XIX MENNO SIMONS ON VARIOUS POINTS OF DOCTRINE, PRINCIPLE AND PRACTICE
Since our oral teaching and testimony can and may not be given, we are led and constrained to publish in writing our answer that by our written defense those of God-fearing, upright heart and conscience, be they magistrates or citizens, learned or unlearned, may know that we, as concerns the aforementioned accusations, are guiltless and are slandered and belied by our adversaries (496; II:300).
Since it is well known to many thousands of honest people (as I suppose) that we seek nothing upon this earth than in our weakness to walk willingly in the footsteps of Christ and, denying ourselves, to obey His Word, to again light the extinguished torch of the truth, point many to righteousness and by the help and grace of the Lord save our own souls, on which account we poor people must everywhere endure so much tribulation, misery, anxiety, cross and persecution, therefore no well-disposed person will think hard of me that I, by the Spirit and Word of my Lord to the best of my ability, openly set forth and defend the honor of my God, the salvation of my brethren, the foundation of my faith and the praise of Christ, my Lord (229; II:4).
Since there are many of you who treat God's children so inhumanly, as is evident, we have described concisely our practice, principles, faith and doctrine from the Word of God, and have published them in print, that all revilers. evil speakers and cruel persecutors may therefrom learn and understand our purpose, aim and work (51a; I:76b).
2. The Authority and Inerrancy of the Scriptures.
Dear reader. I admonish and advise you, if you seek God with all your heart and would not be deceived, do not depend upon men and the doctrine of men, however old, holy and excellent it may be esteemed, for one theologian is against the other, both in ancient and modern times; but build upon Christ and His Word alone, upon the sure teaching and practice of His holy apostles, and you will through the grace of God be kept safe from all false doctrine and from the power of the devil, and walk before your God with a confident and pious mind (22a; I:37).
This holy Christian church has only one doctrine - the pure, unmixed and unadulterated Word of God, the Gospel of grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. All teachings and decrees that do not accord with the doctrine of Christ, be they the teachings and opinions of doctors, decrees of popes, ecumenical councils, or anything else, are but teachings and commandments of men (Matt. 19:5), doctrines of devils (I Tim. 4:1) and therefore accursed (Gal. 7:8). We write and teach nothing but the pure, heavenly Word and the perfect commandments of Jesus Christ and His apostles (399; II:193b).
My dear brethren, against the aforesaid doctrines, ordinances, sacraments and life, no imperial decrees, papal bulls, or councils of the learned have any authority; no old usage, no human; philosophy, no Origen, no Augustine, no Luther or Bucer, no prison, banishment or murdering will avail. It is, I repeat, the eternal, imperishable Word of God, and will abide forever. (445b; II:244b).
The first sign by which the Church of Christ may be known, is the salutary and unadulterated doctrine of His holy divine word. - In short, where the Church of Christ is, .... there His word is preached purely and rightly. The Church of Christ knows no other doctrine but the Word of the Lord (299a; II:81a).
I pray all God-fearing hearts, for Jesus' sake, to submit reason to the Word of the Lord and to think and believe of God as the Scriptures require and teach, not to ascend higher or descend lower, but walk with a humble, contrite heart before the Lord and His church, and they shall find peace of conscience (563b; II:370a).
Think you, my friends, that the Lord is a dreamer or His Word a fable? Ah, no! not a letter will fall to the ground of all that He spoke (129b; 1:175a).
But that he appeals to Tertullian, Cyprian, Origen and Augustine, my reply is, first, If these writers can support their teaching with the Word and command of God, we will admit that they are right. If not, then it is a doctrine of men and accursed according to the Scriptures. Gal. 1:8. (271b; II:49a)
We tell you the truth and lie not. If any one under the canopy of heaven can show us from Scripture that Jesus Christ, the Son of the Almighty God, the eternal wisdom and truth, whom alone we acknowledge as the lawgiver and teacher of the New Testament, has commanded one word to that effect, or that His holy apostles have ever taught or practiced the like, there is no need of an attempt to compel us by tyranny and torture. Only show us God's Word and our matter is settled. For we seek nothing else (God who is omniscient knows) than in our weakness to walk in obedience according to the divine ordinances, word and will, for which we poor persecuted people are shamefully reviled, banished, robbed and slain in many countries. (16b; I:31a).
Our salvation is wholly grounded upon and comprised in Jesus Christ and His holy Word and never in men nor in any other doctrine (448a; II:247a).
Again, I have no visions or angelic revelations, neither do I seek or desire such, lest I be thereby deceived. For Christ's Word alone is sufficient for me. If I do not follow His testimony, then verily all is lost. And even if I had such revelations, which is not the case, they could not deviate from the Word and spirit of Christ, or else they would be only imagination, seduction and satanic deception. (448b; II:248a).
Inasmuch as I daily see these terrible dangers, and from the beginning many an unwise soul has been misled, and many are yet misled by false prophecies, smooth words, seeming holiness, lying wonders, boasting and false promises of the antichrists and false prophets who under the cloak of God's Word have ever sought their own honor and advantage, as was the case with the Romish popes, with John of Leyden at Münster and with others, - therefore I deem it needful and well sincerely to warn and admonish my beloved readers, not to accept my doctrine as the Gospel of Jesus Christ until they have investigated for themselves and found it to agree with the Spirit and Word of the Lord, that their faith may not be founded on me nor on any other teacher or writer, but solely on Jesus Christ. (449a; II:248b).
Nevertheless, every reader should know that however learned the before mentioned scholars and however unlearned I may be the opinions of us all are of equal avail before God; for in divine things nothing that is pleasing to God can be instituted or practiced by us without the command of the Holy Scriptures, may we be ever so learned. For in the Holy Scriptures we are not pointed to these or other scholars, but to Jesus Christ alone. Whenever, therefore, such highly renowned men by their subtle sophistry and artful philosophy would take from us, or change, the plain, express ordinances of Jesus Christ and His apostles. we must, surely consider their doctrine in that respect as doctrine of man and false teaching (404b; II:199b).
3. The Trinity of God
We believe and confess with the Holy Scriptures that there is an only, eternal God who created heaven and earth, the sea and all that therein is; a God whom heaven and the heaven of heavens can not comprehend; whose throne is heaven, and the earth is His footstool; who "hath measured the waters with the hollow of his hand, and meeted out the heavens with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance;" "who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen or can see;" who is an almighty, powerful Ruler in the heavens above and in the earth beneath; whose strength, hand and power none can withstand; a God of gods and a Lord of lords, who is above all, mighty, holy, terrible, praiseworthy and wonderful; a consuming fire; whose kingdom, power, dominion, majesty and glory is eternal, and shall endure forever. And besides this only, eternal, living, almighty, overruling God and Lord we know no other. And since He is a Spirit so great and awe-inspiring, and invisible. He is also inexpressible, incomprehensible, indescribable, as may be deduced and understood from the following Scriptures: Deut. 4:35; 6:4; John 4:24; 1:18; Gen. 1:1; Psa. 33:6; Col. 1:16; Isa. 43:11; 44:6; 48:13; 40:12; Job 11:8; I Tim. 6:16; Eccl. 1:7; Matt. 11:27; Rev. 17:14; 19:16; Heb. 12:29; 1:8, 10.
This only, eternal, omnipotent, ineffable, invisible, inexpressible and indescribable God we believe and confess with the Scriptures to be the eternal, incomprehensible Father, with His eternal, incomprehensible Son, and with His eternal, incomprehensible Holy Spirit. The Father we confess to be truly Father: the Son truly Son and the Holy Spirit truly Holy Spirit, not carnal and comprehensible but spiritual and incomprehensible, for Christ says: "God is a Spirit." (387a; II:183).
John says: "There are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word and the Holy Ghost, and these three are one." Read also Matt. 28:19; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:8; John 14:16; 15:26; I Cor. 12:11. And although they are three, yet in divinity, will, power and working they are one and can no more be separated from each other, than the sun, brightness and warmth, for the one is not without the other. - (390; II:187).
My brethren, understand all this in a divine and spiritual sense, and not in a human or carnal manner. Then you will indeed be satisfied with the plain, deep and simple testimony of the prophets, evangelists and apostles concerning this unfathomable mystery.
Dearly beloved brethren and sisters in Christ Jesus, take notice. Since the eternal God is such a great and terrible God, since Jesus Christ was born of the Father, as said, and the attributes of God so richly abound in Him; also, as the prophets, evangelists and apostles so strongly declare, preach and teach that He is God, and as the Scriptures so abundantly teach and testify the same of the Holy Ghost, and confess that the eternal Father with His eternal Son and Holy Spirit in their divine nature, state, power, glory and sovereignty are ineffable, inexpressible and incomprehensible, as may be plainly understood from the cited Scriptures, for it is all Spirit and God and therefore beyond human comprehension and wisdom; therefore I earnestly pray, admonish and desire all my beloved brethren in Christ Jesus, not to accept and consent to any speculations, new teachings or expositions of any man, be it of whom it may, concerning this incomprehensible majesty of God (390b; II:188).
My dear brethren, I for myself confess that I would rather die than to believe and teach to my brethren a single word concerning the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, at variance with the express testimony of God's Word, as it is so clearly given through the mouth of the prophets, evangelists and apostles.
All who abide honestly and humbly by the Word of God, as testified through the prophets, the evangelists and the apostles, and accept and believe it although they can not fully comprehend it, avoiding all human subtlety, disputing, explaining, distorting and conjecture regarding these unfathomable depths, will by God's grace stand securely in all trials, and walk with a peaceful, cheerful, conscience before their God all the days of their life (391a; II:188b).
4. Christ; His Deity and Humanity
We teach and believe that Jesus Christ is God's first and only begotten Son, the incomprehensible, eternal Word, by whom all things are created, the first born of every creature. Col. 1:15; that He became a true man in Mary, the immaculate virgin, through the almighty, eternal Father's eternal Spirit and power, beyond the comprehension and knowledge of men; sent and given unto us out of pure mercy and grace, from the Father; the express image of the invisible God and the brightness of His glory, Heb. 1:3.
We teach and believe that this first and only begotten Son of God, Jesus Christ, is our only and eternal Messiah, prophet, teacher and high priest .... through whom we all who believe from our hearts, have the forgiveness of our sins, grace, favor, mercy, liberty, peace, life eternal, a reconciled Father, and free access to God in the Spirit, and all this through His merits, righteousness, intercession and blood, and not through our own works. Behold, this is the very summary of our belief concerning Christ, our Savior, the Son of God (79b; I:113).
All promises given the fathers, all expectations of the patriarchs, the whole figurative law and all prophecies of the prophets are fulfilled in and through Christ. - In short He is our only and eternal mediator, advocate, highpriest, propitiator and intercessor, our head and brother. And since we know all this by faith, therefore I say we also observe His word faithfully, hear His voice and implicitly follow His example and counsel, and depart from ungodliness. The heart is changed, the mind is renewed and with Moses we rely on the future promises as though they were placed before our eyes, and patiently wait for them with faithful Abraham till we with all the chosen shall in reality inherit them (82a; I:116).
We believe and confess that this same eternal, wise, almighty, holy, true, living and incomprehensible Word, Christ Jesus who in the beginning was with God and was God - in the fullness of time, according to the unchangeable purpose and promise of the Father, became a true, visible, suffering, hungry, thirsty, mortal man, in Mary, the pure virgin, and was born of her, through the working and overshadowing of the Holy Ghost; yea that He was like unto us in all things except sin; that He grew up as other men and at the appointed time was baptized and entered upon His ministry, and obediently fulfilled the office of grace and perfect love which was enjoined upon Him by the Father. He effaced and fulfilled the hand writing against us, that is the law, and at last in this His human flesh, nature and weakness, in which also He has sighed, wept and prayed unto the Father, has through the eternal Spirit of His heavenly Father offered Himself, has sweated water and blood and purified our consciences of dead works, that we should serve the true and living God; and all who believe in Him have through Him received grace, mercy, remission of sins, and eternal life, by means of His precious blood which He, in His great love, according to the good pleasure of the Father has offered and shed for us poor sinners on the cross, and has thus become our only and eternal high priest, reconciler, mercy-seat, mediator and advocate with God. His Father. For, as God, the almighty Father, through His almighty Word, Christ Jesus, has created Adam and Eve. so He would also through Him, after they had been seduced by the serpent, restore them together with all their descendants, and save them - that we might give no one, neither in heaven nor upon earth, the praise for our salvation, but only the eternal Father through Jesus Christ, by the illumination of the Holy Ghost. This may suffice on the Incarnation. Matt. 1:16, 25; 5:4; Mark 1 5:37; Luke 2:7; 22:67; 23:46; John 1 5:9, 10; 11:26; Phil. 2:5,7; Col. 2:14,12; 1:13,16; Heb. 3:2; Eph. 2:12; 1:7; Rom. 8:32; 3:24,25; 5:11.12; Isa. 53:13; I Pet. 1:19; Rev. 1:8; II Cor. 5:14.
Further, beloved brethren, we believe and confess Jesus Christ to be truly God with His Father; and this because of the divine glory, works and attributes, which are found in such abundance with Him (388; 11:183).
Behold, beloved brethren, as the throne of Christ is an eternal throne (Heb 1:10) and the Scriptures confess Him to be God, and also testify that He founded heaven and earth, that He has all power in heaven and on earth, that He is the first and the last, that He searcheth the hearts and reins; whom we should serve and worship, who forgives sin and bestows eternal life, in whom we must believe and who at the last day will raise us from the dead and judge us, as He has said, so it is incontrovertible that Jesus Christ must be truly God with His Father; for God gives His glory to none other; and these are all glories, powers and attributes which belong to no one in heaven nor upon earth, except alone the only, eternal, and true God; this all who are taught of God must fully admit and confess (389; II:185).
And the incomprehensible, inexpressible, spiritual, eternal divine Being which is divinely and incomprehensibly begotten of the Father, before every creature, we believe and confess to be Jesus Christ, the first and only begotten Son of God, "the first born of every creature," the eternal wisdom, the power of God, the eternal light, truth and life, the eternal Word. - He is the eternal, wise, almighty, holy, true, living and incomprehensible Word, who in the beginning was with God and was God, by whom all things were made and without whom was not anything made that was made and who will remain forever. And therefore He says, "Before Abraham was I am." And again John the Baptists says, "After me cometh one that was before me." Yea He had this divine glory with the Father before the foundation of the world was laid. He thought it not robbery to be equal with God, His Father. Therefore we confess with John the Baptist, Nathaniel, Martha, and Peter that He is the Son of the living God.
Beloved brethren, understand me rightly, I say eternal wisdom, eternal power. For, as we believe and confess that the Father was from eternity and will eternally remain, yea that He is the First and the Last, so we also freely believe and confess that His wisdom, His power, His light, His truth, His life, His Word, Christ Jesus, has from eternity been with Him and in Him, yea that He is the Alpha and Omega, or else we should have to confess that this begotten, incomprehensible truly divine Being, Christ Jesus, whom the church fathers called a person, through whom the eternal Father has made all things, has had a beginning like a creature; an opinion which all true Christians look upon as a terrible curse, blasphemy, and abomination (387; II:184).
I have taught Jesus Christ and Him crucified, very God and very man, who before all time in an incomprehensible, inexpressible and indescribable manner was born of Thee - Thy eternal Word and wisdom, the brightness of Thy glory and the express image of Thy person, and that in the fullness of time, through the power of Thy Holy Spirit, He became, in Mary, the unspotted virgin, very flesh and blood, a visible, tangible and mortal man, like unto Adam and all his posterity in all things, but without sin; born of the lineage or seed of Abraham and David, died, buried, rose again, ascended into heaven, and thus became before Thee our only and eternal advocate, mediator, intercessor and redeemer (174b; I:225).
