Archive for the ‘Church History’ Category
Review by Andrew V. Ste. Marie
The writings of Swiss Brethren Anabaptists have been thus far underrepresented in English translation, compared to Hutterites and Dutch Mennonites. Post-Schleitheim Swiss Brethren history is little discussed – particularly in popular-level treatments. The perception may easily be formed that Swiss Brethren did not produce much literature or do much doctrinal thinking after the first generation.
This volume seeks to correct this perception and the deficit in English translations. Presenting well over 500 pages of translated documents, it helps round out our understanding of Swiss Anabaptism following the Schleitheim Confession and to the border of the seventeenth century. Study of these documents reveals how Swiss Anabaptist thought grew and developed, and how they preserved, used, and adapted earlier works (such as the Schleitheim Confession and the writings of Balthasar Hubmaier) to fill later needs.
The core of this new volume is the translation of Codex 628, composed mainly of a work titled A Short, Simple Confession. This work was written in response to the published minutes of the Frankenthal Disputation (1571) between Anabaptists and Reformed theologians. Some Swiss Anabaptists felt that a more compelling case could be made for the Anabaptist position on the thirteen points which had been discussed. Utilizing earlier writings, such as the Schleitheim Confession and the writings of Balthasar Hubmaier, the anonymous editor put together a compelling apologetic for the Anabaptist views on baptism, the Lord’s Supper, Christians in the government, etc., including an extensive discussion of the relationship of the Old and New Covenants. The Simple Confession is followed in the codex by an expanded version of an earlier Swiss Brethren writing, Concerning Separation, which explains why the Anabaptists separated from the Reformed state church.
This book would be a valuable contribution to English-language Anabaptist writings if it only included the translation of Codex 628; but thankfully, it presents many additional gems, several of them previously untranslated. These include Wilhelm Reublin’s Confession of Faith, coauthored with Jakob Kautz; Zylis and Lemke’s letter to Menno Simons; a book on excommunication; and the prefaces to three Swiss Brethren hymnals, including (translated for the first time) the preface of the Ausbund. For those interested in Anabaptist hymnody, these three translations and the introductory essay on the origins of the Ausbund are worth the price of the book.
This book is highly recommended to anyone interested in Anabaptist history and theology. It would be hard to overstate its importance to the study of Anabaptism in general and the Swiss Brethren in particular.
Teaching of the Lord through the Twelve Apostles to the Nations.
There are Two Ways, one of Life and one of Death, and the difference between the Two Ways is great.
The Way of Life, then, is this: First, Thou shalt love the God who made thee: Second, Thy neighbor as thyself; and all things whatsoever thou wouldst not have befall thee, do thou, too, not to another.
And of these words the Teaching is this: The first commandment: Bless them that curse you, and pray for your enemies, and fast for them that persecute you; for what thank have ye if ye love them that love you? do not the nations also the same? but love ye them that hate you, and ye shall not have an enemy.
Abstain from fleshly and worldly lusts.
If one give thee a blow on the right cheek, turn to him the other also, and thou shalt be perfect; if any one press thee into service for one mile, go with him two; if one take away thy cloak, give him thy coat also; if one take from thee thine own, ask it not back; for not even canst thou.
Give to every one that asketh thee, and ask not back; for to all the Father wills that there be given of his own free gifts.
Blessed is he that giveth according to the commandment; for he is guiltless. Woe to him that receiveth; for if, indeed, one that hath need receiveth, he shall be guiltless; but he that hath not need, shall submit to trial with reference to why he received and for what purpose, and, having come into custody, shall be examined with reference to what he did, and shall not go forth thence until he have paid the last farthing.
But concerning this, also, it hath been said: Let thine alms sweat in thy hands until thou know to whom to give.
And the second commandment of the Teaching is:
Thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt not corrupt boys, thou shalt not commit fornication, thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not use magic arts, thou shalt not practice sorcery, thou shalt not kill a child by abortion nor put it to death when born. Thou shalt not covet the things of thy neighbor, thou shalt not forswear thyself, thou shalt not bear false witness, thou shalt not speak evil, thou shalt not bear a grudge. Thou shalt not be double-minded nor double-tongued; for doubleness of tongue is a snare of death. Thy word shall not be false, nor empty, but fulfilled by deed. Thou shalt not be covetous, nor rapacious, nor a hypocrite, nor malicious, nor haughty. Thou shalt not take evil counsel against thy neighbor. Thou shalt not hate any man, but some thou shalt reprove, and for some thou shalt pray, and some thou shalt love above thy life.
My child, flee from every evil thing, and from everything like it. Be not prone to anger, for anger leadeth to murder; nor jealous, nor contentious, nor passionate; for out of all these, murders are begotten.
My child, be not one that lusteth, for lust leadeth to fornication; nor of foul speech, nor of leering eyes; for out of all these, adulteries are begotten.
My child, be not an augur, since augury leadeth to idolatry; nor an enchanter; nor an astrologer; nor a purifier; nor be willing to behold these things; for out of all these, idolatry is begotten.
My child, be not a liar, since lying leadeth to theft, nor a lover of money, nor vain-glorious; for out of all these, thefts are begotten.
My child, be not a murmurer, since murmuring leadeth to blasphemy; nor self-willed, nor evil-minded, for out of all these, blasphemies are begotten.
But be meek, since the meek shall inherit the earth. Be longsuffering and pitiful and guileless and quiet and good, and continually trembling at the words which thou hast heard.
Thou shalt not exalt thyself, nor give assurance to thy soul. Thy soul shall not be joined with lofty ones, but with righteous and lowly ones shalt thou hold converse. The events that befall thee, thou shalt accept as good, knowing that nothing cometh to pass without God.
My child, him that speaketh to thee the Word of God, thou shalt remember night and day, and shalt honor him as the Lord; for where the sovereignty of the Lord is proclaimed, there is the Lord. And thou shalt seek out daily the faces of the saints, that thou mayest rest upon their words.
Thou shalt not be desirous of division, but shalt bring contending ones to peace; thou shalt judge righteously; thou shalt not respect persons in reproving for transgressions. Thou shalt not hesitate whether this shall be or not.
