overflows with the evil that once lay hidden in the mystery of wickedness. This mystery is now being exposed through her own shame, just like a secret adulteress who for a long time deceived her husband under a false cloak of pious faithfulness and has now quite brazenly gone public. She has assumed all the wiles of a whore in order to seduce and deceive others with her thousand-fold cunning and skill. The whole world is now full of error and seduction, and all generations on earth are drunk with the wine of fornication, Rev. 18[:3]. Only a few are shocked and have struggles of conscience from which the pure fear of God and true insight flow.
Although the great power of God is revealed and is now made manifest in the little flock in all its weakness, the villainous whore has, as always, not hesitated to make unclean and to defile that glory by means of many temptations and errors which emerge from the heart of the community of the faithful. They [the purveyors of error], however, are not of us as John says in 1 John 2[:19]. But right there the whore is active with many false teachings and her own inventions to spy out our freedom according to the words of Paul in Gal. 2[:4]. Blessed are those who are not stained nor polluted with this whoredom for they have been bought with the blood of the Lamb as firstfruits, Rev. 14 [:4], and rescued through the power of the Lamb, for the Lamb is the lord of Lords, and all the called, chosen and faithful ones are with him, Rev. 17 [:14], to whom alone be glory from everlasting to everlasting. Amen.
It is not really necessary to speak against the red Roman Whore now exposed. For a long time she masqueraded as though she were married to the great spouse and bridegroom Christ. In this way she deceived and seduced both herself and others with her fornication. For the just and legitimate spouse and bridegroom Christ is now expelling and condemning her and all her strumpets, and is betrothing and marrying a new people to himself through his cross, blood, and tribulation as is now evident. But it is the sign of the time that the serpent with her cunning is using new stratagems in her clever and tenacious mutiny against the true and spotless bridegroom Christ, as he has said. But our bridegroom has overcome the world and all its wickedness with his cross and death (John 16 [:33]). In him we will overcome and conquer in all things under the cross, in the simplicity of faith.
In order that the deceitful Whore and serpent with all her children and strumpets should perceive, know, and apprehend that a genuinely guileless faith can detect all of her more recent insidious and deceptive tricks, as well as her customary malice which she plies against the children of God, I have decided to describe them and also to present an alternative. I am urged to do this as follows by a sense of obligation, to the praise of God, and for the service and strengthening of the faithful. May the Lord give his grace.
First, once the dragon and old serpent (Rev. 20 [:2]), who for a long time had concealed himself in the pretence of being the spouse and bride of Christ and deceived the whole world, became aware that his time was near, he in the dispensation of God revealed himself in part through his own prophets as though he was sorry for the colossal errors and apostasy of the Christians. These prophets changed and made more attractive the great mystery of wickedness in the appearance of godliness, especially through the artifice of Scripture by which people are easily deceived. They presented infant baptism and the pope’s idolatry [the mass or Lord’s Supper], over which they quarrelled, and prattled about receiving it in both kinds sub utraque specie [in both kinds, the bread and the wine], as the most important matters on which their salvation depended, and so filled the whole world with their contentions and writings. Thus Satan could carry out his seductions all the better. In Martin Luther’s eyes all who eat and drink both the body and blood of Christ, regardless of whether they are adulterers or prostitutes, gluttons or drunkards, gamblers, murderers, betrayers, tyrants, deceivers, or whatever else are all a good community of his kind of godliness. Even as, in Luther’s view, the body of Christ is in the bread and the blood in the chalice, his faithful ones and disciples are transformed into the nature and essence of Christ. For everything a person eats changes from its natural essence into something else; even so, should not their natures be changed into the nature and essence of Christ? As the teaching is, so also is the fruit. Even as Luther and his followers persuaded the common people valiantly to defend the Word of God, all the while whitewashing that defence with Scripture so that they were prepared to give life and limb for it, so now they induce the Princes, the nobility, and the cities to resist the Emperor.
Woe to us because of the great bloodshed which God will bring upon all of the false prophets and their supporters, as can be seen even now (Jer. 6, Ezek. 22 [:3-4], 23). May the Lord lead his own out of their troubles; may they not strike back, but remain under the cross and shadow of his wings in true patience (Ps. 17 [:8], 57 [:1]). For the Lamb of Christ must suffer and be killed until the end of the world (Luke 17 [?], Rev. 13 [:8]). Pilate, Herod, Annas, and Caiaphas will unite against it as they united against the head (Luke 23). Christ was subject to all Authority and never responded with violence. Even so today we must not resist. We will give the Emperor what is his and God what belongs to God (Matt. 22 [:21]). For the Authority has power over all temporal things except over vengeance which belongs only to God and never to man (Rom. 12 [:19], Heb. 10 [:30]). I know of no other Authority specifically appointed by God than the Emperor; all emperors hold the imperium even today and will hold it until the appointed time of which Daniel speaks (Daniel 11 [:36]), when the wrath of God shall come over the whole world (Isa. 24 [:17-21]). For all flesh needs his authority and rule.
But Christ does not distribute earthly inheritance or imperium. His own, whether they are treated justly or not, requite and repay with patience and love. All external things including life and limb are subjected to external authority. But no one may coerce or compel true faith in Christ, for it is concerned not with temporal but eternal life. This neither God nor any creature in heaven nor on earth can take away (Rom. 8 [:38-39], Matt. 10 [:28]). All true Christians have this faith, and that is why they are not concerned about their earthly life (Heb. 11 [:13-14], Luke 10 [:41-42], Col. 3 [:1-3]). Many are demonstrating this today, God be praised.
To sum up, I present to the so-called evangelicals and their teachers and preachers no other alternative than the crucified, patient, and loving Christ. Whoever does not preach Christ but rather preaches the opposite is against Christ, regardless of whether he is an old or a new pope or Antichrist. Even if they were to preach skilfully about God as Christ himself, it will not help unless they preach the gentle, humble Christ who can be known only under the cross, patience, and love. Whoever is not thus taught and so learns, no matter how evangelical he is, will interrupt Christ at the Judgement and say: “Lord, did we not drive out devils, prophesy, preach, eat and drink in your name?” Christ will answer: “Depart from me, you evildoers, I do not know you” (Matt. 25 [:41-44], Luke 13 [:26-27]). I could wish that those who avoid the strait gate of the cross of Christ and teach others to avoid it would read and understand the judgement of Christ more closely. Unless they have no faith at all, they should be very alarmed, for surely this judgement fits the new evangelical preachers and their followers more precisely than anyone else. They do in part speak the truth about Christ, but they don’t want to go through the narrow gate (Matt. 7 [:13-14]), because for carnal reasons they pressed the sword into the hand of the common people, dressing it up with scriptural teaching. According to Jude, those who resisted [Moses] perished in the uprising of Korah. At the present moment they hide behind princes, cities and nobles, and incite them to follow the way of Cain by which they are submerged in error through the instructions of the prophets of Balaam. With much greater and more awful bloodshed than in the Peasant War, they will all perish in the rebellion of Korah, which is not the same as dying for Christ. May the Lord lead his own out of such rebellion.
I give them testimony that I came to the truth partly through their writing, teaching, and preaching, for I was deeply possessed and imprisoned by the human laws of the papacy which is nothing by demon possession. Through their teachings and writings I was set free to the liberty of the flesh. Where before I had been bound and had suffered in conscience, I was now free. I ate and drank with these teachers before the Lord as I then understood it, and thought that they preached a splendid Christ. In this new freedom I vigorously opposed the papacy with all the writings that helped me in that task as long as they agreed with the understanding, which was true, that it is not what goes into a man that makes him unclean, but what comes out of his heart (Matt. 15 [:10-11]. Confession and other papist rules and human inventions, which were not so easy to fulfil but did not have the true spirit of Christ, I readily accepted. Indeed the teachings in and of themselves were not wrong. But then as now the evangelical teachers said nothing about the mystery of the cross of Christ, and the narrow gate through which the flesh and the one who has who had been liberated from the Babylonian captivity could once again be led into the liberty of Jerusalem. On this there is silence. Not only that, but those who announce and teach it are persecuted by these teachers, who become their betrayers and executioners. For this reason they are justly called those workers of evil whom Christ banishes from his presence (Matt. 7 [25:41]). They teach the truth and the Gospel partially and point to the true way like a wooden hand at the fork in the road. What is missing in their teaching is the cross of Christ; they resist it and teach others to resist it. They take refuge behind princes, lords and cities although patient endurance, which alone triumphs over all tribulation, must be learned only under the cross. Christ the Lamb will be victorious (Rev. 17 [:14]), and not the lion, bear, wolf, dog, and leopard who gnash their teeth against each other and threaten to devour each other [Rev. 13:2].
Woe and alas for the teaching and kingdom of the Antichrist which now appears everywhere and which must be revealed (2 Tim. 3 [:1-9]). Discern and hear, all who have eyes and ears. Who are the deceivers and rebels, the Lamb of God or the cruel beasts? Children of God, have nothing to do with factions, do not be led astray, don’t wish evil on your enemies, but heartily desire that good may happen and be done to them. You have only one judge, and he is in heaven. If the Authority, established by God (Rom. 13 [:1]), bears the sword in accordance with God’s bidding and command, you are physically under the protection of God. When that Authority does not bear the sword as it should, but rather protects wickedness, destroys godliness, loves the lie, and persecutes the truth, you must be content to admonish that Authority, which is God’s servant, to be converted and leave vengeance to God. No other sword or deterrence has Christ commanded his own to use. Whoever teaches the contrary is an Antichrist, liar, and deceiver (1 John 4 [:20], 2 John). He who looks for Christ elsewhere than under the cross in patience will not find him, no matter how many crucifixes and wooden hands there may be at the crossroads. The living cross and hand of Christ shows the way, does not stand immovable in one place, never has and never will, for it is itself the way from which the truth comes and is the truth from which life comes. This life comes from faith and faith gives birth to all virtue and the knowledge of Christ. For this life is eternal, that they know you, Father, the true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent (John 17 [:3]). The knowledge and teaching of Christ is not the life of the flesh, that distinct character which we bring with us, but rather a new birth from God. The heritage of flesh and blood cannot remain after the new birth has taken place; it must die and come to nothing, for the person who wishes to save the first life and all that belongs to it will lose it, and whoever loses it will keep it for eternal life (Matt. 16 [:25], 19 [:29]). It is not very complicated; one needs only to bend one’s back, freely offer it to the cross of Christ following our Lord Christ (Luke 9 [:23]), and faithfully bear that cross with gentleness, love, and patience as God’s lambs (Matt. 11 [:10:16]). This cross-bearing is the resistance to the enemies of Christ by which we easily win, not the earthly but the eternal victory (Rom. 8 [:37], 1 John 5 [:4]). For this reason Christ says: “Rejoice! I have overcome the world” (John 16 [:33]). Earthly victories are short-lived; someone stronger comes along and nullifies them, and himself rules. Therefore it is not the victory of Christ but of the defective flesh, and will also disappear with the flesh. Wherever the true Christ rules in doctrine and life, all fleshly control comes to an end.
