IX MENNO SIMONS' RELATION TO THE STATE-CHURCH REFORMATION
Menno Simons believed the Reformation in so far as it was identified with the state-churchism to be superficial and inadequate and its principles partly unscriptural.
Both Luther (in Germany) and Zwingli (in Switzerland), the leading reformers, in the first period of their reformatory endeavors advocated the voluntary principle and liberty of conscience. Obviously they entertained in that period the optimistic hope that the Roman Church as a whole would consent to a reformation at least in those parts of the land to which the influence of the reformers principally extended. But in the course of a few years this hope proved groundless. And it became apparent that neither Luther's fellow-citizens in Saxony, nor Zwingli's countrymen in Zurich would as a whole accept the opinions of these reformers, if they were permitted to choose for themselves. Some would prefer to keep the Roman Catholic faith, and others were inclined to follow other reformers who on important questions were at variance with Luther and Zwingli, such as Carlstadt and Grebel.
The leading reformers preached the new doctrines a number of years before any changes in worship and practice were attempted. The governments protected them in the teaching of new doctrine, but were not yet ready to consent to changes in practice. Until the year 1525 the church of Saxony and Zurich did not formally throw off the papal yoke; the Roman Church was until then the state church, notwithstanding the anti-Romish doctrines which were advanced by the reformers and their friends. For many centuries the church in these lands had been nominally a unit; the Roman Church was the state church, and the state did not permit deviations from the Roman Catholic practice. It was finally realized that only if the state was permitted to fight the battles of the church, as had been the case heretofore, could the (nominal) unity of the church be maintained.
Both Luther and Zwingli in teaching and preaching the new doctrines were protected by the state to the full extent of its power, but this protection was subject to the condition that the reformers, in the work which they had undertaken, would go hand in hand with the state. This was deemed necessary by the reformers for the success of the Reformation. As a human undertaking it was difficult to conceive that the attempted reformation of the church could be successful to any marked degree without the aid of the state but, on the other hand, if the new creed was introduced by the state and was made obligatory for the population as a whole, the great task of the reformers was immeasurably reduced; it would consist largely in persuading the princes to accept the new doctrines. Even if the state merely tolerated the reformers without lending them its strong arm to establish a new church, Luther could hope to win a large following. But what was the outlook for the church if the state took an inimical attitude, making the preaching and acceptance of the new doctrine unlawful? It is certain that Luther's sovereign, the Duke and Elector John of Saxony, would have refused to protect or tolerate him, had he insisted on a separation of church and state and liberty of conscience. Luther, in short, came to the conclusion that "there is no way out, except through the arm of the government." He consented to an amalgamation of church and state, a departure that was fraught with the most demoralizing consequences for the cause of the church reformation.
That Luther and Zwingli decided upon the continuation of the union of church and state, became evident before any changes from Roman Catholic worship and practice were introduced. Luther entertained the hope that the church would be granted some measure of self-government by the state; he consecrated one of his friends (Amsdorf) bishop for the diocese of Naumburg, but the state refused to make a proper distinction between the new bishop and other ministers. Against his own inclination Luther finally gave his consent that the ruling princes should accept the office of summi episcopi or supreme bishop of the church in their respective countries. But these princes were as a rule pre-eminently statesmen and politicians. Some of them were guilty of grave offences in life and conduct. Some of the princes who through the woeful amalgamation of church and state became the heads of the church led lives that were hardly surpassed in profligacy by the worst characters which ever occupied the so-called chair of St. Peter. Some of these princes would not have accepted the new creed, had not the new order of things greatly enhanced their power, giving them the right to rule the church and the opportunity to confiscate the wealth of the cloisters. While formerly the church had been the mistress of the state, now in consequence of making the ruling princes the heads of the church, she was compelled to take the position of the state's humble handmaiden. The ministers became, virtually, officers of the state, and were designated as such by the decrees of certain princes.
In the provinces whose rulers accepted the new creed the priests were given orders to cease saying Mass and discard certain other Roman Catholic ceremonies and usages; they should preach the Gospel of justification by faith and all the doctrines of the Lutheran creed - all on pain of dismissal from their office. The priests were as a rule willing to accept the new order of things. A new organization was not undertaken. The people were never asked to unite with a new church. The Lutheran state church was identical with the former Roman Catholic state church as concerned the membership. The changes were introduced in the church, not by the people or by the priests, but by the heads of the state. The people had no choice in the matter. The infamous principle Cujus regio ejus religio (i. e. whose is the region his is the religion) ruled supreme; this principle was somewhat later formally accepted by the Estates of the empire. In consequence the population of a given state was compelled to accept the faith of its ruler and to change their creed if the ruler accepted a new faith. The people of the Upper Palatinate saw themselves obliged to accept not less than four changes of this sort. (1) "Everyone" says S. Franck, "fashions his faith to please the authorities; no one will suffer persecution for the faith's sake." The qualities which make for martyrdom were crushed by the existing relation between church and state. To turn the cause of the church and of the Reformation over to the state was to destroy the true religious spirit where it existed. Surprisingly small is the number of those who died as martyrs for the Lutheran cause after the establishment of the Lutheran state churches; the few instances of martyrdom occurred in the earlier years of Luther's reformatory labors.
The failure of the state church Reformation to bring about a real reformation of the church, was fully made clear in the great crisis which resulted from the utter defeat of the Lutheran princes by the Catholic Emperor in the Smalcaldian war, not long after Luther's death. The treason of the Lutheran Duke Maurice of Saxony and other Protestant princes made possible this victory of the Catholic party. The Emperor now demanded that the Lutherans accept the socalled Interim or "go-be-tween-religion;" they should again embrace Roman Catholicism but were permitted to give the cup to the laity and retain their married ministers until a General Council of the Roman Catholic Church to which their delegates were to be admitted, should decide whether they could further enjoy these concessions. What the final decision of the proposed General Council would be it was easy to conjecture. The Protestant ministers knew that they eventually would be compelled to resign their charges if they found it impossible to divorce their wives. The weak Melanchthon who had held that all deviation from Lutheran teaching on the part of the Anabaptists should be treated as blasphemy, was now of the opinion that the Protestants should accept the Interim, submit to the sovereignty of the Roman Catholic bishops and of the pope and restore the old forms of worship, and practically all the old ceremonies. He urged that it was kind of the Emperor to concede to the Lutherans the above mentioned two points and it were better to accept the Interim than to submit outright to Roman Catholicism. He did not believe that the state churches were minded to bear persecution for their faith, neither did he ask them to do so. To a high dignitary of the Roman Church he wrote (quite truthfully) that he was not responsible for the separation of the Lutheran Church from the Roman Catholic Church.
Martin Bucer, who besides Melanchthon was the most prominent Protestant leader in Germany, was imprisoned on account of his opposition to the compromise prescribed by the Emperor, and in prison at Augsburg he also subscribed to the Interim in order that he might be set free." (2) He was released and returned to Strasburg where he continued his opposition to the Interim. Remarkably enough he found it necessary to defend himself against the charge that his refusal to accept the religion prescribed by the civil authorities, was a proof of Anabaptist tendencies. (3) That such a charge was advanced against him is not surprising in view of the fact that in 1546 he had asserted: To give liberty of religion to those who do not disturb the external political peace, is "an Anabaptist error." (4) Did not the Emperor act in agreement with Bucer's own view when he used his power to suppress that which in his opinion was heresy? Melanchthon and his friends advanced the view that those who refused to be guided by the religious decrees of the civil authorities were guilty of disturbance and uproar. (5) - But the Lutheran princes did not desire to have Romanism restored and to resign their positions as the rulers of the church. Maurice of Saxony turned traitor a second time. Secretly he organized a mighty league against the Emperor and compelled him to guarantee to the Lutherans liberty of worship. Thus ended the period of the infamous Interim.
Menno Simons writes with reference to these conditions:
"The fifth sign by which the true church may be known is a frank, unreserved, faithful confession of Christ's name, will, word and ordinance notwithstanding all cruelty, tyranny and fierce persecution of the world. (Matt. 10:32; Mark 8:38; Rom. 10:10). But where one is Papistic with the Papists Lutheran with the Lutherans, Interimistic with those who accept the Interim; where the Papal doctrines or ceremonies are now abolished and now again adopted, where there is dissimulation according to the command and order of the government - what kind of church this is may be judged of those who are enlightened by the truth and taught of the Spirit of God. [Marginal Note:] The fifth sign by which the true Christian church is known, is upright, valiant confession. Hypocrisy is the fifth sign by which the church of Antichrist may be known. (300a; II:82a).
The greatest religious tyranny prevailed not only in Roman Catholic but also Lutheran and Zwinglian states. Anabaptists were put to death for no other reason than error in doctrine.
Menno Simons says :
"Observe, dear brethren, how far the whole wide world has departed from God and His word how bitterly do they persecute, defame, and destroy the eternal saving truth, the pure, unadulterated Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, the pious, godly life of the saints. And this is done not only by the Papists and Turks but to a great extent also by those who boast of the holy Word, although in their first writings they had much to say concerning faith, that it is the gift of God and can be created in the hearts of men alone through the Word, for it is an assent of the heart and will.