The prophets confessed Christ to be their mighty God and everlasting Father (Isa. 9:6), their Jehovah who should be their and our righteousness (Jer. 23:6; 33:16); that His going forth was from everlasting. - Also, all the holy apostles (Matt. 14:33), the angel of God (Luke 1:28), the Father (Matt. 3:17; 3:17; Mark 1:11; 9:7; Luke 3:22; 9:35) and Christ Himself (John 9:35), John the Baptist (John 1:34; 3:28), Nathaniel (John 1:49), and Martha (John 11:27) confessed Him to be the true Son of the true and living God (571a; 11:378).
As He is the only and true Son of God, having no other origin but of God, He must also have the nature of the One of whom He is: this is too plain to be controverted. That He had the divine nature He has proven by these manifest apparent attributes of the true divine nature, as by His perfect righteousness, truth, holiness, love and His wonderful works of power. As He had the divine nature, I say, on account of His divine origin, He also had the unblemished, pure human nature (like unto the nature of Adam before the fall) and that by reason of His evident true humanity. For as truly as He was the Father's almighty Word from eternity, so truly also He, in the fullness of time became a true, mortal man (John 1:14; I John 1:1).
That He had the true human nature, as well as the divine, He has shown by the apparent evidence of the real human nature, as by hungering, thirsting, being weary, sighing, weariness, suffering and death (589b; II:392).
Christ has fully portrayed Himself in His Word, namely as far as He desires that we should comprehend, know and follow Him and become like Him, not as concerns His divine nature according to which He is the true image of the invisible God, "the brightness of his glory and the express image of his person," Heb. 1:3, "dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto, whom no man hath seen or can see," I Tim. 6:16, but in His life and conversation here upon earth among men. He has given us an example and pattern, by word and deed, which we should follow and to which we should conform (180b; I:233a).
Besides, beloved brethren, we believe and confess Christ Jesus with His heavenly Father to be truly God; and that because of the plain testimony of the holy prophets, evangelists and apostles (389a; II:186a).
Behold, faithful brethren, here you have the incomprehensible birth of Christ, His divine glory, working and power, and numerous precious and plain testimonies of the holy prophets, evangelists and apostles, all of whom with invincible power and clearness testify and point out the true, incomprehensible divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ (389b; II:186b).
Indeed, Christ Himself had to suffer death because He confessed Himself to be the Son of God (545; II:352).
5. His Office
To such then [who are convicted of their sinful life] Christ who is a comforter of all contrite hearts says. Believe the Gospel, that is, Fear not, be of good cheer; I will not punish nor chastise, but heal, comfort and give life, Isa. 41:10; a bruised reed will I not break and the smoking flax [German translation: the faintly burning wick] will I not quench. Matt. 12:20. I will help that which is broken, will heal that which is sick, I will tie up that which is wounded and seek that which is lost, Ezek. 34:16. For I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. Matt. 9:13; Mark 2:17; Luke 5:32. I am come into the world according to the pleasure of my Father, and through the power of the Holy Ghost have become a visible, tangible, mortal man, in all things like unto you, yet without sin, Heb. 4:15.
I am the Son of the almighty God, Luke 1:32, anointed with the Holy Ghost to preach the Gospel to the poor, and to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, to give sight to the blind, to open the prison to them that are bound, and to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, Isa. 61:1; Luke 4:18. Believe the gospel. I am the Lamb that was offered for you. I take away the sins of the world. My Father has made me unto you wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, I Cor. 1:30. Whosoever believeth on me shall not be ashamed, yea all that believe that I am He, have eternal life. John 3:16. (9b; I:21a)
Christ has taught us the true way, fulfilled the law for us, reconciled us to the Father and redeemed us by His precious blood and bitter death; has conquered hell, the devil, sin and death and obtained for us grace, favor, mercy, and eternal life. And therefore the sorrowful, contrite hearts which saw before them, through the terrible threatening law, nothing but the wrath of God, are again revived; they take courage, become peaceful and joyous in the Holy Ghost. (83a; I:117b).
6. The Incarnation
Faithful reader, observe; just as I do not comprehend the almighty, only and eternal God in His divine nature, in the dominion of His glory, in the creation and preservation of His creatures, in the recompensation of both the good and the evil, and in many of His works, yet I do truly believe in Him as such, and for this reason: because the Scripture teaches it, so likewise I can not comprehend how, or in what manner the incomprehensible, eternal Word became flesh, or man, in Mary. Nevertheless. I do truly believe that He became man because the Scripture teaches it (369; II:160b).
Inasmuch as we clearly find and know that the Holy Ghost has not revealed this mystery [of the Incarnation] in the Scriptures that He has not revealed it unto us in any manner, neither by any prophet. nor apostle, nor by the Son Himself, and inasmuch as it is manifest that it can not be fathomed by reason . . . and besides we learn from history and find in our own time that many sharp eyes have been blinded by this impenetrable brightness, therefore I warn all pious hearts that would walk with a clear conscience before their God, not to speculate about this ineffable and indescribable majesty of the incomprehensible, eternal Godhead, and not to conclude, assert, teach or maintain above that which the Holy Spirit has revealed and taught us in His holy word (563b; II:369).
And therefore I say that I do not at all undertake to reason out this incomprehensible point, but will follow the word of my Lord which is quite clear in this instance (595a; II:398a).
7. The Holy Ghost
As we have now pointed out and confessed our faith and doctrine of the true divinity of Christ, we will also now, by the grace of God, set forth in few words our faith and confession of the Holy Ghost. Let the God-fearing judge. We believe and confess the Holy Ghost to be a true, real, or personal Holy Ghost, and this in a divine sense - even as the Father is truly Father and the Son truly Son; which Holy Ghost is [in His nature] incomprehensible, inexpressible and indescribable, as we have also testified of the Father and the Son. He is divine in His attributes, proceeding from the Father through the Son, although He ever remains with God and in God and is never separated in His nature from the Father and the Son. And the reason why we confess Him to be such a true and personal Holy Spirit is, because we are impelled to it by the Scriptures (389b; II:186b).
He guides us into all truth; He justifies us; He cleanses, sanctifies, pacifies, consoles, reproves, cheers and assures us; He testifies to our spirit that we are the children of God. - Yea, my brethren, from these plain Scriptures, testimonies and references and a g[r]eat many other texts which are too lengthy to quote, and which may be found in the Scriptures and read, we believe the Holy Ghost to be the true Spirit of God who adorns us with His heavenly and divine gifts, frees us from sin, makes us cheerful, peaceful, pious, satisfies our hearts and minds and makes us holy in Christ Jesus. (390a; II:187a).
As Adam and Eve, then, were bitten and poisoned by the infernal serpent and became of sinful nature, and would have been subject to eternal death if God had not again accepted them in grace through Christ Jesus, so also all we who are born of them, are by birth of a sinful nature. - We can not be delivered therefrom (we speak of those who have come to years of understanding and have committed sin), unless we accept Christ Jesus, the only and eternal means of grace, by true and unfeigned faith, and thus look upon the brazen serpent which is lifted up by God, our heave[n]ly Father, as a sign of salvation for us poisoned sinners (Num. 21:9; John 3:14; 8:28) (461b; II:261b).
Wherever these two, namely original sin - the mother - and actual sins - the fruits - are in evidence and in power, there is no forgiveness nor promise of life, but there abide wrath and death, unless they are repented of, as the Scriptures teach. If this inherent sin is to lose its strength in us and actual sin be forgiven, we must believe the word of the Lord, be born again by faith, and in the strength of this new birth, through true repentance, resist the inherent sin, die unto actual sin and be spiritually minded (508a; II:313a).
I did not know my condition as long as it was not pointed out to me by Thy Spirit. I thought I was a Christian, but when I proved myself rightly, I realized that I was quite earthly, carnal and without Thy Word. - O, dear Lord, I knew myself not till I viewed myself in Thy Word; then I learned to know with Paul my blindness, nakedness, uncleanness, depraved nature, and that nothing good dwelt in my flesh. (167b; I:217b).
And although such wilful blasphemy and sin had no offering in Israel (Num. 15) and the sin against the Holy Ghost has no forgiveness, as Christ says, yet I would pray and advise all the God-fearing, as far as I am able, that if any should after his confession and baptism again fall into open works of the flesh, vice and deadly blasphemy and persist in the same, they should consider the matter in all wisdom and not pass an unseasonable and undue sentence; for the Lord to whom nothing is concealed knows what sin was committed; whether he has sinned against the Holy Ghost or not; but let them admonish such according to the word of the Lord. If he be converted, if he show true fruits of repentance according to the Scriptures, if he again give evidence of a broken, contrite and penitent heart, of a peaceful, joyous and upright mind, then it is manifest that he did not commit the sin against the Holy Ghost. But if he remain unrepentant, continue in his perverseness, and wantonly despise Christ and His Word to the end, then his works show clearly what sin he has committed, and that his end and reward will be death. Behold, kind reader, thus we believe that all sins, both inward and outward, have their reconciliation in the merits and the power of the Wood of the Lord, if truly repented of, according to the Scriptures (509a; II:314a).
9. The Law
Wherever the law is preached rightly and the hearer takes it to heart by faith, it manifests its nature and power. There we find a contrite mind, a repenting, humble heart, a conscience which trembles before the word of God, and the true fear of God which quenches, subdues and drives out sin, as Sirach says. For this is the real work and object of the law: To reveal unto us the will of God, indicate our sin, threaten us with the Lord's wrath and punishment, to announce death and to point us to Christ, that we may be truly humbled in heart before God's countenance, die unto sin and seek and find the only and eternal medicine and remedy for our souls. Jesus Christ (285a; II:65a).
10. The Atonement
Therefore the incomprehensible, eternal Word through whom Adam and Eve were created, by whom all things are and must forever remain, the almighty power and wisdom of God, must become man that He might bruise the head of the deceiving serpent, for the salvation of the condemned Adam and all his descendants; that he might overcome in temptation, fulfill the holy and unchangeable will of the Father; that the dominion and power of the devil might be destroyed, and that He might by His willing obedience and spotless offering pay the great debt of Adam and put away deserved death by His undeserved death (373a; II:165a).
I think this may well be called a joyous Gospel and glad tidings to all convicted and troubled souls who, through the law, have been brought to a knowledge of their sin and know that they are in danger of eternal death, who tremble before the righteous judgment and wrath of God - that the almighty, eternal God and Father has so loved us poor, perishing sinners who were so far estranged from Him and according to His righteous judgment had deserved eternal death, that He sent into this world His almighty, eternal Word, His only, eternal and beloved Son, the brightness of His glory, as a poor mortal man, like unto Adam before the fall, as a proof and means of His grace; and that He through His perfect righteousness, willing obedience and innocent death, has brought us from the kingdom and dominion of Satan into the kingdom of His divine grace and eternal peace (374b; II:167a).
There will in eternity be found no other remedy for our sins, neither in heaven nor upon earth, neither works, merits nor ordinances (even though they are observed according to the Scriptures), neither persecution nor tribulation, neither the innocent blood of the saints, nor angels, nor men, nor any other means, but alone the immaculate blood of the Lamb which out of pure grace, mercy and love was shed once for all for the remission of our sins (113b; I:155b).
They all seek some remedy for their sins, but the only true remedy, Christ, they do not recognize; they have therefore contrived so many remedies that we can neither describe nor relate them all, such as the Romish indulgences, holy water, fastings, confessions, masses, pilgrimages, infant baptism, bread and wine, etc. (32a; I:51a).
My dear reader, the truth we testify to you in Christ; you may believe, do, hope and seek where and what you choose, we are assured that you will in eternity find no other remedy for your sins which will avail before God, than the one we have pointed out to you, which is Jesus Christ, else all Scripture must be erroneous and false (32b; I:51b).
All those, therefore, that seek other remedies for their sins, however great and holy they may appear, than the remedy provided by God alone, deny the Lord's death, which He suffered for us, and His innocent blood which He shed for us. (33a; I:52a).
For how could God show and express His love to us more perfectly than that He sent His eternal wisdom and truth, His pure, powerful Word, His blessed Son by whom He created all things, who was like unto Him, and His image, and made Him lower than the angels, a poor, despised, suffering, mortal man and servant who alone had to bear the labor, transgression, curse and death of the whole world. Yea, He so humbled Himself that He became the most despised of men. (I Pet 2:24; Isa. 53:6). - Say, beloved, who ever heard of greater love? (527a; I:332a).
Behold, dear reader, such repentance we teach, namely to die to the old sinful life and to live no longer according to the lusts of the flesh, but do as David did. When he was reproved by the prophet for his sin, he wept bitterly, cried to God, forsook evil and committed such sinful abominations no more. Peter sinned very grievously once and no more. Matthew, after his call, did not return into his old life. Zaccheus and the sinful woman did not again become guilty of the impure works of darkness. Zaccheus made restitution to those whom he had overcharged and defrauded and gave half of his goods to the poor and distressed. The woman wept very bitterly and washed the feet of the Lord with her tears; she anointed them with precious ointment and sat humbly at His feet to listen to His blessed words. These are the true fruits of that repentance which is acceptable to the Lord (7a; I:18a)
Such repentance we teach, and no other, namely that no one may rightfully glory in God''s grace, forgiveness of his sin and the merits of Christ, unless the fruits of true repentance are found in his life. It Is not enough that we say, We are Abraham's children, that is that we bear the Christian name, but we must have the works of Abraham (John 8:39). We must walk as all true children of God are bidden and commanded in the Word of the Lord; as John says: "If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and the truth is not in us. But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin" (I John 1:6,7). (7b; I:18b)
But if you would rightly confess and repent, and receive true absolution of God, approach Him with a believing, penitent, contrite heart, with a sorrowing, distressed mind, forsake sin, do justly and right to your neighbor, love, help, serve, reprove and comfort him, as you ought. And if you have sinned against him or in any way taken unfair advantage of him, confess it to him and satisfy him. Behold this is the only true Auricular Confession and penance taught in the Word of God (107b; I:148a).
True faith which avails before God, is a living and saving power which is, through the preaching of the holy Word, bestowed of God on the heart; moving, changing and regenerating it to newness of mind. It destroys all ungodliness, all pride, unholy ambition and selfishness, makes us children in malice, etc. Behold, such is the faith which the Scriptures teach us, and not a vain, dead, and unfruitful illusion, as the world dreams (280a; II:59a).
Yes, dear reader, true Christian faith as it is required in Scripture, is so living, active and strong in all those who through the grace of the Lord have rightly obtained it, that they do not hesitate to forsake father, mother, wife, children, money and possessions for the Word and testimony of the Lord; to suffer all manner of scorn, disgrace, hardship and prison, and finally to have their weak bodies burned at the stake, as may be frequently seen in many pious children of God and faithful witnesses for Christ especially in these our Netherlands (115b; I:158a).
Since then faith so fully realizes that God can not break His promise, but must keep it, because He is the truth and can not lie, as was said, therefore faith makes the believers frank-hearted, joyous and cheerful in the Spirit, though they be confined in prisons and bonds, or suffer death by water, fire or the sword. For they are assured in the spirit through faith that God can not break His promise toward them, but will fulfill it in due time. They believe in Christ in whom the promise has been sealed, they recognize through Him also His grace, word and will, notwithstanding that in former times they lived so ungodly and walked according to the flesh (116b; I:159a).
But you should know and understand that the righteousness which avails and ever will avail before God, consists not in ceremonies and works, but in a true, fruitful faith and nothing else. For the faith which is born of the word of God can not be without fruits, except in those who grieve the Holy Ghost, as said above. True faith ever exercises itself in works of righteousness, it willingly shows all obedience and with cheerfulness and zeal submits not only to the ordinance of baptism, but to all words and works which God, our gracious Father, through His beloved Son has so clearly taught and ordained in the holy Gospel (420a; II:217a).
All who can believe this from their hearts as certain and true, are sealed through the word of God in their heart and spirit, are changed in the inner man, receive the fear and love of God, and out of their faith bring forth righteousness, fruit, power, an unblameable life and a new being, as Paul says, "With the heart man believeth unto righteousness." Through faith, says Peter, God purifies our hearts. And thus the fruits of righteousness follow invariably out of an upright, unfeigned, true Christian faith. Observe this well. (80a; I:114b).