Be not one that with reference to receiving stretcheth out the hands, but with reference to giving contracteth them: thou shalt give by thy hands a ransom, if thou have, for thy sins. Thou shalt not hesitate to give, nor, when giving shalt thou murmur; for thou shalt know who is the good Recompenser of the offering. Thou shalt not turn away from him that is in want, but shalt share all things with thy brother, and shalt not say that they are thine own; for if ye are partakers in that which is immortal, how much more in the things which are mortal.
Thou shalt not remove thy hand from thy son or from thy daughter, but from youth shalt teach them the fear of God.
Thou shalt not lay commands in thy bitterness on thy bondman or maidservant, who hope in the same God, lest perchance they shall not fear the God who is over both; for He cometh not to call according to appearance, but unto those whom the Spirit hath prepared. And ye, the slaves, shall, in modesty and fear, be subject to your masters as to a type of God.
Thou shalt hate all hypocrisy and everything that is not pleasing to the Lord.
Do not in any wise forsake the commandments of the Lord; but thou shalt guard what thou hast received, neither adding thereto nor taking therefrom.
In the church thou shalt confess thy transgressions, and thou shalt not come to thy prayer with an evil conscience.
This is the Way of Life.
And the Way of Death is this:
First of all, it is evil and full of curse; murders, adulteries, lusts, fornications, thefts, idolatries, magic practices, sorceries, rapines; false testimonies, hypocrisies, double-heartedness, deceit, haughtiness; malice, self-will, covetousness, filthy talking, jealousy, self-assurance, loftiness, boastfulness; persecutors of good men, hating truth, loving falsehood, not knowing the reward of righteousness, not joined to anything good nor to righteous judgment, watching not with a view to good but with a view to evil; far from whom are meekness and patience, loving vain things, pursuing a requital, not pitying a poor man, not toiling for one borne down with toil, not knowing Him that made them; murderers of children, destroyers of God’s handiwork; turning away from him that is in want, oppressing him that is afflicted, rich men’s advocates, poor men’s lawless judges; utter sinners.
May ye be delivered, children, from all these.
See that no one cause thee to wander from this Way of the Teaching, since thus aloof from God doth he teach thee. For, if thou art able to bear the whole yoke of the Lord thou shalt be perfect; but if thou art not able, what thou art able that do.
And concerning food, brook what thou art able; but of that which is sacrificed to idols beware exceedingly, for it is a worship of dead gods.
And concerning baptism, thus baptize ye: Having first said all these things, baptize into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in living water. But if thou have not living water, baptize into other water; and if thou canst not in cold, in warm. But if thou have not either, pour out water thrice upon the head, into the name of Father and Son and Holy Spirit. But before the baptism, let the baptizer and the baptized fast, and any others, if they can; and thou shalt command the baptized to fast one or two days before.
But let not your fastings be with the hypocrites; for they fast on the Second Day of the week and on the Fifth; but do ye fast the Fourth and Preparation. Neither pray ye as the hypocrites, but as the Lord commanded in his gospel, thus pray:
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so also on earth. Give us today our daily bread, and forgive us our debt as we, too, forgive our debtors. And bring us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil; for thine is the power and the glory for ever.
Pray thus three times in the day.
And concerning the Eucharist, thus give thanks. First, concerning the cup:
We thank Thee, our Father, for the holy vine of David, thy servant, which thou hast made known to us through Jesus thy servant; to Thee be the glory forever.
And concerning the broken bread:
We thank Thee, our Father, for the life and knowledge which Thou hast made known to us through Jesus thy servant; to Thee be the glory forever. Just as this, a broken piece, was scattered upon the hills, and was gathered together and became one, so let thy church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into thy kingdom; for thine is the glory and the power through Jesus Christ forever.
But let no one eat or drink of your Eucharist, but those that have been baptized into the name of the Lord; for concerning this the Lord hath said: Give not that which is holy to the dogs.
And after being filled, thus give thanks:
We thank Thee, holy Father, for thy holy name, which Thou hast caused to dwell in our hearts, and for the knowledge and faith and immortality, which Thou hast made known to us through Jesus thy servant; to Thee be the glory forever. Thou, Almighty Sovereign, didst create the universe for thy name’s sake; both food and drink Thou gavest men for enjoyment, that they might give thanks to Thee; but to us Thou hast graciously given spiritual food and drink and life eternal through thy servant. Before all things, we thank Thee that Thou art mighty: to Thee be the glory forever. Remember, Lord, thy church, to deliver it from every evil and to make it perfect in thy love; and do Thou gather it from the four winds, the sanctified church, into thy kingdom, which Thou hast prepared for it; for thine is the power and the glory forever. Let grace come, and let this world pass away. Hosanna to the Son of David. If any one is holy, let him come: if any one is not, let him repent: Maranatha. Amen.
But permit the prophets to express what thanks they wish.
Whoever, then, shall come and teach all these things, the things aforesaid, receive him; but if the teacher himself turn and teach another doctrine to the destruction of this, do not hear him; but if he teacheth to the promotion of righteousness and knowledge of the Lord, receive him as the Lord.
And with reference to the apostles and prophets in accordance with the ordinance of the gospel, act thus. And let every apostle that cometh to you be received as the Lord; but he shall remain, not one day, but, if there be need, the next also; but if he remain three days, he is a false prophet. And let the apostle, when he goeth forth, take nothing except bread to suffice until he lodge; but if he ask money, he is a false prophet.
And no prophet that speaketh in the Spirit, shall ye try or judge; for every sin shall be forgiven, but this sin shall not be forgiven. Not every one, however, that speaketh in the Spirit, is a prophet, but only if he have the ways of the Lord.
From their ways, then, shall the false prophet and the prophet be known. And no prophet that in the Spirit commandeth a meal, will eat of it, else he is a false prophet ; and every prophet that teacheth the truth, if he doeth not what he teacheth, is a false prophet. And no prophet, approved, true, acting with a view to the world-mystery of the church, but not teaching others to do what he himself doeth, shall be judged in your presence; for with God he hath his judgment; for in like manner did the ancient prophets also. But whoever in the Spirit shall say: Give me money, or something else, ye shall not hear him; but if he bid you give for others that are in want, let no one judge him.
