Author Archive

By Daniel Beachy

 

The church at Ephesus had many good works, they had much knowledge, but they had left the first love. How do we leave our first love? It seems we too easily get the idea we’ve lost our first love and don’t know how to find it. The way it really happens is we choose what will be our first love. It’s not lost; but left. Not forgotten, but forsaken.

 

It’s like a man walking alone carrying a burden for one he loves with all his heart. As he journeys towards his destination, he sees another bundle containing gold, silver, and other valuables. “Well (he may say), I can’t carry both bundles very far, but this looks like a good thing, this will allow me to live more comfortably. I will try it once.” And so he goes on for a while until he finds out that these two packages can’t be carried together; one will have to go.

 

“Why, I’ve hardly picked up this new bundle and I’m getting tired already.” After some deliberation he takes the first bundle off his back, finds a good place to put it by the side of the road, and proceeds down the road with the second. “I’ll come back and get that later,” he decides, “once I’ve found a secure place to store these other things.” Thus he leaves his first love, for the second one.

 

Originally published in The Heartbeat of the Remnant (March/April 2011), 400 W. Main Street Ste. 1, Ephrata, PA 17522.

By Mike Atnip

 

On the market these days is advertised a “special”. BUY ONE STYROFOAM CROSS AND GET A STYROFOAM STONE FREE!! Looking at the promoter of this “special” you will notice that if you are interested you should contact someone at “Discount City Church of God”.

Some years ago a picture appeared in the news of a man in Canada carrying a cross across that broad nation. In an attempt to stir people’s hearts to turn to Christ, this man made himself a large wooden cross and took off dragging it along. After a day or two, he had to make a minor adjustment. The thing dragging along in the dirt was to difficult for him. So he inserted a little wheel on the tail end, and took off again. Someone snapped his picture and it appeared in the news-wheel and all.

A similar situation was recounted to me. Only this time it was in the USA. Someone else had the idea to travel around carrying a cross to provoke others to think of the message of Jesus. But the same problem was encountered. A big old wooden cross is a pretty heavy thing to carry around. So this particular man thought the solution to this problem might be to cut a cross out of Styrofoam. Then he could go!

What these two men encountered was the common dilemma of us all. Jesus’ words to “take up your cross daily, and follow me” are sweet in our mouth. But when they hit the belly they suddenly turn very sour. I mean, a big old wooden cross is a hindrance to the normal daily routine of any man or woman on planet earth. If we could only carry it for an hour a day, we could probably make it. But to take it up from our waking moments? To pick it up immediately means no lazing in bed when there is prayer to be made. At 6:00 in the morning an old splintery cross is a hard thing to pick up. And then, of all things, we are called to take it with us all day long.

In practical terms, the cross means the end of everything in a person’s life that springs out from the first Adam. We need the cross with us every day, all day long, because he constantly calls out for a bit of pity, a bit of mercy for yourself. It does not seem fair, and of course not natural, to be a gazing-stock to the society around us all day long. “Can you not for at least a bit fit in?” Adam pleadingly asks. And if we have dropped our cross somewhere he will not only ask, but demand. And if we have no cross for him to be put on, he will be lord. His commands and desires will be done.

This constant denial and battle is heavy and hard at times. And like the two men mentioned above, we will often try to find some way to escape. Perhaps a wheel, perhaps a piece of Styrofoam.

Styrofoam crosses are pretty nice. They weigh only a fraction of a wooden ones. The nails can easily be pulled in and out. There are no splinters. And further more, they are a whole lot cheaper. “Discount City Church of God” offers them at wholesale price on easily affordable terms. But best of all, they come with a little insertable platform that one can stand on when erected. You do not actually have to die, but you can stand there, and perhaps even have a bit of enjoyment from it. The scenery is often nicer at higher elevations.

The Styrofoam Stone

And the stone. It is described by Mark as being “very great”; so large that three old-time women (tough as they probably were) were questioning among themselves how they could get the thing moved to anoint the body of Jesus. If three women could not move it, could one man, having hung on a cross until blood and water came out just three days before, move it by himself?

This last question is an important one. That “very great” stone represented something. It represented an obstacle to someone claiming the power to resurrect from the dead. If He could rise again, what was a “very great” stone to him. Nothing, of course. And He did prove his power by rising up and walking out, without any human aid. It was a supernatural event.

And so it is in our life. We can claim to be “born again”. “Converted”. “Saved”. “A new creature”. But there is the stone of “human weakness”. Our words do not mean a lot if we are stuck in the tomb. We claim to be risen with Christ, walking in his power, but we cannot seem to get past human weakness? Is there really divine life flowing in our veins? Or, have we really just revived from the life we had previously? Had the stone not been rolled away, and Jesus had been left inside hollering to the groundskeeper, “Help, let me out of here!”, the world could say he had not really died- he just revived from the old life. But the stone was supernaturally rolled away. The power that raised him up was also powerful enough to do what a man could not naturally do by himself. The rolled-back stone is proof.

The merchandisers of Styrofoam crosses have a problem. Styrofoam crosses do not provide the power to move “very great” stones. The natural man cannot do supernatural deeds. So along with the “easy to carry” crosses comes an “easy to move stone”.

Blowing away all my analogies, what do I mean? Just this-

Nobody has to teach a child to sin. Lying, stealing, fighting, whining; all are as natural to a human as it is to a fish to swim. Now, tell a fish to stop swimming. And tell a human to stop sinning. And see which happens first.

For a human to stop sinning, his ego (self-centeredness) has to die. To deny the eyes their desire for beauty does not happen by accident. The lust of the eye keeps us slaving away. “Give me something nice to look at!” he cries. And a man will spend $100 for a snazzy pair of cowboy boots. The desire of the flesh demands, “Give me a good sensation!” And an already over-weight woman buys a 12 pack of Pepsi. “Give me some attention!” says the pride of life. And a grown man makes some silly little comment to draw a laugh. And so we spend our lives for what the Apostle John called “the world”.

Jesus used the metaphor of the cross to explain to us that if we are going to be his disciple, these type of things have to be put out of our life. They will not fall by the wayside by themselves. There has to be a willful decision on our part to say “no” to the natural desire for pretty things, good sensations, and respect. And since these temptations will be with us until we die physically, we need a cross with us all the time. When revenge (the pride of life-someone wounded our reputation) tries to rise up, we need the cross. When boredom tempts us to seek a “good time”, we need a cross.

The Styrofoam cross lets a man have some “good things” and “innocent pleasures” in this life. It tells the young man that having a volleyball game with the prayer meeting does not hurt anything. After all, it is better than smoking marijuana. To the young lady, it says a little outward adornment on her dress does not hurt anybody, just do not be a full-fledged Jezebel. To the robbed man it says, do not demand the fullest penalty, but at least get your stuff back. To the person gossiped about it says do not sue, but at least set the record straight.

We know what Jesus said to all the above. One simple word: DIE! Die to selfish ambition, to pride, to pleasure, to attention, to vain desires; to everything and anything not eternal and spiritual.

Now, tell a man to live his life in this manner here in this world. And tell a fish to stop swimming.

But the cross is not the end. It is a means to something further on. It is the way to a resurrection. Trying to resurrect without going to the cross first is like trying to fill a jar full of dirt with pure water. The dirt has to be put out before the water can stay clean. But emptying the jar of the dirt does not fill it with water. And telling our natural desires “No” does not fill us with good fruits.

And so we need to pass from the cross to the tomb. And from the tomb, we need to get past the “very great” stone of human weakness; the inability to love with a supernatural love. It stands in our way like it is; a cold, heartless, and unhearing barrier to fulfill the will of God. Shout at it we may, command it we may try. But “very great” stones do not move by our good intentions. Grace has to come to our aid.

To refrain from killing our enemies, we need a cross. We can stop the deed, perhaps, by this. But to rise up and truly love them we have to get past the “very great” stone. The young man that has received a smirk for denying himself the adrenaline rush of a ballgame (spending his time in something eternally valuable instead) still has to get past the “very great” stone. He has to love and treat with respect his smirker. For the young lady that has been snickered at for wearing plain dresses and not wearing alluring perfumes, to resurrect means to love and pray for her “moderate” friends, with a humility that smells of myrrh, cinnamon, sweet calamus, cassia, and olive oil (EX 30:23-25). For the robbed man, he needs to forgive and love his neighbor thief, turning the other cheek with meekness. To the one wounded by gossip, getting past the “very great” stone means speaking well of, and to, the gossiper.

In reality, getting past the “very great” stone testifies to the world more than hanging on the cross does. Thousands of people were hung on crosses in Jesus’ day. Only one walked past the “very great” stone. This does not deny the cross. You cannot get past the “very great” stone without first hanging from the cross. You cannot experience the first resurrection without first hanging naked, in open view to all the world, on Mount Calvary. But do not stop at Calvary. And you ask how this “stopping” is done?

In the following centuries after the birth of the New Testament Church, some people went on a course of extreme self-denial. They moved to the desert regions and lived on meager diets of bread and water. On man lived on a pillar for years. They slept on hard beds and denied themselves of many things. They crucified their natural desires. And I admire them for it. It was a good step. But…

The “very great” stone did not move for them. It seems they did not get past the stone. What good fruit did this produce, in terms of “others”? The killing of the natural man is only so the spiritual man can rise again. Putting away evil is so that good may come. Denying myself an ice cream cone is so the next man can have a piece of bread (or, that he can have it instead of me).

Boiled down, the baptism of the Holy Ghost, walking in daily communion with our God, and overflowing with a supernatural love is the end. The cross is a means. An indispensable means. Do not stop until you have walked out of the tomb past the “very great” stone.

Back to the Styrofoam stone. It pushes aside with incredible ease. Anybody can move it. Even just one modern-day woman can move it without taking off her high heels or messing up her long, polished nails. It’s demands are “peanuts” compared to the old heavy ones! With these Styrofoam crosses and stones you can carry the name of Jesus and claim a resurrection with such incredible ease! No need for a young man to put away childish pleasures. No need for a woman to deny her eyes what they want. No need to feel guilty to prosecute a thief. No need to put up with gossip any longer- set the record straight if you want.

“Of course, do not go to extremes in this. But wooden crosses with clenched nails and huge splinters are not in mode. You can carry a Styrofoam cross all day, and not even get tired. And with the accompanying lightweight stone, a “born again” experience is unbelievably easy.” So preaches the “Discount City Church of God”. And then she lifts her voice and sings her siren song:

On a hill far away, stands a Styrofoam cross.

The emblem of a sensible way.

On this cross you may live, and you don’t have to die,

it’s the “new and improved” Christian way.

 

So I’ll cherish my Styrofoam cross.

It does not tire nor hurt me all day.

I will cling to my Styrofoam cross,

and exchange it for a wooden, no way!

The First Resurrection

Do you really want a new life? Do you really want the grace to get past human weakness, the inability to live the sermon on the mount? Friend, the Styrofoam cross and stone will not get you there. The old, heavy, ugly, wooden cross that Jesus died on is the only way to get past the “very great” stone. Take up this cross. Let society and church say what they may. You will be scorned. No matter where you live on planet earth, the wooden cross of Jesus is a reproach to bear. Most times even your church friends will despise you. Carrying a wooden, full-size cross never has been in style. And it never will be.

But if you will use it according to the instruction manual, you will never regret it. It is a means to move “very great” stones. Jesus could not have walked out of Joseph’s tomb had he not died on Calvary. And once you have burst past the “very great” stone to begin living a truly resurrected life here on planet earth, your only regret will be that you did not take your cross sooner. The resurrection is worth the cross. And instead of singing the ode to the Styrofoam cross you can sing with Henry Lyte and the rest who have walked out of the tomb:

Jesus, I my cross have taken, all to leave and follow thee;

Destitute, despised, forsaken- Thou from hence my all shalt be.

Perish ev’ry fond ambition, all I’ve sought and hoped and known!

Yet how rich is my condition- God and heav’n are still my own!

 

Let the world despise and leave me, they have left my Saviour too;

Human hearts and looks deceive me- Thou art not, like man, untrue.

And while Thou shalt smile upon me, God of Wisdom, love and might,

Foes may hate, and friends may shun me- show Thy face, and all is bright!

 

Man may trouble and distress me, ’twill but drive me to Thy breast;

Life with trials hard may press me- heav’n will bring me sweeter rest.

O ’tis not in grief to harm me while Thy love is left to me;

O ’twere not in joy to charm me were that joy unmixed with Thee!

 

Haste thee on from grace to glory, armed by faith and winged by prayer;

Heav’ns eternal day’s before thee- God’s own hand shall guide thee there.

Soon shall close thy earthly mission, Swift shall pass thy pilgrim days;

Hope shall change to glad fruition, faith to sight, and prayer to praise!

 

I Live!

After singing this song with the understanding, you will then be able to open your Bible to Galations 2:20 and rejoicingly read, “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live”. After a few heartfelt hallelujahs roll out you will then be able to continue, “yet not I, 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.”

Will you take your cross and follow Him?

By Andrew V. Ste. Marie

Editor’s Note: Because of the nature of this article, several people or groups are mentioned before they are fully described. We suggest you read this article twice to get an understanding of how the different groups and people were inter-related during the Radical Reformation.

 

Who were the early Anabaptists? For centuries after their origin in 1525, their enemies have villainized the early Anabaptists and attempted to create bias against them. Names like “the radical left wing of the Reformation” were employed against these people, who were supposed to have been “antitrinitarian” (according to some accounts), “did not believe in the government”, “heretics”, or even immoral (polygamous). Although scholars have long since sorted out (albeit incompletely) the many Reformation-era groups which practiced adult baptism, confusion on the topic of who the Anabaptists were persists. This article will attempt to give an introduction to the various Anabaptist groups as well as show why generic references to “the Anabaptists” should be avoided.