Not, dear reader, that we believe that faith merits this on account of its own worth; by no means; but the pleasure of God has attached His promise to true, genuine faith through the Word. Faith saves, not through its own worth or merit, but through the promise which is attached to it. (116a; I:159a).
This, I say, is our fundamental doctrine and by the grace of God will ever so remain; for we truly know and confess that it is the invincible word and truth of the Lord. Therefore we testify before you and before all the world that we do not agree with those who teach and introduce a historical, dead faith without a change of heart, Spirit, power and fruit. Secondly we also disown the teaching of those who would be saved by their own works; and this for reasons that have been stated (464a; II:264b).
Behold, beloved sirs, friends and brethren, all who believe the Gospel are those of whom the Scriptures say: "To them he gave power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name; which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of flesh nor of the will of man, but of God, John 1:12, 13. They are those who by faith are justified and have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God, Rom. 5:1,2. This all is of grace and love, as Paul teaches and says. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God, being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood. Rom. 3:23-25. There is none that of himself can rejoice in his faith; it is the gift of God, Eph. 2:8.
All who receive it from God, receive a tree full of all manner of good and precious fruit. Blessed are they who receive this gift of God, for it surpasses all gold, silver and precious stone; there is nothing that may be compared with it. He who receives it, receives Christ Jesus, forgiveness of sins, a new mind and life eternal. For the true faith which is acceptable to God can not be idle; it must bring forth its fruits and prove its kind; it works continuously in love, walks willingly in righteousness, mortifies the flesh, crucifies lusts and desires, rejoices in the cross of Christ, renews and regenerates, quickens, makes free, gives liberty and peace in Christ Jesus. Behold, such a faith, we say, is God's gift by which the righteous liveth, as the Scripture saith, as did Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Rahab, and all the saints. Every good tree bringeth forth good fruit after its kind, Matt. 7:17; every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit, however many leaves it may have, must be accursed and consumed by fire. Matt. 3:10. So also an unfruitful, powerless faith, such as the whole world has, which does not work by love, be it ever so learned, wise, eloquent, and miracle working, is in the sight of God unclean, dead and accursed.
Therefore, we exhort you, with Christ Jesus, "Believe the gospel," that is, believe the joyful news, the message of divine grace through Jesus Christ. Cease from sinning, manifest repentance for your past lives, submit to the word and will of the Lord, and you will become fellow citizens, children and heirs of the new, heavenly Jerusalem, freed of all your enemies, hell, death, sin and the devil, if you but walk after the Spirit and not after the flesh. He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life (9b; I:21b).
If you accept and believe these words of Christ with the whole heart, that the almighty, eternal Father has so loved you and the whole human family, that He sent His incomprehensible, eternal Word, Wisdom, Truth and Son, by whom He created the heavens, earth, the sea and the fullness thereof. His eternal glory, into this vale of tears, that He let Him become a poor, suffering man, that He let Him for the sake of the sins of us all endure hunger and thirst, be slandered, apprehended, crowned with thorns, scourged, crucified and killed, it can not fail that your old carnal mind must become a regenerated spiritual mind, your thoughts chaste and pure, your words discreet and well seasoned and your whole life pious and unblamable (114b; I:157a).
Observe here that true Christian faith through grace is the only fountain whence flows not only the contrite new life but also obedience as concerns the evangelical ceremonies, such as baptism and the Lord's supper, not as compelled by law, for the rod of the oppressor is broken, but through the voluntary, submissive spirit of love which by virtue of its Christ-like nature is willing and ready for every good work in obedience to the holy divine word (115a; I:158a).
13. Justification by Faith
In the third place, we teach with Christ and say, "Believe the gospel" (Mark 1:15). This Gospel is the joyful tidings of God's favor and grace toward us, and of the forgiveness of our sins through Jesus Christ. This message faith accepts through the Holy Ghost; the believer does not behold his former righteousness or unrighteousness, but, like Abraham, "against hope believes in hope" (Rom. 4:18) with the whole heart depends entirely upon the grace, word and promise of the Lord, since he well knows that God is true and His promises can not fail. Thereby the heart is renewed, converted, made spiritually minded, peaceful and joyous, a child of God is born. The believer approaches with full confidence the throne of grace (Heb. 4:16) and becomes a joint heir with Christ and of eternal life. (9a; I:20a).
Behold, kind reader, we do not seek our salvation in works, words or sacraments, as do the theologians, although they ascribe this to us, but we seek it alone in Jesus Christ, and through no other means in heaven or earth. In this only means we comfort ourselves and in no other. We hope by the grace of God to abide in it unto death.
But that we avoid sinful works and desire to conform ourselves in our weakness to His word and commandment, this we do because He has thus taught and commanded us. For whosoever does not walk according to His doctrine, testifies by his deeds that he does not believe in Him nor know Him, and that he is not in the communion of the saints. (John 15:7; I John 3:10; 5:10; II John 6).
All those, now, who with believing hearts accept and receive this means of divine grace, Christ Jesus, and believe and confess that through His sacrifice, death and blood their sins are forgiven, that His wrath will nevermore be upon them, that they will not be lost, that He accepts them as His beloved sons and daughters and gives them eternal life; all such are of a peaceable and joyous spirit and give thanks to God with renewed hearts; for the power of the Spirit quickens and changes them into newness of life, and they walk thus by the gift and grace of the Holy Spirit in the power of the new birth, according to the measure of their faith, in obedience to their God who has shown them so great love (462a; II:262a).
Those who trust in their works or ceremonies for salvation deny thereby the grace and merits of Christ. For if our reconciliation consisted in works and ceremonies, grace would come to naught and the merits and virtue of the blood of Christ would all be void. O no! it is grace and will be grace in all eternity, all that the merciful Father through His dear Son and Holy Spirit has done for us grievous sinners (115b; I:158a).
He [Gellius Faber], I presume, well knows that we emphatically teach that by no outward works, however great and good they may appear, we could be saved or entirely please God, for they all are in every instance mixed with imperfection and weakness, and through them, on account of the corruption of the flesh, we can not acquire the righteousness required in the commandments. We point therefore alone to Jesus Christ who is our only and eternal righteousness, reconciliation and propitiation with the Father, and know of no trust in our own works. My reader, I write the truth in Christ and lie not (246a; II:25a).
If God should judge us according to our own worthiness, righteousness, works and merits, and not according to His great goodness and mercy, then I confess with holy David, that no man could stand before His judgment (Psa. 143:2; 130:3). Therefore it is far from us that we trust in or console ourselves with anything but the grace of God though Christ Jesus; for it is He and none other who has perfectly fulfilled and satisfied the righteousness required by God. We are also aware, by the grace of God, that all saints, from the beginning, have lamented the proneness to sin, of their flesh, as e. g. 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 weaknesses which are committed involuntarily, are remitted. For it is He who stands between His Father and His imperfect children with His perfect righteousness, and with His innocent blood and death, and intercedes for all those who believe on Him and who by faith are guided through the divine word, turn from evil, follow that which is good, and who sincerely desire with Paul that they may attain the perfection which is in Christ.
Mark, beloved reader, we do not believe nor teach that salvation is of our merits and works, as our opponents accuse us without any truth, but solely by grace, through Christ Jesus, as has been said (463a; II:263a).
Do you think, beloved, that the new birth is nothing else but that which the poor world hitherto has thought it to consist in, namely immersion in the water or the saying of the words, "I baptize thee in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost?" No, dear brethren, no. The new birth consists verily not in water nor in words, but it is the heavenly, quickening power of God in our hearts which comes from God and through the preaching of the divine word, if we accept the same by faith, touches, pierces, renews and changes our hearts, so that we are converted from unbelief to faith, from unrighteousness to righteousness, from evil to good, from carnality to spirituality, from the earthly to the heavenly, from the evil nature of Adam to the good nature of Jesus Christ (419a; II:215a).
God does not seek words nor appearance but power and deed. Do you think it sufficient if you know Christ only according to the flesh? Or if you but say that you believe on Him, that you are baptized and are Christians, and that you are purchased by the blood and death of Christ? Ah no! I have told you often and tell you again, you must be born of God and your life changed and converted in such a manner that you are new men in Christ, that Christ be in you and you in Christ, or you can never be Christians, for, If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature" (127b; I:172b).
Here I would call on all the high and mighty lords, princes, and rulers under all the canopy of heaven, also on all the popes, cardinals, bishops, all the learned and scholars who from the beginning have broken and obscured the Scriptures, to show us one single word in the whole Bible (I say in the Bible, for human fables and lies we do not regard) that an unbelieving, refractory, carnal man, without true repentance and regeneration, ever was or ever will be saved, simply because he boasts of faith and the death of Christ, or attends the mass and services of the priests, as the whole world does. If so, they would have gained the point. But from the beginning this never has been, nor will be to the end of time. For if such impious men without repentance and regeneration could be saved by hearing masses and confessing, as they, poor people, without the warrant of Scripture hope, then it might of a truth be said that the aforementioned means (though they are idolatrous) were stronger than the word of the Lord. For the Word knows no mass, but says, "Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish." Then would also Moses and the prophets, Christ and His apostles, have been false [witnesses]; they would have miserably deceived us poor people by directing us upon so narrow a path (126b; I:171b).
All who accept by faith this grace in Christ which is preached through the Gospel, and adhere to it from their hearts, are born anew of God, through the power of the Holy Ghost. Their heart and mind is changed and renewed; yea, they are transferred from Adam into Christ. They walk in newness of life, as willing and obedient children, in the grace that is extended to them. They are renewed, I say, have become poor in spirit, meek, merciful, compassionate, peaceable, patient, hungry and thirsty after righteousness, ready to suffer for the truth; they strive steadfastly by good works after eternal life; for they are believing, they are born of God, they are in Christ and Christ is in them; they partake of His Spirit and nature and thus live by the power of Christ which is in them, according to the Word of the Lord. This is what it means, according to the Scriptures, to believe, to be Christians, to be in Christ and Christ in us.
My dear reader, here take notice how vastly this sinful woman differs after conversion in her faith and conduct, from the faith and conduct of the world. They are like the sinful woman before her conversion, but not after conversion. Whether such are believers, I will let the intelligent reader to reflect upon with the Spirit and word of the Lord.
I know of a certainty that a proud, haughty, man whoever he may be, is no Christian, neither is an avaricious, selfish man, or a drunken, intemperate man, or an unchaste, lustful man, or a wrangling, envious man, or a disobedient, idolatrous man, or a false, lying man, or an unfaithful, thievish man, or a defaming, backbiting man, or a bloodthirsty, unmerciful, revengeful man a Christian, even if he were baptized a hundred times and kept the Lord's supper daily; for it is not the ordinances or rites, such as baptism and the Supper, but a true Christian faith with its unblamable good fruits, of which the ordinances testify, that makes a true Christian and has the promise of life.
Here neither masses, holy water, holy days, rosaries, auricular confession or absolution avail, but only a believing, contrite, broken heart, spirit and mind, a penitent, regenerated, new heart, a pious, fully surrendered life (107a; I:147b).
To teach and believe that regeneration is obtained through baptism, my brethren, is terrible idolatry and blasphemy against the blood of Christ. For there is neither in heaven nor on earth any other remedy for our sins, be they evil propensities or transgressions, than the blood of Christ alone, as we have often shown in our first writings (I Pet. 1:19; I John 1:7; Col. 1:20). If then we ascribe remission of sin to baptism and not to the blood of Christ, we make of baptism a golden calf and place it in Christ's stead. For if we could be washed or cleansed by baptism, then Christ and His merits would be displaced, except we confess that there are two means for the remission of our sins, namely baptism and the blood of Christ. But this is not the case, nor will be in eternity, for the immaculate, most precious blood of our Lord Jesus Christ shall and must have the glory, as all prophets and apostles have so clearly prophesied and testified throughout the Scriptures (406a; II:200b).
My dear reader, I warn you with a faithful heart to take heed. He can not save you, nor pardon your sins, nor show you His mercy and grace, except according to His word; namely, if you repent, if you believe, if you are born of Him, if you do what He has commanded you and walk even as He walked. For if He could save sinful, carnal man without regeneration, faith and repentance. He would not have taught us the truth. He is the truth and there is no lie in Him. Therefore I tell you again that ye can not be reconciled with all your masses, matins, vespers, ceremonies, sacraments, councils, statutes and commandments which are under the whole heavens and which the popes and their followers have made from the beginning. For they are detestations and not reconciliations; of this I warn you. Christ says, "In vain do they honor me, for they teach the commandments of men." But, first and above all, if you would be saved, your earthly, carnal, ungodly life must be changed. For all the Scriptures, with all their admonitions, threatening, reproving, miracles, examples, ceremonies and ordinances teach us nothing but repentance and a new life. And if you do not repent, there is nothing in heaven or on earth that can help you. for without true repentance one is comforted in vain. We must be born from above, must be changed and renewed in our hearts and thus be transplanted from the unrighteous and evil nature of Adam into the righteous and good nature of Christ, or we can not be helped in eternity by any means, whether divine or human.
That regeneration of which we write, from which follows the contrite, pious life having the promise, comes alone from the Word of the Lord if it is rightly taught and is through the Holy Spirit rightly received into the heart through faith. (124b; I:169a).
15. The New Life
Behold, beloved reader, thus true faith or true knowledge begets love and love begets obedience to the commandment of God, as said above. - For true evangelical faith is of such nature that it can not be workless or idle; it ever manifests itself in all righteousness and works of love, it dies unto self, seeks and fears God and serves Him from the inmost soul, it clothes the destitute, feeds the hungry, consoles the comfortless, shelters the homeless, aids the oppressed, returns good for evil, serves those that injure, prays for those that persecute, teaches, admonishes, and reproves with the word of the Lord, seeks that which is lost, hinds up that which is wounded, heals that which is sick, and protects that which is sound. The persecution, suffering and anxiety which befalls it for the sake of the truth of the Lord is to it a glorious joy and consolation (446b; II:246a).
For this can never fail; where there is true Christian faith, there is also dying to sin, a new creature, true repentance, a sincere, regenerated, unblameable Christian. One does no longer live according to the lusts of sin but according to the will of Him who purchased us with His blood, drew us by His Spirit and regenerated us by His Word, namely Jesus Christ.
But where faith exists only in the mouth, and where righteousness, a new mind and a pious life do not follow, there is nothing but unbelief, hypocrisy and falsehood, no matter how much talking and disputing about the Scripture there may be. This rule will remain firm and can never be broken. "If ye live after the flesh ye shall die" (83b; I:118a).
I say again, he who believes and accepts this can never be prevented, by angel or devil, life or death, but he will and must love again from his inmost heart the merciful Father who has manifested so great grace and love toward us grievous sinners, yea praise, honor, thank, serve Him and be obedient to Him all the days of his life. For this is the greatest delight and joy of the believers, that they in their weakness may walk and live according to the will and word of the Lord. It can not be otherwise. but where the unfeigned pure love of God dwells, there must be the voluntary ready service of that love, namely the keeping of His commandments. (81a; I:115).
True evangelical faith looks upon and has respect unto the doctrine, ceremonies, commands, restrictions and unblameable example of Christ alone and strives to conform thereto with all its powers. For as it is the nature of fire to produce nothing but heat and flame, of the sun nothing but light and heat, the the water moisture, and a good tree good fruit after its natural properties, so also true evangelical faith brings forth true evangelical fruit, in accordance with its true, good, evangelical nature; Yea, even as a virtuous bride, through natural love, is ever ready to hear and obey the voice of her bridegroom, and from a sincere, good, loyal disposition, good-will and love which she has toward him, will ever so conduct herself before her most faithful friend and beloved husband whom she respects and loves with all her heart that for his sake she willingly endures whatever may befall her, even so it is with a true regenerated believer who has been joined to Christ by grace through faith. He has become one with Christ and grafted into Him through ardent, fervent love and is ever willing and ready to do His bidding and will whether it be difficult or easy. For His holy name's sake he is willing to endure all things that may befall him at any time, be it joy or tribulation, satiation or hunger, refreshing or thirst, honor or dishonor, good or evil report, imprisonment or liberty, to live in the land or be exiled, ease or discomfort, life or death (84a; I:118b).