"But this principle has for some years been again discarded by the theologians and, it appears to me, has been effaced from their books. For since lords and princes, cities and countries have identified themselves with their carnal doctrine, they have widely published the contrary opinion, as is fully evident from their own writings. And through their inciting publications and sermons they deliver into the hands of the henchman many God-fearing pious hearts who contradict, reprove and admonish them with the clear word of God and point out to them the true fundamentals of the holy Word, namely the powerful faith working through love, the penitent new life, the obedience to God and Christ and the true evangelical ordinances of baptism, the Lord's supper, and discipline, as Jesus Christ Himself instituted and commanded and His holy apostles taught and practiced. Yes, all who out of pure love insist on this, must be their accursed Anabaptists, disturbers, seducers and heretics; all the pious may expect this at their hands. Nevertheless, one and all of them, be they lords, princes, preachers, theologians or common people, be they Papists, Lutherans or Zwinglians wish to be called the Christian congregation, the holy church.'' (147a; I:196a).
"If I hope to find authorities that fear God, rightly perform the office to which they have been called and rightly use their sword, I find indeed mostly a Lucifer, Antiochus and Nero. For they place themselves in Christ's stead in such a way that their decrees must have authority above the word of God. For whosoever does not keep himself according to the contents of their placards, whoever does not serve Baal, whoever observes the ordinances of Christ, whoever performs the requirements of God's word in its fruits, the same must be taken to account and suffer as a seditious rogue, he must be robbed of his possessions, etc. But those who obviously are idolaters, deceivers of souls, libertines, adulterers, deluders, blasphemers, perjurers, profane, drunkards, and like transgressors, are not persecuted, but can live at liberty and peace under their protection. I do not here speak of the good governments which are few in number and little in power [who notwithstanding the imperial mandates are reluctant to persecute the Brethren] but of the evil ones of which there are many." (441; II:239b)
Frequently Menno Simons points out that the princes would excuse their attitude toward the dissenters by the imperial decree demanding that Anabaptists must be put lo death. Emperor Charles V published an edict on January 4. 1528, declaring all Anabaptists as well as those who did not in due time present their infants for baptism to be guilty of death according to divine and civil rights. This decree was made a law of the empire by the German Diet (Reichstag) assembled at Speier, in April 1529. The mandat passed by the Estates of the empire demanded that "every and all Anabaptists and rebaptized persons, men and women of accountable age, shall be executed and brought from natural life to death by fire or the sword or similar ways of execution, without preceding inquisition of the theologians." All governments which tolerated Anabaptists or refused to carry out this decree were threatened with the severest vengeance. This decree was made a law of the empire with the consent of the Lutheran as well as the Catholic Estates. Luther's own sovereign, the Elector John Frederick, (who succeeded his brother John in 1532), the head of the Saxon state church, not only referred to this decree as an excuse for the execution of the Anabaptists in his own domain, but repeatedly urged the ruler of Hesse to carry out the demands of this cruel edict. He emphasized the fact that it was made a law with his own consent (6) and published it in Saxony. It is worthy of notice that this decree was made a law a few years before the rise of the seditious Munsterite Anabaptists.
Landgrave Philip of Hesse refused to stain his hands with the blood of the dissenters. He asserted that he did not find it in his conscience "to put to death any one for the sake of his faith;" no severer sentences were pronounced against Anabaptists in Hesse, than imprisonment and banishment.' (7) The scruples of the Landgrave against the killing of heretics caused embarrassment among the Lutheran theologians of Saxony. One of their number, Justus Menius, wrote, in 1530, a book against the Anabaptists and dedicated it to the Landgrave in the endeavor to persuade him to use severer measures against the dissenters and for this book Luther himself wrote the preface. Luther approved of the execution of persistent Anabaptists. In 1536 the Landgrave of Hesse asked the opinion of the Lutheran reformers concerning the proper treatment of the Anabaptists. In the Opinion which was consequently written by Melanchthon but was signed also by Luther the question whether Christian princes are under duty to suppress "the unchristian sect of the Anabaptists," is answered in the affirmative. The reformers refer to the laws of the ancient emperors Honorius and Theodosius which demand that "Anabaptists shall be put to death." If any one "advocated false religious doctrines, as for example on infant baptism, original sin and unnecessary separation . . . . " we opine that in this instance also the obstinate may be put to death." (8) The fact alone that without his protest Anabaptists were executed in Saxony by his own adherents and as it were under his own eyes for no other reason than error in doctrine and "hedge-preaching," shows clearly that Luther was on the wrong side on this question. (9)
"It is well known to many persons," writes Menno Simons, "that some are far more zealous and diligent to urge the law of Theodosius, (although this law was forced from the good emperor by the blood-thirsty bishops), and the mandate of Charles V and the severe decree of the German Empire against those whom they call Anabaptists, which was issued in our time, than to insist on keeping the law of God." (327; II:109).
The emperors Theodosius II and Honorius proclaimed in 413, a law forbidding rebaptism on bane of death. In 428 Theodosius II and Valentinian III published a bloody decree against the rebaptisers who held that the baptism of the Catholic state church was invalid.
It has been asserted that the Anabaptists were, in Lutheran and Zwinglian lands, condemned to death for disobedience to the civil authorities. That all Anabaptists offended against the laws which forbade all dissent from the state church creed must be admitted. The persecution was the inevitable consequence of the prevailing union of church and state. That Luther and all other reformers who consented to state-churchism approved of these laws does not admit of the possibility of a doubt. Menno Simons says concerning the assertion that the severe measures taken against the Anabaptists were due to their disobedience to the civil authorities :
"But now, as I hear, it is claimed that it is not on account of faith but on account of disobedience. As futile as their principle is also that which they advance for its support. Let the authorities command us that which is right, that which is conformable to the Gospel of Christ and the love of our neighbor. If then we refuse to obey, it is right that they mete out punishment." (617a; II:423a).
The Swiss reformers, Zwingli, Bullinger, and Calvin, entertained the same opinions as Luther touching the principle of liberty of conscience. (Compare Menno's testimony, as quoted p. 80).
Martin Luther in his first endeavors for a reformation clearly appealed to the people. When he. somewhat later, decided in favor of state-churchism, he took the cause of the church reformation from the people and placed it into the hands of the princes. At a time when on his part no beginning had yet been made in the actual reformation of the church, namely in the year 1522 he published his Faithful Admonition to All Christians to Desist from Disturbance. Here he endeavors to convince his adherents that it is their bounden duty "to stand still with hand, heart and mouth" until the reformation should be introduced through the civil government. He declared all independent deviation from the prescribed Roman Catholic worship and practice to be punishable disturbance, and that the necessary changes must be made only upon the initiative of the state. "Those who read and understand my doctrine correctly," he says, "will not make [such] disturbance; they have not learned it of me." (Compare page 21). To give the people a taste of religious liberty and independence would have proved detrimental to the interests of the contemplated new state church. And an attempted abolishment of the Roman worship by the people would have been quite unwelcome to the rulers, even if their attitude toward Lutheranism was friendly. Hence the friends of Luther in countries whose rulers did not accept the Reformation saw themselves compelled to remain within the fold of the Roman Catholic Church, or emigrate.
Menno Simons speaks repeatedly of the policy of the state church Reformers to desist fom introducing evangelical forms of worship and confine themselves to teaching alone until the governments might permit practical reforms. He says:
"Before God teaching with the tongue and letter, if the works indicate the contrary, will not avail, but before Him avails the reality in power and truth. If they then say that this would cause disturbance, I reply again: If they to avoid a disturbance in the world compromise the will and word of the Lord, what kind of pastors and shepherds they in such case are I will let the right minded consider according to the Scriptures." (195a; II:76a).
In his epistle On the Hedge-preachers, published in 1532, Luther repeated the assertion that all preachers or teachers who labor in any parish or district without the permission of the pertinent civil and ecclesiastical authorities were the very messengers of Satan and must in no instance be tolerated. In this booklet he also gives interesting information about the manner in which some of the "hedge-preachers" labored. He says:
"It has been reported to me that these sneaking fellows associate themselves with workers in the harvest and on the fields, and preach to them while they are at work, also with the charcoal-burner- and others in the forests, thus sowing their seed, scattering their poison and turning away the people from their church. Behold here the very step and manner of the devil who shuns the light and pilfers in darkness. Is there any one so stupid that he would not recognize them to be the true messengers of the devil? For the Holy Spirit will not sneak, but publicly fly down from heaven. They should be asked: Who has sent you to preach to me,?" etc. (13) Luther disapproved of "hedge-preaching" in Catholic as well as in Lutheran lands.
Needless to say that an argument of this kind did not appeal to the Anabaptists. Melanchthon, in 1536, asked an imprisoned Anabaptist at Jena, Heinz Krauth, "why he and his sect preach in hedges and not publicly in the pulpit, nor come before the people ?" He received the striking answer: "The word of God [except when preached in the church houses after the prescribed creed] is cruelly persecuted and we are not permitted to preach. Nevertheless, we must come together, and this we do openly and not secretly [although not before the eyes of those who seek our lives]. And not enough that we are forbidden and hindered to preach the Word, but to be doers of the Word is neither granted us." (14)
Menno Simons and the dissenters in general belonged to the class designated by the theologians of the state churches as hedge-preachers. Menno writes:
"It has come to this through the misrepresentation, upbraiding, and agitation of the theologians that, alas, one can not publicly say anything about the word of the Lord, although it alone is the bread whereby our souls must live." (510; II:315).