 

What Does “Anabaptist” Mean?

 

The word “Anabaptist” (Weidertauffer in German) simply means “rebaptizer”. It was a term of derision used for the groups of radical Christian brethren who refused to be satisfied with the magisterial (state church) reform efforts of the Protestants. The name was also applied to other groups who practiced adult baptism. Therefore, it was from the beginning an extremely generic term.

 

Two Major Divisions of Anabaptists

 

Because of the generic nature of the term “Anabaptist”, it makes sense that there would be some variation amongst those who were thus named. The name was applied by their enemies, and it applies across the entire European continent and across fifty years of church history. With so much time and space encompassed by the name, quite a bit of variation is to be expected.

  All of the early Anabaptist groups can be divided into two major categories: the Scriptural or evangelical Anabaptists and the fringe Anabaptists. The Scriptural Anabaptists were those whose main concern was to establish pure churches after the New Testament pattern. They held to “sola Scriptura” (although in a different manner from the Reformers) and believed in the New Birth. The fringe Anabaptists were all the other Reformation-era groups which practiced adult baptism but were not Scriptural in orientation like the evangelical/Scriptural/normative Anabaptists. As such, they make what paleontologists call a “wastebasket taxon” – a group where any difficult fossil is thrown! Of course, a few folks, such as Hans Hut and Hans Denck, are hard to group into either class, further complicating the picture. In this article, I will first discuss in turn the major beliefs of all the Scriptural Anabaptists, then the distinctives of the different groups of Scriptural Anabaptists. The same will then be done for the fringe Anabaptists.

 

Major Beliefs of the Scriptural Anabaptists

 

Most Scriptural Anabaptists held strongly to the following beliefs:

1. Regeneration or the new birth is a radical event which completely transforms a filthy sinner into a truly holy saint.

2. Baptism is for regenerated people only.

3. They emphasized following Christ in life.

4. The church is a voluntary association of the regenerated, kept pure by the ban or excommunication, which has the purpose of giving the light of Christ to the world and helping each member on in following Him. This was accompanied by a belief in the separation of church and state (the church free from the interference of the state, the church not trying to run the affairs of the state).

5. All worldly force was rejected (nonresistance) as was serving in the government for Christians.

6. The swearing of oaths is rejected.

 

Groups of Scriptural Anabaptists

 

The Scriptural Anabaptists can be further subdivided into two smaller divisions before the level of individual groups: the non-communitarian and the communitarian. The communitarian Anabaptists favored full community of goods, where private property was totally eliminated. The non-communitarian Anabaptists favored brotherhood sharing and aid, but allowed private property to a certain extent. They said that all goods were “common” in the sense of being available for the use of the brotherhood. The non-communitarian groups will be outlined here first.

 

Swiss Brethren

 

Date of Origin: 1525 Major Leaders: Conrad Grebel, Felix Manz, George Blaurock, Michael Sattler Where name originated: Unknown; possibly because they originated in Switzerland and called each other “brothers” Geographical Locations: Switzerland, southern Germany, Moravia Mode of Baptism: Pouring & Immersion Modern Descendants: Amish & most American Mennonites, Swiss Mennonites

 

The Swiss Brethren were the original group of Anabaptists. They originated in Zürich, Switzerland, where Ulrich Zwingli was leading the Reformation. A group of zealous young men – most notably Conrad Grebel and Felix Manz – followed Zwingli and enthusiastically supported him. Eventually, their study of the Scriptures showed them that they could no longer support Zwingli’s program, especially because he consistently capitulated to the demands of the Zürich Council in matters of church reform. The group finally stepped aside from Zwingli’s program in a visible way when they accepted water baptism by pouring in Felix Manz’s mother’s courtyard.

  The Swiss Brethren group grew greatly in the early days and continued to grow for more than 100 years. Remnants of the Swiss Brethren (now called Mennonites) still persist in their native Switzerland. Most Mennonites and essentially all Amish in North America are descended from the Swiss Brethren. The Swiss Brethren believed in nonresistance, nonswearing, the authority of the entire brotherhood in making decisions, the responsibility of the brotherhood to meet the needs of its own members, etc. They were heavily persecuted and met in barns, woods, etc. There is a cave near Zürich called the “Täuferhöhle”, or Anabaptist Cave, because of the Swiss Brethren meetings held there. The origin of the name “Swiss Brethren” (German Schweizer Bruder) is unknown. It is sometimes assumed that the group received this name because they originated in Switzerland and called each other “brother”. The first known use of the name is in the Hutterite Chronicle, where it is stated that in 1542 that some former Philipites (who will be discussed later) joined the Swiss Brethren. The Hutterites seemed to use the term “Swiss Brethren” as a term of derision for the Philipites because the latter had abandoned community of goods and reverted to ownership of private property. One Moravian document says that the Schweizer Bruder received their name from Hans Schweizer, about whom nothing more is known. Wherever the name came from and regardless of whom it was first applied to, the term “Swiss Brethren” came to refer to that group of primarily Swiss and South German Anabaptists represented by Grebel, Manz, Blaurock, and Michael Sattler.

 

Dutch Mennonites

 

Date of Origin: 1530s Major Leaders: Menno Simons, Dirk Philips, Leonaert Bouwens Where name originated: from Menno Simons; invented by the Anabaptists’ enemies Geographical Locations: the “Low Countries”, including the Netherlands and Northern Germany Mode of Baptism: Pouring Modern Descendants: a few American Mennonites, Dutch Mennonites, Russian (Old Colony) Mennonites

 

The Dutch Mennonites originated out of the confused mass of fringe Anabaptism in the Low Countries in the early to mid-1530s. Obbe and Dirk Philips, both illegitimate sons of a Catholic priest, joined the Anabaptist fellowship of the Melchiorites-turning-Münsterites. Obbe was baptized and ordained by Münsterite missionaries and began to baptize and ordain others, such as his brother Dirk, whom he ordained. When the Münsterites began to turn revolutionary, Dirk and Obbe stood – almost alone – against such ideas. The small circle of peaceful Anabaptists who stood against the revolutionary excesses of the Münsterites et al. became known as “Obbenites”, after Obbe Philips. It was this brotherhood which ordained other bishops, including David Joris, Adam Pastor, Gillis of Aachen, and Menno Simons. After the fall of the “Anabaptist kingdom” of Münster, Obbe’s conscience was tormented by the fact that he had been deceived by these people and allowed himself to be baptized and ordained by them. He felt that his ordination was invalid. He eventually left the brotherhood which he had helped lead during its turbulent years. Leadership was left in the hands of Menno Simons and Dirk Philips. Menno proved to be a capable leader, and the Anabaptists’ enemies dubbed the church the “Mennist” or “Mennonist” church. The Dutch Mennonites developed completely independently of the Swiss Brethren. During the Mennonites’ early years, there was no contact between them and other Scriptural forms of Anabaptism. They developed their convictions on the New Birth, separation from the world, the sword, the oath, etc., from the Scriptures. When they finally did contact the Swiss Brethren in the mid to late 1500s, they both had already formed their sets of basic convictions and found that in all but two points they agreed. The first of these points was how the excommunicated should be treated. The Swiss Brethren interpreted Paul’s statement in I Corinthians 5:11, “with such an one no not to eat,” as applying only to “eating” the Lord’s Supper. The Dutch Mennonites believed that this “eating” meant any eating, and that the excommunicated should be shunned. The second point of difference was that the Dutch ministers held to a different view of the Incarnation than the Swiss. However, not all of the Dutch Mennonites held this view; after the death of Menno and Dirk, the view seems to have died out among the Mennonites. The Dutch Mennonites also had a slightly different congregational practice from the Swiss. They were otherwise quite similar.

  The Dutch Mennonites endured horrible persecution through the 1570s. Burning at the stake was the usual mode of execution, although beheading, drowning, and burying alive (for women) were also used. Once persecution stopped, the church began to relax, the people became rich and happy, and all that they had stood for amidst persecution began to slowly melt away. The group also began to splinter, beginning quite soon after Menno’s death and even before.

 

Communitarian Anabaptists

 

These groups of Anabaptists were either strictly communitarian or were communitarian at some point in their history.

 

Stäbler/Austerlitz Brethren/Pilgramites

 

Date of Origin: 1526 Major Leaders: Jacob Weidemann, Pilgram Marpeck Where name originated: Stäbler = staff-bearers, after nonresistance; Austerlitz Brethren, after the city they lived in; Pilgramites, for Pilgram Marpeck Geographical Locations: Moravia & southern Germany Mode of Baptism: pouring & immersion Modern Descendants: none; the Hutterites are indirect descendants

 

The Stäbler originated in a dispute between Balthasar Hubmaier and Hans Hut. Both were trying to establish Anabaptist congregations in the city of Nikolsburg. Hubmaier wanted a state church and did not accept nonresistance. Hut was nonresistant and refused to accept a state church. The congregation Hut founded became known as the Stäbler, staff-bearers, because they refused to carry swords. This group was left under the leadership of “one-eyed Jacob” Weidemann.

  Weidemann soon began to teach community of goods, claiming that it was the mark of the true church. Nevertheless, his group did not practice it until they were expelled from the territory of the lords of Liechtenstein, who were members of the Schwertler (Hubmaier) group. The now very poor group put community of goods into practice as they left. Weidemann spread out a coat on the ground and his entire congregation put their goods in a heap on it. They thus earned another name, “those of the little heap”. Their most often-used name, however, was “Austerlitz Brethren”, because they moved to Austerlitz. Pilgram Marpeck, an important early Anabaptist leader, appears to have originally been a member of the Austerlitz Brethren after his conversion and before his leaving the area for Strasbourg (southern Germany). Marpeck was, in a sense, a “bridge Anabaptist”. He tried to work for the reconciliation of all Anabaptist groups. His efforts, unfortunately, were unsuccessful. He was rebuffed by the Hutterites. He considered the Swiss Brethren to be legalists who were not a true church.

  The Austerlitz Brethren and the other (Pilgramite) congregations associated with them seem on the whole to have been a bit more lax than other Anabaptist fellowships, particularly on separation from the world and the oath. The Austerlitz Brethren believed a Christian could swear oaths without sin. Marpeck’s view is unknown, but some of his associates accepted swearing on certain occasions. The Austerlitz Brethren/Pilgramites (who may have referred to all of their churches by the name “Fellows of the Covenant”) eventually went extinct. The Austerlitz congregation itself scattered when the Anabaptists were expelled from Moravia; Jacob Weidemann was martyred in Vienna, Austria. After his death, remnants of his congregation joined the Hutterites. They had, before this, abandoned community of goods, with the other congregations they were in fellowship with. Marpeck’s congregations in southern Germany came to an end in about 1573; the last remnants of these churches were snuffed out by the Roman Catholic Counter-Reformation in about 1620.

  Although they have no direct modern descendants, the Hutterites – who still live in community of goods – are in a roundabout way the descendants of the original “ones of the little heap”.

 

Gabrielites

 

Date of Origin: c. 1527 Major Leaders: Gabriel Ascherham Where name originated: from Gabriel Ascherham Geographical Locations: Silesia, Moravia, Poland Modern Descendants: none

 

Gabriel Ascherham was an Anabaptist leader who established a communitarian church similar to the Hutterites. In 1531, at the suggestion of evangelist Jakob Hutter, the Gabrielite, Philipite, and proto-Hutterite communities bound themselves together in a loose union with Gabriel serving as bishop over all three communities. In 1533, upon Jakob Hutter’s return to Moravia, the union disintegrated in the Schism of 1533. When the Moravian nobles banished the Anabaptists from their territories, the Gabrielites abandoned community of goods and fled. Little is known of the development of Gabriel’s life and thought, but it is clear that he became a spiritualist in his later days – i.e., one who believes that if one’s heart is right and he has the Holy Spirit, everything is fine, regardless of what he does with Scriptural commands. Thus he justified infant baptism and even said that the unsaved children of believers could be baptized. He denounced the Hutterites for “legalism” and their view of community of goods. It seems that his followers, as a whole, were unwilling to go in Gabriel’s direction, and defected to the Hutterites. At the time of his death, Gabriel was a “shepherd without sheep”, as some have said. Most of the remnants of his followers eventually joined the Hutterites.

 

Philipites

 

Date of Origin: c. 1527 Major Leaders: Philip Plener, Blasius Kühn Where name originated: from Philip Plener Geographical Locations: Moravia Modern Descendants: none

 

Philip Plener was the elder of the Philipite community, another group of communitarian Anabaptists living in Moravia. His community grew because of the great numbers of Anabaptists coming to tolerant Moravia from other lands. Plener’s community eventually settled in Auspitz and established community of goods in 1529. In 1535, when the Anabaptists were expelled from Moravia, Plener and his assistant, Blasius Kühn, went about on horseback looking for a place to settle. Finding none, they announced to the group that each man would have to fend for himself. One group of Philipites went back to southern Germany, where they were probably absorbed into the Swiss Brethren. Others eventually joined the Hutterites.

  One group of Philipites intended to return to Germany via the Danube River. Philip ordained Michael Schneider as the elder of this group. The Roman Catholics were alerted of the coming of these Anabaptists and caught the entire group and imprisoned them in the castle at Passau. Here they were imprisoned for five years. Although some were tortured, none were executed. A few died in prison and a few recanted and were released; others escaped. During their imprisonment, these Philipites wrote many hymns. These hymns were later used by the Hutterites and later by the Swiss Brethren as the core of the Ausbund, the German hymnbook still used by the Amish.