And let every one that cometh in the name of the Lord be received, and afterward ye shall prove and know him; for ye shall possess understanding right and left. If he that cometh is a traveller, help him as much as you can; however, he shall not remain with you, except for two or three days, if need be. But if he wisheth to reside with you, being an artisan, let him work and eat; but if he hath not a trade, provide, according to your understanding, that, as a Christian, he shall not live with you idle. But if he doth not wish so to do, he is one that maketh a gain of Christ: beware of such.
But every true prophet that wisheth to reside with you, is worthy of his food. In like manner a true teacher, himself also is worthy of his food, just as the workman. Every firstfruit, then, of the products of winepress and threshing-floor, of oxen and of sheep, thou shalt take and give to the prophets; for they are your high priests. But if ye have not a prophet, give to the poor.
If thou make a baking of bread, take and give the first-fruit according to the commandment. In like manner, on opening a jar of wine or oil, take and give the first-fruit to the prophets; and of money and clothing and every possession, take the firstfruit, as it may seem good to thee, and give according to the commandment.
And every Lord’s Day gather yourselves together, and break bread and give thanks, after having also confessed your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure. But let no one that is at variance with his fellow assemble with you, until they be reconciled, that your sacrifice may not be profaned; For this is the one that was commanded by the Lord: In every place and time, offer Me a pure sacrifice; for I am a great King, saith the Lord, and my name is wonderful among the nations.
Choose, therefore, for yourselves bishops and deacons worthy of the Lord, men meek and free from the love of money, and true and proved; for they, too, render you the service of the prophets and teachers. Do not, then, despise them; for together with the prophets and teachers, they are your honored ones.
And reprove one another, not in anger, but in peace, as ye have it in the gospel; and to every one that acteth amiss against another, let no one speak, and let him not hear from you until he repent. But your prayers and alms and all deeds so do, as ye have it in the gospel of our Lord.
Watch for your life; let your lamps not be quenched, and your loins not be loosed, but be ye ready; for ye know not the hour in which our Lord cometh. And ye shall often be gathered together seeking the things which become your souls; for the whole time of your faith will not profit you, if ye be not made perfect in the last time.
For in the last days the false prophets and the corrupters shall be multiplied, and the sheep shall be turned into wolves, and love shall be turned into hate; for as lawlessness increaseth, they shall hate one another, and persecute and betray, and then shall appear the world-deceiver as the Son of God, and shall do signs and wonders, and the earth shall be delivered into his hands, and he shall do iniquitous things which have never been done since the world began.
Then shall the human creation come into the fire of trial, and many shall be caused to stumble and shall perish; but they that endure in their faith shall be saved from under the curse itself.
And then shall appear the signs of the truth; first, the sign of an opening in heaven, then the sign of the sound of a trumpet, and third, the resurrection of the dead; not of all, however, but as was said: The Lord shall come and all the saints with Him. Then shall the world see the Lord coming upon the clouds of heaven.
 An observer of omens.—Ed.
Translation from S. Stanhope Orris, “Teaching of the Twelve Apostles,” in Teaching of the Twelve Apostles: Text and Translation, 1884, pp. 3-19.
By Andrew V. Ste. Marie
“What if someone broke into your house with a gun?”
Those who are convinced to obey Jesus’ teachings on nonresistance and love of enemies are routinely faced with questions like these. In some such occasions, we must suffer for the cause of Christ. Yet God is real and powerful, and can save His people without the aid of men killing each other.
This was dramatically demonstrated in a New Year’s Eve nighttime prayer service in North Carolina. Larry Wright, the pastor, a retired Army sergeant and city councilman, was preaching at 11:40 PM when the church door swung open.
In walked a young man carrying a semi-automatic assault rifle in one hand, and a clip of ammunition in the other. He began walking up the church’s center aisle. Not knowing whether the gun was loaded, Wright left the pulpit and began walking towards the man, intending to tackle him if he was belligerent.
“Can I help you?” Wright asked the young man. The young man said, “Can you pray for me?” Wright took the rifle, handed it to a deacon, and patted the young man down to make sure he did not have other weapons. He found none. Four husky deacons came up and embraced the young man to help him feel welcome. Wright began to pray for him, and the young man fell to his knees, weeping.
His prayer finished, Wright invited the young man to sit in the front row and listen to the remainder of the sermon. Wright reported, “I finished the message, I did the altar call and he stood right up, came up to the altar, and gave his life to Christ. I came down and prayed with him and we embraced. It was like a father embracing a son.”
Police had come to the scene to detain the young man, but before meeting them, the young man stood before the congregation and apologized to them. He said he had intended to do something terrible, but the Lord had spoken to him.
The young man – himself a veteran, who had just gotten out of prison – was given a mental examination in a hospital. According to one report, however, he returned to the church the next Sunday, asking to be baptized and received as a church member.
Now just imagine how different things could have been if this pastor had responded as so many do – by pulling out a gun and ending this young man’s life. By responding in the peace of Jesus, this pastor spared his congregation the sight of a bloody shooting, kept his own conscience clear from the blood of someone who may not have killed anyhow, and, most importantly, the young man was spared and given an opportunity to repent.
Will we trust God?
Andrew Barksdale, “Fayetteville pastor persuades church gunman to give up rifle,” http://www.fayobserver.com/news/local/fayetteville-pastor-convinces-church-gunman-to-give-up-rifle/article_16efd180-7644-56b0-93e6-d7ec10e87f3c.html (Accessed February 24, 2016)
Tim Stelloh, “North Carolina Pastor Disarms Vet During New Year’s Service,” http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/north-carolina-pastor-disarms-vet-during-new-year-s-service-n489456 (Accessed February 24, 2016)
Carma Hassan & Steve Almasy, “During sermon on violence, N.C. pastor confronts man with rifle,” www.cnn.com/2016/01/02/us/north-carolina-pastor-man-with-gun (Accessed February 24, 2016)
 As far as I know, not a nonresistant or pacifist.
Originally published in The Witness 14(3) (March 2016).
By Theophilus of Antioch
Theophilus was the sixth bishop of Antioch, the Apostle Paul’s home church. In the mid- to late-second century, he wrote a defense of Christianity based on a discussion he had had with a friend named Autolycus. The following section is the opening three chapters of the work.
From To Autolycus 1.1-3; translation from Ante-Nicene Fathers, volume 2, pp. 89-90. Slightly modernized.—Ed.