"That we see ourselves compelled at times to preach the word of the Lord and engage in His work at night, I fear, Gellius and the theologians are perhaps the principal cause. For through their inimical, undeserved upbraiding, slandering and defaming they have so embittered and continue to embitter all lords, princes, rulers, and magistrates against us, that we, alas, find it impossible by Scriptural arguments or by our supplications, tears, homelessness, loss of possession and life to move them, etc.
"Notwithstanding this, Gellius and others are not ashamed to say that we from fear of the cross secretly enter cities and villages, sit with doors closed, etc., just as if we were stones or blocks of wood which do not nor can have any fear of death; while he and his friends well know that the chosen men of God, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron together with the apostles and prophets had so great fear of death that they sometimes took to flight.
"Secondly I say that as long as I have served the God-fearing with my small talent, I have taught more by far in day time than at night. - Behold my reader that which was right and free to Moses, Israel, Christ, the apostles and the whole primitive church, namely to engage in the word and work of the Lord at night, whether this at this time of all cruel tyranny should not be free to us, we will let the intelligent reader judge in the fear of the Lord according to Scripture.
"Since it is manifest that the whole world is so inimically embittered against us, although undeservedly, that we are not suffered to be heard or seen, and many an innocent sheep of the Lord, many a God-fearing one who is not a teacher is led to the slaughter here and there, is without all mercy executed and murdered with the sword, water and fire, and that to us homeless teachers not anywhere under the heavens is given so much as a pig-sty to live in liberty with the knowledge and consent of the authorities, but through public mandates we are judged before we are apprehended and condemned before we are convicted, and since such conditions did to my knowledge nowhere prevail m the times of the apostles, therefore I pray all my readers for God's sake to consider in the fear of the Lord what great injustice Gellius and his friends have done us, through his perverted, bitter words, viz., night-preaching, hedge-preaching etc., when we can not do otherwise, as is well known ..... We are prepared at all times to render an account of our faith to everyone and to defend the truth, whenever it can be done in good faith without deceit and secret intent at our lives (234 seq; II:11-13).
"Further we desire that the reasonable reader may take into consideration that a true teacher who preaches the word of the Lord unblamably, can not in our day live or travel openly in any kingdom, country or city under heaven, as far as our knowledge goes, if he be known.
"Besides we see with our eves that the simple innocent sheep must suffer and be led to the slaughter, though they are not teachers. And the teachers then who are blamed for all and who with Christ are hated above all evil-doers should labor in public in these mad, fearful times of all evil and tyranny. It would be great folly, for to do so is not required by common sense nor by the Scriptures.
"And although we do not teach in public meetings to which everybody is invited, nevertheless the truth is not kept as a secret but is preached here and there both by night and by day, in cities and countries, verbally and in writing, by life and death. Judges, henchmen, dungeons, fetters, water, fire, sword and stake are witnesses of it.
"In like manner Flanders, Brabant, Holland and Gelders must certainly confess at the last judgment that the word was preached to them in great power; for they, for the sake of the preached word, shed the innocent blood like water. Yea it is preached in those places in such manner that we must well say with Paul: "If our gospel is hid, it is hid to them that are lost; in whom the God of this world has blinded the minds of them which believe not." II Cor. 4:3,4. (515; II:321).
"It is his urging demand that we labor and preach publicly notwithstanding he knows well that it is as impossible for us to do so without losing our lives as it is to go on water without sinking, or to take poison without dying; for alas, he and the theologians have brought it to this, by their ungrounded accusations, that we are alas already condemned to death before we have been apprehended. (260; II:35).
Claus Felbinger, a Huterite evangelist of Moravia wrote in 1560:
"Some have asked us why we came into the country of the Duke of Bavaria to dissuade the people from him. I answered: We go not only into this land, but into all lands, as far as our language extends. For wherever God opens a door unto us, shows us zealous hearts who diligently seek after Him, have a dislike of the ungodly life of the world and desire to do right, to all such places we aim to go and for this we have scriptural ground." (15)
The Huterite Chronicler Caspar Braitmichl wrote in 1570: "The Christian mission is carried out among us, concerning which the Lord commands and says: 'As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you,' and again: 'I have chosen you and ordained you, that ye should go forth and bring fruit.' Therefore ministers of the Gospel and their helpers are annually sent forth into the countries where it is believed that their labors may be crowned with fruit. They visit those who desire to amend their lives, who inquire after the truth and show a zeal for it. Them they lead out [into Moravia] at night and day, according to their desire, regardless of catch-polls and henchmen and although many lose their lives in this endeavor. (16)
Christophus Andreas Fischer, the priest of Feldsberg, in his Fifty-four Strong Reasons etc., informs us that "those who have aiready twice or thrice taken their lives into their hands," were as a rule chosen as missionaries. "They travel mostly at night time. They say at first that they are sent only to the poor and plain people. - They read to the people from the little Zwinglian Testament, printed in Zurich, what serves for their devilish deception," etc. (17)
While Luther forbade his followers to labor as "hedge-preachers" in Catholic countries and gave the people no voice in the affairs of the church, he not only laid the right to introduce the Reformation wholly into the hands of the princes and civil authorities, but was also willing to meet "the weak" among the princes half way in the matter of the reformation of worship and practice. The Margrave Joachim of Brandenburg introducd the Lutlieran dctrine in his land in 1539. but in order not to hazard the good will of the emperor, he retained nearly all of Roman Catholic ceremonies and practices, including the carrying of the Most Holy in processions; but he accepted the doctrine of justification by faith and in the Lord's supper the cup for the laity. Luther, when his opinion was asked, said, the old ceremonies may be retained for the time and, said he further, if it pleased the Margrave to do so, he might in the processions "dance and leap" before the Most Holy, as did David of old when the ark was brought to Jerusalem (II Sam. 6:14). The preachers of Brandenburg were under obligation to maintain the old superstitious ceremonies. Instead of looking to the Scriptures for guidance, the Margrave was guided by the desire of the Catholic emperor and the preachers by the decision of the Margrave. To disregard the orders of the civil ruler would have been treated as a grave offense. Also in Silesia and in other provinces the church remained under the (nominal) jurisdiction of the Catholic bishops, notwithstanding the limited changes which had been made.
Menno Simons frequently refers to these conditions. Under the marginal title "The clergy and the judges do not serve God, but the princes," he says :
"Beloved rulers, why further multiply words? You do similarly as the priests and preachers who through the instruction of Scripture have come to some knowledge of the truth ; but since they love their poor, ease-loving belly more than God, they preach and teach it just to the extent as is specified and permitted in the mandates and decrees of the princes, so that in no case they may incur the displeasure of the world and be not deprived of their worldly honor and easy life. It is the same with you, my dear lords .... in order to maintain the friendship of the emperor and retain your fat revenues (I mean you who are guilty of blood) Jesus Christ with His innocent lambs must without mercy be apprehended, banished, robbed and condemned to death by you, as if He were the ringleader of all rogues and thieves and worthy of torture and shame." (77: I: 110).
Under the marginal title, "The preachers of our time do not serve Christ, but the Princes," Menno writes further:
"How much ever some of them boast of the holy Gospel of Christ, yet, it is not preached except in a deformed and useless fashion, and only to the extent that the worldly princes and governments will tolerate and permit. For as the princes are, so are the preachers, and as the preachers are, so is the church; and this is carried so far that one must withdraw from Christ Jesus and His holy apostles and disregard their teaching and adhere to the princes and the theologians and believe their word - all on pain of being broken on the wheel, or burned at their hands, or killed and murdered in some other tyrannical way; just as if the preachers should be sent by the princes and not by Jesus Christ" (441; II:239).
"The foundation of the faith and religion of the [state-church] preachers are the emperor, kings, princes and magistrates; what these order they teach; what these forbid they leave untouched" (157a; I:202a).
"It is our conviction that in this as well as in all other matters pertaining to conscience, we can not and must not look upon rulers or princes, not upon doctors or masters of the schools, not upon councils of the church fathers or long established customs ; for here neither emperor nor king, neither doctors nor licentiates, neither ecumenical councils nor proscriptions have any authority against the Word of God. In these matters we cannot be guided by any person, human authority, human wisdom or time-serving, but we must look alone upon the expressed and clear command of Christ and the pure doctrine and practices of His holy apostles, as has been said above." (17a; I:31b).