 

 

Hutterites

Date of Origin: c. 1527 Major Leaders: Jakob Hutter, Hans Amon, Peter Reidemann Where name originated: from Jakob Hutter Geographical Locations: Moravia, South Tyrol Mode of Baptism: Pouring Modern Descendants: Hutterites

 

 

The Hutterites had a rough starting as a group. Wilhelm Reublin, a Swiss Brethren evangelist and one of the original Zürich circle, joined the Austerlitz Brethren (Stäbler) and soon grew discontented with some of the rules and the actions of the leaders. He led a group away from the Austerlitz Brethren. Unfortunately, they soon found out the fact that they were united in their opposition to Jacob Weidemann did not mean they were united enough to be a church together. They experienced problems and Reublin was expelled as an Ananias because he preached community of goods but had kept some money secretly for himself. Jakob Hutter’s converts fleeing from South Tyrol then began to join the group, called at this point by historians the “proto-Hutterite community”. The group suffered through several other leaders and the Great Schism of 1533. After Jakob Hutter’s martyrdom, they came to be called Hutterites. They held to strict community of goods and nonresistance. They also opposed the paying of war taxes, as had Hans Hut and the Austerlitz Brethren. Unfortunately, some or perhaps many of them looked with scorn on all other groups of Anabaptists – particularly the Swiss Brethren. Although the Hutterites had a rough start, they proved to be a very vigorous and zealous group of Anabaptists. Their missionaries roamed far and wide across Europe, even long after the Swiss Brethren had, for the most part, stopped evangelizing. Their well-organized communities made ambitious missionary projects possible which could not have been carried out by the less structured Swiss Brethren or Dutch Mennonites. The Hutterites survive today, chiefly in the western United States and Canada.

 

 

Fringe Anabaptists

 

There are many themes which recur several times among the fringe Anabaptists. These did not all occur in every fringe group, but they are common to more than one of these groups.

 

1. Belief in an invisible church. This means that they did not believe in an organized, “visible” church. Each person could do just fine all by himself, without Christian fellowship or organization being necessary. Thus all church authority was rejected as well as gathering together for fellowship and instruction.

 

2. Marginalization of baptism. Because of spiritualist/invisible church tendencies, baptism was often marginalized, up to and including outright rejection of adult/believer’s baptism. Thus in a sense, some of these groups hardly qualify for the label “Anabaptist”, even if we use that title very loosely.

 

3. Allowing the use of the sword.

 

4. Extra-biblical revelation, particularly in the form of special dreams and visions given to the prophets and prophetesses of the group.

 

Schwertler

Date of Origin: 1520s Major Leaders: Balthasar Hubmaier, Hans Spittelmaier Where name originated: Schwertler = sword bearers; from rejection of nonresistance Geographical Locations: southern Germany, Nikolsburg Mode of Baptism: Pouring Modern Descendants: none

 

Balthasar Hubmaier was an able defender of the principle of believer’s baptism and is known as “the theologian of the Anabaptists”. He was perhaps one of the most well-educated Anabaptists of all, having been at one time head of a university. Although he fellowshipped for a time with the Swiss Brethren, he never agreed with them on nonresistance. He participated in the Peasant’s War of 1525 and even had two nonresistant Anabaptists banished from his Anabaptist city of Waldshut.

  Hubmaier eventually attempted to establish an Anabaptist state church from his new home in Nikolsburg. He broke with Hans Hut over this issue and over the use of the sword. His opponents, the Stäbler, eventually developed into the Austerlitz Brethren and far outlasted his Schwertler party. Hubmaier was imprisoned in 1527 by the Roman Catholics and recanted what he felt were secondary points of minor significance, i.e., concerning Mary. He hoped thereby to obtain release, but his plan did not work. He was later burned at the stake, leaving his followers confused as to what direction he wanted them to take. His churches died out in 1529.

 

Spiritualists

 

Date of Origin: 1530s Major Leaders: Hans Denck, Ludwig Haetzer Where name originated: over-emphasis of inner spiritual life at the expense of following Biblical commands Geographical Locations: principally southern Germany Modern Descendants: none

 

The Spiritualists were a group of Anabaptists principally associated with Strasbourg in what was then part of southern Germany (now in France). Hans Denck, a friend of Hans Hut, was perhaps one of the most important of these Anabaptists. He baptized others for a time but soon decided that inner baptism was all that mattered. Not long before his death, he promised to never baptize anyone again and also approved of the swearing of oaths. His spiritualistic thinking, that only what was inside mattered, led him to forsake some or all of his Anabaptist convictions.

  These Spiritualists descended from the medieval Mystics, who had emphasized the rebirth of the spirit and other internal aspects of the Christian life. When these Spiritualist/Mystic Anabaptists encountered persecution because of baptism, they seem to have easily slipped back into the mentality of “outward things do not matter; only inward things do”.

  Ludwig Haetzer was a friend of Hans Denck. Denck may have baptized him. He was a scholar who did much writing, including hymn writing, and translating of Old Testament and Apocryphal books into German. His connection to the Anabaptists is rather ambiguous; he was finally executed for adultery.

 

Sabbatarians

 

Date of Origin: c. 1528 Major Leaders: Oswald Glait, Andreas Fisher Geographical Locations: Silesia Modern Descendants: none

 

This is one group which it takes a “judgment call” to put in the fringe group or the Scriptural group. With no judging whether the people involved were born again or not, it was decided to place them in the fringe group because their making a significant issue of the Sabbath question was certainly not normative for most Anabaptists. In addition, they rejected, at least in part, a basic belief of the Scriptural Anabaptists – that the New Testament has superseded the Old.

  About 1528, Oswald Glait, who had been an active Anabaptist leader for a short time, published a book defending the view of a literal observance of a seventh-day (Saturday) Sabbath rest. Andreas Fisher also wrote in defense of this view. Caspar Schwenckfeld, an opponent of Pilgram Marpeck, wrote a reply to Glait’s book and Martin Luther also wrote against these Anabaptists. When this movement died out is not certain, although it did not last long.

 

 

Melchiorites

 

Date of Origin: 1530 Major Leaders: Melchior Hoffman Where name originated: from Melchior Hoffman Geographical Locations: Holland, Germany, England Mode of Baptism: Pouring Modern Descendants: none

 

Melchior Hoffman became a Lutheran early in life and in 1523 became a Lutheran preacher. He began to develop his ideas on prophecy, one of his favorite subjects, during his time as a Lutheran. His ideas on eschatology (end-times events), in addition to his lack of education (he was a simple furrier), resulted in his lack of acceptance among the Lutherans. In Strasbourg, he met and joined the Anabaptists. He was particularly drawn to a man and woman who claimed to have received prophetic visions. He soon published their “revelations”. Hoffman progressively grew convinced that he was Elijah who was to herald the coming of Christ. He visited the Netherlands and introduced Anabaptism there. When some of his followers were martyred, he recommended that baptism be suspended for two years because the building of the Second Temple had also been delayed for two years. Meanwhile, he continued to write and publish. He claimed that no one in his day preached the true Gospel. He looked with scorn on the Swiss Brethren. Finally, an aged Anabaptist from Friesland “prophesied” that Hoffman was indeed Elijah, that he would be imprisoned in Strasbourg for six months, then would be released and (with the help of other ministers) would spread Anabaptism over the whole world. Hoffman excitedly rushed back to Strasbourg, had himself arrested, and swore an oath that he would eat and drink nothing except bread and water until he could point to Jesus Himself. Ten years later, Melchior Hoffman died in prison. Despite his strange teachings, Hoffman did embrace nonresistance and warned his followers against sedition, rebellion, and polygamy. After his death, his followers continued a policy of “invisible church” – conforming to accepted state church practices to avoid persecution. They eventually died out, although they still existed as late as 1560.

  Münsterites

 

Date of Origin: 1530s Major Leaders: Jan Mathys, Jan van Leiden, Bernhard Rothmann Where name originated: from Münster, city which they believed would be the “New Jerusalem” Geographical Locations: Netherlands, primarily Münster and Amsterdam Modern Descendants: none

 

While Melchior Hoffman was convinced that he was Elijah, he and his followers could not for sure decide who should be recognized as “Enoch”. Caspar Schwenckfeld and Cornelius Polterman were the main contenders for the position. While Melchior Hoffman was imprisoned (before his first six months had expired), a new competitor for the title of “Enoch” appeared – a Dutch baker by the name of Jan Mathys. When he heard from some of the other Melchiorites that Polterman was Enoch, he threatened with hellfire any who dared to reject his claims. In this way, he was able to procure the submission of some of the Melchiorites.

  Meanwhile, in the town of Münster, in Westphalia, Germany, a reformer named Bernhard Rothmann was dissatisfied with the Lutheran doctrines he was being forced by the town council to uphold. When Mathys arrived at the city, Rothmann joined the Anabaptists along with many from the city. Following a vision of three suns (probably just a display of sundogs), the Münster Anabaptists resorted to force and captured control of the city government. They promptly banished all who would not submit to rebaptism. Mathys then issued a call to all Anabaptists to come to the “New Jerusalem”, which, he claimed, was not to be Strasbourg as Melchior Hoffman had said but was actually to be Münster. He invited all oppressed Anabaptists – indeed, everyone – to come join the “Kingdom” at Münster, and thousands answered the call.

  It was not long before a combined Catholic and Protestant army under the leadership of the Catholic Bishop of Münster had besieged the “Anabaptist Kingdom”. Mathys “prophesied” that the world would end on Easter Sunday, 1534. On that day he took a few of his men and tried to drive away the bishop’s army in Old Testament style. They failed and Mathys was killed.

  After Mathys’ death, another man, Jan van Leiden, took over leadership of Münster. He had himself crowned king, eventually built himself a throne in the town square, and called himself the “third David” (Jesus being the second) and the “joyous king of all”. Leiden introduced polygamy into the “Kingdom” because of a shortage of men in the besieged city. As starvation set in, Leiden held amusements in the market place – such as dancing and theatricals – for the public amusement. This, of course, did not make the people forget their hunger. A revolt inside the city was brutally suppressed. Finally, due to a betrayal from inside the city, the bishop’s armies were able to successfully invade Münster. Leiden and two of his associates were captured, put in iron cages, and toured around Europe for display. Leiden finally recanted his errors and admitted that he had never received revelations from God. The three were finally tortured to death and the cages were hung from the church tower in Münster, where they remain to this day.

 

 

Old Cloisterites

 

Date of Origin: 1535 Major Leaders: Jan van Geelen, Jan van Batenberg Where name originated: from the Oldeklooster (Old Cloister) which they seized Geographical Locations: Bolsward, Freisland, in the Netherlands Modern Descendants: none

 

It is perhaps somewhat of an exaggeration to put the Old Cloisterites in a separate group from the Münsterites; indeed, Jan van Geelen, their leader, was one of the “twelve prophets” of Münster. Nevertheless, their story is distinct from the Münster story.

  On March 30, 1535, some Melchiorites/Münsterites seized the Old Cloister in Bolsward, Friesland (Netherlands). They then wanted to take, by force, the entire province of Freisland. An imperial officer was given the task of retaking the monastery, a job which he found more difficult to do than he had supposed. He had to besiege the cloister, bombard it with artillery fire, and charge it three times. It fell on April 7. About 300 Anabaptists died in the fighting. Of the rest, 37 were instantly beheaded and 132 were taken prisoner. Of these, 55 were later executed. Jan van Geelen escaped harm!

  It is a possibility that one of the participants in the Old Cloister event, Peter Simons, was a brother of Menno Simons.

 

Davidjorists or Davidians

 

Date of Origin: 1540s Major Leaders: David Joris Where name originated: from David Joris Geographical Locations: primarily the Netherlands Modern Descendants: none

 

As a young man, David Joris joined the Lutherans, then the Melchiorites, and finally the Obbenites. Among the Obbenites he was ordained a bishop. Before long, unfortunately, he became convinced that he was a “third David” who was receiving direct revelation from God. He claimed that Christ did not bring in a full revelation of truth, but that instead both Old and New Testaments were now superseded by his own writings. He believed in an invisible church and also believed that sin of the body does not affect the spirit. He allowed polygamy. Despite these weaknesses, he refused the use of the sword and did not agree with the Batenbergers on this point.

  When Menno Simons warned against the false prophet in his famous book Foundation of Christian Doctrine, Joris took offense and wrote to Menno challenging him to a great battle. Menno replied in a brief letter, telling Joris in effect to not write to him anymore until he would accept the absolute authority of the Scriptures.

  Tired of persecution, Joris finally took his family to Basel where, under the pseudonym Jan van Bruges, he claimed to be a Reformed refugee. He was allowed to stay and became one of the pillars of the Reformed state church there. Meanwhile, he continued to secretly correspond with his many followers. He died in Basel in 1556. Years after his death, a dispute among his followers revealed to the Basel authorities that the respected “Jan van Bruges” was really the notorious heretic, David Joris! The Reformed authorities then had his corpse dug up and burned with as many of his writings as they could find. Joris’s following eventually disintegrated, although it did not happen immediately following his death or his cremation.

 

 

Batenbergers or Zwaardgeesten

 

Date of Origin: 1535 Major Leaders: Jan van Batenberg Where name originated: Batenbergers from Jan van Batenberg; Zwaardgeesten = “sword minded” Geographical Locations: Netherlands Modern Descendants: none

 

The Batenbergers were followers of Jan van Batenberg, who had been a participant in the incident at the Old Cloister. After the fall of Münster in 1535, remnants of the Münsterite group were attracted to the Batenbergers. They were essentially organized bandits, believing that it was right to rob church buildings and practice polygamy. van Batenberg believed that he was Elijah who was to appear before Christ. In December 1537, he was arrested. While in prison, he betrayed many Anabaptists and tried to convince the authorities that he had always opposed plans of plunder and attack (!). He was executed in 1538. Another of the Batenbergers’ leaders was executed in 1544. They seem to have gone extinct sometime in the 1550s.