Likewise, where the physical, fleshy rule is established, Christ’s rule is over. He is forced to leave the area and jurisdiction of the Gadarenes (Matt. 8 [:34]), because of the temporal loss [suffered by the owners of the pigs]. It was altogether an illegitimate business, and the loss should have been accepted for the sake of the salvation of the two men who were possessed by a legion of the Enemy through his manifold evil cunning. These two represent divine and fraternal love which have for a long time been seized and thwarted by Satan through selfish possessiveness. Now we see these two who caused such great injury, and from whom no one in the world even today is safe, liberated by Christ and following him. When the Gergasenes suffered a small loss of temporal property which should have been endured for the love of God and the neighbour, they asked Christ to leave immediately, for they preferred the injury of selfish possessiveness even though it seduces and torments the whole world, and through which the love of God and the neighbour is thwarted and possessed [by the devil]. Christ yields and departs, injustice takes over and love grows cold (Matt. 24 [:12]). Self-seeking and uncontrolled domination injure whoever passes such a place. How great is the injury caused by this self-seeking through its demon-inspired senseless ways which destroy the whole world! But they would rather tolerate it than the godly, loving Christ who liberates those who are caught in the devil’s power and injury. Woe to the blind Gergesenes, indeed to the whole world!
Satan seeks to mix temporal power with Christendom by making it attractive through his prophets. These say that the godly must be protected (even though by saying this they actually injure them). Who, they argue, would desire to be a ruler if his subjects did not help him to preserve his power in order to protect the godly from the ungodly? No one would be safe in such a world! Thus they prefer godly Christians to be magistrates rather than someone from the world, and persuade many upright hearts that they should render to the government their sworn duty to maintain justice with arms and defiance, and in the disguise of Christ, even though it is motivated by nothing but self-seeking.
I will certainly grant the point that all who claim to own something and desire protection for their property call on the government and complain that it is obligated to protect their temporal property and everyone else’s in temporal peace [are right to do so]. For governments and their subjects have their source in this generation preoccupied with its own self-centredness. The churches of Christ, however, do not have their birth in the self-centredness [of the flesh]; they come from Christ and are subject to him. Everyone is obligated to obey his own authority; the spiritual in spiritual peace, the carnal in carnal peace. The spiritual in Christ are committed to obedience to the Father in patience and love through the Word even as Christ, the Righteous One, became obedient unto death. The carnal are committed to preserving the power of the sword for punishment and vengeance against all wickedness, otherwise there would be no peace in temporal things as one can see everywhere. But it all flows from the goodness and mercy of God who knows all things and who desires only good for man and never evil. Even as God has offered peace to everyone, but not all have accepted it, likewise he has in his mercy also established and ordained divine Authority on earth to preserve temporal peace wherever the true peace of God, which is incompatible with self-seeking, is not accepted, in order that they don't destroy each other over their property. Neither good governments nor subjects are to blame for this, but those who are evil. God permits it all for the sake of the good to prevent the even worse situation of total destruction in temporal things. Because of this goodwill and love of God for everyone, all true Christians are, as God's children, obligated by love to obey and be subject to all temporal authority even to death, but to give to God what belongs to him (Matt. 22 [:21]). Wherever the word and honour of God is assailed they are to act against the Authority, remain faithful to God, and surrender bodily life in patience and love to the government as the Authority over the flesh but not over the Word and the Spirit. Likewise Peter was commanded by the Lord to pay the tax (Matt. 17 [:27]), for our peaceful God desires only peace for everyone both spiritually and physically.
These are the weapons and the knighthood of the true Christians as Paul writes in 2 Cor. 10 [:4-5] and signs of the faithfulness of the eternal God. Moses was given the sword to enforce the moral laws so that peace would be preserved among the children of wickedness. Likewise Joshua and David and others were appointed to administer the punishment of God upon the children of wickedness, but only to preserve temporal peace through which the fleshly Israel was held together in unity.
But the office (Amt) which Christ and his own have is different from that of Moses. They neither have nor desire the peace of the body which was necessary then, but rather the peace of Christ who admonished them to have peace with each other. "Peace I give to you; my peace
I leave with you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled" (John 14 [:27]). The world does not know this comfort of God's Spirit, which is why it knows nothing about the peace of the heart. This peace does not complain about temporal persecution, however cruel it may be. No one had this peace before Christ who first redeemed us into this peace. His bodily departure was necessary, otherwise the Comforter would not have come (John 16 [:7]), so that we may endure all temporal tribulation in this peace of the heart without objecting. These, and not the comfortless complainers who accuse each other before men, are the true Christians. Christ is their true judge and Lord, for he will judge the whole circle of the earth (Acts 17 [:31]). Christ thus has a greater commission than Moses (Heb. 3 [:3], 8 [:6], 2 Cor. 3 [:7-8]). Under it no one will be accused through the law, nor will anyone accuse anyone else through the law.
Whenever Moses accuses or judges by the law, Christ is of no use. Christ spoke to the Jews who did not believe in him concerning this point in John 5 [:45]: "Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; your accuser is Moses, on whom you have set your hope." Christ and his own are not accusers either in spiritual or in bodily matters; they are believing, loving, patient and gentle hearts. To such believers he says in John 8 [:31-32]: "If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." This liberty of Christ is lord of all and all creatures serve her, although she does not rule but serve (1 Cor. 9 [:19-23], 10). For Christ the highest Lord did not come to dominate, coerce, condemn, nor rule. He will allow no one to be accused before him, and himself accuses no one. Rather, he was himself a servant, and allowed himself to be dominated, violated, accused, condemned, and cursed, and to suffer injustice.
That is our mirror in which we can see whether we have the stature of Christ or not. [If we acted like that] the strife about government would soon be laid by. It is argued that Abraham, Jacob, Moses, and David also had the Spirit of God, and even so bore the sword against the wicked, and that whoever had the Spirit of God also had the Spirit of Christ. That argument is the work of Satan who tries hard to confuse the making of distinctions in order to preserve his glory and kingdom. At that time, in the counsel of the faithful God who knew fallen humanity's tendency to strife, there could be no peace unless carnal fear kept them in check from Cain and Abel onwards (Gen. 4). The spiritual peace of Christ could not come until Christ had purchased it through his departure in the flesh. When he said “consummatum est," he brought all carnal rule to an end (John 10 [19:30]). He rules in his own through his Spirit alone also in temporal matters, and distinguishes the spirit of the accusing, vengeful Elijah from the Spirit he gave to his own. Through his Spirit they were born; through that Spirit they are still being born. When his disciples, who knew and felt this Spirit in themselves, wished to practice the vengeance of Elijah, he reminded them of the difference between Elijah's spirit and his own and said to them (Luke 9 [:55-56]): "You do not know what spirit you are of, for the Son of Man has not come to destroy the lives of human beings but to save them." Therefore his own, also, may never destroy anyone. Did this accusing, vengeful Elijah also have the Spirit of Christ (2 Kings 1 [:10])? If so, according to these prophets, Christ was wrong to forbid his disciples to exercise vengeance when they appealed to Elijah. (It is important to distinguish between the Spirit of God and of Christ in their functions in the different bodily and spiritual commissions given by God.)
Again, self-seeking decks itself out with the love of the neighbour and says: "Should I not aid my neighbour as I am obligated and am able when someone tries to destroy him? God commanded me not to abandon my neighbour when I see him in trouble, for should I not do as I expect to be done by (Matt. 7 [:12])?" Peter wanted to give such bodily help to the Lord Christ. But note what Christ did to him whom Peter, because of his natural love for Christ, attacked and injured. The Lord restored his body to health (Luke 22 [:51]). The Lord did not desire then, nor does he today, any help through which someone else is injured or hated. We are to love our greatest enemies and not hate them (Luke 6 [:27]), even though they assault us together or singly. There is one head and one body under Christ the head, and no separate members. If one member suffers, the other is obligated to suffer with it (l Cor. 12 [:26]). It is the body of patience and love. We may not injure anyone for love of someone else or we revoke our love for the enemy and so miss the way of Christ. We would simply have a carnal agreement such as is common in the world: if you help me, I will help you. However, coming to the aid of someone in need (whether I do it or any who receive Christ in truth) regardless of whether friend or foe, so long as it can be done without hurting anyone else, will not cease or be found wanting among true Christians. For the true love of Christ their master, and through his own words which were demonstrated by him in his love for his enemies even into death, they too will witness to their enemies even in death. Such is the true wholesome love of Christ which injures no one, neither friend nor foe. Christ has this spiritual covenant with his own by means of a free, willing spirit which Christ mediated from the Father to those who have faith in him. [He accomplished this] through the obedience of the Spirit. It was not available to and could not be done by flesh and blood or its agencies, nor by the coercion of governments or subjects. For even with Christ himself (Matt. 16 [26:41]), the flesh was weak but the Spirit was willing and obedient. Wherever carnal government intrudes into the kingdom of Christ, Christ has died in vain in obedience to the Father. He showed and demonstrated this obedience, which is only patience and love, in cross and tribulation towards friends and foes, but exercised no other dominion, coercion, or rule, however much our opponents try to prove it by Scripture, using it as they do for their own self-justification, Whoever will be the greatest should be the servant of all (Matt. 20 [:26]). [Wherever temporal and spiritual power are conferred] there will be only a carnal glory.
Those who contradict us accuse Christ and his own of opposing the Emperor and forbidding payment of taxes, refusing him obedience, saying government is not necessary, wanting to be our own lords, and appointing ourselves a king of the Jews and the like." Observe the cunning and the tricks which Satan and his own employ. Out of the surfeit of their own wickedness they accuse Christ and his own of that which they themselves do.
A question: Suppose someone from the world or the so-called Christians, old or new, who wishes to justify the use of the temporal sword with an appeal to Christ, achieves power, don't you suppose the whole lot would want to rule, and quarrel over who was to rule over them? Unless, of course, every individual would want to rule himself, so that no one else could exercise temporal rule over him because of his self-centredness. These people demand only protection and security." However, no one wants to endure the authority that goes with the protection, for Authority may deal justly or unjustly according to the destiny set by God, who determines the punishment that will be meted out. Thus Pilate, by his authority received from above, judged the innocent Christ (John 19 [:11]) and Christ endured it. Nor did Christ demand the protection from Pilate which Pilate was obligated to give as part of his authority. Christ did not demand nor desire it, for the lambs of God must be ruled over with violence until the end of the world. For this reason also Peter and Paul (Rom. 13 [:1], 1 Pet. 2 [:13]), counsel submission to all human temporal Authority, ready even to die under it. Both of them indicate the limits of that obedience. Christians will not rule or dominate anyone with force. Rather they suffer violence in obedience to God and to the praise of their leader Christ. To the question raised above the lambs now reply: Who are more obedient to government, those who want to be protected and not suffer any authority, or those who desire no protection and endure all violence in the love of God? O blind and perverted nature! You are reduced to silence in this judgement.
But this perverted lot do as they always do. They boast and claim for themselves the rule of Christ and his Spirit, but in fact crave for an authority other than that of Christ's spirit. They come appealing to Christ, but they want a king only to give them security and not to have authority over them. They want to do as the heathen do. Listen to what Samuel told the Jews (1 Sam. 8 [:11]) when they demanded a protector like the heathen had. He told them that such a king would also exercise authority over them as was his right. God said to Samuel that the people had not rejected Samuel but God himself and granted them the request that was their downfall. In a similar vein Christ said to his disciples: “You do not know what you are asking” (Matt. 20 [:22]). Then he offered them the chalice of his patient suffering. This is the sovereignty with which the Son of Man rules and reigns with his own through the Spirit.