The true believers show in act and deed that they believe, are born of God and spiritually minded. They lead a pious, unblameable life before all men, they are baptized according to the Lord's command, as a proof and testimony that their sins are taken away through Christ's death and that they 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 with His church and that they have or know no other means of grace and of remission of their sins, neither in heaven nor upon earth, than the innocent body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ alone, which He once through His eternal Spirit, in obedience to the Father, has offered up and shed upon the cross for us poor sinners. They walk in all love and mercy, they serve their neighbors, etc. In short, they order their lives, in their weakness, according 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 (weakness excepted), but in the new life of righteousness which is by 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 in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me" (Gal. 2:20). And Christ says, that those who love Him will keep His commandments. (John 14:15). (462b; II:262b)
If you believe truly in Christ as you boast, then show by your works that you believe; for "the just shall live by faith," as the Scriptures say. And that this is the truth has been fully testified and shown by the works of Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Caleb, Samuel, David, Matthew, Zaccheus, Magdalene, Paul and all the true children of God who were from the beginning and even to this day (127b; I:172b).
The regenerated put on Christ and manifest the nature and power of His Spirit in all their fruits. They fear God with all their heart and with all their thoughts, words and works, seek nothing but the glory of God and the salvation of their beloved brethren. Hatred and vengeance they know not, for they love those who hate them, do good to those who despitefully use them and pray for those who persecute them; they hate avarice, haughtiness, unchastity, pomp, wantonness, drunkenness, adultery, fornication, hatred, envy, backbiting, lying, defrauding, quarreling, blood shedding, false sanctity and idolatry, in short all impure, carnal works, and forsake the world with all its lusts. They meditate upon the law of the Lord by day and by night, rejoice over the good and are grieved over the evil. Evil they do not repay with evil, but with good. They seek not self nor their own good alone, but also the good of their neighbor, both as to body and soul. They feed the hungry and give drink to the thirsty, entertain the needy, visit the sick, comfort the fainthearted, admonish the erring and are ready after their Master's example to give their lives for their brethren.
Again their thoughts are pure and chaste, their words are true and seasoned with salt; with them yea is yea and nay nay, and their works are done in the fear of the Lord. Their hearts are heavenly and renewed, their minds peaceful and joyous; they seek righteousness with all their heart. In short, they have through the Spirit and word of God such assurance of their faith, that they will through such faith valiantly overcome all bloodthirsty, cruel tyrants with all their tortures, imprisonments, exiling, spoiling of their property, stocks, stakes, executioners, tormentors and henchmen; and out of a godly zeal, with an innocent, pure heart, with simple yea and nay they are willing to die. The glory of Christ, the sweetness of the Word and the salvation of their souls are dearer to them than all that is under heaven (125b; I:170a).
Besides we teach the true love and fear of God, the true love of our neighbor, to serve and aid all mankind and to injure none, to crucify the flesh and its desires and lusts, to prune the heart, mouth and the whole body with the knife of the divine word, of all unclean thoughts, unbecoming words and actions. Consider now whether this is not the will of God, the true doctrine of Jesus Christ, the rightful use of the ordinances, and the true life, which is of God, although all the gates of hell may wilfully oppose it (445a; II:244a).
In short, we teach and urge, as far as in us lies, from the Word of the Lord, to abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, I Pet. 2:11, to crucify the flesh with the affections and lusts. Gal. 5:24, not to be conformed to this world, Rom. 12:2, to cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light, Rom. 13:2, to love not the world, I John 2:15, put off the old man which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, Eph. 4:22, such as pride, avarice, unchastity, hatred, envyings, gluttony, drinking, idolatry; and put on the new man which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness, whose fruits are faith, love, hope, righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost, Eph. 4:24; Rom. 14:17, Gal. 5:16, longsuffering, charity, compassion, chastity, earnest hatred and rebuke of sin and a sincere, true love of and zeal for God and His word. I repeat it, such repentance is sincere, fruitful and acceptable to the Lord according to the teaching of His Word (7b; II:19a).
Zwingli taught that the will of God actuated a thief to steal and a murderer to kill, and that their punishment was also brought about by the will of God - which in my opinion is an abomination above all abominations. (311a; II:294b).
What shall I say, dear Lord? Shall I say that thou hast ordained the wicked to wickedness, as some have said? Be that far from me. I know, O Lord, that thou art good and nothing evil can be found in thee. We are the works of thy hand, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, that we should walk therein. Life and death hast thou left to our choice. Thou wiliest not the death of the sinner, but that he should repent and live. Thou art the eternal light, therefore hatest thou all darkness; thou desirest not that any should perish, but that all repent, come to a knowledge of thy truth and be saved. O dear Lord, so grievously have they blasphemed thine unspeakably great love, thy mercy and majesty that they have made thee, the God of all grace and creator of all things, a very devil, saying that thou art the cause of all evil - thou who art called the Father of lights. Of a surety evil can not come from good, nor light from darkness, nor life from death; yet do they ascribe their stubborn hearts and carnal minds to thy will, in order that they may continue upon the broad way and have a cover for their sins. (171a; I:221b).
17. The Church
The true messengers [of the Gospel] who are one with Christ in Spirit, love and life, teach that which is entrusted to them by Christ, namely repentance and the peaceable Gospel of grace which He Himself has received of the Father and taught the world. All who hear, believe, accept and rightly fulfill the same are the church of Christ, the true, believing Christian church, the body and bride of Christ, the ark of the Lord, etc. They are chosen to proclaim the power of Him who has called them from darkness unto His marvelous light (539a; II:345b). Christ's church consists of the chosen of God, His saints and beloved who have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb, who are born of God and led by Christ's Spirit, who are in Christ and Christ in them, who hear and believe His word, live in their weakness according to His commandments and in patience and meekness follow in His footsteps, who hate evil and love the good, earnestly desiring to apprehend Christ as they are apprehended of Him. For all who are in Christ are new creatures, flesh of His flesh, bone of His bone and members of His body (118b; I:161b).
The true signs by which the Church of Christ may be known:
1. The unadulterated pure doctrine.
2. The scriptural use of the sacramental signs.
3. Obedience to the Word.
4. Unfeigned brotherly love.
5. Candid confession of God and Christ.
6. Bearing oppression and hatred for the sake of the Word of the Lord. (301a; II:83b).
Some of the other parables, as of the net in which good and bad fishes are caught; of the wise and foolish virgins and their lamps; of the wedding of the king's son and the guests, and of the threshing floor with wheat and chaff, although the Lord spoke them in allusion to the church, yet they were not spoken for the purpose that the church should knowingly and wilfully accept and suffer open transgressors in its communion; because in that case Christ and Paul would differ in doctrine, for Paul says that such should be disciplined and avoided. But they were spoken because many intermingle with the Christians in a Christian semblance, and place themselves under the Word and its sacraments who in fact are no Christians, but are hypocrites and dissemblers before their God; and these are likened unto the refuse fish which will be cast out by the angels at the day of Christ; unto the foolish virgins who had no oil in their lamps; unto the guest without a wedding garment and unto the chaff. For they pretend that they fear God and seek Christ; they receive baptism and the Lord's supper and outwardly have a good appearance, but do not have faith, repentance, true fear and love of God, Spirit, power, fruit, works and deeds (305a; II:88b).
18. The Ordinances
All the rites ordained of God, both of the Old and New Testament, have been instituted that our faith may be exercised and our obedience proven. Therefore we must not use them at our own pleasure, nor change them to suit our fancies, but we must use them as the Lord Himself has ordained and commanded in His Word (19b; I:31b).
For the truly regenerated and spiritually minded conform in all things to the word and ordinances of the Lord; not for the reason that they suppose to merit the propitiation of their sins and eternal life; by no means. For this they depend on nothing except the blood and merits of Christ, relying upon the sure promise of the merciful Father which was graciously given to all believers, which blood alone, I say again, is and ever will be the only and eternally valid means of our reconciliation, and not works, baptism or Lord's Supper, as said above. (115b; I:158a).
Repentance must come before the ordinances, and not the ordinances before repentance. For the signs [ordinances] of the New Testament are in themselves quite powerless, vain and useless, if that which they signify, namely the new contrite life is not in evidence as has been said above in treating of baptism (285a; II:65a).
Dear reader, understand rightly what I write. Without true repentance neither water, bread, wine, or ceremonies, if they were administered even by the apostles themselves, will avail before Jesus Christ. For in Him and before Him a new creature alone, a converted, changed and contrite heart, true fear and love of God, unfeigned love of one's neighbor, a consecrated, humble, sober and peaceful life according to the Lord's word and example, will avail (285b; II:66b).
To this end baptism and the Lord's supper were instituted in the Lord's house, that through them we should testify our faith and obedience: That we desire to walk in continuous contrition of heart; that we remember His unspeakably great love and blessings; that we be reminded that He has offered for us His spotless body and has shed His precious blood for the reconciliation of our souls in His exceedingly ardent love for us; that we ever walk with Him in unity of the Spirit and follow in His footsteps; that we love, assist, console, reprove, bear, admonish and serve each other as members of one body, and that we prove ourselves before all the world unto death as the regenerated children of God, in all righteousness, holiness and truth. Behold, dear reader, for such purpose were the signs [ordinances] of the New Testament instituted (286a; II:66a).
This is briefly, in all matters that concern the Christian church, my only foundation and sincere conviction, that before God neither baptism, nor the Supper, nor any other outward ordinances avail if partaken without the Spirit of God and the new creature, but that before God only faith. Spirit, the new creature or regeneration avail, as Paul plainly teaches, Gal. 5:6. All who by the grace of God have received these from above, will be baptized according to the command of the Lord and rightly partake of the Supper. Yea, with ardent desire they accept all the ordinances and doctrine of Jesus Christ and shall never willfully oppose the holy will and plain testimony of God (542a; II:349b).
All who bring you another doctrine respecting the signs or ordinances, and place them before or above faith and repentance, deceive you, however much they may adorn their teaching with choice words, such as sealing, sign of grace, etc., for it is in fact nothing but human wisdom, deception of souls and hypocrisy. For, if the children under the Old Dispensation were received into the covenant by circumcision and those of the New Dispensation by baptism, as he [Gellius] says, it would undeniably follow that the infants who died before the eighth day and those who were not circumcised in the wilderness [Josh. 5:5], as well as all the females, were not in the Israelitish church or congregation, and consequently had no share in the grace, covenant or promise.
The same would also apply to the children who have died before they could have been baptized. O great abomination! (270b; II:47b).
Ceremonies without the reality are not valid before God. For He is not such a God who has pleasure in any outward shadow, ceremony, type, bread, wine, water, and nominal service, but in spirit, power, deed and truth.
Again, the prince of darkness, the old serpent and the devil, can transform himself into an angel of light. Nothing of an external nature is oppressive or vexatious to him; if he can only gain possession of the citadel of our hearts, and expel therefrom Christ's nature, spirit and power, he has already won the price of his craftiness. Yea, if a man were baptized even by Peter or Paul himself, and received the bread of the holy "supper from the Lord's own hand, and never again witnessed the idolatry of the priests, yet if he retained but one of the fruits of the devil whether hatred, envy or bitterness, revengefulness or avarice, pride or unchastity, or any other vice, it would have to be said with the Scriptures that his spirit is ungodly and his life hypocrisy (211; I:265a).
My brethren, it was by no means permitted to change one letter touching the ceremonies of the law of Moses. For it is not the will of the almighty God that we should follow our own inclinations with regard to the ceremonies which He has commanded us, but He desires us alone to observe His good will and pleasure; for this purpose He has commanded them. In the outward ceremonies alone God has no pleasure, but He has commanded them because He ever requires of us the obedience of faith. His wrath has often come upon those who deviated in the practice of His ceremonies from His commandments, as in the case of Nadab and Abihu and many others. For it is His will that we should not follow our own opinion, but that we should hear, believe and obey His holy voice. (402a; II:196a).
For a truly believing Christian is thus minded that he neither will nor may do otherwise than that which is taught and enjoined upon him in the word of his Lord. For he knows that all presumption and disobedience are like the sin of witchcraft, and the end thereof is death. The willfully disobedient are standing outside of the promise (115b; I:158a).
In the first place, as we said before, we all are accepted into the covenant of God, not by any signs [ordinances], but by grace. - For Abraham was already in God's covenant before he was circumcised, as Paul shows, that his faith was counted for righteousness when he was yet uncircumcised (Rom. 4:3,11); and because he was in God's covenant, justified by faith, therefore God commanded him the circumcision.
To all those who are thus, by faith, accepted of God through grace into the covenant of peace, with Abraham, God has given as evidences of their faith His ceremonies and figurative signs. Not that they are thereby justified, for if it were by the signs, it would not be grace, but that they should be justified and be children of God, children of the promise, etc., by faith, which they should show by their obedience to the commandments of God, having been called and accepted through grace and consoled by His promise. For those who are obedient unto God are His friends (John 15:14).
Behold, dear reader, in this manner Abraham was circumcised and thus we are baptized, because it is thus commanded of God. He who disobeys the voice of the Lord commanding these ceremonies, and despises the performance of them because of their supposed triflingness, not observing that they were commanded of God, excludes himself from the covenant of grace, by his stubborn disobedience, neither does he seal his faith that it is fruitful and living, but on the contrary, he proves that it is unfruitful and dead before God. For he hears not the voice of his Lord nor lives in accordance therewith, but despises it as vain and useless.
Therefore observe and know that we are not accepted into the covenant by an outward sign, but alone by grace through Christ Jesus. And because we are by grace in the covenant, therefore He has given and instituted for us His signs, that they shall be observed by them to whom He has commanded them, namely the believers.
For if it were possible that we could come into the covenant of God by any signs or ceremonies, then the merits of Christ would be vain and grace ended. No, brethren, no. Abraham was already chosen, accepted and justified by God, through faith, before he was circumcised, and because he believed and was justified through faith, therefore circumcision was commanded him of God, that he should thereby seal his faith.
Again, Abraham and all his seed, born of Isaac, together with others were already included in God's covenant, women as well as men, and the promise was given to both, yet it was not commanded that the females should be circumcised, but the males. Observe well, dear reader, had they obtained the covenant of God through the signs and not through grace, then the females must have been excluded and without the promise. Not so, it was by grace, it is grace, and it will in all eternity be grace (416b; II:213b).
We are not regenerated because we have been baptized, . . . but we are baptized because we have been regenerated by faith and the Word of God (I Pet. 1:23). Regeneration is not the result of baptism, but baptism the result of regeneration. This can indeed not be controverted by any man, or disproven by the Scriptures (418b; II:215a).
Faith is to precede baptism. For the beginning of all righteousness which avails before God is faith, from which baptism results as a sign and proof of obedience. If the infants, then, had faith, their baptism would not be forbidden by the alleged words in Matthew and Mark (402b; 197a).
The Scriptures know of only one remedy, which is Christ with His merits, death and blood. Hence, he who seeks the remission of his sins through baptism, rejects the blood of the Lord and makes water his idol. Therefore let every one have a care, lest he ascribe the honor and glory due to Christ, to the outward ceremonies and visible elements (17b; I:32a).
The believing receive remission of sins not through baptism, but in baptism, in the following manner: as with their whole heart they believe the precious Gospel of Jesus Christ which has been preached and taught to them, namely the glad tidings of grace, remission of sins, peace, favor, mercy and eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord, they experience a change of mind, renounce self, bitterly repent of their old sinful life, and with all diligence give attendance to the Word of the Lord who has shown them such great love; and fulfil all that He has taught and commanded in His holy Gospel. Their confidence is firmly established upon the word of grace promising the remission of sins through the precious blood and the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ. They therefore receive holy baptism as a token of obedience which proceeds from faith, an evidence before God and His church that they firmly believe in the remission of sins through Christ Jesus, as has been preached and taught them from the Word of God (406a; II:201a).