 

Adamites

 

Date of Origin: 1550s Major Leaders: Adam Pastor Where name originated: from Adam Pastor Geographical Locations: Netherlands Modern Descendants: none

 

The Adamites were the only Anabaptist group which was antitrinitarian. Adam Pastor (whose original name was Roelof Martens), the leader of the group, was a Catholic priest. He left the priesthood in 1533 and became a Münsterite. He later left the Münsterites and joined the Obbenites/Mennonites. Menno Simons ordained him an elder in the early or mid-1540s. Pastor later became an anti-trinitarian and questioned the deity of Jesus Christ. Three debates were held with him in 1547. Menno Simons, Dirk Philips, and other Mennonite bishops tried to show Pastor the error of his ways, but he refused to give up his theological opinions. Dirk Philips excommunicated him at the end of the last meeting, presumably acting in behalf of all the bishops.

  Pastor continued to preach and attracted a small following. In order to counteract his influence, Menno Simons wrote a pamphlet titled Confession of the Triune God, which was originally circulated in handwritten form but was eventually printed. Dirk wrote a 20-stanza hymn, “You Christian Brothers Together,” and a letter against Pastor’s ideas.

  In 1552, Pastor requested another discussion with the Mennonite bishops. He felt that he was not given a fair hearing in the three meetings of 1547. Menno and Dirk agreed and the meeting was held, but it was fruitless. Neither side would relent.

  Pastor died sometime between 1560 and 1570 and his following disintegrated. Among all the known Dutch Anabaptist martyrs, only one (Herman van Vlekwijk) was known to be an antitrinitarian.

 

Is it Fair to say “the Anabaptists”?

Having seen the many different groups of people, some of them quite different from each other, which practiced adult baptism and were thus called “Anabaptists”, it is my opinion that it is not fair to say “the Anabaptists believed this” or “the Anabaptists practiced this” without clarification of exactly which Anabaptists are being referred to. In a sense, it cannot even be said that “the Anabaptists” practiced adult baptism because some groups (such as the Spiritualists) eventually abandoned the baptism of adults.

  To say “the Anabaptists this” or “the Anabaptists that” would be comparable to saying “the pedobaptists believed and practiced this, that, or the next thing.” Among the pedobaptists were the Roman Catholics, the Lutherans, and the Reformed (Calvinists/Zwinglians) – obviously a very disparate collection of groups. The only connecting link between all pedobaptists was the baptism of infants. The various pedobaptist groups did not even share their main arguments in support of pedobaptism. Because it would thus be unfair to talk about the pedobaptists as a homogenous group, it would also be unfair to talk of the Anabaptists as one homogenous group.

 

 

Conclusion

 

God has had His righteous remnant through all of time. It is my belief that in the sixteenth century, the Scriptural Anabaptists made up a good portion of that remnant. However, not everything called “Anabaptist” is necessarily good or wholesome. The days of the Reformation were filled with many strange characters and bizarre beliefs, but the Scriptural Anabaptists were able to steer clear of these influences for the most part. Their Biblical convictions live on today among their descendants, including the Mennonites, Amish, and Hutterites.

Sources

1. The Anabaptist Story, by William Estep 2. Mennonites in Europe, by John Horsch 3. Hutterite Beginnings, by Werner O. Packull 4. The Life and Thought of Michael Sattler, by C. Arnold Snyder 5. The Drummer’s Wife, by Joseph Stoll 6. The Secret of the Strength, by Peter Hoover 7. Spiritual and Anabaptist Writers, ed. by George H. Williams & Angel M. Mergal 8. The Writings of Dirk Philips, ed. by Cornelius J. Dyck, William E. Keeney, & Alvin J. Beachy 9. The Complete Writings of Menno Simons, edited by J. C. Wenger 10. The Writings of Pilgram Marpeck, edited by William Klassen & Walter Klaassen 11. Peter Riedemann’s Hutterite Confession of Faith, translated by John J. Friesen 12. They Harry the Good People Out of the Land, by John S. Oyer 13. Anabaptism in Outline, ed. by Walter Klaassen 14. “Pilgram Marpeck and the Fellows of the Covenant: The Short and Fragmentary History of the Rise and Decline of an Anabaptist Denominational Network,” by Martin Rothkegel, Mennonite Quarterly Review 85 (January 2011):7-36 15. Songs of the Ausbund, Vol. 1, by Ohio Amish Library 16. The following articles on the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online (www.gameo.org):  “Wideman, Jakob (d. 1535/6),” by Robert Friedmann  “Austerlitz Brethren,” by Christian Hege  “Ascherham, Gabriel (d. 1545),” by Robert Friedmann  “Gabrielites,” by Robert Friedmann  “Philippites,” by Robert Friedmann  “Plener, Philipp (16th century),” by Robert Friedmann  “Schwertler,” by Harold S. Bender  “Denck, Hans (ca. 1500-1527),” by Christian Neff & Walter Fellmann  “Haetzer, Ludwig (1500-1529),” by Gerhard Goeters  “Sabbatarian Anabaptists,” by William Klassen  “Sabbatarianism,” by Daniel Liechty  “Melchior Hoffman,” by Christian Neff & Werner O. Packull  “Melchiorites,” by Cornelius Krahn  “Münster Anabaptists,” by Cornelius Krahn, Nanne van der Zijpp, & James M. Stayer  “Oldeklooster (Friesland, Netherlands),” by Christian Neff & Nanne van der Zijpp  “Batenburg, Jan van (1495-1538),” by Jacob Loosjes  “David Joris (ca. 1501-1556),” by Gerhard Hein & Gary K. Waite  “Adam Pastor (d.1560/70),” by Christian Neff & Harold S. Bender  “Adamites,” by Nanne van der Zijpp  “Antitrinitarianism,” by Robert Friedmann  “Unitarianism,” by Harold S. Bender  “God (Trinity), Doctrine of,” by James A. Reimer

 

Originally published in The Witness June 2012.

By John M. Brenneman

Editor’s Note: The following piece was written in 1863, in the height of the Civil War, by a bishop in the (Old) Mennonite Church who lived in Elida, Ohio. It was part of Brenneman’s first booklet, Christianity and War and was part of the appendix, titled “An Address to the Mennonite Brethren”. This brief writing is as relevant today as it was in the Civil War. Bold emphasis has been added. Christianity and War is one of the best defenses of nonresistance I have ever read. It is available from Sermon on the Mount Publishing.—Ed.

Dear Brethren:

  Whereas we have now met with perilous times—times of sorrow and distress, while the whole world, as it seems, is lying in wickedness and in rebellion against God and His laws, it is surely high time for us to “awake out of sleep,” and be on our guard: for we are surrounded with snares and temptations on every side, wherewith Satan is aiming to ensnare us. Let us, therefore, “watch and pray, that we fall not into temptation.”

  And, whereas thousands are now engaged in fighting for a worldly kingdom, which is but transitory and vain, ought we not then also, who profess to seek a heavenly country, to “fight the good fight of faith,” and be more vigorously engaged in fortifying ourselves against the assaults of our spiritual enemies, lest they break in upon us unawares, and rob us of our rights and privileges. Let us be as Paul writes to the Ephesians: “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil: for we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore, take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all to stand. Stand, therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God: pray always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.” Eph. 6:10-18. Thus we can see, my dear brethren, that a soldier of Jesus Christ must be well armed from head to foot, in order to be able to withstand the attacks of the enemy. Oh, let us not delay to seek fresh recruits, and to have them all well armed, for we may yet have hard battles to fight. Do not be discouraged, for our Captain is strong and well experienced; only follow in His footsteps—do as He bids you—keep close to His banner, and by His all-powerful aid, we shall finally be more than conquerors; yea, triumphant over sin and Satan, death and hell.

  Although we wrestle not against flesh and blood, and war not after the flesh, as the weapons of our warfare “are not carnal;” yet it becomes us, nevertheless, to be true, loyal, and faithful citizens to our worldly government in all points that do not militate against the laws of our blessed Redeemer; and as our government has thus far allowed us freedom, and liberty of conscience, to worship God agreeably to the promptings of our most holy faith, we ought, therefore, to regard and respect our government, and earnestly and sincerely pray for its continuance; yea, we ought to support such a government in all things it may demand of us, if it be not against the pure doctrine of Christ. But should our government ask of us anything that is contrary to the gospel of Jesus, then we must obey God rather than man. But we ought to be truly thankful to God and our government, that such provisions have thus far been made for the “defenseless Christians”, that instead of taking up arms to slay their enemies, they have always been permitted to pay an equivalent in money; and in reason we could ask no more. Oh, let us, then, all be true loyal and faithful subjects: and whereas we cannot, for conscience sake, help uphold the government with carnal weapons, let us, at least, give to it this advantage—the assurance that it never need fear a rebellion from us; and let none be in anywise injurious to the government of our land; but pay willingly and without murmuring all its demands and just dues, without defrauding (if we even could) in the least; knowing that, even if we could escape the punishment of men, we could not escape the punishment of God. What a self-contradiction it would be, if, after professing a non-resistant Christianity, we should be found guilty of resisting the government by rebellion and disloyalty! I would say to my ministering brethren, Expel from the church every brother that dares rebel or in any way act injuriously to the government. And, my brethren, let us not forget to pray for the government and for all those in authority, that under them, by the grace of God, “we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, in all godliness and honesty” (I Tim. 2:2): yea, let us pray for the restoration of peace and union in our distressed and troubled country, remembering that the “effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” Jas. 5:16. Let us cast all our cares upon God, knowing that he careth for us, and you, my dear brethren, who are placed as watchmen over the flock, “blow the trumpet, give the alarm, be instant in season and out of season,” as those who must give an account of the precious souls placed under their care; for these are alarming times.

  And, oh, my dear brethren, could I only persuade you all to lay aside and banish from your minds that hurtful and baneful [political] party spirit. Behold, what havoc it has made in our states! and now it has also entered into the churches and is separating them. Is it not enough for us to be Christians? Or must we also be called, or call ourselves, after a worldly name—a Democrat or a Republican? Surely, we ought also to guard against this evil. If we are Christians it is enough to qualify us for every duty. Oh, let no party names tear asunder the bond of love and brotherhood! We ought, by no means, to allow ourselves to be called by party names; and, oh, how shameful for Christian professors to dispute and quarrel about political matters! For those who profess to be followers of Christ, walking in His steps, and who are to be of one mind, one heart, and one soul—for one of them to say, “I am a Democrat,” and another, “I am a Republican,” and then to commence to dispute and quarrel with each other! I say, it is a shame for a Christian professor to do this; and I believe that a true Christian will not be guilty of such follies. And as political matters are now carried on to extremes—to excess—beyond the bounds of reason and religion, I would say, Stand aloof! Keep at a proper distance and within the bounds of Christianity! Dear brethren, suffer yourselves to be persuaded and convinced of the inconsistency of non-resistant professors taking part in worldly elections, and in the choosing of worldly rulers. Is it not overstepping the bounds of a non-resistant Christianity, when we help choose men into office in which it becomes their duty to use deadly weapons? Is it not, then, plain that whosoever does this, acts in opposition to the non-resistant principles and their profession? Therefore, be separate and touch not the unclean thing—run not with others “to the same excess of riot” (I Pet. 4:4), and let our moderation in this respect “be known unto all men.” Phil. 4:5.

  Let us, by our walk and conversation, declare plainly, that we seek a heavenly country; and let us not be entangled with the trifles and follies of this present evil world, as to neglect the “one thing needful.” Surely, a man may be useful in upholding and supporting the government, without going beyond the bounds of reason and sense. Let us seek more those things which are above, “having our conversation (or walk) in heaven,” and letting our “light shine before men, that they may see our good works.” Let us be good and kind to all who stand in need, especially at this time. Let us not forget the widows and the orphans, but open to them our hearts and hands, and not only say to them, “Be ye warmed and filled,” but give them what is “needful for the body.” Jas. 2:16. Oh, let us live as Christians: in love, peace, and union. Let us build up each other in our “most holy faith,” and let us “follow after the things which make for peace and things wherewith one may edify another.” Phil. 4:19. “Finally, brethren, be perfect, be of good comfort; be of one mind, live in peace, and the God of love and peace shall be with you.” II Cor. 13:11.

  “I will go in the strength of the Lord.” Psa. 71:16.

  “Trust in the Lord forever; for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength.” Isa. 26:4.

By Mike Atnip  

The kingdom of heaven is like unto a farmer’s son who was raising a pig for a 4-H project. Fair time was approaching fast, and Pete (the boy) was having a hard time keeping his pet clean. As all pigs are wont to do, it would instinctively investigate every mud puddle that it happened upon—even immediately after Pete had given him a good scrubbing with firm instructions to stay clean!

Pete knew that he stood no chance of winning the blue ribbon if he took a dirty pig to the show. But try as he might, he could not get his pig to keep himself clean once he had been given a thorough scrubbing. Pete’s only place to keep his pig was in a pen in which one corner stayed dry, but 90% of the pen was a mud hole—much to the pig’s great delight!

Pete schemed for days about his dilemma. How could he save his pig from his own natural instincts? He could put his pig in a strait jacket, but what would the judges think when he arrived at the fair with his pig in a strait jacket? And how could he walk his pig to town in a strait jacket? Oodles of puddles lay in the path to town, and he knew, he just knew, that his pet could never detour a mud puddle!