In another place Jesus said to his disciples: “You know that among the Gentiles those who want to be regarded as rulers lord it over them, and the powerful are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; rather, whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be servant of all” (Mark 10 [:42-44]). Whoever will not be admonished and disciplined in the education and correction of the Spirit is no Christian (Heb. 12 [:8]); he will be subject to the law (Gal. 3). The Word of the Lord is the only judge and sword of Christians (Eph. 6 [:17], Matt. 10 [:19-20]). True Christians will use no other judge nor sword, and whoever rejects this rejects not Christ but the Father who sent him (Matt. 10 [:32-33]). Remember that it was not Samuel who was rejected but God, and here we have much more than Samuel, Moses, patriarchs, and prophets (Matt. 12 [:42]). They are rejecting the Son and not the servant [Mark 12:32-33]. If they have treated the servants with such disrespect, how much more will they do it to the Son? The so-called Christians get their due according to their desires when God gives them rulers aplenty who will administer the king's justice. For according to the words of Christ, they demanded rulers such as the heathen have, and these will zealously impose their rule with violence. Christ reduced the heathen and Jewish law into a single law. According to Eph. 2 [:14] he broke down the middle wall of partition and put all heathen and Jewish laws together. For both Jewish and Gentile laws govern carnal man. But they do not govern the spiritual Christ, for whoever does not have the spirit of Christ does not belong to him (Rom. 8 [:91]). Those who are liberated from these laws become subject to Christ. It is a new birth from flesh and death to spirit and life (1 John 3, 4, 5). This spiritual life is nothing but love and patience; neither Moses nor heathen but only Christians will be found there. Outside of Christ neither the law of the Jews nor of the heathen (who are their own law according to Rom. 2 [:14]) promote life; they are simply a bridle for the wickedness of carnal ignorance. No matter how upright the flesh may be without the Spirit it has to be bridled. We know that some animals are more compliant than others - the difference, for example, between horses and donkeys. Still, they all need to be bridled (Ps. 32 [:9]). This bridle is not Christ but the dead letter of the law and human commandments (Gal. 3 [:23-25]). For quite outside the fear of the law, the Spirit of Christ gives life. “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear but you have received a spirit of adoption through which we cry, ‘Abba, pater.’ Thus we are children and heirs if, in fact, we suffer with him” (Rom. 8 [:14-17]). Notice that he does not say "rule with him." Neither Christ nor his own ever reprove anyone on the basis of the law either Jewish or heathen, but only through the Word of the Father which is Christ. Whoever does not have Christ also does not live according to the Word, and there is nothing but flesh without spirit. Those who have Christ have the Word as a reliable ruler in the heart and no other is necessary, as Paul says in Col. 1 [:27-28]. Those who reprove by means other than the Word, which is Christ (John 1 [:1-2], 8 [:32-42]), are rulers of darkness. He admonished those who had entered the kingdom of the Word [Col. 1:12-13] which is the Son, the light of the world, who enlightens all people (John 1 [:9]) to be grateful.
From now on, for those who are outside of Christ the laws of the Jews and of the heathen are a single reality. In Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek but one living creation in God (Gal. 3 [:28], 5 [:6], 6 [:15]). Regardless of this, the so-called evangelical Christians reject imperial law under the appearance of godliness to disguise their fleshly ambition and for the securing of their property, position, and reputation? They judge according to the law of Moses and pollute the Lord Jesus Christ with blood? Outside of Christ the laws of Jews and Gentiles are one single law. Thus, no matter how much they oppose the law of the Emperor, their false pretension will not help them, for Christ is the end of the law for the justification of everyone who has faith (Rom. 10 [:4]). Similarly, Paul writes the Corinthians (1 Cor. 6 [:1-8]) that they have failed Christ because they demanded temporal rights, and that from unbelievers. Is there no wisdom of Christ among you, Paul continues, by which one could admonish the other in patience and love? And even if the least of all the members of the church [Eph. 3:8], urges you to the patience and love of Christ (if indeed you were brethren of love and peace) and to judge your own cases, you still insist on doing it before unbelievers. For the brotherhood of Christ is patience and love, does not have nor desires to have either Authority or subjects, but is one in Christ. For where there is no Authority there can also be no subject.
Still, the true Christians are subject to all creatures for the sake of God and Christ .16 He has come who was to precede Christ, and at that time the life of the flesh had to be sustained through the fear of the law without the living power of Christ and his Spirit until the time of Christ (Gal. 3 [:24]). Until then the sceptre and the dominion remained with the tribe of Judah from whom Christ was descended after the flesh (Rom. 1 [:3], 9 [:53], Rev. 5 [:5], Heb. 7 [:14]). That is the meaning of the words of the patriarch Jacob to his son Judah (Gen. 49 [:10]): "Neither the sceptre nor the ruler's staff from between his feet shall depart from his seed until the appointed one comes to whom the people will give their obedience." These words of Jacob also imply that at the coming of Christ the sceptre would be taken away from the fleshly people of God and they would be thrown out among the Gentiles to be the swineherds of the empire. For all earthly sovereignties and imperiums are only the destructive work of wild boars before God's countenance, because they destroy the vineyard of God (Ps. 80 [:7-13]). All the sovereigns, protectors, and rulers are only swineherds in contrast to the sovereignty of Christ which now rules in his own, for outside of Christ there is absolutely no faith regardless of whether one be Jew, Gentile, or so-called Christian (John 15 [:5], 2 John 1, 3, John 1 [:17]). He who does not submit to be admonished and disciplined through the fear of the word of Christ is no Christian. Whoever seeks to admonish and discipline by means other than the gentle and humble word of Christ (which alone is patience and love), such as with the law of God through the letter and the external sword, as the so-called Christians do, that one too is no Christian. To Christ has been given authority over all flesh (Matt. 28 [:18]) in order that he may bring that flesh into complete fear and discipline through his Spirit (Rom. 8 [:9-11]). Christ does not kill but bring to life (John 6 [:40], 2 Cor. 3 [:6]), and no one may take the sword of Moses, the man of God, because Moses himself surrendered it at his departure and, pointing to Christ, said: A man will arise from among your brothers; listen to him (Deut. 18 [:15]). Christ himself witnessed and said: “If you believed Moses, you would believe in me, for he wrote about me” (John 5 [:46]). Salvation comes from the Jews (John 4 [:22]). Since Christ came Moses is no longer authoritative, for he had only the sword of the law but not of the Spirit. To Christ we must listen, through the Word, which is a double-edged sword to distinguish good from evil (Heb. 4 [:12]). This evil belongs to the sword of the wicked and wicked rulers who, expressing their own carnal mentality, preserve carnal peace with each other for the sake of property and position. Christ cannot be reconciled with Belial (2 Cor. 6 [:15]). The peace of Christ is different. It brings unrest without any injury to whomever possesses it because of the flesh and [what remains] of self-centredness, and peace to friends and foes. This is the peace of Christ about which Christ says that he gives it not as the world gives, for the world treasures peace only for the securing of property and position. If it is injured in any way, there is nothing but turmoil.
The early Christians to the time of Constantine exercised no temporal rule or sword among themselves. The command of their master did not allow it. He granted them only the sword of the Word. Whoever, after sufficient admonition would not listen, was regarded as a Gentile and unbeliever [Matt. 18:17]. But when at that time, the pope, as a servant of the church was married to Leviathan, that is, temporal power, but in the disguise of Christ, the Antichrist was conceived and born as has now been revealed. The mystery of iniquity was long concealed (2 Thess. 2 [:3ff.]). For a very long time she fortified herself with Scripture under a guise of godliness until the wickedness of the apparently holy clergy was exposed, which is also now the case with the new Antichrist. They are false shepherds to whom the sheep do not belong; they enter through the roof and come only to devour, plunder, and kill (John 10 [:10]). The spiritual devil and his multitude, a murderer from the beginning (John 8 [:44])), entered the sheepfold with violence and stole and wrested the sword from the secular Authority. No heathen tyrant ever murdered and killed so thoroughly. The most horrible monster, turning even against its own kind, tramples, crushes, and ravages with its feet what it does not eat and devastates it with the counterfeit ban [Eze. 34:17-191. Thus the abominable wickedness reveals itself. Some true sons of Pilate still ask whether Christ is a king. When, in the attempt to save Jesus from the false Jews, that is, from those who falsely confess faith in God, and who even today still hand Jesus over [to the executioner], they are told in Christ's words that his kingdom is not of this world (John 18 [:36]), they say that they want no king whose kingdom is not of this world but an emperor whose kingdom is of this world. They are consistent: since they are children of this world and not of God, they must needs be ruled by those cosmic authorities who fight against Christ (Eph. 6 [:12]). They don't want to be ruled by Christ for he is, in their view, a preposterous king. When the people wanted to make a temporal king of Jesus to ensure the temporal food they had received from him, he left them and fled (John 6 [:15]). Everyone should completely depart from these prophets who betroth the patient, loving Christ to the secular Authority under the pretence that it is spiritual, to ensure that a new Antichrist is born or fashioned. I hope that the Lord will prevent his own from becoming wild boars and swineherds who destroy the vineyard (Ps. 79 [:1], 80 [:13]), but will instead be preserved as sheep and shepherds who tend the vineyard, do not graze it bare, and that Christ remains our arch-shepherd now and forever. Amen.
Lastly and to conclude, I remind all who mix the kingdom of Christ with the secular Authority, and who now propose to judge between the good and the evil or wish to pull up [the weeds] by means other than the Spirit of God, of the parable and judgement of Christ (Matt. 13 [:24-30]): “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field; but when everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. Then the servants of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’ He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and pull out the weeds?’ But he replied, ‘No, certainly not; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, ‘Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”
Listen to Christ’s interpretation of the parable when the disciples asked him about its meaning, and let these nay-sayers themselves judge whether Christ committed the sword of secular Authority to his own, or whether he commanded them to gather in the weeds before the End of the world. Jesus answered his disciples: “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels. Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and they will throw them into the furnace of fire where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!” [Matt. 13:37-431.
Our opponents should take note of what the Lord Christ says to his servants to whom it is given only to judge that which is external and at the present time but never that which is internal and eternal. For he is the saviour for everyone's salvation and not their destroyer (up to the time of the final irreversible judgement after which the time for repentance is over). Christ told this parable only to ensure that the grace of God would not be cut off for human beings and that the wheat would not be pulled out with the weeds. For as long as a person remains in this mortal life, no matter how wicked he may be, he may be converted to a better life through the grace of Christ and the patience and love shown to him by those around him. For there are twelve hours in the day as the Lord himself said (John 11 [:9]) [during which a man may be converted], but if he is pulled up like a weed, he can never repent. For this reason Christ, who is patient and humble, commands his disciples (John 13 [:12-15], Matt. 11 [:29]) to learn from him and to wait faithfully for the erring one during the time of his life. He also instructs his own by the foregoing parable to wait. He commands no one to condemn and kill with the sword. Virtually the whole of Matt. chapter 5 testifies that no one is to be coerced or dominated. Rather, the disciples allow themselves to be forced and dominated and to submit to what is done to them with patience. Those who do the opposite are of the world and are not Christ’s, are unbelievers and do not have faith. Those who fight with the sword will be condemned by the sword (Rev. 13 [:10], Matt. 16 [:25]). Hence all those who came into the world since Christ, who is the sharp sword of the Word, and have not believed will destroy and devour each other with the sword (Luke 21 [:24]). Whoever does not believe is condemned already (John 3 [:18]). Further, the Lord said to those who wanted to follow him that they should let the dead bury their dead (Matt. 8 [:22]). There is no godliness outside of Christ. The ‘godliness’ of the flesh and of evildoers is nothing but wickedness and uncleanness. In Christ, through faith, the only sword is the Word; with this only Christians judge and are judged. They have not been commanded by Christ to use any other sword. Christians should avoid and separate themselves from all who don’t believe this, until they are converted. Those who come to believe it should be received in patience and love. This is the true judgement of Christians in this time, and Christ has neither committed to them nor commanded them any other judgement.