With the sacrifices, also of the Old Testament was connected atonement in the Scriptures, not because of the worthiness of the sacrifices upon the altars, for the blood of bulls and goats, says Paul, could not take away sin (Heb. 10:4); all that might and could be offered was moreover beforehand the Lord's, yes all the cattle upon a thousand hills, says David (Psa. 50:10); but because they truly believed the word of divine promise and therefore were obedient to His command. Similarly now the remission of sin is preached through baptism, not for the sake of the water or of ceremonies perfo[r]med by us; we say it again, Christ alone is the means of grace; but because we accept the promises of the Lord by faith and in obedience fulfill His word and will (18a; I:32b).
20. Import of Baptism
All who by the grace of God have been translated from Adam into Christ, and been made partakers of the divine nature and are baptized of God with the Spirit and fire of heavenly love will not contend so deridingly against the Lord and say: What can water avail, but they say with trembling Saul: "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" and with the penitent on the day of Pentecost: "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" They will renounce their own wisdom and willingly obey the word of the Lord, for they are led by His Spirit, and through faith, with willing obedient hearts perform all things commanded them of the Lord.
But as long as their minds are not renewed, and they have not the mind of Christ, Phil. 2:5; are not washed in the inner man with clean water from the living fountain of God, Heb 10:22, they may well say. What can water avail us? For the whole ocean would not cleanse them as long as they are earthly and carnally minded (22b; I:38b).
21. Infant Baptism
Since, then, we do not find in all Scripture a single word by which Christ has ordained the baptism of infants, or that His apostles taught and practiced it, we say and confess rightly that infant baptism is but a human invention, an opinion of men, a perversion of the ordinance of Christ (15b; I:29b).
I do not doubt but that you will confess that the faith, which avails with God is a gift of God, a gift which brings forth all righteousness, and that such faith comes from hearing the divine word. If, now, it comes by hearing the word, as Paul teaches, how will it be found in unconscious infants, for it is plain that they can not be taught, admonished or instructed (403a; II:197b).
To baptize before that which is required for baptism, namely faith, is found is as if one would place the cart before the horse, to sow before plowing, to build before the lumber is at hand, or to seal the letter before it is written (415b; II:211b).
Lastly, they appeal to Origen and Augustine and say that these assert that they have obtained infant baptism from the apostles. To this we reply and inquire whether Origen and Augustine have proved it from Scripture. If they have done so, we desire to hear it. But if not, we must hear and believe Christ and His apostles, and not Augustine and Origen (21b; I:37a).
Beloved, since the ordinance of Jesus Christ is unchangeable, and it alone is acceptable to the Father; and since He has commanded that the Gospel should first be preached and, secondly, those who believe baptized, it follows that those who baptize and are baptized without being taught the holy Gospel and without faith, baptize and are baptized on their own opinion, without the doctrine and command of Jesus Christ; therefore it is an ungodly, useless and vain ceremony. For had Israel circumcised their females because it was not expressly forbidden, they would have circumcised without the ordinance of God, for He had commanded that the males should be circumcised. It is the same in this instance. If we baptize the unconscious infants, although it is not expressly forbidden in Scripture, just as it was not forbidden to circumcise the females, we baptize without the ordinance of Jesus Christ; for He commanded that those should be baptized who hear and believe His holy Gospel. Matt. 28:19; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 9:18; 10:48; 16:33. (402a; II:196b)
Again, if the infant baptists assert that infant baptism is not forbidden and that therefore it is right, I reply that it is not expressly forbidden in the Holy Scriptures to bless, as they call it, holy water, candles, palms, goblets, and robes, to hold mass and other ceremonies, we say rightfully that it is wrong, first because people put their trust in these things, secondly because it is done without the commandment of God. for He has commanded us not a word thereof, and never should any commandment be observed which is not contained or implied in His holy Word, either in letter or spirit (418a; II:214b).
Search diligently all the Scriptures - Moses and the prophets, Christ and the apostles - and you will find in more than one instance that God not only had no pleasure in unbidden ceremonies and worship, but that He has often severely rebuked and punished those who observed them. If such ceremonies could be observed with a good conscience for the reason that there is no express command: "Thou shalt not baptize infants," then it would also be justifiable to consecrate water, tapers, palms, bells and priests, to say mass, to build cloisters, cathedrals and altars, to turn monk or nun, to make pilgrimages, to pray for the dead, etc, with as much right one could take part in all these things, for in all Scripture there is not a word to be found which expressly forbids these ceremonies or says: You shall not do these things (272b; II:50a).
I know that Luther teaches that faith is present in infants, just as in a believing, sleeping man. To this I reply, first, that if there were such a sleeping faith in little unconscious infants (which however is nothing but human sophistry), it would notwithstanding be improper to baptize such children so long as they would not verbally confess it and show the required fruits. For the holy apostles did not baptize any believers while they were asleep, as we have shown in our former writings (404b; II:199a).
Luther writes that infants should be baptized because of their own faith, and adds, if infants had no faith their baptism would be blaspheming the sacrament. I believe it to be a great error of so learned a man through whom the Lord at the beginning of his writing effected not a little good, to hold that infants who are unable to hear and to understand, have faith, while the Scriptures so plainly state that they know neither good nor evil, that they can not discern right from wrong (Deut. 1:39; Jonah 4:11); and he says that faith is dormant and concealed in infants until they arrive at the years of understanding, even as in a believing person who is asleep. If Luther writes this as his sincere opinion, it shows that he has written much in vain concerning faith and its power; but if he writes this to please men, may God have mercy upon him. We know of a truth that it is only human reasoning and a fable of men, and by God's grace it shall not make void the word and ordinance of the Lord. For we read nowhere in Scripture that the apostles baptized a single believer while asleep. They baptized those who were awake and not the sleeping ones. Why then do they baptize infants before they awake from that supposed sleeping faith, and confess it? (15a; I:29a).
In the third place, we answer: We have in the Scriptures record of four households that have been baptized, namely that of Cornelius, of the jailor, of Lydia and of Stephanas, Acts 10:48; 16:15, 33; I Cor. 1:16, and the Scriptures clearly show that in three of these households all were believers, namely of Cornelius, Acts 10:2, 44-47, of the jailor Acts 16:34, and that of Stephanas I Cor. 16:15. But touching the household of Lydia. the reader should know that although the Scriptures say nothing definite about it, it is not usual in Scripture, nor the custom of the world, to call a family by the wife's name as long as the husband is living. Since Luke here names the house by a woman and not a man, reason teaches us that Lydia was at that time either a widow or a virgin. And how much is to be made of the supposition that there were infants in her household, we will let the God-fearing reader judge. (21a; I:36b).
22. Salvation of Infants
And although infants have neither faith nor baptism, think not therefore that they are lost. O no ! they are saved, for they have the Lord's own promise of the kingdom of God; not indeed through any element, ceremony or external rites, but only by grace through Jesus Christ. And therefore we do truly believe that grace is extended to them, yea that they are acceptable to God, pure and holy, heirs of God and of eternal life. On the ground of this promise all Christian believers may be assured of and rejoice in the truth that their children are saved (20b; I:36a).
Dear reader, this is to be held as a sure, eternal and unchangeable rule of divine truth to fulfill all righteousness, namely, first the true preaching of the holy Gospel of Jesus Christ; secondly, to hear with earnestness and to understand; thirdly, to cordially believe the Gospel and to carry out its teaching. This being the case, it follows that the unconscious infants have no faith, for they can not understand and learn. - If they die before they come to years of understanding and before they may hear and believe, they die under the promise of God and are saved, and this by no other means than the precious promise of grace, given through Jesus Christ, Luke 18:16. But if, having reached the years of understanding, they hear and believe, they should then be baptized. If they do not accept or believe the word when they have arrived at such age, whether they are baptized or not, they will be lost, as Christ Himself teaches, Mark 16:16 (404a; II:198b).
But the little children, and particularly those born of Christian parents, have a peculiar promise which was given them of God, without the medium of any ceremony, but of pure grace, through Christ Jesus, our Lord, who says, "Suffer little children and forbid them not to come unto me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 19:14; Mark 10:14; Luke 18:16). This promise satisfies and assures all the chosen saints of God in regard to their children that have not attained to understanding, for they know full well that the word of our Lord Jesus Christ can never fail nor prove false. Inasmuch as He has shown so great mercy to the children that were brought unto Him. that He took them up into His arms, blessed them, laid His hands upon them, promised them the kingdom of heaven and has done or commanded to be done nothing in addition to this, therefore Christian believers have a well grounded and firm assurance of the grace of God concerning their dear children, namely that they are children of the kingdom, of grace, of the promise and of eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord to whom alone the glory belongs, and not by any ceremony. Yea, by this promise they are assured that their beloved children, so long as they are not of understanding years, are pure, holy, saved, and acceptable to God, be they alive or dead. Therefore they give thanks to the eternal Father through Jesus Christ, our Lord, for His inexpressibly great grace toward their children, and bring them up in the love of God, by correcting, teaching and admonishing them, and by walking before them in an unblamable life until they may hear the word of God, believe in it and be guided by it. Then it is time, of whatever age they may be, that they, in obedience to the word of Christ, receive the Christian baptism commanded by Jesus Christ to all Christians, and which His apostles have thus taught and practiced (429a; II:226a).
It is in my opinion a great error which some entertain, that the children of Jewish parents were acceptable to Christ on account of circumcision, and that our children are acceptable on account of baptism. O great reproach, that in every instance Christ, the only and eternal medium of divine grace, must be set aside and grace must be attributed to the lifeless rites and elements. Here I would ask all infant baptists how they are going to prove that these children [whom Jesus blessed] were all circumcised and that there were nor among them female children? If they were acceptable on account of their circumcision, as is asserted, then why were not the adults who were circumcised acceptable? He commanded that adults, although they were circumcised, should be baptized upon their faith, but concerning infants He gave no command to baptize. He took them into His arms, laid His bands upon them and blessed them, promised them the kingdom of heaven and dismissed them, but did not baptize them. (18b; I:33a).
23. The Name "Anabaptists" Repudiated
We must also be the Anabaptists of the theologians, because we baptize upon the confession of faith, as Christ commanded His disciples and as the holy apostles taught and practiced .... We are informed by the Scriptures that Paul rebaptized those who had been baptized with the baptism of John which was of heaven - because they had not been taught about the Holy Ghost. Acts 19. Inasmuch, then, as we but baptize according to the command of Christ, and according to the teaching and practice of the holy apostles, nor do any more than Cyprian did, together with the Councils of Nice and Carthage in this matter (although we admit that we do not believe in all their doctrine), and inasmuch as we rebaptize those who were not baptized with a divine baptism (as were those baptized by John) but with the baptism of Antichrist, and had at the time of their baptism no knowledge of divine matters, as both nature and the Scriptures teach, since they were unconscious infants, (which was not the case with those baptized of John) and we for these reasons must be the Anabaptists of the theologians, it follows, indeed, that Christ and His apostles, Cyprian and his bishops, the Nicene Council and the holy apostle Paul also must have been Anabaptists. This is incontrovertible (513a; II:318a).
24. The Lord's Supper
The holy supper, as taught by Christ and His apostles, reproves all idolatry and foreign mediums of reconciliation, all hatred, discord and unrighteousness. For it points only to the one offering of Christ which was made by His body and blood once for all, as stated. It expresses Christian peace, unity, brotherly love, and the pious, unblamable life. (31b; I:50a).
In like manner we believe and confess concerning the Lord's holy Supper, that it is a holy sacramental sign, instituted of the Lord Himself, with bread and wine, and enjoined upon His own in remembrance of Him, taught and administered also according to the institution of the Lord, by the apostles among the brethren. It is, first of all, to show forth the Lord's death, as Paul says, to remind us that He has offered up for us His holy body and shed His precious blood for the remission of our sins.
Secondly it is an emblem of Christian love, unity and peace in the church of Christ. "For we, being many," says Paul, "are one bread and one body; for we are all partakers of that one bread" (I Cor. 10:17). For as a loaf being composed of many grains is one bread, so we also are many members but one body in Christ. And as the members of one body are not at variance with each other but are in every respect of one mind and peaceable among themselves, so it is with all those who in the Spirit and faith are true members of the body of Christ.
Thirdly it is a communion of the body and blood of Christ (1 Cor. 10:16), which communion consists in this that Christ has in His great love accepted us and we are become partakers of Him, as Paul says. "We are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end." Heb. 3:14.
Inasmuch as it is a sign instituted by Christ for the purpose that it is to show forth and remind us of His death, of love, peace and unity among the brethren, and also the communion of His body and blood, as was said, therefore none can rightly partake of this supper, according to Scripture, but he that is a disciple of Christ, flesh of His flesh and bone of His bone, who seeks the remission of his sins in no other means than in the merits, sacrifice, death and blood of Christ alone, walks in unity, love and peace with his brethren and leads a pious and unblamable life in Christ Jesus, according to the Scriptures (468b; II:270a).
It is as if Jesus had said by instituting this supper: Behold beloved children, so long have I been with you, have taught you my Father's word, admonished, reproved and comforted you and kept you in His name; but now my hour is at hand, this night I shall be betrayed. All that the prophets said of me is about to come to an end. And since I can minister to you no longer with my doctrine and life, I will at least serve you with my painful sufferings, with my body, blood, cross, and death. And this indeed is the reason why I have called you to this supper, namely that I might institute this rite with bread and wine, that you should after my death from time to time come together to commemorate the great mercies of my ardent love, so abundantly manifested toward you, and especially that my love to you was such that I offered my body and gave my blood for you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. I have by my death obtained for you everlasting reconciliation, grace, mercy, favor and peace with my Father, as I have told you, namely. "Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many," Matt. 20:28 (27a; I:44b).
We should observe that in the Lord's supper Christian unity, love and peace are typified and set forth, after which all true Christians should seek and strive. "For we being many," says Paul, "are one bread and one body; for we are all partakers of that one bread," I Cor. 10:17. Like as natural bread is made of many grains, broken by the mill, kneaded together with water and baked by the heat of the fire, so also the church of Christ is made up of many believers who are broken in their hearts with the hammer of the divine word and are baptized into one body with the water of the Holy Ghost and the fire of pure, unfeigned love. And as the natural body is in harmony and peace with all its members, and as each member discharges its duty to promote the good of the whole body, so also it behooves the true and living members of the body of Christ to be in harmony, of one heart and one soul, not quarrelsome and unpeaceable, not selfish and envious, not wrathful and hateful, not malicious, obstinate or bitter one toward another, as are the ambitious, covetous and proud of this world; but in all things be longsufFering, friendly, peaceable, ever ready in true Christian love to serve our neighbor to the extent of our ability, by exhortation and reproof, by comforting, giving of our means and counsel, serving with hard work, yea by giving our body and life; ready to forgive one another as Christ has forgiven us and has ministered unto us by His word, life and death (26a; I:43a).
We teach, seek, and desire that supper which Christ Jesus Himself has instituted and administered, to be observed in a church which is outwardly without spot or blemish, that is, without any known transgression and wickedness; for the church judges that of which it has knowledge but inward wickedness which is not apparent to the Church such as the betraying of Judas, of that God is to judge, for He alone tries the hearts and reins, and not the church. It is to be observed in both kinds, namely bread and wine, to the remembrance of the Lord's death and as a renewal and evidence of brotherly love (444b; II:243b).