Finally, the great idea came upon Pete. He noticed that Skimps the kitty hated mud puddles! It would cost the life of his only kitty, but if only …

So he tried it. With a deft operation, Pete managed to take the soul out of the cat and put it into his pig.

How changed the pig was! He still weighed 220 pounds. He still had a snout and a curly tail. He still ate breakfast. But how he hated mud puddles with a passion!

The day of the show came, and Pete walked his pig to the fair. People stared in wonder at the boy and his pig walking down the puddle-filled road. The pig detoured or jumped over every mud puddle, with the amazing agility of a cat!

And so the pig, which had been given a thorough scrubbing some days previously, arrived at the show shining clean. What few spots he had received on the way to the show were promptly licked clean … you know, just like Skimps used to clean himself! By this means, Pete won the blue ribbon. The soul of the kitty in the body of the pig had saved the day!

This parable is by no means perfect. Yet it explains how man can avoid the “mud puddles”of fleshly delights which fill this world we live in. Not by strait jackets, but by a change of character. If we box ourselves out of society by moving to some remote island, we may avoid many temptations. But that is not true freedom. The real freedom comes from having the character of Jesus placed into our hearts by a new birth. When this happens, we will hate sin just like the pig with a kitty heart hated those mud puddles.

Have you been born again? Has the nature of God been restored in you? Although we know that Pete could never put a kitty soul into a pig, we know that God can put Christ within us, thus saving us from our sin.

Hallelujah, what a salvation!

Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. 2 Pe. 1:4

 

From The Heartbeat of the Remnant (May/June 2010), 400 W. Main Street Ste. 1, Ephrata, PA 17522.

Aug 15

Radiesthesia

By Mike Atnip

You may not be familiar with the word “radiesthesia,” but you probably know what it is. “Water witching,” “dowsing,” and “divining” are all various forms of radiesthesia.

Radiesthesia is a compound word with both Latin and Greek origins. The first part, “radi” comes from the Latin “radiare” which means to “go out from a center,” like the spokes of a wheel or the rays from the sun. A radio in a car is called a radio because it picks up electromagnetic signals that radiate from a central transmitter somewhere. The second part of the word radiesthesia has Greek roots, from aesthesis, which means “to sense or perceive.” Thus we end up with radiesthesia, which means “the ability to perceive or sense a radiation.”

This is where a divining rod comes into play. The dowser, with the aid of his rod, claims to pick up signals that are emitting—radiating—from the water (or whatever he is trying to find) and is thus able to discern or sense where the water is. He is using radiesthesia. Some people might even call it a sixth sense.

But that is only the beginning. According to those who promote radiesthesia (sometimes referred to as radionics, as well), each unique object on the earth radiates—sends out—its own unique signal. And so all a person has to be able to do is to “tune” into that unique signal to find that particular object. Gold, diamonds, water, or even an animal or person can be located by its particular signal.

But it goes deeper yet … Some claim that since each person on earth radiates out a unique “aura” or “radiation,” they can manipulate that person’s health by tuning into that aura. By sending “return” signals on that person’s unique “channel,” they claim ability to heal that person, even from the other side of the earth! One well known maker of these “black boxes”[1] was Albert Abrams (1863–1924), who was sometimes called “the dean of 20th-century charlatans.” Although modern “black boxes” may not be direct descendents of Abrams’ devices, the underlying principle of making a connection to a person by some sort of radiation signal is the same.

Before proceeding, we need to clarify that the “radiation” that dowsers find by their rods or by their pendulums is not the well known electromagnetic radiation[2] that a car radio picks up. Nor are they X-rays or gamma rays, which are in fact only very short frequencies of electromagnetic waves. Nor is it a radiation of light, like the sun gives off. Nor is it the ionizing radiation such as is used in nuclear reactors and bombs. In fact, the “auras” of radiesthesia have never been able to be found by any modern scientific instruments.

Fable, or fact?

So just what are these “radiations” that dowsers can pick up? It’s a good question. There are several possibilities:

1. Dowsers can pick up signals that, so far, modern science has not been able to discover. Many practitioners of radiesthesia make this claim.

2. Dowsing is bogus science, and no such thing as “auras” exists. Those who claim the ability to dowse are a bunch of phonies, junk scientists, and scam artists. Or, perhaps, innocent people who have been deceived into a lie.

3. Radiesthesia operates in the spirit world, into which natural science is incapable of measuring or seeing.

Now, let’s put the three options just mentioned into biblical terms:

1. Radiesthesia, in all its forms, is a God-created phenomenon that modern science has simply not discovered yet. As such it is harmless and, in fact, useful.

2. Radiesthesia is an “old wives’ fable.”

3. Radiesthesia is witchcraft or divination. The ability to dowse for water or oil, or determine health issues with a pendulum, is not listed as a gift of the Spirit, so it must be a gift from the evil spiritual forces.

Using our discernment

It is solidly established that, as of the date of this writing, the “auras” or “radiations” that dowsers and black boxes claim to use have not been able to be found by any scientific equipment currently available. That does not mean that these “auras” do not exist; it simply means that if they do, science cannot find them with the equipment currently available. We all know that modern scientists do not have all the answers.

But let’s look at the matter from a slightly different aspect of science. In physics, there are laws. For example, the law of gravitation. Every human being obeys the law of gravitation, meaning (in simple terms) we all are pulled toward the earth. It works for every last human being … no one is exempt or can willfully renounce gravity and suddenly float off to the sky if he wishes.[3]

Another example is electricity. The law of electricity can be simplified to say that if you touch a charged wire with your bare finger while standing barefoot on the ground, you will receive a shock. Again, there are no exceptions. Computers, for example, work for everyone, and they work the same for everyone, since they are built around the laws of physics.

In simple words, the laws of physics hold true for everyone. It doesn’t matter who you are, computers work the same for everyone, regardless of age, gender, race, height, weight, eye color, or religion.

But radiesthesia does not work for everyone.

I remember well someone who once was telling me about his new apparatus. This was a collar for his dog so that he could track it down when it got lost. But it wasn’t a GPS system. In a little box on the collar was a grasshopper or cricket!

The system worked this way: with another piece of the same grasshopper placed in or by the handheld tracker (which had an antenna very similar to a commercially-made dowsing rod), the tracker would pick up the unique signal that the grasshopper in the collar radiated, and the antenna on the tracking device would swing whenever the user’s shoulders were aligned with the dog collar. If a piece of gold was placed near the handle, the tracker would find gold. If copper, then it would find copper. And if a hair off of someone was placed there, you could track that person clear around the globe.

Red flags went off in my mind when I heard these things. The tracker, it seemed to me, was nothing but a souped-up version of an old-fashioned dowsing rod. Supposedly, there was some pretty sophisticated electronic equipment in the handle of the tracker. My doubts were deepened when the person told me, “Even the maker of this equipment acknowledges that it does not work for everybody.”

The laws of physics work consistently for everyone. Whatever does not work consistently for everyone is not based on natural law, but either uses supernatural power, or is a fable.

If it isn’t based on physics …

Many in the modern scientific world deny the supernatural because their worldview is based solely on the physical. If something does not work by the presently known laws of physics, it is automatically written off as fable. And, there are plenty of fables out there. There are plenty of times that dowsing has not worked—it doesn’t work for everybody. I, as a young boy, tried to find a sewer line by dowsing with copper wires. I knew where the line was and walked several times over the line to see if it worked.[4] But my copper wires never crossed. I also watched a backhoe operator dowse for a water line he was trying to uncover. It worked for him as long as the line ran straight, but when the line made a turn, his rod failed him.

There are plenty of examples and university tests to show that dowsing is not based on any known laws of physics. It is not in the particular type of rod used. Some use willow rods. Some use other types of wood. Some use copper rods. Some use a pendulum on a string. This is proof that the “auras” that are being “found” have no connection to the type of rod itself.

Some people even dowse for minerals from a map. This shows that the actual gold or substance sought is not emitting a signal that is picked up. Could a gold nugget emitting a signal in California be found on a map in New York?

Why does it matter?

If radiesthesia works, therefore, it works within the spiritual realm. And that makes it a spiritual matter. Something is going on the spiritual realm, the realm that natural science cannot enter. And if something is going on in the spiritual realm, we as Christians had certainly better snap to attention!

If radiesthesia is simply a fable, we are told to reject it. All lying is to be forsaken, and if a black box trying to heal someone on the opposite side of the world is simply a huckster’s scheme, it would better be called a huckster’s lie, and denounced as a lie and abandoned. It is not an innocent game to be amused with; it is a lie, an untruth. Dare we as Christians promote lies?

Actually, many forms of “alternative medicine” may fall into this category. The particular form of “alternative medicine” may have begun as simply bad science. They may well have been invented by innocent, well-meaning people who really thought they were on to something scientific. But they are still a lie if they claim to be “scientific” and yet do not operate on the laws of physics. Homeopathy, muscle testing, iridology, and many herbal remedies are at best fables; at worst divination.

Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbor. Ep 4:25

And if something works by a spirit? Well, it is either God’s Spirit or the demons of darkness that make it work. God has spelled out some of His supernatural gifts[5] in His word. While we cannot say that God would never, ever, give someone the gift of finding gold by means of a willow stick, it certainly is not mentioned as a gift of the Spirit. In other words, if someone claims a supernatural gift that is not mentioned in the Bible, we need to be extremely cautious about that gift.

The illustration at the beginning of this article shows various types of dowsing rod configurations. This shows that radiesthesia is not based on the physical properties of the rod. The photo below shows other possible divining rods.

Back to radiesthesia …

Radiesthesia has never been proven to operate on the laws of physics. That in itself is not sufficient proof that it is witchcraft. Modern science does not know everything—who knows what scientists have yet to discover? However, radiesthesia does not work for everyone, especially for those who have renounced it in the name of Jesus. Radiesthesia does not work by one certain medium (i.e. certain type of dowsing rod or pendulum, or certain type of black box). These are evidences that radiesthesia is either fable or witchcraft.

Does dowsing work sometimes? While I myself have not seen it work consistently enough to say that “it is real,” there are testimonies from honest men who have seen it work.[6] Radiesthesia does not need to work 100% consistently to be proof of being a spiritual power; false prophets never prophesy 100% accurately either.[7] But that does not mean they are not under the influence of an evil spirit who does the prophesying for them. And whatever spirit is not of God is of the devil.

Conclusion

Many people are or have been innocently involved in radiesthesia. They may not have asked a spirit to help them find water or gold, but they dabble in trying to see if the willow branch has any science in it. This can be compared to the person who smokes some marijuana, just trying it out. It is still sin, even though the person may have been “just experimenting.” To those who have experimented with radiesthesia, you need to repent even though you may have never had any success. You also need to repent if you have asked someone to use radiesthesia for you, such as to find water before drilling a well, or to be healed by a “black box.”

If you have used a divining rod or a black box with any success, you have entered the spiritual realm—the supernatural. In this case, the spiritual power needs to be renounced in the name of Jesus and repented of. If you feel you have received the “gift of radiesthesia” as a gift from God, ask yourself these questions: Why do unbelievers also have that gift? Does God pour out the gifts of the Spirit on unbelievers also?

Dabbling in the powers of the evil spiritual realm brings a cloud of darkness and confusion over the user—body, soul, and spirit. Many people have testified to confusion, depression, and physical illnesses that were the result of dabbling in divination. Once they repented, they found themselves with more discernment (spirit), less depression (soul), and better health (body). By messing with dowsing rods, pendulums, and black boxes, you are essentially opening yourself up to the dark spiritual powers. Shut that door as fast as you can!

Thankfully, Jesus has conquered all the powers of darkness by His resurrection, and He invites us all to join Him in His conquest. By repentance and faith in Christ, we too can be “more than conquerors!”

[1] A black box is sort of a generic term for any device that has input and output, but the contents of the box itself—and how it works—are unknown.

[2] Electromagnetic radiation are pulses of “magnetic waves” that travel through the air. The human body is not capable of picking up these signals, at least by the five senses. In other words, the human body cannot consciously feel a magnetic pulse.

[3] Except by a miracle. Miracles are supernatural events that defy physics.

[4] Even though my experiment was in innocence, I have since repented of even trying to dowse.

[5] The gifts of the Spirit do not work by natural means, and they thus defy the laws of physics. They are supernatural, which means “above the natural.” Satan also has power that is above natural law.

[6] An example is a friend who told me that a dowser once showed him his power. He told his dowsing rod to point to the yellow bulldozer, and the rod bent toward the yellow bulldozer with enough force to twist the bark on the rod. The man telling me this was an honest man as far as I know him.

[7] Only the Holy Spirit is 100% accurate.

 

Originally published in The Heartbeat of the Remnant (March/April 2012), 400 W. Main Street Ste. 1, Ephrata, PA 17522.

By Andrew V. Ste. Marie

If I asked you, “What is the message of the book of Romans?” what would you say? My guess is most people would answer, “We are saved by grace through faith, not of works.”

Let me ask another question: in Revelation 1:6 and 5:10, we are told that Jesus Christ has made the saints “kings and priests” to God. What does it mean that Jesus made us kings? I would guess that most people would say “we are going to reign on Earth with Jesus during the millennium.”

I am not saying that these answers are completely wrong, but I do believe that there are deeper, more significant answers to these questions. In addition, I believe the book of Romans gives valuable insight into what Revelation means when it says that Jesus “has made us kings.”