The true Christians will use this purity in the liberty of the Spirit in which they remain pure and in which all things are pure for them [Luke 11:41; John 13: 10-11]. Nothing is pure outside that which serves love in the hopeful confidence of faith and is expressed in gentleness, patience, and humility, regardless of how fervently Satan preens himself with Paul’s words in Titus 1 [:15]: “To the pure all things are pure, but to the corrupt and unbelieving nothing is pure.” Whatever Christ has named or commanded is what comprises “all things” in Christ. These are faith, love, hope, patience, gentleness, humility, purity of heart, thoughtfulness. These and all other virtues and knowledge are pure only through faith, which is purity itself. Outside of faith all virtues and knowledge, regardless of how prized they may be, are in and of themselves impure and an abomination before the face of God. Many upright heathen are known to us. They indeed had great discipline, virtue, and knowledge, but to them it was all impure before the face of God because of their unbelief. Everything would be impure if one did not have faith in Christ, even if one did the works of angels, apostles, even of Christ himself. It is thus that Paul came to the view that all virtues outside of faith in Christ are impure and all of them are pure because of faith. [But] Paul’s words may never be taken to mean that one may take anything outside of what Christ commanded and employ it and preen oneself with the liberty of Christ, as Satan does. True Christians will never take the liberty to exercise coercion and Authority, regardless of how wicked or upright those to be ruled might be. Rather they will allow themselves to be dominated, ruled over, and violated in patience and love to the end of time. Let us continue to be servants as our Master and Christ served and allowed himself to be ruled over and violated. Christ came not to be served, not to rule in the world according to the flesh.
We don’t need to be concerned about governmental Authority. There will always be those who want to rule. Let us see to it that we remain Christians, live patiently, and accept the victory of the Lamb to the glory of our Father and of his Christ. To him alone belongs all the glory, power, majesty, praise and honour now and to eternity. Amen.
I am surprised that Christ and the apostles, and especially Saint Peter, did not elect a ruler to rule over all those whom he converted to Christ and who believed, as we read in Acts chapter 2. The Spirit of God was not wise enough at that time for these prophets who are rightly called the “new” evangelicals. God have mercy on them. Why did God not allow the tribe of Levi a portion of the promised land nor any external authority to rule (Deut. 18 [:1-2], Josh. 14 [:3])? How much less would he give it to the spiritual and royal priests of Christ so ordained, forever under the order of Melchisedek, and under which all flesh and all its authorities must come to nothing. (What the figurative meaning of this priesthood in Christ and attributed to us is, can be learned from Paul in Hebrews, chapters 7, 8, 9, and 10.) Christ himself says in Luke 9 [:58] that the Son of Man has no place where he can lay his head.
The first council of the Holy Spirit was established by the Apostles. Its decision was written and carried to Antioch by Judas and Silas, who also [delivered it] verbally. It pleased the Holy Spirit and the Apostles not to lay any legal burdens on the churches except for the three most necessary provisions. These were that they abstain from what was offered to idols, from blood, from what is strangled, and from fornication. If they kept these, all would be well (Acts 15 [:22-29]). This text, read and understood literally, would only be more Jewish legalism rather than liberty, were it not that a particular mystery is hidden under the words and kept concealed until our time. In fact it was the Spirit of God speaking through the Apostles concerning the future time which would come. It has all now been revealed; the sacrifice to idols of the pope and the Antichrist is far more idolatrous and abominable before the face of God than all the idol sacrifices of the heathen. For Paul says in 1 Cor. 10 [:27] that if he were not told that it was offered to idols, he would eat it. However, if he were told that it had been offered to idols, he would not eat. Thus the pope's idolatry is not simply a sacrifice to idols but the idol itself. The Antichrist and those who run with him are now urging all of us to eat. That is why the Spirit of God calls it a necessary thing and something to be avoided.
Second, concerning blood and what was strangled, the Holy Spirit did not mean to repeat the law of Moses, but rather referred to the words in Ps. 16 [:4]: “their drink-offerings of blood I will not pour out.” This, too, has been revealed in this last time. At the point at which the temporal power mixed itself into the kingdom of Christ, as shown above, the eating of blood by those who pretended to be Christians began as they killed people. Today the Holy Spirit forbids this and warns us to refrain from what is strangled. It is the source of all shedding of blood, namely the self-serving, wealth, and glory of the world. The Lord Christ also refers to what is strangled in Matt. 13 [:7]. It is the seed that fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it and it bore no fruit. This strangled word is completely in the power of the Antichrist's kingdom and virtually all people eat of it, ignoring the faithful warning of the Holy Spirit. May God preserve his own.
Third, the fornication mentioned is not only the physical fornication which is the fruit of spiritual fornication, but of that whore with whom all the kings of the earth and all the people with them have fornicated and still do as is evident. It is needful that as the children of God we should prepare and protect ourselves against all this. If we do it we do right. Farewell in the comfort of the Spirit.
The Schleitheim Confession (also known as the Brüderliche Vereinigung or the Schleitheim Brotherly Union) has come to be recognized as a watershed articulation of certain Swiss Anabaptist distinctives. Michael Sattler is now accepted as being the primary author of the seven articles. These were ratified on Feb. 24, 1527 during an assembly of Anabaptists in the northern Swiss village of Schleitheim (from 'Schleitheim Confession' in the Canadian Mennonite Encyclopedia).
May joy, peace, mercy from our Father, through the atonement of the blood of Christ Jesus, together with the gifts of one Spirit - who is sent by the Father to all believers to [give] strength and consolation and constance in all tribulation until the end, Amen, be with all who love God and all children of light, who are scattered everywhere, wherever they might have been placed by God our Father, wherever they might be gathered in unity of spirit in one God and Father of us all; grace and peace of heart be with you all. Amen.
Beloved brothers and sisters in the Lord; first and primordially we are always concerned for your consolation and the assurance of your conscience (which was sometime confused), so that you might not always be separated from us as aliens and by right almost completely excluded, but that you might turn to the true implanted members of Christ, who have been armed through patience and the knowledge of self, and thus be again united with us in the power of a godly Christian spirit and zeal for God.
It is manifest with what manifold cunning the devil has turned us aside, so that he might destroy and cast down the work of God, which in us mercifully and graciously has been partially begun. But the true Shepherd of our souls, Christ, who has begun such in us, will direct and teach the same unto the end, to His glory and our salvation, Amen.
Dear brothers and sisters, we who have been assembled in the Lord at Schleitheim on the Randen make known, in points and articles, unto all that love God, that as far as we are concerned, we have been united to stand fast in the Lord as obedient children of God, sons and daughters, who have been and shall be separated form the world in all that we do and leave undone, and (the praise and glory be to God alone) uncontradicted by all the brothers, completely at peace. Herein we have sensed the unity of the Father and of our common Christ as present with us in their Spirit. For the Lord is a Lord of peace and not of quarreling, as Paul indicates (1 Cor. 14:33). So that you understand at what points this occurred, you should observe and understand [what follows]:
A very great offence has been introduced by some false brothers among us, whereby several have turned away from the faith, thinking to practice and observe the freedom of the Spirit and of Christ. But such have fallen short of the truth and (to their own condemnation) are given over to the lasciviousness and license of the flesh. They have esteemed that faith and love may do and permit everything and that nothing can harm nor condemn them, since they are "believers."
Note well, you members of God in Christ Jesus, that faith in the heavenly Father through Jesus Christ is not thus formed: it produces and brings forth no such things as these false brothers and sisters practice and teach. Guard yourselves and be warned of such people, for they do not serve our Father, but their father, the devil.
But for you it is not so; for they who are Christ's have crucified their flesh with all its lusts and desires (Gal. 5:24). You understand me well, and [know] brothers whom we mean. Separate yourselves from them, for they are perverted. Pray the Lord that they may have knowledge unto repentance, and for us that we may have constance to persevere along the path we have entered upon, unto the glory of God and of Christ His Son. Amen
Baptism shall be given to all those who have been taught repentance and the amendment of life and [who] believe truly that their sins are taken away through Christ, and to all those who desire to walk in the resurrection of Jesus Christ and be buried with Him in death, so that they might rise with Him; to all those who with such an understanding themselves desire and request it from us; hereby is excluded all infant baptism, the greatest and first abomination of the pope. For this you have the reasons and the testimony of the writings and the practice of the apostles (Mt. 28:19; Mk. 16:6; Acts 2:38; Acts 8:36; Acts 16:31-33; 19:4). We wish simply yet resolutely and with assurance to hold to the same.
We have been united as follows concerning the ban. The ban shall be employed with all those who have given themselves over to the Lord, to walk after [Him] in His commandments; those who have been baptized into the one body of Christ, and let themselves be called brothers or sisters, and still somehow slip and fall into error and sin, being indavertently overtaken. The same [shall] be warned twice privately and the third time be publicly admonished before the entire congregation according to the command of Christ (Mt. 18). But this shall be done according to the ordering of the Spirit of God before the breaking of bread, so that we may all in one spirit and in one love break and eat from one bread and drink from one cup.
Concerning the breaking of bread, we have become one and agree thus: all those who desire to break the one bread in remembrance of the broken body of Christ and all those who wish to drink of one drink in remembrance of the shed blood of Christ, they must beforehand be united in the one body of Christ, that is the congregation of God, whose head is Christ, and that by baptism. For as Paul indicates (1 Cor. 10:21), we cannot be partakers at the same time of the table of the Lord and the table of devils. Nor can we at the same time partake and drink of the cup of the Lord and the cup of devils. That is: all those who follow the devil and the world, have no part with those who have been called out of the world unto God. All those who lie in evil have no part in the good.
So it shall and must be, that whoever does not share the calling of the one God to one faith, to one baptism, to one spirit, to one body together with all the children of God, may not be made one loaf together with them, as must be true if one wishes truly to break bread according to the command of Christ.
We have been united concerning the separation that shall take place from the evil and the wickedness which the devil has planted in the world, simply in this; that we have no fellowship with them, and do not run with them in the confusion of their abominations. So it is; since all who have not entered into the obedience of faith and have not united themselves with God so that they will to do His will, are a great abomination before God, therefore nothing else can or really will grow or spring forth from them than abominable things. Now there is nothing else in the world and all creation than good or evil, believing and unbelieving, darkness and light, the world and those who are [come] out of the world, God's temple and idols. Christ and Belial, and none will have part with the other.