A fluent tongue and an elegant style afford pleasure and such praise as vainglory delights in, to wretched men who have been corrupted in mind; the lover of truth does not give heed to ornamented speeches, but examines the real matter of the speech, what it is, and what kind it is. Since, then, my friend, you have assailed me with empty words, boasting of your gods of wood and stone, hammered and cast, carved and graven, which neither see nor hear, for they are idols, and the works of men’s hands; and since, besides, you call me a Christian, as if this were a damning name to bear, I, for my part, avow that I am a Christian, and bear this name beloved of God, hoping to be serviceable to God. For it is not the case, as you suppose, that the name of God is hard to bear; but possibly you entertain this opinion of God, because you are yourself yet unserviceable to Him.
But if you say, “Show me thy God,” I would reply, “Show me yourself, and I will show you my God.” Show, then, that the eyes of your soul are capable of seeing, and the ears of your heart able to hear; for as those who look with the eyes of the body perceive earthly objects and what concerns this life, and discriminate at the same time between things that differ, whether light or darkness, white or black, deformed or beautiful, well-proportioned and symmetrical or disproportioned and awkward, or monstrous or mutilated; and as in like manner also, by the sense of hearing, we discriminate either sharp, or deep, or sweet sounds; so the same holds good regarding the eyes of the soul and the ears of the heart, that it is by them we are able to behold God. For God is seen by those who are enabled to see Him when they have the eyes of their soul opened: for all have eyes; some have cataracts, and do not see the light of the sun. Yet it does not follow, because the blind do not see, that the light of the sun does not shine; but let the blind blame themselves and their own eyes. So also thou, O man – the eyes of your soul are covered by the cataracts of your sins and evil deeds. As a burnished mirror, so man ought to have his soul pure. When there is rust on the mirror, it is not possible to see a man’s face in the mirror; so also when there is sin in a man, such a man cannot behold God. Therefore, do show me yourself, whether you are not an adulterer, or a fornicator, or a thief, or a robber, or a plagiarizer; whether you do not corrupt boys; whether you are not insolent, or a slanderer, or passionate, or envious, or proud, or haughty; whether you are not a brawler, or covetous, or disobedient to parents; and whether you do not sell your children; for to those who do these things God is not manifest, unless they have first cleansed themselves from all impurity. All these things, then, involve you in darkness, as when a cataract on the eyes prevents one from beholding the light of the sun: thus also do iniquities, O man, involve you in darkness, so that you cannot see God.
You will say, then, to me, “Do you, who see God, explain to me the appearance of God.” Hear, O man. The appearance of God is ineffable and indescribable, and cannot be seen by eyes of flesh. For in glory He is incomprehensible, in greatness unfathomable, in height inconceivable, in power incomparable, in wisdom unrivalled, in goodness inimitable, in kindness unutterable. For if I say He is Light, I name but His own work; if I call Him Word, I name but His sovereignty; if I call Him Mind, I speak but of His wisdom; if I say He is Spirit, I speak of His breath; if I call Him Wisdom, I speak of His offspring; if I call Him Strength, I speak of His sway; if I call Him Power, I am mentioning His activity; if Providence, I but mention His goodness; if I call Him Kingdom, I but mention His glory; if I call Him Lord, I mention His being judge; if I call Him Judge, I speak of Him as being just; if I call Him Father, I speak of all things as being from Him; if I call Him Fire, I but mention His anger. You will say, then, to me, “Is God angry?” Yes; He is angry with those who act wickedly, but He is good, and kind, and merciful, to those who love and fear Him; for He is a chastener of the godly, and father of the righteous; but He is a judge and punisher of the impious.
 A play on words – in Greek, Christian sounds very similar to serviceable or good.
 Modified following the footnote of the Ante-Nicene Fathers translation.
By Tertullian (c. 197)
This is a selection from Tertullian’s work On the Shows. It was written in response to Christians who claimed that since there was no Scriptural command forbidding attendance at various pagan Roman entertainments, it was therefore allowed to Christians. Tertullian argued the opposite – since it was not explicitly allowed, it was therefore forbidden, and furthermore, the nature of the shows was such that no Christian should want to attend. His arguments apply just as well to today’s sporting events, television, and other contemporary forms of entertainment. This selection presents chapters 25, 28, and 29, taken from the Ante-Nicene Fathers, volume 3, pages 89-91. Language slightly modernized.—Ed. Seated where there is nothing of God, will one be thinking of his Maker? Will there be peace in his soul when there is eager strife there for a charioteer? Wrought up into a frenzied excitement, will he learn to be modest? Nay, in the whole thing he will meet with no greater temptation than that showy attiring of the men and women. The very intermingling of emotions, the very agreements and disagreements with each other in the bestowment of their favors, where you have such close communion, blow up the sparks of passion. Furthermore, there is hardly any other reason to go to the show, than to see and to be seen. When a tragic actor is loudly speaking, will one be giving thought to prophetic appeals? Amid the measures of the effeminate player, will he call up to himself a psalm? And when the athletes are hard at struggle, will he be ready to proclaim that there must be no striking again? And with his eye fixed on the bites of bears, and the sponge-nets of the net-fighters, can he be moved by compassion? May God avert from His people any such passionate eagerness after a cruel enjoyment! For how monstrous it is to go from God’s church to the devil’s—from the sky to the sty, as they say; to raise your hands to God, and then to weary them in the applause of an actor; out of the mouth, from which you uttered Amen over the Holy Thing, to give witness in a gladiator’s favor; to cry “forever” to anyone else but God and Christ!… With such dainties as these let the devil’s guests be feasted. The places and the times, the inviter too, are theirs. Our banquets, our nuptial joys, are yet to come. We cannot sit down in fellowship with them, as neither can they with us. Things in this matter go by their turns. Now they have gladness and we are troubled. “The world,” says Jesus, “shall rejoice; ye shall be sorrowful.” Let us mourn, then, while the heathen are merry, that in the day of their sorrow we may rejoice; lest, sharing now in their gladness, we share then also in their grief. You are too dainty, Christian, if you want to have pleasure in this life as well as in the next; no, you are a fool, if you think this life’s pleasures to be really pleasures. The philosophers, for instance, give the name of pleasure to quietness and repose; in that they have their bliss; in that they find entertainment: they even glory in it. You long for the goal, and the stage, and the dust, and the place of combat! I would have you answer me this question: Can we not live without pleasure, who cannot die without pleasure? For what is our wish but the apostle’s, to leave the world, and be taken up into the fellowship of our Lord? You have your joys where you have your longings. Even as things are, if you intend to spend this period of existence in enjoyments, how are you so ungrateful as to count insufficient, as not thankfully to recognize the many and exquisite pleasures God has bestowed upon you? For what more delightful than to have peace with God the Father and our Lord, than to have the revelation of the truth, than confession of our errors, than pardon of the innumerable sins of our past life? What greater pleasure than distaste of pleasure itself, contempt of all that the world can give, true liberty, a pure conscience, a contented life, and freedom from all fear of death? What nobler than to tread underfoot the gods of the nations—to exorcise evil spirits—to perform cures—to seek divine revelations—to live to God? These are the pleasures, these are the spectacles that befit Christian men—holy, everlasting, free. Count these to be your circus games, fix your eyes on the courses of the world, the gliding seasons, reckon up the periods of time, long for the goal of the final consummation, defend the societies of the churches, be startled at God’s signal, be roused up at the angel’s trump, glory in the palms of martyrdom. If the literature of the stage delights you, we have literature in abundance of our own—plenty of verses, sentences, songs, proverbs; and these not fables, but true! They are not tricks of art, but plain realities. Would you have also fightings and wrestlings? Well, of these there is no lacking, and they are not of slight account. Behold unchastity overcome by chastity, treachery slain by faithfulness, cruelty stricken by compassion, impudence thrown into the shade by modesty. These are the contests we have among us, and in these we win our crowns. Would you have something of blood too? You have Christ’s.