Let us go back to the typical answer for the first question. It is true that we are born again by grace by means of faith, not by doing the works of the Mosaic law (Ep. 2:8,9), but what does it mean to be saved “by grace”? What does grace do to save us?

Let us examine Romans 5:12-21:

Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come. But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification. For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.) Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.

What can we learn from this passage? First, we notice that sin and death once reigned over the entire human race. Who was king of my life before I was born again? Sin and death had co-regency over me. Sin reigned over me, forcing me to do its will. Death reigned over me, so that whenever my spirit rebelled against the sin I found in me, death held fast onto me so that I would not have the strength (life) to be able to carry on warfare against sin. Together, they made a powerful tyrannical government that would have dragged me right to hell.

We often talk about the “gospel,” and many people know that the word gospel means “good news.” What is the “good news” for people ruled by the cruel tyrants sin and death? It is found in verse 17: “For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ!”

This is the Gospel in a nutshell! Sin and death can be defeated! When I realize that I can by no means overthrow these terrible despots by my own strength (remember, I am dead, after all), but Jesus Christ can overthrow them, then I can receive (by means of faith) “abundance of grace,” the free gift of God apart from which I cannot be saved. How wonderful! Not just a little bit of grace, not just some grace, not a whole lot, not an enormous amount, but abundance! Praise God! Strong’s Concordance defines this word as “surplusage, i.e. superabundance … superfluity.” He gives us so much grace, it is “surplusage,” more than we need!

Not only do we receive the “abundance of grace,” but we also receive “the gift of righteousness.” Grace overcomes death, reviving and resurrecting our spirits. (Did you ever wonder why being saved is called being “born again”?) The gift of righteousness overcomes sin! What is the best way to overcome fire? Usually, with water. What is the best way to overcome sin? With righteousness! In order to dethrone the tyrant sin, God gives us righteousness!

This passage mentions “justification” several times. Many people think justification means to be “declared righteous by God” (sometimes expressed as “just-as-if-I’d never sinned”). Actually, justification means “made (i.e., actually, truly transformed) from an unjust person into a righteous person by God.” The way God gives us the gift of righteousness to overthrow sin is through justification of life, the actual transforming of our dead, sinful lives into righteous ones, made alive by God’s Spirit! Notice that verse 19 tells us that by the obedience of Jesus “shall many be made righteous.” We will be transformed into righteous, holy people!

I think our short little theological statements about being “saved by grace” have missed something—something extremely significant and exciting!

Once the co-regency of sin and death has been overthrown, who reigns now? Again, it is a co-regency. First of all, Jesus Christ is the Head of the church (Ep. 5:23) and should have supreme rule over our lives. If you like to think of it this way, Jesus is the Emperor, but He has appointed a co-regency of two lesser kings to reign over the lives of each believer. Who is the first of these two kings? The first is grace! Verse 21 says, “That as sin hath reigned unto death [sin used to be king …], even so might grace reign [now grace is king!] through righteousness [grace rules our lives through the instrumentality of righteousness and holiness] unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord!” Praise the LORD!

Who is the other king? As surprising as it may seem (it surprised me), the regenerated [i.e., made alive again] believer is king! You may be thinking, “What?!? I rule my own life?” No, not your fleshly, sinful nature, but the real you—the part of you which was made alive when Jesus saved you—now reigns. Yes, Jesus has ordained that the regenerated spirit of the believer is supposed to reign!

Over whom is the believer supposed to reign? Sin! The government of the believer has turned upside down—now I am ruling over sin instead of sin ruling over me. Read verse 17 again: “For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ”! Did you catch that? “They” who have received God’s grace and righteousness will reign, and not just reign, but reign in life! Brothers and sisters, we do not have to wait until the second coming of Christ to start reigning! Through Jesus Christ, we reign in this life!

When grace comes in, it reigns in righteousness and makes us reign in life as well over our former tyrant, sin!

Do you now catch a glimpse of how grace saves us? Surely, I do not claim to have plumbed the depths of this glorious mystery—certainly not in this brief article. Nevertheless, I think our short little theological statements about being “saved by grace” have missed something—something extremely significant and exciting! They have missed the glorious truth that when grace comes in, it reigns in righteousness and—ah, the solving of the mystery of being made a king—makes us reign in life as well over our former tyrant, sin! This reigning is not “sinless perfection” where the believer never stumbles or makes a mistake again, but it is a life of victory over sin!

Hallelujah! Brothers and sisters, are you ready to sing with the saints in heaven?

And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth. Re. 5:9-10

Are you reigning? If you are not reigning, you are not a king! If you find that you are not a king, put grace on the throne of your life today!

The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold,

the kingdom of God is within you.

(Luke 17:20b-21)

 

From The Heartbeat of the Remnant (March/April 2012), 400 W. Main Street Ste. 1, Ephrata, PA 17522.

The story of Johnny Kline

By Mike Atnip

In our minds, let’s travel back in time to the late 1850s and imagine a scene …

Two boys push their sticks through the July dust, pretending—as boys are wont to do—that the sticks are plows and horses turning over the rocky Virginia mountain soil in preparation to plant the corn. The morning sun is rising high over the ridge now, and the heat of the day is just beginning to show itself fierce when the sound of horseshoes clashing with rocks cause the boys to stop their plowing and glance down the rock-strewn path toward the creek below. A shaggy ol’ mare appears with a black-coated man, in a large black hat, on its back.

“It’s Johnny Kline!” they blurt out, almost in unison.

And with that, two pairs of bare feet speed up the path toward the log cabin. Bursting through the open front door, they exclaim the news, as only little boys can do.

“It’s Johnny Kline! It’s Johnny Kline! Johnny Kline is coming!”

The other children look up from their various duties and amusements, and spontaneous smiles spread as if a contagion has hit the home. The mother quickly sizes up the house and begins to straighten the furniture a bit—as mothers are wont to do—and commands one of the boys to run and tell father, who is in the field behind the house hoeing corn.

Two bare feet peel through the corn rows, as only a country boy can do, and before the feet have stopped their pounding, the morning news is gushing out, “Daddy, come! Johnny Kline is coming! He’s coming up the path! I saw him!”

“OK, son, I am coming.” And with four more quick slashes at some especially pernicious-looking weeds, the father shoulders his hoe and strides towards the cabin below, his quick gait belying his own excitement at the news.

Visitors in the “hollers” of the Virginia mountains were rare, and the mere fact of someone coming up the path would have caused a stir in the household. But when that familiar old mare and that familiar black coat and hat, with that familiar white hair hanging out from under it, made their appearance, it was nearly impossible for the children to keep from smiling and giggling with excitement as they bounced from window to window, peeping in embarrassed joy at the visitor as he dismounted and tied the reins to the rail, then loosened the saddle on ol’ Nell.

The mountain people of Virginia (during the Civil War, the western counties of Virginia would break away from Virginia and call themselves West Virginia) were an independent lot: tough as hickory saplings, hard to get to know, “uned’rcated,” and suspicious by nature of strangers invading their hidden “hollers.” But Johnny Kline had travelled their rocky paths for many years now, and by his kind and gentle nature had won the hearts of many of these backwoods folks, to the point that they almost revered him. No, he would refuse to be called “Reverend,” but due to his repeated visits in these almost forgotten places, the mere mention of his name would strike a genuine reverence in their hearts for many years after his death.

The reason was quite simple: Johnny Kline cared about them. And they knew that.

Fourth generation revival

John Kline was born June 17, 1797, in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania. He was the great-grandson of Elder George Kline. His great-grandfather had emigrated from Germany as a Lutheran minister and taken up residence in New Jersey where he met the Schwarzenau Brethren, later called the “Dunkers,” the “German Baptists,” or the “Church of the Brethren.” George joined the fledgling movement and was later ordained among them. In those early days, zeal for revival was fresh and the Brethren won converts—like George—into their movement.

But as usually happens, the following generations lost some of “the cutting edge” of the kingdom message, and too many of them settled into the formalities of going to meeting, keeping the ordinances, and maintaining an outward separation … all of which are very good and right. But the kingdom of God is more than keeping ordinances and attending preaching services. The kingdom of God is also being delivered from a self-centered life … into a life of service to others.

More than one hundred years had passed since the German Baptist revival had begun, and too many were sleepy. The frontiers of America were opening up and there were rich farmlands to clear and houses and barns to build. It was oh, so easy to slip into the routine of “church,” and let the extension of God’s kingdom take a backseat to the everyday pressing needs of frontier life.

John Kline found himself a young believer in such a church. The historical records do not indicate that John was ever tempted to abandon his church. In fact, throughout his diary he constantly exclaims thanksgiving and joy in the fellowship he found among his Brethren. He wrote in a letter to a friend:

… as to the progress of the church, it is but little I think, and it is owing to the coldness of our brethren. We are all too much for the world and accumulation of worldly things. This brings darkness and a gloss over the Gospel, and of course makes people think that they are just as good as any other Christian. It is true that according to morality and honesty, they are often equally as good, but large numbers of our children do not have, as it were, any parental rule. They are taught more how to rise in the world then how to love Christ and deny themselves. This is the way things are going. They generally have a taste for the world in the things of the world. But, oh, how will it be with these parents who speak so little with their children of Christ and self-denial, who only have the world at heart? I am fearful, oh I tremble, when I think of it, and my heart weeps over the daughter of Zion who has defiled herself.

Did he ever wonder if fourth generation churches—sleepy, though doctrinally orthodox—could be revived? I certainly have wondered that. In fact, it is probably more correct for me to say that I seriously doubt that will happen, in the majority of cases.

John simply put his hand to the plow … and became an instrument of revival. Just because very few in his church were reaching out in evangelistic endeavors did not stop him from starting an endeavor. Rare as it is that a sleepy, fourth generation church revives, John proved that it can happen!

Into the hills

John lived on a farm at what is now Broadway, Virginia. Broadway is located in the Shenandoah Valley, nestled up to the Appalachian range on the west. The Valley was comfortably settled and economically prospering in John’s day. But the story changed as soon as one followed the north branch of the Shenandoah River through a narrow gap—Brock’s Gap—in the first range of hills. In these rugged mountains lived the poor folks, those who could not afford the rich farm lands of the broad Valley, much less the lands of the coastal plains further east. These folks were “mountain people.” They were poorer, less educated, less respected, and—in the beginning of John Kline’s ministry—practically unchurched.

John Kline set out to change that. I don’t think he sat down one day and said, “You know, I think I will make a goal of starting several churches in the mountains before I die.” No, he simply saw a need and stepped in to fill it. It meant more than preaching. It meant, sometimes, giving economic aid to those who listened to his preaching. He wrote in his diary concerning the poor people west of the Gap:

We found some of the members in a very poor condition. One sister, in particular, moved my feelings deeply. Her husband is somewhat dissipated and does not provide for his family as he should. She is the mother of three small children; and, judging from their present appearance, they have undergone a good deal of suffering for lack of food and clothing. None of them have any shoes; and the thin coverings they have on are so patched and darned that one can hardly tell the kind of goods they were originally made of.

I inquired how they were off in the way of food. She replied that they had about a peck of corn meal in the house and several bushels of potatoes buried in the garden; and she reckoned they could do right well till she could get some more washing and other work to do. I gave that patient, uncomplaining sister three dollars out of my own pocket money.[1] “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” There is a day coming when we shall more fully realize this truth than now.

Good habits

It is not hard to start a bad habit. In fact, all we have to do is start coasting along in life, and living a self-centered life will become as habitual as breathing. But John Kline started habits of service to others. One of these habits was to make an evangelistic trip into the mountain counties of Virginia (now West Virginia), on a regular basis. In the beginning he sometimes went alone. In later years he usually took another brother with him, as his good habits began to wear off on others. These trips were usually carried out in the fall of the year, and lasted several weeks. He would mount his faithful Nell—she took him an estimated 30,000 miles in her life, equal to more than one time around the world—and head up into the hills.

He would preach at appointed meetings, of course, but he would also visit the sick, read Scripture to the elderly, warn sinners to repent, speak personally to the children and young folks, and in every house he stopped at he would not leave until he had tried to testify. He noted in his diary:

In all my visits I make it a point not to leave a house without making an effort to speak on the subject of religion, and say something that may leave an impression for good.

At the time of his death, the results of his labors could be seen in the formation of a number of Bible-practicing “Dunker” churches in those rugged hills. A baptism here, and two over there, and later another one here again. And over the years little congregations would form … just from the labors of ol’ Johnny Kline and Nell, practicing his good habits year after year.

He wrote in his diary, when he was just beginning his outreaches into the mountains:

One man may sometimes strike a hard stone a good many times without breaking it; when another may take the same hammer, strike it in a slightly different place, or in a different way, and it falls to pieces. It may be that the first man’s strokes accomplished more than he knew of. The force of his blows may have diminished the solidity of the stone, and thus made it easier for the second man to break. If I cannot see much fruit of my labor here now, perhaps some, who will come after me, may.

The preacher

John focused his evangelistic attention on the neighboring counties. In addition, he usually made the trip to the annual conference of the Brethren. The conference was held at a different location each year. Sometimes it was close by, in Virginia, but more often it was in the Midwestern states. John would saddle up Nell and begin the long journey, preaching as he went. He would then return, preaching as he went. In later years, when the railroads were laid out, he went by train. The early journeys usually took a month, sometimes two. These travels became the means of his acquaintance with different congregations, and as a rule they were delighted when Johnny Kline passed through.

John’s style of preaching was generally expository. Strong’s Concordance and similar study aids have given expository preaching a knock in the head. Today there is a strong tendency to look up a bunch of Scriptures on a certain topic and speak topically. In John’s day it was the custom to read off a verse, or perhaps several verses, and take off preaching from there.