In certain states, e. g. Saxony and Hesse, the population was comparatively well prepared for the introduction of the Reformation through the government, in many places the majority welcomed the new doctrines. In other states the change was made quite abrupt and neither the people nor their spiritual advisers were in a position to be benefitted by the new creed. The new doctrine and practice were contrary to what they looked upon as orthodox. They found it impossible to change their religious opinions at the command of the princes. In so far as the Reformation was not welcomed by the people and they were compelled to accept a new faith against their own conviction, the consequences proved sad indeed. There can be no doubt that the doctrine of justification by faith was largely misunderstood and hence fruitful of evil. It is a noteworthv fact that one of Luther's closest friends advanced the opinion that "good works are injurious to salvation." In the Scriptures justification by faith goes together with repentance and conversion. This fact was largely ignored by the state church Reformers. Yet only in so far as the spiritual condition and the life of the people were improved, was the church really reformed. Menno Simons believed that "with few exceptions" the people were not bettered by the introduction of the state church Reformation. He gives us a graphic picture of conditions as evidently they were frequently found. He says of those who had accepted Luther's doctrine by order of the rulers:
"If any one can simply say with them: Oh, what honorless knaves and villains these desperate priests and monks are! They curse them and wish them the French disease. The wicked pope with his shorn crew, they say, has deceived us long enough with purgatory, confession and fasting; we now eat as we have appetite, fish or meat as we desire (18) for every creature of God is good, says Paul, and is not to be rejected ; but what precedes they do not understand, namely to those who believe and know the truth and receive the food with thanksgiving. They further say: How shamefully have they deceived us poor people, that they have robbed us of the blood of the Lord and have pointed us to their merchandise, etc., but, God be praised, we now know that our own works avail nothing, and that the death and blood of Christ alone must blot out and atone for our sins. They begin to sing a Psalm : The snare is broken and we are escaped, etc. [Ps. 124:7.], and while they speak, the beer and wine perchance flow from their drunken mouths and noses. Any one who can but join them in singing this rhime, not considering how carnal his life may be, is a good evangelical man and an acceptable brother. And should ever some one come who in sincere, true love would admonish and reprove them and point to Jesus Christ, to His doctrine, ordinances and unblamable example, and show that it does not become a Christian to carouse and drink, to revile and curse, etc., he must immediately hear that he is a legalist, one who would take heaven by storm, a factionist, a fanatic, a hypocrite, a defamer of the sacrament, an Anabaptist. - Both teachers and disciples bear, as concerns various carnal works, the same cap, as the saying is. I write what I know and testify what I have heard and seen, and I know that I testify the truth" (78; I:112).
"The people they console with the teaching that Christ has paid for our sins, faith alone should have our thought, we are poor sinners and can not keep God's commandments, and similar ease-loving consolations, so that every one selfishly seeks the liberty of the flesh through the new doctrine. - They remain in the old corrupt way of sin, in an unchanged life, without any fear of God, just as if they never in their lives heard one syllable of the word of the Lord and as if God would not punish wickedness and unrighteousness" (293; II:8b).
"Notwithstanding, through the preaching of their compromising gospel, such a wild and reckless liberty is in evidence in all Germany that you can not rebuke them for their open uchastity, intemperance, cursing and swearing, lasciviousness and foul words without being compelled to hear that you are a separatist, vagabond, fanatic, heaven-stormer, Anabaptist and other terms of reproach and insult" (251b; II :29a).
"They [the Zwinglian and Lutheran preachers have brought the poor, indifferent people to a disorderly, unrestrained, fruitless, impenitent life, just as if never the prophetic or the apostolic doctrine, or the Word of God had been preached, and as if never Christ nor the Holy Spirit had appeared upon earth! Had they with true wisdom and humility known, accepted and followed the Word and ordinance of the Lord and the usage and example of the apostles, and earnestly feared their God; had they not flattered the lords and princes and the world in general, but proclaimed the doctrine in true zeal without any respect of persons, or favor ; had they unto death, with faithfulness in doctrine and life, rebuked the sins of all mankind, whether of high or low station; had they in such manner obediently preached and testified of the work and Gospel of God and thus assembled and organized unto the Lord a pious penitent people, that is a true church, after the apostolic example, and not sought their own gain and ease through it; and had they refrained from abusing those who are pious and fear God, then the precious Word, the glorious Gospel of the grace of Christ would never have been treated so lightmindedly, nor would the poor, unwary people have come into such a wild, dreadful condition as, alas, may now be witnessed everywhere" (236b; II: 13b).
What was considered the bounden duty of the state church preachers, viz., that they must confine their labors to the place assigned to them by the government, was a grave offense in the opinion of the dissenters. Menno Simons often testifies that he was constrained in conscience, through love to God and to the unsaved, to risk his life in the endeavor to spread the evangelical truth. The Anabaptist leader Pilgram Marbeck says of the reformers of Strasburg, in 1532, that they preach only in places to which the protection of the government extends "and not freely under the cross of Christ; therefore their gospel did not bring fruit." (19) Jacob Gross of Waldshut complained that the reformers of Zurich "do not go anywhere. If they were true evangelists, they would go out as the messengers of God to proclaim His word and to point the erring to the true way. But now no one can prevail over them to go forth, neither by petition nor demand, for they have a spirit of fear." (20) "The Gospel will have martyrs," says Sebastian Franck, "but these preachers bark only in their own house where they are secure." (21) Cornelius says correctly that in Catholic countries where state church Protestantism was persecuted, the field was left to the Anabaptists who did not shrink back from dangers of torture and death. (22) On the point of the missionary calling of the church Menno Simons differered from Luther, Zwingli and Calvin who held that the commission to preach the Gospel to all nations concerned only the apostles while Menno believed it to be binding for the Christian church as such. (23)
Although Luther, in his booklet Of the Hedge-Preachers, says that these men "preach" to the people who are working in the harvest, in the fields and in the woods, it was evidently their custom to speak to one or a few on the subject of salvation. To refer to personal work of this kind as preaching when preaching by laymen was considered a grave offence was not to encourage religious discussions among those who were not ordained ministers. Not a few were of the opinion that uncommon interest in religious questions on the part of the people savored of Anabaptism. In 1548 Matthäus Lother, a member of the Lutheran state church at Zwickau in Saxony wrote:
"If now faith is coupled with love and consequently one who experiences it can not refrain from speaking of it and from praising God: if then the wise and great authorities are informed of it (I speak not only of the Papists but also the Evangelical), such a man must hear that it is said: You are a hedge-preacher, an enthusiast and Anabaptist, you should be forbidden the town ; the proper place for that of which you speak is the church. And if consequently the preachers hear of it, they also reprove him, and say : Look, look ! How does this enthusiast dare to hold up his head. He has perchance read some German Kadoechen and has swallowed the Holy Ghost, feathers and all! And they exhort the authorities to bid him to turn from it and impertinently they say that to talk of such things was not committed to common people and was not becoming for them, and they should let the theologians have a care for these things. - It is true, it should be heard and learned in the churches, but out of the churches it should be practiced and increased. And you say: It is not committed to us; the proper place to speak of it is the church and it is for the preachers. Are these not terrible conditions among pious Christians in these latter times?" (24)
The assertion found in the writings of Menno Simons and other Anabaptists that to lead a pious life meant to incur the suspicion of entertaining Anabaptist views is not based, as has "been supposed, on an unwarranted generalization. Heinrich Bullinger, without doubt a reliable witness on the point in question, says : "There are those who are not Anabaptists but have a pronounced averseness against the pomp and frivolity of the world ; therefore they earnestly denounce glaring sin and vice and hence are by petulant persons named or revilefully called Anabaptists." (25) By this testimony of Bullinger the assertion of the Swiss Brethren that zealous Christians of the state church were suspected to be Anabaptists is corroborated. The Brethren, according to Rullinger's further statement said :
"If we, by God's grace, carry into practice and do, believe, teach and live the doctrine which they [the Zwinglians] themselves have at first advocated, we are an abomination to them; they will not tolerate us ; they denounce and upbraid us in this our Christian faith as if it were heretical and an error; they call upon the worldly authorities against us and instigate and incite them to persecute and kill us ; yea whoever among their own denomination will do and live rightly is given by them the same name as we, namely Anabaptists." (26)
George Wizel wrote in 1531 : "Whoever speaks against the wicked customs of the times and urges the need of a Christian life, must be called an evil Anabaptist ; many a one knows not how to clear himself of this suspicion except by frequent drinking bouts. For your evangelical liberty has resulted in this, that .... he who earnestly seeks to mend his life, is considered an Anabaptist." (27) Caspar Schwenckfeld testifies repeatedly that a pious life brought the accusation of Anabaptism. "Those who begin an earnest Christian life and live piously," says he, "are generally considered and asserted to be Anabaptists." "I am maligned both by preachers and others to be an Anabaptist, just as all who lead a true, exemplary pious life are now almost everywhere given this name." (28) Johann Valentin Andreae, a theologian of the Iutheran state church, wrote: "Whoever seeks now to lead an irreproachable life, is called an enthusiast, a Schwenckfelder, an Anabaptist." (29)
The theologians of the state churches, including Luther and other leading reformers, frequently referred to the Anabaptists as "work saints," i. e. legalists who disown the principle of justification by faith and seek salvation through good works. Menno Simons brands this charge as "a wretched untruth" (495; II: 300a). He points out the fallacy of this accusation and asserts that this reproachful name was as a rule given those who manifested earnestness and zeal in the Christian life. In his defence against this accusation he does not deny that he and his brethren urge the need of "striving after holiness," but he protests that this is not an evidence of rejecting the doctrine of salvation by grace, and of justification by faith. He says:
"Behold, kind reader, we do not seek our salvation in works, words, or sacraments, as do the theologians, although they make assertions to that effect concerning us, but alone in Jesus Christ and in no other means in heaven or on earth. In this means alone we rejoice, and in no other. We trust, by the grace of God, to abide therein unto death.