To us, then, the commandment of the Lord is also obvious, whereby He orders us to be and to become separated from the evil one, and thus He will be our God and we shall be His sons and daughters (2 Cor. 6:17).
Further, He admonishes us therefore to go out from Babylon and from the earthly Egypt, that we may not be partakers in their torment and suffering, which the Lord will bring upon them. (Rev. 18:4 ff.).
From all this we should learn that everything which has not been united with our God in Christ is nothing but an abomination which we should shun. By this are meant all popish and repopish works and idolatry, gatherings, church attendance, winehouses, guarantees and commitments of unbelief, and other things of the kind, which the world regards highly, and yet which are carnal or flatly counter to the command of God, after the pattern of all the iniquity which is in the world. From all this we shall be separated and have no part with such, for they are nothing but abominations, which cause us to be hated before our Christ Jesus, who has freed us from the servitude of the flesh and fitted us for the service of God and the Spirit whom He has given us.
Thereby shall also fall away from us the diabolical weapons of violence - such as sword, armour, and the like, and all of their use to protect friends or against enemies - by virtue of the word of Christ: "you shall not resist evil" (Mt. 5:39).
We have been united as follows concerning shepherds in the church of God. The shepherd in the church shall be a person according to the rule of Paul, fully and completely, who has a good report of those who are outside the faith. The office of such a person shall be to read and exhort and teach, warn, admonish, or ban in the congregation, and properly to preside among the sisters and brothers in prayer, and in the breaking of bread, and in all things to take care of the body of Christ, that it may be built up and developed, so that the name of God might be praised and honoured through us, and the mouth of the mocker be stopped.
He shall be supported, wherein he has need, by the congregation which has chosen him, so that he who serves the gospel can also live therefrom, as the Lord has ordered (1 Cor. 9:14). But should a shepherd do something worthy of reprimand, nothing shall be done with him without the voice of two or three witnesses. If they sin they shall be publicly reprimanded, so that others might fear.
But if the shepherd should be driven away or led to the Lord by the cross at the same hour another shall be ordained to his place, so that the little folk and the little flock of God may not be destroyed, but be preserved by warning and be consoled.
We have been united as follows concerning the sword. The sword is an ordering of God outside the perfection of Christ. It punishes and kills the wicked and guards and protects the good. In the law the sword is established over the wicked for punishment and for death and the secular rulers are established to wield the same.
But within the perfection of Christ only the ban is used for the admonition and exclusion of the one who has sinned, without the death of the flesh, simply the warning and the command to sin no more.
Now many, who do not understand Christ's will for us, will ask; whether a Christian may or should use the sword against the wicked for the protection and defence of the good, or for the sake of love.
The answer is unanimously revealed: Christ teaches and commands us to learn from Him, for He is meek and lowly of heart and thus we shall find rest for our souls (Mt. 11:29). Now Christ says to the woman who was taken in adultery (Jn. 8:11), not that she should be stoned according to the law of His Father (and yet He says, "What the Father commanded me, that I do") (Jn. 8:22) but with mercy and forgiveness and the warning to sin no more, says: "Go, sin no more." Exactly thus should we also proceed, according to the rule of the ban.
Second, is asked concerning the sword: whether a Christian shall pass sentence in disputes and strife about worldly matters, such as the unbelievers have with one another. The answer: Christ did not wish to decide or pass judgement between brother and brother concerning inheritance, but refused to do so (Lk. 12:13). So should we also do.
Third, is asked concerning the sword: whether the Christian should be a magistrate if he is chosen thereto. This is answered thus: Christ was to be made King, but He fled and did not discern the ordinance of His Father. Thus we should also do as He did and follow after Him, and we shall not walk in darkness. For He Himself says: "Whoever would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me" (Mt. 16:24). He Himself further forbids the violence of the sword when He says: "The princes of this world lord it over them etc., but among you it shall not be so" (Mt. 20:25). Further Paul says, "Whom God has foreknown, the same he has also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son," etc. (Rom. 8:30). Peter also says: "Christ has suffered (not ruled) and has left us an example, that you should follow after in his steps" (1 Pet. 2:21).
Lastly, one can see in the following points that it does not befit a Christian to be a magistrate: the rule of the government is according to the flesh, that of the Christians according to the spirit. Their houses and dwelling remain in this world, that of the Christians is in heaven. Their citizenship is in this world, that of the Christians is in heaven (Phil. 3:20). The weapons of their battle and warfare are carnal and only against the flesh, but the weapons of Christians are spiritual, against the fortification of the devil. The worldly are armed with steel and iron, but Christians are armed with the armour of God, with truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, and with the Word of God. In sum: as Christ our Head is minded, so also must be minded the members of the body of Christ through Him, so that there be no division in the body, through which it would be destroyed. Since then Christ is as is written of Him, so must His members also be the same, so that His body may remain whole and unified for its own advancement and upbuilding. For any kingdom which is divided within itself will be destroyed (Mt. 12:25).
We have been united as follows concerning the oath. The oath is a confirmation among those who are quarreling or making promises. In the law it is commanded that it should be done only in the name of God, truthfully and not falsely. Christ, who teaches the perfection of the law, forbids His [followers] all swearing, whether true or false; neither by heaven nor by earth, neither by Jerusalem nor by our head; and that for the reason which He goes on to give: "For you cannot make one hair white or black." You see, thereby all swearing is forbidden. We cannot perform what is promised in the swearing, for we are not able to change the smallest part of ourselves (Mt. 5:34-37).
Now there are some who do not believe the simple commandment of God and who say, "But God swore by Himself to Abraham, because He was God (as He promised him that He would do good to him and would be his God if he kept His commandments). Why then should I not swear if I promise something to someone?" The answer: hear what the Scripture says: "God, since he wished to prove overabundantly to the heirs of His promise that His will did not change, inserted an oath so that by two immutable things we might have a stronger consolation (for it is impossible that God should lie") (Heb 6:7 ff.). Notice the meaning of the passage: God has the power to do what He forbids you, for everything is possible to Him. God swore an oath to Abraham, Scripture says, in order to prove that His counsel is immutable. That means: no one can withstand and thwart His will; thus He can keep His oath. But we cannot, as Christ said above, hold or perform our oath, therefore we should not swear.
Others say that swearing cannot be forbidden by God in the New Testament when it was commanded in the Old, but that it is forbidden only to swear by heaven, earth, Jerusalem, and our head. Answer: hear the Scripture. He who swears by heaven, swears by God's throne and by Him who sits thereon (Mt. 5:35). Observe: swearing by heaven is forbidden, which is only God's throne; how much more is it forbidden to swear by God Himself. You blind fools, what is greater, the throne or He who sits upon it?
Others say, if it is then wrong to use God for truth, then the apostles Peter and Paul also swore. Answer: Peter and Paul only testify to that which God promised Abraham, whom we long after have received. But when one testifies, one testifies concerning that which is present, whether it be good or evil. Thus Simeon spoke of Christ to Mary and testified: "Behold: this one is ordained for the falling and rising of many in Israel and to be a sign which will be spoken against" (Lk 2:34).
Christ taught us similarly when He says: Your speech shall be yea, yea; and nay, nay; for what is more than that comes of evil. He says, your speech or your word shall be yes and no, so that no one might understand that He had permitted it. Christ is simply yea and nay, and all those who seek Him simply will understand His Word. Amen.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in the Lord: these are the articles which some brothers previously had understood wrongly and in a way not conformed to the true meaning. Thereby many weak consciences were confused, whereby the name of God has been grossly slandered, for which reason it was needful that we should be brought to agreement in the Lord, which has come to pass. To God be praise and glory!
Now that you have abundantly understood the will of God as revealed through us at this time, you must fulfil this will, now known, persistently and unswervingly. For you know well what is the reward of the servant who knowingly sins.
Everything which you have done unknowingly and now confess to have done wrongly, is forgiven you, through that believing prayer, which is offered among us in our meeting for all our shortcomings and guilt, through the gracious forgiveness of God and through the blood of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Watch out for all who do not walk in simplicity of divine truth, which has been stated by us in this letter in our meeting, so that everyone might be governed among us by the rule of the ban, and that henceforth the entry of false brothers and sisters among us might be prevented.
Put away from you that which is evil, and the Lord will be your God, and you will be His sons and daughters (1 Cor. 6:17).
Dear brothers, keep in mind what Paul admonished Titus (Tit. 2:11-14). He says: "The saving grace of God has appeared to all, and disciplines us, that we should deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and live circumspect righteous and godly lives in this world; awaiting the same hope and the appearing of the glory of the great God and of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us, to redeem us from all unrighteousness and to purify unto himself a people of his own, that would be zealous of good works." Think on this, and exercise yourselves therein, and the Lord of peace will be with you.
May the name of God be forever blessed and greatly praised, Amen. May the Lord give you His peace, Amen.
Done at Schleitheim, St. Matthew's Day [February 24], Anno 1527.
by Alan and Eleanor Kreider
The first Mennonite who made England his home, the Canadian John Coffman, arrived in London during an air raid in 1940. For the next five years, he distributed food and clothing and took care of orphans as a representative of the Mennonite Central Committee, the relief and development agency of the North American Mennonite Churches. In this he was assisted by Eileen Pells Coffman, whom he met and married in London. After the war John and Eileen worked as Mennonite missionaries with the Finsbury Mission and the Free Gospel Hall; in 1967 they retired in Highgate. They were much-loved parental figures among English Mennonites, and died in 1990 and 1999 respectively.
John Coffman enjoyed taking tourists to sites in London that the tour-buses missed. The typical tourist, John knew, visited sites associated with privilege, royalty and military might. But there was another history – a Nonconformist history – that had left more obscure monuments in the area to the north of the City where John and Eileen had worked in the bleak, ration-ridden post-war years.
So John devised the itinerary that we have followed in the following pages. Several times John took us with him on his walk; to our delight it always involved stopping for tea at a well-chosen restaurant! We have built on his itinerary, inserting a few additional stops, biographical information and literary materials that we hope will evoke something of the spirit of the people whom the places will recall.
Most of the people whom the walk commemorates were not Anabaptists (who were almost entirely absent from England after 1575); and one of them, the Protestant John Bradford, probably would have been willing to see the Anabaptists burned. Yet all of the following were nonconformists, for the sake of Jesus Christ, to the dominant forms of Christianity of their time; all of them were people of courage and imagination. All of them have been examples to us of the freedom and joy that comes to those who follow Jesus. We believe that they will also be an inspiration to other Christians, including Anabaptists.
Download the attached document and enjoy your walk!
Karen Stallard has produced a cartoon-style leaflet introducing to children and others the familiar story of Dirk Willems, a 16th-century Dutch Anabaptist.
There are four pages on each page so the pages needs to be folded into quarters to create a booklet.