This style of preaching lent itself more to weaving real life stories and applications into the sermon. In this, John excelled. An example is found when a friend told him the story of some Indian squaws who were butchering a turkey. They pulled the feathers and then proceeded to remove the guts. Next they put the turkey on to boil, using the very same water they had washed it in. John used that illustration:

That minister who gets up and in a beautiful and glowing discourse sets forth the Christian “cleansed from all filthiness of flesh and spirit,” and then comes down [from his pulpit] to mix with the world, and follow its fashions and vanities, is cooking his turkey in the same water he washed it in. The professor of religion[2] who, to appearance, makes a very humble confession of his sins, with seeming repentance and deep contrition of heart, only to go away and thrust himself again into the filthiness of his former life, is cooking his turkey in the same water he washed it in.

On another occasion he spoke of laurel, a plant well known to his hearers:

In my travels among the mountains of our Virginia, I have often seen the laurel holding out its evergreen but poisonous leaves in sprays of most enticing beauty. Miles and miles of road, in one unbroken stretch, may be seen densely hedged on either hand by this beautiful emblem of sin and death. Herds of cattle and flocks of sheep are every year driven over these roads. Every herdsman and shepherd knows the danger to be apprehended from the inclination … to “sidle” off the plain and beaten track and pluck the green leaves of the laurel to their own destruction.

Many a time have I overtaken flocks of sheep, some of which were lying along the road “down with the staggers.” This last is the name of the disease which is brought on by taking laurel. The old sheep avoid it. They will not taste it. … It is hardly necessary for me to point out to you the lesson of instruction to be gathered from what I have just said. …

The Prophet Isaiah speaks of some who “are drunken, but not with strong drink.” I fancy I hear someone in the congregation say: “I guess they must have taken laurel.” Precisely so, friend! They took the laurel that has been the ruin of thousands of the Lord’s sheep and lambs. Let me tell you exactly what I mean.

The love of worldly pleasure is laurel of one kind. It blooms forth in the desire for fine dress, lively company, night gatherings, social parties, and the like things.

Worldly treasure is laurel of another kind. It blooms forth in the desire for worldly possessions, no matter how obtained, and only to gratify selfish ends. I have known some old sheep to take this kind.

Ambition to be great and highly honored is still another kind. This is the “deer-tongued” laurel,[3] the very tallest kind that grows, and has the richest-looking flowers. But it is just as poisonous as any, and it blooms forth in the desire to be admired for beauty, to be looked up to for superior power and wisdom, and to be held in high honor for great deeds. I have known old sheep and even leaders of the flock to eat this kind until they staggered considerably …

With such practical, everyday illustrations, John was able to bring forth the rich treasures of the kingdom in terms the listeners could appreciate.

Facing culture head on Slavery

John Kline did well among the mountain people to the west of his home. His real battle was to the east, in the flat lands of the coastal plain of Virginia. Here were the rich and politically powerful slaveholders.

In 1782, about 15 years before John Kline was even born, the Brethren had declared themselves firmly against slavery. The minutes for the 1782 Annual Conference begin with these words:

It has been unanimously considered that it cannot be permitted in any wise by the church, that a member should or could purchase Negroes, or keep them as slaves.

This plain, simple declaration caused little problem in Pennsylvania, where most of the early Brethren settled. But once they began to move south of the Mason-Dixon line, it was culturally incorrect. And as long as the Brethren kept that conviction to themselves, it cost them little. They refused to hire slaves from neighbors, if the wages went to the owner and not the slave. If someone desired to unite with the Brethren, he was not permitted to do so until he had released his slaves, with the exception of those under age. In this case, it was determined to be better for the owner to raise the child, send him/her to school, train him/her in an occupation, and then officially release him/her when he/she became of legal age. Again, this caused little concern to slaveholders in the south, if a man wanted to release his slaves. But as the years passed by, some of the southern States began to make it harder and harder for slaves to be freed, until it became practically impossible to legally free slaves in some areas.

What to do? The slavery question was splitting some denominations down the middle, with a northern version and a southern version. While many of the denominations did not like the idea of slavery, they were unwilling to stand up against the culture and declare it to be anti-Christian to force another person, against his will, to a lifetime of servitude. So they compromised, to be politically correct.

But the Brethren said “No.” Slavery was a sin.[4] Other churches were making concessions because of the new laws that made it hard to release slaves. The Brethren still said “No!” John noted in his diary, concerning a council meeting at his congregation:

Decide the question as to what the churches here in the slaveholding States should require of any slave owner desiring to come into the church. A very delicate matter to act upon in the present sensitive[5] condition of public feeling on slavery. But it is the aim of the Brethren here not to offend popular feeling, so long as that feeling does not attempt any interference with what they regard and hold sacred as their line of Christian duty. Should such opposition arise, which I greatly fear will be the case at no distant day, it will then be seen that it is the fixed purpose and resolve of the Brotherhood to “obey God rather than men.” It was decided in council that every slaveholder coming into the church must give up his or her slaves as property; and yet not turn them off houseless and homeless, but allow them to remain, and labor, and be fed and clothed as usual, until suitable and lawful provisions can be made for their complete emancipation.

In this we see the Christian response to a culturally acceptable sin. Not only were the slaves to be released, but they were to be released with dignity. And if releasing them would open them up to being recaptured and resold into captivity (which became a reality in some areas), then the release was done in such a way to help prevent this. For this reason, it was acknowledged that allowing the slaves the opportunity to continue working for their previous master as employees until they could legally be released would certainly be Christ-like. The point to keep in mind is that this option cost the slaveholder financially; he had bought the slave, and likely before he got his investment back he would start paying him prevailing wages and help him get a start in his free life. It would have been simpler to kick him out onto the street.

That’s what happens when the kingdom of God breaks into an ungodly culture!

Distilleries  

One year prior to the 1782 Conference that spoke against slavery, the Brethren also spoke against another socially acceptable sin—alcoholic drinks. While the Bible does not call drinking alcohol sin, drunkenness certainly is. Recognizing the propensity of men toward drunkenness, the Brethren began to forbid the members of their churches to operate distilleries. The 1781 Annual Meeting minutes on this subject read as follows:

We heartily counsel all the brethren who have distilleries, that they should by all means endeavor to put them away in order to escape from the evil so often arising from them, and to avoid offense …

This may seem strange to those of us who have grown up in churches where alcohol is never used, except medicinally. But in John Kline’s day, it was acceptable in most churches to sit down at the end of the day and have a beer. A totally abstentious church was rare.

But seeing the evils of the misuse of alcohol, the Brethren looked at the culture around them and basically said, “We are not going that way. We follow Christ. Alcohol is no longer a necessity [see On Drinking Wine], and alcohol consumption is wrecking our society. Therefore we will not manufacture alcoholic beverages.”

Not only did he never manufacture any, it is recorded of John Kline that he never even drank any alcohol, other than perhaps for medicinal purposes.

That’s what happens when the kingdom of God breaks into an ungodly culture!

War

John saw it coming. He wrote in his diary in 1847, after being told of a slave auction in which a mother and her children—a daughter of twelve years old, and two boys eight and ten—were sold and separated:

They were now parted, never to see each other anymore. There was no hope left them of ever hearing from each other again. The gentleman said the little boys did not seem to mind it so very much; but, said he, the agony of the mother and the distress of the daughter were past description. It is to be hoped that such heart-rending scenes are not often to be witnessed; and I do believe that the time is not far distant when the sun will rise and set upon our land cleansed of this foul stain, though it may be cleansed with blood. I would rejoice to think that my eyes might see that bright morning; but I can have no hope of that.

Fourteen years passed. That “bright morning” did not come. In fact, the “cleansing of blood” appeared imminent. On January 1, 1861, John noted in his diary:

The year opens with dark and lowering clouds in our national horizon. I feel a deep interest in the peace and prosperity of our country; but in my view both are sorely threatened now. Secession is the cry further south; and I greatly fear its poisonous breath is being wafted northward towards Virginia on the wings of fanatical discontent. … The perishable things of earth distress me not, only insofar as they affect the imperishable. Secession means war; and war means tears and ashes and blood. It means bonds and imprisonments, and perhaps even death to many in our beloved Brotherhood, who, I have the confidence to believe, will die rather than disobey God by taking up arms.

And war it was. The Brethren were acquainted with war in their history. During the tumultuous days of what is called The Revolutionary War, they had been harangued by sympathizers of the American forces for refusing to partake in the rebellion against Great Britain. In fact, the persecution was part of the reason for the emigration to Virginia and other areas. Their land and property had been confiscated in Philadelphia, so they left to look for new homes.

As the year 1861 rolled on, the Civil War began. And John Kline took to the offensive. No, he did not pick up his rifle; he picked up his pen and began to write to members of Congress and other politicians, explaining the teachings of the Brethren and why they could not bear arms. His goal was … well, I shall let John himself explain his motive, with the diary entry for December 20, 1861:

Write to John Hopkins, to John C. Woodson, and to Charles Lewis. I can but entreat these men to stand in defense of our Brethren, and try to devise some plan by which they can be exempted from the necessity of bearing arms. I feel sure that if we can be rightly understood as to our faith and life, there will be some way provided for their exemption. The Brotherhood is a unit, heart and hand against arms-bearing. These things I make known to these men; not, however, in any spirit of defiance, but in the spirit of meekness and obedience to what we in heart believe to be the will of the Lord. Many have already expressed to me their determination to flee from their homes rather than disobey God.

“Flee rather than disobey God.” It was this simple dedication to the will of God that made the Brethren strong. God gives grace to those who are willing to bear the cost of following Jesus—cost what it may. But to those who only have a form of godliness, with no surrender to do the will of Christ, grace will not flow to them.

John’s letters and pleas paid off. The recipients of the letters were moved to write in a conscientious objector exemption in their draft laws. However, there was a $500 fine,[6] plus a tax of two percent of the value of the goods of the person seeking exemption.

The brothers set to work collecting the payments of those affected, and when some of the young men could not afford the fine, others in the Brotherhood helped them out. John Kline himself put up some of the money for the fines.

That’s what happens when the kingdom of God breaks into an ungodly culture!

In this unique photograph, Sarah Bowman and Catherine Showalter deliver food to the Brethren men in jail for refusing to bear arms in the Civil War.   Underground Railroad

In spite of official exemption from bearing arms, some local officials did cause the Brethren problems. John Kline spent time in jail on three different occasions, but was promptly released in each occasion. And when some of the young Brethren were caught trying to escape to the North to avoid conscription, John was soon at the jail to encourage them to stand true.

On April 18, 1863, John received a caller … at 1 a.m. It was Abraham Funk, asking for his help with a man with a broken leg.

George Sellers had escaped from the Southern army. He was part of a group of men making their way north towards freedom, by night, with some “help” along the way. Abraham Funk was one such “helper.” Leaving Abe’s house about 11 p.m., the group was walking along a road when the cry of “Rebel scouts!” went through the group. They quickly jumped into the ditch, not realizing that it was an embankment about 100 feet deep. Only George was hurt, with a fractured leg.

Since John Kline practiced some medicine, he was called upon. He wrote in his diary for that day:

We are keeping the whole matter a profound secret to save the life of a good man. He was taken back to Abraham Funk’s, where he is at this time receiving treatment in secret from me.

About a month later, John left to attend Annual Meeting, reporting that George “is nearly well, and in fine spirits.” John Kline’s involvement in helping George was not a political statement for one side or the other. It was simply trying to help another human to live righteously, even if that meant going against the grain of the surrounding culture.

That’s what happens when the kingdom of God breaks into an ungodly culture!

Plain dress

Wherever the natural man goes, the natural passions and desires go. Wherever the kingdom of God goes, the natural passions and desires have to go … that is, leave!

One natural desire of humanity is to be recognized as “somebody.” Pride is another name for it. What the person is “recognized” as varies, as some (usually women) want to recognized as pretty. Others (usually men) want to be recognized as tough. Some want to be “in,” others want to be weird, some want to be cool, and some even want to be recognized as superreligious—all by the way they dress.

Jesus has another route. This route is to wear simple, utilitarian clothing that does not naturally attract the human eye as pretty, tough, “in,” “weird,” “cool,” or even superreligious—like the special robes used by some ministers—just for the looks of it. Through the ages men have called it plain dress, or simple clothing.

In John Kline’s day, Methodists, Quakers, Mennonites, Amish, and Brethren all promoted the wearing of plain dress. In fact, from a distance one could not tell who that man on the horse was—was he a Methodist, or Amish, or a Quaker?[7] All of them wore the same basic black coat with a split up the tail so that it would naturally fall over both sides of the saddle. On his head was his umbrella and sunshade—a large-brimmed black hat with a low crown. Since a man often could not know what kind of weather he may run into before he returned home, the hat was standard gear outside, as protection from hot sun and rain.

In contrast, the general population tried to spice up their looks by flashing colors, feathers or a tall crown on the hat, big brass buttons on the coat, a sword on the side, a wig on the head, sleeves rolled up to show off the muscles … anything to give them some sort of special recognition in the flesh as tough, “in,” weird, cool, or handsome.

John Kline and the Brethren simply used unassuming clothes that caused no special attraction to their flesh. Modest in cut, low-key in color, and utilitarian. Some sneered and some admired them for their simplicity; neither sneer nor compliment turned them aside. The Brethren did not try to “fit in” to society, nor were they trying to be weird—they were simply taking Jesus seriously in His teachings, in practical ways.

That’s what happens when the kingdom of God breaks into an ungodly culture!

John’s final days

They warned John. He felt it coming.