"But that we shun carnal works and in our weakness desire to conform ourselves to His word and commandment, this we do [not for the reason that we believe in salvation by works but] because He has so taught and commanded us. For he who does not walk according to His doctrine, bears testimony by his own deeds that he does not believe in Him nor know Him and is not in the communion of the saints.-"(50) "The believers are ready in their weakness to obey His holy word, will, commandment, advice, doctrine and ordinances, and thus they show in deed that they believe, that they are born of God and of a spiritual nature. They lead a pious, unblamable life before all men. They are baptized according to the commandment of the Lord, as an indication and testimony that they have buried their sins in Christ's death and desire to walk with Him in newness of life. They break the bread of peace with their beloved brethren as a proof and testimony that they are one with Christ and in His holy church and that they have, either in heaven or on earth, no other means of grace and remission of their sins, than the innocent hody and hlood of our Lord Jesus Christ alone which He once for all, hy His eternal Spirit in obedience to the Father, has sacrificed and shed upon the cross for us poor sinners. They walk in all love and mercy ; they serve their neighbors, etc. In short, they conform themselves in their weakness to all the words, commandments, ordinances. Spirit, rule, example and measure of Christ, as the Scriptures teach; for they are in Christ and Christ is in them; and therefore they live no longer in the old life of sin after the first earthly Adam, but (weakness excepted) in the new life of righteousness which is of faith after the second and heavenly Adam, Christ; as Paul says: 'I do not now live, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live, live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me,' (Gal. 2:20); and Christ says: 'If ye love me, keep my commandments,' (John 14:15).
"Think not, beloved reader, that we say this to boast that we be perfect and sinless. By no means. I confess for myself that my prayer is sometimes mixed with sin and my righteousness with unrighteousness. For I feel through God's grace, if only I follow the unction of the Spirit and measure my poor weak nature with Christ and His commandments, what is the nature of the flesh which I inherited from Adam. Yea, if God should judge us according to our worthiness, righteousness, works and merits, and not according to His great goodness and mercy, I confess with holy David that no man could stand before His judgment (Ps. 143:2; 130:3). Therefore let it be far from us that we should trust or glory in anything but alone the grace of our God through Jesus Christ ; for it is He alone and none other in eternity who has perfectly satisfied the true righteousness required by God. It is also well known unto us by God's grace, that all the saints of God, from the beginning, have ever deplored their corrupt flesh, as may be seen and observed in the instance of Moses, David, Job, Isaiah, Paul, James and John.
"But for Christ's sake we are in grace; for Christ's sake we are heard, for Christ's sake our failings and shortcomings which are committed through weakness, are forgiven ; for with His perfect righteousness and with His innocent death and blood He stands between His Father and His imperfect children and intercedes for all who believe in Him and who strive through faith in the divine Word to turn from evil and follow that which is good, etc.
"Mark, beloved reader, that we do not believe nor teach that we are saved by our merits and works, as our accusers falsely assert, but alone through grace by Christ Jesus, as has been said before" (462 seq. II:262 seq.).
"Because we teach from the mouth of the Lord: He who would enter into life, must keep the commandments (Matt. 19:17; Mark 10:19; John 15:10); in Christ neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avail but the keeping of the commandments of God (I Cor. 7:19) ; this is the love of God that we keep His commandments and His commandments are not grievous, I John 5 :3 ; therefore we are called by the preachers heaven stormers and work saints, and must hear that we would be saved by our merits, although we have always confessed and shall through God's grace confess in eternity that we can not be saved by any other means in heaven or upon earth, than alone through the merits, intercession, death, and blood of Christ, as has been fully set forth above.
"Behold, thus have these perverse people changed the very best to the very worst. They do not observe that all Scripture clearly condemns all wanton, haughty despisers and transgressors of God's commandments who plainly prove by their deeds that they are strangers to the saving grace of God, do not believe in Jesus Christ and according to Scripture abide in condemnation, wrath and death (John 3:36)" (512; II:317).
"But that they say we are hypocrites, and lie concerning us that we assert to be without sin, is, because we teach with all Scripture a life that shows the fruits of penitence ; we testify with holy Paul that perjurers, adulterers, idolaters, drunkards, avaricious, liars, unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God (I Cor. 6:10; Gal. 5:21; Eph. 5:5), that those who are carnally minded shall die, Rom. 8:13; and with John, that those who sin (understand purposely or wantonly) are of the devil (I John 3:8) ; and therefore we have in our weakness a heartfelt dismay of such works ; so often we have with Moses confessed by mouth and writing and ever will confess, that none is innocent before God, on account of the inborn nature (Gen. 6:5; 8:21), and with Isaiah that we are all as the unclean (Isa. 64:6)" etc. (511; II:316).
"Behold worthy reader, here you have our doctrine and confession of justification as has been here set forth. Judge for yourself and know that the preachers obviously lie concerning us when they say that we would be saved by our merits and works and that we pretend to be without sin. May the Lord forgive them that they spread such shameless, gross falsehoods. O that these miserable men would once take to heart that the backbiters, slanderers and liars are of the devil (John 8:44) etc. "This, I say, is our doctrine and by the grace of God will ever remain our doctrine, for we truly know and realize that it is the invincible word and truth of the Lord. We testify therefore before you and before all the world that, firstly, we do not agree with those who teach and introduce a mere historic, dead faith which is without a change of heart, without Spirit, power and fruit; and secondly we do not agree with those who would be saved through their merits and. works." (464; II:264).
To Menno Simons' mind it was an inconsistency that Luther held the pope to be antichrist, but accepted his ordination and baptism as valid. (62) Menno did not admit a fundamental difference between Papism and Roman Catholicism. Was not the pope acknowledged by the Roman Church throughout as its rightful head and representative, possessing divine authority? In Menno's opinion it was a mistake to undertake a reform of Romanism. He says :
"In the second place I say that the same church of which Gellius speaks was not only adulterated and weakened, as he says, but it has become so estranged from God that its members worship, honor and serve gods of wood, stone, gold and silver, also bread and wine, as, alas, has been publicly known these many years in all the temples and houses of worshij) throughout Europe, and may yet daily be witnessed in many great kingdoms, cities and countries.
"My reader, understand me rightly. That God should not have had His elect among the above named churches, concerning this we do not dispute, but shall in humility leave this both now and forever to the gracious judgment of God, hoping that He has many thousands who are unknown to us as they were to holy Elijah ; but the question under dispute is with what spirit, doctrine, sacraments, ordinances and life Christ has commanded to gather unto Him an abiding church and maintain it in His ways" (310; II:94).
"I shall leave it to the judgment of the attentive reader whether that church which is so wholly and entirely possessed and laid waste by Antichrist may be called God's temple. If he gives a negative answer, his judgment is according to Scripture, otherwise many passages of Scripture would be fallible and false, and it would undeniably follow that God and the devil, Christ and Antichrist were in one temple and ruled one church. - If Gellius' assertions were well founded, it would clearly follow that the church of Antichrist is even now the true Christian church" (309a; II :92b).
"Yes, my reader, Gellius knows as well as I what Christ has commanded us concerning baptism, how the holy apostles have taught and practiced it; again that Paul renewed the baptism in the instance of certain persons who had been baptized with John's baptism (although this was of heaven), because they were not informed concerning the Holy Ghost, also that the worthy martyr Cyprian with all African bishops and the council of Nice did not consider the baptism of heretics valid, etc. Notwithstanding all this, he calls us Anabaptists, never considering that in our infancy we were baptized not only without Spirit, faith. Word, or divine command, but also without all accountability and understanding, with an obviously antichristian baptism, administered by those whom he and other theologians, of his persuasion hold to be antichrists, apostate, heretics and deceivers, who have never truly known God nor His Word and live in open idolatry, bending their knees before wood and stone, trust in the vain and useless doctrines and commandments of men, who wantonly walk according to the lusts of the flesh and worship and honor the creature of God, namely a piece of bread, as the only begotten and eternal Son of God" (232; II:8).
"What is it that deceives and blinds the German countries even today, and what causes them to continue in their ungodliness, if not the inconsiderate doctrine of the preachers, the ill-advised infant baptism, idolatrous supper, and that the commandment of Christ and His apostles concerning separation is not practiced according to the Scriptures. - The people drink and carouse, curse and swear, grasp and tear, lie and cheat. In short the life which is generally in evidence is such as if God were a fabler and His word a fairy tale. Behold, such are the fruits of those who boldly boast that they are the church of Christ. Oh, would to God that they could see what Jesus Christ, after whom they call themselves, and His holy apostles, have taught them in plain words and what example they have left them, that they might be helped. But now there is nothing but playing with the letter, there is the name and boasting, but, alas, the spirit, work, power, and fruits are not apparent" (297 seq. ; II:79 seq.).