By Andrew V. Ste. Marie
Philip of Hesse was an unusual man for his time. While most governments – Protestant and Catholic alike – were violently persecuting the Anabaptists, he took a milder approach, believing that they could be convinced to rejoin the state church by discussion and softer measures.
Among the reformers, Martin Bucer and Wolfgang Capito of Strasbourg were the friendliest to such an approach, and in 1538, when Philip wanted to make an attempt to reunite the local Anabaptists with the Lutheran state church, he invited Martin Bucer to come debate with them.
Several local Anabaptists had been arrested and imprisoned, and Philip needed help to persuade them to recant. Martin Bucer had earlier complained of his inability to persuade Anabaptists to rejoin the state church, but he nevertheless accepted Philip’s invitation and came to Hesse. From October 30 to November 3, 1538, Martin Bucer debated with several Anabaptists in the city of Marburg in Hesse, where they were imprisoned. The subjects discussed included several very familiar ones which frequently came up in discussions between Protestants and Anabaptists – church discipline, baptism, the government, separation from the state church, etc. However, in this particular disputation, there were a few surprises.
On the Anabaptist side, there were two main speakers for the debate – Jörg Schnabel and Leonhard Fälber. Schnabel discussed several topics with Bucer, although the main topic between the two was whether the Anabaptists were justified in separating from the state church. Similarly for Fälber, the main topic of discussion between him and Bucer was the validity of the calling of the Protestant preachers.
Why are you Separate?
After the opening formalities, the first question asked of Jörg Schnabel was “why they had separated themselves from our [Lutheran] church.” The record says “His answer came back, that he was repelled by false doctrine.”
Jörg then proceeded to give his testimony of how he left the Lutheran church. After reading the Bible, he realized that usury was wrong, and also came to realize the importance of church discipline. So he went to his pastor and explained his concerns, and his pastor “conceded that things were ill in the church; he would do his duty, and he, Jorg, was answerable before God that he also look to the matter.” Notwithstanding his assurance that he “would do his duty,” the pastor let the issue drop and did nothing. When Jörg mentioned something to the pastor the second time, he received a colder reply with no apparent interest in changing the abuses in the church. So, Jörg concluded, “he declared to pastor, mayor and town council that he wished to separate from them.” Following this, his pastor told the authorities that Jörg “wanted to overthrow kings and punish all evil with the sword” – which was not true. So Jörg had been arrested.
Bucer and Schnabel then went back and forth, arguing the point – were the Anabaptists justified in separating from the state church? Much of the discussion focused on usury and church discipline, since in Schnabel’s mind, these were the two most important issues leading to the Anabaptists’ separation from the Lutherans.
Unfortunately, neither of the two seemed to realize that the whole discussion was pointless, since separation was not the root of their disagreement. Rather, the root of their disagreement lay in their differing definitions of the church. If the two could have openly discussed the nature of the church, they would have understood each other’s positions regarding separation better, and would have been better equipped to critique their respective opponents. As it was, the differing definitions were stated more than once, but the nature of the church was never discussed in its own right.
Bucer twice defined the church during the debate:
Wherever there is a church which gladly hears God’s Word, that is a Christian church.
To this, Jörg replied that
if it were the church of Christ then it would have gone ahead with such an understanding; since it hasn’t done it, it is no believing church and he won’t accept it unless he is convinced by the Bible itself.
In other words, the true church of Christ would have obeyed God’s Word. Jörg further said:
A church would not be condemned which is organized according to the true order of Holy Scripture, namely, with repentance, faith, baptism, doctrine, the laying on of hands, even if it has inadequacies.
On the second day of the debate, Bucer directly asked Jörg “if he conceded it to be a church where they believe in the Word of God.” Jörg replied, “those who commit themselves to the truth and stand obediently in Christ, them he respects as a church.” Bucer contradicted him: “Where teaching is Christian, there is a church.”
Ultimately, the Anabaptists could not be reconciled with Bucer’s state church because the two had irreconcilable views of what the church was. These different views were the foundation of the entire discussion on why the Anabaptists had separated themselves from the state church. The two views stayed behind the scenes in this particular debate, although each view visibly undergirded each party’s approach to the question of separation, and each side did, more than once, clearly define the church in the debate.
To Bucer, the church was the territorial church, and a church was defined or known by its doctrine. He defined the church as the place where the Word was truly preached. The Anabaptist defined the church as that body of people which is obedient to the Word of God.
A True Christian Pastor
After Jörg’s examination was over, Leonhard Fälber was interviewed. When he came to the witness stand, “First he asked Mr. Butzer from whence came his calling to preach according to the rule of Christ.”