In 1864 he made a trip to Hagers-town, Indiana to attend the Annual Conference of the German Baptists. Recognizing his leadership skills and supreme Christian character, for the last four years his brothers in Christ had chosen him to be moderator of the conference.

John did not know it, of course, but he sort of sensed it: it would be his last Annual Conference. In his closing discourse, he spoke the following words, which ended up being prophetic:

Brethren and friends, let me say to you, that it is the duty, and not only the duty, but the highest attainment of Christian liberty, to be with Jesus and to give knowledge to all around that one has not only been, but now is every day, with Jesus. True godliness, however, does not desire to make a display of itself; it seeks no prominence in the world; neither does it aspire to receive the applauses of men. It does not ride upon the tempest of religious disputes, nor clothe itself with the whirlwind of fanatical excitement. But, like the divine Spirit from which it springs, it speaks in the still, small voice of tender compassion and love. Like its Lord, it enters the house of the humble, contrite heart, and would have no man know it; but it cannot be hid.

 Now, Brethren and friends, I have only touched some of the chords in the beautiful anthem of my theme. I now leave it with you, hoping that you may learn every note in it; and by the sweet music of a good life delight the ears and warm the hearts of all who hear its rich harmonies. Possibly you may never see my face or hear my voice again. I am now on my way back to Virginia, not knowing the things that shall befall me there. But I feel that I have done nothing worthy of bonds or of death; and none of these things move me; neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I may finish my course with joy, and the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the Gospel of the grace of God.

It was May 19, 1864. The Civil War was raging. John had been given passes by both the North and South to cross the lines so that he could attend Conference. In those stormy days, the mere fact of crossing from one side of the lines to the other would be enough to raise suspicion—on either side. John knew his trip was a dangerous one. But a few days after his sermon, he took the train back to Maryland, where he then mounted on Nell once more and crossed the mountains back into Virginia, without incident.

On June 15, John went on Nell a few miles and repaired a clock for a neighbor. While there, a group of young, Rebel cavalrymen saw Nell outside and called John to the door to ask him where he was going after he left there. They were neighbors … and John indicated that he would head straight over the ridge, for home. Did he realize that they were asking him so they could waylay him? We don’t know … but it is highly probable that he did suspect something fishy. He had been threatened already, and the day before he had warned a non-Brethren friend that this man’s life was in danger from Southern sympathizers in the area.

Finishing the clock repair, John got on Nell and headed for home. On top of the little ridge, two men, Jake Acker and Joe Riddle, waited in the woods. Jake had been chosen to fire the first shot. After John passed by, Jake raised his gun for a moment, then lowered it. He could not bring himself to shoot the innocent old man in the back. “I can’t shoot that man!” he told Joe.

“You ain’t no soldier!” returned Joe.

And a shot rang out. White-haired John Kline fell off of Nell. Joe approached John, and seeing that he wasn’t dead yet, he fired another shot at point blank range, so close that it left powder burns on John’s clothes. Their dirty deed finished, the two men escaped.[8]

No one ever openly confessed to murdering John, but everyone in the community sort of knew who was responsible. Since the Brethren followed Jesus and obeyed Him, no charges were ever brought against the men. And since the Civil War still raged, the civil authorities were too occupied to worry about the collateral effect of an old preacher getting shot.

Some of John’s neighbors had wrongly suspected that John was secretly carrying information to the Northern armies in the guise of his trip to Annual Conference. It is very likely that his stand against slavery and participation in war[9] played into the circumstances as well.

And so they murdered John Kline in cold blood. He was about his business for the Lord, doing his duty of blessing his neighbors. While he wasn’t killed for directly refusing to orally deny Christ, his adherence to the principles of the kingdom of God certainly led up to his death. Thus he belongs in the long list of those martyred for Jesus.

Dying at his post

Some time before his murder, Johnny Kline had written a poem about one of his fellow preachers, John Miller, who had died as a young man.

 

Away from his home and the friends of his youth He hasted, the herald of mercy and truth, For the love of his Lord and to seek for the lost— Soon, alas! was his fall, but he died at his post.

The stranger’s eye wept that in life’s brightest bloom One gifted so highly should sink to the tomb; For in order he led in the van of his host, And he fell like a soldier, he died at his post.

He wept not for himself that his warfare was done, The battle was fought and the victory won, But he whispered of those whom his heart clung to most, “Tell my brethren for me that I died at my post.”[10]

He asked not a stone to be sculptured with verse; He asked not that fame should his merits rehearse; But he asked as a boon when he gave up the ghost, That his brethren might know that he died at his post.

Victorious his fall, for he rose as he fell, With Jesus his Master in glory to dwell, He passed o’er the stream and has reached the bright court, For he fell like a martyr; he died at his post.

And can we the words of his exit forget? O, no, they are fresh in our memory yet. An example so brilliant shall not be lost; We will fall in the work, we will die at our post.

John Kline wrote these words about someone else, not about his own life. However, it is safe to say that John penned these words almost prophetically concerning his own life. Yes, indeed, Johnny Kline died at his post.

May you and I follow him as he followed Christ. ~

(Note that the picture at the beginning of the story is NOT John Kline.)

[1] A production worker earned an average of $0.06/hour at that time. $3.00 would have been approximately one week’s wage.

[2] The word “religion” did not have the negative connotations attached to it that some people now unwisely attach to it.

[3] Rhododendron.

[4] Not referring to “indentured servanthood,” where a person of his own free will sells himself for a determined amount of time (possibly his entire life), usually to pay off debts. Indentured servanthood is essentially a long-term labor contract. On the other hand, anyone captured against his will and sold by another person is kidnapped, which Paul listed as a sin (menstealers-1 Ti. 1:10) right along with such sins as murder, prostitution, homosexuality, and lying.

[5] He uses “sensitive,” but not meaning they were sensitive in conscience, but that the subject was one that caused a lot of emotional feelings when talked about in society. Much like the topics of abortion and gay “marriage” are today.

[6] About one or two year’s wages. However, a good work horse was worth up to $1,000, so by selling a horse two fines could be paid.

[7] With the exception, perhaps, of the use of a beard. The Quakers and Methodists did not tend to let their beards grow, while the Brethren, Amish, and early Mennonites all generally wore a beard. The first Mennonites in Lancaster County, PA were known as “the long-bearded Swissers” by some of their neighbors.

[8] These two were not the only ones involved. Others had waited along another road in case John took an alternate route home.

[9] John had also been against secession of the South from the Union, but not so much as a political sentiment as much as for keeping unity and peace.

[10] I do not know if the young man actually uttered the words, or if John was writing in allegory.

 

Originally published in The Heartbeat of the Remnant (September/October 2011), 400 W. Main Street Ste. 1, Ephrata, PA 17522.

By Andrew V. Ste. Marie

A bit of honest soul-searching is often good for us. Young people sometimes have the idea that they can be lukewarm in their devotion to Jesus Christ and get serious and holy when they are older. This is a tragic mistake.

On page 182 of Martyrs Mirror, we find a record of forty young people whose dedication to the Lord Jesus puts many of us to shame:

When the East as well as the West was exceedingly disturbed on account of the violence of the persecution, there manifested themselves in the East, namely at Antioch, forty pious youths, as valiant champions of Jesus Christ, inasmuch as they openly and boldly confessed the Son of God, Jesus Christ, as their Savior.

Notice that these forty “openly and boldly confessed” Jesus Christ. Boldness is a characteristic lacking in many people today. We need to break out of our “comfort zones” and do what Jesus Christ wants us to do. We need to take seriously His final command before leaving this earth: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” Mt. 28:19-20 This command is given to all followers of Jesus, not just missionaries, elders, or evangelists, and we young people need to obey it as well as older ones! These forty young people from Antioch seem to have been doing just that.

We continue reading in Martyrs Mirror:

Thereupon, the Governor of that place, after they had been apprehended, strenuously exerted himself to move them from the faith; but when all his efforts proved unsuccessful, he had them stripped naked, in the coldest part of the winter, and cast into a very cold pool. But as they were still alive the next day, he caused them to be burned to powder.

This kind of dedication to the Lord Jesus is what He wants from us; it is what Martyrs Mirror is all about. These forty young people were so dedicated to the Lord Jesus that they were willing to forsake all—all—for Him. Think about it for a minute … imagine who these young people may have been. There were young men, probably looking forward to having a business and supporting a family. There were young women, looking forward to the day when they would be mothers and keep a home. There may have been some who were courting and others who were engaged. All were probably hoping for a long life of service to the Lord Jesus, whom they loved so intensely. Yet none of this moved them when they were called upon to suffer for the Lord Jesus, and nothing could move them from Him.

Knowing how the Romans and other persecutors operated, the Governor probably tried to make these Christians recant first with fair promises, then dire threats. How many of us could stay faithful to Jesus if faced with this? Many young people seem to have a hard time resisting the fair promises of the world, even without any threats. They seem to be allured by the “pleasures of sin for a season.” He. 11:25 We need to be like Moses, who “esteem[ed] the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt.” He. 11:26 We need to stand strong for the Lord against the enticing allurements of the world.

Looking at the other tactic the Governor probably used—threats—we need to ask ourselves how well we have fared when facing petty threats, perhaps not even ones which have been verbalized to us. Have we been afraid of the thought of our friends sneering at us, accusing us of being somehow “holier than thou,” or some other such petty fear? How have we fared under peer pressure? These forty youths would have been threatened with a lot worse experiences than being laughed at. The torture methods of the Romans were disgustingly horrible, yet Christians stood steadfast under them.

Finally, having stood steadfast under the threats, these young people stood strong under actual trial. They were faithful to Christ under the most difficult and humiliating experiences. They left us a noble example.

 The big tests might come once in a lifetime. The little tests will come many times a day. Let us use little, everyday tests to prepare us for the bigger experiences which the Lord Jesus may have in store for us later.

Be strong in the Lord and the power of His might!

 

 

Originally published in The Heartbeat of the Remnant (September/October 2011), 400 W. Main Street Ste. 1, Ephrata, PA 17522.

By Abner Showalter

 

I would like to tell you about a way that I have found to be a witness for the Lord. You see, I have heard many sermons about the need to witness and share my faith with the lost around me. So as I heard these types of things being preached, I found myself desiring to be obedient and tell others about the gospel. The only problem was that, in spite of all my desires and good intentions, I did very little of it. I many times intended to do better, but it seemed that it went no further than intention. One of the problems was that I never just took the time to do it. Life can be so busy with all the things that I am doing that, before I know it, another week is gone and I have done nothing to further the kingdom.

It was over a year ago that I began to be aware of the opportunity that lay at my fingertips. I work a public job and encounter many people each day. Normally, I would make excuses for myself, like, “I don’t have enough time to really interact with this person.” Especially if it was a busy time; you get the person’s items loaded on the truck, and away he goes and the next guy backs in.

I have found by experience that the flesh is extremely gifted in excuse manufacturing. As I became aware of the wonderful mission field that I am in every day, I also knew that I had quite a few Prepare to Die CDs lying around.

One day I decided to try it. Why not? Why should I continue to miss this perfect opportunity that presented itself to me daily? No! I would not continue this way. You should have been there that morning! I was going to do it.

Then the first customer came. I loaded his roofing metal and accessories, then I was going to talk to him a little and then give him a CD. We talked for a while, but I just couldn’t manage to get enough courage to give it to him. So after a brief conversation, he got in his truck and was gone, leaving me standing there with the CD still in my pocket.

I felt defeated. Why couldn’t I do it? This cannot be right, I thought to myself. I don’t know what all transpired in my heart by the time I had loaded the next customer, but I had resolved not to be a coward this time. And thank God, He enabled me. I gave out that first CD that morning and realized it’s really not that bad.

That started a routine for me. I began to consistently give out these gospel CDs. I can say that the Lord has helped me very much. Sometimes people come in and I find myself full of compassion and so desirous to give them a CD. Then sometimes with other people (usually more high-class) I find myself almost scared to give them a CD. But God has given strength, and I thank God for making me a witness for Him in this way. There are many other areas the Lord would have me to grow in; especially the area of being willing to verbally “reprove the unfruitful works of darkness.”

I think the Prepare to Die CD is a wonderful medium, especially if you give it to a person that you ordinarily would not be able to spend much time with. I do want to quickly say, let’s not neglect to use our own mouth in the process.

I want to encourage you too. You can be a witness. I am sure that some time or another you encounter people. For Christ’s sake, use those opportunities to share the gospel.

This encouragement is especially for you, if you do work in the public and encounter many people every day. You have the opportunity of a lifetime! Use it! Heaven alone will reveal the impact. The reason this opportunity thrills me so much is this: you have a legitimate reason to interact with the person. If you do any conventional witnessing, you know the frustration of trying to get into a conversation with someone who has places to go, things to do, and people to see. It’s almost like you have to interrupt them. (That’s not all bad!) But my point here is that you already have the person’s attention. They are expecting you to talk to them. You have, dropped into your lap, the very thing that you have to work so hard for when you “go witnessing.” I trust you see my point.

So please, by God’s grace let us not squander the opportunities that present themselves each day. Instead, may we take advantage of this wide open window of our work place, where people expect us to speak to and interact with them.

Knowing the terror of the Lord, let us persuade men!

Abner Showalter is from Windsor, Kentucky, where he attended Blessed Hope Fellowship and worked loading metal and doing office work for Dutchman’s Metal. He has now left both congregation and job to spend two years in Ghana, Africa, in the service of his King. The picture in the background is of Abner handing a gospel CD to a potential brother in Christ, at his former worksite.

 

Originally published in The Heartbeat of the Remnant (March/April 2010), 400 W. Main Street Ste. 1, Ephrata, PA 17522.

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