Many are the complaints of Menno Simons that the state church Reformation failed to abandon some of the leading unscriptural principles of Romanism; the changes introduced did not extend to all that is essential to a true evangelical church. He says further:
"We know well that you have destroyed the little gods of Babylon such as the Romish indulgences, the invocation of the departed saints, celibacy, abstaining from meats and similar self-righteousness, idolatry and superstitution. But, alas, the terrible wrongs and abominations have remained, such as the accursed unbelief, the obstinate opposition to the truth, earthly mindedness, the unscriptural infant baptism, the idolatrous supper and the impenitent old life which is of the flesh. - The branches have been cut off in part, but the stem and the roots have remained" (38; I:59).
"But what grieves me most is, that those also who in part have recognized the debauchery of the Babylonian woman and have put away some of her abominations, yet cling to the sophistry of men to such extent that they can be taught or moved neither by God's powerful word nor by the unblamable life, candid testimony and innocent blood of so many pious saints. - For their clamor is for the most part against the pope and his cardinals, bishops, priests and monks. And all who, reproving their deceptive doctrine, idolatrous sacraments and vain life, seek the best for their poor souls, must be upbraided by them as profaners of the sacrament. Anabaptists, fanatics, and heretics" (38; I:58).
The most prominent point of controversy between the Anabaptists and the leading reformers was the question whether baptism is to be administered to believers or infants. At the base of this question lay principles of the most fundamental import.
Infant baptism was a necessary requirement for the maintenance of a state church such as then existed in everv state. In every land church and state were united and the membership of the church was supposed to be identical with the population. The people were through infant baptism made members of the state church in their earliest infancy. Not only in Roman Catholic but also in Lutheran and Zwinglian countries every inhabitant (excepting the Jews) was compelled by law to hold membership in the state church; hence infant baptism was the foremost requirement in the Protestant state churches as well as in the Church of Rome. Excluding or excommunication was virtually unknown except in the instance of heretics who had been condemned to die. Even the criminals who filled the prisons were church members. The creed of the rulers was the creed of the state. The subjects were compelled to profess the faith of the rulers. The masses of the people fashioned their faith to please the authorities, in order to escape the dungeon and the henchman. Those who dared to have a faith differing from the creed prescribed by the magistrates, were subjected to the most cruel persecution which was supposed to be perfectly right. Whosoever killed them thought he was doing God service. The issue of believers' baptism or infant baptism was one which primarily concerned the conditions of membership in the Christian church. Should the birth of Christian parents convey the right of membership in the church? Should the infants be made church members, or should those only be made members who accepted Christ and surrendered themselves to Him? Should there be exclusive state churches comprising, by virtue of the strong arm of the state, the whole population, or should the precepts of Christ and the example of the apostles be followed? Shall the boundary lines of the church be identical with those of the state? Shall "the sword of the Spirit" rule the church, or the sword of brutal force? Shall the Bible or the henchman be the final authority? Is it the mission of the church to lead those who are within its fold to accept Christ, or is the church a body of believers whose mission field is the world? Shall the church and the world be united or separated? Is the church essentially a hierarchy, or is it a body of believers? These are the questions which lay at tlie bottom of the great controversy on infant baptism.
Menno points out that the existing union of the church with the state and the world is unscriptural.
"The whole evangelical Scriptures teach that Christ's church was and must be a people separated from the world in doctrine, life and worship. It was likewise in the Old Testament (II Cor. 6:17; Tit. 2:14; I Pet. 2:9,10; I Cor. 5:17; Ex. 19:12).
"Since the church always was and must be a separated people, as has been heard, and it is clear as the meridian sun that for many centuries no difference has been observable between the church and the world, but all people have been blended together in baptism, supper, life and worship without any separation, a condition which is so clearly contrary to all Scripture, therefore we are constrained by the Spirit and word of God to the praise of Christ and to the service and betterment of our neighbor from true motives, as set forth above, to gather not to us but to the Lord, a pious, penitent assembly or church .... not by force of arms or uproar (as is the custom of the popular sects), a church which is separated from the world, as the Scriptures teach." (262; II :38a).
"The German church was from the beginning Papistic and not apostolic. The church of which Gellius speaks was first established upon the foundation and abominations of the Papists, and has remained so these many years. It was originally built, not by the apostles upon the foundation of Christ but by the pope on his own foundation and was throughout a Papistic and not a Christian church ; and [although changes have been made] it is quite obvious that it has to this hour neither teachers nor congregations nor life nor sacraments, etc., conformable to the commandment, doctrine and ordinance of Christ.
"The preachers should learn first to know themselves rightly, and then preach rightly the word of sincere repentance in the power of the Spirit. All those who accept it with a believing heart and truly repent, should then be served with Christ's sacraments according to divine institution. And those who would wickedly, deliberately despise it, should in the power of the holy word be separated from the communion of their church, without respect of persons, be they rich or poor. In this way they could begin to gather a church unto Christ and in it rightly practice the ordinances of the Lord according to the Scriptures.
"But as long as they baptize the unconscious infants, esteem all whom they have baptized as Christians, dispense the bread to the impenitent, and admit all the avaricious, extortioners, pompous, intemperate, etc., to the fellowship of their church, the world shall continue to l)e their church and their church the world" (289 seq.; II:70).
The ritualistic features of worship were largely retained by Luther, but utterly rejected by the Anabaptists. Menno held that as concerns faith, practice and wor.ship, the church must conform itself not to the Old Testament but to the New Testament standard. Under the New dispensation the worship of God is of a purely spiritual nature. The believer in Christ approaches God not through types and shadows, but in Spirit and in truth ; hence there is no room for temples of stone, nor altar, nor literal sacrifice, nor incense, nor putting on priestly robes. The Catholic churches in which prayer to saints and the veneration of images were practiced, were spoken of by the Anabaptists as "idol houses." Their worship was exceedingly simple, devoid of all show and ostentation. (63) Luther, to the contrary, in the reformation of worship, was guided by the principle : "What is not contrary to the Scripture, is for it and Scripture is for it," although it may not be established on Scripture authority. "If anything which is in use from times of yore, is to be changed or abandoned," he says, "it is to be and must be proven to be contrary to God's word." (64) In his opinion priestly robes, the elevation of the host, exorcism, etc., were not contrary to God's word. "Erroneously we are accused that we have discarded Mass," says Melanchthon in the Augsburg Confession, for it is evident that, to speak without boasting. Mass is held in our churches with greater reverence and fervor, than among our adversaries. - Also in the public ceremonies of Mass, there have been no marked changes except that in some places some of the songs are sung in German." (65) Nevertheless, the sacrificial features of the Mass were abandoned.
During the Reformation era it was not possible for Mennonites and Anabaptists in general to build houses of worship, except probably in Moravia. And the Huterites of Moravia did not build houses for this purpose, but they had large buildings of various description and found it convenient to use these for their meetings. Christophus Andreas Fischer, the priest of Feldsberg in Austria wrote in 1607 a book: Fifty-four Strong Reasons why the Anabaptists should not he tolerated in the Land. His twenty-eighth reason is as follows:
"There never was a heathen so wicked, never Turk so profligate, never Jew so hardened, never heretic so evil, who did not build his god a temple, his Mohamet a mosque, the Jew a synagogue for his worship, the heretic a chapel for the confirmation of his error. But the hypocritical Anabaptists are blinder than the heathen, more profligate than the Turks, more hardened than the Jews, more cursed than all other heretics; for they have no churches or chapels or similar places in which to perform their worship, etc. Yea, before they would build any little church, they would erect a thousand times more dwelling houses, pig-stys and eating rooms (Fresz-stuben) which indeed is very amazing, for they desire to be considered quite holy, pious and devoted people. Their sermons they have twice a week in their eating rooms. - No feast of Mary or Apostle day is kept by them. Every Friday in the year they eat meat. Of pictures they have a decidedly unfavorable opinion, except those that are found on the Ducats and Dollars. - They sing the hymns composed by their false messengers who on account of their obstinacy have been either hanged and drowned or singed and burned. Is it not true that they are the most wicked people, having no church, no worship and no sacrifice?" Fischer concludes this book by assuring the princes that their names will be written in heaven if they suppress this heresy. (66)
A point of fundamental difference between Menno Simons and the state-church reformers is the relation of the New Testament Scriptures to the Old. Menno, as well as the Swiss Brethren and Huterites held that the Old Testament precepts were largely intended for pre-Messianic times and have been restated by Christ and the apostles as far as they are to be followed by the Christian Church. They held the Old Testament Scriptures to be the foundation and groundwork for the New, and the latter to be the fulfilment of the Old. In matters of Christian worship and practice the New Testament Scriptures were believed to be the only authority. The union of church and state and other points which were rejected by the Anabaptists on New Testament authority, were defended by Luther, Zwingli and Calvin on Old Testament authority. (Compare citation from Menno Simons on this point, p. 224).