This is a surprise! The early Anabaptists were constantly being challenged by the Protestants as to the validity of the calling of their ministers. They were continually challenged to prove that their ministers had been legitimately called and ordained. This is a new twist – in this debate, the Anabaptist turned the tables on the state church, and asked Bucer to prove his own calling! Leonhard added further, “But he [Bucer] hasn’t thereby sufficient evidence as to who sent them.”
Bucer was probably quite unprepared for this line of questioning, and gave some vague answers. Leonhard pressed his point: “When I see you come with such signs as Christ commanded of them [ministers], namely that they should be born again, joined to Christ with the death of sins, then I will believe in you.”
Bucer rejoined that the Lutherans did not allow anyone to be a preacher who was not “at one with Christ,” to which Leonhard answered by quoting John 3:7 and stating, “Now I know none [no Protestant minister] who has been resurrected in such a rebirth through falling away of the first life; I find that they take the opposite position, do not gather with Christ but rather scatter.”
As with the discussion on separation, the discussion of the calling of the preachers was based on another, deeper disagreement – namely, the definition of a Christian. Bucer defined a Christian: “because they confess the faith we must recognize them as Christians even though they haven’t renewed the baptism.” In other words, even though they have not obeyed all of the teachings of the Word of God, they must be acknowledged as Christians based on their oral confession. Leonhard gave a stinging answer to this:
I feel that you don’t have a living word for which God sent his beloved Son to us; you have a dead word, as evidenced by your fellowship, else you would draw away from the evil.
That is, a true preacher will be known by the fruits of his followers. The Protestant ministers’ congregations were not populated by people who had “been resurrected in such a rebirth through falling away of the first life” – rather, evil abounded! Thus, the Protestant ministers, in Leonhard’s view, did not have a life-giving word from God, but rather a dead word. When Bucer counter-challenged Leonhard, asking if the Anabaptist ministers “had an act or a living word,” Leonhard responded:
They have a living word that can bring the people from evil to good and totally renew them.
Amen! Drawing people away from evil to good through a total renewal and regeneration of life is the duty of a true preacher of God. Because the Anabaptists saw this truth, and because they knew what a true Christian was, they were able to establish truly holy churches while the Protestant churches sank lower and lower in sin. Why did the Protestant churches degenerate in this way? Remember what Bucer said – “because they confess the faith we must recognize them as Christians”. Confession of faith was all that was necessary to be recognized by them as a true Christian.
This delightful discussion contains a good challenge for us today. How is it for us? How do we define the church? Is it the place where the Word is rightly preached and the sacrament rightly administered – regardless of how the people live, or whether they know God? Or is the church the body of people gathered to obey God’s Word?
What is a Christian? Is it someone who “confesses the faith” with his mouth, who may or may not be living a holy life? Or is it someone who has been drawn from evil to good, and been totally renewed by Christ?
Are we Protestants, or are we Anabaptists?
 Although Bucer did approve of some forms of persecution.
 Translation of the debate minutes in Franklin H. Littell, “What Butzer Debated with the Anabaptists at Marburg: A Document of 1538,” Mennonite Quarterly Review 36(3) (July 1962):256-276. All quotations from the debate in this article are from this translation.
 Page 262.
 Page 263.
 Page 276.
By Irenaeus of Lyons
Critics of the Bible claim that it was unjust for the Israelites to “spoil the Egyptians” by taking their gold and jewelry on their way out of Egypt. As this passage from Irenaeus’ Against Heresies shows, this is not a new accusation. Irenaeus’s brilliant defense of GOD’s justice in instructing the Israelites to do this is still worth reading today. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, volume 1, pp. 502-503. Somewhat modernized.—Ed.
Those, again, who frivolously object and find fault because the people did, by God’s command, upon the eve of their departure, take vessels of all kinds and raiment from the Egyptians, and so went away, from which [spoils], too, the tabernacle was constructed in the wilderness, prove themselves ignorant of the righteous dealings of God, and of His dispensations; as also the presbyter remarked: For if God had not accorded this in the typical exodus, no one could now be saved in our true exodus; that is, in the faith in which we have been established, and by which we have been brought forth from among the number of the Gentiles. For in some cases there follows us a small, and in others a large amount of property, which we have acquired from the mammon of unrighteousness. For from what source do we derive the houses in which we dwell, the garments in which we are clothed, the vessels which we use, and everything else ministering to our everyday life, unless it be from those things which, when we were Gentiles, we acquired by avarice, or received them from our heathen parents, relations, or friends who unrighteously obtained them?—not to mention that even now we acquire such things when we are in the faith. For who is there that sells, and does not wish to make a profit from him who buys? Or who purchases anything, and does not wish to obtain good value from the seller? Or who is there that carries on a trade, and does not do so that he may obtain a livelihood thereby? And as to those believing ones who are in the royal palace, do they not derive the utensils they employ from the property which belongs to Caesar; and to those who have not, does not each one of these [Christians] give according to his ability?
The Egyptians were debtors to the [Jewish] people, not alone as to property, but as to their very lives, because of the kindness of the patriarch Joseph in former times; but in what way are the heathen debtors to us, from whom we receive both gain and profit? Whatsoever they amass with labor, these things do we make use of without labor, although we are in the faith.
Up to that time the people served the Egyptians in the most abject slavery, as saith the Scripture: “And the Egyptians exercised their power rigorously upon the children of Israel; and they made life bitter to them by severe labors, in mortar and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field which they did, by all the works in which they oppressed them with rigor.” And with immense labor they built for them fenced cities, increasing the substance of these men throughout a long course of years, and by means of every species of slavery; while these [masters] were not only ungrateful towards them, but had in contemplation their utter annihilation. In what way, then, did [the Israelites] act unjustly, if out of many things they took a few, they who might have possessed much property had they not served them, and might have gone forth wealthy, while, in fact, by receiving only a very insignificant recompense for their heavy servitude, they went away poor? It is just as if any free man, being forcibly carried away by another, and serving him for many years, and increasing his substance, should be thought, when he ultimately obtains some support, to possess some small portion of his [master’s] property, but should in reality depart, having obtained only a little as the result of his own great labors, and out of vast possessions which have been acquired, and this should be made by any one a subject of accusation against him, as if he had not acted properly. He (the accuser) will rather appear as an unjust judge against him who had been forcibly carried away into slavery. Of this kind, then, are these men also, who charge the people with blame, because they appropriated a few things out of many, but who bring no charge against those who did not render them the recompense due to their fathers’ services; nay, but even reducing them to the most irksome slavery, obtained the highest profit from them. And [these objectors] allege that [the Israelites] acted dishonestly, because, in truth, they took away from the recompense of their labors, as I have observed, unstamped gold and silver in a few vessels; while they say that they themselves (for let truth be spoken, although to some it may seem ridiculous) do act honestly, when they carry away in their girdles from the labors of others, coined gold, and silver, and brass, with Caesar’s inscription and image upon it.