You can download and print off this booklet here: The Illustrated Story of Dirk Willems (2pp, 612KB)
This file is in Adobe Acrobat format. Click on the button below to download the necessary Adobe reader.
by Stuart Murray Williams
Origins of the Donatist movement
When Mensurius, bishop of Carthage, died in 311, senior church leaders in the province of Africa engaged in an unseemly scramble for power and eventually Mensurius’ archdeacon, Caecilian, was chosen to succeed him. This choice divided the Christian community, many of whom felt Caecilian was not suitable. His personality was not the main factor, but he was widely regarded as arrogant, cowardly, shallow, cruel and intolerant. Of greater significance was his strong pro-government stance that did not go down well among those who wanted greater independence from Roman culture and control. But the main concern was suspicion that he was either a traditor or that he had been ordained by a traditor. This term was used to describe those who had handed over copies of the Scriptures to the pagan authorities during times of persecution. In North Africa, where there was a tradition of courageous resistance, such conduct was inexcusable and no traditor was considered suitable for church leadership.
Although Caecilian’s consecration was welcomed elsewhere, trouble was not long appearing. In 312, a council of bishops declared his consecration invalid and appointed Majorinus, a lector in Caecilian’s office, as bishop. News of this was announced to the churches in Rome, Gaul and Spain as well as to the rest of Africa. This produced a schism, since Caecilian was not prepared to accept the decision. He and his supporters appealed to Constantine, claiming that the schism was a threat to public order. Constantine was concerned that Africa did not become unsettled and act as a destabilising influence. He acted swiftly, before listening to the other side, and Caecilian was assured that he enjoyed communion with the Roman church and was regarded as the legitimate bishop of Carthage.
Majorinus and his supporters appealed against this decision. Constantine was surprised by this but invited representatives of both parties to Rome to put their arguments to a council of bishops. When Majorinus died before this could be convened, Donatus of Casae Nigrae was appointed in his place. The council vindicated Caecilian and ordered Donatus not to return to Africa. The decision was not welcomed in Africa and many continued to refuse to recognise Caecilian. Donatus appealed again to Constantine, arguing the proceedings had been flawed. The emperor was displeased but referred the matter to a council at Arles in 314, for a final decision. The decision went against Donatus and the rebels were ordered to conform to this decision and submit to Caecilian, but the tensions continued and repression followed.
Our information about Donatus is remarkably limited for a man who for forty years led a movement that vied for recognition as the legitimate church of North Africa. During his lifetime, he was unchallenged as leader of the Donatist church, and his writings were quoted and his memory revered long after his death. He was exiled in 347 and died in about 355, widely regarded as a martyr. He was accorded the epithet ‘Donatus the Great’ and his significance in Africa has been compared to that of Athanasius in Egypt. Unlike Athanasius, however, he was not on the side which eventually emerged triumphant, so his name has been associated with schism. He was widely acknowledged as a vigorous leader, a man of learning, intelligence, integrity, wisdom, passion and oratory. His extensive writings were destroyed by his opponents, but even his adversary, Augustine, acknowledged their brilliance, referring to him as a ‘precious jewel’ in the church and ‘the man who reformed the church in Africa.’
(1) The first repression (317-321). Constantine decreed that Donatist leaders were to be exiled and their churches confiscated. Donatus refused to comply with this, so Caecilian persuaded the Roman authorities to put troops at his disposal. Churches and their leaders in and around Carthage were attacked, at least one Donatist bishop was killed, but in Numidia the imperial decree had little impact. The use of military force took the alliance between church and state into new territory and resulted in permanent schism. The Donatists saw this resort to force and persecution as clear evidence that the Catholics were the schismatics and that their own movement, the church of the martyrs, was the true church. In 321 Constantine recognised the failure of this attempt to repress the Donatist movement and issued a further decree granting toleration to the Donatists.
(2) Growth and consolidation (321-346). Caecilian continued to enjoy imperial recognition, but little is heard of him after 325. Donatist churches were established all over Africa and Numidia. Converts were made from all classes, including philosophers and civic leaders. In many towns and villages they were unchallenged. The growth of the movement is attested by the attendance of 270 Donatist bishops at a council summoned by Donatus in about 335. A further short-lived attempt at repression in 336 petered out in the face of Donatist resistance. Some attempts were also made to establish congregations outside North Africa, although with one important exception these were unproductive. The exception was Rome, which had a large African community, and for a hundred years Rome had a Donatist bishop.
(3) The Circumcellions. The divergent concerns of educated urban and oppressed rural Donatists resulted in the emergence in about 340 of the Circumcellions, a revolutionary organisation drawn from the peasantry of Numidia and Mauretania, and loosely connected to Donatist churches. Reacting against financial hardship and social injustice, but energised by religious convictions, the Circumcellions engaged in direct action against landowners. They saw themselves as Christian ‘athletes’ and operated as shock troops in the battle against the devil – identified with the rich and powerful. Regarded by their opponents as terrorists and by their supporters as freedom fighters, they were alternately courted and disowned by Donatist leaders: their activities both enhanced and discredited the Donatist cause.
(4) The second repression (347-361). In 346 Donatus felt confident enough to petition the emperor, Constans, for recognition as bishop of Carthage. Constans sent Paul and Macarius to investigate this claim. However, despite instructions to treat Catholics and Donatists equally, they immediately acted in support of the Catholics. Feelings throughout North Africa ran high and a Donatist bishop asked the Circumcellions for support and defied the imperial delegates. Their troops stormed the fortified church in which the Donatists were based and massacred them. Macarius issued decrees proscribing Donatism in Numidia, ushering in a second period of repression. Despite riots and instances of resistance, the movement collapsed under severe and determined repression. Donatus and many other leaders were exiled. Some returned to the Catholic fold and new Catholic churches were established in hitherto Donatist areas. But the Catholics lacked an effective leader and seemed unable to apply effective measures beyond the region of Carthage. In Numidia, Donatist leaders retained the loyalty of the population but decided to wait for opportunities to restore the fortunes of the Donatist movement.
(5) Recovery (361-363). In 361, the new emperor, Julian, allowed church leaders exiled by his predecessors to return home, including the Donatists. Their return was greeted with popular enthusiasm and Donatism was restored to pre-eminence almost as suddenly as the movement had collapsed earlier. Catholic churches were returned to the Donatists and rebaptism was restored. Catholic leaders were deposed and congregations absorbed into Donatist churches. Prospects for any further attempt to reunite the two African churches seemed bleak: they would not be reunited again before the tide of Islam swept them both away.
(6) The Donatist movement under Parmenian (363-391). Parmenian had little sympathy with the use of violence. He was a committed but moderate Donatist, concerned to maintain the intellectual vigour of the movement and to provide instruction for congregations at a popular level. Although decrees against Donatism continued to be issued, they were ignored in Africa. For most of Parmenian’s leadership, the movement was left in peace. The hostility between the two communities gradually faded and there is evidence of growing respect, toleration and good relationships. The other influential leader in this period was Tyconius, a lay philosopher and Donatist theologian. His writings espoused a view of the relationship between church and society which seemed to allow for greater integration than Donatism had allowed in previous generations. Tyconius was excommunicated in 385. His rejection was a fateful step for the movement, representing the triumph of conservatism over creative theological discussion.
The Demise of Donatism
(1) Rise and fall (391-398). During the final decade of the fourth century, Donatism was at its peak, with over 400 bishops, but trouble was brewing. Primian, a more extreme and less able leader succeeded Parmenian. Then in 396, Optatus, the Donatist bishop of Thamugadi, joined forces with Gildo, the imperial appointee in Africa, in a revolt against Rome and attempted to establish a nationalist government in Africa. But an invasion force was assembled, the forces met in 398 and Gildo’s army was routed. Optatus was seized and executed. Roman rule was restored and the Catholics were able to re-emerge under the leadership of two very able men, Aurelius of Carthage and Augustine of Hippo.
(2) The tide turns (399-402). Augustine was an influential figure in this period, calling for reform and renewal, and writing books against the teachings of Donatus. But the lead was taken by Aurelius, who decided to hold councils annually in order to maintain momentum and keep the leadership of the churches in close contact. Over the next few years able bishops were appointed in many Donatist centres of influence: gradually they won over the local inhabitants to the Catholic churches, and some Donatist bishops even transferred allegiance. The Donatist movement was now under the leadership of Primian of Carthage, Emeritus of Caesarea and Petilian of Constantine. Their resilience, determination and courage ensured that Donatism would survive, but they were no match for the new Catholic leaders. The Donatist movement, compromised by its involvement in the recent revolt, was proscribed and edicts of previous years were applied with a vigour that had previously been impossible. Finally, in 399, laws against heretics were, at Augustine’s instigation, applied to the movement, even though it was not yet officially designated as a heresy.
(3) Increasing pressure (403-411). Frustrated by the continuing resistance of the Donatists and secure in their enjoyment of imperial support, the annual council at Carthage decided in 403 on a policy of persecution, but chose to apply economic pressure rather than making further martyrs. These measures had hardly been implemented before the emperor, Honorius, issued an edict of unity in 405, proscribing Donatism as a heresy, prohibiting services, confiscating property and exiling the clergy. The death penalty was not used, but flogging was. But by 410, it was clear that persecution had been no more effective than throughout the past century in suppressing Donatism. A Catholic delegation requested Honorius to convene a conference in Carthage to settle the conflict once and for all. The emperor agreed and sent Marcellinus as his mediator to convene this. There was never any doubt about the outcome of this conference. Marcellinus, a friend of Augustine, declared in favour of the Catholics. A single day of debate resolved a century of division. The decision was broadcast throughout Africa, proscribing Donatist meetings and confiscating their property.
(4) Repression and resistance (412-429). Augustine now led a concerted campaign to enforce the decision and to reunite the church throughout North Africa. But Donatism was far from becoming defunct. In some urban centres, the Catholics made significant progress, but even here their success was limited. The countryside remained loyal to Donatism and the Donatists resisted in various ways. Progress was slower than many wanted, and a council in Carthage in 418 threatened dilatory clergy with censure if they failed to act against Donatist churches. The Circumcellions continued to operate freely and were never effectively suppressed.
(6) Donatism in the fifth and sixth centuries. In 429 the Vandals invaded and the history of the church in North Africa entered a new phase. We have little information about the next 150 years. We simply do not know whether Donatism lay dormant, was absorbed into the Catholic churches, or continued to thrive. It is likely that the dividing lines and antagonism between the sides faded in the face of a common enemy (the Vandals were Arian Christians) and that the situation varied from province to province. The re-conquest of North Africa by Justinian in 534 cleared the region of Vandals and re-established the dominant position of the Catholics. An imperial edict in 535 proscribed the Donatists, suggesting that Donatism was still perceived as a problem in the middle of the sixth century. Evidence from the end of the century indicates that it enjoyed a period of revival during the latter part of the sixth century: there are reports of Donatists baptising converts, Catholic churches being handed over to the Donatists, and new Donatist bishoprics being established. As long as Christianity survived in North Africa, the schism provoked by Caecilian’s election remained unhealed.
The writings of Donatist theologians were largely destroyed by their opponents: very little has survived, except as quotations in works of their adversaries. Catholics and Donatists were not divided by the doctrinal issues which exercised fourth- and fifth-century theologians. Although anti-heresy laws were eventually used against them, their adversaries generally recognised that the Donatists were orthodox Trinitarian Christians. But they disagreed profoundly about some issues of ecclesiology.