And this is the sum of the whole matter, that all who with the disciples and guests of Christ would sit at the Lord's table, whether they be of high or low station in life, rich or poor, must be sound in the faith and unblamable in conduct and life. - But if any one has a good appearance before men, and is at heart proud, avaricious, carnal and without the Spirit of God, he is not judged of the church, but of the Lord Himself, the searcher and trier of men's hearts and reins, as the Scripture saith. Therefore we admonish all who would go to the Lord's table, to examine themselves before they partake of it; for all who eat unworthily of this bread and drink of this cup, eat and drink condemnation and judgment to themselves, I Cor. 11:29 (28b; I:46b).
25. On the Doctrine of the Corporeal Presence of Christ in the Bread and Wine
In the first place we must take heed that we do not make the visible, perishable bread and wine the Lord's real body and blood as some do; for to believe this is contrary to all nature reason and Scripture, yea it is evident blasphemy of the Son of God, an abomination and idolatry. But as Israel had to keep the passover annually, at the appointed time according to the command of Moses, to commemorate that the almighty God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, did graciously preserve His people from the judgment and plagues, when He slew the first-born of the Egyptians, and by His strong hand and outstretched arm led them out so gloriously and wonderfully and saved them from the iron furnace of Egypt and the dread tyranny and dominion of Pharaoh, according to the word of His promise; and therefore the paschal lamb is called the Lord's passover, that is, passing over, Ex. 12, - the rite for the reality, for the lamb was not the passover although so called, but it only typified the passover, as said; so also the bread of the holy supper is called the body, and the wine the blood of the Lord, the sign, I say, for the reality. Not that it is actually the body and blood of Christ, for with that He ascended into heaven and sitteth at the right hand of His Father, immortal and unchangeable in eternal majesty and glory; but it is an admonishing type and a memorial of the fact that the Son of God, Jesus Christ has redeemed us from the power of the devil, from the dominion of hell and eternal death, by offering up an immaculate sacrifice. His innocent body and blood, and has triumphantly led us into the kingdom of His grace; as He Himself says, "This do in remembrance of me" Luke 22:19 (24b; I:41b).
They believe the bread of the Lord's supper to be the real flesh, and the wine the real blood of the Lord, and have concluded this from the words of Christ, "Take eat, this is my body," etc. They do not consider that Christ Himself, in the sixth chapter of John where He fully instructs us about eating His flesh and drinking His blood, says that it profiteth nothing to eat His flesh and drink His blood literally, neither were this possible, for He would ascend up to where He was before (John 6:62, 63). And therefore the eating of His flesh and drinking of His blood is not to be taken according to the letter but according to the spirit, as He Himself says, in the same chapter, "The words I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life." All who thus understand this from the Scriptures are by many abused as cursed heretics and blasphemers of the sacrament, (1) and must suffer on account of it by water, fire and the sword (30b; I:49a).
26. The Washing of the Saints' Feet (2)
The third ordinance is the washing of feet of the saints which Jesus Christ has commanded His disciples (John 13:4-17), and this for two reasons. The first is that He would have us know that He Himself must cleanse us after the inner man and that we must by Him be washed from the sin which besets us, (Heb. 12:1) from all uncleanness of the flesh and spirit, that we may become purer from day to day, as it is written: "He that is pure, let him become purer, he who is holy, let him become more holy," etc. (Rev. 22:11). And this [cleansing by the Lord] is needful, yea it must be if we would be saved. Therefore Christ says to Peter: "If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me" (John 13:8). Then Peter answered: "Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head." To this Christ replied: "He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, and is clean every whit" (John 13:10).
By this He makes it clear that the feet washing wherewith Christ washes us is very necessary, and how it is signified, inasmuch as those whom He does not wash have no part with Him and that those who have been washed by Him need no more than that their feet be washed and they are wholly clean. For it is Christ who must wash us from our sins with His blood and He who is sprinkled and washed therewith needs no more than to have the earthly members, the evil lusts and desires of the flesh mortified and overcome and through grace he is wholly clean and no sin imputed unto him (Rom. 3:24; Eph. 1:1-7; Col. 3:5 , I John 1:7; Rev. 1:5; Rom. 8:13).
The second reason why Christ instituted the ordinance of feet washing is that we should humble ourselves before one another and that we hold our fellow-believers in the highest respect for the reason that they are the saints of God and the members of the body of Jesus Christ and that the Holy Ghost dwells in them. (Rom. 12:10; Phil. 2:3; I Pet. 5:5; Jas. 4:10; Col. 3:12,13; I Cor. 3:16). These things Christ teaches us in these words: "Ye call me Master and Lord and ye say well: for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, ye also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example that ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you. The servant is not greater than his lord neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them." (John 13:13-17).
Now if they are happy (blessed) who know and do this, how void of blessing shall those be who profess to be apostles and messengers of the Lord and do not know these things, or if they know, do not do them or teach others to do them.
It is evident that a congregation or church can not continue in the salutary doctrine and in a blameless and pious life without the proper practice of discipline. Even as a city without a wall and gates, or a field without an inclosure or fence, or a house without walls and doors, so is also a church without the true apostolic exclusion or ban. For it would be open to all deceiving spirits, all godless scorners and haughty despisers, all idolatrous and insolent transgressors, yes to all lewd debauchers and adulterers, as is the case with all the great sects of the world which style themselves, although improperly, churches of Christ. In my opinion it is a leading characteristic, an honor and a means of prosperity for a true church to teach with Christian discretion the true apostolic exclusion and to observe it carefully with vigilant love according to the teaching of the holy divine Scriptures. (188; I:241b).
For so long as the pastors and teachers [in the primitive Christian church] earnestly taught and required a pious, godly life, served baptism and the Supper to the godly alone, and rightly practiced discipline according to the Scriptures, they were the church and congregation of Christ. But as soon as they began to seek an easy, careless life, and hated the cross of Christ, they laid aside the rod, assured the people of peace, and gradually became loose in discipline, they became the church of Antichrist, Babel, and the world, as has, alas, been fully evident for many centuries. Yea, my reader, if we had not with all earnestness maintained to the present time this means ordained of God - scriptural discipline - our people would, because of wicked ones, be a reproach to everybody, while now, I trust they are in their weakness by the grace of God (although the wicked world will not acknowledge it) an example and a light to many. (289a; II:69b).
The world knows no other excommunication but that when a great crime has been committed, the executioner bans the guilty one with the sword, gallows or fire and puts them to death for the sake of their evil doing. (291b; II:72b).
It is evident that these words of Christ (Matt. 18) teach, in the first place, if any one should err or sin against his brother through negligence, infirmity, inconsiderateness, inexperience, or ignorance, that he should not in consequence hate him, nor connive at his transgression, but out of true brotherly love admonish and reprove him, lest his brother fall into greater error and perish; but that he may by this means be brought to overcome his fault.
In the second place, these words teach us that he who has transgressed should receive the admonition of his brother in love and be again sincerely reconciled, as is also taught in Matt. 5:23, 24. This is indeed the nature and disposition of true believers who are born from above of the holy seed of peace, that if they trespass against a brother, they have neither peace nor tranquility of heart until they have in true love satisfied him and are fully reconciled with him in Christ, and that without hypocrisy. For they are a generation of peace, children of love, who manifest their Christianity in the power, and testify by their deeds that they know God.
Thirdly, if the trespassing brother receives in obedient love the brotherly admonition given him in sincerity, is humbly reconciled and ceases from his error, the transgression should be forgotten and forgiven in all sincerity. Even as God, for Jesus' sake forgives all our sins, so must we also in Christ forgive our neighbor all his transgression which he has committed against us. And we must not, nor can, harbor any hatred or revenge against him, even if he should never repent, as we have the example in Christ and in Stephen.
From all of which it is more than clear that these three several admonitions of which Christ here speaks, first between him and you alone, secondly before witnesses, and thirdly before the church, do not refer to all offensive, carnal sins of which the eternal sentence of death is the penalty, but to the shortcomings between brother and brother only. (201a; I:254b).
Therefore take heed. If you see your brother sin, do not pass by him as one that is not concerned about his soul, but if his fall be not unto death, help him to arise immediately, by loving admonition and brotherly instruction, before you eat, drink, sleep or do anything else, as one who ardently seeks his salvation, lest your poor erring brother be hardened in his sin, and perish. (633b; II:445a).
But if he receive the admonitions of his faithful brethren, if he confess his fall, if he be sorry, promise to better his life, show works and fruits of penitence, then receive him as a returning, beloved brother, no matter how deep may have been his fall. But let him beware, lest he mock his God, for that he is received of the brethren does not avail if he be not accepted of God. Let him, I say, take heed, that his accepting the admonitions, his sorrow, his promise of reformation and his penitence may be upright and true before God, for He searches the hearts and reins and He knows all intents and thoughts of men. (Jer. 17:10; John 2:25; Rom. 8:27).
If indeed his accepting the admonitions, his sorrow, promise and penitence do not proceed from a true purpose of heart and an earnest, burning desire, but are only lukewarm and dissembling, spiritless, hypocritical, from the motive that he does not desire to be publicly excluded from the communion of the brethren, he is yet excluded of Christ and is a hypocrite in the sight of God; nor will God at any time look upon him as being anything else. For God, the righteous judge, does not judge according to the outward appearance, but solely according to the hidden intentions of the heart.
Say, beloved, inasmuch as the matter stands thus before God. of what avail is it to have the mere name of a Christian brother, if he have not the inward evangelical faith, love and unblamable life of a true brother of Jesus Christ?
Or of what avail is it to partake of the holy Supper of our Lord Jesus Christ with the brethren, if we have not the true fruits which are symbolized by this supper, showing forth the death of Christ, the love of the brethren and the peaceable unity of the faith in Jesus Christ? So it is also of no avail to be in the fellowship of the brethren outwardly, if we are not inwardly in the communion of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, brethren, no one is cut off by us, or excluded from the fellowship of the brethren but those who have already excluded and separated themselves, either by false doctrine, or by a blamable life, from Christ and His communion. For we do not desire to exclude any one but to receive them; not to cut off but to restore, not to reject but to win them back; not to afflict but to comfort, not to condemn but to save them, etc. My brethren, this is the true reason why and to what end this cutting off or exclusion is so earnestly taught and commanded in the Scriptures, by Christ Jesus and His holy apostles, first, for the sake of false doctrine, secondly, sinful, carnal life, further that the disciplined are to be admonished (those who are willing to accept admonition). (634a; II:445b).
28. Qualification of Ministers
The true teachers, shepherds and laborers in His vineyard seek nothing but the eternal honor, glory and praise of God and the true conversion, regeneration and salvation of those whose brotherly care is entrusted and commanded to them of God and His church. Yea, He sends such as are unblameable both in doctrine and life, who are led by the Holy Spirit, who sincerely grieve and weep with Christ over those who do not realize the gracious time of their visitation; who rejoice with all the angels of God over the conversion of sinners; who long for the salvation of all mankind as a hungry person hungers for bread; who so faithfully accept the word and truth of the Lord that they teach or practice not a word otherwise than Jesus Christ Himself has taught, practiced and commanded, the pure unadulterated Biblical word in the true sense and meaning of Christ and His apostles. (534b; II:341b).
In the first place, we desire, according to the Word of God, that no bishop, pastor or teacher should in the church of the Lord be permitted to teach and administer the ordinances except those who are found in the true doctrine, ordinances and life of our Lord Jesus Christ and are unblamable in all things (I Tim. 3:2; Tit. 1:6; Lev. 21:7; Ezek. 44:21). For the Word of the Lord is truth (John 17:17), it is spirit and life (John 6:63), therefore it can not be administered by the carnally minded, not by children of eternal death, nor the untrue, but by the truthful, by the spiritually minded, by those who rightly confess Jesus Christ and who are assured of eternal life in their own hearts and who in Christ Jesus live unblamably before God, that they may say with Paul, "Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ" (I Cor. 11:1). (444a; II:243a).
29. Support of the Ministry
At all places where they established churches, the apostles ordained bishops and teachers who were unblamable in doctrine and life, and have never mentioned a stipulated annual salary, benifices or rents. For they were men of God, servants of Christ, full of the love of God and their dear brethren, and through love, through an inward constraint they labored, taught, sought, pastured and watched, not only for one, two, or three hours a week in the synagogue, but at all times and in all places, in synagogues, streets, houses, mountains and fields.
And as they had received the knowledge of the kingdom of God, the truth, love, and Spirit of God, without price, so they were again ready to dispense it according to their ability to their needy brethren without price. And as for the temporal necessaries of life, the church was sufficiently constrained through love and the Spirit and Word of God to give to such faithful servants of Christ and watchers over their souls all the necessaries of life, to assist them and provide for them that which they could not obtain themselves. (535b; II:341b).
Say, kind reader, did you ever read in the Scriptures of any prophets, apostles, and shepherds who said to any cities, districts or villages, if you will care for our necessaries of life, or if you will give us a certain amount of money, or revenue, we will teach you the Word of the Lord ? O no, reader, no. It never was and never will be the way of the holy prophets, apostles or servants of Christ. Of this we are sure. (466a; II:267a).
30. The Social Message of the Church
In the fourth place some of them charge and assert that we have our property in common. We reply that this charge is false and altogether without foundation. We do not teach nor practice the doctrine of having all property in common. But we teach and maintain by the word of the Lord that all true believers are members of one body, are baptized by one Spirit into one body (I Cor. 10:18) and have one Lord and one God (Eph. 4:5, 6).
Inasmuch as they are thus one, therefore it is Christian and reasonable that they truly love one another and that the one member be solicitous for the welfare of the other, for both the Scriptures and nature teach it. All Scripture urges charity and love, and it is the one sign by which a true Christian may be known, as the Lord says, "By this shall all men know that ye art my disciples (that is, that ye are Christians) if ye have love one to another." John 13:35.
Beloved reader, it has not been heard of that an intelligent person clothes and cares for one part of his body and leaves the rest destitute and naked. O, no, it is but natural to care for all the members. Thus it must be with those who are the Lord's church or body. All who are born of God, are partakers of the Spirit of the Lord and are called into one body of love, according to the Scriptures, are ready by such love to serve their neighbors, not only with money and goods, but also, according to the example of their Lord and Head, Jesus Christ, in an evangelical manner, with life and blood.
They exercise charity and love as much as they have ability; they suffer no one to be a beggar among them; they distribute to the necessity of the saints, receive the miserable, take the stranger into their houses, console the afflicted, assist the needy, cloth the naked, feed the hungry, do not turn their face from the poor, and do not despise their own suffering members - their own flesh. Isa. 58:7, 8. (504a; II:309a).
To repeat: This love, charity and community we teach and practice, and have for seventeen years taught and practiced in such manner that although we have to a great extent been robbed of our property and are yet robbed, and many a pious. God-fearing father and mother has been put to death by the fire, water, or the sword, and we have no secure place of abode, as is manifest, and besides there are dear times, yet, thanks be to God, none of the pious, nor any of their children who have been committed to us, have been found to beg. (504b; II:309b).
Is it not an annoying, unbearable hypocrisy that they boast of following the word of God, and of being the true Christian church, and never realize that they have entirely lost the evidence of true Christianity. For although they have plenty of everything and many of their own people fare sumptuously and live in voluptuousness, in superfluous expense, going about in silk and velvet, gold and silver and all kinds of pomp and pride and furnish their houses with all manner of costly ornaments, and have their coffers well filled, yet they suffer many of their poor afflicted members, although they are their fellow believers, have received one baptism and partaken of the same bread with them, to go begging, some of them suffering from the bitterest want, hunger and need, and so many of their aged, sick, lame, blind members are compelled to beg their bread at their doors.
O, ministers, ministers, where is the power of the gospel which you preach? Where is the signification of the Supper which you administer? Where is the fruit of the Spirit you have received? And the righteousness of your faith which you can paint and present so beautifully before the poor ignorant people? Is it not all hypocrisy that you preach and would pretend and maintain? Are you not ashamed of your easy going gospel and worthless preaching and fruitless breaking-of-bread, you who in so many years have not gathered sufficient strength from your gospel, teaching and sacraments that you have been able to preach your suffering, miserable members from the streets, notwithstanding the Scripture plainly teaches and says, "Whoso has this world's good and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?" Also Moses: "There shall be no beggars among you." I John 3:17; Deut. 15:8. (505a; II:310a).