 The identity of this “presbyter,” who is often quoted by Irenaeus, is not certain. It may have been Pothinus, the original missionary to the people of Gaul, who was Irenaeus’s predecessor as bishop of Lyons. Pothinus died a martyrs’ death, whereupon Irenaeus became bishop.—Ed.
By Mike Atnip
“Daniel,” I told my 14-year-old son, “it is supposed to be very cold over the weekend. Fill the firewood in the back room up to the windows so we don’t run out when it is cold.”
Since Daniel was feeling cold and a bit sluggish, as boys do sometimes at chore time, he wasn’t exactly excited about my plan. But he eventually made his way to the wood pile and began his task. Not too long afterwards, I made a trip to the back room for some wood to fill the stove. Daniel was finishing up…or at least he thought so.
“Daniel, that’s not near enough wood, you need to fill it up.”
“But I filled it up to the window,” he replied.
I laughed. “That’s what you call legalism! Go fill it up right.”
Yes, he had stacked the wood up to the windows, in a neat stack one piece wide. He had to smile himself, I think. He returned to the woodpile and I went for the camera to record a perfect example of legalism.
Now, before you dump this paper in the trash, thinking I am about to call discipleship “legalism,” hang on a minute. Heartfelt obedience is not legalism. However, heartless obedience is legalism. Daniel obeyed my command to fill the wood to the windows…legally. But his heartless obedience missed the whole point. Legalism can be defined as “trying to get by with as little as is legally possible.” It’s like my aunt, who proclaimed that police do not stop people until they are going at least five miles per hour over the posted speed limit. She wanted to be legal, so she would set her cruise control at 59 miles per hour, in a 55 mile per hour speed zone. She was a legalist to the core, trying to get by with as much as she could and still be “legal.”
Well, legalism runs in the family, in fact the whole human family. I have been guilty of it too many times myself. For example, when we moved to Bolivia, South America, in January of 2000, we knew that it was illegal to import guns into Bolivia. We wanted to take a .22 rifle along to do some hunting, since we planned to live in the country and get some wild game for meat. But, we also knew that it was not illegal to import gun parts into Bolivia. So, we took the rifle apart, and I took some gun parts into Bolivia, and another family took some gun parts. Lo and behold, when we got into Bolivia, we found we had enough parts to make a whole gun!
Legal? Yes. Legalism? To the core! While we obeyed the laws of Bolivia, we missed the point and made ourselves into hardcore legalists.
So how does this fit into the story of Anabaptist history? Christianity was introduced to our pagan Swiss forefathers by dedicated missionaries who lived simple lives, unfettered by a love of money and fame. Those missionaries lived and taught a simple, faithful obedience to Jesus.
But remember how I said above that legalism runs in the human family? As time went on, legalism towards the teachings of Jesus began to infect the descendants of the original Christians in the Swiss territories. Instead of fully surrendering in Gelassenheit (yieldedness) to King Jesus, and obeying His teachings, people began to look for loopholes. As more people squeezed through the loopholes, the holes were made larger so they could be passed without any effort. Finally, the holes were turned into large gates through which everybody passed through without even realizing that they were never intended to be passageways.
For example, from Jesus’ teaching about nonresistance, people began to say that revenge was fine as long as it was done “justly.” You can kill someone in self-defense, as long as you love the person while you hacked his head off with a sword. From there, it was broadened into outright warfare, as long as you were doing it in the name of Jesus. By this means, you could join a crusade to take back the Holy Lands. In fact, you could even get an indulgence for all your sins if you joined these crusades!
Strange, isn’t it, how a little loophole becomes a gate to the broad way? But that is exactly what happened in the centuries after Beatus and Gallus preached to our Swiss forefathers. And it was this very spirit of legalism, a.k.a. compromise, which the Anabaptists stood up to.
P.S. Daniel did a good job filling up the firewood. He has filled the room previously, on several occasions, to the windows and even beyond. Like all boys and a lot of men, he just had a spell of legalism that day.
(Story from Martyrs Mirror, pp. 686-687).
This Conrad Koch was kindled with the light of the knowledge of God, when this light, in these latter days, began to rise again, along the River Rhine as well as in the country of Berg, and the truth of the holy Gospel commenced to shine. Hence he sought, by the divine help, to leave the darkness, and to walk in this brightly shining light; he forsook popery and the worldly and ungodly life, and betook himself to the church of the Lord, heard and laid to heart the Word of the Lord, believed the Gospel, and was baptized, according to the command of Christ, upon faith in Christ Jesus, and confession of his sins, and accordingly, conducted himself in a brotherly and Christian manner in the church, and, in weakness, showed himself edifying and honorable toward all men. But as he that walks in darkness cannot bear or endure the light, and the envy of the adversary works in his followers, this man was envied by the papists, and accused to the intendant of the revenue; who was judge and ruler of the country in the name of the prince of Juelich. Thereupon the intendant sent his servants to Houf, where Conrad lived, and they apprehended him; he was ready, and as a lamb, willingly went with them to Loewenburg, one of the seven castles which, on account of their high situation, can be seen from a great distance. There they brought Conrad into the tower, and placed him in severe confinement, in which he remained nearly half a year; however, he was greatly comforted by the Lord, though he had to suffer much hunger.
The intendant ofttimes browbeat him and threatened him most severely, that his life should be taken if he should refuse to renounce his faith. They tried him very hard with entreaties and solicitations, then with hunger, and also with threats to put him to death; but he remained immovable. His heart was of good cheer.