The principle of the Anabaptists that as concerns ordinances, rites, worship and doctrine nothing must be maintained in the church which can not be established on Scripture authority, was originally taught by Luther and Zwingli, but abandoned when they decided upon a union of church and state. On the Wartburg Luther again advanced the Roman Catholic view: "What is not contrary to Scripture, is for Scripture, and Scripture is for it." (Compare p. 123). He held that the old Roman Catholic cultus may be retained without Scripture authority, on the ground that it is not contrary to Scripture. The question what is to be considered contrary to Scripture he answered to the effect that only those things must be abandoned which are expressly forbidden in Scripture. And in his controversy with Carlstadt who cited the second commandment in support of his opinion that the pictures or "idols" (as Luther himself speaks of them) should be removed from the churches, he defended the opinion that everything that is not prohibited in the New Testament Scriptures, although it be forbidden in the Old Testament, may be retained. He says :
"We have taught from St. Paul the Christian liberty, that all things should be free which God does not forbid with clear words in the New Testament .... Now tell me, where has He forbidden to elevate the host, or commanded it? Show me one little word concerning it and I shall yield. (70) If they can prove from the New Testament that the pictures should be removed [from the churches], we shall willingly follow them." (71) "They introduce their own external order concerning which God has given neither a command nor a prohibition, as for instance that one should have no pictures, no churches [i. e. temples], altars, should not use the word Mass or sacrament, not elevate the host, not have priestly garments," etc. (72)
On this principle the old forms of worship and practice were largely retained. The leading reformers asserted that infant baptism and other practices are justifiable because they are not forbidden. Even exorcism, or the conjuration of Satan to depart from the infants previous to baptism, was retained as a custom that is not forbidden in Scripture - to the great offence of the Anabaptists. The form of exorcism used somewhat later among the Lutherans was : "I conjure thee, thou unclean spirit, to come out and depart from this servant of Jesus Christ." Menno Simons denounces repeatedly "the wretched exorcism" and other unscriptural ceremonies connected with baptism, such as breathing upon the infant, giving him salt, anointing him with oil and saliva, etc.
The principle that the Scriptures are the only inerrant source of religious truth, the only authority in matters of faith and pactice - known as the formal principle of the Reformation - was the leading principle of the Anabaptists, while both Luther and Zwingli accepted it only in a modified form. The doctrine of the inner word as held by Hans Denck and a few other Anabaptists, was not shared by the great Anabaptist denominations, viz. the Swiss Brethren, Huterites and Mennonites. As for the Zwinglian reformers, they have frequently asserted that the Anabaptists insisted too much on following the letter of the Scriptures, "the dead letter." In reply to this argument one of the spokesmen of the Anabaptists in the discussion held in Bern, 1538, asked, "Is that which Christ has said the dead letter?" (73)
The assertion that Anabaptism has an essentially Roman Catholic tendency or that Lutheranism represents a more radical elimination of the unscriptural doctrines of Romanism, is quite untenable. The Zwinglian chronicler Johannes Kessler of St. Gall says rightly concerning the origin of the Anabaptists, that Grebel, Manz, Blaurock, and others insisted on separation from the Roman Catholic Church. They "were of the opinion that those who had been taught the Gospel and were now called evangelical, should first of all forsake and be separated from the Papal church .... But the ministers of the word of God in Zurich, above all Ulrich Zwingli would not consent to such separation." (74) Melanchthon, in the Augsburg Confession, undertook to point out that the Lutheran creed is orthodox according to Roman Catholic standards and authorities. It may be proper to observe that in the opinion of the famous Catholic historian Doellinger Lutheranism is virtually only a branch of the Roman Catholic Church, while Zwinglianism and Calvinism are more radical in their opposition to certain doctrines held to be essential by the Church of Rome and must be considered new churches. Nevertheless both Zwingli and Calvin, as well as Luther, undertook a reformation of the church whose head was the pope. After Luther, in 1522, restored Roman Catholic worship in Wittenberg, Carlstadt spoke of him and his friends as "new Papists," and we know from Zwingli's Elenchus that a similar name was given Zwingli by the Swiss Anabaptists. The impartial student will recognize the fact that the reformers who represented the state-church Reformation followed in the footsteps of the Roman Catholic church on certain important points which were discarded by the Anabaptists. They consented to the establishment and maintenance of national churches through "the secular arm," they followed "Antichrist," as Menno points out, in their attitude toward those who recognized state-churchism to be incombatible with Gospel principles ; they glaringly compromised the principle that the Word of God is the only authority in matters of faith. In the doctrine of the sacraments they differed from the Church of Rome to less extent than the Anabaptists. Through their consent to a union of church and state the leading reformers found themselves compelled to an attitude of compromise in various points of doctrine and practice. The great Anabaptist movement was born of the conviction that the state-church Reformation countenanced unscriptural principles which had been upheld by the former state church and, in short, sustained an unwarranted relation to the position of that body - the Roman Church.
On free will and predestination Menno disapproved of the views advanced by Luther, Zwingli and Calvin. He says correctly that Zwingli in chapter six of his book On Predestination asserted, a thief and a murderer were "driven" by God to commit crime and the authorities were "driven" by God to punish criminals for their evil deeds. (75) Of this doctrine Menno speaks as "an abomination above all abominations" (311a; II :94b).
A few writers have asserted that Menno Simons differed from the state churches on original sin. Menno agreed with Martin Luther on the fact of original sin, as will be fully set forth elsewhere by quotations from his writings. He taught that all men inherit a sinful nature from Adam which would exclude them from salvation if Christ, the second Adam, had not atoned for the guilt of original sin. All Anabaptists taught emphatically that no one is condemned for the sin of Adam. Infants are saved, not through baptism but through the atonement of Christ. S. Hoekstra and K. Vos have quoted a sentence from Dirk Philips which is supposed to deny original sin. (76) The context shows this opinion to be erroneous.
Menno Simons had a strikingly good opinion of Martin Luther personally. He says openly that on point of scholarship Luther and others surpass him by far, but protests that he could not take the opinions of these men in preference to the clear teaching of God's Word (404b; II:199a). He criticizes Luther particularly for the arguments which he advanced for infant baptism and because he consented to state-churchism, although in an earlier period he had earnestly defended the voluntary principle. Menno says in his Foundation of 1539:
"Luther writes in his sermon for the Third Sunday after Epiphany that infants should be baptized upon their own faith, and if they have no faith, he says, the baptism of infants is nothing but blasphemy of God's sacrament. Is not this a proof of terrible blindness on the part of such a highly learned man through whom God in the beginning has worked so powerfully, that he now attempts to prove that the little infants who can neither hear nor understand may have faith - clearly contrary to his own experience and also contrary to the Word of God." (77)
The doctrine of non-resistance, as held by the Anabaptists, has been largely misunderstood. The supposition that this doctrine is ignored in Roman Catholic and Protestant theology is erroneous. Both the Roman Church and the Protestant churches of the older type recognize the principle of non-resistance to the extent of admitting that Christ has taught it. Nevertheless they do not disapprove of war. The Roman Catholic Church holds that Christ advised non-resistance, but did not [command] it ; hence a Christian may use the sword. Luther advanced a new view which he believed to be far superior to the Roman doctrine. He taught that a Christian must be non-resistant and can have no part in violence or blood-shed, be it in war or in self-defence.
But a Christian is also a citizen and to a citizen it is lawful to fight, hence he is under duty to use the sword in self-defence or when the state calls him to arms. This means that when there is no occasion to fight a Christian should be guided by the precepts of Christ on the point of non-resistance ; but when such occasion arises he must for the time being ignore the fact that he professes faith in Christ and is under obligation to follow His law; as a citizen he must be guided by civil rights and civil law.
This was the view of Martin Luther, as already said, and it has been accepted by Protestant Christendom as a whole. It is a noteworthy fact that the despised and persecuted Anabaptists and Quakers were for centuries the only Christian denominations which had a distinct testimony against war. Notwithstanding the explicit teaching of the Sermon on the Mount and other portions of Scripture on the point in question, Protestant as well as Roman Catholic theology has justified war as agreeable to Christian principles and has made it the Christian's business to take part in it when occasion presents. The most prominent Christian churches do not materially differ from pagan religions as concerns their attitude toward war. The late Pope Pius X is said to have been much grieved over the outbreak of the great war. Obviously he was moved by human rather than religious considerations. The Roman Catholic Church teaches that war is not essentially unchristian but is in harmony with Christian principles if it is carried on for a good purpose and with a righteous end in view.
The Anabaptists would have disdained the modern view that Christianity is identical with culture and that education, civilization, reform is the real remedy for sin and evil and will eventually make war impossible. Not a few writers have, previous to the outbreak of the greatest of all wars, asserted that civilization has practically outgrown war and is destined to eliminate all other evils. This view left out of consideration some striking pertinent facts, e. g. that in one of the most highly civilized countries men are murdered in times of peace at a rate of nearly ten thousand a year. And the horrible lynchings ! Is war a greater evil than the lynchings. Has civilization really outgrown sin and crime?