31. The Dangers and the Right Use of Riches
Since then the Lord himself, as also His faithful servants James and Paul, have in so clear words set forth the dangers of riches and of high station, and experience teaches how high they exalt themselves, as may be educed from their titles, houses, shields, clothes, servants, horses and dogs, and in consideration of Christ's words. Matt. 18:3, it would be more in accordance with evangelical righteousness, if Gellius, instead, would diligently point such proud and exalted persons to the humility of Christ, that they may learn to deny themselves and to consider their origin and destination, that they may repent of their excessive pomp and vanity, their superfluity and ungodliness, fear God from their hearts, walk in His ways and in true humility of heart serve their neighbors with their riches. (239a; II:17a).
32. Non-conformity to the World
This is not a kingdom in which one adorns himself with gold, silver, pearls, silk, velvet and costly finery, as does the proud, haughty world, and also your leaders, giving you liberty to do likewise, under the excuse that it is harmless if your heart is free from it. So even Satan might excuse his pride and pretend the lust of his eye to be pure and good. But this is the kingdom of all humility in which not the outward adorning of the body but the inward adorning of the Spirit is desired and sought with great zeal and diligence, with a broken heart and a contrite mind. (65b; I:96a).
33. The Doctrine of Non-resistance
The regenerated do not go to war nor fight. They are the children of peace who have beaten their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks and know of no war. They give to Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's. Their sword is the word of the Spirit which they wield with a good conscience through the Holy Ghost. (126a; I:170b).
Since we are to be conformed to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29), how can we, then, fight our enemies with the sword? Does not the apostle Peter say: "For even hereunto were ye called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps; who did no sin neither was guile found in his mouth; who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously" (I Pet. 2:21-23; Matt. 16:24). And this accords with the words of John who says: "He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked" (1 John 2:6). And Christ Himself says: "Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me." (Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23). Again: "My sheep hear my voice . . and they follow me" (John 10:27).
And this is the voice of Christ: "Ye have heard that it has been said: An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say unto you that ye resist not evil; but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also" (Matt. 5:39). Again: "Ye have heard that it was said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you; that you may be the children of your Father which is in heaven, for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, etc. (Matt. 5:43-45; Rom. 12:20; I Pet. 3:9; Luke 6:34; I Pet. 1:15).
Behold these are the words of Christ. All those, now, who are His sheep will hear His voice. (627b; II:435b).
My dear reader, if the poor, ignorant world with an honest heart accepted this our hated and despised doctrine, which is not of us but of Christ, and faithfully obeyed it, they could well change their deadly swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks, level their gates and walls, dismiss their executioners and henchmen. For all who accept our doctrine in its power, will by God's grace not have any ill will to any one upon earth, and not against their most bitter enemies, much less wrong and harm them by deeds and actions; for they are children of the Most High who from their hearts love that which is good and in their weakness avoid that which is evil; nay, hate it and are inimical thereto. (322a; II:103a).
Antichrist rules through hypocrisy and falsehood, with violence and the sword, but Christ reigns through patience with His word and Spirit; neither does He use any other sword nor sabre.
O man! man! look upon the irrational creatures and learn wisdom. All roaring lions, all frightful bears, all devouring wolves, live in peace among themselves with their own species. But you, poor, helpless creatures, created in God's own image and called rational beings, are born without teeth, claws, and horns and with a feeble nature, speechless and strengthless, yea, neither able to walk nor stand, but have to depend entirely upon maternal care - to teach you that you should be men of peace and not of strife. (50b; I:76a).
Peter was commanded to put his sword into the sheath. All Christians are bidden to love their enemies, do good to those who do them evil, and pray for those who abuse and persecute them; to give the cloak also if any one sue them at law for the coat; if they are stricken on the right cheek to turn to him who abuses them the other also. Say, beloved, how can a Christian, according to the Scriptures, consistently retaliate, rebel, war, murder, slay, torture, steal, rob and burn cities and conquer countries? Matt. 26:52; John 18:10; Matt. 5:12.39, 40. (502b; II:306b).
All who are led by the Spirit of Christ know no sword but the Word of the Lord. Their weapons are powerful, fervent prayer, a long-suffering, patient heart, strong, immovable faith, a living hope and an unblamable life, as has been said. By such means the Gospel of the kingdom, the word of peace is to be spread and defended against the gates of hell. (42b; I:65a).
O, beloved reader, our arms and weapons are not our swords and spears, but patience, silence and hope, and God's Word. With these we must fight our battle. Paul says, "The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God." In that way we intend and desire to resist the kingdom of the devil; and not with swords, spears, cannons and coats of mail.
True Christians know of no vengeance, how ever they may be wronged; in patience they possess their souls (Luke 21:18). They do not break the peace even if they should be tempted by bondage, torture, poverty, and by the sword and fire. They do not cry for vengeance, as does the world, but with Christ they pray, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do." They have, according to the declaration of the prophet, beaten their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. (502b; II:307a).
Again, our fortress is Christ, our defence is patience, our sword is the Word of God, and our victory is the sincere, firm, unfeigned faith in Jesus Christ. Spears and swords of iron we leave to those who, alas, consider human blood and swine's blood of well nigh equal value. He that is wise, let him judge what I mean. (55a; I:81b).
I am well aware that the tyrants who boast themselves Christians attempt to justify their horrible wars and shedding of blood, and would make a good work of it, by referring us to Moses, Joshua, etc. But they do not reflect that Moses and his successors, with their iron sword, have served out their time, and that Jesus Christ has now given us a new commandment and has girded our loins with another sword. - They do not consider that they use the sword of war, which they wield, contrary to all evangelical Scripture, against their own brethren, namely those of like faith with them who have received the same baptism and have broken the same bread with them and are thus members of the same body.
Further we reply that we know and use no other sword than that which Jesus Christ Himself brought down from heaven and which the apostles have used in the power of the Spirit, namely that which proceeds from the mouth of the Lord, the sword of the Spirit, which is "sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." With this sword and no other we desire to destroy the kingdom of the devil, reprove all wickedness, preach righteousness, etc. in like manner as Jesus Christ and His holy apostles and the prophets did in this world. I do not here mean the prophets Elijah and Samuel, understand me rightly, who also used the sword, but I mean the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, etc., who only reproved with doctrine, and not otherwise.
This sword we wield and would not let emperor or kings, or authorities lake it from us or forbid its use. For Peter says, "We ought to obey God rather than men." To the praise and service of Him who has girded us with this sword we must wield it, whether it bring us life or death, as it may please God. (149; I:198).
Captains, knights, soldiers and such like bloody men are offering to sell soul and body for money, and swear with uplifted hand that they will destroy cities and countries, apprehend and kill the citizens and inhabitants and rob them of their possessions, although they have never harmed them nor given them any provocation. O what an accursed, wicked, abominable business! And yet it is said that they protect the country and people and assist in administering justice! (98b; I:137a).
It is clearer than mid-day that many of you are so mad, so influenced by the spirit of the devil, that ye hate, envy, bite and devour one another. You have destroyed whole principalities, cities, castles and citadels with your accursed wars and uproar, and have shed human blood like water. You deprive poor citizens and peasants (those of your own faith) of body and possessions, by burning, robbing, plundering, apprehending, imposition and torturing even those who have never harmed you or given you a rash word. Such good-for-nothing, godless saints, or Christians we do not read of in Scripture. (129a; I:174b).
I tell you the truth in Christ; the truly baptized disciples of Christ, who are baptized inwardly with the Spirit and with fire, and outwardly with water according to God's Word, know of no weapons other than patience, hope, non-resistance and God's Word. Paul says, "The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God, etc. (II Cor. 10:4, 5). Our weapons are not such with which cities and countries are desolated, walls and gates broken down and human blood shed like water, but they are weapons to destroy the spiritual kingdom of the devil, put away ungodliness and break the flinty hearts that have never been affected by the heavenly dew of the holy word. (55a; I:81b).
Thus we do not combat with carnal, but with spiritual weapons, with patience and with the Word of the Lord, trusting in Christ, against the flesh, the world and the devil. Nor shall there ever be found other weapons with us. Therefore be not afraid of us (I tell you the truth in Christ Jesus); for we do not desire your destruction but your regeneration - on account of which I have these seven years suffered slander and scorn, anxiety, persecution and great peril of being imprisoned; and persecution is still increasing. (311; II:327b).
34. Capital Punishment
If a criminal should truly repent before his God and be born from above, he would then be a saint and a child of God, a fellow-partaker of grace, a spiritual member of the Lord's body, sprinkled with His precious blood and anointed with the Holy Ghost - and for such an one to be hanged on the gallows, executed on the wheel, burned at the stake or in any manner be harmed by another Christian who in Christ Jesus is one heart and soul with him, I should think strange and out of place, considering the compassionate, merciful, loving disposition, spirit and example of Christ, the meek Lamb, which example He has commanded all his chosen children to follow.
Again, if he remain impenitent and his life be taken, this would be nothing else but to unmercifully cut short his time for repentance of which, in case his life were spared, he might yet avail himself; to tyrannically deliver his soul which was purchased with such a precious treasure unto the devil - never taking into consideration that the Son of Man who says, "Learn of me" (Matt. 11:28). "I have given you an example" (John 13:15), "Follow me" (Matt. 16:24), is not come to destroy souls, but to save them (Matt. 18:11; Luke 19:10). (603b; II:407b).
Profane history shows that the Lacedemonians who were heathen did not put their criminals to death but imprisoned them and put them at labor. (604a; II:408a).
35. Swearing of Oaths
We are aware that the authorities advance the opinion that it is right to swear whenever oath is made to the truth. This we answer simply with the word of the Lord, Matt. 5:33-27. To swear to the truth was permitted to the Jews under the law, but to the Christians it is forbidden in the Gospel. (471a; II:273b).
Christ says, "Ye have heard that it has been said to them of old time: Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths. But I say unto you: Swear not at all, neither by heaven, for it is God's throne, nor by the earth, for it is his footstool, etc. (Matt. 5:33-35). And you, Micron, say that none but light minded and false oaths are thereby prohibited, as if Moses had permitted Israel to swear lightmindedly and falsely and that to us under the New Testament only, Christ has forbidden it.
If we have the same liberty as the Israelites in this matter, as you assert ...... then tell me, why did the Lord not say: Ye have heard that it has been said to them of old time: Thou shalt not forswear thyself, and I say unto you: Obey this injunction. But he says: Moses has permitted you to swear rightly; but I say unto you: Swear not at all.
Since, then, it is more than clear that Jesus Christ, the teacher of righteousness, points us away from the oath of Moses which was an oath of truth and was sworn by the name of the Lord and which you use and highly recommend, and points us to the truthful yea and nay, and I well know that His word is the truth and His commandment life everlasting, therefore I am frank and bold thus to teach it, believing of a truth that He will not deceive us by His teaching. (604b; II:409a).
Behold, beloved reader, before these words of Christ all human laws and commandments concerning the oath must yield and be abolished, all kinds of oaths no matter how they be performed, be it by words, or by raising your hand, or laying your hands upon your breast, or upon a cross, or upon the New Testament, etc., and the true yea and nay, ordained of the Lord Himself must be put in its place, if the authorities and subjects do not want wantonly to transgress the word of the Lord and ignore it as useless; for whatsoever is more than yea and nay, Christ says, cometh of evil. The same is also taught by James: "Above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath; but let your yea be yea and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation." Jas. 5:12. (471a; II:273a).
The Scriptures teach that we should hear Christ, for He is the king in Jacob, Isa. 9:7, the king of righteousness, the teacher and the prophet promised of God, who hath taught us the word of the Father, and His word is truth. His commandment is eternal life.
Inasmuch as we confess and sincerely believe that no emperor or king may rule or command contrary to His word, since, He is the head of all princes and the King of all kings (Rev. 1:5; 19:16) and to Him every knee shall bow which is in heaven, in earth or under the earth (Phil. 2), and He has so plainly forbidden us to swear and pointed us to yea and nay alone, this is the reason why we, fearing the Lord, do not and may not swear, though we must hear and suffer so much on that account from the world. (470b; II:272a).
The oath is required for no other purpose than to obtain truthful statement and testimony. Can, then, the truth not be told without an oath? Do all tell the truth who are under oath? You will admit that the first question is to be answered in the affirmative and the second in the negative.
Is, then, the oath itself the truth of the testimony, or does the truth depend upon him who swears the oath ? Why then do not the authorities require the truth to be told with yea and nay, as ordained of God, rather than with an oath which God has forbidden? For they can notwithstanding punish those who are found false in their yea and nay, the same as those who commit perjury.
I trust that no person is so confused as not to know that the ordinances of God which are of heaven can never give way to the earthly ordinances of men. (605b; II:410a).
We hereby pray all lords and authorities, for Jesus' sake, to fear the Lord sincerely, and to be subject to the word of the Lord in this matter of the oath. We ask them to consider why they require the oath, namely, that that shall be fulfilled to which oath is made. Inasmuch, now, as we deem our yea and nay to be of no less import than an oath, why, then, require any further affirmation of us than the word of the Lord teaches and allows? That yea is yea and nay nay with all true Christians, is fully proven by those who, in our Netherlands, are so tyrannically visited with imprisonment, confiscation and torture, with fire, the stake and the sword, when indeed with one word they could escape all this, if they would misuse their yea and nay. But as they are born of the truth, therefore they walk in the truth, and testify to the truth unto death, as may be abundantly seen in Flanders, Brabant, Holland, West Friesland, etc. (472b; 274b).
36. Duties toward the Magistracy
In temporal things we teach and exhort that the emperor, king, lords and princes, yes all in authority, are to be sincerely obeyed in all their laws and regulations as far as they are not contrary to God's word. (Rom. 13:1-3). (56a; I:82b).
Therefore we pray you through the mercy of God, O ye great ones of the earth whom we acknowledge as our gracious lords in all temporal things, that you let the eternal mighty King, Jesus Christ be the only Savior, Lord and Sovereign of our souls, even as He was ordained of His Father, and you confine your service and office to temporal matters to which you have been called. For we desire with all our hearts to render "unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's and unto God the things that are God's." (11b; I:24b).
Again, that we should be disobedient to the magistracy in the things to which they are ordained of God, is not true; understand me, in lawful things, such as working on dykes, roads and rivers, paying duty, taxes, tribute, etc. But that they, contrary to Jesus Christ, by commandments of men, undertake to rule and lord it over our conscience, following their own wantonness and not the will of God, to this we do not consent, but much rather sacrifice possessions and life, than for any man's sake, be he even emperor or king, to sin knowingly against Jesus Christ and His holy word. (149b; I:199a).
The writings which we have published during several years abundantly prove that the accusation against us of disobedience to the magistracy is unfounded and untrue. We confess and have always confessed as long as with our small talent we have served the word of the Lord, that the office of the magistrates is ordained of God; and we have always been obedient to them when their demand was not contrary to the word of God, and we desire to do so all our lives. For we are not so ignorant but know well what the word of God teaches and demands of us in this respect. Taxes and duties we pay, as Christ has taught us and Himself has rendered (Matt. 17:22). We pray for the imperial majesty, kings, lords, princes and all in authority and honor and obey them (I Tim. 2:2; Rom. 13:1). (498b; II:302b).
We resist neither the emperor, king, nor any authority in that over which they are given jurisdiction by God, but we are ready to render all obedience even unto death in all things that are not contrary to God and God's Word, and we know well what the Scriptures teach and enjoin concerning this matter (Rom. 13:1-8). But we desire mercy of you to the extent that we, under your gracious protection, may in liberty of conscience live, teach, work, and serve the Lord. (11a; I:23b).