Now when he had boldly confessed his faith, and no tortures could intimidate him, and the time drew near that he was to die for the truth and depart from this world, the door of his prison was opened, and he went of his own accord, free and unfettered, from the tower of Loewenburg to the village of Houf. His guide was Barabbas, that is a malefactor who went with him. His departure took place in great secrecy; and thus he came to Houf, which is some distance from Loewenburg. But even as Christ was crucified, and Barabbas released, so it was also here. Conrad was taken to the town hall of Houf, where it was proposed to him, that if he should renounce his faith, his young life should be spared, and his liberty be given him.
Manifold wiles were employed against him with great deceitfulness. The sophists sang things sweet and sour, saying: “Go to church at least once a year and if they do not preach the pure and clear truth, stay away from it thenceforth.” One of these hypocrites said to Conrad: “My dear Conrad, though we be false, subtle and evil, it cannot harm your soul; do you only fear God and keep peace with all men; what is it to you if our faith is little.” Conrad replied to the magistrates: “O you ministers of God, you must know that God wants no hypocrites. This was seen exemplified in old Eleazar, who would rather surrender his life than dissemble. II Macc. 6:24. Therefore I also hope to die before I go into your congregation.” Conrad further said: “Christ is the Head of the church; he that would please Him must show himself a member of His body; now, one must not sever himself from Christ the Captain. With this Head I want to remain, though it cost my flesh and blood.” They asked Conrad of what he thought of infant baptism. He said: “Of this I can only think that it is also one of the pope’s greatest abominations; however if you can prove it by the Word of God, I will suffer myself to be instructed by the church of the Lord.” “O God,” said Conrad, “to Thee I bring my complaint; O God, what calamity this, that they put to death those who speak the truth! They can certainly not allege that I have committed anything criminal, and yet they malignantly seek to kill me. O Lord, forgive them.” The mandate of the prince of Juelich was then read to him, whereupon the judges passed sentence, upon which the intendant broke the staff. The sentence was, that Conrad should suffer death, if he did not recant. And when he had been thus sentenced twice, they took him out [to the place of execution]. When he arrived there, he began to sing: “O God, how gently Thou dost chasten me. Reach me Thy gracious hand, that my flesh may now shun all sin, vice and shame, that I may rend the old garment, and have eternal joy with Thee. Christ, I praise Thee, O my supreme God, that I have lived to see this day and hour, that I may now testify to Thy name with my blood. My dear brethren and sisters, I commend you all to the Lord. Keep the Gospel of Christ firmly fixed in your hearts; this I leave you for an admonition: fear God, and be valiant; be my followers, even as I am willing to follow Christ the Lord, and to deliver up my life.” And thus they put this pious man to death with the sword secretly, so that many did not hear of it. When thieves and murderers are condemned there it is customary to let the whole land know it; but the pious are murdered in secrecy, which is a shame for the judges. Thus Conrad was beheaded with the sword standing and proved himself a faithful witness of the sufferings of Christ, at Houf, in the land of Berg, which belongs to the prince of Juelich and Cleves.
In the year 1565, under the same intendant, who was a very bloodthirsty man, also seven other persons, four brethren and three sisters, had been previously apprehended. These four brethren were also sentenced that they should be put to death, if they refused to renounce their faith. But the Lord protected them, and delivered them all out of prison unharmed in their faith, for this bloodthirsty tyrant was smitten by God with sudden death, so that the prisoners were liberated from prison, keeping their faith, and adhering to the truth.
 An apocryphal book.—Ed.
By Justin Martyr
From Justin Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho, A Jew. Justin was martyred c. 165 A.D. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, volume 1, pp. 253-254.
But that the Gentiles would repent of the evil in which they led erring lives, when they heard the doctrine preached by His apostles from Jerusalem, and which they learned through them, suffer me to show you by quoting a short statement from the prophecy of Micah, one of the twelve [minor prophets]. This is as follows:
And in the last days the mountain of the Lord shall be manifest, established on the top of the mountains; it shall be exalted above the hills, and people shall flow unto it. And many nations shall go, and say, Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and they shall enlighten us in His way, and we shall walk in His paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And He shall judge among many peoples, and shall rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into sickles: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. And each man shall sit under his vine and under his fig tree; and there shall be none to terrify: for the mouth of the Lord of hosts hath spoken it. For all people will walk in the name of their gods; but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God for ever. And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will assemble her that is afflicted, and gather her that is driven out, and whom I had plagued; and I shall make her that is afflicted a remnant, and her that is oppressed a strong nation. And the Lord shall reign over them in Mount Zion from henceforth, and even for ever.
…Now I am aware that your [the Jews’] teachers, sirs, admit the whole of the words of this passage to refer to Christ; and I am likewise aware that they maintain He has not yet come; or if they say that He has come, they assert that it is not known who He is; but when He shall become manifest and glorious, then it shall be known who He is. And then, they say, the events mentioned in this passage shall happen, just as if there was no fruit as yet from the words of the prophecy. O unreasoning men! understanding not what has been proved by all these passages, that two advents of Christ have been announced: the one, in which He is set forth as suffering, inglorious, dishonoured, and crucified; but the other, in which He shall come from heaven with glory, when the man of apostasy, who speaks strange things against the Most High, shall venture to do unlawful deeds on the earth against us the Christians, who, having learned the true worship of God from the law, and the word which went forth from Jerusalem by means of the apostles of Jesus, have fled for safety to the God of Jacob and God of Israel; and we who were filled with war, and mutual slaughter, and every wickedness, have each through the whole earth changed our warlike weapons,—our swords into ploughshares, and our spears into implements of tillage,—and we cultivate piety, righteousness, philanthropy, faith, and hope, which we have from the Father Himself through Him who was crucified; and sitting each under his vine, i.e., each man possessing his own married wife. For you are aware that the prophetic word says, ‘And his wife shall be like a fruitful vine.’ Now it is evident that no one can terrify or subdue us who have believed in Jesus over all the world. For it is plain that, though beheaded, and crucified, and thrown to wild beasts, and chains, and fire, and all other kinds of torture, we do not give up our confession; but the more such things happen, the more do others and in larger numbers become faithful, and worshippers of God through the name of Jesus. For just as if one should cut away the fruit-bearing parts of a vine, it grows up again, and yields other branches flourishing and fruitful; even so the same thing happens with us. For the vine planted by God and Christ the Saviour is His people.