The Anabaptists recognized that worldly government must be based on physical force, and hence the foundation of the state is radically different from that of the church. They did not accept the opinion of certain modern liberals that the state as such should be established upon moral suasion instead of force, or, in other words, that the state should deal with criminals only through instruction and admonition, the prison doors should be opened and no one further punished for committing crime. The Bible teaches that the state is given the sword to punish evil-doers and it "beareth the sword not in vain." The state would be a farce if it ceased to bear the sword and to use force against those who transgress the laws or who attack the state with arms. Now for the state to defend itself with the sword is war. War is utterly irreconcilable with Christian principles ; the fundamental principles of the Christian religion are outraged through war. The fact of war is the most striking evidence of the truth of the Biblical teaching concerning the nature of fallen man and of the world. This means that Christianity, so far as it bears the sword, is a farce, just as is a state that would be based on moral suasion and non-resistance.
The argument that it is inconsistent to refuse to wield the sword when, under existing conditions, the state or society could not exist without it was met by the Anabaptists by pointing out that the fall of the human race is responsible for conditions that make prisons and state authority necessary. No philosophical or theological argumentation can explain away the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ has clearly taught by precept and example the principle of non-resistance. To kill men with shrapnell or bayonet is essentially contrary to Christian duty. The arguments advanced to show that war, that "wicked abominable business," as Menno Simons speaks of it, is consistent with Christian principles, can bear no weight to the unsophisticated mind.
(1) "Not less than seven times within a few decades," says J. R. Dieterich, "has the population of Oppenheim changed its faith, being compelled to these changes." Quoted by Paulus, Protestantismus u. Toleranz, p. 66.
(2) Roth, Augsburg's Reformationsgeschichte, vol. 4, p. 157.
(3) His reply to this accusation was published in 1548. See, Baum, Capita und Bucer, pp. 543, 607.
(4) Paulus, Protestantismus und Toleranz, p. 174.
(5) Preger, M. F. Illyricus, vol. 1, p. 143. Bucer had received urging invitations to come to England and assist in the reformation of the church. He now went to England, where he died in 1551. Five years later, under the reign of Queen Mary, his body was exhumed and burned.
(6) Luther himself advised Elector John of Saxony to consent to this decree. He wrote in April, 1529, to the elector in Speier: "That Your Electoral Grace should be obedient to the command of His Imperial Majesty against the Anabaptists and Sacramentarians, is right and Your Electoral Grace should do it willingly; for Your Electoral Grace has or tolerates none of the forbidden doctrines in your own lands, nor do you intend to have or tolerate them." (De Wette, vol. 3, p. 441).
(7) Compare, Wappler, Die Stellung Kursachsens, etc.
(8) This "opinion" is printed in the Works of Melanchthon, Corp. Ref., vol. 3, p. 195 seq. ; also in Walch, St. L., vol. 20, col. 1752 seq. The complete text was published by Hochhuth in Zeitschr. f. hist. Theol., 1858, p. 560 seq.
(9) Compare, Wappler, Inquisition und Ketzerprozesse etc.; Wappler, Die Stellung Kursachsens .... zur Taeuferbewegung; Paulus, Protestantismus und Toleranz; Paulus, Luther und die Gewissensfreiheit; Koehler, Reformation und Ketzerprozess; Hermelink, Der Toleranzgedanke, etc.
(13) This book is found Erl. E., vol. 31, pp. 213-227; Walch St. L., vol. 20, col. 1664-1677.
(14) Corp. Ref., Melanchthon's Works, vol. 2, p. 1001. Heinz Krauth was executed upon Melanchthon's advice on January 27, 1536, for no other crime than false doctrine and hedge-preaching.
(15) Ottius, Annal. Anab., p. 135.
(16) Manuscript "Gemeinde-Geschichtsbuch."
(17) Vier und funfftzig Erhebliche Ursachen , Warum die Widertauffer nicht sein im Lande zu leyden, 1607, p. 8. The last sentence of Fischer, concerning the Zurich New Testament is a quotation from Erhard, C., Gruendliche kurtz verfaszte Historia Von Muensterischen Widertauffern, etc., Munich, 1588, p. 45b. This New Testament was of the original Zurich version which was published prior to the division between the Zwinglians and Swiss Brethren. In later editions various changes were made by Zwinglian theologians. The Swiss Brethren believing the old version the more correct rendering continued to use it. This version was consequently forbidden by the Zwinglian government of the canton Bern. All copies that could be found were confiscated. The Brethren had it reprinted at Basel, Frankfurt on the Main, Leipzig and later at Ephrata in Pennsylvania ; hence it was known by the name of Anabaptist (Taeufer) Testament while formerly the name of Froschower, the printer of the first edition, was commonly connected with its name.
(18) As early as 1524 Melanchthon wrote: "The common people adhere to Luther only because they think there will further be no duty laid upon them. - Many believe themselves to be very pious and holy when they upbraid priests and monks or eat meat on Friday." Supplementa Melanchthonia, vol. 1, pp. 239, 247.
(19) Schiess, Briefwechsel Blaurers, vol. 1, p. 316.
(20) Egli, Zuericher Wiedertaeuffer, p. 45.
(21) Hegler, Francks Lat. Paraphrase, etc., p. 103.
(22) Cornelius, Muenst. Aufruhr, vol. 2, p. 44.
(23) Compare Moeller-Kawerau, Kirchengeschichte, vol. 3, p. 408, Grisar Luther, vol. 3, p. 1022. Menno Simons will be quoted on the subject of missions.
(24) Wappler, Inquisition u. Ketzerprozesse in Zwickau, p. 161. The meaning of the word Kadoechen is unknown.
(25) So sind auch andere, welche im Grund mit Wiedertäufer sind, doch heftigen Miszfall haben an der Welt Ueppigkeit und Leichtfertigkeit und darum heftig anklagen Schand und Laster, und dannenher von mutwilligen Leuten Wiedertäufer genämt odor gescholten werden." Wiedert. Ursprung, p. 170
(26) Bullinger, Wiedert. Ursprung, fol. 224a.
(27) Cornelius, Muenst. Aufr., vol. 2, p. 44. Compar Loserth, B. Hubmaier, p. 7
(28) Schwenckfeld's Epistolar, vol. 2. p. 307; the same. vol. 1, p. 203.
(29) Moeller-Kawerau, Kirchengeschichte, vol. 3, p. 386.
(50) The fact is significant that Menno in some of his earliest hooks found it necessary to point out that he and his brethren were orthodox on the doctrine of justification by faith although they strove to lead a pious life. This doctrine was largely misunderstood and misapplied in the time of the Reformation.
(62) Says Caspar Schwenckfeld : "They err who, although they hold .... the pope to be Antichrist and the greatest heretic, would nevertheless accept his sacraments as valid and consider them equal with the sacraments of Christ." Corp. Schwenckf., vol. 4, p. 196.
(63) On the question of instrumental music in churches the Anabaptists differed from Luther and agreed with Zwingli and Calvin and the early church fathers who did not tolerate instrumental music in churches. To praise God with stringed instruments was in their opinion a part of Old Testament worship but is foreign to New Testament thought. The passages in the book of Revelation in which musical instruments are mentioned were taken in a similar sense as the verses of the same book mentioning censers and incense ; it is expressly stated that these designations are to be taken in a figurative sense. (Rev. 5:8).
(64) Erl. E., vol. 26, p. 269.
(65) "The Lutherans," says a writer of the Reformation era, "take an inimical attitude toward the Papistic Mass and condemn it vehemently: they have on their own authority established their own German Mass - as if it were worse to hold Mass in Latin than in German."
(66) Fischer, Vier und funfftig Erhebliche Ursachen, etc., p. 78 u. 124.
(70) Erl. E., vol. 29, p. 188; Walch St. L., vol. 20, col. 183. The elevation of the host or bread for the kneeling adoration and worship of the church, was a prominent part in Roman Catholic worship. Carlstadt condemned this custom as idolatry, but Luther defended it because it is not forbidden in the New Testament Scriptures. Only after Carlstadt's death was this practice abandoned in Wittenberg.
(71) Erl. E., vol. 29, p. 150; Walch St. L., vol. 20. col. 147. "It is clear" says Luther further, "that even in the Old Testament the unobjectionable idols [Abgötter] did not bring harm, even if men prayed before them, if only with the heart the true God was worshipped; and our fanatics would bind and entangle us free Christians to such extent that we may not tolerate idols [Götzen] without sin." Erl. E., vol. 29, p. 154.
(72) Erl. E., vol. 29. p. 210.
(73) Acta Des gespraechs, etc., fol. 276.
(74) Kessler, Sabbata, p. 141.
(75) Compare Steahelin, Huldreich Zwingli, vol. 2, p. 460. In the discussions of Embden, in 1578, the (Flemish) Mennonite spokesman Peter of Ceulen quoted extensively from this book of Zwingli, Protocol Dat is Alle handelinge, etc., 1579, fol. 47.
(76) Hoekstra, S., Beginselen en Leer, etc., p. 266; Vos, K., Menno Simons, p. 214. The passage is found Bib. Ref. Neerl., vol. 10, p. 92; Dirk Philips' Hand Book, p. 45.
(77) Dat Fundament, fol. D6a.
Note: the numbering of footnotes is a a bit erratic. It is, however, exactly as in Horsch' book. [MVZ]