37. Liberty of Conscience
Tell me, kind reader, where have you, in all the days of your life read in the apostolic Scriptures, or heard, that Christ or the apostles called upon the power of the magistracy against those who would not hear their doctrine or obey their words? Yea, reader, I know to a certainty that wherever the government is to perform the ban with the sword, there is not the true knowledge, Spirit, word and church of Christ. (290; II:71).
I repeat, if we are disobedient to God in religious matters, we are willing and anxious to be instructed, taught, and corrected by the Word of God, for we strive diligently to do and to fulfill His most holy will. Or if we are not obedient unto the Emperor in matters over which God has called and ordained him to rule, then we will willingly submit to punishment, such as should, in your judgment be laid upon us. But if we with all our heart seek and fear the Lord our God, as I trust we do, and are willingly obedient to the imperial majesty in temporal things, as we should be according to the Word of God, and notwithstanding for the sake of the truth of the Lord we must suffer and be persecuted, and put to death, then it is in our place to consider that "the disciple is not above his master nor the servant above his lord." Yet you should know and realize, O ye beloved, illustrious lords, ye judges and keepers of the law, that as often as such are apprehended, condemned and put to the sword by you, you thrust your tyrannical sword into the blessed body of our Lord Jesus for they are "of his flesh and of his bones" (Eph. 5:30); they are His chosen, beloved brethren and sisters who are with Him born from above of one Father (John 1:13) - From their whole heart, drawn and led by the Holy Spirit, they have through faith given themselves to the service of our beloved Lord Jesus Christ and henceforth do not live according to their own will, but alone according to the will of God and the direction of His holy blessed word. They would surrender all they possess upon earth and suffer slander, scourging, persecution, anxiety, famine, thirst, nakedness, cold, heat, poverty, imprisonment, banishment, fire, sword or any other manner of death rather than to deny the Gospel of grace, forsake the truth of God, or depart from the love which is in Christ Jesus. But the vain doctrines and commandments of men they will not accept. (431; II:229).
Faith is a gift of God, therefore it can not be forced upon any one by worldly authorities or by the sword; alone through the pure doctrine of the holy Word and with humble ardent prayer it must be obtained of the Holy Ghost as a gift of grace. Moreover it is not the will of the Master of the house that the tares should be rooted up as long as the day of reaping is not at hand, as the Scriptural parable teaches and shows with great clearness.
Now if our persecutors arc Christians, as they think, and accept the word of God, why do they not heed and follow the word and commandment of Christ? Why do they root up the tares before the time? Why do they not fear, lest they root up the good wheat, and not the tares? Why do they undertake to do the duty of angels who, at the proper time, shall bind the tares in bundles and cast them into the furnace of everlasting fire?
Since we injure no man upon the whole earth in the very least by our faith, or unbelief (as they say), it would be right that they commit us with our belief or unbelief to the Lord and His judgment alone who at His own time will judge all, and not like savage mad pagans proceed against us with their devouring sword. It is the right and true disposition of a true, pious Christian to seek the poor erring sinner to repentance and not to destruction, as these do. (150; I:199).
Christ Jesus with His powerful word and Holy Spirit is the protector and Lord of His church, and not the emperor, king, or any worldly potentate. The kingdom of the Spirit must be protected and defended by the sword of the Spirit, and not with the carnal sword. This is, according to the doctrine and example of Christ and His apostles, too clear to be controverted.
Further I say: If the government rightly knew Christ and His kingdom, they would in my opinion, rather choose death, than with their worldly power and sword undertake to settle spiritual matters, which are not subject to the authority of man but to that of the great and almighty God alone. But now they [the magistrates] are taught by their theologians that they should arrest, imprison, torture and slay those who are not obedient to their doctrine, as may, alas, be seen, in many cities and countries. (323; II:104).
Beloved rulers and judges, if you take to heart these cited Scriptures, and diligently reflect upon them, you will observe that your office is not your own, but God's office and service: and it is in your place to humble yourselves before His majesty, fear His great and adorable name and rightly and reasonably perform your ordained office; further that you should not so unscrupulously, with your earthly and temporal power, undertake to adjust that which belongs to the jurisdiction and kingdom of Christ, the Prince of all princes, you should not by your iron sword judge and punish that which is reserved solely for the judgment of the Most High, namely the faith and matters pertaining thereto, as also Luther and others maintained in the beginning, but after they had come to a higher and more exalted station, they have forgotten it all. (449; II, p. 303).
How haughtily do they assume without any awe or fear the authority of God and the office of the Holy Ghost; they drive Jesus Christ, the head of all princes and powers, to whom is given all power in heaven and on earth, from the throne of His divine majesty, and judge with their iron sword, after their own blind opinion and carnal purpose the chosen God-fearing, pious hearts who are enlightened in God through Jesus Christ. (139; I:186).
Say, beloved where do the Holy Scriptures teach that in Christ's kingdom and church, conscience and faith which stand under the authority of God alone, are to be regulated and ruled by the violence, tyranny, and sword of the magistracy? In what instance have Christ and the apostles ever done, advised or commanded this? For Christ says simply: 'Beware of the false prophets,' and Paul commands that a heretic is to be shunned after one or two admonitions. John says that we shall not greet or receive into our houses the transgressor who does not bring the doctrine of Christ. But they say not: Down with the heretics, arraign them before the magistrates, imprison them, drive them from cities and countries, cast them into the fire and water, as the Romish have done for many years, and even now is found to a great extent among you who fancy yourselves to adhere to the Word of God. (334a; II:118).
Do not excuse yourselves, beloved sirs and judges, on the plea that you are the servants of the Emperor. It will not acquit you in the day of vengeance. It availed Pilate nothing that in the name of the Emperor he crucified Christ. Serve the Emperor in civil matters as far as the Scripture warrants, and serve God in divine matters. In the day of Christ you can not justify yourselves by the authority of men.
Do not interfere with Christ's jurisdiction and kingdom, for He alone is the ruler of the conscience and beside Him there is none other; let Him in this matter be your Emperor and His holy word your placard and you will soon become tired of tyranny and murdering. (58b; I:86).
Besides, the proud, carnal, worldly, idolatrous and tyrannical princes who do not know God (I speak of the evil princes) set up their mandates, decrees and laws as authoritative, however much they may be contradictory to God and His blessed Word; just as if the almighty Father, the Creator of all things who holds heaven and earth in His hands, who rules all things by the Word of His power, had ordained them to command, rule and according to their own judgment prescribe ordinances not only in the temporal kingdom of this perishable world, but also in the heavenly kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ. O no, beloved, no. This is not the will of God, but it is an abomination in His sight if mortal man will usurp for himself His authority. (439; II:238).
I think, beloved brethren, that I have clearly shown that the excuses of the tyrants by which they would avert their tyrannical murdering to be just and right, are heathenish in principle (154; I:205).
Say now, all who are guilty of innocent blood and who would palliate your conduct with the mandate of the Emperor, where have you read a single word in all the teachings of Christ which gives authority to torture or put to death any one for the sake of faith ? Where have the apostles ever taught or countenanced such a practice? Should not matters of the spirit, i. e., of faith, be subject to the judgment of the spirit alone? Why do the Emperor and you undertake to usurp the authority of God, judging things which you understand not and which are not committed to you? Do you not consider what befell Pharaoh, Antiochus, Herod and many others, because they feared not the Most High and raged against His people? Dear men, how wilful, arrogant and proud you are toward Him who created you ! Do you suppose that the Scriptures are mocking us and are not the truth? (153; I:204).
The first parable is explained by Christ himself: "He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man; the field is the world (understand it rightly, the field is the world, and not the church, as Gellius would have it); the good seed are the children of the kingdom, but the tares are the children of the wicked one; the enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels." Matt. 13:37-39.
My reader, understand it rightly. Christ, the Son of man sows His seed (God's word) through His Spirit in the world. All who hear and believe it and fulfill it in obedience are here called the children of the kingdom. In the same manner the enemy sows his tares (false doctrine) in the world, and all that hear and follow him are called the children of evil. Both wheat and tares grow together in the same field, namely the world. The husbandman does not want the tares to be plucked out before their time, that is, he desires not that they should be delivered to destruction, but be permitted to remain until the harvest, lest the wheat be destroyed with the tares.
Oh my reader, if the preachers rightly understood this parable and had the true fear of God, they would not cry out so vehemently against us poor people who, alas, everywhere are in their opinion tares, Anabaptists and schismatics: Away and to death with the heretics - even if we held heresies, from which God preserve us. Alas, alas! it is the good wheat which they thus destroy. But what does our testimony avail? Satan must persecute and murder, for it is his nature and work, as the Scriptures teach. (304b; II:88a).
38. Higher Education
Reader, do not misunderstand me. Learning and a knowledge of languages I have never in my life despised, but have from my youth honored and loved. Although I have not acquired them, yet (thanks be to God) I am not so bereft of my senses that I should despise or ridicule the knowledge of the languages through which the precious word of divine grace has come to us. I wish from my heart that I and all the pious possessed such learning, if we could in true humility use it rightly to the praise of our God and the service of our neighbor, in the pure fear of God. (357a; II:145b).
39. Worldly Titles
Say, kind reader, did you ever hear or read that the holy apostles and prophets were covetous of such high, vain titles, as are the theologians and preachers of the world? It is true, the word Rabbi or Master was applied to the ambitious scribes and Pharisees, but not to the apostles and prophets. For we do not read of Doctor Isaiah, or Master Ezekiel, or Reverend Paul or Peter. No, no; those who have rightly taught the Word of the Lord were not in their time honored by the world with such high-sounding names. (465a; II:266a).
Lo, kind reader, thus we have from the beginning of our ministry been ready and desirous to give an account of our faith to every person who asked it in good faith, whether they were ruler or citizen, learned or unlearned, rich or poor, man or woman. And today we are ready to do so as far as is possible to us, for we are not ashamed of the Gospel of the glory of Christ. If any one desire to hear from us, we are prepared to teach; if any one wish to know our principles, it is our hearty desire, if our writings do not suffice, to explain them clearly. - For it is our earnest endeavor that the truth may be brought to light. But the blood-thirsty murder of Antichrist must not be attempted, I say, for it is of the devil and inconsistent to a Christian. (515b; II:321b).
41. Duties to Children
The Holy Scriptures teach that God purifies the heart by faith, that faith comes by hearing, and righteousness through faith. Therefore let all parents who truly love their children take heed that they rightly and clearly instruct them from the Word of God as soon as they may be able to receive and understand it; that they may guide them in the way of truth and zealously watch over all their life; that they may from youth learn to know the Lord their God, to fear, love, honor, thank and serve Him; so that the inborn evil nature of sin may not rule in them nor overcome them to the everlasting shame of their poor souls. (110b; I:151b).
Therefore all you who fear the Lord and love your children with a love that is of divine nature, seek their salvation with all your heart, even as Abraham, Tobit and the Maccabean mother did. If they transgress, correct them firmly; if they err, exhort them lovingly; if they are childish, bear them patiently; as they are able to receive it, instruct them Christian-like. Dedicate and consecrate them to the Lord from their youth; watch over their souls as long as they are committed to your care, that you may not lose your heavenly reward on their account. Pray without ceasing as this pious Syro-phoenician woman, that the Lord may grant them His grace, that they may resist the devil, subdue their sinful nature through the Lord's Spirit and help, and walk from their youth up before God and His church in all righteousness, truth and wisdom in a true, firm faith, unfeigned love and living hope, in an upright and holy life, unblamable and without offence, abounding in the fruits of faith unto eternal life. Amen. (112a; I:153b).
My beloved brethren and sisters in Christ, who sincerely seek to follow God's Word, instruct your children from youth up, and daily admonish them with the word of the Lord; set them the example of a blameless life. Teach them and admonish in proportion to the development of their understanding, constrain and correct them with discretion and moderation, without anger or bitterness, lest they be discouraged. Spare not the rod if necessity require it.
I write and admonish you again, take heed lest the blood and condemnation of your children come upon you. If you love them with a godly love, teach, admonish and instruct them in God, lest the word, blood and death of the Lord be made unto them of no effect and His name and church be slandered on their account by the unwise.
Pray to almighty God for the gift of His grace, that in His great mercy He may guide and keep them through His Spirit in the right path. Be concerned about their salvation as for your own souls. Teach, instruct, admonish, threaten, correct and chastise them as may be required. Do not permit them to keep company with undisciplined, wicked children among whom they hear and learn nothing but lying, swearing, fighting and knavery. Urge them to read and practice writing and bring them up in habits of industry. (220b; I:274b).
My brethren in Christ, if we should see any one in danger of being drowned or burned, or in any dangers that threaten their lives, and there were a prospect that we could render them help, would not our inmost souls be moved with compassion toward them, if haply we might afford relief? Undoubtedly. And now we see with our own eyes, if we but believe God's Word, that they are walking in the shadow of eternal death and liable to be devoured by hell and its unquenchable fire, unless from their heart they turn unto Christ and His word, repent and be saved as the Scriptures teach. Therefore consider the terrible wretchedness of their poor souls which will live forever, either in heaven or in hell; and strive diligently and faithfully that in some way, through your faithful ministry of love and by the direction and instruction of the divine word they be rescued and delivered from everlasting destruction and be made partakers of salvation. For genuine love is of such a nature that it is constantly hungering and thirsting after the glory of God and the salvation of all men, even of those who are strangers to us according to the flesh. (220a; I:273b).
42. The Glorious Hope
Finally I beseech and exhort you to consider with all diligence and earnestness that which is promised in the world to come to all the overcomers and soldiers of Jesus Christ, namely the incorruptible, eternal kingdom, the crown of glory and the life that will remain forever. Therefore, O thou people of God, put on thine armor and make ready for the conflict - not with external weapons and armor as the blood-thirsty barbarous world, but alone with unwavering faith, tranquil patience and fervent prayer. It will and can not be otherwise, the combat of the cross must be fought and the winepress of suffering must be trodden. O thou bride and sister of Christ, prepare thyself. The thorny crown must pierce thy head and the nails transfix thy hands and feet; thy back must be scourged and thy face spit upon. Gird thyself and be prepared, for thou must go with thy Lord and Bridegroom without the camp, bearing His reproach. At the place of the gallows thou must offer up thy sacrifice. Watch and pray. Thine enemies are more numerous than the hairs of thy head or the sand of the sea. Though their hearts, hands, feet and swords are exceedingly red and stained with blood, be not dismayed, for God is thy leader. Thy life on earth is an incessant warfare. Fight valiantly and thou shalt receive the promised crown. (158b; I:210b).
For although the children of Abraham were grieved with much sorrow and pain for some hundreds of years, yet the Lord according to His p[r]omise led them forth victoriously and gave them the land of promise. So also it will be with us. If we doubt not His promises, but cling to them with a firm faith, as Abraham; if by faith we fear, love, honor, thank and serve the Lord who has given them, walk in His commandments and possess our souls in patience, though ever so lamentably we are persecuted by the hellish Pharaoh and his fierce, unmerciful servants, though we be oppressed, smitten, robbed, murdered, burned at the stake or drowned in the water, yet shall the day of our salvation quickly arrive and all our tears shall be wiped from our eyes and we shall be arrayed in the white silken robe of righteousness and with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob follow the Lamb and sit down in the kingdom of God, and possess the land of eternal peace. Praise God, ye who suffer for Christ's sake, and lift up your heads, for the time is near when ye shall hear, "Come ye blessed," and ye shall then eternally rejoice with Him. (87a; I:122b).
(1) Luther and his friends applied the reproachful epithet Sacrament-schaender to the Zwinglians as well as the Anabaptists, since both denied the bodily presence of the Lord in the supper.
(2) Menno Simons mentions feet washing (189; I:242, end of first column, and 636b; II:449b) as well as the holy kiss, though his extant writings do not have a treatise on either of these subjects. The following article on feetwashing is taken from Dirk Philips' booklet Of the Church of God, Bib. Ref. Neerl., vol. X, pp. 397-399; Enchiridion or Hand Book, Elkhart. Ind., 1910; pp. 388-390.