(1) The nature of the church. The Donatist church regarded itself as the legitimate church in Africa, ‘the church of Peter’, rather than ‘the church of Judas.’ Catholics had allowed the church to be corrupted and had lost any claim to legitimacy, whatever imperial officials or bishops of Rome might decree. Schism had taken place, but from a Donatist perspective it was not their fault – they remained faithful to the tradition of the African church as represented by Cyprian and Tertullian. As far as they were concerned catholicity flowed out of purity, rather than legitimacy out of catholicity. The Donatist vision of the church included the following features: the church was a ‘mystical union of the righteous inspired by the Holy Spirit and instructed by the Bible’; discipleship was to be taken very seriously by all church members, so monasticism, whereby higher standards were expected of some than others, was rejected; repentance and readiness to suffer were key components in this, as was meditating on the Bible; the church was to be a people of joyful praise; the ministry of the Holy Spirit was emphasised; the agape meal was celebrated; and feasting as well as fasting was encouraged. Church leaders were regarded very highly and the standards expected of them were equally high: they must live exemplary lives and be willing to suffer for their faith; any compromise, morally or in the face of persecution, made someone unworthy to be a church leader.
(2) Church and society. As Christianity became socially acceptable, it was difficult to retain earlier expectations and standards. The schism in North Africa was due to different responses to this radical change: accommodation or continuing separation. The emperor was no longer a personification of the devil but an agent of Christ, according to Catholics: Donatists regarded him still as the devil. The Donatist view of church and society included: the church was a suffering people, expecting persecution, whether from pagans or false Christians; the church was to be separate from the world; the church should not rely on state power or patronage, and, though resistance was acceptable, it certainly should not persecute its opponents; the church was a missionary community, concerned to spread geographically through making converts.
(3) Ethics. Donatist sermons frequently deplored the low moral standards in the Catholic churches. Some Donatist churches were wealthy, some resorted to violence. But there were those who argued for non-violence, and for voluntary poverty. Furthermore, they were more sensitive to social injustices and the oppression of the poor, and their interests tended to coincide more often with the interests of the peasants and revolutionary movements. The Donatists had a strong belief in the nearness of the return of Christ, but this did not make them indifferent to present social conditions. Instead, they called for social justice in the light of the approaching judgement.
(4) The sacraments. Maintaining the purity and thus the authenticity of the sacraments was of fundamental importance within Donatism. The true church was the church whose sacraments were pure and untainted. Unlike the Catholics, who taught that sacraments remained valid and effective despite unworthiness on the part of the officiating church leader, Donatists regarded the worthiness of the church leader as critical. Thus, any who had been baptised by those who belonged to churches tainted by fellowship with traditors, had to be re-baptised when they joined the Donatist churches. Similarly, consecrations in such circumstances were null and void. They rejected the Catholic argument that the sacraments were gifts of Christ and were valid despite shortcomings in ministers.
by Stuart Murray Williams
Valdes and the early Waldensians
In 1174, a French businessman in Lyons, Valdes, was challenged by the radical teaching of Jesus in the Gospels and responded by committing himself to a life of voluntary poverty and preaching. He experienced a dramatic conversion, renounced his previous business practices, threw his money out into the street, and after running a soup kitchen during the famine of 1176, began a new life as an itinerant preacher.
There had been other wandering preachers in the Middle Ages who had acted in a similar way. What was different about Valdes, apart from being a layman, was his concern to have the Bible translated into the local dialect, and his success in gathering a group of followers, drawn from different social classes, but sharing a life of poverty and preaching. Their preaching and the provision of a Bible people could understand led the formation of a lay association, known as the ‘Poor in Spirit’. Taking Jesus’ sending out of the Seventy as their pattern, they formed apostolic missionary bands, wore rough clothes and sandals and went around preaching a message of repentance.
They had no intention of separating from the Catholic Church. They simply wanted to live as whole-hearted followers of Jesus. But the challenge of their simple lifestyle, the popularity of this new movement and their unauthorised preaching aroused local opposition. They were in breach of canon law that restricted doctrinal preaching to the clergy. Valdes appealed for permission to preach. The Pope, while approving their motives and vows of poverty, insisted they were not to preach unless invited by local clergy. They must remain within the discipline of the established church. But, as they grew more aware of the corruption of the church, they continued their unauthorised preaching and began to face trouble. The archbishop of Lyons excommunicated the movement in 1181 and expelled them from the area under his jurisdiction. In 1184, they were included in a papal decree against dangerous heretics and became subject to anti-heresy legislation, despite lack of evidence that they were unorthodox. But repression was patchy, depending on the interest of the authorities.
Meanwhile, through planned missions and enforced expulsion, Waldensian groups were established in new areas. They won converts from all social classes, including some wealthy citizens, priests, monks and nuns, and their egalitarian stance towards women attracted many to the movement, as well as further provoking hostility. By 1198 some authorities took firm action, including the imposition of the death penalty on those who refused to recant, though in many places persecution was still sporadic. Furthermore, their missionaries reached Lombardy and began to make common cause with another radical group, the Humiliati, benefiting from the atmosphere of freedom and anti-clerical feeling in that area, and establishing congregations and schools.
Gradually tensions appeared within the movement. Valdes hoped for reconciliation with the Catholic Church and having a reforming influence in it. More radical groups, in Lombardy and elsewhere, were challenging many areas of Catholic teaching and practice. Some seemed determined to form new churches. In 1205, a serious split occurred between the French and Italian branches of the movement. The ‘Poor of Lyons’ followed Valdes. The ‘Poor Lombards’, the group that emerged from the Humiliati and Waldensian groups in Lombardy, gradually separated from them.
Ineffective attempts to deal with Waldensians were replaced in the thirteenth century by a more discerning approach. Innocent III, who became Pope in 1198, distinguished between the genuinely heretical or schismatic, and those whose discontent with the Church had caused them to pull away from Catholicism. The former were pursued vigorously; the latter were wooed back to the Church by making concessions and creating space for their activities within its structures. Some Lyonists were reconciled to the Catholic Church, as were some Humiliati.
Meanwhile, contact between the French and Italian branches continued and there were sporadic attempts to bring about reconciliation. A final attempt was made in 1218. Six representatives from each group met near Bergamo. Disagreements were discussed at length and the conference foundered on the issue of the validity of the sacraments and the role of the celebrant. But the division represented the different perspectives of a group still wanting to see the established church reformed and a group that had given up and was committed to building an alternative church.
French Waldensians enjoyed peace and freedom in many areas of the country until the 1230s. Persecution increased then, however, driving the movement underground and detaching its less committed members. Numbers fell steadily during this century, and early in the next century, inquisitors found few traces of the movement in its area of origin. Waldensians survived by retreating into quietism or into the mountains, where they formed communities that were too remote to bother the authorities. In Italy, the Lombards too found themselves under increasing pressure and unable to establish an alternative church. Gradually, they withdrew and took refuge in rural areas in the south of Italy or further north in the Alpine valleys. These losses in the heartlands were more than compensated for numerically by the growth of the movement in other areas. During most of the thirteenth century, both groups of Waldensians spread, into Austria, Bohemia, Moravia, Hungary, Poland and Spain.
By the start of the fifteenth century, Waldensians in France and Italy seemed to be in terminal decline, a beleaguered minority of Alpine peasants in remote valleys and small communities scattered throughout other parts of France. Only in the Piedmont area did Waldensians experience significant growth. Persecution was less intense than before, but there were periods of severe pressure. The response of the Waldensian communities varied. Usually, they tried to hide and avoid confrontation; occasionally, they resorted to violence. In 1487 a determined campaign against Waldensians was launched, which resulted in executions, emigration and the return of some to the Catholic Church. The survival of the movement into the sixteenth century was the result of the resilience of small groups and the courage and faithfulness of travelling leaders who continued to visit these isolated communities.
In the fifteenth century, German-speaking Waldensians were also an underground movement, surviving through a combination of outward conformity and quiet but tenacious transmission of beliefs within families to subsequent generations. But in Bohemia, and then Moravia, reform ideas were circulating and a new movement was emerging. Influenced by the writings of John Wyclif, but energised also by nationalist stirrings, the movement became associated with Jan Hus, rector of the Bethlehem chapel in Prague. The Hussite reform movement encouraged and breathed new life into the Waldensian groups who came into contact with it.
By the start of the sixteenth century, much of the heat had gone out of the conflict in the Alps. Waldensians had survived, in Italy, France and various German-speaking areas. By the end of this century, the Waldensian movement was absorbed into the Reformation. Exhausted by centuries of repression, it gratefully received the leadership and new energies of Protestantism. From the 1560s the emergence of the Waldensian Church, rather than a loosely linked movement, can be dated, a church which continues to provide an alternative to Catholicism in Italy and elsewhere.
An 800-year history presents difficulties in trying to set out the beliefs and practices of the Waldensians. These were not uniform everywhere or throughout the centuries, but there are some common features.
(1) Anti-clericalism. Waldensians preached a simple message of repentance, individual responsibility and holy living. They criticised the corruption of the clergy and denied that such men should be trusted. Instead they endorsed lay Bible study. The movement was marked by deep love for the Bible and passionate desire to understand and obey it. They were committed to a ‘believers’ church ecclesiology, where the local congregation ordered its life together, and they were determined to submit to biblical authority alone.
(2) Church structure. There was emphasis on the priesthood of all believers, men and women. The role of the preachers was crucial for the movement, but these leaders were not ordained, nor generally regarded as belonging to a separate class of Christians, nor ranked in any kind of hierarchy. They were committed to a life of celibacy, travelling and poverty, dependent for their support on the gifts of members of the movement. Once trained, they were sent out in pairs to visit scattered groups. Those who were not preachers remained in their homes and jobs, devoting time to Bible study and nurturing their faith in secret. They collected support for the preachers, ran training schools in their homes and, where they could, tried to draw others into the movement.
(3) Ethical integrity. They were not interested in speculative theology or doctrinal issues, but in spirituality and ethics. They called people to follow Jesus and obey his teachings. They advocated personal integrity, simple lifestyle and rejection of greed and excess. They opposed all forms of lying and deception. They also generally rejected the swearing of oaths. And usually they practised what they preached.
(4) Non-violence. Early Waldensians were committed to non-violence, deriving this emphasis from a literal reading of the Gospels. They spoke out against violence: crusades against infidels and warfare in general; killing Jews; execution of thieves who were caught stealing food for their families in times of famine; capital punishment; and coercion in matters of faith. This instinctive non-violence persisted through the centuries, though there are instances of Waldensians resorting to violence. Generally, this was provoked by repression, or the threat presented by defectors who might betray them, and was regarded as necessary to defend homes and family. Occasionally, there seem to have been attempts to use violence for political ends, as a form of revolutionary action.
(5) Rejection of superstition. Waldensians discovered that some familiar Catholic practices had no biblical basis. Gradually they removed these practices from their churches in order to cut back their church life to the simpler pattern they found in the New Testament. They rejected prayers for the dead, regarded indulgences as benefiting greedy priests and challenged the doctrine of purgatory. They rejected official fast days and refused to bow before altars, venerate crosses or treat as special holy bread or water. Somewhat surprisingly, many retained devotion to Mary, despite the teachings of their leaders.
(6) The sacraments. They regarded communion as a remembrance, not a sacrifice, and allowed all to take bread and wine. They rejected the theology of the mass and were dubious about the idea of transubstantiation. Initially many continued to receive communion from the priests, but increasingly communion was celebrated in their homes without clerical involvement. On baptism, there was uncertainty. They were not fully convinced infant baptism was biblical or appropriate, but they seem rarely to have abandoned it.
(7) Confession. The importance of confessing sins, doing penance and receiving absolution was retained throughout the movement. Although some continued to confess to the Catholic priests, in many places their low view of priests precluded these as suitable candidates to hear confession. The natural alternative was the travelling preachers, and they certainly performed this role, but the underlying conviction that all believers were priests allowed the development of the practice of confession to one another.
(8) Mission. A remarkable feature of the movement was its determination to continue pressing ahead despite sustained pressure and opposition. Only in the darkest periods was its energies taken up with survival. At other times missionaries travelled across Europe, risking their lives to spread their convictions. Sometimes new churches were planted. In other places seeds lay dormant for years until watered by similar ideas brought by the Hussites in Bohemia or the Reformers or Anabaptists in central Europe. Much of the evangelism must have been cautious and through quiet conversations, since any form of public witnessing would have incurred severe penalties. There are accounts of evangelists operating as door-to-door salesmen, offering various goods and then referring to more valuable treasures, which could be revealed if the local clergy were not informed about the visit. Where there was a positive response, the gospel would be explained and invitations given to join a study group.
by Stuart Murray Williams
The Lollard movement emerged in late medieval England from the popularising of the ideas of Oxford scholar, John Wyclif. Between the late fourteenth and early sixteenth century, the Lollards flourished, suffered persecution, attempted armed resistance, were suppressed and yet survived as a pre-Reformation movement of dissent.
John Wyclif (c1329-1384)
Wyclif was an academic rather than a revolutionary, an establishment man rather than a radical, who seems to have had no intention of launching a movement that would challenge the religious and political status quo. His criticisms of the church were accompanied by calls for reform rather than the development of an alternative church, and he remained a member of the established church throughout his life. But his views inspired the first dissident movement of any consequence in England.
Wyclif was a philosopher as well as a theologian, and many of his earlier writings are concerned with complex metaphysical issues as he entered into contemporary debates.
In his later writings, he concentrated more on ecclesiastical abuses that concerned him and developed strongly anticlerical views. His writings were not intended to foment social unrest or to promulgate political ideas, but his opponents certainly feared that they might have this effect. Most of the things he said were not new, but his academic reputation and the force with which he wrote gave his views a special significance.
The publicity given to Wyclif’s views aroused the concern of the church authorities, and attempts were made to convict him of heresy and to silence him. But the support of many powerful friends protected Wyclif and enabled him to continue propagating increasingly trenchant criticisms and radical views until his death.
Wyclif and the Lollards
The nature of the relationship between Wyclif and the Lollards is not easy to assess. One of the practical initiatives he suggested in his later writings was the training and commissioning of ‘poor preachers’, laymen whose task was to teach the Scriptures throughout the land. Wyclif’s expressed intention was not to start a new movement or to plant new churches, but simply to fill what he saw as a gap in the established churches. His preachers were to work alongside the parish priests, preaching, teaching and evangelising. Another initiative with important consequences was Wyclif’s determination to provide a bible in the English language for his preachers and their hearers. At least some of Wyclif’s own writings during the final period of his life were also in the vernacular, rather than Latin, consistent with his concern that the discussion of theology should not be restricted to priests and academics. Some of these writings helped to inspire the developing Lollard movement.
The groups that emerged during Wyclif’s final years and proliferated after his death quite quickly became known as the Lollards. This word probably derived from a word meaning ‘to mumble’ and referred either to their practice of learning and reciting Scripture or to their praying. An alternative possibility is the derivation of the term from ‘lollers’, meaning idle loafers.
The Lollard movement
Whatever the direct influence of Wyclif on the movement, Lollards owed much to Wyclif’s ideas, even if they knew them only in a simplified form. He provided them with ammunition to launch a powerful assault on the established churches: it was a small step from denouncing the clergy to the idea of the priesthood of all believers.
After Wyclif’s death, Lollard groups spread rapidly. The Oxford leaders – Nicholas Hereford, John Aston, Philip Repton, Robert Winston and John Ashwardby – travelled widely and wrote extensively, building up a substantial following. Under their leadership radical ideas were translated from academic to popular circles and the Lollard movement emerged as a loose-knit but identifiable phenomenon.
The academic and clerical leaders were joined by many lay evangelists, who often dressed in russet tunics and walked barefoot. Most were from the poorer sections of society, their greatest strength being among urban and rural artisans, especially those who had recently become literate and were open to new ideas. Lollard beliefs spread through public preaching, distribution of Bibles and tracts, and invitations to friends to join ‘reading circles’, where the Bible was studied and radical ideas discussed.
Lollard preaching called for personal responsibility rather than passive acceptance of clerical authority and expressed the doubts that were more widely felt about some of the seemingly superstitious and biblically unwarranted beliefs and practices of the church. Making available portions of the Bible in the vernacular enabled the Lollards to demonstrate the lack of biblical support for such beliefs and practices.
The authorities were alarmed by the spread of this movement, especially in light of recent peasant unrest, and steps were taken to arrest it. But no co-ordinated strategy was adopted to check the popular spread of the movement. Many bishops were slow to respond and found Lollard groups deeply rooted in their dioceses by the time they were ready to take action. Lollard leaders enjoyed widespread popular support – and protection from influential landowners – which made ecclesiastical action less easy. Secular authorities, though concerned about peasant unrest and possible Lollard complicity in this, were not unduly bothered about ecclesiastical disputes.
From 1401, opponents of the Lollards had been authorised to use burning for relapsed and impenitent heretics. But in England, there was reticence about using torture and burning to stamp out heresies, and the Lollards profited from this welcome restraint. Those arrested were generally given ample time to recant and the authorities wanted to convert them back to the established churches, rather than execute them.
But in 1413 this changed. Sir John Oldcastle, a baron, was the most distinguished secular Lollard leader. He began to gather support for an armed rebellion, presumably to impose Lollard reforms on church and nation. This was betrayed to the authorities before it could be carried out. But this incident revealed how far Lollardy had spread and finally roused both official and public opinion against the Lollards. Oldcastle was caught and executed, and others involved in the rebellion were hanged. Various Lollard groups were discovered and their members prosecuted, now that the bishops and secular authorities could rely on their outraged neighbours to betray them.
The following years were marked by efforts by secular and ecclesiastical authorities to stamp out the movement, although gradually the repression became less severe. It was clear that the Lollards would survive, if at all, only as an underground movement. Throughout the fifteenth century efforts were made to root them out, but, as memories of the revolts faded, there was less enthusiasm for such actions.
In the 1450s, during a lull in action against them, Lollards began again to evangelise and plant new groups. The reading circles were still influential means of attracting new adherents, and the authorities were unsuccessful in their efforts to restrict the production and distribution of Lollard literature and vernacular versions of the Bible. Lollard beliefs were passed down within families and through trade contacts. Sermons were written down and distributed to adherents and to interested enquirers. Lollard schools were also operating to instruct members of the movement.
Most Lollard groups operated in the southern part of England, although there were groups as far north as Newcastle. Seven areas have been identified as the main centres of Lollard activity in the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries: Kent, London, the Chilterns, Essex, Bristol, Coventry and East Anglia.
Though there was no uniformity of belief in such a loose-knit movement, there was broad agreement within the movement on many issues throughout its history.
(1) Personal responsibility/biblical authority. In an age when people expected to let the priests do their thinking for them in matters of religion, the Lollards encouraged the development of personal Bible study, taught reliance on the Holy Spirit as guide, and urged members to reach independent decisions on matters of faith rather than accepting ecclesiastical opinions and dogmas.
(2) Rejection of superstition. Lollards used their new English versions of the Bible to contrast the simplicity of the early church with the formalism and complexity of contemporary church life. They rejected anything they perceived as superstitious rather than authentically Christian, including doctrines such as purgatory and transubstantiation and practices such as prayers for the dead. They rejected pilgrimages as a waste of time and a money-making scheme for the priests. Simple rational explanations held greater appeal for them than elements of mystery and symbolism.
(3) The priesthood of all believers. The distinction between clergy and laity was crucial in the established churches, with the laity being largely passive. But Lollards rejected this distinction, and their anti-clerical stance found a ready welcome among many who were already critical of a privileged and corrupt clergy. Many Lollards advocated withholding tithes from such clerics. They rejected the authority of the Pope and the Church as an institution and replaced this with the authority of the Bible interpreted within their communities. The true church was a congregation of true believers. Although there are instances of Lollard groups ordaining their own priests, generally they were committed to the priesthood of all believers, with lay people involved in all aspects of religious life, including preaching, hearing confessions informally, and officiating at the Eucharist.
(4) The sacraments. Lollards stressed a common sense approach to faith and applied this to issues such as communion, where it seemed obvious that the bread remained bread, whatever the metaphysical explanations behind the traditional dogmas. Transubstantiation was regarded as a recent and perverted development contrary to the teachings of the orthodox creeds. Anti-clericalism led naturally to the rejection of ordination and some opposed priestly celibacy. They valued marriage but some taught that no priestly involvement was needed to witness a marriage. Financial and anti-ceremonial views coincided in the rejection of the need for extreme unction or burial in consecrated ground. In some areas, infant baptism was held to be as acceptable in a ditch as in a font, or rejected altogether, on the grounds that infants were redeemed by Christ in any case and did not need to be sprinkled with supposedly holy water.
(5) Ethical perspectives. There was a strong moral component in the Lollards’ teaching. The book of James, with its practical ethical teaching, was popular. They criticised the low standards among ordinary parishioners and clergy (especially their sexual misdemeanours and social insensitivity). They called for repentance, discipleship, simplicity of life and concern for the poor. On specific issues there was diversity of opinion. Some groups followed Wyclif’s view that war might be justified but other means were preferable; others held a pacifist view and opposed participation in war, making weapons, capital punishment, and self-defence when attacked; others again were willing to support John Oldcastle in his attempt to overthrow the government. Some taught that tithing had no New Testament support and should not be practised; others held that tithing was voluntary and that tithes should not be paid to unworthy priests. Some opposed the swearing of oaths as contrary to the teaching of Jesus; others held that oaths should be avoided where possible but were legitimate to save lives.
(6) Mission. Lollard preachers were a mission band that contrasted sharply with the maintenance orientation of the parish priests and the monks. Unlike the settled leadership of parish priests, Lollard leaders moved from place to place in order to spread the message and establish new groups. Furthermore, mission was not restricted to preachers but was the responsibility of all members. The spread of the movement relied upon this every-member evangelism, as new converts were made through house-to-house visitation, pub evangelism, preaching in fairs and markets, conversations over meals in homes, passing on tracts and invitations to reading circles. Lollard preachers sometimes interrupted church services to preach, or persuaded local priests to surrender their pulpits to them. By the middle of the fifteenth century, it seems that the charismatic itinerant leaders had largely given way to less colourful figures who travelled between the communities, carrying books and greetings rather than initiating new activities, and that mission now mainly comprised the quiet evangelising of local communities.
Held on Saturday 23 March 2002 at Kings Church, Amersham, Bucks
The Conference looked at Lollards, Diggers, Ranters, Levellers, Fifth Monarchy, Quakers and more and asked: Who were they? What did they believe? and How can they inspire us or help us today?